faith, Personal Development

Sex, Porn, & Desire | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Son, I have met so many men who are compulsively viewing pornography that I must write this letter. While many of the notes I write to you, I look forward to writing; this one was difficult to write as the subject matter is sexual, and the challenge for men is hard to describe.

You already know much of this, but I think it is essential that you hear it from me, your father—not your friends and not a teacher—but from me, as I see the world through the lens of God’s Word. The reality is that most young men have viewed pornography by the age of 13, if not younger. And about 60% of students will use porn to learn more about sex and fill in the gaps in their sex education. And I get it—it’s everywhere. But pornography is not an instruction for your sex education, and there are a plethora of reasons why. But in this letter, I want to focus on what I believe is important for you to know.

We have to be honest. Honest with ourselves as men. Men look at porn for five basic reasons, and sometimes for all of them. We desire arousal, education, companionship, entertainment, or we feel pressured by peers. That’s it! But this is nothing new. Every man has these desires, but often they don’t admit it. I mean, think about it, when is the last time some guy admitted to you that he watches porn to learn more about sex? Or when is the last time a guy confessed to you that he goes to porn because he is in desperate need of companionship? Men don’t do that. At least I have never met a man who has, probably because many men have trouble being honest with themselves and even more about the feelings and desires they have.

But let’s face it, men have these desires. And men turn to porn because it is both a prolific and private delivery system to explore those five things: physical arousal, visual education, fantasy companionship, personal entertainment in moments they feel pressured to participate. So men think, why confess them to another man when I can figure it out on my own? And this thinking is fatal for a follower of Christ. Getting our desires fulfilled in this way, gives our desires to vices that are evil and insidious. We could spend all day talking about the ills of the pornography industry, and yet we would only touch the surface of the depth of the evils. There are better people with which to discuss sex and better ways to understand our male desires.

I believe the best place to go to for a great understanding of this subject is God’s Word. And why? God is the designer of man, sex, and desire. And since he is the designer of all this, why not turn to him?

If I were to pick from only a few verses in the bible on this topic, I would go straight to Jesus’s teaching. In the New Testament, Jesus addresses these topics in the greatest sermon ever preached the Sermon on the Mount. Listen to what Jesus says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.—Matthew 5:27-30

Now stay with me. There are a few things we can learn from this text.

First, Jesus knows that sex is not the issue. Sex is something God created for us, and he wants us to enjoy it, but it should be done in a way that aligns with his moral will. (I am not going to address all that here maybe in another letter).

Second, Jesus teaches that the act of adultery, (sex outside of marriage with another woman,) while wrong is not where the line is drawn on biblical infidelity.

Third, Jesus teaches that adultery is a manifestation of the core issue. And what is the core issue? It is what Jesus calls the “lustful intent.” The core problem is what happens in our hearts before we act. Now please note, the action is wrong, but it’s the misguided desire in a man that leads to misdirected action. And we discover that we are perpetually fulfilling our desires our way to feed our selfishness. And all mankind must come to terms with the fact that our desires are perpetually misaligned and we need Jesus Christ, his grace, and His Spirit to redeem, restore, and realign them.

Do you know what real men do—men of God? They understand that the desires of their heart only find the satisfaction they desire in God alone. Men who submit their desires to God and are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and daily respond to the conviction of God by redirecting their desires toward something more holy—these men are real men. However, men who are led about by their wild desires controlled by visual stimulation combined with a physical release are not real men. Great men recognize their desires, confess them to trusted brothers, and attempt to find practical ways to find satisfaction in God on a daily basis when those desires, urges, and compulsions arise. If you can start now, while you are still young, to address these desires you may keep yourself from unhealthy compulsions that could lead to a life of relational devastation.

There are three things I want you to hear today, and this is not exhaustive on this subject. First, get to know what triggers your wayward desires. Only you will know this. Is it loneliness? Need for arousal? Desperation to understand? Lack of companionship? A need to fit in? And know the trigger specifically. What triggers my desires will differ from yours, but nonetheless, get to know them.

Second, when this trigger strikes decide in advance what you need to do to act in a way that is honoring to God. While the desire isn’t wrong, you do not have to feed the desire with a wrong action. Halt the process. If you act, you will only reward the desire. For example, if in loneliness you go to porn you are rewarding your loneliness. If you couple this with masturbation, you are only feeding the process with a more powerful reward. So decide now what you will do when the ungodly desire arises.

Third, feed the desire something more satisfying. For example, if you feel lonely, find another means of companionship. If you feel a need to understand, find another way to discuss your curiosity. But don’t feed the core desire with actions that are not honoring that lead to compulsions that dishonor God.

I believe one of the great responsibilities that we have as men of God is the stewardship and leadership of our desires. While this is impossible for man, the Holy Spirit can convict and guide. 

Let me know if you want to talk about this more. I love you son, Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

faith, Personal Development

Lured By Sin | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Knowledge of God’s Word is a bulwark against deception, temptation, accusation, even persecution.

Ed Cole

Son, at some point, you are going to become aware of the deceptiveness of sin. You will be lured in by it. It will hook you, and you will be held captive in its clutches.

Think about the process of deception like a fisherman thinks about the sport of fishing. His aim—to deceive a fish by baiting and hooking it, to eventually filet, cook, and feast on it. Regardless of how poorly I do this, the same principle applies to the enticement, baiting, and hooking that men encounter daily when it comes to sin. The taste of the bait is different based on the sin, but the bait is presented the same way in every instance. If you learn how we are enticed by sin, you will be better prepared to resist the temptation, and even make better decisions to avoid temptation when sin seeks to lure and reel you in. The following three baits should empower you to make better advanced decisions. All three are observed in the first temptation in the Bible. And remember this is an interaction the serpent has with the woman who is baiting her to act in disobedience to God.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”—Genesis 3:1-5

BAIT ONE | God Doesn’t Let You Do Anything

Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?”

Genesis 3:2

So what’s happening here? It’s cunning if you read it carefully.

The serpent is inviting the woman to question the one moral rule of God. And man was given this rule long before the woman was created. And it was a single moral command. Not two. Not even ten—that was later. Just one. Here is how God communicated the original command:

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”—Genesis 2:16-17

If you read it carefully a few times, you will notice some differences between God’s original declaration and the serpent’s statement. While God said “every tree” was permissible except one, the serpent presented an interesting spin; that they were not allowed to eat from “any tree.” Thus, we see the first bait is presented, which leads to an enticing exchange of questioning God’s truth.

Now note; when it comes to life, we should ask great questions. Dialogue is necessary. But when these dialogues lead us down the stream of questioning truth, we need to examine the process and even consider the potential consequence. Please always go back to the truth, in God’s Word, and do what God instructs, staying close to God’s original intent and meaning. Since we are innately sinful, selfish desires will kick in, and they will entice us with questions that attempt to blur the lines between obedience and disobedience. This is a dangerous and sometimes fatal first step that leads to many others. Be careful to search for the truth, not your version of the truth, that causes you to question the truth of God.

Now had this been the only bait set, perhaps the woman would not have sinned. But there is another powerbait presented.

BAIT TWO | God Is Lying To You

“You will not surely die.

Genesis 3:4

You have to remember that our enemy knows the truth, and he knows it well. And because he knows the truth so well, even better than some Christians, he presents the truth and leaves most of it intact to only hook you with falsehood. Note the statement of the serpent. He proclaims a partial truth and therefore suggests that God is lying and concealing something from her. He could have said it this way. 

“You will not surely die, today but die you will. And by the way, the bonus is spiritual death and separation from God.”

But in your life, the voice of the serpent sounds a lot like you! It’s after all the voice of your private desires.

The seductive voice of self-rationalization is powerful bait because you know what you want more than anyone else. And sometimes you’ll want something so badly you will convince yourself that a small diversion is okay. This will come in self-talk that sounds like this:

  • “I’ll do it just once.”
  • “No one will ever know.”
  • “I won’t get caught.”
  • “It’s not that wrong.”
  • “You will not surely die.”

The sound of this voice should bring a pause in your life. Justification and self-rationalization should signal that the hook is about to be set. At all costs, stop the process immediately. Get counsel from Christian men and instruction from God’s Word. Do not continue! For once the third bait is presented, it’s hard to turn and swim away.

BAIT THREE | God’s A Deceiver

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

Genesis 3:5

Now, this is insidious. The serpent wants the woman to believe that God is a selfish concealer, which is downright deceit. But he has brought the woman a long way down the road of temptation. First, he gets her to question the truth; then, he spins the truth, now he feeds her the ultimate untruth—God knows and deceiving you. And concurrently, there is also the chance to become something greater—you can be “like God.”

Son, this is the penultimate bait. We want to be like God. We desire power, knowledge, and control. This man and woman did have their eyes opened, but with it, it did not produce the intended result—instead, it resulted in separation from God.

Now, you may think you have no desire to be like God, but all men do. Just get a small taste of power, and you’ll want more like every man. It’s simply unquenchable. And it’s this drive for power, knowledge, and control that takes men downstream into hideous sin.

So, son, you will sin. You’ve probably already done so today. But remember these baits, they are unchanging. And when you are baited by temptation and sin, get back up again, lean on God’s grace, and keep moving as a man of God, till the Day sin is no more.

I love you sin and all, but live in the truth and grace of God—Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

Family, Fortitude

ConQuer Your Past Pains

If you’ve been ALIVE for any length of time, then you have pains. I’m talking about emotional pain. We all carry some “baggage” from our past – things we’ve said and done, or the things that others have said or done to us. It hurts bad. Or maybe we’ve become numb to the pain and we just kind of exist with it, like a prisoner on a life sentence with no chance for parole. Such pains are impossible to forget and seemingly impossible to get past. There is a desire to “get over it,” move on, and no longer allow the past pain to affect our attitude, outlook, and behavior today, but it’s hard. Are you nodding your head with me?

So how do you get over the past? The million dollar question has a pretty simple answer. Simple, but not easy. The first step is to realize what you’re REALLY trying to accomplish. What does it REALLY mean to get over the past?

You can’t change what happened. There’s no time machine that can send you back to relive the past. What’s done is done.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that your situation is hopeless. What I’m saying is that you first have to be clear about what you can and cannot change. You CAN get over your past (as I’ll explain). But you can NOT change events that already occurred.

The good news is that you don’t have to change the past in order to get over it. What you have to change is the MEANING of the past.

Think for a moment. Was there ever a time in your life when something horrible happened and you thought, “Why is this happening to me?” But then a few years later you looked back and you could answer that question. In retrospect, you understood why it happened. At first, it seemed like the world was caving in. Later, it all made sense.

In fact, very often, we eventually realize that bad times are part of a process that leads to something good!

It’s the events that FOLLOW bad times that determine the ultimate meaning of those times. In other words, it’s your future that determines your past; not the other way around. And since YOU are in charge of your future, then YOU determine the meaning of your past.

It’s interesting to think about this in the context of an age-old question: Do we have free choice or is everything predetermined? The answer is YES. Everything is predetermined AND we have free choice.

It’s like when you play a card game. You get dealt a hand. And you have no control over the cards you get dealt. It’s predetermined.

But you also get to play that hand. You also have free choice.

Ultimately, it’s the COMBINATION of the hand you’re dealt and the way you play it that determines the outcome. And it’s the outcome that shapes your view of the original hand you were dealt.

God deals you a hand. There’s nothing you can do to change that. But you get to play that hand. You get to respond to the events of your life. And it’s your response, your actions in the future, which determine the meaning of the events in your past.

So how do you get over the past? You don’t have to get over the past. The past is over! What’s important is the MEANING the past has for you NOW. And the MEANING of your past is determined by your actions in the future.

The people who have the best lives/ marriages/ relationships are people who went through hell in some way. They “got over” their past because they used it as a catalyst to IMPROVE their situation. In other words, the painful events inspired them to change themselves.

If you make the right moves, you will come to view certain events as birth pains that led to a new AND IMPROVED life/ marriage/ relationship. THAT’S how you “get over” the past.

It’s strange how life works sometimes, but if you play your hand right, your hurts become part of your healing. And, in fact, when it comes to relationships, it’s usually bad times that awaken people to search for new ways.

Thanks to Mort Fertel for doing the heavy lifting on this article. I’m grateful for his insight on the illustration about the cards we are dealt.

faith, Family, Personal Development

You Are Not A Failure | Letter To My Son

I’m sharing a series of “letters” originally written by Vince Miller. I regard Vince as a trusted resource for wisdom and insight on faith and family especially as it pertains to men and fathers. His bio is at the bottom of the post. Look him up. What follows is his work entirely. Vince communicates the messages I want my son to hear in a far more clear and concise way than I could ever say. Consider using these as conversation starters. I encourage you to share these letters with the important men in your life.

Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.

John Wooden

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.

Johnny Cash

Son, you will fail; this happens. But this does not mean you are a failure. The assumption that “you are a failure” is a powerful and defeating thought that can paralyze a man. It’s a recording that sometimes plays in the mind that men struggle to silence. It’s one of the five powerful voices I believe all men hear (if you remember my previous letter on this subject). I think this is partially because many men falsely believe that to be a man, we must “man-up” by appearing strong, confident, and courageous, even when we feel weak, confused, and lost. This false belief thus devastates men in moments of failure. Which is why when we fail, we sometimes believe we are a failure.

Please note, experiencing failure and feeling the impact is a good thing for all men. The last thing we need is insensitivity to this pain. Appropriate levels of pain, in the form of regret and guilt, are good for all men. And why? Well, because pain is an indication of pending danger. Insensitivity to pain will only lead to callousness and other, more harmful decisions to self and others. Yet, inflicting needless suffering on ourselves by allowing a failure to convince us that we are a failure is also not helpful. While you and I are both sinners, we are redeemed by Christ and given a new identity as sons of God. Your identity is marked permanently not by your failure but by His grace, and your identity is forever changed. Accepting this is sometimes too good to be true, so it’s easy for men to go back to the perpetual failure of the former life and the old yoke of slavery.

..and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

As men, we live in this great tension, and here is how I describe it. First, our former identity is marked entirely by sin. In fact, the Bible calls us “sinners.” Yes, God’s Word is clear; our identities before Christ are marked by perpetual sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) So in one sense, and at one time, all men were perpetual failures. We were, (notice the use of the past tense of the verb,) a complete and total failure.

Second, yet we also know that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) And this gift results in us having the opportunity to believe in his name, giving us “the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) Jesus also says, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15) So your identity has changed from sinner to son, from failure to friend.

Third, we must choose to live in this new identity as sons and friends. Yet we know, the voice of the past will call to us. In moments of failure, we will be tempted to listen to the voice of the former man and the old identity. It will call to you and say, “I am a failure.” Its call will be compelling and clear because only you will hear its voice within your mind. This voice will present evidence to you from your own life to support your incorrect perceptions. Do not doubt my words, son, the courtroom of your mind will offer a convincing case. And yet, the tension between a former identity and your new identity has a present reality. 

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Think about that and ponder on it for a second—you are the “righteousness of God.” Let that set in. That’s your identity. You are not a failure. You are instead a son of righteousness

So the next time you fail your response should be to understand the pain, accept it, learn from it, and then before the failure begins to poison your thinking about your identity, bring to mind that Scripture says, you a “son of righteousness” saved by God’s grace. You are not a failure. Do not let that thought preach to you, rather let the truth preach to you. And why should you do this? Because the most important thought about you is not what others think about you, what you think about you, but what God thinks about you. This is the only thought that matters.

As you learn to do this, you will discover something about the fails in your life—that God is up to something. That he is working out something magnificent in you every time you fail. He is teaching you to trust more and more in him. Notice what the apostle Paul says about his perpetual failing.

But [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Do you see it? Failure gives way to opportunity—the opportunity to trust less in self and more in God. With failure, we encounter grace, discover perfect power, contentment, and the paradox of strength in weakness. For the man who is strong in himself is not strong; he is only pretending to be strong. Instead, the man who embraces his weakness (through failure) is genuinely strong because he is strong in God.

I love you son. Remember you are not a failure. Dad.

Vince Miller is an author and speaker to men around the world on topics that include manhood, masculinity, fatherhood, mentorship, and leadership. He has authored 18 different books for men and is hosted on major video platforms like RightNow Media and Faithlife TV. He hosts a weekly podcast, writes weekly articles, and provides daily thoughts from God’s Word all just for men. He is a 27-year ministry veteran and the founder of Resolute a Men’s Ministry Platform that provides bible studies aimed at building better men found at www.beresolute.org. See his latest book and small group study Called to Act: 5 Uncomplicated Disciplines for Men.

Fortitude, Personal Development, Uncategorized

Quit To Win – Part 2

What follows is Part 2 in the I Quit series. If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.

Instead of striving so hard to never quit, never give up, and knock myself out to get what I believe I want, maybe I should just quit. Yeah, that’s right. Sometimes you need to quit to win at life. I’ll explain.

Striving to be a better human and quitting are two sides of the same coin. Certainly there are things we can and must do to live to our full potential, so don’t get me wrong. Self-control, self-discipline, loving well, doing what is right even when it’s hard, are all very necessary beliefs/ behaviors/ habits we need to work on. But there are also many things we must quit if we are to be the person God has made us to be and to live with the inner peace, joy, and fulfillment we all seek.

Following is another example of something to quit that has the power to make the world a better place. This is me preaching to myself. I hope this helps you as well.

I quit the attitude of entitlement

In our culture of the “easy button” with everything made to be fast, easy, convenient, and cheap, it seems we must battle like never before to avoid an attitude of entitlement. No one wants to admit they are entitled, but we behave as though we are. We are getting soft. We expect things to go our way, for others to be agreeable to us, and that somehow life owes us – someone owes us anyway. I deserve, I need, gimme, gimme, gimme.

Well, guess what? Life is hard. The longer I travel this journey of life, the more I realize that believing I deserve anything, or that life should be easier, or that others should think and behave the way I want them to, is counterproductive and foolish. The truth is I’m responsible for my life, which means I’m also to blame for the frustrations I live with. Even when things go “bad” – and they surely will – I still have control over how I choose to respond.

Brief rabbit trail here. Have you ever thought about the root of most of your frustrations? If you are honest with yourself, it is very likely because in that moment, in that situation, you are not getting what you want. Let’s practice exercising self-control and emotional intelligence to realize that we are not entitled to our desires and preferences all the time. I digress.

Entitlement is a disease and it’s highly contagious. I know people sick with this attitude of entitlement and they are not fun to be around. They are highly selfish, often complaining, rarely happy, and unaware of their sickness. Further, such people want to spread their sickness with anyone close enough to hear them.  Entitlement can also be caught without personal contact by way of social media, TV, movies, books, news, etc. I’m telling you, the sickness of entitlement is dangerous.

What is the remedy? Personal responsibility, plain and simple. When I fully own my choices (and the consequences of my choices), I have greatly increased control over what I get in life than the person ill with entitlement. When I own my mistakes, learn from them, and forgive myself for them, I grow and become a better human. Blaming others destroys the growth opportunity that mistakes and failures provide. The benefits of personal responsibility make living with the sickness of entitlement seem especially lame, so I quit my attitude of entitlement by pursuing increased personal responsibility in every area of my life.