Breaking Free, Part 2
About the Guest
Guarding your heart means first guarding your eyes. Today on the broadcast, Fred Stoeker teaches men how to bounce their eyes away from the sexual as a way to avoid temptation.
Fred StoekerFred Stoeker is coauthor of the best-selling Every Man series. He is founder and chairman of Living True Ministries and a conference speaker who has counseled hundreds of men and married couples. Fred and his wife, Brenda, live in the Des Moines, Iowa, area with their four children.
Fred Stoeker teaches men how to bounce their eyes away from the sexual as a way to avoid temptation.
Breaking Free, Part 2
Fred: A lot of times people think, "Well, I can look for a little bit. I'm not really lusting, but we don't have to get to the point where we're drooling before we're lusting, you know what I'm saying? And in my experience when I was trying to break this, my mind was way too tricky, my eyes were way too tricky. They'd want to keep looking, and that just wasn't right, and what I wanted to do was totally bounce my eyes and get to the point where I was pure.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 17th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. The first step in winning the battle against pornography is to make a covenant with your eyes.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. We've been dealing with a subject all this week, Dennis, that is not appropriate for younger children, and parents are going to want to use some discretion about which children ought to be listening to the program. We've been talking about the whole area of sexual sin and particularly about the struggle that men have in the area of pornography and other sexual sin.
I was thinking about today's broadcast, and I was thinking about times when I have been turned around, times when I've been lost and haven't known how to get to where I was going. I lost my sense of direction – I'm not sure – and you've been in the car with me some of those times I've been driving, you've experienced that with me.
Dennis: I wish some of our listeners had the privilege of riding in the car with you. Maybe we'll have a lottery someday, Bob – that might be punishment, because you may never get out of where you're going.
Bob: There have been times when you'll get kind of turned around and you know what? You drive around, and you think you know where you're going, and then you look up, and you go, "I was here 15 minutes ago. I'm at the same place where I was," and you're frustrated but you just don't know how to get onto the freeway.
In fact, Mary Ann and I were on a trip one time …
Dennis: I'm sure.
Bob: We were driving, it was just south of Louisville, Kentucky, and I needed to stop and go to the bathroom, so I got off the highway, and after I'd used the restroom, I was trying to get back on the highway, but I got on the wrong road, and the road I got on didn't have an exit for about 20 miles and didn't have a turnaround anywhere in it, and it was late at night, and we were frustrated, and now I was really frustrated, because we were going to have to go a long way to get turned around.
I think there are men who have been listening to the broadcast all this week, and we've been talking about guys who are ensnared by pornography or other sexual sin, and they're saying, "I have tried to find my way out of this, and I don't know how to get free."
Dennis: And we've got a guy who has been lost himself who is going to help us find our way out of it. Fred Stoeker joins us for a fourth day on the broadcast. Fred, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Fred: It's nice to be here.
Dennis: You've been in that woods, haven't you?
Fred: Very lost. He has written a book called "Every Man's Battle." It is really talking about the snare of sexual sin, especially for a man. He speaks and writes and counsels men all across the country, lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and all this week we've – well, we've been reading primarily one verse – Ephesians 5:3 – "But among you there must be not even a hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity or of greed because these are improper for God's holy people."
Fred, you've share about your own struggle with sexual sin, pornography, sexual promiscuity prior to marriage, and yesterday you talked about how you moved through this issue finally to totally come clean with your wife. I want to ask you to help men get out of the woods. Give us a path. Pull out your flashlight and show us the path of how to step out of this deep, dark secret that pulls men into darkness and sometimes doesn't let them free. How can they get out of the woods? Where do they start?
Fred: You start with a firm commitment to stand by God's standard, and we talked about that a little bit yesterday. You have to get to the point where you hate your sin, and you're ready to get out. You don't have to totally hate it. I mean, there's always going to be that draw at first, but you need to know today is the day and from here on it's different.
From that point, for me, what happened was Job 31:1 became a chief verse for me. It's a verse that says "I've made a covenant with my eyes, how then can I look upon a maiden?" And it's that verse along with some others that began to show me that there's actually a way where we can guard our eyes and actually be free. Before that, I wanted to be free, but I didn't really know how, and when I hear from men now, that's the most common thing I hear – "I really want out. Thank you for writing the book so that I know how to do it." And that's what I do in "Every Man's Battle" is give this path.
The main thing we need to do is stop visual sexual gratification. We need to stop the mental sexual gratification that we draw through our thought life, and we need to build a cherishing heart to our wives. To me the key issue, the first thing you have to do, is to break down that pattern of looking at whatever you want to look at. And for me there were certain things that were very weak in me. I had already mentioned that on Sunday mornings I would look at lingerie ads. I also had a big problem with looking at joggers as they would run by. I would look at certain receptionists if they had low-cut blouses, TV commercials, especially for beer commercials, some of the other things on TV as well.
And what I knew I needed to do in order to cut out every hint of sexual immorality was to step up and stop those from entering into my eyes.
Bob: Now, hang on, there are going to be guys who are going to say, "What? So you shut yourself up in your bedroom and pulled the blinds, and you never go out?" There are pretty women out in the world everywhere. How do you keep that from crossing your path?
Fred: Well, a man's eyes naturally bounce towards the sexual. That's very clear. And what you need to do is train your eyes to bounce away from the sexual. It's a simple bouncing. It's not different than if you touch a hot stove, you pull your hand away. And so what I needed to do was train my eyes to do that very thing, and that' what I did.
Dennis: I'll give you an illustration from my own life. I was in another state. Barbara was not traveling with me, and I was in the car with another Christian leader who is a good friend of mine, and we were just parked in a shopping area waiting for a friend to come out of a store and get in the car with us, and this woman walked by who was – well, she was drop-dead gorgeous, I just don't know how else to say it. And I looked and watched her walk away, and I turned back to my friend.
Well, we continued to talk for another 10, 15 minutes. Well, here she came again. And I looked once, and I knew I could not look again. I'd never heard of your bouncing away principle, but fortunately, God enabled me at that point, "Don't look again. Bounce your eyes off of her to your friend." Well, my friend was looking at her at that point, and I said, "You can look at her once, you can look at her twice, but if you're looking at her that long, you need to look at me." And he and both laughed, and he had noticed the same thing I had – that she was a very attractive woman.
There is nothing wrong with appreciating beauty. But at the point where you mind moves from appreciation to beginning to feast or beginning to think or beginning to linger or beginning to become unfaithful to your own spouse, you've stayed there too long, and you've avoided the bounce principle at that point.
Bob: So you took that one verse out of Job, you say it's 31:31, is that what it is?
Fred: Thirty-one one.
Bob: Thirty-one one – and used that to train yourself just to bounce.
Fred: I'll tell you exactly how it worked. I used it as a sword. I would go by a billboard, and my eyes would glance up, and I would see it, and I'd go, "Nope, I cannot look upon a maiden." I'd made a covenant with my eyes. I would see a jogger. "No! I can't look upon a maiden, I've made a covenant with my eyes."
At first I was saying that – I probably said it 50, 100 times a day, because there's all kinds of images out there, and it took a couple of weeks before I got to the point where I was winning more than I was losing. At first, it was a bloodbath, I was just losing constantly, but in the third and fourth week I began to win about as often as I lost, and during the fifth and sixth weeks, I began to win more than I lost, and by the end of the six week it was pretty much total defeat for the enemy. I mean, there was still some mopping up to do but, for the most part, it was a win.
Dennis: You speak about this path and coming out of the woods, and you talk about a blockade not only for the eyes but also for the mind. So we've got a covenant with the eyes. What do we with the mind?
Fred: Even if you make a blockade with your eyes, you can still, with your mind, create sexual images. You've got, in my case, a lot of old girlfriends you had, you've had experiences with, you can conjure them up. You've got friends' wives that you can think about. All told, you still have the opportunity to sin. And what I needed to do at that point, especially with one particular old girlfriend is to simply cut off all thoughts, and one of the processes I used for that is that anytime a thought of her would come into my mind, I would sing a hymn and drive it out, because the Scripture says that we can capture our thoughts. You can take them captive and cast them down. And that's what I – I used that Scripture as my sword in this case, and as she would come in, I would sing that hymn, she'd be gone for a while, come back in. After a while she was gone totally.
Bob: I had a pastor one time, Dennis, who said to me, "I can prove to you how sinful you are." And I said, "How are you going to do that?" He said, "I want you immediately – don't think about a red-faced monkey." As soon as he said it, the first thing that pops in your mind is a picture of a red-faced monkey, right? He said, "All I have to do is say don't think about it, and you can't help but think about it." But the way you take a though captive is not simply by trying to wrestle it down yourself but by replacing it with the word of God, replacing it with hymns.
I think of Jesus who said, "You sweep a demon out of the house, and you leave it empty, and seven demons come back." But if you sweep the demon out, and then you replace the inhabitant with God's Word, with the hymns, with the pure thoughts, that's how you deal with that.
Fred: I will say that eventually you can get to a point where you can just take the thought as it comes in one side and just pass it out the other without the hymn, eventually, and that's where you want to get to. You want to be able to see those coming and cast them right back out again.
Bob: So you've got a barrier for the eyes, and now you've got a blockade for the mind. What's the next thing? You said something about your relationship with your wife?
Fred: Yes, and I think that's critical. For me the verses regarding David and Bathsheba were a critical breaking point for me. It talks about a man named Uriah in the Old Testament and how faithful he was to Bathsheba and how much he loved her. David came in and had the affair, and, obviously, had him killed before he ever found out. But the fact of the matter was is that imagery that God used in the Old Testament about Bathsheba as being Uriah's ewe lamb, precious lamb, was a transforming thing for me. I began to understand that with Brenda, she was my precious ewe lamb, and it's not a chauvinistic thing, it's an honoring thing. I recognized that there was something, a pure essence, that God had died for that He had given to me, and that I had to rise up and treat her accordingly.
Dennis: Your marriage paid a price early on so much so that Brenda threatened a divorce?
Fred: Yes, that's true. There was a crisis point where she came in one day and said, "I don't know how else to say this, but my feelings for you are dead." And for days – as a child of divorce, that was crushing. It was like getting hit with a bat. All I ever wanted was to have a good marriage and suddenly it was on life support, and I didn't know what to do, and there was a day where I stood in front of the refrigerator. I was all by myself. I had tears in my eyes. I had just gotten a glass of milk, and I just raised my hand, pointed to heaven, and said, "God, I don't care what happens. I don't care how much gravel I have to eat, I am never going to get a divorce."
With that decision I began a whole new way of treating Brenda. It wasn't a leadership pattern of lording it over her; it was a pattern of servanthood, of getting to exactly who she was not who I wished she was, and I began to treat her like someone that God loves with an everlasting love.
Dennis: Do you think her threatening a divorce could be attributed to the baggage you brought into this marriage?
Fred: I don't think it could be attributed to the sexual baggage fully, although it would be partially, but it definitely was – my baggage was the thing that caused it, yes.
Bob: So a man comes to you today, and he says, "I need a way out of the woods." You tell him, "You've got to learn how to put a barrier up over your eyes. Make a covenant with your eyes," Job 31:1. "You've got to learn how to put a blockade up over your mind and learn to take every thought captive," that's 2 Corinthians 10:5. "And then you've got to begin to cherish your wife as God's gift to you," and you used 2 Samuel there, where Uriah cherished his wife as a precious ewe lamb. Is that the way out? Is that the path?
Fred: Well, in the book, "Every Man's Battle," I do give a step-by-step path, and it does revolve around those three points, yes.
Dennis: Share with us quickly what those steps are.
Fred: Well, the battle plan is simple. You want to get to a point where you're drawing no sexual gratification from anyone or anything but your wife. That's what sexual purity is. In order to do that, what you need to do is make three perimeters around your life. Number one is a perimeter of in your eyes so that you're cutting off all sexual gratification is coming in through your eyes. You need to put a perimeter up around your mind so that you're cutting off all the mental imagery that's bringing sexual gratification, and then you need to put a perimeter around you heart, realizing who she is, her pure essence that God has died for, and that He loves. He saw Brenda when she was a little girl walking, beginning to sing in church for Him, beginning to minister for Him. He loves her with an everlasting love beyond what we can even understand, but you need to try to understand that and build that perimeter so that you don't have a harshness in your heart that's going to break down the process of building oneness from the inside as opposed from the outside.
Bob: And that's the path you've been trying to walk in for the last decade?
Fred: I have walked in it.
Bob: That's what's keeping your heart, your eyes, your mind pure before the Lord.
Fred: Let me say something that everyone needs to understand. My oneness with my wife is an incredible thing to behold. It's obvious in our lives that this walk has created an intimacy and a oneness that I did not understand was possible. I am not trying to say to anyone that I am special. You know what my background is, you know what I've come out of. If God can do it for me, He can do it for every last one of you, and you can have a oneness that you'll never even believe.
Dennis: You know, what you're talking about is a real relationship with a real person, because you both are redeemed and experiencing the grace of God in your lives, and that's true intimacy. It's two people who are willing to risk, to be known, and to know another person because there's a trust there, there's an integrity there, and that begins to bear fruit after a while.
Fred: It's God's promise. He promises when we walk in holiness that we will become more like Him and be drawn together.
Dennis: And, Bob, anybody who has listened over the past couple of days knows that what Fred's talked about really has come out of ashes. It has not been born out of this perfect Christian home. In fact, one of the things we've talked about here earlier in the week is how his own problem of sexual promiscuity and pornography really was birthed from his grandfather and father, sin passed down for generations, and then how his father became a believer and ultimately was the man who introduced him to his wife on a blind date, and that is a statement, I believe, of redemption and of grace, and I believe it's the hope of the Gospel that regardless of where we've come from, God delights in meeting us at that point, and in building upon the rubble, He will build something new. We just must step out in faith and obedience and begin to trust Him and believe Him.
Bob: I think one of the ways you step out is by memorizing some of the verses we've talked about on the program this week. Memorize Job 31:1; memorize 2 Corinthians 10:5; memorize the passages in 2 Samuel that we've talked about. You have laid out, Fred, these passages of Scripture in your book, "Every Man's Battle," and we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center.
Go to our website, FamilyLife.com. Click the red button that says "Go" in the center of the screen, and that will take you right to a page where you can get more information about Fred's book and about other resources from us at FamilyLife, and I'll just mention your book not only lays out the appropriate Scriptures to meditate on and to memorize, but it gives men some very practical steps they can take to begin to get loose from this besetting sin.
There is also a book by our friend, Joshua Harris, and I know you've read this book and appreciated it. It's a book called "Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is," and Josh goes to the heart of the issue and helps us understand that we're not just trying to control our behavior, we're trying to deal with the issue in our heart, the issue that is leading men on a path of destruction and sexual sin.
Again, we have both of these books in our FamilyLife Resource Center. I think both of them are very helpful, and any of our listeners who would like to get both of these books, we can send at no additional cost the CD audio of this week's conversation with our guest, Fred Stoeker. Go to the website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go" in the middle of the home page. That will take you right to the screen where you can get more information about these resources or order online if you'd like.
You could also call us at 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can make sure you get these resources sent to you.
Our staff here at FamilyLife today and tomorrow is meeting for an annual staff conference. We try to get the team together for a couple of days at the end of the summer each year, and we're talking about our plans for the coming year – new initiatives that are underway, new resources that are being developed, new programs that are going to be on FamilyLife Today in the months ahead. It's a great time for our staff to get refocused as we head into a brand-new fiscal year that starts for us on September 1st.
And we're also aware, as our team is getting together, that we are a little behind where we had hoped to be at this point in our fiscal year. In fact, we're about 18 percent away from what had been our goal for donations from listeners to FamilyLife Today in this past fiscal year.
So we wanted to come to our listeners and ask you if you would consider doing a couple of things this month. First of all, if you can, make a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. It is very much needed and would be appreciated, and I don't want you to hear me say the sky is falling in, and we're facing a crisis, but I do want you to know that when we face a shortfall like this, we have to consider where we make potential cuts in ministry. And that's always a difficult choice for us to make. Sometimes it means we have to pull back from certain radio stations in cities, and we can't be on the air there any longer, or we have to slow down our progress in a particular area. So we're in the process of having to think those things through right now, and if you can help with a donation, that would be very timely for us.
The other thing we want to ask you to do is to issue a challenge to folks like you to make a donation as well. We've heard from teachers and from pastors, we've heard from moms who are stay-at-home moms from homeschoolers, all kinds of folks who have said, "Not only do I want to donate, but I want to challenge other homeschoolers or stay-at-home moms or pastors or schoolteachers. I want to challenge other people like me to get involved.
Go online, make a donation on our website at FamilyLife.com, and as you fill out the form, there will be a place for comments, and that's where you can type in your challenge to others like you, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and when you make your donation just say, "And I want to challenge other people who bake their own bread to make a donation to FamilyLife Today." You pick the category. We appreciate your support of this ministry, and we look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for being willing to make a donation at the end of our fiscal year. Dennis?
Dennis: Well, it's been our privilege over the past few days to hear a story, a story of a little boy who was lost who became a young man who was lost, but who ultimately, like a sheep that was lost was found, and who was redeemed. And God, in His grace, has enabled you, Fred, to experience a great marriage, and it's been our privilege to have you on the broadcast. I thank you for your work here, and I especially want to thank you for staying clean over the past decade. I think your turning from sin and protecting your own mind and bouncing your eyes from lusting after women – I think God's honoring that by giving you a ministry, and I hope you'll join us again someday here on the broadcast, and I also hope that you'll continue to walk uprightly before the Lord.
Fred: I intend to.
Bob: Well, tomorrow we are going to hear a message that really is right in line with what we've been talking about all this week. It's a message about the important role that grace plays in family relationships and in our lives as we walk before the Lord. We're going to hear a message from Roger Thompson, who is a pastor in suburban Minneapolis. He shares a story with us that – well, I have to tell you, the first time I heard the story, I couldn't believe what he was saying. You tune in for that tomorrow. I hope our listeners can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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