FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Finding Freedom in Christ

with Mike Cleveland | November 5, 2008
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Find out what to do if you see the tell-tale signs of pornography addiction in your spouse. Mike and Jody Cleveland, founders of the ministry Setting Captives Free, discuss signs every wife should be aware of, and explain how a couple can rebuild trust in their marriage after pornography is discovered.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Find out what to do if you see the tell-tale signs of pornography addiction in your spouse. Mike and Jody Cleveland, founders of the ministry Setting Captives Free, discuss signs every wife should be aware of, and explain how a couple can rebuild trust in their marriage after pornography is discovered.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Find out what to do if you see the tell-tale signs of pornography addiction in your spouse.

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Finding Freedom in Christ

With Mike Cleveland
November 05, 2008
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Jody: When you go in anger, James tells us that the anger in a man does not produce the righteous life that God desires, and you're not going to get a good response when you come in all ragey.  But if you come in gently in love saying, "We can make this work; we can get where we need to be if we work together as a team."  Then, usually, you get a very good response.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 5th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  When sexual sin has found its way into a marriage, it takes a husband and a wife working together in the power of the Holy Spirit for there to be forgiveness and freedom.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You know, I think a lot of people who find themselves snared by a particular pattern of sin in their lives, they wind up feeling like there's just no hope.  Because they've tried, Dennis, to do something – to say "I'm going to use more willpower, I'm going to try this, I'm going to stop this" …

Dennis: "I'll never do it again."

Bob: And they fall, and so they go, "Well, my willpower is useless against this problem.  There is no hope for me."  But if they've been paying attention this week, there is hope, isn't there?

Dennis: There really is and, you know, let's be honest – there are some habitual sins that, man, they're just around the corner.  We can step off into them so easily.  Maybe it's a sin of the tongue, maybe it's an attitude, maybe it's alcohol, drugs, pornography, chat rooms – everybody has their snares.  They have to be on guard.  You can't drop your guard for a moment, but there is hope, there is hope.  That's what the Scripture offers us.  It speaks to people who are broken who need a Savior, who need forgiveness regularly, and I receive that forgiveness gratefully from God on a regular basis.  He is a great God who is gracious and loves to forgiveness us.

This week we've heard a compelling story from Mike and Jody Cleveland who have been sharing a story of, really, that same redemption.  A story of pornography, chat rooms on the Internet resulting in affairs, deception, really, over a 15-year period that ultimately resulted in Mike coming clean, and then both he and his wife, Jody, coming to faith in Christ, and I just want to say thanks, Jody, for joining us on FamilyLife Today and, you, too, Mike, and sharing your story.  I think just sharing your story is going to set a lot of captives free in and of itself.  Welcome back.

Mike: Thank you, good to be here.  That's why we share our testimonies.  It's hope giving to others.  I was thinking, as you were talking, Bob, about hope.  The Scripture says "As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.  Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope.  Even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you."

So when we become captive to Christ, we become prisoners of hope.

Bob: That's great.

Dennis: Yeah, and the one who always accepts us and welcomes us back no matter how many times we flub up.

Bob: And, Jody, we've unpacked your story this week hearing about Mike's involvement in pornography and how it ended his first marriage.  The two of you met and were married.  You were oblivious to the fact that he was continuing to be involved in pornography and in immorality prior to your marriage and then after you were married.

Looking back on your dating months together, were there any signs that you saw at the time or signs that you looked back and said, "Oh, I should have been alert to that," that would have been a tipoff that something wasn't right here?

Jody: Oh, sure.  Things like evasiveness, being gone or inaccessible for long periods of time, small lies, lies about things that don't really matter, like what you ate for lunch or what you did today.

Dennis: Would you catch him in those lies?

Jody: Oh, yeah, sometimes.  It would be like, "Oh, I had" – or "I went here," and then he didn't go there, and it was like, "But what's this Burger King wrapper or whatever?"  You know, so odd things that just didn't make any sense were really fatigued, being very, very tired after he should have rested all night.  I'm like, "Okay, why are you so tired?"  "Oh, I don't know, I just didn't sleep well."  Well, really, he was up all night involved with sin.

And strange phone calls from people that we didn't know or –

Bob: And were you just living in denial and not picking that up or were you – was there some plausible explanation to why there was a Burger King wrapper instead of a restaurant?

Dennis: Well, Mike said he snowed you.

Jody: He did, he really did, and I wanted to believe the best.  Love hopes the best, and that's really what I did with him.  I mean, whatever he said, "Oh, okay, that – sure, all right."  And I would believe the lie.  Money that went missing, or just very closed off.  I was not really in the know about his life at all.  It was only what he allowed me to know.  And then – but that was okay with me.  I was fine.  I just loved him so much, but it was like, "Oh, okay," and I just accepted it because I loved him.

Bob: Mike, the reason I ask the question is because there are a lot of wives today who are wondering, and they want to believe the best, but they don't know if they're being naïve and, you know what?  Maybe they should believe the best because maybe their husband is innocent.  But what does a wife do or what can she do if she suspects that her husband may be online, watching movies in hotel rooms, or more?

Mike: Well, we teach them at our ministry to become detectives in the sense of to look at the Internet history, to look at the viewing habits on the computer and on the TV and various things.  And it's not that they're saying, "I don't trust you, and I'm going to go on a witch hunt to find out what you're doing."  It's, "I love you, and I care about you, and if the devil is ensnaring you somewhere, I want to come alongside with you and be your teammate against this stuff." 

So, yes, we want them to begin looking and inspecting the life of their husband because the two are one.  What happens in the man's life happens, whether he likes it or not, in the woman's life as well.

Dennis: Jody, you just real quickly said something I wanted to go back to – you said money was missing?

Jody: Oh, yes.  He made a certain amount of money, so there should have been so much money at the end of the month.  But if he spent it on things, immoral things, then he would hide that from me – or on other women, money that he spent on other people, and he would just say, "Oh, well, I did this or I did that at work," or I bought this for those people, or he just always had a good answer but, really, it was for immorality.

Dennis: I want you to address women who are already in a relationship who have listened to us this week, say "That's my husband, that's us, that's me."  There are too many of these things getting checked off – where does she begin?

Jody: Well, you want to begin at the source.  You want to begin with her husband and going to him and saying – after you've gathered some evidence.  Maybe she's found suspect websites, or she's found immoral material or whatever.  And so she goes to him, and she says, "Here is what I've got."  Now, if her husband is a believer, she can biblically confront him.  She can say, "The Scriptures say have nothing to do with immorality, flee sexual immorality.  We need to purify our home, and I love you, and I want to be pure with you, and let's get rid of all this stuff, and let's do it together and how can I help you?"  And go at it with that attitude.

If he's not a believer, she can appeal to him on a purely moral basis as saying, you know, "This isn't healthy.  It's not good for our marriage."  But if he's a believer, she's got grounds, you know, to really appeal to his heart and to really make some progress.

And always going in love, because when you go in anger, James tells us that the anger of man does not produce the righteous life that God desires, and you're not going to get a good response when you come in all ragey.  But if you come in gently in love saying, "We can make this work.  We can get where we need to be if we work together as a team," usually, you get a very good response.

Mike: I'm going to say in addition to that that the man who is needing to confess to his wife should not do it as I have done it – as just a pure cleansing thing for the man – "I'm going to dump all this out and feel better about myself."  He needs to present his plan of what he is going to do to be free from this.  "Yes, that's true, I have viewed this, however, I found a website, Setting Captives Free," or whatever, "that I'm working through this to get free from it."

Second of all, here is my accountability partners' phone number – my pastor, my elder, my friend – and you can call them if you have an issue that you wonder if I’m not telling you the truth or something.

Thirdly, I've rid my life of cable TV and of whatever – so that you're not just dumping, you're actually explaining to her that "Here is what I'm doing about it, and will you come along with me in this plan and help me to get free."

Dennis: And as you get free, you are free to begin to build bridges that re-establish trust, and that's my question for you, Jody, is, okay, you've both come to faith in Christ now in your story, but here is a man who has just confessed for 15 years he's had an addiction to pornography, chat rooms, infidelity, he's lied to you, deceived you, hoodwinked you into a relationship, and now you're a year into your marriage, you've just had your first child – how did you rebuild trust?

Jody: Well, when he was talking earlier about radical amputation, I was thinking the whole time, those were huge trust-building things that he did.  He got rid of his laptop computer, which meant no more chat rooms, no more access to the Internet, so that was a huge faith-builder, a trust-building thing that he did.

He got rid of anything that was suspect.  He came to me and said, "What bothers you?  What's going to help you feel safe in the marriage?  And what's going to help you know that I love you and that I'm for you?"  And so we brainstormed together – how can we build trust together?  And he didn't put any limits on it.  He didn't say, "Okay, everything but that, I've got to keep that for whatever," he didn't.  He said, "I'm willing to do whatever it takes."

It was so beautiful, and it was really encouraging to my soul.  It wasn't that it all just suddenly was perfect and roses, but he was making an effort, and if he made an effort, I was able to do that, too.  He brought me, he told me all about our finances, I saw every bill, every phone bill, every credit card, everything.  I knew everything about our – and that was new to our marriage, because I didn't know anything before.

Dennis: So all these steps that he took really fueled your ability to be able to trust him – still, take me to the first trip he made.

Jody: Oh, well, yeah.  There was a lot of trepidation, right, because here I knew, and now I'm fearful.  He flies with beautiful women, and he's in foreign cities, and the evil one is never far away.  So I feared for him, but he was really great.  He went – in fact, they used to tease him because they said he had the phone stuck to his ear, because he got a new cell phone, and he would call me the minute he landed, and he would talk to me all the way to the hotel, then he would – when he got to the hotel, he would get everything all situated, get rid of the TV and whatever, and then he would tell me what he was going to do while he was there.  And anytime I phoned, he would answer.  He had that with him all the time so that I could catch him anytime.

And he was just available, which was so different than what it was before.  It was just a complete 180 in our relationship.

Bob: Mike, from the point where you came to faith and where you started to take these radical steps that you've been talking about– were there lapses in your life?  Times when you drifted back into old behavior?

Mike: There was never a lapse at all with pornography or chat groups or anything like that.  I've been totally free from that now since January of '99, however long that is.  But there was an issue of six months of self-gratification that continued because that was formed when I was a young boy as a habit, and that continued on.  And I didn't realize how that was still impurity, and, you know, if you are burning, Paul says, you are to marry, not to self-gratify. 

And so when that stopped after six months, that completely ceased, and then I had to go to my wife for any times that I was really desiring, and that's what really bonded us because now there was no false intimacy outside of me and her.  And so there has certainly been temptation but, you know, when a man becomes pure, the power of God actually begins working in him as well, and so that being in the light is an armor – put on the armor of light, and so there has been no false – not to say that there couldn't be, I don't dare say, hey, when, you know, I could view pornography today, no problem – no, I don't do that.  I steer clear of it.

Bob: Mike, you have two children from a previous marriage, a previous marriage that was destroyed by your sexual sin.  How did you approach your ex-wife and your children with the news of your repentance, and how was that received?

Mike: That's a good question, it's a hard question.  Jody and I, one year after our repentance and coming to faith in Jesus, flew with our pastor and an elder up to Vancouver, Washington, to where they were and confessed adultery and asked for forgiveness and had a meeting with – I guess there was probably 15 people there, maybe 20, and just simply asked for their forgiveness.  And the same with our children – I went into a room with them and our pastor, and we came in, and I explained the sin struggles that I had, and that God had set me free from them and that Jesus was my Lord, and that I asked their forgiveness for that.

And they granted it to me and others did as well.  And so we have a foundation of grace now.  My oldest son is going into the ministry at this point, and God has just worked wonderful grace through all of that situation.

Bob: You developed a 60-day program.  Was this kind of looking back at your own path and saying, "I'm going to chart out for other guys the path that God took me on," or how did that come about?

Mike: It did.  Let me share with you the verse that helped me to develop that – "In a large house there are articles not only of gold, silver, but also of wood and clay.  Some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master, and prepared to do any good work."

And I came across this verse, and I said, "I wonder if God could use me?"  At this point, I felt that I had gone too far and was in too deep and so forth, but I just began praying that maybe God would bring another couple along that needed help and, sure enough, we found some at church and began to pour the truths of God's Word into them.  And it was actually that first couple that said, "You really need to write this down because it's so helpful.  We need to be able to read it together."

And so I did and began putting the truths of Scripture into a book format.  Actually, we put it online, and the first day that we opened the Internet doors, there were 800 visitors that day, and it told me that this problem is probably bigger than we had originally thought.

Bob: Eight hundred visitors who found you how?

Mike: Well, I don't really remember.

Bob: They just – you opened the doors, and they were there, ready, looking for help?

Mike: Yeah.

Dennis: And so now there's 6,000 people right now going through one of your courses dealing with various addictions and things that ensnare people?

Mike: Yeah, we have about 6,000 every month.  Every month there's about another 3,000 or 4,000 that come and sign up to go through.  But it's not just impurity issues now.  It's also all kinds of other areas that it's branched out to – things like overeating and issues with food, things like gambling and drunkenness and drugs and homosexuality and just – as people would come along and get free from their particular issues, they would say, "Hey, we could make a course that would help specifically in this area."  And so we would partner with other people to sort of formulate the truths of Scripture towards that direction.

Bob: And we've got a link on our website at for folks who would like to find out more about your website and about what's available, and all of these courses that you've got up there are just free for anyone who wants to go through them, right?

Mike: Freely we've received, freely we need to give, so there is no charge ever for anything, even our conferences are all free.

Dennis: I'm thinking of parents who have been listening to our broadcast this week.  They've got to be scared to death, I mean, maybe they're raising little kids right now, still in grade school or younger, and they're going, "Man, are we headed into some turbulent waters."  And the answer is, "Yes, you are." 

What do you say to them to give them hope but, at the same time, give them some direction and guidance as to how they can not overprotect their kids – and I think we should do that as much as possible.  I'm not putting a disclaimer on that, but I'm just not sure it's possible, in this culture, to totally protect.  There are so many places, public places, where they could get access.  Where do parents start today?

Mike: Well, first of all, I think a really great book is called "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," by Dennis Rainey.  That's probably a good place to start.

Bob: And, by the way, we have that in our FamilyLife Resource Center, if you'd like to get a copy of that.

Dennis: No, seriously, where can they find help?

Mike: You need to have open and free communication with your children.  You need to talk about these issues with them, because if you don't, their kids will at school, or somebody they run into on the street.  And so we start with open communication about self-gratification, teaching about, you know, that – I remember the first time we talked with our young boy about this issue and told him that God gave us these private parts to enjoy with our future mates, and that's what they're for.

And the first question he said – he was about eight – "Well, when can I get a wife?"  Because he had the desire, as we all do, at a young age.

But to talk openly about that is the greatest thing that you can do to explain that God has His Book, the Bible.  The devil has his book, it's got naked pictures in it.  And as you grow up, you'll be presented with the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and as that choice comes to you, we want to prepare you for turning to the Lord and to His Word and saving yourself for your spouse.  So you've got to talk openly about it.

Dennis: As you were talking, Mike and Jody, you'll remember right before we came in the studio, I got a chance to meet your kids, and you've got a couple of twin girls who are, what, seven years old?  Seven years old, and a son who is about to turn 10, another one 13, and they've all been really good out in the studio taking care of the buttons out there and helping the broadcast. 

But I brought a book in for each of them that I wanted to give them called "So You're About to be a Teenager."  I think we underestimate how important it is for parents to stay connected with their kids not just up until the point of puberty but get them ready for it, equip them for it, talk to them about it, Passport to Purity weekend for a mother/daughter, father/son, is a great investment because it connects your heart to theirs around the most intimate of life issues, and then to stay connected.  All the way through – 13, 14, 15, 16, on into young adulthood and continue to ask your kids questions – how are you doing?  How's the struggle?  Because the temptations are not going to go away just because they become young adults.

In fact, I recently wrote a letter to all the men in my family.  I've just seen infidelity and what it does to a marriage, fresh, through a friend that had stumbled, and I just wrote a passionate e-mail to all the men saying, "Guys, be faithful, stand firm."  And what we're talking about here is really parents who represent what's right, teach what's right, continue to teach what's right, don't quit, persevere, and I think you guys have done a great job this week of really encouraging us to be transparent, to be honest, and to also instruct our kids.

Mike, Jody, thanks for your ministry and just all you do.  I appreciate you.

Mike: Dennis, thank you so much for your ministry, and it's just been a joy to see the Lord use you as well, and we're just glad to be with you.

Jody: Thank you.

Bob: Well, and we hope that folks who need help will come to our website at  Click on the right side of the home page where it says "Today's Broadcast."  That will take you to an area of the site where there is a link to your website, and there is also more information about the workbook that you've created called "The Way of Purity," and that material is also available online on your website, if folks would like to go through the 60-day course that you take folks through that's the path from bondage to freedom.  They can get the workbook from us, or they can get the material from your website.

And if they're serious about this and want to maintain purity, we've talked about this whole issue of accountability being so key to this – we would encourage them to consider using a tool like the Covenant Eyes program.  This is way where you and an accountability partner can share with one another each week the websites you've been looking at.  In fact, there is an automatic e-mail that goes out each week that tells your accountability partner where you've been on the Web, and you find out where he has been on the Web, and the two of you can be praying for one another, can be holding each other accountable, can be challenging each other to be men of purity.

Again, all the details about Covenant Eyes are on our website at  Click on the right side of the home page where it says "Today's Broadcast," and you'll find the information you need there.  Or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.  Someone on our team will make arrangements to get the resources you need sent out to you.

When you get in touch with us, can I encourage you to consider making a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today?  Your donations are what keep us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country.  So we appreciate your financial support of this ministry, and this month when you make a donation of any amount, there's a book we'd love to send you.  It's a prayer guide for parents called "While They Were Sleeping."

This is a book that gives you specific character qualities to be praying for as your children are growing and, in fact, purity is one of those character qualities that's highlighted in this book, and we need to be faithful, as parents, to pray for these things with our children. 

You can request a copy of the book when you make a donation online at, and if you do that, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type in the word "sleep" or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and just request a copy of the book, "While They Were Sleeping," or the prayer guide for parents and, again, we're happy to send it out to you.  We so much appreciate your partnership with us financially, and it's always a joy to hear from you.  So thanks for getting in touch.

Now, tomorrow, Kurt and Olivia Bruner are going to join us.  We're going to talk about fun things that families can do that will also help your children grow in their faith.  We've got some recipes for you tomorrow, and I hope you'll tune in.  I think you'll enjoy them.

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 again tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  


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