My Personal Struggle, Part I
About the Guest
Sexual sin is a dangerous lure that will lead a man to the depths of despair. On today’s broadcast, author Fred Stoeker talks about his struggle and victory over sexual 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 talks about his struggle and victory over sexual temptation.
My Personal Struggle, Part I
Bob: The Bible says the sins of the father are visited on subsequent generations. Here's Fred Stoeker.
Fred: My dad was a traveling sales rep, and so he was only home on Saturdays and Sundays, and I used to just go in and – just to be around him, I used to play in his office, and I used to take a little Tonka toy truck in there and just run it around and just be happy to be next to him, and one day he was typing a letter, and I just figured it was another business letter at the time, and as it turned out, he was writing a letter to his mistress.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 14th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. The struggle with sexual sin is what Fred Stoeker refers to as every man's battle.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. Dennis, this is one of those broadcasts where we are going to be dealing candidly with a subject that we hope to deal with appropriately, but it may not be suitable for some of our younger listeners, and we want to alert parents at the beginning of the program that while we deal with this subject, hopefully, appropriately and candidly, you may want to use some discretion as a parent as to whether your kids ought to be listening along.
We're going to be talking about the whole issue of sexual sin and how men get lured into it.
Dennis: Yeah, and I want to read a passage of Scripture, pretty lengthy, in fact. I don't often read a long passage, but you know it's just good to listen to the Scriptures from time to time. It's found in Ephesians, chapter 5, and I want you to listen early on to the warning of Scripture around sexual sin. Paul writes, "The imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity or of greed because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking, which are out of place but rather Thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure, no immoral, impure, or greedy person; such a man is an idolator, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things, God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore, do not be partners with them."
The phrase that I want us to go back over the next couple of days and just meditate on is I think a warning that all of us need to just go back and evaluate our lives around. It's verse 3 of chapter 5 of Ephesians – "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality." Now, today, Bob, we live in a culture that is completely saturated with sexual messages and maybe there's been a time in history when it has been more difficult to be a red-blooded man who is normal and alive. But, I'm going to tell you, the temptations today are real, and men feel them and, fortunately, we have a man in the studio who has not only battled this but has found more than a 10-year victory over this area – Fred Stoeker. Fred, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Fred: It's good to be here.
Dennis: Fred has written a book called "Every Man's Battle." He is a writer, speaker, counsels men around these subjects all across the nation. He and his wife Brenda live in Dez Monez, Iowa, and they have four children.
Bob: Is that how they taught you to say that?
Dennis: Dez Monez. I'll stop with my French right there. Fred, this subject, though, is not laughing matter. For you, as a boy, the subject of sexual addiction really is a generational issue with you and your family, right?
Fred: Yes, it is. My grandfather, my father, were involved in sexual sin. They had mistresses, and it's been something that even in the earliest days when I was living with my dad, he had magazines around, pornography, and from my earliest age I remember looking at those and reading them and mainly looking at the pictures, of course.
Bob: So you grew up thinking that that's kind of normal behavior.
Fred: There was no reason for me to think anything else.
Dennis: The older I get and the more professional journals and research that I do as well as stories that I hear, the more often I'm hearing that men are being exposed to pornography at earlier and earlier ages. One source I read said that the average age is around 10 when a boy gets exposed to pornography.
Fred: Right, and I was younger than that. I would have been, for sure, five, and, in fact, I was just up at a church not long ago where a man came up to me. He was so happy having read my book. He told me that he had found a pornography magazine, actually a "Playboy" in a ditch by his farm. He's a farmboy, and he grew up – "From that moment," he said, "I was stuck." And after he read the book, he said "I finally have hope to be free," and he just wanted to shake my hand. He was smiling and excited.
Dennis: There is much in this broadcast today that we're going to talk about directed to men but, for a second, I want to talk to parents who are raising the next generation of young people, and I want to read a quote to you. Dr. Jennings Bryant did a study of 600 males and females of junior high age and above, and they were interviewed about their real-life involvement with pornography. Listen to this – he found that 91 percent of the males and 82 percent of the females indicated that they had been exposed to X-rated, hard-core pornography. That's astounding.
That means that we not only need to play offense in terms of keeping our children away from such items, but it also means for a lot of parents today, they've got to play some defense and maybe go back and find out what their children have looked at.
Fred: Defense is good. I know, with my son, Jason, he's my oldest. He's 17 now, but at the age of 8 I began to talk to him about this thing called pornography. He didn't know what it was. I just explained that it was naked women, and he knew. And when he was exposed to it, where his friends brought it to school, and he had the opportunity to see it, he turned and walked away because I told him you will understand it yet, but you need to turn away.
And I think we need to at least let them know that there are things like that out there. You hate to have to share that with a young son like that, but I knew that there would come a time when I wouldn't be there, and he did walk away.
Dennis: And you need to show discretion on how much you say in terms of how descriptive you are, but I still think you're right. We need to be talking to our sons, and it sounds to me, because of the data here, we also need to be talking to our daughters about what they're seeing.
Now, for you, as a young lad, you got your first exposure at five. Usually, there's a progression involved with pornography. Where did it go from there?
Fred: Once my dad moved out, I didn't have the actual pornography in the sense of the soft-core "Playboy" and "Penthouse" sorts of things, and what it – it kind of went to from there would be magazines where you would see lingerie ads, maybe in the Sunday newspaper, or swimsuit specials in the magazines, and I would dwell on those for long periods of time – maybe the "Sports Illustrated" swimsuit issue, for instance. And where it went from there is once I went to college, and I had the freedom and the disposable income, so to say, to buy these things for myself, I memorized the dates of every magazine that I liked. I knew the exact day they would arrive at the drugstore, and I was always there that day, and I always had them the day they were out.
Bob: Was there even a hint in your mind, you know, this might be wrong?
Fred: Yes. I was not a Christian at the time, but I think these things are written on our hearts. It seems to be, anyway, and I knew there was – and I wanted to stop, and there was something about being locked into those dates and going to buy those and being tied in with it that seemed strange and certainly perverted.
Dennis: Fred, you breezed through your childhood years pretty quickly there, and I happen to know there's a story that you tell of an experience that was etched in your memory as a boy as you were playing near your dad one evening as he was typing out a letter.
Fred: My dad was a traveling sales rep, and so he was only home on Saturdays and Sundays, and I used to just go in and – just to be around him, I used to play in his office, and I used to take a little Tonka toy truck in there and just run it around and just be happy to be next to him, and one day he was typing a letter, and I just figured it was another business letter at the time, but I turned around, and I saw my mom with glassy eyes, walking up being him with the scissors raised, and I said, "Mom, what are you doing?" And my dad turned just in time to catch it and, as it turned out, he was writing a letter to his mistress, and my mom knew it, and it just cracked her.
Bob: He was promiscuous outside of marriage, right?
Bob: He was involved – he had these magazines …
Fred: Oh, yes.
Bob: She knew all about all of this?
Fred: Oh, yes, he had multiple mistresses.
Dennis: Was that like your Grandpa, too?
Fred: He didn't have multiple ones, as far as I know, but he did have mistresses.
Dennis: You had an experience when you were 14 that is unlike any experience I think I've ever heard a 14-year-old being exposed to, especially when it was your dad who created the experience.
Fred: Yes, well, my dad and my mom were divorced when I was 11, and when I was 14 my dad thought it was time for me to learn about love, and that was his words. He called my mom one night, and he said, "It's time for Fred to learn about love. I have a clean prostitute set up for him at 7:00 on Friday night. I want you to make sure you have him there." My mom, of course, she blew her top but, for me, I was devastated. It was a horrifying thought, it was humiliating, belittling, and yet it really revealed what my dad thought about sex, and it did still have an impact on my life.
Dennis: The twisted perspective of sex not a true understanding of love between a man and a woman who are committed to one another in the marriage relationship.
Bob: Fred, you look back on your relationship with your dad today – he later – he came to faith in Christ.
Fred: Yes, he did.
Bob: You look back on that part of his life not with condemnation but with compassion.
Fred: Well, I do look back on it with compassion. I love my dad. He's a hero. He was a national wrestling champion, he was bigger than life. Everybody that ever knew him loved him. And I can't help it. When he died last year, and at the funeral I said, "I wouldn't trade my dad for any father," but that particular aspect of his life was out of control. There was no one there to tell him what was wrong with it. I mean, he just lived it out like he thought he should, and I can't really condemn him for that.
Bob: In doing so, he opened the door for you.
Fred: Yes, he did.
Bob: Dennis, I think that there may be men today listening to the broadcast, men who have been lured into a relationship with pornography, men who are actively involved in either looking at magazines or videos or on the Internet, thinking, "It's my own private issue. It's not going to have impact on my family. It's not going to have impact beyond me, and I'm going to keep it private." But this is not something that stays private, and it does have impact to the next generation.
Dennis: It does, and there is more than half of this deal that we haven't really talked about yet who it has a dramatic impact upon, and that's our wives. Your mother had to feel like a second-rate citizen in that marriage. She had to feel a regular sense of betrayal, a sense of being used. Did she ever comment on that in her relationship with your daddy?
Fred: Yes. She felt very used. Those are all good words you used and very devastated.
Dennis: You became emotional when I asked that question.
Fred: I've watched my mom cry too many times, too many times.
Dennis: Around this issue?
Fred: Yes – of being left, discarded, for something better, supposedly. All she ever wanted was a happy marriage.
Dennis: And what did you feel as a young man observing this?
Fred: Well, first of all, all I wanted to do was spend the rest of my life never making my mom cry, and I did everything I could to keep tears out of her eyes.
Bob: When you found yourself, years later, in college, going to the drugstore on October 10th because you knew the magazine was coming out that day, didn't you think, "I'm going in the same direction?"
Fred: No, I didn't, and yet I was. You know, it got worse. In college, first, it was just the magazines, but then I began doing more and more actually with women where the intercourse would happen maybe with someone I just thought I was going to marry someday. And then it would be with someone that I just sort of liked, and then after while I was having sex with anyone that wanted to, and in the last analysis, I ended up with four girlfriends at once. I was sleeping with three of them, and I was actually engaged to be married to two of them, and none of them knew about each other. It was in that timeframe that I began to see I was like my dad.
Dennis: There had to be some feelings toward your father – anger?
Fred: Oh, yes.
Dennis: Towards him? Did you ever have that same anger aimed at yourself for the choices you were making in his tracks and his trail, following along after what he had done?
Fred: No, I never had anger. I did have a point of repentance, though, and great sorrow. We often look at ourselves as we can see our own motivation, and when we see our own motivations, it softens our view of sin, and I think that's what was happening.
Bob: That's the human heart's rationalization of our own behavior, and we're all really good at it. We can see clearly, Dennis, the sin in another person's life, but the same sin in our life, we know why we're doing that, and so it's softer. It's what Jesus meant when he talked about the log in your own eye versus the speck in your brother's eye. You have to be able to pull back and say "My sin before God is just as heinous as the sin I see in somebody else." But we're blind to that, often, in our own lives.
Dennis: You know, there's two points that, to me, just are so clear after hearing you share about this, Fred, and they really come from Ephesians, chapter 5. The first four words say, "Be imitators of God." All of us are an example to someone, and your choices are going to either be used by God to point people back to God, or your poor choices are going to be used to create some of the same emotion you just shared here as you watched your dad use your mom, betray her, a sense of anger, shame, frustration. And, as a little boy, looking up at that, being confused by all that, and wondering what's going on, we need to be those examples. We need to be imitators of God.
The second issue, which is just as large, especially in this culture today, is how we started this broadcast out – verse 3 – "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality." I think because we're so surrounded by this, and we go to movies where we've lost all sense of how much impropriety is already in those movies, or the television that we watch, or the radio we listen to, or the magazines we look at, or the advertisements we allow our minds to feast on, we're guilty. There is a hint. And this verse ends by warning us that there is such a thing as God's discipline, His wrath, and whom He loves, He will take to the spiritual woodshed.
And I asked Fred a question before the broadcast started that I'm going to ask him again now – Fred, when's the last time you flipped on the cable TV or a magazine or a newspaper?
Fred: Yeah, it would be over a decade.
Dennis: Bob, I think that's being an imitator of God. That's taking an area of weakness where Fred could surely claim he is a victim growing up in a home where a grandfather and a father passed on such a twisted view of sex. But instead he is now making right choices, and your life, Fred, is being used by God today not only with those four children of yours and with your wife, Brenda, but also to being hope to a lot of other men who need to get release from this sin.
Bob: And I think, Dennis, the first step in that is to own up to what you're doing. I think we've got guys listening to the broadcast today who are still in a heavy sense of denial about their own involvement in this kind of sexual sin. They think as long as it's not interrupting issues in their life; as long as they keep it private, it's okay.
Dennis: We'll hear more on tomorrow's broadcast about this, but Fred talked about the healing that came in his life as a result of the key word – repentance. It means to turn from something, away from that, 180 degrees, and in this case it's turning from sin to God; it's turning from death to life; it's turning from the decay and death of sin to life and holiness. And if that's your choice today as a listener, whether you be a man or a woman, right now you need to repent and turn from that sin and then get some help, get some help. Tell a very, very godly man, if you are a man, about your problem, and then begin to set up the process when you will tell your wife as well, and I say a process because I believe you can't just go take your garbage and go dump it on your wife and expect her to swim her way through the garbage and to come out the other side and just instantly offer forgiveness. This sin extracts a price on a marriage relationship that cannot be taken too seriously.
Bob: You've seen that happen so many times that you and your wife actually wrote a book called "Every Heart Restored," that is a guidebook for a husband and wife to go through together if, in fact, a husband has come clean on this issue. They need some help processing it together and being able to come to a point of forgiveness and wholeness in their relationship.
We've got that book, "Every Heart Restored" in our FamilyLife Resource Center along with the book that you wrote called "Every Man's Battle," and this is a book that we've recommended many times to men who are ready to do battle with this issue; who are ready to get cut loose from the besetting sin of pornography. We've got it in our FamilyLife Resource Center, you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. In the middle of the home page you'll see a red button that says "Go." If you click that button, it will take you right to a page where you can get more information about the book, "Every Man's Battle," about the book "Every Heart Restored."
We also have information about a very helpful book from our friend, Joshua Harris. The book is called "Sex Is Not the Problem, Lust Is." And the thing I like about Josh's book is that he gets to the heart of the issue. He gets past the symptoms and gets to the root and helps a man understand what's really going on in our hearts when it comes to this struggle with sexual sin.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com. You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY if you'd like more information about these resources. Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
We have a couple of things we want to ask our listeners to consider doing here during the month of August. It is the end of our fiscal year. We're going to close the books at the end of August and start a new fiscal year in September, and as we approach the end of our fiscal year, we find ourselves behind where we had hoped to be budget-wise in donations from listeners. So we wanted to come to our listeners and ask you to do a couple of things. First of all, we'd like to ask you to prayerfully consider making a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. As we've said before, we don't want you to do anything that would take away from giving to your local church. That needs to be your first priority, but if you can help us between now and the end of August with a donation to this ministry, we would greatly appreciate it.
There is a second thing we'd like to ask you to consider doing, and that is we'd like to ask you to issue a challenge. Maybe you know other listeners who are like you – homeschooling parents or people who would be in your profession or people who live in your area of the country or who listen to a particular station where you hear FamilyLife Today. When you call to make a donation, we'd like to ask you to consider making a challenge and challenging other people like you to make a donation to FamilyLife Today during the month of August. We've already heard from a listener who called in and said, "I want to challenge other moms who live in my community in Plano, Texas," to make a donation to FamilyLife Today. Somebody else said, "I want to challenge those who have been to a Weekend to Remember conference and have benefited from it," to make a donation to FamilyLife Today.
So would you consider doing those two things this month? First of all, consider making a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and then, secondly, when you make your donation make a challenge and invite others like you to join with us and see if we can get closer to our budget goal before we end our fiscal year.
You can make a donation online at FamilyLife.com, and as you fill out the donation form, there is a place for comments. You just type in your challenge there. Say "I'd like to challenge other firefighters," or "other grandparents," whatever you choose, just type that into the comment box. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and, again, to issue your challenge to someone on our team, and they'll pass that on, and we'll see if we can't challenge other listeners to join with you and make a donation here during the month of August. And let me say thanks in advance for considering a donation to this ministry. We depend on your donations to remain on the air in this city and in cities all across the country, and we want to say thanks in advance for giving this prayer consideration.
Well, tomorrow we are going to pick up Fred Stoeker's story where we left off today and find out about the turning point, really, for you when it came to the issue of temptation and sexual sin and lust. That's coming up tomorrow. I hope you 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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