Several years ago I went to Uganda. It was a great adventure and I fell in love with the Ugandan people. There was only one downside. Door to door I traveled 42 hours from San Diego to get to Uganda. I was 32 hours into my trip when I walked off the plane in Entebbe only to find out that the next leg was a 10 hour bus ride through Uganda to arrive in Gulu.  Friends had been warned about the length of the journey so I prepared entertainment options beforehand.

I downloaded some movies and got some music playlists ready. I also looked for a book to read. A buddy gave me a book about an Army special agent named John Puller. John Puller is every man’s man. He’s a murder investigator. He’s could kill you five times before you hit the ground. I have never punched a guy in the face in my whole life. He punches a guy on every page. Here’s another manly characteristic of John.

Every woman who comes in contact with him wants to jump in bed with him.

The first day on the job he meets a policewoman and within eight hours of meeting her, she invites him to sleep at her house. The next day he’s joined on the investigation by a female general who just so happens to be hot and in shape. She walks into John’s room naked.

At this point I thought “Maybe this isn’t the kind of book I should be reading on my missions trip to Uganda.”

John Puller is not a one of a kind character. There are lots of guys in fiction just like John. Lee Child has made millions writing about Jack Reacher. Jack is a former military police officer who travels around the country solving crimes. During the course of solving those crimes, Jack comes in contact with a woman in each town to help him solve the crime and, oh by the way, happens to be hot and wants to take him to bed.

James Bond is another such character. If you’re more into comedy, who knows his way around the playboy lifestyle better than Austin Powers. “Yeah, baby!”

Here’s why guys like James Bond and John Puller and Jack Reacher can be trouble. Somewhere in the back of most males minds is this thought. “Would’t it be great if I was just like Jack Reacher. My life would be so much better if I was big, in shape, had a really cool job and women would just throw themselves at me.”

Guys, I have some news that I need you to hear.

The legend of Jack Reacher is fiction.

So is the lifestyle. It doesn’t exist.

Let me tell you the legend of David Smith. 8 years ago David married a beautiful girl who could have easily made a magazine cover.  That marriage lasted a year and a half.  David and I went to lunch and he told me a line I will never forget.

“In the last 8 years there hasn’t been a woman I haven’t cheated on.”

David is a good looking guy.  He’s smart and funny and he knows how to play the game to get a women into bed.  And he is the most miserable guy I’ve met with in this last year.  He’s on anti- depressants and has considered suicide.  He’s broke and he is lonely. Let me tell you something about the legend of David Smith.  The only part that is legend is the name.  The rest is all too real. That’s not the only time I’ve heard a story like that. In fact I have heard that story over and over and over.

Let me read you what I think is one of the most difficult verses in the bible.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27, 28

Those are some rough words for guys.  Here’s what makes 6hose words even more difficult.

Sex is the god of this age.

Simply based on it’s prominence in TV and in advertising and movies and how we dress. The god people in our culture worship most is sex.

What’s not really fair about this turn in our culture is that the women in our lives don’t typically understand the struggle that we as men face.

I remember a moment years ago I started working out because I wanted to be bigger. I have forever had a basketball body and for most of my life a basketball body looked like a guy you could use to get the football out of the sewer. Then basketball bodies changed. Lebron came into the league. Then Zion Williamson. Now basketball players look like body builders. I wanted that so I started working out. I looked for opportunities to parade around in front of my wife without my shirt on. When I asked my wife if she noticed a difference she said, “Well, I guess you don’t look quite so emaciated.” Most women don’t understand our struggle because they are not as visually stimulated as we are.

That’s why there’s no such store in the mall as Victors Secret.

When I read Jesus words my thought is, “God this is just not fair. I live in San Diego. In San Diego we don’t just have to avoid movies and internet porn. We can’t walk down the street without women walking around showing off what God and or a surgeon has given them.”

There are a couple reasons why God draws these hard lines when it comes to sex. Here’s one you probably never thought of.

God wants you to have more and better sex.

Do I have your attention?

Let’s go back to the legend of Jack Reacher. That lifestyle sounds good, but it’s not reality. At least not for you. Let me put it clearly. You know that cheerleader that you find yourself looking at when you are watching the game. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you don’t have a shot. In fact, you at 25 on your best day just after working out and fully pumped, didn’t have a chance. This is your chance. To cultivate a good sex life with your wife.

Studies show that the people who report having the best sex life are married people. So how do you get there? Here’s one way.

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. Job 31:1

Again this feels so guilt producing, but this commitment can lead to better sex at home. When we hear this verse it’s so easy to think of porn and sexy movies and Playboy, but it can also be more low profile in our lives as guys. How would you answer these questions?

1. Do you lock on when an attractive woman comes near you?
2. Do you read an article on your iPad and at the end there is another article titled, the LPGA’s sexiest golfers so you click on it?
3. Do you flip channels in hopes of coming across a sexually exciting woman?
4. Do you make sure to get an eye full when you notice a woman jogging on the side of the road?

God wants us to cut out those little areas of our lives too. Those moments that give you a little thrill. A pop of adrenaline. Those moments should be reserved for your wives.

Let me see if I can illustrate what lust does to our relationships. Let’s say that each person has 6 units of sexual energy to spend on their relationship each week. Those moments are represented by 6 buckets.

For guys those 6 buckets of sexual energy were intended to be spent on your wife. In our society it’s easy to use our buckets on other sources. Let’s say that in his week a guy has 6 buckets, but he spends this bucket on a horror movie about cheerleaders, and that bucket on an image from the internet, and this bucket on a glistening female jogger, and that bucket on an afternoon reading about the conquests of Jack Reacher. That leaves only 2 buckets left for his wife. Now that doesn’t mean he’ll have sex 2 times. What it means is he is only pouring 2 measures of sexual energy into his marriage.

You see, your sexual energy drives you to be a better husband.

It drives you to listen to her when you’d rather watch the game. It makes us go to the ballet. Your desires cause you to clean the house and engage in a conversation and all sorts of other things you’d simply rather not do. If you are pouring that energy into other sources, you will simply not be as loving and attentive to your wife and your marriage will suffer, and, I’ll wager to say, you won’t have as much sex. You will be exchanging good, fulfilling sex, for pictures, and videos and beer commercials.

Let me talk for a moment to the single guys. You’re thinking, “This is great for guys that have a wife and regular sex but what about me.” Here’s why this is important for you to not fill all those buckets with porn and game of thrones and swimsuit issues.

The decision that has made the most impact on the quality of my life, outside of following Jesus, is my decision to marry my wife. I like her, she likes me, neither of us like sushi. She is my soul mate.

Do you know how I got her? It wasn’t because I was so smart and so hot that she had to have me. I met her in a counseling meeting and I was balancing a guitar on my nose. Not exactly a huge turn on. God honored that relationship because we honored him. We chose to follow God. We decided together to not have sex before marriage.

Why does God make such a big deal about that? Let me put it simply.

The worse decision maker in your life is your penis.

Is that clear enough? When you are single and you get involved with a woman, your brain is no longer in charge. You’ve shifted the decision making down about two feet.

Let me explain how this works with one of my favorite stories. Years ago I competed in the world championship grilled cheese eating contest in Lake Perris, California. A friend of mine is a newspaper columnist and he invited me to come out and take part in the festivities. When I showed up, my buddy informed me that some of the eaters didn’t make it and asked if I wanted to take part in the competition. I thought, “I’m never going to get this chance again, so what the heck. I’m in.” Here’s proof.

I stood with a stack of grilled cheese sandwiches in front of me and the gun went off and I started eating. Four grilled cheeses into the event and I was done. I started getting afraid that I might refund some of my sandwiches (In competitive eating this is known as a reversal of fortune) so I decided to stop. The winner finished over 25 sandwiches in 10 minutes. I beat two professional wrestlers who were hired to start fighting each other in the middle of the competition. For one moment in time I was in the top 10 in the world in grilled cheese eating.

Why did I do so poorly? I had already eaten dinner. A quick stop at Taco Bell on the way in filled my belly with a large burrito and fries just minutes before the competition. My problem was, I was full when I got there. That’s the same problem we get into as guys.

When we spend our sexual energy elsewhere we don’t have it to spend on our wives. We are already full.

Annie Dillard tells of experiments in which entomologists entice male butterflies with a painted cardboard replica larger and more enticing than the females of their species. Excited, the male butterfly mounts the piece of cardboard; again and again he mounts it. “Nearby, the real, living female butterfly opens and closes her wings in vain.”

As men we need to redefine maturity

If we are going to be good godly men with healthy relationships than maturity seems to be a good goal for us.

A tradition definition of maturity sounds something like this.

Maturity: If you describe someone as mature, you think that they are fully developed and balanced in their personality and emotional behavior. They are emotionally mature and should behave responsibly.

That seems about right. Based on what I’ve observed in culture that doesn’t apply to any of you guys, but we can at least sign off on that as a definition of maturity.

Culture has redefined maturity for us.

When I was a growing up you had to go to a XXX theater in a nasty part of town to see porn. Netflix defines this kind of nudity as “mature themes.”

I read an article on the best mature rated shows on Netflix. This show is number one and this is how it describes it’s mature themes.

“Several scenes of many fully naked men and women, showing graphic full frontal nudity. These fully nude people are seen convulsing, shaking, and rolling around on top of each other”
“A brief scene of nude sun bathing.”

“Several more scenes and photos of nude men and women.”

“Many descriptions and depictions of intense sexual intercourse. Discussions about the noises of orgasmic sex as well as discussion about orgies.”

I know what your thinking and no, I won’t tell you what show it is.

Since we are already talking about a topic that is guilt producing, I thought I’d bring this up as well.

According to a recent survey, 61% of respondents said they had experienced an undesired weight change since the start of the pandemic. Among those who reported undesired weight gain, the average gain was 29 pounds.

Why do I bring this up? For years doctors and scientists have been talking about how much fatter America is getting and the health issues that come out of it. No one ever talks about how sex obese we’ve become.

Our culture is sex obese

Sex is constantly being sent to our computer screens, our TV’s and our phones. No one ever talks about the results of our sex obesity. Is this what we should consider “mature?”

Maturity means something different to me.

Mature means making decisions that will protect myself from what will hurt me and my marriage.

Maturity means making decisions now that will help you make a wise decision about a future life partner. Mature means honoring God with our body. It’s so hard to stay away from all the sexual images paraded in front of us.

I have learned that I need to step up guardrails for my purity

When we moved into our new home 15 years ago I decided to get Dish network as my satellite provider. It came with all these great channels and, for the first year I could get Cinemax for free. It’s almost impossible for me to turn down anything that is free, so I took it. There were some decent movies on there. But I learned pretty quick that there were was a lot of bad programming. I didn’t find out until later that Cinemax has a nickname. It’s called Skinamax. On Dish there are parental controls so I had my wife set the code so I wouldn’t be tempted to flip to any of those shows and it worked. I tried her pin, I tried her birthday, I couldn’t crack the code. I’m kidding.

It worked pretty well until one day I taped “Journey to the Center of the Earth” with Brendon Fraiser on my DVR. It’s a cute kids movie. One night I started watching to see if the recording came out and the first minute was pure pornography. The movie had recorded after some “mature theme” show and we got the last minute of it. I knew I couldn’t live with that, so I prayed.

“Dear God, help me not to watch any porn that happens to show up in any of the kids movies I tape. And God give my son Riley the strength to fast forward any bad scenes he comes across. Help him to have wisdom to know that this is just for mommies and daddies. Amen.”

What do you think of my plan? Pretty good huh? The first thing I did was not to pray, it was to call Dish and have them cancel my subscription to Cinemax.

I’ve learned that I have to have strict guardrails on my life so I treat myself like a junior high kid. I know this may sound silly to you but this is how I live.

Before I go to the movies I check out the parents guide on IMDB so that I will know if there is any sex in the movie and, if there is anything that will drag me down, I don’t go. Same is true of movies I watch at home.

I set up parental guides on my iPad. It’s so easy to stumble onto a site and I don’t want to stumble.

I don’t have one on one meeting with any women on my staff unless the door is open

I used to read articles off of the ESPN app but I found that at the end of most of their articles there are all kinds of click bait featuring hot women so I switched to a different sports app, TheScore.

Will power is a terrible strategy for success.

Mature people don’t rely on willpower. Mature people put up guardrails.

I want to make one last point. Years ago I heard author Philip Yancey speak and I remember him saying something like this.

Every time Jesus came in contact with someone on the margins sexually he always treated them with grace.”   Philip Yancey

Philip if that isn’t exactly what you said, forgive me. That quote has greatly influenced both my struggles and my view of people who struggle sexually. Jesus forgave prostitutes. He was gracious with a woman caught in adultery. The Samaritan woman who had been married 5 times and was living with guy number six got an unlimited supply of grace.

This is our battle and the battle ground is rough. I get it. I struggle too. Here’s what I know. Our God gives us grace. He offers forgiveness. He understands. Even when you’ve failed for the millionth time. Don’t ever stop running to him.

From what I have seen, sexual sin is like autism. We are all on the spectrum.

Some guys battle porn.
Other guys spend too much energy checking out women.
Some guys check out guys.
Other guys battle sex addiction.

Somewhere you are on the spectrum. Wherever you are at on the spectrum God wants to give you grace and power to overcome.

If this is your battle use Psalm 51 as a template for prayer. David had just been caught in an affair and these are the authentic and tear stained words that flow out of his heart.

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me… Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice… Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me… Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness… The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:1-3, 8,11,14,17

The legend of Jack Reacher is not real. But you can have a legendary love life. Maybe it’s time to set up some guardrails.