by Mike Genung
This past February I was in Italy and Austria for 2-1/2 weeks, speaking on freedom from porn and the abundant life in Christ. I arrived in Milan February 9. As I was unpacking in my hotel room, I looked up… at a large (24 x 36”) picture of a naked woman. I had been to Europe before but hadn’t encountered an image like that in a hotel room. I immediately removed the picture from the wall, turned it away from me, and stuck it in a corner.
The next morning I handed the picture to the ladies who came to clean the room, and told them, “I don’t want a picture of a naked woman in my room.” They probably thought I was nuts, but the last thing I needed was to stumble right before going on a tour teaching people how to live free from sexual sin.
That weekend I spoke Saturday and Sunday on a conference on freedom from porn and sexual sin at the Punto Lode church in Milan, including preaching at their Sunday morning service. Sunday morning was an incredible experience. 30 minutes before I was to speak, God had me scrap my prepared outline, and gave me a new one that included hitting on sexual sin, not faking the Christian life, and exhortation to the hurting to get help. God showed up in a powerful way; the response stunned me… at the end, one woman broke down crying… another guy stood up wanting help. Afterward, the senior pastor told me his heart was pounding throughout the entire time I was speaking. One of the elders told me it was one of the best sermons he’d ever heard. I had spoken publicly plenty of times before, but this was my first go at sharing at a Sunday morning service and so this was totally unexpected.
Monday morning we taped 2 interviews at a radio station, then that night I shared at a church in Turin before a group of pastors and ministry leaders. Before I spoke, I felt the Lord saying He wanted me to share on how Paul confronted the church of Corinth over the sexual sin of just one man (1 Corinthians 5), and how Jesus rebuked 2 churches in Revelations for not dealing with sexual sin. I went with it, and the response was again positive, with the end result that there was a discussion of having me back to train pastors and ministry leaders on how to help their flocks live in freedom from sexual sin.
Wednesday night I spoke in Genova, then it was on to a mountain retreat in Isola del Gran Sasso, where I led a three day men’s retreat.
I’m big on going after God in silence and solitude, so in addition to hitting on sexual purity we also gave the men 2-1/2 hours to seek God on their own. Instead of telling you about the response at the men’s retreat, I’ll let you read some of the men’s responses. These were translated from Italian to English:
“The men’s retreats at Isola are always tough, both physically and spiritually! This time it was devastating!!! With the power of His grace, the Lord dug deep in my heart. He dug deep to sow the seed of an intimate knowledge of Him and of His love for me, so that I can not do anything else but madly fall in love with Jesus, and allow His presence to fill every empty space in me, and that I could learn to totally depend only on Him.”
“During the retreat we had a period of hours in which we strived to seek God. This phrase “seeking God” seemed strange, or even absurd to me! Initially, I laughed about this, thinking that this exercise was one of those dumb American things. But then I realized that too often we believers are focused on searching for God’s intervention, for His help in difficult situations, or always looking for something that has to do with us, but rarely do we strive to search for God and He alone.”
“Listening to the experience of a man who has been in the grip of sexual addiction and who testified how it is possible to overcome it with God’s help impressed me for his courage, and also for his love for his Italian brothers and the world. His way of exhorting and teaching was very encouraging and instructive for me. I think that we men need to be more courageous in regards to the many subjects that regard our inner being. Talking openly and facing the problems (like sexual sin or pornography) can be the first of many steps to a “road to grace”.”
“I am grateful to God, for this retreat. It’s been a few years that I try to attend this men’s retreat because each time the Lord speaks to my heart, through the teaching, the meditations and the fellowship with the brethren. And this year was no exception. I was hit hard by how brother Mike talked about his experiences with a lot of serenity; I think that it really takes a lot of courage to talk to everyone openly of one’s own very intimate and personal experiences, as well as on a subject that is as delicate as sexual purity. This makes me even more aware that God changes the lives of people, even from the most tragic situations. I would like to share one of the verses that Mike used to encourage us: “Jeremiah 29:13: You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.””
“This retreat helped me very much spiritually. The issue of pornography is very current and very interesting, not only for who is not a believer, but also for those people who have known the Lord for years. I came away from the retreat with a lot of advice. It was wonderful spending a couple of hours alone with the Lord. I learned to spend moments of silence with God which encouraged me and spurred me on.”
“Overwhelming! This year the Lord showed the beauty of His Word and fellowship with Him at the retreat. Mike Genung captivated us when he shared about his addiction, but even more in how God stretched out His hand and was ready to bring him back on the right way, making him choose: either Him or pornography. On my way back home, thinking over about what I had learned, I felt the flame of love I have for God that was stronger than ever, and even though I always am in continuous temptation from the world, the Lord is giving a new strength which helps me overcome the difficult moments.”