Nathan Schneider


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Resources for the Battle for Porn-Free Living

As a Student Pastor I’m frequently meeting with students about their struggle with purity, whether that be a result of something their viewing online or because of crossing a line physically with another person. In addition to meeting with students, I’m asked by parents about resources for leading their sons and daughters through the difficult terrain of sexual purity during adolescence.

And although these conversations can revolve around any number of issues related to sexual purity, pornography continues to be the largest topic of discussion (statistics suggests that average age of a first exposure to porn is 11 and that 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites). For that reason, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be some of the most helpful material related to the issue of pornography.

Books:

Closing the Window by Tim Chester (Best for Immediate Porn Free Living)closing-the-window

This books provides the most helpful framework for how to overcome pornography. After opening with reasons to give up porn, Chester frames the book around five steps to fight the war against pornography:

  1. Abhorrence of Porn
  2. Adoration of God
  3. Assurance of Grace
  4. Avoidance of Temptation
  5. Accountability to Others

“The reality is that often we dislike the shame and the consequences of sin, but we still like the sin itself. We dislike the shame of porn, but in reality we still want to view it… The Bible talks about the pleasures of sin. They’re temporary. They’re dangerous. They’re empty pleasures, compared with the glory of God.” (p. 15)

Finally Free by Heath Lambert (Best for Sustained Porn Free Living)null.jpg_7324

Lambert’s book begins like many other books about living without pornography, namely with reasons to give up porn. The unique element of Lambert’s book is the emphasis on using Spirit-controlled characteristics to continue living porn free. These characteristics include humility, service and gratitude. This book could easily be the best overall book for someone looking to be victorious in their struggle.

“The great danger in your struggle is that you will devote all of your energy to thinking true and awful things about pornography and spend no time dwelling on the true and wonderful things about Jesus.” (p. 28)

You Can Change by Tim Chester (Best for Understanding Christian Growth)41WbWmPv7JL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

It’s rare that a book on Christian growth combines such gospel insight and practical application. Unlike other books on growth that are grounded in moralism, You Can Change springs forth from a proper understanding of our fallenness, God’s glory, and the wonderful news that God works through the gospel. Although the book is meant to be a catalyst for all types of change, the books principles can be applied easily to struggles with lust and pornography.

“Jesus is the perfect person, the true image of God, the glory of the Father. And God’s agenda for change is for us to become like Jesus.” (p. 14)

Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is) by Joshua Harris (Best Overview of Lust/ Sexuality)51iKD6rm53L._SX354_BO1,204,203,200_

Harris stresses the good gift of sex, a healthy perspective of sexuality, and the grace of God. From here, he emphasizes the need for purity in this issue. Although not as practical as other books, Harris does provide practical steps to pursue purity, including accountability, the reading of God’s Word, creating an intentional plan to fight temptation, etc.

“Sexual purity is clearly something only God can bring about in your life and mine. God’s standard of not even a hint quickly brings me to the end of my own ability and effort. It reminds me that God’s standard is so much higher than the standards I place for myself that only the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection can provide the right power and the right motive needed to change me.” (p. 27)

Wired for Intimacy by William Struthers (Best for Understanding the Neuroscience of Porn)wired-for-intimacy

This unique read provides an overview of the development (or lack thereof) of the brain because of pornography. The battle against pornography needs to take into account the reality that inappropriate sexual images affect us physically and intellectually. Change is a change of behavior and thinking.

“As men fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on these images, ages, the exposure to them creates neural pathways. Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed. Over time these neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with women are routed. The neural circuitry anchors this process solidly in the brain. With each lingering stare, pornography deepens a Grand Canyon-like gorge in the brain through which images of women are destined to flow. This extends to women that they have not seen naked or engaging in sexual acts as well. All women become potential porn stars in the minds of these men. They have unknowingly created a neurological logical circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image.” (Kindle location: 807-812)

Is God Anti-Gay? by Sam Alberry (Best Related to Homosexuality)allberry

Written by a pastor who has struggled with same-sex attraction in the past, Is God Anti-Gay? speaks biblically and graciously about issue about same-sex attraction and how to counsel with those who may be struggling in this area.

But there is a caution: having made it easy for someone to talk about their sexual struggles, we must not then make the mistake of always talking to them about it. They may need to be asked about how things are going from time to time, but to make this the main or only thing you talk about with them can be problematic. It may reinforce the false idea that this is who they really are, and it may actually overlook other issues that they may need to talk about more. Sexuality may not be their greatest battle.” (Kindle location: 738-742)

Media Resources:

Covenant Eyes – Internet Accountability (Covenant Eyes also provides a blog with a plethora of information for anyone battling pornography.)

Mobicip – Parental Controls


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Guest Post: Nicole Barker

Our ministry is only as strong as the leaders God has placed in the lives of our students. A couple of weeks back I asked our Girl’s Ministry Intern, Nicole Barker, to write a blog about her heart for Girl’s Ministry. I’ve posted the blog below – please take time to read the full post, but get to know Nicole:

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5 Things you should know about me:

  1. Fun Facts: I am a UM grad, my favorite color is mustard seed yellow and I traveled with Voices for 3 years
  2. Truth: I have never written a blog before so my boyfriend will be the one to grammatically proof this piece
  3. My Heart: I have a passion to invest in the next generation of young women and train them in godliness
  4. I Enjoy: a good cup of coffee, journaling, singing, adventures, hiking, songwriting and crafting
  5. I am learning: that my greatestfears only come to life so that I will learn to fear Him MOST.

 

Parents and Girls, consider your mentoring relationships. Are there people in your life intentionally pouring into you? Paul gave this charge: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Who are you following that’s pointing you to Jesus?

You know that warm and deep connection that seems to fall over you as you and your dear friend sit and share a heart to heart…filled with laughter, tears and “eeeps” of joy!!! An hour may pass by and we don’t even realize it?! Women were uniquely designed by God with a desire to connect. Consequently, lack of connectivity is also something we fear…abandonment, loneliness …I am thinking of that scene in Les Mis where Eponine walking down a dark alleyway in the rain singing…”On my own.” What a sorrowful moment as she tries to embrace her aloneness! Sometimes we may feel like Eponine but feelings must always submit to TRUTH. We must fix our mind on Him. He comforts us in our aloneness and if we walk with Him we NEVER go anywhere alone. His Word shares with us an unbreakable promise that He will never leave us, forsake us or fail us. In the Breaking Free Bible Study, Beth Moore reminds her reader of Isaiah 43:7 that says “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made,” only to conclude that “God’s glory is how He shows who He is.” He shows who He is by designing us in such a way that we need connection. (that is why after Jesus was crucified, buried, rose again three days later, then a few weeks later descended into heaven…He sent us the Holy Spirit…to be our Greatest Comforter!!!) He gave us the Holy Spirit so that we can have a connection to God! First and foremost, God is the one our hearts long to connect with. Secondly, just as Pastor Ed mentioned a few Sundays ago, the disciples built community with one another through fellowship and prayer (Acts 2:42); Sisters, we are called to do the same.
 
Pause: Take a moment right now and ask the Holy Spirit to transform and renew your mind. Give Him permission to sift through the words and speak to your heart. I know He has something in store for each of you as you read this. Let us soak up Truth together.
What is holding you back from building relationships with your sisters in Christ?

A reason we fear building relationships with other women is that…

  1. We FEAR other women

 
Let’s define fear really quick. When we fear God we choose to acknowledge Him for who He is and who He says we are. Sadly, much of the time we choose to place our trust in mans fickle opinion that can change like the wind depending on the emotional, physical and mental state of the person…Wow!… That is SO unreliable but an easy to fall into. I have recently been reading Fear and Faithwhere author Trillia Newbell tells her reader that we fear of other women through the lends of comparison. “Why can’t I have (fill in the blank) like her?” Our lack of contentment can lead to judgment. Matthew 7:2 tells us we will be judged the same measure with which we use to judge. Now that’s a heavy dose of reality! Trillia’s objective is to combat comparison with encouragement. Not merely complimenting but encouraging… pointing out things that you see that resemble Jesus Christ in the other person. After all, giving encouragement is not even about the other person; it’s all about giving glory to God. Next time you and I want to make a snarky comment about one of our sisters let’schoose to remember that they have also been fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. We can combat the temptation to fear other women because the Holy Spirit empowers us. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, (read the following out loud) “For the old (your name) is gone and the new (your name) has come!” I can assure you, comparison has no reward. So let’s make it our goal to live confidently in the power of God by speaking with gracious speech (Colossians 4:6).

  1. We FEAR vulnerability

 
How come what we fear to do is what we wish to see in others? In order to be vulnerable we must be transparent. Lack of transparency stunts connection. We can easily discern whether someone is being genuine or simply putting on a good face. Let’s be honest, the South is full of “bless your hearts” but not all of them come from a place of compassion. Jesus was vulnerable, just check out Matthew 26:36-38, where he tells his brothers the condition of his soul right before his journey to the cross. Isaiah 53 tells us that he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with hardship. Take a moment and let the Spirit search your heart. ASK the Holy Spirit “What hinders my desire to connect with my sisters in Christ on a deeper level?” He might show you that you have been hurt and you need God to heal your heart towards your sisters so that you can learn to trust again. Vulnerability is a foundational block that helps build trust. When we become transparent enough we open up to a place where we can share not just our commonalities, but our stories of redemption. A few weeks ago, I went to an older friend that I felt I could just go cry to, not expecting anything but a hug. Little did I know that within a few minutes, my tears of brokenness would cause our stories to collide? I learned that she too had experienced a similar hardship five years prior. She not only comforted me but committed to walk with me through my trial. In the healing process, she has helped me to have God’s perspective on the matter. We all have something to offer each other in the body of Christ. PS. It is the people around you…so you do not have to look that far. Christ was willing to connect with his disciples. Let’s do life like Jesus!

  1. We FEAR rejection

 
We fear that once we are vulnerable, we will not be accepted. I am sure you have heard at some point that the #1 fear in America is public speaking. Psychologists conclude that the fear of Public speaking is directly tied to fear of rejection. No one likes to feel the weight of rejection and we try to avoid it at all costs. The opposite of rejection is acceptance. Acceptance is something that drives us to “blend in”…blending into the world’s standards of dress, attitude, what’s trending, mindset… NO, my dear sisters, if you have accepted Jesus as Lord of your life, the scriptures tell us in 2 Corinthians 2:16 that we share the mind of Christ. How we used to think about ourselves and others is changed because of Jesus! May our desire be to “Accept one another just as Christ has accepted you.” –Romans 15:7 Jesus Christ accepted my dirty, far-gone, selfish soul and “bought me back with the riches of His amazing grace and relentless love.” …and I cannot accept ”Suzy Q” to my right because she has an accent, or isn’t as talented as my other friends? God gave us the gift of acceptance and expressed it through His love. According to Ephesians 1:6, He has made us accepted in the Beloved. If you are struggling to accept one of your sisters in Christ, do something really hard… I challenge you to pray for (her or them) every day for the next few days and I guarantee the attitude of your heart will change. (if you do not choose to pray…your heart will remain in its negative bent) YOLO: just try it.

Deeper Community

He not only calls us to build our relationships through encouragement, vulnerability and acceptance. He has also given us means to choose godly counsel to further our understanding and walk with Him. Proverbs 15:31-33 shares with us some insight to why it is beneficial to seek godly counsel. “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor.”

Take a moment with me and help me recall some attributes of a godly woman… she is reverent in behavior, self controlled, submissive, pure,  a homemaker, kind, teaches what is good, who is not a slanderer, one who trains young women to love their families (that is just Titus 2:3) Then you have the Proverbs 31 women… she is trustworthy, she does good, she develops a trade, she provides, she is strong, creative and thrifty, she reaches out to the poor, she speaks with wisdom, she laughs at the future and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Then you read about women in the Bible… those who were hospitable, who spoke truth, imitated humility, served the Lord with gladness, displayed true beauty and feared the Lord…. GOODNESS that is a lot. Only by His grace has He imparted the gift of sanctification. As we choose Him, He makes us more like Himself and who he has called us to be. These characteristics are not strictly defined so really we cannot limit them or call them invalid because they are written to encourage us to live in community with one another. I am sure these women who possessed some of these characteristics did not just have pixey dust sprinkled over them and suddenly they exemplified these values…they must have watched someone’s example, built community with other women, sat under the counsel of an older, wiser, trusted women. I believe that God also wants us to seek counsel.
 
Titus 2:3 commands “older women to teach younger women.” If you are a senior in Highschool…let me ask… who are you discipling? sharing God’s faithfulness with? challenging to grow deeper in Jesus? praying with on a weekly basis? In reverse, who is teaching you to walk in kindness and reminding you that a woman who fears the Lord will be praised?

(I am mainly addressing Juniors and Seniors who might want to consider the benefits of allowing your small group leader, your mom, or “the woman of God” you admire mentor you.)

Benefits of a mentoring/discipling relationship 

  • See a different angle. (Jesus was always looking at circumstances through His Fathers eyes)
  • Experience Christ-centered community (in God’s eyes, community is essential)
  • Share in sufferings. (to see the hand of God through the trial)
  • Prayer (to draw closer to Him in the secret place) #build a warroom
  • Accountability (to be sharpened by the Word of God)

 
Take the movie “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!” Let’s take a closer look…Yes, they were all friends…but really these girls lives were so different from step parents, soccer camp, traveling to Greece, to working a Walmans…Truly, the only thing that connected them was “the pants.” …How much MORE in common do we have with our sisters who share the mind of Christ, have a passion for the things of God, the Gospel and learning what it means to be a women of God???!!! We are daughters of our Heavenly Father and He simply wants us to know Him more through a personal relationship and community with other believers.


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Kierkegaard on Service/ Growth in the Spirit

We usually think that when we honestly want to serve God’s cause, God will also help us along. Well, how? In a material way? By a successful outcome, prosperity, earthly advantage, or the like? But in that case everything gets turned around and it no longer remains God’s cause but a finite endeavor. Besides, maybe I am only a cunning fellow, who really does not want to serve God but in a deceptive, pious way to cheat God to my advantage. Perhaps I even think that God is in a bind and is made happy as soon as someone volunteers to serve his cause. Utter nonsense and blasphemy! No, God is spirit – and our task is to be transformed into spirit. But spirit is absolutely opposed to being related to God by way of temporal benefits. Such is God’s sublimity – and yet this is the infinite love of God!

His is a long operation, an upbringing in love. Yes, there are times when one gasps and God strengthens with material blessings. But there is one thing God requires unconditionally at every moment – integrity – that one does not reverse the relationship and try to prove his relationship to God or the truth of his cause by good fortune, prosperity, and the like. God wants us to understand that material blessings are a concession to our weakness and very likely something he will withdraw at some later date to help us make true progress, not in some finite endeavor but in passing the examination.

Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard


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The Stories We Hear

In The Stories We Tell, Mike Cosper argues that we are made to hear and tell stories, namely because God is the ultimate Storyteller. All movies, television shows, and novels are mere shadows of the greatest and truest story of all: the story of God (Creation – Fall – Rescue – Restoration). What Cosper also argues and what’s worth considering is the liturgy of entertainment. Media is not neutral, but is designed to elicit response from emotion pull. To make his point, he quotes James Smith:

One of the things that liturgies do is to visibly narrate a story about what really matters. . . . Perhaps one of the more prolific examples . . . is found in the work of Jerry Bruckheimer, the producer of a wide range of films (and more recently television dramas) that draw upon and present the ideals of Americanism . . . . Though I can’t offer a complete analysis here , I raise the case of Bruckheimer in order to suggest that, once again, a space (namely the cinema) that we might have considered neutral or indifferent (or perhaps eagerly affirmed as “good” and “creational”) is formative in a liturgical sense: here we have moving icons dancing across the screen bathed in the affect of a calculated sound track, staging a story with implicit visions of the good life that, over time and because of their covert nature, seep into our imagination and shape not only how we see the world but also how we relate to it, how we orient ourselves within it, and what we ultimately are working toward (Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 109– 10).


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Should I Fear God?

“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.” Genesis 31:42

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God is love (1 John 4:8). If this is true, how does one enjoy His love while at the same time maintaining a healthy fear of God?

The Bible certainly affirms the reality of God’s love. It’s because of His love that He came to rescue sinners from eternal destruction (e.g. John 3:16; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 4:9-10). As a result of God’s love, most specifically seen in Jesus Christ, the Bible states that we can take comfort in the reality that He cares for us (e.g. 1 Peter 5:6-7; 1 John 3:1). So, God is love.

However, the Bible also declares that God is worthy to be feared (e.g. Psalm 33:8; Matthew 10:28). In his exchange with Laban, Jacob swears by “the Fear of his father Isaac” (Genesis 31:53). Genesis 31 is the only chapter that this phrase, “the Fear of Isaac,” is found. What’s significant is that Jacob associates the word “fear” with God. No doubt, Jacob is making a point to Laban that he has fled in obedience to God and Laban is in no place to persuade Jacob out of obeying God’s command. Nonetheless, this is an example of more than just scare tactics on the part of Jacob.

He uses the word pachad (Hb. “fear”), which appears nearly 50 times in the Old Testament (Genesis 31 is the first). The word is used to describe a sense of great reverence or dread. Job’s friends describes this type of fear as a “trembling” that “seized me and made all my bones shake” (Job 4:14). Pachad, then, is a deep appreciation for something greater.

This type of fear is the recognition that we are not the main authority in the universe. There is something greater that occupies the space around us. A healthy fear of God, then, is the acknowledgement that God exists and you are not Him!

For Jacob, a fear of God meant that he was to obey God. This was the thing that mattered most. As Jacob contemplated fleeing Laban, his wife, Rachel, gave him the most pertinent advice, “Do whatever God has told you” (Genesis 31:16).

So, fear of God is motivation for obedience because God is sovereign. Simultaneously, though, a true fear of God also assures us that God is not abusive with His power. He is not a narcissistic dictator. He is a loving Father. His complete dominion over all things is a source of both reverence and comfort.

Alan Hirsh explains that both a healthy fear of God (he refers to as a “holy awe”) and a sense of God’s comfort are required elements of an authentic encounter with God:

All authentic God encounters should contain these two basic dimensions: holy awe (even terror) together with, and at the same time as, divine comfort and grace. While both elements must always be present to some degree, one will tend to predominate. If one of these elements is completely missing, then it’s not the biblical God one is encountering. (Hirsh, Untamed:Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship, 77)

God is sovereign. He is to be feared. God is also love and we can take comfort in His grace. As followers of Jesus Christ, the fear of God is not a burden, but a motivation for godly living.

Discipleship requires a healthy balance of both postures, fear and love. Fear without love leads to legalism. Love without fear leads to liberalism. Obey God because His character demands it. Obey God because we are assured of His love.


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Merry Christmas

What is Christmas all about? Family? Fun? Presents? Singing Christmas songs? This Christmas season, I’ve heard more than ever before, “That’s what Christmas is all about!” Yesterday, as I was getting ready to watch some football with family, I caught this clip of Terry Bradshaw giving his opinion on today’s significance.

It sounded really good, didn’t it? “Folks, that’s Christmas. That’s the gift we all want, to spend this precious day with our family.” Terry’s comments capture most of what Christmas has become, a time to celebrate with family. However, that can’t be all there is to this day. I love spending time with my family too and Christmas is a special time to do that, but let’s not forget the deeper significance here. Christmas is not just about family, but it’s about the One who can bring us into God’s family. It’s about God Himself, coming to earth and taking on human flesh in order to live, die, and be resurrected that we may be saved.

I found this video yesterday that helps capture the real meaning of Christmas.

This is what Christmas is all about. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16-17)