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5 lessons from Colossians for accountability partners

5 Lessons From Colossians For Accountability Partners

I invite you to open up your Bible to Colossians 2:20–3:17 and take a few minutes to meditate on Paul’s words. If you have an accountability partner or you are an accountability partner, you may want to study this section of Scripture together the next time you meet. If you don’t already have the habit of reading the Bible together regularly, this little exercise can be a good first step.

A little background: Paul wrote this letter to a church he had not planted which was located in Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. Epaphras, one of the church leaders, had visited Paul in Rome because the Colossians Christians were apparently under attack from a false teaching that wanted to add to Jesus’ work. The implications of the false doctrine were that Jesus was not enough and the Colossians ended to do more. So, throughout the letter, Paul responded by presenting Jesus as the One who is above all and completely sufficient. Jesus is the best. You don’t need anything more. In this final section of the letter, Paul focuses on actions the Colossians Christians could pursue, but he never leaves the gospel far behind. Its motivation continues even into the application.

Please read Colossians 2:20–3:17 with this question in mind: What words, truths, and phrases would be good to remember when encouraging someone in their Christian life? Write them down. There are a lot! How do they change or strengthen the way you want to help people, especially your accountability partner?

Here are 5 points you may want to highlight:

1.  Mere rules don’t deeply change the heart.

Paul writes, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” In conversations with ourselves or with others, we are tempted to jump to making lists of rules. We want to rely on the law. The law even excites us because what it offers seems within our reach. But Paul says, “They lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” If we want true change, we must start with the heart.

2. We are connected to Christ.

We have died and have been raised with Christ. Our life is now hidden within him. This reality is the heart change that we needed. Christ needs to remain the central element of our conversations about sin and forgiveness AND in our lives of gratitude. We don’t graduate from needing Christ. We grow deeper in him.

3. Death is painful and essential.

Paul shares a list of sins we struggle with and tells us to put them to death. He doesn’t say, “Put them aside for a while.” He doesn’t say, “Wean yourselves off these vices.” He says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” And death is painful. These lusts, greed, immoralities, and evil desires don’t want to leave! They are happy where they are and want to take more control. Paul says, “Put them to death.”

4. Fill your heart with meaningful things.

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love are the good things God wants us to clothe ourselves with. We don’t just want to rid ourselves of the evil; we want God’s good virtues to take their place. We strive toward these virtues. How does each one look in your life?

5. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

God’s word keeps us connected to him as we live and encourage those around us. It is not fluff. God’s word is meant for our lives, no matter how tough they are. If we need admonishment, it is there. If we need forgiveness, it is there. If we need teaching, it is there. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.


Author: Nathan Schulte serves as a missionary in WELS missions in Latin America. He lives in Quito, Ecuador.

Clean

Clean Slate

We have reached the point in the new year where a third of the population who set a New Year’s resolution will have broken it. This is according to various studies, so take that for what it’s worth.

Personally, I have never been one to make a New Year’s Resolution. I do find it admirable to those who who do, however. It is a respectable thing to set goals and strive to reach those goals. Having goals can motivate us, and the new year is certainly a time to make new goals.

I pray that your new year has been one filled with blessings. I pray that you are able to reach those goals you set for yourself.

However, as noted above, we are weak. We are weak when it comes to pleasing our own sinful nature. We are weak to give in to the temptations of this world.

We are weak to lust. We are weak to satisfy our sexual cravings. We are weak to give in to pornography. As the apostle Paul said, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not keep doing what I want. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

Rather than feeling new, we are often feeling like the same old person.

 

Scapegoat

Obviously, we celebrate the new year once in a calendar year. For the Israelites of the Old Testament, one of the festivals they celebrated once a year was the Day of Atonement.

On this day, God commanded the high priest to carry out certain things. One of those duties was to take a goat, called the scapegoat. The high priest would confess “all the guilt of the people and all their sins” (Leviticus 16:21) and place that on the scapegoat. An appointed man would then take that goat and walk away from camp. They would walk until they were out of sight from the camp, and the man would release the goat into the wilderness, completely out of sight.

Here, God was teaching two things:

1) “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)

2) One was coming to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Could you imagine watching that goat leave camp? What a feeling that must have been! Could you imagine placing all that guilt of your lust and porn on that goat and then watching it walk completely away?

While we don’t celebrate today with a goat, God gives us that same promise: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12)

Your sin and guilt are no longer a part of you. It is completely removed from you.

Psalm 103:12

And that brings us to number two.

The one promised to come. The one promised to make atonement has come and done just that.

Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus was the sacrifice, taking all your sin and guilt on his shoulders when he went to the cross. Your sins are paid for. Your sins are atoned for. You are at one with God.

Jesus has “made us clean from all our sins” (Leviticus 16:30).

I pray that you have a blessed new year! I pray that God gives you the strength to reach the goals and resolutions that you have for yourself.

But above all, look to the One who has removed your guilt. Trust in the one who has taken away your sin. Praise the one who has made you clean.

In Christ, we are new – today and always.


Author: Daniel Koch serves as the Staff Minister of youth and family ministry at Grace Lutheran Church in Crivitz, WI.

Don't Let Covid-19 become porn's pandemic

Don’t Let Covid-19 Become Porn’s Pandemic

Published originally April 2020

I wish the pastor’s text was wrong about porn.
A colleague of mine shared some recent data about the correlation between cases of Covid and the amount of traffic on the internet’s biggest pornography site. According to the study, from late February to mid-March, traffic spiked nearly 12%, a swooping upward curve that resembled the side of Mt. Everest. Even worse, in the 16 days since that study was released, global corona cases have quintupled.
That’s right—quintupled. Which means, in my unscientific analysis, there’s a lot of porn out there.
I should be upfront and let you know that I believe porn is a serial killer of God’s good gifts. Both through a ministry I serve (Conquerors throughChrist) and in a book I wrote (From Dirty to Dancing), I have tried to persuade people that pornography wrecks our bodies, our souls, our relationships, and our world.
Yet, I get it. I get why so many of us, even those of us who follow Jesus, would be so drawn to porn at a time like this.
In my studies on addiction, I have learned that five of the most tempting times to fall into destructive behaviors are when we feel…
  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired
  • Bored
Know anyone who feels like that these days?
The coronavirus has messed with our routines and structures, affecting our meal times and hunger levels. Our utter loss of control and feeble attempts to be productive with work while caring for kids makes us angry. Social distancing, despite technology’s blessings, has left us lonely. Staring at screens for double-digit hours makes us tired. And, even after watching every episode of The Tiger King, we are bored, our brains itching for some dopamine-releasing novelty to excite us again.
That is just the physical factors that might lead to porn use. Add to that the spiritual forces at work—The sinister part of our hearts that lusts for short-term pleasure. The world that loves to make a dollar off of us, no matter what the cost to our integrity or our relationships. The Devil who convinces us that no one has to know and no know has to get hurt.
So, I get the graph. It makes sense to me why so many people, even Spirit-filled people, would click where we shouldn’t.
Which begs the big question—How do we fight back against the pandemic of porn?
Here are the 5-Steps that have blessed many people pre-corona and are even more urgent today:
  1. Get Real about the Wreckage—Porn seems so innocent when it’s just you and a screen. Just a release. Just a way to pass the time. Just a way to explore your sexual desires. But porn is not innocent. We must, through scriptures, stories, and studies, get real about the wreckage that every click causes. Spouses are crushed when they discover the images. Children are trafficked as supply to meet the demand. Eternities are lost for those who turn their backs on God. Take off the filter and see porn as the hates-your-future enemy that it is.
  2. Get Back to God’s Grace—Porn may be worse than you thought, but Jesus is better than you believed. Run back to Jesus, cling to his cross, and know that he is the friend of sinners. Meditate on passages like Romans 8:1, 1 John 1:8-9, Romans 5:8, and Jeremiah 31:34, and be amazed at God’s grace for those who fall into sexual sin. Embrace your identity as a child of God through faith in this Savior. Let the message take root in your heart that you are not what you have done. You are who God says you are—his own, beloved, pure in his sight.
  3. Get Rid of Porn—As much as possible, cut off your access to porn. Delete apps, pictures, and videos that cause you to stumble. Be ruthlessly honest about the triggers that lead you down a road that has no u-turns. Ask a friend to password protect your devices from installing anything that wouldn’t be good for your soul. While there is no fool-proof way to get away from porn in our digital age, there are wise ways to give the Holy Spirit more time to snap you out of your porn-pursuing fog. Make sure porn is way more than 1-click away for those moments when you feel hungry, angry, lonely, tired, or bored.
  4. Get Accountable to Others—Nothing helps our self-control as much as the good news of God’s love and good people who love us. Deal with the embarrassment and tell someone about your struggles. Confess to a trusted friend or two, be honest about when/how/how often you sin, and ask for their prayers, encouragement, and love. Remind them to remind you of Jesus’ patient love for sinful people (you will need it). This is the biblical path to healing (James 5:16, Proverbs 28:13).
  5. Get Ready for Battle—Craft a battle plan to fight porn one day at a time. Memorize a Bible passage that has proven helpful in your struggle. Screen save a picture of Jesus that reminds you that he is better than the pleasures of porn. Install filtering software on your devices (I personally use Covenant Eyes). Go to war, so that this day ends invictory, not defeat.
If those 5 steps work for you today, repeat them tomorrow. And if they don’t “work,” repeat them anyway! They will keep you close to Jesus, his truth, and his grace. Nothing matters more than that.
Resisting sexual immorality has always been a challenge. That only got more challenging when corona changed our lives. But we have a God who is up to the challenge. Talk to your Father, look to his Son, and ask for his Spirit.
With his help, let’s make sure there’s only one pandemic among God’s people.

Author: Mike Novotny serves as CtC Chairman and pastor at the CORE in Appleton, WI

Another Miracle

Reaffirm Your Love

“He now realizes what he did was wrong and is really sorry about it.” Whether these words describe someone who has hurt you or your own heart’s confession, they are an important step in dealing with sin.

Jeremiah 17:9

I am often amazed at my own heart. It is so blind. It can easily read this verse from Jeremiah and nod happily in agreement. “Yes. The human heart is deceitful. I can think of a hundred examples. This person and that person. That group and that movement. Yes. They are all deceitful.” Yet, even as I deepen my understanding of the verse with those connections, I blindly forget my own heart’s deceitfulness. Nathan’s heart is also deceitful! Why does it take so long to realize it? I am so slow. Our deceitful hearts deceitfully blind us.

So, when someone realizes their sin and recognizes the evil that came from their own heart, and their own mouth, and their own mind, we want to rejoice. God’s word worked!

Jeremiah 23:29

The heart has been crushed. God worked a miracle–a heart sorrowful over its own sin.

But sometimes we stop there. It may seem like an appropriate place to end. If someone has betrayed you and hurt you, their newfound pain gives us hope. They finally opened their eyes. They realize they were hurting you. What you were hoping would happen has now happened. The impasse has been broken. Now we can get on to a healthier life. Or so we think.

But we stopped too soon. Time may heal some of the wounds through its passing, but what we need is another miracle.

The Apostle Paul writes, “I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him,” 2 Corinthians 2:8. God, in his wisdom, uses us to bring not only love and announcement of forgiveness to a repentant sinner, but he also uses our love to comfort the sorrowful sinner.

The Corinthian congregation was dealing with a sinner who repented and was deeply sorry for his sin. In fact, his sorrow was almost overwhelming him. God’s law had worked. Now it was time for the gospel. Reaffirm love.
But our community of believers needs the free flowing forgiveness that comes from God. We need it and others need it. And we need it repeatedly. Our hearts deceive us. We may know forgiveness. We may have grown up in churches and families which taught and proclaimed it regularly. However, in the dark sorrows of sin, we become disoriented and do not see it clearly.
Reaffirm love. Again and again and again. Why? Because we have One who has done the same for us.

Author: Nathan Schulte serves as a missionary in WELS missions in Latin America. He lives in Quito, Ecuador.

5 lessons from Colossians for accountability partners

5 Lessons From Colossians For Accountability Partners

I invite you to open up your Bible to Colossians 2:20–3:17 and take a few minutes to meditate on Paul’s words. If you have an accountability partner or you are an accountability partner, you may want to study this section of Scripture together the next time you meet. If you don’t already have the habit of reading the Bible together regularly, this little exercise can be a good first step.

A little background: Paul wrote this letter to a church he had not planted which was located in Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. Epaphras, one of the church leaders, had visited Paul in Rome because the Colossians Christians were apparently under attack from a false teaching that wanted to add to Jesus’ work. The implications of the false doctrine were that Jesus was not enough and the Colossians ended to do more. So, throughout the letter, Paul responded by presenting Jesus as the One who is above all and completely sufficient. Jesus is the best. You don’t need anything more. In this final section of the letter, Paul focuses on actions the Colossians Christians could pursue, but he never leaves the gospel far behind. Its motivation continues even into the application.

Please read Colossians 2:20–3:17 with this question in mind: What words, truths, and phrases would be good to remember when encouraging someone in their Christian life? Write them down. There are a lot! How do they change or strengthen the way you want to help people, especially your accountability partner?

Here are 5 points you may want to highlight:

1.  Mere rules don’t deeply change the heart.

Paul writes, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” In conversations with ourselves or with others, we are tempted to jump to making lists of rules. We want to rely on the law. The law even excites us because what it offers seems within our reach. But Paul says, “They lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” If we want true change, we must start with the heart.

2. We are connected to Christ.

We have died and have been raised with Christ. Our life is now hidden within him. This reality is the heart change that we needed. Christ needs to remain the central element of our conversations about sin and forgiveness AND in our lives of gratitude. We don’t graduate from needing Christ. We grow deeper in him.

3. Death is painful and essential.

Paul shares a list of sins we struggle with and tells us to put them to death. He doesn’t say, “Put them aside for a while.” He doesn’t say, “Wean yourselves off these vices.” He says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature.” And death is painful. These lusts, greed, immoralities, and evil desires don’t want to leave! They are happy where they are and want to take more control. Paul says, “Put them to death.”

4. Fill your heart with meaningful things.

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, and love are the good things God wants us to clothe ourselves with. We don’t just want to rid ourselves of the evil; we want God’s good virtues to take their place. We strive toward these virtues. How does each one look in your life?

5. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

God’s word keeps us connected to him as we live and encourage those around us. It is not fluff. God’s word is meant for our lives, no matter how tough they are. If we need admonishment, it is there. If we need forgiveness, it is there. If we need teaching, it is there. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.


Author: Nathan Schulte serves as a missionary in WELS missions in Latin America. He lives in Quito, Ecuador.

Marriage issue

Marriage Damaged by Porn: A Pastor’s Reflections

One must remember that God offers his help—his power to conquer and heal and renew in his message in the Bible.

The author describes the damage one man’s porn has done and is doing to his marriage. He underscores that porn damages genuine intimacy, it is not healthy and is an affair. He stresses that the wife is not the one to help her husband. She needs to focus on her own health. He encourages the wife to pray for God’s help. One must remember that God offers his help—his power to conquer and heal and renew in his message in the Bible. Wives who have been victimized by their husband’s addiction to pornography will find some beneficial insights in this article. We pray that those insights coupled with the power of God’s Word will help them heal.


Read: Marriage Damaged by Porn: A Pastor’s Reflections on the Covenant Eyes website
Author: Guest Author

verse Ecclesiastes-5-1012

Ecclesiastes 5:10,12

For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow, But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.


Remember these words when you find yourself questioning whether you need help fighting temptation. (Isn’t the Bible great?)

Is It My Fault

The book begins by defining abuse as “not necessarily physical.” Emotional abuse can be just as damaging – and at times more so. Ethicist Wolfgang Huber argues that “violence is better defined as the intent to hurt or torture, more than physical injury. Violence is the unrelenting assault on human dignity.”

Love Must Be Tough

I read Love Must be Tough (LMBT) about 20 years ago and recently reread it. Dr. Dobson, the author, is a Christian psychologist and was a host on a popular Christian radio show beginning in the late 70’s and into 2000. His book, LMBT, provides helpful direction for troubled families, and in particular married couples.

Prayer

Perhaps the best way to describe Prayer by Philip Yancey is by using the adjectives “devotional” and “slow.” Prayer cannot be rushed. It requires the slowing down of activity and a contemplative mind. “Contemplative” is another useful adjective to describe Yancey’s examination of Christian prayer. Through careful attention to the realities of daily life, as well as to God’s promises as they are applied to daily life, Yancey dissects Christian prayer with a raw honesty that resonates with the reader.