Posts Tagged Spirituality

Going Deeper With God – Accountability Among Believers (Part 1)

Going Deeper With God - Accountability Among Believers (Part 1)

Next in my stream of consciousness regarding what it means to go deeper with God, I’d like to address the issue of …

accountability.

“ew!” I can hear it now – “not the “A” word!” It goes against every grain in our prideful organisms. Hair is bristling on the back of your neck as you read this. Your hand is reaching for the mouse to quickly find something else to read…

…but wait! Don’t go yet! 

In any society, accountability is the key to survival. It’s true in politics, sports, religion, relationships, and business. I’d go as far as to say our individual, selfish human nature is too strong to be completely overcome on our own. We ALL need accountability in our lives.

I will go a step further and say that as Christians, accountability is even more important. Why would I say that? Well, not only are we battling our own selfish human desires, we also have an adversary who is ever eager to jump on our individual weaknesses and exploit them for the purpose of destroying anything virtuous left in us.

Think about it – when a famous person is “caught in the act” it’s almost as if it helps their career. Think about recent headlines with Brittany, Paris and O.J., for example. Sure, they get media attention, but isn’t that what they’re after? And, how many celebrity divorces occur? (all of them?) It’s as if we all expect celebritys to divorce – it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

Now, think about Christian leaders who are “caught in the act.” Their lives are destroyed completely. Their ministries are damaged. Their families decimated. I’m thinking of the recent scandal that happed in my area with Randy & Paula White’s divorce. This sparked all kinds of seething media attention and became a feeding frenzy for blogs and news sources everywhere. Questions were raised about the effectiveness of “mega-churches” as a whole. “See?! Institutional churches are to blame!” People questioned Christianity as a whole. “If leaders in the Christian community can’t hold a marriage together, where’s the hope?”

Well, I believe we are, as Christians, held to a higher standard. Is that fair? Well, yes and no. It is what it is. We claim to have the Creator of the entire Universe living within us – giving us access to a “higher moral power.” The Holy Spirit indwells us guiding us, convicting us. Yet, we’re only human, just like the rest of humanity.

All this leads me to ask – what if Randy had an effective accountability partner/group? I’m not saying he didn’t – and things can happen even to the best of us. But I put the word “effective” in there for a reason.

Not that having accountability is like a magic formula for success – hardly. But, it IS true that Christian accountability can help provide a more stable foundation, a source of strength for daily living. We need each other. And, don’t just take my word for it:

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

We are all going to have to give an account to God someday for all our actions (Romans 14:12). And, Jesus gave us the passage in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 to suggest the importance of accountability between believers – we’re all a part of the same body!

We are told to encourage one another:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. – Hebrews 10:24

…encourage one another and build each other up… – 1 Thess 5:11

We are also told very specifically to hold each other accountable and help each other avoid sin:

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:12

Being accountable to one another is an important factor. We all need to be accountable. As much as our flesh resists it and detests it, our faith and our witness depends upon it.

I’ve established with this post the importance of accountability among believers. Next, I’ll throw out some suggestions about what a successful accountability relationship looks like.

Stay tuned…

peace,
e

artwork: http://www.heartlight.org/gallery/60.html
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Facing MY Fears – Somewhere in the Middle

Looking over the cliff - Facing MY Fears - Somewhere in the MiddleI’ve been writing about my fears and how God has been stirring up things in me. I’ve been a bit vague – partly because I don’t feel liberty to talk publicly about what He’s doing, and partly because I’m still a bit foggy about some of the details.

Yesterday, I wrote about prayer – and it’s good to get that out in the open. I don’t really know who’s reading all this, but there’s something about putting thoughts down “on paper.” All day yesterday, it was so much easier to pray. It was so much easier to turn off the radio during my 2 hours of commute time and talk to the Lord.

During this morning’s commute, I put in the new Casting Crowns CD and really listened to the words. If you’re not familiar with them, their lyrics are SO amazing. When I got to track 7, God really started speaking to my heart. During the second time I played the song, I began to realize why I’m feeling so out of sorts lately. There was comfort in the fact that I’m in transition into a new phase, or a new chapter of my life. I’m somewhere in the middle.

Check out the lyrics to the song, “Somewhere in the Middle” by Casting Crowns:

“Somewhere In The Middle”

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who You’re making me
Somewhere in the middle, You’ll find me
Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Fearless warriors in a picket fence,
Reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the God we want and the God who is
But will we trade our dreams for His or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves

Somewhere between a whisper and a roar
Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle You’ll find me

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Lord, I feel You in this place and I know You’re by my side
Loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle

This is not a comfortable place for me. My enhanced “what-if” generator has been running for weeks and even my sleep is crowded out by the anxiety mixed with anticipation of turning this new page. What will happen next? What is the timing? What about finances? What about …

Just how close can I get, Lord, to my surrender without loosing all control?

Then I take a deep breath.

Lord, thank You for the encouragement today. I feel You in this place and I know You’re by my side, loving me even on these nights when I’m caught in the middle.

peace,
e

*Artwork credit: http://nememorifacias.prositen.com/ff8/fanart/index.shtml

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Facing Your Fears – Going Deeper With God (Part 4)

Facing Your Fears - Going Deeper With God (Part 4)God has me thinking a lot about what it means to go deeper in my relationship with Him. I’ve been blogging about my fears, about worship , about serving. Today, I’d like to take a gut-level honest approach to prayer.

To be very honest:

  1. I am a confident prayer when I know people are listening
  2. I pray really well when I’m in the midst of a crisis
  3. There is nothing I want more than better communication with my heavenly Father (both ways)

Perhaps you can tell from the way I worded the list above that I’m not the world’s mightiest prayer warrior.

First, I have a big hang-up when it comes to praying out loud; in front of people. When someone else is listening, I go into a whole different mode. I’m thinking about who’s listening, what they may be going through, how I can carefully arrange my words to avoid offending or embarassing them or someone they know, how I can encourage with my words and bring blessing on them, yet communicate with God in such a way that will properly bless and praise Him. Phew – that’s a lot of work.

Don’t get me wrong – I can do it. I’ve been a Christian for a good number of years and I’ve heard a good number of prayers. I’ve got my “prayer language” down just right. I have plenty of cliches and spiritual-sounding phrases to impress every skeptic in the group. In my list, I mentioned that I’m confident when it comes to praying out loud. But, to be honest, it feels fake most of the time. Not that I’m trying to be something or someone other than what I am, nor am I trying to manipulate or impress. Perhaps it’s because I’m trying so hard to “cover all the bases” and being careful not to leave anyone or anything out. By the time I’m finished, and look up – I frequently have this feeling that I was talking only to those physically in the room. And – what’s the point of all that?

It’s quite a different story when I pray alone. I can be honest, avoiding formulas or senseless ritual when it’s just the Father and me. Especially when I’m going through difficult times. I mentioned second in my list that I pray really well in the midst of crisis situations.  Well, I’ve had my share of crisis, and I must testify that God has never let me down. He’s always been there to hold me up and hear my cries. He is my strong tower and my fortress. He is my deliverer and my comfort and my strength in the storm.

So, what about when everything’s going pretty well? Why do I not have the same zeal and passion? Why is it I can go for days without really praying?

I was curious, so I put in “what is prayer” into my favorite search engine. I got hundreds of thousands of possible links. I clicked on a few of them with titles like “How to get into the habit of prayer” and “daily prayer time”. I know there must be something useful out there, but what I found left me with a bad taste in my mouth. You see, I’ve never been one for legalistic rituals or 3-step formulas for things like prayer.

It seems so pathetic to have to set aside 15 or 30 minutes each morning in a prayer closet, sitting in a certain position, palms up, praise music on the iPod, incense on the dresser. Is it just me? What if Jesus were my roommate? Would I need to schedule a time each day for us to talk? Woud I need to meet Him at a certain place and sit in a certain position and make sure there were no distractions? Would we meet in the library? No, can’t talk in there. What about Starbucks? No, can’t hear in there.

The articles I started reading all had to do with this thing called “discipline.” Is that it? Am I so undisciplined that the thought of such a daily ritual leaves me disgusted?

No – I want to talk to my Abba Father, my Daddy, just as if He were here with me: in the car, in the restaurant, in the room as I shut my eyes at night. I don’t want 3-step formulas or rituals to get in the way. I want to praise Him and tell Him what He means to me and thank Him for all He’s done. I want to lift my daughters up to Him and ask for Him to bless their day and protect them from the enemy. I want to tell Him exactly what’s on my mind and I want to stop and listen for His still, small voice.

So – why don’t I?

As I said on my list – it’s the thing I want the most.

So – ???

The only thing that comes to my mind is Paul’s amazing, comforting passage in Romans chapter 7. He writes about how the things he wants to do the most, he doesn’t do – and the things he doesn’t want to do, he ends up doing.

I’m starting to see that, like any spiritual discipline (i.e. Bible reading, prayer, giving, serving, etc.) we are handicapped in several aspects. One is our human nature – our flesh is always trying to die. But we are not our flesh – what we are is spirit. Our flesh is just what carries us around on this earth.

And, two is our sworn enemy. The Bible calls satan a roaring lion roaming the earth seeking whom he may devour. Fears, doubts, temptations, distractions – these are some of his favorite tools to keep us from going deeper with God.

Our best defense?

Um…

prayer.

I guess the point for me today, after reviewing all this stream of consciousness is:

Do whatever it takes.

Perhaps I need a ritual. Perhaps I’m not strong enough on my own – not disciplined enough to talk/listen to God at all hours of the day. Perhaps I need accountability and a plan to build prayer into a habit.

I mean, what’s worse – praying out of compulsion to follow a ritual or not praying at all?

Lord, You know my heart. I want to know You more. I want to always be listening for your voice. I never want to neglect talking with You. But, just as I wouldn’t want my own children to have to schedule a certain time, wear certain clothes, sit in a certain position, say certain things – I don’t want that to be how we communicate. I need You in my life each and every second. I want my focus to always be You. I want to turn to You immediately if there’s a problem and I want to know You’re right there. As with anything, Lord, if You don’t help me with this, it’s over. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and prick my conscious, Lord, each time I am distracted. Help me to look at my own world through the lenses of prayer. Help me to hear through the earbuds of prayer. Thank You, Lord – for Your grace and how You also want more than anything else to better communication with me.

peace,
e

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