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Two Steps from Stupid

11 Apr

ImWithStupidWhiteTeeI recently scanned a subjective list of the “50 Greatest Living Geniuses”—people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and others who were/are “geniuses” in various fields, including the arts, sciences, sports and so on. I wondered if geniuses ever think, “Boy, that guy is really stupid!”

I imagined a shirt something like the one on the left, but worn by inventor Thomas Edison. His shirt might say, “I’m with Stupid,” but the arrows I'm with stupid_Amazonwould point left and right! And then I found this Einstein t-shirt on the right at Amazon! LOL!

I thought I was stupid for most of my life, even though I got good grades. It all goes back to a third grade teacher who made it her mission to humiliate me in front of the class. (Her actions would be called child abuse today.)

Nobody wants to be called stupid. But we frail, fleshly humans are really closer than we realize to doing something stupid! Sometimes I wish I had a “stupid meter” that would warn me when I’m about ready to do something I’ll regret later.

I’ve been writing a book lately about the importance and blessing of Christian friendships. It was easy writing about the positive aspects to friendship . . . like encouragement, praying together and helping each other. But there’s another aspect that doesn’t feel so positive. In the book, I’m calling it a “Learning” friend. But it’s really Accountability.

It’s important. It’s necessary. It’s biblical!

When Alvin Reid, in an article on Church Planting,* wrote about the vital importance of accountability in church networks, he said,

“Left to ourselves we are all two steps from stupid. We need each other.”

Christians, in particular, need to understand this. Christians are interconnected in the community of the Body of Christ and the Bible presents accountability as our duty to each other. Part of our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ is building each other up (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Accountability has two sides. One is encouraging: “Spur one another on in love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). The other is challenging: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1). That restoration presupposes sin being exposed. But it might not even be an overt sin. It might be something left undone, or something we can’t see ourselves but it’s obvious to others. It might be as simple as challenging us to keep our own commitments!

When we are accountable to someone, we humbly choose to be responsible for our actions. People who refuse accountability are often proud. They think they can do as they please without answering to anyone. They unwittingly set themselves up for Satan’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Peter 5:8). We’ve got to drop our pride, because so often it takes a caring accountability partner (which I’ll call an “AP”) to see our blind spots.

As a teen, I embraced Jiminy Cricket’s advice: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” But as a maturing adult, I realized my conscience might not always be the wisest adviser! I need a Holy Spirit-controlled conscience.

(By the way, I mentioned earlier wanting a “stupid meter.” I’ve learned my most trustworthy “stupid meter” is the Spirit of God who uses the Word of God to alert me to foolishness. I can know the truth. I can know God’s will for me on earth. And I know I need the Spirit of God to help me make the wisest choice too.)

But as Reid said, “We need each other” . . . meaning we in the Body of Christ. We need flesh-and-blood “APs” (and mentors) who will walk alongside us—sometimes telling us a truth we’ve forgotten . . . and sometimes a truth we don’t want to hear.

Two scriptures highlight this beauty of accountability.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22, ESV)

The writer of Proverbs says we are meant to “sharpen” each other as we live the Christian life. This is true because we may not realize where we’ve become “dull.”

Dull = Compromising. . . Hypocritical. . . Lazy. . . Indulgent. . . Sinful.

Caring, challenging support might be just the thing we need to fight against the enemy. And our godly “advisers” can help us walk in line with God’s Word when the world encourages us to tread a crooked road.

Accountability partners challenge us to live in truth—to practice what we preach to others. They also help us make wise choices. A good “AP” has our back, keeping us from doing (or continuing in) something stupid.

We see examples of accountability throughout the scriptures. One of the strongest examples in the Old Testament was the prophet Nathan, coming to King David, to confront him over sin (2 Samuel 12:1-13). Nathan used a powerful story to first capture David’s heart, then ZING! And David got the point.

In the New Testament, Paul challenged Peter for hypocrisyfor being a two-faced believer (Galatians 2:11-13). Paul also (acting something like an accountability partner for a whole congregation) confronted the Corinthian Church over complacency in dealing with members’ immoral behavior (1 Cor. 5:1-13). His words reflected his heart of loving concern for the Body of Christ.

I discovered a few things in relating to my own “APs” over the years:

  1. A good accountability partner loves you too much to allow you to get away with being sincere and serving . . . while willfully sinning.
  2. A good accountability partner won’t allow you to “keep the rules” while maintaining a heart far from God.
  3. An accountability partner should want you, above all, to become more like Jesus.
  4. Accountability should include intentional, specific, regular plans to meet and encourage each other . . . a time, a place, a purpose.
  5. Times of accountability should involve prayer, challenging questions, practical encouragement and, when appropriate, loving nudges to confess sin (James 5:16).

Every Christian, whether a new believer in the pew or the most seasoned pastor, needs an Accountability Partner. We all need someone to pray with, confide in and be honest about our struggles with sin. After all, we’re only two steps from stupid, right?

Do you have an accountability partner? If not, will you pray and ask God to show you a wise, godly person to approach about this vital issue?

* Alvin Reid, “Networks Work, Especially for Church Planting,” 2-16-15

– Dawn

 

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Living Up to Who We Are

4 Oct

I smile when I read many of the “Keep Calm” items around the Internet that have sprung out of the original 1939 British KeepCalmAndMakeAKeepCalmPosterGovernment motivational poster, “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

I’ve seen “Keep Calm and Call Batman” … “Keep Calm and Buy Shoes” … “Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate” … “Keep Calm and Make Bacon Pancakes” … “Keep Calm and Adopt a Great Dane.” You get the idea.

But I laughed out loud when I read that the British reportedly have a REPUTATION for keeping calm even when there is no crisis! Having visited with many in the UK, I know this is true.

I’ve been thinking about that word, “reputation.”

Preacher and evangelist Dwight L. Moody said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of me.”He had the right focus!

But then I thought about all the times I meant to do right and didn’t. Automaker Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

Isn’t that the truth?

Our reputation is built (or torn down) choice by choice. With every decision, our character is taking shape … and then, our reputation.

God has already given Christians a framework for godly character. Not only that, He has invested in our lives through His Son, Jesus. Everything that we need to become holy is tied up in our salvation, forgiveness, righteousness and eternal life in Christ. God calls us to live up to who we are in Jesus:

“Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Philippians 3:16, ESV). The Living Bible says it this way: “… fully obey the truth you have.”

The truth is, we are: redeemed and forgiven (Colossians 1:13-14), alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5), washed and sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11), justified and made righteous (Romans 5:1), reconciled to God (Colossians 1:22), a child of light (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5) and so much more!

We are to make the choices every day to live in the truth of who we are – to make the choices to grow more like Christ.

Dr. Dirk Van Proyen, teaching my Sunday school class recently, spoke of the Judgement (Bema) Seat (2 Corinthians 5:10) where Christians will give account of their works for Christ after salvation (1 Corinthians 3:11-15) – not to earn salvation with works (Ephesians 2:8-9). He noted the criteria for that judgment of works:  the faithful fulfilling of our stewardship responsibilities, coupled with the motives and intent of our hearts as we ministered.

Anything that is not found to be of value will be burned up (poof!); but what remains will result in praise from God — the “well done” we so desire.

Our reputations will be very clear on Judgment Day, whether they were genuinely for God, or full of puffed-up pride.

I came home from church with many sober thoughts. If Jesus is coming soon and bringing His reward with Him (and the scriptures tell us that is so, Revelation 22:12), then I’d better be thinking more seriously about that day. I want to “press on” to live in resurrection power (Philippians 3:11-12)

I wrote three file cards and put them in places around my home to remind me of some decisions I made that day.

GodsGloryWayPower

If I want to live to the “praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:15) and ultimately receive praise from Him for faithful service, I need to remember the three things I wrote down. I want to do all for God’s glory, in God’s way (with holiness, integrity and faithfulness) and by God’s power (not through the “flesh,” Romans 7:18, but by the Holy Spirit, John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; Acts 1:8a).

Are those your goals too? Can that focus help you live up to who you are in Christ?

– Dawn

 

 

 

 

Movin’ Too Fast? (Six Ways to Slow Down)

28 Sep

God’s creativity is sometimes the blueprint for our inventions. Think about it … Long before human beings imagined modern technologies, tortoises and turtles had streamlined bodies, hard tops, retractable landing gear and mobile homes!

Think of the word “slow” and you’ll likely think “tortoise.” This sounds like Tortoise humor my granddaughters would love:

Question:  “What do you get when you cross a tortoise with a porcupine?

Answer: “A SLOW POKE!”

Tortoise_SlowDown_smallerI grew up in the era of Simon and Garfunkel, and one of my favorite songs was “The 59th Street Bridge Song” (better known as “Feelin’ Groovy”). You may remember the words:

     “Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the morning last.

     “Just kicking down the cobble stones. Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.”

It was a song that always made me smile. When I heard it, I slowed down and “smelled the roses,” so to speak.

As a Type-A+ woman, slowing down is hard for me. It’s easy for me to forget the “Tortoise and Hare” fable – that rushing through life does not equate to effectively “winning” life’s race, and certainly not to meaningful living.

With maturity – and frankly, after a season of illness complicated by stress – I’ve learned to slow down. To intentionally halt swirling activities and say, “Enough!”

Some time ago, Jeff Goin challenged his readers to slow down, and I smiled as I read his challenges. They were exactly the points God has led me to embrace since 2007, when my life spiraled out of control.

I’m still discovering in this process of “slowing down,” but wanted to share six things I do know that help. (And I’d welcome your tips for pulling the plug too.)

1. Be Intentional. Slowing down doesn’t just happen (unless we’re sick, dying, or lazy). We need to make the choice to slow down – to choose with purpose.

2. Reflect and Meditate. Today may be all we have. Reflection and meditation will help us use our time wisely, understanding the will of the Lord (Ephesians 5:15-17). Slowing down doesn’t mean we veg in front of a television all day or cop out from our responsibilities. We seek God in prayer and the scriptures, and examine how we are living. Then, in all our planning for tomorrow, we don’t miss what God is doing this day.

3. Focus. Multitasking has become the norm in many of our lives (I am such a multitasker!), but sometimes we need to weigh the benefits of doing many things at once with the blessing of focusing on one thing at a time. We can ask God where our focus should be today … this hour … right now.

4. Stay Steady. Remember that tortoise. He faithfully plodded down the road and got to the goal. If God has blessed you with a quick and ready temperament, praise Him; but don’t discount times when it’s wise to slow down, stay steady, and see the Lord work on your behalf.

5. Learn to Rest and Wait. With all the input in modern society, the tendency is to feel we must move quickly to use what we’ve just read, heard or learned; to be a part of the forward-moving crowd or to not miss out on another great idea or “opportunity.” Sometimes, God just wants us to sit and stew on things for a while, to take time to let new information soak in. Then we can go forward in His strength (Proverbs 3:5-7a; Psalm 27:14). While it’s important to move ahead quickly to make some decisions, resting in God and waiting for marching orders is usually wise counsel. It’s not passive; it’s active trust.

6. Savor Your Life. Taking time “to smell the roses” is the common metaphor for slowing down with greater sensitivity toward life. We take time to enjoy God’s creation. We notice the people around us and take time to build relationships. We enjoy a meal, sitting down, rather than rushing through a meal or racing through yet another fast-food line. We examine our closets, shelves and possessions, and then we appreciate the good gifts our Father has already given us, rather than racing off to the mall to get “more.”

Are you movin’ too fast? I encourage you to relax and slow down.

You’ll likely add years to your life and accomplish more.

These are the principles that are changing my life, helping me to slow down. Can you share some other helpful tips?

Tortoise Photo: Image Courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

— Dawn

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