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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

 

Ticked Off with Eve

10 Jan

Sometimes I get downright ticked off with Eve. She had everything going for her, and she blew it!

Eve had:

  • A handsome, one-of-a-kind husband (Ok, the choices were slim, but he was perfect!)Eve_Vignette
  • Companionship … God and her husband (and she wanted to talk to them … and they listened!)
  • Cute little animals to play with (as well as some that would intimidate us today ~ “lions and tigers and bears… oh my!”
  • No worries about a budget … or taxes.
  • No “diets.” (No Krispy Kreme donuts nudging the scales upward…. and what scales?)
  • No “appearance” issues. (How many issues can you have when there’s no wardrobe to deal with… or bad hair days?)
  • No clothes means no laundry!
  • No stretch marks, wrinkles, rolls of fat or age spots.
  • No need to plan meals … just a stroll around God’s weed-free garden yielded everything she needed. (Hmmm… no chocolate … but I digress.)
  • No struggle over her choices versus her husband’s. (No “Now Eve-ie, I know you want a new stove, but I really need an iPad.” … What? No electronics? How did  anyone survive before technology?)

I mean, this woman had it perfect! But Eve blew it big time. And as I stood at the bathroom mirror this morning, patting lotion on my persistent crow’s feet, I decided, “This isn’t fair, and I’m more than a little ticked off!”

Before Eve made her fatal choice, there was no sickness, no pain, no “loud discussions” with her husband, no painful childbirth and no emotional drama. In this perfect setting, there were no stresses, struggles, trials or tribulations. But there was the enemy’s temptation, artfully set against all of God’s perfect world.

It’s natural to have a lot of questions. Why didn’t Eve see what was ahead? Why was she so easily convinced that the outsider (the Serpent) was seeking her good instead of planning to deceive her and lead her into a life of enslavement and heartbreak? Why didn’t Adam choose to do right in spite of Eve’s sin? And even, why did God allow the choice in the first place?

These are theological questions that could be tackled (and many have done so), and the answers point to God’s sovereignty and love ... but this is not where I’m headed today.

As I stood at the bathroom mirror moisturizing my wrinkling face, I realized I was blaming Eve for something that I might have chosen to do myself. I’ll never know. But I do know I am a daughter of Eve in that I cast blame rather than dealing with personal sin. I also know my sinful nature leads me to do a lot of nasty, nonsensical things. And that’s something I can do something about.

After all, I’m not just a daughter of Eve; now I’m a Child of the King!

It is God the Father who loves us and transforms us in Christ, making us fit for eternity. It’s the Spirit of God who convicts and teaches so we can grow in our faith and obedience. God is the great Instigator in our redemption. It is by His grace we are saved and changed, not by our own works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

MakeADifferenceSign_ChoicesBut we do have choices. We can’t sit around like a bump on a pickle. We’ve got a job to do! We are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained” for us (Ephesians 2:10). God allows us to cooperate with the redemption process, but many – through pride, independence, apathy or irresponsibility – hinder His work.

Ephesians 5:15-17 tells us to “look carefully” to how we walk, “not as unwise but as wise.” When we understand the will of God, we are to walk (live and act) as “children of light” (5:8). Our Mighty God gives us a warrior’s power and armor to stand against evil (Ephesians 6:10-18) and calls us to Spirit-filled living (Galatians 5:22-25). We are equipped for victory and effective living; we have the spiritual tools to faithfully serve the Lord.

So it’s pretty fruitless to stay ticked off at Eve, blaming her (or anyone else) for my state of affairs. God wants His children to get on with living in Christ and walking with eternity in view. That’s where the choices come in. They are daily, and they make a difference.

I can choose my attitudes. I can choose joy in the midst of struggle and patience in the midst of waiting. I can seek God when my days look dark. I can think of the details of my life in view of eternity with Him.

[Ah eternity … no wrinkles, diets, arguments, pain …the absence of a lot of nasty things. And I’m still hoping for some heavenly chocolate.]

Friend, are you still blaming Eve, sitting around and not cooperating with God today – not pursuing the wise, godly choices He wants you to make? It’s far wiser to get proactive, to ask God to speak to your heart.  What decisions and choices does He want you to make today?

– Dawn

Stop ‘Trying’

30 Dec

I love these simply awful answering machine messages:

  • “Hello, I’m not here right now. In fact, I’m out getting a new parakeet. If you leave a message after the beep, I’ll be sure to get back to you. Oh, and by the way, a word of advice:  Never try to clean a parakeet cage with a AnsweringMachinevacuum cleaner.”
  • “I’m sorry, but you have reached an imaginary number. Please imagine a real number and try again.”
  • “Hello there. I’m not answering the phone right now, because I’m trying to avoid someone. Leave a message… and if I don’t call back, it was you.”
  • “Hi! I’m sorry, but I’m trying to break the record for the ‘most calls missed.’ If it’s an emergency or your dying or something, please hold on until the record is broken and I’ll call you back.”

Did you catch all those “try” phrases? I’ve been thinking a lot about that word, and I have a completely different perspective on New Year’s resolutions this year. It begins with an attitude adjustment. Let me explain…

Teaching little children new things is a study in encouragement. We coax them to do new thing by saying, “Just try it.” I think of the old Life cereal commercial:  Three brothers at breakfast, and two decide to shove a bowl of cereal toward the third brother (the youngest), prodding him to “try it.” Little Mikey ends up loving the cereal.  (I tried something similar with one of my sons with little success. He still hates broccoli, I think.)

We encourage kids to try new foods … try new hobbies … try new sports. It’s what kids do. They “try” things.

But when we’re more mature, we realize success in life takes more than just “trying” a lot of things. In the secular world we see the foolishness of “try” in the Star Wars movie. Old Yoda said to Luke Skywalker ~ “Do or do not. There is no try.” Try is hard to measure, and sometimes it equals a lack of commitment. Think about it… when you say to someone, “I’ll try to ____(whatever)” … do you really mean it? If nothing else, you’re not showing much excitement about the prospect!

A few years ago, I cut out the word “overwhelmed” in my vocabulary. It colored how I thought about life. I couldn’t figure out a way to deal with “overwhelmed”? Today, I might say I’m “time challenged,” or there’s “too much on my plate right now.” I can do something about those problems. I can change my schedule, delegate or eliminate some things. It’s the same with the word “trying.” Instead of saying “I’ll try,” I now substitute the words “choose” or “plan” or “strategize.”

Instead of making a long list of resolutions this year, how about making just one … Resolve that you will obey God whenever He prompts you in any area of life. It takes off all the pressure to perform. It allows you to just rest day by day in God’s guidance and wisdom for your life.

Let me give you some examples of how that works.

Weight Loss – We say, “I’m going to try to lose weight.” Try? What does that look like? [Imagine the grunting and intense expressions.]  It sounds defeated before we even begin. It sounds like a hopeless cause with a happy face.

But what happens when we say, “I’m going to create some strategies to lose weight. I’m going to make choices that will enable me to slim down and get healthy.” That sounds like a plan and it’s measurable, right? We might write down what we eat, count calories or Weight Watcher points, change what we stock in our refrigerator and pantry, join a gym – all positive strategies. There’s some determination there as well as strategies to follow.

But then, take it all up a notch. After you’ve made the plan—and a plan is a good thing—you relax and say, “Lord, speak to me every day about this area of my life, and I will obey you in whatever you say.” At that point, you’ve gone from fruitless trying…  to making strategies … to resting in and responding to God! Doesn’t that make more sense and seem like reasonable effort?

This is true in any area of life.

Finances – We say, “I’m going to try to get out of debt.” We can try all day, but if we don’t have some solid strategies and the will to choose and change, we’re not going to get out of debt.

How much better to say, “I have a new financial plan that will help me get out of debt, and I’m going to make some tough-but-positive, intentional choices.” And we pray, “Lord, I need your help to follow wise financial counsel. Help me listen to your voice concerning the choices and purchases I make.”

How about Relationships – We say, “I’m going to try to get along with my nasty relative.” We can try all we want, but “trying” doesn’t have any teeth… any grit … any umph.

Instead, we say something like, “I’m going to learn how to practice the ‘one anothers’ of scripture with my friends and family… and I’m going to choose to obey God.” (You know the one anothers, don’t you? Love one another, encourage one another, forgive one another, serve one another … more than 20 one anothers to practice in our daily relationships. And each one is an intentional choice.)

Practicing those one anothers isn’t always easy, because feelings ~ “I deserve this” or “I don’t deserve this” ~ get in the way. So we pray, “Lord, help me to love others the way You do… Show me in every circumstance of life how to relate to my family and friends, and give me the courage to follow and obey You.”

There are plenty of areas in life where we can make intentional choices … but I’m going to list just one more.iscipline

Spiritual Growth – For the Christian, spiritual New Year’s resolutions always seem to be “biggies.” We say, “I’m going to try to read the whole Bible this year,” or “I’m going to try to pray more,” or “I’m going to try to memorize scripture.” There’s that word “try” again. And the truth is, all that trying won’t take us far … maybe into February.

How much better to …

  • Find a scripture reading plan to read through the Bible (or even one book of the Bible) and ask God for an accountability partner. Post a checklist of chapters read where at least one other person will see it … (not to brag, but to encourage us to read).
  • Create a prayer list for our computer (or somewhere we will really use it) and ask God to bring us things to pray about—maybe different people/topics each day.
  • Commit to memorizing four scriptures each month and ask God what to memorize because He knows what we will need to use in the days ahead.

In the Bible, Joshua was tired of the Israelites trying to live life their own way. He told the Israelites, “Choose you this day who you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Joshua knew there comes a point when we must stop playing games ~ a moment we choose. Maturity seeks God daily for clear direction and makes wise, intentional plans and decisions.

Remember:  You can move from fruitless trying … to making new choices … to resting in and responding to God!

What is God saying to you about your choices for the New Year? Plan, choose, act, rest, obey… “There is no try.”

– Dawn

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