Category Archives: Accountability

What creates unity and maintains fellowship?

For the last 5 months I have been studying and teaching 1 Corinthians, Paul’s letter to a dysfunctional, divided, immature, selfish and immoral group of churches.

One general recurring question that continues to resurface as I study is, “what creates unity?” or “how do we maintain fellowship?” If a church started by Paul in a city that he spent more time than any other, except for Ephesus, could end up with so much dysfunction and disunity, how do we avoid their problems?

In 1 Corinthians Paul addresses their specific problems and questions, which address many issues that we face in our contemporary culture. So, though a difficult book to study, it covers a broad range of important issues—central is the need to for unity in the church (1 Corinthians 1:10-11).

There are many contemporary books that address the “what?” and “how?” of developing fellowship with many good recommendations and programs. But I think this quote from A. W. Tozer has the most important challenge.

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity- conscious” and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.

A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: Updated Edition (Kindle Edition, 2015 Kindle Locations 1002-1005, Aneko Press). (First Edition 1948, Christian Publications).

Whatever our personality (introvert or extrovert) or whatever our background, age, gender and preferences, unity—which the Lord designed the church to possess and demonstrate His Glory—is created and maintained by each individual tuning their own affections towards God. Which allows us to be other-centered not seeking our own advantage and it allows us to see people the way God, leading to loving them the way God does.

Deception

Yesterday I heard the sad news that a couple I know years ago are getting divorced.

My instinctive action, is to be heartbroken and then to be critical of the man who would leave his wife, his vows to her and the Lord.

But as I have been reflecting in my study of the book of James, rather than speculating, criticizing or condemning I am forced to ask–is there a part of my heart in which I am self-deceived?

  • What areas of strength are not guarded well so that I am actually self-deceived in my own strength?
  • What areas of weakness have I excused so as to be self-deceived to the danger I might be in?
  • Do I really believe that I am one decision away from failure?

As is the case with some temptation and most sin–we don’t just suddenly fall into it unknowingly. Though the euphemisms we use make it sound that way–“he fell into sin”–as though someone was walking backwards and fell into a big hole they didn’t see coming.  The only real surprise is probably the consequences that we experience from sin, not necessarily the reality of sin.

So how am I self-deceived?

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (ESV)

James 1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (ESV)

Jeremiah reminds me that my heart is inherently wicked–that I can not trust my own flesh-driven impulses or motivations.

Jeremiah 17:9–10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (ESV)

I must remember that I can be self-deceived since I am not able to understand my own heart motivations all the time. Therefore I must be ruthless in allows the Holy Spirit to rout out areas of sin or growing temptation and respond to the convicting of the Helper.

John 16:7–11 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (ESV)

But…We are not hopeless or helpless!

We are promised that if we place our trust in Jesus Christ as our only means of entering into an eternal relationship with God we are given new life and made new creatures in Christ. And that life is intended to be a guilt-free, grace-drive, honest open relationship with God through which progress transformation of our whole being is taking place–the abundant life (John 10:10).

We should never let our guard down nor should we ever yield to the false belief that we are helpless when it comes to temptation and sin.

So the sin of another should result in more than just heartbreak, it should result in positive self-evaluation:

Have I done my part in seeking to help another brother in sin?
Am I willing to get involved in the messiness true Christ-centered fellowship/relationships? For the long haul?
Am I doing my part in checking the condition of my heart?
Am I effectively investing in my own relationship with the Lord?
Am I practicing the spiritual disciplines and developing the habits that the Spirit can use to fuel my transformation into the image of Christ?
Am I proactively investing in my own relationship with my wife? Am I seeking to love her more each day? Do I show it?
Do I have others in my life who will ask me the hard questions?
Do I have others in my life who will relentless pursue me if I begin to walk down the wrong path?

Faithlife Study Bible

Many know I'm a fan the the ESV Study Bible (and since it is too big to carry around, I take advantage of the online version).

Another resource that some might be interested–particularly if you are in an intentional relationship for growth (small group, accountability group, memtoring relationship or adult Bible class) is the new Faithlife Study Bible. It's free through 2014.

It is produced by the makes of the Bible study software that I have used for 20 years–Logos.com.

The iPad app is excellent.

The videos below lays out some of what it can do–but the exciting part is actually the interactive Study Bible.

Also see these features.

This video shows the functionality of the Study Bible.

We’re reinventing the study Bible for the digital age. While print study Bibles are limited to a few study notes per page, the digital FSB provides much, much more:

  • 3 layers of study notes (over 1.4 million words total)
  • Lexham Bible Dictionary (2,500+ articles)
  • Lexham English Bible Shared reading plans
  • Shared notes
  • About 400 photos, videos, and infographics
  • Access to Faithlife, the new Christian online community.

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Helping those struggling

Recently I was asked for suggestion from a man who was trying to help other men who were struggling with purity issues.  I thought I would share my response–with some editing.

_____________

Let me start with the underlining question about your friends. The reality is that there is no short-cut to intimacy with God. The guys I have worked with on purity issues and other relational issues—tend to want a quick fix. They want to read a book, use a computer program or have someone be an accountability partner. Those are all good—but the only way to truly “overcome” or begin to have victory is through regular time with God. Getting a better understanding of who God is, and learning to live in moment by moment utter dependence on Him—no short cut. It is very rare that someone who acknowledges a problem has victory in a few weeks.

Other than the small group you are leading—where are they in meaningful connection with other believers? Where are they in intentional relationships for growth? Where are they in intentional interactive learning environments?

What I have done is challenged guys—to see how serious they are—has been to ask, what they are willing to give up to spend time with God? If they have a commute to work—are they willing to listen to scripture rather than sports radio? Are they willing to replace time playing video games, surfing the web, etc.—in order to carve out time with God?

If they make excuses—usually there is nothing we can do.
If they are willing to take personal responsibility—make changes, begin to be intentional about their walk with the Lord—more than simply getting victory over a sin—they will begin to have victory over sin.

But you are right—they must take responsibility for their own walk. They cannot flee lust without pursuing life in Christ.
2 Timothy 2:22 So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (ESV)

I think the three elments of this verse can help the guys you are talking with–Flee, Pursue, With.

One misconception about accountability groups is that my problem becomes the group’s problem. No, someone who shares a problem should be encouraged, but they need to take responsibility. Others can call, email, text—to encourage, challenge and check up on them. 

In an intentional relationship for growth we want to create an environment that is safe but not comfortable.
“It’s okay not to be okay—
but it’s not okay to stay there.”

So the small group should be welcoming and encouraging but must also willing to confront and challenge.

Let me encourage you in two areas—
1. While you are helping others is when it is easy to be tempted as well. So keep your time with the Lord fresh. (Galatians 6:1)
2. While you are trying to help others—you can easily become overwhelm. Your responsibility is to “spur one-another on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) and to help them carry their burden (Galatians 6:2) but they must be willing to carry it themselves (Galatians 6:5).

What you are doing a great thing in ministering to these guys, don’t grow weary, make sure that you are being refreshed in the Lord daily, and make sure you have some relational contexts where you are being ministered to. I would even challenge you to seek a couple prayer partners/warriors who will commit to pray for you as you minister to these guys.

Resources
http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/02/01/hijacking-the-brain-how-pornography-works/
http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo13/13hilton.php

Reading
Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush, Hooked: New Science on how casual sex is affecting our children
William Struthers, Wired for Intimacy: How pornography hijacks the male brain.
Steve Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, Every Man’s Battle
Randy Alcorn, The Purity Principle
Gordon MacDonald, Rebuilding Your Broken World
Doug McIntosh, God up Close (Out of print, but available in the library)

Movie
Fireproof (and the book The Love Dare)
Courageous

Website
http://www.everymansbattle.com/

External accountability
Faithful and True Calvary’s men’s purity group

Filters
OpenDNS.com (filtering for your wireless router)
OpenDNS is installed on your router (rather than your computer) and thus filters all internet content, including wireless in your home.
K9 Web Protection ( filtering http://www1.k9webprotection.com/)
Blue Coat’s Web filtering technology enables you to block entire categories of content, such as pornography or gambling, or block specific web sites.

Accountability solutions
X3Watch (FREE) (http://www.x3watch.com/x3watchfree.html )
X3watch is an accountability software program helping with online integrity. Whenever you browse the Internet and access a site, which may contain questionable material, the program will record the site name, time, and date the site was visited.
X3WatchPro ($7/month)
iPhone, iPad and Android apps available
Replaces primary browser—free or if you want to include accountability with filtering—$7

Covenanteyes.com $9/month for accountability Filtering is free
Provides both accountability and filtering software. It usually is rate the top of the line but is a little more expensive. It does have mobile solutions for iPhones.

Online resources and Bible Studies
http://www.pureintimacy.org/
http://www.settingcaptivesfree.com/
http://x3watch.com/x3pure.html

Sexual Detox, By Tim Challies (Print, Audio, PDF, EPub)
Summary: http://stevekilgore.com/fluency/476/pursuing-purity/

Resources for accountability groups
http://www.maninthemirror.org/biblestudy/register.htm
http://www.menatthecross.org
http://www.x3pure.com/

Counseling resources
Day 7 Counseling Services
OASIS Counseling Services

Questions to Identifying your Idols

This is a repost, first seen on Resurgence, but are from the a book Seeing With New Eyes by David Powlison.

How to identify your idols

1. What do I worry about most?
2. What, if I failed or lost it, would cause me to feel that I did not even want to live?
3. What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?
4. What do I do to cope? What are my release valves? What do I do to feel better?
5. What preoccupies me? What do I daydream about?
6. What makes me feel the most self-worth? Of what am I the proudest? For what do I want to be known?
7. What do I lead with in conversations?
8. Early on what do I want to make sure that people know about me?
9. What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?
10. What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?
11. What is my hope for the future?

(Also posted by Jared Wilson)

For other good self-diagnostic questions see
Self-evaluation in silence and
Evaluating and Inspecting our Lives so we can Thrive

Evaluating and Inspecting Our Lives so we can Thrive

Thanks Dave Loveless

In the early 1720’s John & Charles Wesley were students at Oxford University in England. While there they began to refine a process for increasing piety through a systematic practice of personal accountability. The brothers encouraged other classmates to gather with them weekly for the purpose of discipleship and accountability.

Out of those discipleship meetings John developed a series of 22 questions that were used for evaluation of one’s life.

  1. Are you consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that you are better than you really are? In other words, are you a hypocrite? How do you know?
  2. Are you honest in all your acts and words, or do you exaggerate?
  3. Do you confidentially pass on to another what was told you in confidence?
  4. Can you be trusted? Why?
  5. Are you a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits? How would you know?
  6. Are you self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  7. Did the Bible live in you this week? Can you share an example?
  8. Do you give it time to speak to you every day? What do you hear?
  9. Do you enjoy praying? Why?
  10. When did you last speak to someone else about your faith? What was their response?
  11. Do you pray about the money you spend? What are the answers?
  12. Do you get to bed on time and get up on time? If not, what’s getting in the way?
  13. Do you disobey God in anything? If yes, what is an example? If no, see question 2.
  14. Do you insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy? Why and what or why not?
  15. Am you defeated in any part of your life? What would that be? What are you doing about gaining victory?
  16. Am you jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful? How do you know?
  17. How do you spend your spare time? Give some examples.
  18. Are you a proud person? How do you think your closest friends would answer that question about you?
  19. Do you thank God that you are not as other people (like the Pharisee who despised the publican)? How would you know you are not like that?
  20. Is there anyone whom you fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold a resentment toward or disregard? If so, what are you doing about that attitude?
  21. Do you grumble or complain constantly? How would you know?
  22. Is Christ real to you? What are the evidences?