Accountability

Relationship building is a process which takes time; when that time is invested, trust and vulnerability grow. We offer these questions as part of this building process, knowing that when used in love and wisdom they will help men open their hearts to each other.

1. Have I been with a woman in the past week that could be viewed as compromising?

2. Have all my financial dealings been filled with integrity?

3. Have I viewed sexually explicit material?

4. Have I spent adequate time in Bible study and prayer?

5. Have I spent quality time and given priority to my family?

6. Have I fulfilled the mandates of my calling?

7. Have I just lied to you?

A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:

1. Materialism.

2. Pride.

3. Self-centeredness.

4. Laziness.

5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness.

6. (Tie) Sexual lust.

7. Envy.

8. Gluttony.

9. Lying.

Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).

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Newsboys – Adoration

lyrics

I’m here with the others
Who saw the heavens testify
Now I hang back in the shadows
I want to come close
I want to know
She sees me shivering here
She smiles and with a nod
I walk through the mud and straw
To the newborn Son of God

Come, let us adore Him
He has come down to this barren land
Where we live
And all I have to give Him
Is adoration

I want to come close
I want to know
She sees me shivering here
She smiles and with a nod
I walk through the mud and straw
To the newborn Son of God

Come let us adore him
He has come down to this barren land
Where we live
And all I have to give Him
Is Adoration

He raises a wrinkled hand
Through the dust and the flies
Wrapped in rags like we are

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Bitterness

Kuniaki Koiso, Japanese Governor-General of Ko...
Kuniaki Koiso, Japanese Governor-General of Korea, implemented a draft of Koreans for wartime labor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shortly after the turn of the century, Japan invaded, conquered, and occupied Korea. Of all of their oppressors, Japan was the most ruthless. They overwhelmed the Koreans with a brutality that would sicken the strongest of stomachs. Their crimes against women and children were inhuman. Many Koreans live today with the physical and emotional scars from the Japanese occupation.

One group singled out for concentrated oppression was the Christians. When the Japanese army overpowered Korea one of the first things they did was board up the evangelical churches and eject most foreign missionaries. It has always fascinated me how people fail to learn from history. Conquering nations have consistently felt that shutting up churches would shut down Christianity. It didn’t work in Rome when the church was established, and it hasn’t worked since. Yet somehow the Japanese thought they would have a different success record.

The conquerors started by refusing to allow churches to meet and jailing many of the key Christian spokesmen. The oppression intensified as the Japanese military increased its profile in the South Pacific. The “Land of the Rising Sun” spread its influence through a reign of savage brutality. Anguish filled the hearts of the oppressed — and kindled hatred deep in their souls. One pastor persistently entreated his local Japanese police chief for permission to meet for services. His nagging was finally accommodated, and the police chief offered to unlock his church … for one meeting.

It didn’t take long for word to travel. Committed Christians starving for an opportunity for unhindered worship quickly made their plans. Long before dawn on that promised Sunday, Korean families throughout a wide area made their way to the church. They passed the staring eyes of their Japanese captors, but nothing was going to steal their joy. As they closed the doors behind them they shut out the cares of oppression and shut in a burning spirit anxious to glorify their Lord.

The Korean church has always had a reputation as a singing church. Their voices of praise could not be concealed inside the little wooden frame sanctuary. Song after song rang through the open windows into the bright Sunday morning. For a handful of peasants listening nearby, the last two songs this congregation sang seemed suspended in time. It was during a stanza of “Nearer My God to Thee” that the Japanese police chief waiting outside gave the orders. The people toward the back of the church could hear them when they barricaded the doors, but no one realized that they had doused the church with kerosene until they smelled the smoke. The dried wooden skin of the small church quickly ignited. Fumes filled the structure as tongues of flame began to lick the baseboard on the interior walls.

There was an immediate rush for the windows. But momentary hope recoiled in horror as the men climbing out the windows came crashing back in — their bodies ripped by a hail of bullets. The good pastor knew it was the end. With a calm that comes from confidence, he led his congregation in a hymn whose words served as a fitting farewell to earth and a loving salutation to heaven. The first few words were all the prompting the terrified worshipers needed. With smoke burning their eyes, they instantly joined as one to sing their hope and leave their legacy.

Their song became a serenade to the horrified and helpless witnesses outside. Their words also tugged at the hearts of the cruel men who oversaw this flaming execution of the innocent: Alas! and did my Savior bleed? and did my Sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?

Just before the roof collapsed they sang the last verse, their words an eternal testimony to their faith: But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe: Here, Lord, I give myself away ‘Tis all that I can do! At the cross, at the cross Where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away — It was there by faith I received my sight, And now I am happy all the day.

The strains of music and wails of children were lost in a roar of flames. The elements that once formed bone and flesh mixed with the smoke and dissipated into the air. The bodies that once housed life fused with the charred rubble of a building that once housed a church. But the souls who left singing finished their chorus in the throne room of God. Clearing the incinerated remains was the easy part. Erasing the hate would take decades. For some of the relatives of the victims, this carnage was too much. Evil had stooped to a new low, and there seemed to be no way to curb their bitter loathing of the Japanese.

In the decades that followed, that bitterness was passed on to a new generation. The Japanese, although conquered, remained a hated enemy. The monument the Koreans built at the location of the fire not only memorialized the people who died, but stood as a mute reminder of their pain. Inner rest? How could rest coexist with a bitterness deep as marrow in the bones?

Suffering, of course, is a part of life. People hurt people. Almost all of us have experienced it at some time. Maybe you felt it when you came home to find that your spouse had abandoned you, or when your integrity was destroyed by a series of well-timed lies, or when your company was bled dry by a partner. It kills you inside. Bitterness clamps down on your soul like iron shackles.

The Korean people who found it too hard to forgive could not enjoy the “peace that passes all understanding.” Hatred choked their joy. It wasn’t until 1972 that any hope came. A group of Japanese pastors traveling through Korea came upon the memorial. When they read the details of the tragedy and the names of the spiritual brothers and sisters who had perished, they were overcome with shame. Their country had sinned, and even though none of them were personally involved (some were not even born at the time of the tragedy), they still felt a national guilt that could not be excused.

They returned to Japan committed to right a wrong. There was an immediate outpouring of love from their fellow believers. They raised ten million yen ($25,000). The money was transferred through proper channels and a beautiful white church building was erected on the sight of the tragedy.

When the dedication service for the new building was held, a delegation from Japan joined the relatives and special guests. Although their generosity was acknowledged and their attempts at making peace appreciated, the memories were still there. Hatred preserves pain. It keeps the wounds open and the hurts fresh. The Koreans’ bitterness had festered for decades. Christian brothers or not, these Japanese were descendants of a ruthless enemy.

The speeches were made, the details of the tragedy recalled, and the names of the dead honored. It was time to bring the service to a close. Someone in charge of the agenda thought it would be appropriate to conclude with the same two songs that were sung the day the church was burned.

The song leader began the words to “Nearer My God to Thee.” But something remarkable happened as the voices mingled on the familiar melody. As the memories of the past mixed with the truth of the song, resistance started to melt. The inspiration that gave hope to a doomed collection of churchgoers in a past generation gave hope once more.

The song leader closed the service with the hymn “At the Cross.”

The normally stoic Japanese could not contain themselves. The tears that began to fill their eyes during the song suddenly gushed from deep inside. They turned to their Korean spiritual relatives and begged them to forgive. The guarded, calloused hearts of the Koreans were not quick to surrender. But the love of the Japanese believers — unintimidated by decades of hatred — tore at the Koreans’ emotions:At the cross, at the cross Where I first saw the light, And the burden of my heart rolled away …

One Korean turned toward a Japanese brother. Then another. And then the floodgates holding back a wave of emotion let go. The Koreans met their new Japanese friends in the middle. They clung to each other and wept. Japanese tears of repentance and Korean tears of forgiveness intermingled to bathe the site of an old nightmare.

Heaven had sent the gift of reconciliation to a little white church in Korea.

Bitterness

One day, two monks were walking through the countryside. They were on their way to another village to help bring in the crops. As they walked, they spied an old woman sitting at the edge of a river. She was upset because there was no bridge, and she could not get across on her own. The first monk kindly offered, “We will carry you across if you would like.” “Thank you,” she said gratefully, accepting their help. So the two men joined hands, lifted her between them and carried her across the river. When they got to the other side, they set her down, and she went on her way.

After they had walked another mile or so, the second monk began to complain. “Look at my clothes,” he said. “They are filthy from carrying that woman across the river. And my back still hurts from lifting her. I can feel it getting stiff.” The first monk just smiled and nodded his head.

A few more miles up the road, the second monk griped again, “My back is hurting me so badly, and it is all because we had to carry that silly woman across the river! I cannot go any farther because of the pain.” The first monk looked down at his partner, now lying on the ground, moaning. “Have you wondered why I am not complaining?” he asked. “Your back hurts because you are still carrying the woman. But I set her down five miles ago.”

That is what many of us are like in dealing with our families. We are that second monk who cannot let go. We hold the pain of the past over our loved ones’ heads like a club, or we remind them every once in a while, when we want to get the upper hand, of the burden we still carry because of something they did years ago.

Humility

I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9

I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8

I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15

Humility and a passion for praise are a pair of characteristics which together indicate growth in grace. The Bible is full of self-humbling (man bowing down before God) and doxology (man giving praise to God). The healthy heart is one that bows down in humility and rises in praise and adoration. The Psalms strike both these notes again and again. So too, Paul in his letters both articulates humility and breaks into doxology. Look at his three descriptions of himself quoted above, dating respectively from around A.D. 59, 63, and 64. As the years pass he goes lower; he grows downward! And as his self-esteem sinks, so his rapture of praise and adoration for the God who so wonderfully saved him rises.

Undoubtedly, learning to praise God at all times for all that is good is a mark that we are growing in grace. One of my predecessors in my first parochial appointment died exceedingly painfully of cancer. But between fearful bouts of agony, in which he had to stuff his mouth with bedclothes to avoid biting his tongue, he would say aloud over and over again: “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1). That was a passion for praise asserting itself in the most poignant extremity imaginable.

Cultivate humility and a passion for praise if you want to grow in grace.

False teachings: Unity Vs Purity

Watch Out for Those Who Lead You Away from the Truth

Romans 16:17–20

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. Such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

I recall talking to a wise leader of a large missions organization about doctrinal faithfulness. He said something to this effect, “It’s crucial. And so is unity. Some people emphasize one, and some the other. Our organization is made of two kinds of people: purity boys and unity boys.” The unity boys naturally emphasize the preciousness of personal relationships and tend to neglect an emphasis on truth. The purity boys naturally emphasize the preciousness of truth and tend to neglect the nurture of personal relationships.

In fact, you could probably categorize people and churches and denominations and institutions and movements in the evangelical church today (or even in society in general) along these lines: There are those who emphasize doctrinal purity, and there are those that emphasize relational unity.
Loving People and Loving Truth

I hope you are feeling uncomfortable with that description. A good impulse inside of you would be saying right now: “Do we have to choose? Can’t it be both? Can’t you love truth and love people?” In fact, it would be an even more biblical impulse if you found yourself thinking, “I don’t even think you can love people if you don’t love truth. How can you do what is ultimately good for people if you don’t have any strong convictions about what is ultimately good?”

And yet there is no escaping the reality that people and churches and denominations and schools and even whole periods in history lean one way or the other. I think the period of history we live in is not an easy time to be a lover of truth. The most common criticism, if you stand for an important truth and imply by that stand that others should believe it, is that you are arrogant, which is the opposite of being loving (1 Corinthians 13:4), and therefore you are undermining relationships.

For many thoughtful people today the only path to peaceful relationships in a pluralistic world is the path of no truth that deserves assent from everyone. It seems on the face of it to make sense. If no one claims that what he believes deserves assent from anyone else, then we can live together in peace. Right? So peaceful pluralism and diminished truth claims go hand in hand.

But it doesn’t work like that. When there is no truth that deserves assent from everybody, the only arbiter in our competing desires is power. Where truth doesn’t define what’s right, might makes right. And where might makes right, weak people pay with their lives. When the universal claim of truth disappears, what you get is not peaceful pluralism or loving relationships; what you get is concentration camps and gulags.

Pastor John Piper

Intimacy

Years ago Father John Powell told the story of Norma Jean Mortenson: “Norma Jean Mortenson. Remember that name? Norma Jean’s mother, Mrs. Gladys Baker, was periodically committed to a mental institution and Norma Jean spent much of her childhood in foster homes. In one of those foster homes, when she was eight years old, one of the boarders raped her and gave her a nickel.

He said, ‘Here, Honey. Take this and don’t ever tell anyone what I did to you.’ When little Norma Jean went to her foster mother to tell her what had happened she was beaten badly. She was told, ‘Our boarder pays good rent. Don’t you ever say anything bad about him!’ Norma Jean at the age of eight had learned what it was to be used and given a nickel and beaten for trying to express the hurt that was in her.

“Norma Jean turned into a very pretty young girl and people began to notice. Boys whistled at her and she began to enjoy that, but she always wished they would notice she was a person too–not just a body–or a pretty face–but a person.

“Then Norma Jean went to Hollywood and took a new name–Marilyn Monroe and the publicity people told her, ‘We are going to create a modern sex symbol out of you.’ And this was her reaction, ‘A symbol? Aren’t symbols things people hit together?’

They said, ‘Honey, it doesn’t matter, because we are going to make you the most smoldering sex symbol that ever hit the celluloid.’

“She was an overnight smash success, but she kept asking, ‘Did you also notice I am a person? Would you please notice?’ Then she was cast in the dumb blonde roles.

“Everyone hated Marilyn Monroe. Everyone did.

“She would keep her crews waiting two hours on the set. She was regarded as a selfish prima donna. What they didn’t know was that she was in her dressing room vomiting because she was so terrified.

“She kept saying, ‘Will someone please notice I am a person. Please.’ They didn’t notice. They wouldn’t take her seriously.” She went through three marriages–always pleading, ‘Take me seriously as a person.’ Everyone kept saying, ‘But you are a sex symbol. You can’t be other than that.’

“Marilyn kept saying ‘I want to be a person. I want to be a serious actress.’

“And so on that Saturday night, at the age of 35 when all beautiful women are supposed to be on the arm of a handsome escort, Marilyn Monroe took her own life. She killed herself.” When her maid found her body the next morning, she noticed the telephone was off the hook. It was dangling there beside her.

Later investigation revealed that in the last moments of her life she had called a Hollywood actor and told him she had taken enough sleeping pills to kill herself.

“He answered with the famous line of Rhett Butler, which I now edit for church, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t care!’ That was the last word she heard. She dropped the phone–left it dangling.

“Claire Booth Luce in a very sensitive article asked, ‘What really killed Marilyn Monroe, love goddess who never found any love?’ She said she thought the dangling telephone was the symbol of Marilyn Monroe’s whole life. She died because she never got through to anyone who understood