Monday, May 21, 2007

Accountability Matters




I heard someone recently refer to the prophet Nathan as the "ultimate accountability partner." I've been thinking a lot about accountability lately. I agree that in Nathan (see 2 Samuel 12) we have a powerful dimension on accountabilty... one who can pull the wool off eyes that are obscured and darkened by sin.

In the first half of 2 Samuel Chapter 12, God uses Nathan to lay a compelling foundation for an imminent rebuke of King David's sins (adultery and conspiratorial murder). Framing the situation in a simple parable, Nathan leads David to a place of righteous indignation over the cold and heartless actions of "someone else."

Then David's anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die."
(2 Samuel 12: 5)

Then the wool comes flying off:

Nathan then said to David, "You are the man!..."
(2 Samuel 12: 7)

So David has been brought by "accountability partner" Nathan to a place of gut-and-soul-level enlightenment regarding the true nature of his own transgressions. In verse 7, the punctuation tells us something important. Nathan is exclaiming to David that he is guilty! He's not presumably concerned at this moment about whether or not he's going to hurt David's feelings or lose his inroad with the King. His job is to help David see his sins as God sees them. The King's misdeeds were brought into the bright and unclouded light of day and it is through Nathan that the Lord made this illumination possible.

Accountability Partner Responsibility #1: "After"
Be real and frank about the tough stuff.

There's another role for an accountability partner. As I read through this Scriptural account, I had to wonder what would have happened if Nathan had been brought into the "planning stages" of David's sin. Because before David slept with Bathsheba and before he conspired to have her husband taken out, he had a thought... an idea... a notion... something like a lightbulb (metaphorically speaking) went off. Before the sin played out, it was conceived as a thought. What if Nathan and David were accountable to one another... by phone or e-mail or text message or an hour weekly at Starbuck's... and David had shared his inner wrestlings with Nathan before the thought became action?

Could it have prevented an adulterous affair, murder and the resulting punishment from these disheartening acts of rebellion against God? Obviously, we don't know that answer to that question. But it does lead me to wonder how many accountability relationships today have averted potential disaster.

Accountability Partner Responsibility #2: "Before"
Point to the ditch before the car veers and crashes.

I urged my Monday morning small group to think about finding accountability partners. This would be someone other than your spouse whom you can trust to keep your personal matters confidential... someone whose job it is to keep you straight on your walk... who will have the courage to give (as you have the grace to receive) honest, candid feedback.

My accountability partner of three years is "the sister of my soul" and we achieved this level of truly familial intimacy by agreeing to be real with one another and by helping each other navigate the treacherous terrain of life openly and honestly.

Question: Do you have an accountability partner? If not, please make it a priority to find one!

(Pic by jonnyphoto; see http://flickr.com/photos/jonlewisphotography/453513809/ for restructions)

On My I-Pod... What's Up by 4 Non Blondes

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dr. Richard on Inside Out




Inside Out by Dr. Larry Crabb was required reading for a course on Spiritual Life with Dr. Ramesh Richard at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). It's not an easy read in that it challenges us to confront areas of personal weakness. But on the other end of this book, there can be leap-step spiritual growth.

Dr. Richard graciously agreed to step beyond the classroom and dialogue with me recently on this book and to share with us what's going on as he travels the globe to win hearts and souls for Christ.

Sarah:

Let me guess... you're responding to these questions from the airport... on the way to... ________________?

Dr. Richard:

I'm actually at the Frankfurt Airport, on the way to Chennai, India, and under jet lag. It's 3 a.m. Dallas time, when I am usually asleep!

Sarah:

How many trips do you take in a given year?


Dr. Richard:

I usually take six overseas trips, every other month, and several trips domestically, depending on what, where or why I'm needed.

Sarah:

Ballpark number of people you've reached for Christ?

Dr. Richard:

I have no idea how many people reached for Christ—but I know my destination should God provide life, health and resources—one billion individuals. Through our annual telecast, we may have already surpassed it.

Sarah:

One billion? That is an extraordinary goal. What an incredible ministry you have. You must have some awesome "travel" stories. Do you have a favorite place to go? If so, where and why?

Dr. Richard:

Home! It's the only place I don’t have to be what others imagine me to be! This is the gift of my wife to me. Otherwise...

  • Best situated city--CapeTown, South Africa
  • Best architecture--Prague, Czech Republic
  • Best human initiative--Singapore
  • Best overall country--Costa Rica
  • Best meat--Buenos Aires
  • Best seafood--Trishna's in Mumbai, India!

Sarah:

Why is Inside Out required reading in your Spiritual Life course?

Dr. Richard:

To unearth internal tensions in the spiritual life; and to remove false concepts of God.

Sarah:

Did the book impact your own thinking/feeling? If so, how?

Dr. Richard:

I think Dr. Crabb talks about how we all appear much better than we really are to others. I would add—except to God who can’t be fooled that way and yet accepts as we really are. He thinks the best thoughts about us, and is willing to risk His salvation and ministry for us foible servants. I often wonder if God would still trust His people and ministry to me if He really knew me like I knew myself… and He assures me that He does know me... and better than I know myself... and His entrustment is not a risk, because He’s got all this all calculated well in advance!

Sarah:

The book offers up some stark reality... that apart from God we will be unfilfilled, unhappy and ultimately let down by all others (hopefully I have characterized this correctly). I was profoundly bothered by this initially. It struck me as depressing and pessimistic. Upon reflection, however, its message rings true and is deeply liberating. It encourages us to loosen the needy grip we have on others, freeing them to be who they are versus who we want them to be, and puts our dependence where it belongs: on God. This was the most significant "take away" for me. From my perspective, it was positive if not life-changing.

Dr. Richard:

This is a powerful insight, but from early in the Christian faith. For example, Augustine and Ambrose had already said that unless we come close to God we can’t even come close to ourselves! Mix this with the old hymn writer words (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation) when he writes, “Hast thou not seen, how thy desires ere have been, granted in what He ordaineth.”


Sarah:

Switching gears... best book you've read lately?


Dr. Richard:

Actually, the Book of Luke…which I am working through in Greek (with a little bit of cheating from the NET interlinear) and Tamil (my mother-tongue) devotionally. I said somewhere recently, that English is like B&W television, while Tamil gives me color, and then there is Greek in HDTV.

I also read Executive Book Summaries of dozens of contemporary books for insights on my audiences worldwide and for organizational leadership input. But several of these books are anecdotal principles, often contradicting each other—another strong reason to stay regularly in Scripture!


Sarah:

Yes, in the Bible we have infallible truth... something even the best of our uninspired literature can't imitate. Thanks for joining us here, Dr. Richard! Safe travels and may God keep you pressing on with great energy and enthusiam!


OK... has anybody out there read Inside Out? Hit "comments" and tell us what you thought about it!




Dr. Richard is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. He is also the founder and president of RREACH (Ramesh Richard Evangelism And Church Health). A global proclamation ministry, the vision of RREACH is to change the way one billion individuals think and hear about the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Richard holds a ThD (in systematic theology) from Dallas Theological Seminary and the PhD (in philosophy) from the University of Delhi.

More about Dr. Richard's ministry here: http://www.rameshrichard.homestead.com/




Monday, May 14, 2007

Brotherly Love

I was going through photos to make a poster for Daniel this week and came across this hilarious action sequence involving Colin and Daniel!








Coming Wednesday: Dr. Ramesh Richard on Inside Out (and other stuff!) and your opportunity to share feedback on the book!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!



(Tissue paper corsage courtesy of Colin!)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Jeans... J-E-A-I-N-S... Jeans!




Daniel took second place in the 1st Grade Spelling Bee today. He's pictured next to the winner, Ellie, who is my future daughter-in-law (ok... I'm no prophet... just hopeful!).

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Spring Rain Passion"



I was going to run this picture with one of my theology papers (going into the vault for blog material this week as I study for my BE109 final... Dr. Allen said, "This won't be hard if you put your notes on 3x5 cards and don't wait until the final week to study." I'm thinking there's a Proverb that relates to what I was told and where I'm at!) But this picture is too lovely to complicate.

Check out Mark Lawrence's photo stream at: http://flickr.com/photos/marketseq/page3/. His artwork is heavily Scripture influenced and stunningly beautiful.

On my I-Pod... All I Need by Bethany... Bethany... hmmm... must get back to you on that one!

(Spring Rain Passion by Mark Lawrence used with permission; all rights reserved.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Pornography: An Escalating Threat that Warrants Our Anger... and Compassion

I just completed a four-part sermon series (for someone else to preach...) on pornography and its impact on the family. I'm still kind of reeling from what I learned. The statistics, alone, were stunning. Porn in all its venues is a monolithic $57 billion dollar industry that's spawned a staggering behavioral epidemic on the part of millions of men and women worldwide.

Porn's financial revenue is larger than combined income of all the top technology companies: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink.* Its U.S. revenue exceeds the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, & NBC. Child pornography generates $3 billion annually.

I was surprised by how I felt about what I learned:


  1. After reading story upon story of the tsunami-like damage to hearts and souls encountered by porn, I became very angry at thoughts of its huge and bloating commercial success. Imagine what $57 billion dollars could do if turned loose on efforts to make the world a better place.
  2. I was left with a gnawing compassion for those addicted to pornography. Up until now, I'm ashamed to say I've viewed porn addicts as generically seedy and selfish. But consider the statistics within our own community**:

  • The percentage of Promise Keepers who viewed porn in the last week: 53%
  • Christians who say porn is a major problem in the home: 47%

I now have in my mind a different picture: the picture of an addict (or someone headed there). One who probably encountered pornography at a relatively young age and with repeated exposure became ensnared in a web of addiction that some experts say is harder to beat than cocaine.

One of my classmates urged that we begin to talk about this issue with more honesty and candor within the church... exposing it for what it is... and getting at the root cause... why are nearly one in two Christian families struggling with pornography in the home? And what can be done to stop the ruinous, progressively downward spiral?

There are more people struggling with pornography than I ever imagined. And once they are wrapped around the finger of an addiction, it's not a thrills ride for these folks. Its a dark and seemingly hopeless well of isolation, guilt and misery. Is everyone who encounters porn headed for an addiction? Not everyone will come under its spell. But the line separating controllable experimentation and enslavement is invisible... you never know the day or hour that a potentially addictive pursuit will become your master.

I suffered from an eating disorder for many years and understand intimately the pain and hopelessness of being in the grip of something other than God. My heart melts for others who've gone down the many torturous paths of addiction. I now feel compassionate about another group of addicts. People caught up in porn have made some bad choices, it's true. But I would urge a heightened sense of compassion... especially for those who are actively trying to beat this addiction... so that stigmas and sterotypes no longer keep the suffering in the dark... and collective prayer for the protection and restoration of the men and the women we know and love who may be waging a lonely hidden battle.

Did you know? One in four visitors to internet porn sites is a woman.

Statistics from: **xxxchurch.com and "Pornography Statistics 2007" by Jerry Ropelato

On my I-Pod... Where Do we Go From Here By Grant Lee Buffalo