Monday, July 29, 2019

Accountability and Community

I am more and more convinced that the Christian life revolves around community. God is self-existent in community: Father, Son, Spirit. He created people in His image: male and female created He them.

Each week I am blessed to interact with women who pray and live life with me. We don't need another Bible study or teaching time. We need a place to be honestly raw, to ask questions, to follow, encourage, cheer, and admonish one another. We need loving kindness, forgiveness, wisdom--the hands and feet of Jesus--to intersect with our everyday lives.

Years ago I stumbled on a group of women who practiced accountability. I asked a lot of questions,  prayed, went home, and began asking women to join me. There are 3 of us who meet weekly for about an hour and half. We text and call each other regularly with prayer needs, concerns, and praises.

The group has changed with time and location, but the beauty of ministering to one another remains unchanged. If you don't meet regularly with others, this is a call to prayerfully consider practicing what it looks like to be the body of Christ...

Here are a number of articles that I have found helpful and directive:

How to Start and Maintain Accountability Relationships

Why We Need Accountability

Accountability Questions

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:4-21)

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Wedding Vow

Sometimes it's difficult to see God's goodness. Every sermon, devotion, passage of Scripture seems to criticize and judge our failure. We may have a sense that if God doesn't meet our every whim and desire, He doesn't love us.

Instead of living life through past experience and relationships, God's Word calls us to truth.

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

This teaching of Jesus follows 32 verses on marriage--both a parable and specific teaching. We are not called to love ourselves (contrary to what some say); we are to consider ourselves in light of God and others.

Recently I was challenged to apply marriage vows to my relationship with God:

"I, ________, take you, Jesus Christ, for my Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health..."

With God as the Center of my life and affection, His Word communicates His loving, caring character. He shapes and redirects my thoughts and affections. When God says, "This is right and good," I have a choice. I can push my own agenda and definition or I can ask God to help me wrestle renegade thoughts, emotions, memories, past experience and present desires into submission. "God, I may not understand, but by faith I confess (agree) that this is right and good." When God says, "This is wrong, evil, and wicked," again, I can choose my own standard or ask for His help in wrestling those thoughts, emotions, past experience and desires, into prayerful submission, "Yes, God, I confess (agree) that that is wrong and evil."

The question is not whether my experience or feelings are true. They happened. They are real. The question is "Whose standard is true?" A look at my thoughts, behavior, and choices reveals what I believe. Am I living by my standard or God's?

God's standard accurately measures right and wrong where my perspective, experience, emotions or desire, vary from time to time, person to person, circumstance to circumstance. When I acknowledge God's Word as absolute truth, it is followed by commitment. "I, Sydney, take You, Jesus Christ..." He, the Word, the Word made flesh, the Living Word, is "My beloved...and I am his...." (Song of Solomon 2:16, 6:3).

That leads me to believe and live by His written Word regardless of personal circumstances or performance. He has already proven His love for me, bought me back from the slave market of sin at the cost of His life, exchanged His righteousness for my unrighteousness, and pledged his undying presence from this day forward. How foolish and ignorant to think He wouldn't love and care for me: for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;  who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)