Tag Archives: Accountability

I’m Sorry

I'm sorry“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi wasn’t the first to express it and he certainly won’t be the last. And to be honest, I understand his sentiments.

“Christians aren’t perfect, we’re just saved.” It’s a popular bumper sticker and while it is true it is far too often used as an excuse for behaving badly.

Sometimes Christians can be rude and selfish and greedy… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can walk right past others and not even give them the time of day, as if they don’t even exist… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can look down their nose at others and judge them for their sins while ignoring their own sins… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians can be so opinionated about a subject that they won’t even listen to someone with a differing opinion… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians gossip about others… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians act one way at Church and a different way at work or at school… I’m sorry.

Sometimes Christians act like they have life all figured out and that their life is perfect even when they don’t and it isn’t… I’m sorry.

I’ve lived half of a century (now I feel old!) and in that time I’ve served four different churches and been involved with many, many others. This lack of consistent living is widespread and common.

I’m sure you can add to this list but you get the idea. And since I’m being honest I will admit that I’m sometimes guilty of these same things.

Being a Christian is more than wearing a title, professing certain beliefs, sitting in a church service for one hour a week and following a formula to have a ticket stamped for life beyond this life. It means actively following Jesus to become like Him. It means learning to think and believe and feel and act like Jesus more and more. It means loving God and others every moment of every day.

We won’t get it right all the time; but that’s no excuse for not giving ourselves to the journey of doing life with God and learning to love like Jesus. And when we get it wrong we need to own it and apologize for it.

Note to my Christian friends: If you’re reading this and thinking, “Yeah, but they…” Stop right there! Every person will one day stand before God to give an account of their life and their actions. NO ONE will be able to excuse their behavior by saying, “Yeah, but they…” We will be responsible for ourselves then so we might as well start being responsible for ourselves now.

One last confession: If my hope were in other Christians I would have given up on the Church and Christianity a long time ago. Some of my greatest blessings have come from other believers but so have some of my greatest hurts.

My hope rests in Christ Jesus alone! He is the only one who makes this messy, imperfect journey worthwhile.

Who is your hope in?

***

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2013. All rights reserved.

4 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Christ, Christianity, Church, Confession, God, Hope, involvement with the church, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Repentance, Sin

I was feeling good about it until…

The onset of increasing age, poor eating habits and very little exercise combined to make the two previous years… BRUTAL!

I’m speaking of the 5-day parent/teen extreme camping trip that Josh and I did a few weeks back. Having done this trip 5 times before I knew what was coming. With the last two years being so difficult, it was not anything I wanted to repeat.

So I determined to be better prepared. For the two months leading up to our trip I ate better and rode bike several days a week. With 15 less pounds and a bit more muscle this year’s trip was only mildly challenging. And in the process, I’ve discovered that I rather enjoy cycling.

This last Saturday Susan was not feeling well so I rode alone and decided to push myself a bit. I ended up riding 12 miles in one hour which works out to be 12 mph. (Yes, my math skills are stunning).

I was feeling good about it until…

Earlier in the day we noticed lots of bicycles on Highway 40 which happens once every summer for RAIN – Ride Across Indiana. So I checked out their website for some details. Turns out that these people start early in the morning in Terre Haute and finish up later that same day in Richmond (near where we live).

Their entire one-day bicycle odyssey is some 160 miles long and the information on their web site indicated that you should be able to average 12-14 mph. WOW!

Even at the slower rate of 12 mph that’s an average of just over 13 hours on a bicycle in one day! And here I was excited about doing it for just one hour.

But then it dawned on me that I’m not competing against them, I’m competing against myself. I could have chosen to sit on the couch or float in the pool or go out for ice cream. But instead, I got a good workout in and rode the best I ever had.

The same is true with God. My assurance of spending an eternity with Him is based solely on His grace, but I’ll still give an account for how I lived my life. And God won’t evaluate my life by comparing it to anyone else but by what He intended for me when He formed me in my mother’s womb.

God alone knows my full potential, and yours. He has gifted each of us with a personality and a passion and a certain set of skills.

Are we growing into and living out our full, God-given potential?

***

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Christianity, God, God's Will, Grace, Motivation

Not an excuse to abuse God’s grace

There is a fine line between living by grace and abusing it. As Paul concludes his thoughts at the end of chapter 5 in his letter to the Romans he speaks of how we are lavished with grace through Jesus Christ. In fact, he even states that “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”

But you can tell that Paul is aware that this could lead some to take advantage of grace and abuse it because he opens chapter 6 of Romans with this statement:

“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” ~ Romans 6:1-2

God’s lavish grace is no excuse to live as we want but rather makes us acceptable to a holy God and then empowers us to live differently. Larry Crabb says it well…

“I might mention in passing that my acceptability in Christ is no warrant for careless living.  Scripture also teaches that I am accountable to God for how I live. 

If I understand accountability, but not acceptability, I will live under pressure to behave well in order to be accepted.  If I understand acceptability, but not accountability, I may become casually indifferent to sinful living. 

When I understand first my acceptability and then my accountability, I will be constrained to please the One who died for me, fearful that I might grieve Him, not wanting to, because I love Him.” ~ Larry Crabb in Effective Biblical Counseling

May we be fully embraced by acceptability AND accountability, in that order, so that we can live in such a way as to demonstrate the grace and truth (John 1:14) that flowed from Jesus when He lived among us.

And in doing so, may we reflect the glory of God!

***

© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

7 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Christianity, Forgiveness, Glory of God, God, Grace, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, Sin, Truth

No more counting

Years ago I heard Tony Campolo speak about being part of a ministerial association where he lived. Every group has their measuring stick and this group used Sunday evening attendance. So the first thing they did each meeting was to go around the circle and share that statistic.

Tony decided to have some fun and play their game. When it was his turn, he reported that they had between 3 and 4 hundred in attendance for their Sunday evening services. Every pastor in the room was awestruck and Tony became the new guru of that little group. His words of wisdom were valued like gold and everyone had questions to ask.

Then a few months into these meetings someone asked Tony exactly how many people they averaged in attendance at Sunday evening services. Tony replied with something like “37.”

As you can imagine, everyone was stunned. “But you said it was between 3 and 400!” To which Tony replied, “37 is between 3 and 400.”

I love it! How could they be so vain as to think that the number of Sunday evening attenders is the measure of success in a church.

I would never do that. But I would use the number of blog followers to boost my confidence and measure my success. I’ve even looked for the number of followers on other blogs that I visit.

How could I be so vain?!

Everyone likes to have someone reading their blogs and positive affirmation can be great fuel to spur us on in writing. But this shouldn’t be our primary motivation.

If it’s all about God then it’s simply a matter of sharing what He has put on our heart and trusting that He will use it according to His will; whether it’s with a thousand people or just one soul.

But it’s hard. Even the tips others give you for building a following include visiting lots of other blogs to either “Like” a post or “Subscribe” to their blog. The idea is that people will return the favor. But I can’t bring myself to do that.

I enjoy checking out other blogs when time allows, but if I like a post or follow a blog it’s simply because it touched my heart and challenged me in some way.

Jesus taught that the way to confront the issue of greed in our heart is to give stuff away.

So to confront my tendency to “number watch” my blog I’ve stopped posting how many people are following through Subscription. Though it just dawned on me that the number of people following my Facebook page is still listed. I wonder if that can be removed?

What’s your real motivation for blogging or doing anything for the cause of Christ?

P.S. – And anyway, the number of followers posted by WordPress was wrong by my count. It was actually… never mind.  LOL

***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

8 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Blogging, Loving God, Motivation

What’s driving our ambitions?

Warfarin (also known as Coumadin) is an anti-clotting medication normally used in the prevention of thrombosis and thromboembolism, the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels and their movement elsewhere in the body.

Before being used as a medication for human beings it was, and still is, used as rat poison! How ironic that the same basic ingredient we use to rid ourselves of unwanted rodents is used to save our very lives. But this same irony exists with other, less tangible aspects of life such as our ambitions.

Ambitions alone are not inherently good or bad. But the motivation driving our ambitions makes them good or bad. What is the motivation behind our ambitions in life?

Are we driven to achieve or accomplish for ourself or for God? Are we measuring success by His standards or by ours? How is our ambition affecting our family? Who is getting the accolades, God or us?

In the book of John we see Jesus making statements like these:

  • “in myself, I can do nothing”
  • “I do not please myself”
  • “I do not accept praise from men”
  • “I came down from heaven not to do my will”
  • “I do nothing on my own”
  • “I am not seeking glory for myself”

“Even as the Son of God, he was aware he was not pursuing his own agenda but fulfilling the Father’s plan. How incredibly humble for the infinite and perfect Son of God to say, ‘I’m not seeking my own glory.” ~ Lance Witt

If anyone could have thought that life revolved around them it was Jesus. And yet, He willingly gave Himself to fill a role within the Father’s bigger Kingdom story.

“All of you, serve each other in humility, for ‘God opposes the proud, but favors the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor.” ~ 1 Peter 5:5-6

Like medications, ambition must be handled with care because it has the potential for good or bad.

What’s driving our ambitions?
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

4 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Glory of God, God, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Loving God

Our need for honest feedback

The Last Czar is a biography about the life of Czar Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia. While his generals were brutally suppressing dissent, they told him civil unrest was the result of foreign influence and assured him his own people loved him.

The Czar didn’t have any other source of information so was completely unaware that his generals were not being truthful with him. Not a good position to be in.

When the Communists took over, he was caught by surprise and forced to abdicate. Sadly, the Bolsheviks eventually executed him and his entire family. It is a sad and tragic story.

Few of us are czars, but the same lack of honest feedback can be devastating. We need truth tellers around us in two critical areas.

The first area is horizontal and pertains to our relationships with people. We fill the role of friend, spouse, son or daughter, parent, employee or boss, coach or teammate.

The second area is vertical and pertains to our relationship with God. Our core identity is that of being a child of our Creator; embracing a new identity in Christ.

Maybe it’s because I hit 50 last year or maybe it’s because I have two grown sons living far from home, but I’ve been reflecting more and more on what got my attention in the last 30 years. Relationships are what make our lives rich and we all need feedback to make them as strong as possible.

The area of our relationship with God is perhaps even more critical. All of us live with a gap between what we profess or live outwardly and what is really going on in our heart. For some, this gap is small but for others the gap is rather large.

The danger is that this largely invisible gap is easy to conceal because we tend to focus on managing our external behavior with a highly trained filter. Dress nice, smile and be nice around church friends, drop some money in the offering plate and help out occasionally.

All those things are good but they don’t always accurately reflect what is going on beneath the surface. We need traveling companions who will ask us the hard questions and give us honest feedback.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

God’s design to make us more like Jesus happens best when we journey together and engage in honest feedback.

Who are your traveling companions?
***
© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

4 Comments

Filed under Accountability, Authenticity, Children of God, Courage, Discipleship, Fellowship, Friendship, God, God's Will, Heart, intimacy with the Lord, Morphing, Relationship with God, Spiritual formation, Spiritual growth, Truth

It’s not my fault!

Last week I came across a blog written by a late twenty-something male from another country (not the USA). One of his statements caught my attention like the last chocolate chip cookie on a plate of crumbs.

It seemed very obviously flawed, but perhaps I was missing something. To be safe I ran it past my wife Susan – she saw it too.

Later, at the dinner table, I tossed it out to get a response from my kids. We’re talking twin 17-year-old girls and two guys; 15 years old and almost 12 years old. Yep! They saw it too! Here it is…

“I believe in destiny. If I fail, it’s because of destiny only. If I succeed, it’s because of my own efforts only.”

Go ahead, read it again. Notice anything peculiar?

Destiny, however that might be defined, is to blame for failure but success is due to personal effort alone! I.e. – I’m not to blame if it goes wrong, but I get the credit if it goes right! No responsibility, no blame, no guilt… no problem!

ARE YOU SERIOUS!!!

Certainly there are events and circumstances in life beyond our control, but to use something or someone else as the excuse for our failings is sad on many, many levels. But it’s not new!

When confronted with his sin Adam pointed to Eve and told God, “That woman you gave me…” Eve followed suit and said, “The serpent deceived me…”

Many years ago a newspaper in England ran a question for the public to consider – “What is wrong with the world?”

G.K. Chesterton, a well-known Christian, replied with a letter to the editor that read, “I am.”

Until we admit our sin and brokenness, God’s grace will be powerless to transform us. And if we don’t change, how can the world change?

May God’s grace empower us to own our own shortcomings!

***

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Filed under Accountability, Brokenness, Grace, Guilt, influence with the world, Morphing, Sin

“How do you feel about gossip?”

My friend John has a gift for being real and honest and transparent. He can speak the truth in love better than anyone I know. I’m aware of this because I’ve been on the receiving end of it more than once.

He’s a pastor in Toledo, OH but also works part-time at a local drug store chain. The other day he was behind the register when a saintly looking elderly woman came to check out. At the same time, in the next check-out line, a rather burley guy was asking for some cigarettes.

The woman in John’s line suddenly had a “holier-than-thou” smirk on her face as she mumbled some self-righteous comment about how disgusting cigarettes are and how she’d never do such a thing.

Feeling prompted by the Holy Spirit my friend John leaned forward and said, “How do you feel about gossip?”

By the look on her face John could tell that she was convicted about her words.

Then John added, “It seems to be that the Good Book (Bible) has more to say about gossip than it does about lighting up.”

After relating the story to me John commented that he’d rather have a church full of smokers than a church full of gossips because you can put out the cigarette before you come in but its hard to shut off a spirit of gossip.

We need to weigh our words carefully!

***

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Filed under Accountability, Bible, Christianity, Gossip, Holy Spirit, Scripture, Sin

Man in plane spots home being burglarized!

BAY, Ark. — A Bay man on his first airplane ride asked the pilot to fly over  his home so he could take some aerial photos.

What he saw was two men burglarizing his home.

Steven Lynn told The Jonesboro Sun that he could see the two taking items  from his house to a trailer attached to a truck.

Lynn called both an uncle who lives nearby and 911.

Craighead County Sheriff’s deputy Phillip Wheaton says the two unloaded the  trailer and left the scene when the uncle arrived — and the airplane carrying  Lynn followed them.

The two Jonesboro men were later stopped near Bay and arrested by an Arkansas State trooper and two deputies. The two identified as Roosevelt Smith III and  Joseph Peel now face burglary and theft charges.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the bad luck of these two guys. But the  Scriptural principle written so long ago is still true today in every area of life…

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

What will we sow today?

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Filed under Accountability, Life in General, Sin

Boundaries serve a good purpose… like keeping us alive!

So far, 2011 is shaping up as one of the deadliest in recent history for Yosemite National Park. Yosemite usually sees five or six deaths by the end of July, park spokeswoman Kari Cobb said. This year, there have been 14. The number also accounts for incidents that occur in the park, such as heart attacks, car accidents and deaths attributed to natural causes.

I mean no disrespect to any of the families that lost a loved one due to one of these incidents but I can’t help but comment on those deaths that occurred because someone moved beyond a safety barrier and simply got too close to a dangerous situation.

Yesterday I caught a portion of a news show that sent a reporter to Yosemite to investigate what’s been going on. At one point she asked the park ranger why they didn’t do more to warn people of the danger. He pointed out that they have signs, barriers and extra notices posted referring to those who have already lost their lives there this summer.

One woman slipped on wet granite, due to a thunderstorm, while descending a particular rock trail and it proved to be fatal. When asked why they didn’t close the trail or force people to not hike in those conditions the park ranger explained that they knew the storm was coming and advised people to stay off that trail but they leave the final decision to the park visitors.

We do the same thing with God. We knowing cross a boundary that He has set in place and when something unpleasant happens we get angry and ask why God didn’t prevent it. It’s called “free will.” Without it we would all be nothing but puppets. With it we are left to consider God’s safety barriers and make our own decisions.

Staying on “this side” of the safety barrier is no guarantee that all will be well. Sometimes others cross the boundaries and we are caught up in the ripple effects; and sometimes bad things happen simply because we live in a fallen world.

But it’s inappropriate for us to knowingly cross a boundary and then get upset at God or someone else when we experience a negative consequence. Free will is a gift and God’s boundaries are there not to keep us from having fun but to keep us safe and able to enjoy all of life.

Are you skirting or ignoring or flirting with any of God’s boundaries?

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Filed under Accountability, Christianity, God's Will, Sin