Selasa, 25 Agustus 2015

Pride Is Your Greatest Problem

Pride Is Your Greatest Problem

“How does one move from the chains of prideful self-obsession to the freedom of humble self-service?”
We’re asked common questions when people find out what we do. Are you a plumber? Get ready to remotely troubleshoot a leaky faucet. A doctor? Get ready for a rundown of mysterious aches and pains.
For counselors, somewhere near the top of that list is the question, “What problems do you see most?” Depression, anxiety, anger, marital conflict all make the cut, but my top answer may surprise you. It’s pride.
That pride should be the chart-topper actually shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone—and least of all to Christians. Proverbs 6:16–19 lists seven traits that God despises, and the very first—“haughty eyes”—is the proverbial way of talking about pride.
Pride is a prison that perpetuates anger, hurt and foolishness while keeping at bay the restorative effects of conviction, humility and reconciliation (Proverbs 11:229:23; Galatians 6:3; James 4:6; Revelation 3:17–20). Later, in Proverbs 16:18, God tells us, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Not only would pride be your jailer, but it would also be your executioner.

Everyone Else Is the Problem

In the counseling room, when couples come to me for the first time, they often have a list of offenses committed against them by their spouse, as well as a rehearsed inventory of behaviors they expect their partner to change. Similarly, parents often bring children to counseling reporting that they need to learn new ways of being respectful, self-controlled and helpful. Also, individuals come in with their catalog of ways in which the world around them has failed to serve them in their quest for joy, comfort and security.
These offenses need to be heard, and heard tenderly. Our brothers and sisters in Christ need to experience something of the steadfast love of God in the moments when they unpack some of their most painful wounds. A doctor once told me that effective medicine exists at the intersection of tact, timing and dosage. The same can be said of counseling (and many other disciplines too, I’m sure).
Furthermore, the behaviors that they want to see changed often do indeed need reformation. At the same time, during the course of our work together, when I change the perspective and ask leading questions (like, What have you done to your spouse/kid/world? Of what might you need to repent? How can you display Christ to them in the same way that you long for them to display Christ to you?), I don’t usually get answers, but hurt and confused stares. And often I get downright indignation. I get pride.

Christ Gave Up His Rights

Compare this reaction to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If ever there was one who had the right for his pride to be as big as life, it was the one through whom all life came into being. If Jesus had come into the world and demanded that all serve him, and do so immediately, it would not have been arrogant; it would have been appropriate. Yet as Philippians 2 tells us, he came not in the form of a ruler but a servant.
Christ’s call to us is to live in a way that evidences a similar service and thereby demarcates us as those whose citizenship is in heaven, not the world (Matthew 20:25–28). In this way, Christ redeems our service. What a joy it is to serve my spouse, my child or those around me and reflect to them, even if only in part, something of the character of God.

Removing the Chains of Pride

How does one move from the chains of prideful self-obsession to the freedom of humble self-service?
There are three perspectives that I often ask my counselees to check within themselves. Think of these as three facets (though there are many more) of the jewel of genuine Christian humility:
  • Whose sin are you focused upon?
  • What is the focus of your joy, security and contentment?
  • Who is the focus of your service?
When we find ourselves in bondage to our pride, the answers to the above qustions are typically: others’ (sin), the world (joy) and myself (service).
Whose sin is most odious to me in those moments? Whose sin needs to be brought into the light, repented of and ultimately mortified? Not mine, but everyone else’s.
Where do I find my comfort, my joy, my peace, my security? Not in the glory of the gospel, but in some event, thing or person. If only I made more money, had more power, had a spouse, kids, house, dog, you name it. Anything but the joy of suffering for the gospel.
Who should be served in all of this? Me. The world, my relationships and God himself exists to serve me.
But Scripture answers these questions quite differently:
  • Whose sins should I be focused on? Mine. (Romans 8:13)
  • Who is the focus of my joy, security and contentment? Christ. (1 Peter 1:8–9)
  • Who should be the focus of my service? Others, and especially fellow Christians. (Philippians 2:3–4)
While the presenting problems vary widely, the problem, which all too often muddles counseling from the very outset, is pride—and the answer is Holy-Spirit-enabled, Jesus-centered humility.  

Josh Squires (@jsquires12) has degrees in counseling and divinity. He currently serves as the pastor of counseling and congregational care at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC where he lives with his wife Melanie and their 4 children. More from Josh Squires or visit Josh at
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Why Does Your Marriage Matter? Embracing Holiness in Your Marriage

Why Does Your Marriage Matter? Embracing Holiness in Your Marriage

by Tim Popadic
Each morning when I wake up I am reminded of the gift that God gave me over 21 years ago when I took the vow “to love my wife as Christ loves His church.” 21 years, 3 children, 3 homes, 3 states, 8 cars, 4 churches, 272 visits to the doctor, 7665 days, and over 11 million minutes, we are definitely embracing oneness. There have been plenty of great and difficult moments along the way, but through it all, no one has ever demonstrated the unconditional love of Christ to me more than Beth. What amazes me about Ephesians 5:25 is that God utilized the very analogy of His death (this is the only time in scripture) to highlight the importance of the marriage relationship. From the front cover of the Bible to the last page is a beautiful story of marriage. I’m speaking of Christ and His Bride, the Church. God values marriage and He values relationships.
I believe that Time Life got it right, “No other single force is causing as much measurable hardship in this country as the collapse of marriage.” 1 It’s wreaking havoc among even the least of these. Think about it, everyone and everything is impacted by the devastating effects of divorce. “A lasting covenant between a man and a woman can be a vehicle for the nurture and protection of each other, the one reliable shelter in an uncaring world – or it can be a matchless tool for the infliction of suffering on the people you supposedly love above all others, most of all on your children.” Jesus, questioned by a group of religious men, was asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” They continued by asking, “Why then did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. BUT IT WAS NOT THIS WAY FROM THE BEGINNING!” (Matthew 19:8) In other words, what’s permitted is not necessarily what was purposed.
Ask yourself the question, “Why does marriage matter to God?” It’s simple: It’s a radical, “in your face” concept – marriage is about holiness, not happiness. Society has made it about happiness … interesting, isn’t it, that the ultimate collapse of our society comes from a belief that we are entitled to be happy … and so pursue happiness at all costs. Yet, it’s in the sacrament of marriage that we find the key to what we’re seeking. It’s a holy moment where we stand before our friends, family, and God, taking vows for a lifetime, for better or for worse. It’s when we invite God to be present with us in our deepest relationship. “For marriage, as simply as it can be defined, is the contemplation of the love of God in and through the form of another human being.” (The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason)
The following passage in 1 Peter reveals the truth about introducing holiness into your marriage, as if it’s a mystery ready to be revealed. “In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives. Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.I Peter 3:1-7.
One author writes about the marriage relationship being like “God with flesh on.” The closest representation I have of God in my life is my spouse. We are to reflect the very image of God to each other. Pastors ask the question, “Does my marriage matter?” Ultimately, the state of our marriage impacts and reflects the state of our relationship with God. It’s our godly lives that will speak volumes … without words … but through actions. It’s giving and receiving honor … and being considerate of the other. Embracing holiness requires intentionality, journeying together, being “God with flesh on” to each other, and enjoying the gracious gift of new life that only God can bring. Why settle for happiness when you can embrace holiness?
1 Is There Hope for the American Marriage?, Time Life, Thursday July 02, 2009,9171,1908434,00.html

Jumat, 07 Agustus 2015

23 Things That Love Is

23 Things That Love Is

“Here’s a gospel-centered reminder about how to love.”
Last year I posted an aticle with a long list of definitions of what love is, 23 definitions to be exact. Since you and I have the tendency to be distracted and forgetful, I want to post that list again.
Here’s a gospel-centered reminder about how to love. But you don’t have to be romantically in love to find this list practical. Every healthy relationship requires love and sacrifice, so if you’re a parent, child, sibling, neighbor, pastor or co-worker, this list is for you.
God bless you in your relationships, and may the Holy Spirit empower you to love with a love that is not your own.

23 Things That Love Is

  1. LOVE IS … being willing to have your life complicated by the needs and struggles of others without impatience or anger.
  2. LOVE IS … actively fighting the temptation to be critical and judgmental toward another while looking for ways to encourage and praise.
  3. LOVE IS … making a daily commitment to resist the needless moments of conflict that come from pointing out and responding to minor offenses.
  4. LOVE IS … being lovingly honest and humbly approachable in times of misunderstanding.
  5. LOVE IS … being more committed to unity and understanding than you are to winning, accusing or being right.
  6. LOVE IS … making a daily commitment to admit your sin, weakness and failure and to resist the temptation to offer an excuse or shift the blame.
  7. LOVE IS … being willing, when confronted by another, to examine your heart rather than rising to your defense or shifting the focus.
  8. LOVE IS … making a daily commitment to grow in love so that the love you offer to another is increasingly selfless, mature and patient.
  9. LOVE IS … being unwilling to do what is wrong when you have been wronged, but looking for concrete and specific ways to overcome evil with good.
  10.  LOVE IS … being a good student of another, looking for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs so that in some way you can remove the burden, support them as they carry it or encourage them along the way. 
  11. LOVE IS … being willing to invest the time necessary to discuss, examine and understand the relational problems you face, staying on task until the problem is removed or you have agreed upon a strategy of response. 
  12. LOVE IS … being willing to always ask for forgiveness and always being committed to grant forgiveness when it is requested.
  13. LOVE IS … speaking kindly and gently, even in moments of disagreement, refusing to attack the other person’s character or assault their intelligence.
  14. LOVE IS … being unwilling to flatter, lie, manipulate or deceive in any way in order to co-opt the other person into giving you what you want or doing something your way.
  15. LOVE IS … being unwilling to ask another person to be the source of your identity, meaning and purpose, or inner sense of well-being, while refusing to be the source of theirs.
  16. LOVE IS … the willingness to have less free time, less sleep and a busier schedule in order to be faithful to what God has called you to be and to do as a spouse, parent, neighbor, etc.
  17. LOVE IS … a commitment to say no to selfish instincts and to do everything that is within your ability to promote real unity, functional understanding and active love in your relationships.
  18. LOVE IS … staying faithful to your commitment to treat another with appreciation, respect and grace, even in moments when the other person doesn’t seem deserving or is unwilling to reciprocate.
  19. LOVE IS … the willingness to make regular and costly sacrifices for the sake of a relationship without asking for anything in return or using your sacrifices to place the other person in your debt.
  20. LOVE IS … being unwilling to make any personal decision or choice that would harm a relationship, hurt the other person or weaken the bond of trust between you.
  21. LOVE IS … refusing to be self-focused or demanding, but instead looking for specific ways to serve, support and encourage, even when you are busy or tired.
  22. LOVE IS … daily admitting to yourself, the other person and God that you are unable to be driven by a cruciform love without God’s protecting, providing, forgiving, rescuing and delivering grace.  
  23. “This resource is from Paul Tripp Ministries. For additional resources, visit Used with permission.”

Paul David Tripp Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write many books on Christian living and travel around the world speaking and teaching. Paul's driving passion is to help people understand how the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks with practical hope into all the things people face in this broken world. Paul and his wife Luella reside Philadelphia. They are the parents of four grown children. More from Paul David Tripp or visit Paul David at

Coping With Criticism

Coping With Criticism

“When we can praise God and be thankful for criticism, then we know we are growing in spiritual maturity.”
Addressing the burning issues of the day is sure to bring pastors and church leaders criticism. When people disagree with your latest blog or church web site post, social media provides an easy vehicle for the venting of negativity and anger.
Anyone who dares to speak against today’s secular-progressive agenda has to anticipate venomous attacks. Ironically, the most vocal voices who plead for tolerance are often thuggishly intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them. Those who insist no one has a right to judge others don’t hesitate to judge anyone who verbalizes biblical truth.
Nothing new
This is nothing new. Over 2,500 years ago the prophet Nehemiah was doing an effective job of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. His determined team was on schedule to complete the task in less time than expected. He had the people’s enthusiastic support.
Yet, he was also the target of vicious criticism. Two local residents, Sanballat and Tobiah, despised the Jews and scoffed at the wall, saying, “Even a fox could knock it over.” When Nehemiah refused to be intimidated, they wrote him a letter expressing their displeasure and requesting a meeting to discuss their objections.
Nehemiah’s response was classic. He basically said, “I’m doing an important work and I don’t have time to hear your gripes.” This was smart and an effective use of his time.
Likewise, in the past, disagreement discouraged me and wounded my ego. Eventually, though, experience and Scripture helped me cope with criticism. I saw that, like Nehemiah, trying to constantly answer my critics wasn’t a wise use of my time.
Evaluate the criticism  
Perhaps some younger Christian leaders can benefit from some of the lessons I learned.
*All effective leaders are criticized. If you are on the front lines of battle, you’re probably going to get shot at. It’s that simple. We are involved in an intensifying spiritual war, and the enemy is becoming increasingly malicious and mean-spirited. If you dare to speak God’s truth, or attempt to lead God’s people, you are going to be attacked as a hate-monger, hypocrite or a fool. Expect it and toughen up.
*Consider the source. Is the criticism from a petty, small-minded person, or someone you respect? If it’s from someone you hold in high regard, evaluate it carefully. Maybe the Lord is using them to point out a blind spot in your life or your work. However, if it originates with a puny-minded Sanballat or Tobiah, then it’s not worth the time to answer.
*Evaluate the objection. If it has some validity, receive it with grace and make the necessary adjustment. If it isn’t, then ignore it and move on. I almost never answer a mean-spirited criticism. The critic is too angry to listen; he or she just wants to vent.
*Keep your focus on the ultimate goal. Don’t grumble about the critics or let Satan distract you from what needs to get done. Your assignment is to please Christ, not men. People are so fickle. The same people who criticize you today may sing your praises tomorrow.
*Get bolder. The temptation is to become timid and avoid controversy, which is what the enemy wants! Jesus warned, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory” (Luke 9:26). Don’t let the enemy’s bullying tactics intimidate you. Speak the truth in love, but speak the truth.
*Give God thanks for persecution. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
Shedding the woe
Years ago I complained to a friend about a nasty anonymous letter I had received. I read it to him, hoping he would feel sorry for me and lash out verbally against the writer. Instead he quipped, “Well, now you’ve got that woe off your back!”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
He replied, “Well, Jesus said, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you.’ You’ve got that woe off your back and you don’t have to worry about that anymore!”
When we can praise God and be thankful for criticism, then we know we are growing in spiritual maturity. We are also following in the footsteps of prophets like Nehemiah—which is pretty good company.  

Bob Russell At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the four worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches & conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups. More from Bob Russell or visit Bob at

Why a Man Needs a Wife

Why a Man Needs a Wife (Why This Man Does, at Any Rate)

“Some people leave a hole when they depart. A good wife leaves a crater.”
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22).
My friend Dr. Fred Luter, pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, has an interesting way of introducing his beloved Elizabeth from the pulpit. He calls her “the love of my life, the apple of my eye, my prime rib, my good thing!”
Elizabeth has heard all that only a few thousand times, but she beams each time, as the congregation laughs and applauds.
My dad, Carl J. McKeever, who loved mom, Lois Kilgore McKeever, every day of his life, would say, “My rib is the best bone in my body.”
When the great C.S. Lewis married Joy Davidman, she moved into his house near Oxford and looked around. His home, called “The Kilns,” hadn’t been redecorated in decades. “The walls and carpets are full of holes,” Joy wrote. “The carpets are tattered rags.” She feared that moving the bookcases might cause the walls to cave in.
Joy was soon bringing in decorators and workmen and turning that pile of rubble into a home worthy of its distinguished resident.
Who can calculate the worth of a good wife?
I was thinking this week about this.
My friend Randy is burying his wonderful wife of 53 years today. I participated in Charlene’s funeral on Monday, and they were transporting her body to Florida for burial. My heart goes out to Randy and his family. This distraught husband has some lonely and tearful days and nights ahead, and there is nothing to do but to go through them.
His big house will have never seemed so huge. And so empty.
Yesterday, I saw a dermatologist. I told him, “I don’t have any particular reason for coming except I no longer have anyone to spot something on my back or neck and tell me I should see a doctor about that.” I said, “Would you mind looking me over?”
Two years ago, I had skin cancer and surgery, so I’m vulnerable. The doctor spotted a pink area above one eyebrow. “We’ll keep an eye on that.” I’m to return in six months.
They say widowers and other single men live shorter lives than married men. If that’s the case, I think I know why. A wife will see that a man eats right, and that he sees his doctors as necessary.
I’m still working on eating right. Today, among other things, I’ve eaten a banana, a peach, blueberries, strawberries and an apple; how’s that? I’m taking my vitamins and such, but I’ve done that for years on my own.
And, in the five months-plus since Margaret left, I’ve had a colonoscopy and made appointments with the dermatologist and the optometrist, whose appointment is next week.
I’m trying.
In addition to all the intimate and emotional needs a wife fills, a good wife is a counselor, a sounding board, an advisor, another brain and someone to stand on the other side of the bed so that making it up is easier.
A good wife will not necessarily pick up after her husband, but she will not allow him to adopt slovenly habits. “Hey, do you really want to leave those old shoes on my carpet?” That sort of thing.
Next week, my three local grandchildren, who are young adults in their own right, will be sleeping in my house while Neil and Julie participate in a church mission to Washington State. The girls will sleep in the king-bed in our guest room. So, today I went to the store and bought a new set of linens, and washed them, then put them on the bed. It’s not that there aren’t other sheets around here, but some are for twin beds, some for standard, some for queen and, presumably, some for king. I just couldn’t find the ones for the king bed. (Well, OK. I didn’t look real hard.)
The sheets and pillow cases I bought are wine-colored, sort of a royal purple or maroon. No one will ever wonder which ones fit the king.
I would not have had to do this if Margaret were still here. She would know exactly where everything is and would have that guest room ready in five minutes. With me, it’s a process. I imagine it’ll be easier next time.
I miss Margaret telling me what she thinks of a blog I’m working on. She would not hesitate to say, “That’s too long,” or, “Boring.” Or, “Why do you think anyone will want to read this?”
You can’t pay someone to do that for you. Only a life-partner of many years knows you well enough to know what she can get by with saying.
I miss having someone to say those socks do not work with that outfit, that tie with that shirt or that coat with those slacks.
So, if you see me looking mismatched, you’ll know why.
A wife seems to come into the world knowing about kitchens and menus and nutrition labels. I’m so ignorant of these things, it’s pitiful.
I bought a counter-top toaster oven the other day. In order to make space for it, I cleared off some of the things Margaret left there—the tea pot, the electric can opener, that sort of thing.
I’m trying.
Looking at the title of this piece, I wonder if anyone reading it thought I was going to announce either a search for a wife (a funny thought) or that I’d found a new one. Not hardly.
Even if I thought the Lord wanted that for me down the road, I’m  miles away from anything like that. As I told Randy earlier this week, I’m not crying every day now. Just every other day.
Some people leave a hole when they depart. A good wife leaves a crater.  

Joe McKeever After five years as Director of Missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way. He loves to do revivals, prayer conferences, deacon training, leadership banquets, and such. Usually, he's working on some cartooning project for the denomination or some agency. More from Joe McKeever or visit Joe at

Pastors Need Laughter, Too

Pastors Need Laughter, Too

by Ted Cunningham
We preach funerals, officiate weddings, counsel couples, pray with addicts, and prepare weekly sermons. Pastoring is serious, eternal business. No doubt. There are highs and lows, and the only way to maintain ministry longevity is to practice good self-care. It’s in the best interest of your family and congregation that you minister with a joyful heart.
Caring for the pastor’s soul requires lighter moments. If we’re serious 100% of the time, our souls drain. We need to escape and unwind. We need to cut loose and laugh. Good self-care includes taking laughter seriously.
Laughter is a choice. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). When we rejoice, we express joy and delight. No matter what we’re going through, we choose to rejoice. We choose to laugh. In one of his classic sermons, Dr. Gary Smalley used a cheerleader’s pom poms to express joy over difficulties and stress. Rather than stew and sulk when trials hit you, Gary throws the pom poms in the air while he cheers and laughs. Like contentment, joy is a decision.
Laughter is a season. Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). Some moments in life, like a funeral, require deep, somber reflection. There are also appointed times, called “seasons,” when we laugh. Emotionally healthy pastors find great freedom in expressing a wide range of emotions. They choose not to remain in a dry season forever.
Laughter is a medicine. This is probably the most common understanding of laughter we have from Scripture. It’s the most often quoted passage for laughter. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Good humor has the power to diffuse conflict, resolve anger, and restore relationships. I’ve seen it happen. This is a pill worth popping.
Here are a few ways to add necessary laughter to your pastoral life:
Hang around funny people. Do you have humorous friends? If so, call one of them to grab coffee, lunch, or even go fishing. There’s only one rule. No serious theological discussions or counseling. Every pastor needs a friend that brings great joy to their life. Keep that friend close.
Discover your laugh style. I have what my family calls a slow, machine gun laugh. My wife has what I call a silent, patriotic laugh. When something strikes her as humorous, she places her hand over her heart and leans forward, but very little sound comes out. Take some time with your family tonight, and describe one another’s laugh styles. Laughing is contagious. Talking about laughing will create more laughter.
Find humor in the intolerable. You don’t have to get mad or frustrated at everything “bad” that happens to you. Choose to laugh. Legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin once said, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!” My dad’s favorite comedian, Bob Newhart, believes “Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it, and then move on, not taking ourselves too seriously.” Nineteenth Century preacher Henry Ward Beecher is attributed with saying, “Humor makes all things tolerable.” Amen.
Invite your congregation to laugh with you. Pastor, you don’t need to be a comedian or great joke-teller to laugh. Laughter is of high value at our church. We have a serious mission, and we enjoy one another in the process. We’ve had people leave our church because I use too much humor in my sermons. We’ve also had people leave because our church is too big. Our student director, Mickey Pittman, says, “If you don’t like laughter and lots of people, then you probably won’t like heaven.”
A few months ago, I asked our congregation to describe their laugh style. Here are what a few of them said:
“I have a combination of Betty Rubble and Woody the Woodpecker.” – JoAnna
“Loud, hand over mouth, and then snort. I sometimes can’t stop laughing. Hate I miss some of what you say coz I am still laughing at one of your jokes.” – Christi
“My laugh sounds like I’m gasping for air. My 3 siblings laugh the exact same way! Haha it’s making me laugh just thinking about it.” – Ashley
“Does the silent laugh with your eyes closed and non-breathing count?? Cause if it does…then that’s me.” – Brandy
“It’s been described as contagious.” – Bobby
“I laugh hard and with joy, and I have been known to snort.” – Martha
“Julia Roberts explosive laugh when something is really funny. Bah ha ha!!” – Randi
“Engine revving up.” – Katy
“Extremely loud….quiets a room…” – Leah Jane
“Variety laugher- keep people guessing.” – Mesa
“I just know this…. It’s loud!!!” – Kaye
A Dallas pastor once asked, “Is your church a cruise ship or a battleship?” My immediate response to that question was, “I hope we are both.” We take seriously the purposes of the church. That fits the battleship word picture. We also believe in the fellowship of the saints spending time together with “… glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people…” (Acts 2:46-47). I guess that would make us a cruise ship too.
Copyright © 2015 by Ted Cunningham. Used by permission.
TC_200x200 Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church. He married Amy in 1996, and they live in Branson, MO with their two children, Corynn and Carson. Ted is the author of Fun Loving You, Trophy Child, and Young and In Love, and coauthor of four books with Dr. Gary Smalley. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary.

Helping Your Teen Choose a College

Helping Your Teen Choose a College

by Jeanne Gowen Dennis

Download our free guide for helping your teen prepare for college. Get "College: A Guide for Parents and Teens" to find helpful tips and great insight for this next adventure in parenting.

My daughter, Christine, didn't have a clear direction for choosing a college. Throughout her junior and senior years, she searched catalogs, discussed options with friends and admissions counselors, and attended college information days — but no school seemed right. She felt overwhelmed by the pressure of making a decision that would affect the rest of her life.
To help her make the right choice, my husband and I prayerfully guided her in three distinct ways: fostering an understanding of her gifts and personality, helping her match a college's focus to who she was, and assisting her in facing the realities of finances and other practical factors.
Discover a teen's unique talents
As a parent, I recognized that Christine would need a college that fit her spiritually, academically and socially because it would be more than just an education: It would be her final preparation for adulthood. We first considered her strongest school subjects — music, history and English — but she didn't seem to prefer one over the others.
  • To help her better understand herself, my husband and I gave her questions to answer privately:
  • What have been your most fulfilling experiences?
  • What did you enjoy most about them?
  • Which skills or talents did you use most during these experiences?
  • Do you prefer working alone or on a team?
  • What ages do you enjoy working with most?
  • Which have been your least-fulfilling activities?
  • What made them unfulfilling?
  • What ideas or activities excite your imagination and inspire you to make a difference for others?
Once Christine viewed herself through her activities and experiences, she was ready to discuss the strengths, talents and weaknesses that my husband and I had observed in her. After much prayer, she realized that she loved working with teens, wanted to influence the culture for Christ and felt most fulfilled when she participated in drama, music or dance.
Match the school's strengths to the student's
College choices involve many factors. One is how a child will fit into a specific school. For Christine, we ranked what she wanted in a college from most to least important. The most important ranked something like this:
  • an atmosphere that would strengthen her faith and deepen her biblical worldview
  • professors who wouldn't intentionally undermine her belief in God
  • a godly approach to the teaching of the arts
Next we considered majors that matched Christine's strengths, which turned out to be theater, music and communications. Then we looked at each college's academic strength in those majors, along with its location, size, affordability, available scholarships, extracurricular opportunities, student-teacher ratio and graduate employment success rate. Much of this information was readily available online.
From all that, we were able to narrow our search to a handful of colleges. Before spending time and money on applications, Christine narrowed her choices to four schools that we could visit.
Sometimes visits reveal how a teen's perception differs from the school's reality. While prospective-student weekends are a good place to start looking at colleges, we found parent-child visits to the campus on regular days invaluable. During these visits, Christine stayed in a dorm and attended classes with students.
Face financial and other realities
Throughout her search, Christine remained aware of the realities she faced. My husband and I talked frankly with her about finances: what we could provide and what she would be responsible for. Together we weighed the potential value of each college with its overall cost.
Christine also considered holidays she might miss at home and the cost of traveling back and forth from out-of-state schools. As she vacillated, my husband and I were tempted to make the decision for her, but I'm glad we didn't. (One of Christine's friends attended a college her father chose for her, and although she did well there, she confessed later that she was unhappy.)
Ultimately, the best strategy for choosing the right college is early and continual prayer for God's guidance. Once Christine accepted the idea of leaving the state, her choice was obvious. She attended an out-of-state Christian college and became a high school theater director.
Recently, my husband and I watched a musical that Christine directed with her students. As we witness the impact she has on her students' lives and on her own children, I'm glad we took time to pursue God's plan for her college career.
Jeanne Gowen Dennis is the author of Homeschooling High School: Planning ahead for college admission.

This article appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2015 by Jeanne Gowen Dennis. Used by permission.

A Boundless Romance

A Boundless Romance

by Thomas Jeffries

After three months of dating, things were going so well that Kelly Bisby began to worry.
Not long ago, she was an unattached high school English teacher with lots of friends, a cat named Stella and a growing sense that she was destined to a life of singleness. Now she had a boyfriend — a wonderful boyfriend. An intelligent, compassionate man who shared her faith and respected her personal boundaries.
They were together for only a couple months when John told Kelly he was in love.
"When I say that," John explained, "I want you to know that I mean I can see myself spending the rest of my life with you."
Kelly melted.
Then she started to panic.
I'm terrified that this is all too good to be true, she thought, and that I'll wake up one day and he's no longer in love with me, or that he's not the man he claims to be.
Kelly wrote to Boundless — Focus on the Family's ministry to young adults — seeking relationship advice. Soon thereafter, she was listening to "The Boundless Show," the ministry's weekly podcast, when the host read a question from a listener.
"As they read the letter," she recalls, "I was thinking, That sounds like the letter I wrote in. … that sounds a lot like my letter. … that's my letter!"
John Peterson had decided it was time to pursue something other than work. To pursue someone.
"I don't remember thinking directly about marriage when I signed up for a dating site," he says. "But I was ready to get serious about a lasting relationship."
Thank goodness Kelly's younger sister is the meddling type. "I got a Facebook message saying that she'd set up an [online dating] account for me," Kelly says, "and that I should check it out."
Kelly looked around the site for a few weeks before she found John's profile. Kelly liked everything she read about him, and he lived only an hour's drive away. Thus the timid, modest daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher decided to send the first message.
A few weeks, dozens of emails and several phone conversations later, the two met at a Starbucks in Kelly's hometown of Fort Smith, Arkansas. Sure, it was awkward at first, but by the time their first date ended, they were talking like old friends. Kelly knew John was special, and John was thinking the same thing.
John had spent the previous year reading articles on, the ministry's website. Week after week, he says, he learned "how to love someone in a committed relationship, as well as some of the pitfalls people often fall into."
The Boundless staff knows that a record number of Americans today have never married and that singles are waiting longer than ever to commit. The problem isn't that young adults don't want to marry — they do — but many claim they simply don't know how to get or stay married to the right person.
Boundless exists, in part, to help young adults mature in life and faith, date with purpose and prepare for marriage. John mentioned Boundless to Kelly, and soon she, too, was reading the articles and blog posts. She also started listening to the weekly podcast.
"During our courtship," Kelly says, "Boundless was a way for us to communicate with each other about the stuff that really matters in a relationship.
"When John needed encouragement about work or his walk with God, I'd find an article that applied and send him a quote or paragraph, hoping to lift him up."
John made the drive to see Kelly several times a week, and they talked on the phone for hours. Things were going great, and John knew he was in love. So he decided to tell her.
That's when Kelly decided to contact Boundless.
"Should I be worried that this is all falling into place so quickly?" Kelly's letter said. "We've only known each other three months. At the same time, I know it's not good to drag out a courtship for years."
"The Boundless Show" host Lisa Anderson and advice columnist Candice Watters offered the letter writer some suggestions and helped assuage her fears. Good thing Kelly was listening, because on Valentine's Day — just three weeks after hearing the podcast — John presented her with a beautiful bound volume of all their correspondence… 75 pages worth.
"It was in that collection of letters that I would find," Kelly says, "less than one month later, a marriage proposal hidden in the final entry of the book." She said yes.

This article appeared in the August/September 2015 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2015 Focus on the Family.
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The Healthy Way to Handle Conflict

The Healthy Way to Handle Conflict

By Rick Warren

Conflict happens. There’s no avoiding it.
Conflict happens at work, at school, in the home – even in the church! Many people try to ignore conflicts that arise, hoping the situation will just go away. It won’t.
When conflict comes up, you have to deal with it head on. If you’ve got a conflict with those you work with, or in your home or at school, deal with it quickly. Don’t let it fester. It’s a big mistake to think, “Let’s ignore it and hope it will go away.” I can tell you from experience, that doesn’t work. Ignoring conflict does not get rid of it.
Ephesians 4:26-27 (GN) says, If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin and do not stay angry all day. Don’t give the devil a chance. Some people are very surprised when they first read this verse. They ask, “Is it ever right for a Christian to get angry?” Yes. How do I know it’s all right for a Christian to get angry? Well, let me ask you this: Did Jesus ever get angry? Yes. Did Jesus ever sin? No. Evidently there are times when anger is appropriate.
The verse says, If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin. That implies that there is an anger that leads you into sin and there is an anger that doesn’t lead you into sin. There is a right way to get angry and there is a wrong way to get angry. How do you know the difference?
What’s the wrong kind of anger?
The wrong kind of anger is anger that is not resolved quickly. If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin and do not stay angry all day. That’s giving the devil a chance. Resolve it quickly. Don’t be angry all day. The Phillips translation says, Never go to bed angry. That will keep a few of us up sometimes. If you said, “In our marriage, we’ll never go to bed angry,” you might resolve problems a little more quickly.
Don’t let anger hang on. Anger that is not dealt with turns into resentment and then into bitterness. Bitterness is always sin. Resentment is always sin. Those emotions are always wrong. Anger is OK. It’s an appropriate response. If you love, you ought to get angry sometimes. I get angry when I see people blowing their lives on things that don’t matter. I get angry when I see people walking right in the middle of something they know is wrong and they know it is going to destroy them. When you care about people, sometimes anger is the correct response.
But the Bible says you need to deal with it quickly. If I swallow my anger, my stomach keeps score. Have you found that to be true? All tied in a knot. Ulcer-ridden. You have a pain in the back, or a pain in the neck, or pain in other places. The Bible says, Deal with it quickly. Don’t let it hang on. Resolve conflict as fast as possible.
A lot of stress is just conflict that’s never been dealt with. Instead of dealing with the problem right off the bat, you just let it irritate you day after day after day … until you’re totally stressed.
What’s the solution?
How do I deal with conflict quickly? I’ll tell you, but you’re not going to like it. The solution to conflict resolution is one word: confrontation. That’s right. If you’re going to resolve conflict, you must confront. You don’t have to confront in anger, though. In fact, you shouldn’t confront in anger. Lovingly go to the person and, speaking the truth in love, deal with the problem immediately.
Very few of us enjoy confrontation. The only people who do are troublemakers. Troublemakers delight in confrontation. They love to go to people and say, “You’re blowing it!” But normal people don’t like confrontation. Unfortunately, it’s the only way to resolve conflict. It’s risky and it’s uncomfortable and it might backfire in your face. So normal people try hard to avoid confrontation.
When you simply must confront, what’s the best way to do it? James 1:19 tells us three rules for confrontation: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Those are the three rules when you go to confront another person. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. If you do the first two the third one is automatic. If you’re quick to listen and if you’re slow to speak you will be slow to anger. Somebody has pointed out that God gave us two ears and one mouth. We ought to listen twice as much as we talk.
What are you listening for? You listen for the hurt in that person. Hurting people always hurt other people. When someone is being a jerk, more than likely it’s because that person is hurting. When you understand their hurt a bit, you’ve got a better understanding of why they do what they do, and you’re a little more patient with them. Understanding always brings patience. When we don’t understand things, we’re impatient. When we understand them, we’re much more patient.
The Bible says, As far as it depends on you. If you’ve done your part, regardless of their response, the rest is the other person’s burden. It’s their problem now. If you go to the person and say, “Here are some legitimate issues,” then the Bible says you have done your best. You tried to deal with it. As far as it depended on you, you lived in peace with everyone.
And that’s all God asks of you.

Kamis, 06 Agustus 2015


Ditulis oleh: Amidya

A. Landasan Alkitab

Mazmur 139:13-16

B. Tujuan

Remaja memiliki identitas diri yang benar sebagai anak-anak Tuhan.

C. Refleksi

Tuhan menciptakan kita dengan sungguh luar biasa. Ia menjadikan kita serupa dengan gambar dan rupa-Nya, dan Tuhan berkarya dalam setiap pertumbuhan kita pada masa pra Natal. Tuhan Allah terlibat secara aktif dan kreatif dalam perkembangan hidup manusia. Seperti yang dituliskan Mazmur 139:13-16 bahwa Tuhan memerhatikan seorang bayi sejak dikandung; perhatian-Nya kepada janin itu berlangsung sampai membuat rencana bagi hidupnya kelak.

Lebih detail dituliskan dalam Mazmur 139:16 bahwa, "mata-Mu melihat selagi aku bakal anak, dan dalam kitab-Mu semuanya tertulis hari-hari yang akan dibentuk, sebelum ada satupun dari padanya". Tuhan melihat dan Ia memerhatikan sewaktu kita masih menjadi bakal anak dan setiap hari kita tidak terluput dari pengawasan Tuhan. Kita adalah anak-anak Tuhan karena Tuhanlah yang menenun kita dalam rahim ibu kita. Secara biologis, kita memang memiliki orang tua, tetapi secara teologis, kita memiliki identitas sebagai anak-anak Tuhan. Identitas yang kita miliki adalah sebuah kasih karunia, bukan hasil usaha kita, tetapi Tuhanlah yang menyerahkan diri-Nya mati bagi kita sehingga kita layak menjadi anak-anak Allah (Yohanes 1:12).

Apabila kita adalah anak-anak Allah dan Roh Kudus berdiam di dalam hati kita, kita harus hidup sesuai dengan kebenaran firman Allah. Janganlah kita menjadi serupa dengan dunia. Kita memiliki identitas yang berbeda dengan anak-anak dunia. Sebagai anak Allah, kita harus mencintai firman-Nya, merenungkan firman-Nya siang dan malam, mengasihi sesama, melayani Tuhan, menghasilkan buah Roh Kudus, dan sebagainya. Sebagian anak-anak dunia akan lebih mencintai hal-hal yang Paulus tuliskan kepada jemaat di kota Galatia, yaitu: percabulan, kecemaran, hawa nafsu, penyembahan berhala, sihir, perseteruan, perselisihan, iri hati, amarah, pencederaan, roh pemecah, kedengkian, kemabukan, pesta pora, dan sebagainya.

Oleh karena itu, marilah kita hidup sebagai anak-anak Tuhan dan menjadi terang di tengah-tengah dunia ini sehingga kita tidak tercemar seperti anak-anak dunia, tetapi kita dapat memuliakan Tuhan melalui sikap hidup kita. "Biarlah terangmu juga bercahaya dengan cara yang sama supaya mereka dapat melihat perbuatan-perbuatanmu yang baik dan memuliakan Bapamu yang di surga." (Matius 5:16 - AYT DRAFT)

"Jadilah generasi yang memiliki identitas Kristus!"

D. Diskusi

1. Identitas apakah yang kita miliki sebagai anak-anak Tuhan berdasarkan ayat-ayat berikut ini?

- Kejadian 1:27
- Yohanes 15:17
- Galatia 5:22-23
- Filipi 4:8

2. Mengapa firman Tuhan mendorong kita untuk tidak serupa dengan dunia?

- Yohanes 15:18-20
- Roma 12:2

3. Faktor apa saja yang menghambat kita untuk menyatakan identitas kita sebagai murid Kristus?

4. Sebutkan keistimewaan diri kita sebagai anak-anak Tuhan!

- Kejadian 1:26-27
- Efesus 2:10
- Matius 10:31

5. Bagaimana sikap kita dalam merespons identitas kita sebagai anak-anak Tuhan?

E. Kesimpulan

Firman Tuhan telah menyatakan bahwa kita memiliki identitas yang tidak serupa dengan dunia ini. Siapa yang hidup seturut dengan dunia adalah anak-anak dunia, tetapi siapa yang hidup seturut dengan kehendak Tuhan dan kebenaran firman-Nya adalah anak-anak Tuhan. Kita berharga di mata Tuhan. Tuhan sungguh mengasihi kita, maka dari itu marilah kita hidup sebagai anak-anak Tuhan yang menyatakan terang Kristus ke segala arah, menghasilkan buah Roh Kudus dan mengimplementasikan kebenaran Alkitab dalam hidup kita sehari-hari.

Sumber bacaan:
1. Gunawan, Bambang, dkk. 2011. "Suluh Siswa Kelas X". Jakarta: BPK Gunung Mulia
2. Tafsiran Mazmur 139:13. Dalam



Apakah identitas diri itu? Jika kita sering diminta untuk mengeluarkan kartu identitas kita, apa saja yang tertera di sana? Nama, alamat, jenis kelamin, pekerjaan, status, tempat/tanggal lahir, agama, golongan darah, dan lain sebagainya. Kaum muda dan remaja sedang berproses untuk menyusun jawaban atas pertanyaan identitas tersebut. Mereka sedang memperjuangkan apa arti nama mereka di mata masyarakat. Mereka sedang mencari tahu bagaimana mereka berperan dalam kapasitas gender mereka, bahkan sebagian dari mereka sedang mencari tahu apakah mereka seorang laki-laki atau perempuan. Mereka sedang menentukan sikap sebagai seorang pelajar atau pekerja, apa pekerjaan mereka kelak sebagai pegawai, pengusaha, pekerja sosial, pemuka agama ataukah menjadi seorang penjahat. Kaum muda juga sedang mencari jawaban akan status mereka, akankah menikah, lajang, ataukah nantinya menjadi janda/duda. Mereka pun sedang mencari jati diri dalam kehidupan rohani yang ada, apakah akan memilih Kristus, penganut aliran kepercayaan, Muslim, Buddha, atau yang lainnya. Kaum muda dan remaja sedang berburu dan berjuang untuk menemukan siapa sebenarnya diri mereka. Erik Erickson (tokoh penggagas teori psikologi) menyebutnya sebagai fase pencarian identitas.

Identitas itu sendiri merupakan potret diri yang terdiri atas banyak bagian (identitas karier, agama, intelektual, seksual, budaya, minat, kepribadian, citra diri) (Santrock, 2003). Sedangkan dalam tahapan perkembangan yang dialami individu, remaja dihadapkan untuk memutuskan siapa mereka, apa yang akan mereka lakukan, dan ke mana tujuan hidup mereka. Fase ini oleh Erik Erickson dinamakan identitas versus kebingungan identitas (identity versus identity confusion). Jika pada fase remajanya individu bisa menemukan dirinya, ia akan dapat membentuk identitas yang pasti dan pada akhirnya akan dapat menjalani kehidupannya pada fase berikutnya secara lebih positif. Sedangkan jika tidak menemukan identitas dirinya, ia akan menjadi pribadi yang mengalami kebingungan identitas. Kebingungan identitas pada masa dewasa dapat dicontohkan dengan individu yang selalu berganti pekerjaan, berpindah agama, selalu ingin mengubah fisik dengan operasi plastik, tidak tahu arah tujuan hidup, dan lain-lain. Ketika identitas diri itu telah melekat pada masa dewasa, akan sangat sulit untuk mengubahnya.

Fase remaja adalah fase penentuan mereka memilih identitas diri mereka karenanya fase ini adalah fase yang sangat penting untuk mengenalkan identitas diri yang benar dan sehat. Saat ini, generasi abad 21 adalah generasi milenium yang sudah mengenal dunia maya yang sangat luas. Beragam pilihan dan informasi yang diserap akan memberikan model bagi remaja. Keluasan informasi ini membuat para remaja pada akhirnya akan belajar mengenai berbagai macam pilihan identitas, entah itu sesuatu yang baik ataupun tidak baik.

Bagaimana identitas diri yang sehat itu? Identitas yang sehat adalah identitas yang sesuai dengan kebenaran firman Allah dan dengan keberadaan dirinya itu, individu mampu menempatkan diri, bersikap serta berkarya dengan baik dalam dunia ini. Allah menciptakan manusia segambar dan serupa dengan Dia (Kejadian 1:26). Dengan demikian, identitas diri yang benar adalah identitas yang serupa dengan gambaran ilahi. Identitas ini akan memberikan dampak buah Roh dalam kehidupan sehari-hari. Dengan karakteristik buah Roh itu, setiap individu akan ditolong untuk memiliki sikap yang tepat dalam menyelesaikan persoalan. Identitas diri yang sehat membawa identitas Kristus, memiliki pekerjaan yang bertujuan untuk menyukakan hati Tuhan, memiliki peran gender yang sudah Tuhan anugerahkan (menjadi pria dan wanita yang sesuai dengan maksud hati Tuhan), menjalankan peran yang tepat sebagai pribadi yang berkeluarga atau single, dan bekerja sesuai dengan panggilan dan karunia yang Tuhan telah berikan.

Mencapai identitas diri yang sehat bukanlah proses yang singkat dan mudah. Semuanya membutuhkan komitmen dan konsistensi. Remaja membutuhkan model identitas diri yang sehat, yaitu Kristus. Remaja perlu mengenal model identitas diri yang sehat itu dengan cara mengenalkan Kristus lewat penggalian firman Tuhan, menunjukkan karakter Kristus lewat hidup sehari-hari, dan memberikan pendampingan terus-menerus. Ya, remaja generasi ini membutuhkan pendampingan. Mereka adalah pribadi yang suka menuntut, dan pada akhirnya mereka menjadi pribadi yang sulit mendapatkan "arahan" atau "perintah". Mereka lebih suka dengan adanya "pendampingan". Kelompok pemuridan dengan sedikit orang akan memberikan dampak yang sangat efektif bagi pengembangan pribadi remaja. Orang tua dan pemimpin kelompok adalah sosok yang dapat menjadi model identitas diri yang sehat.

Sebagai seorang pribadi, kaum muda yang sedang menyusun puzzle identitas dirinya harus berlatih. Charles R. Swindoll dalam bukunya "So, You Want to Be like Christ" mengungkapkan hal utama yang disampaikan Paulus kepada Timotius adalah "Latihlah dirimu beribadah" (1 Timotius 4:7). Upaya membangun diri serupa dengan Kristus adalah berlatih disiplin. Relasi yang intim dengan Tuhan akan menghasilkan kedisiplinan yang memberikan pengaruh bagi pembentukan identitas diri yang sehat.

Kesulitan membangun identitas diri yang sehat pun tidak lepas dari perjalanan kehidupan seseorang sejak masa kanak-kanak. Pengaruh lingkungan dan peristiwa yang dialami memberikan sumbangsih bagi pembentukan identitas diri seseorang. Sebab itu, orang tua dan guru-guru harus memiliki kepekaan untuk segera menolong anak-anak, remaja, dan kaum muda dalam membangun identitas yang sehat. Ini wajib hukumnya karena jika kesempatan membangun ini terlewat, remaja akan memiliki identitas yang buruk, dan pada akhirnya akan tumbuh menjadi pribadi yang tidak sehat. Teruslah berjuang serupa dengan Kristus.

Diambil dan disunting dari:
Nama situs: Perkantas Jatim
Alamat URL:
Judul asli artikel: Membangun Identitas Diri Kaum Muda yang Sehat
Penulis artikel: Tidak Dicantumkan
Tanggal akses: 6 Mei 2015

Why I Don’t Believe in Christian Accountability

Why I Don’t Believe in Christian Accountability

Mike Foster: Here are a few reasons why I don’t believe in Christian accountability and why we need a new discussion about integrity.
I am deeply committed to all of us living a life of radical integrity and grace.
Through People of the Second Chance, I get to work with leaders on personal sustainability and living a life with no regrets. And though I champion the ideas of transparency, authenticity and brutal honesty, I don’t believe in Christian accountability.
The whole concept makes me cringe, and I don’t think I’m alone in this assessment. It’s horribly broken, ineffective and doing a lot of people a disservice. In many ways, Christian accountability is facilitating a pathway to our lives being chopped up by character assassins.
So here are a few reasons why I don’t believe in Christian accountability and why a new discussion needs to happen around maintaining our integrity.

1. Lack of Grace

The primary reason Christian accountability doesn’t work is because we are more interested in justice and fixing a problem. I’ve seen too many times great men and women get chewed up by this process. When we fail, what we need most is grace and a second chance, not a lecture.
We have all probably experienced or seen a harsh response to our struggles or failures. But there is a big problem when we respond with justice and not grace. You see, human beings are wired up for self-protection and survival. When we see others being hurt, rejected or punished for their sin, we correctly conclude that it is better to hide, conceal and fake it in the future. It basically comes down to this: I don’t want to get hurt, so I’m not telling. When we lack grace, accountability breaks down.

2. Bad Environments

Let me be frank. If I were having an illicit affair with a woman, I’m not going to confess it to four guys at a Denny’s breakfast. And yet, too often, Christian accountability is carried out in these types of environments. We meet in small groups in a weekly environment with a few of our friends. Ultimately, there is a lid on how transparent these conversations can be, and too often, we believe that if we are meeting weekly then we are “accountable.”
My best conversations about my brokenness and struggles have come in non-typical environments. Places where I am completely relaxed, at ease, and feel removed from my daily life.
I have seen leaders every year go away for a week and meet with a coach or therapist and have this time be very effective. They dump a ton of junk, begin working strategies in their life and start dealing with significant character issues. To be frank, I would rather have us have one week of brutal honesty than 52 weeks of semi-honesty at Denny’s.
My point is simple. Find an environment that is going to allow you to open up and examine your current process.

3. The Results

Unfortunately, the results speak for themselves. If Christian accountability were a company, it would need a serious bailout. It’s simply inadequate, and the results are sub par, at best.
The breaking down of our marriages, financial impropriety, egomaniacal and narcissistic behavior, sexual misconduct, and the bending of every rule we come across are simply signs of a failed system. Last week, I read a post from a pastor who had received emails from 33 other pastors who confessed to him of being involved in an affair.

4. We Game the System

If I wanted to, I could spend the next decade of my life convincing you how wonderful I am and how I have it all together. (Luckily, I have no desire to do that.) It bothers me that I’m clever enough to package Mike Foster in such a way that I could make you all believe what a swell guy I am and how I have it all together.
The problem with Christian accountability is that you and I can game the system. I know how to beat it, and if you stick around the church long enough, you will figure it out, too. And that’s a problem. We’re the alcoholic that knows where the hidden key to the liquor cabinet is.
Gaming the system is not hard. We know the right words. We know the right things to talk about. We know how to frame things up to effectively keep everyone off course on who we truly are. I can do it, and so can you. And that’s a big problem.
So that’s why I’m not a fan of Christian accountability and truly believe it is busted. But please don’t lose hope. I have something I want to offer up as a replacement to this flawed system of maintaining our integrity.
I truly believe it is time to reinvent and rethink this very important component of our lives. Over the years, Christian accountability has deformed into a very ugly, uninspiring and broken system.
First off, I want to change the word from “accountability” to “advocacy.” If we are going to redefine a process and introduce a new concept, I think it needs a new word. The word I use in this context with fellow friends and leaders is advocacy. The term can be described as active support, intercession, or pleading and arguing in favor of someone.
So let’s take a look at what advocacy means.

Radical Grace Is the Foundation

Radical grace is the core engine for any healthy relationship. You can not have true transparency or confession without it. I encourage people to make verbal commitments to each other and clearly state that they will stand by one another through the best AND the worst.
Most people live with the fear of rejection and allow this fear to dictate how honest they will be with others. In advocacy, we are constantly demonstrating that this relationship is a safe place. Through our response to one another’s failures, our own deep confession and reminding each other that we are in this for the long haul, we implement radical grace.

Focus on the Yes, Not the No

Advocacy focuses on the “yes,” not the “no.” Too often, typical Christian accountability revolves around long lists of what NOT to do. We spend way too much time discussing and managing the sin. Often, we lock onto the most minor unhealthy behaviors and think that’s going to prepare us for success in life. Unfortunately, we operate on the faulty assumption that working on the symptoms will address the core problem. Bad idea!!!
Advocacy spurs us on to the “yes.” It revolves around the crazy good things that we should be engaging in. It pushes us to live a life of positive risks, creativity, adventure and significance. We rally around each other in this and focus our relationships around this theme.
I truly believe a large amount of moral blowouts flow from boredom and dissatisfaction. We become depressed and unsatisfied with our life, career and marriage, and then we enter into dangerous territory. Why? Because we are not focusing on the “Yes!”
I know that in my own life, I become vulnerable when I have lost a sense of mission and purpose. Having an advocate in our life is important in reminding us of our calling. 

Priority on People, Not Organizations

When people fail or become involved in some scandal, too often we immediately consider the ramifications on the organization or company. I’ve talked to many Christians who are very concerned about when a pastor falls of how this impacts the cause of Christ.
Unfortunately, we place more concern on the damage to the brand of Christianity or the church instead of the fallen individual. I’ve seen horrific and hurtful things happen to people in the name of protecting the organization instead of the fallen person. Quite frankly, that sucks!!!
If you haven’t figured it out by now, Christianity’s brand is failures and wrecked lives. Churches are places with messy people who do stupid things. I’ve certainly made my contribution to this effort with my mistakes. In advocacy, the importance is placed on the individual. It is about people, especially those who are most broken. The organization, church or company should take a back seat.

Multi-Group Approach

Christian accountability often is accomplished in small groups that are too general or with just one person leading, which puts too much responsibility on one individual.
Advocacy embraces having multiple layers of transparency and connection. I have about 10 people who are involved in spurring me on to a life of integrity. They can actively speak into my life, and I will listen and make the necessary tweaks.
However, I have about four people whom I have a deeper connection with and discuss harder things with. I also have more structure with this group. This is what I consider to be the core.
But even beyond the core, I have one friend that has full access. We take complete responsibility for each others’ integrity, purity and sustainability. I refer to this person as my “first call.” When the crap hits the fan, I call him first.
Each layer moves into a greater level of commitment and advocacy, and each layer has an important role.

Mike Foster Mike Foster leads an organization called People of the Second Chance which provides innovative strategies on failure and crisis. Mike also serves as the Creative Principal at PlainJoe Studios in Southern California. He blogs daily at and is @MikeFoster on Twitter. More from Mike Foster or visit Mike at

The Modesty Rules: Is a Woman Responsible for a Man’s Lust?

The Modesty Rules: Is a Woman Responsible for a Man’s Lust?

“I believe we need to stop the conversations we’re having and the rules we’re making.”
I grew up in a conservative home, in a conservative church and in conservative social circles. And hear me correctly, being conservative isn’t the problem.
The lies I believed from my culture are the problem, and lies can come from any background.
It’s been an intense process over the last two years as I’ve become aware of my many distorted views from my past, but in the midst of it, I’m seeing God more clearly.
In the culture I was raised in, there were constant discussions about modesty.
Not the “oh, hey, don’t be a rude showoff, because that’s rude” kind of modesty conversations, but the rulers and rulebooks of big-time modesty. If you’ve experienced it, you’re probably nodding or cringing, and if you’ve never encountered it, well, use your imagination.
Though the trappings varied, the lectures and conversations were always essentially the same: People talked about what girls were wearing and how the act of putting on clothes in the morning could radically change what boys were thinking.
There were endless options for violations and validations in Modesty-land, depending on the exact situation and circumstances. It didn’t take long for me to absorb the idea that I wasn’t a person with a body—I was an outfit with the power to control the morality of men.

I believed the lie that I was responsible for everyone else.

There was always a part of me that was desperate for a way out of the burden of over-responsibility, but my diligent self just kept trying to shoulder the shame and paranoia of the Modesty Rules, because I thought they were God’s plan for me.
In the last few years, though, I am learning a subtle difference in responsibility.
I have learned that, yes, people should be responsible, but not to me. God created each person with a level of autonomy and responsibility tied directly to Him.
If you’re exhausted by managing other people, let me assure you responsibility to or for everyone else is something you were never meant to hold. If you try to carry it, let alone enforce it, it will cripple you and destroy genuine relationships.
I know this firsthand. Because of a lack of boundaries and the constant pressure of my culture’s Modesty Rules, my relationship with my body has been disjointed at best, my interactions with men were stunted, and my friendships with other women have been filled with jealousy and judgment.
Many of the discussions of The Modesty Rules relate clothing choices to lust, but I think that’s a mistake.
Let me explain: I propose we’ve lost sight of what lust actually is.
In fact, we have confused biological sexual attraction with lust and called it sin. This is one reason why shame is so rampant in Christian circles, why we hide rather than confess our reality, why we try to control rather than offer each other the open love and freedom of Christ: We have made into sin something that is not sin.
God created you to desire another person for affection, intimacy and relationship!
Being physically attracted to someone is not lust.
Wanting to kiss someone is not lust.
Enjoying kissing someone is not lust.
Those desires can be a catalyst for lust, but in themselves, they are morally neutral, God-created, biological and chemical reactions. Your body recognizing sexual compatibility with another person is not inherently evil.

Don’t get me wrong. Lust is serious, and lust is a sin. But lust is about control, not just sex.

Lust dehumanizes a person in your own heart and mind.
It is the ritual taking, obsessing and using someone else for your own benefit rather than valuing that person as an equal image-bearer of God.
Lust is forming people in your own image, for your own purposes, whether for sexual pleasure, emotional security or moral superiority.
In lusting, you are creating a world where every other person exists for your approval or dismissal. Lust reduces the complexity of each individual and their story to something you get to manage.
Lust certainly can have a sexual component, but when we reduce it merely to sexual reactions, we miss out on God’s heart for all people: infinite value.
In the book of Matthew, when Jesus said, “If you even look at a woman with lust …” he wasn’t condemning a physical sexual response as sinful, he was lifting up the inherent value of all women and men. The Sermon on the Mount repeatedly describes the worth of each person, no matter their circumstances.
I don’t think you dressing according to a set of modesty rules will ever stop another person from lusting.
In fact, nothing you do or do not do can influence lust in someone else.
Only Jesus can lovingly confront and heal a lustful heart through the working of the Holy Spirit. You can’t change anyone, control anyone, make someone sin or not sin, and you’re only responsible for taking your own heart to Jesus.
I’m asking you to pause and think about this issue differently than you may have encountered it before, especially if you grew up with the Modesty Rules on your side.
If anyone tells you that you are responsible for the hearts or minds or actions of any men or women, particularly with your clothing choices, don’t accept it!
If anyone uses Bible verses as weapons of condemnation and shame instead of building faith in the working of the Holy Spirit, don’t believe it. Real freedom comes from accepting the life of Christ as your own, which doesn’t mean lawlessness. It means love.

I believe we need to stop the conversations we’re having and the rules we’re making.

Expecting others to live by your Modesty Rules strips them of value in a way revealing clothing never can.
Thinking you are responsible for everyone causes more damage than wearing a deep-v shirt ever did.
Before you start assuming I think people should be walking around naked, let me say this: I would absolutely encourage men and women to dress in a socially acceptable manner, but not because they are responsible for other people’s reactions.
And certainly not because one way of dressing is more “godly” than another!
Clothing choices have and will always be culturally relative decisions. Please, make good choices for yourself, whatever those are!
Live in the culture God put you in, but live there in complete freedom that Christ’s resurrection glory, not your hemline or your judgment of her hemline, makes you holy.
Note: If this view of lust and control is new or upsetting to you—as it was to me, because I was so guilty of it—I’d encourage you to ask Jesus first to bring his healing to your heart, talk to a trusted mentor about how to distinguish healthy sexual attraction from practices of lust, and dialogue with safe men and women in your community about positive boundaries for living fully in Christ’s freedom.
The best books I’ve read about control and personal responsibility are: Boundaries, The Pressure’s Off and Compelled to Control. There are inexpensive used copies available online or check your local library!
Speak up! Have you radically changed a belief you used to hold? Have you ever tried to control someone through your actions or clothes? How did it work out? 

Emily Maynard Emily Maynard is an outgoing introvert from Portland, Oregon. She likes Twitter, vegetables, fashion, Harry Potter, college students, and new information on anything. Emily is passionate about questioning, exploring, and growing alongside great friends. She's learning to speak up and loves watching people find their voices. She is not the Emily Maynard from The Bachelorette. More from Emily Maynard or visit Emily at