Who’s in Control?

We all struggle with control issues – some more than others. We try so hard to tell ourselves that we know what we are doing; that we know what’s best for us; that as long as we don’t let go and let someone else call the shots then life will be just fine.  There is only problem with this… God has made us so that when He is in control of our lives we find our true purpose and meaning. All else leads to struggle, pain and trials.  We learn so stubbornly that we are not very good at controlling our lives. It’s not until we surrender all to His authority that we find the freedom that Christ has planned for us.

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Running On Empty

Empty

Sometimes when my gas tank is near empty, I like to play a game. I like to see just how far I can go and not run out of gas. I’ve been playing this game ever since I’ve been driving, and I’ve never had the same experience twice. How many games have you ever played which you can say the same thing about? Achieving a certain level of fear, and excitement contributes to the overall attraction of playing such a dumb and dangerous game.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” I had imagined that the worst thing that could happen was that I’d run out of gas! That goes without saying. But, if I ran out of gas, I knew what to do- pull over to the shoulder of the road, and call for help. Seems quite simple I suppose. However, the first time I ran out of gas, the road had no emergency shoulder, I was on a very steep hill, and I was stopped on a blind corner! All of a sudden, the world got a lot bigger as I imagined how playing this stupid game could potentially harm someone else!

Pornography has a similar allure. It has an element of danger, excitement, and gratification. One big problem about these emotions is that none of them take into consideration how others would be affected. I had NEVER considered how my addiction to pornography would affect others. All that was important to me was how pornography made me feel.

Now, to finish off my story from an earlier post and to wrap up this series of posts about why I started being accountable…

It was my turn to answer the question, “Have you had any lustful thoughts, attitudes, or watched anything which does not glorify God?” My initial reaction was to lie about it to everyone, but I could tell by the other guys’ response’s that no one else had lied. I spilled my guts like the kid from the 80’s movie called, “The Goonies”, Chunk when he was captured by the bank robbers and their evil mother. I told them about the years and years of how pornography had been such a cancer to my spiritual growth.

I received an evenly mixed dose of rebuke and encouragement from the guys. I was comforted in knowing that so many men like me have this struggle, even in the Christian community. By shedding light on this dark area of my life, I’ve been humbled in remembering just how sinful and corrupt I am. The great part in being humbled by my own sinfulness is that I was reminded about just how much I really need Jesus in my life.

There is just something extremely therapeutic about confession- warm, emotional, fulfilling. There is also a danger into turning something very innocent, such as confessing, into something ritualistic and legalistic- cold and empty, as if it were a hospital recovery room. My very first experience with accountability could definitely be best described by the former, and not the later.

In opening up to this group of guys who were only acquaintances, at best, was a huge step for me. In choosing to be honest to them about my struggles with online pornography, I was able to drop the heavy yoke of deception, and expose an area of my life which I’ve kept in the dark from everyone. I’ve deceived myself for way too long about how far I could go on an empty tank of gas.

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Digital Sojourner would like to thank Long Vo for writing this guest post. Long’s first two posts in this series were An Ounce Of Prevention and SPAM (Some Parts Are Me). Digital Sojourner recently discussed the importance of Christian accountability with Long… you can listen to the podcast here.

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Photo flickr/journeyguy

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SPAM (Some Parts Are Me)

First I would like to tell you a bit about myself before setting the stage for what you’re about to read. This is my second post regarding why I chose to be accountable, you can read the first post here.

I’m a born-again Christian, husband to a loving wife, and father to an awesome son. I worked long hours in the auto industry for about ten years (60-80 hrs. per week). However, one day, after becoming convicted about how I was neglecting my family… I quit and became a full time home-maker. I choose to serve my family by making the time to be available for them.

Here’s how it all began

It was 8:15 AM and I had just dropped something off for my wife at work (she’s a teacher at a Christian Pre-School). On my way out the door, I ran into a father whose son was in my son’s class. We exchanged pleasantries and, as I was preparing to excuse myself from the conversation to go home to drink some beer and surf the net for porn, he asks me if I’m part of an accountability group? At the time I had never even heard of such a thing.

Next, he handed me a card with 10 questions printed on it. The question which called out the most to me was, “Have you had any lustful thoughts, attitudes, or watched anything which does not glorify God?” Well, within a nanosecond I was ready to say, “No thanks!” and just walk away like he was selling sunglasses at a mall kiosk.

But something deep inside of me cried out, “I really need this in my life right now!” so asked my friend some other questions about the logistics of the group. After spending about ten minutes trying to fight off the call of the Spirit, I submitted and agreed to go to the next meeting.

The morning of the meeting was filled with great anxiety over how I would answer some of the questions. It seemed like it would have been easier if the group was made up of men who were total strangers, but the group consisted of the Headmaster of the school my wife teaches at, a local preacher, and an insurance salesman. I thought to myself, I’ll just lie about some of these questions so that they won’t find out how depraved I really am. After all, I’m a Christian! I have to live up to a certain image of perfection! As most Christians probably realize, but never talk about, we really do judge a book by its cover.

We met on the scheduled morning and began with some small talk… last night’s ball game, this morning’s run, and a problem customer who is never happy. Not long after, the guys all brought out their question cards and prepared themselves to go through each one.

When we came to the question that initially caught my eyes, I began to sweat. I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t want to look foolish in front of these mature Christians. My canned SPAM response was ready to go…

If you want to know more of what happened, tune in next month for another installment in this series.

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Digital Sojourner would like to thank Long Vo for writing this guest post.

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Podcast: Long Vo Talks Accountability

Digital Sojourner recently featured a guest post written by my friend Long Vo. In the post, Long made a call for Christian leaders to “establish structures and relationships that hold them accountable.” For such structures to be successful, Long went on to explain, they must be voluntarily sought out and established.

Recently I sat down with Long to discuss how someone can establish accountability in their lives through an accountability group.

You can listen in here:

Have you established a godly accountability structure in your life? Let us know about it in the comments & reply section below.

As mentioned in the podcast, you can find additional information regarding accountability groups here.

 

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The Birds Are Angry

Hand Held GameThe 70s and 80s was a great time to grow up. Video games were being introduced for the first time. It was the golden age of gaming and I had a front row seat.

One Christmas morning in the 1970s I received a simple, handheld electronic basketball game. The game featured a little blinking red dot – more of a dash really – that you had to maneuver through other red dashes until you had an open shot to the goal. The dashes could only move around a fixed grid, and the “screen” was painted with the lines of a basketball court.

Ancient by today’s standards, but back in the day it was cutting edge technology – and I loved every minute of it. I played that game for hours on end.

Several years later, on another Christmas morning, I received an Atari 2600 game console. It was at this precise moment that I became an addict. For years to come I would play endless hours of Atari games, and when I wasn’t playing Atari, I was either talking or dreaming about Atari.

Eventually I grew up, went to college and left my games behind. No longer did I have the time or even the desire to play with such childish things.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010 when I became the proud owner of a brand new Android phone… the Droid X. Once again I became enchanted with the cutting edge technology that I held in my hand.

A couple of months later Angry Birds was released for Android… I installed it the day it was released. Why not? It was free!

They say an addict is never really cured. I thought my addiction to gaming was long gone… but at that very moment the addiction returned. In the months ahead I would spend waste ever more time playing.

It became clear that I had a problem. Angry Birds and the other games on my phone were not an innocent distraction… the games were robbing me of precious time. Time with my family, time with my friends, and worst of all… time with my Lord and Savior.

Eventually I worked up the courage to confess my addiction to the guys in my accountability group. Their advice was radical…. delete the games. What? Delete the Birds? Yes… go cold turkey (sorry, bad pun) and delete the Birds.

It wasn’t easy, but right there in front of my accountability group I deleted all of the games from my phone. Yes, the Birds are still angry… but now I have that wasted time back to use in ways that are infinitely more important.

Are there any birds in your life that need to be deleted?

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An Ounce of Prevention

The catastrophe of King David underscores what can happen when leaders fail to create a structure in which they are answerable for how they spend both their private and professional time. Ultimately, as he did with David, God will hold everyone accountable (especially leaders). The Bible shows us the dangers of living our lives free of accountability.

Most leaders don’t experience a sudden blow-out in their lives. More often it’s a slow leak that leads to disaster.   A man can deceive himself into thinking that a small compromise will not matter. But small steps, taken consistently, add up to a great distance. Small compromise has a snowball effect; momentum develops, and before we realize what’s happening, life spins out of control.  Once that train is moving, it’s tough to just jump off for the purpose of self-preservation.  Believe me; I know this fact all too well!

David didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to trash his life by committing adultery with one of his mighty men’s wives and then having that man killed. David had already begun the descent into spiritual sloth by making small compromises. He began by taking an additional wife, then another and another and another. Eventually David had seven wives in all, but even that wasn’t enough. So, he stocked a harem. David had a slow leak of self-control. And he compounded that problem by not having anyone around who would tell him about the problem.

When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God’s Word demands it. The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked.  If we are not intentional about inviting someone like Nathan into our lives, God will provide a Nathan for us. But by then it may be too late to spare us from the consequences.

Wise leaders don’t wait for a crisis to establish accountability. Accountability relationships cannot be imposed; they must be invited. The onus is on leaders to establish structures and relationships that hold them accountable for their sin and unleash their God given potential. We must seek out godly people of mature character and give them permission to ask us the tough questions. This requires risk on our part. It requires honesty and vulnerability – risky things that leaders are often skittish about. However, as anyone who has suffered the consequences of a fall will tell you, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

More to come about why I began being accountable…

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Digital Sojourner would like to thank Long Vo for writing this guest post.

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