Hillside Christian Church

A New Twist on Accountability

iron-sharpens-ironOne of the members of my Groups Leadership Team recently provided his Men’s Accountability Group with a different perspective on their weekly eleven questions that some of them had been using for approximately four years. I loved it so much, that I asked him if I could post it to my blog, which he agreed to.

So what’s the new twist he provided? Well he rewrote the questions and turned them around from what they confessed NOT to be doing, to what they actually HAVE done in that particular area of discipline in their lives. In other words, they turned the negatives into positives and refocused the questions in order to show righteousness, help others and grow closer to God in the obedience of the Holy Spirit. What they have experienced with the new questions has been transformational as they focus on righteous deeds and are engaged in deeper conversation, avoiding the obligatory “yes” or “no” questions.

Here are those list of questions, both the old and the new…

Old Questions:

  1. Have you been with a woman this week in such a way that was inappropriate or could have looked to others that you were using poor judgement?
  2. Have you been completely above reproach in all your financial dealings this week?
  3. Have you exposed yourself to any explicit material this week?
  4. Have you spent time daily in prayer and in the scriptures this week?
  5. Have you fulfilled the mandate of your calling this week?
  6. Have you taken time off to be with your family this week?
  7. Is there anything in your life competing with the Lord?
  8. What are you now or becoming addicted to…coffee, food, sex, pornography, sports, alcohol, toys and possessions, work, power, position, title, prestige, solitude, retirement, money?
  9. Have you just lied to me? Have you been honest in all of your dealings this week?
  10. Are you living in self-sufficiency?
  11. Have you done anything in the last two weeks that took courage?

New Questions:

  1. In what ways did you look for an opportunity to treat or view a woman in a Godly way this week according to Scripture?
  2. In what ways did you redirect God’s financial blessings to you this week toward others, His church or His work?
  3. What positive actual steps did you take this week to keep yourself pure?
  4. What specific things did you do to become more relationally intimate with God this week?
  5. How were you able to hear and how did you respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit this week to live beyond your own needs and desires?
  6. What positive actions did you take this week to show that your priorities are in alignment with God’s priorities as a husband, father, brother, uncle, son, church body member, co-worker or neighbor?  How were you intentional about this?
  7. Where did you actually spend your time last week? Why? How have you shown with your time and deeds that I desire Christ above all else?
  8. Explain what you have actually done this week to bring your mind, body and spirit into submission to Christ?
  9. In what ways have you shown your Savior and others that you were living in the Truth this week? In what ways do your actions and intentions match or misalign with your beliefs?
  10. Explain how you totally depended on God this week in work, relationships, marriage, finances, health, ministry, salvation, state of mind, well-being, past, future.
  11. In what ways in situations and circumstances did you operate in your own strength and skill instead of asking God to intervene with His strength and wisdom with courage to speak? Courage to remain silent? Courage to defend? Courage to act? Courage to ask questions? Courage to face lawlessness and death? Courage to believe the unpopular and unseen? Courage to believe by faith? Courage to start new or over again? Courage to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness? Courage to believe that you are valuable and worth dying for?

When you look at the difference in these questions, you can clearly see the power of a good question. Can’t wait to see how this group goes deeper in their walk with Jesus by asking such focused and God honoring questions!

Be Still

2-be-Still-and-Know-That-he-is-GodThis past week I got to experience the wisdom of Psalm 46:10. It’s the verse, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

I remember the first time I was encouraged to practice the wisdom of this verse. It was the summer of 1986, while I was preparing for a summer missions project to the former Soviet Union. I was in New York and the project leads asked us to spend 30 minutes practicing the discipline of being still. Not praying. Not problem solving. Not dreaming. Just being still before God. Almost 30 years later, I still remember the awkwardness I experienced at Kings College that afternoon, as I tried to get my mind and body to be still. And true confessions, 30 years later, it is still hard for this Type A personality to be still. So to remove the distractions from my life, my family and I headed to the mountains this past week. Free from internet connectivity and out of cell phone range.

The Hebrew definition for “stillness” is to stop striving, to let go, to surrender. Whether it’s practicing Sabbath, or being still, the psalm reminds us that we can take comfort in letting go and resting in God to provide help, strength and safety in those times of renewal. Yet, this is tremendously difficult in our media rich, always-on, over-communicated society. It is not uncommon for the noise of this world to crowd into every empty space, leaving us spiritually, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. And that’s why it’s important to unplug and surrender to the One who ultimately provides.

One of those moments of stillness this past week, was during a hike to Eagle Lake. Our family left particularly early that morning in order to beat the crowds and the forecasted thunderstorms that afternoon. When we arrived at the lake that morning, we realized that we had the whole lake all to ourselves. It was a majestic moment of stillness. Just us, in awe of God’s majesty! As we took it all in, we watched a mother duck care for her ducklings. We witnessed fish feeding. We saw the reflection of the Sierra Mountains on the stillness of the water. We heard the birds chirping. We breathed the fresh forest air. And we couldn’t help but be still, to take it all in and then later take time to pray. It was a glorious morning being still before God.

This past week held many opportunities for me to reflect, renew and meet God in the stillness. And it got me thinking, “why don’t I do this more often?” So, as I reflect on the last week, I wrote down four good reasons why it’s important to be still. And I share these with you in hopes that you might also experience the joy of being still.

So here’s why it’s important to practice stillness…

  1. To remember that we’re human beings, not human doings. If our salvation isn’t based on what we do (Ephesians 2:8,9), than neither should our significance be based on what we do. Instead our identity needs to be in who we are in Christ. When we cease striving, we recognize who we are, what we were created for and it causes us to live a more balanced life. Now don’t get me wrong, God desires us to participate in His plan and do things for Him, but our doing must be the result of being in His presence. In other words, our works are the overflow of being with God. Remember this, we are human beings, children of God, to do good works; not human doings, doing good works, to be children of God. There is a big difference there.
  2. To understand our limitations. Let’s face it! We’re not God and we can’t save the world. By practicing Sabbath and stillness, we understand our limitations. Understanding our limitations allows us to let go and let God, be God! And this frees us up to truly rest in the arms of the One who has it all in control.
  3. To express our dependence and trust in God. When we pause to spend time with God, we really have to trust God to provide the time we desperately need. In God Calling, Sarah Young writes as if Jesus is speaking the following words, “Trust Me enough to spend ample time with Me, pushing back the demands of the day. Refuse to feel guilty about something that is so pleasing to Me, the King of the universe.” Sometimes it’s hard to make room for God in the busyness of my day, but it’s pretty amazing how God multiplies my time when I spend time with Him and honor Him in stillness. When we pause, we’re saying, God I trust you to fill in the gap!
  4. To hear God speak. Here’s some truth…we can’t hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit in the hectic pace of life. God often speaks out of the depths of His own silence. First to create the world, then to renew the world through the incarnation of His Son. And God calls us to silence as well. He invites us to go into our room, our chosen sacred space, and to shut the door and pray to our Father who is in secret, assured that our Father who is in secret will answer our prayer (Mt 6:6). It is in that silence that we can listen to God, hear His voice, and discern His plan and purpose for our life.
In considering the wisdom of this psalm, I wonder if perhaps God is asking you to seek His voice in rest and stillness, as you cultivate your relationship with Him. You see, as Christians, we often get the impression that growing in our faith means adding a bunch of spiritual activities to our crazy-busy lives. But lately, I’m finding that drawing near to God is more about subtracting, than adding. Yet for this Type A personality, I have to admit that this new paradigm is a difficult one to embrace, but I believe that as we do, we keep urgency from edging God out of our lives. And as we remain in Him, we will bear much fruit, for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5)!

Tell Your Story

tumblr_m4kwqpURcm1rwoq6lo1_500Who doesn’t love a good story? Whether it’s a story told on a riveting television show, the big screen, or a page-turning book, we all love a good story—especially one with a happy ending!

For me, I love to hear the stories of changed lives! In fact, it’s one of the things that motivates me as a minister. And it’s one of the reasons why I love “testimony night” at Celebrate Recovery! I love hearing the stories of how people overcame their hurts, habits, or hang-ups. And in hearing the stories, I believe we all glean insights into our own journeys toward wholeness, as we identify with their struggle and find the hope and courage necessary to face our own character defects.

There is power in the story of our lives. And in telling our story, our hearts become full of gratitude, as we recall God’s faithfulness in the land of the living. You see, while most of our stories include a period of hopelessness, trauma, or addiction, they usually have a ‘redemptive ending.’ That doesn’t mean that our lives have become rosy or problem free. Instead, the stories remind us of the journey we’re on, recalling that it’s about progress, not perfection.

We all have a story to tell! And when we share our story for His glory, something amazing happens. It offers a powerful witness to those who don’t yet know Christ, and brings hope and inspiration to those who call Jesus their Savior. So tell your story often and tell it well, for you may never know the impact it can make in the life of another.

Healthy Things Grow

growBack in August, following an almost unanimous vote by our church to merge with Hillside Christian Church, I gathered our group leaders and shared a phrase I hoped would be helpful to our them as we began a season of change. The phrase was, “Healthy things grow. And growing things change. And change challenges us. Challenges cause us to put our trust in God. Trust breeds obedience. And obedience makes us healthy.”

As I look back at that statement, I never realized how many times I would quote that phrase as I pondered decisions and talked to others. And in praying, meditating and considering the truth of this statement, here are some of the things I have learned along the way…

Healthy Things Grow
Have you ever noticed that healthy things grow? Plants, children, our emotional lives, our relationship with God, and even our relationship with others all grow. If these things are healthy, they are progressing, moving forward and changing. In fact, in the last month, my son shot up a whole inch. While that was tough on the pocketbook, we rejoice that he’s healthy and growing. That’s because healthy things grow.

Growing Things Change
If it wasn’t for change, we wouldn’t have seasons! Or butterflies! Or progress! In fact, we might still be living in the dark ages. As I look back on my life, I am grateful for change. Change in my preferences. Change in my attitudes. Change in my behavior. And even change in my clothing styles. You see, this is how we know things are growing. They change and are different from when we last saw them.

Change Challenges Us
Mark Twain once said, “The only person that likes change is a wet baby.” As humans, we like things to stay the way we like them. We are creatures of habit and comfort. After all, why mess with a “good thing”? But let’s face it! What if the “good thing”, could be better? The challenge that comes with change, is that it leads us into unknown territory. So we resist it. We like the familiarity. Even if the familiarity is unhealthy. As humans, we prefer the path of least resistance. That’s because change challenges us to make adjustments, take risks, and trust God for an uncertain future.

Challenges Cause Us to Put Our Trust in God
Here’s the reality! Challenges cause us to dig deep and depend on God more fully. Yet when presented with a challenge, many of us choice  to remain comfortable, knowing that change may require something of us. When I officiate a wedding, I often use this phrase, “May God give you enough tears to keep you tender, enough hurts to keep you compassionate, enough failure to keep you humble, and just enough success to ensure that you stay dependent upon Him.” You see, God knows exactly where to apply the pressure to cause us to turn to Him in faith. God wants us to grow in faith, and challenges force us to trust in Him.

Trust Breeds Obedience
Remember that old hymn, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”? The antidote to fear is not safety and security. It has always been trust that leads to obedience. If we truly trust the Lord, He will reveal His will to us and show us what to do. Thus, trust breeds obedience.

Obedience Makes Us Healthy
Let’s look at it this way. Obedience takes trust! Trust creates expectancy! Expectancy breeds faith! Faith pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). In life, there will inevitably be something that forces us to trust God in a new way. And this is the great adventure of living with Jesus!

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