Tag Archives: accountability

How goes it with your soul?

19 May

“How goes it with your soul?”

Anyone ever ask you that?  Probably not.  It kinda has an Old English sound to it, doesn’t it?  We don’t talk like that.  But maybe we should.

That question “How goes it with your soul?” used to be a standard question in our church circles long ago.

An Anglican priest in the 1700s became frustrated with the lack of piety in the church.  Piety is also a word we don’t use much, but it is a good one.  Piety refers to a practice of religion, but usually not a dead or empty religion.  Pious religion flows from a heart and mind that is joyful about loving and serving God.  This Anglican priest in England in the 1700s felt that pious expression of discipleship to Jesus was missing in the church of England.  His name?  John Wesley.  Wesley went on to have an encounter with God.  He referred to that encounter as a time when his heart was strangely warmed.  It changed everything for him.  Wesley went on to lead a movement within the Church of England called Methodism.

He never set out to start a new denomination, and in fact he never removed his credentials from the Church of England, but eventually his new group of churches became the Methodist church.  It was called Methodist because Wesley created methods for following Jesus.  These methods or habits or activities were designed to help people have a pious heart toward God, a true discipleship to Jesus.

One of these methods was the class meeting.  A class meeting was basically a house church, a small group of people.  Circuit-riding preachers, also called itinerant preachers (itinerant just means “someone who travels from place to place”) would ride on horseback traveling from class meeting to class meeting.  Each class meeting had a volunteer leader who would essentially pastor the small congregation, because in many cases the itinerant preacher couldn’t be there every week.  That lay leader was called a Class Leader, and they had a famous question they would ask each person.

“How goes it with your soul?”  It was an accountability question.  The heart behind Wesley’s question was care and concern for all.  The class leader cared for the people in his house church and wanted them to maintain a heart and mind and soul that was truly following and loving the Lord.  You know what happened?  That simple accountability and follow-up helped people grow as disciples of Jesus.

Do any of you feel that you could benefit from someone asking you this question on a regular basis?

When I was in college there was a guy who, almost anytime you saw him, would ask you “How are things going between you and God?”  That’s basically the same question.

If you’re tempted to follow a religion free of accountability, perhaps you’ll consider spending some time with Faith Church Sunday morning, May 21, 10am at East Lampeter Community Park.  We’re have worship in the park, and we’re going to talk a lot more about Wesley’s important question: “How goes it with your soul?”

Jesus’ very difficult question – Luke 6:46-49

28 May

We so often call ourselves Christians. We look at that as our core identity. We see it as what we truly believe, and we bank on those beliefs as what will get us to heaven when we die. But are we doing what Jesus said we should do?

I am asking the question because Jesus asked the question. I am not the judge and jury. I cannot see into the depths of your heart. But because Jesus asked this question, we should ask the question as well, particularly asking the question to ourselves. And we should embrace the kind of evaluation that the question leads to. We should desire to have people in our lives ask this question of us.

So often we call ourselves Christians, but we do not do what he said. A Christian should have strong evidence in their lives of looking like Christ. That’s what a Christian is. A person who is a follower of Christ. Jesus is telling us that his followers, people who call him Lord, are his disciples who hear what he wants us to do and then does it.

The moral of Jesus’ parable about the two builders is that the person who hears Jesus’ words and obeys them has the kind of life that is honorable to him. So if we are to not only hear his words, but we are to actually do them, what did he say we should do? Here are a couple examples from a few of his most important teachings.

  1. Greatest Commands. Jesus said “Love God, Love Others.” Deny yourself and put others first. This is the essence of love. He said “take up your cross and follow me.” He said “love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”
  2. Great Commission. Be Disciples who Make Disciples. Most Christians know they should be disciples, but my observation is that most of us do not do what Jesus said when he told us to make more disciples.

So how do we apply this teaching on a regular basis? How do we become people who regularly hear the voice of the Lord and do what he says?

We need accountability. We need people in our lives that we can be totally honest with, and that they can be honest with us. Through the experiences of the last 15 years of my life, this is one of the most important concepts I have seen. It is precisely what Jesus is doing in this passage. He is honestly, bluntly confronting the disciples with the truth about their lives. He is holding them accountable. We should be people, as painful as it is to hear the truth about our lives, who seek the truth about ourselves. We should be people who invite honest, accountable feedback. And not just once, but over and over.

This is why the small group concept is something that is so powerful. Get together with a small group of people on a regular basis for discipleship accountability. And every time you get together with that small group you are asking the question Jesus asked: “You call him ‘Lord’, are you doing what he says?”

Read Scripture on a regular basis with a prayerful heart that says “Lord, I want to hear you today and I want to obey.” When you read the word, is there anything that emerges that God is saying “obey”?

As parents we know that children aren’t often thrilled when we say “obey because I said obey!” Is Jesus saying that?   No. He is saying if we call him Lord, we’ve put him in the position of leading us. He’s concerned that we’re saying he is Lord, but not living like it.

One of our past seminary presidents, Dennis Hollinger’s books is called Head, Heart, Hands. It is the idea that the knowledge we get into our heads should transform our hearts so that we do something with our hands.

If we believe Jesus’ way is the best way, then then we eagerly desire to know his way, to learn about it, read about it, see it in action, so that it gets inside us, transforms us, changes us so that his way, his Kingdom life is what comes out of us.

We not only know what he wants us to do, then, we have been transformed so that we can do it! And we will find the amazing joy that his way is the best way.

Feel free to listen to the whole sermon here.

How to defeat temptation – 1st Corinthians 10:1-13

11 Jul

What tempts you? Delicious foods? Overindulgence of food? TV shows? Hobbies? Possessions? A new car? Men? Women? You name it.

Temptation in and of itself is simply an invitation.  Admittedly, it is a very enticing, powerful invitation that can be hard to turn away from.  How do you say “no” to temptation?  Is it possible to be strong enough?  In 1st Corinthians 10:1-13, Paul says that we need to be careful that we don’t think of ourselves as stronger than we really are.  Instead we need to be strengthened by God to stand up under the temptation.

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

weight-lifter

I love and I hate that image.  I love it because it is real.  Temptation doesn’t just go away like I wish it would.  And Paul is saying that, despite my protestations to the contrary, God doesn’t always just remove the temptation. In fact, it seems most often he allows it to remain.  That’s why I hate this image.  The image of Atlas holding up the world, or a weightlifter standing up under a heavy barbell.  I want life to be easy, comfortable, and temptation is the opposite.  I don’t know that I want to be strengthened to stand up under temptation because that means I have to deal with temptation.  I often don’t want to deal with it at all.  But there is God saying that he will strengthen us to stand up under temptation.

How does that work, though?  How does God strengthen us to defeat temptation?

First, like Paul said, we need to be careful that we don’t fall, if we think we are standing firm.  Admit our weaknesses.  Be honest about it. It will do no good lying to yourself and others. Admit it straight up. The first step toward victory is admitting that you have a temptation. Admit it to yourself first. Then admit it to the Lord. Take it to him in prayer.

Remember the Lord’s Prayer? “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I love that because it is admission of our weakness, and it is a cry out to the Lord for help! That line from the Lord’s Prayer should be on the tips of our tongues all day long. It says “Lord, I don’t have the strength to be holy like you want to be holy. Would you strengthen me? Would you help me stand up under the temptation?”

Second, talk about it with others. We ALL struggle. We’re not the only ones.

And getting it out in the open with people will do a couple things. 1. Verify that you are not alone, and that you are not the only. It is encouraging when you realize that others are struggling alongside you. 2. It will lead toward accountability.

The internet is one of the most tempting places ever invented. If you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall. Put internet filters on your computers and on your cell phones. There are a number of excellent options. Write down these names: Accountable2You, Covenant Eyes, and X3. I have X3 on my laptop. We have Covenant Eyes on our home computer. This is for men and women!

These filters/accountability software programs are great ways that you can be strengthened to stand up under temptation.

Another big one that Paul brings up is that the Israelites grumbled. Again, men and women: When things got tough, they got so negative. What about you? How do you handle the difficulties, the difficult people? Do you quickly get negative, grumble, complain? Look over your Facebook posts from the last few weeks. Are they fussy, critical, and complaining? There is a way out. Before you type the words and hit the “post” button, are you evaluating yourself? Do you have someone in your life that can speak honestly to you, if your attitude, your words are negative.

If you need to make a change somehow, then make a change!

Finally, make your temptations a matter of prayer. Paul says that the Lord will strengthen you to stand up under the temptation.

Feel free to discuss below, and listen to the whole sermon here.

The “D” Word

28 Mar

D word

I hate the “D” word.

I also hate the “A” word.

They are very similar, and they are both painful.

Discipline and Accountability.

(Those are the words you thought I was talking about, right?)

This week as we continue our study of 1st Corinthians, Paul continues confronting the Christians in the church of Corinth.  Interestingly, the Lenten Compact intersects with the sermon.

Paul has heard about a pretty dicy situation going on in the church.  The situation is racy enough that we decided, even though this is the 5th Sunday of the month and they are supposed to stay in the sanctuary for the sermon, we are dismissing the elementary kids to their normal teaching time.  You can preview it if you want.  Just read 1 Corinthians 5.

Paul is bold in his response to the situation.  It raises all sorts of questions about church discipline, accountability, excommunication.  We live in a community where shunning is very much a part of regular conversation because of the Amish.  In fact, the Amish use this passage as a basis for how they practice shunning, when they refuse to eat with someone shunned. Maybe you have been privvy to the creative ways they get around this, like saying a shunned member of their church can’t eat at the main table, but can eat at an extension of the table.  Sound legalistic?

So how do we practice church discipline and hold each other accountable in a healthy way, in a loving way, in a way that is restorative and faithful to God?  As the Lenten Compact devotional suggests, we’re going to have to see what was the potential end of the story in 2 Corinthians 2.  Join us!