I just finished reading a great article in the Christian Post about warning signs that show a church is probably on the wrong path.
Here they are:
- The Pastor and the congregation do not spend enough time reading, studying and meditating on the Bible.
- Church members spend a lot of time at meetings arguing about how money should be spent.
- Leadership and members do not evangelize.
- There is no official process of discipleship and no one is assigned as mentors.
- Corporate prayer is not a major emphasis in the church.
- Church members are arguing about worship style or worship times.
- Church members expect the paid staff to do most of the ministry, instead of the staff equipping the members to do the work of ministry (“Why didn’t he visit me in the hospital?”)
- There are ongoing disagreements about matters of the church facilities.
- The church has more meetings than new disciples.
- The leadership of the church does not have a coherent plan for what is taught in small groups and Sunday school classes.
#1 and #4 are especially important. Make sure you read the Word of God daily and that your church has a real process for discipling new and existing believers.
Read the full article here.
A dinner with the Pharisee Simon and a sinner women shows one of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness. The following is a sermon by Pastor Marc Bertrand.
Download the sermon in MP3 format below. Please note the file is almost 21 megabytes and may take a while to download depending on your internet connection.
God allowed Jesus to be tested to help prove He is the Son of God. Learn more in this sermon by Pastor Marc Bertrand.
Download the sermon in MP3 format below. Please note the file is almost 22 megabytes and may take a while to download depending on your internet connection.
As it was recently Thanksgiving in Canada and with the US Thanksgiving coming up soon we can once again turn our thoughts to the many blessings we receive from the Lord.
I truly believe that a lack of thanksgiving is one of the quickest ways to ruin your spiritual growth. Once you stop thinking of what you are thankful for you:
- Start believing you’ve earned and deserve everything you have
- Start believing your needs and desires are the most important things in the world
- Start concentrating on the things that are wrong in your life and what you are worried about
No matter how tough times are or the struggles we are going through, we all have a lot to be thankful for.
I am thankful for:
- My salvation and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross
- My family
- My health
- My job
- My friends
- And many more things
What are you thankful for?
In the last post we saw how Jesus used fasting on a regular basis. Today we will finish our look at fasting by studying why you should use it and then finding practical uses for the discipline.
Like the previous Biblical disciplines we have talked about, fasting uses the principal of abstinence, or voluntarily giving up food to aid in your spiritual growth. One of the main reasons why you should start using fasting is that it helps you learn to trust and depend on God. The Israelites had to learn this principle over 40 years in the wilderness, that we do not live on bread alone.
You should also consider using fasting if you want help in:
- Getting closer in your relationship with Christ
- Being more thankful for the blessings God has given you
- Learning God’s will for your life
- Learning to live the pattern of simple living modeled after Christ’s life
Incorporating Fasting Into Your Life
Instead of fasting for entire days, start by fasting for a single meal and build from there. This way you can gradually work into the discipline.
You might also want to try not eating certain foods or drink. I myself am a lover of cheeseburgers. By cutting them out of my diet (at least temporarily) I often come to realize how lucky I am and how thankful I should be to God.
If you do have health problems, make sure to consult your doctor before using fasting. You may have to use a limited form of fasting. Be safe, remember while fasting is a very good thing for followers of Christ to do, it is not mandatory.
Combining With Other Disciplines
The Biblical disciplines are often used with each other. The following is a list of other disciplines you can combine with fasting:
Silence and solitude can help you get rid of distractions if you are finding it hard to get started your time of fasting
Prayer is a perfect discipline to use with fasting. I use it both to ask for strength to continue the fast and to offer thanks that God is all I need
Bible study is a discipline Christ used with fasting. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from God.”
Fasting is an important and underused discipline that can help believers become more Christ-like. Now that you have learned what fasting is, why it is important Biblically and how to use it in your life…
… start using! And start learning about the other spiritual disciplines and how you can use them.
This is the final post in a series of guest articles on accountability by Robert Gowland. In addition to the tips and techniques given by Robert in these posts you might want to consider these accountability questions.
You’ve got your team. You’ve got your plan. You’re ready to start making change. However, to make the most of the effort you’re about to expend, you need to add one more thing.
Planning for the Imperfect Case
For some goals, a yes/no question at the end of the week is sufficient. “Did you call your mom this week?” is a good example; you know for sure whether or not you did that. But some goals are trickier.
For those day-by-day goals, the ones where you want to make a difficult change daily,
a yes/no question at the end of the week (or after two weeks), doesn’t really indicate your success.
Let’s say I’m in my first week of trying to not eat after 8pm, and let’s say I didn’t do very well. That’s OK, it’s a start, and I’m further ahead than if I didn’t start working towards my goal at all. In fact, that’s worth celebrating a bit. Still, at the end of the week, my accountability partner asks me if I stopped eating before 8pm every day. The short answer is “no”. But “no” is misleading. Answering with “I didn’t do very well,” or “I missed most days” isn’t very helpful either.
Tracking Your Progress
The fact is, I succeeded two days. Two out of seven. How do I know it was two out of seven and not one or three out of seven? I wouldn’t unless I was daily keeping a record of my success. Does it matter? Absolutely. Let me explain.
We use a goal tracking spreadsheet to keep track of our daily success. Each row holds one goal, each column holds one day. If succeed at a goal for a day, I put a check in that box. But what will that buy you? Get your tracking spreadsheet.
Let’s say you’ve set your mind to exercise for five minutes after supper each day. On your first week you succeed three times. Good work. At the end of the week you can tell your accountability team that you succeeded three times.
If next week, you succeed four times, that’s progress. If you’ve been tracking your progress, your accountability team can celebrate that with you.
As you keep track, week-by-week, you’ll be able to catch it when you start to slack and you’ll be able see yourself improve with time. If you were not tracking, you would have a somewhat accurate picture of how well you did for the previous week, but you would have, at best, only a fuzzy notion of how well you were doing overall. And if you’re in it for the long haul, that’s what really matters.
If you weren’t tracking, when you got to 5 or 6 times a week, you might say “good enough”, if your accountability asked for a simple “yes” or “no”, but by keeping track you have the leverage you need to get yourself all the way to 7.
That’s not all, though. Tracking gives you an additional advantage.
Identifying Recurring Roadblocks
Let’s keep looking at the “no food after 8pm” goal. Suppose you’re doing pretty well; you succeed about 5 days every week. That is awesome, and you will be moving towards your weight loss outcome. However, 7 out of 7 is your ideal.
By keeping track of which days you succeed and fail, you can see if there is a pattern to your failures. Perhaps you almost never succeed on Thursdays. By keeping track of your success you can observe that pattern and start asking yourself why.
Perhaps you’ve got a meeting in the early evening every Thursday and you don’t have time to eat a full meal before the meeting, so you have a light snack when you get home.
You’ve got two options at this point.
First you can figure out how to make it work. Maybe you need to show up to work a few minutes early and leave a few minutes early on Thursdays so you have time to eat properly. Maybe you need to prepare your Thursday night supper on Wednesday night when you have more time.
Maybe you just need to make up up your mind not to snack after your meeting and go to bed a bit hungry on Thursdays. Be creative! You can plan to beat that area of temptation by telling someone at the meeting about your goal or by brushing your teeth before the meeting so you’re less likely to want to eat afterwards.
Alternatively, you could decide that Thursdays don’t count. Relaxing a goal is a perfectly acceptable course of action. You need to be cautious and check your motivation, but making your goals too demanding at the outset isn’t good for your long-term success. You can always come back and tighten this goal up later if you feel the need to, but you may achieve your weight loss outcome just fine with only six out seven days a week.
If you take this route, just block off Thursdays for the “no food after 8pm” goal on your spread sheet, and neither mark it as success or failure.
In short, if you cannot measure and track a goal, you cannot expect to achieve it.
However, if you do have accountability, you do have a clear plan and you are tracking your success, you have set yourself up to achieve your goals and produce your desired outcomes. The results are still up to you, but you’ve built a strong foundation on which to move forward.
This is the third in a series of guest posts on accountability by Robert Gowland. In addition to the tips and techniques given by Robert in these posts you might want to consider these accountability questions.
Having someone in your corner is foundational to making change, but you will need concrete steps to move from where you are to where you want to be. That’s where 95% of New Year’s resolutions break down.
Moving from Outcomes to Actions
When I think of goals, I often confuse actions with outcomes. For example, if I say I want to lose weight, that’s an outcome. The problem with outcomes is that you can’t simply make them happen; they are the result of following a process.
That’s why outcomes make horrible goals.
If I tell my accountability team that I’m going to lose weight, and then just hop on the scale each week before group, hoping that the needle is going to rise just a little less high than last week, what would happen? My weight would keep doing what it had been doing every week before: slowly rising. My group would say, “That’s alright, Rob. Keep trying,” but next week would be more of the same. It would not be long before I gave up, even with the encouragement of my team.
Losing weight is a good desire for me, since I am overweight, but it is not an action I can take, it is an outcome that is achieved through a series of other goals: increasing exercise, lowering the intake of calories, and getting enough sleep.
It is only when I am performing those actions that the outcome of losing weight begins to occur. Being held accountable for outcomes achieves nothing but frustration; being held accountable for actions brings those outcomes into reality.
So let’s say instead of being kept accountable for losing weight, I asked my group to keep me accountable to exercise more, eat less, and sleep more. What would happen? Nothing. And here’s why: those are weak questions.
When I would be asked, “Did you exercise more this week?”, how would I know? I’d think to myself “Well, I walked to work that once, and took the stairs after lunch on Wednesday…” and respond “Yeah, I exercised more!”. Then I’d get a pat on the back and everyone would leave happy. Then next week when asked again, I’d think “Hmmm, I didn’t walk to work this week, but I took the stairs twice, that’s something” and respond in the affirmative. The question lacks teeth, it lacks specifics.
To start moving towards your goals, you will need to turn your goals into concrete, measurable actions. “Sleep more” becomes, “Be in bed by 10:30 every night”. “Exercise more” becomes “Walk to work”, “Ride my stationary bike for 30 minutes once a week”, and “Do 25 sit-ups 3 times a week”. “Eat less” becomes “Dessert only once a week” and “No food after 8pm”.
When I am asked if I rode my stationary bike for 30 minutes in the last week, I immediately know whether or not I did that. There is no grey area. When I am asked if I went to bed every night by 10:30, there are no maybe’s; I either did or I didn’t.
Driven vs. Scraping By
Specific questions push you to succeed. I found that even though I may fail to be in bed at 10:30, the act of trying to get to be by 10:30 meant that even when I slipped, I was still in bed by 10:45 most nights. While that’s not the goal, that’s 15 to 45 minutes earlier than I had been going to bed, and that’s a win regardless.
A weak goal like, “get more sleep” would not have that same effect. Even if I succeed at that goal, “Get more sleep” would result in me maybe going to bed 5 or 10 minutes earlier just so I can tell my group that I did it. That’s better than nothing, but clearly, a “win” with the weak goal doesn’t take me as far as a “failure” with the clear goal.
Understanding the difference between actions and outcomes was groundbreaking for me, but there was still something missing.
This is the second in a series of guest posts on accountability by Robert Gowland. In addition to the tips and techniques given by Robert in these posts you might want to consider these accountability questions.
Today we’re looking at the first key to reaching our goals: Accountability.
Accountability comes first because without it, you can get stuck on either of the two other keys and never move forward.
What does it look like?
Accountability can work in many ways. You can email each other, or phone each other, but we found it useful to meet each week as an accountability group. Each week, we go around the circle and each person tells the group whether they did what they said they would do.
Why do I need other people?
This provides motivation to do the work. If I know I’m going to have to admit that I didn’t go to bed on time every night, I’m far less inclined to stay up late.
Secondly, accountability provides positive feedback; if I succeed at a goal, the rest of the group can cheer me on. If I am working on my own to stop eating after 8am, and I succeed, I can look back at the end of the week and pat myself on the back. If I’m working with a group, however, the group will congratulate me for doing it, especially if I’ve been struggling.
Finally, accountability keeps me from getting stuck. If I fail to accomplish what I set out to do for a week, the group is there to encourage me. Further, the group can ask questions as to why I failed. They can point out patterns that I may not have seen. Basically, if I fail alone, I fail and try again next week. If I fail in a group, I am forced to think about why I failed, and to get to the root of the issue, rather than just brushing it off or throwing up my hands with a self-pitying sigh. For me, this is the strongest reason to be part of an accountability group.
How do I pick an accountability partner?
You’ll want to find someone who you trust not to break your confidence. You need someone who is safe and who will not share your struggles with others. You can only be helped in an accountability relationship to the extent you can be honest; you can only be honest in an accountability relationship to the extent you can trust.
You’ll want to find someone who will not judge you or try to manipulate you with guilt. That’s called co-dependence and it’s not healthy for either of you.
Finally, you’ll want to find someone who will ask the hard questions and confront you with the hard truth. If you wanted to gloss over your issues and habits, you could do that by yourself quite effectively; you need someone to shoot straight with you so that you’re not comfortable staying where you are. It’s hard to face reality sometimes, and you will be glad to have help doing that.
If you have someone like that in your life already, that’s awesome. If you don’t you might have to grow an accountability relationship with someone. Just start small, ease into it, and see if you both won’t rise to the occasion.
Finding an accountability partner or team is great motivation, but accountability alone will not be enough to reach your goals. That’s where clear plans come into play.