Accountability is a word we use a lot in church. We like to ask people if they have an accountability partner. Each of us should have someone who holds us accountable to help us keep from stumbling. The military uses accountability too. The leader needs to know where all their soldiers are at any given moment. For them, accountability isn’t just a top down approach, it’s also bottom up. If a soldier is not in their designated place of duty, they are failing in their duty to the chain of command. They could create chaos on the battlefield if they’re not where they’re supposed to be and doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Each individual soldier has assigned duties that must be done so that the whole achieves their goals. It’s important that soldiers are accountable up, down and horizontally in their chain of command.
When Cain killed Able and God called out to him about his brother’s whereabouts, he asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In reality, we are. You and I are to be each other’s keeper in the Church. We’re to help each other man our stations, reach our potential, fulfill our calling and encourage each other to keep going when we get ready to give up. You are not just responsible for yourself as a Christian. Like a soldier, you’re to help your brother or sister when they need help, carry them when they need carrying and fight alongside them when they’re under attack. We must be vocal when we need help, get discouraged or feel like walking away from our duties. We each need to have someone we trust and are accountable to so that we help each other. Let’s not forget we are in a battle.
1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 says, “Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out” (MSG). You are not just responsible for yourself. God has placed other believers around you for you to help and for them to help you. Accountability is what makes the Body of Christ function to its potential. Each of us need to do our own part and we need to be helping our fellow brothers and sisters stay on task to do theirs.
Years ago my uncle had a small fishbowl with a Beta fish and a plant growing on top. He said it was a symbiotic relationship where they both benefit from the environment. When I studied up on symbiotic relationships, I found that there were four types. The first type is parasitism where one side benefits from the relationship (the parasite) while the other side is affected negatively. The second type is commensalism where one side benefits, but the other side is not harmed. The third type is amensalism where one side is not affected by the relationship, but the other side suffers because of the harmful, chemical compounds released by the first. The last type of symbiotic relationship is mutualism where both sides benefit from the relationship. All four of these exist in nature, but they also exist in our churches.
Ever since the Early Church began, it was designed to be a mutualism symbiotic relationship. The Greek word used was Koinonia which referred to community, fellowship and joint participation where people shared what they had with each other. Because people are involved in church, it got derailed and is often derailed to this day. Church does not exist to feed you believe it or not. When I hear the phrase, “I’m just not get fed there,” it’s usually coming from someone who approaches church as a parasitism symbiotic relationship. They want to be fed without contributing. When they feel they aren’t being fed, they either leave or create a amensalism relationship where they try to harm the pastor or other. As James 3:10 put it, these things ought not to be.
Ephesians 4 talks a lot about the Church and the relationships. It gives the responsibilities of the five fold ministries, but it also gives the parishioners their’s too. Verse 16 says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (NLT). Jesus puts us together in Koinonian fellowship, but if we don’t do our part in the relationship, the body isn’t healthy or growing. Each of us have the responsibility in our own church to make the body healthy. Your church should be better because you’re in it with the gifts God has given you. If you’re not contributing to your local body with a mutualism approach, you fall into one of the other types of symbiotic relationships that is not beneficial to the Church and are not doing what God requires of you. If you find you’re in one of the other types, reach out to your pastor this week to find out where they think you can be most beneficial to that body of believers.
One of the things that I’ve taught for years is that habits, behaviors and attitude are all learned behaviors. You have the ability to change them with enough dedication and thought process changes. In the late 1980’s, Stephen Covey wrote a book called, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. It sold so many copies in the first 11 years that it was named the most influential book of the 20th century. It taught people principles they could change personally to move from dependence to independence, and it also taught how to become a better team player as well. Many people attribute their success in business and in life to this self help book.
Unfortunately, many people approach the Bible as a self help book. They look at it as a book of do’s and don’t’s that will make you a better Christian in order to get into Heaven. We’ve been conditioned to think that if we will just act right, say the right things and spread love then we will be good Christians. The problem with that thinking is that it’s all behavior based Christianity. Romans 7 address that. If we try to live our Christian lives based on behaviors, then we’re going to be miserable. Jesus didn’t die to make you a better person. He died to give you new life. The changes in our life are a result of our love for Him, not our will power. The root of behavior based Christianity is that we are trying to integrate Christ into our lives instead of integrating our lives into Him.
In John 15:4, Jesus said, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me” (NLT). Fruit isn’t produced on your own trying to be a good Christian. Fruit is produced through the new life Jesus gives us when we are fully grafted into Him. When we surrender our lives to Him, we are letting Him integrate us as branches into Himself as the Vine. Life changing power comes from that surrender and integration. It doesn’t come through will power. You are saved by grace, through faith, not by your good behavior or works (Ephesians 2:8). It’s not your habits that make you a Christian, it’s your heart. Man looks on the outward things, but God looks at your heart. Romans 8 addresses living surrendered to Christ in contrast to trying to do things on your own in Romans 7. We each need to make sure our lives are grafted into Christ where true life and fruitful living are.
I’ll be in Washington, D.C. tomorrow to join with thousands of others who will be praying for our nation. Jonathan Cahn will be hosting a prayer event called “The Return” from 9-5 EST. It’s a group of people who are gathering to humble ourselves, to pray, to ask for repentance and to ask for our nation to return to God. Franklin Graham will be hosting “Prayer March 2020” from 12-2 EST. It’s a 1.8 mile march with seven stops and seven prayer focuses. Both are simulcast so you can join from wherever you are. I will also be going live on my Devotions By Chris Facebook page at each of the seven stops. You can join me by liking my page here.
This is not about politics. I do not see the hope for our nation embodied in a person or a party. Our hope is in Jesus and in the Church standing up for what’s right. Throughout the Bible, when the people of God were in trouble, the leaders would go to the capital, humble themselves and pray. The nation as a whole needed to seek God’s forgiveness and i believe that’s what we need today in our country and in our world. As believers, we need to be constantly praying for these seven areas that we will be praying for tomorrow. Will you join me in prayer this weekend and daily going forward? We need God to bring salvation, healing and an outpouring of His love on us.
Here are some Bible verses that I will be praying at each stop tomorrow.
1. Lincoln Memorial: Humbling ourselves in repentance and asking God to forgive our sins and to heal our land.
If My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 AMP
2. WWII Memorial: Our military, police and other law enforcement, firefighters, and their families. Security and peace for the nation.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:9 NLT
3. Washington Monument: Salvation of the lost. Renewed strength in our families. Frontline medical workers and solutions to the coronavirus pandemic. An end to abortion.
Children born to a young couple will one day rise to protect and provide for their parents. Happy will be the couple who has many of them! A household full of children will not bring shame on your name but victory when you face your enemies, for your offspring will have influence and honor to prevail on your behalf!
Psalms 127:4-5 TPT
4. The White House: The president, the vice president and their families. All those who work in the White House and in the executive branch of our government.
Now therefore, O kings, act wisely; Be instructed and take warning, O leaders (judges, rulers) of the earth. Worship the LORD and serve Him with reverence [with awe-inspired fear and submissive wonder]; Rejoice [yet do so] with trembling.
Psalms 2:10-11 AMP
5. National Museum of African American History and Culture: Compassion and kindness toward one another. Respect and reconciliation between races. Healing in communities torn by violence and injustice.
Beloved children, our love can’t be an abstract theory we only talk about, but a way of life demonstrated through our loving deeds.
1 John 3:18 TPT
6. National Archives: Religious freedom. Boldness for churches to stand firm with the Word of God and to preach Jesus Christ in a troubled world.
And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.
Acts 4:29-30 MSG
7. U.S. Capitol Building: Our Congress and other leaders at the national, state and local levels. The Supreme Court and judges across the nation.
Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion. And pray for every political leader and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts. It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them.
As I wait for my oil to get changed in my car, I can’t help but think of all the correlations between the routine maintenance work on my car and the need for routine maintenance of our walk with Christ. Someone was recently telling me a story about a guy who was never taught that his oil needed to be changed. He got a new car when he started college, but by the time he graduated, the engine broke down. His car wasn’t designed to go on forever with the original oil. It, like us, needed fresh oil.
Too many Christians try to live the life we are called to live without ever getting fresh oil. We try to survive our whole lives on the emotions of our initial salvation experience. When we try to do that, we break down, get tired and run out of energy. It gets hard to move when God says move because we haven’t done anything to grow the relationship. It becomes difficult to walk by faith because we haven’t done anything to improve our sight. We couldn’t stay in a romantic relationship based off of our initial feeling so why would we try to do that with God?
Imagine your first date with someone you love. There were butterflies in your stomach. Your palms were sweaty. Your voice might have even cracked. You were so enamored with the person across from you that you could just stare into their eyes forever. Now, many years later, life has happened. That initial feeling is gone. You’ve learned that to make that relationship work, you’ve got to do routine maintenance to the relationship. You can’t count on those initial feelings to keep the relationship going when times get tough. You’ve had to put fresh oil in the relationship if it’s going to survive.
For a Christian, we get fresh oil by spending time in prayer with God. I’m not talking about a one way prayer. I’m talking about dialogue where you sit and wait to hear back from God. You have to spend time reading and pouring through the Bible. Fresh oil doesn’t come from reading a chapter a day. It comes from digging through it, listening to the tone and finding how it applies to your life. You also get fresh oil from being around other believers. You can’t get that kind of oil just sitting in a pew next to someone for a few hours on Sunday. You have to break bread with them, hang out with them and have a relationship that stirs up each other’s gifts.
Fresh oil doesn’t come on its own. It’s something you have to take time out of your schedule for and will cost you something. If you’ve been trying to keep your relationship with God going on that initial feeling, you probably aren’t far from a break down. Spend time today getting back into your prayer closet. Take time to look deeper into His word than just the normal cursory look. I will also encourage you to connect with other believers who will challenge your faith and will push you beyond your comfort zone. When you do that, you’ll find a renewed love for God and an excitement that is deeper than your initial salvation experience.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
Ever since I was young, I have loved building fires. I remember when I was taught how to build one. They taught me that there are three things needed: fuel, oxygen and heat. To start it, you have to have some tinder, which is tiny sticks. As they get consumed by the fire, you have to add in pieces that are a little bit bigger called kindling. When the fire gets large, you add in the big pieces of firewood referred to as fuel. Before starting a fire though, you need to make sure you have plenty to get it going and to keep it going. If you start it and have to run around looking for any of these, it will burn out. A fire has to be constantly fed if you want to keep it burning.
Fire has been used in the Bible as a symbol of God’s presence. He’s known as an all consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29). When Elijah called the people back to repentance, he called fire down from heaven and it consumed the sacrifice (1 Kings 18). When Israel left Egypt, the Shekinah Glory of God led them through the desert as a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). In the New Testament, God sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of those who believe on Jesus. In the Upper Room, to signify this, there was a flame above each believer (Acts 2:3) telling them that the presence of God now lived in them. You and I have that same fiery presence of God living in us, consuming us. Just like a real fire, there is fuel we can add to keep it burning strong in us.
1 John 2:24 says, “So you must be sure to keep the message burning in your hearts; that is, the message of life you heard from the beginning. If you do, you will always be living in close fellowship with the Son and with the Father” (TPT). In Revelation 2, Jesus was upset with the Church at Ephesus because they left their first love, and He threatened to remove their fire from its place of influence unless they repented. We need to keep the flame burning in our hearts by keeping God’s Word fresh in our lives and keeping our love for Him strong. In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to fan the flame within you (2 Timothy 1:6). Return to the message of God that ignited your love for Him and keep it burning strong. We are called to be light in this dark world (Matthew 5:16) and it needs us the light of God in our lives to see.
I like to tell people that you will always act on what you truly believe, especially when you’re under pressure. It’s easy to say you believe something, but the proof comes when stress is applied. There’s a story of a man named Charles Blonden who famously put out a tightrope across Niagara Falls. He crossed it several times using different methods like stilts, backwards, blindfolded, carrying a stove and cooking on it. One time he pushed a wheelbarrow across it. When he arrived on the other side, the crowd applauded. He then asked who believed he could push someone in that wheelbarrow across the tightrope. Everyone cheered agreeing that he could. He then asked for a volunteer from the cheering crowd. The crowd fell silent and no one volunteered. Later his manager Harry Colcord did ride across on his back.
It’s easy to say we believe something until we have to get I to the wheelbarrow. In the Old Testament, God asked Abraham to take his only son to the land of Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice (Genesis 22). This was a faith testing moment. God had already told him that through Isaac he would have many descendants. He took Isaac to the mountain anyway because He truly believed God. David’s faith was tested too. He had been anointed king, but God delayed in that promise. He had several opportunities to kill Saul, the current king, but he trusted God’s timing instead. Many opportunities presented themselves, but he passed on them all as he waited for God’s perfect timing.
Testing is part of God’s means of proving our faith just like He did for those in the Bible. If He tested them, He’ll test us. 1 Peter 1:7 says, “Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed” (GNT). Testing purifies and solidifies our faith. Don’t back down from what you believe when hard times come or when you’re called out on it. Get in the wheelbarrow and trust God to carry you across Niagara’s Falls. He’s proven time and time again He’s able to, but it’s up to us to trust Him enough to get in.
Thanks to Sandra Grünewald @elmuff for making this photo available freely on Unsplash
John Maxwell, one of the world’s leading experts on leadership, almost always brings up the importance of being intentional in your life through words and actions. He challenges people to make deliberate decisions daily to use their everyday life to bring about positive change in the lives of others. He encourages people to be in a relentless pursuit of a life of significance. One of the things he says is, “You are either a plus or a minus in your relationships. You are either adding value to people’s lives on a daily basis, and they can hardly wait to be around you, or you are subtracting and pulling value out of people.” I constantly think about that. I want to be a credit in people’s lives adding value to them.
I also take it a step further. Am I a credit to Christianity and the cause of Christ or am I subtracting from it? Do my words, my actions and my life point people to Jesus? I run everything I do through this lens from my social media posts to my conversations. Will it add value to what they think of Jesus or subtract? I think of Eli and his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. He was a credit to God, but his sons were not and that reflected on him. It didn’t take long before God removed all three from their priestly roles. God uses people who are intentional about how they represent Him and His name. If you call yourself a Christian, you bear His name and represent Him wherever you go. Are you a credit to His message by your actions?
In Philippians 1:27, Paul wrote, “Live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Christ” (MSG). He was asking them to think about how they were living in front of others and to contend for people’s trust in the Good News. People will decide whether they put their trust in God by how you live and act. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be intentional, especially when things aren’t going your way. Can you still live out your faith when things are difficult, when God feels far away or when nothing is going your way? Faith is trusting when you can’t see. It’s easy to be a credit to the Gospel when everything is good. People really pay attention when your life is falling apart. Are you still trusting? Are you still living like you believe it? That’s being a credit to the Message of Christ.
When I was 20 years old, I was on staff at a church. My boss wanted our team to read a book on Prayer and discuss it as we went. I had been raised in church all of my life, been to prayer meetings and prayed publicly often, but I had never been taught how to pray. A better way to say it is that I had never been given a model of prayer. I just winged it each time. I had a lot of passion, but it often lacked direction. In this book, and with our discussions, I was taught the ACTS model of praying. In this model, you start with adoration, then move into confession of sins. After that you give thanks for the things God has done in your life, and will do. Finally, you end with supplication for your needs and the needs of others. Before using that model, my prayer time had simply been supplications for what I needed at the moment. While that’s good, it’s not really communicating and connecting to God.
Prayer is not just an avenue to ask God for things. It’s a way to experience His presence, to hear His voice and to know He is God. It’s a way for us to take the focus off of our immediate needs and to put it on the One whose name is above every other name or need we have. Prayer is a two way conversation with God where we spend time in silence listening for His voice. It’s not about the method, the ritual or getting the words right. It’s about posturing our heart before God, humbling ourselves by recognizing there are things we cannot do, and only He can. God’s desire to walk with us daily has remained the same since the Garden of Eden. He desires a deep connection with you that’s only attained through one on one prayer and conversation. Quick prayers throughout the day are nice, but the intimacy that He desires with us in the relationship only happens when you spend quality time with Him.
Here are some Bible verses on prayer.
1. Confess and acknowledge how you have offended one another and then pray for one another to be instantly healed, for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!
James (Jacob) 5:16 TPT
2. With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.
Ephesians 6:18 AMP
3. The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 MSG
4. For this reason I tell you: When you pray and ask for something, believe that you have received it, and you will be given whatever you ask for.
Mark 11:24 GNT
5. Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
When I travel to New Orleans, there’s a certain homeless person I like to say hello to. He always makes me smile and he never asks me for anything. He’ll say, “It ain’t gonna cost you nothing to come say hello. I ain’t gonna rob you!” I then walk over and say hello and he puts a smile on my face. Except on a recent trip he called me over and said, “You know I never ask for nothing, but could you go in there and buy me an orange juice and sandwich? I’m about to curl up on my cardboard and I’m hungry.”
When I handed him his dinner, he hugged me and thanked me. He then asked, “You know what I’d change about the world?” My mind began to think of any number of answers. No more homelessness. No more hunger. No more devaluing people. No more selfishness. But before I could decide on an answer, he grabbed my shoulder, looked up at the sky, smiled a big toothless grin, and said, “Absolutely nothing!” He laughed, thanked me again and walked away.
I thought about his answer as I walked back to my hotel. Here’s a man, for whatever reason, is sleeping on a cardboard mat on the streets of downtown New Orleans and is exposed to the elements constantly, and he wouldn’t change a thing. Even though he has absolutely nothing to his name, he has found a way to be content. He’s learned to choose joy instead of bitterness over his situation. It’s a lesson we all could learn.
Paul learned that secret and told us about it in Philippians 4:12. He said, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (NLT). That secret is choosing the joy of contentment with where God has you. That joy gives us the strength to endure whatever comes our way. It takes us from being a victim of life to a victor over our situation. Don’t try to change your world. Change your attitude. The next verse tells us we can. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.