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One of the best inventions in history must be that of daily schedules. Wristwatches (especially, cheap wristwatches) must be the next best invention. They made it possible for virtually everyone to co-ordinate their various schedules, so that people could arrange to be in the same place at the same time.

Today, it would be unthinkable for a company executive to try to operate without a daily schedule (or a wristwatch). Similarly, it would be unthinkable for a company to operate without keeping a budget. Such a budget would not only record what they spend, but would also set limits on what they would be allowed to spend.

Yet, in spiritual situations like our own, there seems to be an almost superhuman resistance to keeping schedules, budgets, or personal job lists.

I believe the reason for this overwhelming pressure to do away with such things is that people, in general, do not want to be accountable. They don't have much choice when it comes to their jobs, or to government regulations, and so they conform in those areas, even if they do so grudgingly. But in spiritual matters, it is far easier to at least think you can get away with not being accountable, because God doesn't immediately slap you in jail for failing to do what he has told you to do.

The devil works in a thousand different ways to make people rebel against accountability. Keeping them from making a list or some other objective measurement of their progress is one of the best ways to do that.

The arguments against such discipline always sound 'spiritual'. People argue that they want to be 'spontaneous' or 'flexible'; and they don't want to be under the 'law'. But the fruit of such an approach is pathetic, no matter what area of life you are considering.

Pentecostals are probably one of the worst groups of offenders in this area; and of all the various denominations, they also have one of the worst records with regard to unpaid debts, mental illness, and broken marriages amongst their membership.

Amongst Pentecostals, there are individuals and churches which try hard to overcome these deficits in their members, and they are to be commended for it. But they will never succeed if they accept a theology which justifies lack of accountability with regard to how we use our time and money. I believe that Pentecostals (or people of any other persuasion) who are genuinely trying to teach accountability, will applaud the overall message that we are trying to communicate through this study.

A number of our own community members have confided that they have a secret fantasy about a Bohemian or New Age type utopia where there are no rules, and yet everything works smoothly. This is the image that many people have when they first approach the idea of living in a Christian commune like our own. They want a world where everyone is nice to them, but where they don't have to make the same sacrifices to be nice in return. It is the number one reason why communes fail. Until we see where the Bohemian fantasy is leading, we will be forever double-minded about all the routine disciplines of living in a successful community. Things like budgets, schedules, and job lists will be left undone, or we will cheat on them whenever we get the chance.

Jesus said of his followers that their righteousness needed to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. No one has ever been more spiritual than Jesus; and yet he (and his followers) were also extremely disciplined... even to the point of laying down their lives for God and for others. He wants us to follow that example of discipline today, in order for our righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.

We have said in the past that our time is our life, and if we want to give our lives to God, then we must be willing to give him our time. Making a schedule or a job list is one way to measure just how much progress you are making in that direction. There really is nothing spiritually beneficial about spacing out and wasting time. It is one of the most insidious forms of suicide that the devil has ever devised. People go for hours, days, and finally years without really achieving anything, because they convince themselves that all God wants is for them to be undisciplined. Don't believe it. God is looking for "disciples" (i.e. "disciplined" people) and not for smiley airheads who wander around in a constant state of spiritual confusion.

If you see someone teaching anarchy, for example, but they seem to have their lives, their families, and maybe even their organisations together; then you can be sure that it did not come as a result of practising the anarchy that they preach. It came from discipline. It came from making lists of things that needed to be done, and then checking those lists to see if they had been accomplished. It came from setting goals, and then assessing whether or not they were reached. It came from making schedules, and then sticking to them (unless there was a genuine justification for making an exception). It came from keeping a budget and paying bills on time. It came from living within their means. You don't learn these sort of things from living in hippy communes. You learn them from other people who make you accountable. Parents who do not discipline their children will never raise children who are just naturally and spontaneously disciplined. If their children learn discipline at all, they will have to learn it from teachers who discipline them, employers who discipline them, military leaders who discipline them, or penal institutions that discipline them.

I'm not sure where we fit in on this list. Some see us as a family, and others see us as a prison. But either way, we are trying to teach our members discipline. Setting targets and making resolutions, and then keeping a record of how successful you have been in achieving your aims, is just one of many ways that we try to make people accountable for their spiritual progress. There are always aspects of spiritual growth which cannot be measured and which are purely between you and God. But wherever we can objectify progress, we seek to measure it. And the fruit of this approach has been greater progress.

Ask yourself whether you are praying more now than you did a year ago. Ask yourself if you are reading your Bible more. If you are getting along with other people better. If you are reaching more people for Christ. If you are doing more to help the poor. If you don't like these questions, make some of your own. Set goals for yourself, and then keep an account, to determine whether or not you are making progress. The Bible says that if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. And one of the best ways to do it is through such things as budgets, schedules, and job lists. Happy measuring!

(See also Thou Shalt Judge.)

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