accountability (3)

Escaping from Your Personal Groundhog Day

Lately I’ve met lots of people who seem to be perpetually stuck in Groundhog Day. You’ve probably seen the classic 1993 movie starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. Murray plays a weatherman named Phil who’s assigned to cover the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He finds himself stuck in a time loop, forcing him to reexamine his life and priorities.

Day after day, Phil wakes up to the same Groundhog Day reality, with a chance to make better choices this time. It soon becomes clear that he won’t escape until he gets things right.  

When I first saw the film, I didn’t realize how significant its message was. Just another mindless comedy, it seemed to me. Yet in 2006 the movie was added to the United States National Film Registry, deemed to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Now that I look back, my perspective on the movie has changed. I think it became popular because many of us can relate to the experiences faced by Bill Murray’s character. Even though we may not be caught in a time loop, we find ourselves stuck in some area of our life.

What about you? Do you currently find yourself trapped in some kind of Groundhog Day experience? Perhaps you are…

  • Having the same relationship struggles over and over.
  • Repeatedly making the same financial mistakes.
  • Dealing with recurring health problems that you’re unable to shake.
  • Battling cyclical addictions.
  • Experiencing periodic bouts of negative emotions, such as depression, loneliness, or anger.

Many people in the Bible experienced Groundhog Day of one kind or another. Jacob frequently had a problem with lying. Joseph faced recurring episodes of injustice. The Israelites spent 40 years traveling in circles in the desert. David and many of the prophets had some pretty severe mood swings at times.

Thankfully, though, the Bible provides numerous tips for escaping from Groundhog Day. Someday I’m going to write an entire book on how to get UNSTUCK…but for now I’ll just share a few brief insights. It’s interesting that many of these were eventually discovered by Bill Murray’s character in the movie.

  1. Face the truth about your present condition. Jesus promised that the truth will set us free if we’re willing to fully embrace it (John 8:32). But this means we must drop our excuses and rationalizations. You see, it’s not just a coincidence that we find ourselves dealing with the same problems again and again.
  2. Quit blaming others. We all have a tendency to blame-shift, but that’s a sure way to remain stuck. It’s time to stop saying all your failed relationships are simply because the other people are so dysfunctional. And if you’ve never been able to keep a job for more than a few months, it’s probably not the fault of all your employers.
  3. Get some help. Perhaps this means you should hire a good counselor, but that’s not necessarily what I mean here. It’s often even better to have at least one or two real friends who will love you enough to tell you the truth and hold you accountable for the needed changes.
  4. Don’t give up. When you’re stuck in Groundhog Day, it’s tempting to give up hope. You feel like simply resigning yourself to the belief that things will never change. But take some time to let these words from the apostle Paul change your perspective: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Look at what this is saying…

Now… You must have a sense of urgency if you truly want to change. Don’t procrastinate!

…the God of hope… Unless God is involved, difficult circumstances frequently look hopeless. But when you recognize that He’s with you and is available to help, there’s always hope.

…all joy and peace in believing. Your joy and peace will return as soon as you put your eyes back on the Lord and begin to believe His promises again.

…abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. You may have already tried 1,000 times to escape Groundhog Day in your own strength. But everything changes when you allow yourself to be filled with the power of God’s Spirit. The secret is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27), and that’s the only way lasting change will come.  

You don’t have to wait for me to complete my book on how to get unstuck. Today can be the day you face the truth about your circumstances and believe God’s promises for better days ahead. Then you can wake up tomorrow morning with fresh appreciation for the One who is able to make ALL things new (Revelation 21:5).

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Getting My Calluses Back

A few years ago, I shared with a friend how I used to enjoy playing guitar and leading worship in my early days as a Christian.

“Do you still play?” she asked.

“Oh no, I gave that up long ago,” I replied.

Showing her the finger tips on my left hand, I continued, “See, I don’t even have calluses anymore.”

It was a pretty straightforward conversation—or so I thought. But as I was praying later that day, I distinctly heard the Lord tell me, “Jim, if you had more calluses on your fingers, you would have fewer calluses on your heart.”

How convicting! I saw that when I laid down my guitar several decades ago, I also began to drift away from intimacy with the Lord in my private worship times.

Then a few weeks ago, I was sharing this story with a friend named Justin, and he perceptively asked me, “So, Jim, did you get your calluses back after that?”

I was horrified to admit that I’d taken no action at all after God so clearly rebuked me. But I assured my friend that I wouldn’t procrastinate any longer.

“The next time you see me, make sure to ask me about my calluses,” I urged him. “If I still haven’t picked up my guitar and started worshiping the Lord in my personal devotions, tell me I’m a hypocrite!”

Thankfully, I’ve taken action this time. I’m getting my calluses back, ready for my friend to ask me that question.

Both my guitar playing and my worship are very rusty, however. I’ve found that it takes a while to develop calluses on your fingers again—or to remove them from your heart.

Don’t expect to see me leading worship in public anytime soon. I’ve long since recognized that other people are far more gifted.

But I want to make private worship a more intentional part of my life, regularly listening for God’s voice and asking Him to soften my heart.

Quoting Isaiah 6:10, Jesus warned about the danger of allowing calluses to form on our hearts:   (Matthew 13:15). What a tragic condition. Yet all too common, I’m afraid.

Like calluses on our fingers, callused hearts develop gradually, over time. If the condition progresses, we ultimately find ourselves in a situation just as the Bible predicts: spiritually unable to hear or see.

If you notice calluses on your heart today, the key isn’t necessarily to develop calluses on your fingers instead. But the process is working for me.

One thing is for sure: Without regularly experiencing God’s presence, our hearts will inevitably grow hard. Like a desert that seldom experiences rain, we become spiritually dry and emotionally barren.

If you truly want to reverse hardness of heart, here’s a homework assignment: Read Psalm 95 in its entirely and ask the Lord to restore you to a heart of worship…listening…and responding. Write down what He tells you to do, and find a friend like Justin to hold you accountable to do it.

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Need to Change Something?  Find an Accountability Partner (Part 1)


“Ok, I am going to hold you accountable to do what you said you were going to do!”  In a tone that never had much grace this is how my friends and I would attempt to “encourage” each other in our walk with Christ and in trying to live out our spiritual disciplines.  I used to think that accountability meant railing on someone for not doing what they said they were going to do but then I read something that changed my way of thinking… dramatically.   Our Community Group at church has been going through a series entitled, “Instruments in the Hands of the Redeemer.”  This Biblically based, gospel-centered study equips people to learn how to minister to others and help them change (i.e. incarnational ministry).  This last week we read about accountability.  Below is an excerpt from our study guide written by Paul Tripp and Tim Lane.  Take a look at it and then see if maybe your understanding of Biblical accountability has changed.  This is Part 1.  In Part 2 we will look at how this actually looks in holding someone accountable for certain actions.  Feel free to leave a comment.


As change is applied to daily living, the Bible gives us two things to remember. First, as we help restore a person to where God wants him to be, we should “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). We are also told that we should “encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13). These passages have much to offer us as we think about accountability

  • Accountability is not about being a private detective.
  • It is not about trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • It is not about being someone’s conscience.
  • It is not about forcing someone to obey.
  • It is not about chasing someone who is running or looking for someone who is hiding.

    Accountability is about providing loving structure, guidance, assistance, encouragement, and warning to a person who is fully committed to the change God is working in his life. Let’s look at these five elements of accountability.


1. Accountability provides structure. Life is often messy and chaotic. Change seems easier when being discussed than it does when being applied to life. Accountability provides an outside system of structure (“Do these things during this period of time”) that can be immensely helpful to the person attempting something for the first time.

2. Accountability provides guidance. Often a person will want to do what is right but won’t be sure how to do it. At these times it is a great benefit to have someone standing alongside to provide ongoing wisdom as to the “where,” “when,” and “how” of change.

3. Accountability provides assistance. There are times when the person is not able to make the needed changes alone (example: a difficult talk with a wife, friend, child) and he literally needs someone there with him, helping him make the changes that are needed.

4. Accountability provides encouragement. Change is difficult and people get beaten down. They are tempted to question their commitments or even to quit. In these times, they need someone they trust alongside them, who knows their situation and who can encourage them to continue.

5. Accountability provides warning. There are times when people confess the need for change, but then begin to rebel against it when they realize the cost and work involved. These people need to be warned of the consequences that their disobedience and rebellion will bring. They need to be reminded that they will harvest what they have sown (Galatians 6:7).

Accountability is not about chasing a person who does not want to change or trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the willingness to provide ongoing help to the person who is fully committed to the “put off/put on” process.

There are three questions to ask as you seek to provide ongoing


1. What kinds of ongoing help will this person need?

2. How often will I need to be in contact with him for change to continue?

3. Are there other resources in the Body of Christ that would be helpful during this period of change? How can I connect this person to those resources?

Remember, as the person begins to apply new insights and new commitments to his situations and relationships, it is important to remind him of his identity in Christ and to provide ongoing accountability.

THE BIG QUESTION: Do you help others bear the burden of change by providing biblical accountability and affirming their identity in Christ?


All for Jesus,


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