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You Ain’t Done

April 15, 2016 — Leave a comment

ironclad

Your life is an amazing story. If somewhere along the way a great writer had been there to capture your finest moments or most bitter failures people would be captivated by it. Somebody, probably a lot of somebodies, would relate to what you went through, how you overcame, how you fell and got back up or how you have fallen and are trying to get back up right now.  You might not always appreciate it, you may not always feel like it, but you are awesome and what you do every day means something.

The greatest heroes of scripture were severely flawed yet went on to inspire and help change the lives of untold millions. In many cases it is their accomplishments despite their flaws that inspires us today. None of them, while in the midst of their challenges, had an idea of the impact they would have on so many people to come after them. Peter, a rough and tumble fisherman with a propensity for rash behavior. David, a shepherd, warrior and king exhibited the best and worst in all of us. Abraham, at times full of fear yet the father of our faith. All like us.

Their story is written yet the ripple effect continues on. As they lived their lives a great author documented their successes, their failures, the falling down and the getting up. That same great author documents our lives and our stories will be told for eternity. We battle in an arena as a great cloud of witnesses looks on, cheering our victories, sharing our defeats and anxiously awaiting our next move. We are clothed in armor and tested by the enemy. What we see as daily life, temptation, leading our families, sharing God’s love, extending forgiveness, receiving His grace when we fail, are seen as great victories from the heavens. Your story, YOU and what you do, is documented and will be revisited.

Maybe today there will be a pivotal moment that changes the course of yours, or someone else’s, life.  Maybe your mission in life is to lead your family and model for your children what it looks like to be a Christian man, full of flaws and imperfections but NOT GIVING UP. Maybe the most important thing you ever do will be to break a generational curse that has been in your family for years, abuse, neglect or an attitude of anger. Maybe you are the first man in your family to take his walk with the Lord seriously. Your daily actions will impact generations to come.

We, you and I, are Kings & Priests. We have the power to encourage one another, to lift one another up through prayer, a word of encouragement or just pitching in, getting our hands dirty and helping someone out.  That very act, by a faithful servant, was the catalyst that brought me back from the edge. (Thank you Mike.) We do not know the powerful impact our actions may have that may help change someone’s life forever, maybe change their family for generations to come.

Recently a friend from the Navy I hadn’t seen in 25 years stopped in for an overnight visit. He told me that if it wasn’t for my guidance and leadership back then he would not be where he is today. Despite me being a young chucklehead, what I invested into him, seemingly inconsequential at the time, would produce long term results. I am humbled. (Thank you Chris.)

My life is full of men who invested in me, my Dad, Tim Siddle, Jack Himschoot, Mike Leonard, Sherman Hare, Jamie Stilson and many more including my younger brother, Shannon. None of these men waited until they had their act together to invest in or encourage me. At the time, they had no idea that years later I would mention them in these terms. In the course of their everyday lives they chose to invest in or encourage me despite the “Prone to wander” tattoo I should have across my forehead.  Those men share in the legacy that, through God, I am creating in my family; the same way that I share in my friend Chris’ legacy that he is creating in his family.

Jesus is our example, He did something amazing for us before we knew Him. If we will let His love shine through us, by the way we live our lives, the words we say and the things we do, our ripple effect can go on for generations in our families, and others, for His glory. Please join me and ask God for the eyes to see and ears to hear where He needs us and then take action. Lend a hand, get involved, go out of your way to encourage someone, invite someone to church. The little things we do can have long term impact.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

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Lay Down My Life?

April 13, 2015 — Leave a comment

man vs lion

Gun to your head, would you take this bullet so that your child would live? What man would say no to that? Given that extreme scenario we all think we would lay down our lives for our children. Thankfully, the chances are strong you never have to make that sacrifice.

How about this one, can you get home from work and go outside to play with your kids? Can you write a hand written letter to your adult children telling them you are proud of them?  Can you get your butt off the couch and go fishing with your 13 year old son? Maybe you don’t need to watch 5 hours of the 2015 Masters Tournament.

OUCH!

I’m not busting your chops, I know you work hard and need your down time. As a matter of fact, each of these examples are from my life and are specific examples of my own shortcomings. I work 6 days every week, leave the house about 6am and get home about 6:15pm. On Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings we go to church. Every other week I devote about 9 hours to preaching at an assisted living community. Who has time? When I’m off work I want to relax!

Guess what, my kids don’t care about that. They would rather have a Dad who plays with them. Who is raising our kids if we’re not investing significant time into their lives? I just read a biography that a son wrote about his dad, he said, “My dad invented quality time.” The conviction set in, my children would not say the same thing.

You’re not going to believe this but guess who else needs my time? My wife. Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…” Note the words, “…gave Himself for her…” I suspect that means we have to give ourselves to our wives, our time, out attention, our energies, our very lives. Not in the dramatic way that one might lay down his life to save a woman from an escaped lion but in the mundane way that one might give up 3 hours of the NFL to go shopping with one’s wife.

Fortunately Ephesians goes on to say why we should give ourselves up for our wives, “So that she may be awesome.” “So that she may be everything you want her to be.” I’m paraphrasing but that’s what it says. Read it.

“Yeah but it also says that she should submit to us! RESPECT us!” Yes, it does say that, however, the model that Jesus laid out for us is that He did His part first. He fully committed to His part and His bride is coming along slowly. Jesus also tells us in Luke 6:42 that we should fully deal with our own shortcomings before we worry about someone else’s. We are to lead the way, by example.

I know it can be hard to put aside what we want, what we feel we have earned, and put someone else’s needs before our own. I am not good at it but I recognize that God is calling me to maturity. We are called to be more like Jesus and He gave sacrificially, out of love, willingly. It can hurt to sacrifice like that but the rewards are far greater than the sacrifice.

Who Told You That?

December 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

Doubting Man

Who Told You That?

When our kids are young we are always careful about what we expose them to, who they hang out with, what they watch. If they say something out of line we have all said many times, “Where did you hear that?” We want to know.

Sometimes one of the kids will utter some bit of nonsense like, “Vampires are real” and I’ll ask them, “Who told you that?” We want to know where that information came from and we want to set the record straight. I’m sure you can all relate.

We are concerned with where our children are getting their information. When we allow our kids to spend time with other people we trust those people aren’t going to be filling their heads with garbage. I personally, and I’m sure you can relate, am careful about who & what I expose my kids to.  They don’t need to know everything that goes on in the world.

In Genesis 3 we read the account of satan deceiving Eve, she gives the fruit to Adam, they have disobeyed God, “…their eyes were opened…” and they knew sin.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? (Or “Who told you that?”)

Inherent in God’s question to Adam are other questions, “When He asks, “Who told you that?” He is also saying, “Did I tell you that?” Did whoever told you that have your best interest in mind, did they breathe your very life into you?

When God comes walking back into the garden He asks a couple of things, both of which He already knows the answer to;

  1. Where are you?
  2. Who told you that…?

The Bible gives us no indication how long Adam and Eve had been in the garden up to this point but we do know this; God created them both, he had a relationship with them and fellowshipped with them, apparently face to face or quite closely.  YET, despite the fact that they had a loving Father who had their very best interest in mind and gave them excellent advice they chose to take the advice or instruction of another.  I don’t know for sure how long Adam and Eve were in the garden but based on their behavior, I think they were teenagers.

I have considered many times that there is no need to be hard on Adam and Eve, if the world had been perfect up until I was in the garden I surely would have messed it up for the rest of you.

I want to take a moment and consider God’s question to Adam, “Who told you that?”

They had been walking around exactly the way God made them, exactly the way that God intended them to be when someone else came in and someone came in and ruined it…

Gen 3

3 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Good & Evil. Do you think Adam and Eve knew good already? What was the purpose of eating the fruit?

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, (physically appealing) and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.

Wise? Is this what makes us wise? Knowing good and evil?

Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  It doesn’t say, “The knowledge of what’s evil is the beginning of wisdom and understanding comes from knowing about all the evil that goes on in the world.”

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”

The fruit of that tree did not make her wise, it showed her what evil was, that’s what she wanted.

We don’t need to spend our time listening to what satan has to say, to keep track of his exploits and to make sure they don’t come near our house.  “Oh but I gotta know what’s going on” or you might say, “My knowledge of good isn’t enough, I need to know about evil too.”  Just like Eve said.

Here’s what Paul has to say in his letter to the church at Phillipi,

Philippians 4

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

God does not tell us to learn everything we can about what’s evil, to study it and understand it; He says, “…meditate on these things.”

I’m not saying there’s no such thing as Ebola or crime or distress,  I’m saying that spending 2 hours of your day listening to reports about it is not only a waste of time but it is the very thing, the very thing that God was trying to protect His children from, the knowledge of evil, focusing on what the enemy  is doing or what he has to say.

Who told us that focusing on the evil in the world was ok? God says, “Who told you that?”

Adam and Eve were walking around in the garden naked and happy. Their desire to be like God, specifically, to know about evil, changed everything. After they disobeyed God they knew what evil was.

What has the enemy been whispering in your ear?

I am not saying that there isn’t evil, sickness and crime. I’m saying that He who is in us is GREATER than He who is in the world!! We need to shift our focus…focus “…on whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 …….. and the God of peace will be with you.”

“The God of peace will be with you…IF…You meditate one these things” That’s a promise from the Bible.

A Wandering Eye

October 25, 2014 — 2 Comments

??????

Right after I got saved, a gentleman in his mid-seventies helped me put my wandering eye into perspective. I asked him, “How old do you have to be before a beautiful woman no longer catches your eye?” He said, “You’ll have to ask somebody older than me.”

I have to admit that his response was not a comfort to me. “So you’re saying that this could go on for a while?”  Apparently God made men to appreciate a well put together woman.  Well then, why did Jesus say, “… anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Jesus understands how our minds work.  In James chapter 1 we see that, “…each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”  The key point here is, “carried away by his own lust.” If we see a woman and then take a moment or two to ponder & further appreciate the details of her specific structure, perhaps considering the possibilities, we have moved into sin.

Alternatively, if we “…take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ”  (2Cor10:5), right up front, immediately, we can avoid this.  I am not claiming this is easy, especially as we are initially training ourselves, perhaps even after years of training. It is, however, vital.

We have plenty of opportunities to either accept or reject thoughts that are presented to us. The battleground is in the mind, the weapons are spiritual and the enemy is not our flesh but satan and his host of chuckleheads.

There is no shortage of Christian men who have indulged in their fantasies and those fantasies have led to their destruction.  Make no mistake, the place to handle this issue is immediately, as the thought springs up. Ending up in bed with someone you shouldn’t be with isn’t the result of a bad decision, it is the result of many bad decisions. Those decisions started as a thought, pondered on, entertained, mulled over, revisited and finally acted on.

Consider King David, he was already on a slippery slope when he gazed upon a bathing Bathsheba. David was home when he should have been out with his men, he had multiple wives in direct violation of God’s law and he had concubines . At this point in his life David was obviously given to self-indulgence.  Bathsheba wasn’t his ruin, all the other things he had allowed in his life up to that point led to his ruin. When he considered Bathsheba he had already established a pattern of indulgence in his life. Bathsheba was the natural progression.

I’ve heard it said, “Men either struggle with lust or lie about struggling with lust.” I don’t know if that’s true but I know that every man I have spoken to about the subject has had challenges. Here’s the good news, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” “All things are possible with God” “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2Cor10:4), “…we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us…”(Rom8:37) and “God stands over His word to perform it.” (Jer1:12). How about this, ““My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor12:9).  Those are some promises from God that we should continually speak over our lives.

Here are just a few practical things we can do to keep our walk where it needs to be.

  1. Immerse ourselves in His word. Our minds need to be cleansed, renewed, continually. Romans 12:2 says, “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. Our mind is renewed by the word of God. Attending church is a given. Additionally, use your commute to and/or from work to listen to teaching CD’s. I PROMISE you it will make a difference in your life.
  2. Keep a short account with God. Our first inclination may not be to run to God when we sin but it should be. “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” God already knows, you might as well get before Him and make it right and move forward. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John1:9). God is not sick and tired of hearing you repent even though you may be sick and tired of having to repent. Your previous sin is as far from you as the east is from the west if you brought it to Him. It doesn’t accumulate, it is GONE. He made provision for your sin and He said, “My grace is sufficient for you and my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Jesus took that sin on Himself and nailed it to a cross. DONE.
  3. Get in relationship with another man, or men, and support one another. You are not alone in your temptations or your propensities. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man…” (1Cor10:13) Satan wants you to feel alone and offers the stinking wet blanket of Shame to put on. Shame is a cheap imitation of Godly conviction that brings us to repentance and then goes away.

Build a strong relationship with another Godly man and “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (Jam1:16) BAM! Get ahold of that! How about this, “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.” And, “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecc4) I could go on, “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another.” (Pro27:17)

God has given us an amazing gift, woman. He has told us how to appreciate her (Eph5:25), He made us to connect in so many wonderful ways, He has given us a license to do so and He commands that we do it within the bounds of marriage. Jesus Himself was tempted in every way that we are and fully understands our temptations. He took our sins upon Him and through Him we have strength to overcome as well as His grace and forgiveness when we fail. Don’t let satan kick your ass. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Paul said, “…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phi3:13,14). “Forgetting what is behind…” means getting up after you fall down, recommit and “straining toward what is ahead…” PRESS ON BROTHERS! Can I get an “Amen!”?

Does God Need You?

Recently I was wondering if God needs me. It seems silly now that I am putting it into words. He is GOD, He can make anything happen that He wants to happen and, me, I can’t get through the day without breaking something.

As I was pondering the issue my head was flooded with images of my wife and kids. I want them to know what a loving father is. I want them to see how a man should treat his wife and lead his family so it might be natural behavior for them later. I hope I can model how a man should walk with the Lord in his daily life.  God can use me to do all of those things but it is impossible for me to do it without Him.

God uses people to accomplish His mission. Obviously the same creator that made the “heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them” could raise our children without us but that is not His way. His plan is that we are involved, we raise our children with purpose and under His instruction. Even if our children do not live under our roofs we have the same responsibility.

God could also bypass us and use some other means of calling our friends and co-workers into the kingdom. Amazingly, His plan involves us walking out our Christian lives in front of them, loving them and sharing our faith with them. His end of the deal is that He will prepare their hearts to receive the message. Even as we ourselves are learning to deal with the issues of our own flesh, He wants to use us to bring the His message of love to others.

Consider the people in your life, your family and the people you see regularly. These people make up your “oikos”. Oikos is an ancient Greek word that generally means “household”. Wikipedia says the modern application means people that regularly, “…share some sort of social interaction, be it through conversation or simple relation…”

These are the people who are potentially within our sphere of influence. God doesn’t need us to reach our oikos but He has called us to and we are each uniquely placed and gifted to have an impact within that group.

If each one of us would begin to pray for people in our oikos God will create opportunities for us to share our faith with them or maybe just invite them to church. If those people know you are a Christian, they are already watching you. They are wondering what is up with you and most of them have no idea exactly what you believe and why you believe it.  There are people you already know that are curious about your faith but probably would never ask you about it.

I have invited people to church and many have not come, some have. Most of the people I have shared my faith with didn’t immediately come to Christ, a few eventually did. Recently a former coworker sent me an email thanking me for telling him about Jesus almost 20 years ago. It didn’t immediately stick but it was a seed that grew. I know I need to do a better job of telling people about God’s amazing grace, inviting people to come to church and being more faithful with the opportunities I’m given. God doesn’t need me to do that but I feel the need to express my love for Him in that way. Ironically, I can’t even show my love for Him without His help. I need Him.

Divorced and Christian.

Divorce hurts. Almost everyone reading this has been affected by divorce.  You know the pain, it fades but can leave a raw nerve that heals slowly. Although God hates divorce He loves people and He is in the healing business.

The church is not immune from divorce. About 50% of 1st marriages in the US end in divorce but Focus on the Family reports that couples who “…generally take their faith seriously…”, (that means work at it) have about a 38% divorce rate.  I have seen figures that say the divorce rate is the same or higher inside the church as outside but there is a difference between people who call themselves Christians and people who take their faith seriously. (Read the article)

My parents divorced after 18 years and I went through divorce myself after 9 years of marriage. I have since remarried, am working on my 19th year of marriage and incredibly blessed with a great wife who I have 4 children with. However, the years I lost with my first two sons are gone. While our relationship today is very good we went through some difficult times as I struggled with my responsibilities to my sons vs my responsibilities to my new, growing family.

I know the pain of seeing my sons under another man’s care. Seeing my sons living in a situation that I didn’t approve of broke my heart. Hearing about them being spanked by their mother’s boyfriend enraged me. Listening to them call me out on my own poor decisions was humbling, convicting and heart breaking.

Many of you know what it is like to have your young children living under a roof besides your own. You know the difficulty trying to parent children who live under two sets of rules. You live with the split time on holidays and the animosity as you or her explore new relationships. The lingering hurt feelings often make it difficult to sort out issues that seem like they should be more easily managed. Divorce sucks and, like other scenarios, we seldom see the end results in the beginning of the process.

We all make mistakes in our lives but it is the mistakes that hurt other people, especially our kids, which hurt the worst. The good news is that God’s mercies are new every day and every moment of our lives is a new chance to start over. I love the saying, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”  The moment we turn to God asking for help, the process of healing and restoration starts. The visible results of that process, especially in other people, often take longer than we think they should.

I have a friend who continuously wishes his ex-wife would act more reasonably. His sentiments are no doubt shared by most men and women in similar situations. My feedback to him is always the same, “Stop worrying about her, focus on what you need to do.” Taking care of what we need to do, pressing into God, deepening that relationship, leading by example and “taking care of the plank in our own eye before worrying about the speck” in someone else’s is the only way we can move forward.

Regardless of our current circumstances, as we commit to developing our relationship with God, we can live out a model for our children to emulate. If, by our actions, we can show them a life worth living maybe they don’t have to make some of the same mistakes we made. I don’t want my children to be spared the challenges that result in growth but I pray that each of them avoids the pain of divorce.  I am committed to living for Him and showing my children the beauty of a life and a marriage that is Christ centered. Please God, help me walk that out.

Brothers

When I first got saved I had a lot of deep questions like, “Who am I going to hang out with?” It was quickly apparent that most of my friends weren’t immediately interested in the same commitment I had just made and I was sure the church was not filled with men I’d be able to relate to.

Turns out the church is filled with men who are also working on developing a closer relationship with God. Men working through their own issues but heading in one direction.  Like any group there are naturally people we are more inclined to gravitate toward on a personal level. Regardless of how I might feel about the personalities of other men in church, I do share something with most of them; we are committed to developing a closer, biblical, relationship with God. This is like the trump card that covers everything else.

My faith is in Christ, not my friends but I need my close friends to help me walk out my faith.  I appreciate their encouragement. I appreciate that they check in with me through the week and see how I am. I am grateful that there is someone out there taking my name to the God in prayer. I am grateful that some ask me the hard questions and I am committed to being honest with them. I am not friends with every man in my church. However, I could develop a close relationship with any man in my church that has a sincere desire to follow Christ. Not only that, but I need those kind of friendships and so does he.

When we find ourselves, alone, isolated and answering to no one, we are in danger. This is another example of God’s way being different than man’s way. The world often portrays the self-made, pull yourself up the bootstraps man as the ultimate man; going it alone and ultimately alone and victorious on a mountaintop. The heroes of the Bible are humble, rely on God’s strength, God’s wisdom and they have strong relationships with other godly men.

In Mark 6 Jesus sends out the 12 in pairs of two. In Luke 10 Jesus sends out 72 men in pairs. The apostles often traveled in pairs and we see them relying on one another throughout the New Testament. Moses had Aaron. When David was home alone, not surrounded by other men, he didn’t do so well.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” James tells us, “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Proverbs is full of advice about Godly friendships including, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” 27:17, “A righteous man is cautious in friendship” 12:26, and “A friend loves at all times…”17:17.

There are also many cautions about who we are friends with and who we spend our time around. While Jesus is commonly known as a “friend of sinners” it is because he knew they needed salvation. He said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.”

One of my pastors was recently explaining how our church is a welcoming, diverse place. To look around our congregation you would see the homeless, the affluent and everyone in between. The intent is that the church is open to those seeking and welcomes people who are looking for answers. We welcome the hurt and broken who are looking for something and they don’t even know what it is except relief from their pain and confusion. The answer is the peace, love and warm embrace of a loving Father. Jesus meets seeking people with love in their time of need and then calls them into relationship and discipleship. Our relationships should reflect the same thing.

Jesus spent considerable time alone with God. He invested Himself in relationships with people that were trying to grow. He had little time for the religious, self-righteous, condescending “haters” of the day. He was open to all but loved them too much to leave them as He found them.  He was the influencer, not the influenced. He was the salt, He seasoned His surroundings and encourages us in the same endeavor.

Christ is our model in all things and His relationships are no exception.  Men, to grow in our faith, lead our families and finish this race strong we must have close relationships with a few Godly men. The place to find those men is in church. To instigate and develop those relationships may require leaving our comfort zone and it will require time and effort. The cost of not developing these relationships is stagnancy or failure. The benefits are strong relationships with true brothers.