Archives For marriage

Jesus had 12, I have 11

February 16, 2018 — 3 Comments

From the time I was 19 until I was 33 years old I was in the US Navy and surrounded primarily by men. It was no wonder that when I got saved, at about age 30, I sought out Christian men to disciple me. I didn’t know the Christian lingo back then so that really meant, “Help me to understand what just happened and what I am supposed to do now.”

Promise Keepers was in full effect back then and we went to giant conferences, had weekly meetings at church and generally chatted about Christ centered things. I was introduced to concepts like sexual purity, not partying like a rock star and not cussing like a sailor. Yay! I was also introduced to pure, unconditional love, my sins washed white as snow and the unimaginable joy of Heaven. (I choose the latter while admittedly struggling with the former.)

The influence and caring of those men was key to my early Christian walk and I am forever grateful for them. Over the last 23 years and through the course of my intermittently hot, warm and cold walk with Christ the influence of Christian men has been crucial to my survival.

Why can’t I just be an awesome Christian man without other men being all up in my business? Why does isolation from them equate to a walk down a slippery slope? I suspect it’s like Paul said in Romans 7, I want to be pure and holy, “But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me.” He goes on to say that Jesus delivers him. Based on the entirety of his comments I take that to mean that Jesus’ work has washed his sins away.

Jesus modeled this fellowship with other men in that while he had many disciples he had 12 that He primarily hung out with and they relied on one another. I’ve previously written, “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.”

My answer to this comes in the form of a men’s group formed through Christian Leadership Concepts (CLC).  CLC is a nationwide, interdenominational, men’s ministry that, “…challenges men to an uncommon pursuit of Christ. We facilitate small groups of committed believers who refuse to be satisfied with the status quo and desire a deeper relationship with Christ.”

Eleven of us have committed to a 2 year journey to walk out our lives together, to dive into the scriptures and to read and discuss a collection of books we are working through. Between us I think we represent 10 or 11 different churches. We meet weekly from 6-8am on Wednesday mornings and walk through this process. During the week we call each other and participate in group texts offering mutual encouragement, prayer requests and funny things we find online. I’ve personally, and deservedly, been encouraged to refrain from late night group texting, sorry Bryan.

I got this phone call yesterday, “Jimmy my boy! I just landed in New Jersey and wanted to give you a call to see how you’re doing.”  I am being prayed for, encouraged and befriended. As I reread that it sounds a little hokey but I don’t care. I’m grateful. One guy  sometimes sets his phone alarm to pray for me three times a day! Brothers, this kind of encouragement in your life can be a game changer.

While I strongly recommend the CLC program I have been involved in other men’s groups and I think the important thing is that every Christian man is involved with a group of men. Jesus models it and the examples of this principle run throughout the Bible.

We are in a battle with an enemy who is constantly on the prowl seeking to destroy us. He knows our weaknesses and seeks to cut us from the pack like a lion isolating an injured water buffalo and ruin our lives. While we cannot be snatched from the Lord’s hand many are led away by their own desires. (I recall the vampires I saw in comic books as a child who could only come in if you let them.) We open the door to the enemy through our thoughts, what we look at, what we listen to and who we spend our time with.

Having men in your lives who know our struggles is invaluable. We call it “opening the kimono”, it ain’t pretty and it’s embarrassing. As a matter of fact, right before our group was set to kick off with a fellowship and “opening the kimono” session I called my friend, and the President of CLC, and said, “These guys aren’t ready for what I’ve got to say. I don’t want to become their project they need to fix.”  He assured me they could handle it and that my story wasn’t as unique as I might imagine. He was right. We’re men, there’s nothing new.

A couple short months into our weekly meetings we are growing closer, studying, encouraging and forming new friendships. While, on one hand, I’m still a dumpster fire of a Christian man on the other hand I have peace knowing that my righteousness is because of Jesus, I am not condemned and I am being transformed by the power of the gospel, even after being saved for over 20 years.

If your church doesn’t have a men’s group that meets regularly and deals with the real stuff you need one. If you need help joining one or putting one together let me know. It could save your life.

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Gods followers.jpg

I can’t decide where I land on the funny-to-sad ratio of that bumper sticker.

Imagine if every Christian walked around totally at peace, full of joy and the trademarks of us all were faithfulness and reliability. Would there be more Christians?

It’s easy for us to look outward, “If those people would only act like Christians!” “If that TV evangelist wasn’t always asking for money.” “If only that pastor didn’t sleep with his secretary.” THEN the world would change its opinion about being Christian. Those things may be true but, that ain’t The Plan.

The Plan: Abide in the vine (Jn15:4), be transformed (2Cor3:18), let your light shine (Mt5:16) don’t worry about what others are doing, work on yourself (Lk6:42). Sounds easy, lol.

As we work on the above (a lifetime process) we will start to reflect God’s grace in our lives. As Moses spent time with the Lord his skin actually glowed, as we connect, abide and spend time with the Lord we’ll be transformed and the evidence of that will be the fruit of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22 “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

The Bible alternately likens us to a branch or a tree or a vine; connected to Christ, getting our sustenance from Him and, like a tree, producing fruit in keeping with our source. In Matthew 7 Jesus says that Christian imitators will produce bad fruit and His disciples will produce good fruit.  That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self control.

I recently asked myself the question, “Would the people that know me best attribute the fruit of the Spirit to me?”  I hate to admit that I regularly fall short on multiple fronts.  My 16 year old son probably would not tell you that I am the most patient person he’s ever met. As a matter of fact, I recently wanted to buy a shirt that said, “Can we hurry this up?” I have other issues too, really, I could go on.

This realization effected me to such a degree that I recently sat my family down and apologized to them and let them know that I was working on this.  Seriously, what good is my faith if the people that know me the best think I’m an idiot? I picture God saying, “Yeah….he’s not with Me…” or as Jesus put it in Matthew 7, “22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

I want my life to reflect Jesus to others.  My wife and children, who I cannot fool, should see the fruit of the Spirit in me to such a degree that they want what I got. My light should shine to the point that it leads others out of darkness. My life and my countenance should provoke the unsaved to jealously. I’ve got a long way to go but, praise God, I’m not where I started.  I encourage you to join this broken vessel as I try to be consistent about my quiet time, allow His strength to be made perfect in my weakness and pray that my life reflects the fruit of the Spirit. C’mon!

Gods wisdom

Recently I’ve been coming across the theme of God’s wisdom, made available to me day to day. Sign me up! I need all the help I can get!

1 Corinthians 2 talks about “…the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages…” and that we have access to this through the Holy Spirit.

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God … and it will be given to you.”

The next verse says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” That part sounds important.

Jesus promises guidance from the Holy Spirit, John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, …He will teach you all things…” I’d like to know all things.

2 Corinthians 2:16 says, “…we have the mind of Christ.”

Clearly God has promised us wisdom, guidance and to teach us everything we need to know.  Why do we flounder then?

The first thing we need to ask ourselves is, “Am I communicating with God?” Like every other healthy relationship, communication with our Father is a two-way exchange. The occasional foxhole prayer (like Peter’s as he was sinking, “Lord, save me!”)  is necessary but if that constitutes our prayer life we’re in trouble.

Jesus is our example and He, “…frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.” (Luke 5:16) He was in constant communication with the Father, as we should be. Regularly getting alone with God, making our requests known and listening is real communication and will produce the fruit of His wisdom.

I’ve recently committed to 7 minutes a day for 21 days and I admit to having challenges taking 7 minutes every day. It seems ludicrous as I reread this but I know I’m not alone in this struggle.

As we make a habit of meeting with the Lord we will hear His voice more clearly, the sheep know the shepherd’s voice because they’ve spent time with him. Jesus promises the same thing.  As I enter into 2018 I am committing to set regular time aside to pray and listen. I bet if you join me we’ll see a very different 2018.

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.