Archives For parenting

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!

Stressing Over Christmas

December 21, 2017 — Leave a comment

Christmas stress

How ironic is it that as we celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace many of us are consumed with stress? Talk about using the Lord’s name in vain. It would be like someone wanting to celebrate your birthday by beating your children. How backwards are we?

There is no getting around the fact that Christmas has morphed into a retail nightmare and that’s not changing anytime soon. However, as Christians, we could insert some sanity into the picture, at least in our own lives.

How can we alleviate holiday stress? Here’s a couple thoughts…

Pray. OMG, has it come to this? Yes, it’s number one for a reason.  Philippians 4:6,7 Says that there is inexplicable peace in continually and humbly talking to God, being thankful and asking him for what we want. It may not even make sense but that’s why it’s called peace that “passes all understanding.” That’s a promise from the Bible.

Remember Jesus. It would bring me to tears to see my children stressing out, going into debt and beating each other up at Wal Mart under the guise of celebrating my birthday. As the Lorax speaks for the tress I speak for Jesus on this. If you doubt me, and if you know me at all you should, see Matthew 6:34, Proverbs 22:7, John 13:35 & Luke 12:24-26. If He is the reason for the season we should honor Him as we celebrate His birthday.

Practicing these two things should keep us busy and help peace to at least creep into our households. But, and it’s a big Santa sized butt, we are called to more than taking care of ourselves. We are called to be a light to the world and what better time than Christmas? Here’s one more thought…

Shine. Let the world know that you are at peace and happy to be celebrating Christmas! Provoke the world to envy with your joy! If you’re happy and you know it tell your face! We are celebrating what is arguably the most joyous event in human history. Luke 1:10 “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” As Christians, the celebration of the birth of Jesus should be one of the year’s highlights.

I’ve been guilty of reeking stress around Christmas but today I choose not to participate. I have too much to be thankful for and Jesus is at the top of that list.

I’m not pretending that financial pressures, expectations, loneliness and depression aren’t real or that they are simply whisped away by Christmas elves. Many of us have known real hardship around the holidays, “In this world you will have troubles…” says Jesus. He’s talking about real troubles, the hard stuff. He goes on to say, “…But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He encourages us to lift up our chin, put a smile on our face and walk in His peace. I prefer that.

Merry Christmas Brothers.

 

Just Fishin?

December 19, 2017 — Leave a comment

Cyan Fishing

A couple weeks ago I took my 10 year old daughter to a Tennessee Titans NFL game. I sent my buddy, Tony, a picture and he said, “She thinks you’re just fishing.”  His comment was a reference to a country song, “Just Fishin” by Trace Adkins. The song tells the story of a father taking his little girl fishing and, while she thinks they’re just “drownin’ worms and killin’ time” he appreciates that there is more at work, they are strengthening bonds and making memories.

I love my Titans but the time I spent with my little girl that day was bigger than watching Derrick Henry break off a 75 yard run to put the game out of reach. We were strengthening our relationship while sharing the majesty of a Titans win.

My father in law got me addicted to fishing and now that passion runs deep in our family. My teenage son and I often fish together. When we get out there in a stream there are no discussions about household issues, we just enjoy the experience and each other’s company. He thinks we’re just fishin’ but we’re also investing in our relationship.

My Dad and I get along great, but we had some rocky years early on and there may be old scars from that but now-a-days, we go fishin’.  We usually don’t talk much as we wade down a small river, reeling in feisty smallmouth or largemouth lunkers. We’re just fishin’ and we are content to be together. I  purposely try to appreciate the moments when we’re out there and understand that it’s more than fishing although I doubt my kids have that perspective. I’m sure my Dad does.

I’m thinking that I might be like my kids when I take the time to get into God’s presence, potentially unaware of the significance of what is going on. Maybe when I actually press in and engage God says, “He thinks he’s just praying” or “He thinks he’s just singing” but something much bigger is happening. I’m also being transformed, strengthened and renewed. Spiritual warfare is taking place and things are being overcome spiritually that can only be handled while I’m with Him. Maybe those are the times when I’m most receptive to hearing instruction or encouragement.

While I’m thinking, “I’m just going to church”, I’m actually reassuring my wife that my priorities are in order. I’m showing my children how a husband and father should act so my sons know how to lead and  my daughters know what to expect from a Godly man.

As it turns out, there is often more going on than the activity of the moment suggests. I appreciate all the other stuff that’s happening but I am also forever grateful to be “just fishin.”