Archive for the ‘Ministry’ Category

Men,

I’ve been away for a while and I’ll give a full accounting of that time later, but let me just say that you can blame this guy:

ConnorWell, not completely him, some of the blame goes to work, seminary, and my ministry here in Dallas. Sorry for the absence!

 

Now for the reason I’ve returned. Hardcore Christian Men will be going through some growth in the coming weeks and months. At Seminary, I have learned to interpret scripture more completely and accurately. I have learned to use observation, interpretation, correlation, and application to gain a full understanding of the word, and this method is what I will be using moving forward.

I encourage all of you to spend time digging deeper into the word when you study. Look for what the author what saying, not what we want it to say. Keep the text in context, rejecting the trend in our culture to use pick and choose scripture. God calls us to abide in Him and in His Word. This is what I am encouraging you to do. I won’t be walking through scripture here with an exegetical comb, but I am in my daily reading.

See you all soon!

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

Jesus explained in Matthew 20:21-28 and again in Mark 10:35-45 that anyone wanting to be great would have to be the least.  Jesus did not come to be served but to serve.  Jesus modeled this in all he did.  Eventually he did so by dying the horrible death of crucifixion to endure the weight of our sins.

When Jesus walked the earth he didn’t do it in grand splendor we would think deserving of a king.  He hung around prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and various other folks who no one wanted anything to do with.  He ate with them, spent time engaging with them.

Jesus wasn’t troubled with looks or acquiring status.  He was comfortable in his own skin and knew what mattered was what goes on inside our hearts.  One of the supreme examples of serving someone can be found at the last supper.  Jesus washes the disciple’s feet.  He gets down on his hands and knees and washes their feet.  To me that is exceptionally humbling.  I don’t care for feet and the last thing I want to do is touch someone’s feet.  To lower myself and wash someone’s feet would be a big deal.  I’ve been on a retreat before where I actually washed another person’s feet.  At one point during one of my wife’s pregnancies I washed her feet, rubbed lotion on them and massaged them.  For me to move past my intense dislike of feet and actually do this was truly done out of love.

Leadership is something we strive for.  To lead, reign or rule means one way or another you have established you have what it takes to lead others.  Many get into positions of power because all they can see is a title or a position with the ability to command others.  This goes entirely against the model Jesus presents for us.  He came to serve others without expecting anything in return.

I believe as men we are called to lead through serving.  We are to be an example with our words and actions of what it means to serve others.  This means serving the needs of my wife and kids.  Often I have to check my motives.  I come home from work and find the house isn’t cleaned the way I expected.  Chores haven’t been done, laundry needs to be folded, dinner still needs to be made and a kid needs someone to hear what they have to say.  I can come in and start demanding things get done right away and begin telling everyone what needs to be done.  I can complain, roll my eyes and sigh loudly.  OR – I can walk in, lovingly greet everyone and begin tackling what needs to be done.

I sit in positions of leadership in other areas of my life.  I have stepped into those roles with the mindset of serving others.  My mindset is when I have it in my ability to do good; I will do just that.  I want others to feel like they are seen and heard, hear beyond the words they speak and catch a glimpse into their heart.  Part of my belief is also reminding myself that in order to serve others I must never think highly of myself.

Serving others may mean I have to dust, mop and put laundry away.  It may mean I have to pick up the trash lying around my neighborhood, spending time talking to someone when I have something else I need to do.  There are so many ways in which serving others allows us to disregard our egos, humble ourselves and do what is needed with a positive attitude.  When we serve the needs of others, we begin to demonstrate the love Jesus has for all of us.  Serving others with no expectations may not make you the ruler of an empire, but it will be the place in which your actions back up your words and you set an example that is contagious.

I speak from personal experience in wanting another guy who I can share life with that is in a similar place in his life.  Someone I can go on hikes or camping with enjoys watching movies and playing games, enjoys talking and sharing about life and most importantly someone who has centered their life on God.   Someone who I can do all of the other things with but will also pray with and for me and at any time I need them will be readily available for me.  When I am struggling, falling and messing up will be there to speak truth into my life as well as challenge and encourage me.

I’ve had only a few relationships like this in my life and they have left indelible marks on my life.  Currently I have no one in my life like this but I do have different guys in my life who are able to fill those various aspects.   I know that in many of my newer relationships I am hopeful I can find someone who can fill that role in my life. My prayer has been and will continue to be God filling that in my life.  A friend like that is incredibly valuable.

Reading in scripture Jesus give us an example of what it meant to have a certain type of close friends.  He purposely picked the disciples.  Those he chose left what they knew and began doing life with him. He taught, they asked questions, he lived out his life 24 hours a day with them.  He spent 3 years of his life with these men, investing in them for a larger purpose.  Meals, prayers, miracles, playing and disagreements were spent together.  I can only imagine how this impacted these men’s lives.  Knowing the character of Jesus I am sure he gave hugs, listened and prayed for them.

A lot of guys I know are reserved and withdrawn.  They don’t like to engage in talking about feelings or in deep conversations.  They talk about sports or weather and other subjects that are considered safe and don’t require going very deep.   This also describes my Dad and many other men I was raised around.  What I have learned is that I hate that kind of stuff.  I hate surface type discussions and refuse to enter into them.

God has provided me the opportunity to talk with lots of men and in that I have heard countless stories of brokenness, heartbreak, anger and intense pain and frustration.  Men who are ashamed, who live with regrets and are scared to death if anyone really knew about them, would lose everything in their life. Men who really want someone to be there for them but are so scared to reach out of fear and rejection and stay locked in their own worlds.  Men who are looking for someone to call a close friend and brother.

If those of us, who have experienced it, reaped the benefits and it has changed our world don’t reach out to others, how will other guys ever know?  It is up to us to be an example.  We don’t get to keep what we know about Jesus and his life a secret.  When he changes us we need to be sharing that as part of our story.  We need to be encouraging other men; to provide hope and that there is something better.  Essentially that is found in who Jesus is, yet it can be lived out day to day in our interactions with other men.  To have a brother who is there for you no matter what is a huge blessing from God.  To God be the glory in all of our relationships with our brothers.  May you find a bromance that will shape and change your life forever.

The culture in which we live continually entices us to engage in activities that as they claim will fulfill us.  Test, take, eat, drive and just do it.  Everywhere you turn ads. Commercials and merchandising are specifically designed to  target and speak to the person inside.  The person we could or should be.  That fun, exciting, happy person who is just waiting to get out and take part in all the world has to offer.

Satan lies and I believe these messages are meant to distract us from the truth.  Christ has called us to die to ourselves in Luke 9:23 – And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

To die to ourselves means to come before Christ, surrender and admit we need him to take the reigns, guide and direct our steps.  To take our life and allow him to change it.  Is it easy, maybe for some, but for most of us, it’s a daily battle.  To surrender daily and allow Christ to take over is difficult.  We think we have it all figured out and can manage on our own.  The truth is, when we die to ourselves and God begins to reveal what’s really going on inside you begin to see just how selfish you really are.  You begin to see how much of what we do is focused and centered on self.

Philippians 2: 1-3 – So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …

Having our cake and eating it too is more of a practice in gluttony and self-indulgence.  Consuming all that you want, doing whatever you want so that you can be happy.   Using others for our own gain at not point does it stop to put the needs of someone else before yours.

Jesus came to serve the needs of others, he spent his life on earth living for something more than himself.  He was in constant contact with his father.  He was obedient to death upon a cross.  As I look at myself and countless others we fall short of this.  So much of my life has been taken up by consuming other(s) and things, which makes me incredibly sad.  It has not been the life God has called me to.

When we begin to die to ourselves daily and conform to the image of Christ, we begin to have the same mindset and view life from a larger perspective. We begin to see that God offers us something much sweeter.   In what ways do you need to stop having your cake and eating it too?

 

Men you are being lied to.  You are being fed one lie after another and you probably don’t even realize it.  Satan is the master deceiver and if we do not know where our true identity comes from we will continue to believe the lies we are fed.

In order to separate truth from the lies, we must be grounded in scripture.  We must know how God sees us.  When you begin to compare what you believe with his truth, you will begin to see and expose the lies.  As I was reading back through highlighted sections of my Bible I came across these verses that I take comfort in regards to that truth.

 

John 1:12But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

1 Corinthians 6:17 But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from ]God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,  who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

Ephesians 1:3-8 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. InHim we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Colossians 2:9-10For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,  and in Him you have been made]complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

 

The lies are everywhere and if you are a part of this world you are fed them every day and they have been deeply engrained into your soul.  We believe that our career/job defines us as men.  Being a doctor, writer, artist, producer, manager, cook, garbage collector and mill worker are WHO we are.  That is a lie, while God has given us those jobs and allowed us to use the gifts he has given us, we are much more than a title in some job.  Yet we spend so much of our time being caught up in those things that we lose sight of who and what we really are.

Another important aspect I have learned in regards to my identity is surrounding myself with other men who know truth and who are grounded in it.  Having these men in my life allows me to stay in check.  They have the ability to call me out when I allow my head to swell.  They have the right and ability to ask me how my walk with God is, where’s he at work in my life and what am I doing to grow in him.  The best gift I have is men who will walk alongside me as I maneuver my way through life and continue to point me towards God.

What are you doing in your life to combat the lies with truth?

Last time I mentioned a few men from the Old Testament that we like to hold up as “Men” and as role models; and everyone fell short of God’s glory, falling short of the ideal we have for “Men”. Now, lets look at some New Testament “Men”. For those of you who like to skip ahead, Jesus will be at the end of this list, but the ones in between here and there are a good reminder for us.

I want to frame this a little bit, before launching into calling the men out. With no exception, these men were alive in Israel while Jesus was teaching. They heard of His miracles and His message. Every one of them know the Torah and Pentateuch better than most of us even imagine knowing the Bible. These guys could quote line and verse, tell you a lesson or message for almost any situation. They were also the norm, not the abnormal. These guys knew what they were watching out for when the Messiah returned.

And they all knew something different.

I’m not going to dissect what they expected of him now, just understand that it takes a lot more… and a lot less… than knowing scripture to know and follow Jesus.

On to the men:

Peter (everyone knew he was coming first!) – A fisherman with Andrew. Loud-mouthed and impulsive. Loyal to Jesus until His capture, and then he turned, only to come back and repent to the risen Christ, becoming the “rock” Christ built the Church on and healing with his touch.

Thomas – The doubter. An inquisitive man who needed to feel and touch, to see and believe, not just to hear. Placed his hands in Christs wounds to believe that it was truly Him.

John – A son of thunder! Followed Jesus for the glory that would surely come from it, and was changed by the walk. Author of scripture and the one loved by Jesus. Recipient of the Revelation.

Saul/Paul – Zealot who was most likely present at Jesus’ trial and conviction. Likely witness of Christ’s crucifixion. Hunter and killer of Christ followers. Striken blind to become the witness of Christ to “all nations”. (Followed the Great Commission!)

Barnabas – Mentor, teacher, witness with Paul on his missionary journeys, stubborn in his beliefs.

Luke – Doctor, Chronicler and Reporter, Scholar who studied and shared Christ’s word with us.

The list could keep going, but the key is that every one of these men, even while in the presence of Jesus, fell short of the image He gave them (and us).

Jesus is the image of man that we must all aspire to be. I’m not talking about looking like him. I’m not saying that we need to spend three years walking and preaching in Israel. What I am saying is that Jesus showed us how to be a man. jesus showed us how to be a brother to each other and to Him. Jesus showed us how to be a Father, a Husband, and a Son; though He only held one of these titles. Jesus was strong, and wise, and smart, and forgness, and love, and peace, and power, and a million other things. Things that you and I can only be an echo of. But things we must be an echo of.

Next week, I’m going to launch into this series, discussing qualities of a “Man” from both biblical and cultural views. In the meantime, let me give you some words to think about in relationship to yourself and the men you hold up as examples:

Strong

Brash

Powerful

Wise

Learned

Able

Loving

Caring

Angry

Macho

Studious

Tough

God

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

What does it mean to be God’s man?

What is it that Jesus teaches us about being a man?

How can we be men in today’s culture and be biblical men?

Since starting this blog, I have been working with Chris and several other men to answer these questions. Over the next few posts, I am going to talk about a few specific things that I believe answer this, at least partially.

Before I start this though, I’d like to look at some biblical men who we can look at.

Adam – The first man. Was given instructions to not eat from one tree. Failed to stop his wife from eating and then accepted some himself. Banished from Eden.

Abraham – Followed God’s guidance away from his family and started the nation of Israel… though he lied about his wife along the way and came close to failing God many times. Not to mention all the times he failed

Moses – A stutterer who led the nation of Israel from Egypt… and was not allowed into the promised land because he failed to fully obey God’s direction. Yet we see he made it to Heaven as he is present for Jesus’ transfiguration.

Joshua – Follows Moses and God extremely well, but still fails in leading his army, leading to failure on the battlefield. Showing us that we are responsible for not only our own actions, but also those under our leadership.

Samson – A Nazarene judge who followed God until leaving his parents home, and then wandered away from God’s path, losing his strength with his hair. In the last moments of life, he returns to God’s path and destroys a pagan temple with his strength.

Jonah – Runs from God’s call, only to find that God would change his path to return him to God’s path, so that Jonah would deliver one line of prophecy.

David – A “man after God’s own heart” who follows God through struggles and sacrifice to become warrior, poet, and king of Israel… only to fail when he becomes lazy and passive, becoming a murderer and adulterer.

Solomon – David’s son and builder of the temple, author of many Old Testament writings, turned from God to false gods; returning late in life.

Next time, I will look at a few New Testament men before launching into a discussion of the modern biblical man. See you Friday!

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

God’s words, which were written by men and provided to us through the Bible have always been and will always remain truth.   The problem we have with this is that is challenges our beliefs and thinking.  It rubs us the wrong way and often times frustrate us in how we want to live our life.   As it states in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Lately is seems there is a trend occurring within the body of believers for people to identify and refer to themselves as Liberal Christians.  That’s an interesting term and concept in my opinion.  I’ve seen many who refer to themselves in these terms discount parts of scripture as not being truth and affirm sinful patterns and behaviors as being ok.  As it says in 2 Timothy, all scripture, which means, all that God has given us in his word is truth.  If God calls it sin, then we must align ourselves with that and call it sin as well.  I don’t believe at any time anyone can take part of scripture and throw it out and say that doesn’t apply to us today.

Does this challenge my thinking, absolutely?  As I read the word of God, I have to check myself and evaluate my heart, motives and actions.  It is easy to be deceived by the world.  Satan is excellent at deception and I have been caught up in the lies he feeds to many times.  In this sense, it is imperative that we be grounded in his word so that we can align ourselves with his truth and call Satan out on his lies.

Truth is always going to push buttons, offend and divide people.  While I am continue to work out my faith daily, I believe the only real way this is accomplished is through reading his word and making sure I line myself up with what he has called us to do.  I do believe as followers of Jesus Christ it is imperative we be in the word and allowing it to shape and change our lives.  I also believe that we need to be bold in our faith and how it’s lived out.  We can’t allow the word of God to be tossed out or discarded – every word that is in the Bible is there for a reason.

Do you consider the Bible to be the word of God? Have you chosen to disregard part(s) of scripture?  How does the word of God impact your life and views as you live in this world?

I have been saddened to see over time the amount of programming, sermons and activities in church that take place and little prayer that has gone into them.  I’ve watched people sit down in meetings make plans and then move forward with it and not offer up any prayer to God, or if they did it was one right at the beginning of the meeting with a quick, “Thanks for allowing this meeting to happen, please be with us in this meeting.”  Not sure if that is really a prayer or an obligatory, we are doing the work of God so we better make it look good statement.

God has given us knowledge and the ability to make plans and do great things and we should.  We should use our gifts to bring glory to the name of God.  The caveat here being only after we have spent time seeking God’s will for those things.  My other concern is how often we plan something, believing it’s the will of God and then really listen to see if this is where he is guiding and directing our steps.  Where is the discernment for God’s clear voice?  How do we know if God wants us to go in a different direction?  How do we know if all the programs, events and activities we’ve always been doing are still the things God wants us to do?

I am not sure at what point we feel like we have it all figured out and know exactly what God desires, be it at church or in our own life.  What I do know is if we fail to come before God, talk with him, seek his will, discern his voice and wait on his answer than we aren’t doing his will.  In my experience a quick 1 or 2 minute prayer has never drawn me closer to God and allowed me to really hear what he has to say.  When I clear out my schedule, spend time with him and earnestly seek him is when I hear him and sometimes it’s not always been what I planned.  God has thrown some curveballs in my life.  Granted this doesn’t always happen, and I usually haven’t made really big decisions in my life without really putting into practice those things.  I think it foolish to do otherwise.

Is God really leading you in that direction or are you just going on knowledge and experience.  Maybe it’s time to stop, clear out your schedule and really spend time finding out what God has in store.  Are you really willing to listen and follow what he’s asking?

How much time do you spend seeking God’s will for your life?

In todays Church, there is a tendency to focus on “growth” or “conversions.” I think this is missing a major part of Jesus’ teaching. If we look at the Gospel and the epistles, we see more about how to live as a believer and Church than how to recieve salvation. So why do so many churches today only teach the Gospel? Why do they teach that salvation is an end instead of teaching that salvation is the beginning?

Jesus didn’t teach this. Look at Matthew 4:19, “He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'” Jesus did not say “Come here and I will make you a fisher of men,” or “Go there, and I will make you a fisher of men.” He said “Follow me.” These two words sum up the walk of a believer for me. We are to follow Jesus.

There is a saying that goes something like this, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” When considering my walk with Jesus, this is how I often feel. My journey with Christ may be a journey of a thousand miles, that’s up to Him, not me. The key is that I continue taking the steps to follow Him. To grow in Him. To become more like Him. In my walk, I will join others, and this is what we as the Church should be teaching. We need to teach to follow, not to come. We need to teach to walk together and grow in Him.

A challenge to you: Instead of being content with where you are, follow Jesus and grow in Him.

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul