Archive for the ‘Relationship’ Category

We live in a land of optimal wealth.  We have more than most of the world.  If you have ever been to a third world country your eyes will be opened to just how much we really have.  Not only do we have more than we need, but we have an over abundance.  Most of us don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, what clothes we are going to wear tomorrow or what we are going to do this weekend.  We have a multitude of choices and are never at a loss for things to do.

All that we possess and have been given is a gift from God.  The food, home, cars and clothing, trinkets, books and games all have been provided to you as gifts from God.   God has placed us in this time and place for his purpose.  That his glory may shine through us.  That we may demonstrate him to those around us and be a reflection of him.  All that we have has been provided by him for this very purpose.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 – But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Often times we get caught up in thinking and believing this is my stuff.  I own it, I worked hard for it and it belongs to me.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  We need to be wise and take care of this things God has entrusted us with.  I look around my house and realize that my 6 kids are very spoiled.  They have more than they need and often times that is a problem.  They have too much and in doing so, don’t take care of what they have.  I often find toys, books and games scattered around our house and no one wants to be responsible for picking them up.  It gets to the point where I end up giving things away because my kids won’t be responsible with what they have despite how much we talk about it.

Since I grew up poor, everything I planned or dreamed of centered around making a lot of money and doing whatever I wanted. When I was in my 20’s I was all about spending money right and left and acquiring things to make me feel good.  To feel like I belonged and was important.  My wife and I fell into this trap early on in our marriage and I continued to do this well into my 30’s until one day God convicted me that none of it belonged to me.  Everything I had was his and I needed to change my focus and attitude.

1 Timothy 6:17-19Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Since God has convicted me it has completely changed my view and how I live.  In all honesty I still have moments where I can be selfish and not want to share; God’s still working on me.  However, for the most part I prefer to live a simple life, with minimal “things”, but want to be able to provide for anyone who has a need that I can help with.  My wife and I have made it a policy to have an open home and allow most anyone to stay with us, use our things, ask for money or whatever need you have that we can assist with we will provide and we expect nothing in return.  I continually want to be a blessing to others and be able to use my time, money and talents to bless those around me.  I believe this is what God has called us to do. When all is said and done and our time on earth is over, those things we have accumulated will fade and eventually turn to dust and ultimately be destroyed.

When you are asked by someone else to use something of yours, how is your attitude? Are you willing to freely let them use it or are you stingy?

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?

 

Engagement with others means our brokenness is going to class with their brokenness.  Life is indeed quite messy and until we are reunited with Christ in heaven life will continue to be messy.  We hope and watch with great anticipation for the day of Christ’s return when justice will prevail and order will be restored where chaos has taken over.

We were meant to live in relationship with one another.  Jesus did life with others and in fact spent the last years of his life traveling around with other men.  Eating, sleeping and sharing life together.  I am positive it was not without conflict.  Jesus modeled what we should be doing; he came to serve others, to forego his own rights to ensure the needs of others were met.

We spend a lot of our time being me focused; concern and frustration arise when we don’t get what we believe we are entitled to.  We are creatures of habit and routine.  When those are disrupted, we get upset, frustrated and angry.  We become rude even spiteful, our actions and words demonstrate that and we no longer reflect Christ.

My wife and I have an open door policy in our house.  We welcome and invite friends, neighbors and others into our house at any time, you don’t have to make an appointment, you can show up at any time and you will be welcomed in with love.  In raising kids, we want to be the house all the neighborhood kids come, the safe place where we know no harm will take place.  That prayer has been answered, since moving into the neighborhood 5 years ago; our house continues to be the central point where all the kids come to hang out.

Now here is the place where this clashes with my own entitlements.  I long to come home and be welcomed by my family.  To have my wife and kids smile, kiss and hug me and welcome me home when my day is done.  More times than not, it is not my family who greet me at the door, instead a neighborhood kid.  There are times I walk through my yard and see wrappers and other remnants kids have left behind and I become frustrated and upset and wish they weren’t around.  As soon as I think those thought I quickly am reminded of how this is what my wife and I have wanted and prayed would happen and I stuck in the crossroad.

How about the neighbor that asks you to help move.  The woman holding the sign asking for spare change.  The solicitor who shows up and wants to talk with you.  The friend who’s always wanting to do something with you. How about your wife asking you to do the dishes tonight.  Your child asking to be read a story or have you go for a walk.  You planned to come home and watch the game, mow the grass, read a book or just be in your zone.

This is where living and serving the needs of others gets messy.  We have to be willing to lay down our own plans and needs to readily serve those around us.  If we long to be in relationships with others as we should it means we often have to get dirty and do without.

On the other side of this is Jesus also demonstrating to us that taking a break, recharging and refreshing our soul is needed.  He spent time away praying and talking with God.  He moved away from crowds to times of being alone.  He was able to balance it out as we should also, that is practicing good healthy choices.

When it comes down to it, how much of your own entitlements are you willing to lay aside so that you can do life with others?

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

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?

There seems to be too many instances where we see people who fail and when I say fail, I mean they morally fail in some way and they are dragged through the mud.  They were caught in adultery or something sexually immoral, stealing, lying, spying and cheating.  What makes it even worse is these are folks who have for all intent and purposes been living a life where they have chosen to identify themselves as someone who is a Christian.  In doing so, it’s given the rest of the world or those in their world the opportunity to see how badly we model what it looks like to be the image bearers of Christ.

When we choose to identify and become like Christ, we are meant to surrender our lives over to Christ and allow him to transform and renew us – from the inside out (the inside being our heart).  At no time will we ever be perfect and not struggle with sin.  Until the return of Christ we will daily struggle with sinning.

The world already believes we are hypocrites.  So many horrible acts and atrocities have been committed and behind it were people who considered themselves to be Christians.  What hope does this offer others, if what they see modeled by us to say one thing but do the complete opposite?

If you really plan on following Christ, than you must be willing to be in relationships with other, we must be willing to be open and honest, we must be willing to allow others to hold us accountable.  It is way to easy to fake it, lie and pretend we have it all together. I’ve been there to many times.  What gets me the most is the fact that I am representing something bigger than myself.  When I make the choice to say and identify myself as a Christian, yet continue to live a life opposite of that, I’m not really living my life for Christ.  I’m living for me, but am hoping as a Christian I can get by.  Really in the stupidity of that, all it takes is me living in my sin and hiding, getting caught and proving once again, how big of a hypocrite I am.  Realizing that I may be the reason someone wants nothing to do with God or other believers.

I don’t believe God has called us to live our lives in this manner.  I believe he wants all of us, each and every part and he wants us to be dependent not only on him, but each other.  If what I am living for, believe with all of my heart to be true and the very thing for which I get up daily, than my actions should back that up.  I was involved in group with other men and choose to remain silent about my sins and choices.  I lied and continued to keep up and image.  Eventually my world came crashing down and it was in that, I learned I couldn’t continue this way.  Sometimes it’s still a struggle to want to go and do things I know God does not want me taking part in.  It’s in those times where being a real man means I access my brothers, where I get on my knees and take those thoughts to God.

2 Corinthians 10:5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

I know all to well that which I am speaking of, I have chosen to identify myself as a Christian all the while living a life completely opposite of what I should be doing.  I have made the choice to continue living a sinful life all the while making it appear as thought I had it altogether.  It took me a very long time to finally understand what I was doing and how wrong it was

 

Do you find it’s difficult to live the life Christ wants you to?  Is it easier to live a double life?  What do you think when people who call themselves Christians fall?

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?

We were created to be in relationships with one another.  If you read through scripture you will see this has played out since God breathed life into Adam.  In fact we are told in Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.  God created Eve and Adam was no longer alone, he had someone to share life with.  Not only was Eve there, but God communicated with both.  He longed to have a relationship with them.

Throughout scripture we are given examples of men who needed other men, had men who were willing to walk along side them.  In Ecclesiastes 4:12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. 

Enter Jesus on the scene, he went out, asked other men to follow him and up until he was taken, crucified and resurrected.  Spent day and night with a group of 12 men.  Sharing life, living, exploring, talking, asking question and being there for one another.  This model of doing life together is something that I hold and cling to.

The world tells us we should break free from our parents.  Be a self-made man.  Take care of things on our own.  We are meant to go it alone.  We don’t need anyone.  All of this is a lie we have been fed far too long.  It’s a lie from the pit of hell.  Satan knows if men go it a lone they will destroy themselves.

Think about it, when you are going through the rhythms of life, how much time is spent alone?  Do you look at people or things you shouldn’t?  When you are alone with your thoughts how would you rate them?  When you are at home and it’s just you or your family do you treat them differently than you do when others are around.  Do you internalize all your thoughts and feelings and just push through them.  I can say that I am guilty of all the above.  I have done all of it.  Rather than talking to someone else I have kept things locked up.  I have isolated myself and just put on my best game face.  I have spent countless hours late at night looking at things I shouldn’t as a way of medicating.  The question I come back to is where this has left me.

Why do we continue to believe the lies?  Why do we feel like we are different and have an image to keep?  Why do we think we can’t admit we made less than honorable choices?  Why can’t we call out and ask for help, admit when we need it.  Really it boils down to one thing – selfish pride.

We struggle, internalize, isolate and keep others at a distance and we suffer for it.  The weight of all of that keeps us living in this crazy cycle.  Somehow we are unable to see that in reaching out; admitting we are a mess and we need others to walk through life with us is a bad thing.  We are kidding ourselves when we believe the lie no one would love me, like me or want to be around me if they knew the truth.  We are lying to ourselves when we think no one would understand where I am coming from.  Here’s the key – We are all human, we sin, we live in a broken world and we will continue to do this until we die.

God designed us to be in a relationship with him and with others.  We need our brothers.  At 41 years old I know that I do much better in life when I have other guys I can talk to, share life and be open about what I struggle with.  I also have experienced this too many times to know it works and it’s a huge benefit.  Knowing that I can call or shoot a text to another guy and he’s got my back has changed my life.  It’s been transformational.  The other part I know is that in my years of doing life and working with other men, there is nothing out there another guy hasn’t struggled with.

Do you know that you are being lied to?  What lies have you believed that have kept you silent?

On Thursday, I got to have a pretty cool experience with my brother and Dad. We went to the movies…for 14 hrs! What I’m talking about is the “Ultimate Marvel Marathon”. This was a “debriefing” hosted by “Agent Coulson” of all of the Avengers related movies, ending with “The Avengers”. Here’s a pic of us at it:

Dean, Paul, and Russ at The Marvel Marathon

Watching these movies, the geek in me was in paradise! And the Christian in me was searching. I was searching for Christian imagery. The minister in me was searching for stories to share. There are always great stories of sacrifice, betrayal, and brotherhood. Iron Man gives us a great “prodigal son.” But there are very few, if any, direct statements of support for God or Christianity in any of the back story movies leading up to Thursday’s midnight release. With our culture’s hesitancy to show any support for God, I had lost hope of seeing any in “The Avengers.”

The Joss Whedon amazed me. He wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. He was the one that added a small mention, even if it was only for the character, the statement was true. (Trying to avoid spoilers, but there is some I have to say) As the team is being assembled, there is a fight between Loki and Thor. As he is preparing to jump into the fray, Black Widow warns Captain America, “Might want to sit this one out, they are gods.” In response, Cap states,

“There’s only one God ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”

This one statement made me smile, and if you look at my twitter, I stepped off to the side at that moment and tweeted that quote. I’m not sure what Joss Whedon believes, but we know that Steve Rogers (Captain America’s “real” name) is a believer. Throughout the movies, Captain America/Steve Rogers gives Christian Men a great example. Here’s a guy who started out as a 90 pound weakling who wouldn’t back down from a bully and became the symbol behind which a country can fight. Almost 70 years after being lost in WWII, he is found, and he is refitted and sent back out. WHen hearing of his new uniform, he asks “Aren’t the stars and stripes a little old fashioned?” To which he is told, “some of us could use a little old fashioned.”

Think about the things that America has forgotten since WWII. Men were chivilrous then. Pornography was not an ever present thing. Divorce was rare. God was still welcome in our schools and society. Sure, some of the bad was present, and I won’t say that life is not better now that it was then in many ways, but in our properity, God and the teachings of God have been forgotten. Captain America can remind us of these things. Seems to me that he is a faint echo of The Man, but he is still an echo.

Here’s a challenge to each of you, follow Captain America’s example and remember, “There’s only one God.” Find a way to show that in your life this week, and think on ot often.

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

P.S. The Avengers was a great movie!