Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Men, Mentors and Mentoring.

(Sorry ladies, today's post is for the men. But, if you have a husband, brother, cousin, friend, co-worker or random stranger in your life that's of the male persuasion, feel free to pass a link to this post on to them.)

Author John Eldredge, in his book Wild at Heart and the sequel Way of the Wild Heart, details the direct link between a man’s ability to flourish and how he is mentored and mentors other men.

To put it simply, God wired men to learn from one another. The need for that experience has passed down from Adam to Seth all the way to King David down to Joseph, Paul, you and me.

The bible is full of scripture passages to back this up.

1 Peter 5:8-9 Be self controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Notice how Peter links our resistance to the evil one and a relationship with our brothers? It’s simple proof that God never designed a single man to go it alone. No, he designed each of us to learn from one another, to gain knowledge and wisdom passed down to us from older men and in turn, to pass it on to those younger or less experienced than ourselves.

I have an awesome Father-in-law. He’s one of the major blessings in my life. On more than one occasion he and I have discussed how the loss of America’s World War II generation has hurt this country.

Why is that?

First off, the vast knowledge of men who knew how to be men is slipping away with each passing life. As the last of those brave men move on to walk with our Lord, their life experiences, knowledge and wisdom goes with them. In some cases, as with my Father-in-law’s dad, some of that mental wealth is preserved by passing it down to a son, nephew or other younger men. However, a lot more of it is lost.

Secondly, as the younger generations turn their backs on the older ones, becoming more hard-wired to the internet, video games, TV, movies and other disposable, vapid experiences they simply fail to accept the knowledge offered to them by their fathers, uncles and grandfathers. In many cases this results in an epidemic of overgrown boys, who never learned how to be men simply sloughing through life pretending to be what they know down inside they aren’t.

I was that overgrown boy well into my 30s, thanks in part to an absentee father, Grandfather who passed on before I hit puberty and an emotionally unavailable step-father. The other part of that was my own “I can take care of myself” attitude that flew in the face of how God designs men. I thought I knew best and I didn’t need anyone else to tell me otherwise.

Thankfully, my good friend Rob opened the door for me to peek inside his life of faith and once I was curious enough to investigate for myself, my aforementioned Father-in-law took Angie and I to church for Christmas where we discovered God’s love for us.

I knew something was missing from my life, and it was God and His plan for me, which included fellowship with other men. Now, thankfully, I’ve been a part of many men’s groups, a great one-on-one discipling with my good friend Eddie, and as of last night, a new mentorship program with a “Leader of Leaders” named Tom.

If you try to go it alone, as I did, your cup will run dry, every time. For, God designed men to fill their cups with the spirit of older, wiser men and in turn use that fulfillment to pour into the cups of men younger than themselves.

We’re all called to lead our families, pour into our wives and children and witness to others as sons of the Almighty God, but we can’t do that if we let our spiritual selves fall into disrepair as we go it alone in some macho/testosterone driven lie. Our souls need fellowship with other men like our bodies need food. Don’t wait until you're spiritually anorexic before you take action.

Action Steps: If you’re not part of a men’s group, join one now. If you have the chance to do one-to-one discipling or a mentorship program do it, whether you’re the older or younger man doesn’t really matter, but having it flowing into you from above so it can pour out below is best.

If you have no men in your immediate sphere of influence, follow Tony Dungy’s lead and find a remote mentor, by reading books authored by solid Christian men such as Dungy, Eldredge, Max Lucado and others.

Other resources:

All Pro Dad
Ransomed Heart Ministries
Team Discipleship
Promise Keepers

Monday, December 13, 2010

Good advice from Pastor Bayless Conley

Prayer is a cord that we use to plug into God's power. As sons and daughters of the Most Holy God, tapping into his power is our birthright. However, sometimes our sinful nature can create a blockage in the powerline, preventing us from receiving that which is rightfully ours. This is one reason why we're called to confess our sin before asking anything of God. And why we're called to transform our lives daily, through the aid of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Here's something else that blocks our power flow, from Pastor Bayless Conley's Answers for Each Day.

Hindered Prayers

1 Peter 3:7 says,

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Notice it says, "Husbands, likewise," which means, gals, you are not off the hook. The following truth applies to you as much as it does to the boys.

That truth is simply this: If there is bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart toward your spouse, your prayers will be hindered. That word hindered literally means to be cut down in the same way one would cut down a tree.

I once had this incredible tree called a cherimoya tree. One of the things about a cherimoya tree is that it is not indigenous to our country, and the insects that pollinate it do not exist here.

In order for the tree to bear fruit, I needed to pollinate it by hand with my little artist paintbrush. I would get pollen on the brush from one flower and pollinate other flowers.

Eventually the little buds I had pollinated began to turn into fruit. I was so excited! They were getting close to the time to be harvested. Then I came home one afternoon to find my whole tree hacked to pieces. Every branch and piece of fruit was in the trash. The gardener had cut my tree down!

I believe that can happen with our prayers. You can be intensely committed spiritually, searching the Scriptures, filling your heart with the Word, praying from the bottom of your heart, but if you are not honoring your spouse or you are treating them in a bad way, the devil has the authority to waltz right in and chop your prayer tree down.

Let's keep the ax out of the devil's hand by honoring and forgiving and valuing our marriage partner.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John 1:5 - This Bulb Never Burns Out

John 1:5
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I love this verse. Every time I read it I feel the elation of victory. It immediately conveys a sense of infinite, eternal hope. No matter how dark things can appear, no matter how many punches I have to roll with, no matter how big the darkness seems, the light shines through.

Bills piling up? Medical issues taking a toll? What’s that new noise the car’s making and what’s it going to cost to fix? Gah!

Is the future’s uncertainty casting a pall? Sure it is. Life’s daily grind is all a part of the spiritual war we live in every moment we draw breath. But, like a lifeline, His light shines in the darkness showing me there’s a way out, there’s hope, there’s a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

When I think of light and darkness in emotional or spiritual or existential terms, I see them as metaphors for love and hate, happiness and anger. All the “dark” feelings are the spiritual embodiment of that darkness; sadness, bitterness, anger, discontentment, resentment, hatred, rage. And they’re weapons of the evil one.

However, none of those dark things have overcome the light; happiness, contentedness, cheer, joy, kindness, peace, love. For these are the weapons of God.

The enemy would like me to think these implements of darkness are all past-tense; as if they’re set in stone, as immutable as history, unchanging and eternally established. If I allow myself to give in to such thoughts, I relinquish my gift from the Father, the gift of hope everlasting.

The present of the future is God’s eternal love.

One thing I’ve noticed is the correlation between my walk with Him and walking in the literal sense. If I’m out for a stroll on a sunny day, but I keep my face down, gazing at the ground, things seem darker than they really are. When I lift my eyes heavenward, I see the fullness of the light.

Each day, earthly things draw my gaze down, as I reflexively react to every day bumps and bruises. Before long, I lose track of just how light the day is and find myself mired in life’s problems. But, when I focus heavenward, I’m reminded, thankfully, that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Don’t let the enemy convince you the darkness has overcome God’s love, because no matter what you’re enduring, the darkness hasn't overcome His light and it never will.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Psalm 23:6 Take II - What's Following You?

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I was meditating on this passage the other day and for some reason the word follow really jumped out at me. I thought about it some more and realized that word wasn’t inserted on accident. It wasn’t casually tossed in there in place of another word like “covers” or “blesses” or “blankets” or “holds” or anything else.

It follows us. By the very inference, that means we’re in motion and God’s love is pursuing us.

Think about it. God’s love follows us all the days of our lives. It never takes a break, never stops to ask for directions and never runs out of gas.

His love follows us when we go to Church, ready to worship Him wholeheartedly. It follows us when we go to Church but we’d rather be staying at home doing something more self-serving.

His love follows us when we’re sitting in traffic, aggravated that the person in front of us can’t manage to drive while eating and talking on the cell phone.

His love follows us when our children are sick and we feel helpless.

His love follows us when we make a great achievement and the evil one is tempting us to be prideful.

His love follows us when we’re driving through a storm, literally and figuratively.

His love follows us when we’re running towards Him and even when we’re running away.

God is actively pursuing us, actively trying to catch up to us, bless us with His goodness and enshroud us with His love. And the best part of all is that he always catches us every instant of every day because God is everywhere.

One of the most prevalent lies the evil one seems to sow in the hearts of humans is that we’re unworthy of God’s love.

“Why would God love a sinner like me?”
“Why would He care about someone so insignificant?”
“No God in his right mind would love a person who’s done what I have…”

Well, I thought those very things for a long time, but thankfully, I realized it was all a lie. Now, in meditating on this scripture I can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves me. He always has and always will. His unfailing Word says in no uncertain terms that His goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. Case closed.

So, when you look over your shoulder, expecting to find the demons of your past, smile because the only thing that matters that’s following you is God’s goodness and love. Forever.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spiritual Budget?

Far too many people fail to have a budget for their finances. How do I know this? The simple statistic that the average American carries over $10,000 in credit card debt is proof. If the average American lived on a solid budget, having their money work for them instead of vice-versa, credit card companies would be in big trouble. Make no mistake, credit card companies are nothing more than money lenders, a biblically unsound industry that lays traps for us all. For more on that, I’ll refer you to the expert, Dave Ramsey.

We can all easily see the damage that occurs when people don’t have a financial budget they live by. (Angie and I certainly learned the hard way years ago to do just that.) The evidence is all around us in this current economic meltdown. A budget is simply a plan for how you’re money will work for you, how much you'll earn, what you’ll spend it on, and what you’ll save for later.

As the old saying goes, ‘when we fail to plan, we’re really planning to fail’.

So, how about our spiritual lives? If we have no budget for our finances, what hope is there that we have one for our spirituality? Do you have a plan for how you’ll spend your spiritual gifts? How much will you spend this month? How much will you save for later? What will you do to earn more?

December is a month where the focus on spiritual things is at its height. Between Christmas and Hanukkah, and the evil one’s campaign to undermine both, never is there a point on the calendar when your spirit matters more.

December is also a month that draws focus on gifts, both giving and receiving.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you’ve received many spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. So, how are you going to spend those gifts this month? Do you have a plan? Many do, but only for December. Serve at Church on Christmas weekend, give of our time at local charities, put spare change in the Salvation Army buckets as we leave the store. But what about the rest of the year?

If we don’t have a financial budget, we’re inviting an economic disaster. If we don’t have a spiritual budget, we’re inviting an eternal one…