Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Trouble with Men

“When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?(Acts 3:12)”

Control Issues:
     I’m a bit of a control freak. I’m a guy who likes to fix things. How about you? Know someone like me?

     No excuses, but here’s some background – due to some traumatic events experienced in my childhood that led to the subsequent divorce of my parents when I was still young, I developed a coping skill called “peacemaker”. It doesn’t qualify me to negotiate a permanent ceasefire between Palestine and Israel, it just means I lean toward fixing things, tend toward wanting everyone to bury their hatchets, and in my flesh have a very hard time letting things rest when interpersonal matters aren’t quickly reconciled. Not my favorite “all about me” conversation, you know? Ever spot these places where you try to control outcomes? Read along…

     When there’s a great deal of uncertainty – financially, relationally, raising three toddlers and a prodigal teen (or, as we call it “2013”) – I, in the flesh, have spent much energy trying to manage outcomes, maintain peace, juggle other peoples’ troubles, and tie up loose ends that aren’t mine to tie up. By the grace of God, I’m in discipleship ministry, which means for I living, I’m required to pastor and counsel other men to “trust God” and “live by the Spirit”. It’s hard to tell another guy “the Bible says we need to abide in Christ and deny ourselves” and then face the fact that I just failed to do the same 2 days or even 20 minutes ago. It’s a great set of checks and balances God has “installed” in my life to stop me in my tracks when I’m trying to manage outcomes. Praise God.

     Last week, my bride and I got more than a little “sideways” with each other. It was a tense 48 hours where I know, have counseled other men, and have been counseled myself to leave her alone to “let her process what’s eating” her rather than suit up in my Home Depot apron and try to fix her every problem… Most guys naturally lean away from grace and into performance in this situation anyway. How about you?

     Instead of taking advantage of multiple opportunities to give her some space, I got “manly” and repeatedly poked my head in and see how she was doing and offer up some unsolicited advice… Bad idea. Especially if you don’t like getting your fingers bitten. Worse if you’re poking a turtle and thinking you’ll get it to come out of its shell sooner. At one point, I finally obeyed God and sat down to dig through the Word for some peace and counsel.

Thus Sayeth the Lord?
     “Acts 3”. I heard the Lord prompting me there. Knowing that chapter pretty well, I resisted thinking – “that’s about Peter and John and boldly sharing your faith despite the consequences… That has nothing to do with what I’m going through right now.” Certain I had rebuked the voice of Satan, I reluctantly read the story of how the two disciples had come across a crippled guy begging for money. Instead of cash, they gave him a miracle, which landed them in the pokey overnight.


     But, this time, the story was a little different. When you spend more energy than God has called you to spend fixing up broken relationships, juggling other peoples’ problems for them, and tying up loose ends that aren’t yours to tie, you begin to take a lot of credit for any coincidentally peaceful outcomes. You begin to think you made the crippled beggar walk.


     Yet God, who is rich in mercy, was kind enough to remind me that the peace we’d been experiencing in our home, our ministry, and our marriage up to that point was not because by my “power of godliness [I’d] made this man [relationship/family/business/department] walk”. Listening to God when He leads you to scripture is vital. 

Back to the Right Path
     My pride could only stand in the way of the truth for so long. I confessed to Cristine that I had to just “let her go” and trust that God would bring her back around on His timing. I had said things to her earlier in anger and fear that a husband should never say to his wife. I was sure that the kind of retaliatory damage I’d inflicted would take at least 48 hours to process and there was a good chance she wouldn’t talk to me for a large chunk of that time.


     Yet, less than 48 minutes later, having surrendered her over to God, our crippled relationship was walking, dancing, and fully healed – without any help from Mr. Home Depot!

     Today, I urge you, beg you, exhort you – seek the Lord in this matter. Ask Him where you’re taking too much credit for those relationships, accomplishments, etc. around you that are working. Repent and hand them back to His more than capable hands. If they walk again, it is for His glory. If they stay crippled – it is for His glory, too, but you will grow in your dependence on Him. I want you to know the same awesome gratitude I had when God turned this around for me. But, it can only come by His power and in His mighty name.

Abiding with you,

AP

Can We Really Trust Scripture?

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)”

Choices, Choices
     A good friend sat down with me a couple of years ago and reiterated his philosophy of life: “Make your choices, pay the price and live or die by the consequences.” I’ve seen it to be true more often than I care to admit. I’ve had to pay some pretty hard prices and live with some tough consequences, how about you? This morning, I’m keeping my part brief and handing off to a very helpful article at TGC that I think will motivate and inspire you, encourage and equip you.

You have a choice to make and a price to pay:
     Choose whether you believe scripture to be inerrant and God breathed or not. The Bible is not a salad bar that we can choose to believe bin by bin, bite over bite. It’s all or nothing. This truth smacks me in the face often. I’m not permitted to make a judgement call on whether a friend of mine is sinning without taking the plank out of my own eye first. I’m not allowed to command that my wife do something I know God wants her to do without also treating her as both “weaker vessel” (with gentleness and humility) and joint heir of the grace of God (“Neanderthal husbanding” is not Christian servant-leadership). Oh, yeah, and I have to pay the price by “trusting in the Lord and leaning not on my own understanding…” Ouch.

     If scripture is true and truly breathed by God, I am not permitted to worship the word of God over the god of the Word. It is a gift from the creator given in love to guide, direct, save me from sin and death, and play great part in conforming me to the image of Christ. Are we tracking together?

     If we are to honestly interpret scripture with scripture, (meaning use the clear points of scripture to clarify that which is not so clear), we are doing so on the presumption that all of scripture can be trusted. If we are to place our faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, able to both atone for our sins by His shed blood sacrifice and to appease the wrath of God that we truly deserved otherwise, we are making a statement that we trust the scriptures to be true.

    But how can we? How can we be so sure? We can’t ever be 100% certain, silly – it’s called faith. But, it was never meant to be “blind faith”. So, inform yourself, will you?

The Hand-Off
     Justin Holcomb shines light on this important subject. This is for you, but not for you alone. Read it, pray about it, digest it, and process it out loud with your mentor, small group, pastor, etc. This is great discipleship material. Do not let it fall by the wayside. It is certainly not the exhaustive truth about the veracity of scripture, but it’s a great jumping off point and a solid fundamental primer.




Why You Can Trust Your Bible” by Justin Holcomb 


in Christ,

AP


More on Uncluttering Your Life – from Desiring God

Don’t Take My Word for It!
     I’ve talked a lot about clutter in our blog and in discipleship with men. This week, I’m bowing out of the spotlight and urging you: “don’t take my word for it”. Take Jon Bloom’s word for it.

     Click here to read his article “Lay Aside the Weight of Fragmented Focus“.

     I also urge you to click on the category “clutter” here on our blog if you’re intrigued by what he has to say. There’s a lot of practical help here and in Bloom’s article. But, Bloom gives a great primer on the “why” in his article.

     May the Lord bless you and keep you clutter free, focused on Him, undaunted by cluttered schedules, inboxes, overwhelming emotions, and otherwise unfinished business.

In Christ,

AP

The Magic Question That Saved My Life

“Carry each others’ burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ…  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Gal. 6:2, 9-10)”

The Mile Long To-Do List:
     Two weeks ago, I had an insurmountable task list in front of me. Major headings included: “Move your entire family of 6 and their belongings from Gainesville house to new rental in Cumming”, “Finish basement in Cumming house”, “work”, and “be husband and father”.

     I neglected to keep “sleep” on the list and allowed my quiet time to run shallow. On top of that, I had one friend I had factored in as a vital helper to make it all come together that suddenly found himself covered up in new leads, quotes, and more work than he’d had in two quarters this year. Opening up drywall at the new basement exposed far more severe water damage than I’d first imagined and added at least two more solid days to my already endless list of things to do before we could really make the “move”.

HALT?
    Remember Charles Stanley’s acronym “HALT – never get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired”? Last weekend I’d already put in 60 hours toward the move/remodel and was hungry, angry, lonely, tired, and still had a page and a half of “incompletes”. But, Sunday, we packed all the toddlers in the Man-van and headed off to church anyway.

The Magic Question or “I Said What?
     We ran into a new couple friend of ours on the way back to the van after service. His wife asked mine how we were doing. Cristine replied “great, Godwilling, if we can get through with this move.” She looked at us and said “Can we be of any help?”

     In reality it was only a 2 second pause. But, in my mind, it seemed like all of the boxes and furniture and childrens’ toys and papers and office equipment were swirling around us in a slow-motion whirlwind as I prepared a humble “No, thank you, though.”

     I spoke.

     I pushed those carefully prepared words out of my mouth with what little energy I had left. But, something odd happened. I heard a voice, identical to my own, blurt out a desperate “YES!!!” Where did my “No, thank you” go?! Did I just say “yes”?!

The Result

Before – concrete floor littered with water-
warped wood paneling. New insulation being added.

     God, who is much smarter than me, had cut me off at the pass. Before I really understood the one word answer that had mysteriously jail-broken from my mouth, her husband was hopping out of their Suburban, (which was loaded with over half a dozen kids), and walking back to our van to help us with the move.

     This morning, because of his help and the unexpected help of two others along the week, I am writing this post from the new Seasons of Life Ministries Worldwide Headquarters, a room in a previously water damaged basement which now has been scrubbed for mold, re-insulated, drywalled, and has brand new carpet in it.

After: Drywall, electrical cut-in, with pad and carpet laid.

     Despite my own pride, the question God keeps asking me to preach to others in discipleship made a near miracle happen in our own home: “How can I help?” The Ryan family had that question heavy on their hearts. Shouldn’t we all? In light of what Christ has done for us – saving us from the law of sin and death, freeing us from slavery to those things we do that always bring us regret, forgiving us every time we call on His name – shouldn’t we all just “carry each others’ burdens”? Shouldn’t we all be on the lookout for burden-carrying opportunities?

Benediction
     May you and I, as disciples of Christ, follow the Master’s lead as He nudges the “magic question” out of our lips. May the Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear those who are heavily laden with burdens and the opportunities where we can help. May we, in this practice, fulfill the law of Christ.

in Christ,

AP