“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,… (Eph. 1:16-18 ESV)
In Christ, we all have a ministry. Some work for a “public” or vocational ministry, others less formally minister “privately” to coworkers, colleagues, friends, etc. There are three things we typically tend to compare ourselves to in ministry –
- Insiders – Ministries, other peoples’ ministry efforts, organizations, or businesses
- Outsiders – People in “secular” careers, the unsaved, or those not following God’s call (“but I’m doing God’s work!”)
- Ideal vs. real – Our internal vision of how things should be vs how they actually are.
Generally it’s when things aren’t going well. It commonly manifests as either shame, self-doubt, or anxiety. Shame says “Woe is me, I should be further along, like so-and-so.” Doubt says: “If I were all I should be for God, I’d be making a bigger difference doing x, like them.” Anxiety (fear) says “what if program x flops?”. In all of these cases, we’re putting the course before the heart. Why? Because, it’s not about you.
Can I rub some salt in? Really, it’s not… about… you. Contrasting where we are to where we think we should be, where others are, or where we’d like to be factors out where God has placed us and what He desires of and for us. God didn’t make you them… He made you you. Does that clear anything up?
Repeat that to yourself while I do the same, so we both remember it, mmkay? Guilty.
Matters of the Heart
At the heart of this struggle is this: by grace, God has me right where He wants me. If I’m disappointed with where I am, I have a vertical issue: an idolatry issue with God. What I’m in effect saying is this –
“God should respect my plans and efforts above His.”
Core issue: we’ve taken a man-centric view rather than a God-centric view of things. But, take heart – “no temptation has seized you, but that which is common to man.” Easy enough mistake to make. As a card carrying member of the “been there, done that” club, I ain’t mad at ya…
My dissatisfaction with where He has me, even if I’ve been disobedient along the way, is ultimately dissatisfaction with His sovereignty. He can do whatever He wants and He’s not out to make you or I rich, famous, or even successful in and of ourselves. If He has me stalled out (which I’ve felt like many times in “full time ministry”), He’s aware of it. There is not a circumstance that has come about in history that hasn’t passed through his fingers. Nothing surprises God.
Satan‘s very first ploy was to get Eve to believe she was missing out on something. Trouble is… If you’re longing to be doing something else, there’s a good chance the only thing you’re missing out on is what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Read on, and we’ll uncover what it is we’re really missing…
Did God Allow It or Cause It?
I’ve been wrapped around that axle before, too. So, let me ask you… What difference does it make? Are you going to prosecute a case against the God who told the oceans how far they could go and no further? In my darker, heavier moments, I’ve tried it. Losing battle. Turn back.
Scripture contains enough references to God causing disaster and affliction (e.g. Daniel 9:14, Psalm 119.75) and God allowing the same (just search “God permitted”) that the doctrine of sovereignty ought to put to rest our anxieties over what isn’t, what could have been, and what calamities or shortcomings are yet to come down the pipe at us.
This isn’t to say that our desires and dreams don’t matter to God. Louie Gigilio recently tweeted: “What you do matters to God and man, but you matter because of what God has done. First things first.”
What’s Really Missing?
Paul gets it. His unceasing prayers (above) for the church at Ephesus are that they would know God, not see their ends to their desires met. Rather, that through a deeper heart knowledge of and intimacy with the Father their desires would become His desires. How about you?
If a dissatisfaction is a holy dissatisfaction, it is the kind that points us toward knowing God, not questioning Him or our circumstance. I would argue that sanctification is about God purifying us from matters of the heart that obscure us from truly knowing Him. Agreed?
I pray today, that you would come do a deeper intimacy with God so that your anxieties, fears, disappointments, and shame over what is not would be eclipsed and replaced with joy over who He is and what He has done. Don’t be robbed of present joy by what went wrong in the past, is missing in the present, or looms in the future.
“We weren’t meant to be somebody–we were meant to know Somebody”
– John Piper
“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (John 6:15)”
I’ve often wondered as I’ve read the Gospel accounts of Jesus why He would do a miracle and then tell someone not to make a big deal of it. I mean, he heals a guy of leprosy and tells him – “Just show the priests and offer sacrifices and keep the rest on the down-low. (Matt 8:8, Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14)” What’s with that?
Okay, so Jesus had a reason. I get it.
Why Are You Here, Lord?
But, he does this awesome, public miracle where he feeds over 5,000 people and comes up with leftovers and then “withdraws” to a mountain. We all know that Christ’s miracles were never done for the sake of spectacle, rather to authenticate the power of God in Christ and for His glory. So, in front of a crowd of thousands – AUTHENTICATED! Your Kingdom come, we’re with you, Lord – now BE OUR KING!
So, why doesn’t Christ just come out and say it? “I’m the Christ! Repent and come to God!” Instead: Withdrew again to a mountain? Come on!!!
The Core Issue
The trouble in this scenario is identical to 1 Samuel 8. It is the familiar cry of the depraved soul that says “I want to be like everyone else!” Or, in Israel’s case – “Give us a KING!” The Lord’s reply is similar to the prophet Samuel’s. God told Samuel that the nation hadn’t rejected Samuel, rather God himself. And, so in tragic irony, despite the fact that they wanted to make Christ their king, the people were still rejecting God as their king.
Though they were asking God in a body to be their king, they didn’t really want to make God their king. In classic Jesus form, Christ knew the motives of their hearts: it wasn’t God they wanted. It was freedom from oppression. But, not as Christ would have it. They wanted freedom from the oppression of man, not the freedom from the oppression of sin, self, and spiritual depravity. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not like the kingdoms of men…
So, Lemme Askya:
Lemme ask you this day: do you want Christ, right now, or do you want merely His blessings? Paul Washer once said even the devil himself would like to be back in heaven as long as God wasn’t there and he didn’t have to bow his knee to Christ. So, what do you want? An earthly king to provide for you and go out and fight your wars like the rest of the nations, or do you want a Holy, sovereign, and worthy King that you can worship and serve for eternity? Do you want Christ because you don’t want hell or because you want Christ?
The Bible asks the same question over and over from Genesis to Revelation: “will you trust Me?” So asks the Lord of you right now: “Why Me? Do you want Me for Me or for my blessings?” Let us resolve to answer that question daily.
Jesus is usually sought after for something else, not for his own sake. – Augustine
in it with you,
Watch Your Own Film Lately?
There are some great communicators out there in the world. Last month, I had opportunity to communicate truth through a 90 minute one man show. While I don’t think it put me in a class among those men, it did renew my appreciation for such men.
The amount of time poured into the craft of communication cannot be understated, if one is to do it with excellence. Today, I’m watching video of my performance with a critical eye and a yellow pad of paper. World class communicators make it a habit to “watch the film” like elite athletes who seek to achieve peak performance.
Two Extremes and an Extremely Dangerous Center
There is great value in learning from mistakes and honing one’s craft. But, there is a tension in our culture between sharpening one’s communication skills on one end, foolishly “winging it” on the other end, and yet an even more dangerous spot in the middle where we become worshipers of our gift of communication instead of relying on the Giver of all gifts (often referred to as “the liability of ability”). This happens when we cross the line of developing our skills and believing our own press…
But, there is a reason why Paul makes it a point to explain that he didn’t use flowery language, etc., isn’t there? There is a reason why so many were astonished at Peter and John, though they weren’t “educated men” (Acts 3 & Acts 4), isn’t there? Was it because they dumbed down the gospel? Was it because they had graduated from the Tony Robbins school of Communication on the Cutting Edge of Relevant Leadership?
Who Does the Attracting?
In His letter to Titus, Paul gets to the bullet points of preaching and teaching and makes it clear how to make the gospel as appealing as possible. Paul never advocates for being intentionally foolish and simply blurting out nonsense. But, Jesus hints that it’s not our words that draw people to God, rather the God of the word who does so. (See John 6:43) Further, here are a few points Paul also does not make:
- Make the music in your worship service as appealing as all other contemporary artists so that converts to Christianity will not be repelled by it.
- Manipulate crowds of people by emotional altar calls designed to answer temporal needs (freedom from addiction, restored marriages, financial prosperity) rather than clearly addressing their greatest need: a Savior and Lord, who delivers them from depravity and eternal damnation.
- Stay away from words like “sin” and “judgment” that are unappealing or even offensive to a culture steeped in the gospel of self esteem.
The gospel is about grace, not performance. But, the overflow of a life surrendered to Gospel is… wait for it… godliness… God initiated, God directed, God glorifying and God pleasing performance. (Not to be confused with man made behavior modification or putting on airs of “fake it till you make it”.)
The common thread here is this: don’t rely on your slick communication, some grandiose new, “relevant” presentation of the truth, or softening, denial, or watering down of the truth to make the teaching of the gospel more appealing to the lost. Instead, abide in Christ and God’s agape love so tightly that the natural overflow of your life is godliness – this is the outward manifestation of a changed, exchanged life which God Himself uses to attract others to the Savior. Performance is the result of grace, not the other way around. And, it is this performance that God uses to attract the lost and dying.
Meditate today on these:
“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9-10)”
“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Cor. 1:21-25)”
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them… (John 6:43a)”
The Train Wreck:
Everytime I pick up Chuck Swindoll’s “Intimacy with the Almighty”, it’s a spiritual train wreck… but a wreck that needs to happen. This book first exposed me to Paul’s mission statement in the Amplified version. This is a translation I very rarely pick up, but it seems to tease out Paul’s greatest desire as also captured in other epistles:
[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]
That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. (Phil 3:10-11 AMP)
If you’re so inspired to do, read that again. Paul desires God – the whole package: good and bad. The bliss and that sanctifying affliction that leads to it.
Sounds like quite an awesome quest on a grander than “Fellowship of the Ring” scale, yes?
So, how do we get there?
Psalm 1 reads:
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of the sinner or
sit in the seat of mocker.
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and he meditates on his law day and night.”
4 Minutes, 4 Stages
Here’s a great key to that intimacy – meditating on the law of the Lord day and night. “Quiet time” or “time with the Lord” is often one of the places where languishing faith gets stuck in the mud. Many having never “learned” to have a quiet time simply find themselves wandering. Other times, I’ve found the tyranny of the urgent crowding out my time with God at precisely the time I should be leaning into it.
So, here’s a touch of structure a mentor once shared with me. I challenge you to try it first with a four minute block of time and see how fast it begins to grow to over an hour. Divide the time up into four stages and commit to using it in these four ways:
1. Read in Psalms or Proverbs
2. Praise and thank God
3. Listen silently
4. Present one BIG request before Him
Don’t aim for great length, rather consistency. If you find one of the stages getting longer (which you will), do everything you can to keep the others the same length as that longest one. You will find the time expanding rapidly. It’s okay, this is the work of the Spirit drawing you to the Father.
I have discovered my appetite for the word to be growing deeper and desire to be in His presence greater in just two times through this structure. I hope you will share this with someone who is in a dry season or stuck in second gear in their faith. But, most of all, I pray that He will catch you heart on fire for Him as Paul describes in Philippians.
in it with you,
What’s True Manhood All About?
Last week, a friend of mine kicked off a discussion for a group of men at ONE TH1NG, part of a series there on “biblical manhood”. That morning, only a few exits in either direction on GA 400 and at the same hour, a couple thousand men stepped into a new season of “Seven” at North Point Community Church and Brown’s Bridge Community Church. I half expected ONE TH1NG to be ghost town. Instead, the room was packed with 67 guys, riveted on the topic of manhood. In groups of 4 to 5, they processed out loud: “What does God have to say about manhood and is manhood as badly shipwrecked as it can be?”
Who’s the Man? Cut to the chase, most men today operate out of poor definitions of manhood given by poor definers, generally speaking, such as: bad fathers, absentee dads, sitcom fathers, country music, rap music, you get the point… It’s hard, following popular examples, headlines, or even our own churches, to see where all the true men have gone.
Every one of us can spot “something” wrong when we see a bad example. We just can’t always put our finger on it, let alone model it full time. I’m with you. Ask 10 people what their definition of a man is, and we’ll likely get a hobbling Frankenstein monster formed from some of the worst scraps of “all of the above”. God’s word isn’t silent on the matter. But, we’ve got to look at how bad the damage is before we talk about the cure.
Ron Dunn contends there are three “hoods” we can either move through or stay stuck in:
- “Malehood” – doesn’t take any effort: you’re either born with male genitalia or not.
Boyhood – a season of life when a male is dependent and irresponsible. Often characterized by ungodly strategies such as lying, demanding, blaming, retreating, or relinquishing.
- Manhood – taking responsibility under God’s rule.
It’s Really That Bad Bottom line, while men are born into malehood and boyhood, many walk into adulthood ruled by their malehood, or refuse to relinquish their boyhood, leaving millions of women either scratching their heads or taking over men’s roles because they’re fed up with the resulting void of leadership:
- 40% of children born last year were born out of wedlock. Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy and criminality.
- Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
- and on… and on…
Fatherhood matters. It requires manhood, not malehood or boyhood. Watch, as we turn the tables:
- Children with Fathers who are involved are 40% less likely to repeat a grade in school.
Children with Fathers who are involved are 70% less likely to drop out of school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.
- Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.
Fatherhood is only one example of manhood gone wrong… Listen to Albert Mohler from last week and you’ll hear how the “he-cession” is being followed by a “she-covery” and how manhood gone awry is impacting the culture at large. Or, maybe you already get the point.
Feeling Adequate or Above?
Maybe you’re doing just fine. Maybe you’re living the dream, abiding like a champ… Until you compare yourself with your heroes. Today I got my weekly e-update from friends at Centurion Advisory Group. Great info on what’s going on with the Dow, Bernanke, etc. Today, they note the recent release of the purely Satanic game “Grand Theft Auto, V” produced sales of over $1B. Then went on to point out a few matters regarding manhood:
At age 20, Bill Gates founded Microsoft. At age 21, Thomas Edison created his first invention, and Steve Jobs co-founded Apple. At age 22, Samuel Colt patented the six-shooter, and at age 24, Johannes Kepler defended the Copernican theory, and described the structure of the solar system. At age 25, Orson Welles directed and starred in Citizen Kane, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly the Atlantic solo, and Alexander the Great became King of Persia.
At age 26, Albert Einstein published five major research papers in a German physics journal, Ben Franklin published the first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanac, and Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Italy.
I’ve wondered if we haven’t emasculated a generation of young men, urging them toward a safe, risk free life, instead of encouraging them to use all their passion, energy, and idealism to solve the problems of the world. Too many, it seems, are content to live out their dreams of changing the world vicariously, through a video game, rather than charging the hill to make the world a better place.
As adult males, we must begin to recapture our purpose: responsibility under God’s rule for His glory. In Genesis 3, when the Fall took place, God didn’t go after Eve for her sin – he asked Adam, as He’s still asking us today, where he had, as the man responsible, failed God, himself and Eve. God commanded all the men to meet with Him three times a year (see Deut. 16:16), promising to care for their families and fields while they were away. God clearly takes manhood seriously. And, He hasn’t left us in the dark on it.
|Mel Gibson, as Lt. Col. Harold Moore calling
in “broken arrow” on desperate men.
All is Not Lost: Calling Down Fire From Above
If you saw “We Were Soldiers”, you know the story of Lt. Col. Harold Moore, whose troops were vastly outnumbered and entirely surrounded in La Drang Valley during Vietnam. Mel Gibson, who played Moore, calls in “‘Broken arrow’… I repeat ‘broken arrow'”. This means the situation is so desperate that if friendly fire is not called in on your location (possibly killing and wounding some of your own men), you and your men are lost.
Manhood is in trouble. But, biblical manhood holds true, lasting solutions. God’s refining fire could wound or kill us in some figurative or literal way. But, it is the only option outside of total massacre. I have no excuses. Reasons, but no excuses. I’ve failed as a man repeatedly and like you, I don’t need anyone else to prattle on about how short I’ve fallen of the mark. I want solutions. And God, who is rich in mercy, has given me breath, heartbeat, and another day to get up and walk as He designed us all to. Will you join Him as He calls us to walk in those shoes?
If you’re a man in the Alpharetta/John’s Creek/Cumming/Roswell/Dawsonville area – join us at a table, no prep required, as we dive in again on what it means to be a man, God’s way, at ONE TH1NG this Friday morning at the Cabernet Steakhouse on Windward at GA 400 7AM to 7:59AM for part 3 of Broken Arrow.
For the past couple of years, I’ve had the honor of walking in Christ with Rory Martin – husband, father, Christ follower. Over the past month or so, he’s shared with me a seismic shift in his perception of who God is… and who he isn’t. About a week ago, Rory woke up with so much on his heart and mind, he just wrote it down as fast as his fingers could type, added my email address, and hit “send”. What he wrote was exciting to hear – a breakthrough in his walk with Jesus. We talked about it some more and with a little editing, I’m honored to present his thoughts as this week’s Monday Morning Momentum Minute… (More like 5 minutes, if you read like me.)
I hope you’ll find it worth a read and equally worth a “share”.
Does the lack of an immediate, resounding “yes” surprise you? I mean what about John 15:14-15?!
Yes, Jesus tells the disciples they are no longer servants, but friends. This is a big deal and I don’t want to minimize it. The short response is “it all depends on what your definition of ‘friend’ is.” But, let me explain further, so we’re really clear.
Growing up, I was taught to have a personal relationship with God. I did. But, it wasn’t the God of the Bible. Instead, it was a version of that God I’d created in my own image. I fell in love with Jesus. Not holy, holy, holy God, “Buddy, Jesus”.
Whenever I sinned, I would find this lesser, buddy god telling me “it’s okay, we’ll just keep working on this together”. My “main man” would give me a very nice comfortable pat on the back and nod of the head towards my sin.
I could not have been more wrong.
You see, there is a reason Christ refers to God throughout scriptures as Abba…or father…not “buddy”, “the dude”, “big guy”, or even “brother”. Even though as a Christian you could argue if any one person who’s been on this planet could refer to God as a peer he could. But, He didn’t. In fact, read Phil. 2.6:
“although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…”
Why? Christ wanted to impart the parental relationship we have with our father…God is our father, we are his children. Not his buddies or peers.
If Not A Buddy, What about “Consultant”?
Remember Jiminy Cricket? “Always let your conscience be your guide!” He was that one friend who didn’t give into peer pressure, didn’t look at you with rose colored glasses, and told you right from wrong. But, Jiminy was a cricket. His advice was worth taking, but surely it had a loophole in it if you were young enough, smart enough, and fast enough to outrun danger, right? Consultants give opinions, not laws of life and death, right?
Let’s see… Imagine you’re about to do something you know is wrong. Jiminy kindly reminds you “Hey, you know this is not good”. Sounds authoritative, but doesn’t have your knees knocking in holy fear. So, you do it anyway… Now, say you are in that same situation, but your dad is standing behind you. Fear factor up a little? Now, say you’re in that same situation and Adonai – owner of everything, Jehovah – relational and intimate God, Elohim – strong creator of everything, is standing behind you. Still feeling invincible?
God is near and intimate, unlike a servant and like a friend should be (1 John 3:1, Psalm 34:18, James 4:8). God freely gives the best wisdom like an advisor and conscience should (James 1:5). God’s truth speaks with great authority to those who can discern spiritual truth (John 10:27). But, there’s something far greater – holiness and love. May I illustrate?
After a serious error in judgment, one football player lies in a heap on the field, writhing in pain. You see his fist pound the turf, PT’s are surrounding him. You can sense the complete anguish in his face. His best friend Jiminy is in the stands thinking “Wow, buckaroo, that had to hurt! It’s okay, you’ll get better and we’ll work on this first thing tomorrow morning!”
But, in a crowd of 92,000 deathly quiet fans, there is another looking on… You can hear this one fan’s heart beating like a bass drum. This fan is the only one standing, eyes fixed on the player… so much so that the 92,000 have completely disappeared. He’s defining every second of movement, totally encompassed with the situation. With every ounce of his essence he is shouting inside…”GET UP!”… Dad.
Hate the Sin and the Sinner?
God is not Jiminy Cricket. He’s not your buddy. He personally invested Himself in your pain, your mistakes, failures, your sin. Contrary to popular belief and unlike the football player’s Dad, God hates the sin, but also hates the sinner:
Psalm 5:5 – “…you [God] hate all who do iniquity.”
It is only through Christ and our adoption to sonship that we can say “God is love”, our transfer from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light that we become beloved children of God, no longer hated by the master we’ve betrayed.
Today I challenge us (you and I), before we fall in our sin to don’t think “okay, the big guy knows I’m struggling with this”…but to know that our holy, wise, near, Heavenly Father is looking at us with the most passionate love and His heart is shouting…GET UP!
So, the good news is – God is holy. The bad news is we’re not. Outside of Christ, we’re dirty, awful, objects of wrath. The better news is, that’s why God sent Jesus – not to give us good advice, be our buddy, take away all our troubles, and give us comfy chairs to sit in as the Titanic leaves port. Jesus died to save us from the worst problem ever – indwelling sin, which cannot stand in the presence of a holy god. Our trust in His sacrifice grants us not only saving grace, but sustaining grace – the power to live a godly life. (Titus 2:12) His grace is not just a fact, it’s the empowering force that helps us to do the impossible: live the Christian life in a Genesis 3 world.
Thanks, Rory, for listening to the voice of the Lord. Thank you, Jesus, for your amazing sacrifice. Thank you, Father, for your incredible justice and for sending Christ in the first place. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for empowering us to do all you designed us to do and become all you designed us to be so that we can bring you more glory.