Life happens. Trials are here to make us perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, right? Ever think “if that’s true, then this year, I should be pretty close to perfect“? 2011-2012 has been the most challenging on the job training we’ve ever received. Despite the fact that I’ve had time to send out ZERO support letters in 6 months, God has provided between 60 and 80% of budgeted support in some way or another – almost twice our normal program funding level. The Lord has been wildly faithful and we are extremely grateful! More on that and some BIG NEWS below.
Earlier this month, Aarron was asked to stand in for ministry leader Casey Sanders at Gwinnett’s Men Step Up.
For first quarter, 2012, alone –
Men have received regular 1 on 1 encouragement, wisdom, and discipleship from God’s word, dealing with everything from pornography addiction, blending families from a biblical perspective, deeper quiet time with God, to “pastoring your wife’s heart”.
DivorceCare leaders have been equipped and have run for a full quarter reaching a dozen men, women, & children directly and dozens beyond that where they work, live, and recover.
Couples have received couple on couple discipleship, wisdom, and encouragement and even been sent to a local marriage conference followed by one on one or couples’ “debriefing”.
Through a partnership with another local
ministry, God has provided food for a dozen
families a year with about 6 of them on a
Weekly food runs through Divine Resourcing have brought food to more than a half dozen families as part of our “Speak Life” programming.
We’ve run a panel discussion for divorced men on “Single Sexuality”.
Men have been encouraged to “think out loud” at ONE TH1NG, (a separate ministry led by Ron Dunn designed to “Spur men to walk with God”). Aarron and other men have led dozens of micro group discussions as part of their “ministry within a ministry” environment.
Aarron also recently led a conversation at Men Step Up, Gwinnett, on Friday, 5.11.2012 (see photo above) regarding contentment in current circumstances in light of present and eternal rewards. It hit home for a great majority of the men in attendance.
The SOLM blog & Facebook page have been enhanced and regular content added, reaching an audience in the hundreds, soon to be thousands.
Our skills have been sharpened through both counseling and impartation through Trinity Psychological Services, Free Chapel, and Jesus Spoken Here Ministries.
Aarron has begun preliminary preparation for a “That Day” performance in October and is in talks about another engagement before then.
Argentina? Recently, supporters of Seasons of Life and followers of our Facebook Fan Page helped a friend of ours take an unexpected “mission” trip to Argentina. We hope to have an official update from Lily Chauvin soon, but we can tell you it was a heartbreaking trip. While there were some who received her well, she found others to be hostile to her as well as the gospel. We know from scripture that God prepares the heart to receive the gospel, but gives man the opportunity to accept it or reject it. We’re grateful for all of you who jumped at the chance to help her in her calling and honored to have participated.
Fiscal Forecast – Sunny? Financially, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by God prompting a number of supporters to step up their giving, completely unsolicited. (In fact, whereas normally we’ve sent out support letters once or twice per quarter, it’s been almost six months since we’ve sent out a “make the need known” letter. Glory to God.)
As we approach the summer there are a few transitions on the horizon and we’d like to inform everyone of the possibilities ahead for 2012, 2013 and beyond. The Lord is broadening our territory in Gainesville, GA, where the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. This could mean carrying a wider load for Free Chapel’s DivorceCare program but also bringing Seasons of Life discipleship to a community lacking in a detailed one-on-one discipleship plan and budget to sustain it, yet rich in a deep and abiding need for it.
We are prayerfully moving forward one step at a time, one relationship at a time, one conversation & prayer at a time.
To help us capture a $2,500 matching donation for 2nd quarter, click here.
The Big News:
This presents a fantastic opportunity for people with a passion for para-church ministries, pastoral care for the hurt, broken, and addicted, as well as those who love to support missionaries in general. Currently, we are less than $3,000 from meeting our support need – for the quarter – this is a big deal for three reasons:
This is the shortest distance we’ve been from the mark, ever. And this is for the quarter, not the month. Wow, praise GOD!
Summer is historically one of the driest “seasons” of the year for many non-profits and ministries like Seasons of Life, yet this!
God has dropped a (ridiculously timely) $2,500 dollar-for-dollar matching gift on the table for 2nd Quarter!
What You Can Do: Your giving power is officially doubled. Anyone who supports Seasons of Life Ministries in new giving, whether one time, “seasonal” (once/month for three months), or joins as a new monthly support family member, will help us not only capture the funds needed for the quarter, but definitively help set us up for a smooth 3rd & 4th quarter and balance the scales moving into 2013. WOW, is right!
Pray it over, (as always), and consider whether this is the “sign” you’ve been waiting for: the need is great where we’re “growing to”. You may never personally experience the work God’s called us to do all the way up in North Forsyth and Hall Counties, but your giving will make a bold impact on men, marriages, couples, children, and disciples of Christ there. To help capture this timely gift, click here or enter “http://bit.ly/solmsupport” in your browser’s address bar.
Moving Forward Thank you, thank you, to all who are still lifting up this ministry, our family, and those we serve in your prayers. Great things are in the rear view mirror and on the horizon. Your “vertical” support has not been wasted. Please, keep us in prayer, join us in prayer, and tell anyone you can to follow us, fan us, like us, and pray for us.
Author’s note & pet peccadillo: Today, apart from being incredibly grateful to Ray Ortlund for His obedience to God in writing such a timely post as we’ll dive briefly into, I also can’t resist the temptation to play Spelling Nazi. Kelly Talamo named the environment “Men Step Up”, because in his words “lives change when men ‘step up’ to the Truth”.
I can’t tell you how many times I hear people ask “Hey, are you going to Men’s Step Up this week?” Okay, I can, I’ll just wind up gritting my teeth into dust… You get the point… I’ll step down off the soap box and put away my red pen. It’s not like I don’t occasionally invent my own words or brutally murder a rule or two of decent, English grammar…
Spurring One Another On…
What happens at the tables never stays at the tables. Praise God!
This past Friday morning, I had the opportunity to “bring it” at Men Step Up, Gwinnett. Essentially that means I was tasked with standing up in front of a crowd of guys, (many of whom intimidate the heck out of me from a spiritual standpoint), and “provoking” them toward a discussion that would take place at their tables. These weekly discussions are proctored by a table leader and outlined by about 4 or 5 questions on the front of an index card (see picture, right). The back side of the card will normally have a lie on it that many of us have either bought into, wrestled with in real life, or both, as well as a few select lines from scripture that either individually or collectively debunk the lie.
If you’ve been reading the blog at all last week (Part 1, Part 2), you know we’ve been talking about the context for current struggle, trial, aggravation, etc. as a lead up to that event. I had planned to present this morning’s post as a combined update/devotional on the topic. However, it seems the day after I spoke, Ray Ortlund posted an article that capped off our discussion perfectly in a mere 20 sentences.
So, here it is in its entirety with a brief send off from me at the end:
(Please, visit Ray’s blog from time to time at this link: Ray Ortlund. Original post here.)
“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”Ecclesiastes 9:7-9
We could take any of three approaches to the daily experience of this earthly life.
One, this present experience is all we have, our only chance at a little happiness. But absolutizing this life puts enormous pressure on us, intensifying our desperation and pushing us toward doing stupid things. Worse, it cuts us off from the endless love of God in Christ.
Two, this present experience is a stepping-stone into eternity, which is all that matters even now. This broken world is more to be endured than enjoyed. Indeed, this world and everything about it are an embarrassment to any serious person.
Three, this present experience is brief, non-ultimate and good. While it lasts, it is to be dignified — not absolutized or despised but dignified — as a gift from God. This life is a mixture of grace and tragedy, a good creation marred by our human folly. So, the wise seek the things that are above, where Christ is (Colossians 3:1), and they receive with thanksgiving the good things God gives here and now (1 Timothy 4:1-5).
The first approach is the unbelief of visceral idolatry. The second approach is the unbelief of pious negativism. The third approach is wisdom. It is biblical, humane, sustainable.
Have a good day.
Be Encouraged: The fact that Ray & I have never met and yet he wrote the perfect synopsis of what we were talking about on the very same day, he’s dead on point here. In last week’s post and our discussion at Men Step Up, we concluded that eternal rewards are the context for current suffering, that current rewards are no indicator of eternal and Godly appreciation, and that when it comes to rewards, we have a three tiered “compensation plan”:
One time paycheck: “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary, a la Matt. 6:2, Matt 6:5, Matt 6:16)
Royalties only: “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (see Rev. 2 & 3) or
Earthly Reward and Eternal 401K: “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)”, “Enjoy life… (Ecc. 9:8)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”
I was amazed at how pertinent this message was for the guys in attendance, at that moment. It may well be pertinent to you right now. Regardless of its relevance in your current season of life, this is a topic neither you nor I will fully grasp in a handful of blog posts or even conversations with godly men and women – this is one of those things that requires the illuminative power of the Holy Spirit to make clear and present in our everyday mindset. It may also require diligent and thirsty searching of the scriptures.
Be encouraged, be spurred on, and be aware: That Day is coming when we will all receive rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. May your inheritance be great and may you enjoy this life and the one to come.
Context is King. But, Jesus is the King of Kings and He offers not only salvation for those who believe, but also some desperately needed context for our worldview.
Trials and troubles and annoyances and tragedies exist. No getting around that in a Genesis 3 world. So, Jesus gave us a heads-up – “In this life, you will have troubles.” But, what is the context in which we are to interpret these troubles? In chapter 15 of John’s gospel, Jesus has just spent a bunch of time telling his disciples some bad news: the world is going to hate them “for no reason (John 15:25)”. Then He moves forward into the “you will have trouble” part of the speech. As if the “they’re going to hate you” part wasn’t bad enough, He explains two things:
“I’m telling you this so you won’t get freaked out when it happens. I’m giving you a heads-up now that I’m on my way out.” (John 16:1 – paraphrased)
“It’s going to be so bad, people are going to try to kill you because of me, thinking by killing you they’re serving Me.” (John 16:2-4 – paraphrased) “So, what do you guys want for dessert?”
Can we skip to the end of the story? For some context?
The End That Satisfies the Means Here’s why “the end of a matter is better than its beginning… (Ecc 7:8)”: At the “end of the story” – Revelation 2 & 3, where God dictates seven letters for John to address to the seven churches in Asia Minor, Jesus reminds them who He is. “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (v. 23)… To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations (v. 26)” At the Bema seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5.10), believers in Christ will receive their eternal rewards, including many crowns promised throughout scripture.
Bottom line – in a world where trouble is the everyday landscape of our walk, everything you and I do [within God’s will for us and that’s not done with selfish motive (Mt. 6:2, Mt. 6:5, Mt. 6:16)] will be repaid with eternal reward.
So, here’s the compensation structure when it comes to persevering under trial:
Get paid now – “Atta boy!!!” (remarkably temporary)
Get paid in eternity – “I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” or
Both – “do everything without arguing or complaining. (Phil. 2:14)” and “I will repay each of you according to your deeds. (Rev. 2:23b)”
We’ve been warned. We’ve been told it won’t be easy, but given the Holy Spirit to guide, empower, and protect us. We’ve been given the context of our trials, persecution, and our eternal rewards. We can take the recognition from men now or we can take a rain check in our eternal 401K. What would you prefer, a compliment that lasts a little while or a portfolio that lasts forever?
If you’re a man within 30 minutes of California Dreaming in Duluth, GA – do whatever you have to do to get there tomorrow morning (Friday, 05.11.2012) at 6:30 for Men Step Up. There, we’ll be thinking out loud about the lies of the enemy and the truth that sets men free, specifically this stuff. Hope to see you there!
When you work hard, you expect to get paid. Maybe it’s a bonus or commission. Maybe you’re on salary and you’re hoping your effort will count toward a raise or promotion. Maybe you’re trying to win points with your spouse or significant other. Whatever you were doing, if you’re like me, you’re expecting a return on your efforts, right? But, what happens when the finish line gets moved and you’re asked to wait for your reward “a little longer”, “til next quarter”, or not at all? Worse, what happens when you do what was expected (or more than that) and you don’t get a reward at all? Instead you get reprimanded, criticized, publicly humiliated, or the recognition not only goes to someone else but you’re also dragged across the coals for all of your other faults and foibles?
Now, that’s a pain.
Spur. Ouch. Now, THAT’LL move you to action, won’t it!?
True statement. Men don’t like to talk about pain unless it’s a “you think that’s bad, lemme tell ya what happentaME” contest. The bible has a lot of words for this that men don’t like to discuss – heartsick, heartbreak, affliction, sorrow. Women, you’re easy, you’ll talk about your hurts, your pains, your disappointments with little or no provocation. But, this message is for you, too. I’m just picking on the guys, because… I am one and I know we men need to be prodded and “spurred”, as the bible says.
Women, (especially wives), you’re probably really good at tolerating certain “guy” things, like tools and mechanical things that make a man’s eyes light up when he walks into Home Depot. Thank you, for that. If you’re a (stereo)typical “I need my space clean.” woman, you’re a woman who can relate to a tool men might have in their toolbox: scouring tools like rasps, grinders, and sandpaper. In my kitchen, both Cristine and I go through tons of those yellow and green scrubby pads because I’m a cooker and she’s a cleaner and sometimes stuff gets STUCK on that stove.
With all the prolonged rewards in life, the toxic, critical workplace scenarios, withheld commissions, heartbreak, sorrow, etc., we all need a little perspective from time to time to carry us through the disappointment. Cristine and I were reading about it in Ecclesiastes and have been experiencing Holy Momentum as a result.
Roll over this link to read (Ecc. 7:2-6). In the midst of all the trials our 14 year old daughter has been going through (and she’s really digging in right now and doing the hard work, Praise God!), we went to the scriptures with a “God, we’ve gotta hear from you” attitude, and He popped verse 3 right off the page: “Crying is better than laughing. It blotches the face but it scours the heart. (MSG)” Hey, what happens when you scour something? Doesn’t it get cleaner? I didn’t put those tires on the car so I could look at brake dust, I bought them because I wanted the tire. When I scour away the brake dust, I get to the thing I wanted in the first place – the shine, the polish, the good stuff.
Sadness = Sandpaper
One of the keys to finding purpose in the pain is not ignoring the pain, not minimizing the injustice, rather knowing that God is using pain to refine us. I know, I don’t want to hear that junk, either. But, for us, as we watch our Brie-brie dig through vague layers of superficial anger and get into more specific feelings like “anxiety”, “betrayal”, and “hurt”, we are deeply encouraged to know that the obscuring facade is being scoured away. Someday, maybe not next week or next quarter, we will see the fruit of the scrubby pad/sand paper/sadness.
Be Encouraged In every life there is disappointment, payment withheld, kindness returned with injury. It happens like this in a Genesis 3 world. The great news is, we will all be rewarded for our perseverance in trial.God has not forgotten you or me or… them, the offenders of the faithful. He is watching and will reward us. This week, I’ll be opening up a conversation with a big bunch of burly men of God at Men Step Up, Gwinnett on this very topic. If you want to join us, we’d love to have you. Comment or email us for details and come ready to collide with the truth.
As you read this, you’re either thinking – “Okay, Holy Roller, come down off your high horse and quit being so judgmental.” or “Amen!” Alright, there’s a secret society of you that are also responding “Yeah, that’s right… [followed by] I hope he’s not talking about me because if people knew what I do when no one’s around…” If you’re in that third category I pray that this post prompts you to action, because you are afraid. You are a coward.
Some Love for my Fellow Cowards
Today, I’m typing this as a guy who – by the grace of God alone – celebrates 10 years of sobriety from pornography this fall. “Sobriety”, because I was hooked. “Sobriety”, because all of my best efforts to turn away from consuming my Consumer failed. “Sobriety” because I nearly crashed my car a few times because I was daydreaming about when I would get my next “fix”.
Only when I acknowledged my own depravity and separateness from God, embraced my Savior and received the gift of the Holy Spirit could I set down The Ring of Great Power that had become so prrrrrecious to me, yet weighed me down, drained my resources, and delivered nothing but a momentary high followed by a “continual lust for more (Eph. 4.19)”. This was clearly a supernatural occurrence.
His-story No More Mys-stery
To illustrate my point on cowardice, allow me to refer to the guy who helped me wrap my head around my own cowardice. Casey Sanders has been a discipler of men for nearly 15 years now. He’s been married for over 25 years to the same woman. But, he hasn’t always been faithful to her. Years ago, he obeyed scripture and went public with his “habit” after confessing to his wife that he’d spent a decade watching porn in hotel rooms while away on business trips. Scripture teaches “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (Eph. 5.11).”
“Coming out” about porn was cathartic obedience and evidence of true repentance, but only the beginning of the journey. As he told his story to the guys from Men Step Up Gwinett:
“As I traveled and made watching raunchy movies and self gratification my habit, I believed that what I was doing was not as bad as other guys who were actually sleeping with women outside of marriage. At times, I even thought my actions were a safeguard from doing something physical with someone else.”
When he finally made this confession to his wife, it led to a much longer interrogation, where out of repentance, he answered with full honesty for the first time.
“She kept asking and I kept answering. At one point she said, ‘I wish you had gone ahead and had a physical affair. What you did was Coward’s Adultery!’ ” Moral of the story: the measure of a man’s bravery is the price he’s willing to pay for the things his heart is set on.
Count the Cost, Measure the Man
As he told me the story, I could argue with him no more than he argued with her that night. If I were really brave, I’d have pursued a real, live woman that would consent to sex at the cost of romance and perhaps even commitment. If I were brave and godly, I’d have pursued a real, godly woman that would consent to sex only at the cost of a lifetime covenant of marriage as God details it and commands it in His word. Instead, I jumped over far lower hurdles that demanded little bravery, boldness, and self-sacrifice than obedience would require [and reward].
Over the years, I’ve been greatly encouraged by God Himself [via the Holy Spirit], truth from His word, and the testimonies of repentant and bold men who have shared the trials God has brought them through on the battlefield of lust. This Friday morning (6:30AM sharp), my friend Michael Leahy will very briefly share his story [at ONE TH1NG, at the Cabernet Steakhouse on Windward and GA-400] with about 100 men with the bravest of hearts who are willing to think out loud about the truth and lies surrounding “The War Within”.
I’ve also posted regarding my interview with Michael here on our blog today. I also encourage you, as you explore this issue to watch Andy Stanley’s second message in the “New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating” series, linked in that article. Bottom line, we all give our lives to something. It’s time we start doing the difficult stuff instead of settling for the easy fixes. God rewards obedience. Sometimes in the earthly realm, but more importantly in eternity. Consider what price you’re willing to pay as you “take up [your] cross and follow [Him]”.