Men at Work... Men at Play... Men at Peace
If I dwell on the Cross of Christ, I don’t simply become a devout person, but I become strongly focused on the interests of Christ. Jesus was not a recluse practicing self-denial, He was a very real person who interacted with the world with respect and transparency. Our Lord never allowed anything to interfere with His consecration and thus the spiritual vitality of His life. Paul helps us to understand the focus of the believer when he says, “But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through the cross, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14) Consecration is what Paul is talking about. Consecration is seeing my life – all of my life, dedicated to God’s service. That is my decision, to dedicate my life to the work of the Kingdom and to that of the King. Paul is also talking about sanctification. This is what God does in us, by the power of His Holy Spirit. Sanctification creates in us, a holiness that allows us to live a life that is wholly different from the life outside of Christ. Jesus prays that we would be able to live in the world, but not be of the world. That is the lifestyle of sanctification. This is living the way that Jesus did and being interested in the things that interested Jesus.
The evil one wants us to be distracted and unfocused. He wants us to take up his causes and reflect his values. He is the one who kills, steals and destroys. Jesus wants to give us life; a life that is abundant. That abundance is not the material things of this world, but peace, hope and love. These are the things that endure and ultimately give meaning.
In our men’s ministry meeting this past Monday, one of the big takeaways was the conviction that we should always be ready to give an answer. We should live a life of genuine faith, but before that can happen, sanctification must happen. “Set apart in your heart Christ as Lord.” God has set us free from sin, but if you feel no real freedom, allow the Spirit to have access to those confused and conflicted areas of your life.
The Next Men’s Ministry Meeting in on January 6 @ 6:30 pm.
Hope is something that has a powerful effect on the lives of people. Often times you hear about someone who is struggling with a terminal illness who demonstrates remarkable courage. When they are asked why, they say it’s because they have hope. It enables them to have a positive attitude as they fight. They often are able to care about others and make others feel hopeful and encouraged. Their words and their actions are inspired by hope.
Are you hopeful by what you see in our world? Probably not, but that is because, as the song says, “This world is not my home”. If you find hope in this world, you are focusing on the wrong thing. Two scriptures that speak to hope are important for us to memorize and understand. We should at least have the idea of these passages locked deep in our hearts.
The first is Romans 8:18-25, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the first fruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”
The passage helps us to see that our hope is in something greater than ourselves. We are important and valuable, but not able to bring about utopia on earth. All humanity, though we are able to create and invent and improve our lives, the creation itself is subject to decay. The hope comes from outside of us. When we have that hope, we are able to endure patiently the things we face.
The second passage to look in is Hebrews 6:17-20. It teaches us that hope is an anchor that keeps our lives safe and secure. When the waves threaten and toss our lives here and there, the anchor keeps us attached to God, so we don’t drift.
May we be people of hope as we live in this world. People who hope in the things they can see are going to be disappointed over and over again. But as they see courage and optimism in us, they will get a glimpse of a future that resonates deep in their hearts, because it is the future for which they were created; that will not disappoint.
In Matthew 4:1-11, we read about the temptation of Christ. As we read the text, we might walk away with several questions and convictions. Questions like, how did He remain faithful to God and was there any purpose in Jesus going through those temptations? Some convictions you may take from the narrative are, if Jesus can be strong then so can I, and even the fact that we will all face temptations.
It is good to note that temptation is not sin but the thing we are bound to meet if we are human (1 Corinthians 10:13). If we skirmish with temptation often, perhaps it is because we have refused to let God lift us to a higher plane where we would face temptations of another order.
A person’s character on the inside, determines what he is tempted by on the outside. The temptation fits the nature of the one tempted and reveals the possibilities of who you are. One of the temptations that Jesus faced was to have all the kingdoms of the world (cf. Matthew 4:8-9). Isn’t that what Jesus wanted, in a sense? To possess all these kingdoms and rule them in justice? He will rule all nations and all knees will bow to Him. The temptation was a shortcut to what was ultimately true and good. Oswald Chambers puts it this way, “Temptation is a suggested short cut to the realization of the highest at which I aim –not towards what I understand as evil, but towards what I understand as good.”
Satan is a manipulator and in this passage he knows how he could derail the plan of God. Satan doesn’t really understand the plan of God and he hates Jesus and he hates you and me. Satan plays on the hope that people are shallow in their faith and will buy into his schemes. Jesus was not a shallow person. His understanding of God’s plan and God’s Word was deep. When the distortion of good was presented, He went nuclear and pulled the sovereignty of God card. Matthew says, “Then the devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him.”
Jesus could see this end goal. God’s truth and strength sustains you through the temptation, but He also shows up after you have been faithful to confirm the value of who you are and give you what you really need.
So commit to standing firm in your faith and be wise about the schemes of the enemy. Let God give you what you need and in His time. Allow His Word to go deep and transform you into all that you were meant to become.
A few weeks ago, in our study of Acts 21, we saw that the Jewish leaders were making false accusations about Paul and what he was teaching. In short, gossip was driving the incident. This is not uncommon among believers and it often happens in the church. In the narrative of Acts 21 we see the negative results of gossip. It is important for us to develop a strong ethic against the practice of gossip. The following is a poem that gives us a mindset to adopt:
I Have No Time
I have no time to find fault with others:
I have too many faults of my own.
While I myself, may not know them,
I’m sure to others, they’re known.
I have no time for idle gossip:
You see, it may all be a lie.
Soon the story will die out,
if everyone passes it by.
I have no time to listen,
to those things that stir up strife.
Far better to tell of good deeds done
And brighten everyone’s life.
Being optimistic and looking on the bright side is a far better way for Christians to communicate. It is too easy to be negative and highlight what we think is wrong. This can be what destroys a church. Lakeview has suffered in the past because of negative dialogue and complaining, often at the heart of which is gossip and slander. As we move forward with the emphasis of UpReach, InReach and OutReach, our interpersonal communication will be important. Remember, our adversary does not want us to move forward. We do not want to do his work and it is possible for good people to say the wrong things (see Matthew 16:21-23).
As we move forward, let’s commit to the ethic of saying only that which builds up and check our words. As we move forward, think only of those things that are excellent and praiseworthy and filter our thoughts. Our mission is important and nothing less than our best will do.
By the way, Lanita and I appreciate the many cards and kind words that we have received over the last several weeks. If you were trying to encourage us and make us feel loved, it worked!
Why did God give us His Word? Why does He not speak to us directly? Wouldn’t it be easier if He talked to us the way He talked to Adam in the Garden? Why is He silent? The short answer is found in the fact that there have been long periods of silence as it relates to God’s intervention in history. Just prior to the intervention surrounding the life of Jesus, there was a 400 year period of silence. It is not that God didn’t care; He just wasn’t being listened to in the first place; and He was waiting for just the right time to speak. As a side thought, when God did speak in a direct fashion, it was through a prophet or a holy person who was definitely serving the God who created him. (You know what usually happened to those guys? read Luke 13:34). There is a higher level of accountability that we may not want to be held to when God speaks directly. Ananias and Sapphira had a more direct encounter with God and look what happened to them. Herod also had a direct encounter with God and things didn’t end well for him either (read Acts 13:23).
The longer answer is that God has always been about creating faith in human beings. When human beings have faith in that which is outside themselves, they live better. In the word of God, we see the nature of God and the character of God on display. Because it is truth, it has a power that is beyond self-help books and human philosophy (Colossians 2:8). The Hebrew writer states, “For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of souls and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). As we intentionally interact with God’s Word, God is speaking directly to us. He inspired people to write it, but it is still essentially Him. His truth will guide us and enlighten us to create faith and allow us to live peacefully and confidently in a confused and chaotic world. Since it is our decision to follow and learn, we are submitting ourselves to the God who created us and loves us. Since it is our decision, we have time to understand and change.
Ananias, Sapphira and Herod had an encounter with the Divine and paid for their insolence. We have the opportunity to learn and understand at our own pace, as God is patient, not wanting any to perish. Commit yourself to that course of discipleship today, as one day we will all meet our Creator face to face.
I wanted to remind the men of the Men’s Ministry planning meeting that will take place on Saturday, November 16th at 9:00 am, at the Lakeview Church building. The goals of this meeting are to begin designing a ministry for men, to study and to pray. A few have stated their interest for something like this at Lakeview. We have talked about it for some time, and it is now up to us to take that next step. Please drop me a note and let me know if you are going to be there. You may RSVP to my email address which is email@example.com. Also feel free to ask any questions or offer any input.
Our men’s class last Spring ended with a focus on what is called “The Resolution”, which is declaration of resolve. Resolving means deciding - once and for all. The Scriptures describe a resolute man as being steadfast, meaning he has chosen to stand up and become fixed on doing what is right. The Psalmist describes a content man by saying, “His heart is steadfast, trusting the Lord” (Psalm 112:7). This is the kind of man that God desires to lead His church. It is this kind of men we need to have around us. This is the type of person that serves in the role of “iron sharpens irons.”
Our hope is to be a resource for men to become this type of person. Are you resolute and steadfast in your commitment to God? Are you resolute and steadfast in your service to God? Are you resolute and steadfast in leading your home according to God’s ways and with Christian character? It will be our goal to create programing, training and serving opportunities that will lead us to becoming and maintaining men who are steadfast and resolute.
The end goal is a legacy that will endure. Three times in Psalm 112, we find the idea that the righteousness creates a life that will endure, not only in what I do directly, but also indirectly. That is the proof of the direction of your life. What does your legacy look like? I pray that God will use this effort to create not only something that is meaningful for men at Lakeview, but will result in something that endures.
At the Spiritual Growth Workshop, hosted at Lakeview this past weekend, we were challenged to seriously consider the call to holiness in the book of Ephesians. The purpose of the workshop was to be a visible sign of unity. This is a key idea in the book of Ephesians, specifically the reference at 4:3, “…diligently keep the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.” An aspect of unity that precedes unity among believers, is a unity between the believer and Christ. If we are unconditionally united to Christ, that peace will exist and will define our relationships.
The passage in Luke 9:57-62 is a challenge to those who are interested in following Christ. In this passage, Jesus references three people that represent how an individual might be interested in Christ but not united with Christ. The first example is a person who considers following Christ as a thing that is pleasant and comfortable (Luke. 9:58). I must let everything go if I am going to truly make Jesus my Lord. The second example is the person who wants to simply show respect to his father (Luke 9:59). In doing this, he is putting a loyalty to our relatives ahead of our loyalty to Christ. Making Christ second to other relationships does not make Jesus your Lord. The third example is someone who is intensely ready to go, but never really goes (Luke 9:61). Human attachments can divert us from the call to follow Christ. If Jesus is your Lord, start following and never look back.
These are three common examples of those who are interested with Christ, but are not united to Christ in His mission. It is crucial to have unity with Christ and His mission before unity with other believers. This mission is a part of what binds us together. In addition we have the bond of a common salvation experience. We also have a strong bond because of the Holy Spirit that is in us.
All of these elements work together to create a visible community that is joined in belief and purpose. God’s design is that this visible, united community be a beacon of hope for a hopeless humanity. In us they get a glimpse of what being human is all about. How is your unity with other believers? If it isn't very strong, then spend some time looking at your unity with Christ. When that is right, everything else will be right.
The analogy of The Three Chairs is a useful tool to help us visualize where we are in our commitment to God. Most would agree that to wholly love and serve God is the goal of Christian discipleship. That is what the First Chair is all about; it is the chair of commitment. How do we get there and how do we stay there? As a man who is trying to occupy that first chair, I have concluded that I need other men to help me with that goal. “As iron sharpens iron…” I have been thinking about this ever since our men’s class last Spring. We are planning to offer a class on leadership soon, but I need something more than a class; I need a lifestyle. I need to journey with other men. We need to be intentional about creating these opportunities.
As a time to share some ideas, I would like to plan a meeting for men on Saturday, November 16th at 9:00 AM at the church building. The goal of this meeting will be to brainstorm ideas, to study and pray. We should be done by 11:00 AM. Please let me know if you are interested in this sort of activity. If a different time or date would be better for you, let me know. We are not locked into this date and time. I just want to get something on the calendar and get moving on this. You may RSVP to my email address which is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also feel free to ask any questions.
As we learned in our class last Spring, godly men are desperately needed in our homes, churches and communities. Spiritual male leadership is God’s design for our homes and the church. Such leadership can spill out into our community and make a significant difference in the lives of people who are looking for what is missing. Brian Simmons, Minister for the Metro church of Christ in Gresham, who speaks often on this subject, begins by saying, “Did you hear about the man-eating lion that came to one of our meetings? He starved!” A fictitious story, to be sure, but it makes you think. It asks the question, “Where are the men?” Let me know if you are interested. Pray about being a part of this.
(1 John 2:12-14)
Bruce Wilkinson has devoted a lot of his time to creating “tools” that help people remember Bible principles. He is the person who created the Walk thru the Bible seminars. I still remember a lot of details about the Old Testament story from that seminar. Another popular metaphor he developed is called, The Principle of the Three Chairs. It is an object lesson that helps people visualize their maturity in their journey of faith. Each of the chairs represents a different level of commitment toward God:
· The First Chair stands for commitment. The person in this chair has chosen to wholly love and serve God.
· The Second Chair stands for compromise. The person in the second chair has chosen to try to get for themselves the best of what both God and the world have to offer.
· The Third Chair stands for conflict. The person in this chair has chosen not to respond to God in meaningful ways, in part or all of their lives. This leaves the person in conflict with eternal spiritual realities.
If you are a Christian then you have sat in every one of these chairs at one time or another during your life. The Chair in which you habitually sit controls all aspects of your life, your values, your goals, your relationship with God, your character, your marriage, your children, how you spend time and money.
This is a very practical way to evaluate our lives. It gives us a picture of where we are sitting. It underlines the fact that where we sit is our choice. It points us to the things that make a strong Christian life.
I want to encourage you to consider the application of The Three Chairs to your spiritual journey. Even if the Three Chairs doesn’t connect, the words that the chairs represent should. One of these words describes your life. Commitment means that every part of my life is submitted and dedicated to God. Compromise means I have allowed earthly attitudes or habits to water down the strength of my faith. Conflict means I am leaving whole parts of my life untouched by God.
I pray that we all have the courage to evaluate which chair we occupy. A church that is growing is populated by people who feel the most comfortable in the first chair. As you evaluate where you are, you will identify the areas of compromise and conflict. Then with the power of the Holy Spirit, you overcome sin and eliminate misbeliefs. God has a meaningful journey for us individually and as a Church Family. When we allow Him access to every part of our lives, we will experience the difference (Philippians 2:13).
It is good to be home after a week away of relaxing and fishing. A few years ago I stumbled upon the idea of getting away for some alone time and combining it with fishing. Every year, I plan to get away to clear the decks of the past and think about the future. I am thankful to the diligent crew of people who made the Rescue Mission Outreach happen and for the opportunity to have Travis Harmon come and speak while I was away. Also thanks to Kenny Coleman for leading the Wednesday Night Class on how to read the Bible. Thanks to all of you for allowing me to get away.
While I was over near Grand Coulee fishing, Jim Karkosky sent word that the decision had been made to offer Ben Cook the Family Minister position. It was good to hear he accepted and that he would begin his work with us soon. I am eager to begin working with Ben and the Elders to carry out the vision of the Lakeview Congregation as a people of God. Over the last year and a half, Ben and I have developed a friendship that will serve as a foundation for our work together. I appreciated Ben and his approach to ministry before he expressed interest in the work at Lakeview. It is my prayer that God will mold us into a committed team that will lead the congregation in serving, teaching and carrying out the vision that God has given to the Elders of the Lakeview Church of Christ.
A few weeks ago the congregation engaged in a time of fasting and prayer concerning the affairs and circumstances of the nation in which we live. It is right that we should do that because the influence of godly people can determine the direction of a nation. The example of Daniel and the work of the early church in transforming the Roman Empire are just a few examples. Before us now is the next phase in the life cycle of the Lakeview Church. We must join together individually and then as a body in fasting and prayer for the future of this church family. Over the next few weeks I encourage you to devote part of a day each week to a concentrated effort of prayer. We are on a spiritual journey and in a spiritual battle and the encouragement to prayer and fasting is the example of the faithful people we read about in the Bible. We will not succeed in our endeavors by any other power than what God gives to us as we seek His will and His strength and wisdom to carry it out.
It was such a joy to see everyone this past Wednesday. May that same joy be in all of us as we consider our part in the next phase of life for the Lakeview church. May we be prepared and ready to serve and teach as God brings people into our midst; people who are looking for hope and truth for their lives.