|December 21, 2011||Two Learning Experiences In One Day|
|December 06, 2011||EMERGENCY!!|
|November 21, 2011||What If . . .|
|November 14, 2011||Simply Magic|
|November 01, 2011||Give Way|
|October 24, 2011||F4 Fearless|
|October 17, 2011||F3 Floundering|
|October 03, 2011||F2 Favored|
|September 26, 2011||F1 Failed|
|September 20, 2011||Humble Me, Lord|
In our house, we have slowly begun to raise Alabama fans. We do not sit down and educate our daughters about how important it is to root for Alabama, but they pick it up. They see us watch the football games, see me cheer when one team does something I like, and hear me groan when the other team does something I do not like. "Which team are we cheering for," my daughter will ask, "the red one or the orange one?" She is learning to love what I love not because I am sitting down trying to teach her to love a thing, she naturally tends to gravitate toward areas of my life that occupy my time.
What we want to teach our children about life is not something they learn, what we actually practice in life is what teaches our children whether we want to or not. This was my first learning experience: If what you do teaches your children, what are you teaching them about God, about the Bible, about a relationship with God?
I really enjoy the tablet PC I received for my birthday last month. The functionality it has for work, reading books, surfing the web, sending and receiving emails, and even the games can really occupy a good bit of time. However, I recently heard a message about how what we do teaches our children, and my mind went to the times when I was playing a game on my tablet PC and how quickly my daughters came to me, peering over my shoulder, watching me . . . and learning.
"This is what I love, this is what is important to me" is the message I was communicating. Whether I like it or not, that message was coming in loud and clear to them. The good thing is, I don't have to communicate that message. I can change that message, simply by changing what they see.
Earlier this week I sat down and brought up a Bible verse on the tablet, and without me calling for them my daughters had quickly settled next to me, watching me, and began asking me what I was doing. I had picked Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." I wanted to teach them something about how they talk to each other as sisters, and in an effort to teach them through example, they taught me.
"Right now I would like for you to think of something nice to say." My oldest thought for a moment and said, "I like you because you're cute." To which my youngest replied, "I don't like to be cute," with a small frown. I looked at my oldest, "You just said something kind and nice, but she didn't hear it that way. Like the verse, we need to know to answer every person we meet, which means we need to know how to talk to people so they will understand what we mean. Can you think of another way to say what you mean so she will understand and like what you said?"
After a few moments of back and forth communications between my two daughters, both having found ways to speak kindly to each other, I turned to my youngest and asked, "So, what did she say to you that was kind?" The response came, "Uh, I don't remember." I told the oldest to repeat what she had said, and began to think about the two lessons I had just learned.
Sometimes we speak to our wives, our children, and other people in ways we believe are good and kind, but they don't always hear it that way. When they take offense, the tendency is to get defensive instead of modifying our speech. As well, even when a good message does get across to someone, it is usually quickly forgotten. So, we should all learn to speak more effectively at speaking kind words, and then learn to repeat that message as often as possible.
This was my second learning experience: How would you respond to someone who had learned to speak kindly to you in an effective way, and repeatedly did so over and over again affirming and reaffirming good things about you?
I had just arrived home from a business trip and pulled up into the driveway. My wife was waiting in the carport outside, when just as I opened my car door my oldest daughter came running . . . with fear on her face. "Mom! Come quick!" My wife went inside and I just let her go handle it as I grabbed my stuff from the car and headed into the house. I could hear some whimpering from the back of the house, and so I followed the sounds.
In the bathroom my wife was pressing a wet wash cloth on the mouth of my youngest daughter while the oldest just stood there looking pale and worried. Whatever had happened, blood was definitely involved, and the oldest was obviously feeling guilty and responsible. Shaking off the exhaustion from hours of travel, I asked calmly, "What happened?"
What ensued was an animated and worried explanation by my oldest daughter of how she accidentally slammed the door to the bathroom into the face of her younger sister who was busy being nosey while my oldest was trying to get some privacy. "Tell her you're sorry." My oldest apologized. "Guess you will leave her alone when she needs to use the bathroom from now on won't you?" My youngest nodded.
I hugged my oldest, telling her that everything will be fine, and that she was not in trouble. I believed her when she told her story, not so much because she is not capable of lying, but that she has a home-grown fear of the consequences of lying that far outweigh any fear of discipline for whatever she has done. I then went to my youngest, picked her up, and just hugged her, too.
Within 30 minutes, it was as if the incident had never happened, and life restarted in our house with our little family. Thing is, such small emergencies are much bigger than most men realize. If I had over-reacted, I very well could have wounded the spirit of my oldest. Ignore it completely, and the youngest would be left to wonder if she mattered at all. I'm not saying I handled the situation perfectly, or even the best way possible, but I handled it keeping both of my daughters in mind.
This was not a medical emergency, it was an emergency of priorities. Your children need to know that they matter to you. No matter how big or small the incident, when things go wrong in their lives they want to know you care enough to take some time out for them. If my children had been boys, I might have handled it differently, but with a household full of females, a slap on the back and a "shake it off" simply would not be good enough here.
Whether it is a broken toy, some hurt feelings, a skinned knee, or a busted lip, your kids will come to you with all sorts of emergencies. Many of them will not require more than a few minutes of your attention, but those moments are so very important.
I think that a lot of kids who grow up starved for attention did not come to that point all at once. Rather, it was the missed moments of small emergencies that accumulated over time, and eventually these kids learn that only the most egregious actions will ever warrant attention, and so they go there.
To keep from having those really big emergencies that are self-inflicted by your children, take advantage of the small emergencies to give them attention and show you really care. What small emergencies, what opportunities to show your children you care are passing you by?
I think everyone pretty much understands "The Butterfly Effect". There was even a movie made about it. In short though, small actions and decisions, whimsical afterthoughts even, a glance in one direction instead of another, a spontaneous decision to do something you normally would not do, can all have repercussions far beyond what we may see or intend. Some for good, and others not so good.
As I thought about this, I stopped to wonder how much of our lives does God really care about. You may have heard it said that God does not really care who wins football games, what leg you choose to puts your pants on first in the morning, or whether you choose to listen to the radio instead of roll down the window on the way to work. However, and follow me here, are we not all spiritual beings?
We say we understand that there is a spiritual battle that wages around us, yet most Christians I would guess live 99% of their lives without even thinking about the spiritual implications of their every day lives. What's more, the few moments Christians do think about their spiritual lives are spent in more of a dis-associative moment of reflection or moment of silent thought in prayer that loses it's bearing on the "real world" the very moment they get on with their day.
We are made of spiritual material, spoken into existence by a spiritual God from a spiritual realm. Hebrews 11:3 "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." The physical world around us, and even our physical bodies are governed by rules created by that spiritual realm - rules which can be broken by regular people just like you and me as evidenced by Peter walking on water, and other miracles performed by men in the Bible. How is this possible? Because we are spiritual beings! Decisions and actions in the spiritual realm have effects which are felt in the physical realm we are more familiar with.
What these things all have in common is a genuine faith in that spiritual realm. All it took was tapping into the spiritual power God has placed in each of us, as God lives in us, through faith. Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Go back to the Old Testament and study up on the directions God gave for the tabernacle, the sacrifices, the physical rules God gave the people to help govern their spiritual lives, and even the directions for making the clothes of the priests. Read in the New Testament about how not one sparrow falls to the ground without God knowing, and that even the number of hairs on your head are numbered. Now, try to tell me God is not aware of the smallest details in our lives, and if aware, that He does not care.
What if . . . every decision we make in life has spiritual implications much like the butterfly effect in the physical world? What if . . . the spiritual battle that ceaselessly rages around us is also subtly influencing us in the small decisions we make each and every moment of every day?
Would it not be more important then to seek guidance and wisdom daily? To be in touch with God constantly? 1Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing." Acts 17:11 "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
We check email every day, catch up on news every day, make and/or receiver phone calls every day, yet most of us cannot be bothered to make contact with God through prayer and Bible study every day. The result, we live a life 99% focused on the world around us, and miss the 99% of the spiritual battle being waged around us.
Ignorant of the dangers we face, we walk through the minefield of our everyday spiritual battlefields, taking wounds we do not understand nor see, and wounding others in ways we do not perceive. The effect is that the spiritual casualty rate in our churches, homes, and marriages just continues to skyrocket ever upwards, and everyone is blindly trying to figure out why, looking for physical responses to a spiritual cause.
In light of this, how much more important is it for us as men and leaders of our homes to make spiritually informed, wise, and correct decisions? How will the decisions you make impact the people around you spiritually, with effects in this physical world?
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
This is the fourth article in a four-part series . . .
If you have been paying attention, and if you have read the previous three articles over the previous three days, you have been wondering what all this was building up to, and where it was all going. The only problem with the Fearless Christian life is that I believe so many Christian men wrongly believe they are there.
Go back to the Floundering Christian life for a moment, and realize that when you ask God to use you, and God begins to take you into the deeper waters, there is panic. There is unease. There is a complete loss of control. When God intervenes, and we are taken back to the safety of the Favored Christian life, there is a tendency to pat ourselves on the back for having made the effort - never to try again. As God calls us again though, we begin to resist, and there is the danger. God wants us to grow, and he will nudge us to grow, and He will call us to grow, but God will never force us to grow.
Peter walked on water! He also got distracted, sank, floundered, and had to be rescued. How Jesus responds to him at that moment is telling. It is not a clap on the back and a "You did really well out there for a few moments!" comment followed by other accolades. His words are ones of disappointment of what could have been . . . Matthew 14:31 "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
It is a powerful story, because later this same Peter continues to Flounder. Ready to die with Christ one moment in the Garden of Gethsemane as soldiers come to take Christ away, he soon denies he even knows Christ by the fireside and runs away . . . runs back . . . returns to his old life as a fisherman . . . back to the favored life he once knew where all was safe, everything was OK, and the floundering could cease. However, Christ was not finished with him yet.
How many fearless men in the Bible can you name? Moses, fearless before Pharaoh. Abraham, fearless to offer his own son. Joshua, fearless to raid the land of Canaan. Paul, fearless before many trials and afflictions. What makes these men fearless? For some, the time of their Floundering is aparrent, but for others the Bible does not focus on this and it is less clear. Still, I submit to you that each of these men had their doubts, their fears, their time to flounder before coming to the point they were fearless. Why do I say this? How can I know this?
Return to the pool. Go back to the time of learning how to swim. Floundering in the water, flailing wildly, desperate to extricate yourself from the situation, you slowly built the foundation and the mechanics of swimming. I remember those times, but I also know that today I am comfortable jumping into any body of water with the sure and fearless knowledge that I can swim.
God has a greater purpose for every man's life, and it is not to continue to live the Favored Christian life either. I believe God wants to use you, too, but to get there, God has to take you into the deeper waters and allow you to Flounder. There He can teach you, train you, allow you to learn who you really are, and where your talents and strengths God has given you reside. Coming through all that, you gain a knowledge of your purpose, your place, your identity, and who you really are as a Christian man.
The problem is, too few are ever willing to enter the Floundering Christian life, and so they rush back to the Favored Christian life as quickly as possible. There are some out there though, dissatisfied with the Favored Christian life, who know there is a Fearless Christian life to be lived with a name and an identity, but they do not want to Flounder. They resist the unknown, and so they enter and step back, again and again, trying to work up the courage to surrender to the process God has for them. Of those who enter the Floundering Christian life, it seems all too few ever emerge Fearless.
Look around you. Who among you has given up and allowed "Failure" to be stamped on their life? Who among you would rather live the "Favored" Christian life? Who among you resist the "Floundering" life? Though they want God to use them, they refuse to endure. Who among you, is truly Fearless?
Reposted from MenRising.com
This is the third article in a four-part series . . .
Learning to swim was pretty traumatic when I look back on it. Jumping, or getting thrown, into the water for the first time, and the successive times after that, were horrible events. I remember lots of movement, desperate movement, trying to keep my God-given breathing apparatus above water . . . and failing that, trying to learn to breathe water. It never worked. Coughing and belching what felt like gallons of water was unpleasant to say the least, and not something I really wanted to repeat.
Everything that starts something new flounders. Baby birds flounder to the ground, a newborn colt braces unsure legs trying to take its first steps, and even babies go through a "toddler" phase before really getting their footing and learning to walk. Floundering, whether we like it or not, is a part of growth. Where we go wrong is to mistake floundering for failing, and accepting the label of failure.
I learned to swim. I learned to dive deep, and jump off of high platforms into deep water. I swam in pools large and small, creeks, riverbeds, and even the ocean. Though not as agile as I used to be, I can still swim very well. Then came the time to teach my daughter to learn how to swim. She had been in the shallow end of the pool and had really gotten used to and loved the water, until it came time to learn how to swim. In fact, where she used to ask all the time about going to the pool, she now had a tinge of dread to her voice and asked, "Are you going to take me to the deep end again this time?"
She floundered, she sank, she swallowed and belched up what I am sure must have been gallons of water to her. I do not doubt she thought for sure she was going to die. I would ease up at times, and just let her play in the shallow end. At first our swimming lessons were short, but I kept taking her more often, and for longer periods of time, out of the shallows and into the deeper waters of the pool. She was never in any real danger, because I was always with her, watching her, ready to assist when she really needed me, not just when she really wanted me.
I let her sink a couple of times. I pulled her out more than a few times. I spoke to her as she cried. I held her up when her strength was gone. I encouraged her when she wanted to quit. I kept taking her into the deeper waters.
Today, my daughter can swim. She plays in the shallow end, but she also plays in the deeper waters as well. For some people, learning to swim may come more quickly, but I have a feeling it pretty much goes the same way for just about everyone. To learn to swim, we have to flounder. However, how we react to floundering is up to us.
I am sure many of you are already seeing the spiritual implications, however, many will not as easily recognize them in their own life. How often has God, in an effort to take you out of the shallow waters of the Favored Christian life, allowed you to Flounder in the deeper waters? What has been your reaction to this? See, I believe God has often brought events into our lives we do not appreciate nor want, and we do not see the reason for them. How often do we hear people asking God "why" as they struggle mightily to get back to the shallows of the Favored Christian life?
The strange thing is, we enter the Floundering Christian life at one of two points: either we ask for it, or God sees we are ready for it and just gives us a nudge. Much the way my daughter asked me to teach her to swim, we go to church and ask God to teach us, to use us, to really work in our lives, to make us the Christian men He wants us to be, but then when God does just that and begins to teach us, and we begin to Flounder, we have one of two choices. Either we turn back and give up, preferring rather to live the Favored Christian life, or we endure.
The Floundering Christian life is not a one-time event, because there are many lessons to be learned, many skills to be developed. Have you mistaken Floundering for Failure? Is God nudging you, or have you asked God to use you? Are you ready to go through the Floundering process?
- Reposted from MenRising.com
This is the second article in a four-part series . . .
I cannot emphasize this point enough, so get ready. I REALLY like it when everything goes my way. I have to admit it feels good just to see those words in print, think about what they mean, and envision instances in the past where it has happened. Living a favored life . . . seems like it would be the be-all end-all of what would end up being a truly wonderful life.
Now there is a favored lifestyle I think any one of us could get used to. I have read of Presidents past and First Ladies too, who have noted that lifestyle as one of the greatest perks of being in that office. Everything kept spotless, great food prepared by world-class chefs, beautiful art and artifacts, wonderfully appointed rooms and furniture, and on and on and on the list goes. For the guys need I say anything more than “bullet-proof limo” “Air Force One” and “Secret Service Body-Guard detail”? How cool is all that!?!
Everywhere you go the roads and/or the sky is cleared, and people make way. While we may not get to have that life, we do try in our own ways. We get the best house we can, the best car we can afford, and whatever else we think will make us happy in this life. We accumulate these things around us, and consider ourselves blessed with what we have. Granted, some people are of meager means and do the best they can with what they have, while others can afford quite a bit more, but in the end, we all eventually become used to whatever life we have. We content ourselves and call ourselves blessed and highly favored, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Except . . . we are not here to live a favored life.
A whole lot of Christian men will have gone to church this past Sunday. Some wear really nice clothes while others simply wear the best clothes they have. They carry their Bible under their arm, a smile on their face, shake hands and make small-talk with everyone they meet, keep the kids in line, and sit with their wife. They stand up and sit down at all the right times, sing when it is time, listen attentively to the preacher, and when it is all said and done, they go home. They love their church, their pastor, and consider themselves blessed and highly favored, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Except . . . we are not here to live a favored life.
Again, let me repeat and be very clear. There is NOTHING WRONG with having things in this life. There is not a single “thou shalt not” when it comes to having a nice home, a nice car, nice clothes, and whatever else there is in this life. There is no commandment against having and living a favored life, however, when that becomes the focus and reason for living, that is when things get off-line.
Luke 12:16 “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”
There is a time for the favored life. Where would a baby be without the favored life? However, every child must grow up. The favored life is not something we should seek to keep permanent. Understanding that all belongs to God and that everything God has given us should be used in His service, then we begin to see a greater purpose for the things we have in this life.
Clinging to the Favored Christian life is not God’s plan or purpose for your life. When things get just a little “out of favor” how do you respond? Do you find yourself asking, “What’s wrong, Lord?!” “Why me!?!” Do you try to hold on to the favored life you are living? When things go “wrong” do you try to make them “right” again according to the life you want? Is God trying to teach you or show you something? What if there is something greater than the Favored Christian life to be had?
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
This is the first article in a four-part series . . .
When does a man truly fail? What makes a failure complete?
I remember being a young man truly afraid of getting my report card. I was six years old and in first grade, and I had no idea how grades came to appear on the report card or what they were based on other than someone else's idea of whether or not I had "done well in school" for some time period. The report card came in small yellow envelopes of the kind you'd find in most offices when something official needs to be transported from here to there. I remember carrying mine home with a heavy hand.
I suddenly recounted all the things I had been in trouble for up to that point . . . throwing rocks in the playground . . . spitting water when it was my turn for a drink at the water fountain . . . not staying in line when walking between the classroom and the playground . . . and on and on it went. When I handed my report card to my mother, she began to read down the list of topics I had only heard in the classroom, and was not sure exactly what they meant. Reading - A, Math - A, Penmanship - A (there was a ship?!) and when she came to the bottom of the list I had gotten all A's.
Glad that was over with, I simply went on my way. The next report card, however, did not come back so good. I had a B and a C, and although I was not sure what that meant, I knew from my dad's reaction that it was not good. The third report card came back with an F on it, and that is when my dad took me into the back room for a talk.
Is the letter "F" for "Failure", stamped anywhere on your life? Unfortunately, many Christians have this letter stamped on their life, and not by God, but either by themselves or even more unfortunately, by other Christians. The failed Christian life happens when we do what we know is wrong, but it's not merely getting out of line at the water fountain. It can be much worse.
Infidelity in a marriage is the biggest one that springs to my mind because it seems to be the most abhorrent and prevalent in churches. However, there are other ways to get the big "F" stamped onto your life. For some, it is simply failing to meet expectations. Whether you set them or had them placed on your life, a broken expectation can feel so much like a broken promise that disappoints those around us. However you get it, chances are high that you may be walking around with an "F" stamped on your Christian life. The worst thing about it is it feels permanently engraved there.
How do you know a man has accepted that mark? He stops going to church. He stops reading his Bible. He may even stop trying to talk with God. "God cannot use me" is the message in his heart, and that message can be reinforced in cruel ways by others.
Back to my questions: When does a man truly fail? What makes a failure complete?
Through the year of first grade, I was able to bring my grades back up. The lower grades turned back into B's and A's. In the end, I was no failure. I still had the marks of the past to show for the lack of performance, but it was in the past. The only mark that mattered was the one at the end of the year. The only way that mark of an "F" would have been my undoing is if I had ceased to try. If I had accepted the "F" as permanent the moment it appeared, that would have been my moment of real failure.
Too many Christians today live the Failed Christian life, not because of the mark of Failure, but because they have accepted that mark as permanent, and have stopped trying. What is more, there are too many other Christians out there all too ready to remind them of the mark. Though life has moved on, they continue to point their finger into the past - "Failure" is on their lips every time they say hello, and the engraving grows a little deeper.
We do not have to live the Failed Christian life though. All we have to do is keep trying. Peter fell beneath the waves, cut off a man's ear, denied Christ three times, and still lived a very successful Christian life . . . because he understood . . . a man only truly fails when he fails to keep trying. Then, his failure is complete.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
“Humble me, Lord.” How different would your Christian walk and spiritual life be if you prayed that prayer every day and meant it? What would it look like if God were to humble you?
Two stories stick out in my mind when it comes to humility, and both of them have to do with tanks. The first story comes from a soldier on the battle field of World War One, called The Great War at the time (there had not yet been a World War II), tanks were just really beginning to come into their own as a tool on the battlefield. Before tanks, armies would line up on either side, and dig in with mazes of trenches with barb wire and machine gun nests. In between them was “No Man’s Land” which was a space of land neither side held, and where both sides had equal access to fire the full force of their weapons.
When the tank came along, it changed all that. As a soldier recalled his first encounter with a tank, he said the experience was both terrifying and humbling. All the prepared defenses were useless. The tank rolled through No Man’s Land, through the machine gun fire, over the barbed wire, and caved in the trenches on top of the men who were underneath. Lines of soldiers followed, and his unit was in an immediate state if disarray.
The second story takes me back to June 4, 1989. In Beijing China, in a plaza called Tian-an-men Square, students rose up in protest, and were fired upon and killed by Chinese government forces. At one point, after much of the square has been cleared, tanks begin to roll into the square. A single column of tanks grinds to a halt, not because of overwhelming opposition, but because one single man resolved to block them or be overrun, stands in their way.
As he stands there, the tanks rolling directly up to him, I am the one humbled. He stands there in protest, and we can only assume because of the events preceding he is there on behalf of the Chinese students previously murdered by their own government. In my mind, he also personifies humility in the sense that he has come to the point that, in his own mind, he has given up everything. Had he any reservation within himself for himself or the things he owned on this earth, doubtless he would not have been there, yet there he stood.
I wonder how many Christians would be willing to make such a stand. Too many times, even I admit I am too preoccupied with the things of this world, trying to hold onto the status quo of my own life, trying to do the day-to-day things that make ends meet, and sometimes I forget what my real mission in life is as a Christian. It is worth remembering these stories, because if we pray “Humble me, Lord” it may just happen that God sends a tank over the defensive lines in our lives we have so carefully prepared, so that we may hold no thing on this earth in reserve in a stand for Him.
How different would your life be if you sincerely prayed, “Humble me, Lord” every day?
- reposed from www.MenRising.com