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Reluctantly Social

A somewhat reformed introverts guide to life
A month ago, I did something that was in some ways new to me and in some ways very familiar. I volunteered to go with my church’s high school ministry to a conference for a week in Daytona Beach. I am not new to youth ministry trips, having been in middle school ministry for 7 years now, including 4 years of leading it, but this was my first trip with high school ministry, actually my first significant experience at all in high school ministry.  I knew they had been short a few leaders the previous year and I knew some of the rising freshman and sophomores from my work in middle school ministry, I could get the time off work, and the need was there, so I volunteered.
There are a few interesting stories to share, and those may come later, but after all the experiences, one statement had been echoing in my mind, which came from Brooklyn Lindsey, a youth pastor from Florida, who spoke at the event (read her blog here). That statement was “God is a fan of little things”. She used this in the context of a girl in her youth group that had sewn together little birds and sold them, and taken the proceeds and given them to support the building of wells in Africa through Active Water (see Birds of Hope), who had been able to make a difference through doing a little thing.
I think it stuck out originally because I wasn’t sure I believed it completely, or maybe because I thought maybe that if God is a fan of little things, that he is not also a fan of big things? This idea rattled around in my head for a few days, as I continued to hear messages, as I participated in awesome worship, and continued to hang out with the high school kids during their social time. Once we loaded in the buses and were headed back to North Carolina, I had some time to think about the week, and I realized that maybe I was just thinking about it a little wrong. As I talked to students about their experiences (or watching what they posted to social media afterward), I felt as if each person got something a little bit different out of the week, some of which I have listed below. I am not sure if I can agree with “God is a fan of little things”, but I will tell you that “God is IN the little things”, that he works out moments in our lives, seeming inconsequential at the time or just “coincidence”, but when compiled together in the summary of your experience, that they teach us something, they help reveal His plan for our lives, or help us realized that we need Him.
Some of the “little things” that were learned that week:
  • Never assume someone’s relationship with God – yes, even on a Christian youth trip, there are students struggling with or unsure of their faith, or sometimes even those who are on the trip because their parents made them and they are putting on an act so they can “go along to get along” and have absolutely no relationship with God and no desire to pursue one
  • People are desperate for someone who is sincerely interested in listening to them – I thought I understood this before, but I had a new experience – within 20 minutes of meeting me (I literally hadn’t even gotten the kid’s name yet), a student opened up about his struggles with same sex attraction
  • You have no standing to judge someone else’s behavior – somewhat related to not knowing someone’s standing with God, each person has their own journey in their relationship with God and is walking that out in their own time. Their commitments, their choices, and their behavior stem from that relationship, and your relationship with God is different than theirs – this phrase has been floating around the last few months, not sure of the source, but it is “don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you”
  • God is real and present in our lives – a student told me “God is so much more real for me now” – I am fairly certain this student literally felt the Holy Spirit move during worship for the first time in his life
  • What people do and what people say or believe are very often in conflict with each other – even though they don’t intend it that way, some people fail to act based on what they believe or they say something and do another thing – this is particularly difficult when people say one thing that they have convinced themselves is true, yet do something else because what they said is not actually what they believe
  • A message sent is not necessarily a message received – and I am not just talking about text messages – just because words come out of your mouth in a certain order and with a certain meaning doesn’t mean then enter another persons ears that way
  • Small actions can have large consequences – both good and bad – whether it be from a momentary lapse in judgement, boredom, or just plain stupidity, consequences are very rarely in proportion to the amount of time it takes you to make a mistake, in fact I believe that may be an inverse relationship
  • Being authentic is sometimes more important than having all the answers – sometimes “I don’t know” or “I have the same question” IS the correct answer, because someone needs to know that they aren’t the only one thinking that
  • God can reward even small acts of courage, boldness, or obedience – God can do amazing things with seemingly small actions
  • You may have to give or sacrifice without receiving anything in return – your definition of sacrifice may end up not producing the results you thought – if that’s the case, is it still worth the sacrifice?
Adam was created outside the Garden, in the wilderness.
And ever since then boys have never been at home indoors, and men have had an insatiable longing to explore.
The masculine heart needs a place where nothing is prefabricated, modular, nonfat, zip lock, franchised, on-line, microwavable. Where there are no deadlines, cell phones, or committee meetings. Where there is room for the soul.
If a man is ever to find out who he is and what he’s here for, he has got to take that journey for himself.
“Where are all the real men?” is regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say.
When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy.
That’s what we hold up as models of Christian maturity: Really Nice Guys. We don’t smoke, drink, or swear, that’s what makes us men. Now let me ask my male readers: In all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you ever dream of becoming a Nice Guy?
The church wags its head and wonders why it can’t get more men to sign up for its programs. The answer is simply this: We have not invited a man to know and live from his deep heart.
Little girls do not invent games where large numbers of people die, where bloodshed as a prerequisite for having fun. Hockey, for example, was not a feminine creation. Nor was boxing. A boy wants to attack something – and so does a man even if it’s only a little white ball on a tee. He wants to whack it into kingdom come. On the other hand, my boys do not sit down to tea parties. They do not call their friends on the phone to talk about relationships. They grow bored of games that have no element of danger or competition or bloodshed. Cooperative games based on “relational interdependance” are complete nonsense. “No one is killed?” they ask, incredulous. “No one wins? What’s the point?” The universal nature of this ought to have convinced us by now. The boy is a warrior, the boy is his name. And those are not boyish antics he i doing. When boys play at war they are rehearsing their part in a much bigger drama. One day, you just might need that boy to defend you.
What would Robin Hood or King Arthur be without the women they love? Lonely men fighting lonely battles.
What if? What if those deep desires in our hearts are telling us the truth, revealing to us the life we were meant to live? God gave us eyes so that we might see; he gave us earts that we might hear; he gave us wills that we might choose, and gave us hearts that we might live. The way we handle the heart is everthing. A man must know he is powerful; he must know he has what it takes. A woman must know she is beautiful, she must know she is worth fighting for.
Most of the men I know are trying hard not to become like their fathers. But who does that leave them to follow after? From whom will they derive their sense of strength?
…he gives them an identity and a reason to fight.
…if all you have ever longed for is just one kind word, then Christ is the incarnation of tender mercy. He reaches out and touches you. On the other hand, if you’re a Pharisee, one of those self-appointed doctrine police…watch out. On more than one occasion Jesus “picks a fight” with those notorious hypocrites.
Dorothy Sayers wrote that the church has “very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah” making him “a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”
It then occurred to me that after God made all this, he pronounced it good, for heaven’s sake. It’s his way of letting us know he rather prefers adventure, danger, risk, the element of surprise. This whole creation is unapologetically wild. God loves it that way.
Even though he knew what would happen, what heartbreak and suffering and devastation would follow upon our disobedience, God chose to have children. And unlike some hyper-controlling parents, who take away every element of choice they can from their children, God gave us a remarkable choice. He did not make Adam and Eve obey him. He took a risk. A staggering risk, with staggering consequences. He let others into his story, and he lets their choices shape it profoundly.
It’s not the nature of God to limit his risks and cover his bases. Far from it. Most of the time, he actually lets the odds stack up against him. Against Goliath, a season soldier and a trained killer, he sends… a freckle-faced little shepherd kid with a slingshot. Most commanders going into battle want as many infantry as they can get. God cuts Gideon’s army from thirty-two thousand to three-hundred. Then he equips the ragtag little band that’s left with tourches and watering pots. It’s not just a battle or two that God takes his chances with, either. Have you thought about his handling of the gospel? God needs to get a message out to the human race, without which they will perish forever. What’s the plan? First, he starts with the most unlikely group ever; a couple of prostitutes, a few fisherman with no better than second-grade education, a tax collector. Then, he passes the ball to us. Unbelievable.
Often when I am with a woman, I find myself quietly wondering. What is she telling me about God? I know he wants to say something to the world through Eve – what is it?
For after years of living in a cage, a lion no long even believes it is a lion…and a man no longer believes he is a man.
How come when men look in their hearts they don’t discover something valiant and dangerous, but instead find anger, lust, and fear? Most of the time, I feel more fearful than I do fierce.
What makes pornography so addictive is that more than anything else in a lost man’s life, it makes him feel like a man without ever requiring a thing of him. The less a guy feels like a real man in the presence of a real woman, the more vulnerable he is to porn.
This is every man’s deepest fear: to be exposed, to be ofund out, to be discovered as an impostor, and not really a man.
We doubt very much that we have any real strength to offer, and we’re pretty certain that if we did offer what we have it wouldn’t be enough.
Desire reveals design, and design reveals destiny.
Every man repeats the sin of Adam, every day. We won’t risk, we won’t fight, and we won’t rescue Eve.
Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. Because the wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed, every man carries a wound. And the wound is nearly always given by his father.
[Men] praise indirectly, by way of accomplishment.
Miss that moment and you’ll miss a boy’s heart forever. It’s not a question – it’s the question, the one every boy and man is longing to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows he’s a man he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is not. Most men live their lives haunted by the question, or crippled by the answer they’ve been given.
In order to understand how a man receives a wound, you must understand the central truth of a boy’s journey to manhood. Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who is he and what he’s got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women. The plan from the beginning of time was that his father would lay the foundation for a young boy’s heart, and pass on to him that essential knowledge and confidence in his strength. Dad would be the first man in his life, and forever the most important man. Above all, he would answer the question for his son and give him his name. Throughout the history of man given to us in Scripture, it is the father who gives the blessing and thereby “names” the son.
“The ancient societies believe that a boy becomes a man only through ritual and effort – only through the “active intervention of older men,”
No matter how good your life may have seemed to you, you live in a broken world full of broken people.
For to live a driven life you have to literally shove your heart down, or drive it with whips. You can never admit need, never admit brokenness. This is the story of the creation of that false self.
Those are the two basic options. Men either overcompensate for their wound and become driven (violent men) or they think back and go passive (retreating men).
You cannot teach a boy to use his strength by stripping him of it. Jesus was able to retaliate, believe me. But he chose not to. And yet we suggest that a boy who is mocked, shamed before his fellows, stripped of all power and dignity should stay in that beaten place because Jesus wants him there? You will emasculate him for life. From that point on all will be passive and fearful. He will grow up never knowing how to stand his ground, never knowing if he is a man indeed. Oh yes, he will be courteous, sweet even, deferential, minding all his manners. It may look moral, it may look like turning the other cheek, but it is merely weakness. You cannot turn a cheek you do not have. Our churches are full of such men.
– a man is not wounded once, but many, many times in the course of his life. Nearly every blow ends up falling in the same place: against his strength. Life takes it way, one vertebra at a time, until in the end he has no spine at all.
The idea, widely held in our culture, is that the aggressive nature of boys is inherently bad, and we have to make them into something more like girls. The primary tool for that operation is our public school system. The average schoolteacher faces an incredible challenge: to bring order to a room of boys and girls, and promote learning. The main obstacle to that noble goal is getting the boys to sit still, keep quiet, and pay attention… for an entire day. You might as well hold back the tide. That’s not the way a boy is wired, and it’s not the way a boy learns. Rather than changing the way we do male education, we try to change males.
At least three to four times as many boys than girls are essentially defined as ill because their preferred patterns of play don’t fit easily into the structure of the school. Well-meaning pscyho-managers then prescribe tranquilizing drugs for ADD, such as Ritalin… The situation is scandalous. The use of drugs so disproportionately among boys betrays the failure of school authorities to understand sex differences… The only disease these boys may have is being male.
We don’t know how to initiate boys into men; and second, we’re not sure we really want to.
Yes, a man is a dangerous thing. So is a scalpel. It can wound or it can save your life. You don’t make it safe by making it dull; you put it in the hands of someone who knows what he’s doing.
The Enemy fears you. You are dangerous big-time. If you are ever really got your heart back, live from it with courage, you would be a huge problem to him. You would do a lot of damage…on the side of good.
Most men have never been initiated into manhood.
He had all the appearances of masculinity, but none of it felt like it was coming from a true center.
Femininity can arouse masculinity.
But femininity can never bestow masculinity.
When a man takes his question to the woman what happens is either addition or emasculation. Usually both.
This is why so many men secretly fear their wives. She sees him as no one else does, sleeps with him, know what he’s made of. If he has given her the power to validate him as a man, then he has also given him the power to invalidate him too.
What’s fascinating to note is that homosexuals are actually more clear on this point. They know that what is missing in their hearts is masculine love. The problem is that they’ve sexualized it. Joseph Nicolosi says that homosexuality is an attempt to repair the would by filling it with masculinity, either the masculine love that was missing or the masculine strength many men feel they do not possess. It, too, is a vain search and that is why the overwhelming number of homosexual relationships do not last, why so many gay men move from one man to another and why so many of them suffer from depression and a host of other addictions. What they need can’t be found there.
…despite a man’s past and the failures of his own father to initiate him, God could take him on that journey, provide what was missing.
The history of man’s relationship with God is the story of how God calls him out, takes him on a journey and gives him his true name.
He created Adam for adventure, battle, and beauty; he created us for a unique place in his story and he is committed to bringing us back to the original design.. So God calls Abram out from Ur of the Chaldeans to a land he has never seen, to the frontier, and along the way Abram gets a new name. He becomes Abraham. God takes Jacob off into Mesopotamia somewhere, to learn things he has to learn and cannot learn at his mother’s side. When he rides back into town, he has a limp and a new name as well.
“Men are taught over and over when they are boys that a wound that hurts is shameful,” notes Bly. “A wound that stops you from continuing to play is a girlish wound. He who is truly a man keeps walking, dragging his guts behind.
That sort of misunderstanding is why for most of us, our wound is an immense source of shame. A man’s not supposed to get hurt; he’s certainly not supposed to let it really matter. We’ve seen too many movies where the good guy takes an arrow, just breaks it off, and keeps on fighting; or maybe he gets shot but is still able to leap across a canyon and get the bad guys. And so most men minimize their wound. “It’s not a big deal. Lots of people get hurt when they’re young. I’m okay.”
The only thing more tragic than the tragedy that happens to us is the way we handle it. God is fiercely committed to you, to the restoration and release of your masculine heart. But a wound that goes unacknowledged and unwept is a wound that cannot heal. A wound you’ve embraced is a wound that cannot heal. A wound you think you deserved is a wound that cannot heal. That is why Brennan Manning says, “The spiritual life begins with the acceptance of our wounded self.” Really? How can that be? The reason is simple: “Whatever is denied cannot be healed.” But that’s the problem, you see. Most men deny their wound – deny that it happened, deny that it urt, certainly deny that it’s shaping the way they live today. And so God’s initiation of a man must take a very cunning course; a course that feels very odd, even cruel. He will wound us in the very place where we have been wounded.
The true test of a man, the beginning of his redemption, actually starts when he can no longer rely on what’s he used all his life. The realy journey begins when the false self fails.
This is a very dangerous moment, when God seems set against everything that has meant life to us. Satan spies his opportunity, and leaps to accuse God in our hearts. You see, he says, God is angry with you. He’s disappointed in you. If he loved you he would make things smoother. He’s not out for your best, you know. The Enemy always tempts us back toward control, to recover and rebuild the false self.
Drop the fig leaf; come out from hiding. For how long? Longer than you want to; long enough to raise the deeper issues, let the wound surface from beneath it al. Losing the false self is painful; though it’s a mask, it’s one we’ve worn for years and losing it can feel like losing a close friend. Underneath the mask is all the hurt and fear we’ve been running from, hiding from. To let it come to the surface can shake us like an earthquake.
You release her as the object of your anger because you release her as the one who was supposed to make you a man.
…he can never heal his wound by delivering another to the one he promised to love.
Notice that the struggle with pornography and masturbation is most difficult when you are lonely, or beat up, or longing for comfort in some way.
Our sin is that stubborn part inside that wants, above all else, to be independent. There’s a part of us fiercely committed to living in a way where we do not have to depend on any one – especially God. Then culture comes along with figures like John Wayne and James Bond and all those other “real men,” and the one thing they have in common is that they are loners, they don’t need anyone. We come to believe deep in our hearts that needing anyone for anything is a sort of weakness, a handicap. This is why a man never, ever stops to ask for directions.
….so many men I know life with a deep misunderstanding of Christianity. They look at is as a “second chance” to get their act together. They’ve been for given, now they see it as their job to get with the program. They’re trying to finish the marathon with a broken leg. But follow this closely now: You’ll recall that masculinity is an essence that is passed from father to son. That is a picture, as so many things in life are, of a deeper reality. The true essence of strength is passed to us from God through our union with him.
We know we are meant to embody strength, we know we are not what we were meant to be, and so we feel our brokenness as a source of shame.
Men are typically quite harsh with the broken places within them. Many report feeling as though there is a boy inside, and they despise that about themselves. Quit being such a baby, they order themselves.
Abiding in the love of God is our only hope, the only true home for our hearts. It’s not that we mentally acknowledge that God loves us. It’s that we let our hearts come home to him, and stay in his love.
Don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving; you will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made” We allow God to bring up the hurt from our past, for “if your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your life, it will will be incomplete.” We acknowledge that it hurt, that it mattered, and we choose to extend forgiveness to our father. This is not saying, “It didn’t really matter”; it is not saying, “I probably deserved part of it anyway.” Forgiveness says, “It was wrong, it mattered, and I release you.”
What of me, dear Lord? Are you pleased? What did you see? I am sorry that I have to ask, wishing I knew without asking. Fear, I suppose, makes me doubt. Still, I yearn to hear from you – a word, or image, a name or even just a glance from you.
True strength does not come out of bravado. Until we are broken, our life will be self-centered, self-reliant; our strength will be our own. So long as you think you are really something in and of yourself, what will you need God for? I don’t trust a man who hasn’t suffered; I don’t let a man get close to me who hasn’t faced his wound. Think of the posers you know – are they the kind of man you would call at 2 AM, when life is collapsing around you? Not me. I don’t want cliches, I want deep, soulful truth, and that only comes when a man has walked the road I’ve been talking about.
If we would endeavor, like men of courage, to stand in the battle, surely we would feel the favorable assistance of God from Heaven. For he who giveth us occasion to fight, to the end we may get the victory, is ready to succor those that fight manfully, and do trust in his grace. – Thomas A. Kempis
There is no other man who can replace you in your life, in the arena you’ve been called to. If you leave your place in the line, it will remain empty. No one else can be who you are meant to be. You are the hero in your story. Not a bit player, not an extra, but the main man. This is the next leg in the initiation journey, when God calls a man forward to the front lines. He wants to develop and release in us the qualities every warrior needs – including a keen awareness of the enemies he will face.
…a warrior is cunning. He knows when to fight and when to run; he can sense a trap and never charges blindly ahead; he knows what weapons to carry and how to use them. Whatever specific terrain you are called to – at home, at work, in the realm of the arts or industry of world politics, you will always encounter three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. They make up a sort of unholy trinity. Because they always conspire together it’s a bit difficult to talk about them individually; in any battle at least two of them are involved, but usually it’s all three.
What the Scriptures call the flesh, the old man, or the sinful nature, is that part of fallen Adam in every man that always wants the easiest way out.
To put it bluntly, your flesh is a weasel, a poser, and a selfish pig. And your flesh is not you. Did you know that? Your flesh is not the real you.
The Big Lie in the church today is that you are nothing more than “a sinner saved by grace.” You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ. The New Testament calls you a saint, a holy one, a son of God. In the core of your being you are a good man. Yes, there is a war within us, but it is a civil war. The battle is not between us and God, no, there is a traitor within who wars against our true heart fighting alongside the Spirit of God in us.
We are never, ever told to crucify our heart. We are never told to kill the true man within us, never told to get rid of those deep desires for battle and adventure and beauty.
…accepting flattery in exchange for some sort of loyalty, is sabotage.
…”the world” is not a place or a set of behaviors – it is any system built by our collective sin, all our false selves coming together to reward and destroy each other. Take all those posers out there, put them together in an office or a club or a church, and what you get is what the Scriptures mean by the world.
The world of posers is shaken by a real man.
These men knew they were at war, yet they refused to act like it. They lived in a dangerous denial – a denial that not only endangered them but countless others who depended on them to do their part. It is a perfect picture of the church in the Wet when it comes to spiritual warfare. During a recent church staff meeting, a friend of mine raised the suggestion that some of the difficulties they were facing might be the work of the Enemy. “What do you think?” he asked. “Well, I suppose that sort of thing does happen,” one of the other pastors replied. “In the Third World, perhaps, or maybe to thwart a major crusade. You know…places where cutting-edge ministry is going on.”
You can’t fight a battle you don’t think exists.
Now in my clearer moments I know it’s an attack, but you must understand that all this comes on so subtly it seems true at the time.
So long as a man remains no real threat to the Enemy, Satan’s line to him is You’re fine. But after you do take sides, it becomes Your heart is bad and you know it.
Finally, he probes the perimeter, looking for a weakness.
Satan doesn’t just throw a thought at us, he throws feelings too. Walk into a dark house late at night and suddenly fear sweeps over you; or just stand in a grocery line with all those tabloids shouting sex at you and suddenly a sense of corruption is yours.
The poor woman had simply thought they were normal for everyone since they were normal for her.
The Enemy, once discovered, usually doesn’t just roll over and go away without a fight.
How did Jesus win the battle against Stan? God was with him.
[Definition of courage – G.K. Chesterton] – It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to live, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.
…most men have a hard time sustaining any sort of devotional life because it has no vital connection to recovering and protecting their strength; it feels about as important as flossing. But if you saw your life as a great battle and you know you needed time with God for your very survival, you would do it. Maybe not perfectly – nobody every does and that’s not the point anyway – but you would have a reason to seek him. We give a half-hearted attempt at the spiritual disciplines when the only reason we have is that we “ought” to. But we’ll find a way to make it work when we are convinced we’re history if we don’t.
The discipline, by the way, is never the point. The whole point of a “devotional life” is connecting with God. This is our primary antidote to the counterfeits the world holds out to us. If you do not have God and have him deeply, you will turn to other lovers.
The reason is, if you are going to serve the True King you’re going to need his authority. We dare not taken on any angel, let a lone a fallen one, in our own strength. That is why Christ extends his authority to us, “and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (Col 2:10). Rebuke the Enemy in your own name and he laughts, command him in the name of Christ and he flees.
One more thing: Don’t even think about going into battle alone. Don’t even try to take the masculine journey without at least one man by your side. Yes, there are times a man must face the battle alone, in the wee hours of the morn, and fight will all he’s got. But don’t make that a lifestyle of isolation. This may be our weakest point, as David Smith points out in “The Friendless American Male” – “One serious problem is the friendless condition of the average American male. Men find it hard to accept that they need the fellowship of other men.” Thanks to the men’s movement the church understands now that a man needs other men, but what we’ve offered is another two-dimensional solution: “accountability” groups or partners. Ugh. That sounds so old covenant: “You’re really a fool and you’re just waiting to rush into sin, so we’d better post a guard by you to keep you in line.”
We don’t need accountability groups, we need fellow warriors, someone to fight alongside, someone to watch our back. A young man just stopped me on the street to say, “I feel surrounded by enemies and I’m all alone.” The whole crisis in masculinity today has come because we no longer have a warrior culture, a place for men to learn to fight like men. We don’t need a meeting of Really Nice Guys, we need a gathering of Really Dangerous Men. That’s what we need.
We have no equivalent now for a Purple Heart of spiritual warfare, but we will. One of the nobles moments that await us will come at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. Our Lord will rise and begin to call those forward who were wounded in battle for his name’s sake and they will be honored, and their courage rewarded.
But when a women never hears she’s worth fighting for, she comes to believe that’s the sort of treatment she deserves.
I wanted to look like the knight, but I didn’t want to bleed like one.
What makes Maximus or William Wallace so heroic is simply this: They are willing to die to set others free.
But because most men have not yet fought the battle, most women are still in the tower.
Most men, you see, marry for safety; they choose a woman will make them feel like a man but never really challenge them to be one.
You love her because that’s what you are made to do; that’s what a real man does.
Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who come alive.
All my life I had been asking the world to tell me what to do with myself. This is different from seeking counsel or advice; what I wanted was freedom from responsibility and especially freedom from risk. I wanted someone else to tell me who to be. Thank God it didn’t work. The scripts they handed me I simply could not bring myself to play for very long.
There is a design God has woven into the fabric of this world, and if we violate it we cannot hope to find life. Because our hearts have strayed so far from home, he’s given us the Law as a sort of handrail to help us back from the precipice. But the goal of Christian discipleship is the transformed heart; we move from a boy who needs the Law to the man who is able to live by the Spirit of the law. “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness…Legalism is helpless in bring this about; it only gets in the way” – Gal 5:16,23
Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing… Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless expectation.
God is a person, not a doctrine. He operates not like a system – not even a theological system – but with all the originality of a truly free and alive person.
I began to realize something about the American Army I had never thought possible before. Although it is highly regimented and bureaucratic under garrison conditions, when the Army gets in the field, it relaxes and the individual initiative comes forward and does what has to be done. This type of flexibility was one of the great strengths of the American Army in World War II (Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose)
What I am saying is that our false self demands a formula before he’ll engage; he wants a guarantee of success, and mister, you aren’t going to get one. So there comes a time in a man’s life when he’s got to break away from all that and head off into the unknown with God. This is a vital part of our journey and if we balk here, the journey ends.
Obey God in the thing he shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. God will never reveal more truth about himself until you have obeyed what you know already… This chapter brings out the delight of a real friendship with God.
The words “It’s not my fault!” have been symbolically written on the gravestones of unsuccessful people ever since Eve took her first bite of the apple.
My life will not be an apology. It will be a statement.
(Speaking of his 12 year old daughter) – “Everything she does at her age seems to be influenced by someone else.”
Many of our sorrows can be traced to relationships with the wrong people.
It is never the duty of a leader to struggle for someone else; a leader must encourage others to struggle and assure them that the struggles are worthwhile.
(Speaking of the Civil War) – ” I say to you now that this is the first time in history that men have fought to set another man free.
When faced with a decision, many people say they are waiting for God. But I understand, in most cases, God is waiting for me!
If, in fact , it is what’s inside us that makes all the difference, then the difference is made when we choose what goes inside.
Fear is a poor chisel with which to carve out tomorrow.
I do not deny the reality of our situation. I deny the finality of it. This, too, shall pass.
I am quite confident the Almighty hears my cry no matter the location….I also believe the good Lord would rather me pray and work, not pray and wait.
You see, some people want just enough power to get by. Then there are people who will acquire enough power to make things more comfortable for their families, and they’ll include other less fortunate souls in their charity if the person growth part of the equation doesn’t become too uncomfortable. But there are a few of us][ who have latched on to this silly idea that we can change the world. We will develop the power to ignore what is popular and do what is right. One person can attain the power to lead hundreds of thousands of people to the promised land of their dreams.
As children, we were afraid of the dark. Now as adults, we are afraid of the light. We are afraid to step out. We are afraid to become more. But how can we lead others to a destination we have not reached?
If we familiarize ourselves with the chains of bondage, we prepare our own limbs to wear them. The spirit of our government and our institutions must be to elevate people, and I am opposed to whatever degrades them.
Where is the rule written that before I forgive people, they have to deserve it?
When I give forgiveness, I free my own spirit to release the anger and hatred harbored in my heart.
…your wife is not made at you. Your child is not mad at you. Your friends, of which I am one, are not made at you, and God is not mad at you. So…don’t you be mad at you. Forgive yourself. Begin anew.
Knowing that slavery in any form is wrong, I also know that the person who lives a life according to the opinion of others is a slave. I am not a slave. I have chose my counsel. I know the difference between right and wrong. I know what is best for the future of my family, and neither misguided opinion nor unjust criticism will alter my course.
A simple question actually. Do you consider yourself a man of faith? Does faith guide your everyday actions and emotions? All men are driven by faith or fear – one or the other – for both are the same. Fair or fear is the expectation of an event that hasn’t come to pass or the belief in something that cannot be seen or touched. A man of fear lives always on the edge of insanity. A man of faith lives in perpetual reward.
But it is a fact that great leaders – great achievers – are rarely realistic by other people’s standards. Somehow, these successful people, often considered strange, pick their way through life ignoring or not hearing negative expectations and emotions. Consequently, they accomplish one great thing after another, never having heard what cannot be done. That is precisely why one should never tell a young person that something cannot be done. God may hav ebeen waiting centuries for someone ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing!
Circumstances are the rules of the weak…but they are the weapons of the wise. Must you be bent and flayed by every situation you encounter?
Circumstances do not push or pull. They are daily lessons to be studied and gleaned for new knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom that is applied will bring about a brighter tomorrow. A person who is depressed is spending too much time thinking about the way things are now and not enough time thinking about how he wants things to be.
As a human, you detour and ease off because you lack understanding. You quit because you lack faith.

This is a devotional aimed at middle school students – I read them because I never recommend a book to a student that I haven’t read.

First, apologize to God because every wrong decision is an insult to God.

Your “physical self” plays a role – it makes the first impression on someone. So if you walk into a room and you look dirty, you smell like Taco Bell or you have birds nesting in your hair, then people will decide stuff about you.
The problem is that some teenagers never wrestle with their faith. They coast into and through their teenage years with the same faith and belief’s they had when they were little kids. But in reality, an eight-year-old’s faith doesn’t answer all of the questions or address all of the issues that a 17-year-old must face. So many teenagers fade away from God because they’re going through life with a faith that doesn’t make sense anymore.
Lots of churches spend more time talking about how to “Be a Good Kid” than how to have a real relationship with God. – that stuff gets pretty old by the time you’re in middle school and high school. If teenagers don’t have a faith that helps them connect with the real God who loves them and knows them, then it’s just a list of do’s and don’ts.
…And since church is supposed to be a community ( a group of people that knows and cares about each other), it’s tough to “try” other churches where you aren’t a part of the community yet.
Lots of people believe church is just somewhere you go. In reality, church is something you be.
Did you know that the worst advertisement for God is people who call themselves Christians but don’t live like Jesus
Your life really does have a purpose. It’s to love God will all of your heart and to love people. People are God’s greatest treasure. Think about this: You’ll never look into the eyes of someone who God isn’t crazy about. And while you’re living out your one and only life, God wants you to love those people, too.
You probably know some people who don’t know about God’s gigantic love for them. You can play a key role in helping them understand. If you take a risk, that is. You can care for people who are hurting. You can help people who are sick or in need or “on the outside.” You can help them understand their death is not the end.

very man is a hero and an oracle to somebody, and to that person, whatever he says has an enhanced value.

No matter what you tell you children to do, their natural inclination is to follow what they see you doing. For most people, if they perceive that you are positive and trust worthy and have admirable qualities, then they will seek you as an influence in their lives.
More often than not, they are influence not by the actual individual, but by the image of that person. And that image may not be an accurate representation of that actress, politician, sports figure, or entertainer. Nonetheless, they admire that person and are influence by the actions and attitudes they believe that person represents.
You can be a model to the masses, but to go to the higher levels of influence, you have to work with individuals.
The power of mentoring is so strong that you can actually see the lives of the persons you are influencing change before your eyes. As you give of yourself, helping them overcome obstacles in their lives and showing them how to grow personally and professionally, you can help them achieve a whole new level of living. You can truly make a difference in their lives.
The parents who know how and when to give their children grace help them to stay open and communicative, even during their teenage years.
the only inheritance that a man will leave that has eternal value is his influence.
though many errors and obstacles can be overcome by a person who wants to rise to the top of an organization, that person is almost never able to move up in the organization if he compromises his integrity by betraying a trust.
One of the reasons many people struggle with integrity issues is that they tent to look outside themselves to explain any deficiencies in character.
In ancient times, brick makers, engravers, and other artisans used a symbol to mark the things they created to show that they were the makers. The symbol that each one used was his “character.” The value of the work was in proportion to the skill with which the object was made. And only if the quality of the work was high was the character esteemed. In other words, the quality of the person and his work gave value to his credentials. If the work was good, so was the character. If it was bad, then the character was viewed as poor.
Thomas Jefferson – “God grant that men of principle shall be our principal men.”
Some hogs were assembled for a feeding, and a farmer was filling their trough to the brim. One hog turned to the others and asked, “Have you ever wondered why he’s being so good to us? A person of integrity influences others because he wants to bring something to the table that will benefit them – not put them on the table to benefit himself.
**Decide Ahead of Time That You Don’t Have a Price**
George Washington – “few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
William James – “Everybody ought to do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for the practice.
Don Meyer – “John, it is always easy to do right when you know ahead of time what you stand for.”
Feeding a dog is the best way to create a relationship with her. It not only provides what the dog needs, giver her life and strength, but it also teaches her to trust and follow you. And in most cases, when you do the feeding, the care you give is returned with loyalty, obedience, and affection.
Eddie responded to love in a way that he never would have to knowledge, psychology, technique, or educational theory. When he knew his teacher card about him, he blossomed.
Don’t ever assume that people know how you feel about them.
That woman’s neighbor understood that people respond to respect. In fact, most people will do nearly anything for you if you treat them respectfully. And that means make it clear to them that their feelings are important, their preferences are respected, and their opinions are valuable. It means giving them the benefit of the doubt. Or as poet-philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moments.”
Many young people today have never experience a deep emotional attachment to anyone. They do not know how to love and be loved. The need to be loved translates itself into the need to belong to someone or something. Driven by their need… they will do anything to belong.
For most people, it’s not what they are that holds them back. It’s what they think they are not.
Writer Mark Twain warned, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” How do most people feel when they’re around you? Do they feel small and insignificant, or do they believe in themselves and have hope about what they can become?
If you need people, you cannot lead them.
**Most People Don’t Have Someone Who Has Faith in Them**
In our society today, most people feel isolated. The strong sense of community that was once enjoyed by most Americans has become rare.
For many people, even those who are closest to them don’t believe in them. They have no one on their side.
**Most People Can Tell When Someone Has Faith In Them**
People’s instincts are pretty good at knowing when others have faith in them. They can sense if your belief is genuine or phony. And truly having faith in someone can change her life.
As you work to become a person of influence, always remember that your goal is not to get people to think more highly of you. It’s to get them to think more highly of themselves. Have faith in them, and they will begin to do exactly that.
**Most People Will Do Anything to Live Up to Your Faith in Them**
Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances.
Edgar Watson Howe – “No man would listen to you talk if he didn’t know it was his turn next.”
While it’s true that the higher you go, the less you are required to listen to others, it’s also true that your need for good listening skills increases. The farther you get from the front lines, the more you have to depend on others to get reliable information.
In fact, a representative of 3M said the number one resource for product ideas was customer complaints.
A funny thing happens when you don’t make a practice of listening to people. They find others who will.
Most people tend to speak about 180 words a minute, but they can listen at 300 to 500 words a minute.
don’t feel that one of you has to be speaking all the time. Periods of silence give you a chance to reflect on what’s been said so that you can respond appropriately.
  1. Listen with a head-heart connection
  2. Listen with the intent of understanding
  3. Listen for the message and the message behind the message
  4. Listen for both content and feelings.
  5. Listen with your eyes – your heart will be improved.
  6. Listen for others interest, not just their position.
  7. Listen for what they are saying and not saying.
  8. Listen with empathy and acceptance.
  9. Listen for the areas where they are afraid and hurt.
  10. Listen as yo would like to be listened to.
**Determine the need at the moment**
The biggest mistake you can make in trying to talk convincingly is to put your highest priority on expressing your ideas and feelings. What most people really want is to be listened to, respected, and understood. The moment people see that they are being understood, they become more motivated to understand your point of view.”
As you learn more about people and get to know others well, you soon begin to realize that people have a lot in common. We all have hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, victories and problems.
There isn’t a person in the world who doesn’t have the desire to be someone, to have significance. Even the least ambitious and unassuming person wants to be regarded highly by others.
To be an influence, you have to love people before you try to lead them. The moment that people know that you care for and about them, the way they feel about you changes. Showing others that you care isn’t always easy. Your greatest times and fondest memories will come because of people, but so will your most difficult, hurting, and tragic times. People are your greatest assets and your greatest liabilities. The challenge is to keep caring about them no matter what.
*People favor underdogs but follow only hot dogs – fight for the few underdogs anyway.
*If better is possible, then good is not enough.
when you help one person, you’re really impacting a lot of other people. What you give to one person overflows into the lives of all the people that person impacts.
Most people are funny; they want to get ahead and succeed, but they are reluctant to change. They are often willing to grow only enough to accomodate their problems; instead, they need to grow enough to achieve their potential.
The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance. It is the allusion of knowledge.
Give your best mentoring effort to people who have the greatest potential – the ones for whom you can see a promising future – not the ones for whom you feel sorry. Nurture, love, and motivate hurting people. But pour yourself into the people who will grow and make a difference.
People love to be encouraged and motivated, so you don’t need their consent to either one. But the mentoring process really works only when both parties know the agenda, agree to it, and give it 100 percent effort.
Gian Carlo Menotti – “Hell begins on that day when God grants us a clear vision fo all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts we wasted, of all that we might have done that we did not do.”
“The real contest is always between what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing.
“Don’t let yourself be pressured into thinking that your dreams or your talents aren’t prudent. They were never meant to be prudent. They were meant to bring joy and fulfillment into your life.
the goal of all teachers should be to equip students to get along without them.
Ann Landers – “Each of us is a little lonely, deep inside, and cries to be understood. I have learned how it is with the stumbling, tortured people in this world who have nobody to talk to.” “I have learned that financial success, academic achievement, and social or political status open no doors to peace of mind or inner security.”
**What do they cry about?
**What do they sing about?
**What do they dream about?
**Where They Need To Go
**What They Need to Know
**How They Need to Grow
people react in one of four ways under difficult circumstances:
1) Retreat into the past
2) Daydream about the future
3) Retreat within and wait for someone to rescue them
4) Face the crisis and transform it into something useful
Fortunately, you don’t have to be an engineer to connect with people, but it does take effort to make connection happen. You’ll need communication skills, a desire to help people grow and change, and a sense of personal mission or purpose – after all you have to know  where you’re going to take others along
Anytime you devalue people, you question God’s creation of them.” You can never tell people too often, too loudly, or too publicly how much you love them.
To understand a person’s mind, examine what he has already achieved. To understand his heart, look at what he aspires to do. That will help you find the key, and once you do find it, use it with integrity. Turn the key only when you have the person’s permission, and even then use that key only for his benefit, not your own – to help, not to hurt.
Melvin Maxwell – “I never conciously limited you as a long as I knew what you were doing was morally right.” Now, that’s an empowering attitude.
What a shame it would be to have a ministry die on the vine when one man leaves.
Truett Cathy – “The number one reason leaders are unsuccessful is their ability to lead themselves.”
J. Carla Northcutt – “The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.”

As part of the Pink for October campaign, for the month of October, I have changed the design of my blog again.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I know there are a few ladies in my life, most notably Donna Hall, Terry Buchanan, and Eleanor Kurtz, that have been affected by breast cancer. During the month of October, please consider making a donation to the Susan G. Koman Foundation or find out more information about a Race for the Cure event in your area.

A great short book about Leading Small Groups, particularly youth small groups.

If they can’t be their Monday through Saturday self when they are with you in group, they will have a hard time applying their faith in everyday situations.

If they can’t share their doubts in community, they will dwell on them privately.
If they can’t ask you their questions, they are going to ask someone else.
If they don’t admit their struggles to someone, they will never experience the power of bringing things to light in a way that facilitates freedom and forgiveness
Let them know that you are planning to show up in their kid’s life predictably, and randomly, that will help avoid awkward questions later when they see a stranger…show up at Johnny’s baseball game to cheer him on.
Let them know your goal is to help their child grow in authentic faith.
Let them know that you want to help them win as a parent.
I know what you’re thinking. And no, your small group of three-year-olds does not count as your “community”.
You are the “grown-up” for your few. You can share appropriate pieces of your life at appropriate times but your few cannot be expected to fuel you in the way your own adult group can.
Nobody can be a substitute: husband, father, friend, son, brother
Be real. Find ways to relate to your few without compromising who you are. Because it’s more important for them to see a real, live person that is still growing, learning, and trying to live out authentic faith than it is for them to have another friend.
For many, spiritual discipline means putting oneself back under the Law with a series of Draconian rules which no one can live up to – and which spawn frustration and spiritual death.
This leads us to an inescapable conclusion: The contemporary evangelical Church, broadly considered, is “Corinthian” to the core.
Sensuality is easily the biggest obstacle to godliness among men today and is wreaking havoc in the Church. Godliness and sensuality are mutually exclusive, and those in the grasp of sensuality can never rise to godliness while in its sweaty grip.
We must understand that a progressive desensitization to sin and a consequent inner descent from holiness had taken root in David’s life. David’s collection of wives, thought it was “legal” and not considered adultery in the culture of the day, was nevertheless sin. King David’s sensual indulgence desensitized him to God’s holy call in his life, as well as to the danger and consequences of falling. In short, David’s embrace of socially permitted sensuality desensitized him to God’s call and made him easy prey for the fatal sin of his life.
May this lesson not be wasted on us, men. Just when we think we are the safest, when we feel no need to keep our guard up, to work on our inner integrity, to discipline ourselves for godliness – temptation will come!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the observation that when lust takes control, “At this moment God…loses all reality…Satan does not fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God.” What a world of wisdom there is in this statement! When we are in the grip of lust, the reality of God fades. The longer King David leered, the less real God became to him. Not only was his awareness of God diminished, but David lost awareness of who he himself was – his holy call, his frailty, and the certain consequences of sin. There is what lust does! It has done it millions of times. God disappears to lust-glazed eyes.
The mind controlled by lust has an infinite capacity for rationalization:
- How can something that has brought such enjoyment be wrong?
- God’s will for me is to be happy; certainly He would not deny me anything which is essential to my happiness – and this is it!
- My marriage was never God’s will in the first place.
I believe with all my heart that few, if any, would ever stray from God’s Word if they could see what would follow.
This sin is seen in its true light only when it is seen as preference for impurity rather than a Spirit who is holy.
How will the couple fare over the years? Will she reverence her husband? Will he love his beautiful bride as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her? Will he love her with an elevating, sanctifying love? Will he love her as he loves himself?
All my children are serious Christians and want to make their lives count for Christ. I say this humbly, because parents often take too much blame for their children’s problems and too much credit when they turn out well.
A boy wants the aura and armament of his father. It is a deep yearning, but sometimes a little sad – a common enough masculine trait that is also vaguely unmanly.
Our society is awash with millions of daughters pathetically seeking the affection their fathers never gave them – and some of these daughters are at the sunset of their lives. In the extreme, there are myriads of sons who were denied a healthy same-sex relationship with their father and are now spending the rest of their lives in search of their sexual identity via perversion and immorality.
Men, there are few places where sanctified sweat will show greater dividends than in fathering.
Not a few preacher’s kids have been catapulted into rebellion because their fathers squeezed their lives to fit their parishioner’s expectations.
We must be Biblical in regard to our no’s – and as our children grow, be prepared to discuss the rules Biblically and principally. We must learn to trust God with our children, realizing they must learn to make decisions for themselves.
Eli failed to confront his boys. He failed to instruct them about their sin. And because of this, they were destroyed.
I saw my parents working for their people, bearing their burdens. Day and night. They did not have to say a word to me about Christianity.
There has been an interesting development in suburban architecture. Long gone are the days when homes all had large front porches, with easy access to the front door, enabling one to become quickly acquainted with others in the neighborhood.
In the 1990s we have architecture which speaks more directly to our current values. The most prominent part of a house seems to be the two- or three- car garage. Inside are huge bathrooms with skylights and walk-in closets larger than the bedroom I grew up in. Modern architecture employs small living and dining rooms and now smaller kitchens as well, because entertaining is no longer a priority. Today’s homes boast smaller yards and an increasing incidence of high fences.
Today’s homes reflect our modern values of individualism, isolation, and privatization.
You also need Christian male friends who have a same-sex understanding of the serpentine passages of your heart, who will not only offer counsel and pray for you, but will also hold you accountable to your commitments and responsibilities when necessary. We will now consider a prime example of this kind of friend.
Do you have the great fortune to have such a deep friend? Men, are we kingmakers?
“Friendship…is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all others” – C.S. Lewis
If you are a regular church attender but do no more than attend morning worship, you are depriving yourself and the church of the friendship so desperately needed by all.
One thing I noticed about Evangelicals is that they do not read. They do not read the Bible, they do not read the great Christian thinkers, they have never heard of Aquinas.
Men, to deny ourselves the wealth of the accumulated saints of the centuries is to consciously embrace spiritual anorexia.
Also, more men are dominated by the time-crunching production ethic of the marketplace, which makes them feel galaxies away from meditation and prayer.
At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus enjoined His followers to prayerful tenacity: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). The language is unusually compelling because the three verbs (“ask…seek…knock”) indicate an ascending intensity. “Ask” implies requesting assistance for a conscious need. It also suggest humility, for the Greek word here was commonly used by one approaching a superior. “Seek” involves asking, but adds action. The idea is not just to express need, but to get up and look around for help. “Knock” includes asking, plus seeking, plus persevering – for example, one who keeps pounding on a closed door.
What did you think of the service today? The real question ought to be What did God think of it and of those who worshipped?
Jesus’ famous statement in John 4:23 that the Father seeks worshipers is unparalleled, for nowhere in the entire corpus of Holy Scripture do we read of God’s seeking anything else from a child of God. God desires worship above all else.
Worshiping “in truth” means that we come informed by the objective revelation of God’s Word about the great God we serve and the precepts He has spoken. In this sense our worship is governed by what we know and believe of God. The better informed we are, the better we can worship.
The call [to worship], properly done, is a call from God who is inviting us corporately into His presence.
I have left for church with a great sense of expectancy because I know Christ will be there.
Worship is an act which develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God which is expressed in an act of worship.
But for the Christian, the most chilling fact is this: there is little statistical difference between the ethical practices of the religious and the nonreligious.
But the main reason for the integrity crisis is that we humans are fundamentally dishonest. We are congenital liars. Right smack in the middle of the Apostle Paul’s string of observations on the depravity of man in Romans 3, we read, “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit”
The story of Ananias and Sapphira shocks us because they suffered death for such a “small” infraction. So they misrepresented the percentage they gave of their profits – why death? After all, they did give – which is more than people do!
The answer is, the Church cannot prosper with deception among its members – and God wanted to make this clear for all time. Deception wounds the Body of Christ – makes it dysfunctional – and is a sin against God! This is why Peter cried to Ananias and Sapphira at the moment of their deaths, “You have not lied to men but to God”
Helmut Thielicke, the great German theologian and pastor who maintained his integrity all through Hitler’s Third Reich, said: “The avoidance of one small fib… may be a stronger confession of faith than a whole ‘Christian philosophy’ championed in lengthy, forceful discussion.
It is essential that we understand that the Biblical idea of integrity has the root idea of completeness, that a person of integrity is whole. The derivation of our English word integrity from the Latin emphasizes the same quality because integritas means “wholeness”, “entireness”, “completeness”.
Rather, we are never to deceive others by omission, or by using unclear talk to save face or avoid offending another. We are to be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Integrity demands that all speech be intentionally true.
Last, a man of integrity is a man of principle. We must understand that being a man of principle means more than having principles. It means having the courage to stand up for your convictions when it costs you.
If your heart does not condemn you, but affirms you, you can be a tower of strength. “The man of integrity walks securely” (Proverbs 10:9)
Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face. Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.
- To perpetually and lovingly speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15)
- To refrain from being party to or a conduit for gossip (Proverbs 16:28, 17:9, 26:20)
- To refrain from insincere flattery (Proverbs 26:28)
- To refrain from running down another (James 4:11)
- To refrain from degrading humor (Ephesians 5:4)
- To refrain from saracasm (Proverbs 26:24,25)
Each of us has an eternally designed work assignment which includes the task, the ability, and a place to serve.
I may not be able to run your course, and you may find mine impossible, but I can finish my race and you yours. Both of us can finish well if we choose and if we rely on Him who is our strength and our guide.
(Hebrews 12:2a) – The writer is very intentional in commanding us to focus on Jesus, rather than using His title Christ or Jesus Christ. We are to focus on Jesus the incarnate Son of God as He lived as a man here on earth. Jesus was the runner without parallel. Every obstacle was thrown in His way, but He never stumbled once – and He finished going away.
Since we need faith to run the race, we must “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” That is, as the Greek literally indicates, we must deliberately life our eyes from other distracting things and focus with utter concentration on Him – and continue doing so. We must not look away even for an instant. Such focus is indispensable to a life of faith and to finishing the race.
Those who look away from Christ – the end and goal of our race – will not finish well. And this was exactly what was happening to some treading the stormy waters mounting around the early church. They had begun to take their eyes off Christ and to fix them instead on the hardships challenging them. Some had begun to look elsewhere for answers.
Of course, we must wholeheartedly agree that without a saving relationship with Jesus Christ all is lost. But we must not mistakenly reason that one’s relationship with Christ minimizes the importance of His Church.
So today, at the end of the twentieth century, we have a phenomenon unthinkable in any other century: churchless Christians. There is  a vast herd of professed Christians who exist as nomadic hitchhikers without accountability, without discipline, without discipleship, living apart from the regular benefits of the ordinances.
On the most elementary level, you do not have to go to church to be a Christian. You do not have to go home to be married either. But in both cases if you do not, you will have a very poor relationship.
The lessons for Joshua were clearly manifest. He learned that that he real power was not in his sword, but in God. The victory undoubtedly tempted him to forget that. He was an instant hero, and that night all the campfires sang the name of Joshua. But forever fixed in Joshua’s mind was the image of Aaron and Hur coming to Moses’ side and lifting his hands up to God.
The Christian leader’s vision of God makes all the difference in his life.
There is no spiritual leadership apart from the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it follows that if we aspire to leadership in the Church, we must be full of the Holy Spirit. Practically, this means that we must continually confess our sins, keep ourselves in God’s Word, and continually submit to God, asking the Spirit to fill us.
What a truth for all leaders to grasp. God does not need us. He has used donkeys to proclaim His Word! He is perfectly capable of carrying out His plans without our leadership. But wonder of wonders, joy of joys, He has chose to use us. We must take our call to leadership seriously. We must glory in the work, but never in ourselves.
The abiding spiritual fact is, there is no way to grow into spiritual maturity without committing one’s giving to the Lord. God can have our money and not have our hearts, but He cannot have our hearts without having all our money. (Matthew 6:21)
The key to liberation from the power of materialism is not an exodus from culture – abandoning Wall Street or leaving the wealth of nation to others – but the grace of giving.
In retrospect, my family’s most enduring spiritual joys have come through everyday personal witness to people like Susie, our daughter Holly’s kindergarten teacher who weekly promised Holly she would come to church – and finally came – and returned again and again, becoming our good friend and finding Christ.
It has been an increasing revelation to my wife and me that the greatest joys in pastoral ministry have come not in the extraordinary events (such as an exceptional worhsip service or ground-breaking on a great building project), but in the normal, “average” avenues of everyday person-to-person witness – the things any Christian can do, regardless of gifts or calling.
the more immediate and personal one’s knowledge of Christ, the more natural it is to share Him with others. This is why those who have newly met Christ are often so verbal and successful in leading others to Him, despite the absence of learned arguments.
For unlike the caricatures of Christ, the Christ of Scripture is so winsome, so radically different, so utterly unlike the stereotypes, that when He is truly seen, He draws the most resistant to Himself.
There are men who join the army only if they can be officers, who will do evangelism if they are the evangelists. But the true evangelist’s heart is a selfless heart. Andrew’s heart was ordinary perhaps, but extraordinary in its selflessness.
Everyone we encounter is an eternal soul of immense value whom we ought to regard with the same weight with which God regards them.
If you know Christ, you… have the essential heart qualifications to share him – even if you do not have all the answers.
If our ambition is to dodge the troubles of human existence, the formula is simple: avoid entangling relationships, do not give yourself to others, and be sure not to seriously embrace elevated and noble ideals. If we do this, we will escape a host of afflictions.
This life principle bears out in other logics of life as well. Cultivate deafness and we will be spared hearing the discords of life. Cultivate blindness and we will be shielded from seeing ugliness. If we want to get through life with a minimum of trouble, all we have to do is wear blinders. This is how so many people, even those who profess to be Christians, get through life with such easy they have successfully nurtured smallness of heart.
The other path is to cultivate a ministering heart. Open yourself to others, and you will become susceptible to an index of sorrows scarcely imaginable to a shriveled heart. Enlarge and ennoble your ideals, and your vulnerability will increase proportionately.
No one has ever cultivated a ministering heart and live to tell of a life of ease.
Little hearts, though safe and protected, never contribute anything. No one benefits from their restricted sympathies and vision. On the other hand, hearts that have embraced the disciplines of ministry – though they are vulnerable – are also the hearts which possess the most joy and leave their heartprint on the world.
A holy sobering takes place as we realize that none of our appointments are with mere mortals, but that everyone (the woman at the well and at the laundromat, the religious leader and the pizza delivery boy) will continue eternally as glorious beings or lost souls. The ministering heart, like Jesus’ heart, senses this and treats all souls accordingly.
Third, the heart God uses is disciplined in perspective, seeing all its human relationships as sovereignly ordered encounters with eternal beings. To this heart, all life’s relationships are shrouded with the numinous – pulsating with spiritual potential – part of an eternal drama in which each Christian has a special part to play.
How then are we to respond? Certainly not with the “do nothing” passivity which has become increasingly characteristic of the American male. For many men, a challenge is an opportunity to duck – to pull up the covers and stay in bed – “There is so much to do… I don’t know where to begin…” – the paralysis of analysis.

It seemed to me that about 90 percent of the counseling issues that I ran into came about because a man did not undertake the spiritual leadership role that God had called him to in his family.

the largest goal wasn’t just to get the men – it was to equip them to be spiritual leaders of their families
I’m a lot more worried about the extinction of the men who know how to lead a family.
Today is different because the patrol leader has appoint you to be “point man.” In essence, you’re the leader. Everyone else will fall in behind you. And as you move out to encounter the enemy, you realize that the survival of those seven men stepping cautiously behind you will depend upon just one thing: your ability to lead. Your judgement may determine whether they live or die. The responsibility hangs over your head like the suffocating humidity that hangs heavy in the air.
What would you be feeling under such conditions? The survival of each member of your family – and its survival as a whole – would completely depend upon your ability to lead through the maze of possible ambushes, unseen booby traps, invisible snipers, and all the extraordinary hazards of combat. Would you be motivated? Would your senses and adrenalin be working overtime? Of course they would! You would know in your guy that the survival of your family was up to you. It’s all on your shoulders…because you are the leader.
I’ve asked you how you intend to keep your marriage off the casualty list. Let me ask you something else. What are you doing to keep your kids off the casualty list? Not what is your wife doing, not what is the church youth directory doing, not what is the pastor doing, but what are you doing? Because some of those kids on the casualty list are from Christian homes.
We need some men who have a passion to be better dads than they are attorneys, salesman, foreman, pastors, or doctors.
But in this war, it’s different. In this war, Jesus Christ is looking for men who will live for their families. That’s what He would have you to do.
I’m afraid there are too many husbands and fathers today who are in the same situation. When it comes to their families, they’re simply standing there. Motionless. Like the sixth men in the Royal Artillery, they’re making about as much difference in their homes as parsley on a plate of guacamole.
The sixth man had no idea he was supposed to be holding the horse. And too many men today have no idea that their job is to save the boys.
“If I could offer a single prescription for the survival of America, and particularly black America,” wrote William Raspberry, a black columnist with the Washington Post, ‘it would be to restore the family And if you asked me how to do it, my answer – doubtlessly oversimplified – would be: save the boys.”
Tragically, the black family in modern America has largely lost its boys. The enemy has effectively removed black males from their God-appointed positions of leadership and responsibility – and he has the same goal in mind for the rest of America. He may use different methods to achieve his goal, but his strategy is the same: Destroy the boys by neutralizing the males.
Through decades of social policy…the federal government has gutted and plundered the black community of its husbands and fathers. The result is that boys learn that drugs and larceny are the fastest ways of making lots of cash. They simply don’t have fathers who can teach and demonstrate the virtues of a healthy work ethic, the importance of sexual discipline and responsibility, the benefits of education and the beauty of transcendent values.
During that time the father would form his son as a man. He would raise his son in his own presence and teach him all that he knew. In fact, much of the son’s training would consist of his father’s example. The son would see what the father was doing, and would thus learn what the father knew…his father was expected to equip him to function as an adult male.
As early as 1642, “Massachusetts united its various town schools into a system, and made it unlawful for parents to keep their children out of school.”
So it was over two hundred years ago that the seeds were planted which removed men from their God-appointed role of raising boys. In our generation, those seeds are bearing fruit. And the fruit is killing us.
I had five goals for saving my boys/
Knowing and obeying Jesus Chris
Knowing and displaying godly character
Knowing and loving my wife
Knowing and loving my children
Knowing my gifts and abilities so I can work hard and effectively in an area of strength, rather than weakness, contribute effectively to the lives of others – and have a little fun at the same time.
What is true in bowling is true in fathering. Error increases with distance. In other words, if I am going to be the family that God has called me to be, then I must be there. On-site. Consistently.
An affair… That word has a sore of nice, light, airy ring to it. Like quiche. It certainly isn’t a judgemental term like adultery. The word affair is fluffy and non-threatening. Affair is to adultery what quiche is to pot roast.
America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. (Alexis De Tocqueville)
“a  relationship can be sexual long before it becomes erotic. Just because I’m not touching a woman, or just because I’m not envisioning specific erotic encounters, does not mean I’m becoming sexually involved with her. The erotic is usually not the beginning but the culmination of sexual attraction.
Have you ever notice how many men in the Bible failed in the second half of life? Our enemy is so cunning that he will wait forty or even fifty years to set a trap.
When you leave your wife to commit adultery with another woman, you take yourself with you. And you are your biggest problem. I am my biggest problem, and you are yours. You are walking into this new relationship with the same personality, strengths, and weaknesses you have in your current marriage. And if you can’t work out things with your current wife, what makes you think it will be any different with another woman.
There is nothing wrong with desiring happiness, but horrendous problems develop when we become disobedient to obtain it.
The lure of adultery is that another woman will truly meet your needs. The lie of adultery is that no other woman on the face of the earth, no matter how alluring, interesting, or beautiful, has the capacity to fully meet the needs of another human being.
It is no mistake that in the Old Testament God chose to put the mark of His covenant with Israel on the male penis. He didn’t put it on the arm, or on the elbow, or on the thigh. God demanded every Jewish man be circumcised on his sexual organ to remind him of the fact that he belonged to God.
Forgiveness is available to all. But forgiveness does not automatically restore the privilege of leadership. Let me offer a critical principle: In the New Testament, forgiveness is free, but leadership is earned. It is earned by the power of a man’s life. Sin, although forgiven, always sets off practical consequences. A mature, spiritual leader who sins and repents is forgiven, but he is not exempt from the series of aftershocks that will come his way from his disobedience.
That’s why there is a difference between the sin of an immature believer and the sin of a mature one who is in leadership. And when a mature spiritual leader in the second half of his life commits sexual immorality, there are severe consequences. Please understand that I am not excusing a sin at any age. I am saying, however, that those mature men who are in spiritual leadership are held to a higher standard. That’s the crux of James 3:1: “Let not many of  you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgement
If you can’t come to terms with evil or break habits that continue to bring reproach to the name of Christ, please, do the Lord (and us in ministry) a favor and resign.
My belief is that we should be very slow to help back to the pulpit men, who having once been tried, have proved themselves to have too little grace to stand the crucial test of ministerial life.
The offices of husband and father are also character professions.
If we ever hope to raise moral standards outside the church, then we better begin by raising them within the church.
“Don’t I have a right to be happy?” In that one statement he captured the spirit of our age.
If we are going to save our boys, then we must make a personal commitment to finish the race. It’s a commitment we renew every morning. If they don’t see us finish the race, why should they?
A boy who has a father who is committed to his mother will have a tremendous advantage when he becomes a husband. He will have an intuitive understanding that his commitment in marriage is not a right to be happy, but to demonstrate a willingness be responsible. Even when it’s inconvenient. Even when it crowds out his personal happiness.
C.S. Lewis once said, “If you look upon ham and eggs and lust, you have already committed breakfast in your heart.”
A one-woman kind of man must have a predetermined plan fixed in his mind so he can withstand the sneak attacks of the enemy. We never know when we are going to be tempted with our eyes. That’s why the plan must be predetermined. We must anticipate a tempting situation in advance and decide beforehand how we will deal with it. That’s the principle behind civil defense. It’s also the principle of sexual defense.
Bill Hull writes that a man “mst know the Bible well enough, through study, to fight temptation and protect himself against the ideas and philosophies of the world. [He] is confronted daily with thousands of messages and ideas. A biblical defense system must sort out the ideas, take what is obedient to Christ, and reject what is not.
These wrong thoughts are the grenades of the enemy. He hurls them into our minds at the most unexpected and surprising moments. You cannot stop them and turning them into opportunities to obey Christ.
Adultery does not begin with the sexual organ, it begins with the mind. And the man who renews his commitment to his wife each day is a man of holiness and a lethal weapon in the hands of God.
We owe to scripture the same reverence which we owed to God. (John Calvin)
Strategy #3 – To effectively sever and alienate a man from the spiritual disciplines that will keep him fit and effective for battle.
The enemy does not mind if you are spiritually active. He just doesn’t want you to be spiritually effective.
 I consider my time in the Word to be a morning briefing. Before I go out to face the day, I need to be briefed by the Lord. The Briefing serves different functions.
First, it reminds me that there is a God who is ruling the affairs of my life.
Society lives as though there is no God, and I need to be reminded before I face the day that there is a God who is in control of my life and circumstances.
Second, I need to be reminded of what is true.
Third, the morning briefing reinforces my convictions.
I cannot afford to be spiritually anorexic when I’ve been given the responsibility to lead my family. A malnourished man is worthless in hand-to-hand combat. Because he has no strength, he is easy prey for the enemy.
The danger in the Christian life is when I listed to a sermon or go to a Christian seminar or listen to a series of teaching tapes without applying the truth I hear to my life. That is spiritual bulimia. (Live what you learn).
in the Christian life the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge, but obedience.
The righteous man is not anorexic. He delights in getting clear direction from the Word of God, and this divine direction gives him satisfaction.
The Christian view of meditation is exactly the reverse of its Eastern rival. In the Eastern version, you empty your mind by chanting some meaningless syllable; in the Christian practice, you fill it with the truth of God’s Word to ponder the biblical ramifications of your life.
I grew up in a home with an oak tree right in the middle of the house. It wasn’t a red oak, a black oak, or even a white oak. It’s the kind of oak described in Isaiah 61:3, and it’s called an oak of righteousness. I’m referring to my dad.
If the husband is a godly man who has a biblical vision for the family and leads out in the things of the Spirit, a godly wife will rejoice in this leadership and support him in it.
If we Christians who are capable of having children don’t have them, then you tell me where the masculine men and feminine women for the next generation are going to come from. And if there are no more masculine men and feminine women for the next generation or the ones to follow, then you might as well go ahead and shut this country down.
It’s abhorrent that the most dangerous place for a child in America is in the womb.
This is not the kind of world that I want to bring a child into. – My response is simply, why not? How do you know that God won’t use your child to make a significant contribution toward changing the world? If the mother of Jonas Salk had felt that there would still be hundreds of thousands of kids crippled by polio. If Billy Graham’s parents were of that persuasion, there would be several million people whose lives would not have been touched by the gospel. If Abraham Lincoln’s parents had made that choice, this country might never have survived the internal hemorrhaging of  civil war.
I like what Mary C. Crowley said: “Every night I give my worries over the Lord. He’s going to be up all night anyway.”
When people say that can’t afford kids, too many times I think what they are really saying is, “If we have kids, we will have to lower our standard of living.” If that is your real reason, you are making a decision not based on scriptural wisdom, but on contemporary propaganda. You may indeed have to lower your standard of living – in fact, you probably will – but I guarantee that your quality of life will go up dramatically.
It’s been my experience that those who are willing to give up the immediate gratification that comes from choose a childless marriage quickly see a change taking place in their lives once a baby shows up. The change is this: God begins dealing with your own selfishness by giving you someone to care for who is infinitely more selfish than you. Babies are not only the cutest creatures on the face of the earth, they are by far the most self.
The way God deals with my own selfishness is to give me someone to serve who has zero interest in serving me. You can’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Not too many people in the world could out-selfish me one-on-one. But every time we’ve had a baby, I’ve met my match. Each of my kids resembled me. I don’t mean they looked like me, I mean they were as selfish as me. That meant that somebody in the family was going to have to grow up. Guess who was nominated?
If God blesses you with children, you’ll be taking part in one of the most significant accomplishments a man can enjoy.
Some guys head their own corporations by age thirty-five. Big deal.
Some guys win five gold medals at the Olympics. Big deal.
Some guys climb Mount Everest. Big deal.
Some guys swim the length of the Pacific under water without taking a break. Big deal.
In my book, none of those exploits come close to the man who has learned to change a dirty diaper without throwing up. That’s what I call a big deal. Especially when you can do it without an oxygen mask. It’s also what Jesus called being a servant.
Why is this sexual identity thing such a big deal? It’ll let John Piper step up to the microphone to answer that: “The tendency today is to stress the equality of men and women by minimizing the unique significance of maleness and femaleness. It is taking a tremendous toll on generations of young man and women who do not know what it means to be a man or a woman. Confusion over the meaning of sexual personhood is epidemic… The consequence… is more divorce, more homosexuality, more sexual abuse, more promiscuity, more social awkwardness, and more emotional distress and suicide that comes with the loss of God-given identity.
I pastored for ten years in the San Francisco Bay area and counseled with more than a few homosexuals. Without exception, every one of them came from a home where the basic principles of Ephesians 5:22-6:4 were not implemented.
Research findings overwhelmingly indicate that homosexuals are not born but bred…there is increasing agreement that homosexuals rarely (if ever) occur without some import (or controlling) contribution from parents.
These children may have had the Scripture drilled into them at home and church, but somewhere along the line, their fathers did not give them the accurate bearings they so desperately needed. They were reading a compass that confused them about who they were and how they were to view themselves.
In gender role development, the evidence points to fathers as having the more important influence, not only in fostering a male self-concept in boys, but femininity in girls. Mothers do contribute to their daughters’ adoption of the feminine role, but have little influence on the masculinity of their sons.
Moral Landmark #1: Fathers should raise their children in Fairness
Testosterone makes little boys aggressive. It’s part of being a male.
In fact, there is a great consensus among psychologists about this conclusion that any other social, emotional, or intellectual difference between men and women.
Moral Landmark #2: Fathers should raise their children with tenderness
1. Listen to them and respect their feelings.
“The blood of Jesus never cleansed an excuse.” Don’t say, “I’m sorry if I was wrong,” say “I was wrong. It was my fault.” Spell it out with a repentant heart, and they will not only respect you, they will grow in their love for you.
3. Listen to the input your wife gives you about each child.
4. Be “high touch” and dispense liberal doses of encouragement to both sons and daughters (and don’t forget your wife while you’re at it)
Moral Landmark #3: Fathers should raise their children with firmness
Ephesians 6:4 says children are to be raised in the discipline and admonition of the Lord. The word discipline “may be described as training by mean of rules and regulations, rewards, and when necessary, punishments. It refers primarily to what is done to the child”
By contrast, the word admonition is primarily “training by means of the spoken word, whether that word be teaching, warning, or encouragement. It refers primarily to what is said to the child.
Moral Landmark #4: Fathers should raise their children in Christ
When a father disciplines and instructs his children in the admonition of the Lord, he is under the quality control of the Holy Spirit. His primary purpose is to train the child, not abuse the child. The fact that he is under the influence of this quality control – rather than out of control – is in and of itself an example to his children of the way they are to handle their children when they become parents.
Parents of highly self-confident children met three criteria:
1) They were very warm and accepting of their children.
2) They provided clear guidance for their children.
3) They were respectful of their children’s initiative and endeavors.
God is looking for men between twenty-five and forty-five who will commit to be “rocks” for their families. These kind of rocks are characterized by an unwavering commitment to their wives, a willingness to get involved in the lives of their children, and a gut-level desire to follow hard after Jesus Christ. These rocks are willing to apply their Christian principles to their careers, even if it costs them a promotion. These rocks know that true success is not measured by a man’s net worth but by his willingness to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

This book was a recommended read before a Christian counseling session. I like the pattern this books takes, it talks a whole chapter to take about an issue that people have (such as guilt), then takes a whole chapter to talk about a principle of the Christian theology that counters it. This version also included a workbook in the back. Here are the items I underlined:

When Christ told His disciples, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32 KJV), He
was referring not only to an intellectual assent to the truth but also to the application of truth in the most basic issues of life: our goals, our motives, and our sense of self-worth.
Perhaps we want to be “good” Christians, and believing that good Christians don’t have problems, or feelings like ours, we deny the existence of our emotions.
Some of us have deep emotional and spiritual scars resulting from the neglect, abuse, and manipulation that often accompany living in a dysfunctional family (alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, absent father or mother, excessive anger, verbal and/or physical abuse, and so on), but all of us bear the effects of our own sinful nature and the imperfections of others.
Many of us mistakenly believe that God doesn’t want us to be honest about our lives. We think that He will be upset with us if we tell Him how we really feel. But the Scriptures tell us that God does not want us to be superficial in our relationship with Him, with others, or in our own lives. David wrote, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place” (Ps 51:6 NIV) The Lord desires truth and honesty at the deepest level and wants us to experience His love, forgiveness, and power in all areas of our lives. Experiencing His love does not mean that all of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors will be pleasant and pure. It means that we can be real, feeling pain and joy, love and anger, confidence and confusion. The Psalms give us tremendous insight about what it means to be honest with the Lord.
One reason for this spiritual and emotional inertia is a sense of hopelessness. For various reasons (family background, past experiences, poor modeling), we may have negative presumptions that determine our receptivity to love and truth. In some cases, God’s light may have revealed our pain and wall of defenses, but it may not yet have penetrated to our deepest thoughts and beliefs about ourselves.
I find it amazing to discover Christians who believe (at least intellectually) that value, purpose, and significance are unimportant to life. These individuals ususally have deadened themselves to their own feelings to the point that they have many relational problems they do not even recognize.
From life’s outset, we find ourselves on the prowl, searching to satisfy some inner, unexplained yearning. Our hunger causes us to search for people who will love us. Our desire for acceptance pressures us to perform to gain praise from others. We strive for success, driving our minds and bodies harder and further, hoping that because of our sweat and sacrifice others will appreciate us more.
Like falling on a jagged rock, these comments hurt deeply. Lisa began to doubt herself and wonder if she were capable of building a successful marriage and family. Feeling like a failure, she reasoned that perhaps she deserved a broken marriage; perhaps her problems with Brad were her fault and God was punishing her for her sins.
Their lives began to reflect that strange combination of hopelessness and compulsion.
John 10:10 also reminds us of how much God treasures His creation, in that Christ came so that men might experience abundant life. However, as Christians, we need to realize that this abundant life is lived in a real world filled with pain, rejection, and failure. Therefore, experiencing the abundant life God intends for us does not mean that our lives will be problem-free. On the contrary, life itself is a series of problems that often act as obstacles to our search for significance, and the abundant life is the experience of God’s love, forgiveness, and power in the midst of these problems.
However, it often seems that unsuspecting believers are the last to know this battle is occurring, and they don’t know that Christ has ultimately won the war. They are surprised and confused by difficulties, thinking that the Christian life is a playground, not a battlefield. As Christians, our fulfillment in this life depends not on our skills to avoid life’s problems but on our ability to apply God’s specific solutions to those problems. An accurate understanding of God’s truth is the first step toward discovering our significance and worth.
One of the tragic implications of this event is that man lost his secure status with God and began to struggle with feelings of arrogance, inadequacy, and despair, valuing the opinions of others more than the truth of God. This robbed man of his true self-worth and put him on a continual, but fruitless, search for significance through his success and the approval of others.
Teaching that man has meaning totally apart from God, humanism leaves morality, justice, and behavior to the discretion of “enlightened” man and encourages people to worship man and nature rather than God. Living without God’s divine truth, humanity sinks lower and lower in depravity, blindly following a philosophy that intends to heighten the dignity of man but instead lowers him to the level of animals.
If we base our worth solidly on the truths of God’s Word, then our behavior will often reflect His love, grace, and power. But if we base our worth on our abilities or the fickle approval of others, then our behavior will respect the insecurity, fear, and anger that come from such instability.
He understood the agony his wife had carried for so many years and lover her in spite of her past. It was Stacy who could not cope at this point. Unable to accept Ron’s forgiveness and knowing she had failed according to society’s standards, Stacy felt unworthy of his love. She refused to forgive herself and chose to leave her husband. In this case, Stacy fell victim to one of Satan’s most effective lies: Those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be blamed and condemned.
Perfectionists can be quite vulnerable to serious mood disorders and often anticipate rejection when they believe they haven’t met the standards they are trying so hard to attain. Therefore, perfectionists tend to react defensively to criticism and demand to be in control of most situations they encounter. Because they are usually more competent than most, perfectionists see nothing wrong with their compulsions. “I just like to see things done well,” they claim. There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with doing things well; the problem is that perfectionists usually base their self-worth on their ability to accomplish a goal. Therefore, failure is a thread and is totally unacceptable to them.
The focus of the Christian life should be on Christ, not on self-imposed regulations. Our experience of Christ’s lordship is dependent on our moment-by-moment attention to His instruction, not on our own regimented schedule.
Avoiding risks may seem comfortable, but it severely limits the scope of our creative self-expression, and service to God.
…the experience of many parents who have pleaded with a child to try harder, not realizing that the child cannot risk trying harder because he or she would then have no excuse if he or she failed.
If people believe they will fail, they have no reason to exert any effort. The pain they endure for their passivity seems relatively minor and acceptable compared to the agony of genuinely trying and failing.
There is nothing quite as miserable as being angry at yourself, having self-hatred. Unfortunately, your anger is not limited to yourself but it also directed toward God. This does nothing more than alienate, isolate, and destroy the potential hope that you could receive something from God. It is not that He is not prepared to help you. It is that your anger keeps you from receiving that help. As long as we operate according to Satan’s lies, we are susceptible to the fear of failure. Our personal experience of this fear is determined by the difference between our performance standards and our ability to meet those standards.
Either He really knows who you are or He doesn’t. Playing with words this way keeps us from experiencing the reality of who we are. It also dishonors who God is. The second question is, if you think of yourself differently than God thinks of you, who is mistaken, you or God? How often do we allow our minds to overrule what God says is true? Keep in mind, you were made by and for God. He has placed within you needs that only He can meet. If we try to have these needs met by another person or persons, we will end up frustrated, angry, and unfulfilled.
Some of us only know our faith as a series of rules or steps. In order for you to experience what Christ has provided through justification, you must receive it through your relationships with Him, not be performing some ritual.
As we grow in our understanding of His unconditional love and acceptance, we will be better able to grasp that His discipline is prompted by care, not cruelty. We will also be increasingly able to perceive the contrast between the joys of living for Christ and the destructive nature of sin.
In today’s society, we have lost the concept of doing something because it is the right thing to do. Instead, we do things in exchange for some reward or favor, or to avoid punishment.
We obey God because:
1) Christ’s love motivates us to live for Him
2) Sin is destructive and should be avoided.
3) Our Father lovingly disciplines us for wrongdoing.
4) His commands for us are good.
5) We will receive eternal rewards for obedience
6) He is worthy of our obedience
He longed for the approval of others and believed that by agreeing to their every wish he would win that approval.
Many people have admitted that their experimentation with drugs or sex is reaction to their need to belong.
“The deep need of a man is the need to overcome separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness.”
For the most part, our modern society has responded inadequately to rejection and loneliness. Our response has been outer-directed, meaning that we try to copy the customs, dress, ideas, and behavioral patterns of a particular group, allowing the consensus of the group to determine what is correct for us. But conforming to a group will not fully provide the security we are so desperately seeking.

… rejection and guilt are only effective motivations as people are near us. This is why certain parental techniques of guilt motivation produce results only until the child matures and gains more freedom. With freedom, the child is able to remove himself or herself physically from the parents. Unrestrained, the child then can do as he or she pleases.

They may interact with others, and they may be considered socially adept because they know how to make friends easily; but their friends never really know them because they hide behind a wall of words, smiles, and activities. These people are usually quite lonely in the midst of all their so-called friends.
Can God accept a person who is unacceptable (because of sin) or does He have to make that person completely acceptable (through salvation) first?
Our unconditional acceptance in Christ is a profound, life-changing truth. Salvation is not simply a ticket to heaven. It is the beginning of dynamic new relationship with God.
Often, we look only to other believers rather than to Christ Himself. We learn to use the right Christian words, claim divine power and guidance, and organize programs, and yet so often, our spiritual facade lacks depth and substance. Our spiritual activities become human efforts lacking the real touch of the Master. In effect, we live a lie.
God intends for parents to model His character to their children.
Many of us, however, have not receive this parental model of God’s character. On an extremely wide spectrum, some of us have had relatively healthy relationships with our parents while other have experience various forms of neglect, condemnation, and manipulation. Still others have suffered the deeper wounds of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or abandonment. The greater the degree of dysfunction (or poor modeling) in a family, the greater the potential for emotional, spiritual, and relational wounds. Put another way, the poorer the parental modeling of God’s love, forgiveness, and power, the greater our difficulty in experiencing and applying these characteristics in our lives.
Those who have receive poor parental modeling need new models – loving Christian friends to experience the love and grace of God. Through His body of believers, God often provides us with models of His love so that our perception of His character can be slowly reshaped into one that is more accurate, resulting in a healthier relationship with Him. Then our deep emotional, spiritual, and relational wounds can begin to heal, and we can more fully experience God’s unconditional love. Some of us are already involved in strong relationships with people who are understanding and patient with us; some of us haven’t yet been able to cultivate relationships like these, and we are still looking.
We must first understand that while God often demonstrates His love and affirmation for us through believers and nonbelievers alike, His desire that our relationships with others will enable us to know Him more fully. His work through others, is, in part, to serve as a channel by which he can better understand His divine love and acceptance of us. Sadly, we are all prone to miss His message and mistake His messenger(s) as the source of our fulfillment. When this misperception is carried to an extreme, we can fall into emotional dependency…
Healthy relationships are turned outward rather than inward. Healthy relationships encourage individuality rather than conformity and are concerned with independence rather than emotional dependence. Healthy relations point one’s focus to the Lord and pleasing Him rather than toward the friendship and pleasing one another.
Pray that God will guide you to relationships that will encourage you to be honest, practice the truth of His Word, affirm you, and thereby help you develop an appropriate love for yourself and compel you to focus on Him as the gracious provide or your needs.
We tend to make two major errors when we punish others for their failures. The first is that we condemn people not only for genuine sin but also for their mistakes.
A second major error we often make by condemning others is believing that we are godly agents of condemnation.
We are correct in recognizing that sin is reprehensible and deserves condemnation, yet we have not been license by God to punish others for their sins.
Beginning with the eldest, all of the accusers walked away as they remembered their own sins (John 8:3-9). In light of their own sinfulness, they no longer saw fit to condemn the sins of another.
…if others are rude but never realized it because we passively accept their behavior in an attempt to avoid upsetting them, at least two things usually happen: We develop resentment toward them, and they never have to come to terms with their negative impact on others. They then miss an important opportunity to change, and we effectually prolong their hurtful behavior.
Because He is holy, God’s aversion to sin is manifested in righteous anger. However, God is not only righteously indignant about sin, He is also infinately loving. In His holiness, God condemns sin, but in the most awesome example of love the world has ever seen, He ordained that His Son would die to pay for our sins. God sacrificed the sinless, perfect Savior to turn away, to propitiate, His great wrath.
God the Father loves us with the love of a father, reaching to snatch us from harm. God the Son loves us with the love of a brother, layind down His life for us. [God the Holy Spirit loves us with the love of a friend, standing by our side and being with us through the situations of life.]
the Dake Study Bible, which lists 1,050 commandments to the Christian in the New Testament alone. Try putting that list on your refrigerator and condeming yourself every time you violate any one of the 1,050 commandments. This would be a sure way to love any sense of joy that God wants you to experience.
Revelation 12:11 – And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.
He needed someone he could talk to openly so that he could express his feelings without the fear of being rejected.
Perhaps there is some security in accepting ourselves as much less than we can become. That minimizes the risk of failure. Certainly, if we expect little from ourselves, we will seldom be disappointed!
Our past relationships may involve the intense pain of neglect, abuse, and manipulation, but if we do not begin the process of healing, we will be unable to experience the joy, challenge, and, yes, the potential for failure int he present.
Proverbs 16:25
Any change in our behavior requires a release from our old self-concept, which is often founded in failure and the expectations of others.
Our greatest obstacle to experiencing regeneration is that we don’t look different and sometimes we don’t act much differently. As we recognize the results of justification, reconciliation, and propitiation, we will find it much easier to hold to the fact that we have undergone regeneration.
But if the redemption we enjoy is complete, why do we so often fail to see the changes we long for in our lives? Why do we wrestle day after day with the same temptations, the same failings, and the same distractions we have always fought? Why can’t we break free and move on toward maturity?
Perhaps we fear that God can’t really accept us until we have spiritually matured or until “our problem” is removed. Perhaps we just want to feel better without having to struggle through the process of making major changes in our attitudes and behavior. Motivations such as these may be mixed with a genuine desire to honor the Lord, but it’s also possible that deep within us is a primary desire to glorify ourselves. When self-improvement, rather than Christ, becomes the center of our focus, our focus is displaced.
This inordinate preoccupation with self-improvement parallels our culture’s self-help and personal-enhancement movement  in many ways, Personal development is certainly not wrong, but it is misleading and can be very disappointing if we make it our preeminent goal. If it is our goal at all, it should be secondary. As we grasp the unconditional love, grace, and power of God, then honoring Christ will increasingly be our consuming passion. God wants us to have a health self-awareness and to analyze our lives periodically, but He does not want us to be preoccupied with ourselves. The only one worthy of our preoccupation is Christ, our sovereign Lord, who told the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)
The second problem with depending on our feelings occurs when we believe that our emotions are a primary means of God’s communication with us and are therefore signs from God that indicate His leading. The conclusion may compel us to make authoritative statements about God’s will (for both ourselves and others) that are based on little more than how we feel. As in the first extreme, the Scriptures may take a backseat as we sometimes justify foolish and even immoral acts by this false “leading from the Lord”.
We also need to develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading that goes beyond emotionalism. This sensitivity takes time to develop and is an awareness of His conviction of sin, what He wants us to say and do in certain situations, His prompting to share the gospel, and so forth. Discerning whether or not an impression is of God comes from three primary sources: the clear teaching of the Scriptures, previous experiences of learning, and the agreement of mature believers. If an impressions is from God, it will not violate biblical principles.
Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). As we respond to the love of Christ and trust His Spirit to fill us, these characteristics will become increasingly more evident in our lives. The filling of the Holy Spirit includes two major aspects: our purpose (to bring honor to Christ instead of to ourselves) and our resources (trusing in His love and power to accomplish results instead of trusting in our own wisdom and abilities).
Like Spencer, out own willingness to be filled with the Holy Spirit is a direct response to the magnificent truths centered in the cross and the resurrection of Christ and our participation in relationships in which we sense His love for us. We are deeply loved and completely forgiven by God, fully pleasing to God, totally accepted by God, and complete in Him.
When you have an infection, your body increases your body temperature. One of the uses of that mechanism is to alert you that you are sick. We would never take medication that would eliminate this process from occurring, as we could become deathly ill without knowing what was happening. However, many of us have a preoccupation with finding ways of avoiding all hurtful emotions through alcohol, drugs, or some form of activity that keeps us active and way from thinking about what is bothering us.
Situations -> Beliefs -> Thoughts -> Emotions -> Actions
Someone may have squeezed you once, and out of you may have come responses that were really ungodly, maybe even embarrassing. You blame another for your responses, but you have to understand that what came out of you is what was in you. Often, God allows us to undergo troubling circumstances so that we can see what is inside of us.
Playing softball is not necessarily destructive, but playing softball to avoid being at home with one’s family is.
It may seem odd to you that we would talk about confessing and repenting for being deceived. Confession means that we agree with God that what He says is correct.
Repentance meant that she was to turn from relying on these old false beliefs and begin to live by what God says is true.
Therefore, our model is to identify, confess, reject, and then replace.
The Father is busy in our lives even when we are unaware of His activities. He wants us to find freedom in this life. He is determined that we have a chance for this freedom. Although we will never experience absolute freedom this side of heaven, if we are willing to cooperate with His plan, we can experience much more than we could ever imagine. This will be a process. It will occur only as we are willing to go to a deeper level in our relationship with Him. There will be struggles and many failures along the way. However, the Father does not get tired of being there to bring us to victory. The only question is, Are we willing to go with Him?