This past year, how many opportunities did you have to share the gospel with an unbeliever? How many times did you show love to a stranger in a practical way, in the name of Christ? If you are like me, you remember and love these moments, but can probably count some of these instances on one hand. I would have liked to have had more chances, so why didn’t I? Are they not there, or am I missing them? Maybe some of both. Maybe I should ask. Do we have the guts to do this?
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
I remember when I first moved to this area over 10 years ago. I was just coming off a few years of extreme spiritual growth and was really on fire with God in my life. I was church hopping/shopping and really seeking where God could use me best. One thing I kept looking for was what opportunities there were to serve in each congregation. Not just in ways I had done, or felt I had strengths, but even in new ways. I tell you, when you look with an open heart and mind, you will surely find what you are looking for and more. One big way that God opened up for me to grow and serve over several years was through prayer. Though I didn’t know it at the time, it turns out, this was one of the greatest areas of need in my life and one of the greatest rewards I would experience in serving. It simply started when the opportunity knocked, and I said yes.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
We are now entering a new ministry season in most churches. Kids are starting back to Sunday School and Youth Group, Vital Men are ramping up for a new season, and Adult Sunday School classes and growth groups are forming as well. What, me grow? We are not lacking for opportunities to serve, in fact, you could probably find some way to serve within and outside the Church every day of the week if you wanted. Am I suggesting we should all just do more when we are already overcommitted? No. Just find an outlet for your knowledge, wisdom, and energy that will benefit others more than you. That is it! Relieve that spiritual constipation that can build up from just consuming more, and serve. When we have this attitude, God can use us in ways we don’t even expect or could do through our own efforts. In fact, your efforts will be multiplied when given back to God through service.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10
Brothers, we have been entrusted with a valuable gift. The knowledge of new life now and eternal life in Christ is ours! What will we do with it? How can you share it so that it will continue to keep on giving as it has done for centuries? So, even as you serve in some seemingly lowly way behind the scenes, you will never know the full impact of what you do, either in your own life, or the lives of others. We will only find out when we try!
Strength and Courage in Serving Christ,
The story of Samson is one of the saddest stories in the scriptures. Samson’s parents were not able to have children. The Angel of the Lord appeared to them twice telling them of a miracle child to come. This child was to be a Nazarite and take the Nazarite vow. His parents raise him up, and then in his young adult years, he meets a philistine girl and wants to marry her. She is not a Jew. They do not worship the same God. This is a terrible idea. He tells his parents to arrange the meeting. On the way to meet her, a lion attacks Samson, and The Spirit comes strongly on him, and he grabs the lion by the jaw and rips its jaws apart. God was strong in him.
One part of his vow is to never touch anything dead. Later when he comes by the dead lion, bees had put honey in the carcass. This disgusting young man eats honey from this dead animal. GROSS. He breaks his vow doing something totally disgusting. Later Samson marries this girl, and it doesn’t work out. Imagine that! He meets another girl, Delilah. She is also a philistine. You would have thought he had learned his lesson. No, this thick headed guy does it again. This one goes worse. Delilah deceives him into letting her know the secret to his great strength. His hair. Part of his vow was to never cut his hair. Samson had been attacked before by philistines and always overcame them because of his God-given strength. They cut his hair, and his strength was gone. They cut out his eyes and made him a slave. His story ends with God giving him his strength back for a moment, and he uses it to bring down the whole building killing everyone including himself in it.
This is a sad ending to this miracle child. He was so gifted, created on purpose, with a purpose, and for a purpose. Yet his lack of self-control led to his suffering and demise. He saw God do incredible things on his behalf only to waste it on the sin of his flesh. What a wasted life! I wonder what Samson’s story could have been had he chosen to live his vows, walk closely with the Lord, and fulfill his purpose. Our conversation with each other would be very different now.
I think Samson’s story can be a lot like our story. We know what we should do, and we do not do it. We know what we shouldn’t do, and that we do. Lack of self-control to the powers of sin seem to keep us from ever living where we were created to be. Lack of self-control might have led to an addiction, divorce, jail, loss of your job, or many other things. For Samson, the reason his life ended prematurely and was full of pain was not because that is what the Lord wanted for him, but the consequences of his own sinful choices. He made his life miserable and so do we. When we suffer because of our rebellion, we cannot look at God as though He was to blame, as if he were not fair. I am so glad I did not receive what I deserve. The fact that I am still breathing and have a chance to ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness is WAY more than I deserve.
Romans 6:12-14 Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. 13 Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God. 14 Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
Vital Men, walk in self-control and do not give in to your sinful desire. Ask forgiveness where you need to. Extend forgiveness where you need to, even if they are not sorry or are unaware of their offense. Your freedom has been purchased with way too hard of a price for you to continue to live in darkness. You cannot defeat sin on your own. You are no match. You MUST turn to Christ and ask Him to give you grace to walk in freedom from your sin.
Where do you need to find freedom from the power of sin? Where do you need to walk in self-control? Who do you need to ask for forgiveness? Who do you need to forgive?
Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus
Life is full of “under fire” moments–where you are hunched in a corner behind a weakening shield, hoping the whizzing bullets don’t hit, praying the storm stops. Sometimes you’ve been backed into that corner by the enemy, and other times you have lost your way and found yourself in a bad spot.
I look at the Bible and see “under fire” moments all around.
I see David in a cave avoiding the tyranny of King Saul.
I see men questioning Jonah and blaming the storm on his disobedience.
I see the apostle Paul falsely imprisoned.
I see Stephen being martyred.
I see Moses taking the brunt of the Israelites’ displeasure.
I see Jesus being tried and taunted by Pharisees and politicians.
And I see men, like you and me, enduring a storm of fire more often than that.
Being under fire means a force is opposing you. It could be the weight of temptation trying to coax you back into the bad habit, it could be unfortunate events piling up one after another which devastate your life, or it could be someone slandering your name and putting you in a dark place.
Some of us can barely lift our heads and another bullet is whizzing by, others have time to stand and survey, and a few of us have Stonewall Jackson moments where we can stand fearless in the face of adversity.
As men striving to live for Jesus, let’s understand two things about “the fire.”
Don’t be a Man of Fire
Bullets are being shot for a reason. Either you have put yourself in a bad spot where you shouldn’t be or you are the one pulling the trigger. If you know how it feels to be “under fire,” then you can imagine the desire for revenge when it is your turn to shoot the bullets.
But as men of God, that isn’t our calling: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5: 44). Furthermore, Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek when we’re slapped (Matthew 5:39).
He doesn’t call us to be men who set up our weapons to enact revenge or get even, he calls us to love. Love by showing grace, love by putting your big guns down and working through forgetting and forgiving.
Life is full of enough chaos as it is, we don’t need to be people who add to it.
Learn Your Lesson in the Fire
When you are under attack it isn’t a time to lose focus, it is time to focus in. Look around you and see the lessons you are being taught, even if it isn’t fair that you are in the spot you are in. God is always using bad situations for his own good. If you keep your eyes open, if you ask him to show you the lessons, you’ll see them.
Fight the right fight men, don’t just fight because you can or you have to. Eventually, the fire will seize, lessons will be learned, and life will go on. The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, and so are the battles we are all fighting.
The last month has been fun. I have enjoyed writing and sharing with ya’ll. Did you see what I did there? Threw in a little southern flavor. So as we depart from this month, I hope you have enjoyed it as well.
So let us get down to business. What happens to those of us that don’t fall into the category of addiction? Those that watch porn, drink, or even do drugs as a recreation and not as an addiction. They are the ones that need none of the above but dabble in it because they can. How do you address those types of people?
They fall in the cracks, with neither a need to feed nor an addiction to shy away from. They do not crave the addiction but merely are curious. How do you address them?
Check out Mark 7:20-23, “And he said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Defying your morals defines you.
If you dabble here or there, you are still defiling your morals, the morals that not only shape the world but us personally. I have not always followed the moral Christian path, and I have let you all in on some of those moments over the last few weeks. I have, however, learned that it only upsets your moral compass to “dabble” in something you know is not right.
We have morals to help lead us to paths of righteousness. They guide us through this temporary journey so that we may live in eternity with Him.
God gave us the Ten Commandments so that we would have a rulebook for life. Defying these will not get you to Heaven without his forgiveness, the ones that Jesus gave his life for so that we may enter.
We are not perfect and striving for perfection can endanger our morals without the knowledge that we have done any damage. As humans we are flawed, but flaws can become our biggest strengths. Finding what pushes you to dabble can become your biggest strength against evil.
Peter said it best, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). God is the one that has final judgment; no matter if someone or something sets your path off track. The only true judge is Him. The next time someone asks you to stray from your morals, even if for only a moment, remember they do not have the final say and a moment is just that– a moment.
One last thought: I encourage you to find what guides you from your path even if it is only for a moment. For those moments can never be retrieved. For those paths will only lead you away from Christ and true happiness.
United for Him,
Insurance magnate and author W. Clement Stone, father of the Positive Mental Attitude approach, can also be credited with a concept called E + R = O, Event plus Response equals Outcome. Stone rationalized that if we’re unhappy with the outcomes we’re getting in life, we’re left with two choices. Either change the events or alter the response to those events. Either of these choices will drive different outcomes.
Between the event and our response there is a space within which we’re granted the power to choose our response. But most of the time, we don’t utilize that space. In our rush to react, we often take things at face value, failing to look beyond the surface and losing out on the opportunities to obtain significant results. Simply put, it’s easy to complain and fault the events (boss, coworkers, wife, kids, the weather, traffic, etc.); but blaming the event [E] for our lack of results doesn’t alter the outcome what-so-ever, it just confirms it.
Some might attempt to change their thinking, their habits, their perceptions and ultimately their response to the events of their life. But more often than not, the majority elects to take the easy route and refuse to work on the easiest part – changing ourselves. Instead we become nothing but a pack of conditioned reflexes, sacrificing the growth that is should be present in our lives because we never work on our responses.
Proverbs 15:13 [NLT]
13 A glad heart makes a happy face;
a broken heart crushes the spirit.
Leadership coach Felix Onyango tells a story of how during the Cold War, feeling alienated by West Germans, the East Germans decided to give them a taste of their own ‘hospitality’; so they picked up the garbage they could collect, and by night dumped it on the western side of the Berlin Wall. The West Germans, seeing the waste the following day and enraged, pondered how to repay the ‘act of kindness’. Retaliation initially seemed a viable option but soon cooler heads prevailed and a better course of action emerged. Knowing most of the Easterners were starving and deprived of medical supplies and countless other necessities, the Westerners rallied to gather foods and relief essentials. By night they also went on the eastern side and stacked up the supplies to nearly the full height of the wall. With the remaining space they pinned a banner to the wall reading: “Everybody gives of what they have.”
The Westerners had some space between the event and their response. While they could have reacted with an even larger collection of garbage, they wisely selected their response to the event and instead witnessed a virtuous outcome.
Proverbs 16:32 [NLT]
32 Better to be patient than powerful;
better to have self-control than to conquer a city.
Men, just like the Westerners, it’s important that we don’t just lash out and complain about the events of our lives. It’s up to us to take responsibility and stop blaming everything else for our outcomes. We need to work on carefully and thoughtfully fashioning our responses and when we do, freedom and growth will naturally follow.
Set a Fire Down in Your Soul,
Onyango, F. (n.d.). Event + Response = Outcome (E + R = O). Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.greatnessclinic.com/event-response-outcome-e-r-o/