Tackling any lawn less than ½ an acre, I’d heard for years that the best mower for any guy’s grass-cutting needs had to include a Honda engine. Through countless hours of research in publications like Popular Mechanics and Consumer Reports, coupled with numerous conversations with everyone from ‘old-timers’ to ‘landscape professionals’, I became convinced that the quality and reliability of the Honda could justify the steep price tag and thus five years ago I added one to my garage.
With its 190cc’s, my rear-wheel drive grass hacker has for 5 years appeared nearly indestructible. It bagged, discharged, or mulched whatever I felt like putting in its path. Plus, with its ½ a decade warranty that was almost twice as long as the rest of the industry, I knew if ever something did go wrong with the machine it’d be taken care of.
Three weeks ago these beliefs were put to the test. Having missed winterizing my mower last fall before colder temperatures and snow hit, I knew I’d have my hands full when spring came along. I drained out the last of the stale fuel left in the tank and replaced it with fresh. I set the choke and then proceeded to spend the next hour or so fighting my mower to get nothing more than a sputter before ultimately conceding defeat.
The following weekend, having spent some time trouble-shooting what I believed to be the problem by perusing various websites, I devoted several hours in my driveway disassembling the entire fuel system. Trying to decipher what I had believed to be the problem, I took apart a motor I hadn’t touched in five years other than to change its oil. I thought for sure it’d do the trick. Result? Still dead as a doornail.
Over lunch with my grandparents a week later, I grumbled about my frustration of being left baffled as to what could be wrong. “I guess I’m just going to have to take it into the shop and let someone who knows what they’re actually doing take a look at it,” I huffed to them. My grandfather looked at me and asked, “Well, did you try replacing the spark plug?” $2.19 was the cost of that little plug, and for $2.19 and the less than five minutes it took to change it out, that mower fired right up.
What I learned last weekend is that you should change the spark plug on your mower every 100 hours. Furthermore, you should be checking your spark plug every spring to make sure it’s still in good shape. It’s supposed to be a part of your regularly scheduled maintenance plan because even the most reliable engines will experience general wear and tear.
Our lives move forward through days, weeks, months, and years and through seasons we neglect crucial and critical possibilities to maintain our Spirit. Even those of us with the most ‘sound’ of motors require the proper upkeep. Should we fail to ‘change our plug’, we’ll risk eventually hitting a point where we’ll be unable to generate so much as a spark.
1 Timothy 4:16 [NLT]
16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.
Men, when presented with opportunities to read a new book, take a semester long class at your church, or attend a multi-day conference we should relish these chances rather than pushing them further into the distant future. Routine ‘maintenance’ is Vital to keep ‘running’ properly and time and effort put into doing so will save us in the long run.
Set a Fire Down in Your Soul,
If we ask the question to ourselves of why we sometimes struggle with the emotion of anger, the question really needs to be; what are we so mad at? Most of the time the enemy we are fighting with is the enemy from within. Unchecked emotions which through denial or justification get transposed onto someone or something else.
The Job That We Din’t Get
I Want To Be Rich Like That Guy
The Car We Don’t Have
The House We’d Rather Live In
This problem has been going on since the beginning of time. If you remember back to Cain and Abel, Cain was angry and jealous at the fact that God looked more favorably at the offerings of Abel rather than his. God even tried to issue a warning to Cain.
6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
- Genesis 4:6,7-
Cain did not heed the warning of God. Instead of mastering his sin and emotion, he let it control him and committed the fist homicide in human history. Cain gave birth to his anger and jealousy which became a legion of emotions battling within him.
Colossians 3 in talking about the new self says in verse 15, And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. We as followers are to be witnesses of the new peace of Christ that we have in our hearts that bear fruits of the Spirit and not let the world have the opportunity to choke out the goodness that is the result of letting Christ rule in our hearts.
We can’t allow ourselves to go through so many mood swings that it looks like we are participating in a home run derby. We need to seek the self control and the restraint of the Holy Spirit allowing him to discern what comes out of us. Get behind him in leading the charge in the battles of the heart and mind.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
- 1 Peter 5:6-9
I really love how Peter writes ” knowing that the same kinds of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Men we need to understand that we naturally have emotions, and for men those naturally come out as anger. As a leader we can’t ignore that we are human. We need to realize the areas that push our buttons. Deal with them by taking them to God or a trusted brother in Christ. When and if we do mess up, we need to take accountability for what we did, not blame shift but seek reconciliation and experience peace that comes from resolve.
We Can Win This Battle Together
Well, if you haven’t paid your taxes by now, you are a day late and already incurring interest. If you are a procrastinator or an accountant, April 15 probably makes you a little anxious, and if not, you likely got your refund over a month ago. The other notable event you may recall on that date was the death of Abraham Lincoln, who was shot the night before in Ford’s Theatre. That about covers the spectrum of the often quoted phrase “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” which is usually credited to Benjamin Franklin. Based on this, the two things men fear most seem to be the most inevitable. Thankfully, there is more we can be sure of.
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Psalm 119:160
Most of us prefer to pay as little in taxes as possible. Therefore, we try to make sure we get all the deductions we qualify for, and then, wait until the last minute to pay if we owe anything more. Inevitably, we may be unintentionally paying more than we owe at some point, and if we realize our mistake, can go back 2 years and file an amended return. Though there are some each year who choose to pay even more than they owe. There is an even longer list of those who try to avoid paying what they should to the government. What is your attitude toward helping out your Uncle Sam?
He asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:20-21
When you have the attitude that all we have and strive to accumulate in this life is not even ours, but God’s, it is much easier to let some or all of it go. If we can see ourselves as simple stewards of all that we have been given including finances, talents, connections, time, opportunities, all things, and the planet we live on, then maybe we will be more effective in being fair to others and honorable to God. Maybe we will give more freely when we see need and not withhold based on greed. Maybe we will be more generous with the good news found in Christ with all who are willing to receive. Maybe God can still use us to make a small difference in our world and the lives of a few people around us. Can we freely give what we have received?
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. I Peter 4:10
So, as you see that chunk of change taken out of your paycheck each month, know that you have some freedom for what remains. Are you using it wisely? And if you do not consider yourself rich in material wealth, know that you have even more valuable resources at your disposal. What will we do with all that we have been given? If you are not sure, ask God to show you how.
Strength and Courage in Christ,
Many of us as men feel the weight of providing for our family and we work really hard to make it happen. So many of us have worked more than one job to make ends meet. In the last many years of ministry I have seen people walk through major marital stress or divorce because the man was not providing.
They had three vehicles, a nice house, nice clothes, kids in a good school, and plenty to eat. They are living the “American Dream.” This is their life at face value. Behind the scenes intimacy is thing of the past, #1 thing to fight about is money, kids are checked out of the family with huge expectations of parents for their “needs,” and their house is not a home and their marriage is more of a legality than “becoming one.” Oh and EVERYONE is tired.”
I believe the #1 reason this is becoming the norm is because of men are not providing.
Ephesians 5:23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.
25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[b] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault. 28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself.
Providing for you family is leading them to Jesus. Taking them to church is only a small part of this great role. You are called to speak God’s word to them. This is never rude, or forced, or harsh, always full of love, encouragement, and life. Providing for your family takes time. Your kids need you to be present when you are home. I know you are tired, MAN UP! Your wife needs you to spend time with her. Find 30 minutes every day to have a cup of coffee, tea, or just talk. Talk about whatever she wants to talk about! Share with her what you are learning in your relationship with Jesus. Pray together… It is awkward! Man up! We will talk about poop and farting with other men… That is awkward. Get over it and love your wife
If your team wins the National Championship and you watched every game, but your marriage is hanging by a thread is it worth it? If you made another $5,000 but grew apart with your kids was it worth it. If they wear nicer jean but don’t know their dad, was it worth it?
It can no longer be ok for us to think providing financially for our family is enough, let alone our most important role. The way we change our nation, our churches, and our families, is simple: LOVE YOUR BRIDE, LOVE YOUR KIDS! Give them your best time and attention. If your marriage or relationship is hurting, someone needs to lead it to someplace new place. That person is YOU! God has called YOU! He CHOSE YOU, because HE believes in YOU that YOU can bring change! Change does not take time, it takes a choice. CHOOSE NOW! Go be Vital!
Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus
I’ve been working on speed reading lately. Next to my reading chair, 9 books have been piled on top of each other, accumulating dust and acquiring disgruntled attitudes because my eyes have not noticed them. I try to ignore them I guess; I feel like I’ve betrayed them, pulling them from their comfortable shelves where they once rested with their clones and plopping them onto my sporadic pile. Anymore the tower looks intimidating–will I ever be able to read them all?
As an English teacher, frequent online reader, and writer, I struggle to find time for the reading pile. That’s why I thought acquiring the ability to speed read would help me conquer the daunting stack and many more mountains of books after that.
We’ve noted it before in various devotions, but the speed of life we live at is dangerous. We try to fit more into every day than we did the day before. Recent surveys suggest that if the day was extended from 24 to 30 hours, most people would use that extra 6 hours for more opportunities to work. Not for rest or family, but work.
In a world where we can receive almost anything we want instantly, I think we forget the beauty in the journey. When it comes to my speed reading, that’s exactly what’s happening. I’ve worked my way up to being able to read about 400 words per minute (really not that impressive). In my new found speed, I am struggling with comprehension. I can read faster, but not obtain understanding very well, which means I have to read it again and thus, I’m still slow.
As an English nerd, I have a respect for words and how they are strung together and placed in the perfect moments. That’s why I’ve always been a slow reader. In a great literary moment, I’ll reread the page or sentence 5 times to take in it’s merit. When it comes to the Bible, I’ll reread commentaries and verses 10 times. Sometimes because I’m looking for something new or waiting for God to speak to me through the potential applications.
One verse I contemplate a lot is 1 Timothy 4:8, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” I wrote about 6-pack-abs last week, but what I desire more is what Timothy mentions here–godliness. It’s a rewarding pursuit that will never end, and it holds not only earthly but heavenly value. How do I get that?!
When it comes to our faith journey, I think we like to take short-cuts. We want to speed by the beauty of the journey to be at an enlightened destination. We are willing to not comprehend certain moments so that we can jump ahead and have the achievements of being and perhaps looking more spiritual.
A relationship with Jesus is not something to “speed-read.” It beckons a slow read, a re-read, and many contemplative moments. In order to acquire that godliness Timothy speaks of, something that is a life long pursuit and eternal reward, we can’t rush through the process of comprehension. There will be learning moments, difficult times, stacks to work through, pages to turn, and beauty amidst the pursuit of Jesus Christ. Embrace it.