Others

So, this past week for Spring Break, instead of heading for the sunny South or even moderate Southern Iowa, I loaded up the family and trekked to Northern Wisconsin a day before the snow fell once again.  We were not really seeking out a ski vacation or even a fun indoor water park, but went to visit friends we had not seen in person for some time.  It was an opportunity to see the families of a couple different friends I have had now for decades.  One friend has been a follower of Christ for about the same amount of time as I have, and who I try to meet up with at least once a year.  I have been an ‘uncle’ to his 9 children and watched them all grow up over the last 15 years as well.  We can talk on the phone from time to time, but meeting in person seems to be a good practice as well.  People change, families change, and the world we live in changes, but God doesn’t, and it is good to have a few friends to confide in about these things.  Are there relationships you value and invest in on a regular basis? 

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

How do you tell your true friends from those who are not?  Maybe you recall a time in High School where your friends changed like the seasons?  Some may say things to drive a rift in the relationship, some move away, and others may just start running with a new clique or group of friends.  Even with ‘friends’ on Facebook and other social media, have you ever wondered where some of your childhood friends ever went?  Hopefully, as you matured, you found friends or family in whom you developed long term trust and friendship over the years.  For a variety of reasons, it is good to have a few close relationships in whom you can confide most anything and with whom you show love and forgiveness.  Often the relationship is mutual, where you share struggles with one another, but it can also be in the form of a mentor who has good advice for those willing to listen.  Have you had others like this in your life?  Do you now?

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”  1 Corinthians 15:33

I’ve always said, when you hang out with someone different from you, either you tend to become more like them, or they become more like you, whether a friend or a spouse.  Who has the greater influence?  This is not to discourage you from talking with non-Christians, but maybe temper what activities in which you choose to participate together.  Whether it is running, working, managing money, praying, or any other skill in life, when you spend time with someone who does things better than you, you tend to improve your skills as well.  They rub off on you.  So, it would be good to spend at least some time with others whom you respect to find out what makes them good at what they do.  Ask if you don’t know.  Maybe others will seek the same in you now or in the future as well. 

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

How committed are you to maintaining the relationships you have with your friends and family?  Do you have at least one friend in whom you can confide your fears, failures, and other things you try to conceal from others? Do you have someone who’s advice has proven trustworthy?  Do you regularly bring these same things to God and seek his advice?  Most men try to ‘go it alone’ and be self-sufficient as often as possible, but it can bring about as much trouble as good at times.  Confiding in others is not a sign of weakness, but a source of strength, especially when necessary.  So, take some time this week to catch up with a trusted friend, even if just to let them know they are appreciated.  If you don’t already have this kind of relationship with Jesus, seek Him out as well.

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  John 15:12-15


Strength in Christ,
Clark

Labels Part 2

When I was in late middle school, I played baseball on a really good team. At one of our tournaments, a really pretty girl showed up.  All of us in the dug out started a competition to get this girls attention.  I am up to bat and I step in the batters box and in my most manly pose, then I wink at the girl and point to the outfield.  Embarrassing I know… Then I look to the pitcher and see the ball coming toward my head.  Then it happened. I got hit in the temple with the ball and get knocked out.  I fall to the plate and needless to say I did not impress the girl.

Here is what I learned.  When you pursue the wrong label… it hurts!  Last week we talked about Jacob and how the labels that were put on him negatively effected his behavior.  The next label that effects us is the labels that we pursue.  Jacob now has the birth right, but one thing he is missing is the blessing.  The blessing is the passing of God’s favor and covenant.  The birthright is incomplete with out the blessing.  Jacob’s dad is getting old and is ready to give Esau, Jacob’s older brother, the blessing. Jacob’s mom over hears and tries to set Jacob up to get it.

Genesis 27:5 So Jacob went out and got the young goats for his mother. Rebekah took them and prepared a delicious meal, just the way Isaac liked it. 15 Then she took Esau’s favorite clothes, which were there in the house, and gave them to her younger son, Jacob. 16 She covered his arms and the smooth part of his neck with the skin of the young goats. 17 Then she gave Jacob the delicious meal, including freshly baked bread.

18 So Jacob took the food to his father. “My father?” he said.

“Yes, my son,” Isaac answered. “Who are you—Esau or Jacob?”

19 Jacob replied, “It’s Esau, your firstborn son. I’ve done as you told me. Here is the wild game. Now sit up and eat it so you can give me your blessing.”

Jacob wanted power and influence and pursued it at the cost of his character.  All of us are pursuing labels.  Some might be pursuing the image of success, other are pursing “not single”, others are pursuing an online image.  Many of these labels cause us to do what Jacob did.  Jacob pretended to be someone he was not.  God cannot bless who you are pretending to be!

So what labels are you pursuing?  Be honest and write them down. Are they the labels God want for you?  Ask Him what labels he wants you to pursue?  Pursue them with all your heart!

Recklessly, obsessively following Jesus

Brandon Sereg

Prayer that Honors

In Jesus’ day prayer had become very much misunderstood and missed used. Jesus relates how it was a common in synagogues to see supposedly pious men praying long, elaborate, and very visible prayers. The problem with their prayers was not that they were public, but rather that they were incredibly self-serving. It would not have been unheard of to hear a prayer along the following line:
“Oh most high and glorious God, thank you for creating me. Thank you for my great intelligence, my extreme piety, my heroic leadership, and my astonishing appearance. Thank you that I am not like Frank, Harry, Sally and Bob, who do not follow you with nearly the passion I do.”
While that may seem like a far out example, its quite accurate. Jesus shares a very similar example in Luke 18:9-14. Jesus also shared that many people had made prayer a highly complex affair. The felt that a good prayer necessitated big words, great length, and showed how deeply educated the person praying was. Jesus rejected this notion as well.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:5-8


The big point Jesus was making is that prayer is really a relational conversation between us and Him, the one who created us, sustains us, and saves us. Prayer is a time when we come before our Holy Father and share whatever is on our mind. In doing this we not only connect to God, but we give Him great honor. Rick Warren shared in a recent sermon that “The greatest gift we can give somebody is our attention, because to give attention is to give of your life, and you can’t take that back.” Unlike giving money or possessions we can in no way ever get our time back. Giving our time to someone is a permanent gift, and thus places it among the leading ways we can show honor to someone. My question to all of us is: are we truly connecting with God in prayer and showing Him the honor He deserves? Or, are we making prayer a self-serving practice like many in Jesus’s day? Let us give God the honor he deserves by taking time daily to connect with Him in prayer, sharing our joys, our thanks, our sins, and our needs with Him.

Where Are The Men?

Ephesians 4:2New International Version (NIV)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Have you ever read this verse and felt like you are not sure you could live up to that? At times it feels like a hammer hitting me when I read this verse.

Sometimes we will take Paul’s words to be gentle and start applying it to become a passive man. If this was the true thought of Paul, why did he encourage Timothy to stand and be bold?

I think, in my mind, that there has to be diversity in the moments. How would a police officer, soldier, fireman, a manager, or even a church leader stand when he is faced with adversity or a tough situation?

There has to be both a place for boldness and being humble. It is by allowing the Holy Spirit take control and step into those situations. I believe that this is why the Christian man goes running.

Often we are taught from the pulpit meekness, gentleness, and loving one another. All of this is good, but there are times a man you must stand. Nowhere do I see in Scripture Jesus cowering. Even in the face of Pilot, he stood knowing who had the true authority, and it came from his Father.

Men, here is a call to lead. Here is an all call to stand. Here is a call to be bold. It is time to face our enemy, the devil, and allow the Holy Spirit the Power to work in our lives. That I how men start showing up.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

 

Vital Ministries News

It is hard to believe That we only have 4 weeks left of Vital Men small groups. We will finish up with our teaching series, “Frequency”, in the next week with chapters 9 and 10.

Our last week for Vital Men will be April 3-7. On our final two weeks we close with a two week series on “Fallen Men Rising”! It will enhance the Easter Season as we celebrate our Lord’s Resurrection!

Let’s finish strong and well men!!

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

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