“Love, Fellowship & Joy”

NOTICE: Please know that this is not a quick read. It will take about 15-20 minutes.

When Valerie & I first moved to Santa Cruz one of the things we often heard was how “spiritual” this area is.  And after living here for the past seven years – I’d have to say I agree!

All you have to do is look at the sentiments expressed on popular bumper stickers in Santa Cruz to see that it’s a “spiritual” place.  One of the most intriguing bumper stickers I came across was one I saw the first week we moved here. Here’s what it said: “Get a taste of religion. Lick a witch!” Only in Santa Cruz!

Here in this town, you can investigate first hand any spiritual experience you want.  And it’s all part of what used to be called the New Age Movement (NAM) – although it goes by different names now in the 21st c.  (The NAM is still alive and well in Santa Cruz…and many other parts of the nation).

Proponents of the NAM now use terms like “transformational” as a substitute for New Age. New Age authors, like Ken Wilder & Carter Phipps, have popularized the use of the term “integral” and “evolutionary” – and both terms can be found in some of their latest book titles.

The NAM has many sub-divisions, but it’s generally a collection of Eastern-influenced metaphysical thought systems. It’s a conglomeration of theologies and hopes and expectations held together with an eclectic teaching of salvation. It proposes to have “correct thinking” and “correct knowledge.” It’s a theology of “universal tolerance” and “moral relativism” – and even “feel-goodism.”

In the NAM human beings are viewed as divine and co-creators of the universe.  Mankind is seen as the hope for future peace and harmony on earth and the universe. The NAM is an assortment of different theologies with the common thread of “toleration and divergence” weaving through its tapestry of “universal truth.”

But here’s the irony. Even though the NAM is tolerant of almost any theological position – it’s opposed to what it calls the “narrow-mindedness” of Christianity because it teaches Jesus is the only way and that there are moral absolutes.

The term “New Age” refers to the “Aquarian Age” which, according to New Age followers, is dawning upon us right now. This Age of Aquarius is supposed to bring in peace and enlightenment and reunite man with God. Mankind is presently considered separated from God – not because of sin (Isaiah 59:2/Romans 3:23) – but because of lack of understanding and knowledge concerning the true nature of God and reality. New Age spirituality is characterized by an individual approach to spiritual practices and philosophies, and the rejection of religious doctrine and dogma.

Let me illustrate it for you with something that hits close to home, here in Santa Cruz.

The January 9, 2o13 issue of the Santa Cruz publication “Good Times” reported that a local devotional singer, Snatam Kaur, and her yogi parents are raising consciousness and making miracles happen. GT’s ran an article about her – including exclusive interviews with followers Oprah Winfrey, Maria Shriver & The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir.

Snatam quotes the spiritual teacher Ram Dass: “We’re all God in drag.” In other words, behind all the costumes—the individual body types, social roles, personalities, occupations, etc.—each of us is a manifestation of the same divine consciousness.

Her particular form of yoga is called “kundalini yoga.” It promises to energize and relax you through exercise and meditation.  Sounds innocent enough. But what you don’t know can hurt you.

Kundalini yoga is a Hindu practice that aims to release the “serpent goddess” (kundalini) supposedly coiled at the base of the spine. Mastery of kundalini is said to lead to a union with Brahman – the inner deity of the Hindus. But yoga experts admit to its dangers. The serpent may bite – inflicting pain, burns, ill health or even death to the practitioner. And that’s just one example of the kind of “spirituality” that’s part of the culture in Santa Cruz.

Let me offer a working definition of “spirituality” and “spiritual.”

  • “spirituality” is defined as the quality or state of being spiritual.
  • “spiritual” is defined as of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature; a spiritual approach to life.”

So, with that backdrop, I want to ask and answer over the next several blogs. And that question is: “What does the Bible say true spirituality is?”

The NAM (or however you choose to refer to it) is not really new.  It’s thousands of years old. Very similar thinking was prominent in Jesus’ day. (It was epitomized in the “mystery religions” of the Roman Empire). 

And New Age thinking was also alive and well in the time that John the Apostle of the New Testament wrote his letters to the church in Ephesus at the end of the 1st C.  He addressed New Age thinking in his day – and how he defined and approached “true spirituality” is still quite enlightening for us today.

I believe one of the best ways to answer the question about true spirituality is to take a look at one of the books of the Bible written by the Apostle John – someone who was arguably the closest human being ever to Jesus when He lived and walked this planet in the Holy Land over two millennia ago.

I’ve chosen to use John’s letter – 1 John – as a biblical foundation upon which we are going to build a solid house of truth which will challenge the notions of New Age thinking and its accompanying world view.  It is a world view which is becoming more and more prominent and accepted in modern American culture – but which is not Christ-centered at all.

1 John shows us how utterly spiritually bankrupt New Age thinking is when it’s compared to the original new age movement begun by God Himself. When God came to earth as human being (Jesus Christ), and lived and died and rose again from the dead – defeating death for all humanity – that was the original “new age movement.”  He did that so you and I wouldn’t have to come up with our own new age ideas.

Living a postmodern new age life-style will never satisfy you emotionally, spiritually, mentally or physically like Jesus can. It will leave you feeling empty and hungry. What we need to sink our spiritual teeth into is something edible and nourishing to our souls – not “spiritual cotton candy” that looks good and maybe even tastes good – but leaves you malnourished and sickly. Don’t settle for spiritual cotton candy when you can have the spiritual equivalent of meat and potatoes!

1 John is substantial spiritual food! The question is: “Are you hungry for truth?”

LET ME OFFER A CHALLENGE: If you have bought into new age thinking, I challenge you to stick with me for the next several weeks blogs.  Because in 1 John you will find the way to enter into the original new age way of thinking. You will witness the exposure of modern new age thinking as a counterfeit to what God offers you through Jesus. I can guarantee you that this little book of 1 John is true spiritual life!

It’s in the Bible in the New Testament – four books before the last book in the Bible, Revelation. It was written by the Apostle John (John the Elder).

BACKGROUND:

  • John was one of the sons of a man named Zebedee and his wife Salome. Zebedee was a wealthy fisherman from Galilee. Salome was the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. (That would make John a first cousin of Jesus).
  • John’s brother, James, was his business partner. And together they owned a fishing business. They had two business partners named Peter and Andrew – who were also brothers. All four of them became disciples of Jesus Christ.
  • Initially, John was a disciple of John the Baptist. Later, both he and Andrew were converted to follow Christ together. The Bible tells us that later they quit their fishing business to become followers of Jesus, full-time (Matt. 4)

CHARACTER:  

  • John was a “hot-head.” Jesus nicknamed him and his brother James the “Sons of Thunder.” That was because after a Samaritan village failed to show Jesus any love, they asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven to destroy the village. (Jesus rebuked them and told them they didn’t know what spirit they were of). On another occasion, John and James verbally beat up a guy for not casting out demons the right way. So, they came by their nick name honestly.
  • John was a very ambitious, self-centered, intolerant man who was a bigot in his attitudes. (That is until Jesus got a hold of him and changed his heart).

RESOURCES:  

  • We know from Scripture that John was a man of means. He owned two houses – one in Galilee in northern Israel and one in Jerusalem in southern Israel. He had servants. He co-owned the family business. John was very well off.
  • In addition to that we’re told in Scripture that he was socially “connected.” He had ready access to the house of Caiaphas – the current High Priest. (That would be like knowing a senator or a Supreme Court justice on a first name basis). His mother apparently was used to leveraging her social contacts to gain favors. On one occasion, she tried to persuade Jesus to make her sons – his cousins – first & second VPs in his kingdom.

CHURCH LEADERSHIP:

  • Acts tells us that John rose to a position of influence and leadership in the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 3, 4, 8).
  • After the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, he moved to Ephesus where he served as pastor in the church there that had been founded by the Apostle Paul. He enjoyed a very special relationship with at least six other churches in the area as well (Rev. 1-3).
  • John lived a long time after the beginning of Christianity. He was the last of the apostles to die and the only one to die peacefully. The others all met with violent deaths. (Tradition says that John was once boiled in oil for his refusal to deny the faith – but that he didn’t die. Some report everyone in the coliseum was converted to Christ on the spot!)
  • At one point he was exiled to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. He was later freed.
  • Legend has it that as an old man he had to be carried to church in the arms of his disciples where he was accustomed to preach the same message every week. His message was always: “Little children, love one another!” His disciple got tired of hearing him repeat the same words over and over again and asked him: “Master, why do you always say this?” To which he replied: “It is the Lord’s command. And if it alone be done, it is enough.”
  • He died around 100 AD in Ephesus at age 94, surrounded by his closest friends.

Merrill Tenney comments on the Apostle John by saying: “John is the example of a man who could have been a great sinner – out of whom Christ made a great witness.”

The overall message of 1 John has only three main points:

God is LIGHT (Truth)         God is LOVE (Grace)          God is LIFE (Assurance & Abundance)

John 1:14 says: “And the Word became flesh…and we beheld his glory…full of grace and truth.”  John 10:10 says quoting Jesus: “The thief come only to steal and kill and to destroy….I am come that they might have life – and might have it abundantly.”

In this blog, we’re going to cover just the first four verses of 1 John.

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”  1 John 1:1-4 (NASB)

Let’s break this passage down verse-by-verse. John begins by saying:

“What was from the beginning…”     

There are actually three beginnings in the Bible.  

  • The FIRST beginning is found in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created…”

That would be the beginning of the earth as we know it. Genesis tells us that God made something out of nothing. And – as much as scientists and theologians have wanted to date this beginning for us – it’s an undated beginning. But there was a beginning in time and space somewhere when God created the universe. Can you see how from the opening words of this book we already have a clash of world-views?

So, when was this beginning? We don’t know. Did it actually happen? Did God create the earth?  The Bible says He did – and we have no reason not to believe it – except for being told differently by other people with letters after their names, who at best, are guessing at how the universe came to be. And unfortunately, when someone of scientific stature suggests that there may be an “intelligent design” behind the universe they’re most often eviscerated by the scientific community which is biased toward a “chaos theory” of creation – anything but intelligent design! But according to the Bible the universe didn’t just happen. It was created – by God.

J. Vernon McGee comments on this verse by saying: “My friend, there is intelligence behind this universe in which you and I live. As to a date of the beginning, we do not know; but if you need a few billion years to fit into your scheme of interpretation, it is here because we are dealing with the God of eternity. God has eternity behind Him. Although I don’t know what he was doing before He created the heaven and the earth, I know He was doing something. Then God created the heaven and the earth, and He did it for a purpose. He is working out a plan in His universe today which is bigger than any human mind can comprehend. When God recorded His act of creation, he wasn’t trying to give us a study in geology. However, He put a lot of rocks around for you to look at if you are interested in trying to figure out a date.”

  • The SECOND beginning in the Bible is found in John 1:1-3: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. [Then comes creation]. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

This second reference in the Bible to “the beginning” is really the first beginning – the beginning before time – the beginning of all things! The irony of it is that it’s not really a beginning at all. But for our puny little brains God’s Spirit decided to communicate it to us this way so that we could understand it.

Go back before Creation – way back billions and trillions of years – and out of eternity stepped Jesus Christ. Way back there he’s already “past tense.” That’s why the Hebrew prophet Daniel called Him “the Ancient of Days.”

John 1 says you can go back into the past as far as you want to and Jesus comes out of eternity to meet you!

And that’s YUGE when it comes to developing a Christ-centered worldview. “Yuger” than we can ever imagine!  And if you claim to have a Christ-centered worldview you must accept it by faith as true – just like you must if you believe in the tenants of evolution. Because both are based on faith!

  • The THIRD beginning in Scripture is here in 1 John 1:1. It’s a reference to when Jesus Christ came into this world as a baby in Bethlehem.

When Jesus was about 30 years old, John became acquainted with Him. Apparently, even though they were first cousins, they didn’t travel in the same circles. John and his brother James met Jesus in Jerusalem. (Jesus was from Bethlehem in the south. John was from Galilee in the north). Later, James & John were with their father – mending fishing nets at the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 4). It was there that Jesus called John to become one of His disciples.

At that moment John was destined by the Holy Spirit to become a “mender” of the Body of Christ – His Church. John is a corrector of error – especially those who profess to be of the truth, but are not. Through all five of his New Testament books and letters – John is a spiritual mender. And as we look closer at 1 John we’re going to see that more and more clearly.

 John says, here in this letter: “I want to tell you about Jesus – the One and Only God – who became a human being!” (John 1:14). He asserts: “…what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands touched…”

That’s a reference to the “flesh and blood Jesus” – a real, live, human person!  John was an eyewitness to Jesus’ physical presence – what theologians call the “incarnation.” Jesus was with God way back before the beginning (whenever that was) – and in fact was God. And He chose to become a human being!

John is saying: “I saw Jesus. I heard Jesus. I touched Him. I watched Him – and He really was God in the flesh!”

NOTE: The Greek word in this passage for “beheld” is the root word from which we get our English word “theater.” Translated literally, it means “to gaze intently upon.”

So, what John is saying by using this word is: “I and the other disciples watched Jesus closely for over three years. We know who this Man is, people! He is God!”

They saw, they heard, they touched and they watched Jesus very carefully – both before and after His resurrection – and they had no doubt whatsoever that He was God in human form.

And this is a very important thing to get right because after the death of the Apostle Paul, about AD 67, a heresy infiltrated the church.  It was called “Gnosticism.”

Gnosticism is the opposite of “agnosticism.” Agnosticism believes that the reality of God is unknown – and probably unknowable.

There are a lot of agnostics in the world today.  Some of the more recognizable self-proclaimed agnostics are:

  • Warren Buffett, a wealthy American financial investor, is an agnostic
  • Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, is also an agnostic
  • Many people in media and the arts from years gone by and some who are currently popular were and are agnostics. The list includes actors like: Charlie Chaplin, Henry Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss, Carrie Fisher, Emilia Fox, Sean Penn, Sydney Poitier, Howard Stern, Brad Pitt – and on the list goes
  • Lewis Black & Bill Maher – two popular (albeit irreverent) political satirist/comedians are also self-proclaimed agnostics
  • Scientists Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan were all agnostics

The well-known English preacher Charles Spurgeon used to say that agnostic is just the Greek word for the Latin word “ignoramus.” So one might say, “I don’t believe the Bible because I’m and ignoramus!

My point is that an agnostic says: “I don’t know!” and a Gnostic says: “I do know!” And most new age thinkers are “Gnostics” of a sort.

The Gnostics of John’s day – much like modern-day Gnostics – were people who came into the church claiming to have a superior knowledge which simpler, less knowledgeable Christians did not have. They considered themselves “super-saints” – who knew more than anyone else.

And these Gnostics came up with quite a few novel ideas. One of their heretical teachings was that Jesus was merely a man when He was born. He was just like any other human being at the time of His birth – but at the time of His baptism, the “Christ” (or God power) came upon Him. And when He was hanging on the cross – the “Christ” left Him.

The Gnostic Gospel of Peter (not part of the inspired canon of Scripture) quotes Jesus on the cross saying not “My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?!” – but “My power! My power! Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

But John refutes this teaching in no uncertain terms in his gospel when he states that “The Word became flesh…”  And here in 1 John he emphatically declares again – that when Jesus walked the earth, He was a human being.

All this talk of what he saw and heard and touched was about one Person – Jesus Christ – who He called “…the Word of life…” (vs. 1)  And the message of salvation, the very center of that message of life – true spiritual life – was none other than Jesus.

According to the Bible, true spiritual life is something people do not naturally possess. It has to be given to them by God. And that flies in the face of new age thinking – which asserts that we’re all God.

John’s point in all this is that when we see and hear and get in touch with God through Jesus Christ – when we take a good, long look at Him – it will result in a whole new way of living life – but it will be God’s way, not our way!

So, what is that new way of living? Its two things: fellowship and joy.

Here’s how John puts it in vss. 3-4: “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

Let’s talk about fellowship first.

According to verse 3, our fellowship is on two planes: horizontal (person to person) and vertical (God to man).

“Koinonia” is the Greek word for fellowship and it means “having in common or sharing with.” So, Christian fellowship means sharing the things of Christ with one another and with God. And in order to do that, John says, we must know Jesus Christ. And you can’t just know about Him – you have to know Him by believing in Him and accepting Him as your Savior and your Lord.

Most churches and their people don’t have fellowship together. They may enjoy some good food together. They may even have some fun together. But when they talk – they usually talk about anything but Jesus Christ. (“How about them Chiefs! AFC Champs! Super Bowl-bound! Woo hoo!” And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not fellowship.

The irony of what passes for “Christian fellowship” is that we often ignore the ONE thing and the ONE Person that will give us true fellowship with each other and with God – and that’s a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Let me go one step further in describing true Christ-centered fellowship.

When we have true fellowship with one another and with God we experience two things: friendship and partnership.

 Jesus told His disciples, “No longer do I call you servants – but FRIENDS!” And the Bible also says that God has made us “joint- heirs with Christ.” In other words, we’re friends with the One who created the universe and He’s made us co-regents with Him as we reign over it together.

And the same is true of us as fellow believers in Christ in our individual relationships. We’re “friends” and “partners” in the Kingdom of God.

But Christian fellowship really must transcend friendship. It will always include some level of friendship – BUT friendship is essentially human while fellowship is essentially spiritual.

For the believer, friendship is an agreement. And in that sense, it’s optional. You can agree or decline to be friends. BUT for the believer, fellowship is not optional – it’s a command. It’s a requirement. If we’re going to be true followers of Jesus Christ – we must be willing to have fellowship with each other.

In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that fellowship is the TEST of Christian living. If you’re not in fellowship – befriending and partnering with others in the local church that you attend (and it can include those who attend other churches as well – but it must be present and expressed in the local church) – then you’re not living the Christian life!

Fellowship for the Christian means that we meet regularly to share the things of Christ – face-to-face and heart-to-heart – where we talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word.

That’s the kind of fellowship John is speaking of when he says: “…so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Now there is also a second aspect of fellowship – and it’s JOY. Joy is another characteristic of a life which has seen and heard and looked closely at Jesus.

“These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

Joy is the outcome of genuine fellowship.

It’s worshipping in song and prayer and sharing the Lord’s Supper – together. It’s reading and studying the Bible – together. It’s talking about how much Jesus has done for us and in us – together. It’s giving our money and our time and our God-given abilities – together with one another. Those are all acts of fellowship. And what they cause us to experience is joy.

Deep, soul-satisfying joy is the result of fellowship with first God and then His people.

King David wrote: “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalm 16:11).  That’s the result of fellowship with God.  And the Apostle Paul tells us “…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)

Our fellowship is not about eating and drinking together (and arguing about what we can eat and drink). It’s about the righteousness and the peace and the joy we experience when we truly fellowship together around our faith in Jesus Christ and its practice.

I love this verse in Proverbs because of how it juxtaposes peace and joy. It says: “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy.” Prov. 12:20

Charles Spurgeon used to say: “Joy is peace dancing. Peace is joy sitting down.” The OT prophet, Nehemiah said it best: “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh. 8:10

Let me finish our first look at 1 John by saying that the test of whether we have a relationship with God and His people – an expression of true spirituality – is found in our personal answer to the following questions:

  • “Have you HEARD and do you know and obey the voice of Jesus?                                                                                                       “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:26-28
  • “Have you SEEN Jesus and do you look intently upon Him?”                                                                                                         “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth…For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” John 1:14-16
  • “Have you gotten close enough to Jesus to TOUCH Him (and let Him touch you)?                                                                      “…and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.” Matthew 14:36 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see…” Luke 24:3
  • Do you enjoy intimate FELLOWSHIP with Jesus?                                                                                                                                 “…and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3
  • What is your source of JOY?                                                                                                                                                                 “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.” 1 John 1:4

So, how do we get there?

We stop long enough to look, and we get quiet enough to listen. Turn off the TV. Put down the book. Slow down the pace of your life. And then ask Jesus to open your eyes…and to open you ears…then reach out and touch Him.

Spiritual Fathers

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.  I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:12-17

June is my wife’s birthday month and it’s also the month we celebrate Fathers. More often than I can remember my wife’s birthday lands on “Father’s Day.” As a child she often had to “share” that day with the recognition fathers were given nationwide. (Not this year, though. She gets June 19 all to herself! And I will wisely plan accordingly).

That said, since Fathers’ Day is upon us, I want to reveal an insight or two from 1 John 2, about being a spiritual “father.”

 In 1 John 2:12-17, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” tells us about three levels of spiritual maturity “children”…“young men” and…“fathers” – and three things to avoid at all costs in our journey toward spiritual maturity. These levels of spiritual growth have nothing to do with sex or gender or how long you or I have been a Christian. They have everything to do with our capacity to love God and his people.

CHILDREN is the first level of spiritual maturity. One thing all kids have in common is that they can’t wait to grow up. Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up, and they’ll be happy to finish this sentence: “When I grow up, I’m gonna be….” EVERY KID WANTS (AND NEEDS) TO GROW UP!

The words in this passage for “little children” (vs. 12) and “children” (vs. 13) are two different Greek words with two different meanings.

In verse 12, teknia or “little born ones” refers to all Christians, regardless of age or maturity level. So, John is addressing ALL believers who are reading his letter, as teknia – all of God’s born-again children (“little born ones”).

However, in verse 13, John is addressing paidia or “immature little folk” spiritual children who know that their sins are forgiven and that they know the Father. They are sure of their salvation – but they’re almost entirely dependent on others for spiritual care.

Now, I want to be careful not to condemn people young in their faith. Patients who have undergone organ transplants are placed in intensive care units. The care they receive is while they’re in “critical, but stable condition.” Under constant watch, they stay there until they’re strong enough to be transferred out of ICU. New believers are similar. They’ve undergone a spiritual “heart transplant” and are in spiritually critical, but stable condition. The care they need and get in the spiritual ICU is vital to their spiritual maturity.

 The issue is not that spiritual children are immature. That’s their normal state. The real issue is when the time to grow up arrives – and they don’t want to grow up!

When a mother eagle builds her nest, she starts with thorns, broken branches, sharp rocks. But then she lines the nest with a thick padding of wool, feathers, and fur from animals she’s killed, making it soft and comfortable for her eggs – and the baby eaglets to come. The issue with the cozy nest is that it eventually makes the young eaglets reluctant to leave when they reach flying age. The comfort and warmth of the nest makes the baby eagles reluctant to leave. So, the mother eagle begins “stirring up the nest.” She starts pulling up the thick carpet of fur and feathers, bringing the sharp rocks and branches to the surface. As the nest becomes more and more uncomfortable for the young eaglets,  they are prompted to leave the comfort of the nest and learn to fly.

 John says spiritual maturity is like that. Our spiritual maturity level should progress from “children” to “young men.” From dependent to independent. But unfortunately for the Church, a vast majority of God’s people want to remain paidia – “immature little folk.”

YOUNG MEN is the next level of spiritual maturity. John tells us: “I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one…I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” Spiritual “young men” are adept at “spiritual warfare.” They can fight the devil and his temptations and come out winners. Why? Because they know the Word of God. It’s their primary defense.

Spiritually mature “young men” have begun to master the spiritual disciplines of prayer, personal Bible study, and fellowship. They discover the deep spiritual strength found in letting God develop character (the fruit of the Spirit) in their lives, along with learning to lead by serving, and sharing their faith in Jesus Christ. And those spiritual disciplines only develop through time and discipline and determination. Fewer believers are “young men” in their spiritual maturity level.

The third level of spiritual maturity is what John calls FATHERS. Men and women who are intimate with God. “I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.” Spiritual fathers know Jesus intimately. They are constantly maturing in their relationship with Him. They know how to “hear” God the Father. And that discipline is acquired through patience and suffering and obedience (in that order) while God’s Word is “sown” in their lives over time. Far fewer people in the Church have learned to live as spiritual fathers.     

James spoke of this level of maturity when he said: Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” James 5:7-11

Spiritual children are dependent (“I need your help”). Spiritual young men are independent (“I can do it alone – if I must”).  Spiritual fathers have learned the value of being interdependent (“I am strong enough to do it myself – but I need you, too”).

 John ends this passage by warning us about what will hinder our spiritual maturity. He does that by contrasting loving the world with loving God. There are three things, which, when “loved” by Christians are a sign that the love of God is not in us and thus, spiritually immature. We know we love the “world” more than we love God when we get “wrapped up” in pursuing and satisfying these things.

  • “the lust of the flesh” – Life’s physical addictions (food, drugs, alcohol, sex, possessions) – anything physical that we can become addicted to. These things can be “good” in and of themselves. But if we take them to extremes…they become “loves” & “addictions.”
  • “the lusts of the eyes” – Life’s mental addictions (unbridled quest for knowledge) – the desire and demand to know everything. We seek to probe into the occult, and the world of the future.  But there are certain limits to these. There are limits within nature, and there are limits within revelation. There are certain extremes of knowledge of which God has said, we, as fallen men and women, are forbidden to enter into because they’re dangerous. This is the lust of the eyes.
  • “the boastful pride of life” – Basically, this is the desire to envy other people or to get them to praise us for our accomplishments in life. The pride of life seeks to create a sense of envy, rivalry, and jealousy in the hearts of others and gives us pleasure in doing this to them. It’s the desire to outshine or to out rank someone else.

These are the three appeals of the “world” [cosmos]. They comprise a worldview that’s essentially anti-God.  And when we make satisfying our appetites our goal in life, it leads to a distorted view of life, and it’s never truly satisfying.

John ends this passage by saying not to love these things because God doesn’t love them and because they’re not going to exist one day. “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:17

Love for the world and love for God are mutually exclusive. And not only does loving the world exclude the love of God in our lives, it’s an utterly foolish choice – because the world is passing away. It’s only a temporary thing. But by contrast “the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

Martin Luther wrote, “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But the things I have placed in God’s hands I still possess.”

So, John tells us in this passage what God’s will is. God’s will is that we “Love Him and love one another.”  And we do that by letting His love help us discern between the love of God and the love of the world.  That’s the path to spiritual fatherhood.

John says, in effect: “It’s not about how spiritually enlightened you are. It’s about how spiritually mature you will allow God to make you – what you allow God to do in you with what He’s given you.”

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Read more about Spiritual Maturity and How to Develop It in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon (//www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack.../dp/1973680386), Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold.

Understanding Forbearance

Life can be quite difficult and frustrating when we’re faced with other people’s faults and character flaws, and worse yet with their insensitive and rude behavior. We all have preferred routines, ways of getting things done, different leadership styles – even God-given spiritual gifts, callings, and “anointings.” And yet they will without fail, at one time or another, cause conflict. That’s a fact of life.

 Real Life Scenario #1: You have a one-sink bathroom in your master bedroom. Before retiring for the evening, you give your wife a half hour head-start to accomplish her “routine” – you know, removing her make-up, washing her face, brushing her teeth. When you figure she’s done, you walk into the bathroom and prepare to brush your teeth before hopping into bed. But before you get started, she says, “Hey, I was here first. I was just about to brush my teeth – and you butted in!” A verbal conflict is about to begin between two people, one who thought they were being “sensitive” to the other’s needs and one who didn’t think the other was being sensitive enough. Welcome to the world of petty marital conflict.

Real Life Scenario #2: You come up with an inspired idea. Your boss loves it. He OK’s the plan – and that’s the last you hear about it. That is until you get wind of a planning meeting of the “best and brightest” of the company staff (of which you have always been a part) planning to implement your brain-child. You ask the planning staff “What gives?” – and you’re met with pushback, and are accused of being a “pre-Madonna” who won’t share the glory with the rest of the team. Talk about being misunderstood!

Real Life Scenario #3: Your co-worker is afflicted with what you see as nothing less than a combination of ADD/ADHD – and it drives you crazy. He’s always “forgetting” what you agree to get done by a certain deadline – and causing havoc with the rest of your team. He apologizes, vows to do better, but repeatedly fails to come through on his promised behavior modification. But he always has “a good excuse.” Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s maddening!

That last “real life scenario” especially hit home for me. Failing to overlook other’s faults appropriately is one of my most glaring character flaws. And yet, through prayer and obedience, and choosing to live “in the Spirit” and not in my “sinful nature” (Romans 8:1-ff), I have discovered that I can do it if I want to. Broken people like me can be healed. And broken people like me can become agents of healing – not hate – for others.

 So, what’s the remedy to such relational dilemmas?

The biblical one-word answer is “forbearance” – tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation. In a word, its patience.

 A combination of Old and New Testament wisdom says, Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others…By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone.” (Colossians 3:12-13 [NLT]; Psalm 25:15 [NASB 1995])

 This biblical counsel says through a whole lot of patience (“long-suffering”) and a “soft tongue” (a gentle word), you can “break” a bone-headed or hard-hearted person.

To put a fine point on it, these words of wisdom tell us that forbearance in our lives can be cultivated by:

1) Getting the right perspective (“Make allowances for each other’s faults…”)

2) Patiently and consistently forgiving people who offend us (“…forgive anyone who offends you…”)

3) Persistently persuading the offender with an understanding heart (“by forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks bones”)

Years ago, my partner and fellow pastor formed a church in his living room. He was a seminary graduate. I was a Bible college grad just a few years into my ministry. He was my “big brother” in the faith. I was several years younger than him, paralyzed with a fear of failure, and had no clue how to start a church. He later confided in me that he had no idea what he was doing either. We spent fifteen years working side by side. The first seven years were a nightmare. The last eight years were a dream come true.

My ministry partner and I were both on the same page theologically. We just had different approaches to church leadership. We existed and ministered in that tension for the first half of our ministry together, eventually becoming co-pastors. He was the dreamer, and I was the schemer. He was the gifted visionary leader, full of ideas and dreams. I was the gifted administrator leader who made the vision come alive. The book of Proverbs says: “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep waters, but a man of understanding draws it out” (20:5 NASB). We were a good team. He was the man with a plan in his heart, and I was the man of understanding who drew it out. Together we worked hard at envisioning, growing, and maturing our fledgling church.

We were both young and highly motivated but not well-equipped, practically or emotionally. We found it hard to agree on how to get to where we both knew we wanted to go. Our personal differences were significant. We could not seem to get on the same page. Sometimes it seemed like we weren’t even reading the same book! We disagreed on nearly everything of importance to forming a new church – our personal leadership styles, dealing with staff relationships and conflicts, how to form a spiritual leadership team to oversee the church, and even how to include women in ministry.  But, despite our conflicts and our lack of experience, the church grew. People began attending seemingly out of nowhere. Through no particular expert leadership on our part, our church blossomed from thirteen people meeting in a living room to more than nine hundred worshippers in just six and a half years.

And then it happened. Life got very messy. I felt like I had been the “pooper scooper” in the parade cleaning up leadership and administrative messes after my fellow-pastor for nearly seven years. Then that “poop hit the fan.” And because I had stuffed my feelings all that time, I had become very unhealthy. It not only took its toll on me emotionally – but physically, socially and spiritually. I was a “sick puppy” – and it showed in my ministry and personal life.

Eventually I went to therapy and got some much-needed perspective and help. Through some very intense counsel I discovered the source of my emotional sickness and how it had affected my relationships and my ministry. It took some time, but eventually I was able to emerge a much healthier person and much more effective in ministry.

How did I “get better”? Through practicing forbearance. By developing the right perspective toward my fellow pastor (“make allowances for each other’s faults…”), patiently and consistently forgiving my brother who offended me (“…forgive anyone who offends you…”), and persistently persuading him with an understanding heart (“by forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks bones”).

It was in the context of forbearance that I discovered the value of openness and honesty, forgiveness and patience, and spiritual accountability. My brother and I had meetings long into the night where we prayed, argued, and challenged each other into spiritual and emotional maturity. Then we forgave and prayed for each other again. But we never gave up on each other.

It was painful but fruitful. It was confrontational but comforting. And it was gut-wrenching but glorious. It forced us to become mature men who wanted to be godly leaders, husbands, and fathers. We became a team of brothers in Christ who loved each other like we loved ourselves. And we served together in emotional and spiritual harmony for eight more years, until God led us in different directions.

There are so many benefits to sharing biblical forbearance, not the least of which is the energy you get from mutual encouragement, the honesty you experience from mutual accountability, and the joy of realizing you’re becoming all that you know God wants you to be.

Make biblical forbearance a consistent part of your spiritual life.

Servant-Leaders

Recently I had a sobering conversation with a close friend who leads a ministry to fatherless boys. He recruits older men to assist these young men as they learn a practical life skill from an expert alongside other young men and their mentors. Developing mentor-leaders is an art. And it’s not an easy task. Young leaders need direction. They sometimes need correction. And once in a while they need to be taken out of leadership due to an unwillingness to be coachable. And that was the subject of our conversation.

My friend had to make the hard decision to let one of his mentor-leaders go due to his persistent refusal to set a godly example for the young men he was influencing. After several attempts to bring correction and guidance it was time to sever his relationship as a mentor to the young men. Unfortunately, it was not well received. Too often correction is viewed as rejection by the one being trained. That was how it was perceived by this young mentor-leader.

A common spiritually immature response to being corrected is to attack the corrector and impugn their character. Worse yet, is the reaction to correction which results in the demonization of the corrector by attempting to turn the tables on their leader by telling them they are the problem and playing the “I’m more spiritual than you” card. “You’re spiritually under attack and taking it out on me. You’re the problem – not me!”

Knowing my friend well, my advice to him was: “Don’t give a second thought to that person’s immature reaction.”  I knew the circumstances surrounding the confrontation and that the leader of this ministry was a godly leader. Never let another person’s lies about your leadership affect you negatively. Perhaps that spiritually stunted young man he corrected will be restored and learn to lead well another day – but not this day.

Leading others is not for the faint of heart. It IS lonely at the top. But it’s necessary to lead well if you choose to be a leader. Robert K. Greenleaf (author of Servant Leadership; A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness – //a.co/d9VVDapJ) coined the term “Servant Leadership.” He write, “Good Leaders must first become good servants.”

Serving people was a huge part of Jesus’s life. His whole purpose for coming to earth as God in the flesh was to serve. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NASB). Jesus constantly served his disciples. A godly man is a man who is willing to serve those he leads. Every disciple of Jesus Christ must eventually learn to serve others.

In Acts chapter 20, Paul gave a farewell speech to the elders of the church in the city of Ephesus. They were his disciples and fellow leaders. It’s a beautiful illustration of how to serve the people you lead.1

The first way Paul served those he led was by leading with his own life. Before Paul talked to his fellow leaders about the things he said, he talked about the things he did. Before he referred to his words, he referred to his life. In Acts 20:18 he said, You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia” (NIV). In effect he said, “Remember the way I lived. My life was my message.” And then he said, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me” (Acts 20:33–34 NIV). In other words, “You know how I lived with you. I worked hard. I paid my bills. I treated my fellow workers and employees right.” Remember, when it comes to leading, your ways always trump your words.

The next way Paul served those he led was by earning their respect. Respect is earned. It’s never demanded. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that he had “… served the Lord with great humility” (Acts 20:19 NIV). Paul never used his position as leverage. He never reminded his followers that he was the apostle and they were not. He didn’t demand special treatment or honor. He knew that “colleagues lead people better than kings.” So he served with humility. And that earned their respect.

Here’s another thing Paul teaches us about serving those we lead: ache out loud with them. We read further that Paul “… served the Lord with great humility and with tears …” (Acts 20:19 NIV). Paul wept with the leaders of the church in Ephesus. You can do the same. You can “… weep with those who weep … and be full of sympathy towards each other” (Rom. 12:15 NASB; 1 Pet. 3:8 The Living Bible). Sometimes all you can do is cry together over a difficult situation. No words are necessary. Just offer genuine sympathy. That’s serving the ones over whom you have influence.

Here’s another way to serve those you lead: deliver an eternal vision. Paul said, “You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:20–21 NIV). In order to serve people, you must help them see that there’s more to life than just this life. At some point in your relationships with people, you have to put into words that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That He died for all of our sins. That He rose from the grave, conquering death, so that we can do the same. That he wants us to be his fully devoted followers while we’re on this planet. And that He promises to come back again to take us home to be with Him in His undisturbed presence forever. Help the people you lead and serve see beyond the earthly to the heavenly.

Paul also said in this passage that if you want to serve those you lead, endure your difficulties with grace. “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.” (Acts 20:22–25 NIV). You best serve those you lead when you model how to face suffering. Sometimes the only reason you’re going through a time of suffering, like financial difficulty or unemployment or a physical challenge, is so you can model for those you lead how to face suffering with grace. You serve those you influence well when you show them with your life how to face difficulty with dignity. Model it for your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your siblings, and your friends. Let them see in you someone who faces difficulty with grace.

Here is one final thing Paul teaches us about serving those we lead: remember Jesus. Paul told his fellow elders, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35 NIV). You get the impression here that Paul was always walking the words of Jesus through his mind. He told his disciple Timothy to “… remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descendant of David …” (2 Tim. 2:8 NIV). Get acquainted with the words of Jesus. Remember the words of Jesus. Then serve those you lead by sharing the words of Jesus with them.

So, to sum it up, godly men serve those they lead by being an example that others can follow with confidence. They earn the respect of those they lead by being humble, unassuming servants of the people around them. A true servant-leader also aches out loud with those they lead, “weeping with those who weep,” constantly pointing others to the life beyond this one and graciously endure suffering. Above all, a man who is a genuine servant-leader always remembers to keep the words of Jesus uppermost in his mind. He serves like this because he knows that one day, he will hear the words of Jesus that all Christians long to hear: “Well done, my good and faithful servant … Let’s celebrate together!” (Matt. 25:21 NLT).

To read more about becoming a servant leader see Every Man Jack – Becoming the Man God Wants You to Be, by Daniel L. Clubb. You can find it at Westbow Press //westbowpress.com/en/search?query=Every+Man+Jack and on Amazon at //amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386 or wherever books are sold.

______________________________

1 Thanks to Pastor Max Lucado for the outline and much of the content of this section from a sermon of his called “Bringing Out the Best in People,” published July 14, 2015

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

The Apostle Paul penned some strong words about manhood to the church in ancient Greece, in the town of Corinth. Corinth was like the Las Vegas of its day. It was not a city to which a man would intentionally gravitate if he wanted to be influenced to become a person of high moral character. So Paul counseled the men in Corinth to: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – NASB).

St. Paul gives every man a counterculture way to spell “M-A-N.” He stipulates three characteristics of good manhood.

First, a good man is Moral. “Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith…” (1 Corinthians 16:13 – NASB).

A godly man stands firm in his faith in God by being alert to avoid sin in his life. In particular, he’ll avoid sexual immorality. There’s nothing manly about being sexually immoral. Elsewhere Paul counsels every man to “…control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable” (1 Thessalonians 4:4 – NASB). In other words, make your sex life something you can be proud of before God. Sexual purity (no sex outside of marriage with anyone but your female wife) is not just for pastors and a few “super saints” – and even that’s not a sure bet these days.

Leadership Journal commissioned a poll of a thousand pastors. The respondents indicated that 12 percent of them (one out of eight pastors) had committed adultery while in the ministry.

Christianity Today surveyed a thousand of its subscribers who were not pastors and found the figure to be nearly double, with 23 percent saying they had had extramarital. [1]

Research by the Barna Group and Covenant Eyes reveals that 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view pornography on a regular basis. And of young Christian adults 18-24 years old, 76% actively search for porn.[2]

Reflect on that for a moment. Nearly one in four self-identified Christian men has been unfaithful to their marriage vows, and over two-thirds of those same Christian men view pornography regularly – three out of four when it comes to Gen Z.  Pastors are not far behind, with half admitting to viewing porn regularly. To quote St. James, “These things ought not be!” (James 3:10). There are severe moral problems in the church. There’s a huge difference between what the church teaches about sex and how its members – particularly men – actually behave sexually.

Even though sexual sin has become the norm in our society, a godly man will not engage in sexual immorality. Sex before marriage or outside of marriage once you’re married cannot to be a part of a godly man’s life – regardless of what our culture tells you to the contrary.

As a disciple of Jesus Christ your sexual behavior is a “dead giveaway” to the depth of your commitment to His Lordship (management) in your life.

Being alert spiritually and standing strong in the faith also includes acting morally by not lying, or cheating, or hiding from the truth about yourself. If you’re a godly man, your life will also display relational honesty and integrity.

The second thing Paul says a good man should exhibit in his life is being Aggressive for God. “Stand firm in the faith…be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 – NASB).

Good men are not spiritual or emotional wimps. They’re strong in their faith in God. Good men are the guardians of their spiritual life and their homes. A good man is the spiritual protector of his wife and children. A good man is the spiritual visionary and “pro-visionary” of his family. A good man is the spiritual mentor of his home. That’s the kind of man God want you to be.

In his book, Tender Warrior, Stu Weber – a pastor for forty years and a former U.S. Army Green Beret in Vietnam who won three bronze stars – explains what being the spiritual pro-visionary for your family means.  He writes:

“A provisionary sits at his daughter’s bedside at night when the lights are out and wonders aloud, ‘What kind of woman, what kind of wife and mother could you be for God’? A provisionary sits by the coals of a campfire and listens to a boy’s hopes and dreams and nods his head and says, ‘Those are good dreams. I’m with you a hundred percent, son.’ A provisionary sits with his wife over coffee in the morning and says, ‘Where are we headed, anyway? What are our goals? Where are we going as a couple…a family?’ A provisionary looks down the years and asks himself questions.

“If our marriage were to go on just the way it’s been going, what will it be like for us in five, ten, twenty years?

      “How can I build the self-esteem of my wife who spends enormous amounts of time ‘cleaning house’ and changing diapers – in addition to working outside the out home?

      “How can I help my eight-year-old girl learn to understand and control her emotions before the hormones start pumping through her body?

      “When will my little boy and I need to have our first talk about sex?

      “What kinds of things might my kids encounter in middle school – and how can I prepare them?

      “How can I manage my career goals so that I’m available to my high school children?

      “What will my children need in a dad when they’re in trade-school or college?

“What kind of a husband will my wife need when she hits menopause? How can I help her through that passage?

      “What kind of traits will my kids and grandkids cherish in a grandfather?

“A provisionary helps keep the larger issues before his family so they won’t be overcome by temporary setbacks or the disorienting fog of daily circumstances. People with places to go need to see ahead. Clarity of vision is critical to the accomplishment of goals. A man was made for reaching goals, climbing mountains, and seeing ahead.” [3]

One of the most practical and effective ways you can be the spiritual guardian, protector, and pro-visionary for your family is to pray daily for your family members – specifically for your wife and kids. Pray “proactively.” Mention them daily by name and ask God’s blessing on their life. Ask Him to protect them physically and spiritually. Ask God to provide for their financial welfare in miraculous ways. Pray that they gain and maintain emotional and mental health, that they have good, godly relationships and that they find their faith in Jesus Christ alone. Pray that the Holy Spirit fills them and gives them His insights into life. Pray for their hearts to be kind and loving to others and that others would be the same to them. And pray for the glory of God to fill their lives with His grace and truth.

The last thing Paul tells us a good man’s life will characterize is being Nuturing toward others. “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14 – NASB).

I realize that men are not usually expected to be the nurturing type. But what Paul’s saying here is that a good man is not only a King and Warrior, a Mentor and Defender – he’s also a Friend and Lover. And that means sharing your softer side with the ones closest to you. A good man is there for others emotionally. Good men are tenderhearted.

Becoming a tenderhearted man is accomplished through prayer. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit. A tender hearts are not man-made – it’s born in your soul by God’s Spirit. Tenderheartedness requires emotion that visibly overflows to others. Tender-hearted compassion is what you must strive to exhibit in every area of your life. Love the members of your immediate family. Cultivate a tender heart toward them.

Do you want to be a good man? Then learn to be…

M – oral –“Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith…” (1 Corinthians 16:13 – NASB)

A – ggressive for God – “Stand firm in the faith…be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 – NASB)

N – urturing –“Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:14 – NASB)

Let’s get back to being real men – and helping other men to become one of the good men in the world.

 

 

To read more about becoming a good man see Every Man Jack – Becoming the Man God Wants You to Be, by Daniel L. Clubb. You can find it at Westbow Press //westbowpress.com/en/search?query=Every+Man+Jack and on Amazon at //amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386 or wherever books are sold.

And for more insights on genuine manhood, see the following article by Larry Taunton                                                                          Larry Taunton | America’s Man Problem: Where Have All the Good Men Gone?    //larryalextaunton.com/2023/01/americas-man-problem-where-have-all-the-good-men-gone/

 

1 Cited in the blog, Sexual Immorality & Church Leaders, by GOL //graceonlinelibrary.org/church-ministry/pastoral-ministry/sexual-immorality-church-leaders/

2 Cited in the article, 15 Mind-Blowing Statistics About Pornography And the Church, www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/15-mind-blowing-statistics-about-pornography-and-the-church

[3] Stu Weber, Tender Warrior, (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Books, 1993), pp. 28-29

Something New & Something Old

Something NEW (e.g. “current”)…

2022 has been a monumental year – “the worst” according to many news journalists and pundits. In many ways it has been the fulfillment of the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24 where He gives us a prophetic explanation for the current condition of the world:

 “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars…For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes…” (vs. 7, NASB, 1995)

There were wars raging in 32 countries in 2022 – the most prominent being the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Famine should not exist in 2022, but the WFP (World Food Program) reveals 41 million people in 43 countries “are teetering on the very edge of famine,” up from 27 million two years ago; and the 10 biggest earthquakes in the world happened in the month of December 2022.

  “Then they will deliver you over to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. And at that time many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another…[and] because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold…” (vss. 9-12, NASB, 1995) 

The persecution of Christians keeps surging around the world. Data from the Open Doors organization says “persecution of Christians has reached the highest levels” since it began accumulating data for its annual “World Watch List” three decades ago. Hostile incidents have increased by 20% since 2014, and some 360 million Christians, or 14% of the worldwide total, are said to have faced persecution, harassment, or discrimination. Open Doors reports that it has documented the murders in one year’s time of 5,898 Christians for their faith (up 24% from the prior year). Since that report was issued, the Nigerian-based civil rights group Intersociety reports that in just that one nation 4,020 additional killings and 2,325 abductions occurred from January through October, 2022. On a broader timeframe, 1 million Christian martyrs were killed from 2000-2010 (source: Center for the Study of Global Christianity).

Just observe the latest news and see for yourself how openly hostile the world is becoming toward Judeo-Christian family and social values. And you can draw your own conclusions about the “Church” in our day – especially in America – and see for yourself how many “Christians” are becoming “progressive” in the name of compassion (aka wishy-washy faith without conviction) and abandoning scriptural moral standards. Many believers love has grown cold toward other brothers and sister in Christ and betrayed them – right here in the American church. That’s hate. That’s “falling away.”

This past year has also unfolded by fulfilling these uncannily prescient words of the Apostle Paul, written some 1,955 years ago. I’ll let them speak without commentary. You can make your own applications:

“…in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act as if they are religious, but will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that…But they will not get away with this for long. Someday everyone will recognize what fools they are…” 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 9 (NLT)

 I have never read a more accurate description of American society in general and the church in this country in particular.

Something OLD (e.g. “timeless”)…

With all this negativity surrounding us, it would be easy to become discouraged and “fretful.” Being fretful means being “troubled” or “vexed” (I love that word) or “worn” or “agitated” or “corroded” or “eaten away.” And yet in spite of the ungodly reality surrounding us we cannot let “fretfulness” be our standard response.

King David faced persecution, harassment, discrimination, and potential martyrdom. He, like us, was a man with reason to fret, and doubt that God was in control. But instead, he heeded God’s command, and reminds us how and why not to be fretful.

Psalm 37 (NASB 1995) [Emphasis mine]

 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.

For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.
10 
Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
11 But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.
15 Their sword will enter their own heart,
And their bows will be broken.

16 Better is the little of the righteous
Than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
But the Lord sustains the righteous.
18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
And their inheritance will be forever.
19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil,
And in the days of famine they will have abundance.

20 But the wicked will perish;
And the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures,
They vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21 The wicked borrows and does not pay back,
But the righteous is gracious and gives.
22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land,

But those cursed by Him will be cut off.

23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

25 I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his begging bread
.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing
.

27 Depart from evil and do good,
So you will abide forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,

But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip.

32 The wicked spies upon the righteous
And seeks to kill him.
33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand
Or let him be condemned when he is judged.
34 Wait for the Lord and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you will see it
.

35 I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright;
For the man of peace will have a posterity.

38 But transgressors will be altogether destroyed;
The prosperity of the wicked will be cut off.
39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him
.

King David’s counsel to us is simple, but powerful – and deeply comforting:

DO NOT fret (worry, be troubled or have your faith corroded away) [NT cf. Phil. 4:5-6]

DO trust and delight in the Lord [NT cf. Ps. 3:3-6; Prov. 3:5-6]

DO good by cultivating faith and faithfulness [NT cf. 2 Tim. 2:2ff]

DO rest in and wait for the Lord patiently [NT cf. Heb. 4:1-3]

The result? God will give us the “land” as our inheritance – both literally and figuratively.

Let Psalm 37 encourage, embolden, and equip you for 2023…and let it be something you meditate on often throughout the New Year. Begin the New Year fret-free and full of faith that God is in control!

 

How Do You Discover the Will of God?

Anyone who’s experienced the Christ-following life will eventually be faced with the question “How do I know the will of God for my life?” We will have times in life when we need very specific guidance in very specific situations (who to marry, whether to take a particular job or not, what college to go to, etc.). We needed to know God’s specific will. But God’s specific will is always preceded by doing his general will.

We’re in the midst of the holiday season – or more accurately, the annual stress and cholesterol festival! This blog is a reminder of the will of God for each of us everyday of the year – but it is especially apropos during the Holy-days from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years.

The will of God I am talking about is found in 1 Thess. 5:16-18: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” The apostle Paul is saying, “…if you want to know what God’s specific will is, then practice this first…”

The will of God is that we…Never Stop REJOICING: “Rejoice always…”

The OT prophet Nehemiah told the people he led: “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” God wired us to operate best when we’re joyful. Joy in our spirits makes us function better than when we’re in a state of despair. Being joyful is one of the greatest sources of energy and spiritual vitality that we can experience.

But joy is a choice. True happiness and lasting joy are found in the choices that we make. We can choose to be joyful or we can choose to be joyless. It’s up to us. The apostle Paul says, “If you want to be in God’s will, then choose joy.” “Rejoice always!”

Next the will of God is that we…Never Stop PRAYING: “…pray without ceasing…”

The reason prayer is so important to the will of God in our lives is because when we really learn to connect with God in prayer we’re changed forever. Prayer may not always change things for you, but it always changes you for things. Now, don’t get me wrong – I believe that prayer changes things – but the primary benefit of prayer is that we are changed. God always uses prayer to move us closer to Him and to make us more like Him.

Sam Shoemaker was an Episcopal minister from New York City who was instrumental in founding AA – Alcoholics Anonymous. Whenever Sam encountered someone who didn’t believe in God he would suggest that they enter a “30-Day Prayer Experiment.” He told them, “Don’t pay any attention to whether you believe or not. Just pray every day for thirty days that God will meet you at the point of your greatest need, and see what will happen to you.” Pastor Shoemaker’s little experiment literally transformed hundreds of people from staunch skeptics to committed Christians. Prayer changes things – but it especially changes the person who prays!

 Finally the will of God is that we…Never Stop BEING THANKFUL: “…in everything give thanks…”

A thankful heart marks the person who wants the will of God in their life. God’s will is that we give thanks for ALL things – no exceptions. If we’re going to be people who are hungry for the will of God to be accomplished in and through us, we will learn to be grateful and thankful people – in everything. We can all be grateful no matter what our circumstances may be.

On my way to church last Sunday, I was involved in a serious car accident. I was struck from behind at 45 mph by an uninsured, underaged, drunk driver while making a turn into the church parking lot. The force rammed my car into a stationary 4×4 wooden lamp post attached to a fence bordering the entrance. My car took out the post and fence, veered off into a hedge, flew into the air – “Dukes of Hazard-style” – and landed in a ravine 12 feet below. My car was a total loss. I walked away unscathed.

I’ve been pondering that experience for several days now. At first I asked God, “Why?” (The car was in very good condition with low mileage and I planned to have it for another ten years. It’s going to be hard to replace). But then I had to move on to the more important question, “What?” What, Lord, do you want to make of this seemingly unfair and unjust situation?

At that point I had a decision to make. Was I going to think like a victim or was I going to trust God for his provision in a difficult situation? I decided on the latter. Here’s my declaration of thankfulness: “I am thankful that in my entire life I have never been in a serious car accident until now. Also, even though the accident totaled my car, it did not take my life – and no one else was in my car at the time. And even though my car will be hard to replace, it will not be too much for God to provide. Finally, I am grateful that it was I who was hit by the drunk driver and not someone else.”  I have decided that it is God’s will to “…in everything give thanks”!

Of all the people on this planet, we followers of Jesus Christ have the most to be grateful for. Our eternal destiny is secure because Jesus Christ sacrificed His life for ours on the cross and offered His forgiveness to us. And it’s ours for the asking.

So, as you celebrate the holidays with your family and friends – remember that God has a plan to be fulfilled in you. His will for you is to…Never stop REJOICING, never stop PRAYING, and never stop BEING THANKFUL!

The Original Christmas Tree

Do you believe that every word in the Bible is important? That every word is inspired by God? I do. And if you do too, I’m going to test your belief by walking us through the family history of Jesus – and the HOPE that it brings to ordinary people like you and me!

Genealogies are those parts of the Bible that seem to matter only to God – and a maybe to a mother (“Oh, look! My son got his name in the Bible!”). Genealogies are the last place most of us would expect to discover a message of HOPE – but it’s there. At first glance genealogies seem boring and kind of meaningless. To us they’re extra long lists of unpronounceable names of descendants and ancestors. But to the average Jew, knowing your ancestry, and being able to “climb your family tree,” was a pretty big deal. The family tree of Jesus Christ is masterfully put together. It’s like a work of art – and as the original Christmas Tree – it teaches us two hope-filled truths.

FIRST, it teaches us that God Controls the Flow of History.

Matthew 1:1-17 is a recitation of the OT history leading up to the birth of Christ – and it reflects a perfectly ordered, perfectly planned, perfectly controlled flow of history. At the end of the list of Jesus’ family tree in vs. 17 it says: “All those listed above include fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the Babylonian exile, and fourteen from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah.” What Matthew is saying is that Jesus’ birth is the climax of 3 groupings of fourteen – 42 generations.

It helps to know that Matthew wrote his gospel to a primarily Jewish audience. He wanted them to understand the significance of the coming of Christ. And to a Jew the number seven (7) or any multiple of seven (7) symbolized perfection! Three (3) is also a symbolic Old Testament number, because it signifies fulfillment. It’s even carried on in the New Testamant. Just read the book of Revelation and see how many times the numbers seven and three pop up.

My POINT: In the Old Testament especially, the numbers three (3) and seven (7) were divine numbers of perfection and fulfillment.

And, if you couple that with the mention of the number of generations from Abraham to Christ as being three sets of fourteen – fourteen (14) being a multiple of seven – then we can see Matthew’s point: Under God’s control, the history leading up to the birth of Christ has been perfectly ordered and planned with meticulous care. And He fulfilled His purpose by making a way for us to find salvation in Jesus.

Galatians 4:4 says that: “In the fullness of time [another way of saying “at just the right time”] God sent forth His Son…” So, God actually planned the coming of Jesus Christ with mathematical precision. God was moving history along and He designed it so He could demonstrate HIS CONTROL of the flow of human history and that He will bring about His purposes in this life – no matter what happens in human history. 

So the first thing the genealogy of Jesus shows us that GOD’S IN CHARGE & IN CONTROL OF ALL LIFE!

BUT that’s only half the story in Matthew 1. Not only does God control the flow of history in order to perfectly fulfill His purposes, He also Chooses Imperfect People to Accomplish His Purposes. And that’s another reason for hope!

You know, for PR purposes, I believe I would have kept some of the people mentioned in Jesus’ family tree off the list. It’s not a very flattering lineage. One of the problems in becoming familiar with your family tree is that you might discover a horse thief or a murderer – or something worse. Then it’s decision time. Do you hide the truth or do you try and cover it up. Some time back I Googled my name. I found a Daniel A. Clubb – in Missouri from where my family hails. It had to be a relative, albeit a distant one. When I took a closer look, I realized that I was looking at his mug shot! (It’s amazing what ends up on Google these days).

We see family skeletons as an “image problem” – but God didn’t see Jesus’ lineage like that at all. He chose to allow all the family laundry in Jesus’ ancestry to be aired in a public document for all of us to see – and it was for a very encouraging reason. Now…let me explain why I say that.

Jesus’ ancestry begins with Abraham. Abraham lied in order to save his own life and at the same time he put his wife, Sarah, in harm’s way. And he did it not once, but twice! So Jesus’ great-granddad (forty-two generations back) was a liar and a coward!

Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, is also mentioned. He was just as bad as his grandfather. His name means “cheater” or “trickster.” He cheated his twin brother out of his rightful inheritance. And his name is on the list of Jesus’ ancestors.

Then there was Judah Jacob’s son. He had two sons, Perez and Zerah, by committing incest with his daughter-in-law, Tamar – who seduced him in the process! And their names are included in the list too. Judah was no saint. He was a hypocrite & an adulterer. This is not a morally pure family tree!

There’s also mention of Judah’s brothers.Out of jealousy they sold their little brother Joseph into slavery. How’d you like to have big brothers like that?

Jump down to verse six and it says: “And to Jesse was born David the king. And to David was born Solomon, by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.” I think Matthew could have left that little family secret unwritten, as well. Instead he reminds us that the great King David had Uriah murdered so he could indulge his sexual cravings. David, the murderer and adulterer is also part of the history leading to the Christ Child.

Listen to verse 5: “And to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab; and to Boaz was born Obed by Ruth…” Now why do you suppose Matthew included the women Rahab and Ruth in the list? (It was very unusual to include one woman’s name in a list like this – let alone five, as Matthew does). I’ll tell you why he did it. He wanted us to know that Rahab was a prostitute and that she was still included in the line of Christ. Ruth is mentioned and she wasn’t even Jewish – she was a “schikza”a gentile foreigner. And she’s included in the list. God is all inclusive when he picks people to be involved in accomplishing His plans.

Another person on the list is Manasseh. He was a very evil Jewish king who sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering to the demonic god Baal. He also consulted mediums and spiritists to predict the future – which was forbidden by God. He killed so many innocent Israelis that the Bible says he was a “terror to his own people” (2 Kings 21). And he was still included in the line leading to Jesus Christ. And his son, Amon, is on the list even though he rejected God!

My point is that even though this is a list of liars, cheaters, terrorists, sexual perverts, and idol worshipers – they’re all included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ! This is the list of the not-so-great-grandparents of Jesus Christ. And God used these really imperfect people as He carried out His purposes in bringing His Son, Jesus Christ, to us!

The big question is why did He use these people? He didn’t have to. He could have laid Jesus on Mary & Joseph’s doorstep in a basket. It would have been much simpler that way. It would have saved Jesus a whole lot of criticism later on in life. So, why does God tell us these stories? Why does God give us such flawed, wicked people in the line of Jesus Christ? It just doesn’t seem right!

Here’s my best answer to that question. God knew that you and I watched the news last night or we checked out the internet or we listened to the radio today – and we got wind of all the bad news and all about the evil things happening in the world. And He knew that we would probably be fretful over it. He knew that we would worry about the direction our society is heading, and He wanted us to know that when the world goes crazy – He stays calm! The proof is found in verse 16 of Jesus genealogy: “…and to Joseph the husband of Mary…was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.” That’s the end of the list of Jesus’ genealogy. There aren’t any other names listed, because no more names are needed!

In the genealogy of Jesus Christ God is making a very important announcement to our very desperate world. He’s saying: “See, I did it! I did it just like I said I would. My plan succeeded. I controlled the flow of history. I even chose flawed people, and it all led to the birth of my Son – the Savior of the world! The famine in Canaan couldn’t starve My plan. Four hundred years of slavery in Egypt couldn’t shackle My plan. Wilderness wanderings for forty years couldn’t stop My plan. Babylonian exile for seventy years couldn’t stifle My plan. Murderers, adulterers, prostitutes, cheaters, idolaters, liars in the very line of My Son couldn’t shut down My plan. I accomplished My plan – just like I said I would!”

God will not be defeated by evil! Ever! God works through flawed people like you and me. And He can use evil to work His perfect plan just like He did by moving Old Testament history forward to the perfect time that Jesus Christ would be born.

So, if you’re struggling with despair and discouragement OR if you’re wondering what’s going to happen next OR if life seems out of control…you’ve got to realize this Christmas that God has not abandoned you. He’s in control of life on this planet – and of your life in particular! Remember, regardless of your past, you have the hope of God’s eternal promise that He’s in control of the universe, and of human history, and of your individual life.

So, at times when you experience despair and you wonder what the world is coming to as it falls apart all around you, remember the family tree of Jesus Christ. It reminds us that God is still purposely moving human history forward as He moved it in the past to the coming of the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that there are two comings of Jesus Christ: (1) His first coming was at Bethlehem 2,000+ years ago; and (2) His Second Coming will be in Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives some time in the not-to-distant future. The world may still be full of evil people and it may appear to be going nowhere fast – but God’s still purposefully guiding history to Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. But God can make sense out of nonsense. And He will do it despite the devil’s best attempts to destroy His plan. Satan can’t stop where history is going – toward the Second Coming of Christ.

Merry Christmas! And we have a New Year to look forward to, because God is in control!

 

 

Like Never Before

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” – Charles Spurgeon

In an upside-down-world like we’re currently experiencing there’s not greater love we can show the people we encounter daily than to demonstrate to them that Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer to their felt need for peace of mind and heart. The question we have to ask ourselves is: “What kind of a witness to Jesus’ grace and truth am I?”

As you mature in your faith, the Holy Spirit will motivate you to be looking for others to tell about Jesus. Keeping your eyes open to the spiritual needs of others will help you focus on what faith in Jesus is ultimately about – standing at the gates of hell and directing traffic – or in the words of the late-great evangelist Reinhard Bonnke: “plundering hell to populate heaven.” At the same time it will bring heaven to earth to the people around you with your winsome love for Jesus and His truth. The Apostle Peter tells us to: Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Sometimes we’re afraid to say anything about Jesus to others because we think we might say the wrong thing. And for fear of saying the wrong thing, we too often say nothing. But Jesus said “You shall be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8).

So, what does a witness do and say?

Jesus didn’t call you to be a lawyer. But He does ask you to be a witness. He wants you to be ready so that if someone gives you the opportunity, you can tell them what you know and have experienced. So, if someone wants to know what makes you tick as a follower of Jesus Christ – tell them what you know. Tell them your story. No one can tell your story like you – because no one has experienced your story but you.

Acts 8 records the story of how a man named Philip led a man to faith in Jesus Christ. It contains five things you can do to share your faith in Jesus with someone. Here they are:

First, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26). If you’re going to love people into a relationship with Jesus, you have to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will help you know when the moment is right to speak up and share Jesus with someone. Ask the Holy Spirit to make you sensitive to His promptings.

Second, be available to act on God’s leading (Acts 8:27-29). Too often we fall short in our witness because we’re afraid to speak up when we have the opportunity. Be ready and available when you see an open door. Philip was ready when the Ethiopian eunuch was ready.

Third, take the initiative when the opportunity presents itself (Acts 8:30-31). The man Philip spoke to in this story was spiritually hungry. Philip kept his eyes and ears open for an opportunity to tell this man about God’s goodness, love, and truth – and then he took appropriate advantage of it. Just like Philip, let your faith be a natural part of your conversation.

Fourth, use tact (Acts 8:31). Philip subtly created responsiveness in the person he was talking to by asking a few questions. There are two basic reasons people don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior: They’ve never met a Christian or they have met a “Christian” who made a bad impression on them. Treating people with sensitivity and consideration leads – not pushes – them to Christ.

Finally, always focus on Jesus (Acts 8:32-35). This story ends by saying that Philip “…preached Jesus to him.” When you finally get a hearing, the focus must be Jesus – not your politics, or your church denomination, or even the other person’s behavior. Remember: God always catches His fish first – He cleans them up a little later on. Our job is to share our life in Jesus with people – not to condemn them.

So, in light of the current onslaught of the evil and wicked cancel culture campaign against true Christianity and the Judeo-Christian values upon which it is based…Remember that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is eternal. It will never be overcome by evil. It will always be preached with authority and eternal results. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His eternal Gospel will ALWAYS prevail over evil and wicked opposition to it – no matter how intense. (Revelation 14:6)

Love God. Love people. Hate evil. That’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its essence. Nothing more. Nothing less.

 

Read more about ways Sharing Your Faith in Jesus Christ in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386),Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold.

 

Dads on Duty

“Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers” (Prov. 17:6 NASB).

The Daily Wire recently reported that a group of fathers in Shreveport, Louisiana have reportedly solved one high school’s chronic problem with violence among students. “Dads on Duty,” a group of 40 fathers, patrol the halls in shifts, bringing positivity, discipline, and dad jokes to the students. Dozens of students had been arrested for fighting the week before the dads arrived, while zero have been arrested since. The dads hope to expand the group to other schools in the state.

Way to go, Shreveport dads! Your actions underscore the truth that it’s a whole lot easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.

Being a dad can be a challenge, but I’ve discovered some principles of fatherhood that parallel what it means to be a godly man and disciple of Jesus Christ. Here they are in one of my “famous” acrostics.

Godly D-A-D-S are, above all, dutiful.

Duty does not have to be a dirty word. Duty just means “getting there” for your children and doing what you know you’re supposed to do. You could say that duty is a form of spiritual consecration or dedication. It’s giving your life up for your kids. It’s spending your life on them regularly and routinely.

Duty is about providing for your kids. Paul counseled his spiritual son Timothy, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8 NASB).

As a father, I never had an issue with being a dutiful provider. It was my job—and my joy—to do it. I loved my kids and wanted them to have the best I could provide. My wife and I always managed our resources so our kids could have all of their needs met and a few of their wants too. It was wearying at times. It was a sacrifice. It was an act of putting our noses to the grindstone. But it was pure joy as well. Whatever it takes, get there by providing for your family.

Godly D-A-D-S are also…available.

Once you get there as a dad, you have to be there too. The prophet Moses wrote: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk to them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:6–7 NIV). To obey this command, you have to take the time to be with your kids at mealtime, at playtime, at downtime, and at bedtime.

All kids spell love the same way: T-I-M-E. They need touch, instruction, memories, and example. And the way they can get those things is by spending time—lots of it—with you.

Touch your kids. Your kids need you to be near them, not only emotionally but also physically. Tickle them. Hug them. Hold their hands. Wrestle with them. Rub their backs. Give them your touch. Physical touch is a powerful emotional connecter. It gives your children a sense of well-being.

Your kids also need you to teach them, to give them instruction about life. Teach your children virtues and moral values. Teach them that lying is a sin with significant consequences. Instruct your children that having faith in God is a sacred inheritance. Impress on them that modesty is a virtue. Monitor the TV and the movies and DVDs they watch and the video games they play and tell them “No!” when it’s warranted. Take an interest in the books they read, the music they listen to, the social media sites they frequent and the clothes they wear. Use these things to teach your children right from wrong. And remember, as a parent you are the ultimate role models for your children.

Your kids also need good memories. Building memories together is the result of spending time with your kids. Shared memories of good times together will last a lifetime. Making memories together is one of the most rewarding ways to be available to your children.

The last way you can be available to your children and give them your T-I-M-E is by being an example they can willingly follow. Setting an example you would be proud for your kids to follow is one of the most powerful ways you can show them you love them. You can’t just blow in, blow up, and blow out of your children’s lives. You need to connect with your children as often as you can and make time to be with them. It’s the little things that count. Be available to your kids often.

Back to the D-A-D-S acrostic, godly dads are also…delightful.

Be fun to be around when you’re with your kids. Smile a lot. Do things your kids like to do and budget for it. Play games. Tell jokes. Make it so your kids love being with you. Remember, “… the glory of sons [and daughters] is their fathers …” (Prov. 17:6 NASB).

Finally, Godly D-A-D-S are … servants.

Learn to serve your family. True leaders are servants. Serve your family and it will bless your children. One of the most influential ways you can serve your children is to ensure a godly legacy of integrity and honesty. King Solomon wrote: “A righteous man who walks in his integrity—how blessed are his sons [and daughters] after him” (Prov. 20:7 NASB). Modeling integrity to your children will be a service and a blessing to them in life now and long after you’re gone.

How are you doing dad?

Read more about Loving Your Children in my book Every Man Jack available on Amazon(www.amazon.com/Every-Man-Jack-Becoming-Wants/dp/1973680386) and Westbow Press (www.westbowpress.com), and wherever books are sold.