Welcome to REAL Men RoCK

This blog is about the issues men face and things I have experienced.

I hope you will be encouraged, challenged, and stirred to take action.

Proverbs 27:17 (The Message)

17 You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another


ighteous   E ncouraging   A ccountable   L oving 


ely on    C hrist's   K indness

Friday, April 30, 2010

A Perfect Day to Die

Thursday I spent the entire day with my cat, Figgy. It was about 75 degrees most of the day with some strong winds. It was my day off and I was struggling with the fact that I was going to be the one to take Figgy to our Vets office to have him put to sleep. His kidneys were failing, he had not eaten in five days and he was beginning to suffer. I knew the most human thing I could do for him no matter how painful it was to me was to have him put to sleep.

The day started off with me having my cup of coffee and our other cat, Kickin, sitting looking out the kitchen window. Figgy came to the top of the stairs wanting to go outside. I took my cup of coffee and went to the backdoor. I opened it and Figgy and I headed outside. We walked down the driveway and Figgy sniffed the clean warm air. We walked side by side like good friends through the front yard to the bamboo garden where he stretched out and laid down. 

Later we walked to the front yard and we laid on a blanket with Figgy stretched out and his four paws against me enjoying the breeze and warmth of the day. 

Finally we ended up at the Herb garden where Figgy laid for a while enjoying the sunshine. It was almost time for us to make the trip to the Vets. I was struggling with the pain of saying good-bye. It was as if he knew too that the time had come.  

The time had come for us to leave so I took Figgy inside and set him on our kitchen table. As I was getting ready to pick him up our other cat, Kickin, began to lick his face. After about five minutes of cleaning Figgy up they looked at each other and I picked Fig up and took him to the car. 

I did not place him in the cat carrier as I usually did when we went to the Vets. Instead I just let him loose in the car. He sat on my lap and looked up at me. The look was similar to the first day we picked him up. It was a look of love and trust that I was going to do for him the best I could.

I do not want to talk about being at the Vets.

For most of the day Thursday I prayed that God would let Figgy die at home but now I am glad He instead let me have a full and impactful day with Figgy.

What is the purpose of this post? I think God was showing me that the worse days could be the best of days. As a Christian I know that when I die I will spend the remaining of my days in a deeper relationship with the Creator God. I could not ask for a better day to lose a good friend than I had Thursday. I can only pray now that I can enjoy the time with those who love me as I was able to have with Figgy.

I encourage you not to take for granted the people in your life. Cherish each and every day you have with them. You will have moments when you are angry as hell with them but let it go quickly. Most of all thank God for those who you love and ask Him for time to enjoy each moment of life that we share.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Figgy, God and us

As I began to write this post my cat Figgy was in our basement suffering from CRF, which means his kidneys are failing. I know in a few days I will have to make the trip to the Vet to have him put to sleep. I can't describe the pain I feel because Figgy has been the most loving cat I have ever been around.

About four years ago we decided to get a cat to replace, Princess, the one I had for 14 years who died three years earlier. We drove to Wayside Waifs one of our local animal shelters and sat looking at the cats. We had them bring us a couple and Figgy was the last one. He instantly walked onto my lap and stretched out and bumped his head against my chin. His fur was soft and he purrrrred real heavy. He choose us and we gladly accepted his choosing.

Those of you who know me and my story know that for almost forty years I was a man who had a heart of gold that was encased in solid rock. I truly cared about people and God's creation but because of events in my life I would not allow my heart to feel. I suffered two divorces and detachment from my son because of my fear of closeness.

I began writing this post several days ago now here I am crying like a baby over what I am going to have to do this afternoon. It will be a hard drive to our vet's office and even harder as I sit holding Figgy as he dies. 

You might be sitting wondering what this has to do with God. I hope to explain the connection by the following.

Did you know we can cause God to grieve? I found the following at www.gotquestions.org:

To understand what it means to grieve the Spirit, we must first understand that this indicates the Spirit possesses personality. Only a person can be grieved; therefore, the Spirit must be a divine person in order to have this emotion. Once we understand this, we can better understand how He is grieved, mainly because we too are grieved. Ephesians 4:30 tells us that we should not grieve the Spirit. We grieve the Spirit by living like the pagans (4:17-19), by lying (4:25), by being angry (4:26-27), by stealing (4:28), by cursing (4:29), by being bitter (4:31), by being unforgiving (4:32), and by being sexually immoral (5:3-5). To grieve the Spirit is to act out in a sinful manner, whether it is in thought only or in both thought and deed.

God grieves when we choose to reject Him and go our own way. God grieves when a follower of Jesus stumbles and turns back to sin. God grieves over His creation whether human or nature. The pain I feel right now is nothing compared to what God feels when we turn away from Him. He grieves when He watches us head for certain destruction and death by loving sin more than Him.

If I could I would heal Figgy and give him life. But I can't. God does have the power to heal any wound you might have. He can heal any sickness or disease. He can heal the broken heart. He can restore marriages, finances, security or whatever else we suffer from.

The last four days Figgy has refused to eat or drink. With each refusal I felt great pain that he was giving up on life. He was doing that because of the pain involved in eating and drinking. His body was shutting down and the more he ate or drank the more pain he was in. I think we humans sometimes do similar acts. We refuse the food found in the Bible has to offer and the water the Holy Spirit wants to pour over us. We do so because of the wounds of life that causes us to fear trusting in a being we can't see. God grieves when we reject His food and drink. He grieves because He knows that rejection leads to death and unfulfilled lives. He grieves because His desire is for us to share eternity with Him.

The good news is found in one of the best known scriptures John 3: 16

16-18"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him."

I do not care what you have done, what gods you have worshipped, what attitudes you have had, or that you have rejected God before I believe God has His arms open ready to forgive you. His desire is for you to LIVE not die. But...it is up to you to make the choice to turn away from your own way and toward Him. He will not force life on you but He gladly gives it to you.

I love my cat, Figgy, and I am heart broken that I have to put him to sleep. What I feel for my cat is nothing in comparison to what God feels when His creation especially mankind is being destroyed. The Good News is God loves YOU more than we can ever love anything!  

Four days ago as I began thinking about having to put Figgy to sleep and I was convicted by the Holy Spirit about something else. I am grieving over my cat and I know that God grieves over us but do I truly grieve like God does over the lost, the wounded, the hurting, the imprisoned, the hungry, and the SINNER? Do I feel the same sadness for them that I feel for my cat? Do I have the same urgency to relief their pain and suffering as I do for Figgy? If I did I would watch less television, play on the computer less and get off my butt and roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty in the lives of others. I have to confess that I have work to do and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit has revealed that through my cat, Figgy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Three Faces of a Follower of Jesus

Luke 15: 25-32 was caught on canvas by the artist Rembrandt. In the painting we see the Prodigal son on his knees with his head buried in his father's chest, the father has his hands gently touching the shoulders of his son and the older brother looking down on the scene.

In most sermons on Luke 15: 25-32 the focus is on the son who has returned. This post was inspired by three sermons I heard at the Vineyard Church in Overland Park, KS.

The first sermon, titled "Big Shock, was given by Mark Warner, senior pastor at the Vineyard. It covered the younger son's demand for his share of the family fortune and his short adventure in wasting it all on partying and self indulgence. Finally coming to his senses and returning home a beaten man as pictured in Rembrandt's painting. Notice his head, which appears to be unkempt and thin, his clothes which are torn and shabby, and his feet, which are barely covered by the sandals he is wearing.

Luke 15: 11-20 Then he said, "There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, 'Father, I want right now what's coming to me.' 

"So the father divided the property between them. It wasn't long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any. 

 "That brought him to his senses. He said, 'All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.' He got right up and went home to his father.

Here is a picture of each of us as we stand before the Father with all of our baggage and sins.

The second sermon, titled "Big Party", was given by Patrick Wildman, pastor of Christ Church Anglican, in Overland Park, KS. It covered the father's heart as he heard about his son returning. How he ran to his son and embraced him. How he cut the son off as he was confessing his sin. How he celebrated the son's return. Notice the father in Rembrandt's painting. The gentle and kindness that the father showed to his returning son. Patrick pointed out the father was a Prodigal father because he threw a lavish celebration at his son's return.

Luke 15: 17-24"That brought him to his senses. He said, 'All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.' He got right up and went home to his father. 

"When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: 'Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again.' 

"But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!' And they began to have a wonderful time.

Here is the picture of how God reacts when a son or daughter embraces His grace and mercy by accepting Jesus as their savior.

The third sermon, titled "Big Miss", was given by Dan Deeble, lead pastor of Heartland Community Church of Olathe, KS.  It covered what the brother missed out on by refusing to celebrate the wayward brother's return. Notice the eyes of the older brother and how he is looking down on his father and brother with disdain. It captures the attitude of disrespect for the father and jealousy of the younger brother.

Luke 15: 25-32 All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day's work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, 'Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.' 

"The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't listen. The son said, 'Look how many years I've stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!' 

"His father said, 'Son, you don't understand. You're with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he's alive! He was lost, and he's found!'"

Here is a picture of how the church often looks on the lost. We often miss out on the Big Party because we are struggling with our own lostness, or because of our religiousness, which chases the loast away. The ending of the story is will we celebrate what God is doing in our community? Will we look beyond our differences to work together in reaching the ones who are struggling, are hurting, or who stand dirty with the stains of life? 

Look at this painting again. Right some of you are either the dirty and lost son or you are the self-righteous older son, both who are in need of the Father's loving embrace and touch. Some of you are standing as the Father's representative who He will use to administer His love and touch.

Think about it. You, no matter where you are right now, will stand in one of the three positions Rembrandt captured in this painting.

I gained great hope and relief from this series of sermons and I encourage you to download them at Vineyard Church www.vineyardop.org.

Father, thank You for having a forgiving heart and for pouring out Your Grace and Mercy on us through Your Son Jesus and for touching us through Your Holy Spirit. In the power and authority of the name of Jesus amen

Friday, April 23, 2010

Your BIG Dream

This is a post I did at A Community Chaplain blog

Do you have a dream that is laying around gathering dust? A dream that life has snuffed out? I want to recommend several books for you to read that will help you dust off that dream and get new fire under it.

"Dare to Desire" by John Eldredge. In this 136 page book John makes the following statements:

"The question is not dare we desire but dare we not desire?"

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

"The Dream Giver" by Bruce Wilkinson. Bruce covers a story about "Ordinary" and how he sets off in pursue of his Big Dream. Bruce will show you how to rise above the ordinary, conquer your fears, and overcome the obstacles that keep you from living your Big Dream.

"The Go Getter" by Peter B. Kyne. This is a story that tells you how to be one.

"Lessons from a Dream Maker" by Joe Land and Bill Perkins. This book contains Ten Proven Steps that will Turn Your Dreams into Reality.

"Your Road Map for Success" by John Maxwell. "The definition of success isn't the same for any two people... The process, however, is the same for everyone... Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others... When you see success as a journey,you'll never have the problem trying to arrive at an elusive final destination." - John Maxwell

Each of these books are tools that can help you discover, develop, pursue and achieve your dream.

Bruce Wilkinson asks this of each of us: "Are you living your dream or just living your life?"

I personally believe, as the above men do, that God has placed in your heart a dream. A BIG Dream that is based on your personal experiences, your gifts, and your talents. Your dream is not meant for you but for the Glory of God who gave it to you. 

I encourage you to purchase and read any one of the books above to help you unravel the dream that hides within your heart.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You Were Born to Win!

No matter who you are or what you have done I want you to know that: "You Were Born to Win!"
I am going to prove this by looking at some real losers that had this message preached to them by Jesus.
This post is a direct result of me reading a booklet called: "Born to Win" by William MacDonald.
First:"The Lost Sheep based on Matthew 18: 12-14 and Luke 15: 1-7 Jesus shares the story of the shepherd who left 99 sheep to find the one lost sheep. That is a nice story but what makes it apply to our lives are the two classes of people Jesus had in mind when He shared the story.
There were the tax collectors (representing the sinners) and there were the Pharisees (representing the religious). Both groups of people are lost one in sin and the other in religion. Real losers who are either caught up in their own pleasure or in their own self-righteousness.
Second: "The Good Samaritan based on Luke 10: 30-27 Jesus shares the story of a Jew who fell into the hands of thieves. The losers of this story are the priest and the Levite that passed the hurt man by.
Third: Jesus shares the story of the Woman Who Was Caught in the Act of adultery listed in John 8: 2-11. She was a real loser because she was caught in the act of having an affair with a man.
Finally: Jesus shares the story of the loser who got life at the last minute found in Luke 23: 32-43. As the three men hung on the cross drawing closer to death one of the bandits turns to Jesus and asks Him to remember him when He becomes King.
Then there are the 12 disciples, each and everyone a loser, a nobody by the standards of their time. No education, limited talent and not very smart in the eyes of most people.
How do these people relate to us? If you think about it we are no different than them or should I say they are no different than us. You and I are losers when we look at the standards the world lists for winners. Rich, Famous, Beauty, Attractive, Hunk of a guy, Pretty, Slim, Wealthy, Status.
You and I have or have had secrets that we kept to ourselves. You and I were like the sheep lost. You and I were like the priest and Levite and looked the other way when passing by someone in need. You and I are in need of a savior because we are LOSERS.
Now that is the turht but here is the good news: Jesus as He hung on that cross made a way to make your losing ways into winning ways. All you have to do is admit that you are a loser and that you need Jesus to stand in the gap for you. Then the Holy Spirit will begin to help you move from being a loser to becoming a WINNER!
When creating mankind God intended for us to be winners and to live with Him forever! Jesus came to ensure that we can.
Luke 4: 18-19 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He annointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
Jesus came to free you from whatever it is that keeps you bound and from being a winner!
I encourage you not to give up but keep striving. Matthew 24: 13 Staying with it--that is what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won't be sorry, you will be saved.
You, yes YOU! were born to Win!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

God's Character - Your Character

How can we tell what God's character is like? Let's look at a few scriptures that will not only give us a clue but pretty much show us what His character is.

First, let's define Character. From Dictionary.com - Character: the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.

Using that as our basis we can easily see from scripture what God's character is. Of course the first scripture we will look at is 1 John 4: 7-8 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can't know him if you don't love.

The most important trait for us to know about God is that He is love. He loves all that He created but most of all He loves the creation called human. Not just a select few humans but all humans. He grieves when humans reject Him (Genesis 6: 5-7 God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil—evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that he had made the human race in the first place; it broke his heart. God said, "I'll get rid of my ruined creation, make a clean sweep: people, animals, snakes and bugs, birds—the works. I'm sorry I made them.") But because He loved His creation called man He responded to the heart of one man who was named Noah and He did not blot out all of mankind and the other life forms. His heart was broken but He loved mankind so much He found a way for them to carry on.

If God is love every other character trait will flow from the stand point of love. Let's look at Galatians 5: 22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The nature of God is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The good news for you and me is these are the very fruits that you and I can have through the Holy Spirit which we receive upon acceptance of Jesus Christ as our savior. We can experience having the charater of God.

You might be saying but wait I believe in Jesus and I am not always loving, have joy, at peace, not patient, sometimes not too kind, certainly not good, at times I lack faith, and as far as gentleness goes that left with self-control. God knows that and He still loves you and invites you to continue to strive to be those things. In this life you will never reach perfection but He will not give up on you. Look at Hebrews 13: 5 Don't be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, "I'll never let you down, never walk off and leave you," we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I'm fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?

Every now and then you will look back on a day and see that God's Character has invaded Your Character. On days like that smile for you have been visited by the Kingdom.

Friday, April 16, 2010

No Matter What It Is Your Responsibility!

What is our responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ when faced with conflict with another person especially a friend or fellow believer? No matter how hard we try we will face conflict with others and some situations will be worse than others. What really matters is not the conflict itself but what we do with the conflict.

Let's look at what Jesus Himself had to say about the subject to explain what I mean. 

First - let's look at Matthew 5:23-24 (The Message)

"This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

In these passages Jesus tells us that we when we realize that someone has a grudge against us we have a responsibility to drop what we are doing and go to that person and attempt to work things out. If we do not then our offerings which includes our prayers are not accepted by God.

Second - let's look at Matthew 18: 15-20 (The Message)

15-17 "If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love. 

 18-20 "Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I'll be there."

Notice in these passages Jesus shows that we have a responsibility to go to another who has hurt us and share with them in a respectful way what they did and how it made us feel. If they listen then things will be fine but if they do not then we need to take it to another level to get things worked out.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you have the responsibility to go to the party you have hurt or you have the responsibility to go to the party who has hurt you and get things worked out.

It is sad when a follower of Jesus does not respond back in either case. It results in more hurt and it shows a lack of respect for the hurt individual and for what Jesus did on the cross for us.

Whether you have hurt someone or someone has hurt you I encourage you right now to drop what you are doing and contact the individual and get the ball rolling towards reconciliation. If you do your actions and words will be pleasing in the sight of our Father in Heaven.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Person of Two Lives

Are you a person living two lives?

If I was a betting man I would bet at least 50% of the people reading this blog sometimes live two lives. I know that I have. Let me explain.

I accepted Jesus as my savior in 1982 at the age of 32. I attended church every week for 22 years. I did everything that the church told me to do. I was living two lives. I lived one on the day I worshipped and the other I lived on any of the other six days. You see I did everything except give up one life controlling habit. I was willing to give everything else to God except for that one thing. On the outside I looked great but inside there was a battle going on between two lives.

Then one weekend I attended a men's event. It started on a Friday evening and ended Saturday afternoon. The Friday evening part of the event was inspiring. Great worship and a impactful short message that ended with the speaker challenging us to get into small groups and share what God revealed to us in the message. The message was along the lines of God knowing you even before you were born and He could use all of the events in your life in serving others. IN our small groups we were to talk about the message, share what we had experienced in our lives and then to pray for each other.

There were five guys in our group including an associate pastor from our church. I was the last to share and when I was done the associate pastor asked if he could lead a prayer over me. Of course I agreed and he began to proclaim that God was going to use my life experiences to help other men who had similar experiences or who were struggling in their spiritual walk. All the time he was praying I was saying in my mind, "No God, No!" "I don't want to get involved with the messy lives of other men and I certainly do not want them to know my messy life." After he was done praying and we headed to our bunks for some sleep.

At about 3 am woke up hearing a voice say, "Yes you will!" I sat up and looked around and all I could see were men asleep and all I heard was an occasional snore. I laid back down and within a few minutes I heard the voice again but this time a little stronger, "YES you will!" I shot up and looked around and it was then I knew that God was somehow speaking to me. I simple looked upward and replied, "Okay I will try to help other men." With that I feel right to sleep and at 7 am woke refreshed.

After breakfast we had our last session of the weekend. The message was about taking what we learned the evening before and applying it. That message ended with the speaker challenging us to gather in the same groups as the night before and this time discuss the ONE THING that was keeping us from doing what our experiences and the Holy Spirit gifted us for. He told us that ONE THING was not a lack of money, talent, education or opportunity. That ONE THING had to do with SIN.

Now I was really uneasy about getting back into that group. I wanted to head for the door. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I knew that if I got into that group I might end up sharing my ONE THING. As I got up and began to consider how I could escape our associate pastor gentle touched my arm and asked me to sit next to him in our group. I was had! I knew that God had me right where He wanted me. For about a minute the five of us sat looking down at the floor with no one wanting to start the conversation. Then it happened. An arm shot up into the air and to my horror it was mine.

Everyone looked at me in anticipation of what I might share. I simply said my ONE THING that keeps me from being used by God was pornography. DOG! I actually shared it and I looked around to watch as jaws dropped open. Then a remarkable thing happened. I felt a hand on my shoulder and I heard the associate pastor pray for God to use my experiences, to move me out of my addiction for the benefit of other men. The other guys shared things a little less dramatic and then we broke up. That day was a life changing one but overcoming my addiction did not immediately end.

BUT I was no longer living a secret life. It was out in the open and over the next few years the pastors and men of our church encouraged me and gave me the tools to overcome my ONE THING. Like any addiction it wants to invade my mind again so I have to be involved in an accountability program that helps me stay away from porn. I use a program called Covenant Eyes and I recommend it to any man or woman who wants to keep from viewing pornography.

I encourage you to take the time and effort to seriously consider the experiences of your life and how they can be used in serving others. After doing that take the pain to admit the ONE THING you struggle with and find a person who you can trust with it and get their help in overcoming it. 

You do not have to be A Person of Two Lives!

Recommended reading:

"Character Counts" by Rod Handley

"Sex, Men and God" by Doug Weiss

Covenant Eyes

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Change must take place but...

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." - Victor Frankl

I was reading in one of the books in my library, "Get Out of Your Own Way" by Mark Goulston and Philip Goldberg about how people often try to change other people and get resistance but they should be accepting the other person and hope for change.

That chapter made me think of how some churches operate from the stand point that sinners need to change in order to be accepted. There is no doubt that God does expect us to change once we accept Jesus as our savior.

In the book I mentioned earlier they made a statement which I will put in my own words: Rather than not accepting a person until they change, we need to accept them as they are and hope they change.

I believe that Jesus used this method in attracting people to Himself and He set it5 as an example for the church to follow.

Matthew 11: 28-30 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Luke 4: 40-41 When the sun went down, everyone who had anyone sick with some ailment or other brought them to him. One by one he placed his hands on them and healed them. Demons left in droves, screaming, "Son of God! You're the Son of God!" But he shut them up, refusing to let them speak because they knew too much, knew him to be the Messiah.

42-44 He left the next day for open country. But the crowds went looking and, when they found him, clung to him so he couldn't go on. He told them, "Don't you realize that there are yet other villages where I have to tell the Message of God's kingdom, that this is the work God sent me to do?" Meanwhile he continued preaching in the meeting places of Galilee.

Luke 18: 9-12 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: "Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: 'Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'

13 "Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, 'God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"

14 Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."

John 7: 37-38 On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says." (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

John 8: 1-7 Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again. Swarms of people came to him. He sat down and taught them. 3-6The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?" They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

6-8 Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, "The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

9-10 Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?"

11 "No one, Master."   "Neither do I," said Jesus. "Go on your way. From now on, don't sin."

The example I see Jesus setting is accepting people where they are and loving them into changing. Paul talks about that in Romans 2: You didn't think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he's such a nice God, he'd let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he's not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

I believe God wants to move you into a radical change and He will do that through kindness. I also believe He wants you to accept others in that same kindness as they go through their radical change. Sometimes God causes change to happen seemingly overnight but usually change takes time. I believe we need to be like God and patiently love people as they go through these changes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

So You Have Been Hurt!

I saw the following comment at 43things.com

I work at a restaurant as a server. I deal with people all the time and even in class. I have grown to not take stupid remarks personally and that NO ONE has any right to label you or make you feel any way that you don't want to. Be tough and be yourself. Take everything with a grain of salt.

Sometimes people will rub us wrong and wounds caused by other people will get opened and we will react to their remarks, or their actions, or their lack of respect. This happened to me recently and I have to admit I sometimes operate out the wounds of my life. When I react instead of responding I always end up embarrassed and humbled.

I have a book in my library titled: "Get Out of Your Own Way" by Mark Goulston, M.D., and Philip Goldberg. In Chapter 21 "Taking Things Too Personal" they state this: "Failing to consider the other person's true intentions is a good way to ruin a relationship. Instead of reflecting and responding appropriately, you merely react, either retaliating or becoming defensive, sullen or petulant. Such reactions not only obscure the legitimate reasons for your concern but poison the other person's response to your legitimate grievances. And, when you realize what you've done, you end up feeling ashamed in the bargain."

Here are their recommendations:

* When someone does something to upset you, ask yourself if you did anything to justify his or her actions.

* If you did, it is better to own up to it early. Offer an apology and promise to try to do better next time.

* If you didn't do anything to justify the behavior, ask yourself if the other person in this way with others too. If so, don't take it personally.

*You have three choices: find a way to be more accepting; cut your losses and end the relationship; make your feelings known and hope the offensive behavior stops.

*Remember, not taking things personally does not mean turning the other cheek. It means shooting from the head rather than the hip.

Two scriptures that we should consider concerning offenses.

Matthew 5: 23-24 This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.

Matthew 18: 15-17 If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love.

I encourage you to respond and not react to the actions of others. They may be acting out of their woundedness and do not realize how they are treating you in the process. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Life Changing Events - What's Yours?

It was a Saturday morning and infact it was the day before Easter 1980. I was just getting ready to get off from working the night shift at the boys home when I received a phone call from home. My wife told me it was time and for me to get home quick. When I arrived she had her bags packed and off to the hospital we went.

After two hours of labor she our daughter was born. I can still remember watching the events unfold and then hearing her cry for the first time. They cleaned her up and brought her over to us and her mom stuck her hand out and our daughter wrapped her tiny hand around her finger.

God used this moment in my life to change me and to move me forward past some bad habits.  From this day forward I quit smoking pot and reduced the amount of alcohol I drank to one beer or glass of wine when I drank. I began to take better care of my body by eating somewhat better and exercising more. The biggest change was a new interest in the spiritual and in knowing God.

I was thirty years old and not a good prospect for accepting Jesus as my savior. Here are some stats on that fact:

A survey by the International Bible Society -- indicated that 83% of all Christians make their commitment to Jesus between the ages of 4 and 14, that is, when they are children or early youth. 

The Barna Research Group surveys demonstrate that American children ages 5 to 13 have a 32% probability of accepting Christ, but youth or teens aged 14 to 18 have only a 4% probability of doing so. Adults age 19 and over have just a 6% probability of becoming Christians.
Here is a graph to make it even clearer why my conversion was a rare thing: 
Now 30 years later my daughter celebrated her birthday and she too is just now growing in her relationship with Jesus. I believe in her life it is me that God has used to guide her to having a relationship with Him. In the past few weeks I have watched as she has grown in her worship of Him. My daughter and I are living proof that even the 4% who come to Christ later in life can develop a close relationship with Jesus that results in an active Chrisitian faith.

I am interested in hearing your story about the event that happened in your life that moved you froward toward Jesus?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Salvation - Too Good to be True?

Have you ever heard someone say that if it sounds too good to be true it isn't possible for it to be true? Years ago I joined a group of people who believed hard work by helping people find a dream and then pursue the dream could create wealth. It seemed too good to be true. For most it was because most people cannot move past the experiences of the past in order to believe in themselves enough to actually do that.

This post was stirred in me by a comment made by Mark Warner in his Easter sermon at Vineyard Church in Overland Park, KS. 

Why don't most people believe the Good News message of Christ? I believe there are several reasons.
1. Churches have made the message unappealing by the rules they add to it. For example: "Jesus saves you but you must do this and that to secure your salvation." or "Jesus saves but you must keep the law to maintain your salvation."
2. Churches focus on beating sin out of your life. Quit smoking, quit drinking, quit dancing, quit cussing, and we will talk to you about salvation.
3. Churches do not use the Bible to explain the message of Jesus.
4. It is hard to believe that the Creator God would humble Himself in the form of a human and then die a gruesome death to cover our sins. And to qualify for this cover all we have to do is acknowledge and accept that He did that for us. By doing so He gives us His Holy Spirit so that we can accomplish some of the things that churches say we must do to have salvation. We will never be perfect as long as we are humans so we will always be in need of salvation but that is ok with God.

The first three are human caused the fourth is just too good to be true. It is just so unbelievable that God, the Creator, would do such a thing. Our human minds cannot accept that an all-powerful God would do such a thing. In our minds it just does not make sense. Since it does not make sense we see it as too good to be true.

In Isaiah 55: 8-9 God says this: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." 

There is only one way to describe why an all-powerful God would choose to do what He claims to have done through Jesus Christ. John 3: 16-18 "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. 

It is just too good to be true that the Creator would be so in love with what it created and that all He demands is we accept that He did it in the first place. He only ask that we accept this and repent of our sins and He will help us to move forward away from those sins. It will be a life long process that He joins us in just because we accepted His Grace and Mercy.

It is just simply TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE but IT IS TRUE.  

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Born Again - Part II

Impulsive, Hot Tempered, Insightful, Courageous, Fiery and Vengeful, Selfish, Conceited, Judgmental, Bold, Loving, Compassionate, Enthusiastic, Inquisitive, Resourceful, Practical, Helpful, Literal and Confused, Skeptical, Honest, Faithful, Hospitable, Doubtful, Patriotic, Loyal, Sacrificial, Greedy, Deceitful, Treacherous.

Can you identify with any of these words? Be honest do any of them describe you? 

Let's take a look at some people in history who these words describe and gain some hope from their stories. You see these words are descriptive of the 12 original disciples.

Peter was Impulsive and Hot Tempered but later he was Insightful and Courageous.
James and John were Fiery and Vengeful but later they became Committed and Compassionate.
Andrew was Inquisitive and Resourceful.
Bartholomew was Skeptical but Helpful. 
Matthew was Hospitable.
Thomas was Doubtful but Faithful.
Thaddaeus was Inquisitive and sometimes Confused.
Simon was Patriotic and Loyal.
Judas was Greedy and Deceitful.

The point I want to make is these 12 men were not much different than you and me yet Jesus chose them to be His disciples. He chose to hang with them and the ones He hung with most were the ones who had bigger faults. I believe it is more important to know what they became instead of focusing on what they were. God is not looking for people who will become perfect on their own and then come to Him. The church would be completely empty because none of us will ever be perfect in this life. In fact not even the pastors would be there since they are no different than we are. Their born again experience was a process that for some took years. The point is what God did through these imperfect men should give us hope for what He can do through us.

For all of us being "Born Again" will be a life long process that will begin when we accept Jesus Christ as our savior and receive the Holy Spirit at being baptised. Some will experience changes very rapidly while others will discover them through the process of being involved with a healthy church. The really GOOD NEWS is all of us will truly be "Born Again" at death. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Born Again

Nicodemus was one of the ruling Jews at Jesus time and one night he came to Jesus and admitted that the Pharisees knew he was a teacher sent by God. Notice he came to Jesus by night. I imagine in the dark of a moonless night Nicodemus snuck up to Jesus and whispered these words to him: John 3: 1-2 "Rabbi, we all know you're a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren't in on it."

John 3: 3 Jesus said, "You're absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it's not possible to see what I'm pointing to—to God's kingdom."

 4 "How can anyone," said Nicodemus, "be born who has already been born and grown up? You can't re-enter your mother's womb and be born again. What are you saying with this 'born-from-above' talk?"

 5-6 Jesus said, "You're not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the 'wind-hovering-over-the-water' creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it's not possible to enter God's kingdom. When you look at a baby, it's just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can't see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit.

 7-8 "So don't be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be 'born from above'—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it's headed next. That's the way it is with everyone 'born from above' by the wind of God, the Spirit of God."

When we accept Jesus as our savior and receive the Holy Spirit we begin the process of being born again. Some of us experience a dramatic rebirth but some of us experience something that takes a lifetime. When I look at my own life I see God's hand in everything except for my sins of course. I see how the Holy Spirit has guided me and moved me a step here and there beyond the defects in my character. I have met other people who experienced this instantly but I do not believe that is the norm. God does use the dramatic but He also uses the gentle to transform us. The development of a human child occurs over a period of time and in most circumstances so does the development of a spiritual child.

Some of us are like a banana once the protective peeling is removed the real us is exposed but most of us are like an onion we have a thin layer protecting what our life experiences has done to us. With an onion once you get past the thin protective layer you find layers and some are thicker than others. Those of us like the onion have layers of life experiences and some have been hurtful and some good. Getting to the heart of the fruit requires cutting through these layers.

I am interested in hearing your story. How did God transform you? Did all of your sins just suddenly disappear? Did you become perfect in a day? or is God molding you as a potter does a piece of clay? His hands moving over the unfinished vase as he removes unwanted areas.