Monthly Archives: April 2012

34 Proverb-Like Suggestions For Men

“To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel . . .” Prov. 1:4-5 “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Prov. 1:7

Proverbs is full of wisdom and truth. The writer of Proverbs says things like: If you sleep when you ought to be working, you will be hungry when it is time to eat; it is better to sit on the corner of a house than to have a nagging wife: skilled people will not live in obscurity, but will stand before important people; obedient children bring joy to their mothers and fathers. This is the wisdom and knowledge of Proverbs. But if it is so obvious, why does it have to be written and read? People need to be instructed about the most obvious and rudimentary lessons of life because they don’t know or have forgotten. It could be said they are fools, whether by choice, environment or other. The author of Proverbs says many obvious but helpful things about knowledge, wisdom and understanding, and that we should acquire them at all cost.

Below is a list of 34 suggestions I have written over the years. Some I have learned through others, and some the hard way; by failure. Some are biblical. Many I work on daily. Most I have found missing in the lives of young men who mean well, but don’t know. They are for anyone willing to acquire from the little I have acquired so we can avoid being fools together.

1. Be immediately obedient. When Jesus commands you to do something, submit to His authority immediately. The way of Jesus is the best and only way to eternal things. Did the Rich Young Ruler get another chance? We don’t know, but what a tragedy if he didn’t.

2. Use measured and appropriate humor/sarcasm.

3. Look people in the face when you talk to them.

4. Be presentable: Comb your hair, brush your teeth, wear deodorant, contextualize your dress.

5. Be thankful. See 1 Thes. 5:18

6. Learn to ask lots of thought-provoking and open-ended questions.

7. Be respectful and be courteous. Open doors for people. Say “please” and “thank you.”

8. Do the hard thing because it is usually the right thing. That doesn’t mean do things the hard way.

9. Understand your greatest strength will often be your greatest weakness.

10. Be aware of your weaknesses and manage them.

11.  Leverage your strengths.

12. Ask for constructive criticism from trusted and honest people who care about you.

13. Be a good listener.

14. Sleep is a discipline.

15. Be on time. People are on time for things that are important to them.

16. Say the names of people. If they are much older, start with Mr. or Mrs. People have names, and they are usually not buddy, stud or dude.

17. Learn to say, “I don’t know” and “it depends” when you don’t or it does.

18. Be willing to express your emotions and feelings—appropriately. There are few things as influential as authenticity.

19. Be thick-skinned because people are often careless and cruel.

20. Quit being a momma’s boy. Parents are so supportive, too supportive, and they will be your biggest obstacle to manhood by enabling you to be a child.

21. Entertain often the thought that you are wrong, because you will be.

22. To lead others, stay one step ahead of their expectations. Leadership rises and falls on expectations that are met or are not.

23. As a leader, you set the pace for what is expected. If you don’t, those who follow you will create expectations for you, and you can’t meet expectations you don’t know about.

24. Figure out how to think hard about the world, because the world is wildly complex.

25. Be angry, but be angry at the right things, not trivial things like football.

26. Don’t be a slave to debt/credit cards.  “Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later.” Dave Ramsey

27. Read the Bible like God inspired it. Read it and live it with passion.

28. Live with intensity, because you are in a war. War demands a demeanor that something great is at stake because lives are at stake.

29. Don’t take yourself too seriously, but take life serious, because it is.

30. Be a finisher. Finish what you started. Learn to persevere. Few things resemble Christ more than persevering, especially when life is deadly hard.

31. Develop a dependency on God’s Word. Learn to love it, then consume it.

32. Learn to think with a pen in your hand. Write a lot—perhaps on Facebook. It will help you learn how to think and speak, and show you the progress of God’s work in your life.

33. Anticipate trouble and problems and then confront them with prayer and wisdom. If you don’t, the trouble you ignored will find you.

34. Make much of Jesus in everything. He will give you eternal influence and an eternal legacy.

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Do You Have Bibline Blood?

My whole person (heart) resonates with this sentence:

“It is blessed to eat into the very soul of the Bible until, at last, you come to talk in Scriptural language, and your spirit is flavored with the words of the Lord, so that your blood is Bibline and the very essence of the Bible flows from you.” Charles H. Spurgeon quoted by John Piper in “When I Don’t Desire God

Yes! I desire this in my life, in the life of my family and the lives of those in my church family. I want the Spirit-inspired word to overflow from me. I want to have Bibline blood. I want the Spirit that wrote the word to control my life through the word.

Thanks to John Piper and Charles Spurgeon for articulating what is stirring in me. May the essence of the Bible flow from some to many, for this is what a Christian should be and do.

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Ps. 119:97

Bella’s Pinkie Fingers in a Dangerous Universe

I am fascinated with Bella’s pinkie fingers. They are so small, fragile, intricate and perfect. Meet little Bella.

I was dwelling on this early this morning and somehow made the thought jump to the universe and the little I know about it. It too is fascinatingly intricate and stunning, but it is also dangerous.

Supernova

The fact that Bella Faith, barely a week out of the womb, can live in a universe with black holes, supernovas, massive solar flares, asteroids flying all around our little planet and all sorts of other known and unknown, awe-inspiring dangers is mind-numbing.

It begs the question(s): Why are we still here? Why does God allow the massive known and unknown danger in the universe that is completely beyond our control?

For me the answer was awe and worship at the sovereign mercy of the only Creator God.

Pure majestic and all-powerful mercy reminds us that God has to be in control and that He is in control (Ps. 19; Isa. 40:25-26; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:2-3). Otherwise, we can’t exist and know the joy of little pinkie fingers that belong to the most fragile beings in the universe.

Stop, ponder and worship the God of the universe, who crafts pinkie fingers and controls the dangerous universe.

Fuzzy, Confused and Dangerous – What Is Love?

Love

“Fuzzy words lead to confusing beliefs and practice.” A professor once said that in a class and it has never left me.

For instance, how would you define the word love? John Wooden asserted that love is the most important word in the human language. But what is love? What do we mean when we say I love pizza, a pet, a spouse or even Jesus? If we asked 10 people on the street we might get 10 different definitions and we might find some people who can’t articulate the idea because it is so diversely used.

Wikipedia made this comment about defining the word love: “This diversity of uses and meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.”

Definitions are so very important because if we don’t know what we mean then even the most important words lose their meaning and therefore their impact. And words like “love” are so important because they are used so often by God in His word. After all, what does it mean when we are told to do “everything in love.” (1 C or. 16:14) What does it mean when we read that “God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). In these passages is the word love used to communicate an emotion or an action? And if an action, what kind of action? What does that action look like?

My argument is simple; we have to know what God means in a contextually comprehensive way and we have to know what we mean when we use words. We have to have concise and clear definitions so we are not confused, therefore confusing our hearers. God has communicated through words, words He uses so that we might know Him through Christ, resulting in transformed and godly life.

We can’t afford to be fuzzy and confused about God. For if we are fuzzy and confused about God then we will be confusing to others and confusion is not loving. As a matter of fact, it is deadly dangerous.  

Additionally, when we have concise and clear definitions it is easier to teach by repetition for the purpose of retention and application. Concise and clear stick.

I have been working at this for my own edification but also for the purpose of passing along important truths to my sons and church family. By way of example, here are a few that I have been developing and refining:

  • Love – Wanting and doing what is best for another person.
  • Faith – Trusting all of our person to all of the person of Jesus Christ. Faith is surrendering all of our life to the one who surrendered His.
  • Truth – What is real and right.
  • Biblical Manhood – Gladly taking the initiative of sacrificial responsibility for all that God says is real and right.
  • Integrity – Doing what’s right even when we think no one else is looking. (God is always looking – Proverbs 16:14).
  • Discipline – Doing what right and beneficial when you naturally would not do it.
  • Respect – Treating others the way you would want to be treated.

Of course each of these definitions require some explanation and they may vary based on context. I may also need to tweak them as I grow in deeper understanding, but the point is that based on what I understand of the Bible I know what I mean.

Do you know what you mean or do you live in fuzzy confusion and cause the same for others? It’s important that we are clear.

Gathering to is not just passively receiving, but participating intentionally.

A Means to an End

So much of life is about perception – about how you choose to see things.

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? Is someone an optimist, realist or pessimist?

Is the worship gathering on Sunday Morning a gathering that people can participate in or is it simply a spectator event? The way you answer this question is not so much determined by the meeting itself, but rather by your attitude or perception about the meeting.

I don’t doubt that most worship gatherings seem passive rather than active, but if you stop to think about participating in a worship gathering and then have the attitude that every moment of that gathering is an opportunity to participate, then your perception might change. As a pastor it is my privilege and responsibility to educate people about why we do what we do and then tell them what it is we are doing.

For this…

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Advice for Beginning Preachers

Preaching is not as easy as it may look. I find every week to be a new challenge. The text challenges. The audience is a challenge. My flesh is a challenge, and so on.

It would seem then that this difficult task should be left to the trained and professional preacher.

But how do people learn to preach unless they are given the chance to preach? If only the “experts” preach then who will take their place when they have served their turn?

Additionally, I have written previously why I think it helpful for others to preach. Do You Let Others Preach? You Should!

If preaching is difficult, then how can others learn to preach in a way that benefits both their hearers and their own development as a preacher? How should a beginning preacher learn to preach?

Here is some beginning advice for those who aspire to preach:

Personal Preparedness

  • Abide in the text and ask the Spirit to open your eyes to see what the Spirit has inspired for the human author to record.
  • Be yourself and ask the Spirit to sanctify your personality that your hearers might see the glory of God in Christ. You are not Matt Chandler, John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, or anyone else for that matter. Your voice and your mannerisms should be uniquely you.

Preaching Objectives

  • Have an introduction. The introduction should hook people and tell them where you are going by revealing the big idea.
  • Keep it simple. It is better to be simply clear than clever and misunderstood.
  • Have structure/outline (points). People need hangers to place ideas. Tell them with repetition what your big ideas are. This will also help them track with you through the text and connect the text to the sermon.
  • Sprinkle the sermon with illustrations. Give them mental images that help the hearers understand your big ideas. This will also help keep attention. However, be careful with long and clunky illustrations. You don’t want to detract from the text or to use too much time telling a story.
  • Apply each big idea. Make clear from the text what people should think and what they should do (James 1:22). Application is just as much thinking as it is doing. A person can’t do what is right if they don’t think what is right.
  • Keep it short. If you are a beginning preacher, never preach longer than the regular preacher. Shoot for 30 minutes max. One of the hardest parts of preaching is editing what might seem interesting and keeping what is crucial to the hearer.
  • Articulate the gospel. Don’t assume everyone there knows or is trusting the good news of Jesus Christ. Surely there will come a point in which you can say, “Jesus lived perfectly and took your place, paying for your sins on the cross, rising from the grave to beat sin and death. Surrender your sin to Jesus and trust in His finished and resurrected work.” The sermon is incomplete without this.
  • Have a conclusion. Bring the sermon to an end with an illustration and one last application, imploring people to respond to God’s word.

There is much more to preaching but the point is to be personally prepared and to keep it simple so not to be overwhelmed and therefore underwhelm those listening.

Meet Bella Faith

I was in Louisville, Kentucky when I got the call that Bella Faith was likely to be born this week. The men that I was with at a conference graciously agreed to leave a bit early so I could get back to meet her. She was born at 9:28 p.m. at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I was in Rolla, Missouri when I got the call that she had come out. She weighed 6 lbs. and 14 oz and she was twenty-and-a-half inches long. She is a beautiful baby girl and she doesn’t cry much –  yet.

Faith, her birth mom, did a great job and we are thankful that she will trust us with such a precious gift. Lacey also did a great job and was right by her side, encouraging her the whole time.

Her brothers  can’t wait to meet her face to face. With much anticipation and excitement, they have been looking forward to loving her and changing her dirty diapers . I’ll have to work hard to motivate that later act of love, but I know this will be good for our sons.

Lacey and I have a lot of love to share with Bella, but I know that what she teaches us about God and being other-centered will be a gift to us. I hope this whole process and act is for God’s glory and the good of others. Especially since God has  adopted those who believe in Jesus Christ as sons and daughters. We are not doing anything that God hasn’t graciously done for us.

About Bella’s name – Bella is in honor of my grandmother, Hattie Bell, who died this year at the age of 100. Bella means beautiful. Faith is in honor of her birth mother whose name is Faith.

Thanks for all your support and prayer and we hope that you get to meet Bella soon.

A Means to an End

Have you ever considered the question: “What if Jesus had not been crucified?” What would we miss that was meant to be seen?

What if Jesus would have died of cancer in Bethany? What if He would have died in a boating accident on the Sea of Galilee? What if He had been run down by a chariot in the busy streets of Jerusalem?

Why is the cross so important? Why did God, in His infinite wisdom, choose a cross as the instrument to ransom the souls of many? At such great cost, what does the cross teach us that God wants us to see and know? Why put the son of God on a slave’s tree?

It had to be a Visible and Public Spectacle. In 71 B.C. a slave named Spartacus led a slave revolt against the Romans that was eventually decimated. The Romans captured approximately 6,000 slaves…

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Gutting It Out; Do You Give Up Too Easily?

Insert yourself into this bit of history: You are appointed/called to be the pastor of a church and for the next 12 years  the congregation locks their pews and they stay away so that those who want to hear your sermons are forced to stand or sit wherever they can find room. You are so unpopular as a pastor that your sermons are frequently interrupted and you are publicly insulted on the streets.

Would you have stayed? Would you have gutted it out in the strength that God supplies (1 Peter 4:11)?

Charles Simeon (1759-1836) stayed 54 years at Trinity Church in Cambridge, England.

This is definitely an exceptional example but one that is worth noting in an age where there seems to be fewer people who tough life out when life gets tough.

For example, today’s 20-somethings will change jobs an average of seven times, the estimated average tenure of pastors is about three years and an estimated 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.

It’s not always wrong to quit or change and sometimes it may be necessary to have a change of scenery.  However, some quitting is inherently wrong and people seem to be doing a lot of it these days.

What if William Wilberforce would have quit? It took 45 years of political work and leadership for Wilberforce to emancipate all slaves in the British Empire. What if Jesus would have given up on the will of God in the garden of Gethsemane when He agonized over His impending crucifixion (Luke 22:39-42).

I sense in me and many (especially men) the tendency to throw the towel in the first time we take a punch. I sense that we too quickly want to bail out our children and those around us when a little difficulty comes or they experience tension.

Are we too soft?

Aren’t we all in need of endurance (Hebrews 10:36)?

Here is an introspective and helpful word from John Piper based on the life of Charles Simeon as it relates to our fragility and the need for endurance:

I need very much this inspiration from another age, because I know that I am, in great measure, a child of my times. And one of the pervasive marks of our times is emotional fragility. I feel it as though it hung in the air we breathe. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition.

A typical emotional response to trouble in the church and life is to think, “If that’s the way they feel about me, then they can find themselves another…” We see very few models today whose lives spell out in flesh and blood the rugged words, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials” (James 1:3). When historians list the character traits of the last third of twentieth century America, commitment, constancy, tenacity, endurance, patience, resolve and perseverance will not be on the list. The list will begin with an all-consuming interest in self-esteem. It will be followed by the subheadings of self-assertiveness, and self-enhancement, and self-realization. And if you think that you are not at all a child of your times just test yourself to see how you respond in the ministry (or any part of life) when people reject your ideas.

We need help here. When you are surrounded by a society of emotionally fragile quitters, and when you see a good bit of this ethos in yourself, you need to spend time with people – whether dead or alive – whose lives prove there is another way to live. Scripture says, “Be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12). So I want to hold up for you the faith and the patience of Charles Simeon for your inspiration and imitation.

Deciding whether to gut something out is not always simple. It requires wisdom and awareness concerning a number of factors. But I am afraid we too quickly hit the eject button at the first sign of turbulence, assuming that God only wants us to be happy and safe. God may want neither in the now time. He may want you to gut it out like Jesus, Simeon and Wilberforce. Have you considered that?