Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, July 27, 2012
No Man Left Behind
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
I was in a fraternity in college. When I went through the pledge program, I learned a very strict rule that was emphasized very emphatically by the brotherhood. We were NEVER to be alone. We were called “plebes” and our fellow “plebes” were our “plebe pals”. If you ever got caught without a plebe pal at your side by one of the brothers, you were in big trouble! For all the nonsense that comes with a fraternity pledge program, I will say that some of these rules truly had some merit. Going through the rigors of this pledge program, always with a brother at your side, built a very real sense of unity that I still experience today with those who participated.
I’ve been seeking to help men find Christ and learn to walk with Him for the past 16 years. I’ve learned some things about men and their behavior, and I’ve learned many things about myself as well. I see clearly that God never intended us to go on this Faith journey alone! This idea of the Clint Eastwood macho man on the open plains by himself, without a need for anyone else in his life, is not from God. However, Satan tempts each one of us to go at it alone. He makes it look attractive to be independent and unattached. It arouses our egos and makes us feel tough.
The truth is that we are weaker when we are alone. Whenever I am leading a Journey Group and one of my men withdraws, it throws up a red flag for me. So often, when men are struggling, they pull away. Satan tells them they are weak and worthless, and facing a group of fellow brothers who seem to have it all together will only make them feel worse. Men make choices to fight their battles alone. Many times, men are indulging the sinful nature, living secret lives, so they must remain isolated, so as not to reveal their true identity. Once again, this is a ploy of Satan. Just like the lion which attacks the member of the herd which has separated from the group, Satan wants to get us alone.
Just look at the life of our Lord Jesus. Two times we see where Satan went directly after Him. First, and most famously, is the temptation in the desert. Before Jesus began His public ministry, He was forced to endure a difficult season of testing and tempting for forty days. Satan came at Him from every angle possible, trying to get Him to stumble. Jesus was alone during this time. At the end of the trial, it says in Luke 4:13 “he left Him until an opportune time.” So, when was that “opportune time?” I believe it was in the Garden of Gethsemane. As Jesus faced His destiny with the cross, He faced His biggest moment of weakness in His fleshly body. As His disciples fell asleep and left Him alone, He prays, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Luke 22:42 It says God sent an angel to strengthen Him, but it says, “Being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Luke 22:44
Jesus knew how much we need each other. He knew the risks of facing Satan alone. That’s why He gathered a group of 12 men to teach them how to live this life for God. Granted, there are moments in life when, like Jesus, we may have to face some battles alone. In those moments, He says, “Pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22:46 There are also times that God wants us to experience intimate fellowship with Him. This was modeled also by Jesus who often withdrew from the men for times of prayer. However, most of the time, Jesus was with His band of brothers.
Guys, in our Journey groups, we encourage men toward that intimate, abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. That is where it all starts. That is where we learn to feast on God’s Word, where we learn to Pray, where we connect with the Holy Spirit. However, we recognize this spiritual truth that we should not go on this Journey alone. We need each other. As men bond together in a Journey group, we see a supernatural strength develop and a momentum that could not develop otherwise. We see enlarged vision and increased capability. We see a shield of faith which Satan has difficulty penetrating.
So, as you read this, let me ask you. Do you find yourself alone? Have you withdrawn from other Christian men, perhaps from your family? If so, are you doing it because you are spending extended time in prayer and fellowship with the Lord. Or is it something else? Why are you resisting the fellowship of brothers in Christ? I encourage you to fight through this temptation and reach out for help. Don’t remain isolated! Join a Journey Group or call a brother you respect for lunch. If you went through a Journey Group and are now back on the sidelines by yourself, perhaps it’s time to get back in the game.
If you are already connected to a group of men, look around you. Do you see anyone in your sphere of influence who has pulled away? You know who I’m talking about. I believe the Holy Spirit puts these men on our minds for a reason. These are the men He wants us to pursue. Pray for them. Call them. Invite them to lunch just to see how they are doing. Invite them to your next Journey Group. Guys, the battle is fierce, and if Satan can take out the men, he takes out families, businesses, communities, churches. Don’t let that happen!
Just like “Influencer” in “The Journey to the Inner Chamber”, who is riding his horse through the refugee camp, scanning the horizon for a man in need, it’s time for us to get on our horses and ride. Let’s leave “No Man Left Behind!”
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Thursday, July 19, 2012
“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him Who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world cause by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness, to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self-control, and to self-control, PERSEVERANCE; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
2 Peter 1:3-7
The other night, over dinner, my wife and I were reflecting on a very long, difficult year, which piggybacked onto a few years before that which were not exactly great. We began to talk about the word, “perseverance.” For a moment, I was thinking “perseverance” was one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22. However, as we thought about it more and as we sang the little Fruits of the Spirit song my daughter learned in Christian pre-school, we realized that it is not listed as a gift. So, it is not a gift, yet it seems a crucial element needed on this journey of life. The next day, I was preparing to teach elementary kids at church, and as I opened the material, I realized that our character trait for the month was “Perseverance.” Yes, someone who wrote this children’s curriculum thought it was never too early to begin teaching these little minds and spirits about “perseverance.” They were calling “perseverance” a character trait, something that becomes a part of who I am. I am always amazed at how God will teach me every time I attempt to teach others.
So, what is “perseverance?” I looked up the word in Webster’s dictionary. The #1 and the #5 definition grabbed my attention. The first definition is this: “persistent determination.” Sure. That would be my first inclination. Press on. Push through the pain. Don’t give up! The #5 definition surprised me a bit, being from a secular source: “Continuance in a state of grace until it is succeeded by a state of glory; sometimes called final perseverance, and the perseverance of the saints.” Wow! Even Webster’s is telling us that “perseverance” is part of a Holy plan, which promises to have a purpose.
A good friend of mine, who is a great Bible teacher, for years has shared with men the verses above from 2 Peter 1, namely where it talks about this progression of Faith. If you’ll notice “perseverance” is in the middle of the list. The list begins with Faith- of course, it has to start there. We decide we believe Jesus died for us and we give our lives to Him. Then, all of the sudden, we want to be better people. Goodness works its way into our lives. We start to change our behavior. Then, we have a yearning to know more about God. We start reading the Bible. We start paying attention in church. We sign up for Bible studies. Our Knowledge increases. Then, the world and our flesh start to call us back to our old life. We also find that this Christian walk requires discipline. In order to keep our fleshly desires in check, we have to have Self-Control. My friend lists these first 4 legs of spiritual development down the left side of a piece of paper. Then, he writes the word, Perseverance, in big letters, on an incline, all the way up to the upper right-hand of the paper. He believes this is where the rubber meets the road. This is when most Christians stop their development. This seems to be when it gets too tough. This is when the tough trials test our faith. James tell us about this in James 1:2-4
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
God uses the trials in our lives (and who doesn’t have trials?) to test our faith. It is easier to have faith when you are healthy, when you seem to be connecting well with your spouse, when your kids are in order and successful, when your job is prospering, when your bills are paid, when you seem to have a lot of friends, when laughter is plentiful and sorrows are few. However, invariably, life throws us curve balls. Problems and pain find their way into our lives. I know there is a line of theology out there which seems to imply that if you are God’s child and you are living right, you will be shielded from heartache and blessed beyond measure. I’ve known the Lord for 30 years, and I’ve walked closely with Him the last 15 years, and I can tell you that I have still experienced pain, grief, disappointment, sorrow, and depression. I’ve also known great, Godly men in their 80s who have told me they experience the same things from time to time. If that is not evidence enough, just do a study of the life of Paul and all the hardships he endured, not to mention the painful, wrongful crucifixion our Lord suffered.
God wants us to trust Him, even when things don’t look so great, even when we have doubts. If we can keep looking to Him in the midst of our trials, before we know it, we will have climbed that mountain of “perseverance” and it will be a part of our character. So, what’s on the others side of that mountain? Just like 2 Peter 1 says, after Perseverance come Godliness, Brotherly Kindness and Love. We become agents of God as we carry the aroma of Christ to those who need to find Him. James goes further to say that we will be “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Webster says God’s grace will carry us until we reach God’s glory. Godliness, Brotherly Kindness, Love Maturity, Completion, Glory- all of that stirs my spirit, and I know these are the reason for which I was created. These are the destiny of every believer. I have tasted some of those heavenly gifts from time to time and in different measure, and they are wonderful!
My favorite devotional writer, Selwyn Hughes, says: “Have you ever wondered how it is that over the centuries men and women have stood for God in the most unenviable circumstances? The answer is this: they were fully aware of the nature of God. They remained confident that God knew what He was doing and could be trusted in the end to turn everything to good.”
Men, I don’t know where you are today in life. If you are one of God’s men, especially a man who has gone on The Journey and totally surrendered your life to Christ, I suspect you have reached that mountain called “Perseverance.” God loves you too much not to take you there. Keep trusting Him- there is SO much blessing on the other side of the mountain.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, July 13, 2012
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
I've been in the Middle East. I know how arid and dry the climate is. I also know how precious water is to the people there. Water is a big deal. I realize from my own experience with deserts, whether playing golf on them, or having flat tires while traveling across them, water is a big deal. Water allows golf courses to grow grass, and gives animals needed fluids, and keeps humans alive. Without water, anywhere a human lives, he will die without it. However, he will die much more quickly in a desert without water, for it is an unforgiving, harsh climate. Those people who live where water is scarce are the greatest fans of water. Believe me. Play 18 holes of golf in August in Palm Desert and you will get my drift. You will have a greater appreciation of water and you will join the fan club. Water is a big deal.
The woman at the well was a fan of water for the reasons mentioned, and Jesus had just told her that He would give her a Source of water that would never run dry. He also told her that once she tasted it, she would never thirst again, for the water He gives would become a well spring in her to continue nourishing her. Once she heard this, she was ready to jump in the deep end of the pool. Who wouldn't, if they had to carry a bucket down a dusty road everyday to a well, and haul water back to the house like she did? The truth is, Jesus knew her deepest need, and it wasn't about the liquid He used as a metaphor to expose it. Hers was a spiritual need deeper than the well Jacob dug, and she drew water from. Her need was so great that unless she took the living water Jesus offered her, she would die a spiritual death along with a mortal death. Being a smart Samaritan woman, she took the water her Messiah offered her. Jesus said that it would continue to be a Source for her, and she would no longer thirst. I wonder if she drank all He would give her, or if she took only a few sips and remained thirsty? What would you think of her if she did this? If Christ wanted to give her an unlimited Source, why would she only take a limited amount and still stay thirsty? Doesn't make sense does it?
The questions I have for you men are, “Why are you still thirsty? Why are you drinking out of a shot glass instead of a bucket? Why not take the generous, unlimited flow of water that Christ wants to give you, and allow it to cascade over your head, your body, and quench your thirst? Why not drink so deeply from His well that you are satisfied to the point that you give other thirsty people around you the living water you are drinking from? If you don't know the answers, let me share how I answered the same questions:
The first thing I said to myself is, “You are stupid for staying thirsty when you do not have to be!” That's always a good start … to get honest with yourself. Then I asked myself, “Why are you doing this? Why are you taking only a few sips instead of jumping in and drinking deeply?” Now don't lose me with this, for I will connect an answer to these questions, and it will be ones most of you men need to have answered as well. The answer came to me with a question spoken to my heart, “Why are you asking so little of ME when I want to do so much more for you? Ask and receive that your joy may be full.”
Actually, I am abbreviating the revelation a bit by getting to the question asked of me by the Lord. You need to read the very thing that awakened my thirst and created the question, “Why are you still thirsty?” It started with the following devotional that I read in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I read:
.. . one of His disciples said to Him, ’Lord, teach us to pray . . .’ —Luke 11:1
Prayer is not a normal part of the life of the natural man. We hear it said that a person’s life will suffer if he doesn’t pray, but I question that. What will suffer is the life of the Son of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer. When a person is born again from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve or nourish that life. Prayer is the way that the life of God in us is nourished. Our common ideas regarding prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer simply as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical purpose of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself. “Ask, and you will receive . . .” (John 16:24). We complain before God, and sometimes we are apologetic or indifferent to Him, but we actually ask Him for very few things. Yet a child exhibits a magnificent boldness to ask! Our Lord said, “. . . unless you . . . become as little children . . .” (Matthew 18:3). Ask and God will do. Give Jesus Christ the opportunity and the room to work. The problem is that no one will ever do this until he is at his wits’ end. When a person is at his wits’ end, it no longer seems to be a cowardly thing to pray; in fact, it is the only way he can get in touch with the truth and the reality of God Himself. Be yourself before God and present Him with your problems— the very things that have brought you to your wits’ end. But as long as you think you are self-sufficient, you do not need to ask God for anything. To say that “prayer changes things” is not as close to the truth as saying, “Prayer changes me and then I change things.” God has established things so that prayer, on the basis of redemption, changes the way a person looks at things. Prayer is not a matter of changing things externally, but one of working miracles in a person’s inner nature.
Men, do you get it? Did you catch the wisdom of Chambers when he said, “Prayer is the way that the life of God in us is nourished.” Jesus said to the woman and to you and me that He has deposited within us a Source that will be a continuous wellspring of Living Water and will keep us from ever thirsting again. Why then do we remain thirsty, empty, defeated, deflated, debilitated? It is because we have not nurtured the life of God in us with prayer.
Chambers said that a child “exhibits a magnificent boldness to ask”. Jesus said we should become as little children. What does a child do when he is thirsty, scared, hungry or needy? He doesn't think about how his parent will react to his selfish behavior. He simply cries out and asks for what he needs. Chambers hit me between the numbers when he wrote, “We complain before God, and sometimes we are apologetic or indifferent to Him, but we actually ask Him for very few things.” It was then I heard the Lord speak to my heart, “Why are you asking so little of ME when I want to do so much more for you? Ask and receive that your joy may be full.”
I tell you men, I have come to a change of heart and a new direction. I admit I am thirsty and I want more. I want more of God and more of what He wants to show me that He can, and is willing, to do. I feel His invitation to ask, and ask BIG prayers. I feel he wants me to grow His presence in my life by His answering the prayers that are most challenging, in my mind, for Him to answer. If there are hindrances in my prayer life, I am asking Him to reveal them. That's my first prayer so I can rid myself of prayer hindrances. You start there as well. I feel it is time that all His men become a magnificent expression of the God we serve. This expression has begun for many of us when we received Him into our life. But many of us have also become stagnant water since our conversion, for we have been afraid to pray to Him as we should, and ask of Him greater things that will grow our faith. It is now time to do this, Men of God. Will you join me and ask our King to fill us up and enlarge His presence in our life? If so, we need to pray big prayers, for that is how the Source swells up within us, and overflows to others. If you are as thirsty as I am, come, and let's go Drink Deeply of the Living Water Christ offers us. I’m jumping in!
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Influencers Weekly Devotional
Friday, July 06, 2012
What Is Your Heart Saying?
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:43-45 (ESV)
“For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” With these words Jesus points out the true issue that influences either good or bad words through our mouth. We might think it is our mental state, or our circumstances, or even someone who provokes us. But Jesus says differently. He says it is the condition of our heart. What kinds of words are leaving your mouth lately? They might tell you the condition of your spiritual health, if you are willing to listen, and it would be good for you to keep it shut until you get your inner man right with God, before you cause too much damage.
Why is it so important that Jesus would teach on the tongue? To begin with, the tongue is a powerful instrument with great capabilities. Consider that it can agitate, or it can sooth. It can condemn, or it can affirm. It can speak words that produce strife, or it can produce peace. It can discourage, or it can encourage. It can tear down, or build up. It can speak words of hate, or it can speak words of love. It can speak negative words, or it can speak positive words. Each of these comparisons comes from the same source, the heart, and through the same instrument of delivery, the tongue. But, each word is inspired by either a good or bad heart. It doesn't take long for someone to tell you what's going on in his heart. Most of the time he opens his mouth and speaks, and you feel like you’re looking right down his throat to his inner being. I'll give you some examples:
I went to the barbershop the other day. A crusty old man was having his hair cut, and with each sentence he laced profanity. God's name was ransacked, as he connected every disagreeable person, place or event with G.D. Nothing was sacrosanct, as he pulled those of us within earshot of his words to the vile place he existed. Didn't take long to see the man's heart spewing out the darkness that was no doubt hidden beneath his exterior. It was also a fair indication that he did not know the God whose name he profaned so frequently. Unfortunately, there are also those who confess Christ, and love Christ, but still do not connect that their words can praise him on one hand, and dishonor Him on another. They give themselves the wiggle room to justify bad words, because they were accurate and they were deserved. But does Christ deserve from us that we speak words that create hurt and anger in others? Do we hurt Him? Do we even care?
For example, I know a man who is a Christian. In the last fifteen years, he has been fired from four jobs. Although he will never admit it, those of us who know him know that it was his tongue that got him fired in all those jobs. He would never admit it, for his self-righteousness would never allow him to take the blame. He would always say that his words were correct and the other people were wrong. But after four job losses, the picture gets pretty clear that his words were his demise, and at the source was a heart of self-pity, anger, resentment, and judgmental-ism. I will tell you from my experience in the workplace, people do not enjoy being around such a negative person and negative influence. It will greatly distract productivity in the office and will create division for the employees. An employer sees such a person and his tongue as a cancer that needs to be cut out and disposed of as quickly as possible. Some people just don't connect the dots, even though experience tells them they have a problem. Worst of all, they do not listen to the council of Jesus when He tells them they have a heart problem, when they have a problem with their tongue. My advice to the man is to quit blaming others, and look at yourself, for it is there you will find your own worst enemy. Get your heart right with the God you love and worship privately, and let your worship of Him be expressed by the use of your words publicly. He is gracious. You be gracious. He is merciful. You be merciful. He is encouraging and uplifting to those around Him. You do the same. Let the people see and hear words that come from a good heart. It will make the difference in your relationships, and likely with keeping a job.
If anyone would have the courage to examine himself honestly, I would tell him to look at the symptoms to see who he is following. In Galatians 5:16-21 it says the “works of the flesh” are obvious. What do you see in your life that points out that you are following a dark path, and an evil element who leads you? Is there anger boiling below the surface of your life ready to erupt at any moment? If you will get your heart right with God as you abide with HIm, and allow Him to work in that area of your life, it will change what comes to the surface of your life, with the way you think and speak. What comes out? Look at Galatians 5:22-24. What we see in this passage is the “Fruit of the Spirit” at work in our life, working His way to the surface. When our heart is right with Him, and we are walking with Him without a conflicted heart, people see and hear a man who is led by the Spirit, and not his flesh. They hear words that Jesus inspires. In Galatians 5:25 Paul exhorts us by saying, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” I tell you from my personal experience. When Jesus controls our heart, He also controls our tongue. When He speaks through us, it is a beautiful thing and a blessing to all, including our self. Be a blessing with your words. The people around you need it.
Category: Influencer's Weekly Devotionals
Links & Resources
Influencers- Bakersfield, CA
Influencers-Bayside Church, Northern California
Oswald Chambers, "My Utmost for His Highest"
Tulsa Men of Christ
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