A Man’s Foundation

The Men of Steel are getting back together after a long Summer off… well, the summer turned out to include fall and winter… but we’re back. This time we will look at the Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper. I know that the Promise Keeper movement is a bit old, and we don’t hear much if anything about it, but the teaching and challenge is right on target. So, strap yourself in for a great series.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus ends his teaching with a foundational challenge: those who heard his words and acted upon them was like a man who built his house upon the rock, so that when the winds and water came, it did not fall, because it’s foundation was on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25). One thing in life is sure, storms will come. We cannot avoid them, but we can survive them, and prepare for them.

One day a hurting wife came to see a pastoral counselor on the same day as the horrific earthquake on the other side of the world. The two separate events that have one thing in common, the same root cause: negligence in building standards. Lousy foundations make for temporary homes.

Many men today believe in God but have no pattern whatsoever for worshiping him. He might show up because his wife and children beg him. Perhaps for special occasions. Certainly if it is expected or convenient. But his predominant feeling is that he can worship God wherever he wants, not just in uncomfortable clothes sitting in a stuffy old sanctuary at church. So he heads to the beach, the mountains or the golf course because his theology tells him that God is everywhere, but he is missing the point of worshiping. This man will refuse to admit that he is shallow, and that his goal is not engage in sincere worship, but to avoid commitment.

Who, what and how a man worships determines everything about him in life. The first step toward becoming a man of steel is to be honest with God. We must know that we cannot come to God on our own terms, but only on HIS terms. We must worship in accordance with HIS ways of worship, rather than with flimsy human reason, pride and arrogance. We become a life built with nothing at the center, and nothing underneath; homes without foundations and relationships without roots.

Men need worship that brings:

  • Substance, poured into him
  • Strength at his foundations
  • Stability in his marriage
  • Steadfastness into his relationships
  • Trustworthiness into his work and business practices

The answer is found by beginning where God always starts with men… at worship. So what is authentic biblical worship?

Read Romans 12:1-2: This passage contains all the elements of true worship.

The motivation to worship: “the mercies of God.” God’s mercies are everything He has given us that we don’t deserve: eternal love, eternal grace, the Holy Spirit, everlasting peace, eternal joy, saving faith, comfort, strength, wisdom, hope, patience, kindness, honor, glory, righteousness, security, eternal life, forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, sanctification, freedom, intercession and much more. The knowledge and understanding of these incredible gifts motivate us to praise him with thanksgiving—in other words, worship!

The manner of our worship: “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.” Presenting our bodies means giving to God all of ourselves. The reference to our bodies here means all our humanness; our hearts, minds, hands, thoughts, attitudes. In other words, we are to give up control of these things and turn them over to him, just as a literal sacrifice was given totally to God on the altar.

The method of our worship: How do we do this? The Bible says, “by the renewing of your mind.” We renew our minds daily by cleansing them of the world’s “wisdom” and replacing it with true wisdom that comes from God. We worship Him with our renewed and cleansed minds, not with our emotions. Emotions are wonderful things, but unless they are shaped by a mind saturated in truth, they can be destructive, out-of-control forces. Where the mind goes, the will follows and so do the emotions. First Corinthians 2:16 tells us we have “the mind of Christ,” not the emotions of Christ.

True worship is God-centered worship. People tend to get caught up in where they should worship, what music they should sing in worship, and how the worship looks to other people. Focusing on these things completely misses the point. Jesus tells us that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). This means we worship from the heart and the way God has designed. Worship can include praying, reading God’s Word with an open heart, singing, participating in communion, and serving others. It is not limited to one act, but is done properly when the heart and attitude of the person are in the right place.

Next time we will look at several ways or areas of worship.

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Being a Man of Courage

We recently showed the COURAGEOUS movie at King’s Grant, with about 230 people in attendance. I hope the men heard the intentional challenge at the end and we want to provide some practical “Next Steps” for a dad ready to make a change. A two-hour film does not bring change, only hopes and good intentions. Getting involved with other men in a small group context will help you put new principles into practice.

Honor really does begin at home. We hope you will leave inspired and challenged to live honorably and leave a lasting impact on the next generation. Maybe you connected with one of the characters in the movie because of your relationship with your dad or your own role as a parent and now you are wondering what to do next to strengthen your own family.

At King’s Grant Baptist Church, we believe in the power of God to change men and families. We want to be a resource for moms and dads and a place where families are strengthened. Here are some potential courageous next steps.

  1. Begin praying for (and with) your children.
  2. Write a letter to your own father. It may be a letter saying thanks for being a great dad or a letter offering overdue forgiveness for the ways he may have hurt you. If your father is not a believer, use the letter as a means to share Christ.
  3. Sign up for a COURAGEOUS Living small group. Our groups will begin in February; here are the dates and locations:
    1. Tuesdays at 7:30am at Denny’s, Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28, with Skip Wallace
    2. Tuesdays at 7:00pm at KGBC, Feb 7, 14, 21, 28, with Tom Vaughan and Jim Zecchini
    3. Thursdays at 7:00am at KGBC, Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23, with Scott Chafee
    4. Thursdays at 7:00pm at KGBC, Feb. 2, 9, 16, 23, with Rickey Douglas
    5. Saturdays at 8:00am at KGBC, Feb. 4, 11, 18, 25, with Scott Chafee
  4. Consider joining us for our Sunday morning worship experiences each week at 8:30 or 11:00 in order to grow in your faith, find faith or learn how to become a courageous dad. Regular Bible study happens at 9:45 each Sunday morning; there is a class for every member of the family.

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Christian Spirituality in America

Our church is going through a church-wide campaign called, “r12 – True Spirituality According to Jesus.” This has the potential to transform people who simply profess Christ or attend church into authentic followers of Jesus; true disciples.

I was reading the September 13, 2011 Barna report on American Christians and the lack of spiritual depth and found the information troubling, if not totally accurate. Take a look at this information:

The ceremonies conducted last weekend on the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 raised important questions for people to ponder: What does it mean to be an American? What are the duties and obligations of people who call themselves citizens of the United States?

Perhaps churches and other ministries throughout the nation would benefit from similar exercises that pose parallel questions for their adherents: What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ? What are the duties and obligations of someone who calls himself/herself a Christian or claims to be a citizen of the kingdom of God?

While everyone is on a lifelong journey, the Barna research revealed that a relatively small proportion of individuals stick with the process long enough to become the mature Christ-followers and world changers that they are meant to be. The nationwide studies indicate that there are several barriers to overcome before many people are likely to persevere and maximize their connection with God.

Obstacle 1: Commitment

  • 81% say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today.
  • 78% strongly agree that spirituality is very important to them.
  • 18% claim to be totally committed to investing into their own spiritual development.
  • 22% claim to be “completely dependent upon God.”
  • Those figures help explain why 52% believe that there is much more to the Christian life than what they have experienced. Without a full determination to live like Christ and for Him, the path to complete transformation is blocked.

Obstacle 2: Repentance

  • 64% say that they have confessed their sins to God and asked for His forgiveness.
  • But the evidence is quite clear that relatively few self-identified Christians are serious about abandoning the lure of sin and handing total control of their life to God. Only 12% admitted that recognizing and grasping the significance of their sins had been so personally devastating that it caused them to crash emotionally.
  • Only about 3% of all self-identified Christians in America have come to the final stops on the transformational journey (the places where they have surrendered control of their life to God, submitted to His will for their life, and devoted themselves to loving and serving God and other people).

Obstacle 3: Activity

Mired in a culture that rewards hard work and busyness, it’s not surprising that tens of millions of self-identified Christians have confused religious activity with spiritual significance and depth.

  • 39% have participated in a combination of three “normal” religious activities in the past week (i.e., attending church services, praying, reading the Bible).
  • But far fewer have engaged in another trio of deeper faith expressions: less than 10% have talked about their faith with a non-Christian, fasted for religious purposes, and had an extended time of spiritual reflection during the past week.
  • Various spiritual disciplines (including solitude, sacrifice, acts of service, silence, and scriptural meditation) are also infrequently practiced.

Obstacle 4: Spiritual Community

Most self-identified Christians note that they feel comfortable and connected within their church, however, various measures show that there is not much vulnerability and accountability occurring within the context of those faith-based connections.

  • Many self-identified Christians do not take their faith community seriously, whatever type it may be, as a place to which they should be open and held to biblical principles.
  • 21% believe that spiritual maturity requires a vital connection to a community of faith.
  • 35% claim to have confessed their sins verbally to another believer at some point during the past quarter.

The Big Picture
According to George Barna, there are several church-wide concerns that could be addressed toward helping self-identified Christians experience a more fulfilling and robust relationship with and faith in Christ.

  1. The first challenge has to do with tools and expectations: Barna noted that most churches encourage people to engage in an increasing amount of religious activity, asking them to pour themselves into efforts related to the “core six” spiritual dimensions: worship, evangelism, discipleship, stewardship, service, and community. While growth in those areas is important, Barna expressed two related concerns.
    1. The first was that people often fail to realize that the end game of spiritual development is godly character, not worldly accomplishments.
    2. And, sometimes people get so wrapped up in church programs or producing specific religious results that they lose sight of the purpose of their faith, which is to have a life-changing relationship with Jesus.
      1. It becomes easy to substitute religious activity for intentional and simple engagement with God.
      2. American Christians, in particular, have become known for doing good works and religious exercises rather than simply being friends and imitators of Christ.
  2. A second challenge is to help believers embrace the necessity of sacrifice and suffering in order to surrender and submit themselves fully to God: Unfortunately, in a society that disdains purposeful sacrifice and suffering that leads to growth and depth, brokenness is an unappealing and rare objective. Until such brokenness occurs, people’s transformation is hindered.
  3. A third challenge was the importance of perceiving and experiencing a faith community as a vital support system in the pursuit of a deeper relationship with God: Today, the ultimate product of small groups is a combination of knowledge and comfort more often than it is commitment and application. Knowledge is a crucial step in the growth process, but without transparency and accountability the information rarely gets converted into personal, congregational, or cultural transformation.

Wow. Looks like we need to get back to the mission and get serious about our faith. How do we as church leaders bring up the subject without seeming “holier than thou?” Perhaps it is a matter of investing into one another. Jesus modeled and lived it out in the presence of the Twelve; perhaps we must really grasp the meaning of Christian community and embrace our mission in the world.

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Levels of Leadership

I was able to participate in the Chick-fil-a Leadercast back in May 2011. John Maxwell opened the conference and talked about his new book that is coming out this fall, 2011, on the Levels of Leadership. I am a note-taker, so here are the insights I gained from Maxwell’s talk:

Maxwell has said before that everything rises and falls on leadership, and that leadership is defined as influence. Since we all have influence on other people (some more than others) we are all in essence, leaders. He emphasized that leadership is not a noun, it is a verb, it is active. Here are the five levels of leadership:

1) The Position Level: this has to do with rights. People follow because they have to; they follow because that person is the boss. The positive part is that you are able to shape and define your leadership skills. The negative is that people give you the least amount of effort. It is tough being in a position where people don’t want to follow you or like you. On this level, clearing the desk at the end of the day is the best part of the job. Do your people back into their parking space so they can get away quicker? Do people prepared to leave the office on company time (visit, rest room, change shoes)?

2) The Permission Level: this level deals with relationships. People follow you because they want to; they like you. It is much easier to lead when people actually like you. There are three good things about the leader in this level: He listens well, observes well and learns with an attitude of servanthood.

3) The Production Level: this level has to do with results and effectiveness. This leader will produce by example because people do what people see. Travel agents send people all over the world, where they have not personally been; a tour guide brings people with them. The law of magnetism tells us that we attract who we are, not who we want. Maxwell challenges us to develop momentum rather than just solve problems. Momentum solves problems. Hitting a five foot thick wall with momentum is better than a one inch wall without it.

4) The People Development Level: this is about recruiting. Leaders recognize that their greatest asset is their people. If you grow your people, you will grow your company. Development of personhood is better than accomplishment of the task. I can be a better coach when I have better players. It’s about getting the right people on the bus, then having the right people (recruiting) in the right seats on the bus (position). Successful people know their strengths; successful leaders know the strengths of others. Imagine a team of first string players, all playing in new positions, taking on a team of second string players in their positions. The right person, position and skills equal equipping. You do it, get someone to do it with you, you watch them do it on their own.

5) The Pinnacle Level: this level has to do with respect. This leader has done it so long and so well that people will follow you because of who you are and what you have done.

The truth is that we are not always on the same level all the time. With some people you are on one level and with others you are on a higher level. One key is that higher levels require higher commitment.

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