Hey men, are you looking for a personal devotional or resource for your small group? My book on the foundations of godly manhood is perfect for either. Rather than focusing on the "how to" aspects of a man's life, it gets to the heart issues of how to first become a godly man and then what that manhood should look like after.
From the back cover...
Before men can live godly lives and go into all the world to make disciples for Christ, they must first have a firm foundation.
The foundation all men need is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only when a man becomes a new creature in Christ can he grow in Christlikeness.
This godly man will then follow his Lord into every sphere of his life, making a difference in his home, church, workplace, community, culture, and world. He does not pursue such godliness in isolation, but in the fellowship of other godly men. This is how God’s Kingdom transforms the world. But it must start with the Gospel.
Foundations for Godly Manhood encourages men to pursue all God created, redeemed, and calls them to be by building their lives upon the firm foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and his life-giving, life-transforming truth revealed in Holy Scripture.
Share this with men you're witnessing to. It works for one-on-one discipleship, small groups, or read it devotionally for yourself.
You can click here to order it.
Direction 1: Concerning the Novelty of Godliness
A number of years ago, Scripture Studies.com. put out a series of excerpts from one of my heroes, Richard Baxter. Baxter's Christian Directory was a powerful influence in my life and I was happy to see this material put online. The specific material consisted of excerpts focused on Baxter’s Directions to Young Christians.
I thought I would provide an even smaller excerpt and include the link for you to check out more of Baxter's excellent spiritual counsel. He was a physician of souls indeed! As one person put it, “And in our day of spiritual fads and consumerism, his direction is needed more than ever.” I couldn’t agree more. I thought these directions were fitting for Christian men and women of all ages who are at different places along their Christian pilgrimages. May Baxter’s words bless you as you continue your journey to the Celestial City and the likeness of Christ.
Here’s Direction 1…
Take heed lest it be the novelty or reputation of truth and godliness, that takes with you, more than the solid evidence of their excellency and necessity; lest when the novelty and reputation are gone, your religion wither and consume away.
…To this kind of professor, the greatest truths grow out of fashion, and they grow weary of them, as of dull and ordinary things; they must have some new light, or new way of religion that lately came in fashion; their souls are weary of that manna that at first was acceptable to them, as angels’ food. Old things seem low, and new things high to them; and to entertain some novelty in religion, is to grow up to more maturity: and too many such at last so far overthrive their old apparel, that the old Christ and old gospel are left behind them.
Click here to read the whole message.
A few years ago, our church’s men’s discipleship groups studied a video curriculum by Gary Thomas called, Sacred Marriage. It is a series for both husbands and wives but I thought it would be useful to study with just the men. It was fantastic. The study is based on the book by the same name. I have recently begun reading the book and, like the video series, it’s great.
One of the things that struck me as I watched the video, discussed it with our men, and have now been reminded of as I read through the book, is how Thomas focuses on the foundation of (you could say, the theology of) marriage and what God’s ultimate purpose is in marriage. The book is not, as he puts it, a three, seven, or ten-step program for a better, happier marriage. Instead, he does some of the hard work of looking at God’s real purpose of marriage… which is to make us holy… not necessarily happy. That’s a hard message to sell… especially in the era of romantic comedies and the Hallmark and Lifetime television channels.
In the first chapter of the book Thomas puts it this way…
…there’s a deeper question that needs to be addressed beyond how we can “improve” our marriage: What if God didn’t design marriage to be “easier”? What if God had an end in mind that went beyond our happiness, our comfort, and our desire to be infatuated and happy as if the world were a perfect place?
What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?
As Thomas will go on to say in the chapter, holiness and happiness aren’t necessarily contradictory, but a person’s happiness becomes illusory if they think, a.) that it’s the sole purpose of the marriage, and b.) their spouse is the one in whom they will find such ultimate purpose.
The real intention of the book, for Thomas, is to show his readers that marriage, in the same way as abstinence for celibates and isolation for hermits, is a context for spiritual growth. He says marriage can become the means by which we can “grow in our service, obedience, character, pursuit, and love of God.”
If I might put it in Wesleyan terminology, marriage is a means of grace by which we draw closer to God and conform more to the likeness of Christ. That’s not a bad deal.
Grace and Truth,
Below is a brief video interview with Gary Thomas on what the purpose ought to be.
I just started reading Gene Getz’s book, The Measure of a Man: 20 Attributes of A Godly Man. I immediately thought that this is something I would love to share with the men of our church family. As book after book (as well as human experience) seem to remind us, boys are rapidly growing up in this world without learning what it means to be a man… even fewer understand what it means to be a godly man. Too many are having to make it up on the fly… with disastrous results.
Therefore, I thought I would share some of the insights I’m gleaning from the book and pass them on to you, with a few extra items I hope will be a blessing to you.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
The first chapter of the book is a broad overview of everything Getz will be looking at throughout the rest of the book. The chapter is entitled, “Becoming Faithful Men.” That’s a key topic as well as an important title. You see, we aren’t born faithful. Just the opposite, in fact. We are born fallen in sin, broken, and far from God. If we’re blessed to be born and raised in a Christian family, we may come to know God earlier in our lives. However, regardless of our background, growing in our faith is a lifelong pursuit. As you can imagine, if our goal is "Christ-likeness,” then we all have a LONG way to go! So I like the word “becoming”, because it highlights the idea of process… not product. We are works in progress (superintended by God himself (Philippians 1:6), and our goal is to continue moving in a Christward direction throughout the course of our entire life.
The word becoming also emphasizes focus and intentionality. No one grows into a godly man by accident. It happens on purpose or it doesn’t happen at all. Philippians 3:12 captures this idea. The Apostle Paul is laboring and straining to reach the goal of maturity in Christ (i.e., godliness or holiness). It’s an everyday and “on purpose” process that requires nothing less than God’s Spirit working in and through us to give us the will, strength, and direction to grow in grace. We won’t grow in our faith apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, and yet, the Holy Spirit won’t do the work for us. We have to participate in the process.
Finally, Getz uses the word “Faithful” to describe the kind of man he has in mind. Then, borrowing from 1 Timothy and Titus, Getz puts together a list of what we might call the marks of spiritually mature (godly) manhood. Here’s his list…
Can anyone read that list and declare they’ve already arrived? Anyone doing perfectly with this list?
Over the weeks to come I hope to look at each one of these headings and offer some thoughts and reflections from Scripture regarding what these characteristics might look like in our lives and how we might, in Paul’s words, “obtain them.”
To close this post, I want to share this prayer from Ken Boa…
Faithful Father, as I reflect on the redemptive history recorded in the narratives and oracles of Scripture, I see so many surprising setbacks and breakthroughs. The wisdom of Your Word invites me to view events and circumstances with a long-term perspective. When I only look at the short-term, I get muddled, confused and doubtful, because I allow my immediate circumstances to shape my understanding. But when I contextualize the events of my life in the long-term, I can see that You are indeed causing all things to work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. Teach me to affirm that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to Your children in Christ.
Your Brother in Christ,
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:7)
You have probably heard the definition of character as, “who you are when no one is looking.” You could also say that character is who you are when those who know you best are looking.
In the second chapter of The Measure of a Man, Gene Getz looks at what it takes to build a good reputation. This is rather a tricky area because some folks may enjoy a good reputation superficially because they’re able to reasonably fake it before people they don’t know well and with whom they associate only on an occasional basis. But living a life that builds a good reputation is hard to fake on a regular basis with those who know you best… such as the members of your family who know you most intimately.
Let me hasten to add that the expectation here is not that you’re expected to walk on water. As one person I recently read put it, the idea here is direction, not perfection. The question is: Are you moving in a godly, Christlike direction in your life?
In the Scripture at the top of this devotion, Paul tells Timothy the kind of person he should be looking for to exercise leadership in the church needs to have a good reputation. Christians are charged with hypocrisy enough as it is. And even if the charge isn’t always accurate, the mere perception can derail a life or a ministry. Worse still, we don’t want to misrepresent our Lord before a watching world.
Getz suggests that Timothy was such a person… a man with a good reputation. He highlights these three indicators…
1. People were saying positive things about Timothy.
2. More than one person was saying these positive things about Timothy.
3. People in more than one location were saying these positive things about Timothy.
It seems that wherever Timothy was and whomever he was with, he was a godly man living above reproach. Thus, he enjoyed a good reputation.
Getz recommends that if you want to really know your reputation (as it relates to your genuine character) ask someone who knows you best. This might sting a little, but it’s a good way to get to the truth of who you are… and to serve you in becoming the godly man you want to become.
Just as important, we occasionally need to conduct a personal assessment of who we are and what we’re about. Getz suggests asking yourself the following questions (these are great questions, by the way)
1. Do more and more people select me as a person to share their lives with?
2. Do people trust me with confidential information?
3. Do my relationships with people grow deeper and more significant the longer they know me and the closer they get to me? Or do my friendships grow strained and shallow as people learn to know what I am really like?
4. Does my circle of friends grow continually wider and larger? Do an increasing number of people trust me?
5. Do people recommend me for significant or difficult tasks without fear of my letting them down?
The point in all of this is not to build a reputation by duplicity and manipulation. To be sure, there are plenty of people doing that. Instead, our goal should be as we grow in godliness, the authenticity of our increasingly Christlike character will be made evident to all. And that’s how we can represent our Lord well in this world.
Have a great rest of the week.
Grace and Truth,
A friend recently asked me to suggest a good book or two on prayer. I decided it might be worth a blog post with a few thoughts on the subject sprinkled about.
This list is by no means comprehensive. It's not necessarily the best list. But it's a list of books on prayer and books of prayers... all for the purpose of serving as books for prayer... that have helped me a great deal.
This first list is primarily books of prayers. I once heard Peter Kreeft say the prayers of those who have gone before us can be very useful to our own prayer lives. I know I have found that to be particularly true in my own prayer life. I have a number of books, filled with prayers, that I read regularly. Like anything else, it would be easy to read these prayers only in a rote fashion and gain nothing from them. However, I usually pray before I read these prayers asking the Lord to make them my very own. Furthermore, I often use these written prayers of others as "jumping off" places for my own prayers. Consequently, very often I will wander from the prayer I'm reading as I feel the Spirit move me to pray my own thoughts and words.
I heartily encourage getting a few books of prayers. Besides what I've already said, they can be very devotional in their own right. Moreover, they can also serve in teaching us how to pray more comprehensively and richly than we usually do when left to ourselves. I don't know about you, but if I'm not really "tuning in" to God during my times of prayer, my prayers can become (and often do become) very self-centered and one dimensional. These books of prayers by blessed saints who have gone before me do much to keep me focused and moving in the right direction.
So here's the first list. Some of these books are out of print, but I think many, if not most, can be found at Christianbook.com or Amazon.
1.) A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie (I have used this one the longest and most consistently. Love it.)
2.) Handbook to Prayer by Ken Boa (I use this one often and have purchased a number of copies for others. It's not really a book of prayers as much as organized prayer prompts based on Scripture. Very good.)
3.) The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett (Next to Baillie's above, I have used this one for many years.)
4.) Lutheran Book of Prayer, 1951 edition
5.) The Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home, 1965
6.) The United Methodist Book of Worship
7.) The Pastor's Prayerbook, 1960; edited by Robert N. Rodenmayer
8.) A Barclay Prayer Book by William Barclay
9.) The Prayers of Peter Marshall, 1954
Again, this isn't a comprehensive list I use, but it is a list of ones I use most often.
This next list contains books about prayer. They range from books focusing on a "theology of prayer" to more practical "how to" books. Both have been helpful to me. Let me say once more that this isn't the definitive list of books on prayer. The number of books about prayer seems to be endless. These are just a few I have used often.
1.) The Art of Prayer by Timothy Jones
2.) The Power of Personal Prayer by Jonathan Graf
3.) The Hour That Changes the World by Dick Eastman (a very "how to" book)
4.) The Struggle of Prayer by Donald Bloesch
5.) A Praying Life by Paul Miller
6.) Hearing God by Dallas Willard
7.) The Cry for the Kingdom by Stanley Grenz
8.) Taking Hold of God, edited by Joel Beeke and Brian Najapfour
9.) Prayer with Your Eyes Open by Richard Pratt
10.) The God Who Hears by W. Bingham Hunter
11.) Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight by J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom
12.) Prayer: The Great Conversation by Peter Kreeft
13.) Did You Think to Pray? by R.T. Kendall
14.) The Papa Prayer by Larry Crabb
15.) Prayer & Devotional Life of United Methodists by Steve Harper
16.) And the Place was Shaken by John Franklin
17. Talking with God by Mack Stokes
This last list contains books on prayer that will unnerve you and make you hit your head with the palm of your hand, as you ask yourself why you don't pray more often, longer, and more intensely. These are books that are devotional in nature and draw you closer to your heavenly Father as they simultaneously convict you of laziness and apathy (and maybe even unbelief) on your part. I read these with fear and trembling... but I read them because they do me good.
1.) The E.M. Bounds Collection (you can't beat this price)
* The Necessity of Prayer
* The Essentials of Prayer
* The Possibilities of Prayer
* The Reality of Payer
* The Purpose of Prayer
* The Weapon of Prayer
* Power Through Prayer
* Prayer and Praying Men
2.) The Andrew Murray Collection
* Abide in Christ
* The Prayer Life
* Waiting on God
* With Christ in the School of Prayer
* The Ministry of Intercession
* The Secret of Intercession
3.) The Power of Prayer by R.A. Torrey
4.) How to Pray by R.A. Torrey
5.) Revival Praying by Leonard Ravenhill
I hope this list is helpful. I hasten to add at the end of this post that I have long heard the adage: "If you want to learn how to pray... pray." I think that's sound counsel. Yet, there's nothing wrong and everything right with wanting to grow in prayer and go deeper in prayer through learning more about it.
PS - Of course, the best book on prayer is Scripture and hopefully that's already part of your devotional diet.
The Lord bless you,
While I'm sharing excerpts from Packer, I thought I should also share this snippet from one of Packer's books that I have read a number of times, A Quest for Godliness. I've been listening to an audio course of Packer's lectures (from 1988) on the Puritans, and it inspired me to share this little list from Packer on why the church really does need to sit at the feet of the Puritans and learn from them. Here's a little from his list...
1.) There are lessons for us in the integration of their daily lives. As their Christianity was all-embracing, so their living was all of a piece. There was for them no disjunction between sacred and secular; all creation, so far as they were concerned, was sacred, and all activities, of whatever kind, must be sanctified, that is, done to the glory of God.
2.) There are lessons for us in the quality of their spiritual experience. In the Puritans’ communion with God, as Jesus Christ was central, so Holy Scripture was supreme.
3.) There are lessons for us in their passion for effective action. They had no time for idleness of the lazy or passive person who leaves it to others to change the world.
4.) There are lessons for us in their program for family stability. It is hardly too much to say that the Puritans created the Christian family in the English-speaking world.
5.) There are lessons to be learned from their sense of human worth. Through believing in a great God, they gained a vivid awareness of the greatness of moral issues, of eternity, and of the human soul.
6.) There are lessons to be learned from the Puritans’ ideal of church renewal. The essence of this kind of renewal (what they called “reformation”) was enrichment of understanding of God’s truth, arousal of affections Godward, increase of ardour in one’s devotions, and more love, joy, and firmness of Christian purpose in one’s calling and personal life.