Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A prayer by George Lyman Locke
Steve Arterburn, Kenny Luck, and Mike Yorkey have done a great job helping men pursue godliness. Their book, Every Man, God’s Man is, as the title page says, “every man’s guide to courageous faith and daily integrity.” The men’s discipleship ministry at our church has used several of the study guides taken from this book and gotten a great deal of mileage out of them. I highly recommend them.
Here are a few of the key ideas from the Introduction and first chapter of the book…
Underneath all of your horrible habits or terrible treatment of others, you will find muscles of character. That character has been covered up by things of this world.
Author Dallas Willard got it right: What’s needed is a renovation of the heart before a renovation of lifestyle.
If you reach a man, then you reach every relationship he has.
…far too many men do not give themselves fully to being God’s man.
I want to make a quick comment about the quote from Dallas Willard because I think he’s exactly right. Too often churches want to give men stuff to do and, as Pat Morley puts it, make workers instead of disciples. Now, of course, there’s nothing wrong with men serving in their local church and community. Indeed, we’re called to do so. However, if we fail to heed Jesus’ words in John 15 about his words abiding in us and us abiding in him, we will create withering branches that cease to do anyone any good because there's no life-giving nutrients running through them.
Let’s encourage men to first build and strengthen their relationship with God and God’s people and then let the Spirit call and lead each man according to the gifts and graces given him. After all, we want men who will bear much good and lasting fruit… not men who wither on the vine.
Grace and Truth,
This post is sort of a "part 2" to the post below on success.
Question: What is mediocrity? What examples of it have you witnessed recently? How do you prevent mediocrity from attacking you, your family, or your business?
Answer: I would say my definition of “mediocrity” is, not pursuing my God-given calling. Examples of mediocrity in my life would include: Not seeking to grow in my faith. Not learning about myself. Not learning how to develop myself so I can increasingly become who God made and called me to be. Not taking responsibility for my life. Not seeking to bear much, good, and lasting fruit for Christ and his Kingdom. General laziness and, sometimes, apathy. I guess with these examples I'm trying to point toward the direction of my life as opposed to results. While we participate in the process, results are ultimately up to God.
Some folks may be given five talents, some two, and some one. What counts is not how much you’re given, but what you do with what you’re given. Are you faithful with what you’ve been given, or do you tend to bury your talents in the ground? No effort – no risk – no trust in God. That describes too many of us. That has described me all too often.
I think we slow the influence mediocrity in our lives by obeying God, trusting him, staying close with him, continually seeking to be filled with his Spirit, staying in God’s Word, praying, praying, and praying some more, pursuing lifelong personal development and learning, etc. AND... traveling along this path with others is key.
The sanctifying process is more than learning how not to sin. While it obviously includes that, it also incorporates the positive act and attitude of conforming more and more to the likeness of Christ and renovating our lives under his Lordship so that we can grow toward our God-given potential…for his glory. Putting off sin and putting on righteousness. Dying to self and rising with Christ. We must continuously move forward, becoming progressively sanctified (i.e., becoming more like Christ, who perfectly fulfilled his calling). In all of this, God's grace is required. (I'm not endorsing a "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" mentality.)
I have experienced mediocrity in my own life. Every time I have daydreamed or surfed the net too long, watched too much TV, slept in too late, etc., I have embraced mediocrity.* But I think I’ve come to understand that I move toward overcoming mediocrity in my life only as I make the most of the time God has given me.
Very practically speaking, that means having a God-glorifying plan, (related to the various spheres of my life), and then faithfully, strategically, and consistently working that plan. There's certainly more to say about this, but this is a start.
By the way, I just started reading a great book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy, entitled, Living Forward, which addresses these very ideas. Best of all, they provide a great road map (or action plan) for how to "live forward."
* Just a note to say I have not defined how much "too long, too much, or too late" is, regarding the things mentioned in this sentence. That's going to look different for each of us. I know the difference between "taking a break" versus "being lazy" in my life. You'll have to figure out the difference between the two in yours.
Just a quick thought for today.
Grace and Truth,
O give us homes built firm upon the Savior,
Where Christ is Head and Counselor and Guide;
Where every child is taught his love and favor
And gives his heart to Christ, the Crucified;
How sweet to know that, tho' his footsteps waver,
His faithful Lord is walking by his side!
O give us homes with godly fathers, mothers,
Who always place their hope and trust in him;
Whose tender patience turmoil never bothers,
Whose calm and courage trouble cannot dim;
A home where each finds joy in serving others,
And love still shines, tho' days be dark and grim.
O give us homes where Christ is Lord and Master,
The Bible read, the precious hymns still sung;
Where prayer comes first in peace or in disaster;
And praise is natural speech to every tongue;
Where mountains move before a faith that's vaster,
And Christ sufficient is for old and young.
O Lord, our God, our homes are Thine forever!
We trust to Thee their problems, toil, and care;
Their bonds of love no enemy can sever
If Thou art always Lord and Master there:
Be Thou the center of our least endeavor -
Be Thou our guest, our hearts and homes to share.
words by Barbara B. Hart, 1965
Far and away one of the best books I’ve ever read on child-rearing is Standing on the Promises, by Doug Wilson. If you were to ask to borrow my copy, I’m not sure it would do you any good because you probably wouldn’t be able to read the words from all my notes and markings.
However, if you are looking for a “how to” book to help you raise your children, this is not the book for you. While the book is not without practical application, Wilson is far less concerned with giving you twelve easy steps to parenting godly kids as he is with giving you a firm foundation upon which to do so. But, I hasten to add, the book is anything but abstract and impractical. It is encouraging, instructive, and even inspiring. I heartily recommend it to any and all parents who are seeking to raise godly children in this ungodly age.
Here are a few choice quotes from the first chapter that I think are worth passing on…
The Fountainhead of Culture
The biblical family is an instituted government, established by God at the very beginning of human history. The constitution for this government was written by him, and revealed to us in his Word.
Parents bring up their children to be colonists at the proper time, planting families of their own.
Consequently, each family is designed to be a culture – with a language, customs, traditions, and countless unspoken assumptions. God has made the world in such a way that children who grow up in the culture of the family are to be shaped and molded by it. The duty of the husband and father is to ensure that the shaping is done according tot he standards of the Word of God.
[A common problem among modern Christians] is that of forgetting the family is a culture at all, and allowing, by default, outside cultural influences to take primacy in how the children are shaped. When the biblical cultural mandate for the home is abandoned in the home, the vacuum will not be there for long.
By nature, children are malleable. They will either be shaped lawfully, by those commanded by God to perform the task, or they will be shaped unlawfully, by outsiders. But as children, they will be shaped.
As David Powlison says in his Forward to Tedd Tripp’s, Shepherding Your Child’s Heart, “most books on parenting give you advice either on how to shape and constrain your children’s behavior or on how to make them feel good about themselves.” Of course, neither of those objectives is completely wrongheaded… they just shouldn’t be a parent’s primary objective. Tripp puts well what should be our primary objective with these words…
God is concerned with the heart – the well-spring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Parents tend to focus on the externals of behavior rather than the internal overflow of the heart. We tend to worry more about the “what” of behavior than the “why”. Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behavior.
When we miss the heart, we miss the subtle idols of the heart.
When we miss the heart, we miss the gospel. If the goal of parenting is no more profound than securing appropriate behavior, we will never help our children understand the internal things, the heart issues, that push and pull behavior. Those internal issues: self-love, rebellion, anger, bitterness, envy, and pride of the heart show our children how profoundly they need grace. If the problem with children is deeper than inappropriate behavior, if the problem is the overflow of the heart, then the need for grace is established. Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life and died as an infinite sacrifice so that children (and their parents) can be forgiven, transformed, liberated and empowered to love God and love others.
from Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
Since I first wrote this post, I put together a great page of links to websites and blogs for ministering to men. You can click here to check it out. However, the ones below are still fantastic and I encourage you to visit them when you're able.
For this Top Ten I wanted to share some of the websites that have blessed me regarding ministry to men. However, because I’ve come across so many helpful websites on this subject, carving this down to ten is, I’m sure, an injustice to others that ought to be included.
Part of my criteria for choosing which websites make my Top Ten list is that the website has to be useful. In other words, the ministry that a website represents may be phenomenal and doing great things for the Kingdom. However, if the website itself doesn’t do much more than tell me a few interesting things about the ministry, then it’s not very useful as an online resource. Thus, the websites I like most are the ones that provide articles, devotionals, podcasts, YouTube videos, social media connections, newsletters, etc. That’s how I decided which ones to include on this and every Top Ten list.
PS – The following websites are focused more on ministering to men “in general.” I’ll include Top Ten lists later that will focus on top websites for fathers, husbands, etc.
This list is in no particular order… except for the first one, because I believe it is far and away the best.
1.) Man in the Mirror Ministries with Pat Morley – Morley and company are the premier thinkers in the world of ministering to men. Their website is super user-friendly. You can read countless articles on men’s ministry, men’s issues, etc. You can download and listen to men’s Bible studies taught by Morley or watch them online. You can also sign up for a number of training events that Man in the Mirror holds or purchase some fantastic resources online. Great website that goes well with an incredible ministry to men.
2.) Every Man Ministries with Kenny Luck
3.) Top Gun Men’s Ministries
4.) Men’s Stuff at CrossWalk.com
5.) New Man Magazine
6.) Men’s Ministry at Bible.org
7.) Church for Men
8.) Live Bold
9.) Christian Businessmen Connection
10.) Men’s Ministry Catalyst
Grace and Truth,