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. This particular 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.
If there was ever a man who was in the "rat race," it was Solomon. The book of Ecclesiastes leads us to believe that Solomon realized, at the end of his life, that he was in that race. He had been very busy and was highly accomplished, yet his heart finally turned from the Lord. Only at the end of his life did he realize (as Paul had earlier in his life) that his "gain" was worth nothing. Solomon realized, as Pat Morley has said, "no one wins the rat race." A friend of mine further commented that even if you do win, you're still a rat."
The following video is the first of a series by Pat Morley called, "Man in the Mirror Remix." It's based on his fantastic book by the same title (minus the "remix"). Our men's groups at the church I serve have been studying Ecclesiastes. As I was reading through Morley's table of contents I realized that his book is a modern day Ecclesiastes, without all the despair and with much more help. You should check it out at the following link. And enjoy the video.
Part 1 of The Man in the Mirror Remix
by Pat Morley
Produced by Man in the Mirror Ministries
I update this post about once a year to reflect many of the great new websites and ministries for Christian men. I also have a page of links to other men's websites, ministries, organizations, etc., that you may not find on this post, but that I still think add a great deal of value to men who are seeking to follow Christ in every sphere of life. Some aren't necessarily Christian in their purpose but still have some helpful content (You'll have to use your discernment while on those websites.)
Part of my criteria for choosing which websites I have included is they have to be useful. In other words, there are many men's ministries out there that are doing a wonderful job for the Kingdom, yet their websites aren't designed to do much more than give some information about their ministries. So, they're not necessarily great online resources to minister to men. The websites I have included provide articles, devotionals, podcasts, YouTube videos, training material, social media connections, newsletters, and more.
Grace and Truth,
1. The Fellowship of Ailbe. T.M. Moore, who is the principal of the Fellowship is a dear brother in Christ and has been mentoring/discipling me for the last couple of years. His website is a treasure trove of very helpful articles and other resources. You can register to take courses on various topics and more. Make sure to sign up to have some of the content emailed to you daily or weekly. It's more than worth it. This is a website and ministry that I engage with on a daily basis.
2. Ken Boa.org - Ken mentored and discipled me during my three years of seminary in Atlanta (and through his written, audio, and video materials ever since). While his website is not exclusively for men, much of it is aimed at men. His weekly teaching videos are worth the price of admission. (His Wednesday morning class, which is a men's study, is phenomenal.) Lots of great things in the archives.
3. 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 also download and listen to the 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 puts on or purchase some fantastic resources
4. Every Man Ministries with Kenny Luck. This website and ministry is growing by leaps and bounds. Great stuff.
5. No Regrets Men's Ministries - (used to be Top Gun Ministries) - Steve Sonderman has written two fantastic books on getting ministry to men off the ground. He's done some great work at the church he serves.
6. Christian Businessman's Connection - Loaded with great resources to help men become ambassadors for Christ in the workplace.
6. New Men Magazine
7. The Men's Page at Bible.org
8. Church for Men
9. Men's Ministry Catalyst
10. Iron Sharpens Iron - These folks mostly put on training events for men, but they do have some resources. But I included them because their events are worth going to.
What did I miss? Please feel free to contact me to let me know. Or, again, check out the page of manhood links to see if your suggestion can be found there.
Grace and Truth,
strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.
I have been the Minister of Discipleship at Southside UMC since 1999. During that time I have discovered as each year goes by, my ministry seems to evolve in exciting ways… some I expected and others I did not. But there are some constants that keep me grounded and focused. Those “constants” are the heart and soul of what I pray my ministry is all about.
I described one of those constants when I wrote about one of my heroes, Ezra. His was a ministry of the Word…one that I hope I am able to emulate in and through my life.
Today’s scripture emphasizes another area of my ministry that I also regard as its heart and soul. Acts 14:22 says that after Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel and won a large number to Christ, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to “strengthen the disciples and to encourage them to remain true to the faith.” Why? Because “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that the path of discipleship is narrow and hard. It is not for the weak-of-heart, nor for the half-hearted. There are obstacles around every turn, as the character, Christian, discovered in Pilgrim’s Progress. And we know this much is true: many who begin, do not make it to the end.
That is why a ministry of “strengthening and encouraging” is so vital. We need to be constantly built up in our faith and reminded of the joy set before us that makes all of the trials and tribulations worth our effort.
I count it as a singular blessing and privilege to be able to minister to fellow travelers as we walk this pilgrim’s path together. To be allowed to help strengthen and encourage followers of Christ to persevere on their journey is a calling for which I thank God with all my heart.
But you don’t have to be ordained clergy to serve others in this way. Every Christian is called to come alongside his or her brother or sister in Christ and aid them in their pursuit of the Celestial City (which is reason #102 why you should read Pilgrim’s Progress). To act as an agent or ambassador of God’s grace in the life of another is a holy honor indeed.
So let me encourage you to open your eyes. Look for those people in your life whose gait has slowed of late and whose feet appear to be stumbling more than usual. Walk alongside them and build them back up in the faith. Remind them of their gracious and sovereign Lord who loves them and promises them that their arduous labor will bear glorious and everlasting fruit
Our True Rule
The United Methodist Church, by way of our denominational standard, addresses the sufficiency of Scripture. Our 2008 Book of Discipline reminds us, Scripture is “necessary for salvation” and is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
I’m assuming the “practice” referenced is the practice of our faith, the exercise of living one’s life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and preparing for the next. We believe God expects us to live such a life in accordance with Scripture’s direction, rules, laws, commands, examples, teachings, principles, and all the rest. That covers a great deal of ground.
United Methodists believe that what John Wesley called scriptural holiness relates to both our inward walk with Christ and the outward expression of that relationship with our neighbors. Our Doctrinal Statements, General Rules and Social Principles cover a lot of ground and an enormous variety of topics, such as economics, environment, bioethics, justice, marriage, parenting, politics, poverty, and yes, our precious Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes through him. In all these spheres and more, Scripture is our “true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
Our 2008 Disciplines says this about scriptural holiness,
We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing.
Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
This is what I mean when I say Scripture is sufficient for every sphere of life. This is what I take our Discipline to mean when it reminds us that Scripture is “necessary for salvation” and is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
So, while the Bible doesn’t, for example, teach me how to change the oil in my car, it still directs and guides me to do even something as mundane (and as important) as that to God’s glory. It teaches me to be a good steward of what God has provided.
The Apostle Paul teaches us,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Scripture is profitable for a bunch of stuff. He doesn’t use the same language here, but Paul is saying Scripture is sufficient for every sphere of life. Bishop Mack Stokes addressed this by writing,
Immediately following the “General Rules,” Wesley wrote, ‘These are the General Rules of our society; all which are taught of God to observe, even in his written Word, which is the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both of our faith and practice.’ (The Bible in the Wesleyan Heritage, p. 21)
Understanding that Scripture is sufficient for faith and practice is not the same as saying the Bible is a science textbook, a political constitution, or a manual for how to care for my car. But the Bible clearly does have something (and something important) to say about those areas of life and far more.
Wayne Grudem, (who is not United Methodist), shares this definition for the sufficiency of Scripture, which I believe is helpful. He writes,
The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (Systematic Theology, p. 127)
We want to submit to our Lord in every sphere of life and are guided in that pursuit in and through God’s Word. It is sufficient for such a pursuit.
Grace and Truth,
O Lord, we give you thanks that you have not left us in the dark to grope blindly through this world. Instead, in your grace and love you have given us your commandments. Help us keep them to the end. Enable us, in your strength, to keep your law and observe it with all our heart. Lead us with your Spirit so that we are not merely doing our duty, but delighting in walking the path you have set before us. Turn us away from the worthless things in this world which distract and lead us astray, and instead, give us the fullness of life you have promised us in Christ our Lord. For it is in his name for his sake we pray. Amen. (from Psalm 119:33-40)
God of the harvest, you call some of us to plant the seeds of the Gospel of the kingdom. Others of us you move to water the seed to bring the increase. And still, you beckon others to nurture and cultivate that which is already growing. In and through this process, it is you who gives the growth. We give you thanks that you call us to be a part of bringing others to new life in Christ. Yet, we are reminded, O Lord, that it is you and you alone who are sovereign over such things. We are called to be faithful to the Great Commission, but always trusting in you to bring forth fruit. In Christ’s holy name we pray. Amen. (from 1 Corinthians 3:5-9)
God of wisdom, I thank you that your wisdom is not like the wisdom of this age or the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. Indeed yours is the wisdom for all the ages, for you are the infinitely wise God of all times and places, and you give your wisdom freely to all who humbly ask you for it. O Lord of glory, I hardly know how to praise you for that which you have in store for those who love you. But for the gift of your Spirit who reveals your wisdom to those who know and love you, I thank you. I bless and honor you for giving me the mind of Christ, not because I deserved it, but because you are gracious. May I use this very mind, and all the wisdom contained therein, to live for you now and forevermore. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen. (from 1 Corinthians 2:6-16)
I really enjoy reading the articles at The Art of Manliness. The folks there are a creative bunch and there’s usually not a week that goes by that there isn’t something very interesting to read. Not only that, but it’s an excellently put together website (unlike amateur-hour over here). While not necessarily coming at manhood from a biblical perspective, much of what they share could still receive a hearty “Amen,” from men pursuing godliness.
A while back they posted a two-part series called, “Don’t Waste Your Twenties.” (Click here to read Part 1… and here for Part 2). The first post focused a great deal on how our brains are wired during our twenties and what we are, therefore, able to do better during that decade than when we grow older. Part two is a natural follow-up post that basically says, “Since your brain is, in fact, wired that way… take advantage of it. Don’t waste this prime time in your life” (that’s my very simple paraphrase). Again, both posts are very interesting and I would encourage you to read them both.
Those posts reminded me of a book I read by one of my favorite authors, Steve Farrar. It’s entitled, How To Ruin Your Life by 30. (By the way, I think it’s the perfect gift for both high school and college graduates!) It’s short, simple, and to the point. Better yet, it’s really insightful. Here are Farrar’s nine suggestions for how a young person can do a super job at ruining his or her life by age 30…
1.) Overlook the law of cause and effect
2.) Get off to a bad start
3.) Ignore God’s purpose for your life
4.) Refuse to take responsibility for your actions
5.) Neglect your gifts and strengths when choosing a vocation
6.) Disregard what the Bible says about sex and marriage
7.) Stop Learning
8.) Isolate yourself
9.) Refuse daily wisdom
Obviously, the book is written to make the very opposite points and Farrar offers some helpful wisdom for folks at any age… not just the under 30 crowd.
Of course, the granddaddy of the “don’t waste your life” books is John Piper’s book… you guessed it… Don’t Waste Your Life. There is much wisdom in this book as well. One of Piper’s main desires is to encourage Christians not to give into the temptation of a retirement that amounts to no more than moving to Florida to collect shells on the beach and to play golf every day. He shares the words on a plaque that was in his childhood home that said…
Only one life,
‘Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done
for Christ will last.
The book is essentially an exposition of those words and the countless texts in Scripture that communicate that truth. It’s an inspiring, encouraging, and CONVICTING book. I think of the two, I would buy the Farrar book for graduates and give older folks the Piper book. Both, however, are well worth reading for Christians who take their lives in this world seriously.
Grace and Truth,
This booklet is the fourth in a series on basic discipleship principles for men.
The first booklet in this series focused on becoming a new creation by grace, through trusting in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. We then learned that coming to faith in Christ is only the beginning of our journey with him. God also wants to become more like Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds. The third booklet reminded us that because we are new creatures in Christ and are increasingly becoming like him, we will joyfully and obediently follow him as our Lord.
In this booklet, we will look at what it means to bear witness for Christ in every sphere of life. If Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth, then we, as his ambassadors, will follow him wherever he leads us. We will want to represent him in the varied areas of our lives. In so doing, we will make an impact for him in our homes, workplaces, churches, neighborhoods, cities, and even our wider culture and world.
This resource can be used for your personal devotional time with God. I hope, however, that you will also use it to disciple other men. It will also be helpful to use in your small group.
It is my prayer God will use this booklet to equip and encourage you to faithfully represent our gracious Lord and extend his Kingdom into every sphere of your life.
You can order it or learn more about it by clicking here, which will take you to Lulu.com.