A few years ago, the men of our church 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 and discussed it with other men was the focus on the foundation of (or, theology of) marriage. In particular, Thomas wants to get us thinking about God’s ultimate purpose in marriage. The book is not, as he puts it, a three, seven, or ten-step program for a better, happier marriage. Instead, Thomas does 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?
As Thomas will say later in the first 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.
He made a difference in his culture for the Kingdom of God...
It’s probably easier to ask what Abraham Kuyper did not do rather than what he did do. Committed Christian. Cultural warrior. Founder of a political party. Prime minister and statesman. Newspaper founder and editor. Founder and president of a university and professor. Pastor. Writer. He did all that and more.
I believe with many that Abraham Kuyper is one of the most important role models for Christians today who want to make an impact in their world. He is someone you ought to get to know. Here are a few online resources to help better acquaint you with him…
There are a number of other articles and books that have come out since I first put this list together. I will continue to update it, so check back periodically to see what's new.
Grace and Truth,
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.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
by Edward Reynolds (1662)
by Richard Baxter
Take God in Christ for your only rest, and fix your heart upon him above all. May the living God, who is the portion and rest of his saints, make our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him and delighting in him may be the work of our lives; and that neither I nor you may ever be turned from this path of life… The saint’s rest is the most happy state of a Christian. It is the perfect endless enjoyment of God by the perfected saints…
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
A few years I read Gordon MacDonald’s book, Rebuilding Your Broken World. After reading only the first chapter I knew I would love it. What compelled me to start reading it was the day-in and day-out observations of ministry. To quote Thoreau, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” So many folks I know are seemingly hanging on by a thread but just can’t bring themselves to share their desperation with another person. Men are especially vulnerable to this sort of thinking. The consequence, at least one, is that their world is crumbling and they’re trying to handle it alone.
MacDonald’s book is a word of hope and encouragement to folks who find themselves in such a place. We all have broken worlds of one sort or another. MacDonald’s focus is the brokenness that comes from our own doing… or the doing of someone close to us. A broken marriage, family, lost job, etc. This book is written to “broken-world people” by a “broken-world person” who has traveled that road and learned how to rebuild his world. He offers hope to those who desire to do the same.
I heartily recommend this book and encourage you to mark it up with a pen, meditate upon it, and pray over it.
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,
The Fellowship of Ailbe
Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
C.S. Lewis Institute
The Gospel Coalition
The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Every Square Inch Ministries
Gene Edward Veith
Center for Cultural Leadership
Church and Culture