This lesson focuses on the first part of Acts 2, in which God pours out his Spirit upon the early church at Pentecost.
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I once served a church that had a sweet group of widows who regularly sat in the same section of the sanctuary each week during worship. These women were a source of encouragement and fellowship to one another. Very often, after worship, they would enjoy having lunch together. They were inseparable. As their pastor, I was profoundly grateful that they had one another.
I was, however, shocked when I eventually learned that each one of these women was married. They weren’t widows at all. The truth was that their husbands would have nothing to do with the church. God used that revelation to set an important course in my ministry.
Over the last two-and-a-half decades of my ministry, I have seen the need for the church’s ministry to men. I’ve witnessed a variety of well-intentioned efforts that fall under the category of “men’s ministry” to meet those needs. Among the more popular are activities such as,
To be sure, there is a place for pancakes, spaghetti, service projects, campouts, going to sporting events, and the rest. Yet none of those can or should take the place of gathering together each week for the purpose of intentional discipleship.
Some of you will remember a secular men’s movement in the late 1980s called Iron John. It was all about men finding their “inner warrior” and letting him out. Men would camp out in the woods, beat drums, get in touch with their inner something-or-other, and cry around a campfire.
There are a lot of men’s ministries doing a baptized version of that today. It sounds cool. It’s edgy. It’s probably fun. But every time I read about another Christianized version of Iron John, I can’t help but think of the words of Saint Paul,
1 Corinthians 13:11 - When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child; I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
Gimmicks, fads and entertainment in men’s ministry appeal to some men’s desire to remain in adolescence, but they will not produce mature disciples of Jesus Christ.
The process of becoming a genuine and faithful disciple of Jesus Christ is tough. It takes hard work. It doesn’t happen overnight. It can’t be manipulated over the course of a weekend. It doesn’t materialize from a neatly wrapped program. It’s a day-in and day-out pursuit of Christ, through his Word and prayer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in a relational context.
While I am all for Bible studies and small groups for both genders, I think there must be a place for men to gather with other men, to study God’s Word and pray, in a context of accountability and encouragement. How many men do you know who would want to talk about lust in the presence of their wives? Or how many men would want to share how they struggle with pornography with other women in the room?
The Final Goal
The goal of ministry to men is not primarily about producing morally improved men. It’s not primarily about warm-fuzzy experiences; it’s not even about emotional or psychological cathartic breakthroughs.
We may want each of those things to happen, but that should not be the primary target of men’s ministry. Instead, the purpose of ministry to men is to introduce men to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is God’s plan for transforming sinful men into redeemed sons of their heavenly Father. This transformation will produce men who passionately desire to become like Christ. They will want to know him better, love him more, and follow him more faithfully.
Such men will still battle sin, but as the Spirit works through the study of God’s Word, prayer, and accountable and encouraging fellowship, these men will become the men God has created, redeemed, and called them to be. And perhaps such men will turn the world upside down for God’s glory and the advancement of God’s Kingdom (Acts 17:6). But at the least, they will serve as “salt and light ambassadors” for Christ in their little corners of the world – their homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, and cities.
May God bless you toward that end.
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The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 39
Question 104: What is God's will for you in the fifth commandment?
Answer: That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me;  and also that I be patient with their failings -  for through them God chooses to rule us. 
 Ex. 21:17; Prov. 1:8; 4:1; Rom. 13:1-2; Eph. 5:21-22; 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-4:1;  Prov. 20:20; 23:22; 1 Pet. 2:18;  Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-8; Eph. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-21
To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. (Richard Foster)
This Week’s Scripture
· Genesis 1:1-2:4
· Psalm 8
· 2 Corinthians 13:11-13
· Matthew 28:16-20
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast (verse 1)
Come, sinners, to the gospel feast;
let every soul be Jesus’ guest.
Ye need not one be left behind,
for God hath bid all human kind.
Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.
11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)
O blessed Lord, who has commanded us to love one another, grant us grace that having received thine underserved bounty, we may love everyone in thee and for thee. We implore thy clemency for all; but especially for the friends whom thy love has given to us. Love thou them, O thou fountain of love, and make them to love thee with all their heart, that they may will, and speak, and do those things only which are pleasing to thee. Amen. (St. Anselm)
As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Heavenly Father, I thank you for giving all authority in heaven and earth to my Lord, Jesus Christ. I praise you that, even two thousand years ago, he had me in mind when he commanded his followers to go into all the world to make disciples. Century and century after century your faithful followers have passed down the faith once delivered to the saints, so that two millennia later, I can give you glory for redeeming me in and through the saving work of your Son. Gracious God, please help me observe all you have commanded and spur me on to love others by declaring to them that same good news of your love, expressed through the person and work of Christ the Lord. Finally, blessed Redeemer, I thank you that you have not left me alone in this world, but have promised to always be with me, even to the end of the age. That is indeed a precious promise and I am grateful for it. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen. (based on Matthew 28:16-20)
Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.
Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)
· Give me greater love for those who are hard to love.
· Help me to be compassionate and kind to those in need, even when it’s inconvenient.
· Pour out upon me your courage and boldness to love those who do not know you and to share with them your Gospel, in word and deed.
· Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
· Other needs
Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)
· My family
· My family and friends who do not have a saving relationship with Christ
· For those in my other spheres of influence who do not know Christ
· For evangelists around our city, country, and world who risk much in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who are lost
· Other needs
I have a great need for Christ; I have a great Christ for my need. (Charles Spurgeon)
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.