If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment - Job 36:11 NIV
We recently went on a vacation to New Orleans (if you haven't been, I highly recommend it!). During our time there, we sampled some of the finest cuisine New Orleans had to offer.
One of our favorite visits was to District Donuts (we went twice). On an average day, they offer a selection of simple, fancy and extra fancy donuts to choose from. As I sat there and enjoyed my fancy donuts, I remembered a question that one of my sons asked me when he was smaller about donuts.
"Why do they have a hole in the middle?" I didn't have an answer beyond that's how they've always been made.
Reflecting back on that question led me to ponder other questions that day in the shop. Why do a majority of men's lives resemble that of a donut? Why do we have a hole in the middle of our lives that can't be filled? Why do we try to fill it with things of this world?
I will admit that there are times that I am been a "doughnut" man as well. I have tried to fill that emptiness in my life with temporal things that won't satisfy. Some of them include: pursuit of money, sex and power. None of these things filled the hole.
What can be done to adequately fill that void in our life? For me, the answer was giving myself over to God and serving Him. What does this mean?
Giving yourself over to serving and obeying God means becoming obedient to His will. Once you align your life with His will, you find yourself operating according to the purpose that you were designed for. Once you live your life with purpose, the hole in the middle slowly fills.
As Elihu noted in today's scripture, God fills men's heart with contentment when they seek and serve Him. Whatever their circumstances, if a man's heart is dedicated to our Father, he becomes spiritually filled.
Men, when that happens, you start to live a life that provides the blueprint for those in your circle of influence to follow. You began to participate in what I call "generational living." Generational living has the ability to positively impact future generations.
How do you start becoming obedient? It's an evolving process. It begins when you realize that you have a void in your life that you have been trying to fill with worldly things. Once you come to that realization, you can start with determining God's will for your life.
This step requires time apart where you place yourself in position to listen to His voice. That can come from God directly speaking to you or through someone else. Once that happens, you start on the path to living that life God has called us to live.
There are times that you are going to deviate from that path. When that happens, it is of great benefit to have an accountability partner to communicate with. This, in addition to continued study of scripture, will assist in the discipline of obeying and serving God.
Don't let trying to fill that hole in the middle with worldly things prevent you from a gratifying relationship with your Father. Fill that void by obeying and serving Him.
How have you been trying to fill the void in your life? Engage in the conversation by placing your comment below. I would love to hear from you.
But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” Numbers 13:30-31 ESV
While waiting for our turn to see the optometrist, Trey and I decided to see who had the better vision. We stood in front of the eye chart and took turns reading the lines. I got to line 4 or 5 and had trouble clearly seeing the letters (Yes, I need glasses). Trey, on the other hand, was able to see the letters located on line 8 and 9.
Isn't it amazing how many of us experience the same thing that I did during my vision competition with Trey? Two individuals can look at a situation and see or interpret it in two entirely different ways.
I looked at one line and said what I thought the letters were, while Trey looked at the same line and saw the actual letters. His vision was better than mine.
This situation plays every day with people in all walks of life. How many times have you observed individuals from similar backgrounds that have experienced different levels of success? I see this often in the areas of athletics, academics and the work place.
Did one person have an advantage over another? Both came from the same neighborhood and circumstances, but one made it and the other didn't. Why is that? Why was one person able to look at their conditions and see one thing, while the other saw something totally different?
The difference is that the one that succeeds has tapped into a power that is available to all of us.
The person that sees a situation clearly and has confidence is the one that believes that they are doing God's will and He is providing everything that they need to succeed.
Let's look at the today's scripture as evidence of this at work. Caleb was sent along with other spies to
survey the land that was promised to them. After the completion of the mission, they returned with the report. Notice the difference in the reports. Keep in mind that Caleb saw the same thing that the other spies "saw".
Caleb instructed the people to "go up at once and occupy the land." There was no hesitation on his part because he knew 2 things: God had told them the land was theirs (belief) and God had equipped them for the task at hand (faith). That was all that they needed to occupy the land despite the obstacles before them.
The "other" spies saw that the land was flowing with milk and honey, but focused on the giants, walls and castles. As a result, they felt that they would not be able to overcome these hurdles.
What group of "spies" are you in? Do you look at an opportunity and see all of the obstacles and decide not to proceed? Or do you view that same opportunity as Caleb and know that if it's within God's will, you have everything needed to succeed?
What is facing you today that require the faith and belief that Caleb possessed? Will you "go and occupy the land at once" or will the circumstances cause you to focus on the obstacles?
I invite you to look at whatever that situation is and "see" it with the help of God's power. You'll be amazed at what you'll see with that new vision.
For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them - Acts 28:27 ESV
Everywhere the family and I go for vacation, we drive. I don't like to fly. Some of the trips are longer than others so we may take 2 days to reach our destination.
I've grown accustomed to driving long distances for our vacations and I enjoy driving, it's not a problem for me . Despite the long distances we sometimes travel for our vacations, nothing compares to the long journey that took over 15 years to complete.
That journey consisted of 18 inches.
Doctors say that it is about 18 inches from your brain to your heart. To some of you reading this, that doesn't seem like a long way. To others, it represents an enormous distance.
I fall in the second group. For a long time, I was ashamed to admit it. I hid the fact that I could not navigate that 18 inches. Every time I attempted to travel those 18 inches between my head and my heart, I gave up.
The reason? I was afraid. I was terrified to give into my heart and do what God had wired me to do. I used my brain to rationalize all the reasons why I couldn't do what my heart knew I was designed to do.
There are those of you reading this that can identify with me. You know in your heart what your purpose and passion is. You know the things that provide you with that indescribable feeling of excitement. Despite knowing all of that, your mind is able to convince you otherwise.
How was I able to overcome this? First of all, let me state that it's not easy. It took me over 15 years to finally arrive at writing on a consistent basis. I realized that the uncomfortable feeling I experienced daily would not go away until I listened to my heart.
Once that happened, everything changed. That doesn't mean that I don't struggle with the negative thoughts. I am better equipped to handle those situations because I've learned to listen to my heart.
You have the ability to do the same.
Take a look in the Book of Acts. The children of Israel hearts had grown callused and hardened against the message of God. Furthermore, their ears stopped hearing and the eyes stopped seeing. Men, that's what happened to me.
Fortunately, our merciful God gave the children of Israel an opportunity. If they would see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart, He would heal them.
My brothers, that's what happened to me. I started listening to my heart. As a result my thinking became clearer and I was able to hear and see more effectively.
I was able to navigate the 18 inches between my head and my heart. It took some time, but I did it.
So can you! The formula has been laid out for you. The only thing that you need to do is to apply it.
Do it today! Do it now!
But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion - Ecclesiastes 9:4 ESV
I’m not a big fan of watching television (aside from sports). There are times that I will tune in to a show because I’ve heard family or friends mention it.
One such show was “The Walking Dead”. My oldest son had mentioned it, so I decided to watch it. It focuses on a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies and the uninfected people trying to survive.
After watching a few episodes (I’m going back to sports and reading books), I was amazed at the parallels between the show and the condition of men in our society.
The zombies were humans infected by viruses, bacteria or other phenomena that reduce their mental capacity. This caused them to behave in a very primitive and destructive fashion.
There are many of us men that are “walking dead.” We have given up hope that we will never be all that God has designed us to be. They have long decided that life has passed them by.
I have seen this zombie like condition of men in the workplace, at home, and in the church. The sad thing is that this condition is being passed down to the next generation. We are literally and figuratively infecting our children and spouses.
What has caused us to degenerate into a state that we are merely existing in a human body? What can be done to change it?
As the leader of our families, it is incumbent upon us to find the antidote to this malady. Where do we find the answer?
Look at the scripture quoted above. In it, Solomon talks about the hope that the living has. In essence, as long as you are living, you still have the opportunity to live with purpose. You have the chance to live a life that’s relevant. You can still have a positive impact on the next generation.
Solomon goes on to state the advantage of living by comparing the existence of a living dog to that of a dead lion. To the Hebrews, the life of a dog was contemptible in contrast to that of a lion.
In Solomon’s eyes, it is better to be living as a dog and have the ability to still make a contribution to society than to be a dead lion.
My brothers, think about this. You have within you to make contributions (no matter how large or small) as long as you are living. There is still hope!
Start small. A small living spark can produce a flame. The mighty Mississippi river started as a small brook. Small contributions lead to big things.
A life lived with hope is far better that one lived with uncertainty. Let’s resolve to snap out of the zombie like state that has infected a large number of us.
Tap into the hope that is available to all of us that believe in the power of Jesus Christ. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to someone that you respect or contact me through the website or email.
Please let me know the impact of this message and comment below.
I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened - Luke 11:8-10 ESV
On the morning of January 10th, something happened that I didn’t think I would see again in my lifetime: the Clemson Tigers won the college football national championship!!
I was there in 1981 when they won their first championship. I shared that championship with my now deceased father. I was able to share this one with my sons.
As proud as I was of being able to share that moment with my sons, I was happier about sharing the story of the kid that made the game winning catch.
Hunter Renfrow, the receiver that made the greatest catch in Clemson football history, wasn’t supposed to be there. Hunter doesn’t look the part of a football player. He looks more like a student majoring in computer science (no offense to any computer science majors) than a football player.
He wasn’t highly recruited out of high school. He received a number of offers from smaller schools, but wanted to play at Clemson. He walked on, paying his own way and taking a chance that his play would be rewarded with a scholarship.
Hunter’s persistence paid off when Coach Dabo Swinney awarded him the final scholarship in 2015. He worked his way into the starting lineup and made significant contributions to the team’s success. His efforts culminated in his game winning catch.
Like so many of us men, we may not look the part of someone successful. The one thing that can’t be measured is commitment and heart. Hunter decided to walk on at Clemson because that was part of his destiny and purpose. He was not going to be denied in the pursuit of his goal.
My brothers, if we adopt the same outlook as Hunter Renfrow displayed in the pursuit of a goal, we would be unstoppable. Just imagine how much better this world would be if we men possessed an attitude of persistence. Can you imagine the lives that would be impacted in a positive way?
Today’s scripture details the things that you must do in accomplishing goals. It speaks of doing 3 things: ask, seek and knock.
Ask- Seek God’s counsel in regard to His will in your life. Then act in accordance with the counsel that has been received.
Seek – Use the talents that God has equipped you with to find the opportunities that align with your abilities and skill set.
Knock – This may be the most important action of the 3. When you have identified your goal and know that your abilities are aligned with accomplishing it, persist in knocking at the door until you reach your goal.
Like the gentleman in verse 8 that knocked on the door of his neighbor until he answered and provided him what he needed, so should you persist in your efforts as well. Like Hunter Renfrow in the national championship game, your efforts will be richly rewarded.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?" - Genesis 3:8-9 ESV
Growing up, one of my favorite games was hide and go seek. I would play anywhere and anytime. My cousins would play in the house when they came over. Our games were so spirited that our parents would send us outside. We would then continue our game there.
Our ability to conceal ourselves during a game of hide and go seek was a great asset to have to when we were children, but not as adult men.
Men, where are we? Why are we absent from our children’s and spouses’ lives? I know there are a good number of you reading this that are active participants in the lives of your families. If you are in that number, I applaud you.
A good number of us are not present in our family’s lives. We are playing an excellent game of hide and seek.
Look at the numbers:
An estimated 24.7 million children (33%) live absent their biological father.
With the increasing number of premarital births and a continuing high divorce rate, the proportion of children living with just one parent rose from 9.1% in 1960 to 20.7% in 2012. Currently, 55.1% of all black children, 31.1% of all Hispanic children, and 20.7% of all white children are living in single-parent homes. (1)
There are millions more fathers that are physically present, but are emotionally absent. They are just going through the motions, drifting through life.
If the game of hide and seek that we are playing as men could be classified as a disease, it would be treated as an epidemic.
I can speak from personal experience of the effect that being absent has on a child. I went through a divorce and lost contact with my daughter. I wasn’t there for important events in her life. Thank God, I was able to reconnect with her and am now a part of her life (I can do even more).
Gentlemen, that the key. If you are not present in someone’s life, it doesn’t have to be a permanent situation. You have the power to change it. Your families NEED YOU! They need the guidance that a man can provide. They need to see you living out the example of what’s it like to be a godly man.
More importantly, our families need to see what life is like when you are living with passion and purpose and doing the things that God created you to do. This is what I call “generational living.” You are provided an example to be passed down to the next generation.
Look at the today’s scripture. All of us know the backdrop of why Adam and Eve were hiding from God. The more important thing is when God came into the garden, He didn’t ask where Eve was. He specifically called for the man.
The reason being is twofold. One, He created us men to lead our families and asking where Adam was (of course God knew) is His way of reminding him of his responsibility as a leader. Secondly, this was God’s way of letting Adam know that He was seeking after him.
Despite Adam’s transgressions, God was still seeking him! Men, in that same way, we have an opportunity to return and make things right in our lives when we’ve gone astray.
My question for you is when God calls for us, how will we respond? Will you stop hiding and honestly answer Him? Will you realize that a change is required and take advantage of the opportunity? My prayer for all of you is that the answer is yes.
(1) Source: U.S. Census Bureau. “Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years Old: 1960 to Present”. U.S. Census Bureau July 1, 2012
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” - Romans 4:18 ESV
My wife and I love to watch movies together. Just yesterday, we were watching one of our all-time favorites, The Shawshank Redemption. We loved it so much that we chose to watch it over the Rose Bowl (which was one of the more exciting games in recent memory).
The thing that we like about The Shawshank Redemption is the number of life lessons that are a part of the story. Even though we know the movie by heart, we still enjoy watching it.
One of our favorite scenes is when Andy (one of the main characters) is sitting slumped against the prison walls and Red, his friend, comes up and sits down beside him. They sit in silence for a period of time before Andy states what’s on his mind. The reason for Andy’s despair would be cause for depression for the majority of us.
You see, Andy had been falsely accused of murder and the one person that could prove his innocence had been gunned down by the crooked warden. He had spent 20 years in jail for a crime that he didn’t commit and his one opportunity to prove his innocence had been snatched from him.
Despite this, Andy still had hope. He refused to be shackled by what happened in the past and let it determine his future. He was going to maintain the mindset to break free of the things that handcuffed him (both literally and figuratively) and express that to Red.
The interesting thing was Red’s response. He told Andy that having hope was a dangerous thing and not to torture himself with possessing the hope that someday he would be free.
Let’s stop for a minute and reflect on the Andy’s mindset. How many of us would be able to maintain hope in the face of overwhelming circumstances? How many of us would still strive to achieve our goals despite the “advice” given by friends like Red (even though they have good intentions)?
Some of you reading this are dealing with situations that on the surface, are as dire as what was facing Andy. The question that I have, is how will you respond? Will you accept the handcuffs or continue to search for ways to break free?
There are times in my life that I have been close to giving up hope. I want to throw in the towel and adopt the mindset of Red. I want to feel that my situation is hopeless and there is no way out. I shouldn’t torture myself by possessing hope.
When I reached this point, I visit the scriptures and look at the examples of faith and hope exhibited by the people mentioned in the 11th chapter of Hebrews and I am encouraged.
By no means am I saying that possessing hope in overwhelming situations is as simple as picking up the Bible. I am saying that doing this is one part of the process. The other part is knowing that you have the ability to overcoming the dire circumstances based upon the things you’ve overcome in the past.
A spoiler alert for the few people that haven’t seen this awesome movie follows.
Andy was able to escape and provided inspiration for Red when he was paroled shortly thereafter. The look of sheer joy on the both of their faces when they were reunited reminds us of the feelings we experience when we maintain hope and are able to overcome negative situations.
There are 2 things that I want each of you to do. The first is look back in your past and remember the times that you were able to scale that impossible mountain in your life.
The second is to study the many examples cited in scripture of those that overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles by having faith and hope in our Father.
Doing these 2 things will have a profound effect on how you view potential negative situations in the future. You will be infused with a new energy and perspective as you tackle the challenges of life.
Ken Sadler is a leader of Men's Ministry at a megachurch and has a heart and passion for helping men become the best they can be.