For God does speak-now one way, now another-though one man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds - Job 33:14-15 NIV
What did you say? When did you tell me to do that? I didn't understand, can you repeat that? For those of you that have children, you can identify with these responses that you receive when trying to communicate with them. I can't tell you the number of times that I have gone into my sons rooms and find the clothes that I asked them to pick up no more that 10 minutes ago still laying on the floor. When I find them to ask why they didn't do as I requested and pick up the clothes like they were told, I get a puzzled look and this response: I didn't hear you. At this point, I look them in the eye, repeat what I said and stand by as they complete the task that I assigned them.
I wonder if our Father in Heaven feels the same way about us when He tries to communicate with us. Does He want to look us in the eyes, repeat what He has said and stand by as we complete the task that He has assigned us? Unfortunately it doesn't work that way. When we pray and ask God for guidance in times of trouble, we often feel that God is not listening when in actuality, we aren't listening. During these times we may not get the benefit that we give our children of repeating what we have said and then standing by to make sure that they do what we ask. Please be rest assured that God does speak. This fact is detailed in the Book of Job. Today's scripture states that God speaks in a variety of ways, but there are times that man does not perceive what He is saying. Like many of the men I have talked with, I wish that I would have a 'burning bush' moment like Moses experienced during his encounter with God. That way I could be sure that I am receiving communication directly from God and can proceed with confidence in the direction He is pointing me. I'm sorry to say that more often than not, we don't have the opportunity to experience the 'burning bush' moments that provide the clarity of God speaking to us. If that's the case, what are we to do to be able to discern the voice of God more effectively? I can speak of three items that have assisted me on this journey of listening more intently to God communicating to me. The first is freeing our minds from all distracting cares and things of the world, so that we can be open to receive divine instruction from the Father. The second is to be receptive to God using other mediums (speaking to us through friends, family or other sources) to deliver His message. The final item is listening to your conscience. Please bear in mind that it is advantageous to listen to your conscience only if it convicted and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Like a clock, listening to your conscience works only if it is set correctly.
I know that we would love to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are receiving divine instruction from our Father every time that we pray for guidance during times of trial and tribulations, but that doesn't happen more often than not. What we can rely on, is being open to receiving instruction and guidance by practicing the above referenced steps. It has worked for me and hopefully it can for you as well.
Where God’s love is, there is no fear, because God’s perfect love drives out fear. It is punishment that makes a person fear, so love is not made perfect in the person who fears - 1 John 4:18 (NCV)
Our family was travelling over the weekend to go shopping, and we were behind a vehicle that had the license plate 'H8 MY JOB' (I hope that it doesn't belong to anyone reading this). After we laughed about it, we began a discussion about the originality of the license plate and what would cause a person to place it on their vehicle. Did they really hate their job, or was the license plate a gag to start a conversation? I then proceeded to ask the rest of the family what would they do if they hated their job? The answers ranged from 'you gotta do what you gotta do' to I would quit right away and look for something else. It was amazing to me to hear the responses from the members of our family, who ages range from 12 to (I'm not telling!).
After getting back home from shopping, I thought about how would I really answer that question of what would I do if I was doing something that I truly hated? To answer that, all I had to do was reflect on my life. I have always been a person that would rather deal with the "Oh Boys' of life as opposed to the 'What Ifs'. Let me explain what I mean by that statement. I would rather try something and have to say Oh Boy, that didn't work as planned as opposed to saying What If I would have tried this. The What Ifs of life have always bothered me. I think that was one of the primary reasons that I was motivated to leave my home state of South Carolina and live in other parts of the country for the experience. My brothers, let me stop right here and state that I am not advocating throwing caution to the wind and chase after reckless dreams and goals. My intent is to say that IF what you are doing or contemplating is in alignment with God's will, then you do not have to be afraid to step out on faith, believe in yourself and go for it. There is no reason, and I mean no reason, for you to have to "settle" for what it is you are doing if you feel that God has firmly placed a calling in your heart.
As today's scripture states, where there is the love of God, fear is absent. The presence of God's love in a person drives out fear and produces boldness. It was this boldness and absence of fear that made the early Christians successful in their mission to spread the Gospel to the other parts of the world. Can you imagine how successful their efforts would have been if they weren't bold? The key to the success of their mission is the same key that we have in today's modern times: a relationship with God. The early Christians relationship with God provided them with the fuel and energy needed to succeed despite the seemingly overwhelming odds. Their love for God was what they needed to step out on faith and start on the road of accomplishing their God given mission. I pray that we all do the same. Let's start today with eliminating the What Ifs and embracing the Oh Boys.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me - Galatians 2:20 ESV
As a child growing up, I loved to read (and I still do by the way). As I started reading books that were more advanced, I would come across words that I didn't know. When this happened, I would go and ask my parents the meaning of the word. Their response was 'to go and look it up in the dictionary.' They were not being mean when they asked me to do that. The purpose of this exercise was that I would have an increased appreciation of the English language if I looked it up myself in addition to being able to incorporate it in my vocabulary as well once I understood the meaning. Abbey and I have passed this method down to our children as well (they can look it up on the phone as opposed to an actual dictionary) when they ask us for the meaning of a word.
Men, the question that I have for you (for those that read this blog on a consistent basis, you know I pose questions) is if I were to look you up in the dictionary, what would it say? How would you be defined? Would it state (insert your name here) is a man that is a living example of what a God fearing man looks like? Would it say that you are faithful in all things and believe in seeking the kingdom of God first and all things will be added? Or would the definition after your name state that you are one that are selfish and devoid of love? Would the definition go on to say that you don't believe that you were created in the image of God and as a result, don't feel you have the ability to accomplish His purpose during our time here on earth? Men, think long and hard about what your definition would say if your name was placed in the dictionary. The wonderful thing is that if you are not happy with what your definition would say, you have the ability to change it.
Paul touched on this principle of change in his letter to the Church at Galatia. He spoke about being crucified with Christ (basically dying to self and eliminating the promptings of sin) and being receptive to the new power that is available when Christ lives in you. He talks about the dual life change that occurs when one lives in the flesh (here on earth) but is now changed because of living in faith that comes from knowing the Son of God. The sacrificial love that Christ exhibited by giving his life for us can be replicated through each of us and how we live. We can now be redefined in who we are. It all starts with realizing that a new life starts with a dependence on Christ and His sustaining power. My brothers if you are not happy with what your definition would be if someone where to look you up, start today with changing your definition.
to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness - Ephesians 4:23-24 NIV
Growing up, I liked to stretch things. One of the more popular toys at that time was an action figure named Stretch Armstrong (yes, I'm that old). It was a gel filled figure that you could stretch in various directions. My friends and I would pull that toy in a variety of ways just to see how far it would stretch. Most of the time, it would revert back to it's normal size like it was designed. Fast forward a number of years to when I entered the work force. Back in the old days, the majority of our reports and other important documents were captured and printed on paper (unlike now where the majority of documents are electronic). I still remember large reports that were bound together by large rubber bands. The fascinating thing about those large rubber bands were that once they were used on large reports, they could never be used again to bind smaller reports. The reason was because of the fact that once the rubber bands had been stretched to accommodate a large number of paper, they could never go back to their original size.
My brothers, are our minds like the Stretch Armstrong, or is it like the large rubber bands that were used to bind the larger reports? Once we attempt and accomplish a large project or task, does our mindset and attitude revert back to it's original dimensions? Or does it become like the mind that Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to when he stated, 'the mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.' As for me, I want to have that mind like the large rubber band. The very future of our family depends upon us modeling the behavior where we operate with an attitude that reflects our faith in God.
Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about the importance of your attitude and mind. He exhorted the followers to be constantly renewed in their spirit and mind. These were vital attributes that the early Christians needed as they spread the Gospel. The only way that the renewal of the mind was going to happen was for them to be open to the Spirit of God to transform the way that they thought and to throw off their old self and put on the new self. This required them to leave the old way of thinking behind and start living and walking in the path that God called us to. I challenge each and every one of you reading this, to adopt the philosophy that Paul espoused and be made new with the attitudes of your mind. Let you mind reflect the characteristic of the large rubber band and not return to its original size.
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit - Acts 9:17 NIV
I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in the back of the room off of our barracks at Ft McClellan Alabama with the rest of our platoon meeting with our sergeant. We had arrived a few hours earlier and unpacked our gear and was meeting with our sergeant for orientation before starting our training to learn the job that we had signed up for in the Army. I intentionally stayed in the back because I wanted to remain anonymous. My sole purpose was to make it through the approximate 2 month training period relatively unscathed so that I would be able to go back home to finish college. After our sergeant went through all of the instructions and communicated what his expectations were, he dismissed us. As I was leaving with the rest of the platoon, I heard my name called, "Sadler!" I turned around, surprised. What did I do? I had tried to remain unnoticed in the background. I was racking my brain trying to figure out what had I done wrong to get into trouble. I walked up front and sat in front of the sergeant waiting for him to chew me out for a transgression that I wasn't cognizant of. He looked me in the eye and stated that he needed a platoon leader and I was the man for the job. Obviously it wasn't a request, it was an order and I was expected to comply. Of course I said yes, but before leaving, I asked why me? He stated that he was watching everyone in the room and he noticed that I kept quiet and observed others in addition to paying attention to him. That was exactly the type of person that he needed. I nodded my head and thanked him (as I was leaving, I still was wondering why me?).
How many of us can identify the situation that I just described? We are trying to stay out of the way, hopefully flying before the radar cruising along in life hoping no one notices us and recommends us to do a job or task? We pray that we won't be called upon to use the abilities that we have hidden from the general population. Not me, we scream! No not me! Why not you? God uses the most unlikely people to accomplish His purpose. Take a look at Ananias in the book of Acts. He was called by God to tend to Saul (later Paul) and restore his sight. Ananias did not won't to do this even thought he was called by God himself. He knew of Saul's reputation and the despicable acts that he had committed against Christians and stated to God that Saul was on his way to do more damage. God heard all of this and said one word: "Go!" God knew he had equipped Ananias with everything that he needed to carry out the mission that He had for him. In this manner, when God calls you do something that you feel you are not capable of, remember Ananias and the important task that God had him to do and go. Who, me you might ask, but why not you? You serve the most high God and he will not send you to do something that he has not prepared you for. So Go!
He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish - John 21:6 ESV
As I discussed in an earlier blog post, we experienced some nasty weather here in Greater Cincinnati on last week. A number of people were effected by the high winds and rain. With that in mind, our campus pastor communicated on our Facebook page an offer to help anyone that had been impacted by the storm. I happened to see him the next day as I was driving, so I called him to see if he had any responses to his offer. He stated that he did and was able to go over with several others to help a single mother. I was pleased that he and other members of the church were able to help, but the story did not end there. The single mother communicated to the people assisting about how when she lost her husband to an infection, she felt ostracized by the church that she had previously attended and felt isolated. She was indeed grateful for the help that was provided, but felt more impacted by the attention that was displayed to her and the kids by the church. In addition, as they were there assisting with storm cleanup and securing the damage done to the roof, the father who had recently visited our church paid a visit. He was able to see firsthand the compassion and grace that was extended by the members of our church and was greatly moved.
I share this not to primarily pat our campus pastor and members on the back (lending a helping hand was already within his and the other's DNA that assisted), but to point out that there are needs that can be addressed with people that are already within our circle of influence. There is an opportunity to positively impact individuals that are within our present circle. All too often, we are conditioned to look elsewhere to make an impact, but have the ability to make a positive change within our four walls. I, along with other men have been guilty of this on more than one occasion. We may look to pursue interests outside the home that involve items such as job promotions or sports and leave behind the very people that need us like our wives and children.
Like the disciples in the above scripture, we need to cast down our nets where we are in an effort to catch fish. To become effective fishers of men, you have to put your net where the fish are. As men, we may have tried to fish in other locations and have not caught anything, but if we learn to listen to Christ and do as He instructs us as the disciples did, we can cast down our nets on the other side and experience a miraculous catch. Men, let's resolve today to start to look for those opportunities to cast down our nets on the right side of the boat and fish. We may be surprised at the haul that we are able to bring in.
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you - Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
This past Wednesday, we had our monthly Men's Ministry get together called The Edge. The fellowship, food and music along with great speakers makes for a great time. This edition of The Edge was memorable to say the least. For those of you that may not have known, we experienced some catastrophic weather on that day in the greater Cincinnati area. Just as we were finishing up our meal and getting ready to start the praise portion of our service, phones starting going off with weather alerts. As a result, we had to leave the venue and proceed immediately to the tornado safe rooms within the church (funny side note: guys were grabbing slices of pizza, wings and cookies for the trip, me among them). We stayed there in the tornado safe rooms for approximately 15 minutes and the decision was made to go back to the original venue since the tornado warning was over. We got settled in and just as I was going to introduce our speaker, the phones went off once again; another tornado was coming through and we had to head back to our tornado safe rooms once again. After briefly considering cancelling the program, a decision was made to have our speaker bring his message right there in the tornado safe rooms. I can say without reservation, that it was a wise decision, because the speaker ( our Student Minister) delivered a message that was powerful and effective (I heard from others about how great the message was) . Imagine if we had decided not to proceed with the program because of the circumstances that we were facing. A number of men would have missed out on a message that they needed to hear.
Men, how many times have we been faced with the storms of life and decided to not proceed with the task that was given to us? Reflect back on times that giving up seemed like the easiest and best course of action. It would have been easy for us to cancel the program and bring back the scheduled speaker next month, but we wisely decided to proceed. Do you realize that by not seeing it through, we may have deprived someone of a life changing experience? Our Maker has equipped us with what we need to navigate the storms of life that we encounter here during our time on earth. Granted, it's not easy, but rest assured that you can be strong and courageous when facing turbulent times because our God does go with you. Just as God was with the Israelites and fulfilled His promise to them, he will be with you as well. The key for you, as it was with the Israelites when they experienced victory over their enemies, is having the belief that our God is with us every step of the way.
Pictured below are some of the men from The Edge and our speaker in the midst of the storm!
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light - 1Peter 2:9 NIV
I love the conversations that I have with my sons during the time that we have together before they have to get on the bus. It is during these times I have an opportunity to listen to them share with me what's going on at school in addition to the challenges that they are facing. As a result of some of our conversations, I find out about how the majority of their classmates don't embrace their individuality and go out of their way to fit in. It saddens me to hear this and I make it a point to tell me sons that each of them are unique and God has created them for a specific purpose. I drill into them to not be a copy and be an original.
I have stated before the all of us are born originals, but die copies. My prayer is that each of your reading this will acknowledge and embrace how unique you are and in doing so, contribute your talent to the world the way God designed. As many of you know, I read a lot and I came across a quote by Parker Palmer in his book 'Let Your Life Speak: Listening to The Voice of Vocation' that sums up the quandary that a lot of people face. He states “before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” Unless we have a "burning bush" moment telling us otherwise, the majority of us are more apt to aspire to being like someone else as opposed to celebrating our individuality.
As Peter states in today's scripture, we are a chosen people and a royal priesthood. Just let that thought sink in for a moment. All of us are chosen and are considered royalty. I don't know about you, but that makes me feel special. Because we are all chosen and considered God's special possessions, we need to conduct ourselves that way. We are called out of the darkness and into the light and as a result, we are to exhibit that uniqueness by exhibiting a holy and useful life. Starting today, let's break out of the mold that we feel compelled by the world to fit in and begin to act like the chosen person that God intended us to be. I know some of the people that are reading this on a personal level and I know for a fact that the world needs for you to display your uniqueness. I am certain that we can change the world and draw more people to experience the joy of having Christ in their life if we will be the person that God created and let YOUR light shine before men.
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold - Proverbs 22:1 NIV
Every so often, I will go into Cincinnati and pick up a friend of mine and we will go and have lunch. I look forward to these times because besides the great fellowship and food, he gives me a guided tour of a number of Cincinnati neighborhoods. On yesterday, I had an added treat; he took me on a tour of the manufacturing facility that he works at. During the tour (which was fascinating), I noticed something that was amazing. My friend acknowledged everyone that he came into contact with by speaking their name and asking how their day was going. Equally amazing was the reaction of the people that he spoke to. A smile would spread across their face, their posture would straighten and it seemed that their entire mood brightened. Keep in mind that my friend works in the office and doesn't necessarily have to come in contact with the people on the production line. However, he makes it a point to get out of the office and interact with those that he considers important (which is everyone, even though others in the office may not value these people and do the same).
My brothers, are we guilty of possessing the same attitude as some of my friend's counterparts in the office? Do we stay in our comfort zone and not venture out to take the time to acknowledge others that may not travel in or be a part of our circle? Are we content to operate in our current positions of wealth, class and station as opposed to reaching out to others that may be marginalized? The actions of my friend during our tour served as a wakeup call for me to ensure that my actions align with my declaration of being a Christian.
Today's scripture reminds me of the importance of having a good name and something to be prized more than the possession of an abundance of gold and silver. The pursuit of obtaining and retaining a good name is honorable and reflects the glory of God. I have found in my travels that a Christian with a good reputation has a greater opportunity to impact those individuals that he is trying to win to Christ than those with great riches. As the Benson commentary stated: 'By great riches we may relieve men’s bodily wants; but, by a good name, we may recommend religion to them'. (I discovered this commentary during my study of the above referenced scripture). I want to challenge each of you reading this today to commit to the pursuit of a good name and reputation. In doing so, you will notice that your audience will be more receptive to your message and your efforts. This is a vital step in reaching and making a positive change with those that you interact with on an everyday basis. Like the efforts of my friend in his environment, your good name and reputation will proceed you and will prove to be more valuable than silver and gold.
For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him - Genesis 18:19 NIV
I can remember learning to dress myself and the problems that I would have with buttoning my dress shirts. I would always rush when buttoning my shirts and when I thought that I was finished, it would be all wrong. I would try to button it again starting from the bottom, but of course that didn't work. No matter how many times I would try to start over and attempt to button it correctly, the buttons would not align correctly with the holes. Once I learned to start from the top in buttoning my shirt, everything fell into place with all of the buttons lining up in correct fashion with the proper holes. A family that functions in an orderly fashion is similar to the process that I used in buttoning my dress shirts the correct way. If everything from the top is properly taken care of (meaning the man), then the rest of the family will function as God ordains. Unfortunately, many of today's families are operating from the bottom up and are passing this operating rhythm on to future generations.
I found that when I am leading my family the way that God intended, our family operates at an optimum level. However, when I am out of sorts or have deviated from the path and not functioning in the way that God intended, then the state of my family reflects the dress shirts that I buttoned in my early years starting from the bottom. A family follows the direction of its leader, and the leader of the family is the man. It is so easy for us as men to be knocked off stride as we try to provide for our families and provide the proper direction and leave a legacy for others to follow.
The book of Genesis provides the blueprint for a father to lead his family in an effective, top down fashion. Abraham, the father of a nation, was a man of knowledge who was responsible for not only his family, but also his servants. He provided the proper direction based upon the instruction given to him by God. As a result, he was able to model the proper behavior and lead his household in the most effective manner. Like Abraham, we have be given parental authority to direct our children in addition to providing direction for our wives. Abraham took this responsibility seriously and taught his family and servants the proper way to follow and worship God. Abraham's attention to detail provided the foundation needed for future generations to walk in the way of the Lord and keep His commands. My brothers, let's get started with practicing effective top down leadership for our households today.
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.