Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them - Matthew 18:19-20 ESV
In 2007, Zack Snyder produced a film named 300. It was based on the Battle of Thermopylae and centered primarily on the role of the Spartans in this famous battle.
Several years earlier, the Persians under king Darius I had invaded Greece, primarily in order to punish the city-states of Athens and Eretria. These city states had supported the cities of Ionia during their revolt against Persian rule. The invasion ended with the decisive Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
King Darius began raising a huge new army with which he intended to return with full force, to obtain revenge for his devastating defeat.
Darius was killed in battle and his son Xerxes ascended to the throne. Xerxes, determined to avenge his father's defeat, launched his offensive upon Greece in what is now known as the Battle of Thermopylae with an army of some one hundred and fifty thousand men and a navy of six hundred ships..
The Battle of Thermopylae took place over a three day period. The Greeks were able to hold their position against the Persians over the first two days.
The tide turned when a member of a Greek tribe showed the Persians an alternative route that would take them behind the Greek force. This gave the Persians a competitive advantage.
Once King Leonidas (the commander of the Spartans) realized what had been done, he made a monumental decision – rather than abandon their position and withdraw to the south before the Persians arrived, Leonidas relieved the majority of his army.
The only ones left to fight were the 300 Spartans (the main focus of the film), 700 Thespians, and 400 Thebans.
Of course, we know the battle ended with the total annihilation of the remaining force. The defeat of the Spartans at this battle served two purposes. The first was that it gave the army that Leonidas had dismissed an opportunity to escape. Secondly, and more importantly, their heroism boosted the morale of the surviving soldiers .
The remainder of the Greek army went on to defeat the Persians in the Battles of Salamis and Plataea, which effectively ended the Second Persian Invasion.
My brothers, there is a lot that can we learn from the efforts of the King Leonidas and his allies.
A group of like minded men that are united by a common goal can change the world!
This has been proven over and over again throughout the ages. Take a look at scripture and examine the efforts of Paul, Mark and Barnabas as they spread the gospel during the early stages of Christianity.
Look at God's handiwork in the 7th chapter of Judges where Gideon's army of 32,000 was reduced to 300 men and the Midianites were delivered into their hands.
Of course, there is the widely known example of Jesus and the 12 disciples.
Men, I challenge you today to pray to God for His wisdom and guidance to identify a group of men that will be willing to come together for the purpose of changing the world.
As scripture promises, where there are two or three that are gathered in His name, He will be there among them.
Has God been tugging on your heart to start or be a part of a group of men committed to make a change? Let's start a conversation below.
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
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw - Proverbs 24:32 NIV
Growing up, I loved to play ping pong. Those who know me from back home are aware that I am a pretty good player (I honed my skills at the local college that I attended and that was one of the reasons I was on academic probation).
I was playing ping pong with my son down in the basement the other day. I was experimenting with shots that I haven’t tried in quite some time. After volleying for a period of time, we decided to play a “real” game.
My son is really good! I had to dig deep and reach into my bag of tricks to beat him. His hand eye coordination is better than mine, so I had to rely on angles and ball placement in order to win. If I hadn’t drawn on that reservoir of experience that I had built up over the years, he would have beaten me.
An amazing thing happened in the subsequent games that we played (he is so competitive that he wasn’t going out like that). Trey starting replicating some of the same shots that I was doing! He had observed what I was doing and was utilizing some of the same strategies that I employed earlier to beat him. He began implementing angles and shot placement.
After we finished, (I still beat him by the way in the other games that we played, just sayin’) I asked what made him change the way he played. He looked at me and said that he watched me and saw my success. So he decided to do the things that he observed me doing while we were playing. He felt that in order to be successful in beating me, he needed to adopt some of the things that I was doing.
The question that I would like to ask is this: how many of you have the chance to model successful behavior to those who look up to you? More importantly, how many of you in that position will embrace the opportunity? As I was able to see when playing a game of ping pong with my son, there are people watching you that can benefit from your experience.
Men, it is incumbent that we model the right behavior and provide an example for those in our circle of influence to emulate. Oftentimes, we have the benefit of experience and all one needs to do is to observe how we conduct ourselves. It may be something as simple as telling your wife that you love her in front of your kids. The key is to make yourself available and do it on a consistent basis.
We need to be focused on providing the proper standard of excellence for our kids to emulate. If you’re not doing it now or feel that you are incapable, start with something relatively small and graduate to larger things in the future. Each of us have something to contribute in the way of passing on positive life experiences to others. There are people that are missing out on what we have to offer. Let's commit to making an impact on those around us by showing them the benefit that comes from observing us.
I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren't ready for anything stronger. And you still aren't ready - 1 Corinthians 3:2 NLT
My youngest son Connor has a healthy appetite and has from birth. He is a grandmother's delight with his willingness to be spoiled by a good meal. I wish that my mother (who was a great cook) was alive to spoil him with her awesome meals. Even though Connor had a great appetite from birth, it would have been unwise to provide him with a home cooked meal as an infant. To feed him something other than the formula that he had drank as a baby would have been a recipe for disaster. Since his system was not developed enough, he would not have been able to digest it and it would have caused him harm.
Although it seems irrational to feed an infant adult food, there are times that I do the equivalent when it comes to interacting with family and friends. I have been guilty of expecting my sons to exhibit the behavior of adults even though they are still young. I will judge their behavior and actions in the same manner that I may do with my adult friends. By doing this, I have in essence been giving them adult food instead on the milk that they need at this stage of their life. By me doing so, I am harming their growth and development. My brothers, are you guilty of doing the same with others in your life?
Paul, in his letter to the Church at Corinth talked about how they should treat the new converts to Christianity. He instructed them to give them "spiritual milk", or the basics of the faith. Like an infant, their current condition required this type of nourishment. As the converts progressed in their faith, they could them provide them with meat, or more advanced teaching as they were ready to accept it. As leaders, whether within our family or the church, we should be careful to know our audience and provide them the teaching that coincides with their level of maturity. Examine whether or not our training is consistent with our students level of development. A great teacher does not necessarily teach what he himself knows, but what is suitable to his hearers. This is the foundation of establishing an environment where learning and growth can and will take place. Let's resolve to today to start monitoring the needs of the people that we are responsible for leading that are within our circle of influence and tailor our teaching and training to them. That way, we can ensure that they will receive the proper growth and development needed.
And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay - Habakkuk 2:2-3 ESV
As I have aged, my vision has gotten worse. I'm actually to the point where my optometrist suggest that I get bifocals. I am still holding out. My current prescription glasses come off when I have to read, cook or spend an extended time on the computer. The only time that I wear my glasses now is when I am looking at television or driving (if you see me driving without my glasses, you need to get off of the road!). I think back to the days when I use to laugh at folks that would peer over their glasses in an effort to see items that were closer because they weren't using bifocals. Now I am one of those folks. I am amazed at the lengths that I am going through in order to avoid getting bifocals even though they would improve my vision and stop me from having to remove my glasses constantly. The solution for better vision is literally in front of my face (pun intended).
What is your vision? Is it crystal clear, or has it been clouded by outside factors that are negative such as attitude, lack of focus or belief? Are you like me and know what needs to be done to improve your vision, but neglect to address it for one reason or another? Some of the most successful people that I know have a clear vision and can articulate it at a moment's notice. They have simplified their vision so that they can communicate it to others so that they may share it. They are cognizant of how their vision may take time to realize and understand not to rush the process.
If you are one that is in a position of leadership and tasked with setting a course of action for others to follow (men, we are ALL leaders and this applies to ALL of us whether we are leading our family or in a position in the church), the scripture above provides guidance in the way of effective vision casting. There are 3 principles that are outlined: 1) Be clear in communicating the vision to others. The Lord instructed Habakkuk to write the vision and make it plain on the tablets so that others can read it. The vision is to be so clear that one doesn't have to slow down to read it, 2) Be patient as the vision is being consummated. As the verse states, 'the vision will await it's appointed time and will not lie. 3) Have faith in the vision. The faith comes from knowing that it is from God and will come at His appointed time. It may seem slow at first, but it will come to fruition when it's ordained by God. Adopting and adhering to these 3 principles can help to ensure success for those that play a part in casting a vision for others to follow.
From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love - Ephesians 4:16 ESV
Growing up in our neighborhood, it was important to excel in athletics. At any point in time, you would find us participating in a variety of sports throughout the year. The importance of athletics even extended to the rivalry between neighborhoods. I can remember in school we would set up pickup basketball games to take place that involved one neighborhood against the other. When going over to play, it was vital to take your best group of guys (some of those guys are reading this blog) since bragging rights were at stake. You had to choose wisely to ensure your best chance of winning in order to avoid the sure embarrassment that would take occur the next day at school if you lost. The team that we took to play in the other neighborhoods was put together carefully based upon the strengths of each player. Utilizing that strategy, we were able to win more often than not.
I feel that experiencing success in growing the kingdom of God requires a similar strategy that we employed as youths when going up against the kids in the other neighborhoods. By bringing together a group of people that possessed different skill sets that shared a common goal (win a game), we were able to achieve our task. Our Father has bestowed upon each of us a unique skill set that can be utilized to bring glory to God. Our problems occur when we look at other's gifts and try to replicate them. This happens to the detriment of the entire team and can result in chaos. Like the human body, each member of the Church (or your ministry) has a unique function designed to assist in operating at optimum efficiency. Every one contributes to the overall health of the organization and all are important to it's success.
So men, how can we ensure that our efforts to advance our ministry or God given task (whether it be with your family or Church) operates effectively? We have to pay attention to what the scripture says and make sure that each member is properly united and joined together. The chances of reaching your goal increases when each member is operating in their best place, and is properly aligned with the other members of the team. It is a beautiful thing to behold when a team is operating together at the highest level as a result of everyone accepting and embracing their role. My brothers, what is that you feel that God is calling you to do? Whatever it is, your chances of success are enhanced when you put together the proper team. Let's resolve to today to reexamine our current team in an effort to determine whether or not the members are operating in accordance with their strengths to assist in reaching our God given goals.
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.
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.
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.