Essential Blog

Man of Sorrows- Rejoicing in Christ

           Imagine looking into the eyes of Jesus- what would you see?  The spark of love, the glint of forgiveness, the fire of righteous passion… the grey of SORROW? Perhaps the most beautiful and revealing description of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures is found in the prophetic words of Isaiah 53.  Here, Isaiah, describes Jesus as He would become God in the flesh nearly 700 years later.  Here in Isaiah 53, we read these words…“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”  Isaiah 53:3
            We might think, “isn’t it a sad and depressing subject to focus on Jesus as “the man of sorrows”?”  By no means, for God, through Jesus Christ has“turned our mourning into dancing!” (Psalm 30:11)  As great as the sorrow of our Savior, greater still is the triumph of our victory.  While we cannot yet escape the sorrows of tonight, we can count on the joy that is coming in the morning. There is no greater comfort for us in our own pain & suffering than seeing Jesus as “the man of sorrows.”  If Jesus Christ knew nothing but joy & victory, He would seem distant & disconnected from the realities of our lives.  However, no one has endured the weight of pain & loss more completely & perfectly than Jesus.  Let’s consider this simple description of Jesus a little more closely…
          1.  A Man:  We must begin by recognizing that Jesus was a man.  We can never take for granted that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Although Jesus was perfect in that He never sinned, He was still a man who needed sleep and food, he felt exhaustion and pain… and at the cross, he gave up His life in death.  Since Jesus could fully identify both with God and man, He was the perfect bridge, or mediator for us to know God. If we are to come to know God, it can only be through Jesus Christ.  
          2.  A Man of Sorrows: We should take note that He is not described here as a “man of wealth” or a “man of wisdom” or a “man of power” as you might expect of a mighty King.  No, He is described as a “man of sorrows.”  As if he were in his essence, made up of sorrow itself.  This is a title of distinction; that among all who have experienced sorrow and suffering, Jesus is preeminent… none can compare. As the old prison tune goes, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrow.”
It might be easy to believe that nobody knows what you are going through in the sorrow-filled moments of life, but Jesus knows full well. All of us will bear burdens of varying weights and durations, but Jesus’ burden was the heaviest of all.  While it may be of some value for me to share my sorrows, burdens and pains, it is far greater for me to boast on the sorrows of Jesus, because His sorrow is greater than any other person who has lived or died.
            No one else has known the sorrow that caused Jesus to sweat great drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.  No martyr or victim will ever know the crushing weight of pain and sin Jesus endured on the cross.  None of us need ever cry out in bitter anguish to our heavenly Father-“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
            Pause with me for a moment and consider these questions-  What if you felt the sorrow and grief of ALL sin?  What if you felt the sorrow and grief of EVERY person who ever lived?  Isaiah 53:4 tells us,“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”  Jesus was the man who carried EVERY sorrow.  Imagine if every tragedy you ever read in the news hit you in the most personal and profound way.  Every poverty.  Every disease.  Every death and every distress.  Now, you are beginning to perceive the burden of the “Man of Sorrows.” All of our sorrows were His sorrows. No one has a bigger heart than Jesus… and as those who have been given the gift of empathy know, the bigger the heart, the bigger the heartbreak.
            It breaks Jesus’ heart to see us suffer.  It breaks Jesus’ heart to see us in bondage to sin and a slave to our addictions.  It breaks Jesus’ heart to see us refuse the grace and forgiveness that He offers to us freely. Perhaps there is nothing that brings Jesus greater sorrow in our lives than this- When we refuse to give our sorrows to Him.  Jesus says to all who will listen to His voice… “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” 
          This is your invitation… Come to the man of sorrows and lay down your burdens… lay down your shame and your sin.  Jesus has already suffered on your behalf.  He has already endured the cross so that you could be set free.  He is waiting for you to come to Him with your sorrows, so that He can turn you mourning into dancing.  Do you want to know the release of sorrow?  Come to Jesus.  Do you want to know the forgiveness of sins?  Come to Jesus.  He sees you. 
* This blog was influenced by a C.H. Spurgeon sermon entitled “Man of Sorrows.”


MEN: 3 Levels of Spiritual Leadership (Family/Church Track)

No matter whether we are single, married or parents, we can grow as leaders.  Similarly, within the church, it doesn’t matter whether we are in an official position of leadership; we can still develop our leadership.  Here are three levels of Spiritual leadership that every leader will need to progress through. 

3 Levels of Spiritual Leadership

Family Track

Church Track

Level 1:  Self
Level 1:  Self
Level 2:  Marriage
Level 2:  Peers
Level 3:  Children
Level 3:  Ministry

Level 1:Self- The hardest person you will ever learn to lead is yourself.  Before you can ever expect to lead at your church or in your family, you must first learn to lead yourself spiritually.  This begins by incorporating personal Spiritual Practices into your daily routine such as prayer and Bible study, learning to manage your time and money in a way that honors the Lord and becoming a responsible man of integrity. Examples:  Waking up early for time with the Lord, planning your calendar around your priorities, committing to tithe and live generously.  Serving in a church setting with consistency and commitment.

Level 2: Marriage/Peers- Whether you are leading your wife or your peers spiritually, it is important to recognize your role as a peer leader. At this stage, focus on becoming a Spiritual Thermostat (one who sets the spiritual temperature) as opposed to a Spiritual Thermometer (one who reveals the temperature).  A spiritual leader will focus on charting the course for his family spiritually; thinking through the destination, the obstacles and the opportunities that lie ahead for your family or friends spiritually.  Examples:  Praying together through Scripture, making decisions related to the spiritual direction of the home, choosing to make your commitment to the local church a priority in your marriage or circle of friends.
Level 3: Children/Ministry- Whether as a parent or a spiritual leader, you are now responsible for a group of people spiritually.  They will look to you as an example and as a leader.  In this phase, focus on instituting a culture of practicing corporate Spiritual Practices.  As your children grow, your focus will transition from creating boundaries and explaining principles to spiritually training, equipping and empowering.  Every step of the way, you will be responsible for determining when and how course-correction is necessary.  Parenting and leading your children will change at every age of your children’s lives; be ready to adjust. Examples:  Attending church together, praying as family together, providing spiritual teaching and nourishment to your children, processing cultural changes in light of scripture.  Making adjustments to time, schedule and budgeting to reflect spiritual values and priorities.
Spiritual Leadership is an ongoing process.  Do not go it alone.  Reach out to some other men who are seeking after the Lord as well.  The support, encouragement and wisdom will go a long way in your spiritual leadership development.


MEN- 4 Common forms of Leadership among Christian Men

 

    In nearly 20 years of ministry and marriage, I have observed a lot of different forms of spiritual leadership among Christian men. At some point in the journey, even the most spiritual of men will embody each of these forms. Truth be told, I will embody each of these forms at various times every week! However, it should be our goal to strive toward greater leadership at the Lord equips and trains us for the calling He has set before us as men.
4 Common forms of Leadership among Christian Men
1. The Abdicated Leader- “I don’t want to lead.”
The word abdicate literally means “to renounces one’s throne.”  The throne carries honor, but it also carries responsibility.  Sadly, there are many men who abdicate their role as a leader because they do not want to carry the burden of leadership for their marriage and family.
Picture of the Problem- A Leadership Vacuum:  Wherever there is a vacuum, something will eventually fill the void.  The reality for many families is that where the man has abdicated his role, many women have had to step up as spiritual leaders in the home.  Even more devastating is how media, negative peer influences, other men, and even gangs can fill the void that a man who has abdicated his leadership leaves behind.
2. The Impotent Leader- “I don’t feel I can lead.”
This man wants to lead, but feels powerless to do so.  Perhaps a negative self-image, a lack of a role model, or a more domineering member of the family has made this man feel unable to fulfill his role as a spiritual leader.  
Picture of the Problem- A Leadership Doormat:  The impotent leader will quickly become the house doormat if he is not able to assume his leadership role.  This will ultimately cause him to disengage from the family and resign to let someone else lead.
3. The Ill-Equipped Leader“I don’t know how to lead.” 
This man wants to lead and feels empowered, but has not been equipped with the tools to lead his family spiritually and emotionally.  In this form, either the man or his marriage and family will be frustrated and may even run into conflict due to the inability to navigate the leadership dynamics skillfully.
Picture of the Solution- A Leadership GPS:  Men need the tools and equipping to be spiritual leaders.  Thankfully, God has given us the Scriptures, the church, and the perfect example in Jesus Christ.  One of the wisest things that a man can do as a spiritual leader is to enlist a mentor who can help guide him in his leadership journey.
4. The Spiritual Leader“I am ready, willing and able to lead.
The Spiritual leader is the man who is God-directed, Christ-empowered and Bible equipped in his leadership.  He is by no means perfect, but he leads from a heart of service, humility, confidence and courage.  The spiritual leader guides his family to grow closer to Christ, by first modeling it and second, charting a course to lead his family in the ways of the Lord.
    There is no perfect spiritual leader other than Jesus Christ.  All we can do is trust in the Lord and depend upon Him to motivate, empower and equip us for every step of the leadership journey.


MEN- 4 Characteristics of Spiritual Leadership at Home

 

     Men carry the blessed burden of spiritual leadership for their homes.  This is a daunting challenge that is only getting more complex in the culture we live in.  More than ever, we need to find our direction in the Word of God. This passage reveals four characteristics of men who are striving to be spiritual leaders at home…
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Ephesians 5:25-27

As men, we are called to be Spiritual Leaders who are…

  1. Christ-directed– Our model is Jesus. He is the one who both shows us and commands us to love our wives and families. Being a spiritual leader begins with being a Jesus follower.  We will only lead our wives and families spiritually as far as we are personally willing to go in our walk with Jesus.
  2. Selfless– As a leader, we put the needs and well-being of our wife and family ahead of our own.  When we make decisions and set the direction for our families, our focus is never on “what’s best for me?”  This might mean not playing as much golf (or video games, or whatever it is you like to play) so that you can be emotionally and spiritually present.  If it means changing diapers, helping with homework, cleaning dishes or doing whatever is needed to help your wife and family succeed, then do it.
  3. Sacrificial– To be selfless requires sacrifice. We must be willing to give up our own personal rights, give up our time, money and effort to lead our homes well.  As the spiritual leader, you demonstrate love and commitment more through the sacrificial gifts of time, attention and emotional energy than by lavish gifts that do not require much of you.
  4. Visionary– As spiritual leaders, we must lead our wife and family with a vision.  The vision that God has given us is that like Jesus, we might present our wife and family to Christ as “holy and without blemish.”  We must be casting vision to our wife and family that we desire to see them become all that Christ desires the church to become- “sanctified, cleansed, washed by the Word- in splendor, beautiful and holy.”  When we lead our family with a vision, it sets the priorities and clarifies the goals that we should have for our family.  With a Christ-directed vision, prioritizing our church involvement, spiritual practices, tithing, mission trips and other spiritual catalysts for growth becomes obvious and non-negotiable.  We know the “True North” that God has given us, and now we can lead our families to set sail and embark on a journey of faith together.