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.

Lost Arts: What to do with the “How are you doing?” Question


3 Ways We Respond to the Question- “How are you doing?”

“Life right now… sucks.”  Ever felt that way?  Of course you have, because you are human.  We all find ourselves in those kind of seasons of life where we are so discouraged, beaten down or unhappy with the state of our lives that it is hard to know what to do.  Then, you go to church (unsure what good it might do) and someone asks you a seemingly innocuous question- “How are you doing?”  How do you respond?  I have found that there are…
3 Common Ways We Respond To The “How are you doing?” Question:
1.  Deflect and Pretend:  This is clearly the easiest, and therefore the most common.  Most of us when dealing with struggle will not open up about that struggle with others, finding it easier to put on a mask and pretend like everything is OK.  When we do this, we isolate ourselves from those around us and we convince ourselves that no one else understands or cares what we are going through.  This can lead to dark bouts with discouragement, doubt and even depression.  It can also unwittingly make us hypocrites, pretending to be one thing, while in actuality being something else.
2.  Dump and Puke:  This response is at the opposite end of the spectrum.  There are some that are so consumed with their problems and struggles that whenever someone asks them how they are doing, they tend to “dump” their depression and “puke” their problems on others.  As the descriptive imagery indicates, this is not a pretty picture.  While it is important that we feel able to share our struggles with others, we should be careful to not be so consumed with unloading all of our baggage on others that we become insensitive to the fact that they are carrying a load of their own.  
3.  Discuss and Pray:  This is the healthiest and holiest way to respond to the question- “How are you doing?”  When you discuss your struggles and problems with others, you give people an opportunity to listen and share.  The dialogue produces mutual understanding and deeper relationship as the “weakness” of vulnerability is the catalyst for the strength of the friendship.  Even more importantly, when those issues have been discussed and a shared understanding has been accomplished, there is no better place to take those burdens then to the foot of the cross in prayer.  When you pray together, you remind yourselves of this gospel truth- “I am not ‘OK’.”  Only in Jesus can we find healing, only in Jesus can we find forgiveness, only in Jesus can we find rest for our souls.  When we pray like this together with our brothers and sisters in Christ we find the we can be mutually strengthened, encouraged and inspired.
     At Essential, it is my prayer, that every Sunday, and all throughout the week, we will see our church family taking time to discuss and pray together.  When I look across the room after a service, it is my hope that I will see more and more organic groups of people sharing life together and coming together in prayer.  As I talk with our members and leaders, it is my prayer that more and more I will hear of our people getting together over coffee, or coming together in living rooms to share and pray together as the body of Christ.

More than YOU can handle: Hudson Taylor


God will OFTEN give you more than YOU can handle.

“We were so utterly burdened beyond our own strength that we despaired of life itself… that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8b,9b
    When reality hits, it hits hard.  The truth is, that in life, whether you are a Christian or not, there will be seasons in which you will be burdened beyond your own capacity and strength to handle the burden.  The saying,“God will never give you more than YOU can handle” is not helpful and not true.  When you are faced with unbearable pain and affliction, the worst thing you can do is to try to convince yourself that YOU are strong enough.  When you are faced with an overwhelming challenge or task, the last thing you should believe is that YOU are up to it.  This is, in fact, the opposite of the Gospel confession itself.  The correct understanding is this- “God will never give you more than HE can handle… and HE can raise the dead, HE can do all things, HE can do the impossible!”  So with God, no burden is too great, no obstacle is too big, no pain is too unbearable, no challenge is too difficult.  He is God and He is with you!

Hudson Taylor- 1865

    In 1865, the great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor recounted being faced with the incredible calling and burden to bring the Gospel to central China and he wondered before the Lord how God might lead him to such an overwhelming task.  He writes that while walking along a shore in Brighton, a thought from the Lord came as he wrote, “Why if we are obeying the Lord, the responsibility rests with Him, not with us! Thou, Lord, Thou shalt have all the burden! At thy bidding, as Thy servant I go forward, leaving results with Thee.” With this gospel perspective, Taylor surrendered his burden to the Lord and God used him to begin a Gospel work in China that resulted in the mighty spread of Gospel throughout China and around the world. Historian Ruth Tucker described the impact of Hudson Taylor’s life… 
“No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.”
    God will OFTEN give you more than YOU can handle.  He does this, so that you will not boast or depend on your own strength, but boast and depend upon His. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight,’ declares the Lord.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

Lost Arts: 3 Creative Ways to Pray More Often


3 Creative Ways to Pray More Often

“Pray without ceasing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:17
“Devote yourselves to prayer”
Colossians 4:2
“Pray in the Spirit in all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Ephesians 6:18
 “At the judgement seat the most embarrassing thing the believer will face will be the smallness of his praying.”
-Leonard Ravenhill 
     Ok, we get it… we need to pray more! We are all convicted by verses and quotes like these and yet we struggle to see how we can grow in our faithfulness to God in prayer.  How do we incorporate prayer into our busy lives and schedules in a way that is meaningful and honoring to the Lord?  Perhaps this will help.
3 Creative Ways to Pray More Often
1.  Pillow Talk- One way to honor God in prayer is to make prayer the first and last communication of every day. You may not be fully alert, you may even doze off, but giving God this time is a wonderful way to bookend your day in prayer.  Instead of drifting off looking at your phone or immediately checking your texts and emails, be still and give your first and last moments of the day to the Lord. As the hymn “Be Thou My Vision” so beautifully expresses, we should desire this of God- “Thou my best Thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”
2.  Establish Daily “Prayer Pockets”
– We all have little “pockets” or “windows” of time in our day which can be made into a regular opportunity to spend time in prayer.  In my life, I decided to take my first drive of the day as a regular “pocket of prayer.”  Whenever I get in the car for my first errand or meeting, I have committed to give that time to God in prayer.  I turn off the radio and just pray out loud to the Lord for the duration of my drive.  This has become one of the sweetest and least distracted times of prayer for me every day.  What are those prayer pockets in your life?  Is it while walking home from the bus stop?  While taking a shower, putting on your make up, or waiting for the coffee to percolate?  Perhaps it is while folding the laundry or mowing the lawn.  As you identify those “pockets of prayer” commit to the Lord that every time you have one of these opportunities, you will make the most of it in prayer.
3.  Prayer Walks
– Some reading this might be “workout warriors” while others “couch potatoes,” but taking regular walks is good for the body and soul.  There is something powerful about communing with God through the physical exercise of walking in the context of nature or just being outdoors.  The practice of walking and talking with God goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:8).  As you go for a walk, disconnect from technology, begin to pray and listen to God’s voice.  Look around at the beauty of your surroundings and thank God for His creative glories.  Consider the neighbors and those in the community who might need a touch from God.  Work through the problems of your day and give your worries, anxieties and fears to Jesus.  You will soon love to walk with God in prayer.
            While there are other times to pray like before or after a time of Bible study, before a meal or church meeting, or simply a time set aside for the express purpose of prayer, these 3 creative ways to incorporate prayer into the busyness of your day will provide some regular opportunities to grow closer to God and abide in Christ.

Lost Arts: Spiritual Practices- A Wedding and a Honeymoon


Lost Arts: Spiritual Practices- A Wedding and a Honeymoon

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners so that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
 Matthew 6:5-6
In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus teaches his disciples about 3 key spiritual practices of a disciple- 1) Giving 2) Praying and 3) Fasting.  In each of these lessons, Jesus uses the same pattern to communicate right thinking on the matter.  This could be described in 4 key words that Jesus uses in each of these lessons.
1.  When:  “when you give,” “when our pray,” “when you fast…”  In each instance, the use of the word “when” presumes that every disciple will be actively engaged in spiritual practices.  Jesus considered giving, praying and fasting to be a normal way of life for His disciples.
2.  Hypocrites:  The way of the hypocrite is in sharp contrast to the way of a disciple.  A hypocrite does not practice spiritual disciplines to gain intimacy with God, but to gain acclaim from men.  This self-serving approach to spiritual practices will not bring intimacy with God and will not produce any eternal fruit.  Eventually, it will end in punishment.
3.  Secret:  Instead of publicly practicing spiritual disciplines to be praised by men, we should secretly practice these things to abide with Christ.  God does not require a spectacle to get His attention.  A simple, quiet approach with God is enough.  He is God after all.
4.  Reward:  Jesus makes it clear that both the hypocrite and the disciple will receive a reward for their spiritual practices.  The reward for the hypocrite is immediate but fleeting, shallow and empty.  It is the “earthly treasure” that Jesus describes in Matthew 6:19.  The reward for the disciple is a heavenly treasure, one that will last forever and is of infinite value.
     The conclusion for the disciple is that one must regularly apply spiritual practices with a personal desire to abide in Christ, not abound in cheers.  This does not mean that a disciple ought to be secretive in his spiritual practices for the sake of secrecy, but private for the sake of intimacy with the Lord.  
      Take for instance the contrast between a wedding and a honeymoon.  A wedding is a public display and declaration of a husband and wife’s love for one another.  The honeymoon is a personal and private time of intimacy and celebration of that same love and relationship.  Similarly, in our covenant relationship with God, there are public moments of faith like a wedding- Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, good works, sharing a testimony, or public prayer.  There are also many private moments of devotion like a honeymoon- Giving, prayer, fasting and solitude.  The public should not outweigh the private, but rather the private should fuel the public.  When a husband is privately intimate with his wife, he should also be publicly affectionate with her too.  When a wife is publicly affectional of her husband, she should be privately intimate as well.  To have one without the other will lead to dysfunction in a marriage and dysfunction in a disciple.  A disciple should strive to draw near to God in private and declare his love for God in public.  In this way, God is glorified in the wedding and honeymoon moments of our relationship with Him.

Lost Arts: 4 Tips for Maximizing Your Bible Reading



4 Tips for Maximizing your Bible Reading

           Most Christians know that reading the Bible is an important spiritual practice in the life of a disciple.  However, often we feel like our Bible reading is not as spiritually effective as we would like.  I recommend practicing these 4 tips for maximizing your Bible reading.

4 Tips for Maximizing your Bible Reading:

1. Pray for God’s grace to reveal truth to you in your Bible reading.
Seeing God’s truth in God’s Word is a gift of God’s grace.  Jesus said to His disciples,
“blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.”
Matthew 13:16  Ask God to bless your eyes and ears to see and hear Him in His Word.
2. Read the Bible alert and undistracted.
Do you read the Bible when you are exhausted and falling asleep?  Do you try to read with the TV on and your phone alerts going off?  Find a time to get away each day, give God your best attention and free yourself from distractions and the whisper of God’s voice will become more clear.
3. Be thoughtful and strategic in your Bible reading.
Use a reading plan.  Read the Bible in a year.  Decide to read a chapter in the NT/OT every day.  Read the same book once a month for 6 months in a row.
4.Ask God to give you a lasting thought and application from His Word.
As you open the Bible, ask God to reveal a truth that you can take away for the rest of the day to think about.  As you think through that truth, wrestle with the implications and consider the applications, you will find God’s Word come alive to you.

Lost Arts: 4 Prayers Before Hearing The Word of God on Sunday


4 Prayers Before Hearing The Word of God on Sunday

If you want to regularly hear from God, you must regularly hear from God’s Word.  As Paul says,
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of God.”  Romans 10:17  The practice of hearing the Word of God begins with steadfastly attending a Bible believing and Bible preaching church.  Paul instructed Timothy, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation (preaching), to teaching.” 1 Timothy 4:13.  The implied instruction of the church is that they devote themselves to the public hearing of Scripture, to hearing the preaching and teaching of God’s Word.  When we come to church, we should all take measure to prepare ourselves to hear the Word of God.  The preacher has spent hours in prayer and preparation in order to deliver the message.  Should the congregation not also spend at least a few minutes in prayer and preparation in order to receive the message?

4 Prayers Before Hearing The Word of God on Sunday:

1. Thank God that the Bible is the Word of God.
You are not coming to hear the opinions of a man, you are coming to hear God’s inspired Word.  It is authoritative and true and worthy of our best attention and deepest affection.
2. Thank God for the power of His Word to transform your life.
God’s Word has the power to change your life.  As John Calvin said,
“To know God is to be changed by God.” I would add, to know God’s Word is to be changed by God’s Word.
3. Pray expecting God will speak to you, teach you, convict you and encourage His Word.
A sense of expectation is always a part of revival and personal transformation.  As you pray, pray expectantly that God intends to do a work in you through His Word.
4. Commit to God that you will receive His Word in humility and obedience.
Before you even hear the Word of God preached, you should resolve in your heart that your response will always be, “Yes, Lord.”  When you put your “Yes” in front of God’s Word, God will shape you and use you in ways you could never imagine.