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.
 


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


Fearless Peace: Jim and Elisabeth Elliot

 

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  John 14:27

             One of the great blessings of a life devoted to obeying God’s Word is the peace of God.  God’s peace is a gift which impacts us at a heart level, so that our hearts are not troubled, nor filled with fear.  The peace of God is a direct result of peace with God.  If we are living in disobedience to God’s Word, we should not expect to experience His peace.  However, if we live our lives in continual obedience to His Word, we are one with Christ and we have access to this amazing peace.
            God’s peace is a fearless peace. God’s peace is not the absence risk or an insistence on comfort and safety, but a conviction that because God’s Word is true and trustworthy, whatever He leads us to do and wherever He leads us to go will be His best for us.
            Many have heard of the missionary Jim Elliot who along with 4 other young men was mercilessly killed while trying to reach a lost tribe of natives in Ecuador.  Jim demonstrated his fearless peace in his oft repeated quote- “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
 
 
            Perhaps, however, you may not remember that his young wife Elisabeth demonstrated a fearless peace which was perhaps even greater than Jim’s.  Elisabeth describes in her own words,
“A year after I went to Ecuador, Jim Elliot, whom I had met at Wheaton, also entered tribal areas with the Quichua Indians. In 1953 we were married in the city of Quito and continued our work together. Jim had always hoped to have the opportunity to enter the territory of an unreached tribe. The Aucas were in that category—a fierce group whom no one had succeeded in meeting without being killed. After the discovery of their whereabouts, Jim and four other missionaries entered Auca territory. After a friendly contact with three of the tribe, they were speared to death.   Our daughter Valerie was 10 months old when Jim was killed. I continued working with the Quichua Indians when, through a remarkable providence, I met two Auca women who lived with me for one year. They were the key to my going in to live with the tribe that had killed the five missionaries. I remained there for two years. After having worked for two years with the Aucas, I returned to the Quichua work and remained there until 1963 when Valerie and I returned to the U.S.”  This is a FEARLESS PEACE!
            As Elisabeth, Valerie and others consistently loved and shared the Gospel with this fierce tribe, the power of God interceded and began a spiritual work within the Auca tribe.  The group which was once known for its evil and violent ways, now became known for their peaceful love for Christ.  This is a FEARLESS PEACE!
            How does someone ever get to this kind of faith and peace?  Elisabeth explains her attitude in the midst of these horrible and amazing events that unfolded in her life.
This is a FEARLESS PEACE!
            May we, men and women of God, endowed with the same Holy Spirit as Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, embody this fearless peace in our lives… whatever He asks us to do, wherever He asks us to go, whoever He asks us to love.


Why Women Should Pray and Read the Word Together

 

3 Reasons Why Women Should Pray and Read the Word Together

1.  Prayer and Bible reading brings ladies closer to God and one another.
 A special thing happens when women let down their guards, take of their “church mask” and honestly come to God in humility and authenticity- God produces a sense of intimacy with Him and unity with one another.  Women begin to experience and share God’s strength with one another.
2. Prayer and Bible reading changes women’s focus from a “Martha” to a “Mary” perspective.
 In Luke 10:38-42, we learn about two women who loved Jesus very much.  One woman, named Martha was a go getter, workaholic, “supermom” type that was overwhelmed with worry, anxiety and stress trying to do all of the stuff she thought a good host would do.  Martha was distracted by the tasks of ministry.  Mary was content to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to His teaching.  Mary was devoted.  The Women’s Prayer gathering is a time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to Jesus.  It is a time to leave all the anxieties, worries and distractions behind and simply enjoy Jesus.
3.  Prayer and Bible reading brings change.  We cannot discount the power of the fervent prayers of a group of Women.  We are reminded of this power in Scripture- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16  When women begin to pray together, the power of God’s Spirit is sure to follow.  It will change hearts, minds, lives, attitudes, circumstances and problems like nothing else. God has great things in store for those women who will humbly cry out to God in prayer and submit themselves to His Word.  God is searching for Women whose hearts are seeking Him! “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9


Lost Arts: 3 Ways to Immerse yourself in Scripture

 

Lost Arts: 3 Ways to Immerse yourself in Scripture

Are you looking for some fresh ways to engage and immerse yourself in God’s Word?  Try some of these fresh ways to immerse yourself in the Word of God.
3 Ways To Immerse Yourself In Scripture
1. Double Your Sensory Engagement:
Try reading AND listening to the Scripture at the same time.  Use a Bible app like Bible.is or YouVersion and as you read with listen to the Bible passage, read along with it as well.  Bible.is even offers a “dramatized” audio version that includes music and multiply voice actors to give new perspective and depth to your reading.  This is especially helpful for those who struggle to remain focused while reading or listening to long passages.
2. Dramatize The Word:
Some Bible passages are dripping with emotions and emphasis.  Find a place where you can read the Scripture out loud and read it with the emotion and drama that you think the author felt when God first inspired him to write it.  This is particularly effective when reading many of the Psalms and the Gospels.
3. Write a Poem:
After you read a passage of Scripture, take a stab at writing a poem that relates to the truths revealed in the passage.  You will find that as you seek to find creative ways to communicate the truths in the passage that they take on deeper meaning to you. 


Lost Arts: 3 Ways to Study the Bible

 

Lost Arts: 3 Ways to Study the Bible

“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”2 Timothy 2:15  If we are going to rightly handle and instruct others from the Word of God, we must put in the work of studying the Bible.  As Donald Whitney says, “The basic difference between Bible reading and Bible study is simply a pencil and a piece of paper.Here are 3 Ways to Study the Bible.

3 Ways to Study the Bible
1.  SOAP Bible Study:
Every Sunday, we provide a Scripture reading to prepare our people for the upcoming Sunday message. We will encourage those that are striving to grow as a disciple to complete a S.O.A.P. Bible study on one or more scriptures each week. So, how does someone get started with a SOAP Bible Study? All you need is a Bible, a piece of paper (a journal is best) and a pen. Then, following the outline below, write down your responses to each letter in the acronym S.O.A.P.
S = Scripture:
 Read the Scripture or a passage of Scripture. Write it down in your journal. Or, when reading large passages, write down the “gem” passage that you will focus your attention upon.
O = Observation:
 Write your observations about the passage. How would you explain the Scripture if you were teaching it to someone else? Stop and think on the Scripture. Say it out loud. Try to uncover who was the passage written to? What are some key words that stand out in this passage? Are there any other Scriptures that this passage reminds you of or makes you think about? Are there any pictures, illustrations, stories, or object lessons that come to your mind when reading this Scripture?
A = Application:
 How does this scripture apply in your life? What does this Scripture lead me to do? Why should I do it? What will be different if I live out the truths in this Scripture?
P = Prayer:
 Pray for God to give you understanding of how He wants to use this Scripture in your heart and life. Ask Him to help you to hear and understand His Holy Word. Pause and listen! Ask Him to give you direction for the day, for the week, for your life. “Speak Lord! Your servant is listening!”
 
2. Character of God Bible Study:
In this Bible study method, you seek to understand a part of God’s character in the Scriptures.  Perhaps an in depth focus on the holiness of God, the mercy of God, the righteousness of God, etc.  In this approach, it is helpful to have some key Bible resources like a concordance and access to Bible commentaries.  One helpful (and free) online resource for Bible study is www.biblehub.com.  Choose a characteristic about God, look up passages of Scripture on that characteristic and then begin to compile a character profile.  Ask the following questions while assembling this character profile:
a.)  How does this character quality inspire me to greater love and reverence toward God?
b.)  How does this character quality encourage my faith in God and my obedience to Him?
c.)   Is this character trait something that God desires to cultivate in my life?  How will these scriptures teach me to call upon God to bring about transformation in my life?
 
3. Biographical Bible Study:
We have much to learn from the many people mentioned in the Bible.  One helpful way to study the Bible is to get to know a particular Bible character more deeply.  Using the above mentioned Bible resources, collect and read the Scriptures that refer to the particular character you are studying.  As you read and study, ask the following questions about this character and take note of your insights.
a.)  What flaws, sins and struggles did this character face?
b.)  How did God’s grace transform their personal story?
c.)  What about the context of their life, circumstances, struggles and victories do I most identify with?
d.)  How might I benefit from the lessons that God taught them or God reveals through them?
e.)  How will my life be transformed by these truths?


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.