24 November 2012

The Great Escape

When I was in the sixth grade, I would play football after school with several other guys in the neighborhood.  These were the days of Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, and the Cowboys were still America’s team.  Everyone in the world, as far as we knew, was in love with the sport, and we were no different. We played football almost every day after school regardless of the weather. But, more than the football, what I remember most was Scott’s dad Gary.  When Gary would get home from work each evening he would watch us as we played. After he was able to determine which team was losing, he would join that team.  We were always excited when his dad would show up because it was always a game changer for the team he joined.

2 Cor 10:3-4 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

The word ‘stronghold’ comes from the Greek word ‘ochurôma’ which literally means “a prisoner locked by deception.” Too many men that I know are prisoners of a lie.

Do you have strongholds in your life?  An area where your mind is locked onto the wrong thing? Strongholds you could be facing may include:

  • Financial strongholds.  You may think you will never be good with money.  
  • Relational strongholds.  You may think you can never have a good relationship.
  • Habitual strongholds.  You’re addicted to something, or you have a habit.  
  • Mental strongholds.  You may say “I just have a bad attitude.  That’s just the way that I am.  I see life from a negative perspective.  
  • Spiritual stronghold.  You’re on fire for God one day, and then I’m lukewarm the next.
  • Physical stronghold.  You don’t like the way you look.  Maybe you have hair on your back and not on your head.  

You believe this is just the way you are and you cannot change.  After believing the lies long enough, we come to a place where we may say, “God, even You can’t even change me…this is just the way I am.”  What kind of bigger insult could we ever give to the One who made us than to say, “You don’t have the power to change me.”

A lie believed as truth will affect you as if it were true.  And this is one of the most common lies that we as men believe, “This is just the way I am.  I can’t change.  I've tried it before and it didn't work out, and so that proves that I can never ever change in this area of my life.”

How can we break out of our strongholds and surrender ultimately to the power of God that can and will set us completely free?

Let God into the game.  In the same way Scott’s dad changed the game for us God can do the same thing for you.

Let’s capture wrong thoughts.  Any thought that is inconsistent with God’s word- we grab it, take it captive and we make it prisoner.  We make it obedient to Christ.  Once we capture those thoughts we must release ‘right words.’  Because the tongue has the power of life and death, and so many people speak words of death and defeat.

Once we do those two things then we attack and win.  Colossians 1:29 “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

When I see men struggling to break free from strongholds some of the most common mistakes I see are the attitudes of “I’ve got to try harder, I’ve got to be better, I’ve got to work harder.  If I really was devoted, I’d overcome this.” While this sounds like a good approach, in reality it becomes ‘all about us.’

What happens so often is we forget to let God into the game.  It’s me doing my part, and it’s His strength doing what I don’t have the ability to do.

You may be saying “ I've tried and I've even prayed about it.”  There is a difference between trying and praying, and trying and surrendering.

Surrender to Him. Let God in the game and you will see what kind of a game changer He truly is.

17 November 2012

I've Got to Be Strong

“Who do you THINK you are?!!”

“I'm Hub McCann. I've fought in two World Wars and countless smaller ones on three continents. I led thousands of men into battle with everything from horses and swords to artillery and tanks. I've seen the headwaters of the Nile, and tribes of natives no white man had ever seen before. I've won and lost a dozen fortunes, KILLED MANY MEN and loved only one woman with a passion a FLEA like you could never begin to understand. That's who I am!”

That is one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Second Hand Lions.” Walter, Garth, and Hub are sitting in a diner/grocery store eating lunch when a group of hooligans come in and start trouble.  One of the teenagers tries to take Hub’s lunch and Hub knocks his hand away. The surprised teen asks “who do you think you are?”  Hub puts him in his place physically and TELLS the teen WHO he is.

Satan uses many lies in attempt to rob us of our identity in Christ.  The most common lie that Satan wants us to believe is that we have to be strong. We have to hold it all together.  If it’s going to be, it’s going to be up to me. That we have got to pull ourselves up by our boot straps, that we have to work harder, that we have to perform and that we’ve got to produce.  

No matter how strong you are, your strength is limited.  Eventually, you will run out of steam.  If you could be completely honest, you might admit this is a predicament in which you currently find yourself.  You feel life is throwing more at you than you can handle.  The expectations are overwhelming. You’ve got too much going on.  And, you just don’t know how you’re going to accomplish it all.  

The TRUTH is YOU can’t get it all done because you are not created by God to have all the ability in your own strength.  Your strength is intentionally limited.  God’s strength is UN-limited and, that’s why God wants us not to depend on our own limited abilities, but to do life empowered by His unlimited spiritual power.  

Far too many of us are ‘doing life’ out of our own limited strength, and we end up frustrated, worn out, and simply unable to get anything done.  The prophet Isaiah said in chapter 40:30-31:  

Even youths grow tired and weary, 
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Scripture assures us we will soar like eagles! But, unfortunately, most men I know fly more like humming birds.  Watch a humming bird in flight.  The tiny creature flaps its wings 40-80 times per second while rushing from one flower to the next. We often resemble hummingbirds in our day to day lives:  Got to do this…(rush) got to pay the bills…(rush) Got to get the project done…(rush) got to study for my test…(rush) I can’t get it all done…(rush) You’re making me mad…(rush) I know I’ve got to be strong…(rush)

On the other hand, set your gaze on an eagle in flight. Watch it soar. Scripture says those who hope in the Lord ‘soar.’  There’s no anxiety-ridden effort and frustration in ‘soaring.’  The wind of the Spirit does the lifting.  

The lie is ‘we have to be strong.’  But the truth is, “You have to be weak, broken, vulnerable, and dependent.”  

2 Corinthians 12:9-10:  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

You must embrace that you will NEVER get it all done.  God is able to do more through your weakness than he ever could through your strengths.

Who do you think you are?

11 November 2012

Believing in the Next Generation

We are at a crossroads. We are in an especially important time for the church and for future generations because so much of our focus to move the Kingdom forward consists of good intentions.   But, if we leave it simply at ‘good intentions’ and don't transfer those good intentions into actions, then we will- in so many ways- short circuit what God wants to do.

If we don't impart spiritual life into the next generation, we are on the road to losing them when it comes to having  faith in Christ.

Although Moses had the vision to go into the Promised Land, he never got to do it. But Moses, being the leader he was, still did some amazing things.  One of the best things he did was to mentor the next generation with a strong faith.  He raised up Joshua, and when he died, he handed off the leadership to Joshua in a seamless transition.

Joshua was able to fulfill what Moses had always desired; it was he who led Israel into the Promised Land. He became a phenomenal leader, but he had one tremendous downside.   Joshua did not ‘raise up’ the next generation.  Consequently, when his generation died, tragedy plagued  the next generation.

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers” (that means they died) “another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

Since Joshua did not raise up spiritual leaders in the generation to come, the next generation did not know God intimately or experience His power.

What are we supposed to do now?

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good...” Titus 2:7

One of my goals in life is to be a godly example. If you hang out with me for about 30 seconds, you’ll quickly realize I’m not perfect. But with everything in me, I plan to love one woman and serve her faithfully for my entire life, loving her as Christ loved the church and I plan to live with financial integrity.   

I would be entirely stoked if someone younger would come along and say out loud, "You know what? I want to be a little bit like that!"  That would be one of my greatest honors.

How could we possibly settle for any less of a goal? …to be a great example, simply through the way we live our lives.

Are you thinking that you have nothing to teach the next generation? Have you ever…

  • been hurt by someone and you've overcome that hurt?
  • failed at something and you learned from that failure?
  • had a significant setback and you overcame the setback?
  • fought and survived cancer?
  • overcome an addiction to pornography or drugs or alcohol?
  • committed adultery, confessed it, and experienced God’s healing in your marriage?
If you have experienced anything close to these examples, God can use you to be in a mentoring relationship to someone else, like Paul was for Timothy.  But, don't insult God by telling him you don't have anything to offer the next generation.  This generation needs to hear from you. This generation needs to hear your God stories.

04 November 2012

God Believes in You

How would you define success in raising the next generation? Society says success is raising well-rounded, well-educated, happy kids. But, what our culture defines as success is based on circumstances, and circumstances always change. One of the most important things we can do as parents is impart spiritual life to the next generation.  If we only want them to have ‘more than we had,’ but don't foster a relationship with Christ, in the end, it doesn't amount to anything.

We are called to teach the significance of spiritual life to the next generation. There's a verse, I feel, that really captures the essence of this divine calling.  It is about David in the Old Testament, as he prays this prayer in Psalm 71:18:

Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

The greatest calling that we can have is to impart spiritual life to the next generation. We are not called to raise well-rounded, well-educated, happy kids. To the contrary, we are called to unleash single-minded, Christ-centered, Biblically-anchored, world changers into the world for the glory of God. We are not called to protect and keep them under our safe arms.

This is a big challenge especially when every force in the world is working against you. Here's what I want you to understand; I absolutely and completely believe that you are called to this and that you can do this.  But, more than me believing in you, God believes in you.

God has given you everything that you need to do everything that He calls you to do. He will equip you to do one of the most important things that you can do on earth, and that is to impart spiritual life to the next generation. The next generation is not limited to just your sons and daughters.

There are families in our church, in our neighborhood, and those that we know at work that do not have an example of a Godly man in their lives.  In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses challenges the nation of Israel to speak into the lives of the next generation:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

An Old Testament family was much different than a family is today. A typical family would have included the parents, their adult siblings, their adult sibling's children and grandchildren, and their own children and grandchildren. If they had people who worked with them, they would be included in the family. It was not uncommon to have a family that would have as many as 80 or so people, like a tribe or a clan with God saying, 'Hey, (to the whole tribe, to the whole clan, to the whole nation), this is your calling. Together, speak into the lives of the next generation.'

You can see it all throughout the Bible.

Paul and Timothy are a phenomenal example of this. If you study Timothy, you’ll find he was in the emerging generation. He grew listening to his mom and grandmother speaking into his life, continually. However, what God did for him and his mom and grandmother was to bring into their family a supporting outside voice- in the person of the Apostle Paul.  Paul could say the same things that mom and grandma had said, but, he could say it from a man's perspective to a young man.

The supporting voice of Paul said, 'Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young! Don't let anyone do that! Be an example to all believers.' Paul also said to Timothy, 'God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.' …that just sounded different than when Eunice said it. Way different. When Paul spoke, it was a man of God saying something.  Those words, spoken from Paul’s perspective into Timothy’s life served to build him up.

God believes in you!

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