Be Thankful – Always!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name. – Psalm 100:4

ThanksgivingThe Thanksgiving season is upon us.  Thursday, we will be celebrating this year’s Thanksgiving Day.  Families and friends will gather in homes and other places to enjoy a hearty meal, desserts, maybe watch football, or even play a game of football as a family.  My oldest grandson told me this weekend he was going to play football with his Dad’s family this weekend while visiting in Ohio.

But so often we enter this day as just another holiday and though we talk about this holiday being a day to be thankful, we oftentimes overlook what we are thankful for.  Yesterday while in church I heard the pastor state we shouldn’t be thankful only once a year; but, our lives should be lived as a Thanksliving.  Being thankful for what God has done for us every day all year long.

So, what am I thankful about?

First, my relationship with God.  The fact that He loved me so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that I could have eternal life and have it more abundantly.  That even in my depraved state, Jesus loved me to the point of death so that I can be saved.  Without Him and the relationship I have with Him, all those I mention below would not be possible.

I am thankful for my wife.  For over 41 years she has stood beside me and have been a blessing to me, in the good times and the bad.  We have worked through them together.  She has been a wonderful Mom to our two children, she has been an adopted mom to our in-law children and treat them as if they are her own.  And of course, she is a great Memom to our grandchildren.  Always having that right snack around the house.

I am thankful for my children.  They are a delight of my eyes and a joy to my heart.  They too have blessed me beyond measure.  I have been blessed that they have stayed in the area and I can see them often.  I know many parents do not have that luxury and I am grateful that God has seen to it they have been able to stay close by.  And I am thankful for the ones God placed in my children’s path to marry.  My in-law children are as much a part of my family as my own children and I like to think of them as my own.

Proverbs tells us that “Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly” (Pro. 17:6).  Or as some translations say, “of the age” or “old men.”  I don’t consider myself none of those yet, but my grandchildren are a crown.  One of the most enjoyable times in my life now is my grandchildren climbing in my lap to share Peanut M&Ms or to watch, as one calls it, “Kirock.”  For those that don’t understand the language, that stands for Coyote of Roadrunner and Coyote.  What a joy it is to watch them grow.

I am thankful for my extended family, my brother who has been a support to me in so many ways after our Dad died when I was 14 years old.  Offering me wisdom though I didn’t listen to him when I was much younger.  A sister who died quite some time ago, who while I was growing up, always showed her love to me.  My in-laws, Joanne’s family, as they have been like brothers and a sister to me.  Joanne’s Mom as she has treated me as one of her own.

Thankful of the many friends I have, too many to count or mention individually.  Scripture tell us “the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel” (Prov. 27:9).  Thankful for my church family.  Thankful for my partners in ministry throughout the state of North Carolina and the nation (you know who you are).

To have all the family and friends and knowing my Savior Jesus Christ that I am thankful for would not have been possible if it had not been for my Mom and Dad, who both many years ago, have gone to be with the Lord.  Who made sure the first time I went to church was nine months before I was born.  They made sure I was in church regularly hearing the Word of God.  To that I am very grateful because all the others that I mentioned above may not have been possible.

Thank you to all of you who have been an inspiration and an encouragement to me throughout my life.

To the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike.

Be ‘Steadfast’ and ‘Immoveable:’ An Encouragement for Men

20171113_184244[1]Last night I gathered with about 65 men to enjoy a time of fellowship and worship.  We ate, laughed, sang, listen to great teaching and enjoyed fellowshipping with one another.  It was a time with men from many churches across Southeastern North Carolina for the purpose of encouraging each other in our walk with Christ.  This time also provided encouragement for many to return home with a fire burning within their hearts to reach the men of their churches and communities.

The focus verse for the evening came from 1 Corinthians 15:58;

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

With the emphasis on being Steadfast and Immovable.  There is so much men are struggling with they need encouragement from other men to be steadfast in their resolve to follow God.  We need each other so we can be strong and immovable when it comes for standing for the things of God.  As we looked at this we correlated it to the idols that is in our lives.

We watched a video from “33 The Series” titled ‘A Man and His Traps.’  As the video warned us we have allowed temptations and “traps” to neutralize our effectiveness as men.  Too many of us have wrecked our lives and the lives around us.  Too many of us are living in shame, guilt, and are in hiding.   We looked at four key realities about our lives and how idolatry is framed in our lives today.

20171113_192320[1]Often, we think of idolatry as being some stature or pagan worship that will evade our lives.  But idolatry is really anything that we put before God; including our own personal wants and desires.  For instance, feeling significant; always seeking approval.  Because of events early in my life this is something I was always seeking in my young life.  Even today, as a – uh..mmm… – senior adult, I still find that need creeping into my life.  What we fail to realize in our walk with God is that anything, no matter how insignificant it may seem, if it takes our focus away from God can be construed as an idol.

Recently in my reading I found myself asking, “What does it mean to walk with God?”  We can come up with a lot of answers like, “Doing His will.”  “Spending time in the Word.”  “Praying.”  All are good answers and all we should be doing; but, I will submit there is more to being in an attitude of walking with God.  Let me ask the question differently.  What does it mean, ‘to walk with a friend?’  When you are walking with a friend or spending time with them your focus is on them.  You are doing things together, talking, listening to one another.  Nothing takes your focus away from that time with your friend.  Walking with God should be taken with the same attitude.

So often we get up in the morning and we say, “Thank you Lord for another beautiful day.  Allowing me to wake up to another day You have created.”  And within a few short minutes we have wondered on to other things and we have forgotten all about God.  We have allowed the idols of the world to creep into us and shift our focus from God to the busyness of the day.

The reason I asked myself this was because I recently thought of Enoch.  You know, the man in Genesis where it said Enoch walked with God; then he was not there because God took him” (Gen. 5:24).  Apparently, Enoch walked so closely with God that God decided to just take him home.  Why do you think Enoch walked so closely with God?  I believe it was because he focused his whole life on God.  He didn’t let anything, or anyone distract him from focusing on his relationship with God.

This is what we need to do.  Keep our focus on God.  This is why we need men in our lives.  Men who are seeking God and have a focus on God in their lives.  This is why we need to gather as men from time to time.  To help us be ‘Steadfast’ and ‘Immoveable.’

We ended in the evening with a “Prayer Huddle.”  A time when we gather in a circle with our arms around each other’s shoulders; each taking a turn to speak one word of encouragement from the night, then we prayed.  What a sight that was to look around and see men with their arms on the shoulders of other men, a symbol of being locked together to be Steadfast and Immoveable as we encourage each other to stay focus on God.

Men, don’t be a man of isolation.  Gather with other men to help you be Steadfast and Immoveable in your walk with God.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men. – Mike

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The Ministry of Hanging Out

Jeff Kisiah and MeThis past weekend I had the privilege to “Hang – Out” with my mentor and friend, Jeff Kisiah, Executive Director of Band of Brothers Charlotte.  Jeff taught me the concept of the Ministry of Hanging Out (MHO) when we first met many years ago.  It is something we all do, hanging out, we just don’t recognize this as an opportunity for ministry or even to include it into our ministry.  When a bunch of guys get together and do something they connect with or have a common interest we refer to this as ‘hanging out;’ but, we generally overlook the value of these times.

I have learned the importance of having numerous “on ramps” for enlisting men into the battle for men souls.  Oftentimes we have events that really interest the men in our churches but that is all they are – events.  It is an “on-ramp” that has been closed and we must wait for the next “on-ramp” to hopefully get men on a path of discipleship.

Recently, I was at an event with over 60 men in attendance.  They had fun, ate, and listen to a short message.  This was a great “on-ramp” opportunity for men to invite other men who are not connected to the church or sitting on the fringes.  These men could then witness the importance of men rubbing shoulders (Proverbs 27:17) encouraging them to get involved in a discipling relationship.  But oftentimes we don’t use these opportunities and the “on-ramp” is essentially closed.

Sometimes we go to the other extreme.  Too many times the “on-ramp” we give men only provide entry points on the “deep end” of the discipleship continuum such as;

  • In-Depth Bible Studies
  • Leadership Training Modules
  • High Commitment Venues

I was in a meeting recently where someone was sharing he didn’t understand why they couldn’t get men to come to the Bible Studies.  Well, it could be the “on-ramp” is too steep or too sharp of a curve.  Often men need to develop relationships with the men who are involved in those studies before he feels comfortable to attend.

Then we get frustrated when the men “on the fringe” who remain disinterested or disconnected.  What do I mean by men “on the fringe?”  These are men who are connected with the church but are not involved in any discipleship ministry or any ministry for that matter.  Men who come because their children or wife are involved, or they come to “punch the clock.”  You know them, every church has men like this.  You can probably think of two or three right now.  These are men who need another man to come along side of them and encourage them.  The best way to do that is to have times when men can just “hang-out” and get to know each other – opportunities that interest them and when invited will have a common interest with other men.

We must provide a balance in our approach and offer entry points on the “wide end” of the discipleship continuum for those men.  We want to develop relationships with the men talked about above and help them take the next right step toward a relationship in Christ.

God has worked uniquely in the lives of men through these times of men just “hanging-out.”  Some examples you can use are;

  • College / High School Ballgames: If you can’t attend the games think about having viewing parties for the big games.
  • Hiking trips, Wilderness outings and/or Camping Trips
  • Motorcycle or Bicycle rides
  • Racing events: Think about a viewing party for this also if you cannot attend.
  • Fishing adventures: Maybe attend a boat show.
  • Hunting: Maybe attend an outdoor exposition held in your area.
  • Golf Outings/Tournaments: consider hosting one.
  • Attend a Classic Car Show or even host one.

One many don’t think about is Drive Time Fellowship.  There may be many events or activities you participate that requires drive time.  I used to take a group of men to Atlanta once a year for a men’s conference and they would tell me the most enjoyable time of the trip was the fellowship during the drive.

These suggestions are a part of “The Ministry of Hanging Out.”  Now that I got you thinking you could probably think of more activities.  In our Ministry to Men we need to learn and understand the importance of just hanging-out with other men.  You want men to get into discipling relationships, you first need to develop relationships.  And you develop relationships by “hanging-out.”

My life verse is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 when Paul writes;

“We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”

We need to be in the habit of sharing our lives with other men.  Meeting them where they are at and not where we want them to be and letting them see we really do care for them and desire to share life with them.  This will help in developing those opportunities to share the gospel and encourage men to come to Christ or grow deeper in their walk with Christ and move them to that place they need to be.

Start practicing “The Ministry of Hanging Out” as you minister to men and encourage your men to start seeing this as an opportunity to reach men.  As you do, you will begin to see changes in the lives of men you encounter.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike