Two Are Better Than One: Working Together

Two are better than oneIn my previous post I shared that many Men’s Ministries use Proverb 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV) as their scripture verse for the ministry.  Though this is true, we need to understand how this is done, how does one man sharpen another?  It is not done just because you attend church together, sitting next to each other in a church service or at a men’s conference.  We need to understand how to sharpen each other and I believe Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12 helps us understand how men need to go about sharpening each other.  We read this from those verses;

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  10For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up…. 12And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (CSB)

I have come to appreciate this text in Ecclesiastes more for what ministering to men should be all about.  In the previous post I shared there are three actions I see that we can glean from this text for us to apply in our lives to help us minister to men.

In this post we are going to look at the first of these actions which is working together.  Look at verse 9 again,

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.

In the New American Standard Bible, the last few words of this verse read, “good return for their labor.”  We see in this verse the attitude of working with another and not working alone.  As we work together we increase our output, our efficiency, our effectiveness in accomplishing the task we are about.

Working with others has advantages.  God designed us for companionship, not isolation and not loneliness.  We men sometimes prefer isolation.  I know I do.  I enjoy my time alone and to be perfectly honest with you, I like working alone.  I feel like I can get more accomplished when I am by myself.  But that is not really true.

Working together we not only have a good reward for our efforts; but, we also begin to develop relationships with those we are working with.  Working together gives us an opportunity to get to know the people God has place in our lives.  By getting to know these individuals, winning their trust, you will earn the privilege to speak into their lives as God leads.

Working together also helps us to recognize the work God is doing.  We have the joy of seeing God’s hand as He is transforming men into His image.  Those who are more mature in Christ can also be an example to those who are new in their walk.  They can provide encouragement.

A few months ago, I had the privilege to travel to Big Pines Key, Florida with about 15 others to help in the recovery effort from Hurricane Irma.  Though it was a blessing to help the people in Florida there was even an additional blessing to work alongside other men.  We walked into some sad and devastated areas that most would not know where to start.  But because there were men working together we encouraged each other and got right to work on the property and house we were assigned and within a few short hours had the property and the outside of the house cleaned up to allow reconstruction.

What we did in Florida was a massive undertaking, I know that, but there are tasks and mission opportunities in our communities that men need to be working together to encourage each other to complete.  To advance the kingdom of God and bring needed help to those in our communities that cannot do it on their own.  Sometimes just getting together to fellowship with each other over a meal, or watching a sporting event, or some other activity can go a long way to help create those relationships.

We see this throughout scripture.  Jesus sent the disciples out in twos.  The apostles worked together in at least groups of two.  Always ministering and supporting each other wherever they went.  This is the example men need to take and apply to their own lives.  Working alone can and will allow you to be an easy target for the enemy.  So do not do it wherever possible.

Men need to be building relationships, so they can be there when men need encouragement and together we can advance the kingdom of God by working alongside each other to help those who are in need.

Through work activities men can encourage and support other men who may be struggling and as you develop relationships with these men we move to the next action we see in this text.

Next time we will look at the second action we need to apply to our lives; Walking Together.

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

 

Two Are Better Than One

Two are better than oneWow!  We are in a New Year and already at the start of the second month.  Where does the time go?  Seems that we just start one new year and then Wham!, another is upon us.  This year is starting off with a bang.  Many of us has dealt with the flu or some other sickness during January.  The first two weeks of this year had me down as I ran a fever for eight straight days.  That will zap the strength right out of you and it takes a while to get your stamina back.  But I am back and ready to see what God is going to do in 2018.

Since I have been involved in ministering to men, I have had the opportunity to meet with men throughout Southeast North Carolina and across the state regularly.  There are many men who are doing great work for our Lord and growing daily in a relationship with God.  However, there are a large number of men who are struggling with life issues.

One of my struggles, according to my wife, is that she tells me that my filter is wearing out.  That sometimes I speak before I think about what I am going to say.  Well that may be true.  But, you know, I like being surprised just like everyone else.  I may make light of our struggles, but I am like every other man when I say that I too struggle with issues.

Over the next few posts I want to share with you how men in our churches can be impacting other men in their local body of believers.  How they can be an encourager and help men who are struggling with life issues.

When we ask most churches, what are they doing with their men or what does their Men’s Ministries consist of, we find that it is centered around gathering events or mission opportunities.  That is all well and good and I certainly encourage these activities; but, we need to understand that ministering to men is much more.  Many times, Men’s Ministries uses Proverb 27:17 as their scripture verse;

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV).

Though Proverbs 27:17 is true, that one man does sharpens another, there is a text in Ecclesiastes I believe helps us to understand how men need to go about sharpening each other.  The text is found in Chapter 4 verses 9-10, 12.

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  10For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up…. 12And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (CSB)

Read this text again.  Verse 9 and the beginning of verse 10 is a word of encouragement; but then, at the end of verse 10 we see a warning, “but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”  Then verse 12 provides us another word of encouragement.

Over the last decade I have come to appreciate this text in Ecclesiastes more for what ministering to men should be all about.  The next several posts we will unpack this text and discuss the three actions I see for us to apply in our lives to help us minister to men we encounter.

I will give you a hint and tell you we will find it all deals with relationships.  Rather men want to admit it or not – men respond to ‘manly’ relationships.  As Tim, the Tool Man Taylor would say, “Auugghhh?”  Men are somewhat isolationist when it comes to their feelings; they rarely share their feelings, even to their wives.  And they certainly are not going to share with another man unless they know they can trust the individual completely.

Men, if they are left to their own devices, will run like water taking the path of lease resistance, even if it is wrong.  That’s why men need strong relationships in their lives.

Next time we will look at the first action we need to apply.

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

Light Your Fire!

As we approach Christmas we are probably all excited about spending time with family and friends.  If you are like me you may even be taking a break from all the hustle and bustle of ministry to deal with the programs, get togethers, and parties that come with this time of the year.  Though there is nothing wrong with that, we need remind ourselves to stay focus on our relationship with God and not let our fire – our passion – die.

This time of year, while it is cool, many 20161204_150627[1]of us will light fires in our fireplaces or in the fire pit outside.  Maybe spending time around some fire pit roasting marshmallows as we gather with family and friends to celebrate Christmas.  “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” uh.. sorry, got carried away in the moment.  Anyway, we start those fires and we don’t think much about them afterwards, unless the fire starts to die down and we stoke it or put some more logs on the fire to keep it going.

We get so busy in this time of the year some of us either forget or neglect (I will let you choose) our devotions.  With the New Year fast approaching it is my hope and prayer we will find time to reflect on this past year on reaching our men.  What did we do right and what could we approve on?  One thing I feel we all can do more, is to encourage our men to develop an intentional and intimate relationship with God.  How to keep the fire burning?

Recently I finished a study in Leviticus and one of the items I was drawn to, though I have read it many times, was the command God gave to Moses and Aaron about the fire on the altar.  In Leviticus 6:12, the Lord told Moses, “The fire on the altar is to be kept burning: it must not go out” (CSB).

If you know anything about the anatomy of a fire, you know there are three elements required for any fire to burn.  First is the heat.  Heat must be present.  Without heat the fire will not burn.  Throw some water on it, you will take away the heat and the fire will eventually die.  Second, a fire must have oxygen.  Just like humans this helps the fire to breath.  Just like us, you take away the oxygen, basically suffocating the fire, it will die; and finally, you must have fuel.  Rather it is wood, paper, gas, or something else.  It must be some sort of a combustible product.  But if you take the fuel away from the Heat and Oxygen, guess what, the fire will die.  You must have all three to sustain an active fire.  Without any one of these – heat, oxygen, fuel – the fire will die.  It cannot live on.

When I read Leviticus 6:12 it got me thinking.  In fact, in verse 13 God was even more emphatic about keeping the fire going, He said, the “Fire must be kept burning… continually; it must not go out” (bold is mine).  I wrote in the margins of my Bible here, “Example of our passion for God.”  Our fire must not go out.  The fire that is within us.  The fire, that when we surrendered to God, that became alive in us, must not go out.  But let’s face it, there are days when we feel this fire has gone out; or at least it is down to the embers just glowing, it is no longer a raging fire.  It will not take much more for the fire to die.  What do we do?  What will keep this fire within us raging – burning.

Just like the fire in the Fire Pit or the Fireplace, we need three elements to keep the fire in our lives – our passion – burning for God.  We need to have three disciplines in our lives active to keep that fire burning.  Below is the three elements we need to maintain an active fire – passion – in our lives.

  1. Spend time in the Word of God. This is your fuel.  I don’t mean when you go to church or a Bible Study, I mean read it every day.  Discipline yourself to read the Bible.  I recommend reading at least five chapters a day.  Depending on the length of the chapters this will take 15 to 30 minutes.  Dedicate a time in the day.  Get up a half hour earlier.  Turn off that TV a half hour earlier.  Use your lunch break.  Seek a time to do it and DO IT!  Nothing will cause your fire to go out quicker than neglecting the reading of the Word; taking away the fuel of the fire.  And when you read, allow it to find a place in your heart and meditate on it.  “I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you” (Psalms 119:11).
  2. Spend time in Prayer. This is your heat.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “Pray without ceasing.”  Always being in an attitude of prayer.  But you also need to discover your prayer closet and spend time there.  Often, we read in the gospels about Jesus stealing himself away to spend time in prayer – sometimes praying all night.  You need to spend time talking and listening to God.  If your attitude towards prayer begins to cool down then your fire – passion – will begin to become nothing more than embers, barely hanging on.
  3. Spend time with other believers. This is your oxygen.  We cannot live this life alone.  Jesus sent his disciples out in twos.  The apostles had traveling companions in ministry.  Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us that “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.”  Verse 10 says, “For if either on them falls, the one will lift up his companion.”  Then at the end of verse 10 a warning is given, “But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.”  All of us need Barnabases around us.  Gathering together to worship.  Hanging out with each other.  Working together.  We need others in our lives to keep us encourage and to pray with us when we begin to feel suffocated with the struggles of life.

If your fire is dying and it is just the slight glow of the embers or has gone out completely, examine yourself like we are told to do in Lamentation 3:40.  Probe your ways.  You may find out that one of these three disciplines are missing from your life.  If one is, put it back into the mix to keep the fire burning.  Do something to activate the fire again.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

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

What Is Discipling? – Part 3

In the first two posts we talked about the Disciple Makingidea of Disciple Making and what is not disciple making.  In this post we will look at what is disciple making.  To be honest, it is one simple concept.  One idea we need to embrace and make it a lifestyle in our walk with Christ.  One method all Christians can do if they will just do it.  What is that concept, idea, or method?  To pour one’s life into another.  Paul said it best in 1 Thessalonians 2:8;

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. (CSB) (bold is mine)

How do you do that?  By spending time with the person you are discipling.  When you look at the life of Jesus, he spent time with the men he chose to share his life with.  They did life together.  In John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.”   In my last post I described the scene of Mary Magdalene being distraught because she thought individuals had stolen the body of Jesus from the grave and she did not know what to do.  When Jesus called her name, “Mary,” she immediately knew it was Him.  Why?  Because she had developed an intentional relationship with Jesus.  She knew His voice.

Men GolfingWe need to be intentional with the relationships we develop with the men that God bring into our lives.   Learn to do life by enjoying a ball game together, hunting or fishing together, having lunch or any number of activities that allow you to spend time getting to know each other.  When you do this you build trust that allows each other to open up and talk about struggles in life.  Share your own experiences and how God work you through those experiences.  Get to know your men.  If we are to be imitators of Christ as Paul teaches (1 Corinthians 11:1), then as Jesus knew His men, we should know our men.  Help them to know the ‘voice’ of Christ.

Practice the ministry of “Hanging Out” with your men. MenFishing Discipling is all about being with men one-on-one, life on life.  In any discipling relationship, including discipling among Christians, this means following a specific track that is reliable, personal, and has value and application.

To change a man’s character and behavior, we must first change the way he thinks.  The process of transformation, in becoming an obedient follower of Jesus starts with our thoughts.  Jesus said in Matthew 15:18; “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart.”  And what comes from the heart is what a man thinks.  What a man thinks becomes his value, his values determine his character, and he acts out his character through his behavior.

Jeff Kisiah and MeAs one disciples another, it will help the man to see himself the way God sees him.  It helps him to discover, or in some cases rediscover, his identity in Christ.  When a man truly understands who he is in Christ, it changes his behavior.  Discipling is about heart transformation, not behavior modification.  And the only way this happens is by allowing God to work through you as we are called to “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19) as one man pours his life into another man.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike