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.

The Farm Road

The farm road I was walking this morning as the sun was rising over the property was quiet.  Nothing wa20170814_080542[1]s stirring on it as I dodge puddles left by the recent rain.  No vehicles moving, no animals that live in the woods of the property.  Just me as I talked with God.  Every five minutes the app running on my phone would chime in and would let me know how far I had walked and how long I have been walking.

This morning I spent time praising God for who he is.  My rock, my fortress, my strong tower.  Praying about the events of the weekend how it saddens me as I read of how people behave claiming to be Christians; yet their character and attitude did not display the image of God as we saw through Jesus as he walked on the earth.  Praying that these people would see the real Jesus, have the heart of Christ, compassion of Christ, and love each other like He did, even those who hated him, to the point of dying for them, not because of them.

As I walked down the road I looked to my right and spotted a deer looking at me through the thick bushes and trees that hug the road so closely; reminding me how people are watching us through their struggles and misunderstanding of the gospel, watching to see how we will react to them and what our response will be.   This morning I let the deer go on it’s way but if it had been hunting season and I was a hunter I could have easily dropped the deer right where he stood.  Much like many who are filled with hate and don’t know the love of Christ will do to people who do not look like them, talk like them, or hold to the same ideals.  They are like hunters looking for their next target.   I pray these individuals will come to know Christ in an intimate and intentional way; for when they do, they will be repulsed by the actions we saw this weekend.

As I continued to walk I was reminded of the path we are on.  At least those who are truly followers of Christ.  When I looked down the road I saw the bushes and trees close to the road and knew that I could not veer off the road without getting scratch from the limbs and having to fight the limbs to find a path that was not there.  But so many people are.  They struggle every day because they are trying to live life on their own, doing things that looks right in their own eyes, yet falling into a quagmire where they do not understand how they got there or how to get out.  When all they had to do was stay on the path.  A path that Christ Himself created for us to follow.  The teachings of the Bible, the Word of God.  Yes, we will step into puddles for time to time or get struck in the ditch but God’s Word can and will help us to know how He wants us to live.  I imagine the majority of those this weekend that participated in this weekend events have probably spent little time in reading, much less allowing the Word to find a place in their heart.

I pray that God will intervene and cause those who do not know Him to be pierced with the Word and the Holy Spirit will begin a work in their life that will result in a life with Christ; truly imitating his character and attitude of our Lord and Savior.

As men who are in Christ we must be the example to our families and communities of who Christ is.  “As men we must be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.  Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).

By the way – I walked 1.33 miles in 29 minutes.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Effective Men Leaders Read the Bible Regularly

Reading BibleRecently I was talking to my class that I teach on Sunday mornings on the importance to read their Bibles regularly.  And by regularly, I mean daily.  The Bible is a manual.  It is our training guide.  It is God instructing us how to live and deal with situations that may occur in our lives.  As leaders, we need to be in the Word almost constantly.  How can we lead others if we do not know the Word and allow God to speak to us through His Word?

We hear of military personal training constantly as they prepare for deployments and other actions they may take while serving in the military.  Why do they do that?  So when they get into the heat of the battle, their actions will be second nature to them.  They will respond as necessary by instinct – they will know how to act and respond without thinking.

I worked in the nuclear energy world for many years.  Our operators trained regularly; in fact, it is part of their shift rotation to spend a week in training.  Why?  So they can be prepared for any emergency that may occur at the facility.  From a leaking pipe to a core meltdown.  They will know what needs to be down to protect the plant and the people as necessary during an emergency.  They will act from pure instinct.  As if they had already been there and done that.

There are other professionals that do the same such as firefighters, EMTs, and law enforcement personnel.  If these professionals believe it is imperative for them to constantly trained in case of an emergency so they can respond in a manner that is second nature; why should we think that all we need to do as a Follower of Christ is just go to church, maybe attend a Sunday School class, or a weekly bible study and not read, to bury our nose in the Bible daily.

Reading the Bible and applying the teaching of God’s Word into our lives is the training for Christ Followers so they will know when the enemy attacks how to respond.  There is a battle that is raging around us every day.  It is the Battle for our Souls.  Obviously, if you are a child of God the victory has been won and you are fighting from victory.  But if you do not know how to respond to situations that may be thrown at you from time-to-time then you will live a life of oppression.   That is not how God wants us to live.

As men leaders, get into the Word.  Stay in the Word.  Reading other books is okay and we can learn from them if they are aligned with the Word of God; but, the majority of your reading should be in the Bible.  If it is not, START!  Encourage your men to read.  The three things I encourage the men in my discipling groups to do is 1) Read, 2) Read, and 3) Read.  And let the Bible be the book you read the most often.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.  In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm 1:1-3

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men.

Mike

How often Do You Read Your Bible?

Reading BibleAs a child of God you should be reading your bible regularly.  How often do you?  Our days are so busy with  work, raising a family, volunteer activities, and a host of other activities, we just don’t seem to have the time to read anymore.  But I want to encourage you to find the time.  Maybe you need to get up a little earlier in the morning or stay up a few minutes longer in the evening.  Maybe turn that time-robber off we call the TV.  It is amazing how many hours the TV robs us of quality time.  Maybe while you are eating lunch or taking a break from a day’s activity.  If we think and examine our lives we can find the time.

The bible tells us in Psalm 119:105; that God’s word “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Two interesting images here; life is a path and God’s Word is the light that helps us follow that path.

We are told we live in an enlightened age; but, we live in a dark world and only God’s light can guide us.  Obedience to the Word keeps us walking in the light.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

– 1  John 1:5-10

Let me encourage you to read five chapters a day.  If you read five chapters six days a week you will read the complete Bible in about 9-10 months.  Depending on how fast a reader you are you can read five chapters in the time it takes you to watch your favorite half-hour sitcom.

So start reading.  Let the words come alive to you.  Jumping off the page as you store up God’s Word in your heart (Psalm 119:11).

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

Can A Church Really Not Have a Men’s Ministry?

This week I heard from a pastor who stated his church doesn’t have a men’s ministry.  As I thought about the statement I began to wonder, ‘Can a church really not have a ministry to men?’  Or is it they don’t have a formal ministry?  And if they don’t have a formal ministry, what are they telling the men that walks onto the campus of the church?

I have heard another pastor state we don’t need a formal organized men’s ministry, we just need to disciple our men.  Okay… I believe I understand what this pastor was saying is that he doesn’t want a ministry built around events.  I get that.  Ministries to men should not be built around events.  But how does your men know they are a priority and important in your church?  There are many ways you can do this even with the current activities you have going on without creating new ones.  But I will have to save that discussion for later.

The priority of the church is to make disciples.  Jesus made that clear in Matthew 28:19-20.  Therefore, this is the priority of any men’s ministry – to make disciples.  Not to have events, though events does have its place in the ministry.

Events create entry points for men to connect with other men.  Could be with men of similar interests or just men getting together.  The key is connecting and developing relations with other men (though we men typically don’t use this terminology about becoming friends with other men).  As men become friends with each other then we can encourage men to move into discipling relationships.  Rather it is in a Sunday School class, Life Groups, Home Study Groups, or a small men’s groups.

So what happens when a church does not have a ‘formal men’s ministry’ or they say they don’t have a men’s ministry at all?  Does this tell the men of the church they are not a priority?  Is this why many men develop an attitude that church is for the women and children?   Are we sending a message that it is okay to be influenced by the world?  Will the men feel it unnecessary to attend a gathering of the saints?  No one could probably say for sure; but, one thing though is for sure, if the men do not think they are important, then you will have a hard time reaching them.

Every man that walks onto the campus of a church should feel as though a priority is placed on the men.  We have heard the statistics of how important it is to reach the men.

  • If a child is the first in a household to come to Christ, there is a 3.5% probability everyone else in the household will.
  • If the mother is the first to come to Christ, there is a 17% probability everyone else will follow.
  • If the Man, Dad, Husband is first, there is a 93% probability everyone else will follow.

Henry Ford is quoted as saying;

“Your system is perfectly design to produce the results you are getting.”

To put this in churchy speak; a church’s ministry to men, regardless of the type, will produce the type of men attending the church or not attending church.

You do have one, rather it is recognized as one or not; organized or not.  You are telling your men something.  How do you want the men who walks on the campus of your church to feel?   Think about this the next time you think about the men’s ministry of your church.

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

Men Need Other Men

This scene from the movie Facing the Giants, to me, is one of the most inspirational scenes I have seen.  No matter how many times I have seen this it always stirs my heart.

After Brock basically wrote off any chance of winning their next game in front of the whole team, Coach gave Brock a challenge to do the death crawl further then normal.

At first Brock seemed to be just appeasing the coach.  Saying “I can go to the 50 without anyone on my back.”  Coach said, “I think you can do it with Jeremy on your back.”  Asking Brock if he would give his very best, Brock at first said “Yeh.”  But the Coach continue to ask if he would give his very best and finally Brock said “Yes, I will give you my very best.”

Before the coach let Brock start his crawl he blinded folded him.  Coach said he didn’t want him to give up when he reached a certain point.  By blindfolding Brock, it caused him to listen to the coach and not allow sight to dictate when he would quit.  Men this is what we need to do.  We need be blindfolded to what is happening around us that will keep us from keeping our eyes on Christ.  For once our eyes are off of Christ, we will revert back to a man living a defeated life.

Throughout the whole crawl the coach was right there supporting Brock and encouraging him.  Letting him know when he was getting off track and needed to go a little more to the left.  As Brock went further and further he stated complaining that it hurt and it was tough.

“Coach, it hard.  It hurts,” Brock said numerous times.

Now the Coach is on his knees right next to Brock continuing to encourage and saying, “I know it’s hard – I know it hurts.  But you have got to keep going.  Brock don’t give up”

When Brock was finished with the crawl he was not at the 30 yard line… 50 yard line – he was in the end-zone.

This is a prime example of why men need other men in their lives.  To push them when the going gets tough.  To encourage them when they don’t think they can continue.  To be right there beside them when they are hurting and life is hard.  To help in their time of trouble.

Do you think Brock would have made it to the end-zone if the coach had not been there encouraging him to keep going?  I don’t think so.  He would have stopped as soon as the hurting began and it was getting tough to keep going.

This is the epitome of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.”

Finally, the Coach laid down on the field right in front of Brock’s face and continued to encourage him.  Telling him, “Brock, you are the most influential person on this football team.  God has gifted you with the ability to lead.  If you walk around defeated so will everyone else.”

Men…You are the most influential person in your families lives.  God has gifted you with the ability to lead.  If you walk around defeated so will they and so will your wife and children when it comes to their spiritual lives.  You also are an influence to other men.

Will it be easy?  No.  No one said it would be easy.

As men we have a unique God gifted opportunity to affect the next generation coming behind us and to encourage the current generation.

Men you need to give you very best to God.  To help you do that, you need to allow another man into your life to encourage you – even when it hurts – keep moving – don’t quit.  Give your very best.  Yes … sometimes it may hurt so bad that it burns deep within your soul and you feel you cannot make it.  But don’t stop – don’t quit – give your very best to our Lord.

Men… you need to examine your life to see where you are.  We need to examine ourselves – often.  Plato is quoted as saying: “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”  Even scripture tells us we need to do this.

Lamentations 3:40 tells us; Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5; Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.

We need to ask ourselves; “Do we have an intimate relationship with God?  Am I spending time with him each day in scripture and meditation?  Am I praying like I should?  Are we applying the teaching of our Lord into our everyday lives?”

If you are not in the faith, Christ is your only answer.  Only he can remove the darkness, and allow in the light to begin the transformation of your life.  Others of you may need to examine where you are in your relationship with God.  There may be something you need to repent of and return to the Lord.

Just like the coach said to Brock I am going to tell you, Don’t tell me that you cannot give more to God than what you have been doing.  God has gifted you with the ability of leadership; to be discipled and to disciple others.  Men your church needs you.  Your family needs you.  Your Pastor needs you.

Allow other men into your life to encourage and walk beside you or you could become like that man in Ecclesiastes 4: 10 who didn’t have another to lift him up.

Support Our Men and Women in Blue

I am saddened by the events of the past couple of weeks as I am sure many of you are.  Because of the events I have made it a goal to go out of my way to personally thank any law enforcement officer I come across.

Praying with PoliceThese men and women put their lives on the line every day when they put on that uniform and begin their day.  Families don’t know, and it has become more real to them in the past few weeks, if the hug or kiss may be the last one they may give or receive when their love ones walk out the door.  Wives wonder if they will be left to raise a family on their own.  Children when they reach an age that they understand what dad is doing wonder if their Dad will come home.

Many of us who do not have a family member working in law enforcement do not understand the anxiety and anxious moments spouses may feel when the phone rings while their significant other is at work.  These men and women in blue and their families need our prayers and support.  I have heard stories over the past week of people paying for officer’s meals and praying with them.  This blesses my heart and encourages me to know there are people who truly care about out men and women in blue.  It encourages me to do the same if I have the opportunity.  Maybe you too can extend your wallet to cover a meal or pray with an officer.

These are not bad people.  They have chosen a noble profession.  One that puts their life on the line.  Every people group has a bad apple or two that shows up from time to time.  Even in my garden this morning I had to remove a bad tomato from the bush before it contaminated the rest of the tomatoes.  Every business has to weed out bad performers periodically.  But that doesn’t make the whole group bad.

Make it a point to place these men and women on your prayer lists and pray for them regularly.  Go out of your way to tell them how much you appreciate their service to the community.  Give them a hug or a firm handshake.  Pray with them.  I am sure they will appreciate it and I am sure you will feel blessed by doing so.

Scripture tells us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, onP4Pe will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecc. 4:9-10).  Well our brothers and sisters in blue have fallen – not because of their actions but because of others – we need to be there to lift them up.  Don’t let them be alone and not have another to lift them up.

Show your support.  Not because you may need their help one day; but, because they deserve to be respected and honored for their service.