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The Pool of Fear (and how to get out of it)

Do you struggle with fear? Are you drowning in the pool of performance? I encourage you to read these 3 posts by Bob Hudson.

Bob is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado with a Master of Arts in Counseling from Denver Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. I met him at an event called Men at the Cross awhile back.

Bob just started a new blog. His voice is needed in the lives of many men.

Encouraging Fathers - Lots of Links

Below is a collection of posts to encourage fathers as we approach Father's Day. Calling Fathers to Raise Men by Randy Stinson

What's a Christian Dad Supposed to Do by Randy Stinson

How I Pastor My Family by Justin Hyde

Fathers, Don't Provoke Your Children by Dave Bruskas

A Father's Guide to Blessing His Children by David Michael

A Father's Ministry of Prayer by Paul Sailhamer

6 Ways Fathers Pursue Christ in Their Fatherhood by Scott Thomas

Honoring Our Fathers and Mothers in Old Age by Russell Moore

Dads and Daughters by John Piper

Dads and Disabilities by Justin Taylor

Ten Tips for Fathers by Wayne Stocks

Pastor Dad by Mark Driscoll

Raising Our Boys to be Real Men by Doug Wolter

Dads Set the Temperature in the Home by Doug Wolter

The Glory of Bench Warming: Fathers, Sons, Playing Time and Leadership by David Prince

A Good Read for the Men of Your Church

A Guide to Biblical Manhood by Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas looks to be a great resource to read through with the men of your church. Stinson and Dumas outline the essentials of what it means to be a godly husband, a godly father, and godly leader in a short, readable and practical format. It's clear that their aim is that you would read this book and then lead with your actions. Dumas says, "In your marriage, don't go home and say, 'Honey, things are going to be different around here. Here are five things I'm gonna start doing.'" Just lead. Don't announce it. At the first opportunity you get, just do it. Let her discover it. The last thing you want to do is over-promise and under-deliver."

Get the book here for less than $5.

It Starts with Dads

Timothy Witmer from his book, Shepherd Leader:

What better way to multiply the personal ministry of the word than by equipping dads to pray and read the Scriptures with their families.  Note that Baxter suggests that we “give them an example.”  How many of our families would be well fed if we merely gave some simple suggestions to their shepherds?

“Get masters of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labour, but will much further the success of your labours.  If a captain can get the officers under him to do their duty, he may rule the soldiers with much less trouble, than if all lay upon his own shoulders.  You are not like to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation” (RichardBaxter, Reformed Pastor (1656; repr., Carslisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1997), 102).

In doing this you are not only multiplying the ministry of the Word among your people but helping fathers fulfill their God-given responsibilities.  Undoubtedly, many elders will have to repent of their neglecting this duty themselves in order to proceed with a clear conscience.  This is progress, too, and a great place to start!

(HT: Jared Kennedy)

Provoking Your Kids with Perfectionism & Passivism

Dave Bruskas shares two paths he is prone to walk towards in provoking his four girls:

Perfectionism

I desperately want my girls to become mature Christian women. I want them to be molded into women who think, feel, act, and speak like Jesus.

Yet I provoke my girls to discouragement when I expect them to be perfect now, in their own strength, by doing more or trying harder.

Passivism

The overcorrection to perfectionism is passivism. Passivism has the fatalistic attitude, “Because Jesus must change my child’s heart, there is nothing I can do but pray and watch and hope for the best.” This error completely ignores the charge to dads regarding their children in Ephesians 6:4,“Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Read the whole thing ...

Gospel-Centered Accountability Groups

About a year ago, I interviewed my friend, Jonathan Dodson, about his book, Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship.  Since then he's started a website with resources for you to learn more about how you can start gospel-centered accountability groups in your church.  Recently, he spoke at Brent Thomas' church (another friend of mine) about this topic. He reminds us to 1) Know our Sin, 2) Fight our Sin and 3) Trust our Savior.  I encourage you to listen.

Other resources you may be interested in:

Starting Fight Clubs:

Jim Luebe: A Man that Impacted Me Up Close

Jim LuebeOnly a handful of people have come into my life and impacted me up close.  Yes, I can point to pastors like John Piper and C.J. Mahaney who have had a profound influence on my life from afar.  But only a few have invested their lives into my life becoming like a father to me in the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15).  One of those men is Jim Luebe.  I met Jim as a college student at the University of Northern Iowa.  As a relatively new believer in Christ, he took an interest in me and saw in me the potential for leadership.  I remember sitting down with him one day and him turning to Joshua 1:9 which says, "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  He looked at me and said that God had called me to lead just like Joshua.  So I needed to be strong and courageous knowing that He would be with me!  Hearing those words propelled me to take action and be the man God made me to be. 

Jim also started a small group bible study with me and 3 other guys.  I think he affectionately called us "The Four Horsemen."  We met in the mornings on campus and studied through different books of the Bible.  We prayed together and were accountable to each other.  We also spent time with him in his home.  Jim intentionally let us see into his life, his marriage, his struggles, and even his sin.  But his heart was not mainly that we know him; he wanted us to know Christ!  Specifically, he wanted me to know the basics of living for Christ - The Word, Prayer, Fellowship, and Witnessing.  But he didn't just teach these things, he lived them out.  He never asked me to do anything he hadn't done first -- and that principle of leadership has stuck with me.  Jim is also a man of vision.  And he gave me opportunities to lead with vision.  Most older guys don't give younger guys the freedom to fail.  Jim did.  And in doing so, I learned to dream big and believe God could do great things -- more than I could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). 

And I'd be remiss to not mention how Jim showed me the importance of family.  He loves his wife and his boys.  I didn't think about that very much as a college student, but now I do, having been married for 12 years with 3 kids of my own.  Little did he know that he was giving me a model of how to put my wife and kids first in the midst of ministry.

Some of you know that Jim is now the Collegiate Director for the U.S. Navigators.  He and his sweet wife (Beth) continue to invest their lives into college students with a desire that they might become lifelong laborers in Christ's kingdom.  Sometimes I can still hear Jim's distinct voice in the back of my mind telling me about a friend of his that he described as "a faithful laborer over time."

Yes, only a handful of people come into our lives and impact us up close.  Jim Luebe is one of those people for me.  And my prayer is that I would be that for others in my life and ministry.

*Read this article he wrote to collegiate grads about true success in college ministry

You Can't Cover Up Your Sin

From the very beginning, man has tried to cover his own sin and it hasn’t worked.  Like a little kid standing in the middle of the room covering his eyes, we think no one will see us.  But we’re fooling ourselves.  We can’t cover our sin.  Only God can cover our sin and make us secure in Christ.  And because he loves us, he comes after us in our rebellion and confronts us with our sin so we would confess it and continue no longer in it.  His goal is that you would be broken before him and out of this heart that’s been humbled, tell of his mercy and grace.  This was the story of David.  And it’s our story too if we choose to respond the way David did when God came running after him.  This past Sunday I preached from 2 Samuel 12:1-15 to remind us that we cannot cover up our sin – only God can cover it with His grace.

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My message came on the heels of my good friend Lisle's message on 2 Samuel 11 where he reminded us of the reality of David’s sin and that if it can happen to David, it can happen to any of us.  I encourage you to listen to his message as well.

Dads Set the Temperature in the Home

Dads set the temperature in the home, not moms.  You've heard it said, "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! and "If Daddy ain't happy, nobody cares!"  But the truth is dads set the temperature in the home.  Dads are the pace-setters.  Dads are the initiators.  Dads are the leaders.  Everything culminates on Dad.  We see this in scripture, don't we? In marriage, it begins with dads (or husbands).  Ephesians 5:25 says, "Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."  Christ initiated.  Christ loved us.  Christ served us.  Christ gave his life for us.  We husbands follow his example.  Yes, wives are called to submit to their husbands, as to the Lord.  But a wife who is well-led, loved and cherished will gladly submit to her husband's lead.  It all starts with him.

The same holds true in parenting.  Ephesians 6:4 says, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."  Did you catch that?  Dads control the emotional temperature in the home.  We have been given delegated authority from God to guide our children emotionally, but we can abuse this authority and provoke our kids to anger.  We can throw cold water on our kids by over-parenting them, criticizing them, and pushing them to perfection.  We end up driving them instead of guiding them and we wonder why there's so much tension in the home.  There is a better, biblical way.  The Scripture says we are to be patient shepherds who love our children and bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  This is our calling.

Dads, we set the temperature in the home, mom doesn't.  We take the lead and our family follows.  We initiate, they respond.  Seems humbling and overwhelming, doesn't it?  Thankfully God knows our frame.  He knows we live in a fallen world and it's not easy.  Yet he meets us in our weakness and loves to give grace to the humble.

Men at the Cross

Men at the CrossLast weekend I attended a retreat called, Men at the Cross.  It was an intense experience where we identified different barries in our lives that keep us from becoming all of what God wants for us to be in our families, with our friends, and in this world.    Personally, I left encouraged to be the man God made me to be in Christ.  The picture on the left is a small group of guys I got to know from all around the country.  It was a great weekend!

Mahaney on Conflicts in Marriage

Tony Reinke:

Conflicts are to be expected in marriage. But why do they happen in even the most mature marriages?

At a recent monthly gathering with the Pastors College students and their wives, C.J. abbreviated his sermon on James 4:1–3 and shared a recent example of how the passage protected his marriage from conflict during a date night.

Download C.J. Mahaney's 7 min. message here called Cravings, Conflict, and Marriage

Interview w/ Jonathan Dodson - Author of Fight Clubs

It’s a privilege to welcome my friend Jonathan Dodson to the blog.  I met Jonathan at Bethlehem Baptist Church about 10 years ago.  Both of us were newly married at the time and met regularly for encouragement and accountability.  A couple years ago, we reconnected through the blogosphere.  Jonathan is a church planter, pastor and author.  His new book, Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship, just came out in August.  Jonathan has also written several published articles for various journals and webzines such as The Journal of Biblical Counseling and Boundless.  He blogs at Creation Project and Church Planting Novice

I love Jonathan’s heart for the gospel and developing gospel-centered, missional communities.  I’ve learned much from this man!  He was kind enough to do an interview about his new book, Fight Clubs, with me over email.

Jonathan, thanks for making time to do this.  It’s an honor to interview you, brother.  For those who may not know you, please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thank you, Doug. I remember our times at BBC with fondness and appreciate your zeal for the gospel.  I have a British mother and an American father. I became a child of God when I was six. I was captivated by the idea that the God of the universe wanted to have me as his very own son. The Gospel of Adoption blew me away, so much that I spread the gospel as much as I could. I read missionary biographies like crazy. After returning from England in 1980, I lived in East Texas where I learned to mud hog, play tennis, wash windows, and love Jesus. After graduating from high school, I studied at Capernwray Hall and University of North Texas, where I received a degree in Anthropology.

During the college years I tried to find acceptance in the affection and approval of women, which proved pretty devastating. Fortunately, Jesus led me into significant repentance and renewal of faith, as I learned to rest in his perfect acceptance and love. In 2000, I married a woman out of my league. I love Robie. We have two delightful and very imperfect children ages 4 and 2.

 After college, I moved to Minneapolis to study under John Piper. It was under his teaching that I first learned how to really fight the fight of faith—with the promises of God. Book after book, sermon after sermon, class after class, I was immersed into the riches of the gospel in the form of Christian Hedonism and exposed to other great pastors and theologians, both living and dead. It was there that I met Jonathan Edwards and John Owen, both of whom have significantly shaped my discipleship.

 

So, what prompted you to write this book?  How was it born?

 

 I was prompted to write the book out of a desire to strengthen Fight Clubs in our own church, as well as promote gospel living in community beyond the boundaries of our church.

 

The book began during my time as a Pierce scholar at Gordon Conwell. As students with significant experience in discipleship, Pierce scholars are expected to cultivate a culture of peer-to-peer discipleship on the campus of Gordon-Conwell seminary. As I met with burned out seminary students and people in my church, I realized that many of them carried a lot of discipleship baggage. Sometimes it was a failure to take sin seriously, other times it was a failure to take obedience seriously. Both aberrations were a result of not understanding and applying the Gospel.

 

 As I began to reflect more on my own discipleship experiences in college, I started writing an article on the topic of Christian accountability. I realized that my view of discipleship was defunct. It was too hierarchical, viewing myself as the professional and my disciple as the novice. This can breed pride and legalism. It can also make discipleship more about “wisdom” than about the gospel. I was beginning to repent of this professionalized view and practice of making disciples.

 

 As I wrote, the image of an evangelical confessional booth to describe loose discipleship, and ascetic monasticism came to mind for legalistic discipleship. As I worked these out in conversations and writing, it became apparent that this was a topic that needed serious attention. The article went through many forms and many journal rejections before it was published in The Journal of Biblical Counseling. This article formed the basis of chapter two of Fight Clubs.  

 

I love the title, Fight Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship.  Tell us more about the title.  And specifically, why do you use the phrase, “Gospel-Centered Discipleship?”  Can you define what “gospel-centered” means?  Lately it seems to be somewhat of an evangelical buzzword.

 

Great question! This is something I am continuing to work on both theologically and practically. The Gospel is so robust that your question deserves a book-length response. I’ll try to keep it to a few lines.

 

When I first heard the phrase “gospel-centered”, I thought to myself, “How arrogant!” The word assumes that there are faithful Christians who aren’t concerned with the centrality of the gospel. However, as I continued to press into the gospel, and the writings of Tim Keller, I began to appreciate the technicality of the vocabulary.

 

When I use the term “gospel-centered” I am making a theological and practical designation. Theologically, I am saying that the “good news that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and evil through his death and resurrection and is making all things new” is news that should affect everything we desire, do, say, and think. The gospel is not the information that we believe to get saved; it is the good news that keeps us saved. It is the grand announcement of Jesus’ death and resurrection that is relevant for Christian sinners and non-Christian sinners. The gospel calls everyone to repentance and faith every day.  It is not a ticket to glory but the promise of glory on earth. Not escape from creation but renewal of creation. It reconciles sinners and all things by the blood of Jesus’ cross (Col 1:15-23).

 

The Gospel is three dimensional. It is doctrinal-historical, personal-communal, and socio-cultural. It affects everything. It changes how we think (doctrinal), who we are (personal), and where we live (social). The gospel should be central in our vocation, family, community, participation in culture, and commitment to mission. While I believe that the gospel addresses all of these things, I do not think these things are what should be central to discipleship and the church. If the gospel is central, we affect everything in Jesus by the Spirit.

 

Practically, gospel-centered gets at what motivates a disciple of Jesus. It means that neither obedience nor disobedience is central, but the grace of God in the person of Christ working through the presence of the Spirit in us. That gospel comes to us and remains central (we often de-center) when the grace of God motivates us to obey Him. That grace comes in the form of: religious affections, promises, warnings, the Holy Spirit, repentance and faith. These graces are gospel graces that motivate our obedience. They motivate by gracious wooing us to Jesus, warning us of the consequences of disobedience, promising us ten thousand things in Christ, empowering and directing us in the Spirit, and repenting of sin and trusting in Christ.

 

Repentance and faith is particularly important. Turning away from the promises of sin and to the promises of Christ is repentance. It is a gift of grace that leads us to Jesus.  It comes by the Spirit for our good.

 

See chapter  3 in Fight Clubs for more on all this.

  

In chapter 2 you write about the failure of accountability and how accountability groups tend to become either too strict or too loose.  I’ve been in both types of groups.  So how does the leader of a group “remove accountability from the center and replace it with the gospel?” 

 

Several ways come to mind:

 

1.       Repent from placing something else in the center of your discipleship other than Jesus.

2.       Rediscover the centrality of Jesus in your life, not just ideally but practically. When tempted by sin, instead of fearing the checklist or questions of an accountability partner, begin to ask the question: “Who is Jesus in this temptation?”  E.g. if you feel misrepresented at work, like you have no advocate, remember that Jesus is your great Advocate and cling to him.

3.       Begin asking Gospel-centered questions about your discipleship and heart instead of asking moralistic and legalistic questions. E.g. “When I walk into a social setting what does my heart fear most?” Then ask: “Who is Jesus?” See my appendix in Fight Clubs for more.

4.       Identify your legalistic and loose tendencies in discipleship. Confess them to a friend, and begin focusing on the gospel. What is it? How does it apply? Grow in your knowledge of the Gospel. Read authors and listen to preachers like Jonathan Edwards, John Owen,  CCEF authors, Tim Keller, Jack Miller, Bob Thune, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and so on.

 

I appreciate your focus on the Holy Spirit (in chapter 3) and how He motivates and directs our discipleship.  How would you pastorally guide those who seem to be cautious or even fearful about the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in their lives?

 

The Holy Spirit is, for Evangelicals, the red-headed step-child of the Trinity. It’s a shame, really shameful. We’ve allowed our fears of charisma to get the best of us, leading to a devaluing of God and a disfigured relationship with him. For those struggling in this area, I strongly recommend that you take your eyes off of charismatic extremes and place them back on the Spirit. Begin talking to Him, know him through study, and consider all the commands to “pray in the Spirit” and begin talking to the Spirit in prayer. One reason we are weak on the Spirit because we are weak on prayer. It is the Spirit who knows the depths of God and freely discloses the understanding of God’s will and Word (1 Cor 2). Therefore, to cut Him off is to diminish our understanding (and enjoyment) of God. It stifles the advance of the Gospel.

 

Here are some practical steps:

1.       Repent for diminishing and ignoring the third Person of the Trinity. Repent for sinful self-reliance and fear-motivated neglect of the Holy Spirit. Mortify the sin that has been an obstacle to your knowing and walking with the Spirit. Receive God’s gracious forgiveness in Jesus and rejoice that the Spirit is in you!

2.       Begin addressing the Holy Spirit in prayer every day. Talk to him as a Person; don’t ignore him as an energy force. Ask him for filling and direction for your entire day. Ask him to guide your decision-making, to direct your thoughts, and to fill your heart with affection for Jesus.

3.       Read the Bible with a Holy Spirit lens. Look for him in the Bible and ask yourself: “Who does this text tell me the Spirit is?” Then, refine the way you relate to him. It’s like getting to know your wife, the more you study here the better you can love her.

    

What about pastors?  How would you encourage a pastor who feels alone and has a hard time taking off his pastor’s hat and participating in something like a fight club?

 

Repent from going alone, from sinful self-reliance, idolatry of ministry, and the fear of man. Find fresh forgiveness in Jesus and someone you can trust. Run to Christ for your significance and joy. Look for another pastor outside your church to begin a Fight Club with. Read the book together and start fighting in the strength of the gospel.

 

I like your 3 rules of fight clubs: know your sin, fight your sin, and trust your Savior.  Ironically, it seems that fighting the fight of faith flows from a constant resting in the finished work of Christ?  Would you agree?

 

Yes, resting in Christ also compels us to fight in the Spirit. Until Jesus returns, our resting will fuel our fighting.

 

I’m sure there are many who will read your book and will want to start a Fight Club (or Fight Clubs in their church) but don’t know how.  How would you recommend going about it?

 

Read this article as an intro and then get going. Pick up the book for more.

 

Fight Clubs are small, simple, biblical, reproducible and missional. No more than two or three people to a group. If the group grows beyond three, it is important that the newest member only participate a couple of times to get the idea and then start a new group. This retains the intimacy and trust built in the initial group, while also fostering reproduction — more Fight Clubs! Fight Clubs are simple and biblical in their content, following a progression of Text-Theology-Life.

  • Text: A Fight Club agrees to focus on a common biblical text. Each person in the Fight Club commits to devotionally read the same chapter from a book of the Bible each week. For example, your group could read through Colossians in four weeks. As you read, make a point of asking the Holy Spirit to draw your attention to whatever He wants you to know. The Spirit may be prompting you repent of a sin, rejoice in a promise or meditate on an insight. Each week when you get together, make the text your initial focus.
  • Theology: Work through the verses in community, trying to follow the flow of the author. From there, try to understand the central theological message of the chapter. Be sure you ask the question: "How does the person and work of Jesus inform this text?" Strive to be Christ-centered, not application-centered. Jesus is sufficient for our failures and strong for our successes.
  • Life: This is followed by bringing in your personal struggles and successes from your devotional reading. Be sure to allow plenty of time for this. Share your lives; promote godly accountability and faithful prayer. Finally, be sure to share the names of people whom you are trying to bless with the gospel. Pray as a group, asking God to help you trust His promises, as well as asking Him to give unbelievers the same gift of faith.

Thanks for joining us, Jonathan.  And thanks for writing this book.  It's a much needed gift to the Church.  I pray its message would spread far and wide!

 

Driscoll on Why Dads Must Do Their Homework

Mark Driscoll with some wise, balanced counsel on a father's role in the education of his children:

A father needs to think through the education of his children and have a theology of childhood education. The first question a father must resolve is, what is the purpose of an education? Paul tells us that the goal is that the child would become mature "in the Lord," and Proverbs teaches that the goal of all instruction must be a redeemed heart that fears the Lord. The second question is, which educational option will help cultivate my child in the Lord? Since each child is different, there are multiple answers to this question, and the father, in conjunction with the mother, is best suited to make the decision between home schooling, public schooling, private schooling, and Christian schooling. As the father, you will also need to determine how you will make enough money to educate your children.

As a father, you must recognize that if your child will be sitting in a classroom for six or eight hours a day, for twelve years, you must know the teachers, their curriculum, and the goal of that education, because you are responsible before God for the cultivation of your child. Children need to learn math, English, history, and the like, but these subjects must be connected to the Lord and must help children see how they are connected to the Lord. Wise fathers know that just because a school has "Christian" in the name does not guarantee that Jesus rules in the curriculum. Fathers must do their homework before sending their children to school to do their own. Idealistic fathers tend to be legalistic fathers and the truth is there is no single decision that is right for every child every year. Therefore, the educational options need to be reconsidered every year for every child, depending upon the various circumstances that the parents are dealing with.

~ Taken from Chapter 3 of Pastor Dad (an online e-book) by Mark Driscoll

I especially appreciate the last line about parents evaluating the various educational options for their children each year.  This is what Jaime and I have done and will continue to do with every one of our children.

New Blog Gives Simple Devotions for Men

Are you looking for a simple way to encourage the men of your church to grow in God's Word?  Coming off of Father's Day, my pastor, Tony Rose, pointed the men of our church to his blog for a simple devotional process through the book of Hebrews.  For the next six weeks, he will provide a Scripture reading, a few comments, and some specific applications. Here's part of his first entry:

The mark of a real man is that he knows how badly he needs God.  Our God and Savior is; Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer. Now that is the God I want to walk with.  It is indeed a manly thing to say, “I need God”, when God is that kind of God!

A man who is humble and secure in Christ is secure enough to love.  Show your wife your love for her today by getting her a cup of coffee, tea or juice before you leave for work.  Pray a one minute prayer with her, kiss her and head off for work.  Yes, she may be shocked if she is not use to it but do it any way.  You and her will be blessed!

Tony's blog is called, Sound Mind and Soul.  His passion is to help people (especially pastors) find rest for their weary souls.  I encourage you to check out his blog and point other men to it for practical devotions and encouragement over the next six weeks.