This weekend was our annual Singles Leader Retreat for church. “Be” was our theme this year and the scripture this was based on was Exodus 14:14 – “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” We had four sessions and the topics were “Be Present,” “Be Still,” “Be Yourself,” and “Be Grateful.” The session that was most relevant to me right now was “Be Still.” This session was led by John Hambrick and Sue Bates (two members of the staff at Buckhead Church).
One thing that John said really hit home with me – “Our purpose is to experience and enjoy God!” To help us better understand this concept, they gave us eight verses from scripture and asked us to go spend an hour alone, praying, reading the passages, and listening to hear what God had to say to us through these scriptures. At first I didn’t think it would take me the whole hour, but the time quickly passed. I just wanted to share these scriptures and what God revealed to me through them (I am linking the verses below to The Message Translation, because I really like how it speaks as we would today).
Romans 11:36 – God is the source. Nothing happens to us (challenges, growth, rewards, etc.) without His permission. If it’s something good, He entrusts me and values me enough for me to take on the task. If it’s a challenge or a period of growth, He thinks I can handle it.
1 Corinthians 10:31 – Be present and enjoy what God is doing in your life right now. Don’t let the negativity of others take your joy and your focus away form what is important. Give God the glory!
Psalm 19:1-4 – Don’t be so busy that you forget to stop and look at God’s creation. Class is always in session and we can learn so much from just being silent.
2 Peter 1:3-4 – A relationship with God is an investment. You have to spend time being intimate and personal with Him in order to grow in your relationship. Be a participant, not a spectator.
Psalm 73:24-28 – God is holding my hand and leading me. He doesn’t force “followship” but He leads tenderly and with wisdom. Desire only God…He is the only thing that lasts. As I grow older God is still strong, firm, and faithful…He never changes.
John 17:21-23 – God sent us to be right where we are at this present time and place. He has a reason for our current placement and often we may not understand why, but if we take a step back and look at it from a different perspective we can embrace it and be a part of what God is doing now. God loved us so, we have no excuse for not loving others.
Philippians 4:4-7 – Experience and embrace God 24/7. Give people no doubt to Whom you belong. Replace worrying with prayer. When you give your worries to God through prayer, the results are life changing.
Psalm 27:4 – Be fully present with God. Observe and acknowledge the beauty of all He has done in and through you. Imagine yourself at the throne of God, in His presence bowing at His feet in reverence. Fear and be awestruck by God.
What is God saying to you through these passages?
Photo Credit: By Ryk Neethling
A few weeks ago, I did a post geared toward women that talked about the objectification of men. This post is for the guys out there. I was reading an article today on the New York Times website and the whole point of the article was that it has become “in fashion” (so to speak) for guys to go around the streets of New York with out a shirt. It would be one thing if you were at the beach, the pool, or out running but it talked about guys just out doing errands in the city without a shirt.
My first thought when I read the article was “SERIOUSLY?!?! Who does that?!?!” It’s not something that I would do and I can’t think of any of my friends that would do that. As men, have we lost our sense of decency? I understand that sometimes the temperature can get unbearably hot, but when you are out in public in the city please keep your shirt on! I don’t care if you look like Bradley Cooper, Ryan Reynolds, or if you’re the fattest guy on the planet — nobody wants to see you without a shirt while you are in a public place…it’s just disturbing! Be a gentleman and cover up! More often than not there are ladies present and you don’t want to be known as the “creepy shirtless guy.”
How did this even become a thing? I can remember a time in society where if you didn’t wear a shirt in public people looked at your strange and businesses would not serve you. When (and why) did men being shirtless in public become “normal?!”
Photo Credit: By homelesshub
Recently I have had the misfortune of dealing with migraines. The positive thing is that I found out what was causing said migraines (a tooth issue) and have had it fixed, which has resulted in relief. In dealing with the migraines, God has used them to reveal to me how much they are like sin in our lives. It may sound silly at first, but please hear me out as it will make sense when I am finished.
When you have a migraine, you don’t want to be exposed to light. When we deal with sin in our lives we honestly don’t want to be exposed to light either. We take the “what people don’t know won’t hurt them” approach and try to keep our sin hidden from others, but no matter how hard we try that sin will eventually be brought into the light for all to see in some form or fashion.
You don’t like being told what to do when you have a migraine. The last thing you want is someone trying to tell you how to “fix” your migraine issue. Sin is the same in that we don’t want people telling us what we should be doing to “fix” our sin problem. We would rather just attempt to do things on our own, but we all know how that ends. Migraines cause us to become isolated from others – you just want to be alone and not be bothered. Sin isolates us from the people who love us the most…our friends and family. We seclude ourselves from others because we don’t want to be judged or just don’t want to face others due to the shame we feel as a result of our sin.
Both migraines and sin involve pain of some kind – with migraines the pain is almost always immediate and lingers, but with sin pain doesn’t always happen instantaneously…it can take some time before you feel the painful consequences of sin. There are also after effects with both – a migraine may make you may feel weak, fatigued, sick, or exhausted afterwards and sin may do the very same thing. Both migraines and sin can feel paralyzing, in that once you’re dealing with them you feel constricted and can’t move.
I’ve often found myself bargaining with God when dealing with either a migraine or sin. “God, if you make this migraine go away, then I’ll <fill in the blank>!” These negotiations are based on things which we never plan on following through – “God, if you get me out of this situation I will go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life, I’ll tithe, and I’ll never do this again!” God can easily see through our child-like pleas and knows what it will take to bring us back around to Him and sometimes it takes us suffering the consequences of our actions.
Migraines can happen to anyone…no one is immune. The same is true of sin – the only one who was sinless was Jesus Christ. Romans 8:23 states it clearly – “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The thing is, just because we are prone to sin doesn’t mean we have an excuse to sin. What we do with this sin us completely up to us. Will you let it consume you and rule your life? Will you ask for God’s forgiveness, turn from it, and use it as a learning experience?
What is another illustration you’ve heard comparing sin to something else?
Photo Credit: By Ben Photog
Something has been on my mind lately. Women (specifically single women) I am posing these thoughts to you. I’ve always been taught that you don’t treat women as objects…they are people with feelings and of great value. Women comment about how men can be jerks because of the way they look at and treat women. My issue is these same women will turn around and treat men the same way they don’t want to be treated. Granted, this is not ALL women.
What gets me is these women (Christian women mind you) will go see movies like Magic Mike and describe in great detail their attraction to these Hollywood men who look like a Greek god. Then they complain about not being able to find a Godly man when they have set these unrealistic expectations that no man can ever meet. Society has jumped on this notion and uses it to promote everything from salad dressing to diet sodas.
We often hear about women dealing with self-image issues due to things men have said or done, but women don’t realize that men deal with these same type of issues as well. Did you know that 10-15% of those who suffer from anorexia or bulimia are male? Also men are less likely to seek treatment for anorexia or bulimia due to the perception that they are “woman’s diseases.” It may be hard to believe, but at times men struggle with self-image more than women. As men, it’s not really about how we see ourselves, but how we perceive others may see us.
Single guys like myself who are trying to live a Godly life get easily discouraged by all of this because we don’t look like Ryan Gosling, Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, or whatever “perfect” celebrity man women are crazy over at the moment. How can we compete with that? We can’t, so more often than not we don’t even try.
Below are two videos that I’ve seen recently that are further proof of this. The first video is for Kraft’s Zesty Italian salad dressing featuring an attractive man who ends up shirtless (I’m confused on what this has to do with salad dressing). The second video is a campaign for Men’s Wearhouse called “Give The Suit Off Your Back” which is encouraging men to bring in their slightly worn suits to donate to homeless men. The purpose is great, but the delivery is just not right — buff, shirtless men in neckties and their boxers standing on the street corner with women practically drooling over them.
How can we retrain society to prevent these issues for men in the future?
Photo Credit: By ed and eddie
I lead a men’s small group through the church I attend. As a group, we decided to read and discuss the book The Grace of God by Andy Stanley. I had read What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey a few years ago, so I was interested in reading Pastor Stanley’s thoughts on grace. One of the guys in the group had found a free online study guide so we used that as well as just talking in the group as to what caught our attention, anything with which we agreed, and anything with which we disagreed.
The book itself is an easy at only 13 chapters. In each chapter, Pastor Stanley talks about one or two people from the Bible (like David, Adam & Eve, and Abraham) and how God gave them grace in their respective situations. Society as a whole typically believes the “What’s In It For Me?” or “That’s Not Fair (For Me)?” mentality and grace is a concept that goes against that way of thinking. With Grace, we are not given what we deserve…we are given what we DON’T deserve. In one of the chapters Andy reminds the reader of the parable of day laborers (Matthew 20:1-16). In this story you really see three versions of “fair” so to speak: 1) What a given day laborer thought was fair to himself 2) What other day laborers thought was fair with regards to another given day laborer 3) What the land owner thought was fair. If we went by what was “fair” which definition would we use? (Of course we would use the definition that most benefits us…but God chose to provide grace instead of what was “fair!”
With this book, Andy is not trying define what grace is, he is just showing examples of grace in the Bible in order for the reader to get a better understanding of it. If you are looking for a book that provides more of a definition or goes over the entire concept of grace, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey would probably be a better read for you. I really enjoyed this book and was constantly finding myself learning something new regarding God and grace. Here are just a few takeaways that I had:
- “Just as God was under no compulsion to create and provide, so mankind was under no compulsion to receive and reciprocate God’s love. Grace in its purest form can have no strings attached.”
- “When the one true God initiated his relationship with mankind, it didn’t begin with a command; it began with an invitation: will you trust me?”
- “The presence of sin means that sometimes we don’t get the good that we deserve. The presence of grace means that sometimes we don’t get the consequences we deserve. Grace is the vehicle God uses on occasion to ensure that we get precisely what we don’t deserve.”
- “God initiated a relationship with his people before he even told them what the rules were…Rules without a relationship lead to rebellion.”
I would definitely recommend this book either as a group study or something to read on your own. It has so much to offer and will help the reader get a better understanding and appreciation of God’s grace.
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
Have you ever read a book that you felt was written specifically for you? The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner was definitely that book for me. It is the second book in a series of three books (the first book being Surrender to Love and the final book being Desiring God’s Will) that a friend recommended to me. There are only six chapters so it really isn’t a difficult read.
The chapter titles give you an idea of the specific topics covered by the book: Transformational Knowing of Self and God, Knowing God, First Steps Toward Knowing Yourself, Knowing Yourself as You Really Are, Unmasking Your False Self, and Becoming Your True Self.
A few of the takeaways that I had from the book were:
- “Even when Jesus felt that God had abandoned him in the Garden of Gethsemane, his confidence in the love of the Father was so great that he still desired God’s will over his own. Jesus knew that he was loved whether or not he felt like it. His identity was grounded in God.”
- “Self-acceptance and self-knowing are deeply interconnected. To truly know something about yourself, you must accept it. Even things about yourself that you most deeply want to change must first be accepted — even embraced. Self-transformation is always preceded by self-acceptance. And the self that you must accept is the self that you actually and truly are – before you start your self-improvement projects!”
- “Until we are willing to accept the unpleasant truths of our existence, we rationalize or deny responsibility for our behavior.”
- “Knowing the depths of God’s personal love for each of us as individuals is the foundation of all genuine self-knowledge.”
- “The self that God persistently loves is not my prettied-up pretend self but my actual self — the real me.”
I highly recommend this book (and series) to anyone who is really struggling with self-esteem or self-image. This book helped me realize that it’s not my public persona (how I want to be seen) that God loves and wants to know…it’s the me behind closed doors that He wants me to embrace in order to truly reach my full potential, to become what He desires for me to be.
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
September of 2008, I had the awesome opportunity to meet Brennan Manning. He was speaking at the NPCC Single’s Labor Day Retreat. Mr. Manning was a very meek individual who truly loved God. If you had seen him, he looked like any other senior adult who could have been someone’s grandfather. He shared with us his testimony – a story of alcoholism, being a priest, homelessness, and hitting rock bottom.
What I loved so much about Mr. Manning was after he spoke, we were given the opportunity to meet him. I asked him if I could have my picture taken with him and his response was “Why would you want your picture taken with me? I’m no one special. God is the one who did it all through me.” I was floored by his humbleness and in talking with him further, I knew that God had truly used this man to further His kingdom. He also signed my copy of The Ragamuffin Gospel with simply “In Abba’s Embrace – Brennan.”
As someone who loves to write, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet two of the authors who have had a huge impact on my life (Brennan Manning and Donald Miller) and both interactions left me loving these two authors even more than I did prior to the encounters. I was saddened to hear that Brennan Manning passed away last week. In memory of Mr. Manning, I wanted to share a few quotes from The Ragamuffin Gospel that really blessed me.
“The Kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious cast of people who understand they are sinners because they experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.”
“God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”
“Over the years I’ve seen Christians shaping God in their own image — in each case a dreadfully small God.”
“The danger with our good works, spiritual investments, and all the rest of it is that we can construct a picture of ourselves in which we situate our self-worth. Complacency in ourselves then replaces sheer delight in God’s unconditional love. Our doing becomes the very undoing of the ragamuffin gospel.”