Posted in christian, christianity, Faith, healing, Mentoring, Positive News, spiritual

The Kind of Love that Marks a Christian


Reposted From Crosswalk.com

Who God Loves above All Others

Why does the Great Commandment instruct us to love God first, others second? Because this is the order in which God himself loves. God’s love did not begin in Genesis 1:1. It is eternal, existing before creation, having found eternal expression within the Trinity. It required no object outside the Godhead. We love because he first loved us. He loves us, having first and eternally loved himself.

Self-love is not always commendable in humans. While loving ourselves accurately is good, and even necessary for loving our neighbor, the Bible also speaks to the negative category of those who are “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). We have all known people whom we would label as an egotists, those who think of themselves more highly than they should. Egotism is an impossibility for God. He is irreproachably a lover of self, being the only one worthy of total love. For God not to love himself would be irrational. God’s worth is infinite, making him alone worthy to receive infinite self-love, as well as the unqualified adoration and veneration of everything in creation. It is impossible for anyone, including God, to love God too much.

We Can Love the Love of God Too Much

But it is possible for us to love the love of God too much. We do this when we emphasize the love of God at the expense of his other attributes. Sin can cause us to love a version of God that is not accurate. This is the basic definition of idolatry, a disordered love. Ironically, one of the most common forms our idolatry takes is the disordered love of the love of God. The overemphasis of God’s love is even evident in non-Christians. They may know very little of the Bible, yet many know and are quick to quote the truism that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The statement “My God is a God of love” often has as its subtext the idea that his love precludes him ever acting in wrath or justice, or in any way that does not fit our human conceptions of love.

All of God’s Actions Are Loving

But God’s love is both holy and infinite, which means that all his actions are loving, even when we cannot perceive them to be so. Not only are all his actions loving, but all he withholds or refrains from doing is also loving. When God acts in Scripture in ways we perceive to be unloving, the problem is not with his actions but with our limited perspective. When we endure hardship or loss, we may be tempted to question whether God loves us. This is why the Bible takes such care to remind us that hardship and loss are to be expected in this life. Hardship and loss are agents of separation, but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. It is high and long, wide and deep, and if we fix our eyes on it, perhaps we may be able to begin to grasp some of that even in this lifetime.

And as we grasp it, we can then press it upon our neighbor.

Love without Bounds

Once we recognize that the love God has bestowed upon us is not merely an emotion but an act of the will, we are forced to reevaluate how we love others. Specifically, we must reevaluate our categories. No longer can we parse our fellow humans into the categories of “lovable” and “unlovable.”

If love is an act of the will—not motivated by need, not measuring worth, not requiring reciprocity—then there is no such category as “unlovable.” This is what Jesus teaches in the parable of the good Samaritan. When the lawyer seeks to qualify the meaning of the Great Commandment by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), Jesus responds with a story about a man who shows love to the “unlovable.” It is, of course, a story about himself—and a story about everyone of us who has received rescue at his hands. As the parable is careful to illustrate, it is a costly and unsought rescue, an unsought rescue, bestowed upon an undeserving recipient

Love, No Matter the Cost

The costliness of agape is evident in the cross. Thus, those who resolve to take up their cross resolve to love as Christ loved, in a costly manner.

When we begin to follow Christ, we resolve to love God even if it costs us. And it does cost us—it costs us our pride, our comfort, our self-will, our self-sufficiency. At times, it costs us amicable relationships with family, our expectation of safety, and more. But in laying these aside, we learn the worthiness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing freedom, and as we mature, we resolve to love God no matter what it costs us.

Loving Our Neighbor Costs

When we begin to follow Christ, we resolve to love our neighbor even if it costs us. And it does cost us—it costs us our preferences, our time, our financial resources, our entitlement, our stereotypes. At times, it costs us our popularity, respect, and more. But in laying these aside, we learn the brokenness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing empathy, and as we mature, we resolve to love our neighbor no matter what it costs us.

This is the kind of love that marks believers as distinct from the world. What is the will of God for your life? That you love as you have been loved. When faced with a decision, ask yourself: Which choice enables me to grow in agape for God and others? And then choose according to his will.

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Posted in christian, christianity, Faith, Mentoring, Positive News, spiritual

The Difference Between Fathers and Mentors


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Fathers can be mentors, but mentors aren’t necessarily fathers. Mentors choose to mentor, but once a man becomes a father, he is always the father. I believe that’s why God chose the father-son paradigm to explain the relationship He wants with us. God as the permanent, perfect, never going away, never giving up, always giving and forgiving Father. And me, the beloved but immature son.

Because our role as a father is permanent and not optional, it’s easy to live it out unintentionally. To relax into routine, blindly replicating what our fathers did. Responding to our kids out of authority and arrogance versus love and understanding.

And it’s easy to take fathers for granted. Our kids get used to receiving the love we give and the way we give it. Over time, it’s routine. And invisible.

Mentoring is for a season. Fathering is permanent. Mentoring is usually around a goal, or a specific skill (i.e., I mentor to lead men toward God-centric lives.) Fathering isn’t specific. It offers opportunity and duty. It has no limits. It’s about finances, health, life skills, family responsibilities, and submission to authority.

As a father, mentoring is an ‘above and beyond’ opportunity. One of my greatest blessings was having my son in one of my mentoring groups. Stepping into the role of mentor helped us reframe our relationship into a more mature one. It added objectivity for both of us. It wasn’t just dear ol’ dad harping on something. It was group assignments where the value was apparent, and the whole group was involved. Looking at me, seated at the head of the table, facilitating the conversation and sharing my heart, he saw an older, wiser man who wanted to add value. Rather than a critical, meddling, overreaching dad trying to change his son.

This being a holiday week, offers an excellent opportunity for a check-up on our fathering work. Find a time to get each of your children off to the side and ask this question . . .

“Tell me three things I can do (or stop doing) to be a better father for you?”

Don’t argue. Don’t defend. If you ask questions, make sure they’re for clarification, not opposition. As soon as you can, get somewhere and write them down. Word for word. Next week, ask God to show you what He would have you know from this, and what He’d have you do with what you’ve been shown. Set some goals, put some to-dos on your calendar and follow through.

As you look at this feedback from your kids, look for opportunities to mentor. Think about what they are interested in learning or doing . . . areas where you might be able to mentor them.

Posted in christian, christianity, Faith, Mentoring, Positive News, spiritual

Why Does a Man Need a Mentor


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

  1. Courage – Most of the time, men know the right things to do. Call it conscience, call it intuition, call it whatever . . . more often than not our challenge isn’t knowing what to do as it is mustering the courage to do it and live with the consequences. Which is why a man needs a mentor to stand behind him and say, “Hey, you’ve made a good decision. You’re on the right track!” “I’m proud of you.” “I love the Godly man you’re becoming.” This kind of encouragement propels a man who’s on the right track to stay on it . . . to go farther faster.
  2. Wisdom – Many of the decisions men wrangle with don’t have right or wrong answers. Some of them have consequences that will be felt by your children and your children’s children. Questions around marital fidelity and divorce, financial responsibility and debt, parents, in-laws, your children’s education, career progression and relocation of your family . . . ‘big stuff’ issues. A mentor, because of his age and experience, provides a source of wisdom that can’t be found anywhere else because he knows you. And he’s already made most of the decisions you’ll face himself at an earlier time in his life. Sometimes he made them well, sometimes he didn’t. But he has experience and that’s an important source of wisdom.
  3. Objectivity – We men get so intense, so proud, so focused, so “caught up” in what we’re doing, we lose sight of the bigger picture. When we have problems; at work, at home, at church, with the kids, with our siblings or in-laws, we sometimes struggle to see things clearly. A mentor offers a safe place to air it out . . . where we can unload and not be afraid of having things thrown back in our face. A mentor is someone who can listen, empathize, relate and commiserate with you. He’s going to ask you the questions you were too emotional to ask. He’ll ‘play the tape’ back to you, helping you sort out what’s important and what’s not, what’s fact vs. what’s emotion, and what are the likely outcomes of different decision alternatives.
  4. His network – As we make our way through life, we meet people from all kinds of industries, from all levels within the hierarchies of organizations, and people who perform all kinds of services. But it takes years for networks to become robust. Mentors enjoy tapping into their relationships to help the younger guys they mentor. It only cost them a little time . . . a quick email or phone call and a door is opened. And as the younger guy’s network gets wider and deeper faster, that empowers him to be a more helpful mentor as he starts to pay it forward.
  5. Loneliness – No matter how many golfing buddies, hunting buddies, or bowling buddies, when we get down to it, men are sort of lonely. When a man has a mentor, he’s got someone who has perspective on life’s questions. Mentors don’t have all the answers . . . no one does. And loneliness isn’t solved by countless hours of two humans being physically together. But it’s greatly relieved when a man knows that he has a mentor who cares about him. Knowing that his mentor is accessible; that he’s “safe” to talk with, and just knowing that someone is there who understands the deal makes the loneliness less lonely.

Scripture: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)

Posted in christian, christianity, Faith, Mentoring, Positive News, spiritual

The Missing Milestone


milestone

Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Today’s post is from Jeff Henderson who leads Gwinnett Church in North Atlanta. Jeff and his good friend David Salyers have seen a need and met it with outstanding results. If you’ll ever have a middle school son or grandson, don’t miss this!

Over the years, as our kids have grown older, people have often asked my wife Wendy and I this question: “What’s the most important thing you did to help transition Jesse and Cole into the middle school and teenage years?”

That’s a great question.

It’s no secret that middle school is a difficult time in life. Youth pastor Derrick Harris says, “The 6th graders of today are the 8th graders of 10 years ago. Not because they are more mature, but because they are more exposed.” From exposure to pornography to peer pressure, middle schoolers have it more difficult than ever before.

But here’s the thing: Middle school isn’t just a difficult time in life, it’s a pivotal time in life. It’s in these years that kids are changing not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. It’s a transition unlike any other.

So, for myself and Wendy, we saw the transition into middle school as an important milestone in their lives.

Milestones are moments that mark our lives in a significant way. Things like the birth of a child, graduation ceremonies, weddings and retirement parties. They represent the end of a season of life and the beginning of a new one. After a milestone moment, we adopt a new identity of sorts.

Yet when it came time for my son Cole to transition into the teenage and middle school years, my friend David Salyers and I realized that there was a missing milestone. Throughout history in nearly every single culture there was a rite of passage, particularly from boyhood to manhood. Yet sadly, in our Western culture we have lost this important idea. It has become the Missing Milestone.

The importance of this Missing Milestone can not be overstated. It affects our families, communities, and nation in innumerable and immeasurable ways. Dr. John Trent writes in his book The Blessing, “If a young man fails to receive the blessing of his father, he will spend the rest of his life looking for it in all the wrong places.”

I didn’t want that for my son Cole, and neither did David for his sons. So, we teamed up to create a modern-day rite of passage for our boys. A rite of passage that was tons of fun but also paved the way for crucial conversations.

It eventually turned into what is now Champion Tribes, a group experience that gives fathers a plan to be intentional in their sons’ lives. A roadmap that we’re working hard to bring to families all across the country.

That, I think, is oftentimes the key: Parents have the passion, but they lack the plan. If this is you, here are some things to consider . . .

  1. It needs to be a moment in time, yet part of a journey.
  2. It should build upon ceremony and ritual.
  3. It needs to include your blessing.
  4. It needs to be done in community.

If you want to learn more about our experience, how we have helped hundreds of fathers navigate this important phase of life, and teach values like Commitment, Humility, Accountability and Perseverance, you can visit championtribes.com/how-it-works.

At the end of the day, no matter what stage of your life your child is in, don’t miss the milestone moments!

Scripture: Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Posted in christian, christianity, Faith, Mentoring, spiritual

This Way of Life


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

As someone who lives and breathes mentoring, I always light up when I find a Scripture about disciple-making. One time, I was reading through the book of Matthew and as I neared the end, I knew I was about to read the Great Commission. I’ve quoted it forever, but this time I was reading The Message paraphrase by Eugene Peterson and found words I didn’t expect . . .

“Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:19-20, The Message)

Train everyone in ‘this way of life.’ The way of life Jesus taught and modeled.

But what does that mean, right now, in the real world? Here’s what ‘this way of life’ means to me personally . . .

  • God is at the center of everything. The constant thought is “Thank you God.” “Thank you for loving me, for saving me, for adopting me into your family.” “Thank you for being with me, no matter what.”
  • Don’t worry. Whatever is coming my way, whatever is in my future will come through God’s hand. If He’s not causing it, He’s allowing it. So I’m leaning into the future, trusting that God loves me, that He is good and that He’ll be accessible to me as I go through whatever.
  • Be grateful for money, but never forget it all comes from Him. I can’t spend a single dollar in the dark. He knows what I spend His money for, so I’m challenged to be careful what I spend and why I’m spending it.
  • The first place I’m to “train . . . in this way of life” is at home. Teaching and modeling the humility, selflessness and character of Jesus is my responsibility. Before Mom, before church, school, Boy Scouts, whatever . . . it’s Dad’s job to make disciples of his kids. To teach them ‘this way of life’ by living it as consistently as possible since values are caught more than taught. And to teach them the principles of God as God shows them uniquely to him.
  • Live your life for others. The Father and other people were everything to Jesus. He taught and modeled total selflessness.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:45)

That’s what ‘this way of life’ means to me. Don’t get me wrong . . . I don’t live it out all the time. Far from it.

But ‘this way of life’ is what I want for me and my wife. It’s what I want for my kids and my grandkids. And it’s what I want for my mentees and their families. It’s what I want for everyone. It’s the best life possible. It’s incomparable.

Figuring out ‘this way of life’ is something everyone has to come to for himself. It would be pretty hard to argue against what I shared above since it’s straight from Scripture. But everyone has to seek God on their own, listen to His voice and fulfill His unique vision for their lives.

And the how questions are as plentiful as cars on the freeway. Family devotions? Family constitutions? Homeschooling? Mission trips? Serving in the church? Parachurch ministry? Leading a Radical Mentoring group? Everyone gets to figure out their own strategy for living and teaching ‘this way of life.’

So decide what ‘this way of life’ means for you. Write it down. Think about it. Pray over it. Talk to your wife about it. Commit yourself to it.

Then decide what you’ll do to teach it to others, starting with your family and moving out from there.

And then do it.

And if you need a jumpstart on some strategies for this, consider joining us on Nov 9-10 at the 2017 National Disciple Making Forum in Nashville, TN. It will teach you how to be a disciple-maker in any aspect of life . . . from church leadership, to parenting, to working in men’s ministry. I’ll be leading the Men’s Ministry track and our whole team will be there as well. You can receive 20% off tickets using the code MENTORLIKEJESUS (More info here).

Scripture: Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, The Message)

Posted in christian, christianity, Faith, Mentoring, spiritual

A Believer with no Faith


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

I’ve thought a lot about my life before I become a Jesus-follower at age 33. Raised in the Baptist church, I was taught the tenets of Christianity. I knew the rules, the characters and the stories of the Bible. Even when I was baptized at 10 years old, I could have passed a quiz on Christianity 101.

But all that knowledge had no effect on how I thought or behaved. Why? I knew about sin but I sinned anyway. I believed in hell but it didn’t scare me enough to deter me from bad behavior. It wasn’t a matter of cheap grace where I thought I could misbehave and get quick and easy forgiveness. It just didn’t matter. God didn’t matter.

Here’s what I figured out, and I think this may be the Achilles heel for the majority of the 247 million people in the U.S. who identify as Christians.

I had no faith.

The Oxford Dictionary defines faith as “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” The Bible, in Hebrews 11:1, defines faith as “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” So, here’s what I deduce about faith . . .

Faith is complete trust and confidence – When I have trust and confidence, I have no worries. I have no angst about outcomes. I don’t have to be driven. I don’t run around with my hair on fire. I don’t have anything to prove. I’m peaceful. Before I knew Jesus personally, I had neither. I had no confidence, even in myself. I knew I had to give my work, my wife, my kids . . . I had to give everything 100% effort for the best shot at the outcome I wanted. After I found and began to follow Jesus, I realized I could trust Him with all the outcomes. I started to work smart but not as hard.

Faith is in someone not something – Here’s a major problem. Mankind has always turned God into a set of rules, a character in a story, or a set of theological premises. God is a someone, not a something. Until I recognized that God is a living entity . . . someone I can talk to, hear from, and experience the presence of, I had no meaningful, useful faith.

Faith is in what we hope for – Until I was 33, Heaven and Hell didn’t register with me because I thought I was going to live forever (not really, but young people sort of act that way!) I hoped for success, status, and stuff. I hoped for admiration and affirmation, especially from my dad. Once I realized God was real, that He loved me and I could trust Him for all the outcomes, I began to hope for different things . . . a good marriage, great kids, influence for Christ in the workplace, and a home in Heaven when this deal is done.

Faith is assurance about what we do not see – Jesus-followers commit their lives to emulating a man they’ve never seen to bring glory to a God they’ve never seen. We play the ‘long game,’ believing a great marriage grows from lifetime commitment, that giving money away is logical, and that selflessly serving people makes sense. We lean into a future we can’t see, living a different way because we’re following Jesus and His teachings, trusting in faith that His way is the best way. Maybe that’s why the Bible says we’re “peculiar people.”

Can you be a Christian with no faith?

I don’t know.

do know that following Jesus in faith negates the question altogether.

Scripture: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

Posted in christian, christianity, Faith, Mentoring, spiritual

What Story Do You Tell?


Reposted from Radical Mentoring

Imagine you’re 85 years old, living in a nursing home and your health is beginning to fail. Your grandson has always had a special place in his heart for you but over the last few years, he’s been busy finishing college, getting married and starting his family. One day, out of the blue, he calls and asks to visit. “I want to talk to you about real life Papa” he says. “I wanna hear your story.”

What story will you tell?

It’s easy to tell him your career story. About finishing school, getting your first job, getting promoted (or let go), starting your own thing, selling your company, becoming a Principal, finishing your residency, starting a practice, becoming a partner, selling out, retiring, getting forced out . . . whatever. He won’t care.

Of course, you can tell him your family story. Your parents, siblings and how you grew up. How you met your wife . . . the divorce, his mom or dad’s birth, his uncles and aunts. This story’s a little harder to tell. There’s some raw spots you have to tread lightly around . . . the divorce or the distant relationship you had with his grandma or even his mom or dad. He might be mildly interested.

If you’re a church person, you can tell him your faith story. How you were baptized (or not), how you came to believe, the churches you’ve been a part of, and maybe your favorite parts of the Bible. His attention span will depend on his own faith story.

But what your grandson really wants to hear is your life story. He wants to hear about your heart. What mattered to you when you were young and what matters to you now. How you saw things then and how you see them nowSure, you want to tell him about your successes and things you’re proud of. He’ll be much more attentive as you tell him about your failures, your bad decisions, your regrets and your missed opportunities.

Now pause.

Unless you’re 85 and in a nursing home, your story isn’t over. You get to choose how you finish your story. When they make movies in Hollywood, they often film multiple endings and show them to focus groups to decide which ending resonates best. So, which of these ‘endings’ would you rather tell your grandson? 

Story #1
“I really wanted to be happy and successful, so I ‘doubled-down’ at work. I was able to send the kids to private school and great colleges. I took golf lessons and hired a personal trainer. I got in the best shape of my life and lowered my handicap 8 strokes. I moved our family into the big house on Tuxedo Road where we lived until your grandmother left and put me here in assisted living. I’m afraid I don’t have a lot to show for my life and it’s pretty lonely here. Can you come back to see me again soon?”

Story #2
“As I took stock of my life, I realized that everything I’d done in my life was for myself. So I started to pray and ask God what He’d have me do with my life. He gave me the idea of investing time in men who are a couple seasons of life behind me. I started mentoring younger guys and that became my purpose and my calling. I got my church engaged and now there’s a bunch of guys involved. I found that joy and fulfillment comes from loving and serving others, showing them Jesus and encouraging them to follow Him. I’m surrounded by people I love and who love me. God is so good!”

So, what’s it gonna be? What story will you tell?

Scripture: Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. (Psalms 71:18)