How To Grow A Spiritually Mature Man

I am going to lay out some ideas in this space in relation to how groups of men can Grow Up in their Christian Life. These are just ideas, I haven’t tested them but through observation, reading, and my own experience, I believe that this might be a pathway to move men into a more mature faith. I welcome your feedback on these ideas.

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  1. Make it difficult – Men need an animal to go hunt, a palace to defend, and a purpose that is greater than themselves. I have talked in this space about the challenge of the Christian life and how that is by design. If there is no challenge then there is no opportunity for growth.
  2. Give Each Other Nicknames – One of the oddities of male bonding is the need to give each other nicknames. Somehow, calling someone Slim or Lefty is a term of endearment between one man to another. Women don’t give out nicknames, men do. That is weird, I know. Even Jesus gave out nicknames. He called Simon by the name, Peter, which means The Rock. James and John were Sons of Thunder. One of the disciples was named The Zealot. These nicknames brought a since of affection, inclusiveness, uniqueness, and identity. Don’t underestimate the power of a nickname.
  3. Use Humor. If you watch typical depictions of groups of women in film, they show their love for one another through touch, compliments, knowing glances, and words of gratitude. The male depiction is usually centered around one thing: humor. Psychologist may think that men are using humor to mask vulnerability or as a defense mechanism against their true feelings and sorrows. But what if humor is the male way of connecting with one another. If you can share a joke with another male, then you build trust, and an understanding with one another.
  4. Things Can Be Serious. Remember, men who are bonding will bring humor into the situation themselves. So, the task at hand can be serious, even life or death. Men won’t shy away from what is heavy or serious when they know what is at stake. In fact, this will be embraced because it feeds into their sense of purpose.

What do you think? Would this work? Could a study or plan be developed around these ideas? I will be pursuing this and may be calling out some men to test out some of these ideas. If you are interested, let me know.

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The Loss of A Friend

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I lost a good friend on Friday. Over the years and through many letters (yes, letters), phone calls, and a men’s retreat, he and I ministered to each other. Our friendship went way back and it has always been rich and meaningful and God was often at the center of it. Our friendship was one of the truest examples of a spiritual one that I have ever experienced. I thank him for that.

Through our friendship, both personal and spiritual,  he taught me:

  • That in order to help someone you have to not only do the nice thing but also try to do the best thing for that person
  • That service to others means being creative and letting God guide you
  • That to help someone, it may take risks. But those risks are worth it
  • That life’s struggles aren’t superficial. They may require sacrifice beyond measure
  • That true friendship doesn’t have to have an agenda
  • That being a brother in Christ means more than being a friend
  • That overwhelming obstacles can be overcome
  • That you can always do more
  • That I am powerless over so much
  • That my prayers can be ridiculously selfish
  • That there may be more questions than answers
  • That genuine bonds can spread over decades
  • That hurt may be present but love shines brighter

One of the last things he wrote to me was, “You’ve been there.”And then he signed off with, “Thank you my Brother.”

No, thank you my Brother and friend. What you taught me I will carry to help others and our legacy of friendship will be a testimony to God’s great work in our lives.

Sometimes You Have To Do Something Crazy

I am fascinated with Grand Gestures. Those out on a limb efforts that signal a no turning back approach to pursuing a goal or completing a task.

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In 2002, my wife and I, and young daughter, made the Grand Gesture to leave a comfortable, safe existence with a clear career path for a ministry with inner city families and the poor. We had the promise of a place to live but little else and those around us thought we weren’t being very sensible and some thought we didn’t know what we were doing. But God did, and he provided us with an income, a vehicle, and other needs that I have probably forgotten about.

In the Gospels, I love the stories of Jesus calling his disciples. He is inviting them to take a Grand Gesture and leave their livelihood and the comfort of their home and surroundings and see what following Jesus may do for them. The scandal of the “rich young ruler” is not that Jesus asked him to sell everything that he had but that the young man was unwilling to make a Grand Gesture on account of his faith.

Now, I am not leaving my job, or moving hundreds of miles away but I am making a Grand Gesture towards the next stage of God’s plan for my life. I am pursuing an 18 month training in discipleship and spiritual growth. I have long desired to pursue something like this because I knew I would be enriched by it but I also knew that I could help other Christians. There are so many  that desperately long for a mature faith full of wisdom but don’t know where to start and don’t have someone to guide them.

I want to be that guide. And just like in 2002, I am willing to step forward with God’s plan even when I don’t know how exactly that plan is even possible.

Will you help me?

Please consider giving towards my fund raising efforts. You have been reading my blog and you know my heart and my desire to Grow Up and help others do the same. My Grand Gesture needs your Grand Gesture of giving. There are all sorts of gifts I will send your way if you give but more than anything,  I will have the testimony of God’s faithfulness to share with others just as I did back in 2002.

Give Now

 

My Morning Routine

Let me get this out there first. There is nothing sacred about the morning time. I have heard pastors turn morning devotional times into a modern day legalism. If your best time for prayer, meditation, and scripture reading is at night or during your lunch hour, then do it then. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about not starting your day in devotion.

For me, I have three kids and am a mental and spiritual weakling at the end of the day, so the quiet of the morning is just the right time for me to spend with God. I wish I didn’t have to get up so early but I am disappointed with myself if I don’t and always feel like something is missing from my day if I didn’t have a chance to pray, listen, and read.

This may be more detail than you would ever want to know but I wanted you to be able to compare your routine with someone else’s. You may notice that there is nothing remarkable about my routine and your time of prayer and scripture reading may be more thought out and productive than my 20-30 minutes.

One of my talents is consistency and I can say that I am able to maintain this schedule most days. I included other “mundane” aspects of my morning to give you a picture of what is all involved with one person’s morning. Often times, writers will describe what needs to be done for spiritual growth but never explain how you are supposed to fit that ambitious plan into other important aspects of the day.

I am constantly tinkering with my morning routine based on what is going on with me spiritually and what I feel is a priority for my growth life. The distractions are ever present and I succumb to Twitter and last night’s sports highlights more times than I care to mention but the goal is something like the following:

4:39 (4:59 on the Weekends or days I don’t go to work at 8): Alarm goes off. I hit snooze once and get up at 4:49.

5:00: Make some Green Tea. I drink this for health purposes but the ritual of it gets my mind flowing in a more organized fashion. As the Tea is brewing, I begin to pray over issues and concerns that are most pressing to me. Sometimes I walk laps around my house as I pray and sometime I kneel.

5:10: Meditation. As I have mentioned before, this practice is relatively new to me. I have a list of practices and brief  meditation that I got from Richard Foster’s writing and I do one of these exercises a day.

5:20: Scripture Reading. I am not big on reading plans that are trying to get the reader to finish the Bible in a year. The Bible is too sacred and precious to turn it into a quantified jot chart. I will focus on 10-15 verses at a time or major groups of verses. I have recently read through the Song of Songs and some of the miracle stories of Jesus. Other recent focuses have been Psalms under 15 verses and the “I am” passages of John. Each reading is just short enough for me to spend a few extra minutes contemplating the passage and letting it sink in.

5:30: Writing. Since I started working on this blog, I have tried to spend 25- minutes a day writing or doing blog maintenance and development.

5:55: Work Out. I try to mix in running with strength and plyometric workouts.

6:20: Get Ready For Work

7:00: Breakfast and Reading. I have the New York Times Now app on my phone and will read the Morning Briefing that is published 5 times a week.

7:30: Drive to Work. I will either listen to Sports Talk Radio or an article I have saved in Pocket. They have a text-to-speech feature that will read articles to you. My usual reading list consists of sports, current events, library topics, or parenting.

The take away for you, I hope, is that you will see how you can tinker with your schedule to bring in more time for reading your Bible, praying, and thinking about God. You may have to start getting rid of some things or change some priorities. Don’t settle for a run of the mill approach to your day. Find a way to inject more of Christ into your schedule.

 

4 Reasons Why You Need To Grow Up: Reason #4 It Is Biblical

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I am not a Bible scholar so I won’t do a deep dive into a passage here (I teach Bible study classes at my church where I attempt that). I would tell you that if you want to see what a Grown Up Christian looks like, then your best to look to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), John 15, and Colossians 3.

The verses that speak to me the most about maturity are the ones that pinpoint the dying of the old self and the putting on of the new self. Galatians 2:20 starts off, “I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live…”Matthew 16:25 talks about gaining life by losing it for Christ’s sake. Ephesians 4:22-24 says to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

In these verses, there is no question what your life is supposed to look like. There is no temptation to just sprinkle a little moralism, some self help mantra, and some vague religiosity over your life. The call is severe and drastic and the end result is noticeable, powerful, and profound.

Your commitment to Christ means your commitment to a radical change in your life. The old self is slowly being put to death and the new self is being grown, fed, and watered through Christ’s work in you and your training in spiritual growth and maturity.

This is no mere add on to your life. No “nice thing” to do. This is your life now if you have Christ.

What are you doing with your new life?

4 Reasons Why You Need To Grow Up: Reason #3 You Were Called To An Abundant Life

 

Have you ever watched an infomercial or a TV ad and hear the pitchman say the great value of the product but then he says, “Wait, there’s more. If you call in the next 15 minutes…” and then proceeds to add on some “great” additional product or feature. An electronic flyswatter anyone?

There may be no resemblance between Jesus and Billy Mays, but Jesus had some “Wait, there’s more” moments that were unlike anything that had been heard of before or since.

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Jesus’ pitch in John 10 is full of wait there’s more moments. First, he says that if you enter life with him, you will be saved. That life will lead to fulfilling of our needs, joy and abundance. Wait, there’s more, you will know Jesus and through that knowledge you will know God. Wait, there’s more, you will join with others who also enter life with Jesus and there will be unity and community.

Jesus says that the reason this is all possible is because he is willing to lay down his life for us. His sacrifice and our acceptance of him is a great gift for us. But what are you doing with this gift? Is your life reflecting the abundance that Christ provides? Is your knowledge of God expanding? Is your sense of community with other believers getting stronger or are you feeling more isolated and distant?

Jesus’ words in John 10 are more than a pitch but they are promises of a life that is beyond anything we can imagine, even this side of eternity. Are you getting the most out of this life?

Perhaps you need to make the commitment now to let Christ show you what the abundant life looks like. What will you do today to help you know God more? To experience the abundance that is available? To partner with Jesus in building his community?

 

4 Reasons Why You Need To Grow Up:Reason #2 You Have A Job To Do

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I don’t know what your job is but I know that beyond your occupation, you have a God appointed task to do.

Maybe God has asked you to reach out to someone in friendship, or to pursue a particular goal, or to start a new project that will benefit others, or maybe you are just called to be the best parent you can be, or to honor your employer with hard work, or to be a better listener.

As a Christian, there are countless opportunities for obedience and intention. Some of these are elaborate and unique to only us and some are simply fulfilling our duty as a follower of Christ. No matter the complexity or the specifics, in order for us to take advantage of these opportunities, we have to have the skills, the make up, and the maturity to do our job.

Through scripture God has asked us to love, to be obedient, to pray, to share the Gospel, to have faith. Then, he has asked us individually to carry out some responsibility. But if we are too judgmental or angry how are we going to love? If we never pursue more silence in our lives, how effective will our prayer life be? And if God has asked us to serve underprivileged children, but we haven’t considered that our lack of patience might be a problem, how effective will we really be?

God has something for you to do. He will no doubt provide many gifts in your life to allow for success in your calling but are you doing your part to bring your best to God’s assignments? Have you prepared yourself through prayer, confession, listening to God, worship, and study of Scripture?

An effective Christian is a mature Christian.

 

Photo credit: Jorge Royan

4 Reasons Why You Need To Grow Up: Reason #1 The World Needs Mature Christians

Unless you have been under a rock, Christians have been portrayed in many different ways over the last few years and most of these ways have been negative. Let me list a few: hate mongerer, backward, ignorant, radical, extreme, hypocrites, irrelevant, and crazy.

Sadly, it wouldn’t take me long to give you examples that would testify to the description above. And I have no axe to grind or get any joy from pointing this out.

Whether this portrayal is fair or not, it is obvious that the Christianity that is on display in our country is lacking in-depth, humility, gentleness, kindness, self-control, and love.

One reason this is happening  is that American Christians have tried to use the tactics and strategies of the secular world to advance the Christian faith instead of the tactics and strategies that have been the most impactful for the past 2,000 years.

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We point fingers when we should be doing pointed personal spiritual inventory. We double down on our biases when we should be seeking to understand others that are also made in God’s image. We think that the goal is a happy life when what we really need is a self sacrificial life.

So Grow Up and show others around you that you aren’t perfect but you possess a wisdom and a strength that doesn’t come from normal methods. Grow Up and show others the path to fulfillment is not found in worldly shortcuts but in the person of Jesus Christ. Grow Up and show others that what changes the world is not bluster and brow beating but genuine love, service to others, and spiritually transformed people.

The world needs mature Christians. Join me as I try to do my part to Grow Up and be a guide to others to do the same.

Donate Now

To go deeper I am pursuing an 18-month journey in spiritual growth called the Apprentice Experience. Through this experience, I will grow in my understanding of God, develop capacities for Christ’s transformation in my life, understand how community is used by God to develop growth, and practice exercises that will draw me closer to God.

I can’t have this amazing opportunity without your help. Please partner with me by donating and helping me be the best guide I can be so others can Grow Up in their faith.

Apprentice Experience

In addition to all the great content that this experience will provide on the blog, I am providing donation gifts for all donors who give more than $25. These are really cool gifts that will push you to grow up in your spiritual life. See below.

Donate now.

At least $25 – The Grow Up Playlist full of songs that have helped me in my spiritual life.

At least $50 – A sample chapter of an eBook I worked on a few years ago called More of Christ, Less of Everything Else.

At least $75 – A resource pack full of the list of tools that I use to grow closer to God.

At least $100 – A short eBook that I am creating called the Devotional Lives of Famous Christians.

Try This Meditative Exercise

You have read this post and this post and you think you want to try this meditation thing. Let me give you a simple exercise for you to do.

Right off the top of my head, I can think of some meditative verses that we can use.

“Be still and know that I am God”

“Speak for your servant is listening”

“My peace I give to you”

“Abide in me and I will abide in you”

“Be Holy, as I am Holy”

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”

First, take a verse and repeat it once. Next, pause and imagine your life reflecting the truth of the verse. That is all there is to it. Try this for 10 minutes and then do another verse tomorrow.

Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.

Say we choose to do “My peace I give to you.”After repeating the verse a few times, I am going to imagine what Christ’s peace is all about and what it would look like in my life if I was inhabited with the peace of Christ. What would be different about my life? What habits or behaviors would no longer have a hold on me? How might my relationships be impacted? Be grateful for Christ and his outpouring of gifts.

Pretty simple and intuitive, right? Try it now and tell me what God is teaching you through this exercise.

My Experience With Meditation

 

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So I started meditating regularly at the beginning of this year. As I mentioned in the last post, the podcasts I was listening to kept bringing it up. I knew that if these atheistic practitioners were getting benefit out of their version of meditation, then what kind of benefit could I get from not just slowing my breathing and focusing my mind but actually inviting God to be present, to speak, to work in me in a powerful way.

I knew I needed help with where to get started, so I picked up Richard Foster’s book, Sanctuary of the Soul.  I wrote down all of the methods and practices that surfaced in Foster’s book, from praying a Psalm to beholding nature, and committed to try one of these practices for 10 minutes a day.

The practices are not as important as the fact that I am intentional every morning at encountering God. I spend much of my time beholding God’s glory and greatness. Sometimes that leads to confession on my part, sometimes that leads to an inspired task to do later in the day, and sometimes I just try to savor who God is and am in awe that he cares anything about me.

I am not really that good at it. It takes much of my time just to be able to get my mind from going in a million different directions. I have extended past 10 minutes many times, not because I am having a wonderfully rich experience, but because I wasted so much time on getting my mind to slow down in order to focus on God.

Something has changed since I started practicing meditation.

I can’t really explain it. What I can say is that it has given me a place to return to during my day. I take the calmness and the assuredness I get from God during my meditation to the rest of my day. I am not swayed as much by the swivel of good and bad that an ordinary day brings, because I know, from my time with God, that I am loved and that God is a great God. That knowledge alone consistently teaches me to trust God in all circumstances.

I can say with confidence that I wouldn’t be relaunching this blog and writing consistently if it wasn’t for this intentional practice of meditation. I can say with confidence that some of the successes I have had professionally and personally have come from this practice.

It is not a magic exercise, but it has given me such a sense of God moving and working in my life that my faith has grown and I have learned to listen and trust God in a way that hasn’t happened in years.

Meditation has been a game changer for me. It can be for you as well.

Next time, I will provide a brief method of meditation that you can try.