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.

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?

 

Book Review: Greater Expectations: Succeed (and Stay Sane) in an On-Demand, All-Access, Always-On Age – Claire Diaz-Ortiz

framesIn Greater Expectations: Succeed (and Stay Sane) in an On-Demand, All-Access, Always-On Age , Claire Diaz-Ortiz discusses a particular problem and one that constantly tempts me. Diaz-Ortiz laments the time and soul sucking nature of constant information and social media. She honestly admits that her responsible and vocational intentions often fly out the window due to the appeal of one more tweet to read or one more video to watch or one more comment to write. She wisely realized that if she didn’t develop a plan to intentionally bring prayer, personal enrichment, exercise and planning to her day, the technology tidal wave would take over and she would be at its mercy. So she developed the PRESENT method, which stands for Prayer – Read – Express – Schedule – Exercise – Nurture – Track.

Being a person who loves a plan to follow, I dove into the PRESENT tasks with gusto. Here are some of my observations:

– The express component has already paid dividends. This is where you write in a journal or send an encouraging note

– Diaz-Ortiz is clearly working out of a work from home, freelancer environment that may not apply to many people’s working existence

– Scheduling before I even step foot into work has given me direction and focus

– Diaz-Ortiz seems to want to emphasize doing these things before turning on any electronic device. So obviously, the preferred time would be in the morning. If you were to take her suggested allotment for each section it would take you around 85 minutes to complete. Who has that kind of time during the morning routine?

– Here is how I organized my PRESENT plan :

    – Prayer – 10 minutes (usually over a cup of tea)

– Read – 15 minutes (I have been reading books on the Spiritual Life. I don’t read the Bible  because I usually listen to scripture while I run.)

– Express – 10 minutes (I have written notes to family members, worked on these reviews, or gone through spiritual exercises in one of the books I am reading)

– Schedule – 15 minutes (I use Donald Miller’s Productivity Plan to map out my day)

– Exercise – 20-30 minutes (I run or lift weights or both)

– Nurture – 20 minutes (During my lunch break, I will read a non-fiction book or magazine)

– Track (I haven’t been doing this much as it is simply a review on how your PRESENT plan is going)

As I consider what needs to be part of my devotional life – prayer, reflection, study, and silence – this plan helps make this possible. Again, all of this is designed to be done with our devices turned off. It has been enriching to me, though challenging, to focus on truly meaningful things as my day begins instead of gorging myself on the latest news, sports, and social media firestorms. Diaz-Ortiz maps out a solid path to take back our own personal growth. Though plans are often too involved to truly be followed, any intentional person could take some of Diaz-Ortiz’ ideas and bring benefit to their personal and spiritual life.

Teaching A Twelve Year Old How To Pray

My twelve-year-old daughter recently expressed difficulty in praying. You never prepare yourself for what you are going to say in these situations, so I told her to keep it real simple and short. I told her to try the following:

Father, we love you and thank you for being our God. Please help me with __________ .

I wanted her to focus on who God is (Father) and that we need to start our prayers with gratitude and recognition. Then, I wanted her to focus on a specific request and ask God to help her with it. Her problem, and mine often times, is that her prayers are too generic. Discovering how God answers our prayers is much easier when you have a specific situation you are needing help with. Asking God to give me a good day tomorrow is harder to track than something specific such as, “Help me approach my role as parent with graciousness and love.” Those were the only two guidelines that I gave her. Address God properly, praise him, and make a request.

What do you think? Do I have my theology mixed up? Am I giving my daughter false ideas of who God is? Or, have I given her a decent starting point to a more effective prayer life. Maybe I should try this for myself.

Father, you have answered so many of my prayers and I thank you. Please help me to have a more consistent and meaningful prayer life. Amen

I will let you know how this prayer turned out.

Relax and Take In God

I have been trying to find ways to simplify my life but I am terrible at it. I am easily distracted by media and the latest information. (I guess that is why I am a librarian) I am hoping to find time and space in my life for God, reflection, and family. That is one good thing about all of the running that I have been doing. I don’t have much else to do on a 30 minute run but think and pray. But, still my mind wants to wander in other directions.

Dallas Willard says that spiritual formation should start with our thought life. He is right but this taming the thought life is a lifetime process that I am sure I will be struggling with until I die. One thing that has worked for me lately is to practice being more relaxed. The more relaxed I am, the better able I am to focus on God. Running has helped here as well.

I don’t know where I first heard this but one aphorism for running long distances is “Just relax and endure.” So, if I am in a tense situation, I slow down and try to stay relaxed and my mind starts to take the reigns off a little and God then steps in and gives me wisdom, or comfort, or strength to handle the situation. We often hear the excuse that we are too busy to think about God but the reality may be that we are too stressed or tense to think about God.

Take a moment right now and try to relax your body and your mind. Say a prayer, asking God to make you more relaxed and for Him to speak to you in these relaxed moments.

God Can Be Trusted

I have a meeting today that I have a small role in. I am worried not so much about my performance in the meeting but more about how my performance will be assessed by others. If I can trust God in helping me with the tasks at hand why can’t I trust him with the outcomes? Isn’t trust in God a pass/fail activity? You either trust him or you don’t.

Take a look at the Bible and every time you come across a character that really blows it you can trace their mistake to not trusting God. Adam and Eve didn’t trust that God knew what he was talking about. Saul thought he could always take matters in his own hands and hope God blessed it later. Annanias and Sapphira thought that God wasn’t worth being honest with other believers.

In the book of Daniel, the King summons Daniel and tells him that by helping the King he could have the finest the kingdom had to offer. Daniel was a foreigner in exile who probably could have used a little of the Kingdom’s riches but he flatly tells the King that he doesn’t need his riches. Here is what Daniel tells the King in Chapter 5, ” Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. ”

Daniel’s only focus was on God and he wasn’t worried about anything else. He trusted God, not just for the power to help the king and interpret signs and dreams but for his well being and stability. His narrative about God was that God could be trusted.

What am I holding back from God because I am not trusting him? Today, I am going to trust God at my meeting and after my meeting because I know that he can be trusted.