Absolute Trust Through Uncertain Times

It’s a familiar story to most of us—the first miracle of Jesus’ ministry.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now” (John 2:1-10).

Jesus and His mother Mary were among the guests at a wedding in Cana. In the midst of the celebration, Mary came to Jesus and simply told Him: “They have no more wine” (v. 3). As a mother myself, I wonder what she really expected Him to do. Whatever response she was looking for, obviously she knew Jesus would take care of it.

Now don’t miss Mary’s remarkable words in verse 5: “Do whatever He tells you.” Oh, to have that kind of faith and trust in Him. To know that, no matter the situation, no matter the circumstance or the problem, you can trust Him.

Do what He says. Follow His instructions. Let Him handle it. As you ponder the details of your life, family and work, just do what He says. Trust Him. Walk in step with Him. Let Him take care of whatever it is you need.

 

Brenda Harris is a student of God’s Word…and a wife, mother, and grandmother! She loves uncovering truths and promises in Scripture. Brenda serves as prayer coordinator for Kendrick Brothers Productions.

7 Tips for Raising Children and Growing Your Marriage

For many obvious reasons, the first years of marriage can be quite challenging. In the best of circumstances, each spouse must make adjustments. No amount of premarital counseling can fully prepare a couple for all the changes each spouse will have to make. This is especially true when children come along. The best-made plans are often replaced by frequent surprises. Children and marriage certainly go together, but having children requires a great deal of hard work and maturity from both parents in order to meet the needs of each child while ensuring a healthy marriage.

Here are 7 tips to help couples learn how to balance children and marriage and maintain the foundation of a strong partnership:

  1. Vocalize and listen to each other’s concerns. First-time parenting is a frightening prospect, but remember that you have each other to depend upon.
  2. Lean on the expertise of family and friends to coach you on the “secrets” from their own parenting experiences. All married couples face similar stresses and issues when having children and many have learned from their mistakes. You will do well to seek their counsel. Just choose the sources of your counsel wisely.
  3. Be open and honest with each other if you should harbor doubts. Get your feelings out into the open or you’ll find the stresses of parenting and those locked-up emotions playing seesaw with your relationship.
  4. Discuss and compare views on structure and discipline with the goal of finding a compromise position on how to raise your child.
  5. Don’t let parenting consume your relationship to the point that you have no intimate time for each other.
  6. Never forget that you were a couple before you were parents … a lesson worth carrying throughout the ups and downs of raising children.
  7. Consider parenting and career objectives. While both parents working might provide more financial stability, consider how it could affect your child’s development? Be certain to count all the costs, both tangible and intangible, before making the decision for both of you to work.

It is important to understand that relationship challenges are a normal part of balancing children and marriage. Though you and your spouse may carefully and prayerfully plan for children and talk at length about how to handle situations that may arise, be prepared for surprises. And no matter what, never forget that the love and support needed to nurture your marriage is just as important as winning the parent-of-the-year award. Strongly consider sitting down with a counselor and discussing being parents, or consider taking a class to continue growing in your marriage with the idea that you may gain insightful and objective advice on how to successfully tackle marriage and parenting.

– Family Dynamics Institute

 

Family Dynamics Institute collaborates with Churches, Companies, and Community Organizations to help them provide a Comprehensive Marriage Ministry to help married and engaged couples grow stronger at all ages and stages of marriage.

To Learn More

Contact Us At:         800-650-9995

Email Us:       info@FamilyDynamics.net

Websites:      www.FamilyDynamics.net

www.SaveMyMarriage.com

Happy National Single Parents Day!

Before they are eighteen, about half of our Nation’s children will have lived part of their lives with a single parent who strives to fill the role of both mother and father.

Many single parents in America are making valiant efforts on behalf of their children under trying circumstances. Whether it is a deserted spouse forced to work and care for children simultaneously, or a spouse who is not receiving child support that has been awarded by a court, or an unwed mother who has bravely foregone the all-too-available option of abortion, or a widow or widower, single parents deserve our recognition and appreciation for their demonstrated dedication to their young.

At the same time, we should also recognize the vital and ongoing role a large percentage of non-custodial parents play in the nurturing process of their offspring. Their sacrifices, devotion, and concern reflect the bonds of caring for those they have brought into this world.

Single parents can and do provide children with the financial, physical, emotional, and social support they need to take their places as productive and mature citizens. With the active interest and support of friends, relatives, and local communities, they can do even more to raise their children in the best possible environment.

The Congress, by H.J. Res. 200, has designated March 21, 1984, as “National Single Parent Day” and has requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of that day.

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim March 21, 1984, as National Single Parent Day. I call on the people of the United States to recognize the contributions single parents are making, sometimes under great hardships, to the lives of their children, and I ask that they volunteer their help, privately or through community organizations, to single parents who seek it to meet their aspirations for their children.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighty-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and eighth. -Proclamation 5166

 

Posted by Matt Haviland of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry

www.afatherswalk.org

Precious and Loved: From the heart of Dr. Dan

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This post is dedicated to the loving memory of Dr. Dan Erickson, who went home to the Lord earlier this week. Words will never describe the impact he made on countless lives– selfless acts of love that reaped eternal rewards. Dr. Dan will be missed, but we are so grateful to God for sharing him with us during this life.

I was encouraged the other day by these words out of Isaiah 43.2-3: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flames shall not consume you, for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel your God.

Why? Because you are precious in my eyes and honored and I love you! (v.4)

I remember when all seven of my grandkids were born but the first one stands out the most in my mind. Gabby was born with little fanfare since there was no father in the picture. I became her substitute daddy for a few years. I remember holding her for the very first time and my eyes begin to leak. I fell in love with her that day. I still am!

When I think about that day it leads me to ask the question, “Why did I love her so much? All she did was pup, pee and puke?” It is a simple but profound answer, “Because she was mine.” She wasn’t born with a large inheritance; no test could tell me she was going to be a super athlete, actress or scholar. I love her so much because she was mine. And since she was mine I would protect and cherish her with my life. Nothing could separate me from the love I had for her. Her conduct, attitude or her acceptance or rejection of me would not change my love for her.

Why does God declare to us that we are honored and loved by Him when we are continually messing up, breaking his commandments and going our own way? When we reject Him, we find ourselves in deep waters and fire surround all around us yet He loves us so much He sent His only Son to rescue us when we did not deserve it.

Why? Because we are His!

If the God could become man and rescue us, He can do anything no matter your situation or circumstance. This kind of love God and His Son has for us bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things. (I Cor. 13:7)

Crawl into your Heavenly Father’s arms, allow Him to rescue you and protect you from the waters and the fires in your life. It is never too late. Allow Him to say to you what He said to his Son so many years ago, This is my son whom I love and in whom I am well pleased (Matt. 3:17). What He said about His Son He says about you. What had His Son done—except simply been His, imagine the possibilities!

5 Keys to Successfully Raising Porn-Free Teens

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No father wants to imagine his child is looking at pornography, but it is happening every day. Researchers have stated that the average age of exposure to pornography is as young as eight to eleven years old.

Love on Your Kids

Stay engaged in your teen’s life. Keep listening and talking. Tim Block, a youth pastor, said, “Communication is critical in helping teens realize that this is a winnable war as we depend on God’s indwelling Holy Spirit to enable and strengthen us.”

It is a good idea to spend time with each of your children individually. It will give you both an opportunity to get to know each other, and it makes children feel very special. Think hard before accepting opportunities such a promotion that takes you out of town a lot. I learned this from hearing the stories of many men with father wounds. Their fathers were just not there during these critical years.

Teach Them to Love God

Encourage Bible memorization. Make it a fun game. There is great power in memorizing verses. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 (ESV) Have Bible studies in your home and encourage the teens to be involved in the teen church group. Go to church as a family on Sunday. Show the teens that your faith is very important to you. Memorize these verses with your teens: Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Philippians 4:7-8.

Why is reading the Bible so important for your teens? It’s important because no matter how young in the faith they are, the Holy Spirit is at work when they read. The Holy Spirit will cause conviction—conviction leads to obedience to the Word. When a teen commits to obey the conviction, they are moving towards surrender. Surrender is the willingness to do anything for God. Surrender is giving up our rights and following what God has laid on our hearts. Talk to your teens about their faith. Ask your teens about their personal testimony; not how they became saved but their lifestyles. What areas need changing to make them better witnesses?

Have them come up with their own “I” statements about what areas need changing. This gives something you can discuss as an accountability item. When you review these together you are reviewing directions that they gave to themselves.

 I recommend reading this book to help you: Protecting Your Teen From Disturbing Behavior by Lee Vuckich and Steve Vandegriff 2007 Living Ink Books.

Be Open and Honest About Your Failings

There is a transition that needs to happen from raising little children to raising teens. It is sad that we have to make this transition at such an early age, even as young as eight; but since these young people are facing such harsh realities, we need to be real with them. As the parent you can be a stumbling block to a young person’s development into a young adulthood. We need to admit when we are wrong. We have to be vulnerable. That way, when your teens have issues, they will know they can talk to you because you are not perfect either. You’ve made it safe to talk. They need to know you have had to work through your own struggles with cigarettes, alcohol, and sexual matters.

Expect the Best from Your Teens

You should expect the best from your teens. In order to help them do their best, you need to have boundaries. Boundaries make children feel secure. Tim Block emphasized that “establishing boundaries that are consistent with God’s Word are paramount.” Create an environment in which they can succeed.

Monitor Your Teens

You will only know if your teens are staying within the boundaries by monitoring their behavior. Accountability is important. Travis Armstrong, Pastor of Junior High School Students at Grace Church, reports that teens are embracing the seriousness of the battle going on for their souls. “Teens are having accountability with each and using texting as the means of helping each other.” You have many options for monitoring your teen’s behavior.

 

Dave Howe co-founded a men’s purity group at Grace Church in Eden Prairie MN in 2006. His 90 day devotional book for men healing from sexual addiction will be released by Tristan Publishing this fall. Follow his blog at: Davehowe.org and on Twitter: @DaveJ_Howe

A New Kind of Reconciliation with a Former Spouse

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Almost every divorced Christian I know cannot imagine reconciling with their former spouse.  So much hurt, so many bitter words and fights. “Clare, why would I take that risk and jump back into that snake pit again?”

Not only are there those risks, but in most cases one or both of the spouses have remarried.  “So, Clare even if I wanted to reconcile with my ex it is impossible.”

Surprisingly, it isn’t.  At least, not the kind of reconciliation I’m encouraging.

So what follows is the advice I gave to a divorced man recently that you may want to pass on to a divorced friend, or anyone at odds with another believer.

Webster defines reconcile this way; “to cause people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement.

The Bible says this, But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” – Luke 6:27,28

 

Reconciling with your “ex”

While you may be legally divorced from your former spouse, if he/she is a believer they are still your spiritual brother and sister.  And it is the will of God that we live reconciled to one another and in peace.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” -2Corinthians 13:11

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”  -Galatians 5:22

Peace is not only one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, but we’re to use all of our spiritual gifts to bring about peace.

Continuing my conversation with this man, “You’re not only expected to make an effort to live at peace with your ‘ex,’ it’s to your advantage to do so;” Why?

 

First, it’s a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit to your children.

If you have children, for the rest of your life, you and your ex will have to negotiate holidays, weddings, birthdays, graduation and special events, even those of your grandchildren.  What a wonderful testimony to them of how Christians ought to live, even with people who disagree, if both you and your ex could attend and be kind and courteous to one another, so no innocent parties are made to feel uncomfortable.
 

Second, you will have peace of mind and your prayers will not be hindered. This may be hard to hear; but unless you’ve had a biblical divorce, biblically speaking, your ex is still your spouse, in God’s eyes.  And therefore when you are bitter or angry with your spouse it’s tougher to pray with a free conscience. (1 Peter 3:7)
 

Third, Jesus commands us to attempt to make peace even if you are the innocent party!

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,” -Matthew 5:23.  Jesus isn’t saying if you have something against them.  He’s talking about them having hard feelings about you.  Perhaps your spouse still harbors hard feelings toward you.  You have an obligation to try to make peace.
 

To harbor hateful thoughts is a sin.

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” -Matthew 5:22
 

My final thought is this: you have no control over whether your ex will accept your offer of reconciliation and peace.  But you do have the responsibility as a believer to make a sincere effort.

Making the first moves

  1. Begin by praying for a receptive spirit in your former spouse, or another person whom you are at odds.
  2. Consider calling you ex and offering to meet with a godly friend you both trust, who is willing to help you navigate this reconciliation. (If you or your ex have remarried, it would be very unwise to meet without a third person present.)
  3. Attempt to move beyond open hostility and discuss continuing tensions and how to eliminate or minimize them.
  4. If you come to a mutual understanding about how you will handle certain issues, put it in writing. It will give both of you something to refer to in the future.
  5. Covenant to pray for one another. I’ve yet to meet two “enemies” who committed to pray faithfully for “the best” for the other person, who remained enemies.

Finally

If you’ve sent this blog to someone, ask to meet with them.  Most people wounded by divorce are hesitant to take these steps without a faithful, praying friend to encourage them to do so.  Be that kind of friend.

 

How following Jesus works in real life.

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you can take care of that right HERE.

 

 

He is All I Want!

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The story is told about a young girl who was attempting to quote David’s 23 Psalm for the first time in front of her classmates. She took a deep breath and nervously begins the Psalm with, “The Lord is my Shepherd. He is all I want.” Many might think that she misquoted it. I think she got it just right. Is Christ all that we want, or do we possess divided loyalties?

American Christians have become more of a subculture rather than counterculture — a called-out one. Many are stuck in the same paradigm as the world. The subculture reflects the value system or worldview of the culture. which keeps them from becoming agents of change. A subculture is defined by the culture itself. It seems over the centuries that the only time the Church is willing to rise up is when the culture threatens its very existence.

I guess the only way for the church to be revived, to rise up, is that our very existence be threatened. We are awakened by a good dose of persecution. The Church has become a well-trained institution and the reality is that we have become very provident functioning without the manifest presence of God.

Christ is calling us to become a reflection of Him and to become aliens and strangers in this world. We are to be in the world but not of it. We are called to be revolutionaries, change agents. We were created in Christ to stand out, reflect him; not blend in and mirror the world. I think most convinced Christians would take a bullet for Christ but live for him in secret. He did the dying; he is asking us to do the denying, take up our cross, our revolutionary cause and completely follow him. (Matt. 16:24-26)

In Mark 10:17-22, Christ was asked by a convinced young man what he must to do to inherit eternal life. Christ simply asked him if he was attempting to keep all the commandments. He answered with the affirmative. He was very religious. In our day we might answer, “I go to church most Sundays; I read my Bible on occasion; I pray when I need to; I give if I have enough; I serve on work days.” How would you answer?

Scripture goes on to read, “Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. ‘There is still one thing you haven’t done,’ he told him. ‘Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” His riches, his possessions, were his competing loyalties! The little girl got it right; let Christ be all we want because He is all we need.

Reflect

What is God asking of you that is keeping you from completely following Christ?

 

Dr. Dan Erickson

Chief Servant Leader  |  People Matter Ministries

www.peoplematterministries.com

Five Strategies for Raising Creative Kids

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Dear Moms and Dads:

Every field of endeavor needs a creative spark. And your brilliant kids can provide it! How can you encourage that spark?  Consider . . .

  1. When your four year old proudly presents you with a drawing of what looks like a porcupine playing piano and eating pizza on the porch, invite them up on to your lap and talk about it. Don’t ask, “What is it?”  Instead, ooohand aaah.  Then ask them about the decisions they made in the creative process. “How did you choose these two colors?” “These lines are straight and these are curvy. Why did you choose that?” Partner with them in the discovery of their own creative abilities and help them see how they have control over the creative choices they make. You can even suggest that their efforts have led you to think new thoughts.

 

  1. Anytime your kid expresses an interest in a new artistic endeavor, make a financial investment. But start cheap. Buy a beginner guitar, basic set of watercolors, or single lined journal. Sign them up for an inexpensive park district ballet class or children’s theater class. Let them know that if they commit to the quest, pursue it enthusiastically, fill the journal with deep thoughts, or really use the paints, you’ll invest even more. My dad was a master at this. For Christmas, Papa bought my son, Alec, a cheap harmonica and said, “Play me a song and I’ll buy you the best one in the store.” Later that afternoon, Alec surprised us all by playing a snappy rendition of  “Jingle Bells.”  Before the New Year, Papa took his grandson out for a pretty nice Hohner Harmonica.  Alec used that same instrument on stage more than a decade later.

 

  1. Occasionally, your son or daughter may invite you to comment on something they have created. Take it in. Don’t comment too quickly. Listen to the entire song. Examine the fabric. Look at the sculpture from all sides.  Ask for time to read the entire article, script, novel or short story.  Then come back in a reasonable amount of time and use the 80/20 rule.  After delivering four encouraging comments, you have earned the right to make one gentle suggestion. Especially if you are critiquing the work of a young artist, err on the side of grace.

 

  1. Talk about art. Define art. In 1998, two human artists founded The Elephant Art & Conservation Project, which features and sells “artwork” painted by elephants. The most talented of the pachyderms will hold a brush in their trunk and create abstract works of art. The humans place the empty canvases in front of the elephants that have been trained in some cases to create colorful and eye-pleasing designs including self portraits.  Ask your child, “Is this art?”

 

  1. With your kids, open your Bible to Genesis 1:27. “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” There’s much packed in to those words. The passage describes God as a Creator and describes humans made in the image of God. Which means that we must also have the gift to create. All of us. Including you and each of your children. 

 

Dads and Moms, you are in a unique position to help your kids uncover their creative gifts. And harvest those gifts to build God’s Kingdom and give glory back to Him.

Blessings,

/jay

 

As a family advocate, life pundit, and humorist, Jay Payleitner has sold some half-million books including 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad, Quick Tips for Busy Families, and What If God Wrote Your Bucket List?   He speaks nationwide on parenting, marriage, creativity, and finding your life purpose.  Jay and his high school sweetheart, Rita, live in the Chicago area where they raised five great kids, loved on ten foster babies, and are cherishing grandparenthood.  You can track him down at www.jaypayleitner.com.

Better Than a Dozen Roses: 12 Ways to Let Your Daughter Know She’s Your Valentine

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With Valentine’s Day coming up soon, I figure there’s no better way to celebrate the holiday than to highlight the power of a heart connection from a dad to his daughter. And though some may view this day as one reserved only for romance between sweethearts, I see it as an opportunity for a girl to be treated in an extra special way by her dad, thus creating a model for future comparison so she’ll know how to be treated when the love of her life comes knocking!

Rather than give her 12 roses to let her know she’s loved by you this year, why not instead choose 12 things that you can do for her or with her that let her know that she’s worth celebrating?

This 14th of February can be the start of a new tradition where you give your time, energy, and creativity that says, “You’re my valentine.” Incidentally, you’ll notice that none of these things cost money. They’re going to require that you dig deeper inside yourself than into your wallet.

Have fun being resourceful in ways that require ingenuity, patience, a servant’s heart, and a good dose of humor. Here are a dozen ideas to help you win her heart anew this Valentine’s Day:

  • Do something fun that involves the two of you enjoying an activity together —walking, running, biking, shooting hoops, kicking a ball, playing a board game, etc.

 

  • Let her teach you something she’s good at and you’re not —baking, cooking, doing an art project, coloring, talking!

  • Write a letter telling her the qualities that you love, admire, respect, and want to reinforce in her —for extra credit, read the letter to her and I guarantee this will be something she will treasure for the rest of her life.

  • Step out of your comfort zone and invite her to dance with you to one of her favorite songs —if she declines, don’t feel bad; she won’t forget you asked, even if she says “no.”

 

  • Listen for ten uninterrupted minutes while practicing active listening skills —look at her while she talks, nod your head to show you’re interested, lean forward, ask questions to encourage her to talk more (yes, you heard me right!).

 

  • Share three stories from your childhood that you’ve never told her before —of course you’ll want to ask her if she’d like to hear them since some girls like hearing stories more (or less) than others.

 

  • Serve her in a way that is unexpected and out of the ordinary—fix something that’s broken, run an errand so she doesn’t have to, make her bed for her, do one of her chores as a surprise gift to her.

 

  • Ask if you’ve hurt her and then seek forgiveness after hearing the whole story —and/or follow the lead of one dad who has makes a practice of asking his five-year old daughter a question every night as he tucks her into bed, “Has Daddy been sharp with you today?” This allows him to hear the hurts and repair them one day at a time.

  • Surf the internet with her and find funny videos that make you both laugh

  • Take selfies of the two of you putting random things on your heads with silly captions to then post on her social media sites with the hashtag #daddaughterselfie

 

  • Go through your kitchen and at any time of day make a breakfast food that she loves—pancakes, waffles, omelet, cereal—and eat it with no hands, creating an experience that is sure to make a lasting memory! (Idea credit: Garth Brooks, who led his daughters to do this with him during their growing up years, now inspiring others to follow his lead).

 

  • Watch one of her favorite television shows or movies with her…and enter into it in a way that enhances the experience for her —no making fun of anything she likes and offer to pop popcorn or dish up ice cream to make things extra fun and memorable.

 

Why not give your daughter a new kind of Valentine gift this year that requires your full attention and whole heart?

I’m convinced that she’ll feel loved by you in a new way as you give more of yourself than money can buy. I believe this has the potential to be better than a dozen roses as this forever memory will last a lifetime!

Dr. Michelle Watson has a clinical counseling practice in Portland, Oregon and has served in that role for the past 18 years. She is founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum that is designed to equip dads with daughters ages 13 to 30 to dial in with more intention and consistency, and has recently released her first book entitled, Dad, Here’s What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart. She invites you to visit www.drmichellewatson.com for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs where she provides practical tools so that every dad in America can become the action hero they want to be and their daughters need them to be. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook at www.facebook.com/drmichellewatson and Twitter @mwatsonphd.

Are We Raising “Ephesian” Men?

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Jesus’s last words to his church in the New Testament are found in the first few chapters of the Book of Revelation.  John carries a message for seven specific churches from a man who identifies Himself as: “the first and the last, the living one who died and is now alive forevermore”. There is only one person this could be.

For five of the seven churches, a common theme: “repent”. And perhaps none is more jarring than the first of these letters, which is to the Ephesians.

As He always does, God points to the positives. And this case, there are many. The Ephesian church:

  • Is hard working
  • Patiently endures tribulation
  • Exercises sound discernment and removes false teachers
  • Hates the works of the heretical “Nicolaitans”

I don’t know about you, but at this point, I would be preparing to step forward for a special honor. What more could He ask for? But then the other shoe drops…

Jesus makes it really clear that He has this against the church at Ephesus: they have lost their first love.

What kind of men are we raising? If we raise the kind that excel at the positive things the Ephesian church was demonstrating, surely we are doing well?

Here’s what I see.

I see that regardless what we say or how hard we try to buck it, it’s just human nature to promote leaders who demonstrate they are “all in”.

  • The men who contribute their time, talents, and tithes.
  • The men who step forward–with enthusiasm–to lead meetings.
  • The men who are predictable—they embrace our values and can tell our stories.
  • The men who have demonstrated leadership in other endeavors, such as business, sports, or entertainment.

Here’s what else I see. Regardless of how hard we try to swim against the tide, it’s natural for men we are raising to get the false impression that growth as believers is synonymous with their service in our men’s ministries. It’s completely understandable how this can occur:

  • We need help
  • We ask for help
  • Volunteers come forward to help
  • We check their effectiveness, and promote those who do a good job

In the middle of this perfectly natural system, as we are building a ministry and growing our influence, we can miss one of the most basic things of all: actual time with Jesus in prayer and the Word. Not the kind of prayer where we focus on our ministry, but instead, where we focus on sweet communion from heart-to-heart. Not the kind of time in the Word where we focus on an upcoming message, but rather where we sit and delight in meeting the Living Word of God.

There is a risk that Jesus clearly identifies to the church in Ephesus. Dotting all the “I”s and crossing all the “T”s is good, but it’s not enough.

Jesus interrupts our generally accepted accounting spiritual practice (GAASP) with this fundamental question: “but what about the love?”

Let me be as clear as possible in application. As men’s ministry leaders, we are forever repeating this narrative: “God is after relationship, not religion”. But we must resist every ounce of human nature that drives us to incorrectly focus on performance rather than resting securely in heart connection with God.

How do we assess our true spiritual fitness level? I know of no better diagnostic test than this. Evaluate where you really truly stand in your own time of personal prayer and time in the Word. Not what you SHOULD be doing, but what you are ACTUALLY doing.

  • Are you engaging in these activities as a means to “check a box”, or do you treat these as divine encounters that provide the only source of spiritual food for any believer to grow in the inner man?
  • Are you treating your prayer and Word times as an opportunity to listen to what OTHER MEN have said about God, or are you cultivating an open discussion of a heart-to-heart nature?
  • Are you promoting a climate of accountability with other men around these “behind the scenes” investment in seeking God in the quiet places, or are you giving yourself and everyone around you “slack” because no one really wants to go there?

Jesus makes it pretty clear that even if we “get it right” in every other department, if we bypass the relationship department, we are risking everything. Who wants to spend their whole life thinking we are “all in”, only to find out that we missed the central point of life in Christ?

My prayer? That God will show us if and where we are standing in need of repentance; and that He would give us the grace to repent as if there is no tomorrow.

 

Tim Truesdale is a husband, father of 4, and nationally recognized leader of Men’s Ministry. The Father is very fond of him.