Bless Me

Gentlemen,

Goals and objectives are important to me. They help me prioritize and give me a push through tough circumstances. They guide me and provide me incentives. As a new year begins, I will sit at my desk and dream up several measurable goals. I will also outline a couple of over the top goals that are unreachable in my own strength. It’s a good process. Having said that, at the recent Call to Compassion and Justice Conference, a meeting of 280 people involved in serving vulnerable people worldwide, a theme emerged, as reported by Charlie Jarvis. He noted, “Much failure in Christian projects and organizations is due to very talented, gifted, Godly people who plan, launch, and direct projects and THEN ask God to bless them.” Where are your efforts, talents, gifts, resources and strengths going? Are you engaged in prayer to discover God’s leading in your life? Are you setting goals? From where do they come? God? Or, your desire for his blessing? Set goals. Pray as you do. Set them under the mercy of God. Hold onto them loosely. Above all else, follow him anywhere?

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

 

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Born to Die

Merry Christmas Gentlemen,

“Born to die” is a common Christmas theme used to discuss Jesus’ incarnation. God become a man. He came with clarion purpose; his focus was death on the cross. So “born to die” captures the message of the Advent season. It’s a message repeated again during the Easter season. However, we must, talk about this concept all year long and not only in reference to Jesus. You and I, we were also born to die. Have you thought about that? Solomon told us in Proverbs, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). This is the way of sin. We were born sinful and stay that way until Jesus interferes. Born in sin’s domain, we, too, were born to die. “The wages of sin are death” (Romans 6:23). Now, let me challenge you. When Jesus does indeed redeem us, it is also to a life of death. Paul says, “I die daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). The life of God’s man is a life of dying to himself. Rather than experiencing death as a fruit of my selfish ways, I chose death to myself. I learn of the cross of Christ. His death becomes my example. Jesus invited his disciples to death, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25). So there it is. You and I, like Jesus, are born to die. We either die on sin’s well-worn path, or in choosing daily to die, living our lives for others. How have you chosen death today?

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men this Christmas,

Jay

 

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Who’s Watching?

Gentlemen,

Jeremy Taylor, a sixteenth century pastor, said, “A Man belittles God when, before doing something wrong, he first checks to make sure his children aren’t around — as if the eye of a child were more powerful than the all-seeing eye of the Lord!” That’s alarming to think about. Fear is a powerful motivator but not always the best. I ran track and cross country for my high school. My father never missed a meet. One day, as I lined up to start a mile race, I realized I hadn’t seen my dad anywhere. The race began. As I ran down the straightaway on the third lap, I saw him waving over a fence. He had arrived late. When I saw him, a new burst of energy quickened my pace. I finished with a personal best to my dad’s adulation. God is watching me. Can I pick up my pace for his good pleasure? Will I serve my family as a delightful gift to give him? Will the wonder of my relationship with him fill me with a desire to live right and fully engage for his good pleasure and mine? If God is belittled in my hiding wrong, can he be magnified in my joy to live well?

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

 

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Noise

Gentlemen,

Occasionally, one of God’s commands will grate against my will. I hear it and go, “Argh.” This reveals a defect in my heart that needs to be set before God. I am delighted that he will eventually transform these flaws. The promise is clear that he will finish what he began in each of us. On the contrast, there are other commands I find more delightful. As I reflect on Thanksgiving, this is one such command: “Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” (Psalm 95:1-2). Don’t we have so much for which to be thankful? This verse is like one of those signs at the baseball stadiums: “Make some noise.” So, again I ask, “Don’t we have so much for which to be thankful?” As you celebrate today, make some noise to the King of Kings. Be joyful. It will do your heart good.

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

 

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Sheltered

Gentlemen,

A person who wants to shelter himself from the pain involved in being genuine and open in relationships must come to see that there is no pain greater than that which Christ went through on his behalf. There is no safety greater than finding refuge in Christ. No love is as secure and unceasing as that of God. But even when we reject God, he does not abandon us. Instead he pursues us with a love that forgives and offers life. It is no easy process to see the world through this light. But as I come to understand how actively and perfectly God pursues me, fear of rejection or painful hurt is replaced with a desire to share the gracious gifts he has given to me. What pain, hurt or fear are you sheltering yourself from today?

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

 

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Playing Music

Gentlemen,

I came across a unique quote when a friend read to me from, of all places, Mother Earth News. It was the words of Shannon Hayes. In an interview she said one of her goals was: “To produce more than I consume. There are myriad of ways of doing this: play music rather than download it, knit rather than go to the movies, grow food rather than buy it at the grocery store, cook rather than go out. When I spend my time producing for my well-being rather than paying for it with dollars, I have a lot more fun, life is more interesting, and I just don’t have time to waste money.” Now I am not necessarily advocating for those specific things, what I do hold out as exceptional is the way she has examined her life. She has thought about what she does. She has increased her awareness of its impact on her and others. Do you live an “examined life?” Have you taken time to reflect on the impact that what you do has? How does it affect your soul? What ripples does it have in the lives of other people? When Jesus invites us to lose in order to find, isn’t he asking us to examine our lives? Think about it.

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

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Entropy

Gentlemen,

The sidewalk in front of my house is cracked. It’s evidence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is often referred to as entropy. Put simply, it means that things fall apart. If you build a snowman, eventually it melts. Andy Fletcher puts it this way, “LEGOS never build themselves into things, but Lego structures, before long, will be just LEGOS lying around on the floor getting stepped on, swallowed by dogs and babies, vacuumed up, swept into the trash, or thrown back into the (high entropy) box of other LEGOS.” Notice it’s a law; left to itself, our universe WILL fall apart. Entropy happens in relationships as well. Consider your relationship with God or your wife. Without intentional effort in building your relationships into something, they will deteriorate. So, how are you building meaningful relationships today? What are you doing to prevent entropy in your world?

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

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Leadership

Gentlemen,

It is amazing to watch stadiums converted to these amazing monster trucks courses. Enormous amounts of dirt and rubble are brought in to transform a baseball field into a mountain. Massive amounts of literature have been written and more is being written on the task of men being leaders in their families. My fear, bear with me, is that we have this all wrong. I am watching as men act like leaders so that those around them will say, “Oh my, you’re a leader.” This is wide of the mark. When I lead so that I might be called a leader, I am no longer a biblical leader. I am simply a clanging gong. It is more about ME than anything that the Bible is advocating. C.S. Lewis writes, “But of course a leader leads to something beyond himself. That something is the real goal.” Jesus was leading to the cross and beyond. The cross was a place of shame and disgrace. He went there not to be noticed, but to accomplish a great task for the Father. Am I leading to that same place? Am I dying to myself? Am I taking up my cross? Am I attracting my family and my friends to follow after me toward something massively bigger: the Kingdom of God? Who are you leading? And where are you taking them? May it never be to self-veneration! May it always be to the feet of God where mercy, grace and hope can be found in measure beyond our imagination!

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

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Hip-Hop Manhood

Gentlemen,

Anymore when you attend any basketball game, be it high school, college or the NBA, you are confronted by Hip-Hop culture.  You know, where the baggy pants hang low and the music goes thump, thump as it shakes the ground. There are some bright voices bearing light into that world. A friend shared with me lyrics from Andy Mineo, one of those voices. He brings us today’s thought. Please ponder:

You being a man got nothin’ to do with age/

You could be a boy til the day you lay in your grave/

None of us behave like in the image of who we’re made/

cause we fall in the way, it’s better known as depraved/

Runnin’ from responsibility, really we crave/

the easy way out of places that call us to pull our weight/

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

 

Watch this video for more light in the hip-hop world: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ornQifE2Z2M

PS. Thanks Steven.

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Courage

Gentlemen,

I’ve passionately tried to present a unique view of courage that is more biblical than what culture calls “courage.” It is more than a William Wallace charge or an Iron Man battle. We get our English word from the Latin cour which means heart. When Jesus says, “Take heart,” he is inviting the paralytic to pay attention to his interior life — his fear, his frustration, his lack of hope. When the paralytic faces his inadequacy he is ready for faith to take over. He’s ready for all that Jesus can and wants to do. Therapist Brené Brown says that vulnerability is the true measure of courage. She’s right. Courage is the honest appraisal of our heart, our situation, and our need. When we do this, face our world with courage, we are ready for God to be our Lord. When he is, we can move muscularly into each situation. Our confidence is bolstered by God and we can engage the battle like Buzz Lightyear crying, “To infinity and beyond.”

Seeking strength and courage in the hearts of men,

Jay

 

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