MEN WITH MEN Gathering Strength Around the Message of Christ C. Doug Blair, Waterloo, ON, 2013
Friendly Conversation You sit there And you take me in Eyes do not wander No haste to short-circuit My remarks Perhaps you are Enjoying this Enjoying what we share Enjoying me. Time seems unimportant We have territories 1
To traverse Problems to address Secrets slowly undressing Joyful sagas To relate, chuckling The transparency of it Shocks us men …We’ll do it again.
Get men around a table. Bibles in hand. Questions, discoveries of interest prepared in advance by many. Open and transparent about who they are and about what their struggles are. Given to good humour and encouragement. Bound by a code of confidentiality and trust. Prepared to launch out in just about any direction. Sex. Finance. Health. Family and relational challenges. Faith. Temptations. Addictions. Church hopes or gripes. Current events. Non-judgmental. Ever teachable. Given spontaneously to prayer and undergirding. Unashamed by tears. Committed to regular gathering. Looking for Jesus to arrive and quietly guide their time together. This is men's ministry. It focuses on a common desire for friendship, growth and help in Christ. Study and discussion are large issues. Each man will be respected as he "takes the floor". Occasionally, but only occasionally, bowling, billiards, baseball and breakfasts may help.
On the Right Side Cast the net On the right side It is yours Used oft’ before 2
And you put it down And you play it out You seek fish Yes, many more. On that left side Lurks disaster You have dabbled Once or twice There greed and gain And thoughts profane And viciousness And vice. But the right side There’s the answer And so Christ’s word Has said A yield so fine His bread and wine And new life from The dead. John 21: 6
Good Business in a Boat
Harry and Brad were off on their Victoria Day excursion. Harry's sixteen foot aluminum Springbok and the favourite lake a hundred miles away. Battered old boxes of lures. A choice of three rigs for each of them and a cooler full of refreshments and ham sandwiches. Lots of suntan lotion and goofy old "good luck" ball caps seasoned by many outings. The boat launch was seamless and the familiar trip to the reeds bringing again the fresh air and exhileration of release. These were two close neighbours and elders for years at the church down the street. Many battles of stress and strain in the fellowship fought together through prayer and discussion...and won. They knew their Bibles. They
knew their Jesus. They knew the meaning of godliness with contentment. Before long a strange conversation began. Brad was changing to live bait and uttered, "One Hundred Four". His buddy responded, "Um hum, One Twenty-One". "Let's not forget Eight." "And perhaps a little bit of Thirty-Seven" "Right now I want a little of Twenty-One." What did this all mean? It went on in this fashion for some time. I said that they knew their Bibles. Studied together. Numerous fruitful discussions. Counsel to new believers. Same version of scripture used and cherished King James. Absolute agreement. Comfortable in wandering through book and chapter. Using scripture to comment on scripture. And the little code here? Psalm 104 - God's glorious creation and natural world Psalm 121 - We have a hilltop God who offers constant help and protection Romans 8 - Nothing will separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Psalm 37- Better the little that a righteous man has than the riches of many wicked John 21 - Jesus in a post-resurrection appearance tells His friends to cast their fishing net over the other side for a great catch.
Latest Release from Eldredge â€œHave you read the latest from John Eldredge? I tell ya, the guy really seems to get inside my skin. I can relate to so much of what he says about the plight of Christian men in todayâ€™s society. Marriage. Parenting. Relationships with other men. Finance. Competition. Community service. 4
He seems to find some really stirring testimonies. And they are honest both in challenges and successes. In dealing with the testosterone – sex, anger, drive for legacy. I never miss one of his volumes. And our Men’s Group at the Church has made good use of several.” The speaker was about thirty-eight. Connected. Visibly successful. Trim. An honest and straight expression. The other man was about sixty-seven. Stooped. The shoulders massive. The gaze incisive. “No Dave, I haven’t read Eldredge. Instead I have read again the four Gospels, Acts, Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. And many stirring Christian biographies. David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, D. L. Moody, Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, Martin Niemoller and others. I find it very bracing to realize how much those men and women of former times had hearts beating with the same love and compulsion. How timeless was and is our Gospel. Not meaning any disrespect to author Eldredge I must confess that I do not have the time for him. It is another example of the good being the enemy of the best.”
Down Goes the Gauntlet
Old George wiped away the tears. It was Tuesday and he had just had a visit from the young pastor. Keith had told him of the surprising challenge which he had been burdened to issue. He was smiling in giving the news and animated. But the old church elder of former days, suffering almost total blindness and general atrophy of the limbs could not take it all in. Keith had left a CD copy of the message, knowing in his heart that George would rejoice at the development. And that he would pray. George remembered eight years ago that whole process of selecting a new pastor. He had been drawn to Keith from the start in a field of six possibles. Other men stood taller; had a more compelling timbre in their voice; had papers from more prestigious Bible colleges. George had felt like the old prophet Samuel, passing by more imposing candidates for the runt of the litter, David. But David had had the key to God's heart. So did Keith. 5
During these last two years George had not been able to leave the Rest Home to attend, but he had gotten reports from various sources and he had taken on the burden in heavy prayer for Keith's constancy. George was aware of some of the more imposing personalities and their regrettable sense of territory in church program. He had feared that Keith was buckling. That a low common denominator was taking over. In his forty-five years at the fellowship George could remember a wide variety of characters in the pulpit. Some with a sincere malleable shepherd's heart. Some commandants. Some ear ticklers. Some career boys. But then there was Keith. He could still remember Keith's candidacy sermon taken from that haunting prayer at the end of the prophecy of Habakkuk. He had entitled it "Yes, this is true religion." The one where the prophet had said 'although the trees and crops fail and the livestock go missing, yet I will rejoice in the Lord.' This was a matter of loving God for God's sake, and not for His trinkets. George had loved the young preacher for the purity of his spirit and the loyalty of his message. The selection vote had been close, but it is possible that George's input had won the day. The two had enjoyed a special bond over the years. Each on an occasion had had to correct the other on an issue of serious importance to the church. But brotherhood and mutual respect had never wavered. And now this young man was telling the assembly to 'move on, grow up, wean themselves, take risks for the thrill of new revelation and new opportunity, open up one to the other, and then come together in agreement to take blessing and truth outside the church walls'. George was hugging himself in the wheelchair at the prospect of all of this. His prayers were being answered. For the moment there was nothing as adequate in the way of praise and thanksgiving as "the tongues": "Parabba do manni forrah sic bianti pas kemmi soodah." And then laughter. Rich, full and in the tone of a much younger man (1 Peter 1:8). The one nurse at the station down the hall turned to her colleague and remarked, "Oh there goes old George again in that odd language of his. Wonder what it could all mean? Too bad when they get like this." 6
Note: The story is told of Father Nash who would travel to each crusade town and travail for days for the anointing and fruitfulness of Charles Finney's preaching. The astounding results are history.
Covenantorâ€™s Warning XXXIV. SAMUEL RUTHERFORD'S Letter To JOHN GORDON OF CARDONESS, the younger (See the note on his father (Letter XXXII). The son, to whom this letter was addressed, was an uncivilized loose liver, and made his home a misery. Like his others to the same address, Rutherford's letter is outspoken and straight to the point. Nor could he ignore the fact that though the young man continued to attend church at times he came late and strode out before the service was over, behaving with the utmost irreverence and as if he was deliberately trying to insult his minister.) MUCH HONORED SIR, -- I long to hear whether or not your soul be handfasted with Christ. Lose your time no longer: flee the follies of youth: gird up the loins of your mind, and make you ready for meeting the Lord. I have often summoned you, and now I summon you again, to compear before your Judge, to make a reckoning of your life. While ye have time, consider your ways. Oh that there were such an heart in you, as to think what an ill conscience will be to you, when ye are upon the border of eternity, and your one foot out of time! Oh then, ten thousand thousand floods of tears cannot extinguish these flames, or purchase to you one hour's release from that pain! Oh, how sweet a day have ye had! But this is a fair-day that runneth fast away. See how ye have spent it, and consider the necessity of salvation! And tell me, in the fear of God, if ye have made it sure. I am persuaded that ye have a conscience that will be speaking somewhat to you. Why will ye die, and destroy yourself? I charge you in Christ's name, to rouse up your conscience in time, while salvation is in your offer. This is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation. Therefore, let me again beseech you to consider, in this your day, the things that belong to your peace, before they be hid from your eyes. Dear brother, fulfill my joy, and begin to seek the Lord while He may be found. Forsake the follies of deceiving and vain youth: lay hold upon eterna] life. Shoring, night-drinking, and the 7
misspending of the Sabbath, and neglecting of prayer in your house, and refusing of an offered salvation, will burn up your soul with the terrors of the Almighty, when your awakened conscience shall flee in your face. Be kind and loving to your wife: make conscience of cherishing her, and not being rigidly austere. Sir, I have not a tongue to express the glory that is laid up for you in your Father's house, if ye reform your doings, and frame your heart to return to the Lord. Ye know that this world is but a shadow, a short living creature, under the law of time. Within less than fifty years, when ye look back to it, ye shall laugh at the evanishing vanities thereof, as feathers flying in the air, and as the houses of sand within the sea-mark, which the children of men are building. Give up with courting of this vain world: seek not the bastard's moveables, but the son's heritage in heaven. Take a trial of Christ. Look unto Him, and His love will so change you, that ye shall be taken with Him, and never choose to go from Him. There is nothing that will make you a Christian indeed, but a taste of the sweetness of Christ. 'Come and see', will speak best to your soul. I would fain hope good of you. Be not discouraged at broken and spilled resolutions; but to it, and to it again! Use the means of profiting with your conscience: pray in your family and read the Word. Remember how our Lord's day was spent when I was among you. It will be a great challenge to you before God if ye forget the good that was done within the walls of your house on the Lord's day; and if ye turn aside after the fashions of this world, and if ye go not in time to the kirk, to wait on the public worship of God, and if ye tarry not at it, till all the exercises of religion be ended. Give God some of your time both morning and evening and afternoon; and in so doing, rejoice the heart of a poor, oppressed prisoner. Rue upon your own soul and from your heart fear the Lord. Now He that brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of His sheep, by the blood Of the eternal covenant, establish your heart with grace, and present you before His presence with joy. Your affectionate and loving pastor. ABERDEEN, 1637
Palm Tree Gospel John Williams was dispatched by the London Missionary Society to French Polynesia in the Pacific (@1827). Eventually he died at the hands of 8
cannibals. He relates one incident where he came across a farmer peasant, named Buteve, who through trauma had lost both his legs. Garden farming was a tedious matter of crawling around with the aid of some rudimentary assist. When assemblies were called by Williams, Buteve could only make it as far as the pathway by his lot, where he would inquire of passers-by as to a song, a scripture or any short message shared. Williams heard of this simple, devoted man and paid him a visit in which he asked of the nature of his faith exercises: Answer: “Oh yes, I very frequently pray as I weed my ground and plant my food, but always three times a day, besides praying with my family every morning and evening.” Question: “What do you say when you pray?” Answer: “I say, Oh Lord, I am a great sinner; May Jesus take my sins away by His good blood; Give me the righteousness of Jesus to adorn me, and give me the good spirit of Jesus to instruct me and make my heart good, to make me a man of Jesus, and take me to Heaven when I die.” (John Williams, The Martyr Missionary of Polynesia, by James J. Ellis, 1889, S.W. Partridge and Company) The gardener got it! Simply by prayer, song, bits of scripture, meditation and dialogue. How much other “stuff” seems to occupy our pulpits these days. How many commentaries, testimonies and DVD’s keep us from the purity of this man’s experience of Christ?
Good Will Toward Men We knew it would be awkward New neighbours six doors down Facing a bleak Christmas Lay-off at the factory No signs of improvement 9
Our Dad alone had found A way to break the ice With the Father, Harry Mother kept inside We suspected an illness Four siblings played by themselves. But that evening Dad was late from the store Crystal clear outside Snapping cold with Four inches of fresh snowfall About two days into our Break from school Dad burst in the back door Kicking off boots Up the stairs with red face aglow. “He hugged me, the man hugged me And wept. Saw him in his laneway, shoveling. Knew I had to do it. Went over with a good chunk Of money in my pocket. Told him that I Would be honoured. Really didn’t want the rest Of his family to know. Just two of us In subdued light Snow falling magically Their little spaniel at my feet Happy to make a new friend. Ruth, you know full well Been there a couple of times Ourselves. I think you might get a chance Soon with the woman…name’s Corinne.”
The Meek Win Psalm 37: 11 – But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. (NIV) Who are these meek? Moses was called the meekest of all men (Numbers 12) yet he was wise and accomplished in all the wisdom of Egypt. You saw the movie! Charlton Heston was amazing at science, mathematics, architecture, construction, horsemanship, warfare, plant science, leadership of men, diplomacy, etc. Jesus described himself as meek and lowly (Matthew 11). He was clearly an accomplished craftsman, an outdoors-man, a man instantly attractive to rugged fishermen and other tradesmen, a captivating storyteller, a tamer of storms, an attention-getter able to arrest and fascinate large crowds, etc. I have heard meekness described as controlled strength, channeled to Godordained purposes. Imagine a busy farm-yard and a mighty Clydesdale work-horse gently moving his way through numbers of chickens and ducks and harming none with his huge feathered hooves. Talk about controlled strength! The Beatitudes affirm that the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5). The Spirit offers the fruit of meekness (Galatians 5). Isn’t it astonishing that simply because our Lord encourages meek ones to turn the other cheek, they are perceived by the world as weak and somehow un-manly? This seems very far from the truth.
The Dialogue “Just shake him And he falls I tell ya’. Shake him and he falls. Remove the perks
And pandering The sense of E’er do well And in short time This Job of yours Will court my gates Of Hell.”
“You have him For your worst A season House and home And health. All standing lost The hedge removed Men’s praises too; That heart is still My dwelling place. Now do the worst You do.”
Friends add Into the mix Their error: “Why God strikes So hard." They charge the man With hidden sin And judgment earned. He strains into The storm to hear His Master’s voice And mercy learned.
Shipwrecked Some could swim And some seemed helpless Furious waves Their ship attacked Gone the load And gone the sunshine One last meal For strength they lacked. But a prisoner Still in shackles Gave them hope That all might pass. True, his God Had seen the danger Brought the shore Of rest at last. Down the anchors Share the wreckage Bits and boards To buoy their swim “Off for land Ye hardy ship-mates Just put all your Trust in Him!” Not so pretty Seemed this passing Soaking rats Not hardly men But a captive’s Dauntless message Brought all safe Ashore again. Acts 27
That You Might Be Healed James 5: 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. We are going to foul up. Let us not forget the stuff of which we are made. Perhaps there has been a salvation experience. We are still a work in progress. I am not here issuing a licence to sin and give excuses. I am just stating a fact. Temper, lust, hypocrisy, foul language, convenient variations from truth – the list goes on. It is of God’s grace that we suffer conviction for the stumbling. A poet has said: I know not if that sin Had meant a dropping of salvation. I only know your smile removed Was hellish condemnation. But remember there is confession. To the aggrieved party. To a supportive friend. To God. It need not take a specific format; only that it is sincere and represents a quality decision to do otherwise in the future. Then comes tremendous release. Look at David in Psalms 51 and 32. Then comes renewal in prayer and sweet sleep at day’s end. Virtually a healing has taken place. The waters are settled. Functions flow again without ennui. Does this healing extend to the body? Of course it does. Doctors everywhere confirm that stress is the greatest enemy to sound health. Pastors would confirm that unforgiveness and duplicity rank a close second and third. This passage also suggests an input of supernatural healing in the sovereign designs of God. It is interesting to consider the second half of the above verse and the connection. The man who has gone through the wringer of confession and forgiveness stands a righteous man, effectual in prayer and in testimony. According to God there are no nagging and debilitating “yeah buts”. Additionally the individual will have empathy for the stumblings of others. Not judgment.
I must not forget the admonition to “pray for one another”. In the selfless offering of intercession; in the powerful agreement of determined believers on a mission there are often hidden surprises and personal needs met. I remember a comment in the story of the reunion of brothers Jacob and Esau. The younger had cheated the older out of his birthright, but the time had finally come for an encounter and apology. Genesis 33: 9 And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself. 10 And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. (Note: A wonderful book has been written by Andrew Murray entitled Confession and Forgiveness)
Of Andrew’s Spirit We have found Him And know that He is truth Distilled and pure. A Certain Spring, ‘Though damp and slush Delay the budding. A Prince with yarns Of fields and flowers And feathered trust. Unspoiled by gold Or other trappings Of convention. Unmoved by rank Or rule of present powers. But moved by Smallest cry of Pain or shame Or lonely lot. 15
A Man whose every Waking step displays Assurance, equity, Mercy, patience, hope Direct from Heaven. Whose gaze commands. The Promised One. Re-charging nightly On hills of prayer, (With His Father, So He says.) As we have slept. Brother, drop your net. Come meet this One. Come meet your future.
Gathering Strength Around the Message of Christ