Romans 12 Chapter 12
A Living Sacrifice to God 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Table of Contents July/August/September 2012
q First Things First by Dr. Patrick Morley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 q Intentional Discipleship by David Delk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 q Area Directors Speak Out: Spiritual Growth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 q Be a SPARTAN by Brett Clemmer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 q It Starts with the Heart adapted from Man Alive by Dr. Patrick Morley. . . . . . 60
q Equipping Your Men’s Small Group. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 q How to Use This Devotional. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 q Resource Catalog. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
q July 2012 Devotions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 q August 2012 Devotions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 q September 2012 Devotions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
We invited Ray Hilbert to be our guest devotional writer for this issue. Ray is the CEO and Co-Founder of Truth@Work, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, Ray has coached over 500 business owners/executives in a wide variety of industries, and has authored over 100 articles and training curriculum sessions on a wide variety of business issues. www.christianroundtables.com Check out Ray's devotionals on pages 52–57. Follow the One-Year Bible reading plan by reading the daily Scripture at the end of each devotion. To see the complete reading plan, go to www.oneyearbibleonline.com. At the end of many of the devotionals you will find an abbreviation for a resource that expands on the devotional material. For more information about the Man in the Mirror Bible Study (MIMBS) go to www.maninthemirror.org/archives/categories. ALM 31—How to be a Cheerful Giver :MIMBS 1—Balancing Faith and Effort :MIMBS 2—A Man’s Guide to the Bible :MIMBS 3—A Man’s Guide to the Bible :MIMBS 4—The Beauty of Male Friendships
:MIMBS 5—The Husband in the Mirror—Best Friends and Lovers :MIMBS 6—Expensive Decisions :MIMBS 7—Purpose :MIMBS 8—Destructive Behaviors :MIMBS 9—An Act of Productivity
Equipping the Man in the Mirror: July/August/September 2012, Vol. 7, No. 3 Publisher: Man in the Mirror, Inc. • CEO: Patrick Morley • Executive Editors: David Delk and Brett Clemmer Publication Manager: Lucy Blair • Art Director: Cathleen Kwas • Writers: Lucy Blair, Brett Clemmer and Ruth Ford Office: 180 Wilshire Blvd., Casselberry, Florida 32707 Phone: 800-929-2536 • Fax: 407-331-7839 • Web site: www.maninthemirror.org Copyright © 2012 by Patrick Morley and Man in the Mirror, Inc. All rights reserved. Subscription Information: One year—$25. Two years—$43. For reprint requests or bulk subscriptions call 407-472-2100 or send an email to EQMIM@maninthemirror.org and ask for reprint permissions. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. SAll rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. Scripture marked nkjv taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
First Things First
by Dr. Patrick Morley British preacher Charles Spurgeon once lamented that he could find ten men willing to die for the Bible for every one man who would actually read it! The Center for Bible Engagement, the research division of Back to the Bible, has spent the last five years researching two questions that go to the heart of Spurgeon’s quip: 44 Why do so many people own Bibles but never read them? 44 What difference does it make if you don’t? Recently our team met with Dr. Arnie Cole, CEO of Back to the Bible and director of research. After multiple surveys of more than 70,000 people over the span of five years, they’ve been able to draw some astonishing conclusions. First, the good news. People who read or listen to the Bible four or more times per week lower their odds for getting drunk, having sex outside marriage, pornography, or gambling by 57%.
There’s a direct connection between Bible reading frequency and behavior.
Now for the bad news. Their research reveals no statistical difference between Christians who read or listen to the Bible two to three days a week and those who do not engage Scripture at all or only once a week.*
Clearly, the threshold is what Arnie calls the “power of 4”—engaging God’s Word four or more times a week. It gets better. Christians who read or listen to the Bible four or more times per week also are: 44 228% more likely to share their faith with others 44 231% more likely to disciple others and 44 407% more likely to memorize Scripture.* Finally, here’s the icing on the cake. They found the single best spiritually-based predictor for the behavior of 13 to 17 year olds is whether or not they read the Bible four or more times per week. The best way to help our children keep themselves straight is to encourage them to read God’s Word four or more times a week. We’ve finally been able to establish through research what we’ve all known all along: there’s a direct connection between Bible reading frequency and behavior. How ironic that we’ve discovered this at a moment when people are actually reading their Bibles less than any time in modern history. As for me and my household, we’ll be reading the Bible four or more times a week. That’s the number one key to spiritual growth.
The Importance of Being Intentional in Discipleship by David Delk, President, Man in the Mirror
You’ve probably seen a scenario like this at your church or a church you are familiar with: Jeff was an up and coming professional in town. Married with three young kids, he had grown up in church and still attended almost every week with his family. His wife was involved in a women’s Bible Study, and he occasionally played basketball with some men from the church. All that was fine until he was alone one day with an attractive co-worker and felt a spark of electricity. A few weeks later he had moved in with her while he “figured things out.” After a month of wavering, hemming and hawing, he made the decision he wasn’t going back to his wife, his family, or the church. Or maybe you’ve seen this: Alex’s wife really wanted him to attend church. He argued with her about it for a while, then finally told her he would give it a try. The first Sunday they went, one or two men shook his hand, but it was pretty easy to slip in and out without too much drama. He went back the next week, then skipped a week for an outing with the guys. Over the next several months he went fairly consistently. A few men learned his name and said “Hello” when they saw him, but it never got deeper than that. Finally, he told his wife he had tried church but that it just wasn’t for him. Unfortunately, these stories will be repeated hundreds of times across the country this week. What’s the common denominator?
Wait and See? Often, it seems we read the Great Commission as if it said, “Wait for men to come and then see if hanging around the church helps them to become disciples and teaches them to obey everything I have commanded you.” But Jesus didn’t say “Wait and See.” He said “Go and Make.” The Great Commission implies an intentional and proactive stance toward discipling men. This means that first of all we have to be proactive in our own efforts at discipleship. Going to church or our small group will not make us a growing disciple any more than hanging out at a hospital will cure cancer. We must make the effort to pursue Christ by faith, to root out idols that are distracting us from him, to connect with other men who can help us depend on Christ in all things, and to live an integrated life that brings glory to God through everything we do. It takes intentionality and effort to consistently love Christ. In the same way, if our churches are to effectively disciple men, there must be a core group of men who are willing to go after other men. We can’t just wait and see, we have to go and make. We need an intentional and sustainable plan for discipling men and a team of leaders and allies willing to implement it.
Content, Relationships, and Process If a sincere seeker came to your church, can you name the likely steps he would take to become a mature disciple? What classes or groups might he get involved in? Where would he establish friendships or relationships? What service opportunities would he perform? And in what order would this happen? Most importantly, would he have to initiate each step on his own, or do you have a group of men who would shepherd him through a flexible, yet defined process? In many churches, the typical approach is to throw a lot of activities out and see who sticks. We have a leader passionate about a particular issue and willing to do the work — go for it! So we have five or twenty things going on every week in which we just hope that somehow, someway, someone will actually get connected. But when we just throw activities at people, unchurched and introverted men will almost never get involved. If you want to reach these men, you need relationships and a plan. Most churches think of discipleship primarily in terms of content. If you can distribute enough biblical knowledge then you will have created a disciple who lives out his faith. Many churches add an emphasis on relationships to this mix. They want people to “do life together” in such a way that faith-filled living is caught in addition to being taught. Both of these are incredibly important. You can’t be a disciple without content — you have to know the scriptures and the heart of God. You also can’t grow in isolation — we were created for relationships and to live out the Christian life in connection with others. But we also have to add to these an effective overall process by which we are going to help people learn the content and get into relationships. Someone needs to be thinking about how Jesus to make our content as effective as possible didn’t say “Wait and how to get more people into authentic relationships. and See.” He said
“Go and Make.”
What this Could Look Like in Your Church
This is why we teach leadership teams in churches to have an All-Inclusive mindset and to gather allies to help reach other men. There ought to be 3 to 12 men in your church whose primary focus is not putting on a breakfast or retreat, but rather how they can build a process for the men in our community that helps them become passionate disciples of Jesus Christ. This is what the No Man Left Behind Model is all about. Here’s how it works:
Identify the best opportunities your church has to connect with men at various points along the Wide-Deep Continuum (where a man is on his spiritual journey). On the wide side, dads may continued on page 58
The Area Directors Speak Out: q Spiritual Growth Our efforts to recruit, train and deploy 330 Area Directors have brought in over a thousand inquiries. God is building an incredible team, passionate about seeing men grow spiritually through the efforts of the local church. We asked some of them to share with us the times in their lives when they have experienced the most spiritual growth and why. Here are their answers:
Tony Lambert, Greater Kansas City Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, MO The greatest growth I have experienced was because a godly man invested his time into my life. I am blessed by having several men placed in my life as mentors. Each has passed along valuable knowledge to me. I go through periods when I journal and this has always resulted in growth beyond anything I can imagine.
Patrick Leupold, East Orlando Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, FL God has placed me in jobs that I felt ill-equipped to handle. The feeling of insecurity drives me to spend more time with God in prayer, and open my ears and heart to what God has in store for me. Each time God has shown me how to do what He desires me to do, which has led to greater growth in my spiritual life.
A proven event to reach your men’s hearts that includes: A complete planning manual for your leaders, based on our experience in more than 1,000 events Promotional materials, including graphics, bulletins, posters and more A clear Gospel presentation (1/3 of men attending commit or recommit their lives to Christ) Six-week follow-up group curriculum (more than 2/3 men join groups)
Christianity is not about behavior modiﬁcation; it’s about heart transformation. For details about how to schedule your fall Rewired event, call Man in the Mirror Ministry Consultant Roddey Roberts at 407-472-2110 or email RoddeyRoberts@maninthemirror.org.
Clark Miller, Miami Valley Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, OH Difficult situations or challenging relationships produce fertile ground for personal spiritual growth. I find myself the most open to the Spirit’s leading me to address the things within me that cause me pain or destructive thinking or actions (Psalm 139:23-24). I find I am much more prepared to face those difficult people or situations with God’s peace and extend love. Then growth comes.
Chris Rondeau, Western Upstate Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, SC I learn the most when I get to the end of myself, physically or mentally. It’s when the Spirit breaks through and tells me that I can’t figure this out unless I surrender my will to His. When that happens, “the flood gates” of knowledge fill me, and my deepest desire is to read, pray and understand His Word.
Chad Chastain, Greater Polk County Coalition For Men’s Discipleship, FL Personally, I have had the most spiritual growth when I’ve been broken and able to share that brokenness with my wife or friend. Someone to walk through it with me and hold me accountable, all while keeping my eyes focused on God and giving Him the praise at the end. continued on page 59
How to Listen to a Sermon: Be a SPARTAN
by Brett Clemmer, Vice President, Man in the Mirror
Who came up with this? One day a week, we file into a room full of people sitting in rows. Staring at the back of someone else’s head, we stand and sit when instructed, sing songs we will most likely never sing outside of this room, put money in a fancy plate, and then listen to a lecture. The modern church service—not exactly designed for most men. That’s the bad news.
Not to be legalistic here, but you need to be in church.
Here’s the good news: there’s a person who has spent hours preparing for this. They studied the languages that the Bible was originally written in. They have read and reread the Scriptures they will teach from. They’ve read commentaries and books, prayed a ton and honed the information they’ve studied into a 30-40 minute message. How can you turn your sense of obligation to bring your family to church, to a sense of anticipation about what God might want to tell you from His Word through His messenger (the pastor) by the power of His Spirit? Think about being a SPARTAN:
S ET YOUR HEART AND MIND ON THINGS ABOVE
Set your minds on things above . . . Set your hearts on things above . . . from Colossians 3:1-2 When you wake up in the morning, pray for God to give you a new insight, an answer to a tough question or a prod in the direction He wants you to go. Asking God to speak to you makes you ready and aware when He does so.
Many men go through the motions of worship. They stare at their shoelaces during prayer. They stand up and stare at the screen or the hymnal, but don’t sing along or pay attention to the words. Make a concerted effort to participate in the service.
A CTIVE LISTENING
Most men are visual and kinesthetic rather than auditory learners. We need to see and participate in order to learn the best. So here it is: you need to take notes. It doesn’t matter how. Write key words in the margin of your Bible, jot down points on a 3x5 card, or keep a notebook and take more formal notes. The key is, you need to write things down so that you can see what the pastor is teaching and do something while you are listening.
R EVIEW PERIODICALLY
Most pastors plan their sermon series months in advance. Each sermon is part of an overall story they are trying to tell the congregation. The only real way to see this is to review your notes. So once a month, take one of your regular devotional times to go over your notes from the previous month of sermons. Jot down the key ideas you’ve heard or the themes you see emerging.
T ALK ABOUT IT
Many guys struggle with talking about spiritual things with their wives or kids. Talking about a sermon you all listened to gives you an easy starting point. Share your notes and reactions. It will help them get more out of it and help you be more of the spiritual leader in your home.
A PPLY THE LESSONS
Don’t just listen and understand, you need to put it into action. When you review your notes and talk to your family about the sermon, think about specific actions you might want to take as a result of what you’ve learned. Applying the Scriptures to your life is part of the process of sanctification, becoming more like Christ.
N O EXCUSES
Not to be legalistic here, but you need to be in church. Sure, once in a while you’ll miss because you’re sick, travelling for work or on a family vacation, but make weekly church attendance a priority. The corporate worship, prayer and study, fellowship, leadership and ministry opportunities will all help you grow spiritually.
• Brett Clemmer
Brett Clemmer is Vice President of Leadership Development with Man in the Mirror. He is the co-author with Patrick Morley and David Delk of No Man Left Behind: How to Build and Sustain a Thriving Disciple-Making Ministry for Every Man in Your Church. Brett and his wife, Kimberly, live in Casselberry, Florida, and have two children, Cassidy and Jackson.
Kick your ministry into high gear this fall.
No Man Left Behind training is coming to: Indianapolis Area Coastal Carolina Area Cincinnati Area Houston Orlando Area
– – – – –
August 3–4 August 24–25 September 14–15 October 12–13 February 27–March 2
We’re also revving up in these cities across the country: Chattanooga, TN Omaha, NE Salem, OR Los Angeles, CA
Montgomery, AL Huntsville, AL Jacksonville, FL
Charlotte, NC Charleston, SC Washington DC Columbia, SC
See your area on the list? We want you to join our event team! To learn more, or to bring training to your city, call Ministry Consultant Roddey Roberts at 407.472.2110.
Equipping Your Men’s Small Group
Get all your men engaged in the regular study of God’s Word by using this magazine as a small group tool. At the end of each week’s devotions, you’ll see a box containing discussion questions and exercises. These can form the basis of your time together. These pages supplement those questions with additional steps. If you use this magazine with your men this quarter you will have:
at will add more actions to take th me so on d de ci ✔✔De ur life. significance to yo praise for His 10 and given God 2: s ian es ph E ed ✔✔Memoriz work in your life. for the ur heart and mind yo e ar ep pr to er ✔✔Written a pray Word. reading of God’s a friend. s to sacrifice for an me it t ha w d ✔✔Discusse rity. th to spiritual matu pa r’s he ot an e on ✔✔Prayed for nerosity. ast one act of ge le at t ou d rie ar C ✔✔ or significant ity for your wives tiv ac p ou gr a d ne ✔✔Plan others. of your let God lead in all to s an me it t ha ✔✔Learned w decisions. your own ipleship needs of sc di e th r fo ay ✔Committed to pr
rase, "Let God ditating on this ph me by y da ur yo the way you ✔✔Started rson by changing pe w ne a to in u transform yo think." asks us to r the balance God fo e lif ur yo ed at ✔✔Evalu maintain. e, nothing to s (nothing to prov se ra ph e es th of a part ✔✔Chosen one e in a new way as ac br em to e) los hide, nothing to of your life. orkplace. ugh you in your w ro th e in sh to od ✔✔Asked G Continued on page 12
Small Group Guide continued from page 11
q 7/1-7/8: In this week’s devotions, you’ll focus on what it means to
trust God with the outcome to your life story. SAS: Have you ever been to a funeral that was particularly meaningful to you? What made it meaningful? Brainstorm some words that you would hope are used to describe your life. What actions can you take to make those words true about you?
q 7/9-7/15: These devotions teach you about the importance of knowing you are a child of God, made for His purpose. SAS: Make a list of some men you most admire. Do those men have anything in common? How did those men live out what they were created to do? Throughout this next week, memorize Ephesians 2:10 and give God praise for His workmanship in your life. q 7/16-7/22: In this week of devotions you’ll learn about the impact that prayer and Bible reading can have on your life. SAS: Spend a few minutes writing a prayer that you could pray before you read God’s Word. Share those prayers with one another. Throughout this next week, are you willing to pray that prayer on a daily basis before you spend time in the Bible? Come back next week ready to share how that prayer impacted your time in God’s Word.
q 7/23-7/29: Throughout this week, the devotions focus on what it looks like to truly sacrifice for a friend. SAS: Go to youtube.com and watch the video “W. Oregon Sara Tucholsky first HR - ultimate sportsmanship” together as a group. Think back to your high school or college sports days. Would you have been willing to do what these young women did? Discuss the lessons learned about sacrifice by everyone at the game that day. From last week, did your prayer have any impact on reading the Bible? q 7/30-8/5: This week your men will see the value of spiritual growth and some suggestions for enhancing your spiritual life. SAS: Make a scale of 1 (with the word “Immature) to 10 (with the word “Mature”) on a white board or large piece of paper. Allow the guys a minute or so to rate themselves on the scale. What were reasons you assigned that rating to yourself? Do you feel like you’ve been stuck at that rating for a while? Are you content with your spiritual growth? Divide into pairs and pray for each other as you continue on that path to spiritual maturity. q 8/6-8/12: In this week’s devotions you will learn what it means to be generous with all that God has given you. SAS: Think of a book, TV show, or movie where the plot revolves around generosity or selfishness. Describe a few of those characters (The Grinch, A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, etc.). Are you living a generous life? Decide on one act of generosity (time, talent or resources) that you would like accomplish this week. q 8/13-8/19: This week you’ll look at the meaning of true love in a marriage
relationship. SAS: List the words, things or actions that make your wife feel most loved. Are those difficult or easy for you to say, give or do for her? Why? Spend some time planning a group activity that would clearly express the love you have for your
wives or significant others. (Dinner and a movie, Gal’s night out, spa day—anything that is completely planned by the guys in your group).
q 8/20-8/26: This week’s devotionals address the consequences of all of our decisions. SAS: Talk about some of the decisions that guys are facing today. (Where a child is going to college, vacation plans, remodeling a home, etc.) What factors do you take into consideration when making those decisions? What is the biggest factor you face for most decisions? (Money, fear, etc.) What does it mean to you to allow God to lead you in your decisions? q 8/27-9/2: These devotions remind you that God’s ultimate purpose for your life includes discipleship. SAS: Ask each man to give a definition of discipleship. Have you been discipled by a man in your life? Have you discipled another man? What did those relationships look like? What is the difference between discipleship and friendship? How does discipleship change friendships, churches, families, and communities? Would you be willing to pray about the need for your discipleship or the need to disciple someone else? q 9/3-9/9: The devotionals for the week warn you about living with,
instead of dealing with, repetitive sin. SAS: Read aloud this verse: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2 nlt). This week, begin your day by meditating on the italicized phrase. Come back next week and share how that phrase has impacted your day.
q 9/10-9/16: These devotions teach you about the definition of productivity
through the eyes of God. SAS: Discuss the definition of productivity that you’ve been given and the criteria for God’s view of productivity (page 50). How do they differ? How are they the same? Ask each man to list areas of their lives that may need more balance. What keeps you from achieving balance in that area? What can we do for our group members to help one another maintain balance?
q 9/17-9/22: This week you’ll focus on twelve life-changing words: “nothing to prove, nothing to hide, and nothing to lose.” SAS: Make those twelve words into three headings on a white board. Ask the guys to consider what it would mean to implement each of those phrases into their lives. What would change? What would remain the same? What does it take to embrace these life-changing words? (honesty, vulnerability, confidence, etc.) Which of these phrases speaks most loudly to you today? How can we pray for you in this area? Ask God to show you ways to begin to embrace and implement that phrase into your life. q 9/23-9/30: This week you’ll learn what it means to be a man of God in the
workplace. SAS: Ask yourself this question: Am I the same man at work, at home, at church, on the softball field and in my neighborhood? Do I trust God with work decisions in the same way that I do with my family or church? Am I perceived as a man of God at work? Finish this statement: In my workplace, I need God to shine through me as I ______________________________.
How to Use This Devotional
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
To make the most of Equipping the Man in the Mirror, we have dissected a devotional so you don’t miss any aspect of the magazine (see below).
One-year Bible daily reading
Discussion/ journal questions
Sunday—July 1 • In the Midst of Trouble and Opposition Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:10, 12
A father was helping his children prepare for bed, when his five-year-old son accidentally dropped his toothbrush in the toilet. The young boy fished it out to use again, but the father stopped him. “We don’t use a toothbrush that’s been in the toilet. Throw it away.” The boy threw it in the trash and then took off down the hall. A few minutes later he returned carrying his dad’s toothbrush. “What are you doing?” the father asked. “Well, Dad, I dropped this one in the toilet last week.” A funny story, but living a daily Christian life doesn’t make us immune to unexpected trouble. The Psalmist reminds us that even our best years are filled with challenges.
Henry Blackaby wisely wrote that we should discover where God is working, then join Him. In our Americanized worldview, we might assume that means a place of ease and comfort as evidence of God’s presence. But God may very well be working where there is great opposition. God calls us to respond with a balance of faith in Him, and personal effort related to changing the situation. MIMBS 1 Where have you experienced the greatest difficulty in the last six months? How have you trusted God in the midst of that? How have you balanced that with personal effort? Daily Reading: 2 Kings 18:13-19:37, Acts 21:1-17, Psalm 149:1-9, Proverbs 18:8
Monday—July 2 • Great Men Often Face Great Challenges
Life’s challenges come in many forms. You might be enduring a family feud related to settling a will. You might be engaged in a power struggle with your wife, related to child rearing. Your neighbor might be driving you nuts. Or you might be stymied by a work situation, like a vendor who won’t pay his bill. Once, when Man in the Mirror was facing a particularly difficult financial challenge, a potential donor told me, “I believe if God is working, the money will be there.” He implied that, if we didn’t have the resources we needed, then God must not be working in our ministry. That simply wasn’t an accurate assumption. Challenges don’t necessarily mean you are out of God’s will. Consider the Biblical
men you admire most—maybe Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel, the Apostle Paul. They had great passion for God, were called to perform specific tasks, and still they endured seasons of great difficulty. If you’re in a challenging season, don’t give up. Jesus told us to expect trouble, but He also reminded us that He has overcome the world. MIMBS 1 Jesus Himself warned us that we would have trouble in this life. How does that affect your view of the challenges you currently are facing? Share your thoughts with some other men. Daily Reading: 2 Kings 20:1-22:2, Acts 21:1836, Psalm 150:1-6, Proverbs 18:9-10
Tuesday—July 3 • Expect Opposition
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” Nehemiah 4:1-3 Many men assume that if they are pursuing God’s will everything in their lives will go smoothly. Then suddenly they encounter a crisis, or they run into someone who doesn’t like what they’re doing, and they don’t know how to handle it. Scriptural examples like Nehemiah demonstrate that, when we respond to God’s calling we should expect opposition. Nehemiah was living in exile, serving a foreign king, when he felt called to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the protective walls around the city. As soon as the enemies of Israel heard what was happening, they showed up to oppose and ridicule the effort. Scripture does not indicate that
Nehemiah was surprised by their verbal assault. He barely even responded to it. He was not distracted from the task at hand. Nehemiah knew something that the rest of us must learn. If you are doing God’s will, don’t allow yourself to be surprised. Instead, expect opposition. MIMBS 1 Think of a time in your past when you’ve experienced challenges, even though you were in God’s will. Were you surprised by the situation? And if so, how would it have changed your response if you had expected the opposition? Daily Reading: 2 Kings 22:3-23:30, Acts 21:3722:16, Psalm 1:1-6, Proverbs 18:11-12
Wednesday—July 4 • Balancing Faith and Effort
Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart. Nehemiah 4:4-6 Nehemiah faced a verbal assault from those who opposed his project of helping the Israelites to rebuild the wall. He did not allow himself to be distracted. As you can see in today’s passage, Nehemiah responded to this opposition by balancing faith and effort. His prayer shows that he totally depended on and trusted God’s ability to deal with the opposition. And then, he moved forward with the part of the task that he and his team were able to do. They continued working “with all their heart” toward the goal of rebuilding the wall. St. Augustine, and many since him, noted that we should pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything
depends on us. Obviously, that statement can be taken to an illogical extreme. But the simple fact is a farmer will not reap a crop by simply praying about it. He must plant some seeds. Nehemiah understood the balance of faith and effort. When faced with opposition, he prayed and he worked. MIMBS 1 Describe a situation you are facing that requires you to work hard, and to trust God for the results. Share your thoughts with your group. Daily Reading: 2 Kings 23:31-25:30, Acts 22:1723:10, Psalm 2:1-12, Proverbs 18:13
Thursday—July 5 • Trusting and Taking Responsibility
But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Nehemiah 4:7-9 The Book of Nehemiah shows a repeated pattern. Israel’s enemies oppose the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. Nehemiah leads his Hebrew brothers to pray and trust God, but also to take responsibility to finish their task. All of Scripture teaches the wisdom of this balance. Proverbs 21:31, for instance, says, “The horse is made ready for battle, but victory rests with the Lord.” We do our part. In contemporary language, we do the business plan, make the sales calls, and provide the service. But we trust God for the results. Even daily living is a balance of faith and effort. Scripture teaches that salvation is totally based on faith and not on works, but it also indicates that faith should change
our behavior. The Book of James asks an important question: “What good is it . . . if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” The writer adds, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:14, 18). In every respect, the Christian life requires faith that results in effort. MIMBS 1
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—July 6, 7, 8 • Don’t Lose Faith Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14
Good to Great, a management book by Jim Collins, includes the example of Admiral Jim Stockdale, the highest ranking military officer held as a prisoner in the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam conflict. Stockdale, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was tortured repeatedly in his eight years as a prisoner. Collins asked the admiral how he endured the experience. Stockdale responded that he “never lost faith in the end of the story.” He added, “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail . . . and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.” Collins crystalized this explanation into the “Stockdale Paradox.” A person living by this principle retains faith that he will prevail. But at the same time, he also shows “the discipline to
confront the most brutal facts of . . . current reality.” As I see it, that also is the essence of true Christianity. We face our opposition with an absolute confidence about how the story ends. We know that Jesus has taken hold of us, and so we press on. We strain for the prize for which God calls us forward. That level of faith gets us out of bed. It keeps us from sitting around and being consumed by anxiety when we face challenges. It encourages us to step up, to take responsibility, and to trust that God is still in the process of writing a great ending for our story. MIMBS 1 In your current reality, what helps you to trust that God is still in the process of writing a great ending to your story? Ask some other men to share what helps them. Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 2:18-6:81, Acts 24:1-26:32, Psalm 4:1-6:10, Proverbs 18:16-21
For Your Small Group
James 2:26 says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” How are you revealing that your faith is alive, through the balance of faith and effort in your daily lifestyle choices?
❏❏ For July 1–8: Take a few minutes to reflect on your life story. In 3 words for each item, try to sum up:
Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17, Acts 23:11-35, Psalm 3:1-8, Proverbs 18:14-15
•• How you would you like to be remembered?
Your childhood Your young adult life Your present reality
Monday—July 9 • Purpose for Bible Study
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word . . . I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9,11 In the fourth century BC, Philip of Macedonia invaded northern Greece and began taking over city states. Down in Athens, the great political orators of the day were debating the appropriate response. The great teacher Isocrates explained everything the people needed to know about the situation. When he finished, everyone commented about how well he spoke. Then Demosthenes spoke. He was interested in the truth, but he also was interested in what should be done as the result of knowing the truth. When he finished, people said, “Let’s march against Philip.” In a similar way, you could say the Bible is a message that calls us to march. Truly
effective Bible study doesn’t stop with recording God’s Word in our minds. It moves on to hiding God’s Word in our hearts. The goal of Bible study should be the alignment of our desires and intentions with those attributed to God. Bible study should not just lead us to an intellectual acceptance of truth and information. It should also call us to apply it to our lives. MIMBS 1 Describe one specific lesson you’ve learned from your Bible study in the last week, and explain how you have applied that to your life. Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 7:1-8:40, Acts 27:120, Psalm 7:1-17, Proverbs 18:22
Tuesday—July 10 • Correctly Handling the Word Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
Thousands of years ago, when God inspired various people to write the books that now make up our Bible, He knew you would be reading it. He intended it to have meaning beyond the time in which it was written. He intended that it would have meaning to you. Anytime you read a portion of Scripture, you have opportunity to handle it correctly or incorrectly. For me, because I want to make sure I am handling God’s Word as a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, that involves looking at the text through the lenses of three questions: 1) What did it mean when it was written?
2) What does the text mean today? What is its timeless message? 3) How does God want me to apply this message to my life? When we look at any text through those three viewpoints, we are moved beyond the point of reading the Bible simply for information. Instead, we seek application that enables us to lead a more powerful life, because we will be transformed by Jesus’ power. MIMBS 2 When God inspired people to write the Bible, He intended it to have meaning beyond the time when it was written. In fact, He intended it to have meaning to you. How does that affect your desire and willingness to study Scripture? Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 9:1-10:14, Acts 27:21-44, Psalm 8:1-9, Proverbs 18:23-24
Wednesday—July 11 • Bring It to God When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Psalm 73:21-24
Today’s text comes from a Psalm outlining the author’s struggles to understand why wicked people sometimes seem to prosper more than those who are faithful to God. This writer didn’t come empty-handed to his interaction with God. He brought all of his knowledge of God’s Word and his experience with God, but he also brought those negative emotions. And he notes, “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:16–17). When we study Scripture, in a sense, we are entering God’s sanctuary—His holy place. And we don’t come empty handed, either. We have a certain worldview, certain experiences, and certain emotional responses. All of those issues can impact
how we interpret Scripture. To the best of our ability, we need to be aware of what is happening in our minds and hearts, so we can bring it to God and ask Him to help us make sense of it. Through prayer, we can come into Jesus’ presence, inviting the Holy Spirit to tutor our hearts. MIMBS 2 How can you be more aware of what is happening in your mind and heart, so you can ask God to help you make sense of it? What about the issues that you’re not aware of? How can you trust Him to bring them to your attention? Share your thoughts with another man. Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 11:1-12:18, Acts 28:1-31, Psalm 9:1-12, Proverbs 19:1-3
Thursday—July 12 • Interpreting Scripture
An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. John 3:25-27 John the Baptist’s followers saw Jesus as competition. In today’s text John’s response is remarkable. If you read the next few verses, you’ll find that John totally understood Jesus’ supremacy. He even says, “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). When interpreting a passage, begin by asking, “What did the author intend to communicate?” In this instance, the author clearly described a man who understood his calling. John knew God had given him a specific task, and he was content within that context. Through cross references in a study Bible, or perhaps through your own knowledge, begin to let Scripture interpret Scripture. You will find other passages enhancing the
meaning of the portion you are studying. For instance, John’s response brings to mind a passage saying that God appoints “some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” He intends for those people to work in unity rather than competition, preparing His people “for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11-13). MIMBS 2 Look up Ephesians 2:10 and explain how it enhances your understanding of John’s response in today’s passage. Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 12:19-14:17, Romans 1:1-17, Psalm 9:13-20, Proverbs 19:4-5
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—July 13, 14, 15 Applying the Biblical Lesson To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ . . . He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:27-30
While John the Baptist’s disciples saw Jesus as a competitor, John understood Jesus’ supremacy and accepted the place God assigned to him. This passage had great meaning when it was written, but like all Scripture, it also has a timeless application for every individual. Ephesians 2:10 says each of us was “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That means that, like John, we also have God-assigned roles. Our peace and joy are greatly enhanced in finding and accepting that assignment. A couple of years ago I heard a man speak. He had a tremendous presence. After his presentation, I was surprised to learn he had a middle management job. I said, “Why aren’t you the CEO of a Fortune 500 company?” Clearly, I touched a
tender part of his life. He was experiencing pain, because his life had not turned out as he anticipated. I used this passage to encourage him that there is great joy in learning to accept your lot in life as part of God’s overarching plan. To be honest, I used to think I would be the next Billy Graham, but over the years I’ve learned to be happy that I am Pat Morley. I quit wishing to be what I’m not, and I accepted who I am. The simple truth is John the Baptist’s words, recorded thousands of years ago, still apply to each of us. “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven . . .” MIMBS 2 Have you found and accepted the role God has for you? Explain your answer. Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 15:1-21:30, Romans 1:18-3:8, Psalm 10:1-11:7, Proverbs 19:6-12
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For July 9–15: From several easy-to-understand versions (New Living Translations, New King James, etc.), read aloud Ephesians 2:10. •• Do you believe you are God’s workmanship? •• List a few good works you are uniquely created to do. •• Are you doing those good works? Why or why not?
Monday—July 16 • The Bible Is My Primary Weapon Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed . . . Acts 17:11-12a
Charles Spurgeon once lamented that for every 10 men who are willing to die for the Bible, only one is actually willing to read it. Many of us start with the best of intentions, but we get bogged down and don’t persevere. Today’s Scripture passage implies that reading and studying the Bible shows character, and it also builds our belief. Our knowledge of God’s Word also becomes our primary weapon for spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:17 tells us to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” And Hebrews 4:12 describes that weapon even more fully, when it says God’s Word is “sharper than any doubleedged sword.” This passage says it “judges
the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” That’s a pretty incredible weapon. The timeless message in those verses can be summarized in this statement: God’s Word is the primary weapon that protects my salvation and activates the Holy Spirit in my life. If I want to be a warrior for God, I must discipline myself to read and study His Word. MIMBS 3 Describe your plan for daily Bible reading. If you are not already, become accountable to another man. Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 22:1-23:32, Romans 3:9-31, Psalm 12:1-8, Proverbs 19:13-14
Tuesday—July 17 • Does Your Bible Own You?
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14 I encourage you to schedule time for readThis writer’s message is just as true today as ing your Bible. For me, the time is early in it was in the first century. By constant use, the morning. I stretch while the coffee is the Bible prepares and trains mature men brewing, and then I sip my mug while I read to distinguish good from evil. I read my Scripture. I also have a comfortable place Bible on a regular basis for two reasons: 1) It helps me understand God’s heart so I can where I sit every day for my devotions. My goal is to get to the point where I don’t own commune more fully with Him. 2) It helps my Bible, but rather it owns me. MIMBS 3 me mature in my discipleship, by growing my ability to interpret life from God’s perDo you own your Bible, or does it own you? spective. It helps me figure out what is true Explain your answer. in this life, so I can interpret present circumstances in light of eternity. The Bible Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 24:1-26:11, Romans teaches me right from wrong, even in those 4:1-12, Psalm 13:1-6, Proverbs 19:15-16 situations that seem to be “gray areas.”
Wednesday—July 18 • Asking God to Be My Tutor Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. Psalm 119:17-18
Like the Psalmist, I pray for inspiration and revelation when I come to God’s Word. When I begin my daily Bible reading, I start with prayer. For me, that prayer pertains to my twofold purpose: communion and discipleship. I invite God into my time. I ask Him to meet with me over His Word. I thank Jesus for the love He has poured upon me, and I thank Him for forgiving me and re-establishing my relationship with God. On a regular basis, I surrender my life to Jesus, expressing my desire to live under His Lordship. And I also ask the Holy Spirit to be my Counselor as I read. I invite God
to tutor me, to reveal what is inside of me, and to show me how to align my life with His Word. Why do I do that? I want my Bible reading to be more than an educational exercise. I don’t just want to read the Word—I want to obey it. I want my reading to be a sacred act that changes my life and makes me more and more like Jesus. MIMBS 3 Outline the points you would like to include in a prayer that precedes your Bible reading time. Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 26:12-27:34, Romans 4:13-5:5, Psalm 14:1-7, Proverbs 19:17
Thursday —July 19 • A Plan for Reading Scripture
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 Many of us would like the rewards of regular Bible reading without the effort. But the Psalms open with this entry reminding us that God blesses the person who delights in and meditates on His law. For me, that requires a plan. Let’s face it—reading through the Bible can be a daunting task. Depending on the version that you choose, the Bible includes about 77,000 words. In a book with normal-sized print, that would be about 2,500 pages. That means, if I want to read through the Bible in a year, I must read the equivalent of one “normal sized book” each month.
I give myself some flexibility on a daily basis, but I do have the overarching goal of reading my Bible from cover-to-cover each year. There are lots of plans available online and elsewhere, delivering Scripture in smaller portions so you can read daily and work your way through the whole Bible. You don’t have to follow my plan, but I do encourage you to follow a plan. MIMBS 3 Describe the cause-and-effect link in today’s Scripture passage, and explain how you’ve found that to be true in your own life. Daily Reading: 1 Chronicles 28:1-29:30, Romans 5:6-21, Psalm 15:1-5, Proverbs 19:18-19
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—July 20, 21, 22 The Will to Be a Warrior
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4 Just about any Christian can tell you the benefits of reading Scripture. But that knowledge doesn’t necessarily prompt them to read their Bibles. A friend named John Smith asked a simple question: “What would happen if I said I’d give you $10 million if you would read your Bible from coverto-cover in the next year?” External motivation might very well accomplish what internal motivation does not. If you want to be a good member of the Marine Corps, or a good doctor, musician, cabinet maker or athlete, you have to understand that it will cost you something in terms of time, commitment, dedication, and training. Sometimes you have to substitute discipline for a lack of natural interest. If you want to be a warrior for God, then you need to use the main weapon He has given you. The Bible is the weapon of choice for a man who dares to be a warrior for God. But you have to know the Word in
order to use your weapon effectively. So, what if your mind wanders? When I catch my mind wandering, I consider four possibilities: it might be a problem with my will, or with the influence of my flesh. Or it might be an attack from the devil, or the leading of the Holy Spirit. I try to figure out which it is, so I know how to respond. If I’m being convicted or prompted to some good activity, I run with it. If I’m just being distracted from the text, with no good purpose, I try to rein it in. I need the will to be a warrior, so I can discipline my mind. MIMBS 3 Do you have the will to be a warrior? How is that exhibited in your daily lifestyle, specifically in reading God’s Word? Discuss with you group. Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 1:1-8:10, Romans 6:1-8:8, Psalm 16:1-18:15, Proverbs 19:20-25
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For July 16–22: Is reading the Bible a “have to” or “want to” for you? •• Do you pray and prepare your heart for reading God’s Word? •• Do you think that would make a difference in what you gain from your time in God’s Word? •• Are you willing to pray each time before you read His Word this next week?
Monday—July 23 • We All Need Friends Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, Nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Proverbs 27:10 nkjv
As I reminisce about my friendships, I have to confess to more failures than successes. Frankly, I think most men are that way. And after a few of these failures, we begin to hold back a bit from other friendships. Eventually, this can lead to a sense of loneliness. I work with a group of men’s leaders from around the country. We have a steering committee of about 20 leaders. Frequently I find myself telling the men, “Look, we need to make sure that we spend time getting to know each other. How sad it would be for us to work together for 20 years, maybe even
change the world, and still end up with no real friends.” There is something awesome about male friendship. The relationship between David and Jonathan is a great example from the Bible. (See 1 Samuel 18–2 Samuel 1, 9.) Their story shows that friendships are not just about what’s going on between two people. God is always at work, sovereignly accomplishing His will in the world, and He uses friends to accomplish that in our lives. MIMBS 4 Talk with a group of guys about your successes and failures with adult male friends. How have those past experiences affected your willingness to pursue new male friends? What other factors affect your life in this area? Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 8:11-10:19, Romans 8:9-25, Psalm 18:16-36, Proverbs 19:26
Tuesday—July 24 • God Uses Our Friends Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 1 Samuel 18:3 nkjv
A friendship is a covenant, or a commitment between two people. Isn’t it interesting that Jonathan, the son of King Saul, would have such a friendship with the man who would eventually replace his father as king? This covenant symbolized Jonathan yielding his position as heir to his father’s throne. To see the significance of that relationship, jump ahead to 1 Samuel 23, which shows that Saul was searching for David, intending to kill him. Verse 14 says, “God did not give David into his hands.” And then verse 16 says, “Saul’s son Jonathan went to David . . . and helped him find strength in God.” Then the passage notes that David and Jonathan made a covenant before the Lord. “Then Jonathan went home, but David
remained at Horesh” (1 Samuel 23:18). David was running for his life, and his friend came to encourage him, even if it meant threatening his own relationships with family members and giving up his rightful inheritance. What a friend! It makes me think, what would I be willing to sacrifice for a friend? How might God use my friends’ sacrifices on my behalf to build His kingdom? MIMBS 4 Have you ever had a friendship that God worked through to accomplish kingdom purposes? How might God use the new friendships you are developing? Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 11:1-13:22, Romans 8:26-39, Psalm 18:37-50, Proverbs 19:27-29
Wednesday—July 25 • No Greater Love Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13 nkjv
Jonathan and David didn’t just talk about being friends. They lived it. Their actions proved the depth of their relationship. I remember a time when I was so far backed into a financial corner, it seemed the only way out was to lie, cheat and steal. I poured out my heart to a friend for over an hour. He didn’t say much, but he just listened as I gushed out my anguish, my doubts, and my fears. At the end, he simply said, “I really don’t have any answers for you, Pat. But if it doesn’t work out, I have enough money for both of us to live on.” Wow, what a friend! Happily for both of us, it didn’t come to that.
But the fact that he said it—and meant it—encouraged me. My friend was willing to put it all on the line for me. If it came to it, he was willing to lay down his life, the financial part of his life in this case, just because I was his friend. This is the kind of friendship men were wired to have. MIMBS 4 What is the greatest sacrifice a friend has been willing to make for you? What is the greatest sacrifice you have ever made for a friend? Do you have a friend now that “lives” John 15:13 with you? Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 14:116:14, Romans 9:1-24, Psalm 19:1-14, Proverbs 20:1
Thursday—July 26 • Taking a Risk A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17 nkjv
Throughout the story of David and Jonathan, you see their love for one another. Similarly, in the movie First Knight, Arthur (played by Sean Connery) says to Lancelot (played by Richard Gere), “God uses people like you because your heart is open.” In the movie, the people of Camelot had a motto: “Brother to brother, yours in life and death.” That is really loving a friend at all times. The bottom line is in order to have a friend like that you have to be a friend like that. You must be willing even to risk losing that friend. If you hold back anything, your friendship will fail. Pray with me: Father, please help every
man reading this devotional to be the kind of person who could have friendships like this. Some of us have this type of relationship. Some had it and lost it. Many hope to regain it. Be the Lord of our friendships, and enable us to take the risk to give and receive friendship. In Jesus’ name. Amen. MIMBS 4 Friendship requires a willingness to take risks. Do you agree with that statement? What risks have you had to take—or have others had to take—to maintain your friendships? Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 17:1-18:34, Romans 9:25-10:13, Psalm 20:1-9, Proverbs 20:2-3
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—July 27, 28, 29 • True Friendships As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17 nkjv
This verse describes the best kind of friendship—the kind that makes you better than you would be without it. Several years ago I was preparing to speak about this topic. I called one of my really close friends to brainstorm with me about the characteristics of a good friendship. We decided, first of all, that this type of relationship will not work unless both parties value friendship. If both parties value the relationship, they will be willing to invest in each other. I have a friend, for instance, with whom I’ve met for prayer once a week, every week, for 27 years. That’s a huge investment of time, and it reflects the value we place on each other. A great friendship also is reciprocal. As I look back through my failed relationships, most of them ended because one party or the other did not reciprocate. Let’s face it— you can’t be friends with everybody, and everybody can’t be your friend. Ask God to bring to your attention the people who will reciprocate your friendship. And finally, remember that an “iron sharpens iron” relationship usually requires time and processes. When I first saw my wife Patsy walking down the street, I thought to myself, “That’s the woman I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.” But that’s not what I said to her. I asked her to go out on Friday night. And she turned
me down! When I finally convinced her to go out with me, we clicked immediately. We literally stayed up all night talking. We looked out the window and saw daylight, and we hadn’t even been aware that the hours had passed. I would share a little bit of myself, and she would receive it. And then she would share, and I would receive. And we began to trust each other. When I eventually popped the question and asked her to marry me, it came naturally, because I had not violated the process of building a relationship. True friendship also requires openness and trust—some would call it honesty and vulnerability. You can’t have deep, meaningful friendships unless you are willing to risk showing who you really are. But you allow that to happen over time and you follow a pattern that enables you to grow in your trust and respect for each other. MIMBS 4 Describe a relationship in your life that is an “iron sharpens iron” kind of friendship. What did it take for that friendship to become what it is today? If you don’t have one, pray that God would provide this type of friend in your life. Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 19:1-20:25:28, Romans 10:14-12:21, Psalm 21:1-22:31, Proverbs 20:4-10
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For July 23–29: Think of a time when you have been surprised by the sacrifice of a friend on your behalf. •• Why were you surprised? How did it feel? •• Have you ever felt led to sacrifice for someone? How did that feel? •• How did those acts impact the relationships?
Monday—July 30 • Hope—The End Game Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4
What exactly is spiritual growth? Is it doing good things, like being honest all the time or attending church regularly? Or maybe it’s not doing things: controlling your temper; staying away from porn sites; eliminating smoking, drinking and gambling from your life. While these things may happen as a man grows spiritually, they are not the goals, or even the measuring stick, for spiritual growth. Paul tells us what it is in Romans 5—it’s hope. This is not the kind of hope we think about today. I “hope” I get the promotion, or I “hope” the cop didn’t have his radar on me as I sped past. This is hope with no real expectation or knowledge of what will actually happen. Paul’s hope might better be thought of as
“reliant expectation”, bordering on trust. Why would suffering produce perseverance, and character culminate in hope? Because when you have the experience of God’s grace through the difficult times in your life, you come to know and understand God and His grace in a new way. Your hope can find a trustworthy place to rest. —Brett Clemmer What are some things you have put your hope in that have let you down? What does it look like to place your hope in God? With some brothers, share one challenge you each need to commit to God. Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 26:1-28:27, Romans 13:1-14,Psalm 23:1-6, Proverbs 20:11
q Tuesday—July 31 • The Difficult Path of Spiritual Growth—Suffering “. . . we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance . . .” Romans 5:3 Recently, I ordered a Road ID bracelet for athletes. When it arrived, it came in great packaging that included the company story. The founder’s dad had always cautioned him to carry ID when he went running, but his athletic outfit gave him no place to carry it. He started the company in his dad’s basement after he almost got hit by a car while out running. A near death experience, and a company started in a basement. Not the most auspicious start. Many business success stories are like this. Someone has an experience or an idea that prompts them to start a company. With little resources, they suffer through sometimes years of struggles until they “hit it big.” Why do we expect spiritual growth to be easier than worldly pursuits like business?
We celebrate the sacrifices and difficulties an entrepreneur endures, but think that our Christian life should be easy—except for the occasional martyred missionary. If you want to grow, you must be willing to suffer—that’s true in business and in your spiritual walk. Adversity is what builds our ability to persevere, Paul said. He knew that ultimately, suffering leads to growth and maturity. —Brett Clemmer What do you think it means to “glory in” your suffering? What new perspective might this bring to challenges and difficulties? Pray that God would help you develop perseverance through trials. Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 29:1-36, Romans 14:1-23, Psalm 24:1-10, Proverbs 20:12
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 Are you frustrated that you are “doing all the right things” but you just don’t seem to be getting more spiritually mature? Perhaps you’re trying to grow closer to Christ through your own efforts and leaving Him out of the equation. When it comes to spiritual growth, there’s our part, and there’s God’s part. Our part is to be faithful. We are not responsible for the outcomes, we are only responsible for being obedient. If you are trying to “be better,” to behave your way into Christ-likeness, you will eventually fail. The effect of sin on our hearts is that we simply cannot get better on our own. Instead, tell God that you are surrendering to His will, and ask Him to draw you closer.
God’s part is the work of sanctification— making us more like Christ. He does this through His grace, as He brings us into contact with His Word and His people. God is the one who changes our hearts. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. —Brett Clemmer Have you been focused too much on how much you fall short of God’s standards? Take some time to pray that God would work in your heart, and ask Him to help you surrender your will to His. Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 32:1-33:13, Romans 15:23-16:9, Psalm 25:16-22, Proverbs 20:16-18
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Thursday—August 2 • Hope and Expectations
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Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 30:1-31:21, Romans 15:1-22, Psalm 25:1-15, Proverbs 20:13-15
February 28–March 2, 2013
Go over your “spiritual growth practice strategy” with some brothers. What’s one change you can make to spur your growth?
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every good athlete needs. Later I realized that Coach Tighe cared a lot more about our character than our winloss record. We never ran extra sprints for trying and failing, we ran when we didn’t try our hardest. He knew it was unlikely that any of us would play professional football; but we would all be men in the marketplace who would have to overcome adversity. Spiritual growth can be the same. You need to practice. It won’t always be fun, but God will prepare you for the game.—Brett Clemmer
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My high school coach just retired after decades of molding young men’s character on the football field. Coach Tighe was a great motivator and teacher. He had different phrases he liked to use, but I think his favorite was “intestinal fortitude.” If there was ever a practical application of the Romans 5:3-4 process, it was on Coach Tighe’s team. We ran sprints, had full contact drills, learned plays and formations, and then ran some more. He knew that this “suffering” would help us develop “intestinal fortitude,” a trait
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. . . we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character . . .” Romans 5:3b-4a
Wednesday—August 1 • Developing Character
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Friday, Saturday, Sunday—August 3, 4, 5 Habits of Spiritually Happy People
And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Mark 12:30 nlt Many men exude a contagious joy and conaccountable by other men. This group tentment. I’ve noticed that most of these might be with a few men, or only one happy men exercise spiritual habits that other man. It might meet for Bible keep them “abiding in Christ.” The dictionstudy, discussion, fellowship, prayer, or ary says a habit is, “an acquired behavior a combination. pattern regularly followed until it has 5. They are active in a church. Active become almost involuntary.” These habits involvement is the overflow of a deeper are not a litmus test that you can use to work that Christ is doing in a man’s judge a man’s walk with Christ. They are, heart. however, indicators or “clues” of a deeper 6. They are serving the Lord. They have a commitment to live by faith and make a difpassion that their lives will make a difference in the world. These are certainly not ference in the world. They pursue a life the only habits that reveal the depth of a of significance. They view everything man’s walk with Christ. But I believe these as serving the Lord. habits will help shape a man’s heart. If you feel like your spiritual growth is at Six habits of spiritually happy men I know a standstill, starting to instill these habits are: in your life may help invigorate your faith. 1. They read the Bible regularly. They love –Adapted from Six Habits of Spiritually God’s Word, and want to regularly Happy Men—Patrick Morley Weekly Briefing read and meditate on the Bible. Why not buy a One Year Bible and invite How many of these habits are present in your another man or two to read with you? life? Consider asking a brother to join you in 2. They pray with their wives. This syminstilling one of these habits in your lives—for bolizes a depth of relationship with instance, reading your Bible daily and talking God and his wife. about it once a week together. 3. They tithe. I’ve never known a man who Daily Reading: 2 Chronicles 33:14-36:23, Ezra tithed who was not happy. 1:1-2:70, Romans 16:10-27, 1 Corinthians 1:14. They are in a small group. They are per2:5, Psalm 26:1-27:14, Proverbs 20:19-23 sonally vulnerable and seek to be held
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For July 30–August 5: From the devotional on this page, what are the six habits of spiritually happy men? •• Which of these habits do you practice? •• Which of these habits might you need to implement? •• Does your spiritual life need to be invigorated? Spend a few minutes praying for the spiritual growth of the members of your group.
Monday—August 6 • Cheerful Generosity
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. 1 Timothy 6:17–19 nlt According to surveys, weekly church attendees contribute an average of 3.4 percent of their income to charity. That’s well above the 1.9 percent national average, but well below the generosity suggested by Biblical standards for giving. Several years ago I volunteered to help raise money for a major Christian ministry. I set a lofty goal, because I thought everyone would leap at the chance to invest in such a high-impact ministry. Boy, was I naïve! Some did give, but overall, I found that many Christian men simply don’t know how to give. Either they don’t have a vision for giving, or they are afraid that if they give, they will run out of money for
themselves. In our work we see a lot of men who just don’t get it. They are not cheerful givers. They are not giving in proportion to the way they have been enriched. As a result, they miss an opportunity to lay up eternal treasure. ALM 31 What keeps you from being a cheerful giver? Is it that you don’t see why you should (vision), or are you worried that you might not have enough left over to meet your needs? Pray about this with some brothers. Daily Reading: Ezra 3:1-4:23, 1 Corinthians 2:63:4, Psalm 28:1-9, Proverbs 20:24-25
Tuesday—August 7 • God Loves to Give But he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts. Acts 14:17 nlt
Scripture challenges believers to give generously for many reasons, not the least of which is that we have already received so much from God. Jesus told His disciples, ���Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8b). We can be liberated to give cheerfully when we plumb the depths of God’s kindness in giving to us. And we can experience tremendous joy when we imitate His example. The passage above notes that God’s provision demonstrates His kindness. It specifically lists God’s abundant supply for our temporal needs. But a very familiar scripture also says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son” (John 3:16, emphasis added). Our salvation hangs on that single act of generosity.
Nobody loves to give more than God does. From the blazing beauty of a brilliant sunrise to enabling you to close a huge deal that took months to prepare, God is the giver of every good gift. As the Bible reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). He delights in giving good gifts to His people. ALM 31 List five things God has given you. Take some time to thank God for these gifts to you. Daily Reading: Ezra 4:24-6:22,1 Corinthians 3:5-23,Psalm 29:1-11,Proverbs 20:26-27
Wednesday—August 8 • The Greatest Cause Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. Philippians 4:16-18 nlt
Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians with thanks for their generous contributions that helped support his work. Paul gave his life to ministry. Why? He was obeying Jesus’ final mandate to His followers: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18–20). Millions of men and billions of dollars have been mobilized by that mandate. More than by any other speech
in the history of the world. It’s all there. Authority. Challenge. Mission. Adventure. Power. Direction. Purpose. Comfort. When we sense we are participating in God’s mission, we can be freed to give generously. Nothing should make a Christian more “cheerful” than to hear his financial investment helped someone pass from death into life. ALM 31 Have you found freedom in giving through understanding that you are participating in God’s mission? Explain your answer. Daily Reading: Ezra 7:1-8:20,1 Corinthians 4:1-21,Psalm 30:1-12, Proverbs 20:28-30
Thursday—August 9 • Give Intentionally You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 nlt
Most of us carefully plan our personal financial investment strategy. We research mutual funds, keep track of quarterly reports and P/E ratios, or scan financial publications to check rates on CDs. Yet many men do not have a strategy for giving money to help build God’s kingdom. They give random amounts at random times to random causes. The Bible suggests that we should be intentional. The Message paraphrases the above verse as follows: “I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting.” Your charitable giving is a spiritual
investment. It’s just as important as your financial investments. Why not write down the three best ministry opportunities you know about? Make sure your local church is at the top of your list. The church is God’s ordained institution for living out the gospel and impacting our world. The church brings us to faith and maturity in Christ. Within that context, you’ll sense the greatest impact when your giving is intentional. ALM 31 Do you have a strategy for your charitable giving? Where does your money go? Daily Reading: Ezra 8:21-9:15,1 Corinthians 5:1-13, Psalm 31:1-8, Proverbs 21:1-2
q Friday, Saturday, Sunday—August 10, 11, 12 • Give Generously
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6–7 nkjv The Bible clearly indicates a direct link between generosity and cheerfulness. So, how much does a “cheerful” giver give? Our Christian culture tends to teach that we own our money, and it’s nice if we give some of it to God. The Bible, however, teaches that God owns everything, and He lets us keep up to 90 percent of it, for which we remain responsible as stewards. We don’t give God 10 percent and keep the rest. Rather, He gives us 100 percent to manage for Him, and He asks us to voluntarily give back 10 percent (or more), to test our hearts. Do you want to “reap generously”? How much are you “sowing”? The 10-percent tithe commanded in the Old Testament is a good place to start. If anyone thinks he fully honors God’s generosity with anything less than 10 percent, he bears a burden of proof to show he is a cheerful, generous giver. Studies show that many Christians assume they are giving more than they really are. Instead of verbally estimating your giving, why not actually check last year’s tax return? Divide the amount you
gave by your total income (minus any business expenses). That is your percentage of giving. Does it reflect the generosity God has expressed to you? The people in the early Macedonian churches clearly understood this. Scripture says, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. . . . Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:2–4). The Macedonians had plumbed the depths of God’s cheerfulness in giving, and they chose to imitate their Lord. In the process, they gained great joy. You can find that same joy, as you learn to give generously. ALM 31 Why do you think the Bible so clearly links generosity and joy? Share an experience with some brothers of a time when a gift you gave brought you unexpected joy. Daily Reading: Ezra 10:1-44, Nehemiah 1:15:13, 1 Corinthians 6:1-7:40,Psalm 31:9-32:11, Proverbs 21:3-7
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For August 6–12: Read aloud this definition of generosity: liberal in giving or sharing. •• Do you consider yourself a generous person? •• How would people know if you are generous or selfish? •• How does your attitude about giving reflect what you believe about your heavenly Father?
Monday—August 13 • Relational Priorities Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Genesis 2:22-24
I answered the phone, and the caller asked for my wife Patsy. I said, “She’s not here right now, but I’m her husband and best friend. Can I help you with something?” There was silence on the other end, like the caller was baffled by my declaration. Scripture describes marriage as the highest expression of human relationship. The Book of Genesis describes marriage as a “one flesh” relationship. God’s Word does not describe any other human bond in that way. And Revelation, the Bible’s final book, shows Jesus Himself as a groom taking His Bride to heaven for a great wedding supper. A married man who does not clearly honor his wife as his top priority does not recognize the significance that God puts on
that relationship. Periodic self-evaluation is always helpful. Is your relationship with your wife the most important in your life, after your relationship with God? And if it is, how are you communicating that priority to your wife, and to the world? MIMBS 5 If you’re married, describe one thing you’ve done in the last week to communicate to your wife the level of priority that you place on your relationship. If you’re not married, describe one thing you would try to do on a regular basis to honor your wife above all other human relationships, if you do marry. Daily Reading: Nehemiah 5:14-7:73,1 Corinthians 8:1-13, Psalm 33:1-11, Proverbs 21:8-10
Tuesday—August 14 • Four Expressions of Love Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25
The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves in which he labeled and described four different expressions of love: affection, friendship, eros (physical love), and charity. Those expressions apply to all kinds of relationships, including marriage. Many men who are not “giving themselves up” for their wives concentrate primarily on love’s physical aspects. But Lewis gives examples of how all four expressions occur in a healthy marriage. He clearly explains that “not all kisses between lovers are lovers’ kisses.” These four expressions, when woven together, produce a healthy whole. Lewis explains that eros goes beyond simple sexuality. It’s about being “in love” with someone. In other words, eros makes a
man not just want any woman, but one particular woman. In a mysterious but quite indisputable fashion, the lover desires the beloved herself—not just the pleasure she can give. A man who is truly “in love” will want to be his wife’s lover, but he also will want to initiate, to show non-sexual affection, and to be her best friend. MIMBS 5 If you’re married, how will you show all four expressions of love to your wife in the coming week? If you’re not married, how will your understanding of these four expressions help you when you are choosing a wife? Daily Reading: Nehemiah 7:73-9:21,1 Corinthians 9:1-18, Psalm 33:12-22, Proverbs 21:11-12
Wednesday—August 15 • Husbands and Wives View Life Differently In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church . . . Ephesians 5:28-29 It’s no secret that men and women view most things in life differently, including sexual love. Men tend to see life through the lens of task, while women see through a lens of relationship. For a man, sex often is a mission. It can happen suddenly, and then be over. A woman is not aroused in the same way that a man is. For a woman, satisfying sex is usually the result of many kindnesses done by her husband, all through the week. It’s when you’ve given yourself in little ways, like in helping with chores or in non-sexual touch. It’s when you’ve really conversed and listened that she opens her heart to you. Or as today’s Scripture says, it’s when you’ve paid attention to her and loved her with the same care
you would give to your own body. Scripture clearly requires the husband to be the spiritual leader, initiating in the expression of love. Biblically, a husband has the responsibility to love his wife as he loves his own body, and this releases her to respond with physical and sexual intimacy. MIMBS 5 List three ways that a husband can love his wife as he loves his own body, while acknowledging the fact that men and women view life differently. Share your ideas with the group. Daily Reading: Nehemiah 9:22-10:39, 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13, Psalm 34:1-10, Proverbs 21:13
Thursday—August16 • Romantic Love
May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Proverbs 5:18-19 Romantic love can be marked by a sense of intoxication. That heady feeling can change with time, but if we are wise and intentional about protecting it, it doesn’t have to diminish. In fact, through emotional and physical investments, it can actually grow richer and more satisfying. Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages explains that we all feel love in different ways. Most of us tend to express love in the way that we best receive it. For instance, I feel most loved when someone spends time with me. So I thought I was communicating affection to my wife Patsy when I invested time in hanging around with her. After we had been married for 23 years, I realized that Patsy feels most loved when someone does tasks of service for her. I had been smothering her
with time, but she feels loved when I do things to help her. If you really want to preserve the romantic feeling in your marriage, seek to discover what makes your wife feel loved, and then do it. MIMBS 5 What steps will you take to insure that you really understand what makes your wife feel loved? Daily Reading: Nehemiah 11:1-12:26, 1 Corinthians 10:14-33, Psalm 34:11-22,Proverbs 21:14-16
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—August 17, 18, 19 Considerate, Attentive Listening Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. 1 Peter 3:7
In previous devotionals we’ve discussed investments of time and service as expressions of love. Some people also feel love through being touched or receiving gifts. And for most of us, considerate, attentive listening makes us feel valued and loved. In his book Understanding Each Other, Paul Tournier noted two great fears inhibiting true communication: the fear of receiving advice, and the fear of criticism. Possibly you’ve had a situation where you finally got the courage to approach someone to talk about something that had been bothering you. Perhaps you got about three sentences into your explanation, and the person jumped in and said, “Here’s what you should do about that . . .” Something inside probably withered, and you withdrew. The same thing happens to our wives. So when I first read Tournier’s book, I decided to really listen to my wife. One night after dinner, Patsy began discussing a problem that had been troubling her for several months. She spoke about three sentences and then paused. I realized this was an intuitively timed pause based on her experience of my butting in to fix her problem. I held my tongue and returned her gaze. She looked puzzled. After a few moments she
spoke another few lines, then paused again. I waited, and she went on. We did this several times, until she finished what she had to say. As far as I know, this was the first time I intentionally let her talk until she was finished. In the process, she was healed of an emotional pain that had been building for several months. Really listening can “fix” more than advice can. And in the process, your wife will feel loved. MIMBS 5 Describe a time that someone really listened to you without offering advice or criticism. How did it affect you? How did it affect your relationship with that person? Daily Reading: Nehemiah 12:27-13:31, Esther 1:1-7:10, 1 Corinthians 11:1-12:26, Psalm 35:136:12, Proverbs 21:17-22
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For August 13–19: Make a list of ways that you’ve demonstrated your love to your wife. •• Do you know which of these was most effective in letting your wife know how much she is loved? Do you know if any of these ways were unsuccessful? •• How do you know that? •• What could you do this week to let your wife know how much you mean to her?
Monday—August 20 • Decisions Have Consequences
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12 nkjv Life requires us to make choices, and every choice has a consequence—even refusing to make a decision. In effect, you are choosing for things to stay the same. Some decisions lead to gain, and others to loss. Sometimes the consequences are minor, and sometimes they are expensive. We think of that most often in terms of finances, but cost can be figured in many different ways. I remember a man who came to one of our Bible studies. He attended college at a military-style school. After graduation, his roommate Phil went to Vietnam, and four months later he was killed. Phil’s father was an executive in a big corporation. At the funeral, he came to my friend. “Are you who I think you are?” he asked. “Yes sir. I was
your son’s college roommate.” With tears rolling down his face, the executive replied, “Could you tell me about him? I never really knew him.” A lifetime of decisions by this father led him to a successful career and a fat wallet. But in the end, those decisions cost him the opportunity to know his son. May God give us wisdom to see the ramifications of our choices. MIMBS 6 Describe one of your decisions that ended up having consequences. Were they positive or negative? Daily Reading: Esther 8:1-10:3, 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13, Psalm 37:1-11, Proverbs 21:23-24
Tuesday—August 21 • Widespread Consequences
And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15 nkjv Decisions have consequences in the lives of individuals. But if you have enough individuals making the same bad decisions, the entire culture can suffer the consequences. For example, did you know that 40 percent of U.S. children under the age of 18 do not live with their biological father? As a result, a 25-year study tracking children who grew up in broken homes found that 40 percent of those children will never marry. That’s compared to only 16 percent of
children from intact homes. When you hear statistics, you know there’s a lot of pain and suffering just below the surface. If you’re thinking about divorce, don’t do that to your children. If your wife forces it upon you, you may not be able to avoid it. But if at all possible, please don’t go down that road. Anyone who has ever been divorced will tell you it’s not really over— it’s just a different kind of bad relationship. And it’s just too costly—for you, for your wife, and for your children. MIMBS 6 What consequences have you seen in our culture as a result of many people making poor choices? Daily Reading: Job 1:1-3:26, 1 Corinthians 14:1-17, Psalm 37:12-29, Proverbs 21:25-26
Wednesday—August 22 • Actions Have Consequences In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 21:25 nkjv
Judges 19 and 20 offer a mind-boggling story about poor decisions and the ensuing consequences. A Levite was traveling with his concubine. They stopped in a town called Gibeah, within the area where the tribe of Benjamin lived, accepting hospitality from a man who invited them to his home. The vile men of this city asked the man to send out the Levite, so they could have sex with him. Instead, the host sent his own daughter and the concubine, and the evil men raped them all night long. In the morning, the Levite found his concubine was dead. He took her body home, cut it up and sent parts to all 12 tribes of Israel, seeking help in bringing vengeance against the men of Gibeah. A total
of 400,000 men were mustered for battle, and about 65,000 of them died in the days of fighting. It is easy to forget the impact that one man’s decisions can have. Our own decisions may not result in 400,000 men going to war or 65,000 men dying, but they can have far greater consequences than we expect. MIMBS 6 What recent news story shows an individual or a group suffering because of someone else’s poor decisions? What similarities do you see to the story recorded above? Talk about this with a few other men. Daily Reading: Job 4:1-7:21, 1 Corinthians 14:18-40, Psalm 37:30-40, Proverbs 21:27
Thursday—August 23 • Self-reliance vs. God-reliance Then the children of Israel arose and went up to the house of God to inquire of God. They said, “Which of us shall go up first to battle against the children of Benjamin?” The Lord said, “Judah first!” Judges 20:18 nkjv
In the story including the verse above, the Israelites asked God about their plan. Good, right? They prayed before they went into battle. But notice—they didn’t ask if they should go, but instead, they asked who should go first. They didn’t ask God what they should do. Instead, they chose their course of action and then asked Him how they should accomplish it. This is why I get so terrified about making major decisions. It’s so easy to make this mistake. Here’s the big idea of this story: Never decide anything without first inquiring of the Lord. Sadly, most of us don’t do that, and I think I know why. We think we’re able to work things out pretty well without His help. We become self-reliant rather than God-reliant. The Book of Judges repeatedly notes that Israel had no official leader, and the people
did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (see Judges 18:1, 19:1, 21:25). The people weren’t seeking God’s will or His wisdom. They weren’t asking Him for guidance— just His approval. The consequences of this approach were devastating. MIMBS 6 On a scale of 1–10, with 1 being “totally self-reliant” and 10 being “totally Godreliant,” what number would you assign to yourself? Explain your answer. Daily Reading: Job 8:1-11:20, 1 Corinthians 15:1-28, Psalm 38:1-22, Proverbs 21:28-29
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—August 24, 25, 26 • Heart Check?
Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23 nkjv I’ve always been interested in the process of decision-making. You know, it’s not just non-believers who make costly decisions. Believers do it, too. In fact, I’ve made my own share of them. I once spent seven years working to get out of a financial debt I accrued through faulty assumptions that led to poor choices. So now, when I’m trying to make a decision, I start with a heart check. I check my motivations. I ask myself a series of questions, like these: •• How do I make decisions? •• Do I normally choose a course of action, and then ask God to bless it? •• If that is my habit, how can I tell if I’ve truly heard from God regarding this course of action? •• Who is my King in this situation—is it me, or is it Jesus? Proverbs 4:23 describes the priority we should place on keeping our hearts pure. “Above all else,” the wise Solomon wrote, “guard your heart.” Why? Because that priority sets the agenda for all of life, including our decisions—both the large and the small ones. I believe that priority will require you to develop the habit of making prayer the first disposition of your heart in every situation. Scripture warns us repeatedly not to rely on
our own wisdom. Cultivate a habit of seeking God’s desire in every circumstance. I can’t say I’ve achieved that yet, but it’s my goal, and I’m doing better than I used to. It takes a long time to move toward the point where prayer is your natural reaction. We also need to seek God’s wisdom by knowing His Word. Proverbs 29:18 tells us, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint,” (nkjv). Christianity is based on God’s revelation of Himself, and Scripture is our primary source for that revelation. Don’t make up your mind before you read the Word. It’s interesting—God’s Word sounds a lot different when you read it with an open mind and use it to “guard your heart,” rather than trying to make it fit your predetermined desires. MIMBS 6 Explain the importance of guarding your heart when it comes to making wise decisions. How will you achieve that? Daily Reading: Job 12:1-22:30, 1 Corinthians 15:29-16:24, 2 Corinthians 2:1-11, Psalm 39:140:17, Proverbs 21:30-22:4
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For August 20–26: Read aloud the four questions from the devotional on this page. •• What are the biggest influences on your decision making? •• Do you ask God to direct you in your budgeting, purchasing large items, what to do with your free time, vacation options, etc? Why or why not? •• Are there areas of your life in which you are reluctant to ask Him for direction? Why is that?
Monday—August 27 • Life Without Purpose Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:11
I was a religiously curious kid, but when no one mentored me, I floundered. I eventually dropped out of high school, because everything in life seemed pointless and random. I joined the army and found a level of purpose in serving my country. But when my discharge papers came, I floundered again. I decided to organize my life around making money. I really believed that cash would solve my problems and “success” would make me happy. When I began to achieve my goals, I didn’t find contentment. Instead I found an unrelated string of hollow victories that were impotent to satisfy my craving for purpose. I started taking out my frustrations on my wife. At our
lowest point, she actually asked me, “Is there anything about me that you like?” I find that a lot of men share my experience. Like Solomon, who wrote today’s Scripture passage, when we don’t understand God’s purpose, we waste time and effort on things that eventually prove to be meaningless. We need to seek guidance through the “north star” provided by God’s Word. MIMBS 7 Describe your “north star” that is currently guiding you toward your ultimate purpose. Share with some other men how you stay on track. Daily Reading: Job 23:1-27:23, 2 Corinthians 1:12-2:11, Psalm 41:113, Proverbs 22:5-6
Tuesday—August 28 • Chasing After the Wind So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:17
I believe the frustration of meaninglessness is even more acute with Christian men than it is with unbelievers. Intellectually, most Christian men know purpose is possible, because we’ve been taught about it from the Bible. But men are proud. We come into a Christian culture, like a church or a Bible study, and the first thing we try to do is fit in. We pick up the persona of a Christian who has it together. But secretly, many of us struggle with a sense of meaninglessness. We end up pretending enough to get by, and nobody knows our secret angst. My friend Terry came from a middle class family and built a million-dollar business. Even with all that going for him, he
eventually needed counseling because he was in utter despair. Through counseling, he discovered his God-given purpose, and his outlook and his life were transformed. God had a big, holy, audacious goal that captured Terry’s imagination. He wanted Terry to be His disciple. Like Terry, when we find that overarching purpose, we also will find meaning for our lives. MIMBS 7 On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being “totally meaningless” and 10 being “totally filled with meaning,” how would you rate your life right now? How did you decide on that rating? Daily Reading: Job 28:1-30:31, 2 Corinthians 2:12-17, Psalm 42:1-11, Proverbs 22:7
Wednesday—August 29 • God’s Big Holy Audacious Goal for You Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Matthew 4:21-22 In the business world, some researchers show that the most successful companies in our nation have a few things in common, including the fact that they set “big hairy audacious goals,” called “B-HAG”s for short. These corporations set shockingly bold goals that inspire fanatical loyalty from employees and customers. In a similar way, God has a “B-HAG” for you: a big holy audacious goal, centered on His desire that you should become His disciple. Matthew 4 records that Jesus invited Peter and Andrew, then James and John to join Him. He called them to be His disciples. And at the end of the Gospels (Matthew 28), before Jesus returned to heaven, the last task He assigned was to “make
disciples.” A disciple is simply someone who chooses to deny himself and follow Jesus. I believe a true disciple is called, equipped and sent to represent Jesus in the world. You might work as a businessman or a forklift operator or a lawyer, but every purpose that does not flow from being a disciple and making disciples will eventually leave you feeling useless. MIMBS 7 Today’s devotional says, “every purpose that does not flow from being a disciple and making disciples will eventually leave you feeling useless.” Do you agree or disagree? Why did you give that answer? Daily Reading: Job 31:1-33:33, 2 Corinthians 3:1-18, Psalm 43:1-5, Proverbs 22:8-9
Thursday—August 30 • Defining Discipleship . . . continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17
Around Man in the Mirror Ministries, we believe that a disciple is someone who is called, equipped and sent. You’ll find that progression clearly outlined throughout the entirety of Scripture. In today’s passage, for instance, the Apostle Paul was writing to a young man whom he was mentoring. He noted that Scripture is “able to make you wise for salvation.” That’s calling. Then he described the usefulness of Scripture for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” That’s equipping. And he concluded that God’s purpose is for us to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” That’s being sent. A similar progression is revealed in Luke
6:47, which talks about a person who “comes to Jesus” (is called), “hears His words” (is equipped) and “puts them into practice” (is sent). Jesus said this person will be like a house whose foundation is dug out of rock. When storms come, the house will stand. Responding to God’s call and applying His training in everyday life: that’s the secret to a meaningful life that withstands life’s storms. MIMBS 7 A disciple is someone who is called, equipped and sent. According to that definition, are you a disciple? Talk about your answer with another man. Daily Reading: Job 34:1-36:33, 2 Corinthians 4:112, Psalm 44:1-8, Proverbs 22:10-12
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—August 31, September 1, 2 No Longer Alone Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Mike was a contractor in Iraq. He was in his thirties, married with one son. When Mike was young, his family was in church every time the doors opened. But at home, his father physically and verbally abused Mike’s mother, until she left the marriage when Mike was 11. She quickly married another man who also abused her. Mike left home as soon as he could. Now, as an adult, Mike had read his Bible sporadically for about two months. He was somewhat of a loner, with no close friends and no involvement in any small group. He felt he had no purpose. A lot of men find themselves in that place at some point. God wants each of us to be His disciple. If we aren’t moving toward that goal, we usually find ourselves in a downward spiral. I emailed with Mike and sent him a book. He started reading it along with his Bible, and God started redirecting his life. As he prayed one day, he told God, “I know you’re there,
but I just want to feel you for a second. I’d like a hug in my soul.” He heard a voice deep within him saying to read John 13:6, about Jesus washing Peter’s feet. “I felt like God wrapped His arms around me and told me how much He really loved me,” Mike explained. “For the first time in a long time, I don’t feel alone.” It’s interesting that, when Jesus gave His final mandate to His followers (Matthew 28:18-20), He told them to make disciples, and then He said, “I’m with you always.” This is one of the benefits of getting serious about discipleship. As we find our purpose, we also begin to experience God’s presence, and we know we aren’t alone. MIMBS 7 List three benefits you’ve seen in your own life, or in the lives of other people, that resulted from being Jesus’ disciple, or from helping other people become disciples. Daily Reading: Job 37:1-42:17, 2 Corinthians 4:13-6:13, Psalm 44:946:11, Proverbs 22:13-15
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For August 27–September 2: Review the rating from page 43 that you gave yourself regarding the meaning of your life. •• Are you happy with the meaning your life holds? Are you disappointed with its meaning? •• What can be done to give your life greater meaning? •• Spend a few minutes in silent prayer as you seek God about the meaning and direction of your life.
Monday—September 3 • Repetitive Sins
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. Romans 7:21-23 A few years ago, my wife Patsy asked what I’d be talking about the next morning. “I’m so excited,” I replied. “I’m going to talk about repetitive sins.” She smiled and said, “I guess you’ll be able to talk without notes, then.” Ouch! Most of us understand what it is to be gripped by a pattern of destructive behaviors. Antonio, for instance, is five years into his second marriage, and he says, “I realized I don’t have a clue about how to do intimacy and have a right relationship with my wife. I’m constantly trying to control her, to exert my will, to get her to do what I want to do, and I see her shutting
down emotionally. I hate myself for doing this, but I just keep doing it.” The Apostle Paul penned the majority of the New Testament, yet he struggled with some sort of repetitive sin (see above). Sin and its accompanying shame often push us to isolation. Understanding that you’re not alone may very well be your first step toward victory. MIMBS 8 How has repetitive sin pushed you or someone you know toward isolation? Daily Reading: Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7, Psalm 47:1-9, Proverbs 22:16
Tuesday—September 4 • “That’s Just How I Am” What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25
Hector keeps lying at work and sabotaging his career. John is ashamed of his pornography habit. After we’ve cycled back to destructive behaviors so many times, it’s easy to say, “That’s just how I am.” Most of us are baffled and embarrassed by our inability to break free from bad habits. Well, I have good news. God placed within you that powerful desire to escape those habits, and He has the ability to fulfill that desire, through Jesus Christ. You may have already dismissed this reading, because you’ve failed in breaking a
habit. Will you suspend disbelief? God might have a fresh Word for you. You see, I used to be an angry volcano waiting to explode. I controlled it at my job, because I knew the consequences of “losing it” in the workplace. I would store it up and bring it home, where I’d turn into a grumpy, pouty person. God delivered me from attitudes and habits that fed that behavior. He can deliver you, too, if you’re willing to see yourself as you really are, and let godly sorrow inspire deep change. MIMBS 8 Name one behavior pattern you would like to change. Write a prayer asking God to help you be willing to see yourself as you really are, as it relates to that habit. Daily Reading: Ecclesiastes 7:1-9:18, 2 Corinthians 7:8-16, Psalm 48:1-14, Proverbs 22:17-19
Wednesday—September 5 • A Lifestyle of Repentance . . . now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians included a stern rebuke for allowing destructive behaviors to flourish. In the follow-up letter, Paul congratulated the Corinthians on their correction of the issue he confronted. He wrote, “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it,” because it led to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8). God does not intend for us to ignore our sin. He expects us to experience sorrow, so we will desire change. The Apostle Paul reminds us that a process beginning with sorrow can end with no regret, if we’re willing to invest time and energy to develop a lifestyle of repentance. I’ve been working at this for several years. I haven’t perfected the process, but I’m getting better. I’ve found
that it begins with a habit of self-evaluation. Research indicates that we men are out-oftouch with our emotions. Eighty percent of us cannot even identify what we are feeling. I’ve learned to allow my moods to trigger self-evaluation. When I uncover a destructive attitude or action, I repent, receive forgiveness, and move on. MIMBS 8 How can you develop a habit of selfevaluation? How can that help you lead a lifestyle of repentance? Share your thoughts with your group. Daily Reading: Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Psalm 49:1-20, Proverbs 22:20-21
Thursday—September 6 • Godly Sorrow John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance . . . Luke 3:7-8
We all have internal reactions toward certain people. Those reactions, either joyful or disagreeable, depend on past experience, external circumstances, or internal mood. Through self-examination, I discovered I often have negative thoughts toward people, and many times toward those closest to me. For a long time, I didn’t pay attention to those habitual patterns. I let those thoughts run because I was largely unaware of them, and they affected my internal attitudes and my external responses. Now I let those thoughts warn me. When I catch a negative notion cycling through my mind, I stop and repent. I receive forgiveness, and I stop the cycle.
Biblical repentance requires more than just telling God you’re sorry. It requires a lifestyle change that proves our sorrow. Because of the influence of our own flesh and of the world around us, we have to deal with destructive thoughts or temptations. The goal of a repentant lifestyle is to cut that string of thinking before it influences our behavior. That’s how godly sorrow inspires deep change. MIMBS 8 Explain how John’s admonition in today’s Scripture reflects the idea that “godly sorrow inspires deep change.” Daily Reading: Song of Solomon 1:1-4:16, 2 Corinthians 8:16-24, Psalm 50:1-23, Proverbs 22:22-23
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—September 7, 8, 9 • Breaking the Cycle Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2 I don’t routinely blow up in anger like I used to. Some time ago, I submitted to some medical tests. After they were finished, my wife and I were discussing whether a separate insurance policy might cover the cost of our deductible. I hadn’t looked at insurance papers in decades. I was trying to explain to Patsy why she was making a mistake, and then I found out I was the one who was wrong. I could feel the frustration building. But because I had worked to develop a lifestyle of self-examination and repentance, I was able to cut that string of dark thinking before it materialized into a destructive behavior. That kind of repentant lifestyle can help you break a habitually destructive cycle. First, engage in some self-evaluation, asking God to reveal the thoughts and attitudes that drive your outer behaviors. Then get out of denial and take ownership of those habits. You may even want to ask a trusted friend to hold you accountable for how you’re dealing with those issues. And finally, many of those issues may be rooted in some sort of disappointment. Take time to grieve “what might have been.” Grieve the fact that you will never be a rock star, or an NBA
center. Grieve the fact that your kids may never make you proud, or your wife may never love you in the way you desire to be loved. Grieve whatever you need to grieve. Forgive those who have sinned against you, and ask God to free your mind and help you believe His Word. Ask Him to help you accept that, as you admit your sorrow and you repent, He really will do what He promised. He will transform you by the renewing of your mind. MIMBS 8 How do you think taking time to grieve can help break a cycle of destructive behavior? Ask another man for his thoughts. Daily Reading: Song of Solomon 5:1-8:14, Isaiah 1:1-5:30, 2 Corinthians 9:1-11:15, Psalm 51:1-53:6, Proverbs 22:24-29
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For September 3–9: On a white board, make a list of repetitive sins you’ve witnessed in the lives of men in your life. •• What has been the impact of that behavior? •• How can the destructive cycle of repetitive sinning be stopped? •• Is there any destructive cycle in your own life that has you trapped?
Monday—September 10 • Producing Fruit By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:8 nkjv
American men are the most overworked group in the world. We have less free time today than ever before. Many countries have shorter work weeks and more vacation time than U.S. workers. Our productivity may have increased, but so has the number of hours we work. We have less time to build our communities, become involved in our churches, raise our kids, nurture our marriages, and share the gospel with others. Perhaps we’re getting more done in terms of our vocation. Is that the goal in life? What about our primary
responsibilities as Christians? The kind of fruit the world coaxes us into producing is a different kind of productivity than what Jesus had in mind. He wants us to produce “much” fruit, not necessarily “more” fruit. And the fruit to which He refers is something quite different than what the world is asking for. MIMBS 9 What kind of fruit are you producing? How much of it is the kind to which Jesus referred? Daily Reading: Isaiah 6:1-7:25, 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Psalm 54:1-7, Proverbs 23:1-3
Tuesday—September 11 • Have a Nice Day Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 nkjv
The concept of productivity has been around since the beginning of time. God created us in such a way that we feel best when we are producing something. We want to live satisfied lives, and our level of satisfaction generally rises to the level of productivity. But what, exactly, have we been created to produce? And more importantly, what are we as Christian men actually producing? God asked us to produce fruit. What we often seek to produce is money, comfort, power, and notoriety, among other things. But those aren’t the things that really
satisfy us, and that’s where many men find themselves today: productive, yes, but generally dissatisfied. And it’s because many of us have chosen to produce the wrong things. MIMBS 9 What have you chosen to produce in your life? How is that working? What’s one thing you could do today to re-direct your attention to the kind of productivity Jesus talked about? Daily Reading: Isaiah 8:1-9:21, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Psalm 55:1-23, Proverbs 23:4-5
Wednesday—September 12 • Why We Should Produce But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew 13:23 nkjv
Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit” (John 15:8). Not “more” fruit, “much” fruit. And while part of that is related to the world around us—food and economic stability, for example—He’s also referring to things like love, joy and peace—fruit of the Spirit that leads to a satisfied life. The Lord doesn’t want you to be idle. He simply wants you to be busy doing the right things. So how do we bear much fruit? The world would answer that question by saying, “Work harder, smarter, and perhaps longer.” But Jesus said the key to living
a productive life is hearing the Word of God and understanding it (Matthew 13:23). That is the key to productivity, because the only things we can grow are the things we plant. A man cannot bear the right kind of fruit in his life unless the seed of the Word is first sown in him. MIMBS 9 What kind of “productivity” (fruit) do you see when you are consistently in the Word of God? Talk with some other men about how God’s Word changes you. Daily Reading: Isaiah 10:1-11:16, 2 Corinthians 12:11-21, Psalm 56:1-13, Proverbs 23:6-8
Thursday—September 13 • God's Plan of Productivity Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. 1 Thessalonians 4:11–12 nlt
There are three reasons why God wants us to be productive. First, to leave the world a better place than when we found it. Second, He wants us to have balance, and being productive in our jobs affords us the time and resources to devote our
attention to other, more important, aspects of life. Finally, He wants us to enlarge His Kingdom. Francis Shaffer once said: “If you do your work well, you will have a chance to speak.” That’s a direct application of 1 Thessalonians 4:10–12. When we are productive, non-Christians will be drawn to us, and often, drawn to Jesus Christ as well. And ultimately, that’s the most important kind of production there is: the making of disciples, and by extension, the enlarging of God’s Kingdom on earth. MIMBS 9 How has your productivity or success at work helped or hindered your witness to outsiders? Daily Reading: Isaiah 12:1-14:32, 2 Corinthians 13:1-14, Psalm 57:1-11, Proverbs 23:9-11
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—September 14, 15, 16 Balancing Your Life
Husbands, love your wives. Love them just as Christ loved the church. He gave himself up for her. He did it to make her holy. He made her clean by washing her with water and the word. Ephesians 5:25, 26 If you don’t have enough time for your family, you can be 100 percent certain that you are not following God’s will for your life. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church. And one of the most noteworthy things Jesus does for the church is to invest His life into it. We were and are His top priority. Some years ago I made a decision not work past 6 p.m. during the week and not to work weekends at all. On the way home each night, I would think about work until I got to the bridge that was three minutes from the house. Then I would take all of the “papers,” figuratively speaking, and put them in my imaginary briefcase. Then I’d shut it, throw it over the bridge, and visualize it splashing into the creek. I did that to clear my mind so that by the time I got home I was ready to re-engage
my family. I’d come through the front door, put on some jeans, and unwind for no longer than 15 minutes. From that moment on, I basically gave myself to my wife and children. I exhort you today in the name of Jesus Christ—get your life balanced. If you are surrounded by workaholics and have become addicted to that environment, you need to change your environment. If you struggle with a certain addiction, no matter what it is, you need to change your environment. Repentance is more than a decision. You have to be willing to also change your environment and lifestyle. There’s a battle for your soul going on. MIMBS 9 Do you recognize a sin pattern in your life? If so, how can changing your environment help you overcome it? Daily Reading: Isaiah 15:1-18:7, Galatians 1:13:9, Psalm 58:1-60:12, Proverbs 23:12-16
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For September 10–16: From the devotional, “Why We Should Produce” on page 50, what are the reasons God wants us to produce? •• Are you leaving the world a better place? •• Do you have balance in your life? •• Are you active in enlarging His kingdom?
Monday—September 17 • What’s in it For Me?
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. Luke 6:38 Many business books or publications will tell you that a basic element of human psychology is that when making decisions people are concerned with the concept of W.I.I.F.M. or “what’s in it for me?” Jesus tells us that when we enter into a relationship or situation, we should be most concerned about what we can give to that person or what we can do for that person? He also tells us that if we do that, the return will be unbelievable. When we give, we get so much more in return. When we
offer great customer service, we gain a satisfied customer, which usually leads to repeat business or they refer other customers to us. To experience true growth and success first, ask yourself what you can give to this person. And then just sit back and watch God work. Never forget we can’t out give God. No matter how hard we try. —Ray Hilbert Describe a time when you gave and got more in return. How can this apply at work? Daily Reading: Isaiah 25:1-28:13, Galatians 3:10-22, Psalm 61:1-8, Proverbs 23:17-18
Tuesday—September 18 • Addressing Failure Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16 nlt
We all make mistakes and let other people down. Sometimes we don’t do what we should and sometimes we do what we shouldn’t. At work it’s no different. We’re going to make mistakes. Things like failing to turn a project in on time, or failing to close a big deal, or implementing an unfair policy. The list goes on and on. When you’ve discovered that you’ve made a mistake at work that has brought harm to others, there are three things that you need to do to address the situation: First, admit the mistake. Then, state what you are going to do to correct the situation. And finally, indicate what you will do to insure that this
never happens again. The next time that you make a mistake, approach the situation with sincerity to begin the process of repairing the damage. God’s Word makes it clear that we’re not to hide or justify our sinful behavior or even try to cover up our mistakes. —Ray Hilbert Have you had issues admitting to mistakes you’ve made? What does the way you handle mistakes say to others about your faith? Discuss this with another man or your group. Daily Reading: Isaiah 28:14-30:11, Galatians 3:23-4:31, Psalm 62:1-12, Proverbs 23:19-21
Wednesday—September 19 • A Cheerful Heart A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
When we have a healthy outlook, our energy, creativity, and problem solving capabilities are greatly enhanced. On the other hand, when we’re discouraged and downhearted, it’s very easy to lose all hope. I recently met a businessman going through some major challenges both in his business and personal life. I wouldn’t blame him if he were to just collapse under the weight of his circumstances. But I was amazed at his attitude and upbeat spirit. He had an incredible sense of peace and internal joy. It’s during tough and
challenging times that it’s most important to take inventory of your attitude and outlook. Place your care in the Lord. Don’t focus on your circumstances; focus on solutions. Don’t allow your spirit to get “crushed.” Your cheerful and joyful heart will be good medicine in your situation. —Ray Hilbert Are you able to have an upbeat attitude when the circumstances of life aren’t going your way? Why or why not? What scriptures can help you in what is going on in your life right now, and what ones can help you to have a cheerful heart? Daily Reading: Isaiah 30:12-33:9, Galatians 5:1-12, Psalm 63:1-11, Proverbs 23:22
Thursday—September 20 • Business in the Light “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 nlt
Have you ever been involved in a project or business deal with someone and you just felt inside that they weren’t telling you the whole truth? Today’s verse tells us that we must walk in the light if we are to enjoy true fellowship with Jesus and with one another. So in the workplace, what does it mean to actually walk in the Light? I believe it means to live and talk with absolute integrity. This is where you can lay your head down on the pillow at night and go to sleep knowing you’ve worked in a way that is pleasing to the Lord. In order to walk in the Light you need to conduct yourself where you have nothing to fear, nothing to hide, and nothing to prove.
When you have nothing to Fear, you won’t be afraid of anyone. When you have nothing to Hide, you’re free to tell the truth. And when you have nothing to Prove, you know the results are in God’s hands. Now imagine that. Living in such a way that you’re truly walking in the light. —Ray Hilbert When you think of “walking and working in the light,” what sorts of things come to mind? What things can you do to make sure that you are daily “walking in the light”? Daily Reading: Isaiah 33:10-36:22, Galatians 5:13-26, Psalm 64:1-10, Proverbs 23:23
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—September 21, 22, 23 Life-Changing Words Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23 nlt
I have decided that I want to live an authentic life. I am tired of living like I always need to be concerned about what others think about me. I don’t want to be worried about impressing people or constantly having to prove my value. Now, imagine the freedom and power of leading and conducting your business, serving your spouse and children, and simply living your life in such a way. What would it be like to have nothing to prove to anyone? You could just be yourself and not feel like you have to beat everyone else out just to stay ahead in life. You could live exactly as you were created by God to live. Never work outside of your passion or what you are good at just because you feel like you have to earn someone’s respect. Consider how clean your conscience would be with nothing to hide. Your life and business would be above reproach. You would have no shame or guilt over any aspect of your life—the words you use, the sites you visit on the internet, and those small details of your business that can be so tempting. This would mean that your local newspaper could do an ‘in-depth expose’ on your life and business, and they wouldn’t find anything negative worth printing! If you could come to the conclusion that God truly is in control, and it’s ALL HIS
anyway, you would have nothing to lose! This would certainly make it easier to sleep at night, and would give us an incredible sense of peace. When you truly are not worried about what you will lose, you can live your life with passion and reckless abandon for God.
And finally, when you have nothing to fear, you live with such authenticity and confidence (in the Lord) that no person and no circumstance can cause you to worry, fret, or lose your joy in Christ! I would like to challenge you to ponder these 12 life changing words. Then, LIVE THEM! —Ray Hilbert Which of these phrases—nothing to prove, nothing to hide, nothing to fear—speaks to you today? Pray David’s prayer from today’s verse and listen to what God has to say to you. Daily Reading: Isaiah 37:1-43:13, Galatians 6:1-18, Ephesians 1:1-2:22,Psalm 65:1-67:7, Proverbs 23:24-35
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For September 17–23: In the devotional above, what are the 12 life-changing words? •• What would it mean for you to have “nothing to prove”? •• How would it feel to have “nothing to hide”? •• What would you risk if you had “nothing to lose”?
Monday—September 24 • Seeking Out Good Counsel If you go to war, you need guidance. If you want to win, you need many good advisers. Proverbs 24:6 nlt
Recently I had a significant situation regarding a major decision that I needed to make. In my own mind, I already knew what I wanted to do. I had chartered my own course and my mind was made up. Although I did not have a great sense of peace about this decision, I went forward with it anyway. In hindsight I made two major mistakes: 1. I didn’t pray enough about it. 2. I didn’t seek out wise counsel or advice about my issue. Of course I ended up making the wrong decision. What a surprise! I’ve heard it said that, “A smart man learns from his own mistakes—but a wise man learns
from someone else’s mistakes.” What issues or decisions are you facing today? I advise you to pray and seek out wise counsel from someone that you greatly respect. That counsel may prevent you from making a major mistake or they may simply give you another perspective on your issue. – Ray Hilbert What is one issue or decision you are facing today? Do you know someone who you can seek good and wise council from regarding that issue or decision? Daily Reading: Isaiah 43:14-45:10, Ephesians 3:1-21, Psalm 68:1-18, Proverbs 24:1-2
Tuesday—September 25 • Be A Very, Very Person And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he lead them. Psalm 78:72
Several years ago I attended a dinner meeting with the topic being how Christians can integrate their faith to have an impact at work. That night the speaker made a statement that’s really impacted my life ever since. He said we must be “very, very” people—we must be very biblical and very professional. Today’s verse tells us that David was not only a man of integrity but he worked with excellence. As people who are living for the Lord, we must be very biblically oriented and we must be very good at what we do. In other words, we must be very, very. The most important thing that we can do
to live out our faith in the marketplace is to earn credibility. We ought to be at the top of our fields as Christians. And we ought to honor the Lord every step of the way. Today and every day, let’s be very, very people. — Ray Hilbert Do you agree or disagree that the most effective way to live out your faith in the marketplace is earn and establish your credibility? Why do you answer as you do? How can you be a “very, very person” at work? Daily Reading: Isaiah 45:11-48:11, Ephesians 4:1-16, Psalm 68:19-35, Proverbs 24:3-4
Wednesday—September 26 • Bring Good News How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Romans 10:15
Years ago, I had an employee with a bad attitude. He was always whining and complaining about things. It seemed like his sole purpose in life was to find something wrong with everything. Today’s verse reminds us that it’s critical that we be the type of person that “brings good news.” We need to be that person that others actually want to be around. So here is what I did to address my employee’s negative attitude. I said to him, “You know I really appreciate that every time you are around me, you are working on having a better attitude.” You know what happened? He actually started having a better attitude when he was with me.
Why? Because I had clearly communicated with him that I appreciated and expected that from him. And after a period of time, he actually started having a better attitude around everybody else too. Let me encourage you to look for the good in every situation and in every person. Be a bearer of Good News! —Ray Hilbert How can you bring good news to those around you? Is there anyone you work with who complains and grumbles about things in life that you could encourage? Determine one positive step you can take with that person today. Daily Reading: Isaiah 48:12-50:11, Ephesians 4:17-32, Psalm 69:1-18, Proverbs 24:5-6
Thursday—September 27 • Build Them Up
“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” Romans 15:1, 2 nlt Is there someone in your company or organization right now who is just ticking you off? They really know how to press your buttons and get you all worked up inside. Or maybe you have a coworker who just doesn’t seem competent. You are frustrated because you and others constantly have to pick up the slack for them. I recently had one of those days with an associate of mine. We just couldn’t seem to get along and things were headed in a real bad direction. But then I thought of today’s Scripture. I need to be more forgiving and more tolerant of other people’s “weaknesses,” and hopefully in turn they’ll be more forgiving of mine. We should focus on “building others up.” We
need to be concerned with their well-being. So next time you find yourself frustrated with others in your work, you might do well to remember this message. Before allowing yourself to get so frustrated or angry, pause for a moment and remember to lift that person up, even when you disagree with them! —Ray Hilbert Have you had any situations recently where you weren’t able to get along with someone? How did you handle it? How could situations like this be better if you were to build them up and pray for them? Daily Reading: Isaiah 51:1-53:12, Ephesians 5:1-33, Psalm 69:19-36, Proverbs 24:7
Friday, Saturday, Sunday—September 28, 29, 30 Decisions, Decisions All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take. 1 Chronicles 12:32 nlt
As Christians in business, it can be a real •• challenge to make good decisions. It can be so tough to make the best choices about cash flow, profit, losses, fair bids, etc. It would be wonderful if God would speak to us in an audible voice. And wouldn’t it be great if He could send an airplane with skywriting just to tell us what to •• do? It just does not work that way. Bible I think there are ways to make the best possible deciPrayer sion for those kinds of situations. Let me offer a Godly Counse simple 4-step Biblicallyl based process to help Experie you make these tough nce decisions: •• Step 1: Go to the Bible—The Bible is God’s way of speaking to us. When we read it on a regular basis, it has an incredible way of telling us what we should do. •• Step 2: Go to God in Prayer—When we spend time praying to Him about a situation, combined with reading the Bible, He begins to prompt us and give us insights on what we should do.
Step 3: Seek Godly Counsel—Most of the time, we’re simply too close to a situation to see things clearly and so we’re not able to make a wise and objective decision. It is important to get the input of other people that we respect. Step 4: Consider Your Own Experience—We have all learned from our past successes and failures. So apply those lessons learned to your current situation. We will make good decisions and bad decisions; we will continue to have success and failure. But we can try to make the best decision and rest in Him to carry us through no matter what. —Ray Hilbert
Can you think of any decisions made previously that may have turned out differently had you known about this process? Discuss these with your group and talk through a process that you can use in the future. Daily Reading: Isaiah 54:1-62:5, Ephesians 6:1-24, Philippians 1:1-2:18, Psalm 70:1-72:20, Proverbs 24:8-12
For Your Small Group
❏❏ For September 24–30: Think of a big decision you’ve had to make at work (hiring or firing an employee, starting a branch office, etc.). •• How did you make that decision? •• After reading this week’s devotions, would it have been better to come to that decision in a different way? •• How could going to the Bible, praying, seeking Godly counsel, and reflecting on your own experience influence your decision–making process?
The Importance of Being Intentional in Discipleship continued from page 5 send their kids to your preschool or have their kids play in your soccer league. On the deep side, maybe your family mission trips have an incredible impact on those who participate. Identify two to eight key initiatives or ongoing ministries (depending on the size of your church and leadership team) that will happen in the next year.
Brainstorm how to make these opportunities even more effective. How could you get more men involved? What next step could you connect them to after this? What leader do you need to talk with to see how to help? Which member(s) of your leadership team will interact with them and work on this effort? Who will do what by when?
Once you formalize these ideas, meet monthly or bi-weekly to pray and review your efforts. Make sure at each step you are recruiting allies and casting vision about what you believe God can do through the men of your church.
The final product could look something like this (replace these activities with actual key initiatives of your church).
Explore Weekend — When interested people come to this event to learn about membership in our church, we will have three established men there to get to know them and encourage them to take a next step. Our primary next step will be Luis Cora’s Sunday morning class on marriage. We will get Luis to come by before the end of the weekend to meet the men and invite them the next Sunday.
Back-to-School Festival — We will work with the children’s ministry to help with the festival and meet the fathers who attend. We will have a “Softball Toss” booth with prizes for accuracy. We will have eight of our established men there in shifts during the day to meet these men. Our primary next step will be to invite them to play in our softball league that starts three weeks after the festival.
Area Directors Speak Out: Spritual Growth continued from page 7
Brooks Lindsey, East Metro Atlanta Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, GA For me, it is when the Spirit whispers a single word to me. He seems to speak to me when I am quiet before Him. I meditate on that word and its meaning for months after. For instance just the other day I heard, “presence”. That God’s presence is strongest in the present moment.
Ronn Read, Northwest Chicagoland Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, IL When I am driven to my knees—by trials or by blessings—I am driven as well to God’s Word and a deeper place of prayer. Scripture takes on new meaning and I find that prayer becomes more than simply asking for my needs to be met; it becomes a seeking of God’s favor. At times, God has forced me to “be still.” In that stillness, I have heard His voice, leading to a new season of growth, learning far more about His character and grace than ever before.
Jim Banning, Tri-States/Western Kentucky Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, KY My most notable growth came when I surrendered to God’s will for my life in my employment. I felt contentment and peace in what I thought would be chaos. I got a job literally five minutes from home which allowed me time to start my studies at Moody Bible Institute. Working so close afforded me time to study the Word in what used to be drive time. I still am growing to see God’s grace, mercy and power.
Rick Dokos, East Central Virginia Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, VA
I have experienced tremendous spiritual growth in situations where I had pushed God out of a major decision or change. When God reveals this to me, then I am able to experience true relationship and fellowship with Him. I feel God’s love in these situations, and it convicts me and shows me that without God, I am nothing.
You don’t have to wait and see if men “stumble into” becoming disciples. You can follow Jesus command to go and make disciples. Be intentional about casting vision, connecting with allies, and creating a process for men to learn how to follow Christ more closely. That’s Jesus’s mandate — and it’s our highest calling.
Pete LoPresto, Twin Tiers Coalition for Men’s Discipleship, NY
Essence of Theology — This course taught by John Laramie has a profound impact on those who attend, so we will identify likely men who might participate and use our allies to personally invite them to the first three sessions as a risk-free trial offer. We’ll also make a sample video of John’s teaching and post it online, then encourage every man in the church to view it.
My spiritual growth comes as a direct result of being faithful to go. I learn and grow at 10X the rate compared to if I were just going through the motions of life and not putting myself out there.
Note: We are now putting the finishing touches on The Journey to Bibilical Manhood, which is a multi-year game plan to implement the type of flexible process described above. Check it out at www.journeytobiblicalmanhood.org.
• David Delk
David is President of Man in the Mirror. He is the author or co-author of five books, including The Marriage Prayer, The Dad in the Mirror, and No Man Left Behind. He lives in Orlando, Florida, with his wife, Ruthie, and three children.
Is God calling you to a career in men’s discipleship? Do you know someone who is passionate about helping the local church reach men and help them grow? Go to mimareadirectors.org for more information and to help us get the word out.
It Starts with the Heart
by Dr. Patrick Morley
The word “transformed” in the New Testament is the Greek word metamorphoo, from which we get metamorphosis. It’s what God envisioned when Paul wrote, Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2) Christianity is heart transformation, not behavior modification. The reason that 90 percent of men lead lukewarm, often defeated lives is really quite simple. They’re trying to solve the wrong problem. Most of us have the idea that Christianity is about behavior modification—using determination to change our behavior and be more spiritual. We think that if we can just get the right information, if we can just have more willpower and “man up,” then we will do the right things and Christianity is heart everything will be okay.
transformation, not behavior modification.
But everything is not okay. In fact, the harder we try, the more frustrated and confused we become. A man can only will himself to act and perform like a Christian for so long. One man who abandoned his faith said, “I served in the church for twenty years and I got worn out. I decided to try something else.” Determination, we all learn eventually, is not a strategy. How does heart transformation happen in practice? Our hearts are transformed when we stopped trying to go it alone and dig into God’s Word with a group of guys who accept us “as is.” We don't really do anything. We simply present ourselves to God as flawed vessels, looking intently into God’s Word in the company of a few men who care about each other, and God changes the way we think. That really is the story of transformation. It happens from the inside out as we work out our faith with each other. Everything starts with the heart. Jesus put it this way: The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45, niv)
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Authentic faith really is about the heart. Of course, Christianity is also about behavior, but it’s behavior that overflows from changing what we believe in our hearts. Belief determines behavior. You could think of it like this: right reading right thinking right believing right behaving Adapted from Man Alive by Patrick Morley Copyright © 2012 by Patrick Morley. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this adaptation may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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