Table of Contents October/November/December 2009
Featured Articles q Letter from Editor by David Delk. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 q How to Love Your Neighbor by David Delk. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 q Book Excerpt: Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller. . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 q Book Excerpt: What Every Mom Needs by Elisa Morgan and Carol Kuykendall. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Resource Tools q One-to-One Discipleship. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 q Resource Catalog . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Devotions q October 2009 Devotions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 q November 2009 Devotions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 q December 2009 Devotions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Equipping the Man in the Mirror: October/November/December 2009, Vol. 4, No. 4 Publisher: Man in the Mirror, Inc. • CEO: Patrick Morley Executive Editors: David Delk and Brett Clemmer Publication Manager: Stephanie Lopez • Art Director: Cathleen Kwas Contributing Editor: Lucy Blair Writers: Lucy Blair, Ruth Ford, Mike McCrary, Matthew McDaniel and Jamie Smith Office: 180 Wilshire Blvd., Casselberry, Florida 32707 Phone: 800-929-2536 • Fax: 407-331-7839 • Web site: www.maninthemirror.org
Copyright © 2009 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 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked nkjv are taken from the the New King James Version. Copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked the message are taken from the The Message by Eugene H. Peterson, copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations marked kjv are taken from the King James Version of the Bible. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson,Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Letter from the Editor
How to Love Your Neighbor
by David Delk .
by David Delk .
Dear Equipping the Man in the Mirror subscribers:
We all know people with stories like these:
As you know, the economic recession has affected many non profits, including Man in the Mirror. With a lower level of revenues than in prior years, we have been forced to make many cutbacks in expenses. Our prayer is that most of these cutbacks will be temporary. Equipping the Man in the Mirror is in its fourth year of publication. Its only significant form of income is subscriptions, which do not cover even a third of the cost of production and distribution. However, we receive regular testimonies from subscribers like you of the impact the devotionals and articles are having on individuals’ lives, as well as small groups who are using it.
Due to the financial constraints, we have made Our plans at this point the decision to publish are to resume printed the fourth quarter magapublication of the magazine zine (October/November/ December) in a digital edition in the first quarter of 2010. online only. The digital version will be almost identical to the printed version, with some added benefits. For instance, it will be much easier for you to share a devotional or an article that was particularly meaningful via email. Our plans at this point are to resume printed publication of the magazine in the first quarter of 2010, while continuing the online edition as well. We will add an issue on to the subscription of all paid subscribers to compensate for any inconvenience this may cause.
44Even though Tom and John work together, they have not said a civil word
to each other for over 2 years. 44Jim and his family no longer have any contact with his parents or siblings
because of a feud that began over which restaurant to go to for Christmas dinner. 44Bob has worked 70 hours a week for the last 10 years, so his wife Sally has
taken the kids and left. She says she just doesn’t love him anymore. We live in a broken world. Adam and Eve’s sin had two primary results: broken relationships between men and God, and broken relationships with one another. In a sense, the whole message of the Bible is the story of God restoring our relationship with Him and our relationships with other people. When God created Adam, He made him in His image. A part of God’s “image” is that He is a trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in an eternal love relationship. This is why God says it was not good for Adam to be alone. Adam could not fully reflect the image of God unless he had relationships with others. Paul brings out the same truth when he develops the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11–16). Each individual in the church is to develop deep relationships with other members so that the body “grows and builds itself up in love” (Ephesians. 4:16). To be mature Christians who reflect God’s image, we need vital relationships with others. In response to the lawyer’s query about who is a neighbor, Jesus sets forth a standard of sacrificial love in relationships by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, Jesus provides a living example of the kind of love that restores and transforms relationships.
We appreciate your understanding and support. We worship a God who provides for all of our needs, and we are confident He is using these times of decreased supply to help us focus on where He is making the greatest impact. We look forward to continuing to partner with you in the battle for men’s souls, Sincerely,
David Delk Publisher, Equipping the Man in the Mirror President, Man in the Mirror
continued on page 4
5 Characteristics of Love
Love feels compassion. Unlike the priest and Levite, when the Samaritan saw the hurting man, “he took pity on him” (Luke 10:33). Jesus himself demonstrated compassion for the people of Jerusalem, and us as well, when He said that He “longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Luke 13:34).
Personally, my tendency is only to love when the need is so obvious that I emotionally feel like I have driven up on a 10-car pile-up. Who wouldn’t desire to stop and help the people in such a wreck? But Christ calls me to open my eyes and see the needs of the people around me. How about you? Who at your office is suffering? How about your spouse and children? Love notices and enters into the suffering of others. How can we grow in compassion? By prayerfully considering the infinite love of Jesus Christ. We were broken and bleeding beside the road, left for dead. But Jesus came along, picked us up, bandaged our wounds, and healed us. If we build into our schedule time to remember what Christ has done for us, we will grow in our compassion for others.
Love is intentional. In the story, the Good Samaritan carries out a “plan” to help the hurting man. The Samaritan bandages his wounds, puts him on his own donkey, and takes him to an inn (see Luke 10:34). Jesus demonstrates this as “the author and perfecter of our faith” who is remaking us in His image (Hebrews 12:2).
True love has a goal in mind—the healing, redemption, and transformation of the one being loved. This means that we need to be proactive in our love, actively seeking ways to meet the needs of the people God brings into our lives. Perhaps you need to schedule “dates” with your spouse and children. It may mean making a point to find out the needs of an elderly neighbor, or the single mother across the street. You might take the men of your church on a mission trip. Love doesn’t just happen; it requires energy, passion, and a strong sense of purpose.
Love denies self. In Jesus’ story, a Samaritan would not have been just strolling down this road. This was the road to and from Jerusalem, so the Samaritan certainly had places to go. To help the hurting man, he had to lay aside his own schedule and interests. If we are to love, we must change from a focus on ourselves (schedule, plans, dreams, etc.) to a focus on others.
Jesus laid aside His glory to become incarnate and give His life for men. (See Philippians 2:6–8.) Like Christ, we must consider others as more important than ourselves.
Love acts. Consider the contrast between the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan.
continued from page 3
Jesus doesn’t say whether the priest or the Levite had good intentions, He only tells us that they didn’t do anything to help. In contrast, the Samaritan did whatever it took.
In our broken world, good intentions don’t count for much. Out of every one-hundred people that think or talk about doing something, only one person will actually do it. When we really confront the devastation of sin in people’s lives, we must go beyond good intentions—we must act.
Love gives. In the parable, the Samaritan gives time and money to help the man. Jesus knew that it would cost something if we choose to love others.
It cost Jesus everything to love us. At the last supper, Jesus taught His disciples that He was giving His body and blood—the essence of his physical life—for them, and for us (see Luke 22:19–20). Tom had been visiting a young mother who is dying of AIDS. One day she told him the one thing she wanted was a dresser to put her clothes in. He told her he would pray about it and see what he could do. Tom asked around to find someone who might want to donate a dresser. But as Tom prayed, he became convicted by the Holy Spirit. “It was as if God was saying to me, ‘Here you have all the things you ever need, and you won’t even buy this woman a dresser.’” Three days later, they went together to a nice used furniture store and bought a dresser for her bedroom. God has made you for fellowship with others. It is part of the very essence of who you are as His image. Without deep relationships with other people, you will never find the lasting satisfaction that your heart desires.
We live in a broken world. The whole message of the Bible is God restoring our relationship with Him and our relationships with others.
Love is the key to restoring and transforming relationships. Yet, too often, we are like the priest and Levite, living “religious” lives empty of love. Reflect daily on Christ’s love for you. Then reach out in love to others. The pleasures of this life satisfy for a moment, but the rewards of giving ourselves in love last for eternity.
The God Who Makes Sense of Life Excerpted from Searching for God Knows What
I realized that Jesus was always, and I mean always, talking about love, about people, about relationship, and He never once broke anything into steps or formulas. What if, because we were constantly trying to dissect His message, we were missing a blatant invitation? I began to wonder if becoming a Christian did not work more like falling in love than agreeing with a list of true principles. I had met a lot of people who agreed with all those true principles, and they were jerks, and a lot of other people who believed in those principles, but who also claimed to love Jesus, who were not jerks. It seems like something else has to take place in the heart for somebody to become a believer, for somebody to understand the gospel of Jesus. It began to seem like more than just a cerebral exercise. What if the gospel of Jesus was an invitation to know God? Now I have to tell you, all of this frightened me a bit because I had always assumed a kind of anonymity with God. When I saw myself in heaven, I didn’t imagine sitting at the right hand of God, as the Scripture says, but I pictured myself off behind some mountain range doing some fishing and writing a good detective novel. But if the gospel of Jesus is relational; that is, if our brokenness will be fixed, not by our understanding of theology, but by God telling us who we are, then this would require a kind of intimacy of which only heaven knows. Imagine, a Being with a mind as great as God’s, with feet like trees and a voice like rushing wind, telling you that you are His cherished creation. It’s kind of exciting if you think about it. Earthly love, I mean the stuff I was trying to get by sounding smart, is temporal and slight so that it has to be given again and again in order for us to feel any sense of security; but God’s love, God’s voice and presence, would instill our souls with such affirmation we would need nothing more and would cause us to love other people so much we would be willing to die for them. Perhaps this is what the apostles stumbled upon.
• donald miller
Donald Miller is the author of several books in addition to articles written for numerous magazines. He is a frequent speaker on issues concerning the relevancy of Christ to the human experience.
Mature believers as well as seekers and new Christians will find themselves identifying with the journey unfolded in Searching for God Knows What, which is simply the pursuit of redemption. This terrific resource makes a great small group study! Call 1-800-929-2536 or go to www.maninthemirror.org to order 48 for $58 plus S & H. 6
Excerpted from What Every Mom Needs This is the toughest stuff of life. It’s the place we all come to eventually, if we slow down long enough to really think, feel, and experience it. The answers we’ve tried don’t work. There must be something more, we realize. And there is. It’s a person. We were right, in a way, when we turned to the people in our life. But only one person can be all we need. That person is Jesus. Jesus is God, and he lived on this earth and experienced life as a human being, with all its exhilaration, all its daily tedium, and all its gut-wrenching struggle. He loved children. And he knew days without sleep, years without much money, seasons of caring for sick and needy people, and times of being unappreciated. Indeed, he shares the heart of a mother. And he loved women. In a day when women were treated as second class, he lived out his care and his esteem for women by reaching out to them and including them in his ministry. Jesus put more value in relationships than anything else. That’s why he died for you and me. You probably know the story. He was unjustly accused and put on a cross to die. He could have walked away, or simply disappeared and gone back to heaven. But he stayed and experienced an excruciating death. It was excruciating physically because he was carrying the weight of our sin on himself. That religious-sounding word—sin—is important for us moms. We try hard and we may have a lot going for us, but each of us sins; sin is a part of who we are. It’s a part of every human being who lives. Sin is the motivation inside us to manage life on our own rather than in relationship with God. Sin is insisting we know what is best. The thing about sin is that it puts a kind of veil— a barrier between God and us. It keeps us out of touch with God’s strength, his power, his quiet peace. It keeps us out of the one relationship that will really fill the empty place. Jesus came to change that. His death and his resurrection ripped away that veil. Now we can come to God and, through relationship with him, have daily companionship, help, peace, and hope as we walk toward the future as mothers, as women.
• Elisa Morgan • Carol Kuykendall Elisa Morgan (CEO) and Carol Kuykendall (Director of Special Projects) serve at MOPS International, Inc. and live with their families in Colorado.
Elisa and Carol write about the issues all moms face. What Every Mom Needs is one of our many titles for women in our Books! by the Box program. Great gifts for new moms, Mother’s Day and small groups! Go to www.maninthemirror.org or call 1-800-929-2536 to order. 88
A New Mentoring Tool Discipling another man, sometimes called mentoring, can be difficult to sustain. It takes a few weeks to get to know each other. You talk about the usual job or family stuff but then, it’s time to move to spiritual things. Now what? How do you get beyond, “This was how my week went. How can I pray for you?” That’s where Equipping the Man in the Mirror comes in. What better way to mentor a man in his faith than to help him get into the regular study of God’s Word? So here it is —a plan for using the Equipping magazine as a tool for a one-hour weekly mentoring and accountability meeting: Supplies (each man): A Bible, an Equipping the Man in the Mirror magazine, a notebook or journal and a place to meet that has a quiet atmosphere.
1. Both men should use the magazine for their daily devotions. Decide in advance if you’ll be reading the devotions only, answering the questions and/ or reading the scriptures listed each day. 2. Use a journal to write down thoughts from the devotions and questions, and any points that apply to a situation in your life. If you’re reading the daily scriptures, include your thoughts about it.
Step 2: The Meeting 3. Arrive early enough that you can get your coffee or breakfast before you start the meeting.
4. For no more than 5 minutes, share highlights from your week. Remember
the purpose of your meeting is to encourage spiritual growth. It’s easy to get derailed here, so stay on task. 5. For 15 minutes, talk about the devotionals from the week in the magazine. Use notes from your journals to discuss key points or questions. 6. For 15 minutes, answer the questions “for small group use” at the end of the previous week. Journal any key thoughts as you talk. 7. For 15 minutes, talk about key issues in your own life that you need prayer and direction on. 8. For 10 minutes, write down specific prayer requests and then pray.
Step 3: The Follow-up 9. Pray for each other daily. 10. Touch base by phone or e-mail at least once or twice during the week.
Optional Add-on Features 11. Use the Equipping Your Men’s Small Group section (p. 11) for Suggested Application Steps. This might add some time to your meetings.
12. Set some specific goals for your relationship. Are there specific areas that you need to work on together? Record those in your journal, and set concrete objectives, if possible, that you can track.
May God bless you as you use Equipping the Man in the Mirror as your personal discipleship tool.
Fri/Sat/Sun—October 2, 3, 4 • The Battle Plan By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. John 15:8 (nkjv)
In our efforts to help leaders reach 10 million new men, here is our five-point battle plan: •• Identify. We want to know who you are and how we can help you. Are you a pastor or leader whose calling and passion is to build the kingdom? Are you a soul-winner and a disciple-maker?
Wednesday—October 1 • America’s Greatest Need “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 (nkjv)
Hugh O. MacClellan, one of America’s leading Christian philanthropists, has said, “The greatest need we have in America is to reach our men.” When you consider that only one in 18 men are involved in discipleship, and that 66 million of the 108 million American men over the age of 15 make no profession of faith in Jesus Christ, it’s not hard to agree with MacClellan’s statement. Reach men, it has been said, and you’ll reach the nation. Our goal is to equip 100,000 church leaders who are serious about reaching men. We believe this will reach 10,000,000 new men for discipleship. With proper funding,
we have the organizational capacity to reach these goals. My question for you today is this: What can you do to facilitate this plan, and will you go out and do it? We want to reach no less than 100,000 men a year. What we’re talking about is corporate renewal, and it will only come about through collective resolve. -ALM 85 Has God placed men in your life who need to be discipled? Open your eyes today to the opportunities that God places before you. Daily Reading: Isaiah 62:6-65:25, Philippians 2:19-3:3, Psalm 73:1-28, Proverbs 24:13-14
trusted friend and ally in the long-term cause of battling for men’s souls. •• Resource. We want to further equip you to evangelize and disciple men. We want to educate you about the resources you will need to win this war. We will connect you with everything you need to create, capture, and sustain momentum among your men—from evangelistic tools to small-groups curricula to seminars—no matter what denomination, ministry, or leader who created it.
•• Recruit. We want to help you understand how important discipling men really is. We want you to be able to share this with other men. We want to partner with you to reach every man in America with a credible offer of Identify Jesus Christ and the resources to grow—one man at a time. Train Recruit •• Train. We want to share what we have learned from churches who are discipling men. We want to help you formulate a plan and process that can actually build a sustainable discipleship movement among the men of your church and community. •• Encourage. We want to be your friend. Leadership is lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Enlist, and three or four times a month we’ll send you a Weekly Briefing filled with practical men’s ministry ideas, success stories, tips, and personal encouragement. We pledge ourselves to be your
This is a war we can win. Don’t worry about losing those whose highest ambition is to live in a gated community while the rest of the nation is going to hell. Let us be like Churchill. Let us sound a clarion call to war. Let us sound a call to revolution. We’re not interested in recruiting men to join some boy’s club. Let’s raise an army. Let’s march. Let’s take back territory. Together, we can—we must—win the battle for men’s souls. -ALM 85
Get together with some of the men in your church and formulate a battle plan to reach the men around you. Daily Reading: Isaiah 66:1-Jeremiah 4:18, Philippians 3:4-Colossians 1:17, Psalm 74:176:12, Proverbs 24:15-22
Monday—October 5 • A New Creation If any man is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed, behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
We often use the term “relationship with God.” But what does it really mean? Part of the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:17. A man who is in Christ or who is in relationship with Christ is a new creation. God invites us to a new kind of relationship with Him—the same kind of relationship He desired from man all along. Consider the words God spoke to Noah: “You must worship no other gods but the Lord, for he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you” (Exodus 34:14). And of Abraham, Paul wrote, “It is clear that God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was not
based on obedience of God’s law but on the relationship with God that comes by faith” (Romans 4:13). Finally, Jesus, when He lived on earth, developed intimate relationships with His disciples. Christianity—in fact, creation—is all about God wanting us to have a relationship with Him. MIMBS Talk with other men about this question: Is it possible for believers today to have the same kind of relationship with God that the disciples had with God Incarnate? Daily Reading: Jeremiah 4:19-6:15, Colossians 1:18-2:7, Psalm 77:1-20, Proverbs 24:23-25
Tuesday—October 6 • No Shame, No Fear, No Peer I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
When you are in Christ—when you have a relationship with God through Him—there is no shame, there is no fear, and He has no peer. It reminds me of a scene from the movie, “Hurricane,” the story of Ruben Carter, a boxer who was arrested for a murder he didn’t commit. Three people began to visit him in prison, trying to find evidence to exonerate him. During that period, a relationship
developed. Everyone else had written him off. Why were these people there? What was their motivation? Why did they love him? Carter finally writes them, saying, “I’ve got to be strong to survive prison, so please find it in your heart not to weaken me with your love.” God loves us so much that in a way, it weakens us. All forms of resistance melt away when we understand how much He loves us. And in that state of weakness, we become strong, and have the potential to live shameless, guiltless, fearless lives through the power of God’s love. MIMBS In what ways does God’s love weaken us? In what ways does it strengthen us? Daily Reading: Jeremiah 6:16-8:7, Colossians 2:8-23, Psalm 78:1-31, Proverbs 24:26
Wednesday—October 7 • Man’s Greatest Need I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly. John 10:10 (nkjv)
What’s the greatest human need? The incredible desire to be loved. All of us long for someone to accept us just as we are. We want to pour out our heart to someone and know that no matter what we say, there is no condemnation, no shame and no guilt for being who we are. In the Garden of Eden, right after sin entered the world, Adam and Eve were ashamed because knew they were naked. Their immediate response: to cover themselves. They wanted to protect themselves—something we’ve been doing ever since. But Jesus came to reverse that cycle of shame, so that we could be completely
vulnerable with Him again. “I came that you might have life,” He says. And that’s everlasting life, but also a life of infinite joy that can begin right now. He wants to draw us into life to the fullest—a life of inexpressible joy that flows from the forgiveness of sin. Every blemish—past, present and future— is blotted out, and there remains no moral guilt. MIMBS What does the abundant Christian life look like in your own life? What does it mean to you that your sins are forgiven? Share some of your ideas with the men of your group. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 8:8-9:26, Colossians 3:1-17, Psalm 78:32-55, Proverbs 24:27
Thursday—October 8 • You’re In Good Hands For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (nkjv)
Have you ever thrown your children into the air and watched them squeal and giggle with delight? That’s a demonstration of complete and absolute trust. There’s never even the slightest thought that you won’t be there to catch them. If you’re like me, you’ve fallen a lot of times in life, and you weren’t so sure God was going to be there to catch you. Since our falls as adults sometimes take 5, 10 or 20 years, we often come to the conclusion that He’s left us alone. But God never leaves us or forsakes us—never rejects us to the point that we’re no longer “in Christ.” In Christ we are a new creation, and we never have to go back to being an old creation. It’s just part of God’s nature to sustain our relationship with Him, and because of that we don’t need to have any fear. We may not get what we want, but He is going to take care of us. God has good, sure hands,
and nothing can snatch us from His grasp. In Him, there is no fear of falling. MIMBS How do you demonstrate child-like faith in God’s ability to catch you when you fall? Take time to thank Him for a time that He was there for you. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 10:1-11:23, Colossians 3:18-4:18, Psalm 78:56-72, Proverbs 24:28-29
Fri/Sat/Sun—October 9, 10, 11 • Abiding in Christ
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds …. Hebrews 10:24
Remain in me and I will remain in you. John 15:4 We live in a culture that says you can live without God but you can’t live without sex. But as wonderful as the gift of sex is, it’s nothing compared to a good time of devotion with God. There is ecstatic joy in being with God that far surpasses the momentary pleasure of sex. To experience that joy, we have to remain in Him so that He will remain in us. We can divide men into three groups: those who have intimate fellowship with God; those who have started a relationship with God that is not yet as intimate as it can be; and those who have no relationship with God. Group One: Those who have deep, meaningful relationships with God have chosen to abide in Christ—to draw near to Him so that He draws near to them. They believe, with child-like faith, that God loves them and will never forsake them. Group Two: Members of this group are somewhere in their spiritual pilgrimage where they have started the relationship, but are a long way from being able to say “no shame, no fear, no peer.” They’re consumed with a lot of worldly concerns. I would just suggest to you to let your faith grow an inch. Just an inch, just a little bit.
Think about the principles we’ve covered this week and see if you can’t go just a little further in that relationship with God. Group Three: The third group of men would be those for whom this is all still very new because you have not yet made the choice to become a “new creation.” So the message for you is, don’t delay. Come to Christ; give Christ your heart and your life. How? By acknowledging that you’re a sinful man, that you need a Savior, and that you want to have a relationship with this living God, before whom you need have no shame or guilt. If that is where you are right now, today is the day you need to begin that relationship. You don’t know what is going to happen with your life. Don’t delay. Ask Christ to forgive you by His death and give you new life in the power of His resurrection. Today is the day of salvation. MIMBS Which of the above three groups are you in? What will be your response? Are you connected to some other men who can help you grow? Daily Reading: Jeremiah 12:1-18:23, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5:3, Psalm 79:1-81:16, Proverbs 24:30-25:8
Monday—October 12 • Stick With the Group
A few years ago four couples from the same church saw their marriages fall apart. The husband’s addiction to pornography was a common thread. Some of the men had affairs. Some visited strip clubs. Two of the couples eventually divorced. But two of them miraculously achieved full restoration. What made the difference? The couples that split had always stayed on the fringe of church. They sat in the back. They never plugged in. They had no one to spur them on because they wouldn’t let anyone into their inner circle. Conversely, the couples that made it were active participants. They were involved in a small group for couples, and the two husbands were members of a small group for men.
All four of these men had sexual issues or addictions. And all were hard-hearted as a result. But two of them had surrounded themselves with people who cared enough to hold them accountable. As a result, their marriages have not only survived, but thrived. This is proof positive that men need small groups, and that the Christian life can’t be lived from the back pew. 8 SH Are there men in your church who you could invite to join a small group? How can you encourage the reluctant ones to participate? Daily Reading: Jeremiah 19:1-21:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-28, Psalm 82:1-8, Proverbs 25:9-10
Tuesday—October 13 • Loners Always Lose …carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1
Two men of equal strength decided to begin a weight training program. At their initial workout, each had a maximum bench press of 165 pounds. Three months later, the first could bench 250, while the second still hovered around the 200-pound mark. The difference? The first man had a partner. Someone to encourage him. To challenge him. To spur him on. Not just during the workout, but during the week. They called each other. They held each other accountable. They even developed a list of goals. The result was two men who were much stronger than they would have been otherwise. Our salvation was never meant to be worked out alone. We need a partner or a group of partners. Men who will help lift our burdens. Trusted brothers who will help us build spiritual muscle.
Pat McMillan, a consultant for various Christian ministries, conducted a survey. He asked 2,500 faithful Promise Keepers how they had managed to keep their promises. Here’s the overwhelming response: “My wife and my church-based small group.” Make no mistake. In Christianity, loners always lose. It only takes one man to make a promise. But sometimes it takes three or four to help keep them. 8 SH How have friends helped you keep your promises? Share your story with another man this week to encourage him about the importance of accountability. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 22:1-23:20, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Psalm 83:1-18, Proverbs 25:11-14
Wednesday—October 14 • Stay Together Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can pick him up. Ecclesiastes 4:9
Spiritually happy men are members of a small group. That’s not a universal truth, but it is a trend–one that’s proven itself time and again in the lives of Christian men. What does a good small group look like? How can you make the most of yours? For starters, encourage one another. Challenge one another to read the Bible consistently, and to pray with your wives and families. In terms of resources, use whatever you like. Books. DVDs. The Bible. The important thing is not the method, but the meeting. Simply put, the Holy Spirit has more options to help us when we’re members of a small group. Alone we can only do so much. Together we can do so much more.
And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some … Hebrews 10:24-25 As a leader of men, you’ve been charged with the responsibility of helping them become all they can be in Christ. And part of that task involves challenging them to be active members of the local church. How can you help? Get to know your men individually, and then point them to a church that fits their personality. The following six instincts, as defined by Gordon MacDonald, can help you help them.
What are your goals for your group? In what ways are you challenging men to stay accountable to one another?
The Aesthetic Instinct: This person tends to be overwhelmed by the majesty of God. He is happiest in environments where there is duty, order, tradition and artistic integrity.
Daily Readings: Jeremiah 22:1-23:20, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12, Psalm 83:1-8, Proverbs 25:11-14
Iron sharpens iron; so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Fri/Sat/Sun—October 16, 17, 18 • Get to Know Your Men
When men are active in a small group, their marriages are better, their level of Christian joy is greater. And when temptation comes–as it always does–they are better able to resist because they’ve locked arms with their brothers: men who pick them up when they fall, or sometimes keep them from falling altogether. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:11). 8 SH
Thursday—October 15 • Are You a Light to Others?
A pastor went to visit a man who had not been to church in a long while. It was a cold night, so the two men sat down in front of the fire. The pastor didn’t say anything for a long time. He just watched the flames. Finally, he got up, moved a log from the fire to the hearth, and sat back down. The man was a little puzzled at this point, not to mention highly uncomfortable. After a few minutes, the fire on the log went out and it started to cool. The pastor, still not having said a word, picked up the log and put it back in the fire. Immediately, it began to burn brightly again. “Well, I need to go now, so
goodnight,” said the pastor. “Thank you,” said the other. “I appreciate the message, and I’ll be in church on Sunday.” Loners will always grow cold. If you know men like that, perhaps now is the season for you, as a leader of men, to pick them up and put them back in the fire. 8 SH Who are the men in your church who fit this description? (Make a list of two or three right now.) Begin praying and ask God to give you an opportunity to help them get back on the fire. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 23:21– 25:38, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17, Psalm 84:1-12, Proverbs 25:15
The Experiential Instinct: This kind of man likes to feel the presence of God, and is inclined to respond with a full range of emotions, including clapping, singing, prayer, weeping and laughing. The Activist Instinct: The activist sees everything through the lens of service. He feels closest to God when making a tangible contribution to the local body. The Contemplative Instinct: A contemplative personality cherishes the inner life. He opens up to God in the quiet of his own soul, and he is continually impressed by the mystery of God.
church that emphasizes the preaching and teaching of Scriptural truth. The Relational Instinct: This person finds God most present when people are bonded together in fellowship, worship and mutual support. This person is torn where there is conflict, and lifted high when the walls come down. Not all men will fit neatly into a single group. But most have one major and one secondary instinct that is fairly recognizable. The key for you is to take time to get to know your men. Build relationships with them so you can help lead them in ways that offer them the best possibility for spiritual growth. 8 SH Application: For each instinct, note one or two men’s initials who might fit in that category. How can you share what you’ve learned with them in a way that will help them grow in their own walk with Christ? Daily Reading: Jeremiah 28:1-32:44, 1 Timothy 1:1-3:16, Psalm 86:1-88:18, Proverbs 25:17-22
The Student Instinct: The student loves truth. Bible study forms the core of his worship style, so the preaching of the Word is preeminent. Happiness is found in a
Monday—October 19 • Why Pray?
The men of Israel sampled their provisions but they did not inquire of the Lord. Joshua 9:14 Most things in life don’t seem important enough to pray about. But when the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, it makes no distinction about the size of the need, however seemingly petty it may appear. The Israelites, under Joshua’s leadership, offer a sobering example. They had gone into Canaan, and had staggering successes at Jericho and Ai. That’s when the Gibeonites, fearing their own lives, resorted to a ruse. They pretended to be from another country, and convinced Israel to make a treaty with them. Joshua 9:14 underscores Israel’s fatal mistake. “They did not inquire of the Lord.” They made the treaty, only to discover later
that these Gibeonites were not from a far off land, but neighbors. And because the treaty was binding, Israel could not expunge them from the land as God had ordered. Why pray? Because of what happens if we don’t pray. Even when you are at your very best, you are likely to look at the data and still come to the wrong conclusion. It happens all the time. : WP Jot down a couple of instances in which you made a big decision based on circumstances alone. How did things turn out? Daily Reading: Jeremiah 33:1-34:22, 1 Timothy 4:1-16, Psalm 89:1-13, Proverbs 25:23-24
Wednesday—October 21 • A Gift With Your Name on It “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22
In the Prayer of Jabez, Bruce Wilkinson tells the story of a man named Jones who dies and goes to heaven. He’s looking around on the streets paved of gold and the beautiful mansions, and he sees a big warehouse. So he asks Peter, who’s giving him the guided tour, what’s inside. “Oh, you don’t want to know,” says Peter. But Jones insists, so Peter takes him into the warehouse where all these beautiful presents are laying. Rows and rows of white boxes with red bows. “What’s this?” Jones asks, but before Peter can answer, Jones finds a box with his name on it. Despite Peter’s adamant request to the contrary, Jones decides to see what’s inside.
q Tuesday—October 20 • What Happens When We Don’t Pray Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 Several years ago, two friends of mine were going through a traumatic time in their marriage. After ten years of tumult, she decided she needed a divorce so she could find God. The husband wanted to reconcile, but her mind was made up. At this point, she agreed to e-mail me. I wrote her and said, “I’d like for you to tell me what you understand from Scripture about marriage, and to explain your view of biblical authority.” I never heard from her again. They got divorced, and after a period of time she did, in fact, have a real conversion experience. During this process she became extremely discouraged about what she had
done. She had made a decision about her marriage without praying about it. At that point she made another decision—to reconcile her marriage. The problem was, her ex-husband had already given his heart to another woman. When we make decisions without inquiring of the Lord, we almost always come back later and try to undo the damage. By then, it’s often too late. : WP Talk to the men in your group and find out how often they pray. You may be surprised at how little use we make of so great a gift. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 35:1-36:32, 1 Timothy 5:1-25, Psalm 89:14-37, Proverbs 25:25-27
He lifts open the box, looks down and gasps. Peter had heard this many times before. In the box were all the blessings that God had wanted to give Jones, but he never asked. All too often, Christians get jaded and cynical and they stop believing that God wants to bless them. They stop believing that God answers prayer. The question is, do you believe it? It’s important question, and one you should answer right away. : WP Do have desires you’ve never really expressed to God? Make a list right now, and begin praying, in faith, for God to answer you. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 37:1-38:28, 1 Timothy 6:1-21, Psalm 89:38-52, Proverbs 25:28
Thursday—October 22 • Unanswered Prayer You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3
Imagine that you, for whatever reason, have the ability to direct the behavior of the following people: the President of the United States, all the members of Congress and all the members of the Supreme Court. All you have to do is send them an e-mail, tell them what to do, and they will do it. We do have exactly that kind of power. Every one of those people serve at the pleasure of the King of kings. You don’t have to go to them. You can go to the one who appointed them, and you can ask Him for whatever you want in His name, in faith, and abiding in Jesus Christ, He will give you what you ask. The phrase, “abiding in Jesus Christ” is
crucial, because when we’re abiding in Him we won’t ask for foolish or sinful things— things that, if given, might even destroy us. A lot of us are disappointed that we don’t get things when it’s actually God’s grace that He is not giving them to us. Because even though we think we’re abiding in Him, sometimes we’re not. And that’s why sometimes God says no. : WP Think back to some of the times God answered “No” to your prayers. Looking back, can you see how that was God’s grace? Share your answer with other men. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 39:1-41:18, 2 Timothy 1:1-18, Psalm 90:1-91:16, Proverbs 26:1-2
q Fri/Sat/Sun—October 23, 24, 25 • Believing Is Receiving
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12
“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8 The Bible is full of promises that God answers prayer. It’s literally stuffed with guarantees that when we ask in prayer, believing, God will answer us. Here are just a few examples. Read and meditate on these verses. “You have not because you ask not. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3) “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). “You may ask Me for anything in my name and I will do it” (John 14:14). “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you” (John 15:7). One of the chief reasons we don’t pray is because we think we don’t have enough power. Actually, prayer without limits would be too much power. That’s why God puts conditions on us. “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you.”
“You ask and do not receive because you ask amiss.” God places limits on His generosity because He knows that sometimes the things for which we ask would do harm— either to us or someone else. The beautiful thing to remember is that, aside from these few limitations, God’s desire to grant our requests is beyond measure. If you need a miracle in your marriage, God will give it to you. If you need help raising your children, God will give it to you. If you need physical healing, God wants to give you that healing. But He also wants to be asked. There’s something of humility in a man who recognizes that He needs God’s help. And God always rewards humility. Meditate on the above verses and look through Scripture to find dozens of others that express the same sentiment. The question is not, “What does the Bible say?” but rather, “What do you believe?” : WP Talk to the men in your church about prayer. Find out what they believe, what they don’t believe, and then help them get a clearer understanding of what God says about prayer. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 42:1-49:22, 2 Timothy 2:1-4:22, Psalm 92:1-96:13, Proverbs 26:3-128
Monday—October 26 • A Much-Loved Son
In the previous devotional, we looked at three truths for getting through difficult times: 1) We are created in God’s image. 2) We are corrupted by sin. 3) We are muchloved sons. Some people park on the first truth, not admitting a need for salvation. Others park on the second truth, believing they can never change. We must break through both extremes to accept that, through Christ’s sacrificial death, we can become His much-loved sons. If we sincerely accept this truth, we will trust God’s love, even when circumstances seem to overwhelm us. That’s why Abraham could trust God for 24 years, knowing He
would fulfill His promise. That’s what sustained Joseph through all of his challenges. That’s how David trusted God, even when he fled from Saul. Like these men, you may not see God’s immediate deliverance. He will use your circumstances to discipline and train you and make you more and more like Jesus. But He will take care of you. And as your trust grows, your joy can grow as well. :MIMBS What does it mean to you to know that you are God’s much-loved son? Daily Reading: Jeremiah 49:23-50:46, Titus 1:116, Psalm 97:1-98:9, Proverbs 26:13-16
Tuesday—October 27 • What Does He Have That I Don’t? A farmer went out to sow his seed….[some] fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Matthew 13:3, 8
Let me introduce you to someone—I’ll call him Frank. You might know him, or someone like him. He’s absolutely on fire for Christ, and he’s bearing fruit, but he doesn’t make a big show of religiosity. He’s a faithful husband and father, a good employee, a kind boss, a church leader, an honorable man. Regardless of his circumstances, Frank’s demeanor is always the same. I’ve never known a time when he didn’t behave like I would expect Christ to behave. If you’re like me, you look at Frank and say, “What does he have that I don’t?” The answer is in one of Jesus’ parables recorded in Matthew 13. In this story, a farmer plants some
seed, and the size of his harvest depends on the quality of the soil where the seeds fall. Jesus said this corresponds to what’s going on in our hearts and lives when we hear His Word. Frank’s heart is soft, and the seed is growing strong. Everybody around him sees it. You and I can become like Frank. Let’s rejoice that we always have the opportunity to soften our hearts to receive the seed of God’s kingdom. :MIMBS How can you soften your heart to receive the seed of God’s kingdom? Daily Reading: Jeremiah 51:1-53, Titus 2:1-15, Psalm 99:1-9, Proverbs 26:17
Wednesday—October 28 • Seed Sown on the Path As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it. Matthew 13:4
This verse refers to someone who hears but doesn’t understand the message of God’s kingdom. The evil one snatches away what was sown in his heart. All men who come to saving faith in Christ go through three steps: 1) knowledge and understanding; 2) belief; 3) trust or faith. According to Jesus’ description, this man didn’t even make it past step one. One time I took a class to learn Hebrew. I’d read and study for six hours. Then I’d put the material away for a few days, and when I came back to it, it was like I was starting all over again. I thought I had “gotten” it, but I hadn’t. Similarly, a lot of people
go to church, listen to friends, or watch a Christian TV program. I’ve even heard men say they served as deacons or elders or Sunday school teachers. But they had never really grasped the gospel. Some claimed it wasn’t being preached in their church, but it may be they just didn’t understand it. Only when we “get it” can we move on to the second step. :MIMBS Does this devotional in any way describe where you are in your relationship with Christ? Explain your answer. Daily Reading: Jeremiah 51:54-52:34, Titus 3:115, Psalm 100:1-5, Proverbs 26:18-19
Thursday—October 29 Seed Sown on Rocky Places and Among Thorns
Some [seed] fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Matthew 13:5-8 This passage refers first of all to someone who hears God’s word and receives it with joy. But since he lacks an established root, he fades when trouble comes. He obtained knowledge, but he never moved to the level of trust. Lots of people pray a “prayer of salvation” without learning to trust Christ with their lives. They profess, but they don’t possess. Secondly, it refers to someone who hears God’s Word, but the worries of life and the
deceitfulness of wealth choke it out. This man is like someone who wrote an anonymous letter to the IRS saying, “I’ve cheated on my income taxes, and I feel terrible about it. Enclosed, please find my check for $500. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest.” You know guys like that, who want it both ways. They can’t admit the full depravity of their sin, and so they think they need only a partial savior. When a man comes to understand that he is a complete sinner, he will recognize that he needs a complete savior. He needs Jesus. :MIMBS
Fri/Sat/Sun—October 30, 31, November 1 Seed Sown on Good Soil Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop— a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:8-9
Suppose you know a man named Ernest who inherits a painting by the French impressionist Claude Monet. Ernest wants to repay a friend for a fifty-dollar loan. So he sells the painting, along with some other items, at a yard sale to pay the debt. That would be stupid! Clearly he didn’t understand what he had. Jesus’ parable reveals a different kind of man—a wise man who “hears the word and understands it.” He grasps the message of God’s Kingdom, develops a relationship with Christ, and allows that to affect his attitudes and his behavior. This man knows what he has. He has the message of God’s Kingdom. He understands who he is. He understands who God is. That knowledge leads him to surrender his life to the care of the Almighty. And he bears an incredible amount of fruit. When we know what we have in Christ, we are free to surrender to Him. We know we can trust Him, so we forget about our selves and pursue His agenda. And because of that, our lives will bear eternal fruit. They will invest in their wives and children, praying for and with them, and
soaking them in God’s Word. They will lead in their church, helping to impact their community for Christ. Their work will be done with nobility and excellence, pointing to their glorious Savior. They will find ways to invest in changing the world through missions and ministry. They will bear fruit. So, if you find yourself not bearing fruit, perhaps you should do a personal inventory. There may be a part of your life that you are holding back. Is there something that you are not willing to give over to Christ’s control? Are you leading a life of partial surrender? Full surrender won’t deliver you from life’s bumps and bruises, but it will result in fruitfulness. And it will bring glory to God. :MIMBS Ask God to show you if there is something you need to give over to Him. It could be finances, family, or something else that keeps us from full surrender. Are you willing to part with your need to control that area today? Daily Reading: Lamentations 3:1-Ezekiel 3:15, Hebrews 1:1-3:19, Psalm 102:1-104:23, Proverbs 26:21-26
Describe your need for a complete Savior. Do you know men who need to better understand this truth? Pray for them today. Daily Reading: Lamentations 1:1-2:22, Philemon 1:1-25, Psalm 101:1-8, Proverbs 26:20
Monday—November 2 • What Is a Quiet Time?
But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2 In our Christian culture we hear a lot about a device called “the quiet time”—a routine period, usually at the beginning or end of the day, in which anywhere from five minutes to an hour or more are set aside to read and study God’s Word, pray, and possibly perform other spiritual disciplines. For example, sometimes I journal, read devotional materials or sing hymns (no one besides God would want to hear them). Actually, the Bible calls for continual prayer and Bible meditation. “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” (Ephesians 6:18). “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
The quiet time, then, is designed to accommodate an overly busy culture, and it’s a critical element to the Christian faith. Setting aside a regular time for concentrated meeting with the Lord can greatly enhance your walk with God. In fact, without it, it is questionable if you can really have an ongoing relationship with Christ. -ALM 8 Talk to the men in your group about their quiet time habits. How has having one helped them? How has not having one hurt them? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 3:16-6:14, Hebrews 4:116, Psalm 104:24-35, Proverbs 26:27
Tuesday—November 3 • How Long Should a Quiet Time Be? Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2, kjv How much time should you devote to daily quiet time? If you aren’t having one, or if you’ve never had one before, why not consider giving five minutes a day to read one chapter of the New Testament. If you read one chapter a day five days a week, you will complete the 260 chapters of the New Testament in one year. Then, you might want to say a prayer like The Lord’s Prayer. Or you could use the ACTS acrostic (A-adoration, C-confession, T-thanksgiving, S-supplication). Consider setting a maximum time limit for devotional life, rather than a minimum. This will keep down the guilt. Later, if you want to increase the time you spend, fine. Many people spend 15 or 30 minutes a day having their
quiet time. It’s not uncommon for some to devote an hour, and some invest as much as two hours. But start with a realistic goal. The best length of time is the one you will actually do. Don’t bite off more than you will chew. -ALM 8 If you or the men in your group aren’t having a consistent quiet time, maybe the problem is you’re attempting to do too much. Make a realistic quiet time goal that you know you can stick to. Daily Reading: Ezekiel 7:1-9:11, Hebrews 5:1-14, Psalm 105:1-15, Proverbs 26:28
Wednesday—November 4 • Reading the Bible The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. Psalm 19:7
A friend in the publishing business tells me that only 30 percent of college graduates ever read a book again after graduation. Reading and study have largely been replaced by television and video. For the Christian, however, reading and study open the door to communication from God. After more than thirty years of following Christ, I find I no longer read my Bible. My Bible reads me. On its crinkly pages I see myself—my motives, my ambitions, my longings, my pain, my sufferings, my sins, my hope, my joy. And as the rustling pages turn I also see God—His love, His forgiveness, His birth, His death, His resurrection, His sovereignty, His holiness, His character. I love my Bible. I love the Bible because I don’t have to worry about receiving “flash updates” or “corrective bulletins.” I don’t have to worry about factory recall. I don’t
have to be concerned about whether or not a retraction will appear in tomorrow’s version. I love my Bible because it is true, and truth doesn’t change. In a world awash with change, I’m glad to have an anchor, a solid rock upon which to build my life. -ALM 8 How do you feel about the Bible? Why do you think this is? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 10:1-11:25, Hebrews 6:1-20, Psalm 105:16-36, Proverbs 27:1-2
Thursday—November 5 • Feelings Versus Obedience Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8, nkjv
You wouldn’t expect to eat once or twice a week and be healthy. Neither can you feed your spirit only once or twice a week and expect spiritual health. For that reason, it’s important for you to try to have a quiet time at least five days a week. One of the most common questions men ask is, “What if I don’t feel like having a quiet time?” The best answer is, do it anyway. If God said, “I don’t feel like meeting with you today either,” you’d probably think He didn’t love you very much. Whenever a man tells me that he doesn’t feel very close to God the first question I ask is, “Tell me about your devotional life.” Often the problem is just there. The Bible
tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). If you don’t feel like meeting with God, I suggest you substitute discipline for a lack of natural interest. The desire to obey is often preceded by the willingness to obey. Start having a quiet time even if you don’t want to. In time the “feelings” and natural interest will return. -ALM 8 If you know of men in your group who don’t feel very close to God, ask them about their devotional life. And if necessary, encourage them to make adjustments. Daily Reading: Ezekiel 12:1-14:11, Hebrews 7:1-17, Psalm 105:37-45, Proverbs 27:3
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Fri/Sat/Sun—November 6, 7, 8 • Fasting Through the Years While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2
Throughout the Bible, men fasted—including Moses, David, Nehemiah, Ezra, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and even Jesus. They recognized fasting as an appropriate response to their circumstances. The book of Acts reveals that fasting was a regular practice in the early church (see Acts 10:30, kjv; 13:2-3, 14:23). The apostle Paul fasted (2 Corinthians 11:27). An overview of Christian history reveals that Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, and other great leaders believed in the value of fasting and practiced it in their own lives. With so many biblical and historical references to this discipline, why do so few contemporary people practice it? The church in the Middle Ages supported a severely ascetic and monastic lifestyle, so that the modern move away from fasting was partly a reaction. Affluence also diminishes the attraction of self-denial. But difficulty tends to restore our focus. We saw that after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. All across America, people focused on spiritual issues. We’ve seen fasting at other times as well. Take, for instance, the Civil War. A full 364,000 people died as a result of that war. That was roughly one out every one hundred Americans! Both
presidents—Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis—declared days of fasting and prayer. By 1865, the war was over, and slavery, one of history’s most evil institutions, was dismantled in the United States. No doubt, the national fasting and prayer profoundly impacted the abolition of slavery. Then fasting fell into disfavor again. Bill Bright and others have noted that, between the
years 1861 and 1954, not one single book was written on the subject of fasting. Then, on July 5, 1994, Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, was led to go on a forty-day fast. I was heavily involved at that time as a member of Campus Crusade’s board of directors, so I was with him several times during those forty days. When he ended the fast, I went to the meeting where he challenged Christians around the world to pursue fasting. An estimated two million people responded. Only God knows the full results of that return to this discipline. &AMGSD What conclusions can you draw about fasting from these New Testament texts: Luke 5:33-35, 2 Corinthians 11:27, Matthew 6:16-17 Daily Reading: Ezekiel 14:12-19:14, Hebrews 7:18-9:10, Psalm 106:1-48, Proverbs 27:4-10
Monday, November 9 • God Is Awesome
“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5–6
Our culture uses the word “awesome” to describe anything that is positive or pleasurable. The ice cream you ate after dinner last night might have been “awesome.” The latest movie might be “awesome.” We’ve overused the word until it no longer holds its true meaning. My dictionary defines awesome as “inspiring awe, dread, terror, veneration and wonder.” Surely that doesn’t happen while licking an ice cream or watching a movie. But it does happen when we meet God. When we understand God’s character, we see that He is higher than we first thought. And then, as we marvel at His worth, we realize we are not as high as we thought. Our opinion of ourselves—our abilities, our goodness—begins to shrink. I don’t mean we lose our understanding of human dignity. But as we gain an overwhelming sense of how high and holy God is; we respond by
retreating into humility. This is the undoing of our spiritual pride. Over time, the distance between the height of our understanding of God and the depth of our understanding of ourselves grows ever larger. Call this the awe gap. It is the fear of the Lord regained. It is a deep reverence for the God who is. It comes from a growing glimpse of God. As we look intently at His character, we will see Him as He is. And we will never be the same. & DMM,134–135 Experience with God is the only way to move our understanding of Him from abstract to personal. How can you make a life-long commitment to learn about and experience God’s character and beauty? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 20:1-49, Hebrews 9:1128, Psalm 107:1-43, Proverbs 27:11
Tuesday, November 10 • The God We Want “You shall have no other gods before me.” —Exodus 20:3
Before I became a Christian, I served a god I created in my own mind. Then I walked with Christ for almost a decade before I realized I was not scrupulously following the God of the Bible. Self-deceit’s tentacles did not easily release me. God used two-and-a-half years of disciplined study and repentance to tear down my materialistic mindset and replace it with a distinctly Christian life view. As I was recovering from my idols, a thought occurred to me. It may be the most important thought I have ever had. There is a God we want, and there is a God who is—and they are not the same God. The turning point of our lives is when we stop seeking the God we want and start seeking
the God who is. Everyone who is serious about following Christ must come to terms with the God who is rather than the God (or gods) we want. This search for the one, true God is the most valuable undertaking a Christian can make. God is faithful, and He will deliver us from self-deceit and idolatry. & DMM, 120 No amount of wishing will alter who God is. Are you truly seeking the God who is? What about other men you know? How can you help each other stay on track? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 21:1-22:31, Hebrews 10:1-17. Psalm 108:1-13, Proverbs 27:12
Wednesday, November 11 • Knowing God “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord.” —Jeremiah 24:7a.
Most Big Bang theorists have a problem—their logic doesn’t add up. Suppose the world did start with a “Big Bang.” The Scriptural account in Genesis 1 certainly suggests a sudden beginning. But you can tell any alert elementary school child that the earth started with a Big Bang, and the child will ask, “Who made it go bang?” The Bible reveals a selfexistent, eternal Being who is the “uncaused cause” of everything. Any rational person can accept that. But you know what’s amazing? That Being chose to reveal Himself to mankind, so you and I can know Him personally.
In Exodus, God called Moses to release His people from bondage in Egypt. Moses asked, “If they want to know who sent me, then what shall I tell them?” God revealed Himself by the name “i am.” He showed His eternal selfexistence, while also giving His name, revealing a desire for relationship. In His loving faithfulness, God will give us a heart to know Him. & DMM—123-124 How has God revealed Himself to you and the men of your church? How has that experience helped you to know Him? Are you encouraging each other to look for God’s revelation in your lives? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 23:1-49, Hebrews 10:1839, Psalm 109:1-31, Proverbs 27:13
Thursday, November 12 • God Is Eternal And the Levites… said, “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.” Nehemiah 9:5
Imagine a block of granite—one hundred feet, by one hundred feet, by one hundred feet. Suppose that every one thousand years or so, a little bird comes along and sharpens its beak on that block. However long it takes for the little bird to wear down that rock to powdery dust, that is the first blinking of eternity’s eye. God is eternal, and He invites every individual into a relationship that will allow us to join Him forever. He also invites us to introduce others to Him, so they can come along as well. What about your family members, your friends, your work associates? We must see the people God sovereignly places in
our lives each day through the lens of eternity. Will your example attract them to our God? Will it help them accept the One who is “from everlasting to everlasting.” & DMM,125 Today, how will you influence the people you meet so they will consider their eternal destiny? Think of one man in your life who needs a credible invitation to meet your Lord and Savior. Ask God to show you ways to reach him today. Daily Reading: Ezekiel 24:1-26:21, Hebrews 11:1-16, Psalm 110:1-7, Proverbs 27:14
Fri/Sat/Sun—November 13, 14, 15 • God Is Holy In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs … And they were calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:1-3
God is 100 percent holy, 100 percent of the time. In fact, Scripture says He is “holy, holy, holy.” That’s like holiness, multiplied by holiness, multiplied by holiness. We can hardly imagine that, for words do not adequately capture the intensity of His holiness. But “body language” helps. Biblical characters including Ezekiel, Moses, Isaiah, Gideon, Joshua, Elijah, Job, Daniel, Peter, James, John and Paul all encountered God’s majestic presence. Their response was to fall facedown, to hide their faces, or to cry out in fear. What caused this reaction? It was the awesome, dreadful presence of His holiness. I’ve heard there are places in outer space where a teaspoon of matter weighs as much as a dozen elephants do here on earth. That must be what God’s holiness is like. It is a compressed, leaden glimpse into His glory. It is a weighty, majestic presence that overwhelms our emotions.
We yearn to gain a passion for God. Yet it will never come until we experience His holiness. Isaiah saw God in His holiness. He experienced cleansing, and then he answered God’s call for a prophetic messenger to His people. Isaiah’s experience gave him a new passion for God and for the task that was on His heart. Ask God to reveal His holiness to you. But do it carefully, with humility and patience, perhaps for many years. When the time is right, He will show you this aspect of His character. & DMM,132-134 When you encounter God’s holiness, how do you expect it to change your life? Are you sharing the changes that God is making in your life with others? Share what God is doing with at least one man this week. Daily Reading: Ezekiel 27:1-32:32, Hebrews 11:17-12:29, Psalm 111:1-114:8, Proverbs 27:15-20
Monday—November 16 • Godly Counsel
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5 What is the goal of seeking counsel? To make life’s decisions. In other words, you don’t need advice unless there is a decision that’s going to be made. We want to make a wise decision so we want to know what God’s will is. A lot of times in our heart we’ve already decided what we want to do and we’re begging and pleading with God to get what we want. That’s why you need to be part of a team of leaders who are all pursuing Christ together. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they
succeed.” It’s amazing how often we see wasted effort and energy put into plans that fail because they were doomed from the start. We all need the input of others to compensate for our blind spots and weaknesses. God uses other men to help us accomplish things we could never do on our own. 8 SDMC Describe your system of receiving counsel from people who can help you make life decisions. What might make it more effective? Daily Reading Ezekiel 33:1-34:31, Hebrews 13:1-25, Psalm 115:1-18, Proverbs 27:21-22
Tuesday—November 17 • What Does Godly Counsel Solve? But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13
What is the problem that seeking counsel solves? When I look at the terrible decisions I’ve made in my life, there is a direct correlation between the stupidity of those decisions and the degree to which I have not sought the advice of other people. This happens all the time. I was at lunch with a man who two and one-half years before asked me for some advice. He said, “Pat, I am thinking about putting a mortgage on my house and taking my life’s savings and putting it into a franchise business. What do you think?” I said, “You don’t care what I think. Why are you asking me? You really don’t care what I have to say, so why bother asking?” He
said, “Well, I want to.” I said, “No you don’t. You’ve already decided what you want to do, and you’re going to do it so it doesn’t make any difference what I say.” He did it, and he’s lost his life’s savings, and was about to lose his house. Seeking counsel can help unmask our selfdeceit. The bright light of godly advice can reveal folly before it is too late. 8 SDMC Describe the last really bad decision you made. How could Godly counsel have helped you in this situation? What do you do when they tell you something you do not want to hear? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 35:1-36:38, James 1:118, Psalm 116:1-19, Proverbs 27:23-27
Wednesday—November 18 • How Does God See Men? When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
A newspaper article quoted John Heisman, the coach at Georgia Tech, for whom the Heisman Trophy was named, as saying to his team, “Gentleman, it is better to have died as a small child than to fumble this football.” This guy was tough. I have been praying for a man for twenty years. He makes John Heisman look like Mother Teresa! This guy is the most stubborn, proudest person I know. Yet the thing that is so astonishing to me is that nothing in his life actually works. You know people like this—they seem “unsaveable” because they just don’t get it. How does God see these men? Jesus had been out teaching, preaching, and healing people in the town and villages.
When He saw the crowds He had compassion on them because they were “harassed, and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.” This defines how we should see men. If you see men in any other way, you are wrong. God our Savior wants all men to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. It’s a universal offer of salvation. God is patient with us, “not desiring that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 8 SDAE Are there men in your life that you have written off? What would it mean for you to see them as Jesus sees them? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-38:23, James 1:192:17, Psalm 117:1-2, Proverbs 28:1
Thursday—November 19 • Gather in the Harvest Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37–38
After Jesus observed the people (the harassed and helpless sheep) He told His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” There is a shortage of workers! There are 66 million men in America who are dead men walking. More than half the men you meet today are spiritually dead men. Deep inside they are experiencing a sense of cosmic loneliness. Consider the attitude of Paul: “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ… I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ…I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation for everyone who believes…I
resolve to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified…Yet when I preach the Gospel I cannot boast for I am compelled to preach this Gospel.” Paul was so captured by the glory of Christ’s grace that everything became evangelism for him. Lord, raise up some more Paul’s for our day and for Your glory. 8 SDAE How does evangelism play a role in your life? How motivated are you to see the men at your church actively working to gather in the harvest? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 39:1-40:27, James 2:183:18, Psalm 118:1-18, Proverbs 28:2
Fri/Sat/Sun—November 20, 21, 22 • What Is the Gospel? Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12–13
I’ve had a few false starts to truly understand Christian faith. Some of these misconceptions delayed my entry into Christ’s kingdom. Some have robbed me of joy once I was part of the kingdom. You no doubt have a few war stories of your own. As leaders, let’s make sure our men understand what the Gospel is, and isn’t. And it’s not a bad idea, as one man put it, “to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day.” One of the major false starts that men fall into is this: the Gospel is about regulating our behavior. Growing up as an altar boy, I understood the Gospel as adherence to a set of behavioral standards. If I disobeyed the rules, I was a bad boy. If I could control my behavior and bad thoughts, I was a good boy. The Bible, however, completely debunks this idea that the Gospel is about being a good boy: “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Colossians 2:20–23). There are some things the Bible specifically prohibits, which must be avoided (e.g., sexual immorality, stealing, fits of rage). However, everything not specifically prohibited is permissible (though it may still
not be beneficial or may cause a weaker brother to stumble). As leaders, we have a duty to release men from man-made rules and regulations. Our job is not to call men to a set of proper behaviors; we call men to the person of Jesus. Evangelism is not regulating men’s behavior; evangelism is taking men as far as they want to go toward Jesus. Behavior doesn’t save us, Jesus saves us. In our ministries to men, let’s be quite careful not to make a rule where Jesus did not. : WB, 153 How have you felt like Christianity was about regulating your behavior in the past? What effect does this perspective have on your men? How can you get beyond it? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 40:28-45:12, James 4:1-1 Peter 1:12, Psalm 118:19119:32, Proverbs 28:3-10
Monday—November 23 • Focus on Disciple Making
. . . Go and make disciples . . . 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.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. . . . The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
Matthew 28:19-20 The Bible tells us to make disciples, but I think some churches and ministries get confused. They think the verse says, “Go and make workers . . . browbeating them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” True disciples become workers out of the overflow of their growing relationship with Christ. So, the Bible doesn’t tell us to “make workers,” but rather to “pray for workers.” Jesus told His disciples, “The harvest is so great, and the workers are so few. So pray to the one in charge of the harvesting and ask him to recruit more workers . . .” (Matthew 9:37-38, TLB). Too often we try to “make workers and pray for disciples.” We set an agenda and
pester men to get involved. We fill all our slots for workers, and then we pray that somehow, someone might become a disciple. If your church or ministry focuses on getting men to do “works” rather than “making disciples,” it will burn them out. Instead, focus on making disciples, and then pray that God will raise up workers for His kingdom. &NMLB Do you feel more like a worker or a disciple? What about the other men in your group? Is this something that needs to change? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 45:13-46:24, 1 Peter 1:13-2:10, Psalm 119:33-48, Proverbs 28:11
Tuesday—November 24 • A Discipleship Parable
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Matthew 23:25-26 Picture yourself as president of a large law firm. For years you’ve recruited lawyers, but you haven’t trained them. Without guidance, they’ve done more harm than good. Unresolved cases have piled up, other law firms consider your firm an embarrassment, and the public thinks you are incompetent. Suppose you go to your board of directors and ask to hire another twenty lawyers. They would say, “Are you nuts? You haven’t trained the lawyers we already hired! Why should we let you hire more? You’re fired!” A law firm that doesn’t produce capable lawyers is not much of a law firm at all. So what does this mean for a church that doesn’t produce disciples? Jesus told His followers to make disciples.
He didn’t say to make worshipers, or to make tithers, or to make workers. Is Jesus interested in worshipers, tithers and workers? Of course He is. But those are all outer behaviors that He knew would be evident in true disciples, because they would come from an inner change of heart. That’s why disciple-making is His Kingdom priority. &NMLB What does it mean that “disciple-making is Jesus’ Kingdom priority”? Would you say that your life lines up with this priority? Why or why not? Daily Reading: Ezekiel 47:1-48:35, 1 Peter 2:113:7, Psalm 119:49-64, Proverbs 28:12-13
Wednesday—November 25 • The “Portal Priority”
Matthew 12:33, 35 Suppose a family has attended your church for three months. What will they think is your church’s priority? One week they heard a sermon about the importance of worship, the next about being cheerful givers. Their Sunday school class mentioned that committed believers go on mission trips. A small group exposed them to the compelling needs at a local crisis pregnancy center. A seminar stressed the importance of private devotions. In their minds, the church can look like an undifferentiated blob of disjointed activities. Discipleship is the portal priority through which all these other goals are achieved. How can a man worship a God he doesn’t know? Why would a man want to share
his faith if he didn’t understand the Great Commission? How can a man be a good steward if he doesn’t understand that everything he has is a gift from God? As we disciple men’s hearts, they start to live out of the overflow of their relationship with Christ. Organize your ministry by putting discipleship in the center of everything. &NMLB How does Matthew 12:33, 35 (above) support the concept of discipleship as the “portal priority” through which all other goals can be achieved? Daily Reading: Daniel 1:1-2:23, 1 Peter 3:8-4:6, Psalm 119:65-80, Proverbs 28:14
Thursday—November 26 • What Is a Disciple?
“The most important one [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: . . . ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 A disciple is someone who has given his life to Christ and is equipped to know God personally. That person will be motivated to love God and his neighbor. If you help a man love God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love his neighbor, then what kind of response will you get when you teach about stewardship? When you tell him about a need in the body? You won’t have to tell him what to do or badger him; he will respond from the overflow of his relationship with God. Now, apply that same principle to other systemic problems: divorce, fatherlessness,
unwed mothers, drugs, alcoholism, abortion, crime, suicide, poverty, truancy, cheating, disrespect for authority. They all need attention. Beneath everything, though, is the need for a discipleship reformation of the Christian church. What single activity would have the greatest impact on all those problems 20 years from now? Discipling men today. &NMLB How will discipling men today affect our culture in the future? Daily Reading: Daniel 2:24-3:30, 1 Peter 4:75:14, Psalm 119:81-96, Proverbs 28:15-16
Fri/Sat/Sun—November 27, 28, 29 • A “Man Code”
q Monday—November 30 • Weekly Worship, Weekly Renewal Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. 2 Corinthians 5:11 When you make discipling men your portal priority, men will notice. As a matter of fact, they are already noticing a lot more about your church than you think. Just as your church has an unspoken— but well-known—dress code, it also has an unspoken “man code.” The man code is the environment your church creates for men. Within a few weeks after beginning to attend, a man understands what it means to be a man in this church. Just like with the dress code, this impression isn’t explicitly stated. Men soak it in from the atmosphere. What impression does your church give about the importance of men? How would you complete this statement: “Men are ___________ here”? “Important”? “Tolerated”? “Needed”? “Leaders”? “Supposed to do the hard work but leave the thinking to the women”? These are some of the answers we’ve actually received from church leaders. Since it’s not explicitly stated, exactly how do men figure out the “man code” of your church? They look for challenge, and that can be spelled out in ways such as: •• They follow strong leaders. Men should be able to look up to visible leaders in the congregation, saying, “I want to be like that.” •• They read the bulletin, looking for evidence that their involvement matters.
•• They look at the décor. If it’s overtly “feminine,” they don’t feel welcome. •• They listen for humor. When men see that everything doesn’t have to be “prim and proper,” they sense that they can fit in. But humor at the expense of men sends the wrong message. •• They listen for “man friendly” music that talks about the adventure of following Christ and seeing His Kingdom become reality. Making discipleship your portal priority puts first things first. It encourages you to always focus on discipling men’s hearts instead of correcting their behavior. Making sure your man code makes men feel welcome increases the likelihood they’ll hang around long enough for your ministry to make an impact on their lives. Men want to give their lives to something bigger than themselves. Your church needs to present God’s call in an authentic way so men see it for what it really is. &NMLB What is the “man code” of your church or ministry? How would you fill in this blank: “Men are _________________ here”? Daily Reading: Daniel 4:1-6:28, 2 Peter 1:1-3:18, Psalm 119:97-152, Proverbs 28:17-22
A man heads to church on Sunday morning with his family, and they argue on the way. As he gets out of the car he puts on his smile, walks into the building, sits in his regular seat and says, “Okay Pastor, here I am. Fill me or amaze me.” So the pastor preaches, the congregation sings, and by the time the service is over he feels a little life coming back into him. His spiritual tank is almost full, and he’s ready to begin his week. But then by Monday evening he’s down to three-quarters of a tank. After the problems of Tuesday and Wednesday, he’s half empty. Then Thursday and Friday come and drain almost every remaining ounce of fuel.
By the time he pulls into church again on Sunday, he’s running on fumes. His problem is shared by more than 70 percent of American men. He doesn’t worship nearly enough to keep his spiritual tank full. It’s a universal law—the frequency of our worship will determine the state of our renewal. :MIMBS Talk to the men in your church about some practical steps they can take to increase the frequency and effectiveness of their worship life. Daily Reading: Daniel 7:1-28, 1 John 1:1-10, Psalm 119:153-176, Proverbs 28:23-24
Tuesday—December 1 • Biblical Worship Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. John 4:23
When Jesus met the woman at the well, He said this about worship, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). To worship God in spirit is to worship Him with all our heart, our emotions— something men are often reluctant to do. That’s what we call doxology. To worship God in truth is to worship Him in orthodoxy; to pay homage to Him with our mind, our intellect. Taken together, worshipping God involves our whole being. J. I. Packer says that worship involves “all that respect which man owes and gives to His maker. It is all our direct communion with God—invocation, adoration,
meditation, faith, praise, prayer, receiving instruction from His word both public and private.” To genuinely worship God is to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It’s the giving of all that we have and all that’s within us in adoration and praise to our Father. :MIMBS What do you think worshiping God with your emotions would look like? Using King David as an example, write down some practical things you can do to worship God in spirit. Daily Reading: Daniel 8:1-27, 1 John 2:1-17, Psalm 120:1-7, Proverbs 28:25-26
Wednesday—December 2 • A Picture of Worship We want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. Daniel 3:18
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three men whose spiritual tanks were continually filled to the brim. When King Nebuchadnezzar told them to worship an idol or be thrown into the fiery furnace, their response was clear and immediate. “We’re not going to worship you or your idol because our God is going to save us. But even if he doesn’t, O King, we will not bow and worship you.” Why were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego able to stand up to the idolatrous king? Because they were so completely committed to a day-by-day, moment-bymoment relationship with God that they refused to worship anyone or anything else,
even if it cost them their lives. Consider some of our modern-day idols: Entertainment. Money. Power. Fame. One of the things that happens in continuous worship of God is that you gain continuous renewal from God—giving you the strength to refrain from giving your heart or your mind to anything else. :MIMBS What are some of the idols that intrude on your worship? Talk to some other men about these things. How have idols affected their worship of God? Daily Reading: Daniel 9:1-11:1, 1 John 2:18-3:6, Psalm 121:1-8, Proverbs 28:27-28
Thursday—December 3 • A Bigger God, a Smaller You As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways. Isaiah 55:9
When I became a Christian, I knew that God was bigger than I was. I knew He was higher than me. I just didn’t think He was that much higher. But when you begin to study God and learn more about Him, the higher and higher He seems to get. In fact, it seems there are no limits to how high and holy God is. Then one day you look around and you realize, “I’m not really as big of a deal as I once thought I was.” Your own estimate of yourself goes down. When you worship the Lord, He just keeps getting bigger, and you just keep getting smaller—not in the sense of human
dignity, but in comparison to Him. The more we know Him, the more there is to know. The way we get to this state of being hot instead of lukewarm is to bring ourselves into a state of constant, continuous worship. That’s what leads to constant, continuous renewal. :MIMBS How constant and continual is your worship life? Evaluate this concept with some other men in your church and, if necessary, make changes. Daily Reading: Daniel 11:2-35, 1 John 3:7-24, Psalm 122:1-9, Proverbs 29:1
Fri/Sat/Sun—December 4, 5, 6 • Suggestions for Worship To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness. Ecclesiastes 2:26
Here are ten practical suggestions for developing a continuous worship experience. •• Prepare: Before you get out of bed in the morning, prepare yourself for the day. Turn your thoughts to God and maybe pray for a moment or two. •• Contemplate God’s Creation: By contemplating the majesty of God’s creation, you can be led into reverence and awe for who He is and what He’s done. •• Study the Bible: The Bible is God’s special revelation of Himself. Be intentional about studying His Word, and allow Him to speak to you through it. •• Pray: Instead of saying, “I wonder if I should go to that party tonight” or “I wonder if I should buy that television,” ask God about it. Most people have running conversations with themselves. Why not have them with God? •• Read: You can always find new thoughts about God by reading the Bible. But you can also do it by reading the “new” thoughts of other authors. •• Listen to Music: Music has a way of inspiring you to worship and praise God. Listen to good Christian music every chance you get. •• Write: Keep a journal when you study the Bible, or just to track your thoughts. These are often some of the most relevant truths because they deal directly with your life.
•• Worship In Public: Assembling together with believers is crucial to our spiritual growth. There’s something unique about what you receive when you attend church that you can’t get any other way. •• Worship With Family: As husbands and fathers, we are called to lead our families in worship. That includes attending church together, but it’s also a good idea to have at least weekly Bible study and worship with your family.
•• Worship at Work: There are several ways to do this, including sharing your faith when an opportunity arises. But you can also preach Christ simply by being the best employee you can be—doing your work heartily, as unto the Lord. How can you take the experience of worshiping God into everything you do today? Instead of worshiping Him on a weekly basis, think about how you might be able to do it on a continuous basis. :MIMBS Sit down with the men in your group and have them pick one or two of these 10 areas where they could use some improvement. Write down your ideas and hold one another accountable. Daily Reading: Daniel 11:36-Hosea 5:15, 1 John 4:1-2 John 1:13, Psalm 123:1-125:5, Proverbs 29:2-11
Monday—December 7 • A Place Called Burnout
And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:28 (nkjv) A man pulled into the carwash, and before he could make it through, the alarm went off and the wash shut down. With a car in front of him and a line of cars behind, there was nowhere for him to go. Sometimes we get stuck, too—trapped somewhere between where we’ve already been and where we’d like to go. It’s a place called “burnout,” and plenty of men find themselves there. How can you tell if you’re one of them? Look for signs like anger, self-pity, fatigue, fear, apathy, and depression. You may feel these emotions from time to time. But if several of them show up at once, you could be experiencing burnout.
Tuesday—December 8 •
Often burnout comes from attempting things for which we are not equipped. God has given you several gifts, and one primary gift. Your task is to find yours and use it. If it’s teaching, teach. If it’s administration, administrate. Using your gift increases your emotional energy. Attempting things for which you are not gifted pulls you down. : MGIE Have you identified your primary gift? Are you using it? How can you help other men find and use theirs? Daily Reading: Hosea 6:1-9:17, 3 John 1:1-14, Psalm 126:1-6, Proverbs 29:12-14
Be Encouraged Today
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32 (nkjv) John had always lived a moral life. He was an ethical man. In his early twenties, he gave his life to Christ. It was the right thing to do. After marrying his high school sweetheart, John began working extremely hard at his job, his marriage, and his church. He was diligent, conscientious, principled. He pushed himself to the limit, and after years of this frantic pace he teetered on the edge of a complete breakdown. And then he fell. One of the primary causes of burnout is a legalistic mindset. John applied the world’s performance-based system to his Christian life. If only he had known the truth, he could have avoided his eventual demise. Be encouraged today. You don’t have to earn God’s love. You’re already loved. Freedom comes when we learn to obey
God, not to earn His approval because we know we already have it. : MGIE Make a list of the men you know who are working themselves to the bone to earn something God has already given them. Begin to pray for ways to explain to them the difference between obedience and legalism. Daily Reading: Hosea 10:1-14:9, Jude 1:125, Psalm 127:1-5, Proverbs 29:15-17
Wednesday—December 9 • Your Spiritual Dashboard I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. Psalm 6:6 (nkjv)
Lots of men look at the dashboard of their lives and see only two gauges: the spiritual and the physical. So when their “engine” isn’t running smoothly, those are the only two areas they inspect. If everything is working well spiritually—devotions, prayer, church involvement—they move on to the physical. And if they’re exercising, eating well and getting plenty of rest, they find themselves in a real quandary. Something is wrong, but they have no idea what it is. Here’s the problem. The gauge that’s in the red—the emotional gauge—has gone unchecked, largely because it has gone unnoticed. If you’ve ever experienced emotional
burnout, you’re in good company. Moses. Elijah. Job. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, found himself in emotional turmoil more than once. How do you get the engine back in working condition? First, check the emotional gauge. Next, do what David did. Cry out to the Lord, repent if necessary, and then wait on Him to renew your strength. : MGIE How’s your emotional gauge running? Study the life of David closely to see how his experiences can help some of the men you know. Daily Reading: Joel 1:1-3:21, Revelation 1:1-20, Psalm 128:1-6, Proverbs 29:18
Thursday—December 10 • Patience or Permission? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not. Romans 6:1 (nkjv)
At some point, all of us will endure a crisis. A job will be lost. A life will be taken. A child will rebel. In this fallen world, burnout often comes to men who haven’t brought it on themselves through willful disobedience. But sometimes we also mistake God’s patience for God’s permission. We sin, and we don’t get in trouble. So we sin again. Eventually, the day of reckoning comes. It’s called burnout. When we turn our liberty in Christ into license—when we distort God’s grace— burnout is inevitable. It’s the unavoidable consequence of intentional sin. And in that sense, burnout can be a blessing, because sometimes it’s the only way God can get our attention.
Give yourself a good once-over and see if you’re suffering from self-inflicted burnout. If so, do what David did. Repent, and ask God to create a clean heart within you. (See Psalm 51:10.) It’s okay to get knocked off your feet so long as you land on your knees. : MGIE In what areas, if any, have you turned liberty into license? Are there warning signs? Ask God to search your heart, and repent of anything He reveals to you. Daily Reading: Amos 1:1-3:15, Revelation 2:117, Psalm 129:1-8, Proverbs 29:19-20
Fri/Sat/Sun—December 11, 12, 13 Causes, Symptoms and Cures for Burnout Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29 (nkjv)
It’s almost inevitable that you will experience emotional burnout at some point. Let’s review some of the causes and symptoms of burnout and then take a look at a few potential cures. Causes: Ignorance of God’s intended purpose for us leads men to burnout. If we don’t know God’s specific plan, we’ll spend an inordinate amount of time doing things He never asked us to do—things for which we are often hopelessly ill-equipped. Using our primary gift will increase our emotional energy instead of depleting it. Misunderstanding Christian liberty also leads to burnout. The result is two extreme forms of abuse—licentiousness or legalism. The first confuses God’s patience with God’s permission. The second thinks it has to earn God’s love. Both are destructive. Both rob us of our joy. And both lead to burnout. Symptoms: Wondering if you’re burnt out? Look for signs like anger, self-pity, fatigue, fear, apathy, and depression. You may feel these emotions from time to time. But if several of them show up at once, you could be experiencing burnout. Other potential warning signs include boredom, irritability, stress, sleeplessness, and loss of interest in physical appearance. Cures: Burnout is often God’s way of getting our attention and drawing us back into right relationship with Him. Here are four steps you can take to move beyond burnout… First, build margin into your life. Many of us commit to a 120-percent lifestyle and then wonder why the burden feels so heavy. Second, make some friends. Good friends. A man without strong male relationships is a burnout waiting to happen. We need people we trust to help us decompress.
Third, serve God by serving somebody. If you aren’t serving it means you’re preoccupied with yourself. Older men, if you’re at a place in life where you’re secure only to find that you’re bored, go serve somebody. Younger men, don’t make the same mistake as some of your elders. Go serve somebody now. Finally, schedule time to have “moments.” Sit in a hammock and stare at the sky. Watch a family of ducks on a lake. Get away from it all, even for five minutes. You have no idea how much emotional energy that can put back into your soul. : MGIE Do you know someone who is experiencing any of the symptoms of burnout? When you talk to the Lord next, ask Him to show you how you can help that person claw his way out of it. Daily Reading: Amos 4:1-9:15, Obadiah 1:1-21, Revelation 2:18–4:11, Psalm 130:1-132:18, Proverbs 29:21-25
Monday—December 14 • In His Presence Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 (kjv)
Recently, I was sitting in our backyard before dawn, gazing into a sky arrayed with countless blinking stars, seeking a greater sense of God’s presence in my life. He seemed far, far away. I concentrated on casting all earthly distractions and cares at the foot of the cross. I tried to quiet myself. Soon I turned my attention to my immediate surroundings. The sleeping lawn chairs, the napping picnic table, the snoring trees, and the grass soaked in early morning dew all seemed somehow more “present.” My mind swirled at the thought that in the silent cube of space right before me, all of the day’s news and sounds were traveling in waves from radio, television, and cellular
phones. I was reminded that the Holy Spirit of God, too, was in that space. He is omnipresent. Then, after forty-five minutes, it happened. I could “feel” the presence of God. It was not that God came suddenly. No, it was clear He had been there all along. Rather, it was I who had suddenly become conscious of His presence. 3 ALM 33 Can you think of a time that you were aware of God being present with you? What was it like? Allow yourself some time this week to listen to God. Daily Reading: Jonah 1:1-411, Revelation 5:114; Psalm 133:1-13, Proverbs 29:26-27
Tuesday—December 15 • To Be or Not To Be Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling. Zechariah 2:13
Men love tasks. By this I mean that given the choice between “doing” something for God or simply “being” with God, most men will choose doing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But we often see men who have for decades overemphasized their “doings.” Maybe they fulfilled their dream or maybe not, but they come to a point of losing their passion for God. One man described it like running into a wall of molasses. Whenever something is overemphasized, something else is necessarily underemphasized. Because of the breakneck pace of our virtual reality, real time and online culture many men today have a vacuum in their soul for beauty, peace, quiet, solitude, and rest. Unfortunately, you can’t fill this vacuum
in the same way you would quench your thirst. If it was that simple you could take a long drink of Jesus and be back to normal. Instead, this deficiency is like a flabby body that is out of shape. One round of exercise does not a healthy body make. In the same way, to bring a flabby soul back into shape requires regular exercise over an extended time. 3 ALM 33 Make a quick list of your activities this week. Are the majority of them “doing” things? Make it a priority to “be” sometime this week. Share with your small group the impact this has on you. Daily Reading: Micah 1:1-4:13, Revelation 6:117, Psalm 134:1-3, Proverbs 30:1-4
Wednesday—December 16 • Great Is Our God! God’s works are so great, worth a lifetime of study—endless enjoyment! Psalm 111:2 (The Message)
One day I experienced a unique connection with God while twisting my brain over what every child has pondered: gravity. In the early hour before dawn I was in my backyard gazing into the twinkling lights. I was sitting in a favorite chair perched atop a huge globe 25,000 miles in circumference spinning at 1,000 miles per hour. Though traveling 1,000 mph, if you jump up you land in the same place. Why is that? If a plane travels with the spin of the earth at 500 miles per hour, why doesn’t the plane go 1,500 miles per hour, or does it? Or, if the plane goes against the earth’s rotation, why doesn’t the plane go backwards 500 miles per hour, or does it? Or,
if you hovered in a helicopter, why doesn’t the earth disappear beneath you at 1,000 miles per hour? The effect on me was simple. Notwithstanding Einstein’s explanation, I broke out in exultation and praise to God for the mysteries and excellence of His creation. It was, for me, a moment that released me to the rest of my day. 3 ALM 43 Is journaling a part of your quiet time? As you journal this week, meditate on the awesome nature of God and His creation. Give God a moment of your praise and adoration. Daily Reading: Micah 5:1-7:20, Revelation 7:117, Psalm 135:1-21, Proverbs 30:5-6
Thursday—December 17 • Restore My Soul God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:24 (The Message)
One morning I was sitting in my office at home writing on my computer. A vague, ambiguous feeling that something isn’t quite right, kept nudging at that membrane which divides conscious from subconscious thoughts. I paused to see if I could coax the thought to poke through. We live on a lake with lots of wildlife, especially osprey, ducks, and herons. Suddenly, it dawned on me. Because of the whir made by the computer’s fan motor, I couldn’t hear the osprey screeching, the ducks quacking, or the herons squawking anymore. Frankly, I’m not willing to give up my technology, but it is somehow a sad price
Fri/Sat/Sun—December 18, 19, 20 • Moment of Humility And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find. It’s common knowledge that God goes against the willful proud; God gives grace to the willing humble. James 4:6 (The Message)
Sensing the presence of God remains one of the most frequent concerns we hear. “The moment of humility” is an idea that came to me one morning as I was seeking a greater sense of God’s presence for my own life. I pray it will open you to the possibility of more intimacy with the One who loves us. One idea to “sense the presence of God” is to set aside some time each day to be with Him until you experience “the moment of humility.” The moment of humility is an instant of personal, existential experience with the living Lord. This moment comes from considering two things—our own mortality and the awesome nature of God— and more so the latter. We contemplate God through prayer, Bible reading, singing, journaling our thoughts, or meditation upon the wonders of creation. We say, “I will not yield to any ordinary day. I will stay with God until by contemplating Him I am struck with a moment of awe, of transcendence, of being overwhelmed, of sensing a deep gratitude, of a desire to praise and worship.” 3 ALM 43
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the Universe displayed. Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. —Words and music by Carl G. Boberg and R.J. Hughes When was the last time you sang or shouted to God from your heart? Maybe as you are alone this week you can worship God out loud. Tell Him how great He is. Sing through an old hymn or a worship song in the car, in the shower, or in the elevator (by yourself). Daily Reading: Habakkuk 1:1-Haggai 2:23, Revelation 9:1-11:19, Psalm 137:1-139:24, Proverbs 30:10-16
to pay. I’m praying they will come out with louder birds! Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The pleasures of technology are as much a gift from God as a quiet beach. On the other hand, we need to strike a balance between our pace and our peace. We need times to restore our souls. 3 ALM 43 How can you use email this week to encourage or connect with someone? Can you take fifteen minutes off one day this week to be quiet in God’s creation? Both can restore the soul. Daily Reading: Nahum 1:1-3:19, Revelation 8:113, Psalm 136:1-26, Proverbs 30:7-9
Monday—December 21 • Hope for a Sinful World Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough. Matthew 13:33, nlv
Some of you are familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point. In that book he demonstrates that social change often follows the patterns of an epidemic. There will be a place where a group of people take on a new idea, new clothing or behavior, and as that begins to catch on with other people it spreads and spreads and spreads. Much like the way a virus would spread. In Matthew 13, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to the spread of, in this case not a virus, but yeast through dough. What Jesus said here, is that the Kingdom of God is like the yeast, an agent that multiplies and
spreads throughout the ‘dough.’ The birth of Christ started something that could be likened to an epidemic. Christmas was really the beginning of a revolution. If you think about what the world was like before Jesus came, it was a world of darkness and sin and despair. Jesus breaks in and begins a new dawn and new era. He brings hope into a sinful world. MIMBS Describe what life was like before Christ’s birth. What changes came about because of His coming to earth as a baby in Bethlehem? Daily Reading: Zechariah 1:1-21, Revelation 12:1-17, Psalm 140:1-13, Proverbs 30:17
Tuesday—December 22 • The Revolution Begins
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36 This revolution that Jesus started hits at the very key part of who we are as men. One thing that happens when we have this revolution in our lives is we realize that Jesus’ incarnation gives us a new direction. How many of you like being lost? Is that a fun experience? Looking at your watch, trying to get your cell phone to work, hoping someone will pick up and tell you how to get there? It’s no fun to be lost. The reality is that without Jesus, every man is lost. I don’t mean that in just a spiritual sense but in the literal as well. We do not know the direction we should go. We see this all around us every day. We see guys hurdling toward different goals and dreams that they think will satisfy. It doesn’t ever seem to really work. We are directionless without Christ. But the Scriptures teach us that all of us
q For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. II Corinthians 5:21, nlv God could have sent Jesus as a conquering king or some glorious person. But He didn’t... He became a baby. He became flesh, like one of us so He could be accepted. He did this so we would understand and receive Him, take Him in and have Him live among us. He lived with us and was a part of us. In 2 Corinthians 5 it says that He who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf. Here is Jesus, the perfect man. Yet He takes on the sin of humanity to absorb it on our behalf; to be one of us, to dwell among us, to live for us and to die for us. Jesus infects a sinful world with a cure for the disease—the only cure for the disease. He began a revolution in that manger.
The start of the kingdom of God becomes a reality on earth. John the Baptist would later go on to say that the kingdom of God has come. It is among you. What did John mean? He meant that eternity had broken into a sinful world. Real power for living had broken into a sinful world. Wherever Jesus went there was a bubble of the kingdom of God. People were healed, lepers cleansed, blind men saw, and the dead were raised to life. He was starting a revolution. MIMBS Why was it so important that Christ came to earth as a baby? What does that mean to you? Daily Reading: Zechariah 2:1-3:10, Revelation 13:1-18, Psalm 141:1-10, Proverbs 30:18-20
Wednesday—December 23 • Changing Directions
like sheep have gone astray. That each one of us turns to our own ways. Our only hope of being found is in Christ. Our only hope of success and satisfaction is by following Him and doing His will. When Christ was born in Bethlehem, He changed the direction of many lives. The focus of Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise men’s lives changed forever. He changes lives today. MIMBS How has your life changed since you came to know the Savior? Is there someone in your life that needs Jesus’ new direction? Ask God to show you how you might be able to share Christ’s love with that person during this Christmas season. Daily Reading: Zechariah 4:1-5:11, Revelation 14:1-20, Psalm 142:1-7, Proverbs 30:21-23
Thursday—December 24 • The Power of Christmas For nothing is impossible with God Luke 1:37
Along with direction, Christ gives us a new power. One of the things that is really tough for men is to be powerless. What happens when you have a problem? You want to fix it. That is the American way: I have a problem...I can fix it. And yet all of us deal with something in our lives that we just can’t fix. We fool ourselves into thinking we can fix things or control situations in our lives. Situations like job loss, cancer, divorce, and death remind us that we are powerless. No man wants to be a slave or to believe that your life is determined by the will of someone else and that you can’t do anything on your own. The reality is that many people look at Christianity that way. Ironically it is the opposite. Without the
power of Christ and the revolution He brought in our lives, we are slaves to our own desires. We are slaves to our inadequacies, our fears and our insecurities. The power of Christ comes and gives us a new life where we don’t have to be afraid anymore. We have a hope now that is different that allows us to see real life change. Change from the inside out. Christ’s birth brought us life-changing power. MIMBS In what area of life are you feeling powerless? Is there something in your life that you need to surrender to Christ to know the power only He can give? Daily Reading: Zechariah 6:1-7:14, Revelation 15:1-8, Psalm 143:1-12, Proverbs 30:24-28
Fri/Sat/Sun—December 25, 27, 28 • A New Destiny
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches. Matthew 13:32, nlv Most of us, when we are honest, have a hard time figuring out why we are going through the motions of every day. Jobs. Exercise. Relationships. Yardwork. The money is good and a nice house is better than a dump. I guess that is what it is all about. But that doesn’t satisfy a man’s heart. We were made for so much more than that. We were made to join Christ in the Revolution. He promises that we have a part in that, and one day we will be with Him forever. He talks about it in John. All the Father has given me will come to me and no one will be able to take them out of my Father’s hands. We have a secure destiny. We have a place that we know we are headed if we join this revolution of Christ. That is one of the things our hearts long for as men. You may be at the end of your rope and you think about all this Merry Christmas stuff and you feel like saying Bah Humbug. There is hope to be found in the revolution, there is hope to be found in what Christ began at Christmas.
Monday—December 28 • The Humbling Truth
Jesus talks about how the kingdom of God starts small but becomes a plant so big that birds can build their nests in it. The idea is that what He began in that manger in Bethlehem was going to spread and grow and spread and grow and spread and grow. Almost like the yeast or almost like an infection. Infection of the kingdom of God in little tiny cells in little tiny bubbles that begin to grow and multiply and transfer, time and time again. Our role is to join that revolution. We are carriers of the kingdom of God in a sinful world. A man’s heart’s desire is to be a participant in the revolution. We carry this hope to our families, our workplace, our neighbors and our world. MIMBS
One evening I was washing my face to get ready for bed, and I started laughing. My wife Patsy, who was reading in bed, called out, “What’s so funny?” I walked from the bathroom to the bedroom. Patsy started chuckling. As I had lathered up my face, I forgot to take off my glasses. When she was done laughing, Patsy said (this is a true story), “That’s nothing! This morning I was trying to balance our checkbook, but I couldn’t get the calculator to work. Finally, I looked down and realized I had been punching numbers into the portable phone.” After we regained some composure we had to admit that we weren’t what we used to be. Whether you are going through a
How has the revolution of Christmas affected your life? How is Christ using you to bring hope to others?
Our dreams change as we interact with opportunities, get blocked, and adjust to a changing environment. Paul had a dream. After a successful mission trip through Asia, he wanted to return to strengthen the work. Mr. Dream, meet Mr. Reality. Planning his second trip to the region, Paul wanted to take Barnabas again, but it didn’t work out, so he took Silas instead. He wanted to go into Asia, but he was blocked. Next he tried to go to Bithynia (a part of present-day Turkey), but he couldn’t go there either. Finally, the doors opened up for him to go to Macedonia (present-day Greece), a place it had never occurred to him to visit. The result of all these dream changes was that two traveling teams went instead of
Daily Reading: Zechariah 8:1-11:17, Revelation 16:1-18:24, Psalm 144:1-146:10, Proverbs 30:29-33
stressful time, have a mild case of “mid-life slump” or find yourself in an all-out crisis, you’re normal. Don’t worry too much if you make mistakes you wouldn’t normally make. While we do need to deal with issues raised by getting older or an imbalanced lifestyle, our task together is to rely on the Lord, and let His power rest and reign in you. More important than what we can do is what He has done and can do. &SHMM, 16–17 How can you view life on the lighter side, and rely on the Lord? Daily Reading: Zechariah 12:1-13:9, Revelation 19:1-21, Psalm 147:1-20, Proverbs 31:1-7
Tuesday—December 29 • Changed Plans “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 one (Barnabas went in a different direction with another man), Europe received the gospel, many new churches were started that would not have otherwise begun, and many new converts came to faith. Nothing Paul wanted or expected turned out the way he had planned. Yet everything turned out exactly the way God wanted. It didn’t turn out like Paul dreamed; it turned out better. Because God is good, your life will not turn out like you planned. &SHMM, 28–30 Because God is good, your dreams will be transformed into His plan. Your life will turn out better. Do you agree or disagree, and why? Daily Reading: Zechariah 14:1-21, Revelation 20:1-15, Psalm 148:1-14, Proverbs 31:8-9
Wednesday—December 30 • Haste Not, Waste Not Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 29:20
One evening Patsy and I went to see the movie Sense and Sensibility. We arrived at the theater plenty early, but Patsy surprised me when she said, “The movie isn’t posted on the marquee. It looks like that movie isn’t playing here.” One fortunate advantage of maturing is that we’re not so quick to make fools of ourselves. If I had still been in my twenties or thirties my immediate response would have been, “Well, I don’t care what the marquee says, I know I’m right.” And then I would have argued with the ticket clerk that there must be some kind of mistake. If I had still been between forty and fifty I would have toned it down and said, “Well, I think I’m right...but I could be wrong.” By then I was willing to confess, at least privately, that I occasionally made mistakes. Instead, since I am beyond fifty-five, I gave my now standard answer, “Well, I’m probably wrong...but I could be
right!” Just then I remembered the movie was actually playing at a different theater about two blocks away. Since we had been early we hot-footed it over there with time to spare. Recently, after I shared this story, a man who had hit sixty said if it had been him, his response would have been, “Okay. I know I’m wrong. Now if I can just remember why!” And then a man in his seventies told me he would say, “Who cares?!” &SHMM, 43 Are you usually hasty in your thoughts about circumstances before knowing all the facts? What would it look like for you to take on an attitude of humility in your job and relationships? Daily Reading: Malachi 1:1-2:17, Revelation 21:1-27, Psalm 149:1-9, Proverbs 31:10-24
Thursday— December 31 • God Is Forever Good Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Psalm 90:2
Charlie has two precious children. After graduation from college their oldest, a boy, became engaged. Though Charlie is a psychiatrist by profession, he is also an ordained minister. So he performed the wedding ceremony for his son and the bride. Before the bride and groom entered the church, Charlie stood before those assembled to extend a welcome. He paused, as though searching for what to say next, then said, “Where did the time go?” Whether changing jobs, moving to a new city or watching a child grow into an adult, while the seasons of life change we must cope with our own emotions— alternating surges of salty tears and robust
laughter, sadness and happiness, regret and joy, disappointment and satisfaction, fear and hope, confidence and anxiety. You can rest in the assurance that God has orchestrated your life and he will never say oops! What happens may not be how you would have scripted your five-year plan, but God is forever good. &SHMM, 53–54 What things in your life have turned out differently than you planned, but good, because of God’s plan? What aspect of your life is passing you by? What can you do about it? Daily Reading: Malachi 3:1-4:6, Revelation 22:1-21, Psalm 150:1-6, Proverbs 31:25-31