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My testimony

My Sunday School class was challenged this week to write out our personal testimonies of how we came to know and trust Christ. Here is my story:

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I was raised in a Christian home by parents who studied the Word, taught the Word, and tried their best to live by the Word. I was baptized at a young age and did all the right church things as a kid. I never ‘rejected’ my faith or challenged the reality of Christ’s work on the cross, but I stopped embracing it somewhere in my late teens. As a young adult, I was consumed with typical motivations (career, education, marriage) rather than seeking or following God. I ended up with a nice resume, a crumbling marriage and a knowledge deep within about where I went wrong.

30 years old, divorced  and depressed, I thought I could anonymously attend a local church to get some kind of emotional lift. God had a different idea. Out of no effort on my part, God led both the pastor and the music minister to seek me out, befriend me and lead me back to Him. Over the next 5 years, these two men (with very different backgrounds and testimonies) became my closest friends. Their accountability and fellowship helped my faith grew in breadth and depth.

Today at 40, I am committed to continued growth. Every day I see opportunities to live by the Spirit versus living for, or reacting out of, my flesh. I certainly make mistakes, but there’s a peace that comes from knowing and sensing God’s presence with me. It is convicting at times, confidence-building at other times, and comforting always. I am just one piece of His plan for this earth, and an important piece of His plan for my wife, my son and my community. So that’s where I am today, still seeking His help in my daily life.

When I think back on my story, I recall the weight of that anchor of shame that I used to drag around. Now, I carry only a certificate that says, “Not Guilty Anymore.”

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When our trash spills out

Despite our best intentions, we occasionally say and do things that hurt others, especially those we love most. Often times our pride and fear – the same things that usually create the mess to begin with – keep us from properly making amends.

Pride tells us our hurtful words and actions are justified and we have nothing to apologize for. Fear tells us to protect our image or we will be disrespected, dominated or deemed inadequate. The result of this pride and fear is a battle for control that only prolongs bad feelings and undermines the trust needed in a healthy relationship.

Take care to tidy up

Being the first to apologize is not a sign of weakness, nor does it mean that the other person is right. On the contrary, a sincere apology displays strength of character and true concern for the feelings and dignity of the person we’ve offended.

Scripture clearly teaches us to be humble and not hold ourselves in higher esteem than others. And as husbands and fathers, we desire to protect our families against anything that would harm them physically, emotionally and spiritually. The combination of these two qualities – humility and strength – is called meekness. It’s a quality that pleases God and helps create a safe, healthy environment for everyone involved.

The bottom line is this: Surrender your pride and apologize when you hurt someone. It shows obedience, courage, humility, love and strength.

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The season of joy?

Ah, Christmas time! Lights, presents, carols, parties – these are the fun parts of the season. But then there are the not-so-fun parts as well, like traffic, materialism, short tempers and fruitcake. The common sources of stress, like relationships, finances and schedules, all seem to go up a notch or two. And then there’s the sad fact that suicides peak this time of year.

Not to be a pessimist, but is this really the season of joy then? I mean, all things considered – the good and the bad – are we really joyful? I guess it depends on your definition of joy.

Let’s start by drawing a distinction between happiness and joy. Not the same thing. You see, happiness depends on circumstances and people. It’s temporary. Joy, on the other hand, is the confident assurance of God’s work in our lives, regardless of what’s happening around us. That’s the kind of joy Paul wrote about in his letter to the Philippians.

When Paul wrote that letter somewhere between 55 and 62AD, he was sitting in a prison, probably chained to a jailor, and facing the death penalty. If anyone had reason to feel dejected, he did. Yet this book gives us some of our most uplifting scriptures, like “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!”

After acknowledging God’s purpose for his imprisonment, Paul switches gears in chapter 2 and talks about imitating Christ’s humility. Stop and consider the subject and we discover that he had a good reason for this. There’s direct link between humility and joy.

True humility has its focus on God. It acknowledges His sovereignty and our role as His servants. It requires setting aside our agendas, our desires, even our emotions, and submitting ourselves to God’s purpose for us. If our heart’s desire is to know God, then finding ourselves where HE wants us to be is a reason to celebrate – even if the being there doesn’t feel that good.

Now bring that back to your world. Are you in a demanding job? No job at all? A relationship struggle? Financial pressure? Whether you feel it or not, God is with you! Admit that you need Him (humble yourself). Spend time with Him in prayer. Read your Bible. Do what you feel He’s leading you to do. I can tell you from experience that you’ll start to feel His presence.

And when you sense God with you (Immanuel), and you seek His help to will and to act according to His good purpose in your circumstance, you’ll get much more than a temporary pleasure or a happy feeling. You’ll find true joy!

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Our First Meeting

Having never organized something like this, I didn’t know whether to expect 2 people or 20 this morning. As it turns out, there were 7 of us along with two or three who had emailed saying they were traveling but would join next week.

It was good to meet neighbors, discuss our expectations for the group, and agree on the format we’ll use going forward. Thanks again to those who came this morning.

NEXT WEEK: Starting on the 28th, we’ll start looking at the 6 principles discussed in the short little book called The Janitor. (You can find the book on Amazon for under $6.) It’s not required reading, so don’t let that stop you from coming next week.

The first principle from the book that we’ll discuss is Recharge vs. Discharge. I’ll have some discussion items and an exercise to help us identify the activities, tasks and responsibilities that “recharge” our energy, and those that “discharge” it.

We’ll keep it casual so that everyone feels comfortable participating and offering their perspectives and experience. We may eventually decide to change where we meet since the clubhouse costs money to rent, but for now we’ll continue meeting there at 6:30 on Wednesday.

It was good meeting the guys who came this morning. I think a group like this can be beneficial in more ways than one. Join us next week!

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Straight down the middle

Imagine a bowling lane where each pin at the far end represented one of our responsibilities as men. Provide income, date our wives, spend quality time with our kids, please our boss, coach a soccer team, serve on some committee … you get the picture. Rolling a strike and meeting all of those obligations is hard enough. Now throw in things like an illness, job loss, depression, family struggle or something else and it’s like trying to bowl with one hand and pass a football with the other. Impossible, right?

But what if we use the bumpers to keep the ball from going in the gutter? And what if those bumpers could be any size we wanted, even to the point of creating a narrow track aimed at the lead pin so we’d be assured of getting a strike? Now that’s more like it!

I’m finding that there ARE bumpers available to us men, but they’re very hard to put up by ourselves. We benefit greatly from enlisting other men to help, and those other men in turn benefit from our help.

On October 21st, the men from our neighborhood will begin meeting on Wednesday mornings to install these bumpers so we fulfill our responsibilities and bowl nothing but strikes. There’s something in this for every man no matter how life is going, so make plans to be there. Meeting time is Wednesday mornings from 6:30-7:15am in the clubhouse (by the pool). Coffee and bagels will be provided.

I’ll tell you plainly that I am a Christian and that my desire is for us to explore the truth found in the Bible, specifically how it applies to our lives as men. I believe it’s the bumper that can keep our lives going straight down the middle. But don’t be scared away if you don’t understand or agree with the Christian faith. Come anyway, because the principles we’ll explore will benefit all of us, no matter where we are spiritually.

I hope to see you on Wednesday mornings from 6:30-7:15 starting October 21st!

And let us consider how we may spur one another
on toward love and good deeds. – Hebrews 10:24

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