‘Inny’ or ‘Outty’?

Are you a man of faith?

I love that question! It can be a risky one to ask, but at the same time – it can be a great conversation starter. Why? Because it’s a loaded question.

We have all heard it said that there are two topics of conversation we should not engage in while attending a social gathering – Politics and Religion. On the surface, ‘Are you a man of faith?’ clearly sounds like one of those ‘religious’ questions. However, although it tends to be the context in which many of us respond to that question – ‘FAITH IS MORE THAN JUST A THEOLOGICAL TERM’ . Truth be told, there are many non-religious (unchurched) people who demonstrate tremendous levels of faith and at the same time, there are many within the Church who live unfaithful lifestyles.

Faith is not a verb – it is a noun. It is not an action – it demands an action.

Faith is the term we apply to our actions when we arrive at those points in our journey through life where we find ourselves at the precipice of our knowledge, where we stand on the rim of uncertainty with our toes being taunted by the forever invisible, ever present, always intimidating ‘unknown’ and we continue to walk believing that when we step out, one of two things is going to happen – We will have solid ground to walk on or we will learn to fly.

Perhaps you’ve seen the Indiana Jones movie where Indie has to step off the edge to find an invisible path across a precipice. He knows the path is there because he can see the path continuing on the other side of the void. At first he’s hesitant and has to be willing to have faith and lean in to take that first step.

Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”~ Martin Luther King Junior

From my experience, success, victory, breakthrough, freedom, ______________ (You fill in the blank), often happens when you just lean into it. Our natural instinct is to hesitate, to dip a toe in, but this often leads to inaction. We sit back, deliberate, reflect, procrastinate, and take up navel gazing and thumb twiddling instead.

The “What if…?” scripts begin to play, our confidence fades, our commitment wavers and before we know it – we are back peddling instead of leaning in and running toward our future with confidence and courage.

Look guys, this is embarrassing to admit, but I have my own collection of navel lint. It has been harvested over the years in seasons of my life immediately after stepping out in faith only to crash and burn. Those experiences, as you can well imagine, have a tendency to steal your courage, to make you hesitant, to cause you to pull-back when you should lean in.

I learned a valuable lesson from those crash and burn moments, however. I learned that great faith in the wrong things does not keep me on solid ground nor does it teach me how to fly. I crashed when I chose to put my faith in money, man, and material things. They were not dependable or trustworthy and disappeared when I needed them most.

If that’s where you’re at, I want to offer you another alternative today. I want to give you another option in whom you can choose to place your trust. I personally believe it is the only option worthy of consideration and that option is Jesus Christ and His teachings.

Don’t just take my word for it – investigate for yourself. Regardless of whether you are already a member of the Christian community or you don’t currently attend church, read the Bible, or even believe in the existence of God, I invite you to lean in and evaluate your faith.

  • In what or in whom do you trust?
  • How has that been working out for you?
  • Do you have an ‘inny’ or an ‘outty’?

Simply be willing to re-evaluate your life with an open mind and honest heart. Get a Bible and start to read the Gospel of John in the New Testament followed by The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Apply what Jesus teaches to your life and see for yourself how the journey unfolds even if you (like Indiana Jones) can’t clearly see the pathway in front of you.

Here’s what leaning in means…

  • Be willing to explore the unknown
  • Be open to opportunities and possibilities
  • Start moving towards applying what you have read
  • Take one step at a time and notice how it impacts your life.

You are a man of faith. The question is – will the source of your faith keep you walking on solid ground, teach you to fly, or fail you in your time of need?

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8

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NFL – A Lesson In Life?

At the very end of his post on NFL.com for October  3, 2011, way down at the bottom, after all the game highlights from the weekend, after all the observations about winners and losers, after weighing in on bad officiating, bad play calling, bad clock management, Chris Carter’s ‘dumb’ comments, The Lions 82% chance of making the playoffs, Romo trashing, and the ‘Philly-melt’, sportswriter Michael Lombardi took a moment to acknowledge the loss of his friend –  former Broncos and Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger who died last Friday having lost in OT his courageous battle with an opponent named ‘cancer’.

In his tribute to Mike Heimerdinger, Michael Lombardi wrote,” the NFL not only lost an outstanding man, but many of us lost a great friend. Dinger was a “man’s man.” He understood the value of friendships and was a close friend to many.”

“I am sad”, he said, “to say good-bye to Dinger. In the world of football, it is hard to find honest and uniquely caring people. Dinger was both and he will be missed.”

Football coaching legend, Vince Lombardi, observed that the quality of a person’s life, is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence”, regardless of their chosen profession – whether it be football, business, politics, government, or what have you.

Vince also said this, “After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been place on the dresser, and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live,”

 

Mike Heimerdinger appears to have been a quality guy who operated with a level of excellence significantly surpassing that obtained by those whose lives he touched.  His honesty and compassion when combined with the value he placed on friendship gave him the ability to not just ‘touch’ the lives of those around him but leave a lasting impression in the process. Dinger left an imprint on his part of the world.  His words and his actions will continue to influence those who knew him even in his absence.

 

Truth be told –that last statement can be said about every man.  We will all enter eternity having spoken words and performed actions that will continue to influence the lives of those who knew us.  Long after we play our last play, score our last big sale, build our last house, buy our last car, write our last computer program, assemble our last widget, long after our workplaces are empty and the lights have been turned off, long after all the pomp and fanfare have faded – our influence – good or bad – on the lives of those who called us ‘friend’ will be, as Vince Lombardi said, “the enduring thing”.

 

Who are the three most influential people in your life?  Is their friendship having a positive or negative impact on your life?

 

How about you – what kind of friend have you become?  Are you a man whose honesty, integrity, and compassion for others are having a positive impact on the world around you?

 

“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” – Charles Spurgeon

 

If you died tomorrow – what would your friends say about you?  Seriously!  Not sure? I dare you to ask them.  It might just change your world…

 

Live ‘In-Season’

I am writing from my kitchen table this morning, drinking my morning coffee from a 35-year-old ceramic coffee mug I purchased at the Fort Gordon PX (post exchange) in Augusta Georgia while gazing out my patio door at the autumn landscape here in ‘Upstate’ New York. Both are vivid reminders of the realities of this thing we call  – life.

The bright gold ring on the lip of the mug is dull and faded.  In many places, it is no more – rubbed off by repeated cleanings over the years.  The glazing is no longer pristine – it has that crackled look now.  The logo is faded. What was once jet black is now gray.  The orange of the US Army Signal Corps flags are now only a memory.  all that remains is the dark green color on the fatigues of the caricature known as ‘half-watt’.  It too, like the leaves on the trees in my back yard,  is no longer the same green it was in a different season.

That’s how life is – it’s a repetitive on going cycle of transition from season to season.  The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament portion of the Christian Bible writes, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” .  He then goes on to give a list of  examples to illustrate what he means by that statement.  One of the things he points out  is that there is a  ‘time to keep and a time to throw away’ (Eccl 3:6).

Nothing lasts forever.  Even marriage by design has a predefined end – ’til death do us part’.  Everything has a life-cycle.  We are born and we will die, between those two events there are a variety of activities we must learn to manage appropriately and they too have their own seasons.

In the Spring season, we clean out the leftovers and make room for the ‘new’ things, we gather up our seed and we plant.  In the Summer, we guard, nurture, and protect what we have planted.  We water, fertilize, and prune what we have growing.  Fall is harvest time!  We gather the fruit of our labor and fill the storehouse in preparation for what lies ahead.  And with Winter, everything dies.  Winter is not a season of productivity – it is a season of repair, rebuilding, reviewing the successes and failures of the past year, and tweaking your plan for the future.

Not only must we  learn to recognize the seasons of our life, we must learn to embrace them as well.  What about you – are your activities in line with the season you are in right now?  Are you sowing when you should be tending?  Are you tending when it is clearly time to harvest?  Are you ignoring the reality of being in a winter season frustrated with your career, your marriage, your friendships but unwilling to invest what is required to make the repairs?

I have purchased and been given literally dozens of coffee mugs over the years, very few of them remain in my cupboard.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like them, it wasn’t that there was a problem with them.  I am sure that someone somewhere is sitting this morning sipping their coffee from one of those mugs and it has become a real ‘keeper’ in their life.

I have a few people in my life who over the years have become ‘keepers’ too.   They are the ones who always see my cup half-full when all I can see is my cup half-empty.  They are the ones who help me live ‘in-season’.

Post a comment.  I’d love to hear about what season you’re in and who the mugs are in your life.


			

Gouge It Out!

And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.  Matthew 18:9 


Gentlemen, this instruction came from the mouth of Jesus Christ himself over twenty centuries ago.  Twenty centuries prior – over two thousand years – before Playboy, Hustler,  and Penthouse magazines, XXX-rated videos, and PPV Movies-on-Demand combined to create a pornography industry that in 2006 had an estimated  gross revenues of $97B world-wide ($13B US) – Jesus recognized that what men spent their time looking at was not always good.

  • Every second of the day, 28,000 people are viewing pornographic material on the internet.
  • Every second – 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines.
  • Every second – $3,075 is being spent on pornography.
  • Every 39 minutes: a new pornographic video is being created in the United States.

It’s big business. The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined.

  • Pornographic websites  –  4.2 million (12%)
  • Pornographic web pages – 420 million
  • Pornographic Search Engine Requests -68 million (25%)
  • Internet Users Who view Porn – (42.7%)

Who’s Participating? Pretty much, everybody…

  • Largest Consumers of Internet Porn  are 35-44 years old  (26%)
  • 2nd Largest Consumers of Internet Porn are 25-34 years old (20%)
  • 3rd Largest Consumers of Internet Porn are 18-24 years old (14%)
  • 4th Largest Consumers of Internet Porn are 45-54 years old (21%)

In a recent survey 47% of Christians admitted that pornography is a problem in their home!    That quite simply means that if pornography is not a problem you are dealing with in your home – there is a high probability that it is an  issue in the life of your closest friend.  There is also a high probability that one or both of you have either lied to the other or simply avoided this topic all together.

NEWSFLASH #1:  Men have secrets!  Steven Arterburn, Author of Every Man’s Battle and The Secrets Men Keep spells out for us, the bottom line reality about our little secrets (which he insists  you and I already know)   –  “the majority of the time our little secrets are held out of fear –  the fear of embarrassment, shame, guilt, loss of respect, loss of stature, repercussions and the like.  In other words, most men keep secrets for all the wrong reasons, understandable reasons, but wrong none the less.” 

What about you – what secrets are you hiding?  If your answer is none – GET REAL!  Stop the charade!  Every man has secrets, some of us more than others.  Like it or not, they are part of our male makeup.

NEWSFLASH #2:  As a male, you are visually stimulated.  Perhaps you don’t want to admit it publicly (yet another little secret) but every marketing expert worth their paycheck knows it and they exploit it.  Sex sells!   Buy the car – get the half-naked girl,  wear designer cloths – you become a chick magnet.  Buy undergarments from Victoria’s Secret and help your overweight, out of shape spouse be instantly transformed into the perfectly designed bigger than life, anorexic super-model plastered on your TV (silicone implants not included).

What? Don’t pretend you don’t know  what I’m talkin’ about!  It’s the commercial you take your time turning your eyes away from, the one where it takes you like ‘forever’ to hit the channel button on the remote, the one you don’t have enough respect for your wife to get up and leave the room for when it comes on.  If you still don’t know what I’m talking about, ask your wife or girlfriend – I’m sure they know and they would be quite happy to help you pluck your eye out the next time it comes on!

Sexually provocative stimulation saturates your world – TV commercials, billboards, buses, subway trains, taxi cabs, internet sites – all designed to assault you with sensual images.  Yes, it is impossible to avoid such temptations…. BUT, it is not impossible to rise above them.

You CAN control your thought life.  You CAN control what your eyes see, and you CAN escape the trap of sexual immorality!  I know guys who are winning this battle.  Here are some of the resources they have used to break the bondage of sexual addiction:

http://www.XXXChurch.org,   http://www.X3Watch.com,   http://www.SettingCaptivesFree.com

As a last resort, you may find this site extremely helpful:  http://eyepatches.com


Hurt people hurt people!

Don’t allow your wounds to transform you into someone you are not.” – Paulo Coelho

That quote is a smack in the face of reality here in my small Upstate New York community these days . Two young sisters(ages 3 and 10)  were murdered, not by a stranger, but by their own father this past Labor Day weekend before he turned the gun on himself.

The family was too distraught to be interviewed on TV so, we heard the all to cliché feedback from the neighbor who was absolutely astonished that this man could be capable of such a thing.  ‘He seemed like a very nice man.  Very soft-spoken and  easy-going’ she said. ‘And the girls were just beautiful and well-behaved ‘ 

Her description of her young neighbors was, I am sure,  at some point,  fairly accurate – it just wasn’t current.  Why?  Because,  she also said that his wife had recently taken her daughter and moved out of the house back in with her parents. It is my experience that a man in that situation is rarely ever ‘soft-spoken‘ and ‘easy-going‘.  And, she also indicated that he had not been home for an extended period of time.  At some point between her last contact and the gruesome discovery of three dead bodies in a tent by a campground owner, another seemingly well-adjusted “Mr. Nice Guy”  took a detour into the dark side of his soul.

We are told by investigators that this young man shot his two daughters multiple times while they were asleep in a tent near Lake George before turning the gun on himself.  For many who knew him and for some of us who will observe this tragedy from a distance we will struggle to understand how he could have ever sought such a violent solution to his situation.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I am not defending this young man’s actions.  This young man left this world a murderer and there is no explanation that can be given to justify what he has done. None – period!

At the same time,  we need to realize that each and every one of us has that same potential to act out in similar horrific ways.  Every one of us – even you!  Wounds transform us into someone we are not. Left untreated, we become infected with bitterness and void of forgiveness.  Without intervention, our perspective becomes tainted, our thinking becomes illogical, and our actions become irrational.

Oswald Chambers writes, “Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ, and go into the irresistible future with him.”  Tragedies such as this cause me to pause and examine myself.  They give me reason to get up and go look in the mirror.  Not just any mirror, but that special mirror that reflects the image of the ‘internal’ me. What about you?  When’s the last time you took a look inside yourself?  Don’t let your wounds transform you into something you are not – let Christ transform you into who God designed you to be!

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