Posts in category Life’s trials

What makes a hero?



VillageHutsWhat makes a hero? What makes one man stand out above another?

Let me tell you a story of two brothers, Herbert and James. Raised in a godly home with two other siblings, they came to Christ at a young age. In their 20s, each young man committed himself to a life of Christian service. In fact both of them ended up following a call to the South American mission field — Bert to the central part of the continent, followed a few years later by Jim to the north.

That’s where their paths diverged, not just geographically, but in just about every way imaginable.

You see, missionary work is hard. It’s not for the faint of heart. Living among people of a different language and culture, with different customs and values, requires a lot. Add to that the hardships, long stretches away from family and friends, and the threat of illness and danger, and it’s a wonder that anyone lasts for long. The best Bible and missions training — which each man had — is often not enough to prepare you for what you will face on the field.

Despite the best of intentions and the best of preparation, Jim lasted less than a week at the place where he felt God called him to serve. Not even close to enough time to learn the language and culture, much less share the gospel and raise up a local gathering of believers.

Bert, on the other hand, went on to serve 62 years on the same foreign mission field. With his wife Colleen, they planted more than 170 churches in Peru before he passed away on that very mission field at age 87.

So which one is the hero, James or Bert? It depends on how you define hero?

Do a Google search for Herbert Elliot; you won’t find a Wikipedia page. The results you do find are generally from obscure or low-traffic websites or blogs.

Nothing like the media attention Bert’s younger brother Jim Elliot and his four co-laborers received when they were martyred by the very Auca tribesmen they came to reach for Christ. The five men were only five days on the ground near the tribal village in early January, 1956 before being killed. Before the month was out, Life magazine’s 10-page spread let the world know about the men and their sacrifice, and the wives and children left behind.

Both Jim and Bert followed God’s call to give their lives on their respective mission fields. God used them both, but in very different ways. Because of their heroism, countless people came to know the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. Jim never planted a church as he had hoped to do, but his wife Elisabeth and Rachel Saint (sister of another of the men killed) continued the work by returning to the Auca tribe to tell the people there about the grace and mercy of God, and about how Jesus laid down his life so that others might live.

When his brother died, Bert was on furlough. During that time, he did some soul searching, trying to understand why God doesn’t protect all those who commit their lives to his service. It was during that time that God gave Bert the spiritual insight that became the motivation for his remaining years of service in Peru. “It’s in dying that we’re born to eternal life. It’s not maintaining our lives, but giving our lives,” that is God’s purpose in our serving.

Bert wasn’t the only person inspired to heroism by Jim Elliot. In the years following Jim’s death, countless men and women gave their lives to Christ and committed their lives to foreign mission service because of the conviction of Bert’s younger brother. Through Jim Elliot’s sacrifice and immortal words they recognized the eternal significance of a life lived for God.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

God doesn’t call all of us to be heroes, only to be faithful. But a life fully given to Him is always a heroic thing. How He chooses to use us will vary as greatly as it did for Jim and Bert, but in the end, He will be glorified, others will be impacted, and we will be changed.

Bert had many decades to reflect on why God chose to use him the way he did, and Jim in a totally different way.

“While my brother Jim was like a comet streaking across the sky which caught the attention of those on earth, God chose [me] to serve in a different capacity as one of the many dim stars from earth’s viewpoint — stars which are countless in the vast universe.  There are many who consistently shine as lights where God has put them but never achieve the recognition that has come to Jim Elliot and the other four Christian martyrs at that time.  But God chooses to use both a few streaking comets and the many stars!”

Whether you shine brightly like a comet before the world like Jim did that one day in Ecuador 1956, or rise and fall like a dim star, night after night for 22,000 nights in Peru like Bert, remember that heroism isn’t just for our brief days in this life, but for life eternal.

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” – Daniel 12:3

(HT: Randy Alcorn and Trevin Wax for sharing the story of Bert Elliot with the world)

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post about Jim and Bert Elliot,“What makes a hero?”  on the Stepping Up men’s blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to Jim Elliot’s widow, Elisabeth, retell the events of January 1956 when the five men became national heroes.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHow can unspeakable tragedy lead to a life of courage? Elisabeth Elliot shares her story on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistJim Ryun and his sons talk about Heroes Among Us, people who lived by principles and changed history.

“Shut up legs!”



JensVoigtAs a young boy in Germany, Jens Voight was a math prodigy who once put “Attack!” in every blank space on one of his math tests. It would be the wrong answer for everyone else but Jens got away with it. Hmmm. Perhaps he’s actually the World’s Most Interesting Man? This is how Jens has faced any situation he has had to fight through … Attack. This served him well as a professional bicycle racer. Although he never stood atop the podium in Champ-Elysees at the end of the Tour de France, he did wear the yellow jersey on two occasions. What he is probably most famous for is the phrase, “ Shut up legs!”

It was during an interview with a Danish TV station during the Tour de France when they asked him how he keeps going when his legs are burning and he’s worn out. He said, “I simply tell my legs to shut up and do what I’m telling you to do.”

There’s a spiritual parallel we can pull from that statement. There are times in our lives where we simply need to say “shut up” to whatever is distracting us and continue on with what we need to be doing. It’s especially a good phrase to use with our enemy, Satan. As blogger, Morgan Synder says, “I am staggered by the level of naïveté that most people live with regarding evil. They don’t take it seriously. They don’t live as though the Story has a Villain. Not the devil prancing about in red tights, carrying a pitchfork, but the incarnation of the very worst of every enemy you’ve met in every other story. Life is very confusing if you do not take into account that there is a Villain. You, my friend, have an Enemy.”

This Enemy of ours is out to destroy us. And destroy us by any means. He does not play fair or follow any rules other than doing anything to bring you – and your wife and kids – down. He’ll plant thoughts in your mind that are evil, lustful, and vengeful. He’ll tell you things that are untrue like, “You’re no good.” “You deserve to be punished for the sins you’ve done.” “You’re stupid and that’s why you never get promoted.” “You will never measure up.” This is just a very short list of things he’ll whisper in our ears. This is where we need to simply tell him to “Shut up!” These kinds of thoughts are against God’s plan for your life. Capture these thoughts when they come into your head, tell the Enemy he can shove it and then replace the lies with the Truth from God’s Word.

We also need to be on alert for our wife and kids. The Enemy will use the same tactics of using lies to destroy them as he does to us. The messages he sends will be different for each person but the plan of attack will be the same. He’ll tell your wife she isn’t pretty, she’s not doing a good job with the kids, or she isn’t as successful as other women. He’ll tell your kids they’re stupid because someone got a better grade or can read better than they can, that they aren’t talented because they were picked last for playground kickball or didn’t make the team, or he could go the other direction and fill them with pride, whispering how great they are, which also leads down an unhealthy path. We need to train our children to understand and be aware of the tactics of Satan, identify when he’s coming after them, and learn to fight off the attacks as they come into their minds.

As with a lot of things, if you want to win, you need a good offense in addition to a good defense. One of the best ways to be defensive against the Enemy is to be on the offensive. Stay in the Word, be connected with other believers, form a group of allies to battle with, and don’t entertain the thoughts Satan whispers in your ear. Know the truth about who you are, know what God desires of you and when your mind starts to play tricks on you with lies and temptations, be ready with a “Shut up, Satan!”

As a side note, when we are attacked and continue to give in to the temptation — whether it’s lust, alcohol, drugs, whatever — when we keep listening to and acting on the lies, it becomes a stronghold. With a stronghold, it will take more than just a simple “Shut Up” to gain victory. This is where it’s important to have allies in battle with you to fight with and for you.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading Todd Nagel’s post, “Shut up legs!”  on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklist“Is Prayer Your First Response” when facing trials and temptations. Learn how to make it a regular discipline.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHelp your children develop spiritual discipline by teaching them with “A List of Scriptures from the Proverbs.” 

STEPPass - 10-point checklistA band of brothers can help you succeed in the day-to-day. Consider leading a group of men through Stepping Up.

Face blitzes with confidence



KempRamsSackRedskinsHaving played quarterback in college and 11 years in the NFL, I’ve been blindsided a few times. And I’ve definitely been hit by some blitzes that I wasn’t ready for — on the playing field, and in life. I know you have, too. That’s the way life is. Stuff happens that you just couldn’t have expected and it kind of came out of the blue.

Not too long ago, my wife and I came back from an appointment where we heard the doctor say, “We found a mass in your wife’s intestines, and we need to deal with it. We’re not sure, but it looks like it’s cancerous.”

That was a blitz.

But you know what was fascinating? One of the things about Stacy is that she knows the truth that Jesus tells us — that we’re going to get blitzed in this world. Scripture says:

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.”[My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] (John 16:33 Amplified Bible)

I kind of view that as him saying “Hey, in this world, you’re going to get blitzed; you’re going to get shocked; there’s going to be tough stuff. But don’t panic — I’m there. I’ve gone through it. I’ve conquered it.

JeffStacyKempYou know what I saw in Stacy? The faith, and the connection to God that says, “He’s in control. I can handle this.” And she handled it fabulously. We had tears. We had fear. Maybe it would be cancer. Maybe she would pass away early. But at the same time, we knew that God had a purpose in it. And so, she was an encouragement to other people and encouraged their faith during that time.

So when they come to you, face blitzes with confidence. There’s a designer God who has seen it all before, and He loves you and has gone through a bigger blitz than you ever will. For your sake.

Gameplan:

Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (New Living Translation)

Time Out:

Is God’s peace based on circumstances or His presence? Think about this — if we placed 95% of our gratitude and hope in the perfect eternal life God has planned for those who accept Him, we’d be less panicked about stuff. If we read Scripture, we see how God has always been faithful and is sovereign over all of history, and that includes our exact situations.

Go Deep:

Read the story of Joseph and pay attention to the life and sayings of Saul who became the Apostle Paul. Are you willing to make the Bible your mental and emotional software for how to handle life?

Next time you’re in a car accident, or the market crashes, or a diagnosis like cancer hits, tell yourself the truth that God is good, in control, and cares for you, no matter the outcome.

Don’t panic. Pray for Jesus’ peace. Ask God to teach you about His sovereignty.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6 (New Living Translation).

This post originally appeared on Jeff Kemp’s Facing the Blitz blog © 2015.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Face Blitzes with Confidence” by Jeff Kemp on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistJeff  shares personal wisdom and advice about succeeding through life’s blitzes in his book, Facing the Blitz

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGet Jeff Kemp’s Facing the Blitz video devotional blog posts delivered to your inbox each Monday.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistBlitzes are opportunities in disguise. Hear Jeff on FamilyLife Today, then tell a friend who’s facing a blitz of his own.

Men are back, at least for today



Men are back in vogue.

At least they are today on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 attack.

Fourteen years ago, a lot of everyday guys became instant heroes. They didn’t set off that day to be heroes, they just responded with courage in the flash of a moment on a day that was anything but everyday.

Some of those guys, like the first responders in New York City, were trained to do heroic things. They thought of their actions that day as nothing more than just doing their jobs. Other men were military personnel, but not the heroic kind on the front lines of battle. These were guys who had desk jobs, whose heroism was thrust on them when the Pentagon came under siege. Other guys were just businessmen who were flying as part of their job, until their job became confronting the face of evil in the skies over Pennsylvania.

In every instance, each man stepped up by putting aside his fear and personal safety for the well-being of those around him.

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote about these men in a column a few days after the 9/11 attacks. It wasn’t specific men she was writing about, but the innate character of men that may hide itself in times of safety, but shows itself the most heroic in the face of catastrophe.

You didn’t have to be a fireman to be one of the manly men of Sept. 11. Those businessmen on flight 93, which was supposed to hit Washington, the businessmen who didn’t live by their hands or their backs but who found out what was happening to their country, said goodbye to the people they loved, snapped the cell phone shut and said, “Let’s roll.” Those were tough men, the ones who forced that plane down in Pennsylvania. They were tough, brave guys.

It’s easy to venerate these guys when you see what they did on September 11, 2001. But would we have felt the same way about them on September 10? No, we probably wouldn’t have even noticed them. Even the firefighters.

One segment of the Stepping Up video series features these members of the New York Fire Department. Just looking at these guys on the video and hearing them talk, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about them.

YouTube Preview Image

“When we talk about heroes—and that’s typically always discussed—I don’t think that anyone who is currently working that was down at 9/11 in any capacity views themselves in that light.  The heroes are the ones that didn’t actually come home; we were just doing our job.”

Truth is, though, there was no difference between the ones who came home and the ones who didn’t. Both groups showed courage. Both stepped up. Both were heroes, it’s just easier to recognize it in the ones whose heroism took the form of the ultimate sacrifice.

It doesn’t take a 9/11 to be a hero or even to do courageous things. It’s only the circumstances that bring it out. These firefighters probably showed the same courage on the 10th and 12th as they did on 9/11. And there are other men around the country that we will never know about who showed just as much courage on those days. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important,” said Ambrose Redmoon.

So whether your actions earn you the title of hero or whether they’re never even noticed at all, do the things that a man does: stand for righteousness, live for others, and keep the big picture in focus. Remember that today’s everyday man is often tomorrow’s hero.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading the post “Men are back, at least for today” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistFor Brian and Mel Birdwell, the heroics began after the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Listen to the broadcasts.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistOne of Dennis Rainey’s favorite things to ask men is “What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistGrab a group of guys to explore together the Stepping Up video series and what makes up courageous manhood.

True leadership to aspire to



Jeff Kemp with 49ers Coach Bill Walsh

Jeff Kemp with 49ers Coach Bill Walsh

On Saturday nights before NFL games, most teams watch a bit of film of their opponent to sharpen their minds for the next day. My 49ers coach, Bill Walsh, added a twist: he showed a highlight clip of our team the game before that week, so long as we won or competed admirably. On a big run by the running back, Bill would narrate the play, giving special emphasis to a key block.

“Gentlemen, look at our left guard Guy McIntyre. Watch his footwork and his speed pulling across the formation to lay out, with his head on the correct side of that linebacker that he blocks. This is perfection. It’s a great effort by a great San Francisco 49er. I look forward to seeing you men play at this level tomorrow.”

Man! How do you think Guy felt after that? How did we as buddies feel? How much would you want to be the guy to make the plays that made the highlight film the next week?

Bill had a way of lifting our view of ourselves from average to elite, from athlete to intellectual, from winner to champion. This is the kind of true leadership I aspire to, and so can you.

To husbands, dads, managers, and Little League coaches: make a mental highlight reel; describe the character, the effort, the kindness, or the sacrifice of someone on your team. You can help someone face their blitz, reach their heart, and fill their tank.

©2015. Adapted from Facing Your Blitz weekly video encouragement, and from the book, Facing the Blitz, by Jeff Kemp.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “True leadership to aspire to” by Jeff Kemp on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistGet these devotional encouragements weekly in video format from Jeff Kemp’s Facing Your Blitz Youtube page.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistFor more encouragement on turning trials into triumphs, get Jeff’s book, Facing the Blitz, from the FamilyLife online store.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistEvery day this week, text, email or speak to your your wife, child or friend about a thing they’ve done well.

Can you be proud of a prodigal?



One of the hardest things a father can face is when his child walks away from the family or the faith. But in the midst of helplessness, there is hope. This post is from the Help for Hurting Parents email list, and originally appeared on Proud of a Prodigal? – James Banks.com. Encouraging Prayer site. 

ProdigalCan you be proud of a prodigal?

That depends, doesn’t it? Your son or daughter has made some choices you know you’re not proud of. But what about when they make the right ones?

When you’re the parent of a prodigal you learn to look at life a little differently. Cari and I have a phrase we use frequently. When we’ve made it through 24 hours without a “prodigal incident” and our children have made good choices, one of us inevitably says, “Today was a good day.” Parenting a prodigal makes you grateful for small victories. And sometimes victories that may not seem like much can be large indeed.

Recently our son celebrated his 21st birthday substance-free. That’s an accomplishment for anyone in a culture that practically programs kids to abuse the moment their odometer clicks. But for someone who’s struggled with substance abuse, it’s huge.

We were out to dinner when the waitress discovered it was “his day.”

“You should drink!” she urged through a thick Ukrainian accent. Our son just smiled.

“I’ve done enough of that in my life already,” he responded.  “Besides, I get too crazy when I drink.”

As his Dad, I can’t tell you how much those words meant to me. If you had been living in our home over the years you’d understand. Think of it like this. Imagine watching your son run a big race. You see him stumble and fall out of the blocks while other runners leave him behind. Then somehow (by some kind of miracle), he rises to his feet, shakes off the fall, hits his stride, and breaks the tape.

You’d cherish that moment, wouldn’t you? You’d replay it in your mind again and again.  It’s more than just a “that’s my boy!” moment. It’s a fall-to-your-knees-and-thank-God moment you’ll remember as long as you live.

Some months before his birthday I told my son, “When you turn 21, why be like everyone else? Why don’t you do something different, and go without substances?” And he did. He made it a milestone, and I couldn’t be prouder of him for it. Not with the stuffed-shirt, pat-yourself-on-the-back-because-your-kid-made-you-look-good kind of pride, but with the healthy God-given satisfaction that looks on an achievement and lovingly sees that it is “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” has a moment where a mother defends her love for her prodigal son to his sister who hates him for his mistakes:

“Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain’t through learning—because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself ’cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right child, measure him right. Make sure you done take into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”

Your prodigal child may have chosen “hills and valleys” of his own free will. He may still be in a “far country” (Luke 15:13) and have a long way to go. But when he starts to come “to his senses” (Luke 15:17) and turn toward the Father’s house, it is a “very good” day indeed. Every step in the right direction is cause to praise “the tender mercy of our God,” who daily guides “our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

© James Banks. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Can you be proud of a prodigal?” by guest blogger James Banks on the Stepping Up blog.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead Dennis Rainey’s article, “Loving the Prodigal Child.”

 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Leslie Barner’s personal article.
“When Things Fall Apart: Seven Promises for Brokenhearted Parents.”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSubscribe to the Help for Hurting Parents blog feed. Talk together and pray together as a couple through the issues.

How to avoid moral failure



EDITOR’S NOTE: This post appeared in the blog feed for The Gospel Coalition addressed to those in ministry, but the lesson from these failed pastors is instructive to every man. How does a man protect himself from moral failure?

During my time in seminary I took a leadership course taught by the late, great Howard Hendricks. As we studied the life of David, Hendricks shared a study he conducted with a group of men in full-time ministry who had fallen into a morally disqualifying sin.

NormandyLandingAt the time, I had only been a Christian for a few years, but unfortunately the subject was all too relevant. During my early days I had witnessed several men whom I loved and respected fall into serious sinful compromise. At one point in those days, the falls came so frequently I felt as if I was on the spiritual beach of Normandy watching buddies’ lives get blown apart all around me.

Fallen Soldiers of Christ

The study examined 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period. As far as Hendricks could discern, these full-time clergy were born-again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an adulterous relationship.

After interviewing each man, Hendricks compiled four common characteristics of their lives:

  • None of the men was involved in any kind of real personal accountability.
  • Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship.
  • More than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.
  • Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

As I reflect on this study, four lessons come to mind. These are applicable for pastors, plumbers, stay-at-home moms, and anyone else who seeks to follow Christ.

1. Sin thrives in isolation.

Satan lives in the darkness and longs to keep us there. Lies live best in the darkness. That’s why when God calls us to himself, he calls us into the church.

God has created the church to be many things, including a community of people who help each other fight sin and love him. He calls us into relationships where we speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:1525), confess sins to one another (James 5:16), and love each other enough to chase after each other if we stray (Matt. 18:10-20Gal. 6:1-2James 5:19-20).

Who knows you? I mean, who really knows you? Who not only has permission, but is currently acting upon that permission to ask you penetrating questions? Are you answering those questions honestly, or are you hiding details and painting over your sin to guard your image? Do not hide from God’s gracious aid of loving relationships.

2. If you flirt with sin, you will fall into sin.

Sin’s slope is slippery. The longer you walk along the edge of the abyss, the more likely that your foot will slip. The men in the study put themselves in dangerous situations again and again. They ignored the words of Solomon, who warned his sons to “keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8).

These men did not guard their hearts, or the hearts of the people they were supposed to be protecting. Instead, they became blinded by the deceitfulness of sin (Eph. 4:22Heb. 3:13) and were led into the ditch of destruction (Matt. 15:14).

What ways are you flirting with sin? What provisions are you making for the flesh with regard to lust (Rom. 13:14)? What guards have you stepped over? What details are you hiding? What e-mails are you deleting? What search histories are you erasing?

Sin is crouching at your door (Gen. 4:7), and the tempter is looking for an opportunity to pounce (1 Pet. 5:8). How are you making his aim easier?

Flee from sin, don’t flirt with it (Gen. 39:6-12; Prov. 5-7, Rom. 6:12-132 Tim. 2:221 Pet. 2:11).

3. Pride blinds us to our weakness.

Many of us think this sort of serious sin would not happen to us, just as those fallen pastors thought. But 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Let us not forget that Samson, the strongest man in the Bible; Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible; and David, the man after God’s own heart, were all overcome by the temptations of sexual sin (Judg. 14-16; 1 Kings 11:1-8; 2 Sam. 11-12; Ps. 51). No one is above the temptation to sin in grievous ways. If you doubt, you are on your way to a great fall.

Beware! Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

4. Purity is cultivated by loving Jesus.

Somewhere along the line, each of the men in the study began to drift. Prayers became less passionate. The promises of God in his Word grew dusty. Love for Jesus became something spoken of in the past tense. The seduction of sin and enticement to sacrifice all to satisfy inner longings became too strong to resist.

But Christ is stronger. Hear these words of promise afresh:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14–16)

There is no sweeter assurance of help than Christ Jesus the Lord. He stands ready at God’s right hand to supply the grace and mercy we need.

Do not allow your hearts to grow cold toward the Lord who loves you so. Draw near to him daily, moment by moment, in hopeful expectation that he is better than any fleeting pleasure that might entice your heart. Do not seek him only in days of desperation, but seek him daily. Walk with him. Rekindle passion. Plead with him to help you. He is able to do it, and he delights to do it:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).

Come Lord Jesus, come.

© 2015 by Garrett Kell. All rights reserved.

KellGarrettGarrett Kell came to know the Lord through the witness of a friend and the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ while a student at Virginia Tech, and later received his ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary. He currently serves as Lead Pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Garrett and Carrie have four children, Eden, Haddon, Phoebe, and Graham. Follow him on Twitter.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to avoid moral failure” by guest blogger Garrett Kell on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhich one idea can you implement TODAY to keep you from wandering down the road toward moral failure?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHave you suffered a moral failure. Sam and Toni Gallucci tell about their road to redemption on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistJoin with other men to keep each other strong by going though the Stepping Up Small Group Video Series together.

Second chance manhood



When we launched the Stepping Up video series a few years ago, we had no idea what a huge impact it would make on men in homeless shelters and in prisons. Many of these men grew up not knowing what it meant to be a man, and they found themselves in hard places as adults.

BarbedWireCloudsThat’s the reason Stepping Up is making such an impact on these guys. For the first time in their lives, they’re getting a road map to manhood, and the results will make a difference for the generation coming after them.

We recently received a letter from Lynden, who’s serving time at a federal low security facility in the Northeast. Lynden gets it. Not only are the Stepping Up principles changing his life, they’re getting him excited about helping other men change their legacies. This is something to get excited about. Please pray for Lynden and men like him who are Stepping Up!

Dear Mr. Rainey, 

I’ve just completed the Stepping Up course here at [the correctional facility]. I found the course to be very helpful in showing me the extreme importance of having men in our lives to provide us with real-life examples of how life should be done. It also caused me to “look back” on my own life at how I was failed by the men in my life and, in turn, how I failed to provide the real-life example for my step-son.

I have great remorse about my actions as a father and step-father and now I am seeing the fruits of my own failures. My step-son, now 19, dropped out of high school and now has a pregnant girlfriend. They are having the baby and will be getting married, but I can see that my lack of leadership is a direct contribution to his situation. I sure would like to have that opportunity back, but we get one shot to get it right. I’m not saying that I would have to be perfect, just a good father that makes mostly good decisions.

I made many more poor decisions than good ones. I turned my back on God and embraced atheism for four years. My step-son wants no contact with me and he has no older males in his life. I fear for him. He is not saved and was raised in a semi-active LDS home.

While I know there are no “do-overs” in life, I look ahead to what the Lord has in store for me. I’m blooming where I’m planted through demonstration and proclamation of Jesus Christ. While I find it somewhat difficult to apply the principles of mentorship here in prison, I take the content of the Stepping Up course and try to apply it to my life.

My vision for the future is to start a post-prison re-entry program. The name will be 491 More Second Chances. The ministry will help men through apprenticeship and journeyman programs in construction, plumbing, electrical, renewal energy, HVAC, food service, welding, machining, and carpentry.

My first wife and I plan to remarry and pursue this endeavor together with Christ at the focal point. We want to provide free counseling and support groups for the men and their families. We’re looking to reconnect these men to their families, themselves, and most importantly, to introduce them to the King of Kings.

We both know this will be a huge task, but with God all things are possible. We’ve got a plan and we’re excited to see how the Lord is going to lay out the path before us. I’ve done too much “self-service” and I’m now serving the Lord in my life. I wish I would have known how awesome it is to be an obedient, honest, and trustworthy man of God years ago … but I didn’t. I do now and I’m not looking back, now that my hands are firmly holding to the Gospel plow!

Thank you for Stepping Up and FamilyLife.

In His Love & Service,

Lynden

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Letter used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read, “Second chance manhood” about how Stepping Up is changing lost lives and legacies.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWatch how Stepping Up impacted men at another correctional facility in this  blog post, Stepping Up as a prison ministry.”  

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistMore kids and young men today are experiencing “Father Hunger.” How can you satisfy your kids’ need?

STEPPass - 10-point checklistYou can host Stepping Up in prison or homeless ministry in your area. Or you can help others get one started.

The ONE thing to improve your marriage



This post originally appeared on the All In blog, by Square 1 Ministries.

FranklViktorOn September 25,  1942, Jewish physician Victor Frankl, his wife and parents were deported to the Nazi Theresienstadt Ghetto. Two years later Frankl and his wife Tilly were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was processed. He was moved to Kaufering, a Nazi concentration camp affiliated with Dachau concentration camp, where he arrived on October 25, 1944. There he was to spend five months working as a slave laborer. In March 1945, he was offered a move to the so-called rest-camp, Türkheim, also affiliated with Dachau. He decided to go to Türkheim, where he worked as a physician until April 27, 1945, when Frankl was liberated by the Americans.

Meanwhile, his wife Tilly was transferred from Auschwitz to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died. Frankl’s mother Elsa was killed by the Nazis in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and his brother Walter died working in a mining operation that was part of Auschwitz.

How does anyone survive such an ordeal? When asked this same question years after his imprisonment, Frankl replied –

“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose ones attitude in any given circumstance.”

How do any of us survive hard times? What about hard times in our marriage? For many of us, including myself, we just stuff our feelings deep inside our soul and hope for the best. For others, they can’t/won’t tolerate hard times, so they leave. They try to avoid them by running away.

What if we practiced the secret that Frankl and countless others have relied upon to get them through – adjusting our attitude. Do you want to know what God says is the secret to not only surviving hard times, but enjoying a marriage relationship like it was intended to be enjoyed? Sure you do …

“Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal.” Philippians 2:5-8

Jesus chose to humble himself and become a servant. Even when we didn’t deserve it (and still don’t) or appreciate it. He volunteered; he initiated; he sacrificed himself on behalf of his bride.

What about you? What about me? Is that our attitude when it comes to loving (verb) our bride? Are we ready to lay our lives down, to humble ourselves, to sacrifice anything, all for our bride … for our marriage? And all without ever demanding anything in return or any performance from our wife?

Well, that is what the Bible clearly says is the key … having the same attitude as Jesus. Remember Victor Frankl – no one else is responsible for your attitude; no one else can take it away. We (you and me) are responsible for ours. Is it like Christ’s?

Willing to die …

Rob

© 2015 by Rob Thorpe. Used with permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “The ONE thing to improve your marriage” by guest blogger Rob Thorpe of Square 1 Ministries.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat do you do when you get resistance or unfair treatment from your wife: act in kind, or respond with kindness?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead Dave Harvey’s confession, “Why Do I Act Like I Don’t Love My Wife?”  on FamilyLife.com.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistListen to Gary Thomas talk about turn the tables on the purpose for marriage on the FamilyLife Today broadcast.

Same old argument again



What happened was silly.  I was downstairs and opened a bill.  Since my wife handles our bills, I ran upstairs to discuss it with her.  I bounded into the room where she was engrossed on the computer.  She was re-watching a 600+ slide show of wedding photos to find a particular photo.  I interrupted her and when she waved me off, I did not take the clue and told her we could handle this quickly.

JeffStacyKempUnfortunately, I ignored and flustered her, causing her to lose her place and end the slide show.  She was upset and told me so.

I justified myself.

She reiterated her disappointment.

I weakly said, “Sorry.”

She explained how she felt, and the inconvenience I’d caused.

I said, “Don’t freak out.”

Things got worse. Duh!

The conflict was growing and I stood there defending myself in my heart, looking blandly at her, while thinking about how often we have this stupid disagreement.  Finally I zipped my lip and went downstairs.

When I sat in my chair I thought, That is about the 1,948th time we’ve had that exchange.

I began a conversation with God that went something like this.

God, why does that happen so much?  I meant well, but then I offended her, then I hurt her, then I made it worse.

The thought God gave me in return was this:  Jeff, you’re more upset that you had the conflict than you are that you inconvenienced her.  And you’re more upset that you had the conflict than that you hurt her feelings by defending yourself and showing no real empathy. You always want her to adjust and accept you. You ask for less of these instances of offense and conflict, but you should be asking Me to help you change. You need to want to not hurt her more than you want to not feel bad that you messed up.

Wow … That led to a very introspective and intense prayer time, and a decision.  I aimed to change so that I could be a better apologizer, be less defensive, and truly be more interested in Stacy’s feelings than my own.

I went upstairs, got down on a knee next to her, and told her I was wrong to not apologize fully at first.  I was wrong not to want to hear from her how I had inconvenienced her.  I was wrong to defend myself.  I did not care for her feelings well, and I want to.

I concluded with four things:  “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Will you please forgive me?  I want to change.”

Stacy teared up in a good way and swiftly loved me back with her forgiveness, her own apology, and a hug.

Adapted by permission from Facing the Blitz: Three Strategies for Turning Trials Into Triumphs, Copyright © 2015 by Jeff Kemp, Bethany House Publishers.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished Jeff Kemp’s post “Same old argument again” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistListen to Jeff Kemp on FamilyLife Today as he talks about “Marriage Under the Shadow of the NFL.”

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistVisit the Facing the Blitz website to download a chapter from Jeff’s book, or order a copy of the book for yourself.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistInvest in your wife and your marriage by attending a Weekend to Remember getaway.  Learn about events near you.

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