Posts in category Accountability

Man up to Christian Grey, Fifty Shades



This is the second of three posts on what a real man should do with Fifty Shades of Grey.

On Valentine’s weekend, Fifty Shades of Grey dominated the box offices with $85 million in ticket sales, even though the movie was almost universally panned. In my first post, “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?,” I expressed concern that the main character, Christian Grey, is a pathetic role model for true manhood. Rather than respect and care for an innocent and vulnerable Anastasia Steele, he subjects her to sexual abuse and degradation to fulfill the warped desires left from his own childhood sexual abuse.

Sure, Christian Grey is a fictional character, but his influence on the culture (through Fifty Shades of Grey) is troubling. Have women lowered their standards for men so far that Christian Grey is the object of desire? Reportedly, the books and movie have a heavy following among 25-55 year old women.  But it’s also reaching our young daughters. According to IMDB (Internet Movie Database), the movie drew the highest reviews by far from girls under 18.

And just in case you’re wondering, a Barna survey found that women who identify themselves as Christians are reading the books at the same rate as the general public. It’s captivating women everywhere.

That should concern any self-respecting man.

For decades, the objectification and hyper-sexualization of women in the media has been a problem. A majority of all young women today have been exposed to pornography before age 14. As they are encountering sexual material at younger and younger ages, we appear to be reaching critical mass.

In years past, that exposure would be met with disgust. But now it’s being embraced in our culture. About half of young adult women now consider viewing pornography as an acceptable way of expressing their sexuality. One in three visitors to online porn sites are now women, and one in five women use the Internet weekly for sexual purposes.

These are our wives and our daughters who are being affected. So, as a godly man, what do you do?

1. Be a man of integrity.

Women are looking for a man to admire, not just someone to buy them off and beat any sense of high standards out of them. As a husband, you need to make it your goal to treat your wife as your greatest earthly priority. As a father, you model for both your sons and your daughters not just what real manhood is all about, but the value of women.

Pastor and author Robert Lewis defines an authentic man:

  • He rejects passivity. He doesn’t allow the enemy to distract him from reflecting the image of his Creator God, and caring for the woman and the world that have been entrusted to him.
  • He accepts responsibility. He recognizes that his wife and children are dependent on him, and he seeks to correct his mistakes rather than make others continue to suffer in the wake of his bad choices.
  • He leads courageously. He doesn’t force women to step in to fill the vacuum of leadership left by passive men. But he also recognizes that his leadership is a position of voluntary submission to Christ, who voluntarily submits Himself to the Father.
  • He expects God’s greater reward. He recognizes that Christ didn’t give in to the temptations of Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), but submitted his own desires to those of the Father so that he could redeem His bride, the church (Philippians 2:5-11).
2. Love the one you’re with.

Your wife should be the object of your desire. She longs to see in your words and actions that you are always seeking the best for her. Rather than expecting her to sign a contract listing your demands, remind her that you have made a covenant to cherish and care for her, and to love her as much as you love your own body (Ephesians 5:29).

weaker vesselScripture tells us (1 Peter 3:7) to live with our wives in an understanding way (be considerate), as a weaker vessel. That’s not a cut-down but a comparison; a compliment. I think of it as delicate vs. durable; Ellie’s demitasse china cup and saucer vs. my gunmetal grey travel mug. My wife is strong and capable (she would have made a great pioneer woman). Yet I know Ellie is created to be a responder, nurturer and empathizer. She flourishes when I treat her with honor and respect. And God reminds me that His receptivity to me is tied to how receptive I am to my wife. Strength and submission aside, we husbands need to remember that we are equal to our wives before God, as joint heirs of His grace. We need to become lifelong students of extending that grace to each other.

3. Show your daughters their strength.

Too many girls and young women today don’t realize the power they have to set the expectations in a relationship. In our sexualized culture, they are led to believe that their only real worth is as sensual creatures. They expect that by gratifying the natural desires of a man, he will come to desire her. The truth is that a woman who holds high standards for herself and the man she cares about will call him up from his basic instincts to his true calling as leader, protector, lover.

A young girl needs to know that she’s loved—by her Heavenly father and her earthly father. We daddies need to remind our daughters of their intrinsic worth to us, and especially their value to the God who created them, who knows them intimately, and who loves them unconditionally. The more they accept this, the more likely they will be to look for a man who recognizes and respects their value.

And often it’s the little things they do that begin to bring out the best in a guy. One of the things I’ve told my three girls through the years has been “Be a lady; expect a gentleman.”  Wait for him to open the door, to pull out her chair, to call for a date. Sure, she can do all those things, but in waiting, she’s offering him an opportunity to step up and to show her he values her.

If there’s a positive message in Fifty Shades of Grey it’s this: A man will give honor to a woman when she raises the bar and expects to be treated as a unique creation and not just an object of desire.

The final post in this three-part series will continue the suggestions about what you can do to challenge the image of Christian Grey  by being a real man. We’ll cover raising sons, warning women about the dangers of porn, developing intimacy with your wife, and understanding submission from God’s perspective.

© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to challenge Christian Grey and Fifty Shades” in the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistRead the original post in this series, “What’s a real man do with Fifty Shades?” and come back next week for the conclusion. 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRobert Lewis and William Hendricks share “What Every Husband Needs to Know” about ministering to his wife.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistA daughter is stronger when she has a relationship with her dad. Read “How to Really Know Your Daughter.” 

 

Sowing seeds in the souls of men



As men, we can see how many seeds are in an apple, but only God knows the number of apples in an apple seed. And only God knows the full impact that Stepping Up has made through one solitary homeless shelter in the Southeast.

Last spring, Jim Reece, the CEO of The Atlanta Mission, became convicted that he was spiritually shepherding the lives of hundreds and thousands of homeless men and women, but was not doing a good job with two men who married his daughters. So he challenged them to go through the Stepping Up 10-week men’s study with him.

RaineySUBlackBackground

The impact was so strong that he began talking to his staff about taking them and some of the men from The Atlanta Mission (one of the largest in the country) through the series. At least 125 men attended, and nearly all of them completed all 10 sessions. Jim indicated that for some of these men, this is the first thing they’ve ever finished in their entire lives. So they wanted to make a big deal of the graduation ceremony. They had a catered meal for 150 men before the ceremony. Then they heard in person from three of the men who had been speaking to them through the video series for the past 10 weeks—Paul Holderfield, Jr., Crawford Lorrits, and me.

I spoke for about 25 minutes about the first three steps of the manhood journey: boyhood, adolescence, and manhood. Then I asked Crawford to come up and speak to the men for 10 minutes about the mentoring step. Then I asked Brother Paul to come up and speak about how his dad was a patriarch and how these men should aspire to the patriarch step. What a great way to challenge men. Both Crawford and Brother Paul were in rare form and the men gave both of them standing ovations!

The Atlanta Mission created a Stepping Up Graduation Certificate, signed and displayed in a nice oak frame. We then had each man come up to receive his recognition. There were cheers, handshakes, high fives, hugs, and words from Crawford, Brother Paul, and me of how proud we were of each man.

We met men who shared incredible stories.

  • One man said his dad has been in jail his whole life and that he never met him until he was 25. His mom would go get high on drugs and leave him and his siblings for weeks. He was six at the time.
  • Another man could hardly wait to go home for Christmas.  It was the first time he had accomplished something that he had received a certificate for, and he was going to give it to his mom as a gift, because he knew she would be proud of it.
  • A father with four sons, whose wife died 12 years ago, said he’s trying to be the dad they never had.
  • Man after man told how he was separated from his wife and children by his poor choices and was determined to get his wife and family back. For each one, this was the step of responsibility he was determined to make after completing the series.
  • Some men had no wife, no children, no living relatives. No family. These men understood after going through the series that they had no person they were responsible for, and they wanted to change that.
  • A dad with four daughters felt he needed to interview his daughter’s date.

I could go on, but one last one.

If you’ve seen the tenth Stepping Up video session, you may recall how Brother Paul shared the story of his father, who as a young fireman was unwilling to shake a black man’s hand. He then talked about his father’s subsequent conversion, his life change, and then how God used him to touch thousands of African-American boys, young men, and men. It’s a great story of redemption.

Well, one of the staff members for The Mission watched that session and, pierced by the Holy Spirit, recognized that his family was just like that–filled with racism.  He repented and confessed his sin of bigotry.

Jim Reece tells me that the men haven’t stopped talking about how honored they felt that night. And I certainly felt honored to read the following in an email I received from him:

“As I look over my six years here, this night was one of the highlights of that time. To watch men who had captured a new vision of what God could do through them was so powerful.  Know how hard you fight for the family, know that Stepping Up is impacting families, not just well families but broken families, families with a chance for a new start with men who really want to be a different man.”

Whether it’s at Wrightsville Prison in Arkansas, or at The Atlanta Mission, men are men.  Broken.  Selfish.  Needing redemption that can only be found in our Savior. Regardless of their station in life, men want to discover and be the men, husbands, fathers, and grandfathers that God created them to be.

The Father has been sowing seeds lately in soil most people have passed off as barren. Only He knows the full extent of the apple harvest yet to come.

© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Sowing seeds in the souls of men” on FamilyLife’s Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistCan you think of any man who may not be stepping up because he needs someone to show him how?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistIf you’re a dad, are you “Defining the Search for Manhood” for your son? Dennis Rainey talks about it on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFind a group of men you can walk with through the 10-week Stepping Up small group video series.

Ferguson: Feeling. Thinking. Hoping.



Courage combines compassion with truth, self-examination with social justice, concern for others with a fearlessness to stand strong no matter what others may think. Benjamin Watson shows a desire to get to the root of what has been happening in Ferguson, Missouri. His heartfelt response shows his ability to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. The problems start with the sinful heart of us humans. The solution centers on the sacrificial death, forgiveness, and overcoming life of Jesus.

PHOTO COURTESTY OF Ben Liebenberg/NFL

PHOTO COURTESTY OF Ben Liebenberg/NFL

~Written by Benjamin Watson:

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED because pop culture, music, and movies glorify these types of police/citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from the safety of movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that, although I’m a law abiding citizen, I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than that of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends, and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced, and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot, and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Stepping Up: Freeing men behind bars



When Dennis Rainey wrote the book Stepping Up and when FamilyLife created the 10-week video series, everyone had the idea that it would impact men. But no one had any clue how God would choose to use these resources to impact the very young and guys many would consider the throwaways of society. The men behind bars.

I thought it was phenomenal when my son’s Boy Scout troop went through the series as a father-son activity. I was blown away seeing how hungry these young men, even boys, were to hear the message of what it means to be a man. Even at their young age they grasped it; they grasped for it. Unlike many of us grown men, they may be spared the years of struggling and failing in their quest for authentic manhood.

Recently, I saw an even more remarkable story of transformation.

A  group of men behind bars at the Wrightsville Correctional Facility in Arkansas went through the 10-week Stepping Up study. Most of these men didn’t have good male role models growing up, if any at all. God met them in a powerful way through the study to draw them to Himself and to help them get a glimpse of who He created them to be. Their testimonies are powerful.

As Dennis Rainey says in the video segment:

“I think men in prison are hungry to become real men. Maybe more so than men in the church, because they recognize how they’ve failed.

“Men—regardless of whether they’re in prison or at the top of the heap in corporate America—need other men calling them up and away from childish ways, which every man can step back into at any time in his life.”

Watch this incredible video, and see if God gives you a vision of how to use Stepping Up in creative and impactful ways.

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© 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistHopefully, you watched the video, “Stepping Up As a Prison Ministry,  taken from the Stepping Up website.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistHave you done the Stepping Up video series in a creative or unusual setting? Please comment to tell us about it!

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 as a prison ministry in your area. Or you can help others get one started.

The courage not to cut the line



The following post first appeared on the Matthew 419 blog Fishers of Men: Catch the Life You’re Called to Live.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Harris could have done what so many others would’ve.

At the bottom of a murky pond in Maryland last year, Harris was struggling for air and losing strength as his scuba diving partner, Petty Officer 1st Class James Reyher, became trapped in 150 feet of water under debris. Almost everything went wrong on the dive, reported the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. Equipment malfunctioned. Communications with sailors on the surface became garbled. According to the official report, Harris could’ve cut his line connected to Reyher and save himself.

Cut the Line

But he refused.

“Harris exhausted himself in an attempt to save Reyher,” said a military investigator in documents obtained by the Virginian-Pilot. “Both divers resisted the natural instincts of self-preservation, in order to expel his last breaths in an effort to save each other.”

The most powerful human instinct to overcome is self-preservation. It drives men and women – good ones – to do things they regret the rest of their lives when someone else had to pay a price. They may run or back away when someone needs help. They may ignore an obvious need. They may convince themselves someone else can step up and do it.

Or, they go against those instincts and become the hero even at a personal cost. In the case of Harris, a married father of two young daughters, it was the ultimate earthly price.

The cost of brotherhood

Men use the term “brother” to describe others they have no biological relation to. It comes at varying levels of sincerity. We’d like to think we’re the type of guy like Harris, choosing to stay with someone he surely considered a brother rather than leave. It’s an impossible call to make, though, unless you’ve actually been in a similar situation.

Do a search for “brotherhood” in the Bible and you’ll get a lot of responses, including:

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. ~Pro. 18:24

and …

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. ~1 Pt. 2:17

There’s a crisis among men today having a lack of brotherhood. It happens easily. We get busy with home and work and before you know it you’ve lived in the same town for years and realize you still don’t really know many guys that well.

It’s all the more reason for re-establishing the importance of brotherhood among men, especially among Christian men. With each day the importance of guys who think in a Christlike mindset becomes more crystalized. We see the alternative in the major headlines around the world.

Being a brother requires some sacrifices in time and commitment. It requires risking friendships when someone has taken a step in the wrong direction. It requires us to not cut the line in those times it would be the easiest thing to do. From the Virginia-Pilot story (italics added):

“As he watched his air supply disappear, Harris could have cut the line connecting him to Reyher. That would have freed him. But neither man ever pulled out their knives, the investigator concluded.”

One more thing about Ryan Harris: his heroics weren’t discovered until the completion of the investigation 16 months after he died. For all that time it was an extremely tragic event that claimed the lives of two military servicemen with no one knowing the real story.

That’s something else about brotherhood – it’s done in anonymity. It doesn’t grow through expected pats on the back, but simply because. It grows by doing the things others wouldn’t.

ScottBarkleyScott Barkley is a deacon at First Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga., where he maintains and writes for the men’s ministry website at Matthew419.net. He and his wife, Amy, have four children. 

 

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read the post The courage not to cut the line by guest poster Scott Barkley on the Stepping Up men’s blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAre there men who you would sacrifice your life for? Do you have men in your life who would do the same for you?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistListen to John Vawter on FamilyLife Today broadcast discuss how to have High Performance Friendships with other men.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistSeriously consider organizing a Stepping Up 10-week study, so you can begin the process of connecting with other men

 

Men are the first domino



MenDomino3

We need to have Jesus disciple us to be who He made us to be.

Then, we need to disciple men to know their identity and role as men.

Then, marriage will be men’s great interest.

Then, the family will bond, heal, and thrive.

The church will be strong.

Its work and witness will be powerful.

The weak will be protected, not exploited.

Christ will be glorified.

Christ is the first man, the ultimate man, and He is everything.

The way Christ lived as a man is how we learn to be a positive influence on others, and a catalyst for positive change as a man.  Christ forgives, defines, and empowers us.  He disciples us so we can disciple others.

Within your marriage is where you have the greatest opportunity to emulate Christ. As you bond with and love your wife, you are modeling Him who received us as a groom does his bride, faithfully loving and bringing out the best in us.

That devotion in marriage is the foundation for a strong home, where children are bolstered in their faith. That faith follows these children out of the home and into life. That faith becomes the strength of the church. And a vibrant church reaches out and cares for the weak, the lonely, the lost. It reflects the love of Christ out in the world.

Men, our world needs us, but it starts with our need for Christ and how we live that out in the closest relationships — with those in our home.

Loving our kids starts with loving their mom. If you are married, put your wife first in a Christ-like love. If you’re a dad but aren’t married to the mother of your children, you still need to respect and honor the structure that provides stability for children by honoring their mom. And by honoring the cooperative bond of parenthood.

When it comes to thriving at home, none of us are self-sufficient. We all need Christ.  I know that I drift, falter and fail unless I commit to walk with Him. To be effective as a man, each of us needs to grow in the knowledge of Christ through His word, through prayer, through obedience, and through fellowship with mentors and other men.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Jeff Kemp , “Men are the first domino,” on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistMake a list of the people in your life who need you. In what ways can you be a better influencer?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistWatch Jeff Kemp and Brian Doyle talk about the theology behind men ministering to other men.

STEPPass - 10-point checklist

Be part of the Stepping Up 10-week series study with other men, to help improve your influence.

 

 

10-point checklist for spiritual health



It seems to happen every year. A seasoned marathoner puts in a pretty impressive time, only to suffer a heart attack and die. From the outside, the runners look to be the picture of health, but often after an autopsy, it’s revealed that they have a fatal condition that’s been hiding on the inside.

Every one of us needs an occasional visit to the doctor for a checkup to make sure everything is working alright and that we don’t have an unknown serious internal condition.

The same is true with our spiritual lives. As creatures of habit, we tend to go through life on autopilot. We often miss clues that indicate that our spirit is not enjoying the good health that God created it for.

10-point checklist

Photo by Tina Vanderlaan

In the same way that the doctor puts us through a battery of tests to diagnose potential physical problems, God has given us a process of evaluating spiritual problems in our lives:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control …” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Each of these is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit’s active presence in our daily activities. Let’s look at a 10-point checklist and ask some diagnostic questions to make sure we’re healthy.

1. Love

This word for love doesn’t refer to warm feelings but to a deliberate attitude of good will and devotion to others. Love gives freely without looking at whether the other person deserves it, and it gives without expecting anything back.

Question: Am I motivated to do for others as Christ has done for me, or am I giving in order to receive something in return?

2. Joy

Unlike happiness, joy is gladness that is completely independent of the good or bad things that happen in the course of the day. In fact, joy denotes a supernatural gladness given by God’s Spirit that actually seems to show up best during hard times. This is a product of fixing your focus on God’s purposes for the events in your life rather than on the circumstances.

Question: Am I experiencing a joy of life on a regular basis, or is my happiness dependent on things going smoothly in my day?

3. Peace

It’s not the absence of turmoil, but the presence of tranquility even while in a place of chaos. It is a sense of wholeness and completeness that is content knowing that God controls the events of the day.

Question: Do I find myself frazzled by the crashing waves of turmoil in my life, or am I experiencing “the peace that passes all comprehension” (Philippians 4:6-7)?

4. Patience

Other words that describe this fruit are lenience, long-suffering, forbearance, perseverance, and steadfastness. It is the ability to endure ill treatment from life or at the hands of others without lashing out or paying back.

Question: Am I easily set off when things go wrong or people irritate me, or am I able to keep a godly perspective in the face of life’s irritations? 

5. Kindness

When kindness is at work in a man’s life, he looks for ways to adapt to meet the needs of others. It is moral goodness that overflows. It’s also the absence of malice.

Question: Is it my goal to serve others with kindness, or am I too focused on my own needs, desires, or problems to let the goodness of God overflow to others?

6. Goodness

While kindness is the soft side of good, goodness reflects the character of God. Goodness in you desires to see goodness in others and is not beyond confronting or even rebuking (as Jesus did with the money changers in the temple) for that to happen.

Question: Does my life reflect the holiness of God, and do I desire to see others experience God at a deep level in their own lives?

7. Faithfulness

A faithful man is one with real integrity. He’s someone others can look to as an example, and someone who is truly devoted to others and to Christ. Our natural self always wants to be in charge, but Spirit-controlled faithfulness is evident in the life of a man who seeks good for others and glory for God.

Question: Are there areas of hypocrisy and indifference toward others in my life, or is my life characterized by faith in Christ and faithfulness to those around me? 

8. Gentleness

Meekness is not weakness. Gentleness is not without power, it just chooses to defer to others. It forgives others, corrects with kindness, and lives in tranquility.

Question: Do I come across to others as brash and headstrong, or am I allowing the grace of God to flow through me to others?

9. Self-control

Our fleshly desires, Scripture tells us, are continually at odds with God’s Spirit and always want to be in charge. Self-control is literally releasing our grip on the fleshly desires, choosing instead to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is power focused in the right place.

Question: Are my fleshly desires controlling my life, or am I allowing the Spirit to direct me to the things that please God and serve others?

10. Walk by the Spirit

While not a fruit of the Spirit, the final item on the checkup produces all nine qualities listed above. When we follow the Spirit’s lead instead of being led by our self-focused desires, He produces the fruit.

But even when we don’t walk by the Spirit, He is the very one who convicts us that things are not in proper order in our lives.

God promises that if we are willing to admit that we have been walking our own way and ask for His forgiveness and cleansing, He will empower us through His Spirit to live above ourselves and live the abundant life for which He has created us. (I John 1:5-10)

Question: Am I actively depending on the Holy Spirit to guide me in God’s ways so I don’t get wrapped up in myself? If not, am I willing to confess to God that His ways are better than mine, and that I need the Spirit’s guidance to live above the fray?

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou’ve just finished reading the post 10-point checklist for spiritual health on the Stepping Up men’s blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhich of the nine evidences of the Spirit most reflect you? Which one(s) need to be more present in your life?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistAre you experiencing the life-changing power of Christ? Read Two Ways to Live to see where you stand.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistReflect the nature of God and his love to others. Read The Greatest Power Ever Known to get started.

The cost paid by the signers of the Declaration of Independence



Our last post detailed the convictions and courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This post shows the price many of them paid for the courage of their convictions.

signers of the declaration independence hallTheir courage and sacrifice

Strong convictions often bring about strong consequences, especially when they oppose someone addicted to power. The British military had already been acting as though it was above the law; now it would be all out war. Citizens who didn’t support the king would see suffering. They could expect to be imprisoned and have their property confiscated.

And those who led the effort to step up and break away from King George would especially face serious consequences: not just the vengeance of the British throne, but the high personal price of their unwavering commitment to the cause of freedom. Consider the fate of a number of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

George Walton of Georgia was wounded and captured in 1778 leading his state’s militia in the defense of his hometown of Savannah.

30-year old Thomas Heyward, Jr. of South Carolina signed the declaration at the great displeasure of his father, who was sympathetic to the king and told Thomas he would likely hang for the act. The two men resolved their differences before the elder Heyward died the next year. Two years later, Thomas, along with fellow South Carolina signers Edward Rutledge and Arthur Middleton, were taken prisoner in the siege of Charleston and held nearly a year to the war’s end.

Richard Stockton of New Jersey had his home overrun by the British invasion. He managed to get his family to safety, but he was captured, specifically because he signed the Declaration of Independence. He remained imprisoned for years, the last half year of which he nearly starved and froze to death. In battered health, he was released and returned to his home to find that all his furniture, crops and livestock were taken or destroyed, and his library—one of the colony’s best—was burned.

John Witherspoon of New Jersey, an active clergyman and president of the College of New Jersey (later to become Princeton), shut down and evacuated the school when British troops invaded the area. He spent most of the rest of his life rebuilding the college. Witherspoon also lost his son James in the battle of Germantown.

Thomas McKean of Delaware led an army the day after signing the Declaration to help George Washington in the defense of New York City and narrowly escaped with his life from cannon fire. In the next year he was on the run from the British, having to move his family five times.

John Hart of New Jersey was also pursued by the British. His property was invaded and looted. Two of his young children fled to relatives’ homes nearby, and Hart himself took refuge where he could in the surrounding woods and in nearby caves. He returned to his home a few months later, and a few years later he offered the fields surrounding his property as an encampment of Washington and 12,000 troops.

Lewis Morris of New York lost almost all of his property and wealth in the war, much of it within just two months of signing the Declaration of Independence. He served as a brigadier general during the war and spent nearly all his post-war days working to rebuild his property and farmlands. His frail wife was imprisoned by the British and never recovered her health.

Philip Livingston of New York was forced from residence to residence by the British armies. His first two homes became a British barracks and hospital, and the other two homes were burned to the ground. As well as the properties he lost to the enemy, he sold several others to support the colonial war effort, and died suddenly in 1778 before he could rebuild.

Lyman Hall, on the advice of General Washington, took his wife and son and fled his Georgia home for Connecticut, where he remained for two years until the war’s end. He returned to his property in Georgia, but he had lost most of what he had.

Carter Braxton of Virginia invested a large amount of his wealth in the revolutionary effort, as well as the shipping and privateering industry, which furnished the war effort with supplies. The debt that he incurred forced him to leave his estate and move to a smaller home.

Robert Morris of Pennsylvania surpassed all when it came to putting up his personal fortunes to support the war effort. Before any country or major bank was willing to extend credit to the fledgling United States, Morris was there. The $10,000 that he loaned the new government supplied Washington’s desperate troops, who went on to defeat the British at Trenton. Like Braxton, he also supported the shipping industry that delivered provisions to the soldiers and citizens. Morris never recovered his pre-war wealth, but his investment helped turn the tide of war in favor of the Americans and helped establish the United States as a nation.

signers of the declaration documentThe legacy of their actions

These were just a fourth of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. While others may not have sacrificed as much as these, each risked his personal safety, integrity, and possessions to stand for freedom from tyranny and oppose the unlawful British rule.

Despite their admirable actions, these men were not without their character flaws. Several were slaveowners. Massachusetts’ Elbridge Gerry has his name forever linked to the unethical process of gerrymandering. Benjamin Rush, the father of American medicine, was a gossip and was even caught forging an anonymous letter seeking to undermine George Washington’s leadership of the continental army. Benjamin Franklin was a playboy and given to deception.

But at a crucial moment in history, these men were willing to step up and sacrifice their personal comforts for the good of their countrymen. Like John Adams, each had doubts about the wisdom of breaking free from England and the prospects of their success. But they were committed to the ideals of equality and responsible government. It’s doubtful any of them could have imagined that the nation they birthed would still celebrate 238 years later, with fireworks and feasts.

But like Adams, they would almost certainly approve.

Next Steps

1.  Read Dennis Rainey’s article, “5 Ways Men Need to Step Up”

2. In Rainey’s book on manhood, he combines stories about courage with a strong challenge for men to step in their families.  Order Stepping Up.

3. FamilyLife’s Stepping Up website features a blog and helpful information about our exciting Stepping Up video series.

The courage of the signers of the Declaration of Independence



When you think of the Fourth of July, what words come to mind?

signers of the declaration flagHoliday? Grilling? Fireworks?

But 238 years ago, it was three different words.

Conviction. Courage. Sacrifice.

On July 4, 1776, 56 men met in Philadelphia to pass a resolution declaring their independence from England. It was anything but a picnic. What they did that day at Independence Hall would cost them greatly in the years to come. But it paved the way for a radical new way of thinking about government that would change the course of human history.

It’s not that the signers of the Declaration of Independence were against celebration. In fact, two days earlier, when 12 of the colonies had ratified the document, one of its architects penned a letter to his wife, predicting that the Second of July would be celebrated every year thereafter.

The second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.

Four days later, the Liberty Bell rang out to summon the people to the first public reading of the document. As the words were read, there were great shouts of affirmation, and great celebration following. A year later, Congress would authorize the use of fireworks as an appropriate means of celebrating the birth of a new nation.

But amidst his feelings of enthusiasm, John Adams’ words above also reflected a somber tone that was common to all who signed the Declaration of Independence. In doing so, they knew they were inviting a declaration of war by England. They knew that, as traitors, they were essentially forfeiting all their possessions to the crown. Essentially, in signing the document, they were putting bounties on their own heads.

signers of the declaration document

The Declaration of Independence (click to read)

Their convictions

But in spite of the obvious cost, they considered the impact their actions would have for the people of America. They understood from Scripture that government is a sacred trust given by God to protect the inherent rights of people created in His image. Their new document stood toe-to-toe against the prevailing governmental idea of the day — the divine right of kings, which held that, when the one on the throne spoke, it was the voice of God speaking.

The Declaration of Independence contended that King George was abusing his God-given power as leader of England and the American colonies. It was their responsibility as decent men, they stated in their document, to challenge him on this for the sake of his subjects. Benjamin Franklin himself recommended a national motto in defense of their actions.

“Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

They listed King George’s offenses against the people and against his office— 27 of them. The signers of the Declaration maintained that their continued efforts to bring their grievances before the king and his appointed  leaders had been met with indifference, if not oppression. They had no other recourse, they stated in the document, but to declare their independence from the tyrant who represented neither them nor the God who entrusted him with his position of leadership. They rejected his authority because King George had rejected His authority.

The concluding post details the personal costs paid by 13 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Freedom isn’t cheap, and it certainly wasn’t for these men.

Five generations of fathering



This post first appeared in the NoahGetsANailgun blog.

Five generations of fatheringThis is a picture of five generations of Nagels that I keep in my office. Moving left to right is my great-great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, father and on the far right is the one guy not in a coat and tie — me. The verse on the framed picture is from Proverbs 17:6b.

“The glory of a son is his father.”

I’ve been blessed with a strong Christian heritage and am at a point where I’m understanding how valuable this is and have become more and more grateful for it.

Deuteronomy 7:9 says

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.”

The generations before me have kept His commandments and have passed them on to the next generation. Now it’s my turn.

Maybe you have a similar spiritual lineage. Or it could be you’re a first generation Christian. Either way, as a dad, you now have the responsibility to teach your kids about God. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” (5-9)

Five generations of examples

Instead of giving you a list of church answers of things to do with your kids like have family devotions, pray before bed, love your wife, go to church, etc. I want to give you three things: one thing that impacted me as a young boy watching my dad and two things that go hand in hand that I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. One of my earliest childhood memories is coming into the living room and seeing my dad either reading his Bible or on his knees praying. He didn’t start his day reading the paper or figuring out what was on his work to do list, he started it by connecting with God. There’s something powerful and contagious about seeing your dad in God’s Word. I want to pass this along to my kids too.
  2. I’ve got an impressive list of things I’ve done wrong as a dad. My kids know I’m not perfect, but they also know I’ll ask forgiveness when I need to. They were driving me absolutely crazy earlier today while I was in the midst of unsuccessfully trying to fix a minor issue on an appliance and in my frustration I said some things to one of my kids that were not called for. Once the dust settled I took the child off to the side, told them what I did was wrong, didn’t make excuses, and asked them for forgiveness. Your kids know it when you mess up and they know it when you blame others, make excuses, or just flat our refuse to admit you were wrong and say you were sorry. I know people like that and honestly I want nothing to do with them. You don’t want your kids feeling that way about you. Admit when you made a mistake. Your kids will forgive you and they’ll love you even more for doing it.
  3. On the other side of that coin, I always want to be quick to forgive my kids when they ask me for forgiveness. Their view of God as Father is going to be most impacted by me, their earthly father. I don’t ever want them to think their heavenly Father won’t forgive them and that means I need to immediately accept their apology and not bring up their past infractions time and again. I have a child who continues to do the same things over and over and when they ask for forgiveness my flesh wants to respond in anger by saying something like, “I know you aren’t really sorry because you keep doing this. Until I actually see you make an effort to stop acting this way I’m not interested in hearing your apology.” Obviously this type of response will have serious affects on how they view God’s forgiveness. In that moment I have to say a quick prayer telling God how I’m feeling and ask Him to enable me to respond in a way that reflects His nature and not my flesh.

I realize this is just scratching the surface of things we can do as dads to help pass on a godly legacy to our kids. What are some things you learned from your dad, or have done as a dad yourself, to pass on the faith to your kids?

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