Posts tagged stepping up blog

10 keys to make your marriage work: advice from some experts

making your marriage last

There are a lot of stats //thrown around when it comes to marriage.  Quite honestly, we may have heard them so often that we’ve kind of become numb to them.  And you can be sure, as real as they are, we never think that we will be one of the casualties when we are standing in front of friends and family sharing those special vows.  We don’t say “I Do” thinking “It won’t (last).”

Being bombarded with numbers can make us numb to their meaning, but it’s important that we keep them in front of us.  It’s like telling people that smoke about the hazards that await them if they decide to continue.  At least they’ve been informed.  Here are the 2009 statistics from the Center for Disease Control, which houses the National Center for Health Statistics.

  • Number of marriages: 2,077,000
  • Marriage rate: 6.8 per 1,000 total population
  • Divorce rate: 3.4 per 1,000 population (44 reporting states, plus Washington, D.C.)

Here’s the key: 3.4 divorces versus 6.8 marriages.  I was pretty good at math growing up, but even those who are math-challenged see that’s a pretty high divorce rate.  How are we doing?  If no one thinks they’ll be a casualty when they wed, but millions become one year after year, what happens between “I do” and “It’s over”?

What can you do to make your marriage last?  Perhaps we would be wise to do what experts at identifying counterfeit bills do — study the real bills to identify the bad.

In an article previously published in FamilyLife’s Marriage Memo newsletter, couples who had been married 50 years or longer shared their successes and how they beat the odds of becoming a casualty to divorce.  Here are the 10 things that could help you to make your marriage work and last a lifetime:

1. You need a Savior. “We didn’t realize that it was two sinners who married each other. Two very sinful people who needed a Savior.” (Mona Sproull)

2. Stay committed to one another. “Love is not a feeling, it’s a commitment … no matter what, I will stand by your mom.” (Charles Powell)

3. Pray with your spouse.  “Rather than each of us having ourselves at the center of our thinking, there enters a willingness to let God be at the center.” (Jerry Bell)

4. Forgive one another. “All I could think of was if God could forgive me of all of my sins, who am I not to forgive my husband.” (Joan Fortin)

5. Realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect husband or perfect wife.  “Christ has given me understanding and lets me know that everyone does something wrong sometimes.” (Mattie Foy)

6. Have faith that God knows what He is doing.“A lot of people would ask me, ‘No children yet?’ And I’d say, ‘No, but I am sure having a good time telling you how to raise yours.’” (Jodie May)

7. Trust that God gives grace and direction as we trust Him. “How can a parent trust the Lord when they lose a child? It takes a lot of faith.” (Richard Long)

8. You’ll need to make compromises.“You can’t always have your way. I think that marriage should be a give and take situation.” (Nelda Davenport)

9. Be objective and take the emotion out of problem solving. “If I say something to you that’s disrespectful to you and I don’t really know it, you need to trust my heart.” (Mona Sproull)

10. Love your spouse. “The love comes from God.” (Mattie Foy)

Any of those just hit you right between the eyes?  See any patterns?  There’s probably nothing in this list that you don’t know or haven’t heard before. But when men and women who have been married more than 50 years share very similar reasons about what makes marriage work, you tend to take notes and pay attention.  Do you want your marriage to work for the long haul?  Then sit down and determine which one of these you (not your spouse) need to consider as your next step to solidifying your marriage? Now is never too late.

Are you faithful? 5 questions to consider

Many are on a career path, but few seem to be on a character path. All too frequently who we are is discarded upon the altar of ambition.

Are You Faithful?

Are you trusted by your friends? Are you reliable? Can others count on you? Do you want to know how to be an original in a culture of copycats? Do you want to be a part of a vanishing breed in today’s generation?

If so, then become a person who is faithful. You know, a person who follows through. One whom others can count on when things are rough or smooth. His word is good on the little stuff as well as the mammoth gargantuan tasks. He’s the kind of person who promised to call — and does so — on time. He said he’d do it and he did it — exactly like you asked it to be done.

Are you known as a faithful person? If you are, then here are a few of the words that can be used to describe you: trustworthy, dependable, reliable, true-blue, and responsible. All of the names are saturated with one reoccurring theme: Character. Character quietly, yet convincingly, says, “You can count on me — at any cost!”

Faithfulness. Strange, isn’t it, that such a simple thing would be in such short supply?

I’m about to step up on my soapbox — do you mind?

Being faithful with little

I sense in our society a growing feeling of “deserve a perk,” such as, “I deserve a promotion (without the process)” …  “I deserve the position, prestige, and responsibility without having to pay the price and be faithful today.”

Many are on a career path, but few seem to be on a character path. All too frequently who we are is discarded upon the altar of ambition.

Today our oatmeal is ready to eat in 60 seconds, our pictures can be developed in 60 minutes, and our house can be built in 60 days. We are a culture that is used to getting what we want instantly. We aren’t used to working patiently, or waiting on anything — even a hamburger.

Jesus taught, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a little thing is unrighteous also in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous riches, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Luke 16:11).

What we want today is the much more without the very little. We want the tip without the toil, the gain without the grind, the sweets without the sweat, the prize without the pain, and the perks without the perseverance. Today, duty, diligence, hard work, and attention to details are a rare commodity in any endeavor — whether it be at home, at work, or at church.

Could it be that we are chasing after the wrong thing? Do we want to have it our way regardless of what it costs us? Could it be that faithfulness at home is shredded by the pursuit of just one more dollar at work?

We’ve become a sloppy generation with all kinds of cover-ups for the unfaithful. Like, “It just fell through the cracks!” (Some today seem to have a pretty broad measurement of the cracks!) or, “I just forgot — are you sure the deadline was yesterday?” My favorite is “I didn’t have time.” Better stated, “Other priorities were chosen before your thing got done.”

I struggle with being faithful in little too. I missed about a half dozen deadlines in getting this article done! Confession may be good for the soul, but it’s bad for the reputation! But I’m efficient, no matter how long it takes!

Are you faithful? Some questions to consider

You might be asking, “I agree with you, but how do I know if I am viewed as a faithful person by others?” Perhaps the following questions would be good for you to consider:

  • Do others constantly have to remind you to get things done? Do you habitually forget to follow through?
  • What does your word mean to you? Is it a premium seal that secures the deal? Or is it a flimsy wrapper that can be taken off and thrown away with ease?
  • Do you return your phone calls?
  • Do your children believe you when you promise to do something with them?
  • If you promise you’ll be home, do you call if you’re going to be late? Deadlines are missed occasionally — things do derail us unexpectedly — a call or a note that the deadline is going to be missed places value on the other person’s expectation and lets them know you are responsible and can be trusted.

Maybe you are faithful — a cut above the herd, but I’ll bet you work near others who could use a double dose of faithfulness. What if suddenly we had a dramatic rash of people falling all over one another trying to be faithful in the little things in their work? Do you think excellence would be a mere myth?

What would happen in our homes if there was an epidemic of husbands and wives infected with being faithful in the little things in their relationship with each other, their children, and their parents? What if we really did do what we promised one another? What would happen to the next generation if we trained our children to be faithful in little as well as to be intelligent and athletic? Are we raising a generation of children that will embrace selfish pursuits or faithfulness? If they don’t learn to be faithful from you then what kind of leaders, workers, husbands and wives, and fathers and mothers will they make? And if you don’t teach them, who will?

And what do you think would be the impact of Christians on society if they replaced faithfulness and obedience toward God in the place of compromise and unfaithfulness? Perhaps the salt would become truly “salty” again.

But our values are all fouled up and sticky with the things the world values. Do we admire the man who is successful or the man who is faithful? Do we give awards for production or for trustworthiness? Are moms honored for slugging it out in the trenches and raising a family or do we sling a little dirt on the occupation by always talking about the women who are making it “big time” in the business world?

A movement of faithfulness

Since Jesus said that “the much more” depended upon our faithfulness, then why not join a growing number of Christians who are giving faithfulness the standing ovation it deserves. How about cheering your family members on for:

  • A faithful act that was performed when no one was apparently watching
  • For your husband who was honest in preparing your income taxes
  • A mother who is faithfully taking the time to rear the next generation (so much of her work is unseen and unappreciated by others)
  • Or a child who tells the truth instead of lying even though the consequences are painful

How do you view the details? As picky things to be ignored or that get in your way? Or as stepping stones to receiving the true riches of the kingdom?

Value. Character. Faithfulness.

As Chuck Swindoll says, “It’s never too late to start doing what is right.”

Want much more? Then do the little—faithfully.

Adapted by permission from “If You Want More, You Must be Faithful in Little,” by Dennis Rainey,, Copyright 2012, all rights reserved.

5 challenges to keep men leading well

Men Leading Well

The Bible tells many stories of good men behaving badly — single men, married men, and fathers gone mild or gone wild through compromise, lust, murder, jealousy, anger, passivity, or cowardice. Scripture paints men as they really are, hiding none of their blemishes or barbaric ways. The honesty of Scripture is one of the reasons I knew that the Bible would be the place to go to learn what a real man should be and do. I began looking through the Scriptures, focusing on passages that talk about men and manhood, and along the way, I discovered five prevailing themes about men leading well:

1. A man controls his emotions and passions

Whether single or married, a real man tames his passions. He doesn’t abuse women and children; he protects them. He keeps his hands off a woman who is not his wife, and he treats his wife with love, respect, and dignity. He keeps his eyes off pornographic images. He protects a single woman’s virginity and innocence. He’s not a jerk defined by his exploits below the waist. He’s a man with a heart, head, and conscience.

2. A man provides for his family

1 Timothy 5:8 exhorts us, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” These are strident words. When a man doesn’t work and provide for his family, he feels a sense of shame. His self-worth sinks. A man who doesn’t work, who can’t keep a job, who moves from job to job, or who refuses to assume his responsibility creates insecurity in his wife and children. Every man needs to provide for his family.

I find that most men feel a natural sense of responsibility in this area, but many don’t seem to understand that providing for their family means more than meeting physical needs. It also means taking responsibility to provide for emotional and spiritual needs. A father should train his children and prepare them to become responsible adults who know how to negotiate the swift and sometimes evil currents of culture.

3. A man protects his family

To borrow an illustration from John Piper and Wayne Grudem on the essence of masculinity: When you are lying in bed with your wife, and you hear the sound of a window being opened in your kitchen at 3:00 a.m., do you shake her awake and say, “The last time this occurred, I was the one who took our baseball bat and investigated to see if someone was breaking into our house. Now it’s your turn, sweetheart. Here’s the bat!”?

No! That’s when the man gets up.

But being a protector calls for more than ensuring physical safety. Proverbs 4:10–15 describes a father who protects his son by passing on wisdom, helping him build godly character, and teaching him to reject the lies and temptations of the world. This father is protecting not only his son but the generations to follow, as the wisdom he shares gets passed on and on.

4. A man serves and leads his family

Those two words—serve and lead—may seem like a contradiction, but they are inseparable according to Scripture.

While the apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:23 that “the husband is the head of the wife,” he quickly puts to rest any notions that this leadership allows any form of selfish male dominance. He completes the sentence with “as Christ also is the head of the church.” Then the passage goes on to say that husbands should love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (verse 25).

This paints a picture of leadership that is contrary to how the world views it. A man is called to be a servant-leader — to take responsibility for his wife and children and to put their needs ahead of his own. He is called to demonstrate selfless, sacrificial love — the type of love we see in God toward His children.

5. A man follows God’s design for true masculinity

Micah 6:8 tells us, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

The core of a man’s life should be his relationship with God. The man who walks humbly with God is motivated and empowered to step up and assume the difficult responsibilities that come his way. You see, a courageous man is never off duty.

This post was excerpted from the book, Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, © 2012 by FamilyLife Publishing. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “5 challenges to keep men leading well” by Dennis Rainey on Stepping Up men’s blog

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhich of these five traits is the most difficult for you? What could you do to make them more a part of your life?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistGet more guidance from Dennis Rainey in his book, Stepping Up, available in FamilyLife’s online store.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistFind a trusted friend to share this post with. Discuss your responses to the “Think it over” question and challenge each other.

The most courageous decision: coming to grips with what you believe (part 2)

Another decision you must make moment by moment that will mark your life as a man is this: Will you center your life (your decisions, values, and priorities) on your relationship with God and the truth of God’s Word?

I received a good lesson on this truth years ago when I went on a rock climbing trip with several colleagues. Our supervisor thought this adventure would build leadership qualities and teamwork skills in all of us. I was hoping I could learn leadership some other way because I hate heights. But no such luck. I wound up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains among the rockdomed peaks, along with several sadists called “trainers,” and eleven other guys foolish enough to be “trainees.”

We spent the first day learning basic climbing techniques, and the next morning I was told we were going to rappel off the top of a cliff. I said, “Oh, really, where is it?” They said, “Right up there.” We were standing on the floor of a valley, and I looked up fifteen hundred feet to a dome directly overhead. How are we getting up there? I wanted to know.

Well, the climb went better than I expected, and I loved the view from the top. But then I realized that getting down would be a bit more troublesome.

Rappelling is not that complicated. You back up to the edge of the cliff to the point where you can no longer stand on your feet; then you push off and let the rope hold you. Several times I inspected the area where the rope was securely fastened to bolts sunk into the rock. There were four of those bolts, and I wanted to know, What were the bolts made of? How far did they go into the rock? How long had they been there, and above all, would they hold me?

My trainers assured me they had never lost anyone before. Besides, some guys a lot bigger and heavier than me had rappelled off this precipice with no problem. In fact, one guy had gone off in a wheelchair.

All these words did little to slow down the vibration of my knocking knees, but finally I began backing off the cliff. When I came to the point where I was totally horizontal, I looked back over my shoulder (something you’re not supposed to do), and everything came clearly into focus. At that point the phrase “do or die” never seemed more relevant. I decided I had to go for it and pushed off.

And the rope held.

Did I become an enthusiastic rock climber after this? No, I haven’t done it since! But I did learn a lot about faith that day. I learned that you have to believe the rope will hold you. You have to lean against and trust yourself to the rope. And I learned that walking with God, and making Christ your Lord, is just like rappelling down a cliff. You lean back and push off with the knowledge that God is your rope. He is worthy of your trust every moment of every day.  These are the things I believe.

You see, I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts, when suddenly I realized I had better come to grips with what I believe.  And, you will need to come to grips with what you believe.  I have since moved from, in the words of Tom Skinner, the “agony of questions that I cannot answer to the reality of answers that I cannot escape,  and it’s a great relief!” It really has been a relief since I placed my trust in Jesus Christ in the summer of 1968. And it can be for you, too.

Are you man enough to face the giants in your life?

Facing the giants in your life

One of the most well-known stories of the Bible is the story about David and Goliath.  In the Stepping Up Video Series, Dennis Rainey tells the story to challenge men to step up and take the initiative in the responsibilities to which God calls them.

David was heroic and did take the initiative.  The key to this story is that David didn’t have the power to defeat Goliath on his own.  His power was in his faith — what God can do.  Are there areas in your life where you need to trust God?  Here’s a hint … they are usually the areas that cause us to worry, fret, or fear. To step up means to step into situations that require our faith to be stretched beyond our own ability.  If all we ever did was what we could do, God wouldn’t be needed. But when we see all the things around us that only God could have accomplished, isn’t it wise for us to let God do His work by stepping up and taking the initiative to tackle those giants in front of us?

Another interesting aspect of the David and Goliath story is how it is a “shadow” of what God would ultimately do through His Son, Jesus Christ.  It’s part of the overarching narrative of the Bible, which all points to God’s plan and His provision in Jesus Christ to overcome the greatest obstacle any of us can face — death.  (Matt Chandler does a great job of sharing this via The Gospel Project).

We all face “giants” in our lives, and there will be times when God does not seem to respond to our situation the same as He did David’s.  In such cases, we can easily become discouraged or angry toward God.

So it’s important to remember that God claims the ultimate victory because of Jesus Christ’s death and His redemption of mankind.


Are you man enough? 10 questions to ask your wife

man enoughFor many years, Tom Elliff and his wife, Jeannie, have taken time away from their normal routines to get away and be together. They’d have some romantic dinners and fun conversations, and generally just have a wonderful time talking about their lives. One year Tom decided to elevate the discussion and, in the process, open himself up in a way few husbands ever do. He developed a list of questions based on issues he knew were of concern to Jeannie, and then he was man enough and sprung them on her during a retreat in the Rockies:


Be the man, God’s man: Letters to my sons and to a son-in-law

Sometimes it’s helpful to see what other men have done in raising their children. How have they celebrated milestones?  What did they say when it came to THE talk?  Did they spank or not?  In this post, Dennis Rainey shares letters that he wrote to his sons and a son in-law celebrating special events in each of their lives.  This was originally posted as an article at  It’s a little long but the letters have great content and will be a great reference for you.

Dennis wrote a special poem called “Be the Man, God’s Man” to his sons Benjamin and Samuel, and his son-in-law Michael Escue.  He read the poems to Benjamin and Samuel during the rehearsal dinners before their weddings, and he presented the poem to Michael when he graduated from medical school. In response to requests from our readers, here is what Dennis wrote:

Be the man, Benjamin, God’s man
On the eve of your wedding day, July 13, 2001

God made you to be the man, Benjamin Rainey. His man.

Our journey as father and son is filled with memories from as far away as the Great Wall of China and smuggling Bibles to as near as our backyard and winter picnics, roasting s’mores, and shooting hoops. We’ve sought the trophy white tail in the pine thickets of South Arkansas and tracked an elk in the alpine meadows of Eastern Oregon. From your birth I’ve prayed that you would become the man God created you to be. It’s in that spirit that I now challenge and bless you.

When accomplishments and praise come your way, resist pride. Remember the gift Giver.

Be a humble man. God’s man.

When the world lures with lust, tempts with treasure, and entices with influence and power, turn away. Turn from the temporal to the eternal. Be a Kingdom man. Be God’s man.

When culture decays, step into the battle and be a spiritual warrior for your generation. Be a courageous man.  God’s man.

When the Father of lies attempts to deceive, instead embrace the truth. Live the truth. Let God’s Word be the surgeon of your heart. Then you’ll be a truthful man. God’s man.

When hobbies, toys, and games beckon you back to boyhood, turn away from childish things. Step up to manhood. Step into your responsibility and pain.

Remember the Savior. He was The Man. The God-man.

When you fail, be teachable.

When you fail again, don’t quit.

When you fail others, repent.

When others fail you, forgive them 7 x 70 and give grace.

Then you’ll be a mature man. God’s man.

When doubt comes and life makes no sense, remember Tom Skinner’s words: “I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts, when suddenly I realized I had better come to grips with what I believe. I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer, to the reality of answers that I cannot escape. And it’s a great relief.” Benjamin, keep coming to grips with what you believe.

Then you’ll be a faith-filled man. God’s man.

When your job as husband is more difficult than you imagined, love Marsha Kay more than you love yourself. You’ve given her a diamond and your heart. Now go for the gold.

Be a one-woman man. Be God’s man.

When the evils of the world assault your family, stand tall and guard. When the burdens of the world weigh on your family, kneel and pray. When the confusion of the world distracts your family, look to the finish line and speak the vision. Be a wise man. God’s man.

And if God blesses your life with many children (I pray He does) and more of your “self” must die each day, know that you are never more a man than when you kill “self.”

Be a selfless man. God’s man.

When life ebbs and age takes its toll, don’t step down into “retirement.” Instead step up and invest in the next generation as a mentor and a patriarch.

Finish strong, my son, and be the man. God’s man.

Never apologize for being God’s man. Dream like His man. Think like His man.

Act like His man. Love like His man.

And so, as a man still becoming God’s man, I bless you, Benjamin, as God’s man. I will stand shoulder to shoulder beside you as long as God gives me breath.

Make Godly wisdom your daily companion. Make His presence your portion and delight.

“Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed” (Psalm 112:1-2).

I love you and I’m proud to be your Dad.


Be the man, Samuel, God’s man


God made you to be the man. His man.

As a father and a son we have walked a long path together. Together we have made the delightful, memory-filled and sometimes-bumpy journey from boyhood through adolescence into manhood. I honestly feel like you have helped me grow up and become a man, God’s man. It’s been my prayer that you would become the man that God created you to be. With that spirit, I come to you today with a series of challenges and a blessing.

When others disappoint you and hurt you deeply (and they will) and you want to quit, do one of the most courageous things a real man ever does — love. Be the man, God’s man.

When life competes hard for your affections and attention, be focused on the goal.

Be the man, God’s man.

When career beckons with its addictive power and you fail repeatedly by over-scheduling, learn from your mistakes. Be the man, God’s man.

When you disappoint those closest to you, resist the urge to make an excuse or cast blame. Instead, take responsibility for your actions and ask for forgiveness.

If you do, you will be the man, God’s man.

When “self” pleads to be nurtured and fed, feed others instead. You’ll never be more of a man than when you are denying yourself for others. Be the man, God’s man.

When it seems as though failure has taken up residence in your house or life, don’t quit. Ask God for strength to press on. Be the man, God’s man.

When circumstances are overwhelming and it feels like there’s no one to help you, take His yoke upon you. His yoke is easy and light.

He’s always there to help you be the man, God’s man.

When your heart grows cold for relationships (with God, wife, children, and others) and the temptation to retreat seems reasonable, don’t retreat, don’t withdraw, don’t pull back. Pray for wisdom, step in to the pain of relationships and knit your heart to kindred spirit warriors. Ask God to keep your heart soft and help you be the man, God’s man.

When temptation and the lure of infidelity to God and spouse troll by you in the form of narcissism, materialism, or a woman, turn away from evil and do good.

Be a “brave heart” man, God’s man.

When others betray you and don’t stand with you, forgive them 7 x 70.

Even when it hurts, be the man, God’s man.

When life ebbs and old age takes its toll, resist the urge to step down into “retirement.” Instead step up and invest your life in the next generation by becoming a mentor and a patriarch. Finish strong my son, and be the man, God’s man.

Never apologize for being God’s man. Dream like His man.

Think like His man.

Act like His man. Love like His man.

And so, as a man who is very much in the process of still becoming God’s man, I bless you, Samuel, as God’s man. I commit to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as long as God gives me breath. Make Godly wisdom your daily companion.

Make His presence your portion and delight.

“Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord. Who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed” (Psalm 112:1-2).

I love you and I’m proud to be your Dad.


Be the man, Michael, God’s man

God made you to be the man. His man.

Michael, I appreciate you. You are an answer to our prayers for a godly husband for Ashley. Four years ago you asked me for my princess’ hand in marriage. You know the rest of the story: You got the princess’ hand and her family. All of her family. A lesser man might have fainted under the load of all those relationships. A statistician once told me there were over a thousand different combinations of relationships before you came … now, you know there are even more!

You and I have charted some new territory together. I’ve have never grafted a new son into our family, but you have made the whole process painless. I’ve been amazed at your servant spirit and your teachability. You’ve eagerly helped me install a garbage disposal. And you’ve been gracious to listen when I’ve called our family to stick together. It takes a man to listen to another man. God’s man.

We’ve already shared some great memories: Pizzas and béarnaise. Duck blinds and the deer woods. Ice storms and power outages. Family caravans to the farm and to Nashville. The genesis of your new family. I am looking forward to sharing many more.

And so it is on this special occasion of your graduation from medical school that I want to honor you with a charge and a blessing.

When success comes your way, as it most assuredly will do, do not let its trappings cling to you. I’ll pass on some godly advice that Bill Bright gave me when I was about your age: “Wear the cloak of materialism loosely. There is no amount of money that God won’t give to the man that doesn’t allow it to stick to his fingers.” Be a funnel, Michael, not a bucket. If you do you’ll be the man. God’s man.

When your family lets you down and your friends don’t hold you up, resist cynicism. Never forget that cynicism is a subtle form of unbelief. Remember that God is always able. Be the man. God’s man.

When it seems that chaos at home presses in, and satisfaction and accomplishment at work pull you out, stand firm against the lure of lesser loyalties. Keep on loving Ashley and be a covenant-keeping, family man. God’s man.

When it’s painful to be the man and you want to pull back, don’t. Don’t play it safe. Don’t hide. Instead, step up. Step forward. And step into the pain. If you do, you’ll be the man. God’s man.

When temptations come your way, and they will, guard your heart with diligence. A man is never more a man than when his heart is yielded to God and protected by His word. Be the man. God’s man.

When pride tempts, put self to death. Be the man. God’s man.

When children test your patience, when children test your love, when children test your resolve, pass these tests by being the man. God’s man.

When the Rainey family is late. Again. Be patient with us, again. Be the man. God’s man.

When life ebbs and old age takes its toll, resist the urge to step down into “retirement.” Instead step up and invest your life in the next generation by becoming a mentor and a patriarch. Finish strong my son, and be the man, God’s man.

As I close, there are eight things that God requires:

To love your God supremely,

To guard your heart securely,

To serve your fellow man patiently,

To speak the truth steadfastly,

To protect your family securely,

To live uprightly and resolutely,

To seek His kingdom and His righteousness unreservedly,

And do battle for your generation’s soul courageously.

No, Michael, you won’t ever be my son-in-law. You have become a valued and respected son. And so as one who has watched you love, lead, and serve Ashley and our family over the past four years, I bless you as a man. I bless you as a man who is indeed God’s man.

Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Psalm 112:1-2

I love you and I’m proud to be your Dad.

A real call of duty to fight real modern warfare

REAL Men fight the REAL Call of Duty

The REAL Call of Duty

Sometimes the simplest gesture can make a big statement.  I remember the weekend when I first brought my Merry (who eventually became my wife) to meet my family in Oregon.  My parents took us to a college basketball game, and it was raining hard when we arrived at the arena.

We had only one umbrella, so Dad dropped us off so we wouldn’t get wet. That really impressed Merry — she thought if my father had that type of servant attitude, some of it must have rubbed off on me.

And though I confess that I haven’t always followed my father’s example, I did learn much from him about being a husband, a father, and a man.  I’m fortunate to have a father who modeled how to take responsibility — he provided well for his family, he loved my mother, he was involved in his church and community, and he worked hard at helping raise my sister and me.  He was consistent, stable, and wise — and he was there for us.

In fact, he still is.

The REAL Modern Warfare

I thought of my father as I was reading about men who won’t grow up.   A number of media reports over time have focused on what some call the “Peter Pan Syndrome” — the growing phenomenon of young men who drift from job to job, live with parents or with a crew of buddies, and focus much of their energy on drinking, carousing, watching sports, playing video games (like Call of Duty® and Modern Warfare®), and chasing women.

It’s as if these young men have developed a warped idea of manhood.  They think becoming a man means getting to do whatever they want.  So for them, starting a family means giving up their cherished independence.  With that type of mindset, you wonder what type of husbands and fathers they will be when they finally set aside their childish ways.

But my father showed me that being a man means taking responsibility — for your choices, for your family, for your community, and for the next generation — this is our REAL call of duty as men — taking responsibility when we would rather be passive.  And a key step to becoming that man is to eventually find a wife and raise a family.  This is hard to do if we are still at home, playing video games and not working.

Our sinful, human nature craves independence; we want to go our own way, and avoid the responsibilities of commitment to God and to other people.  As Isaiah 53:6 tells us, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”  In other words, we are prone to be men who won’t grow up.

Yet we live in a culture that celebrates youth and beauty and independence — even at the expense of growing up.  Many young men today immerse themselves in a world of media entertainment and diversions that tell them it’s okay to live a self-centered lifestyle, free of commitments to anything beyond endless and mindless pleasure.

I could also make a good argument that this culture can influence men in their later years.  How many men revert to adolescent behavior in middle age and leave their wives and families to pursue the excitement and adventure they feel they’re missing?

What Men Need to Grow Up and STEP UP

In a culture like this, where can men — young and old — learn how to become real men?  The simple answer is:  From other men.  Whether we are young or old, we need other men in our lives who will teach us, model for us, and encourage us to make the right choices.

Husbands and fathers need to step up and take responsibility for raising the next generation.

Boys growing up without fathers need men who will step into their lives and mentor them.

And men who refuse to grow up need peers and mentors who will exhort them to act like men.

As Dennis Rainey, president of FamilyLife, writes, “While none of us ever outgrow the need for having other men to mentor us, to watch behind us, to hold us accountable, it is an absolute essential for those who would admit that their teenage tendencies are still pretty strong inside. If you find yourself grown but still exhibiting immature, adolescent behavior on a fairly regular basis, you need people around you who can call you up and out.”

And that’s how men grow up … they step up with each other’s help.

Copyright (c) 2014 FamilyLife.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Dave Boehi, “Giving men a real call of duty to fight real modern warfare.”

STEPThink - 10-point checklistAre there men in your life who taught you the meaning of true manhood? Share a comment about their impact.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead “A father, a son, and a lifelong lesson” on the Stepping Up blog about how one boy learned to be a man.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistTake part in a Stepping Up™  10-week study for men, to surround yourself with other men to keep you stepping up.

Tony Dungy on preparing your family for success

Tony Dungy on being a “Man with a Plan”

Tony Dungy says that you wouldn’t think about going into an NFL game on Sunday without properly preparing throughout the week. “We do things with our lives we wouldn’t dream of doing on the football field,” says Dungy, referring to men having a lack of a plan for life.  Unfortunately, too many men go into daily life as a man, dad, and husband with no plan as to how to get the job done. And with no vision for where men want to go with their lives in those roles, it’s almost impossible to do it well. Watch this clip from the Stepping Up video study and hear what the Super Bowl champion coach has to say about being a “man with a plan.”

So what is your plan?  Will you take the next step and start to plan for succeeding in the important role of leading your family?  It may be by reading the game plan (God’s Word), casting a vision for your family’s future in the areas of finances, marriage, and spiritual discipline. We also need to help devise household guidelines in areas like the use of video and media, dating and purity, and all the other areas that a man needs to have a plan for his family to succeed.  It may feel overwhelming at times.  However, remember Tony Dungy didn’t do it all by himself.  He surrounded himself with the best coaches he could find.  That’s where we make so many of our mistakes.  We don’t plan and then we don’t ask for help when we try to put a plan together.  Surround yourself with other like-minded men and encourage each other in this arena.  Men, we are better together!  We can do this … together.  So, step up and be a MAN WITH A PLAN!

Share your thoughts below about how you’ve had some success in setting up and following a plan for your family in any of the areas mentioned (or ones that aren’t).


12 things I’ve learned from my mentors

For many of us, mentoring is a word we are familiar with from the academic and business world.  Yet most of us haven’t really experienced what it means to be a part of a mentoring relationship.  Here are two things I know and believe with all my heart: Men need a mentor, and men need to be a mentor.  And for many of us, one is harder than the other.

To a man, I can guarantee that almost all of us want to be mentored.  But we don’t see that we have anything to offer others so we don’t feel adequate to be a mentor.  Yet without one, there isn’t the other.  Without a mentor, there is no mentoring.  So as you grow in your manhood, it’s time to start thinking and praying about opportunities to mentor another man.

As a man stands on the manhood step, it’s a good thing to be facing upward, thinking about mentoring. As you contemplate becoming a mentor, I want to encourage you to begin asking God to give you a couple of men to mentor. This may not be the most courageous thing you’ve ever done, but I promise you, it will be one of the most important and satisfying things you will ever do as a man.

Previously I shared a list of 12 things that I teach those I mentor. Here are just a few of the things I’ve learned from mentors who’ve come alongside me through the years:

  • The best measure of what a man can do is what a man has done.
  • Making bad decisions helps you learn to make good decisions.
  • Once the facts are clear, usually the right decision jumps out at you.
  • Communication is not what is said but what is heard.
  • Every man needs margin in his calendar for the unexpected at work and at home.
  • No amount of success at work will compensate for failure at home.
  • Debt is dangerous.
  • Lifelong male friendships are challenging, but every man needs a friend who can speak truth into his life.
  • A man needs to be accountable to another man.
  • Praying with his wife is the most powerful thing a husband can do every day.
  • Every man is leaving a legacy, so why not be intentional about the legacy you leave?
  • A life lived without God, the Scriptures, and complete, daily surrender to Jesus Christ is a wasted life.

What about you?  Was there a man or group of men who invested some of these truths into your life ?  Do you have someone you can turn to when life whips you into discouragement or even despair?  Do you take the time to invest in someone else?  Are there boys in your life (church, neighborhood, work, etc.) who are without a dad or could use another man’s perspective on life … yours?

If you wait to feel adequate enough to mentor, you never will.  God doesn’t equip those who think they have all the answers.  He honors those who take a courageous step of faith.  He equips you to accomplish what you’ve taken the initiative to do when it’s done for His glory.  And, taking care of the next generation and preparing them for God’s work is for His glory.

You can do this, men.  You can be the man God uses in the life of another young man to unleash him toward God’s purpose.

It takes a little courage.  Are you that man?  Step up and see God work.

Excerpted from Stepping Up (Kindle Locations 2297-2314). FamilyLife Publishing®. Kindle Edition.

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