10 Ways to Be a Man of Integrity

great stuff from All Pro Dad

One of the best definitions of character we’ve ever heard goes something like this: “Character is what you do when no one else is looking.”

This is one reason golf is such a great life-lesson game. It’s the only professional sport where the participants call penalties on themselves.

But men of integrity value what is honest, true, noble, trustworthy, kind, and right ahead of personal gain. Once integrated into our foundational operating system, integrity ceases to be optional or “add-on”, but instead becomes a way of life.

Here are some suggestions that will help once we decide to make integrity a foundational value:

Click here to read these ten helpful ideas.

No Man Left Behind: A Model, A Method, and A Mindset

from the good folks at Man in the Mirror Ministries

No Man Left Behind is being used by more and more churches that want to make men’s discipleship a priority, and want a process to follow. We’ll look at three different perspectives on No Man Left Behind over the next three Briefings: as a model, a method and a mindset.

  • A Model — A pattern to follow that results in building something that looks like the picture.
  • A Method — How do you make it happen? The Create-Capture-Sustain process gives you a method for helping men find and follow Christ.
  • A Mindset — The all-inclusive mindset means we break out of conventional “men’s ministry” thinking, and instead begin to think about how we can reach EVERY man that interacts with our church in any way.

Click here to read the whole post.

The Need to “Go Deep” in Youth Ministry

Here’s a very brief, but also very helpful, discussion on ministering to students…

Also… I am sharing a couple of things below that I’ve posted before on this same subject (about five years ago). However, the key ideas are still very much on point.

Good Doctrine Makes Better (Teenage) Saints

It’s so vital for Christian parents to work extra hard to make sure that their kids (and even the kids of the covenant in their local church family) are raised on and saturated with biblical truths.

Today was the first day of school for our kids (we educate our children at home if you’re new to the blog). Our oldest three (which even includes our four year old) each have their own Bible curriculum that I teach them and discuss with them one-on-one each day. We may not be guaranteed that our kids will turn out like Piper and Sider suggest (see below), but kids have a much better chance when their parents disciple them…whenever and wherever the opportunities present themselves.

PS – George Barna has also been reporting these same findings for several years. In fact, the quote by Sider in the article below sounds identical to an article I read by Barna a couple of years ago. That may be Sider’s source.

Here’s a snippet from Piper’s article…

Here it is again. More evidence from surveys what the Bible makes so plain: superficial, non-doctrinal, non-serious Christians sin pretty much like the world; but more serious, more doctrinally oriented Christians lead lives that are morally distinct. Two years ago Ron Sider flagged this in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why Are Christians Living Just Like the Rest of the World?
 
Now a new book by Mark Regnerus called Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers gives the same bleak picture of so-called “evangelical teenagers” who sleep around as much as unbelievers. But again the book points out that “the 16% of American teenagers who say that their faith is ‘extremely important to their lives’ are living chastely” (Gene Veith, “Sex and the Evangelical Teen,” World, August 11, 2007, p. 9).

Click here to read the whole article.

ALSO – From Barna.org

What is the connection between childhood faith and adult religious commitment? Parents and religious leaders are naturally interested in knowing if spiritual investment in young lives pays off in the long run. 

A recent study conducted by the Barna Group provides new insights into this age-old question. The survey asked adults to think back on their upbringing and to describe the frequency of their involvement in Sunday school or religious training. The Barna researchers then compared those reported early-life behaviors with the respondents’ current levels of faith activity and faith durability.

Click here to read the whole report.

What is a Faithful Disciple of Jesus Christ? Part 3

So, what’s the foundation that Jesus is alluding to and that I’ve been hinting at in the last two posts (Part 1 and Part 2)? It’s his words. And what makes a person wise or foolish is what he or she does with those words…and therefore, what he or she does with Christ himself. Both builders heard the words of Jesus. They looked just alike in that respect. But only one of them put those words into practice. Jesus called that person wise. The other builder also heard the words of Jesus. But for whatever reason, he ignored them. Jesus called him a fool.

James, the brother of our Lord, must have been paying attention to what Jesus was saying here because he wrote these words in James 1:22-25…

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. [23] Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror [24] and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. [25] But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.

If I could use one word to describe what Jesus is talking about here it would be “obedience.” Jesus wants more than people who “talk the talk” of faith. He wants people who will “walk the walk” of faith. That’s faithful discipleship.

And this isn’t just a New Testament thing. God said the same thing through his prophet, Ezekiel, in Ezekiel 33:31-32…

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. [32] Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.

You see, the Sermon on the Mount (as well as the rest of God’s Word) isn’t just to be admired, but obeyed. Our men’s ministry, the Baxter Boys, studied a book a few years ago entitled, “Point Man.” It was about how Christian men can be godly husbands, fathers, workers, churchmen, and so on. One of the chapters spoke to our need to study and obey Scripture. Steve Farrar, the author wrote…

“The Enemy does not mind if you revere the Bible, just as long as you don’t feed from it.”

He continued…

“The danger in the Christian life comes when I listen to a sermon or go to a Christian seminar or listen to a series of teaching tapes without applying the truth I hear to my life.”

He concluded this thought with these words…

“In the Christian life the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge, but obedience. God does not want to take a new Christian and move him from ignorance to knowledge. He wants to move him from ignorance to knowledge to obedience.”

I love that! From ignorance to knowledge to obedience! You see, we don’t read or study the Bible purely for information but for transformation. Now…to be sure…we have to know and understand what the Bible says before we can put it into practice. But faithful disciples of Jesus Christ aren’t simply collecting Bible-information so they can win Bible-Jeopardy one day. We have to obey God’s Word if we would be transformed.

Well…finally…let me ask you this: Have you ever read (I mean really studied) the Sermon on the Mount? I remember what happened to me when I finally started getting what Jesus was talking about. I felt despair. And I think that’s the whole point. But maybe you’re asking why I felt that way. Well, because in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said things like…

Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” (5:19)

“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (5:20)

“I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (5:22)

“Anyone who looks at a woman (or man) lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart.” (5:28)

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away…If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” (5:29-30)

Beloved, that’s just from the first half of chapter 5. There’s still the second half of chapter 5…and all of chapters 6 and 7. So much for “Gentleman Jesus, meek and mild.”

My point is that it’s those words…and the many, many other words like those that Jesus is declaring that we are to read, study, and put into practice. That’s why I felt despair and guilt the first time I really started understanding what Jesus was talking about.

But as I said…I think that’s the point. Those feelings of despair, guilt, and hopelessness are there to drive us to the Cross of Christ. They are to drive us to God’s gracious provision in the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ. Only Jesus put those words into practice and perfectly practiced them. And that’s why he was and is the only acceptable sacrifice to the Father on our behalf.

That’s why we are saved only when we place our trust in him and him alone… and love him as our Savior, Lord, and all-sufficient Treasure. He is the pearl of great price.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not contradicting everything I just said. We are indeed to strive to be more and more obedient to God’s Word with each and every passing day, week, month, and year. It’s how we glorify God and become more like Christ. We must put his words into practice. That’s a non-negotiable.

But the difference is that at the end of the day, you aren’t trying to obey Jesus in order to save yourself with your own good works. You can’t do that anyway. Instead, you’re seeking to obey Jesus by putting his words into practice because he has already saved you by his grace. Your obedience, while required in a very qualified sense, is evidence of a grateful and loving heart. And it will be his Spirit working in and through you that will give you a desire to obey him and will enable you to do so.

And that’s how you show Jesus and the world that you love him…by obeying him… by bearing much good and lasting fruit. Jesus said in John 14:15…

If you love me, you will obey what I command.

And in John 14:21…

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

That’s what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. What could be better than that?

Grace and Truth,
Dale

What is a Faithful Disciple of Jesus Christ, Part 2

Yesterday we left off with Jesus referring to those who listen to “these words of mine,” meaning all that Jesus had been speaking about in the Sermon on the Mount up to that point. So the question we want to begin with today is this: Just what are those “words” to which he referred? What, in particular, are the words of Jesus?

The message(s) of the Sermon on the Mount is powerful, convicting, and even devastating. What’s in the Sermon on the Mount? Are the words and teachings found there relevant to us today…some 2,000 years later. Well…you tell me…

In chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ words focus on…

  • Our character
  • God’s blessings
  • How to influence others
  • God’s Law
  • The righteousness God expects from us
  • Murder
  • Anger
  • Hate
  • Reconciliation
  • Adultery
  • Lust
  • Divorce
  • Taking Oaths
  • Truth Telling
  • Revenge
  • Going the extra mile for another person
  • Loving your enemies
  • Giving to the needy
  • How to pray
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • How to fast
  • Humility
  • Treasures in heaven vs. treasures on earth
  • Putting God first
  • Priorities
  • Worry
  • God’s provision for you and your family
  • God’s Kingdom
  • Judging others
  • Hypocrisy
  • Persistence in prayer
  • God’s goodness to his children
  • How to enter into heaven
  • True and false prophets and how to tell the difference between them
  • True and false disciples of Jesus and how to tell the difference between them.

So you tell me: Is any of that relevant to your life?

Now, to bring his teaching to life as well as to drive home his point about being a faithful disciple, Jesus tells us a story about two builders – one he calls wise…and one he calls foolish.

But before we look at this familiar story, there’s one part of it that may not be so obvious. It’s easy to miss. I know I did for many years. You see, Jesus is not, in this parable, comparing and contrasting a Church-goer from a non-Church-goer. He’s not comparing and contrasting a committed Christian to an outspoken pagan who’s never darkened the door of a church.

I think we would all breathe a collective sigh of relief if that were the case because we would all say, “Whew, well at least he’s not talking about me.”

Now, to be sure, Jesus has plenty to say about the “official” unbelieving world…but that’s not his focus here. In this parable…Jesus is comparing and contrasting you…and the person sitting right next to you this morning. OUCH!

Jesus is talking about two different kinds of people who, for all practical purposes, look just alike in almost every way. To put it in our own language, we could say that both people go to church. Both can recite the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer from memory. Both sing every verse of every hymn or song. And both will sit and hear every word of the sermon.

That’s the point that Jesus is making: Both houses that the builders built looked identical with this crucial exception: The foundations were completely different. One builder searched, found, and labored to build his house on a firm foundation of rock. The other took the path of least resistance and built his house in any old place…on nothing but sand. And Jesus will later share why that’s a big deal… and just how catastrophic building your house on the wrong foundation can really be.

So, Jesus calls the builder who built his house on the rock, wise. The builder who built his house on the sand was called, foolish.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look and see what the two different foundations of rock and sand stand for in our lives and why it matters. (Click here to read Part 1 of this series)

Grace and Truth,
Dale

What is a Faithful Disciple of Jesus Christ? Part 1

Almost 13 years ago, my church’s Vision Committee, after much prayer and discussion, decided that Southside’s Mission Statement would be:

Building the Family of God into Faithful Disciples of Jesus Christ.

But they also wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just another church with just another mission statement. They didn’t want to simply talk the talk…they wanted to walk the walk. And so, with that in mind, the church put together a search committee that would be tasked with the goal of finding a person whose ministry would focus on helping to build the family of God at Southside into faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

In doing this they were showing how seriously they were taking the familiar words of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s Gospel –what we call the Great Commission. Jesus said…

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

By God’s grace…at least from my perspective…I was hired as Southside’s Minister of Discipleship. The idea and goal of discipleship is vital to the life of Christ’s Church. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t thank the Lord for putting the burden of discipleship on my heart and allowing me to do what I at Southside.

Can any church be faithfully living out its calling… its commission… if making disciples of Jesus Christ is not a priority? But that, of course, raises the question: What exactly is discipleship and what text would be helpful in giving us a deeper understanding of it? I mean, after all, you can be a disciple of anything or anyone? What makes a disciple of Jesus Christ a faithful disciple? Obviously this subject is not peripheral in Scripture. It’s front and center throughout God’s Word.

Having said that, as I pondered what text to preach, one stood out in my mind that I thought would help us in understanding what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Matthew 7:24-27.

Our text comes at the very end of what we call, “The Sermon on the Mount.” For three chapters Jesus taught what we might call, “The norms of the Kingdom.” Or, what I like to call Kingdom Discipleship. Our Lord is basically focusing on what our character and conduct should look like if we would be faithful citizens of his Kingdom. (By the way, this character and conduct are grounded in the Gospel that Christ preached in Matthew 4. This is no “self-improvement” program Jesus is running.)

Jesus begins these concluding remarks in verse 24 with these words…

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine…”

His very first word here is “therefore.” And remember my number one rule about the word, “therefore.” Whenever you see the word “therefore,” always ask what it’s there for. The reason why is because it usually means something like this: “Based on what I’ve just said…go and do such and such.” And that’s exactly what it means here.

Again, Jesus says in verse 24…

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine

In this verse, Jesus is telling us exactly what the “therefore” refers to – “these words of mine.” He’s referring to the words that he had just been preaching, which we call…”The Sermon on the Mount.” Of course, Jesus’ words can never be separated from who he is. You see, Jesus embodied everything he said. His person, works, and words are all part of the same package. They always point to his Father in heaven…and to him.

Next time we’ll take a look at what “these words of Jesus” are and what they mean… and why it matters.

Grace and Truth,
Dale

Lifelong Learning

Part of what I share with folks when they ask me about my call to ordained ministry goes something like this: When God called me I was already a Christian, but in and through that call to ordained ministry, I became a born-again student.

The word “squandered” aptly applies to what I did with four years of high school and four years of college. I cringe when I think back to wasted opportunities. In fact, I try not to bring that up around my parents too often as I can see their minds working to figure how much of their hard-earned money was put to disuse.

With my call to ordained ministry came clarity and passion to learn and grow… to develop into the man God called me to be. Certainly study is a key component of being a pastor as I’m called to teach God’s Word and all of its ramifications for every sphere of life. But my newfound love of learning (well, “newfound” as of 23 years ago) goes beyond that. I thoroughly enjoy reading about many topics as well as taking advantage of the increasing number of audio and video resources becoming available, not to mention all the FREE resources online.

My goal in the days to come is to tell you about some of those resources and to encourage you to take advantage of the wonderful (and easy) opportunities to enjoy and grow from God’s special and general revelation.

By the way: I would LOVE it and be very grateful if you would also share resources that have you served you well in your pursuit of lifelong learning. Let’s grow together!

Grace and Truth,
Dale