Jarrid Wilson is a husband to Juli, dad to Finch, pastor, author, blogger and founder of Cause Roast. He's helping people live a better story. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com. For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com.For the original article, visit jarridwilson.com
Sexual purity is far more complex than simply abstaining from having sex and may be rooted in your mind, your heart and your soul. (ECWA Archive)
"How shall a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word" (Psalm 119:9, MEV).
Is it possible in the 21st century to live a sexually pure life—to refrain from sex before marriage and stay sexually faithful during marriage?
Yes! But it has to start with a commitment.
The Bible says, "How can [anyone] stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word" (Psalm 119:9 NIV). To be sexually pure in the 21st century (or any other century for that matter), you'll need a standard to live by. You can either build your standard by yourself or choose God's standard. You must decide whether God knows more about your life than you do.
God says several things in His Word that aren't popular—particularly when it comes to sex. Why does He say those things? He knows more about sex than you do. He also understands the implications far better than you do. You have to decide: "God, when I don't understand it, when I don't like it, and when it's not popular, I'm going to do what your Word says regardless of what I think or what my friends think."
Until you're willing to make that kind of commitment, you may as well close up your Bible and go back to bed. Without that commitment, you're not ready to be pure in an impure world. You can only be pure by following God's standard.
God thought up sex. It was his idea, but he did put a few parameters around it. His standard has never changed. It's very clear regardless of opinion polls or anything else.
Sex is far more than physical. It's a spiritual act with physical, social, legal, and emotional consequences. If sex were just physical, it'd be like a handshake. It wouldn't matter who you had sex with. But sex is more than physical.
The Bible makes it clear that sex is exclusively reserved for a husband and a wife who are committed to one another in a marriage. Anything outside of that, like sex before marriage and sex outside of marriage, will have profound consequences on your emotions and your spiritual life, and it may even physically harm you.
God's standards are in your best interest. If you want to live by them — and avoid all the negative consequences that come from living outside of them — it starts with a commitment.
Why do you think it's important to make a commitment to God's standard for sexual purity before you get into a situation where you are tempted?
What are things in our world that make it even harder to turn away from sexual temptation?
What are some of the consequences of sexual sin?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
For the original article, visit rickwarren.org.
You know you're a good father when your children enjoy spending time with you. (photo © blackvibes.com)
Carrying a sixty pound backpack in Colorado’s rocky wilderness is hard. If you are used to breathing air at sea level, the high altitude makes it even more physically grueling. When our guides stopped and surveyed the land with a puzzled look, my heart sank. Something was wrong. We should have come to a creek which would confirm we were on the right track. But it wasn’t there. We had taken a wrong turn. Eventually we backtracked and found the correct path and the creek.
As fathers we can sometimes feel lost. We can have self-doubt about how we are doing as dads. While we will never be perfect this side of heaven, if you practice the following 10 things consistently you’ll know you are on the right track to being a good father. You will know you are setting the example your children need.
When you help your kids with their schoolwork.
When you take an interest in their hobbies.
When you show affection to your wife in front of them.
When you advocate that they speak to you and each other respectfully.
When you just enjoy being with your children and they with you.
When your son or daughter comes running to you when they get hurt.
When your calendar is full of things to do with your children.
When you calmly and gently discipline your children without yelling or screaming.
When you tuck your children into bed at night and tell them: “I love you”.
When you know their friends by first name.
For the original article, visit allprodad.com.
Some traits of an authentic man (Flickr)
I want to destroy a very persuasive lie that has crept into the church and into the hearts of men.
The over-masculinization of men.
How often are we told that "getting in touch with our feelings" is getting in touch with our "feminine side"? We have been encouraged to be stronger, more stoic, more independent, more … well, you get the point.
The truth is it's a lie. A myth.
We are being told that to truly be in touch with our masculine side is to go outside and kill something or build something or eat something or doing something "manly." I am not knocking those things, but are those the things that truly define being a man?
Churches have typically responded with one of two extremes:
- Men's retreats, where we provide all the "manly" activities
- We offer a space at a table to share our deepest darkest secrets with complete strangers. Neither of these are bad in and of themselves; but God calls us to something greater.
Why am I passionate about this? Because it's killing us:
- Men are alone: recent research suggests that men have no close friends.
- Men commit suicide at a rate 4 times higher than women.
- Depression in men is being called a "silent epidemic."
The reason? Because expressing our God-given emotions is seen as somehow un-masculine. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What Defines Manhood?
Are there certain stereotypes that men are constantly trying to live up to or down to? My dear friend and former co-worker Glenn Stanton wrote a book called Secure Daughters, Confident Sons. He writes this:
"Don't you think the world becomes a better, happier, and healthier place when men are encouraged to become the best version of who they already are? That's part of our job as parents raising boys. Still, we are wise to remember that Clint Eastwood is not Albert Einstein is not Harrison Ford is not George Washington Carver is not Abraham Lincoln … is not your husband or your son." (p.20)
Each man that Glenn highlights is so different, yet in their own innate being, they help us define masculinity. In fact, we are commanded to live differently. I believe there is a better way.
Here is a familiar passage:
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:12-17, ESV).
In some circles within culture, and even the church, we would look at some of these words and sentiments and believe this was written by females for females; compassion, kindness, meekness, love, harmony, singing psalms and spiritual songs, thankfulness.
Do you see it? Do you hear it? We are called by Christ to live and do this life differently. We are being called into true relationship with each other.
We are more than the stereotypes that our culture has defined man to be. No one completely lives up to any stereotype because each of us is unique, defined not only by our DNA and genetic makeup, but also by our own experiences and education. Truly, there is no one else—living, dead, or yet to come—that will ever be exactly like you.
Aren't all men just trying to find their purpose and motivation? Whether believing in God or not, all men are trying to live up to or down to expectations placed on them by the people and culture that surrounds them.
What if our lives as men were identified by the characteristics of Colossians 3? This passage of Scripture reveals four traits of an authentic man:
1. Be authentic. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Look, we can't keep the work of Christ to ourselves. We have to be in relationship with other men. Let me challenge you to find one other man—one man—and develop a close friendship where you can be truly authentic.
2. Extend grace. "… compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." As men we need to be able to speak both truth and grace into each other's lives.
3. Affirm men. "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved …" Honestly, we need to stop telling men where they keep falling short. Stop lecturing men. No one is harder on a man than a man himself. Start leading them. Create a safe place for men to be true to who God is calling them to be …
4. Be thankful. "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." As Christ transforms us and we surrender to His process, we are grateful for the work He is doing in our lives.
Authentic manhood occurs when we fully embrace the person God is calling each of us to be as well as instilling that in each other. We do that in a community where men feel safe enough and cared for enough to truly come to terms with that.
Not only will we be thankful but also the families, churches and communities we serve and lead will be strengthened.
Roy Baldwin is a husband, dad, son and Director of Monadnock Bible Conference. His life mission is to lead and love his family & extend grace to all. Former Director of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family, Roy has also worked for over 20 years with at-risk youth and families. You can follow Roy on Twitter @Baldwin_Roy.
For the original article, visit authenticmanhood.com.
Damaging sins you need to watch out for in your marriage (iStock photo)
Did you know there are sins that can cripple every marriage? Yes, there are.
You realize there are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people. Right?
Let me repeat that. There are no perfect marriages because there are no perfect people.
Every marriage will have seasons that are more difficult than others. I often encounter couples in our church that think they are unique. Because we tend to put on our happy faces at church, they believe theirs is the only marriage in a bad season.
In fact, I'm convinced not understanding how many couples have weathered through these rocky places in marriage may be a reason many couples give up on their marriage. If they understood how normal they are, they might be more willing to raise the white flag—ask for help—and work to restore the marriage.
I have observed over the years there are some issues in marriages that, if not addressed, can be crippling to the marriage. These are the "biggies." They may manifest themselves in other ways, but if you could trace back to the origin, you would find these to be at fault.
And let's not sugarcoat. They are sins. We have all sinned. We all sin. Every marriage is comprised of two sinners.
This is the real reason there are no perfect marriages.
Left to fester on their own, these sins will eventually be the destroyer of the marriage or certainly keep it from achieving the oneness God commanded.
So, what are these damaging sins? I'm glad you asked.
Here are seven damaging sins that can cripple every marriage:
1. Selfishness – Marriage won't work without mutual submission. Read Ephesians 5:21. Marriage is not a 50/50 arrangement. Ideally it's to be a 100/100 bond—where both spouses willingly yield their all. (I used the word ideal, because your marriage is not there and neither is mine.) When one spouse demands their way or will never work toward a compromise the relationship can never be all it should be. One person is happy—the one who got their way—the other is miserable.
2. Discontent – I've said before—boredom is perhaps the No. 1 destroyer of marriage. There will be seasons in every relationship that aren't as "exciting" as others. Some days you will "feel" more in love than other days. But the key to a long-term relationship is a commitment beyond emotion.
3. Pride – When one spouse can never admit they are wrong or see their own flaws, it opens the door for a wedge of bitterness in the other spouse. Pride is also destructive when the couple is too proud to admit their struggles or get the help they need.
4. Unforgiveness – Holding on to past hurts not only damages the marriage bond, it destroys the person who refuses to forgive. Trust can't be developed until forgiveness is granted. Isn't grace received expected to be extended?
5. Anger – The Scripture is clear: We should not go to bed in anger. There is a reason for that command. Anger is a wedge, one that only grows wider over time when not dealt with.
6. Complacency – As soon as you think you're marriage is above the problems of other relationships, you're in trouble. The enemy loves to attack the unaware.
7. Coveting – Couples who compare themselves to other couples will almost always be disappointed. There will always be people with more—and it likely isn't making them as happy as you think it does. Keep in mind, many times people disguise their struggles well. The couple you think has it all may wish they had what you have. Every couple is unique. Comparison only leads to frustration.
Ask yourself this question: Which of these sins is most prevalent in my marriage today? Which is causing the greatest harm? Which of these, while it may not be an issue today, could become an issue if we don't get serious about it soon?
Be honest with yourself—and ultimately—with your spouse.
Studies shows after living together before marriage, the odds of staying together decreases significantly (image © Andy Ward)
Are you single or dating someone you think may be the one? Or do you have kids who are dating and may be thinking wedding bells at some point?
If so, you may want to consider the importance of marrying before moving in together or of teaching your kids about the pitfalls of shacking up.
More and more couples are choosing to move in together before marriage. One reason is to save on rent. Yes, saving on rent. Saving on rent is not, and should not be, a reason to live with someone who may or may not become your spouse. In fact, it is a really bad reason. Below are five reasons shacking up is a bad idea:
1. No blessings from God. The Bible considers shacking up the opposite of a legitimate marriage. A legitimate marriage consists of a union between a man and woman who have made a covenant and commitment. Shacking up involves neither. Marriage was a union created by God and is a union God blesses.
2. Your relationship will probably end. An article on examiner.com states that 80 percent of shacking-up relationships end before marriage or in divorce after marriage. So, it is 80/20 against you getting married or staying married to that person. One reason is because there is not a commitment when you move in before marriage. A relationship without commitment will not last, and marriage is the biggest commitment you can make in life.
3. Your children will be negatively affected. To the parents who have children, your kids are three times as likely to be expelled from school or get pregnant, five times more likely to live in poverty, and 22 times more likely to be incarcerated—all because you choose to live with someone you're not married to.
4. It makes you lazy. As a married man, I know that once dating ends, the relationship changes. Living together removes the "being your best" part of your relationship. Kind of like most job interviews—you wore the suit to the interview, but once hired, you show up in khakis and a polo. And if you're living with a woman and getting some of the "benefits" of marriage—sex, having someone to help around the house, sharing the bills—you can also get lazy about taking the next step in your relationship.
5. Saving on rent. Mentioned above.
How will you educate your adult children about the dangers of shacking up?
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How do you get along with your son- or daughter-in-law? (ECWA Archive)
I often teach and write about the experiences that I have working with relationships. Personal experience is often some of the best information I have to protect and help other relationships.
In helping marriages, I often try to share some of the barriers that I have seen to having a good marriage. My theory is that if couples are aware of the barriers before they become an issue it’s much easier to deal with them when they arise.
One of the consistent barriers I have seen in having a strong marriage is the way the couple deals with outside influences. It could be friends, family, work, or hobbies. It’s mostly people.
One of those primary outside influences that many couples struggle with is dealing with in-laws.
And, the in-laws who are causing a problem are now rejecting this post.
The crazy thing about this issue is that I once talked about the issue but now I live the issue. So I realize I am on shaky ground by speaking to a subject I haven’t yet mastered. We have been in-laws now for a couple of years and it is still relatively new for us. But now at least I see both sides of the issue. Cheryl and I are trying to be good in-laws by learning from other people’s experiences we have encountered in ministry.
I’m speaking primarily in this post about parental in-laws, but these will also apply to other relatives of couples. This type post gets me in trouble. It’s a sensitive issue. Keep in mind this is an opinion blog. And this is an opinion post. But these are gained through years of experience working with young couples. Apply as necessary.
Here’s some of my best advice for in-laws:
Remember “leave and cleave”. It’s Biblical. Two people are trying to become one. That’s the goal. That means the two can’t be part of another unit in the same way. Yes, they are still family, but they are creating something new. Their new will likely look different from yours — hopefully even better. No doubt you will have influenced who they are as a couple. That may be in good and bad ways. Let them as a couple determine what they keep of your influence and what they leave behind. Again, they are still part of you. But, in the formulation of a new “them” they have to leave some things behind.
Know this: Everything you say to your child impacts their spouse. One way or another. And, it will likely either be repeated and injure your relationship with their spouse or cause a hidden wedge in their relationship. You can’t expect them to become one if you have a private world of communication with your child. And if they are trying to be a good husband or wife they will not keep secrets from their spouse. Yes, you should always be a safe place for your child. And there may be times where it is necessary for them to come to you in secret. But those should be rare. Very rare in my opinion. You can help them reduce friction in their marriage by not contributing to or promoting private conversations.
They sense the pressure to “come see you”. Chances are they have pressure elsewhere too. Maybe even from other in-laws. How welcoming is it if you spend most your time talking to them complaining how little you see them? Yes, it’s hard when they don’t seem to want to — or you feel slighted in the amount of attention you receive — but guilt and complaining won’t accomplish what you’re attempting. It might even get them there, but it won’t promote quality time with them. And, it will often build resentment.
Get rid of the phrase “What you should do is”. It isn’t helpful because it’s usually received with an immediate pushback. They are trying to form their own identity as a family. Hopefully they will solicit your input at times but don’t offer it unless you’re asked.
Offer advice only if you’re asked. I thought this one merited repeating. Again, it’s not that you don’t have for good advice. And they would probably be better off if they listened to your advice more often. Most likely you have experience they don’t yet have. But most young couples want to discover things on their own just as you possibly did when you were younger. Unsolicited advice is almost never seen as valuable as solicited advice.
Be a fun place to hang out. All young couples need to see healthy people and healthy relationships. Marriage is hard without any outside influences. So the more healthy and environment you can create for them the more often they will want to be a part of that environment.
Love them unconditionally. I would say equally, but that’s hard — isn’t it? You’re going to naturally lean towards favoring your own child, especially when there is friction or conflict in the relationship. Be patient with them. Give grace generously. Hold you’re tongue when you’re tempted to say something that could be hurtful. Forgive quickly when needed. Remember, you are supposed to be the maturer people in this season of life.
The point of this post — and this blog — is to help. I’m not trying to stir more frustration. Other blogs do that well. :). Seriously, my aim is to address issues I see often and help us learn from other people’s experiences. I realize this is a hard season for many parents. But, with careful intentionality it can be a great season.
Remember, we are new at this.
Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.
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Be of good cheer. Those painful processes you are going through are about to make you stronger. (Reuter)
I felt the Lord saying that there are encounters with His power that are going to happen in the midst of your "process" right now as you stay positioned. I saw encounters with the power of God for many across the body of Christ as they refused to "cave" under the pressure, and these encounters with His power were like a defibrillator.
It was bringing hearts back to life and revival in hearts, and it was seeing deliverance happen in hearts and lives. It was seeing a shock of hope and excitement released for what the Lord is going to do. Not only will dreams come back to life in hearts, but with fresh vision and the Lord will add new "elements" and "layers" to these dreams in the heart of His people through these encounter with His power.
In the encounters with His power, there is a great awakening that will happen in hearts to the heart of God like never before. Where hearts have been "out of sync" with what the Lord is doing or saying, or fear has caused hearts to move away from the heart of God or His dreams for their lives, suddenly they will be shocked by His power and love into life and back into rhythm with His.
Through these encounters with His power the people of God are going to move through the process fully. One day you may feel like you are walking barely scraping through, barely "making it" to then having some of the greatest encounters of your life with Him and His power, to suddenly being full. There is going to be such a significant release of His power and impartation into hearts and lives that the people of God as they stay positioned are going to go from feeling empty to full.
Fire of Testimonies: In the process I saw the people of God as they "leaned in" to Him and refused to give up, they were brought to a place of being full of strength, joy, peace and revelation, that suddenly the fire of God fell from heaven while they worshipped and they went from full to an explosive overflow—an explosive overflow releasing His revelation and testimony to all around.
"My people's mouths will be full of testimonies."
The people of God moved out into all areas of their lives with their mouths full of testimony—testimonies to His faithfulness, deliverance, power and love in the testing process. Tests are turning to testimonies.
To those who have been hit in "financial areas" in their process lately, the Lord is releasing significant financial provision that is going to release some of the greatest testimonies to His provision that you have ever had.
The process may feel painful, the stretching unbearable and you may feel dry, but can I encourage you, do not give up in your process. Refuse to give up even in the weariness for some of the greatest encounters with His power are being released right now as the people of God "lean in."
You will go from "barely surviving" to "thriving." From feeling empty to full and from full to explosive overflow releasing the testimony of a good God to all around you that will release a breakthrough anointing for others as you share. Hold on tight! God is going to use your process powerfully!
Patrick Morley | Are you a biblical or a cultural Christian? (ECWA Archive)
Contrary to the opinions of some, Christianity is still flourishing in our society. There are more Christians today in America than ever before, both as a percentage and in total numbers. Roughly one in three Americans indicates they have asked Jesus to forgive their sins and grant them the gift of eternal life.
But here is the obvious question: If religion is such a big part of our lives, why isn't it making more of an impact on our society? The sad reality is that claims of religious commitment run high, but impact is at an all-time low.
And here's the problem: Although Christianity is flourishing, many of us who are Christians have gotten caught up in this increasingly bankrupt culture. We have adopted many of the values of the world around us. Maybe it's the new sexual ethics of cohabitation or pornography, rampant greed and materialism, or winking at the needs of the poor.
Galatians 5:9 explains why adopting these values is a problem: "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." So when we try to have the best of both worlds, we exchange the truth of God for a lie and the glory of God for idols, we do what seems right in our own eyes, we get engrossed in the secular world, and we worship created things instead of the Creator.
The result? Cultural Christianity. Cultural Christianity means pursuing the God we want instead of the God who is. It is the tendency to be shallow in our understanding of God, wanting Him to be more of a gentle grandfather type who spoils us and lets us have our own way. It is sensing a need for God, but on our own terms. It is wanting the God we have underlined in our Bibles without wanting the rest of Him too. It is God relative instead of God absolute.
What has been the result of this adaptive, cultural religion?
Two Kinds of Christians
The ease with which people now associate themselves with religion has produced two kinds of Christians: biblical Christians and cultural Christians.
Jesus was the first to clarify the different types of people who would or would not associate with Him. The parable of the sower reveals four groups of hearers of the Word of God.
Group 1: The Non-Christian
"Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12).
Christ makes clear the point that not everyone who hears about salvation will believe.
Group 2: The Cultural Christian, Type "C"
"Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away" (Luke 8:13).
Type "C" stands for counterfeit faith. Among us are some who profess to be Christians, but in reality they are not Christians at all; they are cultural Christians—type "C." They have a counterfeit faith—a faith that is not a genuine faith in Christ. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
Without sounding a false alarm, but in love, I encourage every man who finds himself to be a cultural Christian to consider whether his faith is merely a defeated faith or a counterfeit faith. If counterfeit faith is the condition of your life, don't be discouraged. God loves you with an everlasting love and wants to reconcile with you. In the next chapter we will look at how you can get on, or back on, the right track.
Group 3: The Cultural Christian, Type "D"
"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature" (Luke 8:14).
Sadly, there is little marginal difference between the way many Christians spend their money and the way non-Christians spend theirs. For a group whose primary commission is to be salt and light to a broken, confused world, this example does little to present a viable alternative to empty lifestyles.
Type "D" stands for defeated faith. The type "D" cultural Christian lives in defeat. There is little, if any, marginal difference between his lifestyle and the lifestyle of the man who makes no claim to be in Christ. He has never understood, perhaps because he has never been told, the difference between what it means to be a cultural Christian versus a biblical Christian. This is the category I flirted with before God brought me to my senses.
Group 4: The Biblical Christian
"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop" (Luke 8:15).
A biblical Christian is a man who trusts in Christ, and Christ alone, for his salvation. As a result of his saving faith he desires to be obedient to God's principles out of the overflow of a grateful heart (see Romans 1:5). Obedience doesn't save us; faith does. This explains why some men can be cultural Christians—they have a saving faith, but they have not obediently made Christ Lord over all their lives. They have not allowed the Holy Spirit to empower them.
What does it mean to be a cultural Christian today?
Lessons from Elementary School
Do you remember your elementary school teacher demonstrating the principle of diffusion? She started with a clear glass of water. Then with an eyedropper she took some red food dye from a bottle and squeezed one drop into the glass. Within moments, the water was tainted with a pinkish hue as the dye permeated the water in the glass.
To be a cultural Christian in your parents' generation was to be like a clear glass of water with one drop of red dye. In other words, the secular culture was not that different from the Christian culture. That was before the days of Internet pornography, abortion on demand, explicit sex during prime-time TV, songs that degrade women, and a drug culture that's hard to avoid. So a man could be a cultural Christian and still be somewhat close to a Christian worldview and values.
To be a cultural Christian today is like having the whole bottle of red dye poured in the glass.
A Look in the Mirror
The man in the mirror will never change until he is willing to see himself as he really is, and to commit to know God as He really is. This objectivity anchors a man; it gives him the clarity of thought he needs to be a biblical Christian.
The north face of Mount Everest (Wikimedia Commons)
I have had a life-long interest in Everest—starting at an elementary school assembly in a tiny South Dakota town where I listened fascinated as a mountaineer related tales from the first American ascent of the world's tallest mountain.
Since then, I've read a small library of books on Himalayan climbing. I've also stood on Everest's summit. Naturally, I wanted to see the new movie Everest.
The movie is a reasonably accurate portrayal of climbing. The characters in Everest struggle through some of the most dramatic and terrifying moments of their lives. As Rob Hall talked with his wife while stranded high on the mountain and doomed to die, one sad thought occupied my mind: In the midst of fear, hopelessness, and the uncertainty of life and death, there was no thought of crying out to God.
This was also my experience on Everest. No thought of God seemed to cross the minds of my fellow climbers, despite the stunning beauty of the mountain and the fear caused by extreme conditions. On my three Everest expeditions, I was the solitary believer in Christ, alone with my God in an unbelieving environment.
What is it like to be a Christian on Everest? I frequently talk with other believers who see my experiences on Everest as something extraordinary. But as a believer, I don't see it that way. What God requires of me on Everest, God requires of every Christian.
Like any other Christian, I want to do what God created me for. The 1996 tragedy dramatized in Everest was a turning point in my life and career. Reading Krakauer's book prompted me to write a film proposal, which landed me at K2 Base Camp in the summer of 1999, where I filmed a series for National Geographic. Three Everest expeditions as a high altitude cameraman for other companies followed.
However, I've never felt that I pursued Everest. Instead, God has opened doors for me to climb. Once on the mountain, I learned something significant.
I am not a hot climber, but I'm comfortable and extremely competent at altitude. I saw that God had made my body for climbing. I adjusted easily to the thin air at altitude. When my oxygen failed an hour below the summit, I was able to continue to the top, film and descend. I did not lose my appetite high on the mountain, as many climbers do. I did not have to train hard to be fit for climbing. Clearly, I was doing what God had created me to do.
Sensing I was in the center of God's will gave me confidence and removed worry and fear. Does this mean it was all fun? Like every other Christian, I still had to persevere, even when doing what God had designed me for. I've eaten more dal bhat than I care to remember. I've missed the luxury of showers and gone months without seeing my family. I've exerted myself to the point of exhaustion.
Climbing the French Spur on Everest's West Ridge, I worked harder than I've ever worked in my life. Isn't this what God wants for each believer? Where are you competent? What are your gifts? What is the mountain that God has for you? Put your heart into it and work for the glory of God.
When I'm climbing, I'm like every other Christian working a secular job, surrounded by those who don't know Christ. My task is to walk the walk no matter where He has put me. Placed among mountaineers, I saw my contribution as one link in the chain Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase."
At K2 Base Camp, I grieved with climbers after the death of their teammate, killed by rock fall high on the mountain. Though I was a newcomer to their mountaineering circle, they approached me with a request: Would I conduct Mehi's funeral? That was a rare chance to freely share my faith with other climbers.
Usually, the opportunities seemed smaller. Profane speech is the norm in base camp, but high on the mountain, in a tent alone with one other climber, the profanity would be gone. I might not have the chance to actually share the gospel with my friend, but maybe my presence would be the opening of that man's mind where the missing thought of God could enter and bear fruit someday. Though it seemed that no one noticed, some of my mountaineering comrades were watching my life. For what believer working in the world is this not also true?
As followers of Christ, God wants our worship. In 2006, I climbed to a place few people have ever gone. I arrived alone on Everest's snow-covered West Ridge and looked out over mountains that had loomed large in base camp but were now small hills below me.
In that moment my heart was full with the worship of God. I knew my fellow mountaineers would experience the exhilaration of reaching the ridge and the beauty of the view, but that they would not be worshipping God. Only I can return to God the worship that He has put in my heart. That is true for every Christian.
What brings you joy? Where has God put you? Wherever that is, give God the worship that you alone can give.
Men, what are you looking for in your local church? (Lightstock file photo)
I am often asked, "Why are the men leaving the church today?" Sometimes it comes out as, "What can we do to keep the men of this church?" or "How can our church reach more men?"
There is no easy answer, but in this article I would like to provide some basic principles that will help you develop a male-friendly church. The overriding principle is simply this:
The environment you develop is more important than the events or programs you put on. A man is looking for an environment that is consistent with who he is as a man and a place where he feels comfortable belonging and becoming the man God wants him to be.
1. Relevance. Most men in our society today do not see the value of going to church because it is not speaking their language, and it is not addressing the issues they face. For example, a recent survey showed that 92 percent of church-going men have never heard a sermon on the subject of work. The unspoken message is: What you do for 60 to 70 hours a week does not relate to what you do on Sunday mornings. The most important issues for men are their work, family, marriage, sexuality and finances—and rarely are these addressed from the pulpit today? Some of the key questions men are asking are:
- What is true masculinity?
- What is success?
- How do I deal with guilt feelings?
- What is male sexuality?
- Is purity possible today?
- What does a healthy marriage look like?
- How can I raise my children to be successful?
- How can I be a man of integrity in the workplace?
- How can I be a leader in the home, church, workplace and world?
- What is my purpose in life?
2. To be involved in a cause greater than themselves. Men want to be involved in something driven by a compelling vision. Men want to know what hill the church is climbing, where we are going, what we are about. The church has the greatest and most far-reaching mission on Earth, and we should not be bashful about challenging the men of our congregation with it.
3. A shot at greatness. I have never met a man who wanted to be a failure or a loser. Men want to win. They want to be heroes. They want to come in first. Unfortunately, it seems the church today wants nice men, not great men.
4. To be challenged. Men tend to view the world around them as something to be overcome or conquered. It's high time we told them they do not have to check their competitive drive at the door of the church. If they are seeking risk, adventure, change, competition and expansion—tell them how to find it within the mission of Jesus.
5. Action. Men today are looking for something to do; they do not like sitting around and theorizing about the 27 views of the second coming of Christ! Men measure themselves by productivity and gain a portion of self-image based on what they do. Their desire for adventure is often expressed in the desire to be on the solution side of things. Many churches today are in maintenance mode, rather than being missional.
6. Men are looking for leaders, and they want to be leaders. This principle is simple: Men do not follow programs, they follow men. They want to follow a bold, courageous, visionary leader. Establish an environment where strong leadership is attractive. Not only are men looking for a leader to follow, they want to become leaders themselves. They want to lead in their family, workplace, church, community and world. One of the things you can do is equip them to lead.
7. Fun. If men walk into a church and see a bunch of serious, stoic-looking people, shouldn't they wonder if Christianity really is a killjoy? The world is a serious place; men are looking to laugh and have fun to balance that reality. They love a good joke, funny story or movie. I encourage you to develop a ministry environment in which men have fun together.
8. Brothers. Most men have many acquaintances, but very few men have a good friend. According to statistics, the average man over 35 years old does not have one close friend. Men need teaching on how to develop and strengthen friendships and an environment where they can find genuine male friends.
9. Healing. Many are using socially unacceptable means to deal with their pain—making their work or their hobbies their life, misusing sex, drugs or alcohol. Unless these wounds and hurts are dealt with in a healthy way, they will never become the man that God wants them to be. They will never be able to have healthy relationships or move on from childish behavior.
I hope some of these insights from my own ministry to men will serve you well as you seek to minister more effectively to the men of your church and community.
Steve Sonderman is the associate pastor for men's ministry at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wis., and the author of How to Build a Life-Changing Men's Ministry.
For the original article, visit men.ag.org.