Category: Men

Elders Vs. Deacons

Even though church was canceled due to the cold weather, here is Stephen with a short video explaining the differences between the roles of Elders and Deacons.

Follow along with Acts 6:1-7

[1] Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. [2] And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. [3] Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. [4] But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” [5] And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. [6] These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. [7] And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Thank You!

You Were Awesome!

I just wanted to take a quick minute before my day really gets started to say a massive thank you to everyone who volunteered on Sunday night, I don’t think it could have gone any better than it did.

The music, testimony and message came straight from the Lord and I am positive that He used each element to glorify Himself and draw those who were there to closer to Him. James, Tim and Brian, thank you for being obedient to His call on your life to serve, I am praying that the Lord would bless you for your efforts.

The food. There is only one thing to say about the food, it was out of this world. I am so encouraged by everyone who helped prepare this meal. Your pursuit of excellence to provide the best meal possible was both inspiring and contagious. I heard numerous comments about how good the sauce was, so that extra time you took with the garlic was definitely worth it. Thank you!

Those who served did so with class and efficiency. The food was delivered in no time and I didn’t see anyone waiting to eat. I believe the way you interacted with everyone was done in such a way that Christ was reflected through you. I know that your selflessness knocked down walls in their lives. Nicole and I personally got to minister to and pray for a man (Billy) as a result of your efforts, so thank you.

The youth. You guys rocked! The way you gave up your Sunday night for the sake of the Kingdom was incredible. I guarantee the simple fact that you were there and not afraid to get your hands dirty inspired those who were being blessed by your service. My prayer is that through your selfless acts you would lead and inspire older generations towards Jesus.

A super special thank you goes out to Phil for all of the time that he invested into this outing. You were awesome bro and it’s an honor to minister in His Name with you.

Shaun Smith the Executive Director texted me yesterday, here is what he said,

We are thankful for this! We hope only that you were even more blessed than we, or those we serve were, for it is always more blessed to give than to receive.

Looking ahead

We don’t have an official date yet on when or how frequently we are going to head up there, but I do believe the consensus was that this was something the Lord wanted us to be involved with. More details to come in 2015.

Thank you again church! It’s is a privilege to be one of your pastors and to minister in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with you.

Love one of your Pastors

Lessons in Fatherhood 4

Ten years ago I was in my third year of graduate school, and my wife was getting up each morning at 5:30 so she could drive 45 minutes to teach 7th grade science. Both of us were not particularly happy in our professional lives, yet we pushed forward, grinding away at life so that some day we would be where we wanted to be. Although I remember being frustrated during those years, my general attitude was that I could handle it. I was in control of my circumstances and was living decently. I would have defined myself as being patient in the midst of imperfect times; I had been peacefully married for a few years and never became angry with the people in my life. My wife and I used to take walks, which allowed us to talk about and resolve many of the challenges we faced in the day. We could figure things out. We could work hard. We were in in control. We also had no kids.

A few months ago I found myself walking the dog in ten-degree weather praying for my children and admitting my relative helplessness in the face of a seemingly endless steam of challenges. The short list of kid-related problems included: late potty training problems, anxiety about kindergarten, refusals to eat at dinner, temper tantrums, not listening, and so on. Moreover, I have learned that I am more selfish and less patient than I previously assumed. The temptation to avoid parental responsibilities or to respond to problems with frustration/anger is strong. Even the inevitable small parenting failures feel like a burden that I cannot support. Children are precious, and they are subject to my imperfection. That realization scares me.

My old mindset of hard work and solving problems is not particularly helpful. My children are not projects that I can fix by discovering the “child raising formula” or by reading the latest self-help book for Christian parenting. That mindset often causes me to go to bed at night thinking about my daily failures. “I need to try this approach to my childrens’ problems, or I need to work harder at being patient and unselfish.” This, of course, only leads to future frustrations. Living under my own power produces a continual cycle of failure (Romans 7:14-25). As life continues, I am slowly learning that I cannot work hard to solve all problems or reason my way through every challenge. I cannot depend on myself. Being a father has humbled me.

Pride comes in multiple forms. The pride of self-reliance is a subtle yet common form that can be very dangerous in even the most well meaning Christian’s life. It involves the general attitude of “I can do this because I am competent, wise, intelligent, hard working, etc.” This form of pride places self over God in a profoundly foolish way. It is the pride that led to the fall of man in the garden, repeatedly led to demise of Israel in the Old Testament, permeated the spiritual lives of the Pharisees, and even tempted Christ in the desert.

Although pride often causes people to disregard God’s instructions for living, it can also cause a person to pursue good things through the improper means of self-reliance. It convinces me that I can rely on myself to be loving, patient, kind, good, faithful, self-controlled, peaceful, and joyful in the midst of life’s frustrations. I can persevere on my own strength. Yet such an approach, though well meaning, only produces frustration and failure. We can only truly love those around us when we surrender to God, rest in Christ, and allow the Holy Spirit to produce fruit (love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) (Galatians 5).

Parenting has forced me to my knees in prayer more than anything else that I’ve encountered. The stakes are enormous. The relationships are intimate. The challenges are unceasing. I don’t really know what I am doing. Yet parenting is not the only thing in life that can force us to face our limitations. What are you struggling with? What are you attempting to solve or accomplish through your own strength that produces consistent frustration, worry, anxiety, and a sense of failure? We have access to the Holy God of the universe who has humbled himself in the form of Christ and empowered us with the Holy Spirit. He loves us personally and graciously allows us to talk to him. We can also know him through scripture. Why do we resist him and depend on ourselves?




What is and is not fasting

Fasting is an awesome gift. And like all awesome gifts, it can be misconstrued in a way that leaves us bitterly disappointed. Now that we know what fasting is and why we fast, let’s consider what it is not.

God doesn’t owe you

Fasting is not a manipulation tactic or a way to earn points with God. Fasting doesn’t make you more holy or acceptable to God. Christ Jesus alone has made us holy. Instead, by practicing a fast and other spiritual disciplines, we are asking for grace just like we did when we prayed for salvation. We didn’t save ourselves. We received God’s gift to us. So in fasting, we don’t transform ourselves; we receive the grace that transforms us (1 Pet. 1:13–14).

This isn’t to impress your mom

Fasting is not an endurance test and, like anything else, can be done in pride forthe praise of men. Self-righteousness is a signpost on the road to hell. That’s the reason we must clarify our purpose for fasting—to avoid ego-tripping. Jesus warned us not to make our fasting a public service announcement in order to get attention. If you’re tempted to look at your contrite spirituality and get smug about fasting, remember that even the ability to fast is yours by grace alone and without Jesus you couldn’t even do that much.

Not an end in itself

Fasting is not some religious formality to check off the list. Some believers, out of a feeling of duty, will participate in the 40 days of Lent by giving up something easy, but their sacrifice becomes a mere annoyance which they are glad to drop by the time Easter Sunday comes. Without a purpose beyond “It’s Lent,” a religious approach to fasting falls far, far short of the awesomeness God wove into the fabric of fasting.

It doesn’t impress God

Fasting doesn’t force God to be more attentive or give us quicker answers. We don’t tell God, “We’re fasting now. That’s our part; now you do your part” (Isa. 58). No matter what we do, God will perform all his holy will. So fasting isn’t our effort to twist God’s arm. It’s our response of pressing into him like it says in Joel: “rend your hearts and not your garments.” Fasting is one way that we express our surrender and honest petition before God.

Finally, be careful to differentiate between aligning your heart with God (what fasting does) and getting closer to God (what fasting does not). Jesus alone brings you, spotless, into God’s presence. If you belong to Jesus, fasting basically makes you more aware of where you already are.

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Why do we fast?

The purpose of fasting is ultimately God himself. There are many reasons to undertake a fast, but the bottom line for them all is to align your heart directly with him. Think of that as the big picture. The small picture, the immediate purpose for a fast, can vary. So the first step for any kind of fast is to declare our immediate purpose. Fasting can’t be done casually, because there isn’t any spiritual benefit in simply not eating. Going through the motions just makes us hungry, but genuine, purposeful fasting is a powerful discipline for the disciple of Jesus and can play a part in literally transforming your life.

To help us define a godly purpose for fasting, Donald Whitney gives us these 10 reasons:

  1. To strengthen prayer
  2. To seek God’s guidance
  3. To express grief
  4. To seek deliverance or protection
  5. To express repentance and return to God
  6. To humble oneself before God
  7. To express concern for the work of God
  8. To minister to the needs of others
  9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God
  10. To express love and worship to God

Throughout the Bible, we see people fast for a variety of reasons:

  1. To be like Jesus (Matt. 4:1–17Luke 4:1–13)
  2. To obtain spiritual purity (Isa. 58:5–7)
  3. To repent from sins (See Jon. 3:8Neh. 1:49:1–31 Sam. 14:24)
  4. To influence God (2 Sam. 12:16–23)
  5. To mourn for the dead (1 Sam. 31:132 Sam. 1:12)
  6. To request God’s help in times of crisis and calamity (Ezra 8:21–23Neh. 1:4–11)
  7. To strengthen prayer (Matt. 17:21Mark 9:17–29Acts 10:301 Cor. 7:5)

None of these purposes amounts to twisting God’s arm to do what we want. Who can do that? God is not a genie who will grant us whatever we wish. He is a good father who is working out his sovereign will. Our reasons for fasting are for our own humility. By denying ourselves for a time, we provoke ourselves to rely more on God Almighty. It isn’t about changing God; it’s about changing us. In fasting:

  1. We pray more intently
  2. We become more receptive to God’s guidance
  3. We lean more on Scripture to hear his voice
  4. We demonstrate our grief and honest repentance
  5. We physically declare that we need God to survive
  6. We learn to sense spiritual reality more than the physical world
  7. We prepare to love others better than ourselves

Lastly, fasting helps us to remember the true source of our utmost joy. Most people would agree that food is a good thing. If you’re unable to fast but chose to abstain from something else, such as a hobby or technology or entertainment, those can also be good things. All good things come from God, but the human heart is inclined to worship God’s gifts rather than God himself. Fasting helps our hearts to look past the good gift to the good God, who blesses us despite ourselves.

I don’t really feel like it

Even if fasting makes sense, you may not feel like you need it right now. But think of fasting as similar to praise and worship. Oftentimes joy overflows in songs of praise, but more often singing leads us into joy. We sing first and that brings us to a place of thankfulness and joy. Likewise, when our souls overflow with godly emotions and repentance, we may be led to fasting, but far more often we need to choose to fast in order to be humbled and to fight our pride by rejecting the ways we so often cope with our feelings. It’s the proactive approach.

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What is fasting?

What is fasting and what is the purpose? This is the first of a four-part series committed to answering those questions.

Hunger for God

Dr. Carl Lundquist, former president of Bethel College and Seminary, would fast once a week. In a letter, he writes, “I spend my lunch break in fellowship with God and in prayer. And I have learned a very personal dimension to what Jesus declared, ‘I have had meat to eat ye know not of.’”

Fasting is a spiritual discipline. Simply put, it means not eating. Instead of using mealtime for food, you use it to spend time with God. Some fasts last for one meal, one day, multiple days, or even weeks. Fasting may begin at sunrise and end at sunset or extend 24 hours per day. There are many ways and reasons to fast, but the basic idea is to set aside the time you would usually spend eating and focus that time on God instead, praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping.

When you’re fasting, you’re likely to feel hunger pangs. Allow those to serve as reminders that you are hungry to know Jesus and that you rely on him for every need. When you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your understanding and experience of Jesus in everyday life. You might pray something like, “Father, you are my daily bread. You are my comforter, my redeemer, my provider. My life is hidden in Christ. What more do I need?” Christians often focus their mind on one particular idea during a fast, such as the crucifixion during Easter. During this holiday season, as you pray and fast, you may choose to meditate on the humility of Christ’s birth.

What about my medium extra-hot half-caf sugar-free hazelnut americano with room?

A normal biblical fast is to avoid food, but not water. However, you have a great deal of freedom as you fast. Some people avoid everything but water. Others focus solely on not eating and instead drink whatever they want.

Whatever your plan, make sure to consult with your doctor to ensure you are medically fit enough for a fast, and get tips from your doctor on how to fast safely. There are a number of reasons a traditional fast may not be a viable option for you. These reasons range from stage of life to pregnancy to medical conditions to eating disorders and everything in between. Most people are capable of fasting without compromising their health, but if that’s not the case for you, don’t be discouraged! You can fast in other ways. One option is to eat less than normal rather than not at all. You could fast from coffee or give up the foods you enjoy most, eating only simple, plain foods. This type of fasting is commonly called a “Daniel Fast,” referring to the story of Daniel in the Old Testament when he and his friends abstained from eating meat and consumed only vegetables and water (see Daniel 1:12).

While the majority of people are able to fast from food, if you are unable to fast from food, you could consider abstaining from certain activities instead. Though this is technically not a biblical fast, people have abstained from television, Facebook, music, golf—all sorts of things. The idea is to use the time you would normally spend on the activities you love to focus on the Lord instead, praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping God.

But why is the food gone?

Okay, so you’re told you should fast, that it’s a good spiritual discipline, and that it doesn’t necessarily require food. But fasting does emphasize food and it’s preferable if you are physically able to abstain from eating. Why?

There is a mystery to fasting and part of the reason we do it as Christians is simply because God wants us to. Jesus expects his disciples to fast (Matt. 6:16) and obeying God, even when it seems weird, is always a good idea.

The physical implication of fasting is that it directly impacts one of our most basic needs as humans. God has built us into a physical world with physical needs, and the physical world directly impacts the spiritual. By staying away from food and focusing our attention on God, we shut our bodies up, strengthen our soul in God, and put into action our dependence on him. He provides us with life. Food is the way he chooses to do so, but he is the source and can very well sustain us without food, water, or any of the physical necessities of life.

We do not discount the value of the body or consider the physical world bad. Fasting serves many purposes, one of which is to remind our minds, spirits, and bodies who and what we worship: God himself.

One fast, many fasters

You can fast with other believers as well. If it will help you overcome any fear you might have of fasting, ask another believer to join you. Biblically, there are instances of corporate fasting where entire nations fasted together (Esther 4; Ezra 8). So feel free to fast together and pray for one another. Our church-wide fast will lend itself to this opportunity, because there’s a good chance the people around you will be fasting at the same time.

Find out what fasting should look like for you. Be in prayer about it now as we move forward into the 40 days of prayer. Then join us in our church-wide fast to dedicate this time to the Lord as we ask him in prayer for big things at Mars Hill Church in 2014. Even if you feel intimidated to try, let us all agree together as a church to fast for at least one day, in some fashion, if not the full five days.

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Lessons in Fatherhood 3

A few weeks ago I experienced something remarkable. In fact, the event stunned me. It occurred on a rainy, yet warm, Saturday afternoon in the beginning of October. It was one of those days when most parents keep their children inside, but I think some of the best times as a kid are spent running around outside in the rain. Besides, my kids have a lot of energy and are bouncing off the walls if forced to stay inside all day. During a break in the rain, my son and daughter walked with me to the pharmacy to pick some medication. They sought out and stomped in all the best puddles along the way. Upon leaving the pharmacy, they asked if we could take a longer walk so they could find more puddles around town. I agreed.

We found some very large puddles by Veterans Park in Youngstown, NY. The kids joyfully ran from puddle to puddle, equally excited about the experience of stomping in each new puddle. I stood and watched. It didn’t take long for another downpour to begin. This merely added to the fun, causing their joy to swell. I stood in the rain while the kids continued to play. This scene is actually not unique in our household. We often go for walks when there are puddles or run around in the rain or play in the snow or seek out snow banks to climb on. Sometimes I participate in the fun, and sometimes I stand watching. At times I enjoy these excursions, and other times they are exercises in self-sacrificial love. In this specific instance, I didn’t mind getting wet because I found joy in the joy of my children.

This experience of mutual joy is also not unique. My kids are excitable, and their joy is often noticeable. Sometimes they say, “this is the best day ever” or my favorite, “you are the best dad ever.” I fully appreciate those moments. Too often, however, my kids complain or seem entitled. They demand that I do more for them even after extended periods of daddy fun. It seems that I cannot appease their four and six-year-old selves. This is especially true of our four-year-old son. My wife and I have had many conversations about this issue. Are we spoiling them? Should we spend more one-on-one time with them? Is this age-appropriate behavior? Is this a personality trait? These are the questions that parents ask when their understanding is limited by their humanity. Yet on this day, amid the excitement of stomping in the biggest puddle, my son stopped, looked towards me, and, with a huge smile on his face, shouted, “Thanks for bringing us here Dad.” It was a simple statement, less exaggerated than some of the others they make, and I was stunned. It was the first time he had thanked me without prompting, and I found it surprisingly meaningful.

I love my children when they are both grateful and ungrateful, but I am far more pleased with their attitudes of gratitude than with their complaints and selfish demands. If I am pleased with my children’s moments of joy and gratitude how much more does God delight in our joy and thankfulness? Yet I admit that my children’s ungratefulness often mirrors my attitude towards my heavenly Father. I can easily find something to complain about: my back hurts, my kids are ungrateful, something is not going well at work, my spouse is imperfect, etc. The list of potential complaints can go on and on. And yet my attitude is contingent on the same basic issue that determines how my children respond to me. Am I considering all that my Father has done, does, and will do for me?

An attitude of thankfulness is central to a Christian’s faith, and it provides us with a proper perspective as we negotiate life’s challenges. Just as my children should be thankful for the fun, comfort, and stability that I provide, I should be thankful for the many blessings in my life. I am aware that many of these blessings are temporary. My happy marriage, children, job, house, and life comforts are good things, but focusing only on these does not produce a perspective that perseveres through life’s hardships. I will not always be healthy, “wealthy”, and surrounded by friends or family. Unexpected events are bound to happen and tragedy may occur. When these events occur I am free to voice my angst to God (see the book of Psalms), but crying out to God in moments of anguish is different than adopting an ungrateful or entitled attitude. The former is done with perspective. The latter is done with none.

God provides me with what I cannot provide my children and has done for me what I cannot do for them. An attitude of thankfulness is rooted in a proper understanding of grace and the hope it produces. In his book Knowing God, J.I. Packer properly identifies that our adoption as sons and daughters of God produces hope through three truths. First, adoption includes a promise that we will inherit the entire estate of our Father (Gal 4:7; Rom 8:16-17). Second, this inheritance includes being made like Christ (our elder brother) in every way; we become “co-heirs with Christ…that we may also share his glory” (Rom 8:17; see also 1 Jn 3:2). This includes the perfect transformation of our body, mind, and character, something that cannot happen on earth. Third, in heaven we get to participate in a family gathering.  I cannot articulate or even begin to grasp this last part of my inheritance, but I thought that Stephen Hay’s sermon effectively gave us a preview of what that might look like ( Moreover, these rewards come because God poured out his wrath, which I deserved, on his beloved son (a much bigger sacrifice than simply standing in the rain). When my ungratefulness is positioned against these undeserved gifts, it is clearly unwarranted.

I am quick to see the reasons for why my children should be thankful for me yet loose sight of a far greater reason for why I should be thankful. I become frustrated with my ungrateful children while becoming ungrateful myself. The proper perspective ensures that we do not fall into these traps and become overburdened by the sufferings of this world. I have received a gift that never ceases. If you have not received this free gift, your Father awaits with open arms (Luke 15:11-33).

The Resurgence Conference 2013 – Live Stream

Watch this live event for free!

We will be streaming live, all day, from our fellowship hall on November 5&6, 7am-4pm (PST, 10am-7pm EST) both days. Everyone is welcome to come and go as they please, see the schedule below for more details.

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Lessons in Fatherhood 2

I’ve always had problems sleeping. I’ve battled insomnia, sleepwalking (as a child), and bizarre dreams. As a child I would occasionally wake up in a confused state; my visual perception was skewed so that things appeared distant and my movements seemed exaggerated or sped up. I would sometimes experience mild tremors that pulsed through my body. This state was also accompanied by nonsensical reoccurring dreams. During these incidents I would navigate my way downstairs and alert my parents in a confused manner that something was wrong. My father would often be the one to get out bed to deal with his confused son. I clearly remember lying on the couch as he calmly rubbed my back, waiting for the incident to end. I remember abruptly sitting up on the couch to babble nonsense or look out the picture window that was situated overhead. My father would graciously stay with me until I calmed down and the tremors went away.

Although those episodes have long passed, a good night’s sleep is still sometimes hard to come by. We have a baby who still cries at night, and a 5-year-old daughter who occasionally cries loudly in her sleep. I often wake up multiple times for no good reason or struggle to fall asleep. Another disruptive, yet enduring, nighttime event occurs when my son stumbles out of bed at night, stomps rather loudly down the hall, comes to the side of my bed, and tells me that he’s had a bad dream. My initial irritation with being woken up is quickly offset by the realization that my son is scared and finds comfort with his father. I usually call out to him so that he can find me in the dark, tell him that it’s just a dream, give him a hug, and walk him back to his room. He is typically sleeping again as soon as his head hits the pillow. Crisis averted, but such an event only increases my fatigue the next day.

These anecdotes reveal two very important elements about life as a Christian. First, it provides a picture of how fathers graciously interact with their children and do not ignore their needs. Of course, I am imperfect and fall short in my duties as a father (that’s another blog entry). I get tired, grumpy, impatient, and often cannot simultaneously comfort or closely interact with all my children. God has none of these deficiencies. He is perfectly loving, merciful, just, sovereign, holy, unchanging, all knowing, and always present (just to mention a few of his attributes). His love never fails; it endures forever (Ps 136). Whereas I don’t want to be woken up at night, God is always graciously there waiting. I put my son back to bed as quickly as possible; God is not limited by time or fatigue.

Yet, just as we can use personal experiences to better understand God, we can also use them inappropriately. When we inaccurately apply human characteristics to God, we engage him as a flawed, albeit powerful, being. We may think of God sitting in the sky, not having the time or desire to deal with our “meaningless” lives. Or we think that he is angrily judging everything we do wrong, and so we run from him rather than to him. We forget about grace, atonement, and our adoption into God’s family. We fail to see that the very best in us is immeasurably less than the goodness and lovingness of God. We forget that he is always present, waiting for us to run to him. His embrace will be immeasurably greater than that of our human fathers.

Second, it illustrates the need that children have for their father. Like I needed my father and my son needs me, we need our heavenly Father. The act of needing is not done apathetically nor accompanied by stubborn self-reliance or pride. At times it is done in a manner that is much like my son’s desperate stomping in the middle of the night. The reasons for such desperation are wide ranging. Perhaps we are suffering, anxious, confused, or afraid. Perhaps we’ve done our own thing too long and find ourselves at a point where our only option is to run back to our Father. Regardless of the reason, a loving Father awaits. Other times our need is acted out in a manner comparable to when my daughter tiptoes into my bedroom around 7:00 on a weekend morning, politely crawls to where my wife once slept, and we doze off and on until it is time to get up. Neither of us are particularly talkative in the morning; she just seems to like being nearby. Maybe we should all start our day by drawing near to our Father. It might even eliminate some moments when we have to stomp back to Him in desperation.

Such an act requires a degree of humility that can be conveyed with anecdotes about young children calling out for their human father. But as adults we often become self-reliant so that acknowledging our need to commune with God contradicts much of what we do in life. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Christ instructed his disciples to become like little children (Matthew 18). There is something very childlike in desperately running or quietly coming near to our Heavenly Father. I could use more of that childlike humility in my life.


Lessons from Fatherhood

The other day I found myself sitting on the couch trying to read, but the sound of my four-year-old son crying on the floor distracted me.  My wife and I had planned on making the one mile trip to the shore of Lake Ontario after dinner but had cancelled the outing because my son and five-year-old daughter refused to listen to us (a problem that we’ve been having lately). We clearly told the kids to stop their manic wrestling session, go to the bathroom, and get their shoes so that we could go to the lake. They weren’t doing anything wrong, but we simply could not get them out the door with the way they were acting. Upon hearing our request they decided to ignore us and keep wrestling. Rather than using my stern “daddy voice” or separate them ourselves, we repeated our instructions, told them we won’t go to the lake if they don’t listen, and then left them to their own devices. Since they were still wrestling fifteen minutes later, my wife left for a walk with the baby and the trip to the lake was effectively cancelled. My son’s crying began when he realized that we were not going to the lake. He then blamed me for not being able to go to the lake.

This brief story is not a statement about good parenting. When it comes to parenting the only thing that I am confident about is that I really don’t know what I am doing. It is, however, an interesting example of how clear directives and stated consequences lead to suffering and misplaced accusations towards the one with authority. I had the power to bring my son to the lake, but doing that would have been a disservice to him. My son cannot mature if he thinks that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. In my ever growing realization that parenting is teaching me a lot about God and my relationship with Christ, this incident reminded me how we often blame God for the positions we put ourselves in.

Granted we are not always the authors of our misery. The book of Job describes the suffering of a man who was blameless. Original sin gave way to illnesses, natural disasters, accidents, and the like. One should not be quick to equate bad events with personal discipline from God. Moreover, the Bible doesn’t promise prosperity to the faithful; suffering sometimes cultivates spiritual growth (Romans 5). Still, obedience is often connected to a wisdom that reduces some types of personal suffering in everyday life. Husbands who honor Ephesians 5 by self-sacrificially loving their wives will be more content and joyful in their marriage than those who try to change their wives for selfish gain. Men who succumb to extramarital temptation will suffer (see Proverbs 2:16-19 & 6:29-7:27). Gossip destroys churches and makes life generally miserable for all (Proverbs 16:28 & 26:20-22). Obedience frees us from the tyranny of consequences that sin often brings to our lives (Proverbs 2).

More importantly the role of father teaches one about the nature of grace. Disobedience leads to consequences but does not (or should not) sever a child from his father’s love. I cannot imagine an act that would reduce the love I have for my son. Only his outright rejection of me at a later age could create separation between us, and even then I will still love him and long for him to return. And so it is with God and us (Luke 15: 11-32). Christ’s sacrifice shields believers from God’s wrath, but through grace we are all on a path of progressive sanctification (Romans 6; Hebrews 10:14). The consequences (or pain) of sin in our lives should be a reminder that God disciplines his children so that we can mature (Hebrews 12: 4-12). Maturity reflects a greater awareness not only of what is righteous but also that we are unable to work our way out of our sinful state (Romans 7). The consequences of sin should bring us to our knees, make use realize Christ’s lordship in our lives, and produce thankfulness for grace.

Later in the evening we went on a walk through Youngstown, NY. As we were leaving the house, I told my daughter that she should put on her long-sleeved t-shirt because it was getting cold outside. She refused, choosing instead to wear a t-shirt and shorts. After all, she knows more about such things than her father. We had a good walk. The kids were cheerful. We raced from point to point, all taking turns as the rotten egg (loser in each contest). The sunset over the mouth of the Niagara River was a beautiful orange/pink that highlighted Toronto’s skyline on the horizon. My daughter did complain a few times that she was cold.

How does a man lead well in his home & church?

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
(1 Corinthians 11:3, ESV)

I chose to start of with this verse from Paul, because it’s important to understand & address how God establishes structure and leadership from the beginning. God’s intent was that man would lead… that he would lead his wife; that he would lead his kids; and that he would lead his household. Now, let me be clear, this doesn’t mean that men have been called to dominate their wife, kids or household. There is a distinct difference between leading and dictating, so in no-way-shape-or-form am I suggesting that men are to rule with an iron fist. Rather, my hope is that by the end of this article you would see specific attributes and characteristics that God desires men to adopt, in order to effectively lead his home and church.

As I taught through this at a men’s community group, one of the first statements I made was; the moment a man is born, is the moment a leader is born. A man should never be asked the question, are you leading in your house and church? Rather, the question that needs to be asked of him is , how well are you leading? Because it has always been God’s intent that man would lead, which means that we are always leading, and the question is just, how well?

To support this idea let me take you back to Genesis 3, to the fall of mankind.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

As we read through this passage, you can clearly see that the female was responsible for taking the first bite. But something very interesting to note, God did not address the female and her action first, instead God addressed Adam. God addressed Adam because it was man’s job to lead and direct his wife well, it was man’s job to protect his wife from danger and harm, yet we see him leading very ineffectively by standing beside her, not saying a word, and even choosing to eat the fruit when she handed it to him. (One might argue that the first sin was not the disobedience of Eve, rather the first sin was Adam not leading his wife as God intended him to [Romans 5:12, could perhaps provide evidence for that theory] ).

This is obviously a controversial statement that may not be 1o0% accurate, but the point I’m trying to make is that whether the first sin was Adam’s poor leading or Eve’s disobedience, Adam was still held accountable because he was considered the head of that household.

Men, even though those in our families may fall into sin, God holds us accountable, because we have been called to lead them well, to love and care for them effectively – it is our job to direct them away from sin and towards the gospel of Jesus.

So what does it look like for a godly man to lead his family and church well?

This question must be contemplated by every man at some point in life.

What does it look like to roll up our sleeves,
put our big boy pants on, and assume the responsibilities that God has given us?

Now it’s worth noting that the bible doesn’t specifically address this question, but what it does do is give us specific guidelines and qualifications for elders in the church.

Although all men will not be elders, all men are leaders (and all men are leading in some capacity in their churches too), either effectively or ineffectively. Therefore godly men should not have an issue aspiring to attain these qualifications, they should not have an issue in pursuing godliness. This list should be the standard that all men are aiming for, elder or not.

Elder Qualifications

Found in 1 Timothy 3

Elders are to be above reproach

These are men that welcome accountability, men that are above question. Obviously being on mission for Jesus can place us in tough/questionable situations sometimes. For example, I may be ministering to a group of people in a bar, and if I’m seen in there every other, people could start talking and the sincerity of my faith could be questioned.

Men above reproach are men that welcome accountability in situations such as those.

That plays out practically by making your mission field known to others, so that if and when your testimony is questioned, you are not blindsided, but rather you have a number of people that can support the reasons for your actions. Being a man above reproach in the household means that your wife is the one to hold you accountable, means you have complete transparency with her. If she has to question your actions or thoughts, I would suggest that you might want to spend some time explaining them to her. A wife should have confidence that her husbands actions are pure and pursuing holiness.

Elders are to be the husband of one wife

This simply means, a one women man. Godly men are committed & faithful to one women and one women only. Godly men are not men that emotionally or physically involve themselves with other women. It’s important to note the words “emotionally involved”, because even though men might not be physically involved with another women, they can often check themselves out of a relationship emotionally and find another female that they “talk to” on the side about their issues. This is not godly behavior! Godly men are emotionally and physically involved with one women.

Elders are to be sober-minded and self controlled

These are men that make smart, thought out decisions. Men who are disciplined enough to control their emotions in tough circumstances. Men, who when faced with hard situations, do not retreat back to a sinful habit, but prayerfully consider the right way to proceed, that will ultimately bring God glory.

Elders are respectable

Respect is something that is earned, it’s not something that is given freely. Respect comes from consistently being above reproach; from being the husband of one wife; from being sober-minded and self-controlled. Respect is earn, within their sphere of influence, when men are seen to be honestly pursuing these qualities.

Elders are hospitable

This is just another way of saying that godly men are selfless. They are not only concerned about the needs of others, but their concern leads them to invest in the problem and be a part of the solution. Godly men are hospitable enough to share their assists (house, wallet, vehicles, time, energy) with others in order to lead them to Jesus and ultimately bring God glory.

Elders are able to teach

It’s important that we acknowledge that, yes, Paul is talking specifically about the ability to teach the bible here (which I think godly men should be able to do). But I would also suggest that if we were to attempt to generalize this list to accommodate all men in their pursuit of godliness, then it would be worth broadening the horizons of this point (without detracting from it’s original meaning). Godly men are men that are not only able to teach from the bible, but they are men that are able to teach through the actions of their life too. People are watching how “godly men” respond to the circumstances of life. I believe that God has provided us a platform, through our responses to daily life, that will either point people to, or from himself.

I think this is especially true within our families. Our kids need to be taught accurately about Jesus through how we live, not just what we say. I believe a huge reason why kids are turning their backs on Christianity, is because they have witnessed the unrepentant hypocrisy from their dad. Men need to be able to authentically teach with both their mouths and their life’s.

Elders are not addicted

These are men that have recognized that their identity is found in Jesus and nothing else. Godly men will not be controlled by any substance or artificial high. They do not need those things to figure out their sin or any of life’s issues, because Jesus has already done that for them.

Elders are not violent but gentle

Mark Driscoll uses the words, tough and tender. It’s vitally important that godly men are able to find a biblically balance between these two. We need to be able to do what is hard sometimes, but we also need to approach every situation with caution and discernment. Often times men can unemotionally trample over a situation and make them 10 times worse than before.

Elders are not quarrelsome

Godly men don’t pick fights for the sake of picking fights. Too many times men have been found to be arrogant, closed minded and very quick tempered… These are not godly characteristics. Godly men have a control over their desire to want to fight by proving their point; or have their voice heard; because godly men step a-side knowing that it’s not about them, it’s about Jesus.

Elders are not a lover of money

Godly men are not motivated by finances, they do not do things simply for financial gain. Instead they lead selflessly, putting themselves and their wallets a-side and focussing on sacrificially giving, reaching, teaching and leading their families and others towards Jesus.

Elders manage their household well, care for God’s church, keep their children submissive & are thought well of by outsiders

Because we have covered a lot of points so far, I bundled the last few together, because I believe that none of them are achieved without observing and pursuing all of the previous points.

Remember, godly men don’t lead with an iron fist, rather with strong, loving, dependable hand. They lead with a life that their children will look at and respect/trust greatly. They will, very seldom, question the motives and heart of their father, instead they will always know that he loves them unconditionally and that sometimes the tough decisions he makes are for their best interest.

This kind of behavior produces confidence and favor in those around. People will look in at a man that is certainly not perfect, but a man who has humbly been saved from his own sin by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And they will see a man who, with every inch of himself, pursues godliness by aspiring towards this list because that is least that he can do out of appreciation and love for His savor. Godly men are genuine in their love for Jesus and others.