Love God. Love Others. Pretty much sums up the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22 and Luke 10. So, what does that look like? Part of the Real Life of a believer is that they engage with those who are their “neighbors.” Read the following real life story of how it’s lived out in one young family’s life.
“John 13:34 and Luke 10:27 show us that loving our neighbors and each other points people to Jesus. It doesn’t have to be fancy… instead, we have prayed that God would put people in our path who need to know the love of Jesus. That he would open our eyes to their needs. And that he would help us to love them well. Then, we have intentionally created margin in our schedules so that we have time to drop everything and “do big things” for people.
For us, it means listening for people who are hurting, and looking for a way to surprise them with love. It may mean leaving a pie on someone’s porch, or throwing an impromptu graduation party for a neighbor who moved across the country to care for his dad who has cancer. He was 1,000 miles away from his friends and classmates, so we got our neighbors together and surprised him with a party. We try to get our girls involved – when our child overhears us talking about someone who is sick or hurting, her first response is now, “I’ll draw them a picture so we can mail it to them to help them feel better.”
In 2016 we decided that we wanted to love BIG by setting a goal to host 200 people in our home in one year. We ended up hosting 258. It was a blast, and there is no better place to show someone Jesus’ love than to invite them to sit at your table with you. We don’t keep count anymore, but we probably still host 150-200 people a year, because it’s just what we prioritize as a family. It’s never fancy – often we’ll just order pizza. Folks don’t come to our house for the cooking – hospitality isn’t about impressing people. It’s about listening to and honoring people and making them feel like they’re part of the family. People let their guards down and share their hearts around your table.
We have a huge heart for the neighbors God has placed on our street, and we prioritize spending time with them. Almost none of them know Jesus… although they’re all getting to know Him, one cookout at a time.
Again, we build lots of margin in our schedules so that we can invite folks over for an impromptu pool party in the driveway after work (with our fancy $14 Walmart plastic pool). What’s really cool is that our neighbors have caught on, and now they look for opportunities to host each other as well. We had about 50 of our neighbors over for Easter this year… just a simple cookout in the driveway with a borrowed bounce house in the front yard. Another neighbor hosted all of us for a Mother’s Day weekend cookout, and another neighbor is planning a 4th of July cookout on our street – complete with a “parade” for the kids. We probably hang out with our neighbors 2-3 times a week… it’s never formal, rarely inside. We just set up our lawn chairs in the driveway and wait for folks to come over. They always do.
Loving your neighbor is contagious, and it’s something our whole family can do together. It’s also really fun. I should also add, when loving your neighbor, you have to remember that people aren’t projects. People know if they’re projects. We try to simply love people well AND look for opportunities to share Jesus in our everyday conversations. When you’re being intentional, you’d be amazed at how many opportunities you have to share.
If you look around and all your friends are believers… keep looking.”
He died April 29, 2017, at the age of 87. He lived for Christ, for kingdom and for family.
He was a man.
Dad pastored for 67 years, so I was raised a preacher’s kid, but I didn’t have anything to complain about. He wasn’t one of those famous preachers – he was a small church pastor in small towns all over Oklahoma, Utah and Arizona. A champion. A huge influence on entire communities. He served because it mattered, because he was called, not for fame or ambition. It was as pure as it gets.
He and my mom did an amazing job with my brother, Matt and me. It was an amazing upbringing. The memories – wow! I remember Matt and I hanging onto his back as he dove into the deep end of the Motel 6 pools on vacations showing us how to “go deep” in the water. We played sports, fixed cars (and rebuilt a few), and drove all over the nation in those legendary 1960’s vacation trips.
He put Matt and I in an inner-tube (google it) and pulled us around in the rare Oklahoma snow behind his Ford. I still think he kicked a football as high as anyone I’ve ever seen. He had a wicked right cross (he boxed in the Navy) and once nearly knocked me out accidentally. I was 10 years old and he was sparring with me on his knees, showing how it was done. When I regained composure and asked, “what happened?” he replied, “you dropped your guard. Don’t do that.” Very effective lesson.
Some of you may be horrified to hear that – others will nod knowingly. It’s dad stuff, done in love. It seemed to work pretty well. We turned out fine.
When we weren’t doing stuff like that, I simply watched him. I watched him carve out a hour each morning to slip away to a side porch in our house to pray and read the Bible. I watched him cry for us and sometimes because of us. I watched him restrain his words and his temper when I would test his limits as a teenager. I watched him love my mom, and make her feel like she was the most special woman in the world. I watched him talk people “off the ledge” of doing disastrous things, and I watched him lead people to Jesus. I watched him deal with angry people without losing his own temper. He was a man.
As I grew older, Dad become more of a mentor. He taught me things no one else would take the time to do it. He was the biggest backer of both my brother and I, and I think deep down, we knew it. He BELIEVED in us. When we were separated by distance we got the regular phone calls. “How’s the job? How’s the weather? How’s the car running?” It was dad/kid conversation – it was staying in touch.
I could write a book. Maybe I should. I know that not everyone has had a great dad experience, and I know some who had the worst – but they are determined to change that by being incredible dads themselves. It’s worth it guys. Be a man like you want to be known to have been.
When dad died, we all knew what we’d lost. There were the great times we wished we’d had some more of, and words we all wished we’d said, but death doesn’t wait around like we think it will. He’s gone on to his considerable heavenly reward. We have great memories.
And an enormous example.
My dad was a man. He was THE man. Happy Father’s Day, dad.
Proverbs 31 is about a great woman expressing that greatness in her context.
It is not just about mothers (although this woman was one).
It is about women. About wives. About influence.
Read Proverbs 31 without the context of modern day “home-building.” Before Pinterest, before HGTV and decorating. Before all that, were humble homes at best (unless you lived in some castle, which was NOT the situation of most). This is not to diminish those who prize the above. It’s just to say, it’s not about that.
Read Proverbs 31 through the context of mud walls in humble abodes. Read it through the context of a woman in tribal Africa whose day is not one of leisure and entertainment. Read it through the timeless and eternal truths of a woman from “any nation,” not just one nation. Read it through the eyes of women who couldn’t or didn’t have kids. Or whose kids were grown. Or who were unmarried. Or widowed. Or abandoned. This is not a truth that is just for one woman in one context. It is for, and it’s about all women who fear the Lord.
Here’s what it says about a great woman – about her character and life:
1) She values RELATIONSHIPS. v. 11-12 “Trust” is the key word. She’s trustworthy! The writer (Solomon) sees this woman’s heart, her commitment, and he says about her, “I trust her with anything.” Why? Because she does him good all the days of his life. That’s impressive. It’s rare. Spell that LOYALTY.
2) She demonstrates COMMITMENT v. 13-21 She’s committed in her time, her provision (she exercises amazing industry w/her resources), her servanthood is admirable, and her compassion is well-known. She’s committed to doing right for all those around her. My mom was one of the best businesswomen I’ve known. She was incredible. She used her abilities to bless those around her.
3) She radiates SIGNIFICANCE v. 21-25 She has this sense of self-worth – even when fashion was not “fashion,” she dressed with class. She gives her husband esteem just by how she carries herself. And HIS esteem is tied to HER conduct in this text (which is about the woman, not the man). He’s blessed to be around her – and he should know it. She faces the future with faith because she knows who she is. This woman is a “kept” woman – she’s kept by God. She fears the Lord, and this is her significance. Her significance is NOT tied to a job, wealth, children or house. It’s anchored to her relationship with HIM.
4) She dispenses WISDOM v. 26-27 This is the “Abigail factor” in Scripture – that great woman who stood between a fool and a king and gained respect. Her words and action prevented tragedy. She knows what to say and when to say it, and is not unwise in her discernment or influence. Her influence is wise and lasting. She never forgets to invest and influence all those around her. That’s why she is listened to. She has something to say. Something powerful.
5) She deserves REWARD v. 28-31 These verses sum up the above and say it all. Those within her sphere of influence – ALL of them – bless her. Whether kids, husbands, or fathers, they bless her. She needs to hear it because what she does is often unthanked, yet absolutely critical.
A godly woman’s influence is significant, powerful and unparalleled.
How Do We Act Like Men in our Conversation? Paul tells us to “act like men” in 1 Corinthians. Eventually, our “talk” is affected by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. How do you talk? How should a “better man” talk? Russ Gregory finds these four keys in the book of James to help us.
1. Act like men by learning to LISTEN. “…. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19 I was always told that we have two ears and one mouth – and that this fact reminds us to listen twice as much as we speak! Teachable men, better men learn to listen!
2. Act like men by learning to keep our MOUTHS CLOSED“ For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man…” James 3:2 James tells us there are simply times we need to exercise self-discipline and “shut up.” If I could recall the many times I’ve said what I shouldn’t have, I could save a LOT of collateral damage. Only the Spirit’s power can help us here, so learn to die to self and lean on His power!
3. Act like men by learning to understand the DAMAGE we can do. “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body ……” James 3:6 Can you remember when someone around you BUILT YOU UP with their words? Powerful, isn’t it? Can you remember when someone TORE YOU DOWN by their words? Painful, isn’t it? Build up, don’t tear down.
4. Act like men by learning not to CURSE. “With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing….” James 3:9-10 Real men don’t waste words – and they don’t pervert language. Cursing says nothing good about you, your intelligence or your attitude. It shows what’s lacking.
Men, our words can bring life and blessing to those around us – and they can bring destruction and cursing. So, BUILD one another up with your talk.
The Bible says for men to “stand firm in the faith.” What does that mean? Have you ever heard the phrase, “If you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything?” Men are falling for anything and everything and standing for almost nothing – and the collateral damage around us is sickening. It’s hard to believe that we can make a mess for so many just because we don’t stand firm, but it’s true.
So how do we stand firm? Here’s a start:
1. Stand firm by taking God’s Word SERIOUSLY and learning the responsibilities of following Christ. “…for now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.” 1 Thess. 3:8 Does “the Book” mean anything to you of relevance? The NFL rookie has to SLEEP with his playbook, because if he doesn’t recognize the play, he’s cut from the team. The builder always has the set of blueprints on his person – he builds a weird house without it. What makes us different? Men, get serious about God’s Word. Read it. Study it. Remember it.
2. Stand firm by listening to the spiritual JOURNEY of older men and learning from them. “…stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught…” 2 Thess. 2:15 There’s a great cry today for mentors. Older men, who are you mentoring? Younger men, who are you asking questions of? Here’s what I don’t get – why would we not want to learn those lessons? Have lunch, or breakfast – with someone older than you. Learn. Get up some courage and ask a guy to talk to you.
3. Stand firm by having your own CONVICTIONS about Scriptural issues. “To his own master he will stand or fall; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4 Do you know what you believe about stuff? While, “I believe what my preacher believes” is appreciated, it doesn’t do you much good on the battleground of the mind in spiritual conflict. YOU find out what YOU believe – and stand there.
4. Stand firm by having mature CONDUCT. “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…” Phil. 1:27 My greatest moment of spiritual growth as a young man was the day I saw myself in the “fool” of the book of Proverbs. I grew up a little that day, because the Bible convicted me of immature behavior. I stood a little taller after that – and gained a little more respect. You’re not a child. Act like a man.
We need to stand firm. The next generation is watching – and the present generation is looking for leaders. Stand firm!
We could be better men, but we’re not alert to what’s going on around us! We’re distracted, daydreaming, chasing after immature fantasies, or we are SLEEPING. In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul told men to “Be on the alert.” Be watchful. Be awake!
So what are we not alert to? What are we sleeping through, besides SportsCenter?
1. We’re not alert to what GOD IS DOING around us. Because we don’t pray, we’re pretty much unaware of the movement of the Spirit – and we miss much.
2. We’re not alert to the danger of PRIDE and TEMPTATION. The Bible says, “Let he who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall…” That’s a really good line. It points out the weak spot of most men – we’re PRIDEFUL. We think we’re invincible. We can handle stuff. Except when we don’t. Then it’s someone else’s fault, right? Truth is, we’re OVERCONFIDENT in our own strength. That’s a bad deal because it’s a lie. Get away from self-confidence, guys.
The very next verse, which is 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “For there is no temptation that has overtaken you, but such as is common to man…” Temptation overcomes most of us when we are OVERWHELMED. We’re tired, disappointed, disillusioned, and bored. We’re overwhelmed with things like that and it can lead us to a place of compromise.
3. We’re not alert to Satan’s strategy to make us afraid to do the right thing. So we do the safe thing. We don’t take the risk to LOVE others. We don’t swallow pride and CONFESS our sin. We don’t step into LEADERSHIP because we might fail. Only a weak lion roars..and he’s hoping it’ll scare you. That’s the roar of our adversary.
4. We’re not alert to PROTECT ourselves and our family from spiritual attack. We’re gatekeepers, guys, so keep the bad stuff out of your life, and you’re halfway there to protecting your family. The enemy will attack your weakest link…whoever that is in your family, protect and pray for them!
There’s a battle and we’re often asleep. Paul says, “Wake up! Be on the alert!”
What keeps us from being “better men”?
That question has to be asked! Why are men not “better” than we are are at being leaders, husbands, fathers and friends?
The Bible contains an incredible challenge to men. The challenge is an example – Jesus Christ. The Perfect One. Amazingly, we are called to be like him. It was Paul who said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Simple, but simply impossible, too.
We need help. In the “Better Man” blog series, we’ll be looking at the immeasurable and sufficient Help we have in Christ. The Apostle said this:
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
In this, we find reasons we’re NOT better men:
1) We are not alert to the wars around us. In case you didn’t notice, you’re in war. The battle for your mind, your words, your character, your actions, your time, focus and energy is a real war. It’s fought on the battlefield of work, church, community, and home – and most of us are unaware just how far from Christ we are in this battle. Be alert!
2) We lose consistency in our time with God and become detached. That line that says, “stand firm in the faith?” That’s about being consistent with your time in prayer, in the Word, and in spiritual disciplines. Like a soldier who never trains, we’re poor soldiers in the spiritual battle without spiritual discipline. If I’m not training, I’m setting my self up to fail as a man.
3) We don’t grow from immaturity to maturity and act like men. It’s pretty common to hear today that some men are still just boys. The “act like men” phrase has to do with your actions. Where do you spend your time, energy and passion? Is it manly? Or more like a boy? Don’t get me wrong – we should have fun, but fun with perspective. Act like men! Focus on what counts!
4) We’re too weak to resist temptation and sin. The “be strong” phrase is convicting! The idea is to be progressing from weakness to strength – again, like a soldier or an athlete, so that when temptation comes, we don’t give in.
5) Instead of acting in love, our actions are often selfish. “Let all that you do be done in love” is a huge admonition. Would your wife say you do that well? Your children? Those around you? When I’m not acting in love, the culprit is always SELF. That’s why I have to die to self daily – and so do you.
The good news? The “better man” you need to be is Christ. He’s Present. He’s Powerful. He’s indwelling every true believer. He’s available.
Ultimately, the way to be “better” is not by trying harder, or learning any “growth secrets” in life. We’re better when set aside our old self, and put on the new man that Christ Jesus provides in His power. Through salvation and the daily walk of faith and obedience, we become more and more like that Perfect Man.
Men are confused. In our culture, it’s self-inflicted wound. But even deeper, it’s a sin-inflicted wound. Adam was confused about his role, too.
Because men are confused, we often try to find ‘our own way’ to express manhood. It usually comes out pretty weird. Or worse, damaging to everyone around us. There’s a better way.
When I was 19 years old, a verse of Scripture was ingrained into my mind that has remained there since that time. It stands out today as a reminder that we can know what men are to be like, and we can act like men.
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Cor. 16:13-14
As a young man, I wondered what this verse meant and how it would help me move toward mature manhood. Today, after being in that journey for a while, I want other men to know these truths. These words of the Apostle Paul make me want to be a better man. The example of Christ leads me to say to Him, “You make me want to be a better man. But I need Your help.”
Ed Stetzer has a great take on the phrase “act like men.” “Despite accepted cultural norms, acting like men doesn’t mean being macho, arrogant, overbearing, rude, or harsh. That’s immaturity and sin. Men are to love and serve through controlled strength. The power of godly men is wrought through the redemptive work of Christ in our hearts and lives. To be a man in our world– a biblical man– will look different than much of what passes for manhood in the world and even in contemporary Christian cultural expressions.”
If you’re in the DFW area, you can join us in the teaching series, “Challenges of Biblical Manhood” that we’ll be doing each Tuesday morning at 6:30 am and Wednesday evening at 6:30 pm at First Euless (beginning September 9).
If you’re not nearby, be sure to catch and share my “Better Man” blog series. Desire to be a better man.
Every one needs to hear at least 3 things over their lifetime from a father/mother, spouse, or mentor. He/she needs to hear:
1. “I love you.” We need to hear that verbally, specifically, face-to-face; eyeball-to-eyeball.
2. We need to hear, “I’m proud of you.”
3. We need to hear, “You’re good at ______________” and whatever they are good at, the blank needs to be filled in.
Look at the example of God, the Father. As you go through the pages of the New Testament over the life of Jesus, there are 6 times God the Father breaks into time and space and we hear His voice verbally speak to Jesus Christ. It’s interesting, on every one of those occasions, He says pretty much the same thing.
He says to Jesus these words, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased. Listen to Him.” And in that moment, we hear this affirmation; this commendation from a father to his Son that’s so desperately needed by every person. “This is My beloved Son”(I love You). “In whom I am well-pleased.” (I’m proud of You). “Listen to Him.”(telling those around Him, because this Man has something to say; He’s good.).
The Father said this to His, Son, Jesus Christ. If it was important for the Father to say it to Jesus Christ, how much more do we need to give that to sons/daughters/spouses/mentees during their very difficult journey? Within all the activities we do and the presence we provide, there needs to be deposited specific and strategic thoughts, information and empowerment that makes him/her able to stand in the storm of life.
If you’re in that position, say it. If it is said to you, listen to it.
(this article is adapted from a Robert Lewis talk)
It’s an amazing thing to have a great dad like I have! I’m painfully aware, however, that all don’t have this. But here’s what one looks like:
*He’s THERE. My dad made sure he was at all my important events as a kid. Ball games, the lake, CHURCH, in the hospital when I broke stuff, and watching me work at the jobs HE came up with. BE THIS!
*He’s a RESCUER. I could count on dad to be there when I was in trouble – and I was! He “delivered me from evil” more than a few times. He set me straight A LOT, with patience, not anger. BE THIS!
*He’s an EXAMPLE. My mom and dad carried on in front of me. It was PG, but it was there. I know how to love a woman because he showed me. He was an example in a ton of things, but this comes to mind. He said, “I love you” a lot to his family. BE THIS!
*He’s REAL. I saw my dad cry more than once – for all the right reasons. Spiritual reasons. Disappointment and pain-type reasons. BE THIS!
*He’s DURABLE. I watched him get hit hard in life by some things in ministry, family and personally. He got back up. Every. Single. Time. BE THIS!
*He’s a true FOLLOWER of Christ. Lasting image – my dad on the porch in the mornings with coffee and a Bible in hand. I do that now. BE THIS!
*He’s FOR YOU. Dad always had dreams for me. He wasn’t living through me, so he adjusted often, but he did dream greatness for me – in football (which I eventually left for basketball), in life, in school, in marriage and now in ministry. You need someone to dream with you – to believe in you. He did that. BE THIS!
THERE’S MORE. But if you begin here, you’ll figure out the rest. Get after it, dad.
Thoughts from John Meador and insights from God's Word.