Cliff Notes: Uphill Battle

Cliff Notes is a series of post based on finding biblical truth in books.  

Sebastian Junger went to the front lines with our troops to portray as best he could what it’s like on the front lines.  This book primarily takes place in the Korangal Valley in Afghanistan.  It’s not Christian-based but it’s a fantastic read and you can still apply many parts of it to the spiritual battles we face.

There are different kinds of strength, and containing fear may be the most profound, the one without which armies couldn’t function and wars couldn’t be fought (God forbid). There are big, tough guys in the Army who are cowards and small, feral-looking dudes, like Monroe, who will methodically take apart a SAW while rounds are slapping the rocks all around them.  The more literal forms of strength, like carrying 160 pounds up a mountain, depend more obviously on the size of your muscles, but muscles only do what you tell them, so it still keeps coming back to the human spirit.

Paul tells us in Timothy 4 that physical training is good, but it’s only going to get us so far.  We need to train ourselves for godliness.  Junger put it well, “…muscles only do what you tell them, so it still keeps coming back to the human spirit.”  You can look like a freak of nature with your shirt off, but if you haven’t trained your heart and mind spiritually, that physical strength won’t fill the void.

Wars are fought with very heavy machinery that works best on top of the biggest hill in the area and used against men who are lower down.  That, in a nutshell, is military tactics, and it means that an enormous amount of war-fighting simply consists of carrying heavy loads uphill.

I’ve been at points when I see guys who are on absolute fire for Christ and I can tell just by being around them that they are a strong spiritual warrior.  We see guys like that and think, “Dang I want to have that same fire. That strength.”  Well, you can, but you have to be willing to carry those heavy loads up the hill to put yourself in position fight battles with that kind of strength.

What does the uphill trek look like for you?  For many of you, it’s time to allow God to break you down so he can be the sole focus of your life.  That might mean dropping a hobby to free up time for spiritual training.  It also might be recognizing sin in your life and repenting.  That uphill climb is different for all of us and for some, it’s going to look much steeper and the load is going to be heavier.

However steep the climb and however heavy the load, I can tell you this:

It’s worth it

 

 

TheRock Roundup: Two Habits for an Amazing Marriage

Each Monday following TheRock (TrueNorth’s monthly event on the first Thursday of every month), we’ll post a summary of the message and highlights.  We’ll do our best with these posts, but they won’t be near as good as the real thing. So join us next time!

Shawn Maguire delivered big at TheRock last week by sharing with us two habits that we can practice as husbands to set the stage for an awesome marriage.  Shawn is a Christian counselor, having a two masters degrees from Oral Roberts:  one in Marriage and Family Therapy and the second in Christian Counseling.  One might say he is slightly qualified to bring this message!  Oh, and check out more about Shawn and his services on his website.

1.  Habit of Repentance

Those of you with siblings will understand this analogy well, whichever side you were on.  Remember that sibling fight(s) during which your parents intervened and forced you to apologize to each other?  From that point on, were you determined to treat your brother or sister differently?  Of course not, because you had no ownership over that apology.  You were following an order from your superior to avoid further punishment.

Sadly, that is what many who don’t know Christ think being a Christian is about.  Apologies mean nothing without true repentance.  The Greek work metanoia refers to a change of mind that leads to a change of action.  We have to get to a point in our marriages where we aren’t looking to apologize for to our wives just to avoid further repercussions.  We have to be able to recognize that there are areas in our lives that require change.

In Acts 26, we’re instructed to demonstrate our repentance by our deeds (change of actions).

Look at the cartoon that headlined this post as an illustration of how many of us act in our marriages.  We check ourselves out and see who we intend to be, but not who we really are.  Why would we truly apologize and repent and if that’s who we think we are?

2.  Habit of Focusing on How God can Change You & Not Your Spouse

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”  (Matthew 7:3)  For those of you who like to find loopholes, this applies to you and your wife even though is says “brother’s”.

We saw the man fail at this after the first sin in all humanity.  Eve at the fruit and when god confronted Adam, he puts the blame on Even.  “God, it was that woman you put me with.  She gave it to me.  IT’S HER FAULT.”  That’s from Genesis with added commentary.

Whose responsibility was it to make sure neither of them ate from the tree?  Hint:  not Eve’s.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for herEphesians 5:25

That verse is much more loaded than guys want to dig into.  It’s like you want a pool in your backyard but don’t want to dig into the ground because you might hit a pipeline and cause a gas leak.  To unpack everything Ephesians 5:25 is telling us to do is far more challenging that what most Christian men are up for.

Jesus didn’t come down into this world to tell us about how everything was our fault.  While it’s true that everything truly is our fault, he came to make that fact irrelevant (should we choose to follow Him).

Men, step up and take ownership of your marriage.  When you make the first habit part of your life, the second will come a little easier.  Your wife is going to notice these changes and I’m willing to bet you are really going to like the results (not those results…okay yeah probably those results, too)

Thanks to Shawn for the awesome message.  If you thought the content of this post was any good at all, you’re missing out on much, much more.  Join us at TheRock in August!

How My 8-Month-Old Son Has Made Me a Better Man of God

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I sat in the rocker in my 8-month old’s room after his bedtime bottle supporting him as he tried to stand facing me on my lap.  I prepared my mind for the prolonged burp-waiting period. For some reason he finds it necessary to take the longest to burp after his last feeding, as if he’s not quite ready for bed.  I like to think of it as him wanting to spend a little more time with his dad.

This particular night God spoke to me through the pure joy on Ax’s face that existed solely because he was staring at the face of his father.

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“I love this kid more than I can imagine.  I’d do anything for him.  I’m obsessed.  And somehow, God loves me far more than I can even imagine loving this boy.”

It was a convicting moment for me because I realized any time I walk in the room and he sees me, his face lights up.  If I’m loving God like a child (Matthew 18:3), my face should light up every time I see Him working in my life.  I’d be heartbroken if Axle ignored me or acted as if I was a random stranger every time he saw me.

Fewer things bring me more joy right now than getting that kid to laugh.  I’ll throw him in the air (when Momma isn’t looking) and get those deep laughs that originate in his belly.  He has zero awareness of the consequences if I drop him but has complete faith that I won’t. To him, being dropped isn’t even a thought.  He’s all in for the excitement of the ride his dad is taking him on.  Am I all in on the ride God has me on without being distracted by the risks?

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Monday nights are Guys Nights at the Amilian house because Momma is off teaching Zumba at a local gym.  He might be content by himself in his Pack ‘n Play for a short period, but he soon realizes Dad isn’t around and he’s crying out for him.  As adults, we can slip into the mindset that we take care of ourselves and control our paths in life.  We’re not as quick to realize we’ve strayed away from God and don’t call out to Him nearly as much as we should.  There are times when I think, “Dang I haven’t had any time with God in quite a while.  I miss Him!”

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Amarillo.  I miss that boy right now and I delight in the pics and videos Lindsay sends of him throughout the week.  If I think about him as much as I do, God is thinking about me much more.  One day Axle is going to realize he wants to make his dad proud, and I know he’ll be able to.  It’s time we put effort into making God proud.  He expects much out of us so that’s not a task we can take lightly.

Of all the great and awful things I heard about having kids (and I heard plenty), I never once heard about how much I’d learn about God’s love for me.  I’m not even eight months in and have already learned more than I grasp.  I always knew parenthood would be an adventure, but I wasn’t aware how much better of a Christian man being a father is going to make me.  My hype about Dad Life has gone to a new level.

Honor your Heavenly Father this Father’s Day by loving him like a child.

*Note: I love him too much not to flood this post of pictures of him!

 

Imperfect Execution

Do you feel your efforts to advance the kingdom of God fall short?  Have you taken on an assignment, project or ministry but messed things up in the process?  Odds are, you probably screwed up or things didn’t go near as smoothly as you planned. It might have seemed like a complete failure.

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But we serve a God whose power goes far beyond our abilities.

In a sermon by Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in the Dallas area, titled “Together for the Gospel“, he touches on how God honors our “Imperfect Execution”.  Here’s one example from his message:  “You’re going to pray with your wife, it’s going to feel awkward and God is going to honor it”.  I’m repeatedly guilty of choosing not to pray with Lindsay because I don’t want to face the awkwardness (which is Satan at work).

I’m now becoming obsessed with the concept of “Imperfect Execution”.  TrueNorth hasn’t done things perfectly from a ministry standpoint, but we’re prayerful and seek the Lord in what we do.  Because of that, God has produced more fruit through the ministry than what our combined capabilities deserve.

How freeing is it to know you don’t have to worry about the results of your works?  That’s extremely counter-cultural!  Heck, I’m in sales and I can work, work and work but if there’s no purchase orders, then none of that work matters.  When working for Jesus, we can drop the stress of producing results because The Word promises us a harvest!

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.   – Galations 6:7-10

One of my brothers (in Christ, not blood) works full time for Hockey Ministries International.  He’s been working their camps every summer for 15 years.  This year (this week actually), he said he had the worst day at camp he’s ever had.  The result?  Multiple kids responded to the invitation to accept Christ that night!  God honored his worst day!  You should have goosebumps right now and be all like…

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In our world, talent + effort + luck = results.

In Christ, heart + effort = ∞.

It’s going to seem like your works mean very little in a big world, but remember, you are serving the God who created it.  Don’t be concerned with the size of the world.  Be faithful in the size of our God.

Wake Up from Your Slumber

My wife and I were relaxing on our back patio the other evening when “Slumber” by Needtobreathe had its turn on the music playlist we had running.  I’ve always loved that song but it really hit me as to how much the message of that song aligns with why TrueNorth Ministries exists (yes, “Brother” by Needtobreathe is quite fitting as well).

“Awaken” is one of the key words TrueNorth focuses on for men.  The song in general speaks to this as the chorus states:

Wake on up from your slumber

It’s easy to get comfortable in your daily routine.  Actually, it’s not just easy, but it’s typically a natural default for us.  We just end up going through the motions when God wants you to get out from under your covers, see what He has for you outside your window and go after it.

If you’ve been to a TrueNorth BaseCamp, you understand identifying how you’ve been wounded and allowing God to heal you are vital in the process of Him restoring your heart.

Hearts are stronger after broken

Every Christian knows this to be true.  I can tell you that my wife and I each had a turn breaking the other’s heart (yes a guy is allowed to say that) before we got engaged.  In both instances, we each had to dig deep to forgive the other and then allow God to heal us through that.  In doing so, our love for each other took off to a level we thought would take years of marriage to get to.

Replace your feeble with a fable

My favorite line in the song.  In other words, turn your struggles into your story.  Turn your mess into your message.  A core value of TrueNorth is that we authentically reflect Christ by being transparent in sharing our stories.  If you’ve been to one of our events, you’ve experienced this.  If you haven’t been to one of our events, perhaps it’s time.  Check them out here 

Authentic Devotion

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I’ve gone through my fair share (and more) of spiritual dry spells and the reoccurring question is “What am I doing?”, meaning I feel like my wheels are turning but I’m not going anywhere.  Satan loves to use a man’s need for a quick solution to fix the problem as a weapon against us.  We’ll wake up one day and say “Okay I’m going to read my Bible every morning.  I’m going to quit my job and go into ministry.”  While you should definitely be in the Word daily and perhaps go into ministry if you’re called, those aren’t solely the answers to the problem.  At one point in my life, I almost bolted from my industrial sales job to work for my church, but fortunately that door closed.  In retrospect, church ministry was not my calling and would have been an awry move.

It’s not that Satan’s coming at us with it like an Apache Helicopter and if we don’t act hastily, we’re done.  It’s more like he blew up a bridge that was in our direct path to the spiritual goal we’re pursuing.  Sometimes, we say “Ah screw it” because things got tough after facing resistance rather than pushing through.

Let me present a solution that serves as an antidote and cure to these spiritual funks:  Authentic Devotion.  I don’t intend to tell you that your morning quiet time with God is useless, but if if you’re not getting honest with yourself and with God during this time, then what’s the point?  That’s when you’re going to see change.  That’s when you’re going to say, “Man, I’m jacked up.  But I have Jesus.  Bring it, Satan.”

Check out this sermon jam from Ben Stuart on Authentic Devotion

 

 

 

Curry Gives Credit to the Real MVP

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All of us around OKC love us some Kevin Durant, but with the injury he had no shot at the MVP this year.  I was pumped to see my guy (no, I have no justifiable reason to call him that other than I was a fan of him in college), Steph Curry, come away with the award this year.

He has the attention of basketball fans everywhere and what does he do?  He writes a blog about how God gave him this stage and uses it as a platform to share his faith.  Curry wrote a short blog on his experiences of God working as he progressed in his basketball career.  You can (and should) read the full post here on CharismaNews.

“The Holy Spirit is moving through our locker room in a way I’ve never experienced before.”

Do you desire to the see the Holy Spirit move in your life?  Start using the platform you have right now rather than waiting for the one you want to have in the future.

TheRock Roundup: Trading Cards

Each Monday following TheRock (TrueNorth’s monthly event on the first Thursday of every month), we’ll post a summary of the message and highlights.  We’ll do our best with these posts, but they won’t be near as good as the real thing. So join us next time!

marvel

Derek England delivered a message God gave him about the specific traits God gave each us long before we took our first breath.   This post is merely a summary of that message.

Surely you were into some type of trading cards as a kid (or as an adult?).   For me, it was baseball cards and few things made my day more than finding The Big Hurt after opening a pack.  Let’s categorize the cards into 3 groups:  (1) The low-value cards everyone has, (2) the “B” cards; somewhat unique but nothing to get excited about (you know, ones you would put in a sleeve rather than a case) and (3) The Big Hurt type of cards.  These are the cards that define the pack.

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Apply this principle to yourself, with the pack of cards being the group of traits that you consist of and each card being a specific trait.  Let’s focus on the The Big Hurt (or high-value) cards.  These are the cards God gave you that make you who you are.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  

Genesis 1:27

Check out what God said to Jeremiah:
 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations”  Jeremiah 1:5
Again, he gave you these cards before you were born:
 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb”  Psalm 139:13
Derek presented us with three questions:
1)  Who Are You?  (i.e. What makes you come alive?) – Identify your high-value cards.  What is it in life that you can’t get enough of?  My very close friend is a hockey guy.  He’s from Canada, played at Yale and then played some professional hockey after that.  He loves the game.  What does he do now?  He’s full time with Hockey Ministries sharing the love of Jesus in a rough culture.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking this has to relate to your full-time job.  It most certainly can, but perhaps God wants you to be the man he designed you to be in the job you’re in now.
2)  What Cards Have You Traded? – Without realizing it, we’ve traded those high-value cards for something worldy.  Did you give up Adventure for Security?  Integrity for Acceptance? How about Intimacy for Pleasure?  Ask God to search your heart and help you identify the cards that He created in you but you have traded for something safer or easier.
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts”  Psalm 139:23
3)  How Do You Get Your Cards Back? – The key is not to drop cards you currently hold and immediately pick up a bunch of cards that seem like they’d be good.  For example, I have a lot of respect for people who have taken the risk and started their own business, but that’s not for everyone.  So just because you like the idea of entrepreneurship, that doesn’t mean you need to quit your job and start something up right away.  Don’t get me wrong, if you’re holding on to the Pleasure card (porn, sleeping around, etc.), you drop that card now.
Revisit your own story in your head.  Tell it to yourself.  Tell it to others.  You’ll see a pattern of certain things that made you feel alive.  These things are those high-value cards and it’s time to acknowledge you traded those at one point.  And it’s time to get them back.

You’re Tougher than Your Obstacles

You’re going to face challenges in life and God isn’t going to give you a path to avoid them.  He’s given you everything you need to attack them head on.  Props to Duracell for this commercial and also to Trey Dixon for pointing out this amazing illustration.

“This thing is tough.”

“So are you.”

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Jonathan: A Portrayal of Courage

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Last night, a couple hundred guys (by my estimate) gathered at a local church for the COURAGE Men’s Event.  Jonathan Holcomb, Associate Campus Pastor of LifeGroups and LifeMissions at the LifeChurch OKC Campus (fit that on a business card), shared a message about courage using Jonathan in 1 Samuel 14 as an example.  Here’s a brief summary from the mental notes I took:

Redefining Courage

When we think of a courageous person, we typically default to someone who served in the military or put their life on the line as a police office or firefighter.   No doubt those are courageous roles, but when we accept that alone as the definition of courageous, we falsely deny that we have ample opportunities to be courageous ourselves.  Of the various definitions you’ll find for “courage”, the general description is taking a step of action in which you face danger or overcome fear to do so.   I could spend the rest of this post on examples but here are a few life applications:

– Overcoming the fear of what people will think or say about you when you boldly proclaim and live out the Gospel

– Spontaneous giving to the point that will put you in financial uncertainty

– Quitting your job to start your own business

Jonathan (not Holcomb) Attacks the Philistines

For the sake of clarity, I’m going to refer to Jonathan Holcomb as “Holcomb” and Jonathan from the Bible as Jonathan.  Alright then…

The key verses Holcomb used to reference a portrayal of courage in the Bible is 1 Samuel 14:6-7.  It’s important to read the scripture leading up to these verses to understand the context of the story taking place, but in attacking the Philistines there were 3 keys Jonathan did (or didn’t) do:

1)  He didn’t pray – Wait…what?  That’s a good thing?  It’s comically ironic (and he acknowledged it) that Holcomb said this given his church just started a series of message on Prayer.  But he’s right.  Sometimes we default to “I need to pray about it” when God has already called you to something.  Jonathan knew he had the power of God in him and knew that he should be the aggressor and take on the Philistines.

2)  Jonathan didn’t know what was going to happen – Oh boy.  (One of man’s worst enemines…The Unknown!  Scripture says “perhaps” the Lord will act on their behalf.  He knew what he was called to do and did it, even though he didn’t know the outcome.  It would have been understandable had he been fearful  but he either overcame the fear or overcame Satan’s temptation to make him fearful.

3)  He didn’t attack alone – God didn’t design us to go at life alone.  He sent the disciples out in pairs.  Iron sharpens iron.  A critical core value of TrueNorth Ministries is the power of sharing our stories with transparency and authenticity.  Trey Dixon, TrueNorth Executive Director, spoke last night as well and did exactly that.  When we share our weaknesses and downfalls, other men build us up and it encourages men to recognize the power in their own story.  He encouraged us to take a courageous step, which is different for all of us.  Trey said this about Jesus calling fishermen to be his disciples:

“Jesus didn’t bless their talents.  He blessed their willingness.”

God has called you to be part of a community with men.  You don’t need to pray about whether or not to seek it out.  Don’t know where to start?  Check out the TrueNorth Men’s Groups.  That is your next step.  Now, for extra motivation (and entertainment)…