Taking on the Giants

giant 2Imagine the scene: a scrawny sixteen year old shepherd boy takes out a 9’9” tall giant with one rock and a sling.

You may not have a gigantic giant taunting you to come out and fight. But you are probably facing a few giants of your own. Giants like the stack of past-due bills glaring at you. Like the divorce papers waiting on your signature. Or the depression that looms over you like the Hulk. It could be low self-esteem or insecurity or child abuse in your past. But you have your giants. And so do I. And we would do well to learn from David.

He could face his “giant” because he had spent time in the quiet with God. When he arrived at the place of the standoff between the Israelites and the Philistines, he talked about God. He told Saul that “The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine” (1Sam.17:37). He did not hesitate to confront Goliath, saying he came “in the name of the Lord of host, the God of the armies of Israel.”

David was God-focused instead of giant-focused. He mentions Goliath two times and God nine times. He knew the giant was there and recognized his presence. But his thoughts were twice as much on God.

That focus led him to confront his giant rather than run away. For forty days Goliath continued to challengedepression Israel’s army. And for forty days everyone hoped he would just go away. But giants don’t typically go away until we face them. So David stepped into the gap and slung one well-aimed stone at him.

It helps to have someone in your corner that believes in you. David had his Jonathan. You need yours. You need at least one person who believes in you and that also believes in God. Someone who can encourage your faith—give you courage—when you most need it.

And you will need it. Because after you slay one giant, there will be more. You may wonder why David picked up five stones from the river bed. Was he afraid he might miss? Not likely. He was skilled in his use of the sling.

2 Samuel 21:18-22 hints that Goliath may have had four brothers. David was ready. He could take on one giant. You might say he knew how to get a head of his giant. And then he was ready for more.

And you can too. Just follow the shepherd from Bethlehem

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Face Your Battles With Strength and Courage

strong kidWhen someone keeps telling you to “be strong and courageous,” you might suspect you are up against something big. And the Israelites were.

About to enter the land that had been promised them 600 years before, they had a giant-sized task awaiting them. Literally. Forty years earlier ten spies had come back and told the Israelites that the inhabitants of the land were so big they felt like they were the size of a grasshopper in comparison. Fear took them captive without a battle and sent them off as a group to wander around in a wilderness where they took their chances against wild animals rather than face their giants.

They wandered so long that those who had grasshopper-sized faith died out. Forty years later their children were ready to take the land. They were physically no taller than their parents had been. The enemies in the land were no smaller than before. But the Israelites’ faith muscles had grown.

There were two spies who had reported the land was theirs for the taking. One of them, Joshua, is now the Israelites’ leader. He was courageous. And God wanted to keep him that way. So God tells him three times in the first nine verses of the first chapter of Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” He also reminds him “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

My guess is you have a few giants in your life too. Some uphill battles that appear insurmountable. A task demanding more than you think strong kid wrestleryou have to give. One too many things on your “to do” list than you have the time or energy to do. Unemployment is staring you down. Depression has a grip on you. Bills have raided your bank account and left it empty. An illness hovers in your life like a threatening storm. You’d rather just run and wander.

Instead, be strong and courageous. You have a Joshua that will lead the way. The New Testament equivalent of the name “Joshua” is “Jesus.” And he has promised to be with you always (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus knows how to lead you through battles. He had a few of his own while he was on this earth. Enemies attacking him with accusations (Mark 3:22). No home and no bed (Luke 9:58). Crowds and expectations pressing in on him (Luke 8:45). The religious establishment eventually insuring he was sentenced to a brutal death. (Mark 15:14).

Back to weird

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be weird, be proudAfter taking a week off for a special youth Sunday led by Kevin and Chris we are back to Weird.

 

In our discussion of “Weird” we have included:

               

Weird in a God way

                Weird is Better

                Weird Desires

 

This week we move into “A Weird Way to Win the World.”why be normal

 

I have a question for you. How’s your weird? Are you afraid to be different? Are you just content to be normal? If so, I have news for you—normal isn’t working.

Where are the real men?

real men 4We live in a culture and in a society where real men are difficult to find. Where are the men who believe in truth? Where are the men who lead their families? Where are the men who have convictions and principles and stand upon them no matter what? Where are the men who love their woman with all their being and will defend her against any opposition? Where are the men who model for their children what it means to love and to serve and to be courageous? Where are men of common sense, understanding and wisdom? Where are the men who are spiritual leaders of their home? Where are the real men?

Rather than spending our time pointing fingers or attempting to find reasons for the condition of men in our culture, let’s rather talk about some solutions and new direction. Let’s talk about what a real man looks like. And then, let’s just spend a moment talking about some key pursuits that will develop real man in today’s culture.

First of all real men lead their families. They are out in front. They know what is right and what is true and what is good and they pursue it with all of their hearts. They have convictions and principles and stand upon those convictions and principles even when others in their neighborhood or workplace refused to do so. It is still true that children will not do what you say; they will do what you are. In other words, instead of following your words they will follow your model. And that is not true just of children; it is true of the entire family. We need families that are led by man who are models. They are models of values and principles and spiritual convictions and purpose that others are proud to follow.

This is not an easy task in our culture. Men have been assaulted from endless sources. Some of the assault is nothing more than an attempt to reduce and diminish the value and place of man in our culture. Other attacks are justified. Men have just failed to step up to the plate, to be what they are called to be, and to lead as they are called to lead. As a result, men face a huge challenge today. But it is a challenge that men must meet and men must conquer and men must overcome. Men must become leaders in their families.

The second thing real man are is healthy, strong, and mission driven. They know that being a real leader requires health, physical health and spiritual health. They are not content to exist or to take up space in the family. They want to be healthy leaders that are giving attention to their physical, spiritual as well as emotional well-being.

This takes time. This takes desire. This takes determination. But a real man is so committed to being healthy and strong and mission focused that they are, and this is the third identifying characteristic of a real man, they are willing to pay the price, whatever that price might be. They will sacrifice, extend, serve, exercise self control or whatever it takes to become the healthy, strong, mission driven leader that the family needs and the family is longing for.

So my question to you is this, do you want to be a real man? Do you want to be a man who leads his family, leading out of health, strength and purpose because you’re willing to pay the price whatever it is? If this is the kind of man you want to be I have a few suggestions.

I would first of all say, make the time to get alone with God regularly. The challenge is too big, the call is too high, the task is to demanding for you to do it alone. You cannot be the man that God wants you to be and calls you to be in your own strength and in your own power. There is a short verse in the Bible that says, in the book of Philippians chapter 4 verse 13, “I can do everything,” that means you can do everything you need to do to be the leader in your home that you need to be. It is within the power and realm of possibility, but it continues, “through HIM who gives me strength.” Who is the him? Who is the one who gives me strength? Who is the one who provides the power? It is Jesus. We are talking about the super natural strength that Jesus gives to those who seek, depend on, and cry out to him for such strength.

So I would say to you, if you want to be the leader in your home that you know you need to be and God wants you to be, you need to spend regular time with the one who real men 3gives you the power, strength, wisdom, and anything else it takes to be the leader that you need to be.

The second thing I would encourage you to do is to get connected with a group of men, or a men’s ministry through which you can pursue the same goals and direction together. Connect up with other men who also want to be real man. Spend time regularly with men who want to be leaders in their family. Learn from men and learn together with man who want to get healthy and strong as they pursue God’s mission and purpose for their families. You cannot do it alone. Not only do you need the power of God you also need the presence of other men who are pursuing this purpose together.

So let me wrap it all up by first of all repeating something I have already said. This is not going to be easy. The tide of culture is against you. The forces of the evil one stand in opposition. He does not want you to win this battle. The evil one does not want you to be the leader in your home that God want you to be. Therefore, he will do everything he can to dissuade you and defeat you. Be aware of that.

To that I would say, do not let him win. Look to God, depend on his strength, pursue his purpose, and you will become the leader he wants you to be in your family. It will not be instantaneous. It will take time upon time upon time. But with each step of progress and each mark of victory you will become more and more the real man God has called you to be. I believe that is exactly want you want.

The Reason We Exists

We can’t do it all so this is what we want to do best.  No literary work has ever captured my purpose for existence, New Venture’s purpose for existence and I hope your purpose for existence than this one.

I Stand at the Door By Sam Shoemaker

I stand by the door.
I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

‘I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.

Ryan’s Story

I grew up in a church family.  I attended regularly throughout my childhood and teenage years.  I was baptized as an infant, and later confirmed into the Lutheran church in my early teens.  My parents were instrumental in teaching me about God and Christ, and always instilled the practical aspects of faith for daily living.

While I was always aware of God, and knew the teachings of the Bible, I never really had the relationship with him that I knew I should be cultivating.  In retrospect, I think that perhaps life never showed me just how much I need Him.  As I came into adulthood, not having a personal relationship with Christ made it easy for me to begin to question His purpose in my life and to feel like life was my journey that I was equipped to deal with independently.  In my twenties, I became busy with life; certainly too busy for Him, as I worked, earned my degree, dated, cultivated friendships, and distracted myself with frivolous pursuits.  I thought I was building the life that I wanted.

As I became more interested in myself, and more driven by my own ego and pleasure, I began to completely disregard God’s will for my life and ignored everything that would bring me closer to him, including the wisdom of my parents and my wife.  It’s hard for me to say this now, but I began to question that the Lord had a place in my life at all.  I was certainly not willing to bend to it if it did exist.  In shunning Him, I began a slide that took me to depths that strained all of my relationships and made me question everything about myself.

In the last 8 years, I’ve filled my life with all of the trappings of modern existence.  I was constantly in pursuit of one false idol after another.  They all lead to emptiness and despair.  Being constantly unfulfilled, and with all of the stresses of life, despite what appeared to be a successful business, wonderful family life, and a world of opportunity and promise, I suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety.  I was always too proud to deal with them, and as they subsided, I never took time to examine my life and why I was never happy.  As I time went on, I became unable to cope with daily things, and began to feel like I had no anchor and no direction.  I was completely lost.

In an effort to change my circumstances, and become happy, I made a terrible decision and separated from my wife.  She was the woman I loved, the mother of my children, and the person who had been the most positive influence on my life since I had come to know her 10 years prior.  I know now that this was God’s plan for me.  I had to clear the slate to find him.

Almost immediately after my wife  and I separated, I realized that nothing was better for me.  In fact, thing became far worse.  I began to suffer physically, losing 20 lbs. and became a shell of my former self in all other aspects.  I lost the ability to function at work and withdrew from everyone as I became more hopeless.

On February 25th of this year, as I sat alone in my apartment and estranged from my family, I began to cry.  I remembered all of the people who had loved me and still did.  Most importantly, I remembered God.  I spent that night alone with Him, unloading myself and asking for forgiveness for all of my pride and mistakes….everything I had misjudged and done improperly or with the wrong intentions.  I asked him for guidance and strength to find my way back to my life and my family.  I had finally realized after all of these years, that I could no longer do life without him.  I prayed for hours and began the relationship that I am ready to affirm in public (today in baptism).

Without God’s daily presence in my life now, I don’t know where I would be.  What I do know, and what many who know me can attest, is that I am different in Him.  With his power I have transformed in my thinking, and doing.  I have defeated my issues regarding happiness and contentment.  I have learned to be the father I have always wanted to be but struggled with.  I have become a better husband and began to repair the damage to the relationship I have with my wife.  Walking with God has helped me to love and give with the right motivations, and to build and rekindle relationships with strong Christian men and women who I learn from and hopefully give back to.

Because I opened my heart to God and let him back in, I will always look at 2011 as the year in which I gained my life.  I realize now that I am never alone, and with Him, I am always taken care of and given my needs regardless of my circumstance or the mountain I have to climb.  He has a plan for me and I am happy to know that all I have to do is be patient and look to him.

There is one verse that I have looked to many times on this journey and would like to share:  ‘But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’-Isaiah 40:31.

(Ryan’s story was shared before his baptism on November 27, 2011 at new Venture Christian Church)

ONLY A PERSON WHO RISKS IS FREE

by Author Unknown

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach for another is to risk involvement.
To expose your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To believe is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken, because the
greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing, do nothing,
have nothing, are nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.