Monday, February 27, 2006

It's All About The Money

A rich man may be wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him. Proverbs 28:11

Rich men are wise -- when it comes to money. In most instances, they weren't born wise about money. They committed much time and energy figuring out how money works and how to make money work for them. That is the standard this type of rich man uses to measure his wisdom.

Amazingly, the type of rich men the Proverb refers to are unaware of something important: those who may not have money may possess something of even greater value -- they are very discerning. Discernment allows these poor men to see that for some, "It's all about the money."

Well Done!

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2

Everyone seeks praise -- even those who in great humility follow God. They look forward to hearing "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Yet, here on earth, receiving sincere praises can be few and far between (notice I said "sincere"). You know what I mean, those people who praise you and then remind you not to get a big head! I am not sure they realize how telling that "Don't get a big head" statement is. In reality, they are trying to rob you of the satisfaction you get from a job well done.

Still, we need to pay close attention to the admonition the Proverb gives us -- let someone else praise you. Do not insist on getting recognition -- even if you have to wait until the next world. Remember, there is One who keeps the records that count.

Just one "Well done, my good and faithful servant" will make up for any oversights in this world.

Our Travel Agent's Itinerary

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27:9

We are back home! Our primary reason for returning to New England this past weekend was to lead a marriage retreat, but we are never convinced that our primary reasons are always God's only reason. We try to stay prepared to make adjustments to our itinerary.

We were sitting in the concourse waiting for our return flight, and up walks Paula, a dear friend from many years ago. She was Sandy's closest friend when we were doing the church plant in Northern Maine. We have stayed in touch by phone, but there have been few opportunities to see Paula. We hadn't seen her in several years.

As God would have it, we were on the same flight. Sandy and I were in aisle 42 and Paula in 21, so I switched with Paula; she and Sandy got to spend over two hours together. Paula needed my bride's friendship, pleasantness, and counsel; she is facing some difficulties in her life. She had a brief layover before continuing on to Florida, so the three of us had a light meal and prayed together before we said our goodbyes.

Driving back to Columbus, Sandy and I realized -- once again -- that our Travel Agent's itinerary is Divine.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Precision Or Randomness

Like an archer who wounds at random is he who hires a fool or any passer-by. Proverbs 26:10

An archer trained for years before he entered into battle. His skills were unique. Disciplined strength allowed him to hold an arrow steadily. Diverse strategies made it possible for him to outlive his enemy. Sometimes he battled at close range. In other situations he was like a modern day sniper, waging war from a distance.

An archer was highly valued; his abilities set him apart and earned him the title Archer. Precision not randomness characterized this warrior. The broad head of his arrow had a specific destiny.

Now, what about a fool or a passer-by? He, too, has earned his name. His life is marked by randomness, not precision. As the saying goes, He aims at nothing and hits it every time. He is not to be pursued – he is to be avoided.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Muddy Water

Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked. Proverbs 25:26

Every man is like a spring and a deep well -- His soul holds deep reserves. Out of those reserves the contents bubble forth like a spring.

The souls of some righteous men become muddied and polluted. Their souls are not dirty because of what they take into them -- they've got that covered -- they guard themselves closely.

Their souls are stained by what they give way to. Wickedness is not always visibly sinister -- it is often subtle -- like a little mud in a spring or contaminated groundwater in a well. These righteous men are like that -- they just simply give way and go with the flow -- a muddy polluted flow.

The Deaths Of Two Warriors

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according what he has done? Proverbs 24:11-12

A man fights bravely, but is overcome by his attackers. Violent men knock him to the ground and unleash brutal kicks into his ribs and stomach. Pouncing on him, they pummel his face, opening deep red gashes above his eyes. Through split and swollen lips he screams in agony. His eyes dart wildly looking for a rescuer. Howling like animals, his assailants yank him to his feet and throw a loop around his neck. He is not killed -- yet. Half standing and half staggering, he is dragged toward a large oak tree. The free end of the rope is thrown over a gnarly sturdy limb -- now they will kill him.

From a concealed vantage point another watches the whole thing -- but does nothing. He returns to camp -- and says nothing. He belongs to a group of men who live by a code: You never abandon a comrade. That night his cot feels like a bed of nails. He tries to convince himself there was nothing he could do. His conscience refuses to be eased -- he could have done something. From that point on, he is never the same warrior. Instead of rushing forward into battle -- he is constantly looking over his shoulder.

It's a tragic ending -- the deaths of two warriors.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Stingy Man

Do not eat the food of a stingy man, do not crave his delicacies; for he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost. "Eat and drink," he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments." Proverbs 23:6-8

You have probably heard the 3 letter acronym TMI (Too Much Information). When I tell you this, you might turn up your nose and say, "TMI!": I am 50 years old and I have never vomited . . . never once. Honest!

However, I have eaten the food of a stingy man . . . more than once. Stingy Man is shrewd; he knows some things about people. Stingy Man knows that people crave his delicacies and the opulence he enjoys. Stingy Man knows how to use that craving to extract something he values from his mark.

At first, Stingy Man seems quite generous. "Don't be deceived" the Sage warns! He has done a cost analysis on you and is maneuvering to maximize his margins. Stingy Man is keeping score; he may win your heart, but you will never win his.

The words of the Proverb are raw; shortly after leaving the table of Stingy Man "You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments." We sophisticated, domesticated, and cultivated people would assess it this way: "I've been played."

Lyin' About Lions

The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside!" or "I will be murdered in the streets!" Proverbs 22:13

The sluggard believes that fear is a worthy excuse to do nothing. He is also unaware of just how foolish his excuses sound to those listening to them . . . There is a lion outside? or I will be murdered in the streets?

C'mon now!

All of us face challenges that tempt us to respond with the Lyin' about Lions defense. Beware of being untruthful and giving a free pass to a lazy heart. Laziness sometimes disguises itself in the lie of an irrational fear.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Reality And Mystery Of God's Sovereignty

The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases . . . In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus the King . . . This is what Cyrus . . . says: "The LORD, the God of heaven, has . . . appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah." Proverbs 20:1; Ezra 1:1-3

God's sovereignty is a reality -- He causes hearts to flow like a river in the direction He appoints. One hundred and fifty years before Cyrus was born, Isaiah prophesied that God saw a day when the pagan king would serve His purposes -- God's sovereignty is also a mystery (Isaiah 44:25; 45:1, 13).

God spoke and a heart was moved -- Jewish historian Josephus wrote that Cyrus read the words of the prohecy and then set out to fulfill his destiny.

God speaks and a heart is moved -- If the heart of a pagan king is directed like water through an aquaduct, what about the hearts of those He has redeemed through faith in Christ? Is God any less sovereign? What has God's word been saying to you? Our response reveals the direction of our hearts -- the direction of our hearts reveals our destiny.

Deep Waters

The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out. Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find? Proverbs 20:5-6

There are many men who live shallow lives, but deep beneath their surfaces lie grand purposes -- buried. I believe every man struggles with this -- a sort of "self-dummying-down." Day-to-day life becomes the pursuit of the insignificant, but these men are haunted by a desire to search out and find grand purposes. Those purposes are not absent -- just buried.

The Proverb reminds us of two actions that must take place. First, every redeemed man must come to understand that he possesses a glory that has been buried. He needs to recognize that silt has settled into the deep channels of his soul, turning his depths into shallows. He needs a settled belief that he is not meant to remain shallow.

Secondly, shallow men need other men -- understanding men -- who persevere with unfailing love to draw out the hidden glory from the depths of a murky soul. Men of understanding are rare; few are willing to engage in the tedious and dirty job of dredging.

The deep treasures of the soul lie buried in deep waters.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Is It Time For A Heart-To-Heart Talk?

Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy . . . Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief . . . Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known. Proverbs 14: 10, 13, 33

On Valentine's Day, Proverbs 14 speaks of three hearts. One heart is bitter and has no joy to share. What causes the bitterness in this heart? According to the Proverb the heart knows its own bitterness -- even if no one else knows. Is it time for a heart-to-heart talk with God or someone else?

Another heart puts on a happy face, but aches and grieves. Why would the heart do that? Maybe this heart is truly deceived -- so it deceives others. It is unwilling to admit the fact that what has been done to it is not funny. Is it time for a heart-to-heart talk with God or someone else?

The third heart is a resting place for wisdom. Why? The third heart is discerning, it knows how to deal with bitterness and has come to grips with the fact that what is sometimes done to it is not funny. Is it time for a heart-to-heart talk with someone whose heart is bitter or broken?

Patient Warriors

Better a patient man than a warrior . . . I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you? Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. Proverbs 16:32; Nehemiah 6:3-4

A patient man is not the same as a passive man. A patient man is still a warrior. Nehemiah was such a man: patient and a warrior. He recognized that not every battle was worth fighting or every challenge worthy of his response. That is not passivity.

Impatient warriors can be foolish, taking on opponents unworthy of their attention. Every man needs to be patiently engaged in a great project.

Men need God-directed projects that fuel their passion. Like Nehemiah, they need to have a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. Every day Nehemiah's question needs to be ours as we choose our battles: Why should the work stop while I leave it to go down to you? Just like Nehemiah, patient warriors may need to say it more than once.

Can You Lend Me Some Kindness?

He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Proverbs 19:17

I started to title this post Can you lend me ten bucks? Do you see why I changed the title? We do not lend the LORD ten bucks; we lend Him kindness -- that kindness passes through the hands of the poor -- to the LORD.

Look at His promise. He guarantees to repay the loan -- with no middle man.

Cisco Kid

I have successfully ridden a horse now, three times in a row. Success is measured by a simple standard: I get off the horse at a specific time by my choice -- not the horse's! The horses I ride are Tennessee Walkers. I was beginning to believe they were Tennessee Runners or Tennessee Tossers. I tried riding a year ago, but spent most of the time picking myself up off the ground. I stopped because I would be going on an extreme backpacking trip to Asia -- I was afraid I would break an arm or leg and be unable to ride or backpack!

Now the risk is worth the reward. All the horses come from champion stock; they are beautiful and powerful animals. I have been riding Cowboy, Mercy, and Cisco. Last night I rode Mercy in the round pen as 7 of my "friends" stood around the edges hoping to see a wreck. Then I got to take him out for a short ride -- my first gallop (a gallop I was in control of).

This morning I rode Cisco for over an hour. Cisco and I criss-crossed 100 acres through woods and fields in a light rain. One trail had a blow-down across it. I had to take the horse off the trail, through the woods, and then back onto the trail. For those brief moments I felt like a real cowboy -- just call me the Cisco Kid!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Different Keys For Different Doors

A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great . . . We have different gifts, according to the grace given us . . . let him use it in proportion to his faith. Proverbs 18:16; Romans 12:6

Our gifts are keys -- keys that work best when given away. Keys are sovereignly given --given to unlock specific doors. Doors we open to usher us into the presence of greatness. Greatness? Yes, on the other side of any door that God would have us open is something great.

God didn't give everyone the same key -- but he gave a key to everyone. Different keys are needed to open different doors -- doors that respond to different keys. Different keys? God is so gracious, He gives everyone a door he intends them to open.

The Crucible

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart . . . These [tests] have come so that your faith -- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire -- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Proverb 17:3; 1 Peter 1:7

Gold and silver -- precious metals -- but impure. Impurities dull the luster, so the gold and silver have to be subjected to extreme heat to be purified. They have to be placed in a container that will endure greater heat than they can. The crucible is not consumed by the fire, but transfers the heat to the silver and gold and burns away the dross. The result? A gold and silver so pure -- it is like looking into a mirror.

Our faith -- precious -- but impure. Impurities dull the luster, so our faith has to be subjected to extreme heat to be purified. It has to be placed in a container that will endure greater heat than it can. The Crucible is not consumed by the fire, but transfers the heat to our faith and burns away the dross. The result? A faith so pure -- it is like looking into the face of Christ.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

What Will Make You Give Up?

If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets . . . Jeremiah 12:5

A friend, Cary, is teaching me how to ride a horse. The road to his house runs parallel to the pasture where the horses are kept. As I drove by, two of the horses, Cowboy and Lady, were standing together close to the fence. On the ground was a third horse, Gal. Gal is a baby, weaned only weeks ago. Oddly, Gal was lying down with half her body inside the fenced pasture and the other half outside. When I got to the house, I told them what I had seen.

Two minutes later, we were headed down the fence line to see what was going on. The little horse was lying there in distress; for several minutes she hardly moved. Some other friends came driving by and stopped. Then two men in a pick-up stopped to see what was going on. Now, Gal had the undivided attention of seven humans and two horses; she invoked great sympathy. With a little tug we got Gal back inside the pasture. In a short while she was standing on wobbly legs; all was well.

The most interesting part of the whole ordeal is what I learned about giving up. I did not realize how easily a horse will give up. Gal was not trapped, she could have swiveled her body easily and been free in seconds. Instead, she continued to try to get up the same way; the fence above her refused to yield every time. Cary's immediate concern was that the little horse may just give up on life -- even though she was now free.

As I was driving back home, Jeremiah's words came to mind. The prophet described a man worn out competing with his equals in a foot race and stumbling on a smooth trail. He never made it to the big challenges. Life's adventure will require us to compete against stallions and scramble through thickets.

In the end, Jeremiah's question boils down to this one: What will make you give up?

Thursday, February 9, 2006

A Little Bald Fox And A Great Big Storm (part 3)

Now—The Great Big Storm! In this part of the story Jesus is teaching that even though following Jesus might be exciting -- there may also be some danger (Matthew 8: 23-27).

The disciples would learn that things happened they didn't plan for, Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. (23)

Silas Fox made the story come alive; this was the most exciting part of the message to me! As he spoke, he began to rock and tip the pulpit, like a boat being tossed about in a storm. He described the sounds of the wind snapping the sails. He pictured the sailors clinging to the edges of the boat and wiping the salty spray out of their eyes. Water was spilling over the sides of the boat; the lake was churning like the inside of a washing machine!

The disciples learned that things happen without warning -- dangerous things -- even though they were obediently following Christ!

They also had to learn that some things happen that only Jesus can fix, The disciples went and woke [Jesus], saying, “Lord, save us! We are going to drown” . . . then Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm (25-26)

Mr. Fox began imitating the disciples cries for help. They fought the storm and struggled to the back of the boat where Jesus slept and screamed, “Wake up and save us (I got so excited by the story I shouted out, “Wake up!” just like Silas Fox)!

Jesus awoke and commanded the winds and waves to cease -- and they did! Isn’t it amazing how the winds and waves obeyed him? What did the the disciples learn? They learned that only Jesus can fix some things. Only Jesus had the final say on everything.

Do you remember how sadly little Silas’ life began? Who could fix a little boys life like that? Jesus did. He delivered that little boy out of a very stormy life.

Do you know what the most important thing the disciples had to learn? The disciples had to get to know the One they could trust—Jesus! Then the men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?” (27)

Could the disciples trust the weather? No. The storm came without warning. Could they trust the boat? No. It was about to sink. Could they trust in their own strength? No. The raging waters were overpowering them. Could they trust Jesus? Yes. Through this difficult time they got to know what kind of man Jesus was—He was God’s Son— He was their Savior.

A Little Bald Fox And A Great Big Storm (part 2)

When Mr. Matt read this story, I have no doubt that you may have been puzzled by Jesus’ response to those who said they wanted to follow him.

I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus replied, Foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. (19-20)

Why do you think Jesus answered the man like he did?
Jesus wanted him to know that following Him would be exciting, but may also mean he would have to make difficult choices. By responding the way Jesus did, he was asking, Will you follow me even if you have to give up your home?

Having the home we want is not the most important thing in life -- following Jesus is. Jesus told them that even though the foxes and birds have a home -- he did not. Jesus trusted his Father to take care of him and wanted his followers to trust him to care for them.

Do you remember what I told you about Mr. Fox? He lost his home -- he was a Fox that didn’t even have a hole to stay in! Sometimes we lose things without a choice, just like Silas did. Yet, God is working in our lives -- just like he was working in Silas’ -- to take care of us.

Jesus also gave another strange response to a man who said he would follow him, but wanted to wait until his parents were no longer living before he did. Another disciple said to him, Lord, first let me go and bury my father. (21)

Perhaps the man was very close to his father and dreaded the thought of leaving him. Maybe he thought it best to wait for his inheritance -- that would allow him to go with Jesus without the need to provide a living. Jesus was asking him, Will you follow me if you have to leave your family?

How do you suppose Silas’ life would have turned out if he had not followed Jesus when He said, “Silas, follow me to India.” Following Jesus is exciting, but sometime requires difficult choices.

A Little Bald Fox And A Great Big Storm (part 1)

(This post is a Children's message based on Matthew 8:18-27. It will be delivered at Morningside Baptist Church on February 12, at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m.)

How many of you are 8 years old? How many of you were 8 years old in 1964?

When I was a little boy I sometimes got very bored and fidgety in church. Do you sometimes get fidgety in church? Sometimes I didn’t understand the words to the songs that were sung or the Scriptures that were read. It just seemed that church was for great BIG people.

In my church there used to be little pencils and envelopes in the hymnal racks -- just the right size for a little boy's hands. I would try to get one of each so I could doodle and draw. Do you ever doodle and draw when I am preaching? Do your parents? As I reached for them my father or mother would always grab my wrist and their eyes would narrow letting me know that I was not to do so! They would whisper, “Billy, sit still and pay attention to the preacher.” So I would -- for about another minute!

Sometimes I would count the window panes to pass the time away. Sometimes I would count how many bald heads were sitting in front of me. In those days, it seemed that a lot of the men in our church were bald. I wondered if that came from sitting in church and scratching their head trying to figure out what the preacher was talking about. I wondered if I would soon lose my hair!

One day my father and mother informed me that we were going to Glen Cove Bible College to attend Revival Meetings. That meant we would have to drive from Howland to Rockland. That is a long, long trip. I wasn’t very enthusiastic about going. My parents told me that the man who would be preaching was a very interesting man, named Silas Fox.

I remember thinking "Silas Fox, that’s a cool name.”

Silas Fox was a missionary for 50 years. I also learned that Silas’ daddy died two days after he was born. His mom remarried and her new husband became an alcoholic. Eventually, she was alone with several children. She became so poor that she had to have little Silas go stay with his uncle. As it turned out, his uncle was a Baptist preacher. Silas became a Christian and decided God had called him to be a missionary. God called Silas to one of the most populated countries in the world—India.

One time while in India, Mr. Fox swam across a river to share the gospel with people who needed Jesus. He used to preach to great crowds on street corners -- thousands would gather to hear him. He was very clever; he would use magic tricks and object lessons to teach the bible.

Mr. Fox was definitely an interesting man, but I still didn’t want to go sit in church on a weeknight. I even cautioned my parents that it was not good to keep little boys up to late on a school night.

Have you ever tried to come up with an excuse to skip church? Have your parents?

We went to the revival services. I will say that the revival service was different than what I was used to in my church. It seemed that the singing was a little peppier, and the people there acted like they expected something to happen. In the church I grew up in, people didn’t act like they expected much to happen in church -- until business meetings!

When the singing and praying was finished, a man stepped forward to introduce Mr. Silas Fox, the speaker. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; Silas Fox wasn’t much bigger than I was! When he walked behind the pulpit he almost disappeared! All I could see was his head -- and his head was bald. I remember thinking “He’s a little bald Fox!”

But there was something else about Silas Fox that captured my attention. He was intense. I don’t mean that he was angry. I mean that he seemed to have something very important he was about to say and couldn’t wait to say it. He didn’t walk to the pulpit in a stately manner -- he ran! He was like that -- he was kind of like a kid -- almost fidgety!

Have you ever felt that way? You know what I mean. You can’t wait to tell your friends about a new bike or toy you just received.

Can you guess what story he preached about? He preached about the story that Mr. Matt just read! I am going to tell you that story; the same bible story that Silas Fox told when I was a little boy. So . . . today, I am going to tell you a story about A Little Bald Fox And A Great Big Storm!

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Faith And Fitness (part 4)

Why do fitness and faith go hand in hand?

The apostle Paul said that Physical training is of some value. (1 Timothy 4:8) He gave that truth to his heir apparent, Timothy. It was a truth that Paul expected Timothy to teach others, who would be instructing future believers. If you turn Paul’s statement around, it would be telling us that poor physical health will diminish your spiritual vigor and opportunities. I learned this truth when I was preparing for a backpacking mission trip to Asia. We would be trekking on foot over 70 miles, wending our way through a mountainous and primitive area. I had recently recovered from a severe case of mono, and I could not believe how weak I had become. I could not have made the trip without physical preparation, let alone be ready for the intense spiritual challenge that our non-typical mission held in store.

The Scriptures use powerful metaphors to describe the life of a Christ-follower. We are compared to warriors, runners, prize-fighters, laborers, farmers, and competitors. I have yet to find any encouragement in God’s Word to become a couch potato.

The Scriptures also tell us our bodies are the residence of the Spirit of God and we are to take care of God’s residence. Of all that God created, the human body is the most spectacular. With the exception of my great weakness for bacon and sausage, I eat food that is good for me and complementary to the kind of activities I am involved in.

For me, it is important to be able to go wherever God may ask. I believe I am responsible to keep my body in a condition that would allow me to endure environments less favorable than those I experience day-to-day. I truly believe it would be a shame and sin if I could not bring God’s message to a people, because I am unnecessarily physically unfit. Faith and fitness go hand in hand.

Faith And Fitness (part 3)

Talk about your recent “Call of the Wild” retreat. What was the purpose of the retreat? How many people attended? Where/when was it held? Talk about the retreat’s physical fitness activities.

“Call of the Wild” is an annual retreat for men. Our last retreat was on October 1, 2005. We had 200 men in attendance. The event is held at Buck’s Farm in Juniper, Georgia.

The purpose of COTW is:

“Men Connecting Relationally”
“Men Igniting Spiritually”
“Men Battling Strategically”

Men Connecting Relationally
COTW is all about men’s stuff. Believe me, these types of activities get men connected: rappelling off a 65 foot tower (we have Rangers from Fort Benning man the tower). I have seen men nearly 60 years old stare up at the top of the rappelling tower, shake their head and say, “What fool would jump off that?” Before long, they are those fools! Next thing you know, they are in a harness and rappelling off the tower! We have archery, paintball wars, flag football, golf, rock-climbing wall, sporting clays, skeet shooting, horse shoes, and bass fishing. Men love to compete. I entered a paintball war with a bunch of the college guys from our church. They turned on me! I looked like a painter’s palette when it was over. We also do team building exercises that require the help of a comrade or team. Every man is encouraged to have an accountability partner.

Men Igniting Spiritually
Often, churches become a place with no place for men. Much of what churches do seems to crush the adventure out of being a Christ-follower. We try to help men recognize their role and impact as a spiritual warrior. The church needs them to be men. God’s Word gives us many powerful illustrations of men totally committed to Christ, but nonetheless, men to the core. They were daring, visionary, risk-takers, and leaders. They fought for things that mattered.

The atmosphere at COTW is spiritually charged and effective; the success of the program is part of the reason that Morningside saw our Men’s Bible study increase by 50%, our “Band of Brothers” leadership team grow from 10 to 50, and 27 men travel to Mexico to build an educational facility for hearing impaired children. Literally hundreds of men are now involved in activities specifically designed to meet the spiritual and physical interests of men.

Men Battling Strategically
We talk to the men about the things that men have to deal with. Speakers show them how God’s Word speaks to their issues: being a manly and godly husband and father, balancing work and church, maintaining marital fidelity, setting priorities, and keeping the adventure in being a Christ-follower. Our men are taught how to respond to the challenges every man faces with a Biblical model to follow. Men have an innate desire to overcome a challenge.

We are currently making plans for spring and fall COTW retreats, and four “Extreme Boot Camps” for men who want to go deeper, and a little more dangerous in the adventure.

Faith And Fitness (part 2)

For aerobic exercise, I ride outdoors or indoors 5 days a week.

For strength building, I do a variety of ab workouts, like sit-ups (crunches). I do push ups, pull-ups and chin-ups for my back, arms and shoulders. I do several types of squats for my legs. I do dumbbell exercises to isolate and strengthen particular muscles. My main goals are strength, balance, and stamina for the activities I enjoy (I am not a body builder). I alternate different exercises on different days.

How old are you?

I am 50 years old.

Have you always led an active life?

Yes. I have always played sports and enjoyed physical activities. I am not a sedentary person.

How do you incorporate fitness into your ministry and faith?

For me as a pastor, it is important that I give attention to my physical as well as spiritual health. I try to keep my fitness routine as regular and disciplined as my study, praying, pastoral care, writing, counseling, and leading. I do not believe I can be disciplined spiritually and let my body go physically. The Scriptures are not silent when it comes to moderation in all things, physical and spiritual. There is a direct connection between my spiritual and physical health. John said in one of his letters, Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. 3 John 1:2

When I speak, I look for opportunities to encourage physical activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle. I constantly reinforce the spiritual benefit of being outside to enjoy the beautiful creation God has gifted us with. I believe mountains are there to climb, rivers are there to be explored, and woods are there to see creatures God created for our pleasure. The Scriptures tell us that creation is one of God’s primary evangelists, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1-3) It takes a certain level of physical strength to enter into those sanctuaries.

I rappelled from the 40 foot ceiling in our sanctuary one Sunday to promote “Call of the Wild.” People under 50 thought it was great!

Faith And Fitness

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by the Ledger Enquirer for an article about integrating Fitness with Faith. In this post I am going to include the entire interview. I hope to provide others with some inspiration for "Enjoying the Adventure."

I love the outdoors. In Georgia, I am able to bike all year. Weather permitting, I bike 125 to 150 miles a week. When the weather is bad I have two options: a trainer for my bike, or a stationary bike. I have done century rides (100 miles or more) and I do 75-85 mile rides a lot. My biking takes me to Columbus, Fort Benning, Ellerslie, Midland, Waverly Hall, Shiloh, Hamilton, Cataula, and Pine Mountain.

I backpack as often as possible. I have backpacked in China and my home state of Maine as well as other places throughout the US. I take advantage of FDR and camp out there as often as possible. I absolutely love a night in the woods, alone. My dream hike is to do the Appalachian Trail (beginning in Georgia and ending in Maine). I have climbed the second highest mountain peak in the lower 48 States (14,480 feet), Mount Elbert in Colorado. I have hiked around Mount St. Helens in Washington State.

I love to rappel. My first rappel was off building “D” at Morningside.

I do a lot of kayaking -- trips of 8 or 15 miles -- on the Penobscot River when I am at our cabin in Maine. It’s a real cabin—gas lights, wood stove, and an outhouse! The only running water is in the river that flows right past my front door. The water that rushes by is swift enough for body surfing. So, I body surf!

The river is dotted with countless islands and the beauty is breathtaking. When I bass fish I can plan on 80 to 100 fish per day (I know it sounds like a fish story, but I have been bringing groups of men to my cabin for the last 2 years. They were awestruck by the fishing).

I also like to drift down the river with a wetsuit, mask, fins, and snorkel. The visibility in the Penobscot is up to 15 feet (under water). I have never met another person who snorkels in the rivers in Maine. They don’t know what they are missing.

I love to deer hunt in Georgia and Alabama. I love the a.m. hunting the most. I go to the woods ridiculously early to enjoy the sounds and the pending sunrise. Hunting gives a person all kinds of opportunity to walk, climb, and drag.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Mr. Sandman -- Unarmed But Extremely Dangerous!

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. Proverbs 6:10-11

So . . . Mr. Sandman is a gangster. He is unarmed, but extremely dangerous, pillaging those who sleep when they should be awake. His thefts go unnoticed, but he leaves his victims in rags. How so? Because he steals things that are hard to quantify: opportunities, adventure, and time. Think about it. What do we really have left when those things are taken away?

Sunday, February 5, 2006

We Watched "24" Instead!

It is official; we are hooked on 24. Sandy and I never dreamed we would see the day when we would instruct our daughter to walk into the den at midnight with the command, "You need to turn off the television and go to bed!"

We did not watch one minute of the Superbowl. Instead, Sandy and I watched the last 4 episodes of the first season of 24. There were no advertisements and the outcome was less predictable.

Saturday, February 4, 2006

Straight Ahead And Never Mind The Mud

Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:25-27

Some days we are on a meandering path; there are no pressing goals or deadlines. The journey is about soaking in the sights and sounds or stepping off the beaten trail to explore.

Other days our path is determined; there are pressing goals and deadlines. We do not have the leisure of soaking in the sights and sounds; detours are a distraction. We are not exploring; we are deploying.

When life's pressures require that you find the shortest distance between two points, and someone asks "How's it going?" You may want to reply with this condensed, yet biblical response "Straight ahead and never mind the mud."

Thursday, February 2, 2006

He Sent Forth His Word -- A Healing Tongue

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a decietful tongue crushes the spirit . . . He sent forth his word and healed them. Proverbs 2:4; Psalm 107:20

There are some animals whose tongue contains an antiseptic; they lick their wounds to bring healing. They are self-reliant; God knew they couldn't go down to the local pharmacy or call a doctor.

People sometimes suffer wounded spirits. No pharmacy perscription or doctor can bring healing. What do those people do? They try to be self-reliant and retreat to lick their wounds. Eventually they discover that they are unable to heal themselves.

The wise words of the Proverbs now come into play. Our words can contain a medicinal value and bring healing to the soul and spirit of another. They are not just any words, but instead, words guided by the wisdom that God alone can provide.

No one is self-reliant -- not the wounded -- not those who have the power to heal. The wounded rely on the words of others. The healers rely on the word of Another -- He sent forth his word and healed them.

The Good And Bad Embedded In Words

. . . A harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

Driving along Warm Springs Road this morning, I found myself rehearsing bad words. I don't mean I was muttering profanity, curses, or swearing under my breath. I mean I was rehearsing some bad words I heard spoken about another person. Those words began to agitate me like a mixer churning my spirit.

I caught myself and tried rehearsing some good words. My mind labored to seek out good words, yet the bad words had come seeking me. Maybe it is no surprise to you that bad words stick with you longer than good words.

Paul reminds us that our hearts must be on alert (Philippians 4:7-8). We must guard against insurgents, disquised in words, that stir up anger. We must also send patrols into our thought life to retrieve good words. The Spirit-controlled mind seeks out the noble, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy -- embedded in words.