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I Choose Jesus… / God Will Not Waste Your… / Be Patient With…

Sermon of the Day: 

MacDonald: I Choose Jesus Christ as Lord


Weekly Audio: 

God Will Not Waste Your Pain (see attached – email version)


Daily Devotion: Be Patient With Your Slow Growth

Article by

Staff writer, desiringGod.org

We value speed today far more than we realize, and that makes the painfully slow process of our sanctification and personal transformation confusing and frustrating.

We live in an era of such rapid technological advancement and in a society that so values efficiency, productivity, and immediate results that we can hardly help but assume that the faster things happen, the better. Therefore, we often don’t value the precious benefits of slow growth.

Speed Shapes Us

For most of human history, most people’s lives were mapped on to the relatively slow cyclical rhythms of the seasons. Life was demanding and difficult because it had a primary, and at times ruthless, focus on subsistence, and so was largely dictated by the annual migration patterns of fish and herd animals, plant and fruit cultivation and harvesting, rainy seasons, and available sunlight.

One of the things this did was produce and reinforce in the minds of people, because of sheer necessity, an understanding and valuing of slow, incremental progress toward an aimed-for reward. Food, clothing, and housing were obtained through arduous, sustained effort and care.

In America, this has all but disappeared from living memory. For generations now, a superabundance and wide variety of food has been available and largely affordable a relatively short distance from nearly every home — prepared, packaged, and FDA-approved. We do not have to work nearly as hard, nor do we spend nearly the percentage of our annual income on food, water, and shelter as our ancestors did.

On the whole, these have been immense blessings. But our abundance and increasing conveniences on every level have shaped — and in some ways warped — the way we view time. We now expect that nearly everything should happen fast and with little or no inconvenience.

Slow Grown

But factors that are most beneficial in fueling productivity and economic growth and improved bodily health of individuals and cities are not necessarily factors that are most beneficial in fueling the spiritual growth and health of individual souls or churches.

God created us as organisms, not machines. There are millions of reasons why the fullness of time when God sent forth his Son occurred in the first century (Galatians 4:4). But one reason was so that the Son would frequently use agricultural metaphors to illustrate spiritual truths. Think of the parables of the sower (Matthew 13:1–9), the wheat and weeds (Matthew 13:24–30), and the mustard seed (Matthew 13:31–32). Think of metaphors of the fruit-bearing trees (Matthew 7:16–18), the vine and branches (John 15:1–8), and the reaping of souls as a harvest (Matthew 9:37–38John 4:35–38). And Jesus’s apostles also used such metaphors, for instance spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22–23) and fields (1 Corinthians 3:6–9).

Something that the original hearers of these parables and metaphors would have intuitively understood, because of their familiarity with agricultural processes, is their gradual, progressive nature. Many of us probably miss the meaning because the processes are so foreign to us. Christians are slow-grown, and fruit-bearing typically comes after an arduous time of maturation.

The same goes for churches. There’s a reason we call the process of starting of new churches “church planting” and not “church manufacturing.” We admire stories of explosive church growth, just like we admire stories of explosive business growth. That’s not wrong, but it is not typical. And even what looks like a sudden harvest is usually due to an unseen, prolonged season of arduous sowing and watering and cultivation (John 4:35–38).

Benefits of Slow Growth

God designed us to develop habits of obedience and holiness slowly and incrementally because the process teaches and trains us to live by faith rather than by our often inaccurate perceptions and emotions. The waiting teaches us to trust more in the truth of what God says than the impulses of what we see or how we feel.

The long-term beneficial effect of slow, incremental transformation through the exercise of habit rather than impulse develops, over time, deeper, richer, more complex and nuanced affections for God, and integrates our beliefs into our whole being. There are things I am just beginning to really grasp now, well into middle age, that I didn’t appreciate when I was younger.

God’s ways with us may not seem efficient to us. We might even think they are needlessly slow and inefficient. But none of God’s ways are needless, and God is not slow; he’s patient (2 Peter 3:9).

And he wants us to learn patience, too — it’s one of his slow-growing spiritual fruits (Galatians 5:22). Don’t be discouraged with your slow growth or with your church’s. Determine to “dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3 NASB). And bear in mind the broader principle captured in Jesus’s words to Peter: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand” (John 13:7).

Examine the forces that shape your expectations. Do not let wrong assumptions fuel your discouragement or disillusionment. Your Christian life and your Christian church is much more like patient, faithful, slow farming than modern, efficient manufacturing. Trust your divine Farmer, your Vinedresser. He has very good reasons for maturing Christians and churches slowly, and not mass-producing them more quickly.

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The Prognosis / Why Tragedy?

Sermon of the Day: The Prognosis


 

Psalm 91:5-6

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

Good Morning Men. I hope you are doing well, just remember that no matter what your going through. When you sow in tears, you will reap in joy (Psalm 126:5).

Halfway through typing up a devotion I was re-routed to a talk a little bit about tragedy. Our nation has a several very large and devastating natural disasters actively happening right now. From the Northwest to the Southeast. Millions of people are being effected, and hundreds of thousands will be impacted for months and potential years to come.

A common question that an unbeliever, and even a believer is bound to ask. God if you are such a good God why would you allow this horrible thing to happen?

First of all we need to be clear that God does not cause tragedy. Scripture will clearly define this for us. Their is a prince of this world running wild (John 14:30) and wreaking havoc. However God will allow tragedy to be for His ultimate good.

It would be tough to fully answer this question in one devotion. My goal is to maybe a lead a few of you that have wrestled with this question , down a path of thought that may increase a desire to know more of who God really is. Secondly I want to provide a prayer by John Piper that has some great insight and hope if any of you are interested.

John Piper’s Prayer in the Path of Hurricanes

I would like to select a couple reasons why tragedy happens, again this is just to touch on very large and for many very emotional and passionate topics.

Sin

Since the fall of man through Adam we have all been born into a world run by sin. The Bible says no one is righteous, all fall short of God’s glorious standard. The heart is deceptively wicked and many other verses could be referenced of our condition. The point is we are all broken and fallen, and we live in a broken and fallen world that will never be free of death and tragedy until the return of Christ.

Sin is a rampant, contagious disease that will destroy anything and everything it can. It also only has one cure. The blood that was shed on the cross by Jesus. So while sin remains on this earth, tragedy, death and heartbreak will remain.

However Jesus said that we can find peace in Him even though there will be tribulation in this world. But He says do not fear because I have overcome the world. Jesus is our hope and cure for sin. (Check this song out: The Cure)

Hope

One of the consequences of sin is that the things of this world can become so desired. Unfortunately everything of this world is temporary. So when we place our hope in things that are temporary, we are bound to be let down. There is a God shaped vacuum in each and every heart, nothing will fill that void but the love of God. Until you know God you will try to fill that void with everything this world has to offer.

When God is your hope and ultimate satisfaction, the trials of life will not derail you. We will cry, we will fear, we will want answers but your hope is anchored in the promises of God. Promises that have stood the test of time through God’s Word. A science book changes it’s information all the time because scientist continue to rediscover facts and information and try to interpret it to the best of their human knowledge.

God’s word says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. The Bible has not needed any revisions since the first section was written thousands of years ago. For me those are the kind of promises I want to hang on to, infallible, perfect, truthful and radiant.

So how do we move forward in the face of tragedy?

First of all know that tragedy is going to happen. It’s not if but when. You then have a choice, ignore it and think it will never happen again.Second, disagree with God, tell Him that He has no right to do that and reject Him. Which most actually choose to do. Or lastly, realize that God is Sovereign and His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts, in fact higher than the heavens are above the earth are His ways over ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). The only way this happens is humility. A humility that says; God you know more than me please give me your peace that passes all understanding.

Second, what is your hope in?

Is your hope anchored in temporal things, or are you anchored in the timeless truths and promises of God?

Let me close with this verse:

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

 

Stop the Blame Game / Seven Times a Day

Sermon of the Day: Stop the Blame Game


Psalm 119:164

Seven times a day I praise you
    for your righteous laws.

The number seven in the Bible has significant intentions. In fact there are 735 times this number is used throughout God’s Word. The number seven in the Bible always stands for completeness or perfection. Our greatest example is that God created the world in seven days.

The Bible originally had seven major divisions: the Law, the Prophets, the Writings or Psalms, the Gospels and Acts, General Epistles, Epistles of Paul and Revelation.

Those are just a few of the endless amount of numerical statistics and conclusions you can draw from this one number. However I wanted to look at this verse on a practical level as well.

Is there something you think about multiple times a day? How about something you bring up in conversation multiple times a day?

These things obviously reveal the priorities and treasures of our hearts. As a man thinks in his heart, so he is (Proverbs 23:7).

Years ago I made a commitment to pray six short prayers daily. I had a checklist and worked to establish this as a routine. In the beginning I realized that whole days would go by without a single prayer. Which meant I had not thought about God either the entire day. This of course began to change as I remained focused on my goal. Honestly it felt scripted in the beginning, sometimes it barely had genuine heartfelt emotion behind it.  However it was the habit to be mindful of God that I needed to learn. Long story short I truly believe this was a big part to growing my relationship with Jesus.

After reading the above verse I was inspired to commit to praising God at least 7 times a day. I want Him to be the greatest treasure of my heart each and everyday. I want to acknowledge the amazing things God has done and continues to do in my life over the big and the small.

So my encouragement to all of you that truly want to grow in your relationship with Christ is to start a checklist. Everyday find at least seven opportunities to Praise the Lord for something in your life. They don’t always have to be great victories either. They could be a certain struggle or challenge that you are learning from. They could be a certain pain that will sprout a deeper desire for more of God in your life. Keep track of it and watch your thoughts be more centered on Christ, in turn leading to your heart being more centered on Him as well.

Whatever it is lets learn to Praise the Lord for all that He is, all that He has said and all that he has done each and everyday…seven times a day!

Family Values / Fear of the Lord / …Binge on Netflix

Sermon of the Day:

Macdonald: Family Values


Weekly Audio:

Fear of the Lord (see attached – email version)


Daily Devotion: Six Questions to Ask Before You Binge on Netflix

Ask Pastor John
Interview with John Piper
Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Listen to 12 min Audio here.

Audio Transcript

We have talked about Game of Thrones, and nudity in TV and film in this podcast. Today we talk about drama and comedy and PG shows that seem more harmless and less obviously corrupting. It’s a question that comes to us from a listener named Blake. “Hello, Pastor John! My question is, when does humor in media become sinful? I’m a little confused about it, even from some things I have read by you. Is watching secular comedies like Friends andSeinfeld, etc., sinful? I’m rather confused over what is acceptable humor for Christians. If it is wrong to watch these shows, please let me know why.”

The first thing to say here is that I’ve never seen either of those programs — Friends or Seinfeld. I’ve heard of them but never seen one. Which means that my comments, I hope, have the advantage of not being a response to any particular TV show. Rather, they can be seen as an effort to bring biblical reality into view when deciding what we will be entertained by.

What’s Wrong with It?

 Another thing I should probably say here is that my whole approach toward what Christians view or listen to or are entertained by is not governed mainly by the question “What’s wrong with it?” That seems, to me, to be a very different approach than the way the New Testament (the way Paul, especially) approaches questions of right and wrong.

I always get the impression that the question “What’s wrong with it?” is rising from a heart that is basically governed by a desire to minimize wrong rather than maximize holiness or faith or spiritual power or worship or zeal for the lost or missions or justice. Basically, what I’m going to do, in answer to this question, is try to simply reorient our minds about what we should think and feel when it comes to entertainment.

I could, I suppose, go to particular verses (they’re there for a reason) and point out things that are wrong that you might find in TV programs and therefore avoid — like obscene talk in Colossians 3:8 or filthiness, foolishness, and crude joking from Ephesians 5:4. The problem with that approach, right now on this podcast, is that it’s going to leave thousands of Christians right where they are in the immaturity and worldliness of their passions, which is the main issue.

I think most Christians are so in the grip of the spirit of the age and in the grip of popular culture and popular entertainments that the kind of radical reorientation I’m talking about is almost unthinkable for them. For me to pitch into that mindset, a few little warnings from Bible verses that disapprove of certain things seems to me almost useless.

Radical Reorientation

 Here’s my effort at reorienting our thinking. For this to happen, it would be a great work of God, not me. It would be a miracle if it happened to a few listeners. I certainly need it to happen more deeply in my own life as I try to navigate these cultural waters.

What I want to ask is, What are you longing for most earnestly and with the greatest passion in your life? What are you longing for? Let’s just say in your relation to Christ — in your personal walk and relation to Christ — what are you longing for?

Are you longing for greater intimacy? Are you longing for greater depth? Are you longing for greater power? Are you longing for greater clarity as you see his glory in the Scriptures? Are you longing to hear his voice with greater confidence as you read his word? Are you longing to discern his will more confidently? Are you longing to walk more closely with him in a real living relationship, as a real person? Are you longing for his smile of favor rather than his frowns of discipline?

Do you even think in these terms? Do you go to bed with these longings? Do you wake up with these longings governing your life? Do you devote time, perhaps on the Lord’s Day, to seek his face in intensifying these longings? If not, that’s the issue.

This is ten thousand times more important than what particular shows you click on. This will govern that. But if this is missing — if the growing intensification of these longings in your relationship with Jesus is missing — no answers will make any difference about your entertainment habits.

Questions for the Heart

Let’s just pose the question a little differently.

What are you longing for in your relationship with other people? Do you long to represent Jesus with greater compelling forcefulness? Do you long for a greater love for people and a greater zeal for their salvation? Do you long to have greater boldness and encouragement from God in your own representation of Christ? Do you long to be a means of other people’s holiness and purity and power?

Do you long to bring the word of God from your encounter with the risen Christ into the lives of other people with effectiveness? Do you long for readiness to speak hope-filled words into the face of those who are dying or suffering or coming out of divorces?

Do you have the aroma of Christ about you and do you long for it in your conversation with others so that they say, “There’s an aroma about you that’s different”? Do you long to be able to inspire others by your own example in a life of more consistent and deep and satisfying prayer?

If not, what’s the point of talking about shows being right or wrong? If we don’t have that, we don’t even have in place the mindset that can make those kinds of judgments possible. Now, once those kinds of longings are pursued and you have a new passion and you’ve been moved from being a nominal, minimalist, “get by,” cultural Christian to an authentic, passionate, earnest, God-centered, Christ-exalting, Bible-saturated lover of Jesus, then you will begin to ask questions like, Does this show build up my faith? Does it weaken my faith?

Treasuring God

 Or you might ask questions like this: Does this show make Christ more clear and precious to me, or does it make things more cloudy and make biblical realities more unreal? Does the show make the Bible and immersion in Scripture and meditation more desirable to my heart or awkward to find time for? Does this show leave me with a disinclination to pray and seek God’s face and long for his power? Does this show dampen my zeal for missions and my desire to see salvation come to the lives of the people around me — not to mention the people in Hollywood?

Does it leave me with any desire for a great revival in my city — to see people brokenhearted for the sin represented in a lot of these shows? Does this show sweeten my experience of corporate worship with God’s people and make it more authentic?

Does this show heighten my sense of desire to be a risk taker for the cause of justice and the advancement of God’s righteous rule? Does it help me want to get in a boat or a plane and go to some hard place and die for Jesus? Does this show make a better, more natural conversationalist about spiritual realities like heaven and hell and the Holy Spirit and the gospel and faith?

That’s my response to the question of whether a person should watch any particular show or movie or video. My calling in the world is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all people through Jesus Christ. “Spread a passion for the supremacy of God” — that’s what I’m after. I’m after the kind of passion for his supremacy in everything that functions as a radical litmus test on what we find amusing and entertaining in media.


Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes.

Thirst For God/ It’s Not Happening Without God

Sermon of the Day:

It’s Not Happening Without God


Psalm 143:6 NIV

I spread out my hands to you;
    I thirst for you like a parched land.

Good Morning Men.

The above verse hit me like a ton of bricks. It convicted me of some wrong thinking and wrong pursuits. Then it encouraged me and strengthened me immensely.

The question I asked myself, I would like to ask each of you: What is the main thirst of your life?

We live in an amazing time to be alive. There is so much opportunity, there is so much that we have access to everywhere we look, at the touch of a button. However with these amazing advantages also comes some disadvantages.

Our society is constantly shaping us to do more and more in less and less time. We all are being tugged and pulled in a hundred directions. Majority of these things could be straight up eliminated. They either are fruitless endeavors, or pursuits that in time will damage the important things in life like our relationships.

My pursuits many times have to compete with God. Many times I have pursuits that I pursue like a parched land.

Is there a time for everything, and seasons of ups, downs, highs and lows? Yes, absolutely.

So how do we as 21st century Christians thirst for God like a parched land?

This of course is the million dollar question, that will look similar yet radically different for each and every one of us. However, let me try to list a few things that I believe God’s Word directs us into.

  1. Matthew 6:33 – This verse is very clear where it all starts, we are to SEEK FIRST God and all that God is and represents in our lives. Does our day start with God? Do we do anything intentionally throughout our day to learn more about God, to draw closer to Him? Do we have a desire to be more like Him in all that we say and do? Do our choices align with God’s Word?
  2. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 – This verse is a clear commandment for parents. This verse when you really think about it and break it down, basically commands us that we need to infuse God into every facet of our family life. In order to do that we need to be walking with Him daily. This is not an act or show. As parents, or parents to be we need to be humble enough to admit our wrongs and commit to turning from those wrongful mindsets or actions. When this starts to improve the family life gets radically strengthened toward the things of God.
  3. Mark 16:15 – Also called the Great Commission. Men what are we doing in our circles of influence to preach the gospel. I heard last week Sunday in church, we can preach it covertly or overtly. Again, time and a place for everything, but when we thirst for God like a parched land. This will either radiate out from us physically, or God places opportunities to share directly. God will place a thirst on our soul to share the greatest news in the world. The love, forgiveness and redemption of Jesus Christ.

These are just a starting point for all of us, if you are already here how can you clean this up and make it stronger?

If I have learned anything with God the best way is to put to death the thought that we ourselves can do it in our own strength. Only God, only by His spirit, by His grace and mercy. By His Sovereign will and timing. Remember that God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud. Lets dig out all pride, all self-reliance and humble ourselves before God Almighty knowing that He alone is God.

Psalm 145:14 NIV

The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.

Why Are We Here/ It Is Well With My Soul/ The Eternal Shore

Daily Sermon:

MacDonald: Why Are We Here? 


Weekly Audio:

It Is Well With My Soul (see attached – email version)


Daily Devotion: The Eternal Shore : Five Things We Forget About Heaven

By: Gavin Ortlund

In 1952, Florence Chadwick tried to swim from Catalina Island to the coast of California. For fifteen hours, she endured choppy waters, possible shark attacks, and extreme fatigue. Then a thick fog set in. She gave up.

Two months later, she tried again. This time, though it was foggy again, she made it. When asked what made the difference, she said, “The first time all I could see was the fog. The second time I kept a mental image of that shoreline in my mind while I swam.”

For me, Chadwick’s comment gives a great image of how heaven should function in our lives as we follow Jesus. In order to persevere through the fog and fatigue of life, we need a mental image of the eternal shoreline toward which we swim.

But if you’re like me, you tend to think about heaven far less than you should. Many days it’s completely off my radar screen. What’s more, when we do think about heaven, we have a lot of misconceptions about it, as Randy Alcorn has helped us understand.

So lately, I’ve been trying to think more about heaven. As I’ve done so, several features of heaven have surprised me. Think of these as qualities we often forget about heaven — parts of the shoreline most likely to be overlooked.

1. All the Saints Are Equals

When I picture my grandfather in heaven, I picture him as he looked toward the end of his life, because that is when I knew him. But of course, he won’t have an aged, broken-down, 84-year-old body in heaven — any more than those who die in infancy will remain infants for all eternity. Everyone in heaven will have a perfected resurrection body (Matthew 22:30).

So here is a happy thought: my grandfather greeting my children in heaven, and all of them hugging as equals. Oh, how I pray for this! What a joy it would be to introduce them.

2. All the Saints Are Friends

Imagine being out for a walk and bumping into Charles Spurgeon. Or Moses. Or Joni Eareckson Tada (who, of course, can walk and run!). All the saints, from all times, will be your intimate friends and neighbors. It is, after all, eternity, so if you miss anyone over the first ten billion years, you’ll have no less time to get started.

Personally, I look forward to having a conversation with C.S. Lewis. I feel like I have come to know C.S. Lewis somewhat because I have spent so much time in his books. I cannot wait to tell him all that I love about PerelandraThat Hideous Strength, and Till We Have Faces, and see what he thinks about my theories.

3. Sadness Is Permanently Unmade

We know that earthly sadness cannot enter heaven. This is true, but the Bible seems to point to something even more profound — that heaven will enter our earthly sadness.

Once when I was preaching on heaven, my eye was drawn to Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” This verse seems to be claiming more than simply, “We won’t weep in heaven.” The imagery of God wiping away our tears seems to suggest consolation for, as well as the end of, earthly grief. Heaven will not merely end our pain — somehow, it will mend it.

Tim Keller puts it like this: “Resurrection . . . means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.” It’s like at the end of The Lord of the Rings, when Sam asks Gandalf, “Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

Imagine yourself newly arrived in heaven. God Almighty summons you. As you stand trembling before him, he surgically draws up the deepest wound of your life, healing you and transforming your pain into glory and joy.

Such imagery is tender to the point of embarrassment. Dare we believe it? Dare we not?

4. Every Pleasure Finally Finds Itself

We tend to think about the spiritual joy of heaven more than its physical pleasures. But I think heaven will have both. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know how to imagine all the details, but I don’t think God created waterfalls, raspberries, relationships, and art only to destroy them forever so we could float in an ethereal, cloudy realm. And I’m pretty sure the “pleasures forevermore” at God’s right hand (Psalm 16:11) are not exhausted by an eternity of singing praise choruses.

That means something startling: not only will heaven heal your earthly sorrow, but it will also recall, answer, and fulfill all your earthly happiness. Your happy moments on earth are not lost to you. They will return to you, in some deeper form — part of that final, settled Happiness of which they were, even at their best, mere anticipations.

It’s like in The Chronicles of Narnia when one of the characters makes it to heaven and says, “This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”

In happy moments, I sometimes pray, “Lord, store this up until heaven.” I believe that is a valid prayer.

5. We Will See Jesus

How amazing will it be to finally see, with our own eyes, the risen, glorified, incarnate Christ in heaven? Truly, this will be one of the most glorious parts of heaven. The one to whom we’ve prayed a thousand times — but he’s always been invisible to us — now we can look into his eyes. We can put our hands into the holes in his wrists. We can hug him and say, “Thank you” into his ear.

But there are hints in the Bible of something even more intriguing (Psalm 11:717:1527:4Revelation 22:4). Theologians have often spoken of the “beatific vision” — that heavenly vision which involves not our resurrected bodily eyes, but “the eye of the soul.” In this way, it is said, we will behold Christ in his divine nature — a glory that surpasses the sweetness of laying our physical eyes on him.

Even the greatest theologians labor to describe this experience. But all agree it is the ultimate happiness of creatures. John Owen claimed that it “will make us blessed unto eternity.” Jonathan Edwards called it “happifying.”

Such an encounter with the glory of Christ can scarcely be imagined. How will we even endure such light and joy? Surely this will be the pinnacle moment of our existence, as we ascend into that permanent roar of joy from which we shall never, and can never, descend.

That Eternal Shore

These features of heaven’s eternal shoreline change how we swim, don’t they? For now, we struggle through rough waters, deep fatigue, and thick fog. But the day is coming soon when the seemingly unending waves will give way to a broad, sturdy shoreline where the joy is full and the pleasures are forevermore.

Knowing this awaits us at the shore can help us keep swimming, no matter how choppy the waves get.

Hope Starts Here / New Creation in Christ / Guys Need Bros

Sermon of the Day:

Piper: My Abandoned Life for Your Abundant Life

MacDonald: Hope Starts Here


Weekly Audio: New Creation in Christ (See attached – email version)


Daily Devotion: Guys Need Bros

Article by

American men are facing a health epidemic.

It’s not smoking or obesity. It’s not heart disease. No, the greatest health issue facing American men today is loneliness and isolation.

Boston Globe reporter Billy Baker details the all-too-familiar process. As we enter our adult years, work takes up more and more of our time. Then we get married and have kids. After running our homes, trying to stay in shape, and (for Christians) getting involved with the church, we have little time left for friendships with other guys. When we do find a bit of “free time,” it’s hard to leave our wives home alone to change diapers, correct homework, and broker peace deals among the warring children.

So, we let our male friendships slide.

Baker found that over the past thirty-plus years, study after study has documented the unhappy consequences for our health. Lonely people are far more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected peers — even after accounting for age, gender, and other factors like healthy eating and exercise. In fact, socially isolated people have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and the progression of Alzheimer’s.

It gets worse. Another study determined that loneliness matched smoking as a long-term risk factor. In 2015, a massive study from BYU gathered data from 3.5 million people over 35 years, and found that those who are lonely, isolated, or merely living by themselves are 26% to 32% more likely to die prematurely.

No matter how you look at it, loneliness is a train wreck for our health.

My Story, Your Marriage

I was forty and friendless. But this was a crisis at least fifteen years in the making.

For years, my wife had been telling me that I needed other guys in my life.

“Okay, but I already have plenty of friends. We’re always connecting on Facebook and emailing. I’m constantly seeing people at work. When I have something I need to share, I tell you. Besides, after work and our family, there’s nothing left!”

After I blew her off, she gave up and started to pray.

A few years after this uncomfortable conversation, a respected Christian author challenged us to form close male friendships in a men-only session at a marriage conference. At the time, I knew nothing about the risks isolation posed. Physically, I felt great. But then he drew a connection between our friendships with other men and our marriages.

Now he had my attention.

Letting our friendships with other men fade, he warned, turns our wives into unintentional idols where they become our only true confidante and friend. This is a role God never intended them to fill, and places a tremendous amount of stress on our marriages.

Furthermore, our wives are so involved in our lives that they can’t give us a truly outside perspective. For example, my wife has been giving me some helpful feedback on my parenting. She’s very wise, but when my friend listened, he added something neither one of us had considered. So, not only do man-to-man friendships afford more unfiltered honesty that, practiced with our wives, would hurt or frustrate them, but they also offer help with being a man in a way that wives cannot.

God Made Men for Friendship

Beyond the benefits for our health and marriages, God made men for friendship. That means we can’t simply opt out.

Other men make up for our deficits with their strengths, as when Aaron spoke on Moses’s behalf (Exodus 7:1–2). Male friends also provide encouragement to glorify God in new ways. Or they can help us persevere in difficulty, like when Jonathan “went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16) when David was running from Saul. Other men can also provide us with a life-giving rebuke we desperately need (Proverbs 27:6). Even Jesus had Peter, James, and John, his own inner circle of male friends.

So, forming close male friendships is absolutely critical to the health of our bodies and marriages, and reflects God’s design for our lives.

Key Elements in Male Friendship

But these friendships won’t just happen. The following are important elements for developing male friendships.

Find your identity in Christ. If we’re going to get close to other men, where they can see our sins and scars, we need to be deeply rooted in Christ — to truly know that “by grace [we] have been saved through faith . . . not a result of works” (Ephesians 2:8–9). When we trust that God accepts us apart from what we do, we’re free to let other men know who we really are.

Initiation. God calls men to lead and go first (Genesis 2:18Ephesians 5:23). Which requires some effort and — the real kicker — the risk of being rejected. It hurts when I reach out to another guy and he takes a week to respond. But remembering that Jesus left heaven to die for our sins gives us courage to take initiative in our own friendships (Hebrews 2:17).

Sacrifice. To make room for friendships, we’ll need to say no to some good, but second-best, things. If we have younger kids, it may require some sacrifice from our wives, so it’s important to work this out as a team.

Five Ways to Find (and Deepen) Male Friendships

Now that we’ve explored why we need true male friends and considered key elements of friendship, let’s take a look at what we can do about it.

1. PURSUE DIFFERENT FRIENDSHIPS AND EVALUATE POTENTIAL.

Call them “man dates” or (in true male fashion) nothing at all, but spend time with different men and see which relationships have promise. In particular, test the ability to be real and transparent with each other.

2. LOOK FOR VARIETY.

Instead of looking for the perfect friend, look for a bunch of faithful, imperfect ones. For example, it’s good to have a friend who can encourage you, but also one who excels at giving you a holy dose of truth.

3. SET IT AND FORGET IT.

Taking initiative every time we want to connect with other busy guys is difficult. Having something on the calendar, like a regular men’s night or monthly lunch with a friend, is an easy way to overcome this challenge.

4. TAKE SMALL STEPS FORWARD.

Small, thoughtful actions can go a long way without overwhelming us. My friend Eric, for instance, gave me a quick call in response to an email asking for prayer. It took fifteen minutes but meant the world to me.

5. MEDITATE ON CHRIST’S FRIENDSHIP WITH YOU.

It’s natural to focus on what our friends might do for us, but Jesus was right: “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Meditate on the mind-blowing reality that, despite our sin, Jesus has called us friends (John 15:15). This gives us incentive to be the friend we’d like to have.

By God’s grace, I now have a handful of close guy friends, and it’s transformed my life. Men, with a little consistent effort, the same thing can happen for you. When we follow God’s design for friendship, our health, our marriage, and our relationship with God will flourish.

What’s your next step?

 (@bryanstoudt) is a pastor serving healthcare students and professionals as Area Director for CMDA in Philadelphia, where one in six physicians in the country does some portion of their training. After Jesus, his passions include his beautiful wife, Sharon, their four children, coffee, and running. He writes at bryanstoudt.com.
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