Quality Is Quantity

“Quality is not always quantity,” I’ve been told. But if memory serves me right, this bit of Christianese was only doled up when it came to my “personal time with the Lord”. The older I get, however, the more I see how wrong I was. When it comes with our walk with Christ, quality is quantity. It really is an inescapable bit of pragmatic truth- those who are most godly spend the most time with God.

Like you, I feel as if there’s never enough time. It feels as if I’m being stretched in every direction imaginable. A friend asked me not too long ago how things were going? I started to tell them it was crazy, but then I had the thought it’s always crazy, and when crazy has become normal, it’s no longer crazy, I guess.

Now this is just a long drawn out way to say a quick glance over my calendar doesn’t allow for long stretches of prayer, certainly not in the four-hour daily ilk of Martin Luther. And yet, as the book title says, “I’m too busy not to pray.” It really is counterintuitive, the more I have going on, the greater the stress and deeper the burdens the more I have to press into God. And it’s here where God was whispering to me in a very clear way that I needed to spend an hour with him daily in communion. Now mind you, his voice was being contradicted by the voices of husbanding, parenting, work and production. But I knew God was right, and over the last year and a half I’ve taken this journey of setting aside an hour with God.

“What exactly do you do for this hour,” a friend of mine asked as I was sharing this with him. Here it is:

20 minutes of praying a passage of Scripture I’ve memorized over myself. I’ve found that reading the Bible exposes me to the Bible, but memorizing Scripture helps me to absorb Scripture. This has been so helpful.

20 minutes of Bible reading.

20 minutes of Intercession. This involves me praying for specific people in my family, church and friendships, along with our world and a host of other items. The names, needs and Scriptures I pray over them specifically is in my prayer journal. When God answers I note it, and often come back and celebrate the faithfulness of God.

While I haven’t emerged from this time having won any father of the year awards, I have noticed some residual rewards of my elongated time with Christ:

1. More joy

2. A heightened God awareness throughout the day

3. Greater effectiveness in preaching

4. Sensitivity to sin

5. Growth in humility

Just to name a few.

Now this maybe too ambitious for some. So maybe your plan needs to be 5/5/5, or 10/10/10, or something completely different. But let’s press in. Things really are too crazy in our lives not to pray.

Don’t Waste Your Pain - Ruth 1

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Bob Gross’ NBA team really needed him.  Their season was on the brink, and if they had any hopes of making the playoffs then Bob would need to suit up and show up big time.  There was just one problem- Bob had a badly injured ankle that was giving him a tremendous amount of pain.  No problem.  Not long before tipoff the doctors injected a strong painkiller into three places in Bob’s foot, totally numbing the pain.  The game begins and a few moments later, Bob goes for a rebound, lands, and everyone on the court hears a loud snap; Bob however didn’t feel a thing.  He tries to run down court and ultimately crumples to the ground.  This was not only his last play in the game, but tragically it became the last play of his NBA career.  Bob’s inability to feel pain ruined him.

It really is counter-intuitive, but pain- our deepest hurts- is often times God’s greatest gift to us.  Pain is far more helpful than harmful.  This is a discovery that the world’s foremost scholar on pain, Dr. Paul Brand points out when he says, “Pain is often seen as the great inhibitor, keeping us from happiness.  But I see it as a giver of freedom.”  The great writer and intellectual, C.S. Lewis continues Dr. Brand’s train of thought, but connecting the assets of pain to God when he writes, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.  [Pain] is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world”- C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.  Both Dr. Paul Brand and C.S. Lewis posture pain as a gift, a wonderful asset, and implore us to not waste our pain.

Why Should I Listen?

If there’s one word that sums up Ruth 1, it’s pain.  Our story today is all about pain.  I mean just look at the intense and prolonged season of pain Naomi goes through as she seemingly loses everything.  She suffers a famine that causes her and her family to uproot from their home in Bethlehem and venture out as immigrants into a foreign country.  Not only that but there’s good reason to believe that she has a disabled child.  One of her sons name is Mahlon.  Now in antiquity what you named your child was major; it spoke to some aspect of their character.  Mahlon’s name means weak or sickly.  In all likelihood she either named him this originally because this is how he came out of the womb, or she changed his name to this because of some debilitating sickness.  In either event Naomi has had to endure a suffering child.  See the pain?  But it gets worse.  Her husband dies.  Her two children die.  She loses a daughter in law.  And then in verse 21 she sums it up by saying she went out full and has now come back to Bethlehem empty.

Oh, and one more thing, as if this wasn’t enough.  The narrator of the story tells us that she was an Ephrathite.  Now this is an important word that speaks of her status or class.  Ephrathites were the upper class of Israel.  It’s a statement of her wealth.  It’s like saying Naomi was a Vanderbilt, or a Kennedy or a Zuckerburg.  It’s like saying she lives up in the hills of Portillo Valley.

Get the picture?  This wealthy woman goes through a horrendous season of pain.    I think the narrator is pointing out something we all know and that is pain is universal.  Pain does not discriminate or play favorites.  Pain stretches its tentacles from the projects to the gated community.  All of us in this room have experienced pain.  Some of us know the pain of a broken home where daddy walked out.  Others of us know the pain of abuse.  Still others of us know the pain of a failed marriage.  Many of us know the pain of death, as we’ve had to say see you later to loved ones.  Still others know the pain of failure- at school, on the job, making poor decisions.  Others know the pain of addiction.  Oh yes, pain is universal.

So the question is what do we do when pain comes knocking?  When God comes shouting to us through our pain what are we to do?  How do we steward well the gift of pain?  Our text shows us three things about pain we must see if we are going to use it for the gift that it is, helping to make us better and not bitter.

PAIN IS PURPOSEFUL- RUTH 1:1

The first thing we should see about pain is that pain has a purpose.  Look with me at verse one.  Here is Naomi going through the pain of a famine in Bethlehem, and what does she do?  She packs her stuff up and moves.  She gets to Moab and there’s more pain as she watches her husband and children die.  What does she do?  She packs up yet again and moves back to Bethlehem.  And what does she do when she gets back to Bethlehem?  Look at verse 19- she blames God.  She’s upset with God.  Now, here’s the disconnect we have with Naomi: We know the whole story and she doesn’t.  See what we want to say to Naomi is hold on, girlfriend.  God is setting you up for a major move and miracle in your life.  Hold on.  We see the big picture.  She doesn’t, and since she can’t see the big picture she starts to blame God.

Isn’t this our reflex reaction when pain comes to our lives- to get down on and blame God?  Why did you take my mother from me?  God’s not good, if he was he wouldn’t have allowed me to go through this.  This always happens because the problem with life is fundamentally the problem of perspective.  And what we don’t realize is that we are just in one chapter of our lives, but God is writing a whole book!  See, that’s why the Bible rarely deals with the why of pain and suffering, and instead asks of pain, to what end?  What is the purpose?  In a stunning passage to the Corinthians- a community in a lot of pain- Paul says these words, “But it hurt you only for a little while.  Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain turned you to God.  It was a good kind of sorrow you felt, the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have”- 2 Corinthians 7:8-9, Living Bible.  See it?  Paul says your pain was not frivolous; it had a purpose!  And that purpose was to turn you to God.  This is important, because when pain comes knocking I most always remind myself there is a purpose to the pain!

Mary Verghese was a promising young doctor whose future was bright.  All that changed one day when she got into a car with a young man and ended up in an accident that left her lower body paralyzed, and her face deeply scarred.  In that first season of pain the doctors tried everything to help her, but to no avail.  Finally, after some encouragement and a lot of hard work she returned to being a doctor, becoming India’s first wheelchair doctor.  She practiced medicine in a colony of lepers, and it is said that when she wheeled into examine these lepers all of their sense of despair and self-pity went away.  Her face was like theirs- deeply scarred.  God used her to bring hope to the lowest of the low, because she could empathize with their plight.  And her empathy was birthed out of suffering.  Out of her pain came her purpose.

It has been said if you want to find your purpose take inventory of your pain!  Oh yes, I’ve found that to be true in my own life.  I am often asked how I came to be so passionate about the multiethnic church and seeing races come together.  I always respond by saying that purpose was birthed out of a deep pain, the pain of being called a nigger in Bible College.  I know many social workers who give their lives to help the abused and marginalized because in their story there was abuse and neglect.  You want to know your purpose?  Take inventory of your pain. Don’t waste your pain.  Your pain has a purpose!

PAIN IS TRANSFORMATIVE- RUTH 1:20

So Naomi returns home to Bethlehem after a prolonged season of pain, and the Bible says the whole town is stirred.  I think it’s because they are both shocked Naomi, their long departed friend is back, and when they see her they are stirred because they see a drastic change in her countenance.  The text speaks to this.  See, her name Naomi, means pleasant, but now she says don’t call me Naomi but Mara.  Mara means bitter.  Names were important back then because they spoke to who you were.  Naomi has gone from Naomi to Mara, from pleasant to bitter.  Isn’t that a fundamental property of pain?  Pain changes us.  It will make us either better or bitter.  Pain can be an asset or a liability, it’s all in how we steward it.  Pain changes us.

This is all throughout the Bible.  There’s a moving story in Genesis where we are introduced to a young man named Joseph.  He’s full of arrogance and pride as he tells his brothers how they will bow down to him and serve him.  Fast forward to the end of the story and we see a completely different man who is compassionate and full of empathy for his brothers.  He’s moved to tears when he sees them, and how he relates to them is out of a posture of humility.  Well what changed him?  Pain, and his decision to allow his pain to make him better and not bitter.  Don’t you see, the question is not will pain come, but how will we steward it when it does come?

Story is told of a young man who made it his business to stump the local village wise man.  This wise man had answers to everything and this young man was going to get him.  His plan seemed full proof: Get a bird, hold it in his hand, and ask the wise man if the bird was alive or dead.  If the wise man said it was dead he’d open his hands and show him it was alive.  If the wise man said it was alive, he’d simply crush the bird in his hand.  Excited he stood before the wise man and said, “Is this bird dead or alive?”  The wise man smiled and said, “Neither.  The bird is in your hands”.  And so it is with pain.  Pain is in our hands.  How will we steward it?

Okay.  So you’re here, and it’s happened.  Fatherlessness is in your hands.  How will you steward the pain of an absent dad or mom?  My mother once told me that she made up her mind to be a great mom because she saw the pain of her mom not doing what she should.  So she decided to use that pain to make her a great mom.  The pain of cancer or sickness is in your hand.  How will you steward that for the glory of God?  The pain of failure is in your hand?  Will you decide to get better or bitter?

PAIN IS TEMPORARY- RUTH 1:22

Finally, Naomi and Ruth go to Bethlehem after enduring years of pain.  And then our story ends with a funny statement in verse 22, will you look at it with me.  The narrator points out the time in which they return home- it was the time of barley harvest.  This is weird.  Why would he say that?  Barley harvest took place around April or May.  It was one of the most celebrated times of the year on the Jewish calendar.  It was a season of the year marked by intense rejoicing, singing and dancing.  The women would be jumping up and down and singing.  You could hear the celebration in Bethlehem from miles away.  Don’t you see what Naomi and Ruth are walking into is a complete 180 from what they have just gone through?  Don’t you see that in literary terms this is foreshadowing?  What the author is telling us is that Ruth and Naomi are literally stepping out of one season of pain, into a new season of rejoicing!  Pain is temporary.

Don’t ever forget that pain is a season.  As the old Negro spiritual says, “Trouble don’t last always”.  This is what David found out.  David, Ruth’s great-grandson, went through intense pain in his life.  Was on the run from a king who was trying to kill him.  He lost a baby, and had his best friend and son turn against him.  And yet David says in Psalm 30 that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!  Pain is temporary!

My little wife Korie has given birth to three big head boys, all natural.  Let me repeat that phrase, ALL NATURAL!  I was there to see her writhing in agony, feeling the painful fullness of every contraction and push.  Oh yes, I have a ripped shirt to testify of my presence.  I was also there to hear her speak in tongues.  And yet, after our first two kids, and all that pain, she wanted to do it again.  Why?  Well, you know why.  First, she knew that pain was temporary.  Those contractions and labor pains were but for a season.  But secondly, and more importantly, she wanted to do it again because of what was on the other side- the joy of holding a child.  When she saw what was on the other side, it allowed her to go through the pain, stewarding it well!

Oh, is this not Jesus!  Jesus endured the pain of the cross, where he was beaten with a whip, crowned with a crown of thorns bloodying his skull, had his beard plucked out, nails in his hands and feet, and a spear run through his side.  So why Jesus did you do it?  The writer of Hebrews tells us that he did it because of the joy that was set before him!  What was that joy?  You and I, coming to faith in Jesus Christ!  Spiritual birth is why he went through the pain and agony, so that you and I could experience the barley harvest of eternal life with him in heaven where there will be no tears.

GOSPEL CONCLUSION

Don’t you see?  This text shows us a valuable lesson when it comes to having a relationship with God, and that is God often uses pain in our lives to move us into our greatest purpose, and that is a relationship with him.  Ruth gets saved in our text because of this.  After losing her own husband and enduring pain, Ruth says these words in verses 16-17.  What’s happening here?  She has come to faith in God.  What brought her to faith?  Pain and suffering.

Here’s my concern for us in Silicon Valley: The reason this is one of the most secular, Godless places on earth is because this is one of the most affluent places on earth.  I’m not saying there’s no pain here, but what the affluent do is they see pain and do everything they can to get rid of it, or turn against God.  One of the most helpful things God could ever do to us is to allow pain in our lives so that we turn to him.  Won’t you come to him! 

Nice Guys Finish First Psalm 1

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Growing up I used to collect baseball cards—remember those? I can still to this day see myself opening up one of those Fleer packs of baseball cards with the stick of pink gum, and popping it in my mouth. I’d immediately start scrolling through the cards to find any special players—you know the one’s with the highest batting averages, most homeruns and All Star appearances—these were the most valuable. When I’d find one of these special successful players, I’d pull them out and put them in a designated plastic sleeve in one of my baseball card notebooks. Those notebooks filled with special players was my prized possession (until my mother threw it out thinking it was worthless while I was out at college…no I’m not bitter). I spent hour after hour flipping through those notebooks with the special players, idolizing them. Looking back, while I’d do well emulating their performance on the field, I wouldn’t want to mimic many of their characters. For many, these special ball players were great performers, but not the best people.

Creating the Need
You know the problem with our society is we tend to place a higher price tag on performance than we do integrity. We live in a world where people are enamored with achievements, accolades and accomplishments, yet not as impressed with character. As the old saying goes, “Nice guys finish last.” Our text—Psalm 1—says something vastly different, though. It actually shows us that “Nice Guys Finish First.” This Psalm presents us with a man worth emulating—a man who’s full of character. Brothers, we’d do well to cut and paste into our lives the attributes of this righteous man.

But why? Why should we be like the righteous man in our text? Psalm 1 is not a really complicated one to figure out. Just reading through the Psalm, you can see there are two kinds of men in our text—the righteous and the wicked.  Notice how the Psalmist describes the wicked man—he says they are like chaff.  Now he’s using an agricultural analogy to describe the wicked. During the winnowing process, the farmer had one goal—to separate the chaff from the wheat. He would take his winnowing fork and toss the grain into the air over and over. In that process, the heavier kernel of grain would separate from the lighter chaff and fall to the ground but, because the chaff was so light, it would fly off into the air. It didn’t have enough substance or weight to fall to the ground; it just flew off. This is interesting in how the Psalmist describes the wicked man—not much substance. Sure this brother maybe heavy when it comes to his finances, his looks and his possessions, but when it comes to things that really matter in life like character and integrity, he’s like chaff—light, no substance or weightiness.  

On the other hand is the righteous, and notice how the Psalmist describes this brother—he’s a tree. I love this imagery, and we’ll unpack it more in a few minutes, but trees are rooted, weighty masses that give life to those around them. Trees don’t just disappear like chaff. Trees aren’t here one moment and gone the next. There’s a weight to them, and they give life. That’s the righteous man. He’s weighty when it comes to his character. He gives life. Brothers we need to be like trees and not like chaff.

But Why Be Righteous?
But I still haven’t answered the question of why. Why should we men be like the righteous man in our text? The Psalmist answers this question with the very first word in our text—blessed. Why should I give myself to being like the righteous man? Because if I do, I will experience the blessed life. But what does this mean? The word blessed simply means happy, and there I’ve just lost many of you who grew up in the church, because you’ve been taught all your life that to be happy is bad. But this simply is not true. God is for our happiness, He just wants us to make sure that our happiness has the right source.

Psalm 1 has been described by many scholars as being a beatitude. Now if you’re not a Christian, you still probably have heard of this word beatitude because there’s a series of these in the most famous sermon ever given—the Sermon on the Mount. I believe Jesus had in his mind Psalm 1 as He gives the beatitudes. He says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” Or to say it another way, Jesus is saying: HAPPY! HAPPY! HAPPY!  Shocking I know! But please notice that none of these happy statements have to do with money, possessions or even health. Jesus doesn’t say blessed is the person who drives an Audi. Or blessed is the person who has a lot of money.  Instead, most of these beatitudes end with something that points to the kingdom of God. In other words, the blessed person is the person who is living in the center of God’s will for their life, where God is their source of happiness and nothing else.

See the biggest question in life is not, “What Am I Here For,” but “Who Am I Here For?” The righteous man has figured that out. What makes him righteous is his life has answered the “who am I here for” question, by saying “it’s God,” and he now lives in total surrender to God. And when the righteous person lives in total surrender to God, he now finds himself living the blessed or happy life.  He’s happy because he walks with God and knows God is with him! To be blessed is to know I’m in the sweet spot of God’s will!

Several years ago, a buddy of mine gotta call that his wife’s water just broke and she was in labor with their first child. He zipped home, picked her up and sped down the freeway to the hospital. On his way, he saw flashing lights behind him—it was a cop. Pulling over, he immediately got his license and registration and gave it to the cop and said he was sorry but his wife was in labor and that’s why he was speeding. The cop handed the items back to him and said I don’t need those, let’s get you to the hospital. The cop now turns his lights on, calls another cop and escorts my buddy and his bride to the hospital as they were speeding. But this time, as they were speeding, my buddy wasn’t stressed or worried he was breaking the law, or was going to get pulled over.  Why? Because he had the blessing of the authorities. He knew he was in the center of their will. And so it is with the righteous man. When you are walking with God, you will live the blessed and happy life, because you know God is with you. BLESSED IS THE MAN! Oh brothers, we need to be righteous men!

THE RIGHT COMPANIONS—PSALM 1:1
We’ve answered the question as to why we should be righteous—when we do we will live the blessed life. Now let’s close with exactly how do I get to experience this blessed life? Brothers, there are only two decisions this man makes that leads to him being righteous and experiencing the blessed life. If we make these two decisions, we will be experiencing the blessed life.The first decision he makes is to have the right companions. Look at verse 1. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute pastor. Are you saying I can’t have non-Christian friends, or have my non-Christian neighbors over for a meal?” No, not at all. Notice the words wicked, sinners and scoffers are in the plural, which speaks more to the environment, and not to the individual. Also, the words walk, stand and sit speak of someone who is joining themselves in these bad environments. What the Psalmist is warning against is hanging out by way of life in sinful environments, and the hazardous effects that can have on your life.

When I first started driving, I remember being out one night with some friends.  We had just finished dinner and were going over to one of their homes, and since I didn’t know how to get there, I was following them. I do recall they were moving pretty fast, and I was having a hard time keeping up. Finally, they get pulled over by the police, and without even thinking about it, I pull over too.

The cop says to me, “Can I help you?”

I tell him, “No I’m good, I was just following my friends.”

“Oh you were,” he said. “So that means you were speeding, too.  Sit tight, your ticket is coming.” I got a ticket that night for following people who were making bad choices.

Writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’”—I Corinthians 15:33. Brothers, if we are going to be righteous men, we have to start by taking inventory of our companions, and the environments we hang out in. Now on the one hand, admittedly, if I were preaching this upstairs to our youth, I’d take time right now to talk a lot about peer pressure, because that’s a real thing when you’re in high school or college.  But I’m talking to mainly adults here who I’m guessing that’s not as big of a deal. So how can we apply this?

As a general rule of thumb, men, if you want to apply Psalm 1 to your life, take inventory of your weaknesses, and weed out anyone in your life who facilitates those weaknesses. If you struggle with alcohol, don’t run with people who encourage you to drink. If drug addiction is a part of your story, don’t run with people who would encourage you to do drugs. If sexual sin is your struggle, then don’t do life with other brothers who do not hold biblical convictions when it comes to sex. Nor should you be in a relationship with anyone who would encourage you to compromise your standards in the area of sex.

Brothers, don’t just see the wicked, sinners or scoffers as other men, also see some women in this crowd who exist to bring you down by encouraging marriage infidelity and sexual promiscuity. As I pray for my sons almost daily, “God frustrate the plans of the Jezebels.” The righteous man avoids the seductive woman. This is a point PROVERBS 5:3–15 makes. Listen as I read…

The Right Companions
One more thing before I move to my last point. It’s just not good enough to avoid the wrong people, we need to run with the right people. God said of Adam that it’s not good for man to be alone. Proverbs says that he who isolates himself is a fool. In the NT the phrase “one another,” is used over a hundred times. God wants us to experience the joys of rich and meaningful and life-giving community. This is the decision the righteous man makes.

If you’re sitting outside by a fire pit and you wanted the fire in one of the logs to go out, what you would do is you’d remove it from the other logs, isolating itself, and soon enough the fire would go out. But, if you wanted to keep the fire going, what you would do is you’d make sure that log was touching other on fire logs in close community. That’s the Christian life, brother. If you want to maintain your fire for Christ, it is absolutely essential you live in close community with other on-fire-brothers for Jesus. Community is key! You have to have the right companions! And I know this is hard, men, because we are idiots when it comes to friendships. Men don’t know how to be friends, and the reason is if you put two men next to each other, the natural default is to compete. We share our strengths. What we do. How our kids are doing, etc.  And this is the problem—when we share our strengths, that instigates competition, but when we share our hurts and weakness, that instigates compassion and unity and vulnerability.

THE RIGHT COMPASS—PSALM 1:2
The second decision the Psalm 1 man made in his life was to not only have the right companions, but to have the right compass, or guiding force in his life. We see this in Verse 2 where it says that his delight is in the law of the LORD, and that he meditates on it day and night. Now the word here for law is torah, which simply means instruction; not information, but instruction. Information is broad, it’s random; instruction is specific and assumes guidance. The Word of God instructs the righteous man. It shows him the way he is to walk, and he bends his life to it. Not only that, but the righteous man delights in God’s Word, meditating on it day and night. He doesn’t just have a quiet time in the morning and then goes about the rest of the day forgetting God. No, he meditates on God’s Word. In fact, the word meditates means a constant chewing or mulling over. This man is a man of the Word, and as a result of him living under the Word of God, he becomes righteous, that is clean.

Men, one of the side effects of living under the authority of God’s Word is we become clean. When we soak ourselves in the Word of God, we become clean.  Growing up, we didn’t have a dishwasher…I was the dishwasher. Sometimes I’d encounter a certain dish, pot or pan that was so dirty that it became really hard to clean. But its here where I learned a trick. I discovered that if I just let the pan soak in the water for a long period of time, that after a while the dirt would just slide off. When that pan just meditated in that water the dirt would just slide off. I didn’t have to scrub too hard, it would just slide off. So it is with us men. Don’t focus on the dirt, focus on meditating in the water of God’s Word and the dirt will come off.

THE RESULT? A LIFE-GIVING FORCE
So what’s the result of us having the right companions and the right compass?  Verse 3 tells us—we will be like a tree planted by streams of water. In context, the streams of water are having the right companions and the right compass.  Men, when we are hanging out with the right brothers, and are living under the authority of the Word of God, this gives us the supply source we need to grow as trees.

But now why does he use the analogy of a tree to depict the righteous man?  The image of a tree is used over 250 times in the Bible. As a metaphor, trees are most commonly used to depict a life-giving force. In fact, the Bible opens and closes with the tree of life. And, of course, right in the middle of the Bible, there’s another tree we call the cross, which gives eternal life to all who yield to Christ. Don’t you see, the tree is life? In the natural, trees are powerful life-giving forces. The birds of the air build their nests and raise their young in trees. We eat the fruit from trees having our lives nourished. We build our homes, where we live, from the wood of trees. Trees give life. What’s more, is that scientists tell us trees are essential to life. We’d have a hard time breathing without trees since they produce the most oxygen. Trees also contribute to the production of rain. Large forests act as purifiers of air. Even dead trees are essential as they help produce fossil fuels. Scientists tell us that if there were no trees life, as we know it on planet earth, would not exist.

What’s true in the natural is true in the spiritual! Righteous men are trees, the Psalmist says. In other words, just like our world needs trees to survive and be healthy, so our society needs a collection of righteous trees known as godly men! Righteous men are not just something nice to have, but are necessary to the health of our society. Men, our kids need righteous trees. Our wives need righteous trees. Our communities need righteous trees. And I love the imagery here—the tree is rooted—which means it’s dependable. It’s not going to disappear or come crashing down with a little bit of trouble. We need rooted men who our families can count on, who aren’t going to disappear!

The Kainos Cohort

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If you’re a leader with a passion to see your church or organization become more diverse, I want to personally spend time with you in our upcoming Kainos Cohort.  This is an intimate gathering of twelve leaders who will convene in Mountain View, California, October 8-10, where I will share over twenty-five years of experience in the area of diversity.  Specifically, the Kainos Cohort will cover the following:

1.      The Multiethnic Communicator.  This seminar will share practical tools in how to communicate in such a fashion that is conducive to drawing a multiethnic audience.  I have taught this course at seminaries, and am thrilled to distill the timeless traits of the multiethnic communication to you. 

2.      The Multiethnic Leader.  Everything really does come down to leadership, and this is especially true when it comes to building multiethnic churches and organizations.  As one who has pioneered a multiethnic church in one of the hardest places in the country, along with leading others, I have learned a ton (both good and bad), and look forward to sharing with you the most effective essentials to becoming a multiethnic leader. 

3.      Personal Access.  In this intimate setting you will have ample time to ask questions and engage in this sorely needed field.  You will also receive a copy of my latest book (Due out this coming October), Insider, Outsider: My journey as a stranger in the land of white evangelicalism, and my hope for us all.   It’s an honest, yet hopeful memoir of my life, as well as a practical resource for people wanting to serve in the multiethnic space.

Details:

An interview process will be required for acceptance into this cohort.  Upon entrance, there is a registration fee.  To set up the interview, and find out about the registration fee, please email my assistant, Danielle Ridley, danielle.ridley@alcf.net.  The first 12 approved will make up this first cohort.

Hope to see you there!

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Bryan Lorrits

Desperate for Manhood Posters Part 2

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The Bible describes Boaz as a “worthy man” (Ruth 2:1), a man full of substance…full of character.  More than his wealth, affluence and business acumen, Boaz stood out for his character.  If our young men were wanting to hang manhood posters in their rooms, Boaz would be the number “23” of those posters.  He’s a man worth emulating.

But what was it exactly about Boaz that we would want our young men to mimic?  Reading through the narrative of Ruth there are six traits that stand out about him, and in this post I will share one of those attributes (and the rest in future posts).

Transcendent Purpose:
One of the things I find most encouraging about Boaz is he’s not a preacher.  He isn’t a prophet, or someone in full time vocational ministry.  He’s a businessman, situated out in the marketplace.  He’s successful, and makes plenty of money, but he’s not defined by the size of his organization or bank accounts.  In fact, while he rarely makes mention of his business, he talks way more about his God.  What’s clear is that he is guided by what I am calling a transcendent purpose.

Howard Hendricks once pointed out there’s three questions every man has to answer: Who’s our Master?  What’s our Mission?  Who’s our Mate?  My sons and I talk about these questions often.  As they are preparing to leave our home to venture out into the world, our conversations have been filled with this concept of mission.  Sure, there’s the idea of how will they earn a living, but mission speaks to so much more, and is best expressed by the word vocation, which comes from the Latin vocatio, which means calling.  Too many men have jobs, but not vocations.  Too many men receive a paycheck, but not enough have embraced their mission.  

This maybe you, and you’re wondering how does one discern their mission?  Great question.  When God called Moses into the mission of leading Israel, Moses balked, giving a whole litany of excuses of how he couldn’t do this.  God then asked a critical question that turned the whole conversation and trajectory of Moses’ life: What’s in your hand (Exodus 4:2)?  It was a staff- an instrument Moses had used for the previous forty years as a shepherd.  He was comfortable with his staff.  He had used it effortlessly.  What was in his hand was his gifts and passions, those things that when he did them not only brought him joy, but had become second nature.  

If we want to discern our mission, begin with the question of what’s in our hand?  What is it that when you do it you sense the pleasure of God?  For me it’s preaching, writing and leading.  That’s in my hand.  For others it’s singing, or maybe administrating.  These are good gifts God has given us.  Now I’ll let you in on a secret: If God gives you a gift, and a passion, don’t you think he wants you to do something with it?  This is a part of your mission.  Isn’t this a real game changer for how we approach the will of God?  Instead of waiting on God to show you what you should do, why don’t we begin by taking inventory with what’s in our hand?  Once we figure this out we’re well on our way to mission and vocation, and living with a sense of transcendent purpose.