Wednesday, March 25, 2015

For all Men Over 40 Years Old - Part 3

We are in This Together!
I was with a younger man in my back yard and we were talking about our hearts. This friend was in the middle of a season of chaos and he felt like he was failing. I listened to his story of perceived wrong decisions and knew he looked to me for any thread of hope. I knew exactly how he felt because I have been in many seasons of chaos. These seasons often feel like relief will never come. As I drew from my experiences and asked him deep questions, I saw hope begin to be rise in his heart. A sense of strength and a desire to engage the chaos emerged. He began to feel more like a life preserver in an angry sea had been offered. 

Because of my pursuit of the Father and because I wrestled and still wrestle through my own chaotic events, I was able to ask questions that drew out what God may be doing to develop this young man. It is vital for men to make the effort to practice the discipline of drawing close to the Father so they are able to become spiritual fathers. The investment of seeking God on our own and through relationships with mentors is necessary in order to accumulate a deep pool of wisdom and spiritual resources that we can give away through mentoring other men who are a few steps behind us! 

The Apostle John has much to say to fathers in a few verses found in 1 John 2:12-14.

12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 1 John 2:12-14 (ESV) (Emphasis is mine)

“Fathers” of the faith will be tested, scorched and proven in their pursuit of Jesus. This proving comes through struggling and engaging the chaos of life, knowing without doubt that God the Father will walk with us through the fray. Fathers “…know him who is from the beginning.” This phrase is an amazingly strong statement that speaks of a deep and deepening relationship that develops over years of faithful dependence on the One who knows us perfectly. 

The context of this passage indicates the need for “fathers” in our lives to encourage “children” in the faith to understand that their sins are forgiven (1 John 2:12) - that is that their souls are secure with God upon giving their life up for His life to flow through them. Fathers are also necessary to encourage young men to keep fighting and to remind them that God’s word lives in them accompanying them through the struggles and chaos of life. Young men need to be reminded that in the midst of their struggles and chaos, that because of Christ, they have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:13). The message to keep embracing the chaos, with Christ as their example, is paramount for their victory.

The need of ‘fathers’ for both younger men and children in the faith is crucial. It is the task of fathers in the faith to continually develop relational clout with the younger so they too will develop into fathers to encourage the next generation.

In the book of Titus, Paul instructs his younger disciple, Titus, to instruct older men to have six vital qualities in their life. In my next post, I’ll explore these six qualities that older men should be striving to attain so they can help others move towards maturity.

Friday, March 20, 2015

For All Men Over 40 Years Old - Part 2

We Are in This Together
I gave my life to Jesus at the age of 18. I quickly realized I needed a mentor to help guide me in my new faith. I had lots of questions and needed an example of how to live out the faith in Jesus I had embraced. 

My girlfriend, who is now my wife, and I decided to go to the church she attended as a young girl. It was there where I was warmly received by a man many years my senior. He had gray hair and a lot of faithful years of walking with Jesus. I was immediately drawn to him. His name is Dick Harrison and I give great thanks to God that Dick was prepared and ready to sacrifice his time and energy on a young man who needed a mentor. Dick never played sandlot football or racquetball with me and he wasn’t interested in playing Intellivision (first generation video game in the late 1970’s), but he would spend time chatting with me about living for Jesus. He willingly  listened to my struggles and opened the Scriptures to talk about what a godly man looked like. 

Several years later I saw Dick at an event. He had aged a lot and looked more frail but his faith was stronger than ever. As I embraced him, I whispered in his ear just how much he meant to me. I then introduced my friends to him as his spiritual grandchildren and great grandchildren. We sat for a while and I shared with him all that God was doing through my life and how his example to me inspired me years later to pour into young men so they too would walk with Jesus for a lifetime. Dick enjoyed hearing the spiritual stories of the men who were with me. You could see the grateful spirit in his eyes that his efforts of pouring into me were not in vain and in fact was reaping more workers for the harvest.

For many believers, this story of Dick Harrison is not repeated in their lives. In some men, mid-life crisis draws them to focus and invest in what excites their flesh instead of what excites the Spirit of God in them. In my experience, I have found that many young men long to spend time with mature mentors so they can learn what it means to be a godly man.

What do younger men want and need from older men? Here are few thoughts that I have about pouring into younger men in order to help them become godly and to impact their sphere of influence for Jesus.

1. Friendship and Love
Every man needs to know he matters. Every man needs a sense of significance. The culture of parenthood is rapidly shifting in western culture. Many younger men have not had fathers who are deeply engaged, especially spiritually. Younger men often crave friendship from an older man who will spend time with them through their struggles and victories. When an older man chooses to lay down his interests to spend time with a younger man, both feel a sense of significance which helps them to mature further. These times can be deeply spiritual or just plain fun. They can include deep conversations on relationships and temptations or they can take in a ball game together. Friendship, acceptance and love are things every man, young or old, needs.

2. Honesty and Vulnerability
It is common for men to get together and tell exaggerated stories of being a hero or brag of their latest toy purchase. When older men become honest and vulnerable with younger men it gives a sense of permission to admit fears and failures. I often share with younger men how difficult the first years of marriage were or how I had to reel in my heart from lusting for cars, women and more of everything. When I shared my sins and became vulnerable a sense that everything would be okay seems to swell over both of us. Life is hard and we need to walk together but not in the fantasy of being the hero. Rather, we need to admit we are fellow strugglers who need each other. Success in walking with Jesus is faithfulness, not in seeing souls saved or something else to be counted.

3. Stories and Ears
Everyone likes to hear a good story and to tell their own. When we tell our stories to younger men, it gives us a connection that we may not have had before. Hearing stories of wrestling with God through situations in our life, hearing how we deal with not feeling like our faith makes sense, or sharing the blessings of persevering through challenges resulting in greater faith encourages the hearer. Taking the time to hear the heart of a younger man shouts to him that his story matters. We don’t have to have the answers — we know that most often we don’t have any answers, but we have spent a few more years getting to ‘know’ the Father (1 John 2:13-14) and that makes all the difference.

4. Wisdom and Prayer
Younger men often hunger for a deeper understanding of how to be a spiritual leader. I hear many young men asking how to hear from God for themselves. Sharing stories of hearing from God through the Scriptures, in our hearts and through a community of close friends is stimulating. Engaging the mystery of pursuing God in prayer so wisdom emerges is powerful to a younger soul. Living in a way that shows younger men that being godly is really what manliness was meant to be can start a chain reaction to their friends that is unstoppable. 

Recently I told a young man in his 30’s how I prayed for seventeen years about an issue in my life. This touched his heart deeply. Thinking about praying for something that long took his breath away. He came to realize that a sustainable relationship with Jesus, requires perseverance and endurance through a community of close friends.

5. Support and Encouragement
If we are honest, every man gets scared at some points in his heart. When men hit a season of chaos, they often choose to numb the pain with something that seems to offer relief. As we walk with younger men, we can gently point them towards Jesus in the midst of the chaos as any godly father figure would do. Offering seasons and even years of support and encouragement supplies a sense of security for a young man, especially if he has felt abandoned by other father figures or leaders in his life. Encouraging a young men to get back up after a disappointment is vital. Sharing that they can dust off the dirt of life through a relationship with Christ is an astonishing gift we can give to younger men. Hebrews 3:12-13 instructs us to encourage others to get off sinful paths that lead to a turning away from God and instead encouraging them as often as possible (everyday) so they are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. In a world that tears us down in many ways, we need voices of more seasoned men to speak the truth of perseverance in their lives.

So if you are man over 40, choose to spend time with a younger man and begin a relationship with them. You both will be blessed and our world will become a better place because of your investment. This type of investment will pay much higher dividends than any stock, 401k or hobby (1 Corinthians 3:11-17).

In my next post, I’ll dive into Titus 2:2 and 2 Timothy 2:2 for deeper spiritual implications of pouring our lives into younger men.

Join the conversation if you'd like!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

For Men Over 40 - Part 1

Many things begin to shift about the age of 40 in men. My 40th birthday party was a surprise party, and I have been surprised by many changes that have taken place since. My eye-sight diminished and I began looking for my reading glasses. I developed an aversion to risk where in the past I never thought twice about risk; the diamond runs on ski slopes now look more like an invitation to an accident than an adventure. Since my 40th birthday I’ve noticed younger people looking past me thinking I was less hip than I was earlier in my life. After 40, I began to lose strength and gain weight around my waist. I really don’t like these changes!

Not all things that have shifted have been negative. After 40 I learned to be comfortable not having the answer for everything and able to speak more directly into situations instead of worrying what people thought. I have learned the value of perseverance, I am more focused on investing in people than looking for attention and my tolerance and grace has increased in positive ways. The ability to think twice before speaking is easier and I’m sure more appreciated.

For many men, life after 40 offers a freedom to pursue passions that in the past had been out of reach financially. Often, time becomes a bit more plentiful as our children grow and the empty nest comes into view. Thoughts of retirement or a second career begin to creep into our thoughts as well as the fears of growing old. The experiences of life offer men over 40 insights that most younger men do not yet posses. 

How men embrace the changes in life after 40 determine their impact on the next generation. For some, they will focus on the freedoms their lives beyond 40 afford them and live a more isolated and shallow life of self-pleasure. Hopefully, more men will focus their freedom and experiences to pour into younger men in order to offer guidance and friendship that will expand their influence to future generations.

In a culture that increases the pressure on self and individual passions, the desire to sacrifice for others is diminishing. Men over 40 would do well to help change this direction by both enjoying and enduring the cost of reaching out to younger men and helping them to mature in their faith and life. The Scriptures have much to say about this process of older men investing in younger men. 

In my next post I will explore some Biblical principles that younger men want and need from older men.