Equilibrium

Merriam-Webster defines equilibrium as a state of intellectual or emotional balance. It is vital for your emotional equilibrium that you counterbalance anger, fear, and guilt with optimism, hope, and joy. The promise of the whole-person approach means that the health aspects of a person can support the weaker characteristics until the whole person is strong and well.
 
Intellectual, relational, physical, and spiritual aspects of your life can also assist you in sustaining the life-affirming emotions of optimism, hope, and joy. 
 
As men, we have a real struggle finding balance. What should a typical day look like for a Christian man? How do I balance everyday life without losing focus on God and what’s important? How do I prioritize effectively? These, and many other questions, are at the forefront of most, if not all, Christian men.  We know we need to strengthen our walk with the Lord, but are sometimes overwhelmed by questions like;
  • In what ways can I get out of my normal routine and create a godly one?
  • What are some applicable tips to help me use my time better, especially for personal growth?
  • I want everything I do to reflect Jesus. I want integration there. I want a clean break between my work and my family. How do I do that?
  • Are hobbies okay?
How can we juggle all the demands on our time, intellect, emotions, money, and relationships?
 
No man fails on purpose. Quite the opposite. When our feet hit the floor every morning, we’re looking for a win.  But these are turbulent times to be a man. It feels almost impossible to live out a biblical model of manhood.
 
We all feel it, don’t we? Something about this world just isn’t right. There are so many voices phishing to get inside our heads. It feels like we’re being “hacked.” Spiritually hacked.
 

The answer is to live by priorities. Priorities can help us manage the pressures that will otherwise manage us.

 
A common complaint is having too many priorities. Investor Warren Buffet, the “Oracle of Omaha,” said you can only handle five priorities. He was fanatical about knowing what you want, learning the tools you needed to get there, whittling your list of priorities down to five, and then making everything beyond your top five priorities what he called your “avoid at all cost” list.
 
Of course, there’s no iron law about how many priorities a man can have. And while there’s no “one size fits all” answer, we can reflect and settle on our priorities in five major areas: Loving God, Loving people, Job, Ministry, and Money.
 
By focusing on our top five priorities, we will know how to intentionally release the power of God on the issues that matter most to us. We’ll be able to walk with confidence in the one identity that matters most: Jesus Christ, our Lord.


Hold The Rope

 Hold The Rope

Don Bond
In this season of uncertainty, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have “held the rope” with us for so long. At Orchard, we have had a monthly gathering of men for a long time called Hold The Rope. This is a gathering where the men of the church fellowship over a meal and spend time together as men. I don’t know all the when’s and why’s of how it started, but not being able to meet with my friends and mentors due to the Covid Crisis has been sorely missed on my part.  It has been on my heart for a while now, and thoughts about why do we call it Hold The Rope have been floating around my mind.  I have been doing some reading.  I came across this book by John Piper and I would like to share an excerpt from it.  Mr. Piper shared in his book Andrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission, that the commitment (and the oath) to “hold the rope” was wonderfully demonstrated by a band of mission-minded pastors from the 1700’s.  Here is an excerpt from John Piper’s book:

“Andrew Fuller, more than anyone else, felt the burden of what it meant that William Carey and John Thomas (and later, others) left everything for India in dependence, under God, on this band of brothers. One of them, John Ryland, recorded the story from which came the famous “rope holder” image.

He wrote that Carey said:  Our undertaking to India really appeared to me, on its commencement, to be somewhat like a few men, who were deliberating about the importance of penetrating into a deep mine, which had never before been explored, [and] we had no one to guide us; and while we were thus deliberating, Carey, as it were, said “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.” But before he went down . . . he, as it seemed to me, took an oath from each of us, at the mouth of the pit, to this effect—that “while we lived, we should never let go of the rope.”

This struck me hard.  I don’t know if this is what the founders of the Hold The Rope ministry here at Orchard had in mind when they named it, but it sure describes the ideal it has come to represent.  As men, but especially as believers, have a mission.  That mission can be summed up quickly as: To Know Christ, to Grow into his likeness, and to Show him to the world. According to scripture, men are to be the leaders, both physically and spiritually, of the home and family. We are the backbone, if you will.  We can’t do this alone though.  We have Jesus, but we also need the strength and wisdom of other Godly men to help hold our rope while we are holding the rope for our family.

I was reading in Acts chapter 9 and came across the story of Paul’s conversion.  With the light of “hold the rope” image, I saw something that was there all along, but had never clicked before.  Saul (better known as Paul) had been persecuting the church in Jerusalem for some time and he got permission to hunt for Christians in Damascus. On the way there, Christ met him in a blinding flash of light, and Saul was struck blind. You’ll remember, God’s assurance that Saul had become a believer to Ananias—behold, he prays. He knew Christ. After being restored to sight, some experts say that Saul spent the next several years in the dessert studying the faith. Whether or not that was the case, however, is irrelevant. At some point, he began to preach to the Jews about Jesus, and he grew bold and powerful (he grew into Christ’s likeness and began to show him to others)—so much so that the Jews in Damascus decided it was time to kill Saul. But some of the other believers found out about the plot and they lowered Saul in a basket during the night, allowing him to escape unharmed. I want to focus on those other believers for a moment. You see, we hear a lot about Paul’s ministry, but it would never have happened if it weren’t for some folks willing to hold the rope for him. If we are going to be engaged in ministry for the Kingdom of God, we need to have a system of support, i.e., believers who are willing to hold the rope for us.

At Camp Whispering Pines, there is a high ropes course. For those who don’t know what high ropes are, picture a series of obstacles set 35 to 40 feet up in the air. It is definitely a faith-growing experience. When you were getting ready to go up that tree and when you got up there, there was one very important question that became very, very important: Who is holding the rope? In fact, there were a series of verbal commands that the climber and the rope holder would go through to make sure that the climber was safe. I remember a story from one of the youth groups that was on the course. They had a guy who played football—a big offensive lineman. When he got up to the catwalk, he asked, “What happens if I step off?” He was told he would drop a little bit and then come to a stop. So he stepped off. And he dropped a few inches, stepped back onto the catwalk, and walked across as calmly as if he were on the ground. You see, he knew someone was holding the rope.

I have been asking myself, “What does it mean to Hold The Rope (or be a rope holder)?” At least three different jobs that are needed sprung to mind. Some people may have more than one job, but other times, it may take three different people.

The first category of rope holders are Intercessors: Those who will stand in prayer and lift that person, group, or situation up on a daily basis. Gen 18:20-33. Abraham is an intercessor not only for his nephew Lot and his family, but for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. When you read this passage, you can see the spirit of the intercessor. He is full of holy boldness. Not timid in the requests. Also, he is not irreverent towards God, but has a reverent humility. Finally, the intercessor needs a bit of importunity (I know, that’s a $5 word that basically means to solicit in a pressing manner; think of a pushy telemarketer). Each time Abraham asks, he pushes a little further. Are we willing to respectfully but boldly press God for the needs of others?

The second type of person needed is someone with the gifts of helps and service. If I were to describe this with one word, it would be support. These are important, since being a believer doesn’t come with an easy button. The gift of helps is seen in that person who is able to work behind the scenes to relieve others of detailed or routine jobs. They relieve them so they can focus more fully. (1 Cor. 12:28, Romans 16:1-2, Acts 9:36, Mark 15:40-41) Service is the ability to see things that need done. This person is a doer, not looking for praise, but just wanting to make sure things are done and the mission can continue. (2 Tim. 1:16-18, Romans 12:7, Acts 6:1-7, Titus 3:14, Galatians 6:2,10). Now I began to ask God, “What is the difference between these two?” And what God showed me is that a person with the gift of helps always works behind the scenes. He is away from any form of public service. On the other hand, the person with a gift of service will do whatever needs done. They don’t seek out the public eye, but they won’t shy away from it either. I also need to say that these gifts are not mutually exclusive; i.e., you may have both gifts.

Finally, we all need some Encouragers. These are persons with a gift of exhortation, that ability to reassure, strengthen, encourage, and affirm others. This can simply by praising what is already going on, or by helping them move from their problems to a resolution to that problem. (Romans 12:8, Acts 14:21-22, Heb. 10:25)

When this crisis is over and it is safe, I am praying that we can continue this ministry of Hold The Rope. Without the support of other believers on a regular basis, we are much more likely to fall prey to the attacks of the enemy.



More Jesus!

As this new year begins, it appears that this year won’t be any different that the last one, and that’s ok.  Crazy, I know, but I have realized that we don’t need a new President to make everything better.  We don’t need a Democrat or Republican to make all the sorrows of the world go away.  What we need is more Jesus!  Not just as a nation, but personally.  If we have more and more and more Jesus, the rest of the world’s cares and concerns don’t have near as much of an impact.  When you look back at His time here with us, you realize that He didn’t let the cares of this world cause Him stress.  The reason He didn’t let stress get to Him sounds very simple, but it is powerful nonetheless.  He knew who is in control of it all. He used the scriptures to demonstrate and show who controls all things. God is in control and none of what happened back when Jesus was on Earth or what is happening today has caught Him by surprise.  The lyrics to an old song from my younger days keeps ringing through my head: “When you don’t understand, When don’t see his plan, When you can’t trace his hand; Trust His Heart.” 
 
 
How do I get more and more of Jesus & how can I get closer to Him?

I have learned that the closer we get to Jesus, the stronger and happier we become. Sometimes in life we may not have that certain someone to encourage and push you forward, but when we experience radical intimacy with Jesus, every aspect of life seems to just fit in and fall into place. Getting closer to Jesus is an ongoing process that involves any number of steps.  Now, I am not claiming to be an expert on the subject by any means, but here are four simple things that the Lord put on my heart:

  1. Spend quality quiet time with Jesus. Quiet time can involve reading various gospel oriented books or listening to devotionals or even Christian music. Just taking some time off to sit and think about certain verses or passages from the Bible would also amount to quiet time. It’s frankly just isolating ourselves from this noisy world and letting God know that we are waiting on him. So quality quiet time would surely make us feel closer to Jesus.
  2. Attend church regularly. This doesn’t mean just taking up space in a pew hoping that Jesus will seep in through osmosis.  We need to be sure that we try to actively engage ourselves in the worship. When songs are being sung, sing along from the heart, when the Word is being preached, we need to listen intently and open our hearts to the message He has for us. Being engaged in church can have you leaving Spirit-filled and closer to Jesus.
  3. Read the Bible. The Bible is the inspired Word of God himself.  Consider, if you will, the following verses:
    1. John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” KJV
    2. John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
    3. Since we refer to the Bible as the Word of God, and the above verses tell us that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” & “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” it is my humble opinion that the Bible is a manifestation of Jesus. Keep in mind that I am not a biblical scholar by any stretch.  The way I figure it, the best way to have an intimate knowledge of Jesus and to be as close as humanly possible to Him is to, not just read, but ingest, dwell on, meditate on Jesus, the Word of God.
  4. Talk to Him. The best way that I have found to get to know more about someone is to talk to them.  It is the same way with Jesus.  Jesus is our friend.  No, He is more than just a friend.  We are His family. We should talk to Him like He is in the room with us.  Jesus is always listening and will never leave us or forsake us.  Regular, meaningful conversations with Jesus are the best way to get closer to Him.


Believers Shouldn’t Worry About The Election

The election of the President has stirred up both anger and celebration. The media, both social and traditional, are fanning the flames on all sides.  As a believer, I am finding it hard to watch or read. Much of what I see on social media is coming from “Christians”. Many are worrying about the outcome to the point of stressing themselves to a frenzy.

On November 1st, our pastor brought a message entitled “Commander And Chief” dealing with this very issue.  Almost a week after the election, we still are not certain who has been chosen to be the President.  It looks like it will be a while longer before we know for certain.

Everyone is quite concerned. This is very understandable with the world situation and the stakes high. We wonder who might be able to keep things on a steady course.

Believers must participate in the election process. Now that doesn’t mean we have to vote for someone in every office even if we cannot find enough common ground.  It just means that in general we are to take part in the government as requested.

But even though we are to vote, believers shouldn’t worry about the election results. Here are four reasons why:

  1. God is in control

God is sovereign, meaning He is ultimately in control of everything, including election results. No matter who is elected by human vote, God is also in control. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

I came to this realization of biblical truth recently. When I finally did, it brought great peace to know that while people do things, God is still in control.

There is no situation where this is better described than in the issue of political leaders. Romans 13:1 says, Every ]person is to be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” NASB

Whoever becomes President, Senator, Governor, Mayor and so on, is elected ultimately under the direction of God.

Sometimes we might think He made a big mistake, but nonetheless, He is in control.

Perhaps God uses some leaders to judge people, or to humble people so that they look to Him.

We may never know why God has placed the leaders in office until we get home. But one thing we do know is that He is in control.

This gives us peace.

  1. Worry is always wrong

Sorry to be so blunt, but the Bible is really clear about this.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NASB)

If you are a believer and worrying about election results, you are disobeying God’s Word. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, knowing this, I never worry about anything, I just get “concerned.” The problem with this explanation is that word translated “worry” means something akin to “concerned.”

  • too many hours watching political channels or listening to talk radio
  • fretting about the election results
  • debating or arguing with the “other side”
  • constantly posting our viewpoints on social media

Staying involved is not wrong unless it gets out of balance—an obsession. In fact, we should participate. But we should not be involved to the extent that the election, politics and government become our passion.

I have strong political and moral views. But, hopefully, I don’t allow those opinions to become my focus.

What should be my focus? The answer is in the latter half of the verse cited above.

Again, it says, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)

Instead of worrying, we are to turn our concerns over to God in prayer and thankfulness. The result is wonderful peace.

Don’t you love the promise, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

  1. Believers are citizens of Heaven

Philippians 3:20a states clearly, For our citizenship is in heaven”

Sure, we are citizens of a country on Earth. But ultimately, we are foreigners here. Our real citizenship is in Heaven.

So why would we get worked up about election results here on Earth? Every one of us will soon be leaving to spend eternity on the other side.

The Leader of the Eternal Kingdom is the KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16).

Our lives in a country here are a flash-in-the-pan compared with our lives in eternity. Thus, worrying about this life is not only futile, it’s silly.

Why do we fret? Because we get our eyes off the goal. So we must do as The Apostle Paul wrote about earlier in this chapter:

Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)

  1. Our real hope is in Christ

If we are worrying about an election, it’s a sign we’re trusting in the wrong thing!

Our hope must NOT be in:

  • Politicians & political parties
  • Money
  • Positions of influence
  • Family members
  • Occupations
  • Education

Each of these have their place, but it is not their place to be our ultimate hope!

Soon all these will be gone, as a result of the next election, retirement, financial reversal, deaths or our own death. None are permanent and reliable.

There is only One who is permanent and reliable: The Lord!

Certainly every person walks around as a fleeting shadow;
They certainly make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.

“And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.”
(Psalm 39:6-7 NASB)

 

For nearly four decades I’ve watched election results, elected officials, political parties and political movements come and go. Through them I’ve come to affirm what the psalmist wrote 3,000 years ago: “My hope is in You.”

 



Looking For The Light When All You See Is Darkness

Looking For The Light When All You See Is Darkness

 
Everyone knows that one person who always sees the bright side. They’re sickening, aren’t they? The ones who pipe up in the dark moments with the obscure silver lining that’s absolutely true and positively irritating? They are unfailingly cheerful to the point of living in denial.
 
It’s true that those overly positive people can make you want to claw your eyeballs out or plug your ears (or at least stuff a sock in their mouths), but the reason they’re so irritating is that we know they’re right. Especially if you’re a believer, you know there’s always a bright side. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t grieve. But it does mean that grief and sorrow shouldn’t ever get the better of us, because God is stronger.
 
We don’t have to live in darkness, because if you follow Jesus, you can always look for the light.
 
But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy.
Though I fall I will rise;
Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.”
 
 
What is light anyway? It’s all well and good to talk about light and darkness in symbolic terms. It’s very poetic, but I’m practical. What does it even mean?
 
All throughout the Bible, God calls Himself the Light. Jesus calls Himself the Light. The Word is called the Light. What do all those things have in common? Well, one major thing is that They’re all 100% true. God can’t lie. Neither does Jesus, neither does the Bible. God’s truth is light that shines in the darkest moments of our lives.
 
Even when we’re surrounded by the darkness of fear and uncertainty or loneliness or sorrow or pain, what we need to remember is that all those things will lie to us. Fear and uncertainty tell us we’ll never be good enough. Loneliness and sorrow and pain tell us that this life is all there is. And that’s not true.
 
In those moments when the darkness threatens to overwhelm you with its lies, remember the truth. Let God’s light in. Stop hunkering in the shadows, letting our enemy whisper his devious lies to you to break you, to stop you, to scare you. That’s what he’s doing. Don’t let him.
 
Instead, get up and look for the light. Look at your situation and try to see God in it. If you’re a believer, He’s there. He may not be obvious, but He’s present. He probably won’t be where you expect Him to be, but He’s there. But you don’t have to acknowledge Him for Him to work. He’ll do His part without your knowledge, but if you can see Him, it makes life a lot easier.
 
On one hand, it’s irritating to be around people who always see God working. They just have this cheerfulness that nothing seems to touch. And in some cases, that’s bad, because humans need to feel. We all experience sorrow and sadness, but if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it–to admit to feeling it–and to learn to manage it, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.
 
Even negative emotions have a purpose, and you should never ignore them. Just don’t try to face them without God’s help. You won’t get through life without falling. Everyone falls, but you don’t have to stay there. Get up. Look for God’s light, and don’t stop until you find it.
 
So don’t let the darkness slow you down. Don’t let the lies break your spirit. God has plans for you, friend.