Hold Fast

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The True Man

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:5

In the Church – especially in worship – we use a language and words that are somewhat unique.

Words like “sanctification,” “justification,” “canticle,” and “sanctus.” They are words that have specific meanings and, while they can be used in everyday conversation, are usually reserved for use in the Church alone.

The Church uses unique language because we have a unique message and a unique mission!

Another one of those uniquely used words is “steadfastness.”

It is a rather older English word that came from “standing fast” and a related phrase “hold fast.”

In “hold fast” we can get to the heart of this word’s meaning.

In one of my favorite movies, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” one of the crewmen of the HMS Surprise has tattooed…

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Hold Fast

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:5

In the Church – especially in worship – we use a language and words that are somewhat unique.

Words like “sanctification,” “justification,” “canticle,” and “sanctus.” They are words that have specific meanings and, while they can be used in everyday conversation, are usually reserved for use in the Church alone.

The Church uses unique language because we have a unique message and a unique mission!

Another one of those uniquely used words is “steadfastness.”

It is a rather older English word that came from “standing fast” and a related phrase “hold fast.”

In “hold fast” we can get to the heart of this word’s meaning.

In one of my favorite movies, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” one of the crewmen of the HMS Surprise has tattooed on his fingers the letters “h o l d f a s t.”

This is to remind himself, and anyone else near him, to hang on tightly in perilous situations.

Hang on to what, specifically?

In a storm at sea, it means to hang on to the ship – literally, parts of the ship – in order to be safe and not swept overboard.

But it can also refer to hanging on to traditions, training, and each other as comrades in any situation that you find yourself in.

This is the spirit of what St. Paul writes about in 2 Thessalonians 2 & 3.

Paul encourages the Christians at Thessalonica to “stand firm” (“hold fast”) in (to) the traditions that they were taught by him, Timothy and Silas.

These traditions are the Old Testament teachings and practices that would specifically point to the Savior, Jesus Christ.

When Jesus Christ came into this world about 50 years before Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he didn’t create a whole new religion and faith.

Rather, Jesus fulfilled the ancient religion and faith of the Old Testament – going back in time through the prophets, King David, the judges, Moses, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Noah, all the way to Adam and Eve.

This is the “tradition” that Paul encourages all of us to hold fast to. There is great comfort and strength to be found in our Christian faith as we become more fully aware that it is a religion and faith that goes all the way back to the very beginning of this universe!

As we hold fast to this faith and tradition, we are further encouraged that our faith isn’t actually in these traditions but rather in the steadfastness of Christ himself and the love of God.

A love of God that is unimaginable in that it is unconditional and not based one bit on anything that we do or don’t do.

And since Christ overcome death and the grave in order to save us from our sins, death, and the power of the devil, we have a sure rock to which we can hold fast.

We will become immovable and nothing can harm us or defeat us!

Hold fast!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Encouragement for Parents

For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.
1 Thessalonians 3:5

This devotion goes into the file “things I need to hear and learn for myself.”

Most – if not all – of these devotions are lessons, thoughts, and meditations that I need to learn and heed first for myself! I am thankful to God that he has given me a platform in which to share these with others, but am most thankful that he speaks to me through them directly!

There are some things that were not told to me about parenting before I became a parent. The closest things to sage advice that I received was “you’ll understand when you are a parent.”

When my wife told me that we were starting our family – I remember the day vividly – we were so excited about becoming parents for the first time.

But here we are, twenty-one years later and I am still awed that God has called me to be a father! I’m also still plenty scared!

Early on, my wife and I understood that our primary responsibility as parents was to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our children. To that end we have nightly devotions and prayers – and have been doing that since our first born came home from the hospital.

I pray for my wife and children every day. My wife has brought our sons to worship nearly every week for the last twenty-one years (I’ve been there, too, but usually up in front of the church in my man-dress).

Still, sharing the Gospel and training up our sons is no guarantee that they will continue in the “faith of our fathers.”

In this, I can relate to what St. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 about inquiring as to the faith-life of the church at Thessalonica.

The men, women, and children to whom Paul, Timothy, and Silas had proclaimed the Gospel were so close to Paul’s heart that he basically regarded them as his own family.

When Paul had to leave them in order to continue on his missionary journey to Athens, the church at Thessalonica was never far from Paul’s heart!

Thus, he writes to them to inquire of the status of their faith. His concern was that since they were no longer under his direct influence they would be tempted by the devil, the world, and their own sinful nature away from the one, true faith.

Paul understood that the Holy Spirit was the one who keeps people in the true faith and strengthens their faith through the Means of Grace. But Paul still has a father-like concern for his “children” at Thessalonica.

Much like a Christian parent today has for their own children!

So I encourage you young parents to double your efforts in sharing the Gospel of Jesus with your children. Bring them up in the fear and knowledge of the Lord – by worshiping together weekly, having them participate in a Sunday school or Bible class, and lead them in daily devotions and prayers.

For you more “experienced” parents, continue to pray for your sons and daughters – and grandchildren. Then follow up those prayers with a phone call (or text or Facetime or Skype, etc.) to further encourage them in growing up in the Lord.

That is my prayer for you today!

Visit, O Lord, the homes in which your people dwell, and keep all harm and danger far from them. Grant that we may dwell together in peace under the protection of your holy angels, sharing eternally in your blessings; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

I’ll Do It

All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
Exodus 19:8

Every parent, I believe, has experienced the “I’ll do it!” response from their children.

“Please, walk the dog!”

“I’ll do it.”

“Please, unload the dishwasher!”

“I’ll do it.”

“Please, clean your room!”

“I’ll do it.”

“Please, keep your truck clean, inside and out”

“I’ll do it.”

A blessed parent is one who experiences the culmination of the response, “I’ll do it.”

But for some parents, the culmination is few and far between!

The “I’ll do it” and then it doesn’t get done is much more common. Jesus even told a parable about this.

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” (Matthew 21:28-31)

Jesus’ point is that we are all asked to do, to go. To go work in the vineyard, in the harvest field, by which Jesus means the world of people who need to hear or have heard the Gospel.

Some of us answer, “No” but then have a change of heart. That change of heart is called “repentance” and comes by the Holy Spirit using the Law on our hearts.

We repent of our sin of hearing Jesus but rejecting his command to go and work.

Of course, Jesus forgives all our sins – even this one – and in the power of the Gospel (the forgiveness), the Holy Spirit motivates us to go and work as Jesus asked us to in the first place.

But some of us answer “I’ll do it” but then don’t do it. This, too, is a sin. One I’m sure every parent is familiar with.

There can be many reasons why the action doesn’t follow the response.

Some say, “I’ll do it” but then get distracted by something or someone and put off “doing it” and forget to get back to it.

Some say, “I’ll do it” but then succumb to the temptation that they can’t actually do it. Satan has lied to them and convinced them that they don’t have the power to go to work for Jesus in the vineyard, in the harvest field.

There are also some who just out-and-out lie. They say, “I’ll do it” with no intention to ever going out to work.

All sin. All needs to be repented of. All forgiven by Christ through his death and resurrection!

And when we repent of these – as well as all our – sins, we need to strive to not commit them again!

As Christ has forgiven us, let us make our “I’ll do it” a promise we will keep through the power of the Holy Spirit!

©2017 True Men Ministries

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Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Plentiful Harvest

[Jesus said], “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Luke 10:2

One of the joys of living where I do is that we get to experience all four seasons and the beauty and wonder that God displays through them.

Sometimes we can experience all four seasons in one weekend! But usually we get them at the normal times.

As we are now in the summer season, we can experience the spectacle that is a farmer’s field in full bloom!

My favorite summer field is that of corn. The stalks of sweet corn are about knee high right now.

The old adage is that corn should be “knee high by the Fourth of July.” Not anymore, however. Farmers can plant corn about a month or so earlier than they could 50 years ago due to advancements of seed genetics and farming techniques.

A field of growing corn, or wheat, or barley, or soybeans, all are sure signs of summer here on the Illinois prairie.

But a field ripe for harvest also is sign of the work of the Church, according to Jesus.

Jesus tells us to pray to the Lord of the harvest – meaning God the Father – to send out workers into the harvest field. But he doesn’t mean farmers and the field isn’t a corn field.

The harvest field is the world. The crop is all the people of the world.

The seed that was planted by the Holy Spirit is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit used as his sowers the people of the Church.

When we share the Good News of Jesus Christ and his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension (the Gospel), the Holy Spirit plants seeds of faith into each person who hears it.

Through the continued holy watering of God’s Word, faith can sprout and take root in a person. The Means of Grace can continue to cultivate the seed and soon a harvest will be ready!

The sad news is that not everyone accepts the seed of the Gospel. The reject it, toss it away, and continue in their deadly, sin-filled ways.

That’s why Jesus calls on his Church to pray for harvest workers – to sow seed, be the means to cultivate the seed, and finally to bring the harvest in from the fields.

It is all God’s work but he graces us with the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in his work!

Please join me in prayer for harvest workers (which includes you!):

Almighty and gracious God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, you have commanded us to pray that you would send forth laborers into your harvest. Of your infinite mercy give us true teachers and ministers of your Word who truly fulfill your command and preach nothing contrary to your holy Word. Grant that we, being warned, instructed, nurtured, comforted, and strengthened by your holy Word, may do those things which are well pleasing to you and profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

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Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

Picking a Team

[Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve.
Luke 6:12-13

Putting a team together is not the easiest thing to do.

In gym class, you would just line everyone up and have them count “1” and “2” and the “ones” would be on one team and the “twos” would be on the other.

On the playground the two best athletes – or the two most popular kids – would self-designate as captains and then begin to pick, one by one, who would be on their teams. And we’ve all heard stories – or experienced it first-hand – of being picked last. “You take him.” “No, you can have him.”

In the sixth grade, I felt the joy of being picked first for a basketball game. Of course, I was one of the tallest kids in sixth grade. But I was only picked first that one time. Because after that game it became abundantly clear that I was, at best, a mediocre player.

Serving as a pastor in a congregation, I don’t counsel the leadership of a church to pick people to serve in ministry this way at all!

When they want to call a new teacher, youth director, or a second pastor, I counsel them to put together a call committee, have them gather information and paperwork on several candidates, and set up interviews with these candidates.

But the most important thing I have them do – and the very first thing I have such a committee do – is pray.

Prayer in such a circumstance has at least two outcomes. One of them is that it tends to align the hearts of the committee into the same direction and purpose. Another is to help them understand that they are instruments of the Holy Spirit who is the one really doing the calling.

Like most, if not all, areas of the church, the Holy Spirit puts exactly who he wants in each position at that time. We the people of the church don’t always understand what the Holy Spirit understands, which is why prayer before hand is so important. As a calling body we need to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and we need the Holy Spirit to put all of us on the same page, his page!

Early on in Jesus’ ministry, he would set apart twelve men to be his core group of disciples/apostles.

They would be “disciples” in that they would be learners and he would be their teacher (“rabbi”). They would be “apostles” in that they would be sent by Jesus first into Israel and then into the entire world to proclaim the Gospel.

Of all the people who followed Jesus – and there would be hundreds by the end of his earthly ministry – how would he choose twelve?

The Gospel of Luke tells us specifically that Jesus “went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”

He prayed all night long about the twelve men he would choose as his disciples/apostles.

All night!

When a congregation’s call committee gets frustrated that the right person just doesn’t seem to be coming along in which to fill a vacant ministry position, remember that even the Son of God took an entire night to pray about his vacancies!

The Holy Spirit chose Jesus’ twelve men and he will also guide you in his choice for your positions! He knows exactly who is best to fill that position and we need to trust the Holy Spirit!

Make that your starting prayer!

©2017 True Men Ministries

______________________________________

Read past devotions at the True Man Blog here.

Contribute to True Men Ministries to help keep this devotional going here.

Listen to the True Man Podcast here.

Subscribe to In My Father’s Footsteps here.

True Man Podcast

I recently sat down with Craig DeMartino and he shared his incredible story of tragedy and triumph.

You can hear him tell his story on the True Man Podcast.

A Visit with Craig DeMartino – Part 1

A Visit with Craig DeMartino – Part 2

A Visit with Craig DeMartino – Part 3

True Man Podcast home.