When You Think You Don’t Measure Up

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

Today was Fall Cleaning day at the ministry. We closed the office at noon and after lunch, we started cleaning our areas and the public areas of the building. We usually do this twice a year. Part of the cleaning process is to clean our own desks, computer files, paper files, etc. As I was cleaning out some paper files I came across a file folder that I had titled, “Notes of Encouragement.” I couldn’t remember the last time I looked at, or put anything in that file. So, I took some time to look at it. There were around 50 notes of all kinds, some written on nice cards or just plain paper and even some were on index cards. Some were unsigned so I didn’t know who they were.

But they all had one thing in common. They all said nice things and were encouraging. Thus, the title for the file! Some thanked me for being kind to them, or taking time to talk openly and honestly with them. Others appreciated my “fatherly” demeanor and still others appreciated the example I set regarding work ethics, etc. One note, in particular, meant so much to me. At the beginning of this year, one of the men in the ministry actually wrote me a poem with a nice note and emailed it to me. I have always loved and tried to emulate this individual. We were pretty good friends and would go out to lunch occasionally just to talk. But over time, the ministry grew and duties changed and we don’t do that anymore. We are still friends, but things have become so hectic and busy for my friend that we just don’t have time any more. I thought I would share his poem below.

I Know a Man:

I know a man so faithful,

Who serves in unnoticed grace,

For whose example I am so grateful,

And who has surely put a smile on Jesus’ face.

I’ve watched from a distance as he cared,

Many years for his sickly and frail wife,

How her burdens he continually beared,

Until she passed to the next stage of Life.

And I’ve watched him study God’s Word,

With the vigor of a newborn saint,

His lunch times spent pouring over Scriptures heard,

Preparing his heart to not faint.

The world needs more men like this,

Devout, honest, godly, sincere, and true,

I hope that I too might one day make such a list,

Bob, I hope that I can be more like you.

When I read this for the first time I got a lump in my chest and throat. It came at a time when I was just sick of who I was. I have mentioned before that I struggle with pride, anger, envy and even jealousy at times. I was, and still am to some extent, struggling with these things. At the same time, I also started feeling like a stranger in a sea of friends and people I know. I fell into a bit of discouragement (more like depression) and decided I am just not who people think I am. I guess you could sum it up by saying I thought of myself as a hypocrite. I truly cried out to the Lord to change these attitudes in me. I’m still kind to people and work hard, and all the other good things that the note writers said. I just pulled back as much as possible from everything and just tried to concentrate on the Lord. I started spending my lunch hours by going to one of the small conference rooms and spending time with the Lord for the hour. I never announced that to anyone and never knew my friend noticed that I was doing it until I saw the poem. I shared some of this with a friend recently by email the other day and told them I think I might be overthink things. They agreed that I have the tendency to do that and they told me that they think the Lord is working in me to make me the type of person He wants me to be.

I don’t mean to make this all about Bob. I do have a purpose for writing all this. Here are a few things I think I am learning. First, we think way too much of ourselves at times. At least I do. We tend to lose all objectivity and we sink into the proverbial pit. The Christian life for many of us becomes a matter of “I feel….” Once that starts to happen, we tend to let our thoughts take over and the enemy has a great opportunity to come in and start his accusations against us. My last blog was about seven qualities of a growing Christian. One of those is self-discipline. I forgot that we need to take our thoughts captive and ask for the Holy Spirit to take control. We cannot afford to live our Christian life on feelings. That takes self-discipline.

Second, we need to see who we really are in Christ. We often call this knowing our identity in Christ. Ephesians 1 is one of the best chapters I know of to see who we really are in Chirst. We are chosen, redeemed, forgiven, loved by God, we are heirs of the Kingdom and sealed with the Holy Spirit. These are real blessings, but they are spiritual. I think we tend to live too much in the world and do not set our minds on things that are above (Col 3:1-2). God’s view of us is not at all what our view of ourselves is. We’d do well to believe God when it comes to our real identity.

Third, listen to your friends. My friend’s poem was so great and encouraging, but you know what? My thoughts about it, was that he had it wrong. I have spent my time here trying to follow his life when it comes to walking with God. How can I even come close to his walk! Add to that, nearly 50 notes I found in my folder today, all saying how kind, loving or an example I was. I know I tend toward the negative in my life. We really need to develop an attitude of thankfulness to the Lord and for what He has done.

With that, I will close. May we all be encouraged in what God has done in our lives and may we believe Him when it comes to our lives and identity. The truth is, God chose us knowing what we are! Ephesians 1 says He chose us because it pleased Him to do so. In other words, He wanted to do it! That alone should cause us to fall and worship Him with thanksgiving. Our God is on our side, no matter how we FEEL. Blessings to you all.

 

Re:generation and a Lesson in Pride

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

It was a bit of a different night at re:generation this week. The first thing that happened (just as a sidelight) was that we had three men graduate, so we had a ceremony for that. More on that in a minute. Usually, since I am one of the helpers, I’m supposed to be there at 5:30PM, one and one half hours before re:generation starts at 7PM. As a group, we usually have a dinner then we meet for a half hour or so before the doors open at 6:30. All that to say, I forgot that when we have graduation, we skip dinner and just have our meeting. So, by the time the graduation ended, and we actually had snacks with everyone who was there, I was getting seriously hungry! But I was able to grab a few snacks and take them into class with me, so I survived my hunger.

The graduation itself was also a little different and quite good. First of all, as I was sitting waiting for the meeting to start I noticed several GFA staff coming in! That, in itself was strange, until I remembered that one of our GFA staff was graduating. He invited several of his friends from the ministry and I think they all came. The three guys did a great job with sharing something about their year in re:gen. If you don’t already know, most re:generation participants aren’t really big on being on a stage before a crowd of people. But they all did great. The graduation ended with my friend from GFA singing a song that the Lord gave him, I would say, specifically for his graduation. It was moving and well done and the audience really loved it. I was pretty happy and proud for my friend from GFA.

Monday night was also a little different for me. My role in re:generation is that of a learner and a back-up teacher. I have been at this for nine months and have had to fill in exactly twice. But this night turned out to be my third time. I did not know I would be leading for sure until our leaders meeting when the regular teacher called in to say he had to work. I did have some pre-warning so I had was at least somewhat prepared. But it’s always a bit scary for me to be the teacher here.

There are three in our class right now and we just passed the halfway point. As the guys were sharing I became aware that a lot of the discussion was around anger and pride. As I listened, I thought of a passage in the Bible that is probably familiar to all of you. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV) says this: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility COUNT OTHERS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN YOURSELVES. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others. As the guys were sharing, I was carried back to my own re:gen group in 2016. I really love those guys and we got to be close during our year together. When it is your turn to speak in the group we usually say something like, “my name is Bob and I struggle with… (we give two or three things). At one of our meetings one of the guys said, he was wrong with sharing his two or three things. He had discovered that he could sum up all his problems in one word: PRIDE! The rest of us looked around and almost as a group, decided that that is all any of us need to say in the future. “Hi, I’m Bob and I struggle with PRIDE! It was actually kind of funny.

What I shared with the class this week was that pride in our lives needs to be crucified. I asked them if they could imagine what their lives would be if we could actually count others more significant that ourselves. What a difference that would make with our wives and children, with our co-workers and our bosses or leaders. My wife died in December of 2012, and today I still think back to times where I was just proud and stubborn with her. While I know God, and my wife, has forgiven me. I still live with the hurt I caused.

But there is a more important reason why we need to be get rid of our pride. God actually opposes the proud! No surprise there. You can’t read the Word without seeing how damaging pride is to others and ourselves. Satan fell because of pride! God humbled Nebuchadnezzar and made him go crazy for a while until he humbled himself to the true God! Pride separates friends, hurts others and turns God against us! Here, in no set order, are a few verses that that talk about pride and humility: James 4:6; Romans 11:20; Proverbs 16:18 & 29:13; Mt. 23:12. There are many, many more.

Just a little bit of self-disclosure, I struggle in this area way more than most people realize. I can seem so laid back and humble. While that is true some of the times, there are other times where it is just a smoke-screen to hide anger, rebellion, shyness and fear. In a word, pride. Ugh! That is hard to admit. I wish I had a three-step program that would get rid of pride in all our lives. But there is no such thing. The best I can tell you is to learn and take steps to humble yourselves before God. Confess sin when it occurs, let God cleanse and forgive you, make apologies when and where necessary. Trust God to reveal your steps. I know for sure that God loves us more deeply than we can ever know and will help us do this. But we need to be willing to be crucified.

I started this with quoting Philippians 2:3-4. I’ll end it with Philippians 2:5-8. I won’t quote it here but please take a couple minutes to look at it. Paul basically tells us to have the mind of Christ Jesus. Then he talks about Jesus’ journey into humility for our sake. Just writing about this fills my heart with remorse for my failures in this, and fills me with joy, thankfulness and peace at the same time. Jesus Christ humbled himself and died on the cross, for what? For people like you and me! When I think about this, it makes me just want to fall at His feet in shame, humility and gratefulness. Our lives need to be more about Jesus and less about ourselves. I guess that about sums it up. Love you all!!

Seven Characteristics of a Growing Believer

Bob Mayo, Stonepoint Member

I was reading the Bible the other day and came to 2 Peter. I read chapter one and it has been on my mind ever since. So, for this blog post, I’d like to share a few thoughts I had on what I read.

My first thought was about Peter himself. We all know Peter. He has been the brunt of jokes and sermons ever since I can remember. We all know the stories of his failures. Sometimes it was his mouth that got him in trouble. other times it was his actions. Peter’s crowning defeat of course was his three-time denial of knowing Jesus. But later came Pentecost, and Peter and the other apostles were never the same. Peter soon became the head of a new movement and eventually martyred. What’s the takeaway from this? For me it’s this: if Jesus could pull Peter out of the muck he had gotten into, He can certainly do the same for you and me. But the question is, do we want Him to do that?

So, after Peter’s transformation and filling of the Holy Spirit he wrote the book of 2nd Peter. In verses 5-7 of chapter one, Peter talks about seven characteristic of a Christian who is growing in Christ. He says we need these seven characteristics to be added to our faith. It’s interesting that Peter didn’t say to, “add faith.” He starts with that assumption that we already have faith. After all, he is writing to believers who obtained a faith of equal standing to the apostles (verse 1). We too, have faith. Think about it. How did we become believers in Christ? It was “by grace through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We may think that we have just a little faith, but we had that faith from the very beginning when we first became a believer.

Following that, Peter says to add seven characteristics to our faith. They are mentioned in verses 5-7:

1. Virtue—virtue can mean moral excellence, goodness or spiritual courage. Basically, when a believer has virtue, he seeks through God’s grace and power, to live a morally upright and courageous life that pleases God.

2. Knowledge—this is not just knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It is knowledge of spiritual truths. We need to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. The best way to do this will surprise no one. It is to get into the Word. Read, study, memorize, meditate and pray. This will help us grow in knowledge.

3. Self-control—another word that would fit here is discipline. Discipline can be defined as a controlling of the will by the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes discipline to walk that narrow road that the Gospels talk about. It takes discipline to get into the Word, to pray or to overcome sins such as gluttony, lust, etc.

4. Steadfastness or perseverance—This means that we need to have a patient endurance of persecution and adversity. I’ve noticed a lot lately when I read the Bible, that there is always an element of perseverance or endurance. It is one thing to start off in the Christian life well, it is another to finish well. “Perseverance is the art of bearing up and pressing on in the face of all that seems to be against us.” (William MacDonald).

5. Godliness–We should be growing more and more to be like God. We will never attain that of course. But we need to have a heart toward Godliness. 1 Timothy 6:6.

6. Brotherly affection–this is caring for the needs of others in the Body of Christ. We show the world that we are believers through loving other believers (John 13:35). Sadly, we often spend our time tearing each other down.

7. Love–brotherly affection leads us to love all of mankind. It can only come through God’s Spirit. For example, how can a parent love a murderer who killed his son or daughter. Only through the Spirit of God.

I’ll end this with verse 10. I know that most of these seven characteristics don’t sound like much fun. They are not meant to be. Growing in Christ is no easy task. But such a life pleases God. But please remember, it is not a matter of us just toughing it out and going to work on these characteristics. Though there is work on our part, we also have God’s Spirit within us to strengthen us. It all may sound difficult or even impossible, but there is also a great promise that goes along with it. Verse 10 says: Therefore, brothers (and sisters), be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, FOR IF YOU PRACTICE THESE QUALITIES YOU WILL NEVER FAIL. When Peter talks about election and call, he is talking about God’s work to bring us to Himself. But the second part is for us. Developing these seven characteristics will keep us from falling. There will be difficult times. But a believer who is seeking to grow in the Lord will not fall away. I love Psalm 37:23-24 in this regard. “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when He delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.”

To put it simply. God has our back!! It doesn’t get any better than that. Blessings.

It’s Not You…It’s Me

hand-with-pointing-fingerMark Johnston, Connections Pastor

“Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And i will try to fix you”

— Coldplay

Great song. Awesome arrangement. When the electric guitar comes in, breathing life into the quiet ballad, it is one of the magical moments in rock music, up there with Roger Daltry’s scream and that first chime-y chord of A Hard Day’s Night.

But bad theology, though. And a really, really bad idea.

We heard it a lot when Stonepoint first started re:gen. “Oh, i wish i could get my husband/ wife/ son/ daughter/ uncle/ friend/ neighbor to come to this.” It happens sometimes when we start advertising a new relationship series, as well. People sincerely wanting their significant other, friend or loved one to come to a saving faith in Christ and get their scattered lives in order. Which is fantastic—that’s why Stonepoint exists, and what keeps the staff excited to do what we do week in and week out. We love to see life change. We love to be a part of life change. We love pointing people to Jesus.

But in any relationship conflict, including marriage, there are two parties involved.

My wife and i visit with couples who are having marriage issues from time to time, usually at our house over a nice dinner, and the common thread seems to boil down to, “He (or she) won’t do what i’m asking them to do. If they loved me, they’d change.

We (‘we’ meaning Angie, since she’s much better at that sort of thing than i am) pretty much always respond with a question about their personal walk with Christ. “Forget about your spouse for a second,” she’ll say, “where are you in your relationship with God?” The answer is usually pretty consistent, as well, “oh, i could be better. I don’t read my Bible much, and my prayer life is virtually non-existent.” (Those aren’t exact words, mind you, but an accurate paraphrase. Very few people would be that honest over Chicken Tikka Masala.)

The follow-up is this—“how about you work on you, and quit trying to fix the other person.”

Again, Coldplay was wrong.

Here’s the deal. If you’re walking in obedience, praying, reading your Bible, living in community with some like-minded, encouraging believers, you are not going to stay the same. There is transformative power in God’s word, with God’s people and if you are consistent in those things, He is going to mold you more and more into the image of His Son. Period. He promises to do so, in His word, and He keeps His promises.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.—Philippians 1:6

Sometimes, the answer is different, when one of the pair is walking in obedience, and the other is not. There are many people in our church, mostly women, who diligently, faithfully try to show Christ to an unbelieving spouse. In doing that, we pray that the mate will eventually respond to the Godly example—and it may take years—but God’s restorative power can take root in the rockiest of soils. We’ve seen it happen. Please stop and say a prayer right now, for those in that situation.

So, if either scenario sounds like the boat you’re in, y’all are welcome to come over for dinner, or meet with someone else on our staff to talk about things, although personally, i recommend doing it over Indian food.

Just know going in that the answer is probably going to be ‘work on your vertical relationship, get that in order, and then see what happens with the horizontal ones.’ Find a good Bible reading plan, pray, and get in community and our prayer is that your spouse will eventually see God moving in your life, see the change in you, and want what you’ve got.

At the end of the day, that’s all we’ve got…Jesus. 

So, Coldplay got it wrong. You can’t fix somebody, but God can.

And, sadly, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow divorced in 2016.