The Man In The Mirror: Solving The 24 Problems Men Face

January 24, 2021

(Note: This is a Faith Based Book)

Foreword:

  • If a dog is man’s best friend, perhaps his worst enemy is his mirror. Well, maybe his mirror isn’t really his worst enemy; It merely reflects the image of his most formidable opponent. What opponent is more dangerous than the one who knows our deepest, darkest secrets? What opponent is more lethal than the one who can’t probe are most vulnerable points?
  • “We see through a glass darkly; But then face to face. Now I know in part; Then shall I know fully, even as I am fully known.” – Apostle Paul

 

Introduction:

  • …the term rat race has evolved to describe the hopeless pursuit of a good life always just out of reach – a treadmill on which we can’t stop walking or we will fall off. Many of us today are trying to win the wrong race.
  • …We all need Monday through Friday answers to Sundays nagging questions.

 

Chapter One – The Rat Race

  • “Like a rat in a maze, the path before me lies and the path never alters, until the rat dies.” – Simon and Garfunkel
  • “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? “ – Galatians 5:7
  • … Why do we compete in an unwinnable race? Frankly, I would rather win, so I would rather run in a race which has a history of producing winners. Tragically, most men don’t know what race that is.
  • We strain to keep it all together, but the pressure is often like a tight band around our chest. Sometimes, the gravity of our debts and duties weighs us down so much that our interior posture is in a slump – even if we fake it and stand tall to the world.
  • Lingering questions:
    • What is the purpose of my life?
    • Why do I exist?
    • How do I find meaning?
    • How do I satisfy my need to be significant?
    • Why are my relationships in shambles?
    • How did I get so far in debt?
    • Who am I trying to please, anyway?
    • How did I get caught up in the rat race in the 1st place?
  • Confusion exists about how to achieve the desired result: the good life. We all want to improve our standard of living – that’s normal. But the world where we live has implemented its own ideas about how to accomplish the good life, ideas which are far different from God’s order.
  • We Americans enjoy unprecedented material success. Yet it’s deceptive to measure our standard of living in only one dimension. To comprehend the standard of living we have actually achieved, we first need to unbundle the concept of standard of living and look at some of the component parts.
  • While our material standard of living has soared over the last 40 years, moral/spiritual/relational standard of living has plummeted. They have, more or less, traded places.
  • The desire for instant gratification, however, has taken the place of deferring to a time when we can pay cash for our wants. Today men are consumed by desires to buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like.
  • Men today are worn out. Many who chase their dreams have lost their families. Too many children have grown up with an absentee father.
  • The most lasting satisfaction of life is in our relationships, so why are we trading them in for careers with companies that will drop us like a hot potato if we miss our quota?
  • The dominant economic theory in America for the past 40 plus years or so has been consumerism. Webster’s dictionary defines consumerism as, “the economic theory that progressively greater consumption of goods is beneficial.”
  • Madison Ave pin-stripers formed their unholy alliance with the practitioners of psychology to manipulate the American consumer…So the pin-stripers probed the question of how to stimulate people to buy more? And the science of motivation research was born.
  • Secular humanism is a view that man establishes his own moral values apart from the influence of anyone (including God), and he self-determines his destiny – he is the master of his own fate. The problem is with such a life is that it has no absolutes, everything is relative – It has no external reference point. We can make up our own rules as we go…
  • Our unconscious mind has no walls around it and no Sentinel at the gate.
  • The lack of contentment pervades the life of the American consumer. That’s because 40 years of consumerism and media influence have caused a basic shift in values.
  • Unfortunately, more of us are trying to achieve the Madison Ave lifestyle (let’s call this the beautiful wrinkle-free life) than the economy will support. The lifestyle and image we strive for is a media-generated artificial standard of living. The media creates the lifestyle and image that the producers of goods and services want to sell. It is unrealistic. It is artificial. Only a weary few can achieve it.
  • The result of trying to achieve the beautiful, wrinkle-free life, and failing, produces an excruciating anxiety level. It’s a lack of contentment that intensifies the more we exposed to our consumerism society
  • “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. “ – Ecclesiastes 5:10
  • …The more we get, the more we want. Anxiety is the natural by-product of chasing the beautiful, wrinkle-free life.
  • Borrowing has become a national pastime. Easy credit seems like a good idea. If we could control our passions, it would be wonderful. Mixing easy credit and consumerism together, however, produces a highly combustible formula. In pursuit of the good life, we are lured to stretch little further for happiness, made possible by easy credit…We have exchanged our traditional values for a murky sort of prosperity, financed by remarkable increases in productivity and by a suffocating load of personal, corporate, and public debt.
  • The double whammy of media generated standard of living anxiety and debt pressure is enormously depressing. Not only do we have the tension of not reaching the lifestyle we set us our goal, we have the pressure of the debt we accumulated trying to get there.
  • When we choose the rat race, fracture lines soon appear in our relationships, and crumbling is not far behind. Unfortunately, all too often, in pursuit of the good life, most men leaving trail of broken relationships.
  • The number one reason men felt when they were promoted is that they keep doing the old job. In other words, since what they have done in the past is comfortable, they simply continue the old job description instead of taking on the new challenges. The same is true in the spiritual realm. The number one reason men fail when promoted to “follower of Christ” is that they keep doing the old job. Instead of penetrating the issues of their lives, and responding biblically, they continued to live in an impotent life as if nothing had ever happened.

 

Chapter Two – Leading an Unexamined Life

  • Plato – “The life which is unexamined is not worth living. “
  • The secular humanist believes man is intrinsically good, he masters his own fate, self- determines the boundaries of his achievements and knowledge, and no moral standards constrain him apart from those he chooses at his sole discretion… The Christian, on the other hand, believes an all-powerful God created the heavens and earth. This living, omniscient God possesses all knowledge, and He established absolute moral standards by which man is expected to abide. He is holy, loving, and personal. Often confused about the differences between these two life views, Christian men frequently apply the wrong set of principles to their problems.
  • The visible you is the known you. It is never the real you. We have learned to speak and act in ways that allow us to cope with our world and peacefully coexist. We work hard to project a certain image of ourselves to others. The real you that is known by God. We are who we are in our minds first, before we speak or act. Our speech and actions are the result of our thinking.

 

Chapter Three – Biblical Christian or Cultural Christian

  • “Personal means peace just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city – to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. Affluence means an overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity – a life made up of things, things, and more things – a success judged by ever-higher level of material abundance.” – Dr. Francis Schaeffer
  • Cultural Christianity means to pursue the God we want instead of the God who is. It is the tendency to be shallow in our understanding of God, wanting Him to be a more of a gentle grandfather type who spoils us and let us have our own way. It is sensing a need for God, but on our own terms. It is wanting that God we have underlined in our bibles without wanting the rest of Him, too. It is God relative instead of God absolute.
  • Biblical Christians don’t live by their own ideas, but by penetrating, understanding, and applying the word of God. By the Spirit, they experience the success and peace to which we aspire. A biblical Christian is a man who trusts in Christ and Christ alone for his Salvation.
  • The question for all of us should be gone is there any marginal difference between the way I live and the way the broken, hurting world lives? Does my life offer hope or disillusionment?
  • Many Christian men have adopted the three impoverished values of our time: personal peace, affluence, and cultural Christianity. They become number one in their own lives. The biblical Christian puts his relationship with Jesus at the top of the list.
  • The man in the mirror will never change until he is willing to see himself as he really is, and to commit to know God as He really is. This objectivity anchors a man; it gives him the clarity of thought he needs to be a Biblical Christian.

 

Chapter Four – Significance: The Search For Meaning and Purpose

  • A man’s most innate need is his need to be significant- define purpose and meaning:
    • I want to make a difference
    • I want my life to count
    • I want my life to have meaning
    • I want to have an impact
    • I want to make a contribution
    • I want to do something important with my life
    • I want to conquer, achieve, Excel, prove myself in your life
    • I want to be somebody
    • I want my life to be significant
  • The difference in men is in how we go about satisfying our need to be significant. Some men, eager for the spoils of this life, pursue significance by gratifying only their own ambitions. Others, trained by the scriptures, find it by obeying God…How we answer each question , “Who am I?” and “Why do I exist?” determines how we pursue our significance. Our answers divide us up succinctly into two groups: those who pursue significance in appropriate ways and those who pursue significance in inappropriate ways.
  • Memories are short. When we try to answer the question, “Who am I?” In terms of our fame and worldly accomplishment, we select an identity that will fade like sun-bleached furniture…When possessions and money become a surrogate for a real identity, who we are is tied to things that rust and rot away.
  • Men who achieved significant positions of responsibility and authority in this life run one of the greatest risks. The risk is to identify who you are as a person with the position. The heartache comes when you no longer have the position, and you realize people were not interested in you because you were you, but because the position you held which they believed could benefit them in some way.
  • Our society, as the scales have tipped toward individual rights and away from Judeo-Christian values, has immersed itself in pursuit of self-gratifying activity. Focus on personal peace and affluence has largely replaced deeply held, self-sacrificing convictions (and the resulting community-building causes) which benefit the human condition. The path to significance is bigger than the individual… Significance is not possible unless what we do contributes to the welfare of others.
  • The difference between self-gratification and significance is found in the motive and attitude, not in the task. Two men working side-by-side in an office can fulfill the exact same job description, yet have entirely different impacts.
  • If you are not experiencing the full measure of significance you desire, then apply these diagnostics to your life:
    • Am I trying to win the rat waste?
    • Do I fully understand how God keeps score?
    • Now my living a life of faith, love, for beings, and service?
    • What is my highest hope?
    • Am I pursuing significance or self-gratification?
    • Am I disillusioned with materialism?
    • Has my passive indifference contributed to the decaying state of the nation?
    • Have I been looking for significance in inappropriate ways?
    • Am I willing to pay the price if the cost of being a Christian goes up?
    • Am I a talker or doer?
    • Have I been faithful what God has entrusted to me?
    • Do I regularly study God’s word, so that he can show me the purpose of my life?
    • Am I contributing to God’s agenda? Do I even know what God’s agenda is?
    • Am I a Cultural Christian or Biblical Christian?

 

Chapter Five – Purpose: Why Do I Exist?

  • One of the gripping problems men face is that achieving goals becomes an unrelated string of hollow victories, increasingly frustrating as more and more is achieved. That’s the problem with goals: you have to keep setting new ones because achieving them doesn’t provide any lasting satisfaction.
  • What is the difference between a goal and a purpose? A goal is a specific objective we want to accomplish in the near-term. We will know when we have achieved it. Some insist that goals are hard, but they must be measurable and require specific completion date. Others believe goals can be more soft-qualitative, not just quantitative.
  • Purposes, on the other hand, answer life’s larger questions, not what do I do today, but “Why do I exist? What are my functions in life?” They reflect an examination of life’s larger meaning.
  • Purposes are threads of continuity that we weave into the long-term view of our lives. Goals come and go, but purposes survive because they are long-term, they pertain to the why we exist part of our lives. They relate to how we perceive the theory of our lives.
  • Goals are what we do. Purposes or why we do what we do. When you set a goal, do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I pursuing this goal?” The answer to this question reveals your purpose. This distinction between what we do and why we do what we do is an important one.
  • Earthly Purposes:
    • Level One: Universal Purpose
      • What God wants us to be.
      • What God wants us to do.
    • Level Two: Personal Purpose
      • There is a sense in which each of us is unique, and God gives each of us a specific call in our lives. In other words, God has a personal, unique, and specific purpose for your life just waiting to be discovered.
    • Level Three: Other Live Purposes
      • Important areas of your life
        • Relationship with God
        • Other relationships
        • Use of gifts
        • Work life

 

Chapter Six – The Secret of Job Contentment

  • …The distinction between wants and needs has always been an integral part of Christian thought.
  • What is your career ambition? Is it to be significant in your industry, to be an authority figure, to make a lot of money, to win prestige, to gain respect, to be important, to be somebody? … Pursuing these desires is no sin, and God certainly wants us to find a sense of dignity and destiny in our vocation. Yet the secret of job contentment is not getting what we want , but redefining what we need.
  • … Our circumstances don’t determine our contentment, but our faith and trust in God do.
  • To be content requires us to redefine our boss. It is the Lord we are serving. Of course, we still have an earthly boss, whether employer or a customer, but the ultimate boss is God. We are to serve our earthly boss because he holds God’s proxy as our employer. But God still owns the company – he owns everything. He has a final interest in all things.
  • When we strive to control the future with their own plans, we choke off God’s plan for our future … One day at a time. He wants us to redefine our ambition, our boss, and our role, and surrender to him completely – one day at a time. “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

 

Chapter Seven – Broken Relationships

  • “Happy families are all alike; Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.“ – Leo Tolstoy
  • …No amount of success at the office can compensate for failure at home. Many men are succeeding in their work but failing in life. So many of us are hurting silently in our relationships – with our wives, children, parents, business associates, and friends. Many times, we wound the those we love the most. And our own spirits are wounded, too, but we don’t know how to stop the bleeding.
  • When we strike the right balance between task and relationship, we find peace. But when our relationships are out of balance, or insides ache.
  • Most men start chasing the good life with clear thinking and pure motives. Our goal? To improve the standard of living for our family. The task is a means to an end. Then we get so involved with the task – and it can be exciting – that we lose sight of why we are working so hard. We become confused, and what originally was a means to an end becomes the end itself.
  • “Other people don’t create your Spirit, they only reveal it. “ – Dr. Harvey Brandt
  • The key to our relationships is this: people know if you are there for them or not. We can say whatever we want, but people figure out the truth in time.
  • If you don’t have enough time for your family, you can be 100% certain you are not following God’s will for your life.

 

Chapter Eight – Children: How To Avoid Regrets

  • …one of the two greatest regrets of men in their 50s is they never got to know their kids …
  • When we allow our children to be indiscriminately exposed to the secular life view, we risk losing their fragile, impressionable minds to secular values. This approach to parenting carries with it the presumption that our children can discriminate between right and wrong, good and evil. This is incorrect.
  • Value systems and belief systems are primarily influenced by parents, teachers, professors, pastors, movies, and television. We need to ensure the system-builders stand for the values and beliefs we want. If they don’t, we should make a change period
  • We need to influence our children as much as possible as early as possible, because once they become teenagers their friends insert more influence on them than any other single factor. Teaching our children what to look for in a friend and placing them in environments where such young people can be found is a gigantic contribution to the stability of their beliefs and values.
  • If we can learn to control our selfish desires, not to lose our tempers so often, and encourage our kids, they will inherit the great legacy from us.
  • Prayer subjects for kids:
    • A saving faith (thanksgiving if already a Christian)
    • A growing faith
    • And independent faith (as they grow up)
    • To be strong and healthy in mind, body, and spirit
    • A sense of destiny (purpose)
    • The desire for integrity
    • A call to excellence
    • To understand the ministry of God has for them
    • That I will set aside time to spend with them
    • To acquire wisdom
    • Protection from drugs alcohol and premarital sex
    • The mate God has for them (alive somewhere and needing a prayer)
    • Glorify the Lord in everything

 

Chapter Nine – Wives: How To Be Happily Married

  • Most men are not unhappy with the marriages, but they don’t really enjoy their wives – they are less than happily married. They have a problem expressing and feeling loved.
  • Many couples live together more as roommates than partners. Their social and sexual needs are met, but intimacy as a friend never develops.
  • The kind of love scripture directs us to is volitional love rather than emotional love. Scriptural love is a agapao love, which means to love in a moral sense; it is deliberate act of the will as a matter of principle, duty, and propriety.
  • The intellect is the rational man, the will is a volitional man, and feelings are the emotional man. We are to love our wives volitionally, as an act of the will by choice. Fortunately, we are not instructed to feel in love with our wives.
  • Four types of Marriages:
    • Love and Submit
    • Hate and Submit
    • Love and Resist
    • Hate and resist
  • Most marriages which are still together but not working are Hate and Submit or Love and Resist, because one partner or the other has decided to “hang in there and try to make the marriage work.
  • Every marriage needs a balance between talking and listening…Harmony about family goals and problems comes from spending time fleshing out our differences about them. There can’t be a meeting of the minds if their minds don’t meet!
  • Marriages breakdown without cooperation.
  • … Most marriages begin to breakdown because the partners are critical of each other. When you’re criticized, you naturally defend yourself in your mind. You begin to build up defensive walls around your self-image, with the unhappy result that you barricade yourself from your partner.
  • Power struggles over unyielded rights can doom a marriage. The presumed right to tell the person what to do shows a lack of respect and sensitivity.
  • No temptation causes more problems for men than sex. Whether it’s not enough, with someone else, or a troublesome secret thought life, our sexual drive is an Achilles’ heel to every one of us. Just when you think you have your lust under control, temptation knocks again at the door of our passion.
  • We must be committed to love our wife, and her alone, without reserve. Our culture does not prize sexual fidelity as one of its values. And there certainly is no longer much peer pressure to even pretend to be sexually moral.
  • For marriage to survive today, a man and his wife must be at least as equally committed to the institution of marriage as they are committed to each other as individuals. If the institution of marriage itself is not a highly regarded value, then sooner or later, when one partner starts to feel unloving thoughts, there is no moral framework to motivate working through the problem.
  • If sex is the impulsive marriage assassin, money is the killer that slowly strangles.
  • Albert Mehrabian, a psychologist, estimates only 7% of communication is in the actual words. A remarkable 38% of the message is attributed to tone of voice, and 55% is credited to body language.
  • The inevitable result of communication is misunderstanding because we assume the receiver picks up the same transmission we sent. But the receiver always has a separate agenda and his own unique view of the world. Only through dialogue can we be certain we are being understood.

 

Chapter Ten – Friends: Risks and Rewards

  • “Five years from now you would pretty much be the same as you are today except for two things: the books you read and the people you get close to.” – Charles Jones
  • After we tear out the calendar pages of school days gone by, we get down to the task of establishing a career, choosing a life mate, starting a family, building a life, and accumulating things. During this building stage of life, not much time for friends is available – and the perceived need isn’t that great. After all, a new wife and children meet many of our relationship needs… But as time marches on, needs emerge which can only be met by other men, men who walk in the same shoes, men who share the same problems, the same experience with life…
  • Most men have a friendship deficit. Their balance sheets are empty when it comes to true friends. Most men don’t know how to go about developing a true friend, or how to be one.
  • We all have a circle of friends, the group with whom we play golf, attend church, go to dinner, or share common interests like bridge or softball. Often, however, these are “well-patient” friends, that is, they are there for the good times.
  • What we are speaking about in this chapter is “sick-patient” friends, friends who will hang in there with us even when we’ve lost our job, separated from our wife, found out our daughter is on drugs, or are just plain frustrated with our life.
  • Men live with a paradox. We sincerely want to have close friends, yet we fear letting someone get too close. We worry that if someone really got to know us, they wouldn’t like us. As someone starts to get too close, we find ourselves withdrawing – we change the subject or figure out how to say goodbye.
  • We need approval, to be accepted by another person, but we fear the opposite – that we will be rejected. So, we keep our distance.
  • Trust, transparency, and vulnerability are the stuff of which true friendships are constructed.
  • Developing a friendship requires as much work, forethought, and effort to succeed as any worthwhile endeavor.
  • If you want a real friend, you’ll probably need to be the one who takes the initiative.
  • I think most of us have the capacity to rationalize ourselves into believing our theories and ideas are always right. But just because we say something is so doesn’t necessarily make it so. Worse still, our ego and pride always lie in wait for a moment of faintheartedness. A friend keeps us on track. We all need some to do a “reality check” on us occasionally to make sure we’re not kidding ourselves

 

Chapter Eleven – Money: A Biblical Point of View

  • By winking at Scriptures we don’t like and cherry-picking Scriptures we do like, we tend to create our own tidy little theology about God and money. The result is a personal perspective of money that often suits the desire of our private wish-world, not one carefully chiseled by a search for truth.
  • The problem of money is summed up by Jesus: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
  • Money is not just a temptation for a moment of carnal pleasure; it’s a temptation for us to be conquered by it inert, mindless master, one incapable of saving us from sin or satisfying the deep hunger of our soul for true peace, meaning, and purpose.
  • No test of a man’s true character is more conclusive than how he spends his time and his money.
  • We have become a Society of pretenders, bent on portraying an image of financial success whether or not there is any substance to it. And there is little marginal difference between the way Christians and non-Christians handle their money in our secularized culture.
  • Money is simply a commodity, a medium of exchange, and inert means to other ends. We get money in four ways:
    • We exchange our labor for it.
    • We rent it to others.
    • We hire others and earn a profit on their labor.
    • We take risks calculated to earn money.
  • Most of us decide what we want to do, and then look for evidence to support the decision we have already made.
  • Poverty Theology – a disciple of poverty theology is disgusted with worldliness, best symbolized by man’s obsession with money. He believes possessions are a curse and has rejected materialism in any and every form. A strong bias toward helping the poor exists, but he has few, if any, resources to actually help with the solution.
  • Prosperity Theology – The disciple of prosperity theology believes you have not because you ask not. They often have learned about tithing and experienced the material blessings available by following the tithing principle. Because of their success with tithing, a preoccupation with money develops. The prosperity disciple soon begins to explain the lacking of others not experiencing God’s financial blessings as a lack of faith. Someone who is not doing well financially is looked upon as not “reaching out and claiming their blessings.”
  • Stewardship Theology – Stewards believe God owns and controls everything. Possessions are a privilege and not a right; the Steward gives up his rights…The Steward believes prosperity results from faithfully administering his talents, as given by God in his sole discretion. His preoccupation is not with accumulating wealth or renouncing it, but with being wise in the conduct of his affairs.
  • God has only one perspective, and it is the perspective of a Steward.
  • Being a Steward is more of an attitude, a way of looking at life as a caretaker. It is an approach to our faith – it’s looking out not only for our own interests, but also the interests of others.

 

Chapter Twelve – The Four Pillars of Financial Strength

  • “He who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” (Proverbs 13:11)
  • Contentment will be a stranger in a home which saves no reserves for emergencies and financial security … When we spend up to the limits of our income (and beyond), we just dare our car to breakdown or the water heater to leak and ruin the carpet.
  • … A permanent insurance program should be the foundation of every investment strategy. Excellent yields are available if you stick with the top ten mutual companies.
  • Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourself treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
  • You should give your gifts as an offering to God and not to men. Don’t seek the praise or approval of men, and don’t look for a blessing from specific people at churches or organizations to whom you give.
  • When possessions are the measure of a man more than his skill and contributions to society, then he feels pressure to go into debt to aid in his search for significance.
  • Debt is a symptom, it’s a symptom of consumptive lifestyle – not always, but usually. Debt lets us pretend to be somebody we’re not, at least not for a while. Like a mirage, deck beguiles us to believe it will satisfy our thirst.
  • If God called you to ministry, could you go? Or would your debt prevent you from going?
  • Give these ideas a try: earn little by little, save 10%, share 10% or more, and steer clear of debt.

 

Chapter Thirteen – Decisions: How To Make The Right Choice

  • We all do exactly what we decide to do; We are the sum of our decisions. Even not making a decision is a decision in itself
  • We are each branded by the decisions we make; we are the sum of our decisions. Decision making determines who and what we are more than any other aspect of our lives. These decisions and come to pass in an instant, or we may agonize over them for weeks, months, or even years.
  • Many men, unable or unwilling to make wise decisions, ruin their lives and fill them with heartache, strife, and pain.
  • Aside from minor decisions, like which way to drive home from work, decisions tend to be priority decisions or moral decisions. Priority decisions are choices between right and right. In other words, two or more choices can be made, either of which would be morally right. They represent our choices about how to allocate our time and money… Moral choices are choices between right and wrong – there is the morally correct choice and the morally wrong choice. To make the wrong choice is a sin.
  • Decisions which have both moral and priority implications are not merely decisions about how to spend time and money, but carry with them the full weight of God’s principles.
  • Our first step to make good decisions and avoid making wrong decisions is to live by the word of God.
  • The second principle of affective decision making is not to put God to a test. Don’t put yourself in a position that requires a miracle!
  • The third principle of affective decision-making is to always worship God and serve him only in your decisions.
  • Every decision we make has consequences. The consequences always include, at a minimum, spiritual and financial dimensions.
  • Every decision is at least a spiritual decision. The underlying premise of the Christian life presupposes that all life is spiritual, so, it follows every decision results in a spiritual consequence.
  • Our uses of time and money brand us and shape who we are.
  • One of our greatest hopes and promises is that our sins are forgiven… A huge difference exists between receiving forgiveness and receiving a pardon.
  • We can choose our way, but we cannot choose the result. Forgiveness, yes. But every decision has consequences. We really are the sum of our decisions. We all do exactly what we decide in our minds to do. We can decide with or without God’s help, but He promises to always help us if we will trust him.

 

Chapter Fourteen – Priorities – How To Decide What’s Important

  • “The constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings.” – Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • Most men have not settled the issue of what the priorities should be. Among those who do know, too few live according to those priorities.
  • Questions To Consider When Establishing Priorities:
    1. What does God want me to be and to do?
    2. How does God want me to use my time and my money?
    3. What character and conduct traits does God desire in me?
    4. What relationships and tasks does God want me to emphasize?
  • How can we demonstrate our love for God? The most practical way in which we can demonstrate our love for God is to obey him.
  • Our relationship priority is to distill these two great truths: Love God and love others.
  • Too often we see the speck in the eye of the other fellow, but don’t pay enough attention to our own need for change.
  • One of the greatest Christian fallacy’s is that we are not doing enough for the Lord. We have heard men say it, “I just wish I was doing more for the Lord.” It’s not that we’re not doing enough, but that we are doing too much of the wrong things.
  • Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
  • Our emphasis always seems to be on doing, but God is interested in our rest. It is a priority with him and, therefore, us.
  • The purpose of work is to glorify God with the abilities he has given us. By pursuing excellence and by settling for nothing less than our personal best, we demonstrate to a world weary of Christian “talky-talk” that Christ can make a difference in a man’s life here and now.
  • To have a faith without any good works is no faith at all. Our faith allows us to enter into relationship with God, not our good works, but “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)
  • The spiritual gifts we most frequently think of are serving others, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, showing mercy, and preaching.
  • Five Overarching Areas of Importance to God
    1. To love God
    2. To love others
    3. To rest
    4. To work
    5. To do good works

 

Chapter Fifteen: Time Management: Doing God’s Will

  • “One of the greatest reasons people cannot mobilize themselves is that they try to accomplish great things. Most worthwhile achievements are the result of many little things done in a single direction.“ – Nido Quebin
  • I’m certain if he (Dr. Bright) had set out to be great, he would have fallen flat on his face, like many of us do. He didn’t set out to be great – he set out to be faithful.
  • The time management problem is less a tips and techniques problem then it is a strategic problem.
  • Our purpose helps us to prioritize. Our priorities form solid ground for us to stand on when we make plans and set goals. Time management is no more nor less than strategically “engineering” this progression: from purpose to priorities to plans and goals.
  • God always provides enough time to accomplish God’s plans.
  • A made-up mind is almost impossible to change. Before we take any action, we should pray and seek the counsel of godly men. This is the most strategic way to manage our time.
  • Efficiency is doing the job right. Effectiveness is doing the right job right. It’s not enough to do the job right, if it’s the wrong job.
  • To be effective with our time requires us to bridge the spiritual life to our life in the marketplace, to see the totality of what we do as a singular life.
  • Our motto should be, “One life, one way.” When we live as if all of life is spiritual – which it surely is – we translate the will of God into the minutiae of our lives, where it belongs.
  • Hard work is a virtue – it has dignity – when it’s part of a balanced schedule. The effective time manager finds time for all the priorities God has for the Christian.
  • Are you doing anything with your time that has potential to last forever? In your “busy-ness” have you carved out time for good works which contribute to forever? Or are you so concerned with supporting a lifestyle or other personal ambitions that everything you are doing will be left behind?
  • The only part of life that crosses the threshold between this world and the next is the human soul. So, if we want to make a contribution to forever, then we should become more interested in the other fellow and spend time helping people “break the code” on how to gain eternal life.
  • … How we spend our time determines who and what we are.

 

Chapter Sixteen – Pride

  • Pride is a sin of comparison in which we compare our strengths to the other fellow’s weaknesses. In order to make ourselves feel better we put other people down, sometimes verbally and sometimes just mentally.
  • The Bible tells us of two types of pride. The first, Pride Type 1, is found in Galatians 6: 4: “Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else…” The key to a proper type of pride is not to compare ourselves to others. Rather than testing our self-worth by comparison to others we are encouraged to self-examination. Pride Type 2 is a spurious feeling of superiority that stalks Christians. Because Christians who walk closely with God lead lives more righteous than some, it’s easy to look down on others of less spirituality. C.S. Lewis once said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something what’s above you.
  • Humility Type 1 is simply not thinking more highly of yourself than you ought. This affirms the cliche, “Humility is not thinking little of yourself, rather it simply not thinking of yourself.” A humble man does not look down on others. He can be both proud and humble at the same time, proud of himself without comparison to others and humbled by not thinking more highly of himself than he ought.
  • Humility type 2 is the opposite of Pride Type 2. If I compare my weaknesses to your strengths, I will end up with a negative self-image. Self-depreciation is a grueling, harmful poison to the spirit and mind. As harmful as thinking more highly of yourself than you ought to is, thinking too lowly of yourself will imprison your soul.
  • Another cause of Pride Type 2 is an absence of the fear of God…The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, to be concerned with a reverence for God. God is love, but He is also holy and just…If He were not just, then He would be either a permissive parent or tyrant. We have no fear of a permissive parent because we know we can always talk him out of the spanking …To fear an oppressive tyrant is to fear injustice – getting what we don’t deserve. But the fear of God is the reverence we give to God almighty because He has the power and authority to give us what we do deserve.
  • Pride Type 2 is more of a temptation to Christians than to non-believers. Because of our pursuit of moral living, we can look and see how our morality is superior to those around us. The more self-righteous we become, the greater the potential for us to become proud. God prefers a humble sinner to a proud religious man.
  • One symptom of pride is a dead giveaway – the constant critiquing of others.
  • Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? “ (Matthew 7:1-3)
  • If you are gracious with others, they will be gracious to you. If you are caustic with others, they will pass up no opportunity to tell others how crude you are.
  • Pride can lead to discord, jealousy, conceit, haughtiness, boasting, fits of rage, envy, arrogance, and independent spirit, hatred, self-righteousness, a judgmental attitude, and a sanctimonious attitude.

 

Chapter Seventeen – Fear

  • “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Jesus
  • Fear and courage are opposites. Webster’s dictionary defines courage as the state of mind that enables one to face hardship or disaster with confidence and resolution. Fear is the agitated state of mind that cripples us from looking any further than the hardship itself.
  • To be afraid is to not fully trust God. He instructs us not to be afraid, promising that if we cast our anxiety upon Him, He will take care of us.
  • Fear and lack of trust go hand in hand; where you find one you will find the other. So, if we are to understand why we do fear, we must understand why we don’t trust God.
  • If we will confess our weaknesses and sins, God will not only forgive us, but cleanse us from all our unrighteousness . In other words, God will give us everything we have ever wanted, in exchange for everything we have ever wanted to get rid of.
  • Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Faith is always oriented towards the future. We don’t need courage to face what we already know. It is an uncertain future that gives birth to doubts and fears. We don’t know the details of what will happen in the future, but we do know God will take care of our needs and unite us with Himself forever. That’s what faith is. An old saying sums it up, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.”
  • Often the fear of God is dismissed as a translation problem. It is suggested the fear of God is merely reverent thinking about Him. Actually, the fear of God involves understanding of who God really is and a hatred of everything which is not of God. Proverbs (8:13) says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.” To effectively hate evil, a man must be able to differentiate between good and evil.
  • We can unbundle our emotions and eliminate fear. We may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can restrict our emotions to the agony and anguish of the situation. Every opportunity to fear is also an opportunity trust God and move from the Cliff of Fear across the Bridge of Faith to the Cliff of Courage.

 

Chapter Eighteen – Anger

  • “My dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” – Jesus
  • Occasionally we become angry for a righteous cause, but 99% all the time we become angry because we are selfish and impatient.
  • When anger pierces the soul of the home, the lifeblood of the family starts to drain away.
  • … The three main symptoms of anger: a low flashpoint (a frequency problem), losing control (an intensity problem), and holding a grudge (a duration problem).
  • Seven reasons for anger stir up our sinful nature and hamper our effort to live by the spirit:
    1. Violation of Rights
      • “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory it to overlook an offense. “ (Proverbs 19:11)
    2. Disappointment with station in life
      • If we are not content with what we have, the issue is not getting more but learning to be content with our circumstances.
    3. Blocked goals
    4. Irritations
      • “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
    5. Feeling misunderstood
      • Other people don’t create your spirit, they only reveal it.
      • “Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one.” – Benjamin Franklin
    6. Unrealistic expectations
      • We frequently don’t build up enough slack into what we expect from our loved ones. But everyone trips – including ourselves, and we need to build up some slack into a formula of our expectations.
      • “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
    7. Pathological/Psychological
  • The seven reasons for anger we’ve just reviewed have two characteristics in common: selfishness and impatience. We are happy as a clam when people agree with this, let us have our own way, and give us what we want. But they don’t always see it our way, and our selfishness and impatience often lead to angry outbursts.
  • The things that usually don’t make us angry, but should, are racial prejudice, abortion, declining moral values, and other injustices.
  • When we observe a miscarriage of justice against another, a controlled focused anger – righteous indignation – can work for a positive result. Anger over injustice, when the stench of prejudice and bigotry rises to our nostrils, consumes righteous men with a passion to correct the evils of which they have taken note. The greatness of our country rests on the bedrock of our hatred of injustice.
  • “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)
  • People can be vicious…The visible target is the one that gets shot at. You can disappear in the middle of the flock, or you can set yourself apart for excellence then become a target.
  • A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty. A hot-tempered man who is rescued will have to be rescued again…
  • “We become the prisoner of the one we hate.”
    • “The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. I can’t enjoy my work anymore because it controls my thoughts. My resentments produce too many stress hormones in my body, and I become fatigued after only a few hours of work. Work I formerly enjoyed is now drudgery. Even vacations cease to give me pleasure…As far as my experience of pleasure is concerned, The man I hate hounds me wherever I go, I cannot escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind.
  • Doctors estimate over 60% of all diseases are caused by emotional stress.
  • Usually, anger works its way into sin…
  • “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
  • When we are patient there is peace, but when we are angry, we spark the anger of others.
  • “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27). Three bits of wisdom reside in this passage. First, control yourself and don’t sin in your anger. Second, never go to bed angry. We should get down on our knees, forgive, and ask forgiveness. Third, when we are angry, our self-control is at risk. The devil may see a crack in the door and find a foothold.
  • Scriptural Guidelines on How To Respond to Anger:
    • Keep control
    • Overlook offenses
    • Avoid angry men
    • Appease anger
      • “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

 

Chapter Nineteen – The Desire To Be Independent

  • There is an abrupt difference between taking responsibility for our lives and trying to live independently from God. We are to take responsibilities for our lives – no one will go to work in our place, no one will pay our bills on our behalf. The difference is this: responsibility recognizes our part and God’s part. Our part is to trust God and faithfully fulfill our duties. God’s part is to provide for all our needs and well-being. Independence rebels against the influence of God, thinking it can meet its own needs.
  • The independent man is never able to satisfy his thirst for significance and purpose. Couldn’t his “wasteland” be a state of mind just as easily as a place? We all know men who live in opulence, yet the creases in their faces betray that they live in a parched land.
  • The difference between the man who trust in God and the man who trust in himself is not in the circumstances, but in his response…The man who trusts God has a positive attitude. He knows hard times will come, but he does not fear them; he doesn’t worry when life’s inevitable trials strike. That’s the difference between the faces of the independent and the dependent man – one dreads the future, while the other believes God will take care of him.
  • The games we played to become independent produced dwarf-scale power. They are miniature, feeble, and impotent. The power we use on each other makes us like a bunch of little blind ants. We scurry around, energetically plotting and planning, unaware of having forgotten that real, genuine power can never belong to us except by the grace of God.
  • The turning point of our lives is when we stop seeking the God we want and start seeking the God who is. When we seek our own independent way, we try to make God the way we want Him, rather than know Him as He really is. In history they called it Idol worship.
  • “Nothing is here than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” – Demosthenes
  • Our sin is not so much the conclusions we reach, but that we deceive ourselves with the information which He makes available to us.
  • Men want to control their lives- it’s our training in our nature. If we can be in control, then we can be independent of everyone and do our own thing. The human potential movement fans the embers of our self-reliance. The temptation is to take charge of our lives and make our own rules…Yet, God has established moral and spiritual absolutes. Our puny little power is no power at all when compared with the power of God. Who can add a moment to his life or save himself?” – Dr. S.I. McMillen
  • The man who trusts himself or human institutions is designed for a miserable life, while the man who trusts God will be blessed. Trusting God is depending upon him, whereas trusting in man is acting on a desire to be independent.

 

Chapter Twenty – Avoiding Suffering

  • “God prepares great men for great tasks by great trials.” – J.K. Gressett
  • Everyone is going to suffer. The only decision is whether you’re going to suffer with Christ or without Him.
  • Seven Reasons Why Men Suffer
    1. An innocent mistake
    2. An error in judgment
    3. An integrity problem
      • Men often do the wrong thing by innocent mistake or poor judgment, but sometimes we get into trouble because we are dishonest – we sinned. In addition to principles to live by, the Bible also contains the parameters of sin, which are commands to be obeyed. And we must also submit to civil laws.
    4. The environment changes
    5. Evil happens
    6. God disciplines
      • Regardless of the reason for our suffering, God uses situations to mold our character. “Endure hardship as a discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline) then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.” (Hebrews 12:7-8)
    7. God tests
      • God tests us to see if our character is pure.
  • Sometimes God tests us, and other times he may discipline us, sometimes the environment changes on us, and sometimes evil overtakes us … Whatever the reason for our suffering, we can humble ourselves under God’s plan for our lives, or we can resist, but we cannot avoid suffering.
  • To avoid or resist suffering blocks us from learning from our pain.
  • Five Ways We Attempt to Avoid Suffering:
  1. We plead
  2. We compare
    • We compare ourselves to others, pointing out that we are better men, therefore, deserving of mercy. Or, we compare ourselves to other men, and we wish we were them instead of ourselves.
  3. We pout
  4. We shout
    • We become angry and shake our fists and raise your voice at God because of the pain of our suffering.
  5. We doubt
  • Until you have been up against the wall, totally backed into a corner, all your resources expended, no more ideas from your own ingenuity, no more wise counsel from friends, all favors owed have been called then; until you have been totally exhausted and without hope – not just for a moment – but for weeks and months or even years on end; Not until then will trusting the Lord ever move entirely from abstract to personal .
  • No matter how rough your life gets, remember, it isn’t over till it’s over. Never quit. Until the knife has pierced the heart and the wrist no longer registers a pulse, there is always another way. God will always restore His children.

 

Chapter Twenty-One – Integrity: What’s The Price?

  • ‘If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain
  • “A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart, he harbors deceit.” – Proverbs 26:24
  • Sometimes things are so obvious right before our eyes that we miss them. Dishonesty is like that.  It is so obvious that we miss how wholly and completely it tints every aspect of life.
  • When we are all alone, with no peer pressure keeping us on the straight and narrow path, that’s when our real character is put to the test.
  • “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with very much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (Luke 16:10)
  • After God observed mankind for a while, He decided to set down ten rules. He picked out lying, cheating, and stealing as particularly important.
  • “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew  7:13-14)
  • Moral relativism finds safe harbor in the area of honesty. The basic ethic goes like this: if no one sees you cheating (or lying or stealing), then you won’t get caught; and if you won’t get caught, then it’s alright, because unless you are caught you haven’t technically done anything wrong.
  • Business deals go bad for one (or more) of three reasons calling an error in judgment, a change in the environment, or an integrity problem.
  • Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone I’ve ever known is pretty tolerant of a business deal that doesn’t work out, provided good communication takes place.
  • Regardless of how good you are, the vagaries of the business environment – competitive or regulatory – can sneak up on you more quietly than a lion stalks its prey. Before you know it, you are face-to-face with calamity, and there is nothing to do but make the best of a bad situation.
  • Men who cut corners to put transactions together are like the first of the Three Little Pigs. The house built from straw collapses at the first high wind that blows. Lying to prospects, concealing information that would probably kill the sale, squeezing for a better price by using a competitor as a stalking horse (when you know you really won’t buy from the competitor), withholding pay increases from those who are deserving, not paying your bills as agreed when you’re able: these are chief importance to God, a God who is looking for a few good men.
  • One dilemma we all face is deciding whether or not to be honest on a case-by-case basis. During the course of a normal day, we each have scores of opportunities to lie, cheat, and steal. If we must decide each time we make a decision whether we will be honest or not, we consume a lot of energy and run the risk of making a sloppy decision and compromising our integrity.
  • By settling the issue issue once and for all, and deciding to always choose the narrow road – to have integrity, we can liberate ourselves from the bondage of making hundreds of daily decisions – those tiny decisions which, like water tapping on a rock, can wear down character.

 

Chapter Twenty-Two – Leading A Secret through Life

  • “The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, brief and light, without shame or blame.” – Thomas Hobbes
  • Are you living a secret thought life significantly different from the” you” that is known by others? Would you be embarrassed if your friends and associate’s knew want went on inside your mind? If your thoughts were audible, would your wife want to divorce?
  • There doesn’t seem to be any relief from a perpetual stream of negative thoughts which flows through our minds. Because our secret thought life is so sensitive, far too little attention has been devoted to the subject.
  • …Every day we battled for control of our minds. A continual war between good and evil, right and wrong, rages for control of our thought life. The real battlefield for the Christian is the mind.
  • “Those who live to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of a sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6)
  • Many of us don’t clearly understand the difference between temptation and sin, so we often feel like we’re treading water without knowing where the bottom is; We are like a 6-foot man who drowned in 4 feet of water.
  • To understand the difference between temptation and sin is to understand where it is safe to walk or not. The light comes from God’s word. The rheostat is understanding of what the word says. The more we know, the brighter the light. The brighter the light, the less fuzzy the objects so we know where to walk.
  • Many men beat themselves up mentally because they have recurring thoughts of temptation. Thoughts are not sins! Sure enough, we can put so much junk into our minds that they are predisposed to tempting thoughts. Even so, thoughts are merely thoughts…
  • When our normal observations become abnormal preoccupations, then we have crossed the line.
  • Lust is not noticing that a woman is sexually attractive. Lust is born we turn a simple awareness into a preoccupied fantasy.
  • When a chest swells and pride for a job well done, we feel better about ourselves as human beings. When does feeling good about her accomplishments become a sin? When begin to compare our accomplishments to other men and begin to elevate ourselves above others we have crossed over the line.
  • The visibility of our speech and actions helps us keep these in line. Visibility brings a certain level of self-discipline. Sometimes I think peer pressure actually influences us more to live righteously then the fear of a holy God. We all want to get along with others and have a good reputation, and these ambitions keep our behavior in check.
  • While the visibility of our sins provides some motivation for us to become more aware and change, we can’t change the part of us which we are not aware. Our awareness of our sins revolves around the degree to which we are leading an unexamined life. High awareness can result from adopting group mores in our speech and action, but in our thought lives we must rely on the Holy Spirit to make us aware of our “errors and hidden faults.”
  • Types of sins
    • High Visibility–High Awareness
    • High Visibility–Low Awareness
    • Low Visibility–High Awareness
    • Low Visibility–Low Awareness
  • If we will make a commitment to become more aware of our thought life, if we will pause and occasionally ask, “Why?” when our thoughts don’t seem to be our own, then we will have taken a giant stride toward conquering our secret thought life.
  • We have a remarkable capacity to kid, trick, and fool ourselves. Our self-image is so important to us that we will believe almost any reasonable explanation for our failures, as long as we end up the hero.
  • Unless we develop a solid understanding of how our thoughts, motives, and ambitions are shaped, we will have impure secret thoughts, wrong motives, and selfish ambitions. if we don’t leave a Sentinel posted in the watchtower, that our enemy can slip through our thoughts under the cover of low awareness.
  • Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ . No thought should be allowed to have its own way… When Christ is in control of our lives, the Holy Spirit is in power.

 

Chapter Twenty-Three – Accountability: The Missing Link

  • Harold Ball says, “Living the Christian life is not difficult, it’s impossible!” No man has a strength of will and purpose to always make the right choices. Just when we think we’re getting

ourselves under control – zap! So, if you think you’re standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.

  • One of the greatest reasons men get into trouble is that they don’t have to answer to anyone for their lives.
  • Some of us have invested our whole life to “be our own boss” for the very goal that we won’t have to answer to anyone! Others of us, confidential by nature, don’t want someone else intruding into our private lives. And still others of us have an interest, but we are unsure of what accountability actually is, and how to go about it.
  • Every day men fail morally, spiritually, relationally, and financially; not because they don’t want to succeed, but because they have blind spots and which they surmise they can handle on their own. They can’t. And they lose their families, their businesses, their jobs, their savings, and damage their relationship with God because no one is there to ask, How? Why? What? And Who?” – the hard questions.
  • Has anyone ever asked you to hold them accountable for an area of their life? Have you ever asked anyone to hold you accountable for an area of your life?… Accountability is like nuclear Fusion. Everyone has heard of it everyone knows it’s important, but very few people actually know how to explain it
  • Accountability – To be regularly answerable for each of the key areas of our lives to qualified people.
  • Unless we are answerable on a regular basis for the key areas of our personal lives, we, like sheep, will go astray. Yet, to submit our lives for inspection to someone else grates on our desire to be independent. While we desire to live like a Christian, we often want to keep it between “me and Jesus.”
  • “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: this one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
  • The Bible delineates general guidelines for character and conduct which applied to all Christians. We also need people in our lives to challenge and encourage us to live up to those standards.
  • The key areas in which all of us need accountability are:
    • Relationship with God
    • Relationship with wife
    • Relationship with kids
    • Use of money and time
    • Moral and ethical behavior
    • Areas of personal struggle
  • What does it mean to give an answer to qualified people? The overarching qualifications for accountability partners are that they love Christ, they want to see you succeed, and they also sense a need for accountability. Answering to the right person can make a dramatic difference in the quality of your spiritual life.
  • You may want to have different men hold you accountable and different areas. Don’t automatically expect a man who can help you with your relationship with the Lord to be able to help you with your finances.
  • Wives are particularly helpful in areas of personal weakness, where vulnerability is a sensitive issue. I believe every man should invite accountability into his marriage, including as many areas as possible.
  • Look for someone you can go into partnership with. In another words, instead of looking for a “boss,” look for a fellow struggler so that you can help each other. “If one falls down, his friend can help him up”… Avoid asking men to help you if there may be other agendas.
  • On a practical level, the peace and joy of our daily life Springs forth from the integrity and balance we maintain in the key areas of our lives. Whether moral, spiritual, relational, or financial – the “big four” for failures – when we handle our lives with skill and wisdom, we experience a sense of personal satisfaction. Without the help of others in accountable relationships, none of us can obtain our full potential.
  • Seeking council is at our initiative. Being held accountable gives another person the right and responsibility to take the initiative. To seek counsel is to look for answers to the questions we have. To be accountable is to give answers to the questions we are asked. In your life, does anyone ask you questions?
  • Accountability not only give someone permission ask us hard questions, asking those hard questions forms the basis for the relationship.
  • Unless we face our own propensity for sin and self-deceit and acknowledge we need the help of others, we will never stick with the program with accountability. We may start one, but after a few testy moments, we will abandon those nosy, uncomfortable questions.
  • Successful men are high risk. Confident of their own abilities, they tend to think no problem is too big for them to handle alone. Confident and self-assured, they take the bull by the horns and make things happen. Everyone, though, has blind spots and weak spots.
  • The price of friendship is personal vulnerability. The price of an effective, accountable relationship is also a personal vulnerability. In friendship personal vulnerability is voluntary, but in an accountable relationship it must be mandatory. To get past the news, sports, and weather, a man must be willing to reveal that part of him which is hidden below the surface.
  • The reason men get to trouble isn’t so much that they don’t understand what they’re supposed to do, but rather they have no structure to help give them discipline to do what they already know they should.

 

Chapter Twenty-Four – How Can A Man Change

  • “Few people think more than two or three times a year. I made an international reputation by thinking once or twice a week.” – George Bernard Shaw
  • Life is a big question mark. God is a big answer. Whatever the question, He is the answer. No matter how down or up, tired or strong, befriended or betrayed, upright or dishonest, hurt or happy, rich or broke, successful or failed, famous or unknown: God is the answer – He is all we need.
  • Americans have come to expect simple streamlined solutions to perfectly packaged problems: The three easy steps to a happy this…,” or “The four foolproof ways to be successful that…” Life is more complex than “this and that.” We didn’t become the men we are overnight, and we don’t change quickly. Patience, trial-and-effort, diligently grinding it out on a day-to-day basis – that’s the pathway to change.
  • The Christian pilgrimage is a moment by moment, daily journey. It requires daily effort, without which we will stray.
  • The Kingdom of God starts here – this is God’s world. Yet good and evil live side by side, they are enemies. The struggle between good and evil dominates all of our literature, our news, our movies, and television shows. It dominates because it’s one of life’s most real characteristics. To the extent we don’t stand guard daily, the other side plots on how to break down the walls of our resistance.
  • Few lives are static and unchanging. Usually, our spiritual lives march forward, or they slip backwards.