Don’t Fail the Growth Test

So have you ever bombed a test?

Well your not alone.  I did it just the other day.

Now the test I’m talking about isn’t a school test…God knows I have struggled a lot with those in the past.  No, the test I am referring to is the kind that helps us grow in character and our calling.

The other night, a few of my friends and I were in the kitchen talking. One of my friends saw that he had not shut the door fully behind him as we came in earlier. He, with a rather direct tone said, “Todd shut that door will ya?” Now I know that seems like a simple request, and honestly as I write this I feel like even more of a dork, but guess what I did?  Instead of fully shutting the door, I closed it only half way to where it was not fully latched.  Needless to say, he noticed as he stared me down with a look that urged obedience while at the same time wondered why I did the job only half way in the first place.

So what was I thinking?  And why did I behave like a jerk you ask?  Well, in only one second, I thought three things:  1) “I don’t like his direct tone toward me”  2) “I prefer the door partly unlatched anyway so that when you come in from the garage it is easier to just push open than turn the handle too.”  3) “I will just close it half way like I like it.”

Do you see why I know I failed my test? To state the obvious, it was about ME and what “I wanted.”  It was a test to help me overcome my own pride and selfishness.  You see that same morning in my devotion time I read the verses in Philippians chapter 2 where it talks about imitating Jesus’ humility, valuing others above yourself and not looking to your own interests but the interests of others.  God trained me up with this scripture and got me ready for the test, but I bombed it.

Retakes for Growth

The good news is that God allows you to retake the test if you want too. The bad news though is that if we don’t want to retake the test, you and I will remain where we are….in the same grade.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us, it just means He can’t advance us.

You see God doesn’t want us to just know something; He wants us to become something. And by allowing challenges to come our way, He desires that those circumstances help define and build our character. And when our character grows guess what happens?  Our life grows.

When our life grows it means we have moved to another level in our journey to become all that we were created to be.
Ephesians 2:10 states that we are God’s handiwork:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

We were created “to do”.  So that means it has to be more than just knowing some scripture. It is there for us to know so that we become it.

Plants just like people have stages of growth, we can’t skip any stages. We can’t fool ourselves to think that God’s spiritual growth design can be bypassed. We must be mature at each stage of growth before we can move onto the next.

What area in your life have you sensed you have failed to pass the test? Will you allow God to show you what you need to do to move forward to your next growth level?

Swoll for Jesus: Moving Beyond a Me-Focused-Faith to “Spiritual Swollness”

When I was in the 11th grade I started working out regularly. To be honest, I began because I was tired of being skinny and I wanted bigger muscles.
For adolescents, this is a normal part of growing up…to be comfortable in your own skin.  So my vision of that was the desire to see more muscle on my body.

As I got older though, I saw a shift in my reasons for working out. The desire to be bigger and stronger and feel more comfortable “in my skin” shifted to the desire to be healthy and functionally strong so that I could do many activities well.

What is the point in telling you this?
For many, their relationship with God is all about “feeling comfortable in your own skin.”  What I mean is that their understanding and excitement about God being in their life is very self-centered.  We can hear of Jesus’ great love for us, how he died for us, how he forgives our sins and how he wants to give us eternal life, however that great and encouraging news can lead us to a very “me-focused-faith” if we are not careful.

All those realities are true and right and should make us feel good about ourself. And honestly most of us need to hear that over and over again because our own struggles and negative self image. But our faith must move forward from that.  As the writer of Hebrews says, we should be moving on to “solid food” (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Our relationship with God must move beyond just being “comfortable in our skin” to “Spiritual Swollness.” Our relationship with God can not stay stagnant.  It must grow.  It must possess new “strength” and “flexibility” in it.

True followers of Jesus are constantly challenged in their faith.  Just look at the disciples when Jesus walked the earth.  Every single one of them was not the same man after three years of being with Jesus.  Truly their faith was at new levels and had new power from Him to do some pretty incredible things.

So have you grown stagnant and too comfortable in your faith?
Or are you growing stronger…more “swoll” in your heart and soul for God and His purposes for your life?

PRAY:  “Jesus I don’t want to live my life in a weak way.  May You help me be disciplined in growing in my faith.  Help me to diligently read Your Word, listen and talk to you, and surround myself with other Christians who are serious about knowing and growing in You more.”

Boys, Men & Mentoring

The Man Card

I have to admit, when I was younger, I was totally impressed how certain older men in my life handled themselves so well in a crowd of people.  It seemed effortless to them as they made people laugh or shared a touching story or calmly gave a cool response to a heated situation.  I thought, “how do they do that?”  Was there a magical time in my life that same ability would click for me?  What was this “man card” everyone was talking about and how do I get one?

I realize now, this is pretty much how every young guy feels most of the time. And if I’m honest, as an adult I still feel that way at times. What we forget is that what we see in others we admire is that they didn’t just start talking and acting that way overnight.  They had to grow into it.

By design we are meant to be in relationship.  We grow into and learn social norms by observation and teaching from others.  When we are surrounded by people who speak and live great examples of godly characteristics, we tend to absorb those same qualities as well.  This is why we need godly role models to help us grow.

God’s original built-in intent was to place us in the best environment to help us grow. As males, we are naturally inclined to need another male who is older to show us how to live different aspects of our maleness out in real life (this is true for women as well).

Closing the Gap

Unfortunately, as you and I both know, we live in a fallen world where many times the male figures in our life have given us a distorted model by either plain ignorance or inadequacy on their part.  This is why there are many great organizations and ministries now that see this gap and hope to redirect the trend in a positive direction. That is what we are trying to do here with Champion Builders.  Many leaders such as Cory Smith, who has a mentoring ministry called Training Ground, see that many young guys will have to be very intentional in seeking out help if they want to grow.  This is what he says,

“In a perfect world, every older man should see a younger man’s need for mentoring and step in. The sad reality is that most the time a young man will have to initiate the relationship.” – Cory Smith

Lack of mentoring may not be the case for those of you in high school now.   Most students are surrounded by built in systems in school and church.  But you can be sure as a guy graduates, he has to learn to diligently seek out other older role models to help in his growth as a man.

Again I know from personal experience how inadequate you may feel about who you are as a young man right now.  I also know the prideful flip-side of that in thinking that we know everything we need to know already to get by.  Wherever your thinking is right now, will you at least admit you want to get better?  If so, will you or have you already taken the big step to seek out an older man in a mentoring relationship?

I know it is intimidating or awkward at first.  But, can you get a vision now of maybe one day, a young man saying of you, “I want to be like him.”

  • What man is being intentional now to mentor you that you need to thank or be more intentional towards yourself?
  • If you don’t have a mentor now, who could you contact to ask them if they would consider mentoring you?

Don’t Waste Your Summer

Are these what your summer plans look like?…

Play games
Work (…maybe!)

If you were like me in high school these might be an accurate list of activities you have planned for the summer.  There is nothing wrong with these of course. In fact they sound like a pretty good base plan.  I say “base plan” because it is the plan that probably most average guys do.

But who wants to be average?  I know I don’t!  And I suspect you don’t either.

So please… don’t be average by wasting your summer!   Do you want to know how not to waste it?  The key is very simple.

Just like if you want to be a better ball player or want to be faster or stronger…you have to have a plan to make it happen.

So let me get real with you.  If you and I want to grow as a strong, confident, humble, Christ-like men, then we have to have a GROWTH PLAN in place to get us there.  Period.

As you look up the scriptures below, ask yourself the “THINK” questions, and after talking with God, write down your growth plan for the summer.  Trust me.  You will give yourself a big mental high five and maybe a “atta boy” when you walk on campus next year.  God will be smiling about you as well.

  • What is an area you think God wants you to grow in this summer?
  • How do you want to feel and think about yourself after the summer is over?  Describe it.
  • What will you do and ask Jesus to help you to accomplish that?

Awesome Growth Plan Ideas!
  • Keep connected in fun and friendship with other guys that will encourage your faith…not tear it down.
  • Plug-in to a weekly small group studying the Bible together.
  • Go to worship weekly at your church.
  • Go to a week long church camp/YL camp/Adventure Trip/etc. that is focused on your spiritual growth.

PRAY:  Jesus I don’t want to waste my summer.   Please give me the wisdom to see the circumstances or people that may pull me away from you. Help me distance myself from them and instead lead me to friends and mentors that will encourage me in growth in You.  Also give me the courage and focus to be disciplined in things that help me learn your Word so I can learn to know You better.  Amen.