Be The Church

Are We Doing It Wrong?

Those of you who know me personally or follow my posts know that I have a love/hate relationship with God’s Church.  I love God and his people but every time I get too involved in local churches and ministry, I’m often left scratching my head and wondering how our modern churches are nothing like the Early Christian Church and the New Testament.  Personally, I’ve been involved with, led, and work with others who are involved with grass roots, unconventional ministry models. These ministry groups often reach people who would normally never come to church and have led many current believers to deeper relationships with Christ and authentic discipleship.

However, some local churches today are often very skeptical to allow these types of ministries as they are seen as radical and unconventional. When I talk about challenging Christians to live their faith daily and to be held accountable in an effort to grow spiritually, many pastors shy away as this may hurt some people’s feelings. Translation – “We don’t want to challenge or push people to grow in their faith. We just want a nice, passive congregation.”

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Launching Our Children Well

The Next Chapter of Fatherhood

I started this journey and website over 12 years ago, back when my children were 6 and 5 years old.  Quite simply, I wanted to raise children who had Godly character, engaged the world, and used their lives to have an impact for God’s kingdom.  I haven’t been actively posting on Legacy Dad the past year because, quite frankly, I’ve been in the trenches, engaged in raising teenagers, and preparing to launch them into adulthood.  In my opinion, this is a critical time in my children’s lives and the decisions they make will have more long terms implications. However, the road has not always been easy and things have not always gone as planned…

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Reshaping Manhood: Strength

5 Traits That Develop Strength

Strength is one of the main biological differences between males and females and throughout history, strength has defined great men. Strength obviously differentiates men and women but strength also differentiates among men. Historically, men who were physically stronger often did better in battle, agriculture, and were seen as more desirable by women and there is no known culture in which weaker men were considered more valuable than stronger men.

Strength is the ability to exert force in accordance with ones will and while history favored physical strength, modern society also leans towards mental strength. Based on the same definition, mental strength could be seen as the ability to carry out tasks or goals based on ones will power and self-discipline. Being a good husband, father, leader, and Christian all requires mental strength, will power, and self-discipline. We all know men who lack these traits and have made their marriages, families, careers, or walks with Christ a train wreck because they lacked the mental strength, will power, or self-discipline required in these areas.

Mental strength, just like physical strength, is an aptitude that can be developed and increased through practice. Angela Duckworth, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, studies achievement. She tracked 2,441 West Point cadets spread across two entering classes. She recorded their high school grades, SAT scores, leadership potential scores, physical aptitude and a number of other variables to determine what develops a great leader. She discovered that it wasn’t grades, IQ, or leadership potential that accurately predicted whether a cadet would be successful. Instead, it was mental grit, perseverance, and self-determination to achieve long–term goals that made the difference.

5 Traits for Mental Strength

Set Goals to Improve. Step one is seeing that you need improvement in whatever area in your life you are lacking. Compare yourself to the best not the mediocre and set achievable goals to improve. According to neuroscientists studying Nay SEAL trainees, they found that trainees who were able to pass the most rigorous tests are the ones who set many goals. Not just any goals but very specific goals with short, mid, and long-term milestones.

Segmentation. Segmentation is the process of blocking out distractions and focusing on accomplishing one task at a time to accomplish something. First, you slowly divide tasks, goals, or objectives in small parts then take on your challenge one small step at a time. You focus on the next immediate objective and accomplish that objective without letting your mind worry about the other tasks or the entire magnitude of your goal.

Visualization and Self-Talk – Performance coaches have long used visualization techniques with Olympic athletes and top performers. One study showed that subjects simply visualizing the successfully completion of a task had almost as much success as those who practiced actually doing the physical task. The process involves vividly visualizing yourself successfully completing a goal, task, or a habit that you want to obtain. Each day, you visualize incorporating all the five senses, what it would be like when you accomplish your goals. Another aspect of visualization is positive self-talk. Top performers “talk” to themselves with positive words to keep their spirits up. They are actively aware of negative or self-defeating thoughts and constantly remind themselves that no matter how tough the situation is…it will always end.

Consistency – Mentally tough athletes, performers, and leaders are also more consistent than others. They don’t miss workouts, they don’t miss assignments, and they always have their teammates back. They don’t let short–term distractions, negative feedback, or hectic schedules prevent them from continuing their actions towards their goal or vision. In addition, they make a habit of building up the people around them repeatedly and sharing in victories rather than touting their own contributions and wins or claiming sole responsibility.

Emotional Control – Controlling your mental state is another very crucial skill in mental strength. Most people commonly have erratic or knee-jerk reactions to stressful situations or circumstances. They react out of emotion or the fight or flight response rather than in a calm, methodical manner. The other common reaction people have is the opposite, indecision or freezing up, they cannot make timely decisions and therefore do not act at all. These responses are not unique to high stress situations but even to everyday decision-making. Some people react emotionally or cannot make a decision and fall into “analysis paralysis” but we have more control over our reactions than we think. We often can’t control people or what happens in our outside world, but we can control our interpretation of it and our decision making process in light of it. In high stress situations, top performers breathe deeply and make decisive actions based on logic rather than emotion.

Mental strength isn’t about getting an incredible dose of inspiration or courage from an event; this is why retreats and resolutions usually fall short. Mental Strength is more about building daily habits that allow you to stick to a routine, control your emotions, and overcome challenges and distractions on a consistent basis. This could be with your family, your career, or in your spiritual life.

Throughout the Bible, we find numerous stories of men with mental strength. Many did not start out with mental strength but through the course of their lives and with a trust and faith in God, they developed many of the traits for mental strength. Not only did God use these men to build his kingdom but they also now serve as examples for us to emulate.  If mental strength is about building daily habits and consistency, I challenge you to apply these five traits each day this next week while also reading some of your favorite stories of men in the Bible who exhibit these traits or simply repeat the following verse 10 times throughout each day.

The next characteristic is Courage.

Reshaping Manhood: Intro

Imagine you were called upon to travel to a foreign country, in a harsh climate, and lead the fight against ISIL/ISIS.  You had to pick a team of five men you know and these men would travel with you and help you accomplish this task.  What attributes would you use to evaluate the men you would choose?  What character traits would you value over others?  Which men would you eliminate from your pool because they lacked the strength, courage, mental fortitude, or trust needed to complete this task?

Masculinity is the opposite of femininity yet over the past 30 years; certain segments of our culture to include academia, media, and the social sciences have implied and tried to get men to think and act more feminine.  Masculinity is also not chauvinism, dominance, sexism, or denigrating femininity.  In a Biblical context, men and women are equal but have separate and distinct roles in relationships, the family, and society.  Even in a non-Biblical context, such as same-sex relationships, each partner assumes one role or the other almost as a basic human relational instinct.

However, as previously stated, over the past 30 years there has been confusion and mixed messages over the role of men and often when I have witnessed anger, resentment, passivity, or unhealthy traits in men and marriages, it often stems from these mixed messages or reversed roles in a marriage.

Manhood is a way to be, a path to follow, and a way to walk in life.  Humans are social creatures and prone to tribal/community living.  Therefore, who we are as men has a lot to do with how we see ourselves in relationship to other males.  If we begin viewing and shaping ourselves through the lens of our culture or through the lens of our wives or other women, this is where men can stray from our identities.  It is not that the culture or women are wrong but they often try to change or “improve” men based on what women or our culture wants from men rather than our unique and separate roles and identities.

Therefore, men should be centering our way to be, our path to follow, and our walk in life based on a Biblical context and from the reinforcement of other strong, Biblical men.  Until a hundred years ago, men banded together in small tribes and communities where their distinct roles were taught from a young age and then reinforced by other men throughout their lives.

Again, imagine you and a small group of men have brought your families to an isolated frontier outpost in the Western United States in the mid 1800’s.  Lurking beyond the perimeter of your outpost are predators, hostile and friendly natives, and other food sources.  Given that all you love is within your outpost, which men would you choose to stand beside you and protect your family?  Which men are willing to fight for what you believe in and hold sacred?  Which men can act decisively and remain calm under distress?  Which men will act selflessly and place the group’s wellbeing above his own?  Again, what character, mental, and emotional traits would you value over others?

While you might never be charged with leading other men in the fight against terrorists or living in a remote outpost in the 1800’s, God has charged every man to lead his family, serve in God’s church, and stand for righteousness and justice.  Over the course of these next few posts, I am going to highlight some distinct, universal characteristics of masculinity throughout history and their Biblical context in relation to God’s plan.  I challenge you to reflect on your own life and walk in relation to these characteristics and with the men you currently associate with on a daily basis.  Not only will you be able to decide which men to choose to stand with you but you will also see if you would be chosen by others to stand with them.

The first characteristic is Strength.

What Our Church Really Needs

Curing Heart Disease

Dante recently challenged me to express some of my frustrations in my dealings with the American Church and ministry.  These thoughts were highlighted in the post Dear Church, Are We Off Course? Dante then followed up with his own post Why Do We Need The Church where he started unpacking these issues and possible solutions.  This post will highlight one of the areas I believe we need to improve on in the American Church.

Pondering

Early on in this ministry, I started teaching and leading conferences on parenting.  These conferences were full of research, knowledge, and a framework for effective Christian parenting.  I would spend two days and eight hours speaking and conveying these thoughts while the participants took copious notes.  To my astonishment, when I would follow up with participants weeks later, many of them had not put any of the concepts into practice and simply reverted back to their same old patterns.  It wasn’t that all the research, knowledge, and ideas were wrong – it was that I was using the wrong format to help people grow and change.

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Dear Church, Are We Off Course?

Dante and I recently had a discussion in which he asked me why I haven’t been posting on Legacy Dad in a while. After a lengthy conversation of me sharing my frustrations and discussing the season of life I find myself in, he encouraged me to craft this post to talk about these issues openly with readers.

I often voice my frustration with the Church in America and how we are going about reaching people. I often ponder if the American Church today is really following the example of Jesus Christ and Scripture or are we really just using business models and empty gimmicks?

I’m not angry with the Church or our congregations but I would say that I’m frustrated with the practices and direction I often see church leaders taking.  Rather than wanting to reach the lost, impact local communities, and be the light of the world – too often I see churches and church leaders wanting to build organizations, followings, or put on a Sunday performance to entice the masses.

Off Course

We often see lay leaders and elders in our churches chosen not because of the spiritual fruit in their lives or the spiritual gifts God has given them but instead for reasons like popularity, profession, and generosity; then our pastors scratch their heads and wonder what went wrong when people are not connecting, groups aren’t growing spiritually, and families leave the church in dismay.

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Always Prepared

List of items and brands we use:

Ultralight Tent – Sierra Designs

Backpacks – Deuter, Lowe Alpine, Tactical Tailor

Sleeping Bags – Kelty, Marmot

Sleeping Pads/Pillows – Exped, Nemo

Camp Stove – MSR, Soto, Snow Peak

Water Purification – Katadyn

Cooking Sets/Utensils – GSI Outdooors

Medical – Adventure Medical Kits

Base Layer Clothing – Polartec Silkweight

Clothing – Kuhl, Mountain Hardwear, Prana, Five Brothers, TruSpec, Vertx

Jackets – Mountain Hardwear

Rain Gear – Gen III ECWCS Level 6 , Outdoor Research

Boots – Asolo

Knives – Gerber, SOG, Benchmade

Handsaw – Bahco, Silky

Hatchet – Schrade

 

I hope you guys enjoyed our little adventure, and don’t mind this off-topic post!

-Lance

10 Books That Changed My Life

I’ve read and listened to hundreds of books over the years, some better than others.  Some are written like a thesis paper and are hard to get through and others are written in a common vernacular that seems to speak like a wise friend giving advice.  While many of the books I’ve read have provided insight, learning, and growth – I tried to narrow a list down to ten books that I know have had a profound impact on my life (besides the Bible of course.)

10 Books

Some of these were just timing, the age I was at or the season of life I was in, while others have proven to be timeless classics that I often re-read.  It was difficult to narrow the list down to ten but these are the ten, for me personally, that influenced me at various times in my life.  They are listed in no particular order.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

I was blessed to be able to attend a conference by John Maxwell on this book back in 1999.  I was in my mid 20’s then and just starting to take on real leadership roles.  Maxwell uses these 21 “Laws” to illustrate attributes of successful leaders.  Maxwell helps the reader understand that leadership is a privilege and should be used to help others, build teams, and advance the organizational goals. Maxwell uses the idea of Servant Leadership, casting a vision, and influencing others to follow you not because of your position or title but because they believe in you as a leader and the cause you are working towards. Now, I often give this book to leaders as they start out in life or when starting a new venture.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

People either love this book or hate it.  Manning was a former Franciscan Priest turned alcoholic who very openly and transparently explains his discover of God’s redeeming Grace.  Manning rejects the idea of earning salvation or Christians who try to grade others by a list of Do’s and Don’ts.  He uses powerful literary illustrations to show the reader our own personal biases and paints the picture that Christ died for all of us, even those we may detest.  Coming from a conservative Christian or Catholic background, this book opens the reader up to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrine that we are saved by grace, through faith alone.  “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” 

Twelve Ordinary Men by John F. MacArthur

On my bookshelf, I have an original copy of the 1871 book The Training of the Twelve which is one of the most in-depth books on how Christ discipled His chosen 12. Twelve Ordinary Men was originally a sermon series by MacArthur that finally became a book. This is probably the most in-depth study of the 12 original apostles of Christ taken from Scripture and known church history, to include their final fates. This book truly illustrated to me how Christ chose (and still chooses) ordinary people to fulfill His mission.  Christ did not choose religious scholars but men from varying backgrounds and even some with questionable pasts, to ultimately lead his Church after he was gone.  Not only is this a great historical account of the apostles, but it may also spark a fire in you that God can use you right now, where you are, to fulfill His Great Commission.

Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri Nouwen

This book was given to me by a Chaplain as I prepared to go to combat for the 4th time. I was initially skeptical as Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest but within the first few pages, I realized that this book not only had solid theology, but was a lifetime of wisdom and obedience wrapped up in an easy to read few hundred pages.  Nouwen touches on Christian community, accountability, and realizing our limitations and boundaries.  In the ultimate act of a servant of God, Nouwen left a prestigious position at Harvard and ended up ministering to a handful of mentally challenged individuals. He left prestige for obedience. This book is for those who are still searching, still wanting to grow and mature in the faith.  However, if you tend to compartmentalize your faith and not live it out openly on a daily basis, this book will be difficult for you.  However, if you are ready to get a healthy dose of what sanctification truly looks like, read this book a few times through and soak up the wisdom.

Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

I’ve read countless books on marriage, been to many marriage retreats, and even attended marriage counseling during some rough patches in the early years of my marriage. However, Love and Respect was when the idea of unconditional love finally sank into my thick skull.  Although we don’t want to admit it, often times we hold back in our marriages, we keep a count of the times we were wronged by our spouse, and we argue with our spouse to win the debate rather than trying to seek understanding and maintain the peace. This books taught me that no matter what my spouse does, my job is to love and support her unconditionally, with 100% of my effort, at all times. Even if my needs are not being met, even if she is not intimate with me, even if she is mean or disrespectfully to me – I will love her and show her my love every single day.

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

Most Christians have read this classic apologetic on the Christian faith.  While John Stott, N.T. Wright, Tim Keller, and Wayne Grudem have probably provided a more elaborate and in-depth examination of the Christian faith, Lewis is still a master at rhetorical argument for and depiction of the Christian faith. Lewis asserted that he was not a theologian, although he was trained in philosophy, therefore Mere Christianity reads as a “common persons” thoughts on faith. It’s not going to convince the skeptic to jump on the Christian ship, but instead lays out the basic tenants of the Christian faith in easily understandable terms.

The Millionaire Mind by Thomas Stanley

In the Spring of 2000, I saw this book on a display at a local bookstore. Being young and thinking that money will solve all my problems and make me happy, I bought the book hoping to learn the unknown secrets of millionaires. Instead, I was introduced to Stanley’s research and interviews with “real millionaires” (not people who buy expensive cars and big houses on credit to look wealthy) but people with 7-8 figures or more in semi-liquid assets. What I learned from this book is that the average million doesn’t “make it rain”, vacation on exotic, private islands nor did they go to Ivy League schools. The average millionaire lives below their means, buys quality or second hand, and invests their income in their own businesses or assets that put money in their pockets.  They are normally B and C students with a strong work ethic, high integrity, but they are willing to take calculated risks like starting their own business.  Stanley’s research in this book will flip your ideas (and hopefully your habits) into what it takes to actually become a real millionaire.

The Christ Files by John Dickson

As a former atheist, I really loved this book. The Christ Files goes a step further than Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ by illustrating the peer-reviewed academic, scientific, and anthropological evidence for the New Testament and Jesus Christ.  What I love is that Dickson draws his research from unbiased historians who have little interest in debunking or defending Christ or Christianity. These researchers are interested in historical accuracy and treat the writings of the New Testament as they would any other historical documents. Dickson also explains some of the tools historians use when authenticating historical documents such as coherence, dissimilarity, and multiple attestation.  Dickson covers dating the Gospels and the New Testament, the accuracy of oral tradition in anthropology, why the Gnostic gospels and other early church writings were not included in the final Canon. Dickson also introduces other historical writings of the time, outside of Christianity, that write and speak of Jesus and his following.  This book is a great primer for historical accuracy and authenticity of the Bible.

Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

I discovered this book when my kids were almost school age, after reading it, the book changed my entire parenting philosophy.  Kimmel highlights two popular extremes in parenting—legalism and permissiveness.  Kimmel also discusses many popular parenting fads – micromanaging children’s lives, focusing too much on academics and sports – and teaches readers about the three driving inner needs of every child, how to develop character in children, and how our parenting practices need to be Biblically balanced between truth and grace. Grace Based Parenting uses the example of Jesus and how He discipled others as the primer for this parenting philosophy.  Grace Based Parenting focuses on an overall parenting philosophy not necessarily a step-by-step formula.  I highly recommend parents combine this book with Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp and Parenting by Paul David Tripp for a well rounded parenting strategy.

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

I read this book while I was in Europe in 2006 and it uses the story of Peter walking on the water with Christ to illustrate how God can use us if we trust in Him and get outside of our comfort zones. Far too often Christians “stay in the boat” and play it safe in life rather than answering the call to advance God’s Kingdom and fulfill the Great Commission. God has repeatedly asks ordinary people to engage in acts of extraordinary trust for the glory of His Kingdom, this is getting out of the boat and walking towards Jesus. This book highlights that you don’t always need to have all the answers or need to have a 5 year plan in place, often we need just enough faith to walk towards Jesus. Ortberg notes that the water was scary, getting out of the boat took courage and faith but the water is where Jesus is and Peter was the only one who walked with Christ on the water. Jesus is waiting to meet you in ways that will change your life forever, deepening your character and your trust in God…You just have to get out of your boat.