Ox Strong’s mission statement is Men Helping Men Grow In Christ. And one of our core values is to be a learning leader. To learn, grow, and invest in others is what we aim for. I feel like the lesson below is a great reminder of what God’s called each of us to do…and is confirmation that Ox Strong’s aim to fulfill God’s design for ministry is headed in the right direction. Thank you to each of you for being a part of this disciple-making-disciple journey. Let me encourage all of us to be a student, invest in a student…all for the enhancement of His Kingdom and Glory!
Practicing His Presence,
In his devotional book Drawing Near, on the page for May 4th, John MacArthur opens our eyes to the fact that “Every disciple must also be a discipler. Have you ever met someone who constantly absorbs what the church has to offer, yet never seems to plug into a ministry where he can give to others? I’ve met many people like that. Some have attended church for many years, and have even taken evangelism and other special training classes. But they never quite feel qualified to minister to others or even to share their testimony. Eventually that has a crippling effect on their spiritual lives and on the life of the church in general.
When Jesus called the disciples to Himself, He did so in order to train them for ministry. We see this in Matthew 10:1-2. The Greek work translated ‘disciples’ means ‘learners.’ ‘Apostles’ translates a Greek word meaning ‘to dispatch away from’ or ‘to send.’ In classical Greek it refers to a naval expedition dispatched to serve a foreign city or country. Disciples are learners; apostles are emissaries [sent out on a special mission to represent Christ]. Jesus called untrained disciples, but He dispatched trained apostles. That’s the normal training process.
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, ‘Go…and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.’ Paul said to Timothy, ‘The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also’ (2 Tim. 2:2).
As wonderful and important as it is to learn of Christ, you must never be content to be a disciple only. You must also be a discipler!”
Video: Sharing Jesus with your Friends by Mark Hall from Casting Crowns
God's been laying it on my heart to remind us of the verse that started this ministry.
NLT...Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.
NKJV...Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.
Last night I saw my one-year old granddaughter sitting in her highchair waiting for someone to put food in front of her to eat. Without her parents’ hard work, going to the store, purchasing food, and placing it on her tray, she'd probably starve, become seriously malnutritioned, or even die. To prevent any of that from happening, her parents saw the need and importance to get her nutritious foods that would sustain her till her next meal. The consistency of doing this at each meal and every day for their child will become evident as she begins to physically grow and mature. That’s what we’d expect from someone loving another individual that much.
The Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:24-29 describes his labor for the Church. He says, "24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me."
The Apostle Paul brought to the table something filling, rich, and hopeful – God's Word, His Son, and His promises. Why put himself through, experience and endure suffering, afflictions, and exhaustion? So that he could help produce maturation in those God had entrusted him with. That’s what a loving servant does for God’s people.
What or who is the trough close to you? Is it someone within your church, your home, yourself? Much increase comes by the strength of an ox. Takes time. Takes action/initiative. Takes work. Takes consistency. Takes love and concern. Takes the right kind and amount of physical and spiritual food. Are you feeding others? Are you being fed yourself? Take the initiative...be that strong ox that goes out and does something about the empty troughs around you. Bring something back that'll sustain them, fill them, give them the nutrients they need, and cause them to mature spiritually. The Apostle Paul, Peter, and even Jesus Himself set the loving examples before us...they went to the extremes because they recognized the need and importance for spiritual growth in others. How about you? What'll you do when you see a trough that’s empty or lacking? Do you even have a concern for the increase in spiritual maturity for yourself and others? Maybe this subject is something to talk with God about today. To have a heart to heart with Him and then for you to take the appropriate immediate action(s).
Practicing His Presence,
Men Helping Men Grow In Christ
1 Corinthians 3:2 (ESV) I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,
Hebrews 5:12 (NLT) You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.
1 Peter 2:2 (NLT) Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,
John 4:35 (NLT) You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.
As Henry Kissinger once said, “The task of the [Ox Strong] leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been.”
Song: Do Something by Matthew West
Below is an article I recently came across...I thought its content would be a good reminder for each of us so we can remain others-focused in all that we do. As John Piper says, when we witness to others, “We must NOT make much of ourselves.” John Piper - message on Beware of the Self-Absorbed Preacher/Messenger. For some of us that's a difficult task to accomplish, but it is possible by asking the Lord to renew your mind concerning this trained behavior.
What is self-absorption? One author states that, “Dictionaries define self-absorption unappealingly as ‘preoccupied with oneself or one’s own affairs,’ frequently adding that it’s ‘to the exclusion of others or the outside world.’ That is, self-absorbed individuals typically don’t show much concern about anyone or anything outside their (narrow) self-interest. As such, they typically make little effort to understand others’ thoughts and feelings. And overly focused on themselves, they can easily miss the mark when they try to. Full Article from Psychology Today
THE FIGHT AGAINST SELF-ABSORPTION
MORBIDITY IS NOT A GOOD CATALYST
There are moments one is completely self-absorbed, or is fully absorbed by what is on his mind or heart. He is therefore oblivious to everyone around him, particularly those he loves and who love him. If not oblivious, then deliberately not paying or giving attention to them. He is present to the moment and to himself in that moment.
It is only after that moment and at a distance from his wife, children, or friend that he begins to think outside himself or beyond his circumstances and to ask himself, If he were never to see them again, would he be at peace with those last moments together?
He realizes that he would in fact have regrets, that he was too anxious and stressed and mean, that, mainly, had he known those were his last moments he would have instead been attentive, appreciative, and open about what was bothering him, that in the end what was bothering him was not as important as that relationship.
Morbidity, though, is not a good catalyst for change, at least not an enduring one. But love is.
WE FIND OUR PLACE IN RELATIONSHIP TO OTHERS
How did he know and feel his self-absorption? Because there was someone else in his life. Only in the presence of others, in relationship to others, can we distinguish or identify ourselves, can we find our place. And upon knowing another, we grow to love them, and love leads us towards self-giving and sacrifice rather than to self-absorption and selfishness.
The fool is one who not only hides (or denies or ignores) his mistakes, but, worse, cannot imagine himself mistaken. He is self-deceived; he is not self-aware. He does not see or know himself, because he is not in open relationship with others. He seeks his own way, because he is in isolation from others. He cannot imagine his actions taking him anywhere destructive nor himself being bothered by how his actions might hurt others along the way. He has no “understanding,” no internal sense or structure of where wisdom for life is learned.
To have any hope the fool must break out of his self-absorption, or, rather, must be broken out. He must become self-aware. How? Only through an awareness of others. But not by simply acknowledging that someone is there: by being present to them and attentive to them. He must be drawn out of himself and into conflict with himself. It is love that draws us out of our lazy selfishness by requiring of us the hard work of self-sacrifice.
KEEP ALL THINGS IN THEIR PLACE
This is the daily fight that we are engaged in.
We must learn to pay attention to our conflicting desires: while we want problems to go away or be fixed, we don’t want to hurt or be mean to those we love in the process. While we want certain things to go our way, we don’t want them at the expense of those we love. We want a heart that is united, in harmony and peace, every part working together towards the same end, singular in it’s resolve to love others.
We must learn to be in faithful relationships: it’s when we’re in committed relationship with others that our self can “snap out of it” by being challenged or corrected, by seeing and hearing how our words and actions are harming others. We want relationships that are full of peace, not the absence of disagreement or difficulty, but the absence of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness.
We must learn to pray continually: the first thing to go in moments of self-absorption is our sense of need and dependence on God. We get caught up and caught in lesser things. Learn to turn the urge to pick up your phone into prayer; turn the sense of anger or disappointment into prayer; turn the awareness of busyness or chaos into prayer; turn the inward looking thoughts outward, upward in prayer.
It is ultimately from our peace with God, our secure and intimate relationship with him through Jesus, that we will find peace for within and peace with others. The first and greatest thing the heart can do, then, is to fix its eyes on Jesus, the Savior, the Creator, and the Lord of all things. In listening and looking to him, in being in relationship with him, and in keeping all things in place in their relationship to him, we can not only guard our hearts in love, but walk in love. Self-absorption Article link
Being a witness and messenger for the Lord has its challenges. This is why the Holy Spirit directed the Apostle Paul to pen these words in Galatians 6:9 (NIV), “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Sometimes in our GOING and Doing Good we lose focus. We get tired. We get weary. We contemplate throwing in the towel. We begin to question – “is what I’m doing even making a difference?”
Genuine Messengers/Witnesses/Disciples/Ambassadors for the Lord understand that spreading the Gospel isn’t about themselves, but that doesn’t mean some words or actions of affirmation from others won’t hurt confirm in their minds that they need to continue in the lane they’re in and keep pressing on towards the finish line (Philippians 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:7). Continuing to accomplish the task at hand and finishing the race seems possible when the GOERS recognize how the Lord views their feet? How can they finish if they don’t have others cheering them on? Who is out there to tell them that their feet are indeed so beautiful?
So, how can you help cheer someone on today? How can you help confirm in his mind that he needs to remain on the path the Lord is directing for him?
One simple act that will go a long way and bring joy to the giver and receiver is to buy him a pair of shoes. By displaying that act of confirmation, you need to reiterate to the receiver how beautiful his feet are in the eyes of the Lord and to keep pressing on in the race the Lord has him in. Each time the receiver puts that pair of shoes on it’ll hopefully encourage him to find that added energy needed to keep his mind fresh and ready to get out on the Lord’s path that day. And POSSIBLY – just POSSIBLY it’ll encourage the receiver to keep the giver in mind…to also pray for his brother as he too is in the same race (harvesting) alongside him.
It’s a win-win all for His glory. Give it a try and I guarantee you that it’ll provide that burst of energy…that second wind needed to keep pounding the pavement and spreading THE GOOD NEWS that so many other people are needing today! If the Lord hasn't laid someone on your heart and mind by now, then let me encourage you to consider starting with your Pastor...a man who brings the Good News each week. I'm sure he would be greatly encouraged by your generous and thoughtful act.
Next week I’m going to provide you with a lesson I recently read concerning self-absorption…this issue is one of the many reasons as to why some choose to not obey the command to GO! – who choose not to display the beautiful feet the Lord’s provided them with (wasted or buried talents, Matthew 25:18). The two-minute video by John Piper below is a great segue into that lesson, which Piper’s words also fit as a perfect reminder from today’s challenge as well.
Enjoy the Challenge! And feel free to share with me testimony of how this challenge worked out for you if you so choose to participate in it.
As TobyMac sings in the song below…Keep Walkin’, Keep Movin’ On, Lift Your Head, Hold On, and Never forget His Promises!
Practicing His Presence,
Isaiah 52:7 (NIV) How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
Romans 10:15 (NIV) And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
John Piper - message on Beware of the Self-Absorbed Preacher/Messenger
Move (Keep Walkin') by TobyMac
The Christmas Shoes
Where does my help come from?
Psalm 121:1-2 (ESV)
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
From a reliance perspective.
Much like the Psalmist above, some Christians ask themselves where does my help come from?
On a negative and selfish note, some ask themselves where does my praise come from?
Some Christians are involved in ministry for the praise of men...for climbing up the ladder...for recognition within their circles...for a personal title…for the accolades…for self-reliant and self-ambitious purposes.
Some on the other hand realize the sacred trust God’s given them and are humbled by the opportunity to be able to be His messenger/ambassador, thus keeping the focus on trying to please the Lord and completely relying on Him for whatever it may be in their time of need.
May we recognize early and always that our help comes from the Lord, and that all praise ought to be directed to Him...that's what makes for an enjoyable and genuinely thriving ministry! Rely on Him alone. To the Praise of His Glory! (Ephesians 1:12).
When it comes to true and all-in reliance, one author points out that, “When you learn to depend on God for everything, what you’re really doing is releasing control of your life and handing the steering wheel over to Jesus. When your dependence lies in the one who is master of all, even through situations where everything seems to be going wrong, you will be able to run to your Abba Father and rest all of your cares upon Him, knowing with full faith that He is going to take care of you…Learning to depend on God, means learning to fully trust in Him to supply all of your needs. By doing so, you are following Jesus’ example, who trusted in His father and did all things according to His will.
Prayer for Today: Dear Heavenly Father, Give me the strength to depend on you at all times. I know that you will never let me down. Even in tough times help me to see that you are still working. Give me…eyes of faith to hope for better things to come OH Lord. Thank you for being ever-present in my life. Amen." Link to this Full Devotional...5 Practical Ways to Really Depend on God
Do some self-examination this morning…
Who do I rely upon and recognize as the source of my help? Self, others, or the Lord?
Who has typically been the recipient or focal point of all praise during my efforts?
Below are some passages referencing God-reliance vs. self-reliance:
John 12:42-43 (NIV) Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.
John 7:18 (ESV) The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.
Psalm 30:10 (NKJV) Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper!”
Hebrews 13:6a (NIV) So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper…
Psalm 54:4a (ESV) Behold, God is my helper
Where does your help come from? Do you really think the Lord is going to assist you in your self-promoting efforts?
Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Nate Smith is a college baseball and football coach, a husband, a father of 6 girls, grandpa to 3 granddaughters, a police chaplain, a pastor, and has a passion to see men grow in Christ.
#girldad including granddaughter