What Are You Conformed To?

This week I have been reading in Ezekiel 11.  It is a continuation of the episode titled, “Are You Hard-Headed for the Gospel?” but with a different perspective.

In chapter 11, we see that God is speaking to Ezekiel about the people of Israel and shares some observations and warnings. In v12, God reminds the Israelites they have not followed Him by keeping His laws and have conformed to the standards of the nations around them.

How many of us – men – have allowed ourselves to be conformed to this world in many areas of our lives. We have not followed God’s instructions and trained ourselves in righteousness, allowing the Holy Spirit to conform us into the image of God.

Our spiritual growth is referred to as the process of sanctification. This includes two aspects, 1) becoming less like what we were before we came to Christ and 2) becoming more like Jesus.

The Bible says in Romans 12:2,

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

If you are not changing but continue to conform to this world, you need to evaluate yourself to discover where you stand in your relationship with God. The Bible says in Lamentations 3:40 that we need to examine ourselves and return to the Lord.

We should strive to be more like Jesus every day, follow His instructions, and apply His teachings to our lives. The Bible says in John 14:15 that Jesus said,

If you love me, you will obey my commandments.

God told Ezekiel that after scattering the Israelites because of their rebellious and obstinate ways, He will gather them back. And when they return, they will remove all the vile images and detestable idols. Do you have any detestable idols in your life? And recognize that an idol does not have to be a stature, it could be your job or any processions you may have.

God said He would give them an undivided heart or a heart of unity. He will put a new spirit in them or a sensible spirit. And He would remove the heart of stone and give them a tender and reponsive heart.

Then they will follow God’s decrees and be careful to keep His laws.

The Bible says in Ezekiel 11 20 that God said,

They will be my people, and I will be their God.

Men!  Are you still being conformed by this world, or are you being transformed by the renewing of your mind?

Are you putting away vile and detestable acts, or are you holding on to them, resulting in a stunted spiritual growth or possibly no growth at all?

The bible says in Ezekiel 11:21 that if we continue to hold on to these things, it will bring about destruction on our lives.

Will you hold to the promise of God in Ezekiel 3:19, giving you an undivided heart, putting a new spirit within you, and softening your heart so that you can follow His decrees and be careful to keep His commandments?

The Bible says in Joshua 1:8,

Do not let this Book of the Law (the Bible for us) depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.

I pray, men, this is your desire. The only way we can follow God’s instructions and to train ourselves in righteousness is to be in the Word of God.

Well, I pray that you will join me in the challenge and adventure to disciple every man.

Are You Hard-Headed for the Gospel?

This week I have been reading in Ezekiel 3. There is a word here for men as they continue their walk with the Lord and want to live the life that God desires for them.

God had called Ezekiel to be a watchman for the nation of Israel while in exile and had given him a word to preach. God told Ezekiel in verses 8-9,

8But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are. 9I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.” (NIV)

First, we need to understand who they are, who apparently has a hard head. God is talking about the nation of Israel and their rebellious attitude. The Hebrew word used here for “hard” means “strong, usually in a bad sense, hard, bold, violent.” The people in exile were being stubborn in their behavior.  God was sending Ezekiel to the Israelites to warn them of their behavior, both those who were being wicked and those who were righteous.

God told Ezekiel He would make him as unyielding and hardened as they are in his mission to warn them of their behavior. In other words, God was making Ezekiel as hard-headed as those he would be speaking.

Men, what I take from this is that we, too, need to be unyielding and hardened toward the gospel message. We need to be like Ezekiel in our mission to warn this world of their behavior and how it has separated them from knowing God.

It first begins with our family. As Dad’s, it is our God-given responsibility to train our children. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:4,

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (NIV)

The word exasperate is also translated as “provoke,” which means to anger or enrage” your children.

The Bible also teaches us that the words we speak to our children will determine their destiny. Proverbs 18:21 says,

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (NIV)

So are you going to speak life in your child’s life, or are you going to speak condemnation? I cannot imagine any Dad as a Believer who would want to speak anything but life, training them and instructing them in the Lord.

Then we need to be prepared to speak to those we meet in our daily endeavors. The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15,

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (NIV)

I pray you are hard-headed for the gospel, and you will not allow anything to deter you from speaking the truth of the gospel. Starting with your family, then into the world.

Ezekiel was assigned the responsibility to warn the people of Israel while they were in exile. We are given the responsibility to tell those we meet daily about God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ.

God told Ezekiel that their blood would be on his hands if he did not warn the Israelites about their behavior.  If he did, he was not responsible for their demise if they chose not to turn back to God.

All of us will eventually answer to God for what we say and do. That means we must take responsibility for our actions rather than blame others or make excuses.

So, men stand for the truth of the Word of God and be hard-headed – but in a gentle and respectful way.

Remember men, the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16:13,

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (ESV)

To the challenge and adventure to disciple every man – Mike

Targeting Your Men

The ministries of most churches rarely, if ever, have events that center around men. I have even heard of a church that stated we don’t need a formalized ministry to men. But interestingly, whether they have a formalized ministry to men or not, they have one—they just don’t realize it. The church will either tell the men they are valuable and care about them or tell them they are not valuable.

Some churches will intentionally target the men because they know that as the man goes, so goes the family, and so goes the church body. One such church is Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, whose senior pastor, Dr. James Emery White, lists targeting men as one of their eight strategic decisions. He states that these eight decisions have proven to be tactical in serving their mission as a church.

In an article, Eight Strategic Decisions, published on the Crosswalk website in 2017 Dr. White states,;

“At Meck, we unashamedly target men in our outreach, in our messages, in our… well, almost everything. We have become convinced through years of experience that if you get the man, you get everyone else within his orbit—specifically, his wife and his children.”

Dr. White continues by stating, “What does it mean to target men? It means you think about male sensibilities in terms of music and message, vocabulary, and style. One of the most frequent things we hear from women is: “My husband loves this church. I could never get him to church before. But now he comes here even when I don’t!” And she will go where he wants to go. Get him, you get her. Get him and her, you get the family. It’s as simple as that.”[i]

It appears that Dr. White and The Meck get it. If you want to reach the complete family, you need to target the men intentionally. Churches historically have ministries that speak to children, youth, ladies, even families as a whole. Still, they rarely have ministries that speak directly into the hearts and minds of the individual men.

During one of the meeting times with my mentor Jeff Kisiah, he shared about a visit to a church where he spoke to the men. As he was touring the church campus, he came across a table in the church’s vestibule. He found small wire baskets with brochures that provided information about key ministries of the church on the table. The brochures in the individual baskets were on the Women’s Ministry, the Youth Ministry, and the Children’s Ministry. What was missing was one for the Men’s Ministry. One would have to ask themselves visiting the church, does this church genuinely value the men, and are they serious about ministering to men? Are they targeting their men?

Another interesting fact I have discovered is when I review churches’ websites. Very few websites have anything on the site targeting men. Most will have information on the children and youth ministries, and occasionally, you will find information regarding the women’s ministries. Information on the men’s ministry will be missing.

Churches who are targeting their men will take every opportunity to reach and connect with their men. I encourage you to use every means possible to show the men they are important to the church’s life.

Recently I was invited to attend a men’s event sponsored by a church. During the event, I discovered they were planning a Bible study for their men. I was applauding them for creating another entry point for their men. Then I found they waited to announce the study five days before they were to start. Even more interesting, the Bible study announcement was made only to the men who attended the event—less than a hundred of a church of over 2,500. Does this sound like a church that is targeting its men?

I encourage you to examine what you are doing to reach the man connected with your church, especially those on the fringes. Such as the man in church regularly but not involved in any discipling relationship or even attending men’s events. What are you doing to reach these men? Because most churches don’t intentionally target men, I wonder if that contributes to most men thinking the church is just for women and children. That is something to think about.

To the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

[i] James Emery White. Eight Strategic Decisions. Article on Crosswalk website. https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/dr-james-emery-white/decisions-eight-strategic-strategies.html. 2017

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