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Weekly E-Chat by Lee Harris

E-Chat #1
 
Hi Guys,
Ok some of you don't know this is coming so I'll try to explain. I sent out a letter to each of you about this idea. Some of you already know about this and some of you will be surprised. The deal is that I believe that God intends for us to work as a group and encourage each other. He has been pushing me to work on my relationships with other men of God and He doesn't like it when I ignore Him. Most of you have known me for along time and this is a stretch for me. Many of you have worked with me, fished with me, drank way too many miller lites in Canada with me, anyway- the point is, He is changing me and I like it. In fact, I like it soooo much that I can't seem to contain it. So I need an outlet and I'm starting with you. I hope you will let me do this with you and lets see where He takes us.
I mentioned the book we are studying at Church. Some of you will have access to this and if the others like the content please follow along and maybe get yourself a copy. " The measure of a man", is a book by Gene Getz. It highlights two letters that Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus. 1 Timothy 3: 1-7, Titus 1: 5-10. Start here and read these passages.
What happened is that Paul left these men in charge of establishing the church in their respective areas after he had shared the gospel to the people of the area. Now that isn't easy in itself.  How would you like to have to pick up where Paul leaves off? They faced many troubles in determining who should be involved in the leadership of the new Church. So in Gods wisdom, Paul sent them letters outlining the qualities to look for in Godly men. I wonder if I would have made their list? Not there yet!
So over the next twenty weeks, i am going to send you letters covering each quality. I am not Paul. I am not even worthy of writing this note but I have an awesome God on my side and He has something to say.
What does a Godly man look like? Could you pick him out of a crowd? Heres the list of qualities that Paul gives:
1. Overall spiritual maturity- a well rounded man
2. Above reproach- a man of good repute
3. The husband of one wife- morally pure
4. Temperate- balanced in words and actions
5. Prudent- wise and humble
6. Respectable- good role model
7. Hospitable- unselfish and generous
8. Able to teach- communicates sensitively in a non-threatening and non-defensive manner
9. Not addicted to wine- not addicted to substances
10. Not self-willed- not self-centered and controlling
11. Not quick tempered- void of anger that becomes sinful
12. Not pugnacios- not abusive
13. Gentle- sensitive, loving and kind
14. Peacable- non-argumentative and nondefensive
15. Free from the love of money- nonmaterialistic
16. Manages his own household well- good husband and father
17. Loving what is good- pursues Godly activities
18. Just- wise, discerning and fair
19. Devout- holy, devoted to God
20. Self-controlled- disciplined
This list is overwhelming when you think of it and it is easy to settle into the trap that it is impossible to harness these characteristics. In fact, these qualities are probably those that you would reserve for a pastor, or maybe you would look at hiring people that possess these attributes. If we claim to be just Christian men, which qualities does God not expect in us. What type of Christian man is not responsible to have these qualities?
As you read these letters, don't get discouraged. We have all made mistakes. Just take the time to think about you and Him. There is more to this life than what the world is trying to teach us.
I will end today by saying that you have the right to not be on this list. Some of you were not asked and I admit it was rather rude of me to assume you want to hear this village idiot ramble. I will remove anyone that so chooses. Also, I suck at typing and that is the way it is. Well actually, I am not even sure I structure sentences right but you'll get the jist. Love ya Guys, Heres to the next step. lee
 
 
E-Chat #2
 
Hi Guys,
Well I didn't get any threats and my house wasn't egged, so I'm assuming your all ok with this so far. I would like to extend a welcome to the new guys and say that if you are getting this and haven't received the first letter, let me know. I think I have sent it to all of you.
In the book, the measure of a man, Gene Getz lists overall spiritual maturity as the first quality of a Godly man. Ironically, he doesn't include a chapter on this subject. That leaves the reader to assume that by working on the following qualities we will get closer to being the well-rounded man that God intended. So this weeks letter will start on being above reproach.
A man of good repute. What did Paul see in Timothy that impelled him to leave this overwhelming task in his hands? Or Titus, for that matter? Luke recorded that "he (Timothy) was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium" ( Acts 16:2) So we could say that their reputation preceded them. People spoke of Timothy in a positive way. More than one person talked about him and his reputation was similiar in different locations. He wasn't one type of person to those in his homeland and something different on the road.
As I was thinking about this topic, I tried to imagine what a reputation is. We all have them. I have reputations that I'm proud of and some not so much. Some are well earned and some aren't even true. Isn't it odd that we support different reputations with different groups of people. Many of us work real hard to maintain these reputations even if it isn't all that good. What do we gain? I'm pausing here so you can think!
A reputation is like an aura around us. It walks in front of us and behind us. It gets to the party long before we do. It permeates our relationships and strangers alike. Everday and at each encounter we either change or support someones interpretation of who we are. Ever try walking into a store and smiling at people you meet? It is a pretty funny exercise. The old ladies love it. They start beaming. Guys not so much. They may look at you a little strange or think your on some mind-altering substance. I have to think that Christ always smiled. How could He not. He had something that everyone needed. His aura must have been overwhelming to be around.
I set out to better understand my reputation. I asked a co-worker, some of you, my wife, and my kids. My three year old wasn't very helpful. It was a good lesson. It made me realize that our reputation is like a continuum. Imagine a line in front of you and on that line are all the reputations that you have. On the left are the most Godly and it flows to the least Godly on the right. (politics aside) If it is our desire to become more like Christ, we need to do something about the ones on the right.
We all come from different backgrounds and faiths, but we are serving the same God. His expectation is to be a light in this dark world. So can we agree that at the very least we need to put more emphasis on what people see or think when they are around us. Can they see Jesus in you?
So, this week think about your reputation. If your ready, ask people around you what they think. We can't change this overnight. If you think of it, we have spent our whole life building some of these. It's better to think of it as a process that we need to start with each person at each contact.
As always feel free to let me know if you don't want to get these. Also, if you know someone that could use these ask them to let me know or feel free to forward. God Bless, lee
 
 
E-Chat #3
 
Hi Guys
Moral Purity ( the husband of one wife) .......hmmmm, I don't know about you but after looking at that list on the first letter, I knew this one would be the hardest to cover and the one that would be the easiest to dismiss as not relevant to our society. Is it even possible in this day and age to have moral purity? If we look back to the time of Paul and the spreading of the Gospel, it was common place to have more than one wife. You might have a slave girl, a prostitute, and a wife to take care of your children. That was the norm in many societies. To this day, many societies still practice this way. So was it a radical teaching for Paul and the disciples to come along and say It's time for one woman in your life and that is final. Yes. Is it a radical concept for Christ to want us to love and lust for one woman, our wife? No. We have the benefit of living in a society where it is culturally accepted to be monogamous. Ironically, it seems also accepted and often condoned to "fool" around when the opportunity arises. Don't worry, I'm going to dig deeper than infidelity.
Let's take some time to put this in perspective. Temptation will always exist. There will be times that you notice something that stirs sexual feelings in you. But do we need to think about it for awhile afterwards, does this thought need to have a face, or have an erotic scenario around it. At this point, your simple temptation has become a lust.  Houston, we have a problem.
One of my favorite Christian bands is Casting Crowns. They have a song called "slow fade'. One of the lyrics in the song goes like this-" Be careful little eyes what you see, it's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings". Come on lee- I'm not even supposed to look. Let alone once I see something good I can't look again. As the song implies, it's a slow fade, people don't crumble in a day, families don't crumble in a day, Daddies don't crumble in a day. We just slowly allow sin to fill our days and then we rationalize our behavior as being normal/ accepted. All the while our sons or daughters watch us and learn. Our wives know of our sickness and wish we could become the spiritual examples that God intended.
So what do we do? I can tell you what worked for me. I confessed my sin to my wife and asked her to forgive me. I also confessed and repented my sins to Christ. Notice the word repent. It's old school stuff. Repenting involves turning from sin and changing ones heart and behavior. We flippantly ask for forgiveness but don't change the behavior. My wife taught me how to forgive and I love her for it.
Next is communication. I know that you all just grumbled. I could hear it! We need to be able to discuss the differences between women and men with our wives. We have unique needs. Low and behold, so do they. I bet she has said things like; you don't listen, or there's no romance, or why can't we talk anymore. Imagine these needs are as intense to a woman as sex is to you. I took a class called "Love you wife like Christ loved the Church". Wow. My marriage is healed and we are closer to God and each other than ever before. Why? Because I put her needs before mine. I love her unconditionally. I would sacrifice my needs for the better of my marriage. Notice a trend there. Christ set the example in motion. I must confess that this is a work in progress for me and I am no where near what I wish to become. She appreciates my effort anyway.
The next step is about obedience. No sugar-coated way to deal with this one. Turn your eyes, don't turn on showtime at 10 pm, grab Christianity Today instead of Hustler, treat the woman you work with like your little sister or grandma instead of a possible conquest. Wouldn't your wife rather have you flirt with her than a friend?  Spend alot of time on your knees and by all means find a male friend that you can talk about the tough areas in your life. We need to be accountable to someone in our everyday life. Join an accountability group and tell them about your weaknesses. Start one if you need to but seek men to share with. It is one of the best things I have done to strengthen my walk. If all else fails, seek Christian counseling.
This is a big topic and a stumbling block for many men. Please consider these thoughts and find something applicable to your life. I am here. Just an e-mail away. I've been there and it is better on this side of it.
As aside note, I haven't really dealt with this from the perspective of the single/divorced man. I am not single anymore and look at this from the perspective of a married man. Look at scripture and see if Christ has unique rules for you to live by. My guess is that you'll find that you are called to live morally pure as well. I know that's not what the WORLD teaches but we don't care what they teach. Do we.
As always if you wish to stop receiving these e-letters, let me know. No questions asked. If you know someone that could benefit from these letters or just needs someone to talk to. Call or write me. God Bless you all and thanks for reading, lee
 
 
E-Chat #4
 
Hi Guys,
The next two letters will be coming quicker because we are going on vacation next week and I want to get ahead so I don't get behind.
This letter is about being temperate. Interestingly, Getz chooses to title this chapter," Living a Balanced Life". As parents we try to teach our kids that they should eat a balanced meal. We should balance our checkbooks monthly. We strive to have a balanced portfolio in our retirement accounts. If you think about it there are a lot of areas in our life that we seek balance. Even our own bodies try to stay at a set temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Since we have some pastors in the house, I went to studylight.org to look at meanings of the word, temperate. According to the King James Dictionary, it is latin for the word temperatus( they love that stuff) it means:1. moderate in the indulgence of the appetites and passions; as in eating and drinking; as in pleasures; in speech. 2. cool; calm; not marked with passion; not violent.
So this isn't a real flashy characteristic I realize. Can you imagine your in a room full of your peers and the lights dim, this really famous man is standing at a podium and all of a sudden your name is called out in front of all these equally famous people and then the man adds, " Let's give him a round of applause for being such a  middle of the road kind of guy". Lets not confuse personality with nature. God is calling us to have a temperate nature, but He gave you your personality and all its uniqueness for His Glory.
Getz describes a temperate man as one who doesn't lose his physical, psychological and spiritual orientation. I want to tie this to the body, mind, and spirit. To be physically temperate( of the body) we would need to be able to control our drink, our food, and our language. This concept is not about abstinence but it clearly speaks to drunkenness, gluttony, and swearing. These are just my interpretations and I would value your ideas as well. If we look back to the qualities that Paul wanted Timothy and Titus to use in selecting the men to continue the Church, I hardly think they gravitated to the drunk and the foul mouthed.
Do you know what a cataract is? As we age some of us will develop a cloudy lens in our eye. Over time this cloudiness dulls our eyes ability to see colors clearly. If you get the chance to ask someone who's had this cataract removed and a new lens placed, they would tell you that it is amazing to be able to see bright colors again. " White is white again." Now ask them when they noticed that the colors were fading. They will say they don't know. You see it is a very gradual process. Kinda like sin in our lives. We become numb to them after awhile. They are always there and we are so good at keeping them a part of us. A temperate man keeps vices to a minimum in his life and fights to keep the rest out as well. We can not have clarity in our faith while bound in sin. 
Psychologically temperate ( of the mind) would speak to emotional stability. Calm and collected in anxious situations. Clint Eastwood, yeah. The kind of man that people would look to in a crisis. Or doesn't yell at his kids when they do wrong, but calmly corrects them and keeps the emotion out. Not there yet either- why did I have to add that one. A temperate man would rely on God for inner peace and security, no matter what is happening in his life.
We live in stressful times. Are our children safe? Is my job secure? It can be hard to stay calm with all these big problems. I don't think it's the big problems though. I think we make God too small. We need a bigger view of God. Look around you. Everything you see and have, He gave you. EVERYTHING. Maybe you need to see God for how Awesome He Truly Is.
To be Spiritually temperate( of the soul) a man would need to be firmly rooted in Christ. He would need to realize that all the world is irrelevant but for his Savior. A recurring theme in these letters will be our sinful desire to remain in this world when we are all about something so different. Not one of us was ever called to conform to this world. We were called to change it. A temperate man would look to the present and live there. He would assign God's grace to the daily provisions and his faith to tomorrows. He would not concern himself with the future but with eternity. The only thing I know about tomorrow is that I may be here or in heaven. No sense in worrying about next Thursday.
Ever notice how some Christians just seem to be stuck in life. Usually some event occurred which has just paralyzed them spiritually. It may be a physical injury like paralysis. Or maybe it's an emotional injury like abuse or a cheating spouse. Either way they are left swirling the drain. They hang on, and at times they make head way but really they spend so much time just trying to make it that they never really get out. They become bogged down. A temperate Christian would realize that history is just that- history. They would look at troughs in life as opportunities to praise him in the storm and the good times as those in which they should bank some hallelujahs.
Of all the Christians you know, the temperate ones would be those that get this and they live it. Action is their mantra. Faith, Hope, and Love would prevail. How strong is your faith in God and His word? Do you really believe He exists and that Jesus Christ is coming again? If you do, is your faith revealed in your actions? Are you aware of your calling? Did you know you had a calling? Have you fixed your hope on the things of this world or on eternal values? Are you a man of love? Read 1 Corinthians 13, Do you measure up?
Surprisingly, this is a big topic. The full gravity of these qualities really hits me after I write these letters. This is another one in which you need to just start whittling away at it. Control sin, stay calm, and get yourself right with God. You will begin to see more clearly during the process. I have not included action steps in these letters or given you specific tasks to carry out. I guess I'm just trying to challenge or stretch your understanding of your faith. Could you look at those questions above and write down the answers?  Find someone you can talk to them about. It's a matter of life and death.
We are at week four and It would be nice to hear your views. Are there areas that you are identifying as weak? Have you changed anything yet? Do you think I'm an idiot? Are you even reading these? HeHe. Your replies are confidential and between you and I. You already know that I have worked on these areas and have sensed a change in me that I never thought I would feel. Peace. Mucho peace. Sorry heading south of the border next week.
As always you can stop these letters if you wish and feel free to share them with whoever you would like. God Bless brothers and I love you, lee
 
 
E-Chat #5
 
Hola Amigos,
Well instead of getting ahead, I'm behind. Funny thing, we were down in the cities for a meeting last weekend and we went to our old church, Wooddale. Low and behold, one of the small groups that meet is about procrastination. We should think about starting that here, well maybe next year.
This letter will be about Prudence. Gene Getz titles this chapter Demonstrating Wisdom. I had to stop and think about that title for a minute. Demonstrating wisdom is having it and displaying it. None of the prior characteristics we've talked about serve God in anyway unless they are put into action. Remember as kids we would sing, " hide it under a bushel, NO! I'm gonna let it shine". Same concept right. Well how can we live a life demonstrating wisdom, and if that isn't hard enough, staying humble.
Ask Him for it. Ok. Thanks for reading. See ya next week. What? Elaborate? I better pray about this.
Gaining wisdom takes time and learning. No matter what the topic or skill. You can't get better at something unless you put the time in. So can we actually become students of our faith? Can we get enough out of one hour a week at church? I've heard some of you have to suffer through 1.5 hour sermons. To me it seems that there would need to be some extra credit work here. So, how can we gain wisdom?
I'm sitting here laughing because I am remembering back to college. One of my classes was on par with underwater basket weaving in that the instructor was charged with the task of teaching me what kind of learner I am. What could be more senseless right. Who cares and when is the test. Well ironically, we need to know in what way we gain wisdom best. If your visual, you need to get your hands dirty. The best way for you to become good at something is to just do it. The third time you take that small engine apart and reassemble it you could teach someone else. And that is what we are talking about right? If you are a reader like me, you fill your brain with as much knowledge about a subject that you can find. I have volumes on walleye fishing and one of these days it will pay off, I hope.
Look around you. There are men in our churches or circles who seem to be the ones that others go to in tough times. Chances are those men have earned that. They have demonstrated wisdom before and others have noticed. Talk to them. What is it that they have and how can you get it. Call them role models if you will. Here's another plug for accountability groups. Meet regularly with others and share their lives. You will learn, I guarantee it.
How about listening. No new subject between men. We've all been reminded that we could use some help here. A husband who really wants to learn about his wife, has to listen first. Every once and awhile I pick up a pearl from my wife. Priceless. Or take four couples and get a DVD series on a spiritual topic. All you really have to do is sit there and listen. Sure there might be a few questions asked after but you can just say YEP! I agree. The point is your putting in your time and gaining information. Who knows you might have an opinion on something that blesses someone else.
The third way is one less talked about. Prayer. When I was a kid, I challenged myself to read through the bible. I was about 12 when I started and every night I would read a few chapters. When I finished I was proud, but didn't have a clue what I just read. Well, what does a stubborn German do, I started again. This time when I got to 1 Kings chapter three, I read about Solomon. Here was a young man charged with great responsibility. He knew he hadn't put the time in, there wasn't a manual called "Ruling a Kingdom for dummies". When given the choice to ask for anything, he asked for wisdom. I joked about this earlier in the letter. Now I say this with a serious heart. Ask Him for it. Don't ask for wealth. Ask Him for wisdom in making choices about your finances. Don't ask Him for a long life. Ask Him for help in making the time you have the most honoring to Him you can. Don't ask for good health. Ask Him to help you choose healthy choices. James 1: 5 says " If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." So I did. God has been good to me. I can't even begin to tell you the ways He has blessed me, but I can tell you this, He is GOOD. He wants the best for you and He can help make everything that seems hard or confusing, simple.
So we've talked about gaining wisdom. Now lets think of ways to demonstrate it. How about starting by thanking God. Be gracious and humble. A wise man will have a proper view of Gods grace. We are nothing without Christ. Everything you have is His. It's not your spiritual gift, it's His. They're not your possessions, they're His. Your not the best at your trade without Him helping you get there. Every step and pitfall in your life was strategically placed there so that you could become the man you are.
There is nothing I can gain by finding favor in this world. Not riches. Not power or influence. In fact, the more out or sorts I am with the world, the better. If you can keep this concept at the forefront of you mind, it will be easy for you to give God the glory. Let's face it, He deserves it not us.
In my house, I am acutely aware that there are eyes watching my every move. I have three children and a wife. I have a lot of responsibility in my job and many people see me interact with strangers everyday. Think about who might be watching you. I say these things to remind you that at every moment you are under scrutiny. What do they think about you? Can people see Christ in you.? What are you demonstrating? Every interaction is being evaluated by the very people you are trying to be an example for. We cannot be perfect. But we are called to live this life to a higher standard. Let Christ be your role model.
The last step in this process is to give it away. Lets say you gain wisdom or have it. For Christ's sake, share it. Don't wait for them to come to you. It is not in our nature to ask others for help. Invest yourself in the lives of others. If you show love to people they will flock to you. I fully believe that God is waiting for men to step up so that He can use you to impact His kingdom. Don't make Him wait any longer. Give it away, so that you can receive the richness of His blessing. 
God bless you all and I love you. I pray you feel Gods presence at all times. lee
 
 
E-Chat #6
 
Hi Guys,
I have to start this letter by thanking you all. You have no idea how much my soul loves writing these notes. I have no doubt it gets old at times and I probably don't make much sense either, but it is therapy. So thank you again.
The next chapter in Gene Getz's book deals with respectability. As I was thinking about this topic, I was reminded of another book I read recently titled "Blue Like Jazz". In the book the author tells of a time in his college days when he and a group of christian students set up a booth in the heart of the campuses biggest party of the year. They painted a sign on the booth that read, Confess your sins. Then they waited. Before long students both drunk and high started stepping in the booth for fun and probably to try to humiliate them. Instead these young Christians began to ask for forgiveness. They went through numerous eras of the church and pleaded with these students to forgive them for all the sins of the church. There are many issues in the past and present church that have given the world reason to be skeptical of our motives. It seems to me that we spend more energy defending misguided actions because we are worried it hurts the church as a whole. But all we really want to do is follow Christ. We should be apologizing for getting in His way.
Now your wondering how this has anything to do with our topic. Well, kosmios is a Greek word that translates to respectable or well behaved. Our English word "cosmetics" comes from the same word. We use cosmetics to make us more attractive and draw people to us. Well at least not to drive them away. This attraction is what Christ would like us to have. If we adorn ourselves with Christ and His principles of love and acceptance, the world will be drawn to us.
Last summer we spent as much time as possible at our cabin. I find a peace that is indescribable there. It was hard for me to even come home and I would usually get crabby the morning we had to leave. Anyway I'm losing focus here. Consequently, my yard suffered. My grass got pretty tall and when I did mow it, you could bale it. Not a bad idea. Typically, I'm pretty anal retentive about my yard. I have many flower beds and a veggie garden. Yet last year I let it go. Not one of my neighbors complained, but they certainly should have. Point is, I allowed myself to be distracted and unconcerned for the feelings of my neighbors. The apostle Paul would say this is disrespectful.
Are we a model citizen on Sunday morning and anything we want to be after that?  Is it too binding to expect that we would adorn ourselves in Christ all the time? I have along way to go in this. Think about this with me, we are all guilty of criticizing organized religion in some way. It might be the way someone else worships. It might be the people that worship there. It might be that we are wasting our time excusing our actions by focusing on others. This starts with us. We are supposed to adorn ourselves with Christ. Put Him on in the morning and wear Him proudly. Wear Him to work. Wear Him in rush hour. Immerse your life in Jesus. There is no way that people won't notice a change in us. They will want to know what has changed and they will ask us.
Some of you know this story so forgive me, a couple of years ago, God became very evident in my life. There weren't any flashing lights or thunderbolts. Just a soft voice that said " Lee, I want you to do a toy drive". I fought this ridiculous idea until I couldn't shake it. Took me a year and a half to do it. It was awesome. I can't tell you why a toy drive, but I think He knew it would take something absurd to get me to listen. I haven't stopped listening since. Change was subtle at first. I decided that I was going to listen to christian music only. Changed my presets in the truck and downloaded new songs to listen to. Then some great friends at church asked if I would play the drums with them for worship. I hadn't played in twenty some years and there are much better drummers out there. I joined a men's group at church that meets once a month and eventually shared my life with these men. Unbeknownst to me I was changing. I don't even think I had a clue what was going on. Still don't know where this will go. I must have started acting different at work because a nurse that I had worked with for three years asked me what was different. I told her. She has a new love for the Lord that is infectious. This is not about me. It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with Him. He wants us to come closer and to experience the love and peace in Him. We all need this love. They need this love and it is our job to give Him to them. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1, "Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called"
For those of you that don't read the bible much, look at Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Pick one if you must. Put away your negative impressions of the church for one minute and ask yourself, what more would Jesus have to do? Is there a greater price to pay for you?
I love you all and hope this letter finds you well.  God bless-lee
 
 
E-Chat #7
 
Hi Guys,
I experienced God this week. I was sitting on 20 inches of ice. My wife blessed me with a chance to go fishing with four brothers in Christ. What a treat. So there I was, looking down a hole, trying to convince a lake trout that I was worthy. Lakers 1- Lee 0. It used to take this kind of setting, or alone in my boat, for me to be able to sense God’s presence. Fortunately, I can see Him all the time now. We serve an awesome God. It was a wonderful experience in a very remote setting. How remote you ask? Well does an outhouse at 0 degrees bring any thoughts to mind? I was laughing to myself out there on the ice, thinking that one of the first things Jesus might have said once He had returned to His rightful throne in Heaven, might have been, “ Couldn’t they come up with something better than a hole in wood?” Maybe He didn’t even get that. Wow, we’ve come along way.
The next characteristic in our maturity profile is being hospitable. Christ-like generosity with an unselfish motive. I add this because we all know that there are many times that we demonstrate generosity with selfish motives. I am married. Lets face it. I’ve rubbed my wife’s feet for the wrong reasons. Please don’t tell her, she’s not on to me yet. I digress. The motive is every bit as important as the act. Do you stand to gain from this action? Chances are your motives are insincere. Don’t get me wrong. You can’t reach out to others without eventually receiving. The reward will not be earthly though. You will not be able to measure it, weigh it, or place it on a mantel.
The basis of hospitality is a Christ-like love. Getz includes a letter written by Saint Francis of Assissi: Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; Where there is hatred let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. I like this a lot because it’s about meeting needs. Everyone has them. Needs. It is easy to get wrapped up in our own desires. Who has time to think of others when we have a laundry list of wants. The world says “ Sure Johnny, I know you want that new______, just work more hours and stop confusing your family obligations with our primary objective. You cant tithe that much, you need the latest edition ______, of course you need an I-phone, so you can call people to tell them you need money. If you want to have a Christ-like attitude about giving, put yourself at the end of the line. Does this strike a sour note? Maybe, just maybe you have the strength to carry out an act of love towards someone else and still have this world revolve around you. But you can’t do it consistently. Chris Sligh sings the song Empty Me. In it he sings” empty me of the selfishness inside, every vain ambition, and the poison of my pride, and any foolish gain my heart holds too, Lord empty me of me so I can be, filled with You.” Amen brother Chris. Step 1: Empty yourself- you’re holding you back.
What does love look like? Open arms. I was really stuck right here. You see, I am just typing His letter. What does love look like, was what He wanted written. I wasn’t sure what to write but the image of open arms kept coming back to me. He is the only one who loved me no matter what. There are no judgments. No condemnation. His arms have always been there for me. I fail Him. I run. I push Him so far behind this world, yet He is there. This love is beyond anything we can conceive. Yet He wants to show us it. It’s like the only way we can get in touch with it is to experience it. So we do. We bask in it. I feel like a child jumping up and down in a field. There are no cares only love. Oh Father, Thank you. Once I started grasping the love that He has for me, I couldn’t hide it any longer. I don’t care what the world thinks anymore. I have many verses I like but this is my favorite. Romans 1: 16,17, says, I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” If you have the courage to stand up and say, I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL, than it is high time you show it. It is time for the love that you have enjoyed all these years of your faith to come out. Step 2: Give it away-there is no weapon that can defeat love.
It was 1997. My wife and I were visiting friends and as we were chatting on the steps we looked across the street and noticed a cute little brick house. I mentioned that that would be a great starter home and my friend said its going on the market soon. We walked over and met the owners. It never went on the market. Now at the time we were just getting back in to church. We had spent many years in education and there wasn’t time for God. Sorry Big Guy. The circumstances around this house though made us realize He was at work in this. Overwhelmingly, we said. OK God, It’s yours. We will act as stewards, we will ensure that it is in better shape than when we started, and it will be at your disposal at all times. Shortly after that my 14 year old niece moved in. Be careful what you give Him. He intends on using it. The arrangement was temporary but the lesson is life changing. We are on our third house now and the deal is the same. We decided to get extra rooms this time so that it would be easier. A different niece is with us now. We also house incoming missionaries, sponsored by our church. Not sure what’s next but I’m guessing He knows.
What about your money? You have some nerve lee. Of all the subjects you could talk about. Your right. I do have nerve. Remember this, I am not ashamed of the gospel. We will go through this in greater detail in the future. I mention it now because I want you to begin to think about it. He is the provider. You are only in His image. He provides your income. You get the credit. Let’s change that. Talk with your spouse. Decide a number, a percentage of your income. Make it hurt. It’s not giving if it doesn’t cost something. Factor in your church and local charities. Places meeting needs of those around you. Be careful and wise in your decisions. If you can’t see a change being made, move on to another one. Which one looks like His love.
This letter is long and I lost you at the Lake trout story. I will end on this note. Our time is precious. How many of you get out of church right after the priest/ pastor says dismissed. I used to. Could I ask you to do me a favor? Talk with your wife and ask for 15 minutes of time after the service. I tell you to do this ahead of time because I freaked my wife out. I had conditioned her to head for the door as well. We had the roles even divided. She goes to get our young son, I gather the girls. Well as she is throwing him into his coat, she notices me talking to a strange man. What? This isn’t how we do this! Now what do I do? There she is……all alone in a sea of Christians. Despair. Get her on board first. Then find a person you don’t know and approach him. Pray about it. Confess to God that it has been to long since you just loved others. Get to know this man. Ask him if you can call him or text him once a week. If he isn’t interested, find someone new. Step 3: Open your life-you are a life song worth singing.
I love you all so much and hope that the Spirit of God permeates every inch of your life. Surrender to the One who loved first.  God Bless you and give you peace, lee
 
 
E-Chat #8
 
I must confess I don’t get the whole internet concept. I lead a pretty sheltered life up here in northern Minnesota. Recently while talking with a brother in Christ, he shared with me that he had been forwarding these letters and that they were going “ east to west”. I got pretty freaked out. As I pondered this, I had a range of emotions go through me. Panic was the first. Then like a little serpent, pride followed closely behind. I hate pride. It is nothing but trouble to a Christian man. This is not about me. I am not a writer, nor should you draw the conclusion that I obtain some special knowledge of God. I am a willing servant and therefore allow God to do with me as He wishes. I choose to be transparent because I want to be reminded of my failures and my need for God’s grace. When He pressed on my heart to begin to jot down interpretations of this book, I said OK, but it has to come from You. My life experiences do get incorporated into these but only for His Glory.
It has become a custom in our family to gather at our house for Christmas. My younger sister and her family were here. We have always had a competitive nature about us. Some of you may relate to this. At some point in the evening, the topic of Buddha popped up. To this day, I don’t know how. Satan. (input your favorite SNL church lady episode) Anyway, I made some reference to him thinking he was a god. My sister went into a diatribe about that being false. For which I said that that notion was idiotic. She in turn said, “Oh, so now I’m an idiot.” This was going down hill fast. For the rest of the evening there was a cloud over our festivities.
This weeks letter will deal with the ability to communicate sensitively. Paul used the phrase“ able to teach.” Often we assign this skill to people who have influenced us in our lives. Teachers, motivational speakers, maybe a coach that gave you a better understanding of the game. These people tend to impact the way our brain looks at different things. What Paul was describing though in his letters was the ability to impact based on inner qualities. Listen to Paul in 2 Timothy 2:23-25, “ But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.” Emphasis added by me. Clearly this speaks to a level of maturity which I am still working on. As Christian men, we must be comfortable in our faith. The scenario I described above, demonstrates a man who is still in bondage to himself. I needed to one up my own sister. I missed a golden opportunity to express Christ in confident love. Sorry Father. May my true identity in You enable me to be in control of my mind and emotions.
I used to think that the best way to defend the bible was to be able to argue facts. I approached my faith like a defense attorney. There are a number of secular movies out there that demonstrate this mentality. You know the ones. Truth is, what resides in my heart is not based on fact but faith. We must arm ourselves with information, yet be able to communicate in love. Try reading, Surprised by Faith, by Don Bierle. You will have all the fact you need. Facts can only cast doubt in the non-believers mind. Love of Christ saves their soul. This is the weapon I wish to choose from now on. This Love only comes through an understanding of scripture. I have been on a reading tangent lately. I have read more books by Christian authors in the last few months than probably the last few years. The problem is I’m spending more time reading these than my bible. What am I thinking. See, He is writing these letters to me. I need to get back into the Word.
Here is another point Paul is trying to make. It’s subtle, I would of missed it too if He hadn’t pointed it out.. Paul wants Timothy and Titus to be able to teach and communicate sensitively. Right? Where did he say “ well if you have too….., or in case someone asks you a question……If by chance you are out spreading the gospel….Point is, he is telling them that they are to teach and that they must communicate God to everyone and do it with love and sensitivity. We need a sense of urgency here. These letters are not fluff. There is a need in this broken and thoroughly screwed up world for men to finally stand up and do something. Listen to the Law of God on your heart for petes sake. It is screaming at us to do something and we tune it out. You were bought with a great price. Every single Christian is called to action. Not once did Christ say, “Take it easy. Sit back and enjoy the ride. I’ve got other guys who can do that work. You were chosen to watch.” Does that sound ridiculous? I agree. Broke a sweat there! Phew.
Radical idea here. Prepare yourself. What if you don’t accomplish the work that Christ called you to do? I know some of you are thinking, well He is God, so He already knew I would slack off. Does that make you feel better? Think about it!
Well as I finished up those last ideas, my son called me away to play a game. I also promised my girls I would read a bible story with them before bed. It was divine in that I was on a rant there, but I can’t erase those paragraphs. You see, I want to communicate what He is telling me with the love that He is putting in my heart, but at times even He is forthright in His message. Am I making sense? There is only so much time. My local brothers have heard me say this before. I wasted 44 years. I am only eight letters in to this and I have no idea where this will go, but If I didn’t do this, would you? What is He telling you to do and when will you get around to doing it? Don’t ride the fence any longer. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t like that!
OK lee, take a chill pill. Back to the kids. Teaching starts at home. When my kids were little I ruled with an iron fist. They knew discipline and they behaved. As the girls got older(8), I have changed tactics and rule with love. They are flourishing now and it’s not my wisdom it’s His. So here’s the meat: It takes a call to action and some harsh words to get the wheels in motion. I think that is happening right. Come on, if you read these letters as they come, God is calling you. No one is forcing you to open them. Thank You God for free will. Take time to kneel before God and get your faith on track. Only you and He know where you are and how you got there. I actually repented for my apathetic walk with the Lord. You may need to as well. Then by all means get into a men’s group ASAP. If you are in the area, we meet on the first Tuesday of every month at the tab in Cloquet. Go to sharpeningironcgt.com for information and more writings, speakers, and ideas. Check out the small group studies in your church. Find a church that does small group worship. Listen to God and ask for a calling. He will take you places you never imagined.
I think someone dumped steroids in my pancakes tonight. As you can see, I’m still working on this whole, communicate in love, notion. Forgive me brothers if I offend. Your sick of me saying this but, If anyone wants to be taken off this list let me know. It is your own free will that you read these. I love you all and He loves you all “as far as east is to west.” Had to throw in a little casting crowns reference. lee
 
 
E-Chat #9
 
Transparency. Ever try it? Can you name one other human that knows everything about you? I’m talking everything! It can be a double edge sword. On one hand it is freeing. On the other it is like a toothache that you can’t shake. Sooner or later you have to deal with it. I am trying to live transparently. Some of you may wonder what I’m talking about. Well, between you and my accountability group, I am trying to confess and reduce sin in my life. Not to perfection of course but anything that seems at odds with my faith. I have been addicted to snuff for close to 30 years. It is a daily struggle. It seems to be a part of who I am. I don’t feel that sin really has degrees in God’s realm. Sin is sin. I know that may sound a little out there to some of you. Do you think God cares more about the sin, or what the sin does to you? Is He concerned about your actions or how the sin hinders your walk? In my case it is more about my witness. You see I know about the health risk. I’m more concerned about how this sin affects my reputation. How will my brothers in Christ perceive my maturity if I can’t even walk the walk? Will I cause one of them to stumble by knowing my sin and not stopping it? That is what transparency does, you begin to be held accountable. One day we will stand before our Creator. We better get used to accepting responsibility.
Moderation is all the rage these days. You know it’s bad when beer and liquor companies are asking us to drink responsibly. Do you think they actually care? Or are they trying to come off a little more humanely than the big tobacco execs did? Being moderate in all things is our lesson this week. Gene Getz writes in Measure of a man, “ If Paul were living today in our Western culture, would he condone drinking alcoholic beverages? Not necessarily, as we will discuss. But the issue before us in 1 Timothy and Titus is not total abstinence from any form of alcoholic beverage. The translation literally means a man who sits too long at his wine. In other words, he over drinks and is brought into bondage and loses control of his senses.” Alcohol in itself is not a sin. Needing it though, not good. You have to make this call. If one of us does, we are judging and that’s for a later discussion. When trying to decide who has control, you or it, please consider the feelings of loved ones. They see you from both perspectives. The alcohol will not let you see the negative.
Addiction is the number one problem in today’s culture. This is why many choose abstinence. Some decide that control is not an option. I know that I cannot buy a can of snuff and have a pinch now and then. I know that if I have a cigar, I’ll buy another and another and then I’ll convince myself that I’m better off chewing because smoking is so bad for me. Sound familiar? And ridiculous? There is a trap in abstinence though. Once you have conquered a sin, you can begin to feel pretty good about yourself. The world sees this all the time. Christians running around pointing fingers at others and telling them “hell is a coming”, while they are trading in food stamps for cigarettes and spend more money on fast food each month than they put in savings. How can we judge others and let ourselves go? The point is that there are many things that can become our god. Yes I said god. If you spend more time with; booze, food, Nintendo, hookers, porn, tobacco, etc., than God, your replacing Him. Who are you going to serve?
One last quick topic that gets overlooked in this everyday. If as mature Christians we are going to learn to love and let our concern for others be the higher principle in our lives, we cannot cause our brothers and sisters to stumble. The decision you make for yourself is one thing. Putting that above the decision your brother makes is not God. We must be the last in line. We must put the needs of others first. Even if we must forgo those things that may be legitimate in themselves. Romans 14:21 We all feel a liberty in Christ. There needs to be a balance in this liberty.
The bible is pretty clear on these subjects. We should never partake in things that harm our bodies, clouds our thinking, or brings us into bondage. Don’t believe the lie the world is telling. The truth is that there is no joy greater than Christ Jesus. There is no high higher than the forgiveness of God. I can tell you the only thing greater than feeling yourself become anew in His Love, is watching a brother grow
in his faith. Get out there and help your brothers grow. If any of these issues are problems for you, find a friend and start talking about them. Become more transparent. Share your life. The great commission was for all of us. So Go and make disciples of men!
I’ll include more verses that demonstrate the bibles feelings on these issues. How are you doing? We are nine weeks in now. Any change? Is there a nagging feeling in your gut or are you thinking, “ who does he think he is?” Are you going to church? Is Jesus at the center of your life? Are you ashamed of the Gospel? PROVE IT

Extra reading: 1 Timothy3:3; Titus 1:7; Proverbs 23: 20-21,29-30, 31-33; 1 Cor. 6:12; 8:7; Matthew 7:3-5; Romans 14:5;
 
 
E-Chat #10
 
So, I had another epiphany the other day. I know what you're thinking, " Is this guy that screwed up that he needs regular divine intervention?" YES! You should be writing me letters. Anyway, so some background. A few years back my wife and I were circling the drain. We had tossed around the D word but we were too lazy and we have three awesome kids. Then I read a book in a church small group last year called "How to love your wife like Christ loved the church" by Larry McCall. The teaching in this book dramatically changed me and subsequently my marriage. We have been doing pretty good lately but went through two rough weeks. One night we didn't even sleep in the same room, which is a no-no for us. So I start praying about us and like a jolt, God says, "Dude" - OK, that sounds weird but it's God so be quiet and listen. "Dude, it's not your message, it's your delivery." WHOA, that was cooool. You see, we were in a tug-of war. Imagine me pulling on one end (please make me handsome) while my wife pulls on the other end.(make her hot) In between is marital bliss. I'm pulling like mad and yelling at her that I'm right and God wants her to jump in. She has her feet firmly planted and is yelling back, " If I have to become an idiot like you, I'm not jumping!" I don't blame her. It is not God's intention that our wives conform to our world. Biblical principles are there, but He wants us to lead by example. A man of maturity in his faith will teach his wife a servants heart by being a servant in the first place. Ephesians 5: 21-33
 
This is an example of my self-will wanting my wife to change and fit my world. This letter will speak to each of us in that we all suffer from this in some degree. OK, maybe some of you are doing pretty good but others have the whole world revolving around themselves, or at least as much as they can get to revolve around them. Right?
 
Chapter 10 of Getz's book is about not being self-centered and controlling. We can all think of extreme examples of people who suffer with this. It's hard to even be around them. They alienate themselves from most by controlling conversations or the actions of groups. In their defense, they are the most interesting people in any group. Why shouldn't the conversation be about their life? I think self-esteem plays a role in this as well. If you need to push your significance onto others around you, you are really trying to convince yourself you are worthy.
 
Now, if that isn't you, you fall somewhere between that and perfection. I'm pretty sure you're not perfect so we have work to do. I'm going to make this easy. List the areas in your life that Christ isn't firmly in control of. ( That's like a punch below the belt) Is He in control of your finances, your job, your marriage? How about you're parenting, or your time? Oh I know a good one. Your Sex life? If you have decided that you reserve the right to be in charge of any of these areas or ones I didn't list, you are wrong. A mature man in Christ will realize that it is God's desire that you surrender all and lose your life for Christ. Lose it. Give it up. Let's put this in perspective. By holding on to one of these areas your actually saying one of two things: 1.) I can do a better job than God, or 2.) your really just scared that by letting go you will lose your sense of self. Giving up this life is precisely what we must do! Jesus said, " If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it." Matthew 10:39 " ....If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the good news, you will save it." Mark 8:34,35
 
This is not a comfortable concept, so let's use the best example out there. God became man. He surrendered deity to demonstrate letting go. OK pastors, I know there are other reasons but work with me. He put Himself in a position to feel all the same things we go through. And He did. But all the while He was feeling the pulls and rigors of life, He made Himself the least. He suffered more and gave His life, so that we could know that by taking a step of surrender, we lose a little of us and gain a lot of Him. Gaining more of Christ has to be our goal. This life you have worked hard to create; is it more about you or more about Him? Imagine you spend your whole life becoming the master of your domain and on that day before Christ, He places all the "lowly" people way ahead of you, in a place of honor. How ironic. You conquered your world. Yet you barely made His. Or maybe you won't. Jesus said, " And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than the soul? If any one is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." Mark 8:36-38 "....God opposes the proud but favors the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor." 1 Peter 5:5,6
 
I recently read another book by Donald Miller titled "Though Painted Deserts." I want to end with a beautiful quote about a young mans understanding of God. "....I just feel like God put us here to enjoy Him, and He gave us free will so it is tough sometimes, because people use their free will selfishly, but I think He created us to enjoy Him, that He is love, you know, and I would just hate to see you[us] walk away from that. Read that again! If you understand what Christ stood for and can find fault in that simple statement, please tell me. Why is it so absurd to think that a being, entity, whatever God is, couldn't be so filled, so full, so constant in love that It wouldn't want it's creation to solely experience It. Wanna know why life is hard? Wanna know why others have it easier? You are directing your God given rights away from Him. The one who gave you the rights in the first place.
 
It is my heartfelt desire that we grow in Christ. I love you brothers! If you would like to be off this email list, send me a note at
leehrrs1@gmail.com. lee
 
 
E-Chat #11 & #12
 
Greetings Brothers
 
I'm sitting here wondering where to go with these topics. Anger and uncontrolled anger. What makes us angry? Is there a trigger that causes you to go from mild-mannered to rage in a heartbeat? Can you stop before rage? For me, it's disrespect. The bruising of my ego. I bet 90% of my anger starts with my kids and my wife. Fortunately, they don't upset me all that often, but that is usually where it starts. I seem to let the rest of the world abuse me but not my family. Like I've earned some great authority around them. Or maybe I use scripture to confirm my proper place in this household. All the while forgetting that I am to serve them. Who am I anyway? I know the core of this is PRIDE. I didn't even want to type that.
 
C.S. Lewis calls pride the "great sin." He even goes as far as to say that pride is at the center of every other sin. That it is the complete anti-God state of mind. I think he's on to something. How do you feel when someone disregards you? Or maybe if someone else gets a job you really wanted? Spite, bitterness, resentment, are all nice ways of saying your ego got bruised. Are you the type of person that can spot pride in others? Guess what? Your ego doesn't like their ego. My poor wife and kids probably don't even realize that they are doing this. I mean we all live within some sort of rules. Unbeknownst to them though, the rule maker throws a hissy when the boundaries get crossed. You know what makes you angry. Hint- It is not the action of others. It is what the action makes you feel. Example. If you are driving along and someone cuts you off; maybe you look over at your passenger and say "That wasn't very Christian", maybe you yell " Hey you jerk", maybe you speed up, get along side of them and flip them off, or maybe even smash into their bumper and run them off the road. Which one of those is worse? Are they all sins? Then does it matter? At the core, someone did not acknowledge your place on that road and you didn't like it. Your pride got bumped. But what about the safety of my children? No your pride got bumped. Well do they think they own the road, or maybe they think they're better than me. Nope, your pride got bumped. Now I realize we don't typically run people off the road and if you do, please read this but also make a call to a counselor immediately. The line can get very blurry once we get angry.
 
Getz separates anger and destructive behavior into two chapters in his book. For me, I see these as more than just related. I see them as one and the same. So what if you don't hit your wife but can cut her to ribbons with your tongue. Is verbal abuse better than physical abuse? Are you a better person if you only ruin someones reputation behind their back? You and I are capable of great violence at any given time. We are only changing our interpretation of what violence is to make ourselves feel better. The truth is you are not showing love. And love is what we need. Love is what they need. Love them so hard they will never want to not have it. It would become inconceivable for them to ever be apart from it or do something to jeopardize it. We have this in our God.
 
Anger is a God given emotion. The bible has many examples of anger. God himself expresses anger many times. If you have trouble with that, please remember this very important point: He Is God, you are not. You may need to reread paragraph two. He is Creator, you are created. We are not in the same league so don't rationalize your bad habits just because He has the same emotion. We are made in His image, but we've done a really good job of tarnishing it since the fall. If anger in itself is normal, when does it become sin? It is a sin to become so passionate about a subject that you lose control and say something that hurts anothers feelings. (i.e. politics, religion) It is a sin to hurt, either physically or emotionally, another creature. (i.e human, animal) It is a sin to allow anger to fester inside of you until it shapes your feelings towards another person. Satan has used this to ruin many marriages. We hear this all the time." You're not the same person I once new." Even if a person does change, it's our choice to embrace or reject them. Chances are you weren't asked about this change and are feeling left out of the mix now and all of a sudden your ego got bruised and I guess that has something to do with pride and oh oh, it is sin. It is a sin to withhold emotion from another because you want to pay them back. (i.e. no talking, no intimacy) I've actually withheld intimacy. How stupid is that. Duh! We could go on and on but my guess is that you are already seeing the need to work on this area and I tend to get long-winded. Although, technically I am writing one letter and covering two topics so this one could be longer. Anyway.
 
I have two more instances that I want to bring up here. I am separating them from above because they tend to be the most rationalized and therefore, the least acknowledged. It is a sin to enjoy spanking your child. You may need to think about that so I will pause...........................................................If you spank your child while visibly angry, or while verbally reminding them of all there wrong doings, or in front of there peers or others, you are sinning. Now let me make something clear. I am not against spanking per se. I am against what I am feeling while I spank. Read paragraph two again please. I read a book, New Parent Power, by John Rosemond, about parenting shortly after we brought the girls home from Korea. You see, we went from no kids to two 16 month olds; running, puking, pooping, strangers, overnight. It disrupted my world a bit. I didn't handle it so well and my wife thought that I needed help. I thought that wine was the answer but I was wrong. Now, I don't know his faith and it took me til this moment to realize that his ideas have a biblical foundation and here's how. He believes that when we spank or discipline our child in any way, that we must do it without emotion. In other words, do not let your child see anger in your face, voice, or the severity of the spank. Since I have adopted this practice, I haven't had to spank much. What's the correlation? My kids now get that it is a consequence of an action. They are thinking about what they did wrong, instead of seeing that same old angry face the last time someone cut me off the road or my brittle ego got bruised. Do you see how spanking could become a sin? I hope so. The other one I want to talk about is this. It is a sin to make someone else angry. Don't disregard this because you can think of one instance that disputes this. Realize instead that more often than not, misery loves company. Why should my wife be in a great mood while I'm stewing in bitterness. Pride, selfishness, PREJUDICE, hatred, and any other manifestation of our sinful nature is usually directed at someone or something. Anyone in it's path will feel those emotions and pick them up and will eventually be affected by them. Jesus said, But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come. Mathew 18: 6,7 But woe to the man through whom they come. That is us.
 
OK lee. Blah, blah, blah. I get it. Control my anger. Well, your half way there. Control anger and UNLEASH love. Do the very opposite of anger. So that this world can begin to spin in the right direction for a change. Love God with every strand of DNA in your body. Love the people around you like they are precious china. Delicately protecting them and placing them above yourself. So that He would be magnified to the ends of the earth. If love dominates, anger fades away. As it should.
 
We should probably come back to pride someday. There's a lot of meat in that topic. If any part of this letter doesn't make sense, you are not admitting pride is present. Pride is everywhere and it is rampant. Pride caused the most beautiful of angels to crash all the way to Hell. Pride brings people to church every sunday. They sit in pews in your church, imagining how proud God must be of them for giving up one hour. There God is imaginary and was created in their image.
 
As you all know, I can stop sending these notes to you if you like. It is your choice. Thank You for reading these and please put them to use. Live this stuff because I am not writing these letters for someone else. lee
 
 
E-Chat #13
 
Hi Brothers,
 
Wow. We are half way through this book. God has been moving and shaking in my life. I hope the same for you.
 
The next characteristic of a Godly man from Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus is gentleness. To be sensitive, loving, and kind. Paul was a wonderful example of this virtue. While many tried to tarnish his ministry with false accusations, none of these fabrications stood up against the body of his work. What I find most fascinating is the transformation that took place in his life. We know that he ran head first into God on the road to Damascus. It took a beam of light, being thrust to the ground, and God's own voice, to get this man to listen. What did God see in this man? Was it his stubborn and tenacious spirit? Did something happen in his life that steered him the wrong way and God was just correcting? Could this man single-handedly destroy the young church? I keep coming back to the transformation though. He was the worst of the worst. As he walked that road, he was plotting the death or imprisonment of all the followers of Jesus. He had already tasted the blood of Stephen. If you ask me, he was probably instrumental in instigating the whole event. I can just see Paul (a.k.a Saul of Tarsus) arguing the Jewish law with fire and brimstone. Matched against an equally spirited Stephen.  I imagine him quiet at first. Carefully picking questions. Subtly leading Stephen through his beliefs and all the while setting traps. I imagine him getting more invasive, cunningly pricking the boldness of Stephens faith until it became a duel of beliefs. I wonder if Stephen new Paul's intent. I believe he didn't care. That day, as Stephen begged God to forgive the men stoning him, Paul found his mission. Stop Jesus. God had other plans.
 
Transformation. Metamorphosis. Butterflies. What a glorious example of God's divine power. Caterpillar to butterfly. There is no genetic mutation that over eons converts one species of caterpillar, to a new species of butterfly. In one single lifetime, God transforms this creature. In our lifetime, God transformed us.  You see, Paul's conversion fascinates me because he got it. God didn't intend to stop Paul from persecuting Christians. God's plans were grander. God's plan is always bigger than we can imagine. God's plan for you is bigger than you think. My conversion wasn't as dramatic as Paul's. I got tired of running from the Truth. So I said the sinners prayer and became a new creature in Christ. Don't get me wrong, angels sang on my birth day as well, but Paul never looked back. He got it. Many of us submit to God for five minutes, pray the prayer, and spend the rest of our lives banking on that promise. It is not for me to say that this isn't enough. I just think that there is more to this change that should occur. What if our butterfly never takes flight? What if he just drops down to a leaf and spends the rest of his days eating alongside caterpillars? The transformation would have been a waste of time. It didn't even need to happen. I believe that God intended that you and I would do as much if not more than Paul. I am not living up to my call. Are you?
 
Right about now you are wondering what this has to do with gentleness.  I have no desire to write a letter about putting on a happy face. The world is tired of superficial faith. If you want to adopt a gentle spirit like Paul, you have to change. Where are you in this process of transformation? Stuck. At a snail's pace. Maybe you took a step and feel pretty good about it. Savor the moment and move on. In my mind, I imagine Paul constantly pushing himself. He has a look of determination on his face. He is hunched over and carrying the death of Stephen like a great weight on his shoulders. He can never take that moment back but he knows that God and Stephen forgive him. He has to share the Truth. The Way to peace. Jesus saved this Christian killing machine. What wonders He could do for the common man. Paul understood gentleness because he was shown gentleness. Only Christ could love the worst of the worst. Only love can conquer hatred. The world needed Paul's witness and he had to share it. That was his mindset. Brothers, the world still needs this message.
 
If you want to be sensitive, loving, and kind, (notice the word want) you will need to adopt the teachings of Christ. There is no magic pill. You will need to strip yourself down to nothing and fill your heart with love. It is your choice. It will be impossible to have these qualities any other way. You will not be able to consistently display gentleness without having changed in the first place. For me, I am finally realizing that there was more to the story. That the day I surrendered to Christ was just the beginning of a long journey. That Salvation is part of a bigger plan. My Creator wants me to surrender daily. He wants me to experience Him all the time. He wants me to learn from others who have served Him before. He wants me to adopt His heart, His passions, His wisdom. He wants me to set aside my pride and my ego. He wants me to be more like Him.
 
I choose to become a sensitive, loving, and kind man. I choose to continue this process of transformation. I feel a great weight on my shoulders. I know this road will be hard. I hurt for the sins of my past. I know that I have been forgiven. I need to share the Truth. I have only found peace in Christ. I need help. Would you take up your cross? Could you surrender to Jesus right now? And every day to follow? Could we continue to show His love? You were shown forgiveness and you recognized it as His. You were shown Love and you recognized it as His. You were shown true gentleness and you knew it was from Him. Change.
 
What did God see in Paul? More importantly, what did He see in us? I think God has big plans for you and I. I hope some day we are chatting in Heaven and Paul will want to meet us. I hope he has a burning desire to share something important with us. I hope he tells us that he thought we worked even harder than he did.
 
For the rest of Paul's conversion, start at Acts 7 and read until you get it. I love you brothers and hope God is changing you right now. As you know, it is your choice to read these and you can be removed from this list if you wish. May God be evident in your life each day. lee
 
 
E-Chat # 14
 
Greetings Brothers,
 
If you have begun to, or already adopted the attitude of Christ; if you have begun to control anger and unleash love, then your well on your way to being a peacemaker.  
 
Marriage always starts out so carefree. The honeymoon phase. Why is it called a phase? Seems like someone is trying to get us to think it can't stay good for long. Hmmm who could that be? It starts out easy because we are willing to give up ourselves to please the other person. Their happiness means the world to us. We are second in line. Second in line is doable. Then the kids come, or that job she always wanted. Maybe the corporate ladder is calling. Falling down the priority list is uncomfortable. At about this time, we begin to see their flaws. These little cracks begin to look like gaping stress fractures before long. Now my four foot pile of laundry and my vision of a clean bathroom seems minor. Whoa Nelly. We got ourselves an imbalance here. Who does she think she is? I'm not fixing anything until she gets her priorities straight. I deserve to be numero uno. My guess is that you fit that scenario in some way. Maybe it's just the opposite and you have moved her down your list. Either way, you are not making peace. Jesus is teaching me that if I unleash love towards my wife, I am not adding negativity to anything she is feeling. I cannot control her feelings. I don't want to control her feelings. I want to get back to giving up myself to please her. She still means the world to me. I can do second in line. With Jesus, I can do last in line.
 
The first rule of peacemaking is to not cause a dispute in the first place. Who cares how good you are at getting yourself out of jams? The trick is to not get into them. I wish I had spent more time fixing my weaknesses in my marriage then planning my next strategic argument. In each disagreement we have had or will have, my wife is trying to teach me what I could do better. Ok, lets chew on that sentence for a minute. In order to believe that, you have to know that you married a good-willed person. I didn't say she always taught me in love. I didn't say she always waited until I wanted to be taught. So did you marry a good-willed person? If you can say yes, please, please, please, right now change your mindset about her personality. If she was once good-willed, she still is. You have just allowed your feelings towards her to become soiled. Chances are, you are to blame for this. God gave you the responsibility to lead her and your life in Him. Pray about this!
 
God has been really working on me in this area. The range of thoughts that I have had this week would blow your mind. I finally got some clarity though. I have to adopt a servants heart. In everything. I have to be willing to be the least in every interaction I encounter. Here's an analogy. Lets say that I am the lead actor in a play about my life. There are other actors and stage hands moving about the stage. They come and go as my day unfolds. The spotlight is on me though. There is an audience of One. I have His attention. He seems to focus on me and not the other actors. It freaks me out at times. Then again at times I feel kinda important. Sometimes there's a smile on His face. I get a frown now and then as well. He seems to pay close attention to how I interact with these other minor roles. In fact, He doesn't even pay attention to them. Even when they act very unprofessional, He seems fixated on my response. If they come on stage angry, do I get angry?  Do I calm them down or do they leave even angrier? How do I respond to their happiness? Am I happy for them or envious? I'm not sure but it's almost like He can read my thoughts. Even when I do my best acting, He frowns. Hmmm. Fortunately, I have a script. I don't always read it. I seem to gravitate to the interpretive style of acting. He seems to be less excited during those times. Stick to the script Lee.
 
God is watching my interactions. If a conflict arises, how do I respond? Why did I get frustrated, angry, bitter? Truth is, He wants to teach me that it is not about the other person. It's about me. When someone does something or says something that frustrates us, our human response is to want to blame them. The truth is we would be better served by trying to figure out why we got frustrated in the first place. Did our pride get bumped? Did they disregard our feelings? God wants me to closely examine my response to others. Not worry about the other person. That will be between God and them. Sure the world tells us to confront them and tell them their problems. I don't see this anymore. God wants me to be like Jesus. He didn't do that. He served. He helped others by telling parables and allowing them to come to the realization that they had a weakness. We come to Him with our weaknesses, then He helps us overcome them. 
 
Jesus is teaching me that if I unleash love towards you, I am not adding negativity to anything you are feeling. I cannot control your feelings. I don't want to control your feelings. I want to give myself up for you. We have the blueprint. We have our Savior and His teaching. He is teaching me that I have to be more like Him. He met angry people. He was disregarded. They laughed at Him and called Him names. They spit on Him. They beat Him savagely. They killed him in the most humiliating way they could. He suffered more than I ever have. Yet He responded differently. He loved them. He served them. He forgave them as they made His death a spectacle. He saved them. He is still dying for us. I think it's time I start doing this right. How? First ask yourself if you want to be different. Shine His light in every corner of your life. Seek His wisdom. Begin to fix your weaknesses. Read His Word. Serve the people around you. Love them. Things will change.
 
As we celebrate Easter this week, reflect on the price He paid. The cost of living this life for Him instead of the world really isn't that much to ask. God Bless and if you would like to stop getting these letters just let me know. Love ya, lee
 
 
E-Chat #15
 
Greetings Brothers,
 
I thought about starting this letter with a definition of generosity. Truth is we each have our own idea of what it means to be generous. I thought it might be best to go right to the early church since they had witnessed Christ and learned from the Master.
 
After Jesus' resurrection, He spent about 40 days with the disciples and was seen by many. The Holy Spirit descended upon the young church and many people were saved in the early days. This growing community was made up of many people that were in Jerusalem from surrounding countries. Once they came to Christ they stayed. Now we all know these things because the Bible teaches it from John 19 to Acts 4. The part of this story that gets lost is that these people stayed. They gave up what they had. Many had fields, herds, homesteads in their respective countries, but they stayed. Some had very little. They stayed. What we see is a group of people that had a diverse amount of possessions. Yet they all had there needs met. I see love. I see compassion the likes we rarely witness in a lifetime. This young church took care of each other. They met the needs of everyone who came to Christ. Wouldn't this be awesome to see and be a part of?
 
In stark contrast, read Chapter 5. Here we see a couple who sell there land but for whatever reason, they keep half the money. Not totally unreasonable by todays standards. We get nervous at ten percent. What if they had put a lot of sweat equity into that place? Maybe they planned on flipping it from the beginning. Bank loan, family estate, maybe this whole Christian thing wouldn't work out and they wanted to hedge their bets. Why start all over again? Maybe they saw how people with less, admired the generosity of the rich and wanted to be included in that group. Maybe they thought Peter and John would hold them in high esteem. Both are approached by Peter and fall down dead after lying to him. Apparently this comes down to motive. We need to remember that the young church was predicated on sacrifice and fully surrendering to God. I don't know why God used this man and woman as an example, but He did. By the standards set by many who had less, this couple had deceived the Church and God. By what standard do we measure our generosity? If you are like me, you've probably made up a definition that puts you right in the sweet spot. My definition doesn't stand up to God's though.
 
The self-sacrifice and compassion that the young church showed reflects Jesus' teaching. Imagine what that must have looked like to the non-believer. Here are people of poverty eating freely with those of wealth. People with much, sharing with those of little. In itself, this is a witness to Christ. No upper class versus lower class. No color barriers. Love. What happened? This is missing in todays society. This is no place for a soapbox but shouldn't the Church be taking care of the needy? Where do the needy go now? The young Church was a magnet, not only because of the love of Christ, but also because people saw believers who lived the life they preached. What does the Church look like to the non-believer now? Are we practicing what we preach? When was the last time you sold something in support of a charitable cause or gave something to someone in need? Have you provided dinner for a family on a tight budget? Do you pick and choose the people you talk to at church? Wealthy people have money to spare. Retired people have time to spare. Families have toys to spare. Business owners have goods to spare. I say we stop having garage sales and we give it all away. There isn't one item in our house that I bought with the intention of resale. Why should I think about that when I want to get rid of it? If you don't have the resources for a new TV, don't sell the old one.
 
What do you have more than enough of? Money, time, love, music skills, prayer, excuses?
 
I realize that we live in a different world now. I realize that it is safer to look out for the needs of our own family than those of others. Open your bibles to Matthew 25. Read the parable of the three servants. In verse 29, Jesus sums it up by saying " To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But for those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away". I believe that each of us has something of abundance. Jesus gives abundantly. You have something of abundance. He intends that you share it. Once you have shown that you can be trusted and faithfully give, Jesus will give you something else abundantly. His desire would then be that you give that away as well. There is a pattern growing here. If you are in need of something, start giving what you have of it away. Trust Him. You see, the young Church was doing it right! This type of generosity is ageless and will work even today. Before long, you will begin to feel blessed and full of His goodness. You will be rich in His love. Your needs will be met. You will be meeting the needs of others. If you don't, you will always want. There will always be an ache for more. You will think of yourself before the needs of others. You will only give what you have to. Remember the couple above? Apparently, it comes down to motive.
 
There will be many rationalizations floating around in your head. Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. In Luke 9, Jesus is preaching to around 5000 people. The disciples tell Jesus he should send the crowds away so they can find food and shelter for the night. Jesus disagrees. He asks the disciples to feed the people. With what? They only had five loaves of bread and two fish. He is Jesus! So the crowd sits down and Jesus blesses the food and what do you know, there's leftovers for tomorrow. Here's the meat. In every crowd that Jesus preached to there were skeptics and non-believers. He didn't care. He fed them anyway. He never held back provisions based on the persons beliefs. We both know He knew the unbelievers. I think the moral is that it is not up to us to decide who is worthy of our generosity. The Church should not be in the business of deciding who is worthy. Open the doors and meet the need. At some point, that person will realize that Christians showed Christ's love and that is the business of the Church.
 
What do you have more than enough of? Bring this to God. Pray about how He can use your talents. If you have money, give till it hurts and you will have more to give later. When you eat out, pray before meals and tip generously. Tip even more to the server who gave you bad service, so that you can glorify God even more. Give your time to brothers and sisters at Church. I have met painters, drywallers, plumbers, carpenters, and friends. All with skills I don't possess. Give them work so that they can give more away as well. Pick-up some gift cards to local grocery stores or gas stations and entrust your clergy to use them wisely. Do you have room to spare in your house? Give your home to God. Begin to meet others needs and you will feel the fullness of God. Open your hearts brothers and lead you churches in love. Many people have heard the Gospel, rarely dRemember, it all comes down to motive.
 
" And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ ". Philemon 1:6
 
God Bless you brothers and I pray that your heart is opening up and the fullness of God is beginning to make you very rich men. As always if you would like to stop receiving these letters, let me know. I love you, lee
 
 
E-Chat # 16
 
Greetings Brothers,
 
This weeks letter is about how we manage our house. I am hoping that He is looking at this over our lifetime since I know there are times my household looks in disarray.
 
I started thinking about this and I began to wonder what we held more important. The way our house looks on the outside or how it looks on the inside. My wife and I went to grad school together, graduated together, and got our first jobs in the same place. We worked together for three years in the same department. Yeah, I know. Anyway, there were times that we had to work very closely together and we weren't all that excited about it. It seems that we were able to put on a good show though. Nobody knew any better. Funny that we can all turn into such good actors when we want. It kinda goes the same way with our houses. We paint, landscape, and decorate them so that they fit right into the rest of the houses. No one can tell that there is anything different going on in my house. All the houses on my street are white. Color? Not gonna happen! How about your wife and kids? Are they projecting the proper image? Is there just the right amount of volunteering? Have you maintained social networks? You definitely don't want some networks to cross. Keep the church people in one group and the friends in another. What will it take to become popular in your town? God knows our heart, therefore all the acting is a waste. He knows what our priorities are. He knows our feelings. He knows our false relationships. Once again we replace Him. So today, lets think about how our household looks. This time though, from His perspective.
 
THE WIFE: All I can say here is Praise God for patience. We have talked wife stuff throughout these letters and where are you at? (pause for reflection)
If you get a chance, read through Ephesians. Some books of the Bible have harsh tones. Some are straight forward and more chronological. But Ephesians is loving. The words Paul uses are gentle and caressing. He had to have been in a joyful mood as he penned this letter. Chains, bars, and four concrete walls couldn't stop this man from proclaiming the love of God. Paul wrote, For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God's word....In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. Ephesians 5:25-28. Obviously this is a tall order. As Christ loved the Church. Seriously. Gods standard is quite high here. Is your love eternal? Are there times when she just isn't lovable? His love was without condition, unconditional.  His love was sacrificial. In my marriage, I can go only so long and then I want something my way. It can be small, but give me something back. He got nothing. He is still only getting a small amount of effort back from us. Christ died for the church. Now, many of us would brag about our willingness to take a bullet for the misses. Right. Then why is it so hard to let her win an argument that has no winner anyway. Would we really lay down for them, or does that just sound cooler to the boys. God knows!
 
How does our marriage look to God? Holy and blameless or Limburger and Swiss? In our marriage, I have to be willing to lose every disagreement. I have to find a creative, loving, non-judgmental way to say everything.  I can't say- see I told you so. I have to say- wow, who would have thought that. Well now we know. I can't roll my eyes. This one is very hard. I love to roll my eyes. I actually need cheaters now and I'm convinced I did some kind of radical x-games roll one time. I'm by myself and I just rolled my eyes. That's weird. I pay very close attention to what she says and how she feels. I do this because I care but also because I don't want to negatively affect her mood. I am changing. I always loved her but it was more about what I got out of it. That mentality was very disappointing though. Once I started wanting more, the want never went away. Ever. Now my expectations are less. I mean that in a good way. Simple things seem so much better, because they don't bring with them the drama. I love that we rarely fight. I love that our conversations carry very little sarcasm or innuendo. I love that the mood in our house is more even keel. I love that I am getting a glimpse of what Jesus meant by a servants heart. I have a long way to go though. Could you submit to your wife even if she chooses not to submit to you?
 
When you read Ephesians 5, you will notice other verses about marriage directed at our wives. They don't pertain to you. Focus on what God is telling you to do and not what your wife is supposed to do. On Judgement Day you will not be facing Him as a team. It will not be like Adam and Eve. We can't blame each other. God is going to look at you and what you did. The Bible is very clear that the responsibility for the marriage and family falls squarely on the man. That is why we are reading this!
 
THE KIDS: Kinda hard not to Praise God for patience here as well. Parenting is right up there with marriage as the most difficult responsibilities I have. Ever wonder if our kids have any idea how much we sacrifice for them. It seems that our needs fall by the wayside and just when you think they are happy, they want more. It never stops. God just chuckled and made me realize I treat Him that way. In the book, Measure of a Man, Getz tells the story of his two young daughters describing God as their heavenly daddy. Their image of God was the same as their image of their father. Freud was wrong when it comes to God but he was right on when he postulated that we develop certain ideas about God because of experiences with parents. So as a parent, if I am loving and kind, so is God. If I am cold and distant-even cruel- so is God.
 
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4. I'm sure you have heard that one before but here's a twist. Read the second half again. Paul is teaching us that we are to be disciplined in how we teach our kids. God shows great restraint and patience in teaching me, therefore, I am to give my child the same treatment.
 
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6. My wife and I believe that our primary responsibility in parenting is to raise our kids in a Christian home. I want them to see Christ in all we do. Notice this verse speaks to adult children as well. I have His assurance that if I try my best to teach them about Christ, no matter what troughs of life they land in, they will know who they can turn to. Him.
 
How does your household look? Are your kids moving toward Christ or away? Best to look in your mirror. Which way are you going?We are the answer to this question. The Bible teaches that the father bears the responsibility. In our society, we have allowed ourselves to fall behind in child rearing. Don't blame your wife. They had to pick up the slack when we vacated the job. Give your wife some R&R. Start to spend time reading the Bible to your kids. Play with them. Pray with them. Most importantly, live the Gospel. God wants us to do something about our household. He knows that the world needs to see Him in our lives, our marriages, and our kids. He knows your heart. Change.
 
I love you and hope you are sensing Gods love and urgency in your life. We don't know how much time we have left. We are nearing the end of the book and I would like to keep writing. If you have ideas, let me know. If you want out, send me a note and I can remove your name from this list. God's peace. lee
 
 
E-Chat # 17
 
Greetings Brothers,
 
I'M BACK!!!!!! Well what started out as a short break to get ready for a fishing trip ended up being several weeks. It is funny how Satan works. The whole time he was whispering in my ear that nobody really missed the letters anyway and I really don't even need to finish this book. Truth be told, I have been way behind around our house and could use the extra time. Start putting his lies and my procrastination together and you end up with nothing, This is one of his greatest tactics. Stop the Christian from being productive. Stalled, going nowhere, status quo; it's OK cause I'm saved. Who needs to grow? Satan doesn't like that he lost us but he definitely doesn't want us helping anyone else to find God.
 
To love what is good. Sounds easy doesn't it. Kinda like a no brainer. How about hating what is bad? Yeah, that seems pretty straight forward as well. How come we try to keep a little of both in our lives? Come on let's be honest. The whole reason we struggle in our walk is because we refuse to let go of parts of our life that bog us down. Faith in Christ and His gift of eternal life are enough to enable us to overcome any evil in our way. The power that took a broken man like myself and gave me a lifetime of second chances can easily thwart even the largest temptation. So what is it about sin that we like? Danger? Mystery? Do we serve a boring God? Is it no fun swimming up stream? Is it just easier to fit in to main stream America? Do you realize that main stream America is serving the wrong god? God accepted me for the man I was, but that doesn't mean He intended that I stay there. There are many who choose to live their life without God. That is their choice. There are many who choose to play pretend Christian and go through the motions and fool everyone. I really don't get this group. I mean what sense is it to claim to know God and live your life any way you choose? He will not know them in the end. The truth is that if you are not moving forward in your faith, you are probably sliding backwards. If you love what is good, then this verse should not be describing you. But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. 2 Timothy 3:1-4
 
Paul is basically describing a pagan mentality. He is saying that our society will turn away from God. There will be open hostility towards Christians. They will be haters of good. Sounds like the sinful and broken world we live in right now. We live in a world where  even the term Christian has become so watered down that I'm not even sure it means anything anymore. I can tell you this, I'm looking for a new more accurate label. Jesus Freak seems pretty catchy. Make no mistake about it. We are in a cultural war. Ask yourself which side you will choose? If you are not fighting for God now, you probably won't be fighting for Him later! Whose armor are you going to wear? Choose now and stop playing both sides of this struggle!
 
Loving what is good is loving God. It is living within His will. It comes down to asking yourself if you really love God? The extent to which we love Him and reflect that love to others is the measuring stick to whether or not we love what is good. If you get a chance, go back and reread some of the letters. Each one will address individual characteristics and Godly ways to change the way we interact with others. Are we doing good to others around us? Are we using our blessings to help those in need? Is our conscience clear regarding the way we treat others? Remember that the law of God is written on our heart. Listen to it!  Are we concerned about the unity of the body of Christ? Have we given Him all of us, or are we hanging on to our sinful desires? Are we renewing our mind through relationships with brothers in Christ? Finally, can we trust Him to do what He promises? For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
 
I don't think we can love what is good and not hate what is evil. You can decide for yourself what is evil. For me, anything that slows my walk with the Lord is evil. Anything that distracts me or temporarily derails God's plan for my life is evil. If God is absent or not found within a thought or an action, it is evil. I am human and therefore flawed. We all make mistakes. We will need to ask for forgiveness again and again. But next time, give the evil a name and ask for the power to trample it next time it rears it's ugly head. In the book, Heaven is for Real, a young boy has a near death experience during a surgery. Later he slowly reveals to his parents events that he witnessed while in heaven. One of the most powerful statements he made in this book was that he saw his dad preparing to go to battle against Satan and his dark angels. I wept almost immediately. I have been without snuff for a month now and God has been very kind. I really haven't suffered at all. Mark my words, there is a sorry excuse for a demon that one day will feel the edge of my sword. I spent alot of years being bound by his tricks. He will regret the day he tempted me. My hope is that you will want to prepare yourself for this battle as well. It is time to be the men that God intended. So put on the armor of Christ.
 
I have missed sending these letters out and will continue to jot down what I feel God is telling me. I would like to ask for prayer as I am not sure where I am to go after the book is complete. I do know that He has a plan and He will tell me in His time. If you enjoyed the break and realized that you would prefer to not read my ramblings, please let me know and I will take you off this list. God Bless you all and it is time to start your spiritual workouts. It sounds like there is going to be one big battle soon. You will recognize me hanging on to the back of an ugly beast with only the handle of my sword visible. lee
 
 
E-Chat # 18
 
Greetings Brothers,
 
I have been looking forward to the next chance to send you a note. I guess the best way to describe it is to imagine just being in touch with God. There is a great peace. Heaven will be so awesome!
 
The next characteristic of a Godly man is being just and upright. To be honest it took me awhile to wrap my head around this whole "just" idea. I read this chapter a few times to try to get a feel for what God wanted me to learn. It starts with understanding how the word "just" is used in the Bible. There are two basic ways it is used and the first way deals with our salvation. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 Through God's infinite mercy we have been forgiven and invited to spend eternity with Him. Because once we realized that we were lost, we also realized we needed Him and only Him. This salvation is not our rite, we have not earned it. It is a gift. In fact, there is nothing we can do to earn this gift. Therefore, we cannot say we deserve or have earned Heaven. Make sure you get this because satan has used and twisted this in many peoples minds. We are not saved by good works. We are not saved by a combination of good works and faith. We are not saved by faith and then maintain that salvation through works. We cannot be saved and not demonstrate good works. Ironically, I had a conversation with a brother this week and we were both confused about that one. We are saved by faith, but true faith will eventually produce works. Getz sums this up nicely. "Saving faith will eventually produce the works of righteousness God planned for our lives. The extent to which we do these works, however, still depends on our commitment to Jesus Christ and our desire to do His will." Once we accept Christ as our personal savior, we become "just" in the eyes of God. As righteous as Christ himself.
 
The second way "just" is used describes how we should live our life after we are saved. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 After salvation, we become instruments for God. We are made blameless in Christ. This love is too good to keep to ourselves. The end result is a desire to serve Him with every fiber of our being. Because of this desire, God will provide opportunities for us to serve and express the love that we have been given. As "just" men, we should be righteous and upright in all of our relationships.
 
There is a lot of meat in those paragraphs. That is the foundation of our faith. Now, lets build on it. Truth be told, you have options everyday of your life. You have at least two paths you can take at each intersection of life. That is why they call it a fork. There is a right way and a wrong way. Or, you could look at it like there is a shortcut and a very bumpy painfully destructive route. Either way, you get to choose. Free will. Here's another analogy. In my head there are two voices. Well actually there are many but you don't want to know that. I hear the truth and I hear lies. In one ear God whispers, " you are my son and I am well pleased." In the other ear I hear you are such a sinner. If those guys knew how messed up you are they would delete every letter. She doesn't care about you and your needs. Start over with a new wife. There are plenty of women in this world who would love to be with you, stud! Poor people only want your money. They just have their hands out. Why can't you be like everyone else. Just fit in. Just do it. LIES! I really hate being lied to. So what will it take for us to begin to listen to the truth and to take the path less traveled?
 
The first step in this process is ensuring your relationship with Jesus Christ is founded on the above truths. Next start listening. God gets a lot of requests. Don't get me wrong, he loves our prayers, but do we spend the same amount of time listening as we do asking? Do we spend as much time praising as requesting? Ask for the wisdom to make Godly choices. Bring concerns to Him and wait for answers. If you listen, He will answer. It will be truth. Do you realize that God desires to be in constant communion with you? That's hard to grasp isn't it? Daily devotionals. Tough to find the time isn't it? Then start with three times a week. Give Him just a little more time. Remember that the voice telling you that you don't have time or that you don't need this, is the same one that lies to you. Eventually, you will feel the urge to give back. He has planned out acts of service for you. He intends that our commitment to Him and our desire to do His will, will ignite a desire to serve Him. At this point you will need brothers. I mean NEED. You have not been a threat to satan. You haven't even been on his radar screen. The liar wants to drag you to Hell. If he happens to lose you to God, then he intends on creating a complacent nature. The world doesn't need a bunch of neutered Jesus Freaks. Satan doesn't want warriors for God. Warriors he will get. You will need men to stand beside you. Find them. I harp on this but you need to find other men to grow with.  As you develop your faith and begin to grasp God's love, you will begin to reflect it. You are now a missionary. Everywhere you go; every conversation you have; every image you create in the minds of others, is the Gospel. You are witnessing without words. This my brothers is Good. This is what He wants. Live the Gospel. The liar cannot attack it. The world cannot call it a hypocrite because it is true. You will be just and upright in the eyes of God and man. Do you like being lied to? Don't listen to the liar.
 
You are at some point on this continuum. If you begin to feel that you are not connected to God, go back to the first step and begin again. This is not bad. Renew. Each day renew your mind in Christ. You are not a failure for losing ground or having a weak stretch. Just start again with prayer and listening. Before long you will be back in communion. Jesus dies daily for us. The liar wants you to feel unworthy. That somehow you have sinned too much. That you haven't really got anything to offer. Lies! I love you brothers.  God's peace to you. You are loved more than you can possibly understand. lee
 
 
E-Chat # 19
 
Greetings Brothers,
 
Summer is ramping up and while I haven't felt a definitive direction laid out for me this summer, I plan on continuing to write you all. I will not be able to commit to once a week and haven't always hit that mark anyway. I am very confident God has a plan. I just need to listen.
 
Living a Holy Life. Intimidating isn't it. To some the thought of that is unattainable, so not worth trying. To some of you it doesn't sound very fun. Maybe you have decided that you are going on grace and you are to live this life any way you want. I bet there are a few of you that have decided that Jesus' death is enough. That you are blameless anyway and why worry about maturing in your faith? My guess is that many of you think that your faithful attendance in church is enough. Or maybe hell is a fable so why stress about heaven. Probably a few of you think that I am crazy and this is all ridiculous. What happened to Lee? He used to be such a normal guy! I used to be just like the majority of men in this world. Disillusioned. I used to think that I was the best husband in the world, married to a bad wife. I used to think that my kids should conform to my world so I had less stress. I used to look at other men in Church and wonder if I looked as confident. I used to think that there was more to Christianity but the cost would be too much. I got lucky. God told me as plain as day to do a toy drive. I know you are sick of this story but it is the catalyst. He got me alone for a week and He changed me. I didn't know it was coming. I couldn't have planned for what would happen. All I know is that I can't pretend it didn't happen. It would be a lie and you know how I feel about lying. With that said, it doesn't mean I'm Holy. I don't don my off-white robe every morning. I don't have my hands folded in prayer continuously. I don't float down the street. I am a sinner like everyone else. 
  
In fact, let's talk about what won't make you Holy. Hate to burst a bubble but you cannot achieve perfection. To some this is obvious but there are religions that you will come in contact with that have this at their core. They are subtle and this teaching only comes out as you progress in their religion. Jesus walked this earth as a sinless man. He is and was the only one. The rest of us depend on His death each day. So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Fathers one and only Son. John 1:14
Asceticism. Some people believe so strongly in the evil in this world that they isolate themselves from it. They are attempting to protect themselves and their faith. What they lose is a sense of family with other believers. They miss the central theme of Jesus' Love. We are not to keep this love to ourselves. This journey is about relationships. Giving this love away. Some even avoid Church. How is that working for you? Are you developing relationships with other men? Are you sharing the gifts God has given you or are you holding back? Jesus said, No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand. Matthew 5:15
Self-denial is not a means of Holiness. I was a virgin when I married my first wife. It was a commitment that I made between myself and God. I made it. It did not bring me any special blessing. It didn't mean she would stick around. I thought it would bring me a bountiful marriage and lots of sex. I was mistaken. God is not interested in your sacrifice when it is for the glory of you.
Legalistic styles of faith are rampant. These Christians believe that if they follow all the rules they will be Holy. Really all they do is look around and judge others for failing. This is the part we see because we are on the the outside being sneered at. What they don't tell you from inside is that when these people fall they often leave religion altogether. Kind of hard to measure up once you make a mistake. Bitterness and gossip prevail. The way to look the best is to make sure the others look worse. Can you say Pharisee?
  
So how do we live a Holy Life. Including the previous eighteen steps, here's what He has been saying and I will try to word it right. Remember last week when we talked about the different voices in your head? Some are evil and try to get us to avoid God. They lie and discourage us. They encourage us to harbor bitterness and try to get us to feel worthy of more than we have and unworthy of Him. Lies. Well, God wants us to stop listening to them. I know that is easier said than done, except, He will help.  The evil one has no authority in your life unless you let him have it.  The more you listen to him, the more power he has over you. Stop giving him a platform in your life. Right now, God desires to be in contact with you. Remember when Adam was in Eden? He walked and talked with God. Sin took that away. Sin entered the picture and clouded our mind. Sin wishes to be the foundation of your life. Get control of that which is out of control. You know what it is!  REPENT.  Bring this to God and get control of your life. Do it daily. Talk to God. He wants to talk back. You will know it is Him. It will be good. It will encourage you. You will feel His blessings. You will feel renewed. You will become transparent. Men will want to get to know you and you them. You will testify to His power and goodness.
  
You have read eighteen letters. Each of which addressed a Godly characteristic. Each one provided a truth to stand on. Do it. Look back. If you have been on this journey with me, you are at the point that this makes sense. More God, less satan. Cliche'. Maybe just plain truth. If you have felt compelled to adopt these characteristics and now stop listening to the liar, you will be moving in the right direction. With each step you are transforming. You will hear less evil and more Goodness. You will feel more empowered and less defeated. You will be a warrior and less of a victim. You are and will become that which God intended.
  
Back in January I asked you what a Godly man looked like? What type of Christian man is not responsible to have these qualities? Has your answer changed? I have a request. You know my story. Will you share yours? How is God working in your life? I won't put names. Just share the changes. Subtle or big. I would like to put them in the next letter. Testimonies are powerful and make others think. Pray about it. I love you all and pray that you begin to listen to the One True God. You have the choice to receive these and can be removed at anytime. God Bless Brothers, lee
 
 
 
E-Chat # 20
 
Greetings Brothers,
 
I know, I know, I know. I no longer deserve to call these weekly letters. I have been bitten by the summer bug and have to strap myself to this computer to get this done. I can tell you honestly that it was only last week that I realized how God wanted me to wrap this up. No excuse though. I am a procrastinator at heart.
 
There are a few new guys to our group and I hope they had a chance to go back and read the other letters. If not this may be hard to follow. Who am I kidding, most of you have found these a bit hard to follow anyway. Truth is that as I got closer to the end of these letters, I began to realize exactly where I was weak in my walk. Don't get me wrong, I have been slowly changing my relationship with God all along, but it is easy to make big changes, hard to make the subtle ones. Probably lost you there. There are glaring issues that need immediate attention and then there are little nagging issues that seem to stay just out of reach. I have looked at the glaring ones and found the ability to control them with God's help. It is the pesky little ones that have been evading me lately and those are the ones He is making me look at. These pesky issues are slowing my walk with God.
If it is OK with you, I am going to call them sins. They originate from evil. You can name that one yourself. You see, I have known for many years that lust, desire, tobacco addiction, occasional binge drinking, public intoxication, were all areas that I needed to get rid of. By the grace of God, I have been keeping these areas in check and with the love and support of brothers in Christ, my life is richer for it.  But lately I have been feeling waves of guilt. Odd isn't it? I have never been closer to God and yet peace seems fleeting.
 
At times the guilt is justified. I haven't had a grain of snuff since May 1st but I have been sneaking a cigar regularly. I have no concern of ever having a chew again but I really don't want to be a slave to tobacco at all. This is a conversation that plays out in my mind. It is 0630 and I am loading the kids in the truck to take to daycare. A little voice comes into my head and wonders if there is time to buy a little swisher or some other brand on my way to work. God will pipe in then and say you really don't need those. His favorite line is, " IT WILL NOT GIVE YOU WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR." He's right, it never does. Maybe I make a few days and then the voice switches over to " nice job lee. you seem to be in control of this now. want a cigar?" Crafty little bugger. Stupid human. I lose. Maybe I'm alone in this and none of you hear these voices. Some of you though have heard these temptations. Some of you struggle with these just like I do. Even if God wanted to teach me that these are trivial things and that I shouldn't worry about them, satan likes me bogged down and guilty.  I don't want the guilt.
At other times the guilt isn't justified. Sometimes it's just a warped sense of humility. God wants us to feel victorious. Satan wants us to feel unloved and unworthy of God's grace. God's gift of grace is free. I don't want to feel bogged down. How do I become a disciplined Jesus Freak? (Please remember I am trying out Jesus Freak because the world has diluted the term Christian)
 
Obedience. Obedience will have to become part of my foundation. According to our American Heritage Dictionary, obedience is defined as: the act of obeying or carrying out a request, command, or the like; submissive to control; dutiful; said of persons, referring to acceptance of authority in general; its implications, if any, are favorable. Here's what God wrote about obedience. Jesus said. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."  Mt 7:21. Here is another one I liked. But Samuel replied: " Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." 1 Sa 15:22.  That one hits home with me. Service is imperative, yet God really wants me to listen to and do His will over all other things. Isn't it OK for God to just expect that we are going to do what He wants. Is that too much to ask? Does God have the authority in your life to command you to turn away from sin?
 
What does obedience look like? We can find many examples in the Bible of obedient men and women. We want our children to be obedient. We want our pets to be obedient. But nowadays, obedience is lost. This world no longer condones obedience. Why is it that obedience is the next step on my walk?  Because somewhere along the way, I forgot that I bowed down to Him. I came to God and asked for forgiveness. I fell on my knees and begged Him to enter my life and fix me. I submitted to Him. He is the Master and I am the servant. It is not about me anymore. I think I need to remind myself that He is in charge and I owe Him. You won't understand this if you haven't done it. For those of us that have, we are subjects in His kingdom now. Then Jesus came to them and said, " All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age."  Mt 28:18--20. Can I share something with you? I don't feel welcome in this world anymore. I don't understand it anymore. As He draws me closer I am realizing that I fit better in His world than this one. I like it. Do You feel this too? Or are your feet still stuck? Are you feeling pulled in two directions? Break free!
He asked us to be "not of this world" He asked us to be different or like aliens. That wasn't by accident. He was painting a picture of the new relationship with Him once we gave up our kingdom for His. You and I have lost this reference. If this was at the foundation of our life, we would be in much better shape than we are. Marriages would not be crumbling. We would be shining a light in every corner of this world. People would be able to see Jesus in each one of us and they would love it. More importantly, Christ would be evident and present every moment of our lives. That would be sweet!
 
At some point it really just comes down to right and wrong. Who are you going to serve?  Who sits on the throne in your life? Who is the master and who is the servant? If you choose to let God lead, then step away from His throne. Get out of His way and change your life. Become obedient because He has asked you to! Otherwise, stop posing as a Christian and making it harder for the rest of us. Today, and everyday, from now on, I choose to bow down and serve the King of Glory.
 
The work is not finished. I pray that God blesses Gene Getz for the boldness to write a book about what we as men should become. I pray that He speaks to each of you in a new way. A way that you have never felt before. A way so powerful that you can only fall on your knees in reverence. He has this power. He will work a miracle in your life. Open your eyes and prepare for it. It is coming.
I will be sending letters out throughout the summer on topics that He places on my heart. This fall we will begin another men's group. I believe that God wishes for us to study about discipleship again. Next January, we will be going back to How To Love your Wife Like Christ Loved the Church. I encourage you to join in. Also on August 2nd we will be reviewing this book at our monthly men's group. Sharpening Iron meets at 1830 at the Cloquet Gospel Tabernacle. All are welcome. 
Love lee
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