Mentoring Minutes

St Valentine – Martyr for Marriage…Not Just Romance

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.”     Hebrews 13:4

Wikipedia states Valentine’s Day originated as a Western Christian feast day to honor Valentinus, recognizing a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance. The day first became associated with romantic love in the 14th century.  But it was for much more than romance that Valentinus gave his life.

Legend has it that Valentinus was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II.  He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples as Emperor Claudius had outlawed marriage.  

Claudius wrongfully thought that men who were “in love” or tied to a spouse would not wholeheartedly serve Rome.  He claimed single men better served Rome in battle.  Actually history has proven that Valentine’s obedience to God and honoring of marriage made for even stronger men in battle as they were fighting for much more than just king and country or land…they were fighting for the Love of their life…their wife! 

How romantic.  But it wasn’t just romance that drives men to fight for their wives and families…it’s real love.  The kind of love we’ve talked about here at Love and Lordship many times.  Men died not because they were romantically moved or excited about their spouse, although I’m sure that many, if not most, were.  They fought and died because they were committed to their spouse and family.

God’s Covenant Design and Order

Remember that in God’s Word and design, His principles are always given, and expected to be lived out, first in the individual, and then in relationships.  As loving relationships are built on character and agape (Godly love) then we form strong communities that give us relational servant-leaders in every system…education, media, business, finance, government and, yes, military. 

Those who love well not only lead well but will give their all for those they love.  People don’t die for projects or systems or even for nations.  They die for others and in particular their families and loved ones.  Our way of living is worth sacrifice because of the freedom that it gives those we love.

Valentine’s Day – Romance and So Much More

Valentine’s Day is certainly not just about romance.  It’s about real love or true commitment.  Valentinus gave his life for the sake and honor of Marriage!  But he was not doing so to simply to defy the Emperor or to help provide better warriors for his army. 

Valentinus was honoring marriage because he know it was from God and therefore how could he do otherwise?  He was simply following through on God’s Truth even when it went against the government, in this case the Roman Empire.

Where are we when it comes to honoring God’s Truth when it comes to marriage.  Are we standing firmly on His Word?  Are we standing against those ideologies and now even legislation that goes against His Word?

We would do well to learn from and model Valentinus’s example of upholding God’s Truth regardless of the cost.  Valentine’s Day may have become commercially more about romance and sex but its founder was about love, commitment and marriage according to God and His Word.

When we focus on romance only then both romance and any semblance of love will fail.  However, focus on marriage and commitment while working at romance, yes, I said working at romance, and both will flourish!  Marriage is one of God’s most precious and incredible gifts given to us!

Genesis 1:27 and 2:24-25, along with Jesus, reinforce the high value that God placed and continues to place on marriage, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, andthe two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”  Matthew 19:4-6

Hebrews 13:4 in line with the Scriptures above tell us what God designed and desire for marriage!  Male and female, husband and wife in a life-long covenant commitment to be honored by all!

Well, enough history… I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of Valentine’s Day to work on the romance that can help keep the commitment strong!  Don’t allow the world’s idea of the perfect romance to get in the way of being thankful for the person God has put into your life.  Flowers and gifts are very nice and part of the “work” of romance. There’s nothing wrong with giving and receiving heartfelt gifts, emphasis on HEART but be sure it’s all about the commitment.

As for me…I always take the opportunity to wish Ami, my wife of nearly 29 years, a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Thank you for all you put into our marriage and for making me a better man! 

That’s it!  Gotta hurry home with gifts to show her how much she means to me, now and always!  I hope you’ll do the same!  And to help you here are a couple of sites (I know, men, looks like we get the short end of the stick but not really)…

Six Valentine’s Day gifts your husband actually wants

50 Valentine’s Day gifts for Her

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – Romance is the occasional sparks that keep the fire of commitment and love burning brightly.  We must work to keep romance alive but we must work even more so to keep the commitment that is love.

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Take the time to buy the card, candy, flowers, jewelry or other item(s) that show you are willing to work at keeping the romance alive and the commitment secure!  Doesn’t have to be expensive…but it does have to be thoughtful.

Love and Lordship – God and Me

Every one of us has a story.  Every one of us likely has a point in that story, probably several, where God’s story and plan for our lives intersected our story.  Whether we recognized it or not, whether we accepted it or not creates the story of where we are right here and now, today.  Mine is no different and as we begin to dig deeper and unpack more of the Love and Lordship message that He has laid on my heart I want to share a bit more with you about my story. 

The “All-American” Life

I grew up in a very churchgoing (every time the doors were open) Christian family as an “all-American” kid. I got good grades, played the piano, sang in choir, played sports, and was sheltered from much of the world.  My life consisted of family, church, school, basketball, and the farm…AND not necessarily in that order! 

Ah, church!  Well that was just as much a success pursuit as anything else.  Early on in Sunday School class or Christian Service camps, we’d get a gold star for attendance, extra points for the number of Bible chapters read, even more points for Bibles verses memorized. While I loved the little prizes we’d get and competitions we’d for these spiritual endeavors, the best part was the recognition it would bring.  This carried over into Christian Camp every summer as everyone “oohed and aahed” whenever I would tell how many chapters were read and how many verses memorized.  And with all those points my team could win!  This was awesome.

It all looked and sounded good but early on it was rooted in my pride and flesh.  You don’t tell a hyper-competitive boy or young man that he can win by reading and memorizing the Bible and doing the most service projects.  I worked hard to accomplish the next challenge, always for The Lord and Church, of course.  With every win it led to more prideful church service or volunteering in the community, which made the church, my parents and family…and me…look really good!

I spent much of college and a few years beyond thinking I knew more than God and pursued the athletic lifestyle of the world.   I chose to do relationships and sexuality my own way and as long as I went to church with my girlfriend(s) and treated them nicely then surely God was okay with it.  Partying was fine as everyone else was doing it.  The enemy and world were all too willing to accommodate as I kept up the façade of the nice, “all-American,” Christian young man.

Assuaging My Guilt

Whenever I stepped outside my own ever-expanding boundaries and felt a bit guilty I would simply show up at church, quote a few Scriptures, enter into some spiritual conversations, sing in worship and enjoy a nice message, most of the time, although occasionally it hit way too close to home for what I was experiencing.  With my guilt assuaged I would walk a little straighter line for a while and eventually end up back in the same patterns, places and people.  It was a cycle I could live with…for a while.  

Along the way doors opened for several opportunities to pursue “my dream” of professional basketball—overseas and in the USA.  Life was “good” and most anyone would have thought that I was a nice guy with a winsome attitude, athletic success, and a good heart!  God knew better.

God’s Persistent and Patient Pursuit

He first got my attention at the Athletes in Action training camp in May 1987.  Mike Sigfrids, Assistant Coach (and Discipler), gathered us on the first day of training camp and explained that while we were going to be playing world-class competition in what were then the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, there was a greater purpose.  He told us that while many of us were there to further our basketball pursuit and careers, they would awaken us 15 minutes early every morning on our four-month tour. Although they could not force us to, they asked us to spend those 15 minutes reading The Bible, praying, and meditating, with them holding us accountable on a semi-weekly basis.

I fully agreed with Mike’s comments about pursuing a basketball career; after all, I’d just returned from Ireland where I’d held basketball camps and toured with professional players across the country with great success.  Doors were already opening, but God was up to something else.

As I listened to Mike, The Lord spoke to me.  It wasn’t audible, but very plainly He dropped these thoughts into my mind: “You think you’re here to further your basketball career, but this is what you’re really here for.”  I thought, “OK” and began to take to heart what Mike (and The Lord) said.  I began that day in May 1987 to study God’s Word daily, to pray and to apply that Word to my life.  I have continued every single day for 33 years in His Word, in prayer, and time with Him.

God’s Gracious Faithfulness

I’d like to say the change was immediate, but most of us know that The Lord usually works patiently through discipline over time. That’s discipleship.  He had my attention, but I was still playing the game of church while enjoying the fruits of sin as I continued partying, imbibing and indulging my fleshly desires for a season longer. 

God was faithful.  He continued to use the consequences of my own selfish choices and actions as I reaped what I sowed. He graciously and patiently broke me completely and captured my whole heart over the next 14-15 months.

Through a series of consequences brought on by my own actions, I found myself weeping openly on my bedroom floor in confession of my sins.  As I wept I had a vision of a Roman soldier pounding nails into hands and feet on a wooden beam. As the camera in my mind panned out I saw Jesus’ blood and tear-stained face and the Roman guard’s face was mine. Hebrews 6:6 flooded my mind!

Remember the “competition” of Bible reading, memorization and serving in my younger days?  While I may have done it for selfish, prideful reasons, God did not waste any of it!  As I mentioned, I’ve spent every single day for nearly 33 years in God’s Word, and by His grace the verses, stories, and lessons have come flooding back in with new and renewed insight and power. Every bit of the Love and Lordship message and ministry comes from His Word by His Spirit in His Authority.

Growing in God’s Good Grace

As I spent time in His Word and presence, He began to shift my thinking from professional basketball to pouring into young people (in particular boys and young men) and continued to prune and shape me.  Once again I “heard” God say to me, “I need someone to help raise up Godly men, marriages, and families because the enemy is wreaking havoc in these relationships and crippling My Church!”

So, right at the doorstep of realizing my dream of professional basketball player, The Lord clearly guided me to help raise up Godly men, husbands, and fathers—disciples of Christ!

I spent the next 14 years in teaching, coaching, and administration in public and private schools.  I then shifted for the next eight years into directing a non-profit Sexual Risk Avoidance program and then transitioned into building the Kentucky Marriage Movement with The Family Foundation over the last nine years. 

All throughout, God has been calling me to disciple others in His Love and Lordship. He has encouraged and equipped me to teach others to seek Christ as Lord and walk as His disciples, building up Godly men and marriages, and faithful husbands and fathers.

Throughout the years of learning and growing, God has shaped and pruned me as well as this message for His Kingdom purpose, and He continues to confirm the calling.

The Hope and Prayer of Love and Lordship

My hope and prayer is that your knowledge of the Bible and personal relationship with JESUS will grow exponentially as you commit to and engage in His Love and Lordship.

Far too often, nearly every single man and couple that I counsel, mentor, or speak with come from a church background (past and present) and has very little idea what Christ’s Love and Lordship means according to His Word.  They attend church and often are in a small group.  Their children attend children’s and youth ministry and they sign up and serve, but their understanding of God’s Word is lacking at best and usually nearly absent and it is very evident in their life and relationships, especially in their marriage and family. 

This is a wake up call to the modern-day American church to place the priorities of discipleship in loving relationships, beginning with marriage and family in the home, above attendance, conversions and success.  This is not occasional teaching on marriage as one man/one woman for life but prioritizing it in everything that is done.  Teaching, building and holding accountable young people, those unmarried, married and divorced to the high standards of God’s Word in relational and sexual purity and integrity; for ALL to honor marriage (Hebrews 13:4).  To seek and extend the high calling of relational servant-leadership in Christ’s Church to those who have lived accordingly (1 Timothy 3:4-5).

Love and Lordship is a ministry and message that calls those who claim Christ as Savior and Lord to display the image of God in these four standards in their life and relationships:

  1. Christ as Lord in all things reflected in…
  2. Loving Marriages/Families/Relationships that leads to…
  3. Relational Servant-leadership first in marriages and families and develops…
  4. Generational Discipleship in personal life, family, The Church, and culture.

We want to encourage and challenge those who will take this to heart to allow it to drive them to Christ, His Spirit, and His Word, into a relationship with Him as Lord and relationships with all others that reflect His Love. 

My prayer and desire is to lead people into a deeper relationship with Him and in their marriage and family and in all relationships to strengthen His Church through His Love and Lordship!

“Natural devotion may be all very well to attract us to Jesus, to make us feel His fascination, but it will never make us disciples.  Natural devotion will always deny Jesus somewhere or other.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – Christ’s Lordship and Love are not only imperative but necessary in our lives and relationships.  How have you thought about these elements of your relationship with Him in your life?  What is the evidence in your life of His Lordship and Love?

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Take some time this week to write down one thing that you are doing each day that helps you grow your relationship with Him as Lord.  Write down one thing you could do better to know and love Him with all your being.

Where is God When Tragedy Strikes?

On Sunday, January 26, 2020, our day was interrupted with the tragic news of the untimely and sudden death of NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant as 41 years of age.  As if it couldn’t get any worse we learned that his 13-year old daughter, Gianna or Gigi, and 7 others died in the fatal helicopter crash on their way to Gigi’s basketball game with several teammates. 

How do we process this?  How do we reconcile an all-loving Sovereign God allowing something like this to happen and still trust in Him as “all Good?” 

Perspective – Earthly or Eternal?

While we must deal with the tragedy and our thoughts in the here and now, God’s Word gives us a great perspective on these things.

Allow me to share some thoughts and Scripture that come to my mind every time this kind of tragedy is brought front and center in our minds and lives.  I’ve learned to lean on these Truths in the most difficult of situations and I hope you’ll be able to do the same…

  1. Instead of judging and trying to determine the eternal destiny of those who passed, let’s leave that in the hands of the Only One who knows.  We can trust them to His perfect mercy, justice and love! Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the lord is the death of his saints.”
  2. Let’s be sure to always live in the light of Eternity…it’s the only thing that really matters!  In all things we look to Him and His Kingdom as Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
  3. Trust in God’s forgiveness – Receive what we hear and see regarding Kobe’s life in particular from the perspective of God’s Word…where he has fallen, as we all have, let’s forgive and move on and trust He took that to The Lord – Luke 23:34, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  Paul encourages us to,Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32
  4. The “Mamba Mentality” of “give it your all” and always find a way, for which Kobe will always be remembered is noble as long as we don’t make an idol of it in the wrong way and areas of our life.  Apply the great dedication, drive and discipline to your walk with The Lord and let that lead and influence every other area of your life.  Where he was getting it right with his marriage, family and parenting, let’s be encouraged to be the best person, spouse and parent we can be according to God’s Word and for His Kingdom and Glory!  Colossians 3 we read… Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (v. 17)Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as for the Lord rather than for men.”  (v. 24)

I had the privilege of playing college ball and some professional basketball.  I was driven, dedicated and disciplined in every way much like Kobe.  However, I was not as gifted.  I had to learn to surrender to The Lord’s will and allow Him to work through these things rather than continue to drive myself for what I wanted.  When I surrendered fully to Him, He began to shape and mold my dedication, drive and discipline for His Kingdom and that made all the difference.

Each of you can do that if you are willing to make Christ first in your life, marriage, family and work or ministry!

One final thought regarding the young teenage girls whose lives were ended all to soon and in answer to the question that so many ask at this time, “Why would a loving God take these young lives or any of these lives?”  My simple answer when that has happened to those that I’ve been close to is, “I don’t know.”  But I’ve also learned to say this as well, “But I can also still completely trust You.  I can’t see the reason but Your love and faithfulness in everything else that I have seen lead me to trust in You.” 

The alternative of not trusting in Him leaves me in a much worse place trusting in this world or myself and my mixed up emotions for the answers and that’s never satisfied me in any way.  So I’ll keep looking to Him and I would encourage you to do the same, even when we don’t understand.”  Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

I hope this helps you bring some focus and perspective to this tragedy, especially regarding the young lives that were snuffed out what seems to us to be far too quickly.  We can entrust them to His loving, gracious, merciful judgment.  The Cross is proof that He loves us that much! 

For those who remain we continue to pray that they look to and know Him! Let’s be sure, as Paul reminded us, that we’re focused on Eternity and how we’re living in the here and now for that purpose and help others do the same! 

Remember this as we focus on a perspective in line with God’s Truth…James, the half-brother of Jesus said this, Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”  James 4:13-15

And Peter put it this way…“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”   1 Peter 4:7-11

As I was finishing up writing this article, one of my favorite songs came on my computer.  It is so powerful and it deals directly with this issue and what we’re discussing in this article, video and podcast.  Take a few minutes to listen to Casting Crowns song, Even If, and let is point you to The Only One Who can strengthen and support you in these situations.

Here’s God’s assuring and reassuring words in all words in all things and at all times… for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say (just as King David did when he was facing one of the worst situations in his life), “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What will man do to me?”  Hebrews 13:5-6 (parentheses mine and added). 

I’ll close with Christ’s final words that apply to us at all times no matter what we’re facing as we can count on Him, surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:20

My final prayer whenever I hear of anyone I know passing is simply this…

I pray that they are in your hands and I know I can trust You, Lord.  For those who remain and struggle with the questions, the grief and loss, may they come to know you for the first time as Savior and Lord or, even in the pain and heartache, to know you more fully as their Lord!

Choose, even as we contemplate this tragedy and the painful realities of this life, to make it a great day and God bless in Christ!

Love and Lordship…Food for Thought – So often in the middle of pain and trials and loss, we allow our feelings to dictate and guide how we will respond.  While they are very real, they are also very much tied to our natural inclinations and desires and easily lead us astray.  God’s Word and Spirit are much better choices as we work through the emotional pain.  You can trust in Him no matter what.

Love and Lordship…Action Item – Have you ever stopped to think about your reactions and what they stem from when you face heartache and loss?  Begin even now to look at the Scriptures in this article and other related as you study His Word and ask Him in prayer to show you how you can focus on Him and the eternal perspective while still living and dealing with this temporary life.