Pressing On


A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: model

The pressure of being young and in charge

New leaders often feel the pressure to “prove” they belong in their position.  New young leaders feel this pressure even more.  If left unchecked, this pressure will kindle a leader’s internal worries of public failure.  Their fear of failure normally manifests itself in a variety of bad ways – becoming bossy, refusing counsel, trusting only themselves, stubbornness, condescending actions, or even expectations of special treatment because “I’m the boss”.

A boss who behaves this way will undermine the aim and purpose of the organization they are supposed to lead.  Don’t think these fears and actions are isolated to just business leadership.  You’ll find them in any organization – volunteer groups, military, even your local church. 

When Paul left Timothy in charge of the church in Ephesus, he knew that he was leaving the congregation in capable hands.  However, Paul also understood some of the challenges that Timothy would likely face. 

Throughout his letter, Paul warns about the kinds of disputes Timothy will face as he leads the church in Ephesus.  When disagreements came up, it was certainly possible that someone would try to use Timothy’s age as a reason to discredit his leadership.  At this time, Timothy is likely in his late 20s, or possibly his early 30s.

So Paul gives this instruction to his protégé:

1 Timothy 4:11-12
Command and teach these things.  No one should despise your youth; instead, you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.

Whenever I get the chance to encourage other fathers, especially fathers of young boys, I use phrases like “more is caught than taught” and “you must be the man you want them to be”.  In the long run, parenting is easier if we model the lessons we insist our children learn.  The same goes for leaders in the church.

Additionally, as Timothy did his best to emulate Jesus, there was a specific scene in Jesus’ life that he could have found reassuring.  Recall that at age 12 – still considered a child by Jewish society standards – Jesus was conversing with the teachers of the law in the temple, astounding them with his understanding and answers (see Luke 2:41-50).

Timothy couldn’t stop someone from questioning his position due to his youthfulness.  However, he could proactively prevent many concerns by how he conducted himself in his position.  The limitations other perceive in us are always overcome by our actions.  As Timothy modeled Christ-like behavior, his example would give him the credibility that his youthful age would not.

Keep Pressing,

The goal of mentoring

Jesus is many things to us.  He is the second Adam, our prototype, our example, our Savior, and our God…but would you consider Him to be our mentor?  Or our example of how to mentor others?

When reading through the gospels – the books written to tell others about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection – we find that once the disciples are introduced by the author, hardly a chapter goes by where they are not involved in the story.  The disciples were always with Jesus.

Now whenever we think about Jesus interacting with His disciples, we typically picture a teaching situation, right?  He’s sitting on rock, a little higher up than the group of men huddled down around His feet.  Most certainly Jesus taught them, but there was much more to their relationship than constantly being in class.  They cooked and ate with him, they traveled – by foot – with Him, they slept near Him, they hung out with Him, they laughed and celebrated with Him, and they observed every possible aspect about Jesus’ life. 

What was the ultimate purpose of all this time together?  In the middle of one of His teachings, Jesus mentioned the goal of discipling and mentoring these 12 men:

Matthew 10:24-25
A disciple is not above his teacher, or a slave above his master.  It is enough for a disciple to become like his teacher and a slave like his master.

The goal for a disciple is to eventually be just like his teacher.  We say things like this when we meet a young man or woman and we tell them “I knew who your parents were just by the way you looked and the way you acted.”  In the same way, the highest compliment a disciple could receive was being told that they were a perfect reflection of their teacher.

This also explains one of the oddest scenes in any of the gospels – and it takes place just a couple of chapters after Jesus stated the goal of discipling and mentoring. 

The disciples were in a boat, in the middle of a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus walks out on top of the waves toward their boat.  Understandably, the disciples were freaked out…because there appears to be someone walking on the water.  But Peter says something that, at first glance, looks completely out of place:

Matthew 14:28-29
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” He said.
And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus.

Seriously?  It’s storming, visibility’s not all that great, and sure he recognizes Jesus’ voice…but Peter asks to go out there with Him?  If he’s wrong and it’s not Jesus, then Peter just booked a one-way trip to the bottom of the lake.  Why would Peter do something this risky?

Peter’s goal in being Jesus’ disciple was to end up doing everything like Jesus, no matter how outrageous.  If Jesus could, then it would mean that eventually Peter could, too…so why not right now?  At first, Peter is able to walk on the water.  Don’t knock him too much for sinking after actually taking a few steps across the water…he was the only one to get out of the boat!

As a mentor, you’re probably not going to be teaching your protégé how to walk on water.  However, you are going to show them a variety of character traits and Biblical applications that, to them, will feel just as impossible. 

The main reason Peter thought he could be like Jesus was because of the teaching he had received and the time Jesus had invested into him.  Likewise, the more you are willing to open your life, the more the person you mentor will become confident in their ability to live like you.

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Praying for glory

After completing His last teachings on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus informed His disciples:

John 16:33-17:1 I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace.  You will have suffering in this world.  Be courageous!  I have conquered the world.

Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said:

Father, the hour has come.

What Jesus prayed next is commonly referred to as His ‘High Priestly Prayer’.  Since Jesus prayed this in front of His disciples, they would have heard Jesus’ exact desires and petitions to the Father.

Jesus knew what was going to happen that night in the garden.  He knew that His entire life, and especially the last three years, had led up to this night.  The hour of sacrifice had finally come.

In this prayer, Jesus prayed for Himself, the disciples, and all future believers.  He also made some significant statements and requests during this prayer.  The first part of His prayer is for Himself, but His words are not selfish…rather, they are focused on His relationship with the Father:

John 17: 1-3 Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You,
for You gave Him authority over all flesh;
so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him.

This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God,
And the One You have sent – Jesus Christ.

Eternal life – which is both forever-lasting and of excellent quality – is only found in knowing God the Father, through Jesus Christ.  We were created to be in eternal relationship with God.  Jesus affirmed this to the disciples earlier in the night, when He said:

John 13:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.

While Jesus prayed that the Father would glorify Him, Jesus’ aim was to use any honor the Father gave Him as an opportunity to reflect it back.  Glorifying the Father – enriching His reputation and advancing His agenda – was Jesus’ purpose in His life and ministry, and it continued to be his focus as He would head to the cross.

John 17:4-5 I have glorified You on the earth
by completing the work You gave Me to do.

Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence
With the glory I had with You before the world existed.

Jesus begins His ‘High Priestly Prayer’ in the same manner He had previously instructed the disciples to pray:

Matthew 6:9 Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.

Above all else, Jesus was concerned with the Father’s reputation and agenda.  This aim dominated His life and His prayers.  As such, Jesus’ prayer practice matched His prayer teachings, and His example instructs us to focus on God’s glory in the same ways.

Keep Pressing,

Emotions and prayer (part 2)

Have we ever considered that how we pray to God can have an impact on getting what we ask for in prayer?

Maybe that’s why we tend to sanitize our words and feelings when we pray…we’re afraid that if we’re “too emotional” then we’re being “immature” and then God won’t listen.  To compensate for this fear, we pray in a monotone or sing-song voice that we would never, ever use when talking with anyone else.  However, Jesus trusted God the Father with not only his prayers and appeals, but also with his emotions that came out during them.

Hebrews 5:7 During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals, with loud cries and tears, to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.

The author of Hebrews makes an interesting connection between the reverence of Jesus’ prayers and appeals and those requests being granted.  Jesus talked to the Father with full emotion; however, he remained reverent while doing so.  From this, we see that we have the freedom to be open and honest with our feelings and emotions before God, but we do not have license to be disrespectful in our expression of them. 

Think of a selfish child demanding something he wants from his father.  His request will be self-centered, and he will only view his father as a means to the end he desires.  Even if the son’s request is valid, a good father will be more interested in long-term health of their relationship than the particular request of the moment.  The father may decide to delay or deny the request in order to ensure that the relationship is as it should be.

God always has our long-term best in mind, even if we are consumed by our immediate circumstances.

To be reverent means to have a respectful, healthy fear; to proceed with caution, be circumspect, or to exercise discretion.  From Christ’s example, we see that it’s ok to be real with God…however, it is not ok to be rude.  It was these reverent elements of Jesus’ prayers that ensured his requests were heard…and when we remember who God is, we’re more inclined to make requests that are in line with God’s desires.  

So we must ask ourselves: In what ways are my own prayers “reverent”?  Do I keep God the Father as the main focus, do I keep who He is in perspective?  Or since I’ve been adopted into His family, do I sometimes forget that He is the King of Everything?

Perhaps this connection between being reverent and being heard was the reason why Jesus taught his disciples to begin their prayers with

Matthew 6:9
Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Jesus both modeled and taught that we need to reverently remember whom we speak to when we pray.  The main focus of our prayers isn’t us, or even our requests…the main focus is the One we are offering the prayers and appeals to.

So let’s be fully honest and open with God when we pray.  We are free to express our loud cries, our tears, our emotions…but we are not free to forget whom we are petitioning with those feelings.

Keep Pressing,

Forgiveness and prayer (part 2)

While looking at the text of the model prayer that Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount, we’ve found a challenging connection between God forgiving us and our willingness to forgive others:

Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

The verses closely around the model prayer gave us better insight into what Christ meant when he said we should pray that, based upon our forgiveness of others, God would limit his forgiveness of us.

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive people their wrong-doing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrong-doing.

This is a challenging command for us, because we like to compartmentalize our relationships with others away from our relationship with God.  With Jesus teaching that these two areas affect each other, it forces us to look at others in the same manner that God looks at us.

However, part of me wants to argue that I should be able to just talk to God and resolve my issues with him before I worry about resolving any issues with others.  And a passage of Scripture comes to mind that appears to support that desire.

As Christians, we love to quote 1 John 1:9 as the remedy for when we stumble and sin:

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This is a verse that every believer should have memorized.  There is a great assurance of forgiveness found in this verse.  And all unrighteousness means ALL unrighteousness.  In addition to the sins that I confess, this verse tells me that God will also clear our relationship with him of any other sin or error – even if I forgot about a particular sin or didn’t recognize something as sin. 

However, nothing in 1 John 1:9 says I have to forgive anyone else before God forgives me.  So it appears that we have John, a disciple of Jesus, contradicting what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  How do we deal with this?

First of all, we need to remember who the immediate audience is in both passages.  Jesus’ teaching is directed toward those who view him as the Messiah.  John is writing to those who have already placed their faith in Jesus as Savior.  The kind of prayer that John and Jesus are teaching us about is not the “sinner’s prayer” where a person begins a relationship with God by placing their faith in Jesus…the kind of prayer that both are dealing with pertains to our on-going relationship with God as we live our day-to-day lives.

Secondly, the “cure” for this apparent discrepancy is the same skill we applied to understand Matthew 6:12 – we need to look at the surrounding context for 1 John 1:9

1 John 1:6-7 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” and walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

From these verses, we see again that when our faith-walk doesn’t match our faith-talk…our relationships with others AND our relationship with God is affected.  And if, by some chance, we’ve convinced ourselves that we couldn’t possibly be that hypocritical, John has a warning for us:

1 John 1:8-9 If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When we go to God in prayer and expect Him to forgive our sins when we haven’t forgiven others, we deceive ourselves…and are hypocritical before God.  This isn’t to say we can’t talk to God until all relationships are fully healed, rather the aim is to walk in the light as He Himself is in the light and be ready to forgive others, just as God stands ready to forgive us from ALL unrighteousness.

Our Father in Heaven…forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

Keep Pressing,

Forgiveness and prayer (part 1)

We have been taking a close look at what Jesus has prescribed as the model for our prayers:

Matthew 6:9-13 Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

In the middle of Jesus’ model prayer, we find a peculiar statement.

Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

This statement stands out because it is the only conditional statement in the entire model prayer. 

It’s conditional in that it is self-limiting.  In effect, I’m asking God to forgive me to the degree that I have forgiven others.  And that’s a pretty scary thought – because I’m quick to ask God for his forgiveness of my own sins and failings, but I also tend to harbor grudges against those who have hurt me.  To ask for God’s forgiveness when I am unwilling to extend the same grace to others is hypocritical…and how offensive would that be to ask God for something I am unwilling to give to others in my life?

Jesus affirms the importance of this relationship habit when immediately after giving the model prayer, he says

Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive people their wrong-doing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrong-doing.

Christ’s main purpose in the model prayer is the development of the relationship between us and God.  However, it seems that our relationship with others also affects how well we can relate to God.  We demonstrate our own understanding of God’s unconditional forgiveness toward us in how well we forgive those who have wronged us.

Whenever my family members wrong me, or my coworker backstabs me, or my friend neglects me…to the degree that I harbor my anger toward them and let my resentment linger, Jesus says my relationship with the God of the Universe will be hindered! 

When my boys are not getting along, their individual relationships with me are also affected.  There have been plenty of times where we do not move forward until their relationship with each other has been addressed.  My son has no standing with me to ask for forgiveness when he is unwilling to forgive his brother.

I think that is why Jesus includes a direction in his model prayer to pray conditionally about us restoring our relationship with God through our forgiveness of others.

Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

A difficult thing to pray, that is for sure…but keeping it in mind helps guide us to the goal of fulfilling our created design – we were made in God’s image, as a reflection of who he is, so we should forgive like he does.

Keep Pressing,

Pray like this

For those who gathered around Jesus to hear and apply his teachings during the Sermon on the Mount, they were given some specific instructions about prayer.  Jesus has said to pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44), to pray with the aim of talking to God and not for showing off in front of others (Matthew 6:5), and not to babble on and on in an attempt to educate God about our needs because God already knows them (Matthew 6:7-8).

If I were among those in the crowd, I think my head might be hurting a little after hearing this.  Jesus has completely re-arranged what I thought prayer was about.  He has so drastically changed what I have been taught was the purpose of prayer, that I am left wondering how I’m supposed to pray at all.  I can understand what he taught, and I can see why these changes to my praying habits are necessary…but I feel a little unsure of how to apply what Jesus has said.

I am so grateful for what Jesus said next:

Matthew 6:9 Therefore, you should pray like this:

Based upon these new prayer-content instructions, Jesus provides us a model for putting his teaching into practice.  Don’t let its familiarity fool you…look for how Jesus incorporates his teaching into this model of a prayer:

Matthew 6:9-13

Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Jesus’ instruction to love and pray for our enemies is found in the fifth line, where we recognize that our acts of forgiveness for the wrongs committed against us are echoes of how God has forgiven our own wrongs against him.

All pretention and showmanship is removed when we pray the beginning and ending of this model prayer.  The focus is clearly on God – his reputation, his kingdom, his power, and his glory.  There is nothing in these lines that draw the attention back to self.

Lastly, we see no repetition and no instruction to say this prayer repeatedly.  While there are requests, they are only focused on the immediate needs – food for today, forgiveness now, and rescue from the tempting snares set against us.

Matthew 6:9 Therefore, you should pray like this:

Jesus is telling us that based on what we now know, this is what we should do with it.  He has enlightened us with his teaching and has given us a direct path to apply what we’ve learned.  Remember, it’s a model…not a form letter.  A template is meant to be mimicked, but it can also be adjusted slightly, as needed. 

Will we trust Jesus enough to try out his application?

Keep Pressing,


Reflections.  Imitations. 

We’re all echoes of what has been modeled for us, either good or bad.  Growing up we watch our parents, our friends, politicians, sports stars, celebrities – and then decide for ourselves what values and behaviors are worth emulating, and which ones are not.  Nowadays, we “follow” certain people or groups in social media.  When we need help or advice, we seek out people who have succeeded in business, parenting, finances, or leadership…and then put their recommendations into practice.  We’re imitators, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, we were built that way:

Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, overall the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

We are reflections of our Creator.  We are made in his image.  From these verses in Genesis, we find that we represent some of God’s attributes and mimic some of his authority over the rest of creation.

When we find directions in the rest of Scripture to do some things and avoid other activities, they aren’t just rules where God is “bossing us around”.  The guidelines that God spells out in the Bible are there to show us how to best reflect the characteristics of God that he has instilled in us.

Paul wanted Titus to remind the Cretan believers of how the choices they made and the character of their lives would represent God to the morally bankrupt culture which surrounded them.

Titus 3:1-2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

As always, Jesus is our perfect example of how to reflect God to the culture around us.  Looking at his life, we find that Jesus was

subject to rulers and authorities – even the corrupt ones
obedient – he followed through with God the Father’s plan of Salvation, even though it meant his death
ready to do good – he always acted in the best interest of everyone he encountered
slandering no one – he never spoke deceitfully
peaceable and considerate – he always engaged people in the moment, where they were at
true humility toward all men – the King of kings purposely chose to be the servant of all

When we follow Christ’s example, we fulfill our purpose and become what we were created to be.    

Which of these six traits will you reflect today?

Keep Pressing,

Healthy teachings for the younger men

Titus 2:1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.

Paul has listed teachings for the older men, the older women, and for the older women to teach the younger women.  The specific lessons tailored for each group would have presented a special challenge for the original Cretan audience…and now we come to Paul’s prescribed teaching for the young men in the Cretan church:

Titus 2:6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

Paul has given the older men six things to learn, the older women get three things and a direction to be mentors, and the younger women get six things…while the Cretan younger men are only given one topic that is in accord with the healthy teaching of the gospel.

Is this an indication that the young men have it easy or does this imply that there is a male bias in the text?  To solve a question like that, we must first look at the context of the surrounding verses.

Paul’s direction in this verse begins with the word similarly, so we need to ask “similarly to what?”  Since the immediate previous context is Paul explaining how a younger woman’s walk is to be one so that no one will malign the word of God, that same expectation is placed on the younger men as well. 

Also, to encourage means to urge strongly, as well as to invite and exhort…which implies some sort of relationship between Titus and the younger Cretan men.  Paul develops this idea as he continues:

Titus 2:7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good.  In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Although these directions are for Titus, they are also what Titus needs to be modeling to the younger men.  Whether they are actively looking or sub-consciously scanning, young men are constantly watching for another man to be an example for them.  Oftentimes, an older man becomes a role model without even being informed by the younger man.  Perhaps that is why Paul emphasizes several ways that Titus can model self-control.

Self-control is the underlying current that flows through a young man’s life.  To maintain a right frame of mind while the world rages around you and to have sober judgment of the people and situations you daily encounter are life-preserving skills for a young man.  Many younger men have had their lives and their faith shipwrecked due to a lack of self-control.  Notice that Paul says that opposition will come; however, he expects that Titus will be ready for it because his self-control in previous situations have kept him from having a reputation that can be attacked.

Nowadays, a common political trap is to bait your opponent by saying something completely ridiculous, even false against him…and then sitting back and waiting for his response.  This kind of trap is based upon the assumption that the opponent will respond forcefully and quickly…but also recklessly.  A reckless response will typically dig a bigger hole, one that the man will not be able to politically escape from.  His fate is sealed by his own lack of self-control.

Paul doesn’t list one trait for the younger men to learn because he is taking it easy on them.  In fact, the opposite it true!  By narrowing it down to one item, Paul is emphasizing the importance of a young man’s self-control not only in his own life, but also in how he lives out the gospel message.  After coming into a saving relationship with Jesus, in order to represent that relationship so that no one will malign the word of God, the most important lesson a younger man needs is self-control!

If you fit the category of a younger man, ask God to show you the importance of living with self-control.  He will give you the strength needed to bring your passions and emotions under proper control, so they can be put to good use.

If you don’t fit the category of a younger man, please pray for those you know.  Ask God to give them a mentor that consistently displays this characteristic of a Godly man.

Keep Pressing,