Despair and Depression

Jody Burkeen is the founder of Man Up God’s Way Ministries, birthed out of his desire to help change the way Christian men “do” Christianity. He has been one of the seminar speakers at several of the Iron Sharpens Iron Conferences hosted by Relevant Practical Ministry for Men. Jody contributed the following article for the blog:

What a week … business problems, church problems, people problems. It seems all of a sudden that nothing but problems are in my life.

A few months ago, I felt as if our business was unstoppable—boy, was I wrong. Business has slowed almost to a stop. I do see light at the end of the tunnel; I just hope it’s not a train.

The strains of church have taken hold as well. With the economy, the world problems and individual struggles, people are starting to become depressed and despairing—through which comes with lots of counsel.  

With all of this going on, it has taken my focus off of God and placed it on me. That’s not a good place to be. I don’t know about you, but when I do that, depression and desperation kick in. This seems to be where the whole world is right now.

We are all so focused on ourselves that we have forgotten others are suffering as well. We are focused on the physical instead of the spiritual. This is where Satan wants us, because now he’s in control. Taking our focus off of God and focusing on ourselves gives Satan the opportunity to play games with our minds—thus the depression and desperation.

So yesterday, as I was wallowing in my own pity, a ministry opportunity came about and I was able to help someone who was in need. This person was in desperate need of some help, counsel and prayer. I was able to help, and for a moment all my depression and despair went away. It was a wonderful feeling.

Imagine if just for a moment we took all our self-centered focus and placed it on those around us. How awesome would it be? Imagine how little depression and desperation there would be in the world.

Now imagine if we stayed in the Word every day, we applied it to our lives, and we stayed focused on the others around us. That’s a world I want to live in. We would be rid of depression and desperation once and for all. But any time we take our focus off of God, sooner or later the double-Ds will kick in.

So try this with me. Let’s all stay in the Word, keep our focus on God and others, and then see how you and I feel. Let me know the success you have.

I would bet it’s a better place than being depressed and despairing. I saw a glimpse of that yesterday in Psalm 32:7(NASB):

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance .

God bless, and share your faith.

For more from Jody Burkeen, you can check out the other article he contributed to our blog – “Tough Questions to Ask Yourself”. You can also visit the Man Up God’s Way Ministries Website.

Review – Training and Speaking

Our staff is the greatest resource we have to offer. The Relevant Practical Ministry for Men staff have over 15 years of experience focusing on men, specifically men’s discipleship. The vision of RPM is not to put on great conferences or epic men’s events. Our vision is to come alongside the local church and equip them to execute effective and sustainable ministry to the men in their respective congregations.

Coaching logoWe offer affordable coaching for you and the men of your church. We can come lead 4 hour trainings on reaching and gathering your men. We can also come and meet with your leadership team and give you guidance in re-energizing your ministry to men. We want to help you build a sustainable disciple-making ministry to all the men in your church. We are your local experts – laser-focused on men’s discipleship.

We believe that reaching men will impact every area of your church. The impact of effectively discipling men will ripple outward to marriages, families, workplaces, communities and beyond to advance the Kingdom of God.

Besides coaching we also offer our staff as a resource to facilitate curriculum – such as those listed on our Curriculum Page. We are available to come bring a compelling, relevant message for your men’s event, breakfast gathering, or special event like your “Wild Game” night or men’s retreat.

We believe that our staff could be a great resource to you and the men in your church. We would love to come meet with you and pray with you, encourage you and equip you. You can visit to our website and see some of the training we offer or we can send you one of the ministry brochures for you to look and pray over. You are welcome to contact us through the Contact page above or through our website.

What Is God Teaching Me

Sometimes I think it is impossible to determine just what God isn’t teaching me! I seem to arrive somewhere in my walk only to find out I have much further to go and doubt I will ever arrive!

The freshest lesson God is teaching me is about idol worship. John Calvin said:

The human heart is an idol factory… Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols

Idol FactoryWe went through a study in our church several years ago which spoke about heart idols. During that study the seed was planted for me to start a self-examination process. I can’t remember all the different idols that study called out, but some of the main ones were: control, approval, success, and recognition. I remember thinking: “Holy cow! How many idols can one person have?!” Then the quote from Calvin came to me and I realized I could have a lot, since I had an idol factory in me.

Fast forward to the last 6 weeks. I am going through another study with a group of men, the subject of heart idols was the topic.

Problem Emotions

This time the main ones identified were: control, comfort and significance. Reading the material and watching the videos I was convicted again that I am pretty sure I suffer from aspects of all three of these. I did determine though that right now control was chief deep idol. The attribute of that idol in me displays itself as fear. The idol of control leads me to be almost physically paralyzed at times in fear.

So what is it God is trying to teach me?

Trust in Him. My control wants to take the wheel from God! How absurd is that, right? Like God is my co-pilot and I am the pilot. No! God is sovereign. God is in complete control. And I am not only not the co-pilot, I need be thankful I even have a seat on His plane!

Perhaps that is why a dear friend years ago gave me the little desk plaque with Proverbs 3:5-7 on it!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes;

fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

By trusting that God is in complete control, I don’t have to be. When I realize I don’t have to be in control the fear goes away and the peace that surpasses all understanding comes over my heart to guard it in Christ Jesus!

Resources to Help You Flee Porn

The issue of men who struggle with pornography is not going away. The temptation has only increased with the access of the web from our phones, iPads and the old standby – our computers! I don’t know who this quote originated with but I use it frequently: “There are two kinds of men – those who struggle with porn and those who lie about it.”

Literally just a few weeks ago, at a Good Friday event in my church I found myself talking with one of the young men in my church about his struggle with porn. I applaud him for his transparency to share this with me. This conversation reminds me of 1 John 1:9, which says:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

There are great resources out there to help men get a handle on this grave temptation. The need to be honest with other men is paramount in initially dealing with this issue and for ongoing accountability. I know in the early years of my struggle and profession I would literally call another man when I was feeling the urge to submit to the temptation, which I think is a key deterrent. There is something about speaking it out loud that called it out in the light and allowed me to flee – like it talks about in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20:

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

A mentor of mine also had the sage advice to just keep saying Jesus’ name out loud over and over. Also I found helpful to commit to memory this key scripture – Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

So what do we do when we don’t yield to that wisdom and we click on the image or type in a search we know will yield results?

Cry out to God! Psalm 107:19-21

There are two great web based resources that I would recommend, both personally and as RPM recommended resources. The first resource is Covenant Eyes. This is a program that actually blocks you from questionable sites. It works by BLOCKING access.

The second, and my preferred resource, is XXX Church. I have been a member of this service for over 10 years (I think I may have started using it shortly after it was developed). As I explained to the young man at church a few weeks ago, this resource doesn’t stop you from going to the sites. What it does is send a report of any questionable sites you have viewed on any device you have installed their software on. You choose who receives the e mails. I still use the free service, but the paid service is very affordable and gives you some additional bells and whistles over the free service.

Regardless of which one of these resources you choose, choose one of them.

I cannot emphasize enough that above any resource it is a must that you tell someone about your struggle. Read and pray David’s psalm of confession and repentance – Psalm 51. Drag this struggle out into the light of the gospel. Confess and repent when you fail. Run to the cross. Run to Jesus. Fill your heart with God’s good word. It’s no mistake that I included so much Scripture in this post, not to weigh down your hearts with the Law, but to offer Life the way only the Word of God can. Proverbs 27:17:

 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

The links again for the resources I would recommend are:

Covenant Eyes web site: http://www.covenanteyes.com/

XXX Church web site:   http://www.xxxchurch.com/

Coming Clean

I don’t know about you, but for me – God continues to work in me, especially when I lead or speak on something and then have to deal with that very issue in my life! It happens all the time! I wrote the following archived article in 2008 about a subject I was teaching that the Lord turned around to work out in me.

At the time I originally wrote this I was leading a Men’s Fraternity class on Tuesday mornings… and it began in that class when we went over how men must live above their “feelings” to be an authentic man. Now I don’t have the time to go into to that for this story, but maybe it can be a topic for a later time. For now the idea that we discussed it in our small group is enough of a background. Then I wrote an email update that it’s not about man’s desires but God’s, which in a way is tied to the concept of living above our feelings. Then to top it off, I had the privilege and honor of speaking at a men’s meeting that Saturday and it was on Authentic Manhood, where as part of that short talk, I spoke about men needing to live above their feelings!

OK I failed at this concept. I received a phone call from a friend and brother in Christ, who explained to me how he would not be able to fulfill a commitment for something we were doing together. So I can show some maturity here, I didn’t yell or scream, or make a big scene. I did let my feelings get in the way as I expressed how hard this was going to be for me, what a tough spot this put me in, and probably a few other guilt trips I threw in for free to my friend. Let me add here my friend’s reason was 100% legitimate, he needed to stay home and attend his son’s high school basketball game for the state championship and his son is a senior in high school, so trust me the problem was not on his end of the phone but mine! That being said, my friend did feel bad and he sent me an e mail with a contingency plan and asking me for forgiveness! So nice to have spiritually mature friends, isn’t it?  The bad part is as soon as we hung the phone I knew I had let my flesh, my desires, my feelings, win!

God began doing a work in me and I was under conviction, but I ran for a couple days because I did have a lot going on that week – finalizing the Springfield Iron Sharpens Iron conference, closing up loose ends from the St. Louis conference, going to a preview day with our oldest daughter to a college up near Chicago, speaking Saturday at the men’s breakfast. See I could justify not dealing with it for a while, but God never let up in dealing with my heart. Thank you, Jesus!

Here is where it came to an end, I got up Sunday morning spent some time reading a chapter in Matthew, and thought about the church service I was about to attend. We offer the Lord’s supper, or communion, every Sunday, and not every time but quite often as our pastor invites us to partake in this, he reminds us that if we have something with a brother we are to reconcile that before we take this meal. So with all the conviction I was already under by the Holy Spirit, this was where I broke, and the realization of my sinfulness came to light. So I called my dear friend and told him how sorry I was and how I had let my flesh get in the way, and I asked his forgiveness. Being the friend and follower of Christ he is, he accepted my request.

Matthew 18:21-35 is the parable of the unforgiving debtor. I would challenge you to read that passage now, as it speaks of forgiveness and un-forgiveness. It ends with this in verse 35:

My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.

God has forgiven me of so much! How can I ever not forgive others? I thank God for my friend, because he knows this too, and so he can forgive me from his heart! And that is a great thing!

Men, who do you need to forgive from your heart? Who do you need to call or write or pray for forgiveness from today? Don’t wait, humble yourself before God. He will honor that, because that is His promise to each of us.

Discipleship = Action

Jesus said, “Follow me!” in Matthew 9:9 and Matthew rose and followed Him!

In Luke 9:23, Jesus said:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Paul said “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Matthew 10:5 says, “These twelve Jesus sent out…”

These are just a few direct commands which clearly show that being a disciple requires ACTION!!! We only need read on where these quotes come from to know not only is action required but there is work, sacrifice and major risks involved.

So men,

Who are you following?
Who are you calling back to, to follow you?

 

If you are married, one of the primary disciples you should be investing in is your wife. If you have children, then you have your own “band” of disciples, who you should be equipping and preparing to send – even to send to the soccer field or the ballet class.

Don’t feel adequate? Good! It is only by God’s grace that we can lead others. It is only by the work of digging into God’s word and asking for help from other mature men of God investing in you that this works. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 sums it up like this:

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

 

 

Thank You to Iron Sharpens Iron Leadership and Volunteers

The Iron Sharpens Iron conferences are a huge part of our ministry. But now that all 3 of our 2014 conferences are over and the dust has settled, we want to take some time to thank the people without whom we would not be able to orchestrate said conferences. Our post today will name and highlight people we greatly appreciate.

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This is our 7th year hosting Iron Sharpens Iron in O’Fallon, IL. We had 545 men representing 60 churches in attendance for our conference in O’Fallon this February. We want to thank Gary Robinson, Sam Marshall, Willie Jones, David Boul, Larry Vossel, Alan Thuenemann, Konrad Kloos, TJ Norrenberns and Bill Breen who served on the leadership team. These men make it possible to pull off the O’Fallon conference year after year and we are grateful for their help.

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This is our 8th year hosting Iron Sharpens Iron in Springfield, IL. We had just over 900 men representing 90 churches in attendance at our conference in Springfield, IL this March. But this conference would not happen without Bill Schomburg, Bernie Lutchman, Jeff Polk, George Krebs, John Swinford, Bryan Brooksbank and Brad Clair who serve as the leadership team. We also want to thank those of you who came out to volunteer in Springfield.

Two weeks ago, we hosted our 3rd Iron Sharpens Iron conference in Champaign, IL. The conference was a great success thanks to Randy Crothers, Sean Ready, Rick Morlan, Steve Mechling, Thad Myers, Les Seggebruch, and Mark Bezdon who comprise the leadership team for that conference. Thank you for all your hard work to make this conference possible for the 360 men who attended, representing over 40 churches.

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We are also blessed to have an incredible worship team that lead over 1800 men at the three conferences in Christ-centered worship. These men put in hours of practice leading up to the first conference in February, giving up time with their families to travel to O’Fallon and Champaign, as well as performing in Springfield their home conference. The band is made up of men from 5 different area churches. Nic Cook and Chase Carlisle co-led the band this year. The other men are: Mike Wallace, Dave Brown, Scot Volger, Dan Arseneau, Josh Staley, Andy Louderman, Jeff Kruger and Aaron Havard.

There is another group that needs to be named that serve in specific and key ways at all three ISI conference:
My wife Jan Cheshire does incredible jobs each year like preparing a delicious home cooked meal for all the volunteers, speakers, exhibitors and various support folks on Friday night as we set up. She also does ALL the mailings sending out the wristbands and tip card and packets! She also my personal prayer warrior, encourager. IMG_4138Tom Gensler is an incredible personal support at the O’Fallon and Springfield conferences and this year lead out in Champaign, where I served him and marveled at his leadership this year. Matt and Casey Baldwin joined us this year as our audio recording team and brought a great spirit and enthusiasm to all three conferences! My oldest daughter, Amelia, flew back from Portland, OR where she is living and doing ministry to assist me in O’Fallon. Mandi Rebman served the men with her unique spark in Springfield and Champaign. Last but certainly not least, my dear friend Scott Brindley who was instrumental in my spiritual growth and execution on the Springfield conference for the last 7 years went home to be with the Lord in August of 2013, but his sweet wife Miriam (Mim) joined us and served in some key roles at Springfield and Champaign which was a sweet blessing in so many ways!

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Undoubtedly I have missed someone in today’s posts to thank those who helped with our Iron Sharpens Iron conferences… There are a huge host of nameless volunteers at all three conferences who come and stuff bags, set up chairs, drive people to and from the airport, open their homes to house some of the speakers and lead team.
These conferences could not run as smoothly and efficiently without everyone doing their part and we thank God for each and every one of you!