Men’s Issues


SGC Pastor's Conference 2016 Some of the people who regularly and deeply influence me with the gospel

Yesterday we honored Fathers and their influence on our lives.

However, some of you men (and women) may be so aware of your limitations that you doubt that your life can be an influence for God.

The famous people in the world certainly seem to have far more influence than the people who serve Christ. However, where it counts most, they are completely impotent!  Just as this world will end, so will the influences of those who follow its values. But the influences for Christ’s eternal Kingdom will last as long as his kingdom does!  

To be a godly influence two truths reign supreme:

1.  The focus of our influence must be the Gospel

Romans 1:16 tells us the gospel is “the power of God for salvation”. There is no greater influence we can have on people than for the gospel. This is not just true for unbelievers. Every believer needs regular encouragements in living out the gospel.

2.  The power in our influence is the Holy Spirit

Our influence is not meant to be what we can be to others; it is what the Holy Spirit can accomplish in and through us. Wouldn’t you rather have your potential be what God will do?

Conclusions about our influence through the Holy Spirit and for the gospel:

1.  Our influence goes beyond our abilities (Acts 4:13)     

2.  Our influence goes beyond our what we can see (1 Corinthians 12:21-22) 

3.  Our influence is not lost due to weaknesses or past failure (John 4:16-18 & 39)

General observations concerning being an influence:

1.  Each person you can influence is worth influencing

We often think and act as if we have no vital ministry from God. Yet, every person already in our life needs gospel influences. Perhaps we will be the only person to be praying for them this way!

2.  Every person who can observe you, can be influenced by you

Just by living a life in contrast to the world, we are an influence on those who see us. The people in your life need to be surrounded by those who love and live by the gospel.

3.  Small things can have an effective influence

The key to every godly influence is how God will use that influences. This should encourage us concerning small actions for Christ. If God honors a small action for Him, should we still consider it to be a small thing?

4.  The world desperately needs the influence of the gospel and godliness

At times if feels as if we live in the middle of a swamp of ungodliness. Rather than bemoan this fact, recognize that it sets up a vivid contrast when we live whole-heartedly for God. In our self-centered culture, godliness will stands out and be noticed. Be encouraged that your life can be a place of solid ground in the midst of the swamp.

And while you are at it, do not tire in thanking those who are an influence in your life. They need encouragement too!


Destruction is a word we use to express radical loss.

Destruction is a fearful word for good reason, and destruction is an accurate way to describe the consequences of pornography.

Pornography is a monstrous problem in our culture, in the church – and perhaps in your life.

If you don’t struggle with pornography, you know many people who do!

A struggle that was thought to be mainly a problem for young men, has now seeped into every corner of the culture, affecting men and women – young and old.

Tim Challies regularly provides excellent articles and resources on the subject of pornography through his blog @Challies

In time for Valentine’s Day, he gathered 10 of his best articles covering many aspects of this plague. There are articles specifically geared for men, women, and parents. His list contains a brief synopsis of each article to help you choose which to read.

At the end of the post, Challies gives his suggestions on the most beneficial books to read on purity and pornography, for men and for women.

Pornography is too destructive to ignore.




Sports are a big part of life for many people.

And when it comes to our children – sports can easily take over life.

Do you find that the schedule of your children’s activities seems to be running your life?

Have weekends become exhausting blurs of activity rather than a helpful time of rest?

Does your family time exist only in the activities of your children?

Do you spend less time with your church family because of sports activities?

If your answer is a sheepish yes to any of these questions, you will find this article by Todd Hill to be helpful.

Todd brings balanced and encouraging reflections for Christian parents concerning our children in sports. He reminds us of what to watch out for and how to keep in perspective the even greater importance of our family’s commitment to Christ.

As Todd makes clear, sports are not bad; the problem is when these activities become the ruling activity of life.

I hope all parents will take 5 minutes and read “Do Christian Parents Flirt with the Idol of Sports”.



Last week we held a conference on sexual purity, “Fight to Be Free”. I taught the final session entitled “Come into the Light”. In that message I dealt with three lies Satan uses to draw men into lifestyles of pornography and lust. Here is my outline.



Hell Wants You to Believe

You will not stay pure; it is only a matter of time before you fall. Satan wants you to doubt that real change can happen, so that your actions will lack full conviction

The Truth That the Gospel Gives You

Ephesians 6:16 tells us that faith is a shield to extinguish the darts of Satan: Faith is to take God at his word – so act on it

Sinning again is a possibility, but that we will be pure and whole is the great inevitability

It is true we will be tempted again; but the greater truth is that we are being completed in godliness

“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ”  Philippians 1:6

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it”  1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Satan is a liar who knows the real inevitability

‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet’ Romans 16:20

Applying the Truth

Look for your identity in God’s Word. Look for the declarations of God’s work on behalf of his people

Become more mindful of God’s activity: look for evidences of God’s grace & give thanks for them

Think more often about eternal realities



Hell Wants You to Believe

You are too weak; other Christians can live victoriously, but not you. Satan wants you to think your struggle is unique, your situation is harder and your salvation is weaker

The Truth That the Gospel Gives You

Of course you are weak! But that fact is irrelevant to victory (Eph 6:10-18)

Great Commandment Living is always by the power of God (John 15:5)

Jesus lived and worked on earth in the power of the Holy Spirit

Power at work in you is same power that raised Jesus from the dead & lifted him above enemies (Eph 1:19-21)

The entire Godhead is active in our becoming godly men

  • Our new life of godliness was set in motion by the Father’s will and plan (Phil 2:13)
  • Our godliness is made possible by the all-sufficient work of Jesus Christ
  • Day by day we are empowered to live whole by the Holy Spirit who lives in us

Applying the Truth

Stop listening to yourself and daily preach gospel reality to yourself

Embrace your weakness as wisdom that keeps you abiding in Christ, rather than as a discouragement that leads to giving up

Become more Trinitarian in your praying and thinking



Hell Wants You to Believe

Sensuality and sexual fantasy bring needed happiness. Satan wants you to think there are justifications for “controlled indulgences” in lust

The Truth That the Gospel Gives You

Sin is Empty – it cannot give life or wholeness or fulfill its promises. Sin will never satisfy or be satisfied

Sin always turns on us! It chews up our life without a care for the consequences it brings

True Fulfillment and lasting Joy can only come when we love and submit to God (Eph 3:14-19)

Holiness must be the greatest happiness, because it is to be like our perfect Heavenly Father

Applying the Truth Eph 5:18-21

Be a worshipper who is in awe of God, and who increasingly loves God

Fill life with gospel work, this will regularly bring situations that press us to remain closely connected with God

Be deeply connected with believers who feed your soul and be that to others


“Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” Proverbs 13:24

Wow, to us that may sound like a harsh exaggeration.

How is failure to discipline our children like “hating” them?

Discipline is a necessary part of protecting, shaping and maturing our children. When I was a boy my mother often said:

“We are disciplining you, so you will learn self-discipline”.

Without self-discipline our children will live their lives as a series of foolish, impulsive and self-centered actions. This is not good for our home, their future, or the rest of society which also suffers under their behavior.

There are different ways to discipline our children that are healthy and productive. But the key is to do something and to have a consistent plan with it.

As Christians, we should recognize that teaching our children to obey us, at the same time is training them to obey God.

In reality, we are always training our children – either to obey us or to ignore and disregard us. This training will directly shape how our children respond to God’s commands.

And we ignore His commands at our eternal peril!

Parents, for many reasons it is not easy to discipline our children, but a failure to work at it – is a failure to love our children just like it would be if we failed to feed and clothe them.

Common mistakes parents make in the area of discipline:

1. Making discipline about us rather than about God: this steals from our children the rich spiritual benefits of discipline

2. Poor follow through: telling our children there will be consequences, but not giving them, which teaches them to disregard us

3. Inconsistency in discipline: this removes stability from our children’s lives and makes the principles behind obedience unclear to them

4. Accepting incomplete obedience: this trains sloppy behavior and the practice of doing the least you can. When our children were young, Debbie and I taught them that full obedience involves:

Doing what we ask

When we ask

In the way we ask

And with a right attitude

5. Discipline by emotion: this is leads to inconsistency as well as verbal and physical abuse

6. To correct bad actions, but not bad attitudes: sin is a heart issue, so we need to deal with the heart issues of having a bad attitude

Some thoughts on spanking:

1.  Spanking is for rebellious behavior, not for their mistakes.

2.  Spanking should be controlled and never in anger. Know before you start, the reasonable number of swats you will give

3.  Never be abusive or seek to embarrass them. As children grow older, other forms of discipline become wiser options (taking phones etc. for designated periods, is an excellent way to get their attention)

4.  Spanking is smacks on their bottom, not on their face

5.  The goal of spanking is reconciliation. Explain why you are spanking them first and always immediately affirm your love for them afterward

Another of my mom’s wise sayings:

“Child abuse is not discipline, and discipline is not child abuse”

For more helpful thoughts, read this article by John Piper on the Desiring God website: “Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children”.


Haviland FamilyMatt is in the middle holding his son Miles, and his Dad is on the far left

by Matt Haviland

As a father now looking back I’ve come to appreciate my father and all the lessons I’ve learned from him. He’s the person who’s had the most impact on my spiritual life and as I think about it now there are 5 lessons he taught me on how to be a Christian father.

1. Be A Faithful Husband

My Dad taught me how to love my wife. He’s been faithfully married to my Mom for 40+ years. As a child I knew that my parents loved each other. We had a stable home and that helped me feel secure growing up. My parents had the occasional argument but they were brief and seemed to be resolved quickly. One of the most important things I can do as a father is to love my wife.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25 (RSV)

2. Help Others Even When It’s Uncomfortable

When I was little my dad worked at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. So naturally I got to spend time there growing up. I learned not to judge people because of their circumstances and that it was important to help people who couldn’t help themselves. The lesson of helping others came home one summer when my father moved a family coming from Africa into our basement for a few months. It was uncomfortable to share our small home with another family and share my toys with others who were sometimes destructive.

Looking back that was a great experience that helped me learn to be generous and appreciate other cultures and people that were different.

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13:16 (RSV)

3. Be Spiritually Involved In Your Children’s Life

My dad was the spiritual leader of our home. He took us to church and led by example at home. As my brothers got into Middle School and High School my parents volunteered as youth leaders for our church. Even though I was younger I was dragged to all the youth group events and Bible studies.

Later as a young adult my dad lead an unofficial Bible study at our home. This was a great time of spiritual growth and the birthplace of his famous “hot potato” questions which always created great discussion and debate. I desire to be the spiritual leader in my home as my father was in our home.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4 (RSV)

4. Handle Difficult Situations With Love And Grace.

There were several difficult situations that my dad faced. Disappointments that could easily have led to bitterness and hatred. Instead, he handled them with grace, love and forgiveness. Looking back I can see how God used those difficult situations for good even though they were hard to understand at the time.

“But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” Ephesians 4:7 (RSV)

5. Keep Learning, Growing and Trusting God

My dad was a great example to me of desiring spiritual growth. He was open to learn and grow. I see how he continues to trust God and not rely on his own understanding.

“And so, from the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9-10 (RSV)

I’m thankful for my dad and hope to pass on the lessons I’ve learned from him to my son.

Matthew is a real estate consultant with the Haviland Group at Keller Williams Realty. He is a husband to Katrina, father to Miles and uncle to two nieces and five nephews. Matthew’s real estate blog can be found at


Paone family

by Ed Paone

I have been a father for over 28 years.

What have I learned in that time?

What would I pass on to my three children concerning parenting (I have three young grandchildren and one on the way)?

We are directed by the Bible to constantly teach our children about God. Our family life is to revolve around Him. Every home should be the home described in Deuteronomy 11:19, where fathers are teaching God’s word to their children “…when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

But what is described above is really the end result of something. It doesn’t provide much direction on how to get there. A family doesn’t become more devoted to God through better planning or a resolve to act a certain way without something deeper.

And the something deeper is this – a family is moved in a Godly direction when it’s spiritual leader (that’s us, fellow fathers, whether we assume the responsibility or not) is convinced that it is the best path for their family.

So my advice for fathers is to consider, daily, whether a love for God is truly their priority. Through prayer, the reading of God’s word, and reflection, continually ask yourself basic questions about your faith –

Has God proven Himself faithful to you?

Is His word true, are you moved by the sacrifice of Jesus?

Is His character something you desire to see in your children?

Are you convinced that nothing truly “good” will happen in the lives of your children absent the working of God’s Spirit in them?

How you respond to those questions, and the conviction with which you believe them, will determine how you run your house.

I am struck by just how much my grandchildren reflect their parents at such a young age. They are being molded and changed before they can even consciously decide to act a certain way. So, as time goes on, will they pick up that their dad is most interested in the success of his favorite team, or in the things that he owns or desires to own? Is he proudest of them when they achieve in sports or win an academic award at school?

Or will they see from their dad that his greatest desire is to love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and that all he does is with that in mind?

May we become better fathers to our children by becoming better sons of our God!


by Paul Long

I always wanted to have children, so I am thankful that God blessed me with four of the greatest kids ever.

Being a dad is hard and I don’t claim to be an expert. Often my own sin, laziness and pride get in the way. But God continues to be gracious to me. Here are a few things God has shown me (is showing me) over the years:

1. Read the Bible to your kids

Every night in our house ends with “the routine” – brush teeth, go potty, get in PJs and gather together to read the Bible and pray. Honestly most nights I am hoping my wife will lead “the routine” so I can mindless scroll through Facebook or watch a show in bed (told you I was lazy and sinful). But I know God has called me as dad to be the spiritual leader of the family.

God has used these Bible reading times to open the hearts of my children. We have had great discussions about treasure, heaven, lying, death, and sharing the gospel. I plan to stop reading the Bible to my kids when they move out.

Dads, read the Bible to your kids.

2. Be Present

When it comes to spending time with your kids, what is better – quality time or quantity time? A pastor once said, “You don’t know when the quality time is going to surface, so you have to be attentive and aware as much as possible.”

Dads, your kids need you to be present and that doesn’t just mean at home with your head in your phone or buried in work stuff. Sit on the floor, wrestle and snuggle, play a game, rebuild an engine, go fishing, dance, sing, play hide and seek, read a book for the 500th time.

Dads, be present – because quality moments happen through quantity time.

3. Think Biblically

“God’s word is our guide in all of life” – you probably agree with that statement. But what does it look like in practice in your everyday life? When it comes to your finances, relationships, leisure activities, schedule, decisions, words, attitude and tone of voice, do you think biblically?

Dads, think biblically – compromise in your life will lead your kids astray.

4. Help your children think Biblically.

Our children are always making decisions and I am sure by now you have realized they don’t always make good ones!

Dads, your children need you to help them think biblically.

So when your daughter comes down the steps in an outfit that is just a little too short – help her think biblically.

When your son decides to get a job that will keep him from Sunday worship – help him think biblically.

When your children are fighting over the toy – help them think biblically.

Hold up the biblical standard so that your children know in this home we live by what God has said in his word.

And when your children struggle to think and live biblically, show them that there is help in the person and work of Jesus. Show them that Jesus lived the life they cannot live and he died the death they deserved. Tell them he offers his life and the forgiveness of their failure to meet God’s standard. Tell them this over and over again. Tell them there is grace to help them change.

Dads, help your children think biblically.

Being a father is hard work. If you feel like a failure that’s probably a good place to start; thank God for showing you where you fall short, confess your fatherly failure to Him and your kids. Begin fresh today. Rest in His grace and take a step – your kids need you.


Misguided masculinity

In the Mother’s Day month of May, I gave women a chance to share their voice on the blog. Now in Father’s Day June, the men will have their turn.

by Frank Hamer

The macho mystique of the 70’s shifted to the emasculation the American male in the 80’s and 90’s – a drift from one horrible extreme to another.

And now as we enter the second half of the second decade of the 21st century our society still struggles with a muddled understanding of manhood.

How is it defined?

Who are the role models?

It seems worse now than before.

We see family structure deteriorated, seemingly beyond rescue, each generation drifting further and further into what seems to be a chaotic state of instability and endless confusion.

But it is really nothing new. When men do not embrace the role that they have been created to fulfill then literally ‘all hell breaks loose.’

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)

Central to the fall is of course Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion to God.

But notice that as they ate together they were both abdicating their God–given and commanded roles: Eve as the helpmate to Adam and Adam as the leader / protector of Eve.

They both sinned, but interestingly scripture refers to Adam’s sin in the garden as the stain on the human race that has brought such great misery.

This points us to the grand importance of proper understanding of what it means to be a man….what true masculinity is.

If we do not have a solid grasp of what manhood is in the scheme of God’s design for humanity then how can we not expect families, communities, societies, and cultures not to fall into disorder.

What is going to get things back on track? The same thing it has always taken – men embracing manhood.

As we look ahead to Father’s Day, let’s not just enjoy the special attention that the day brings our way, but also resolve to make a concerted effort to embrace godly masculinity. Don’t abdicate your role and don’t abuse your role.

A good start might be to get together with other men, young and old, and strike out together to encourage one another and show in word and deed to the next generation of men and women what godly masculine character looks like.

Give this generation something to aspire too.

Frank and Lora Hamer are members of Greentree Church. They were both saved by the grace of God at age 39 and subsequently served together in Volgograd, Russia with Straight Ahead Ministries for 19 years.  They have been married 46 years and have 4 children and 20 grandchildren.  “Thankfully our true identity is not in numbers and service…but in the eternal Christ.”


Jesus’ Perspective on Divorce

Matthew 5:31-32

Divorce had become an easy and casual action

The Mosaic Law concerning divorce is found in Deuteronomy 24:1

It says if a husband finds some “indecency” in his wife, he can write a certificate of divorce

The concept of “indecency” had been absurdly broadened to include anything from a barren womb to bad cooking or a big nose

Jesus dismantles this attitude, by narrowing the biblical door

He identifies sexual immorality as an acceptable reason, because the spouse has broken the covenant

Jesus feels so strongly, he calls remarriage of improperly divorced the moral equivalent of adultery (because it’s a defilement of marriage)

Marriage is precious to God, and he hates to see it broken

Divorce at times is allowable, but it is never desirable

The divorce rate in the Church now imitates the world, because the rationale for divorce by Christians now imitates the world

Professing Christians will say, “Isn’t it better to find peace than to stay in an unhappy marriage?”

And Christian “leaders” treat their unbiblical divorces as if they were trials God helps us through rather than sins of disobedience!

What is missing in our thinking about marriage and divorce?

We view family issues as about us, more than about God

We recognize that God speaks about these issues, but we see them as personal

1. Everything about marriage and family life was established by God (Genesis 2:18-24)

God purposefully and uniquely created us as male and female

God established marriage as a man and a woman becoming “one flesh”

2. God views the marriage commitment as a spiritual issue (Malachi 2:14-16)

v14 God is “witnesses” to our marriage

v14 God calls marriage a “covenant”

Three times divorce is referred to as unfaithfulness before God

v15 God describes marriage as a spiritual union

3. Marriage is a picture of Christ and his Church (Ephesians 5:24-32)

vs 24-25 marriage is meant to flow out of our love for Christ

vs 31-32 marriage was established to teach us about the union between Christ and his Church

“Gay marriage” has become an enormous issue today

The church is not against people “loving” someone; but this is obviously not how God created sexuality to work

The Bible is crystal clear that homosexuality is a sinful perversion of sexuality

Gay marriage can never produce the “godly offspring” mentioned in Malachi 2:15 (a gay society would become extinct in one generation)

Only God has the right to define marriage and how it works, the Church cannot change His rules

God established marriage to reflect his values not the world’s values

Every marriage will experience conflict and struggle

This is because two sinners who are naturally selfish have entered a relationship requiring them to live as ‘one flesh’

Marriage is the front line of where we learn Great Commandment living

Whatever your marital problems, apply Great Commandment values

God is the main character in our lives – including in our marriage

So when problems appear, we pursue God’s agenda

If the gospel and the Great Commandment are not our agenda, then our selfishness will become that agenda

What if our spouse rejects the biblical approach to marriage?

Our agenda doesn’t change, because God’s agenda doesn’t

We pray for grace and growth in us and in our spouse – and we keep living for Christ

“But it’s so hard!”  So is disease and financial loss, but we recognize that we keep serving Christ in those circumstances. Difficulty in marriage is no different

Divorce should be rare but it can be biblically acceptable

There are two general biblical grounds given for divorce

1. Sexual immorality in our spouse (Matt 5)

Jesus doesn’t use the word ‘adultery’ he uses the broader term “sexual immorality”

This indicates that different forms of sexual sin and unfaithfulness can be considered

However, it is clear Jesus wants divorce to be a narrow doorway

2. When an unbelieving spouse leaves (1 Corinthians 7:12-16)

How broadly can we interpret this ‘abandonment’?

If a spouse leaves and is excommunicated by the church would be one way, because the Bible says we are to “treat them as an unbeliever”

It is best to take this as a case by case situation, as we look at forms of abuse and abandonment

We always want to be guided by keeping the doorway narrow, yet also be gracious in recognizing there are principles behind the biblical statements given

The Church has different opinion on remarriage, but we feel that whenever divorce is biblically acceptable, so is remarriage

1 Corinthians 7:16 tells us the innocent spouse is not “enslaved”. The same idea is found latter in verse 39, when it says a widowed spouse is no longer bound, but “free” to remarry

What if you divorced and remarried unbiblically?

We should respond as we do with any sin: confess our sin and live holy from now on where we are (the idea that you should now divorce that spouse certainly doesn’t fit the heart of Scripture)

However, we must never think I will divorce now and repent later. That makes a mockery of God and repentance

Yet, neither should the Church create a ‘jail’ of guilt that the divorced person remains in for the rest of their life

For those who have been broken-hearted and wounded by divorce

Know that God truly understands, because He describes himself as a divorced person (Jeremiah 3:6-8), when he sent away the nation of Israel for their spiritual adultery