Walking Wounded

BME 2015

This weekend I attended an annual event hosted by Better Man Ministries here in Central Florida. During the middle of this event, a local Pastor of a very large congregation was recognized for his commitment to advancing the Kingdom of God in his community. He was given a moment to share a few words, and he vividly stated what so many men in that room knew from experience:

“The question is not IF you will be wounded in life, the question is WHEN you will be wounded.”

After he detailed the tragic passing of his grandchild, and the suicide of his son, he then said this:

“The LORD permits what He hates, to accomplish what He loves.”

What a powerful statement, by a wounded man who stood in front of thousands of wounded men.

The odds are good that you have been wounded. Some wounds deeper than others. I know I have. The thing about wounds is that they WILL happen and there is not much you can do about it. You may not be a follower of Christ, but the problem of pain and hurt in your life is no less a reality.

Some people believe and preach that as Christians, we are immune to wounds, but a quick glance at your past proves that to be false. A quick glance at Scripture proves that to be false. Scripture is littered with wounded men and women and we follow a Jesus that was the most wounded of them all.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

Where do wounds come from? What is the source? How are we to deal with them?

Sources of Wounds:

Sin – As a follower of Jesus, I believe THE source of brokenness, loss, and pain in the world is sin. Now, this of course is the Sunday School answer so I will flesh it out a bit. Here are some examples:

Sin against You – Someone turns the sword on you, and wounds you. Abuse, neglect, rejection, denial, hate etc. The act of someone sinning against you that leaves a wound.

Sin against Yourself – You turning the sword on yourself. Destructive habits, addictions, poor choices and their consequences etc. Even if you deny the existence of sin, you cannot deny that some of your decisions have wounded you.

Loss – Broken relationships, death, crushed hopes and dreams etc. If you live long enough, you will lose someone close to you. If you engage in relationship, then there is a chance that it could end for no real reason. That happens sometimes and it still leaves a wound.

How are we to respond?

INVITE OTHERS IN –

Take a look at this story from the Gospel of John.

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-29

You see, this amazes me. Jesus invited Thomas to put his hand into His side. He invited Thomas into His wound. He showed Thomas it was real. He was pierced but He was now alive.

We have to follow this model that Jesus put forward. Invite others in to your wound. Allow them to see that it is real, but you are still alive and moving forward.

BE VULNERABLE AGAIN –

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis

Pain teaches us a lesson: “Do not repeat that action, because it hurts.”

This is why we only touch the hot stove once when our Mom says not to.

It is also why we are less vulnerable after a failed relationship. A failed attempt to love someone. Or love rejected. Our hearts and minds tell us: “Do not repeat that action, because it hurts.”

Apply wisdom when being vulnerable, but absolutely commit to being vulnerable again.

ENGAGE IN LIFE –

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Teddy Roosevelt

Once wounded, our tendency will be to withdraw. That is what pain does; whether it is physical, relational, or emotional. We must fight this tendency. Engage in life. Engage in the battle to advance the mission of Christ. Engage in the gritty, messy, and broken aspects of people’s lives. Jesus stepped down into the muck of our lives, pressed on through wounds, and continues to engage us to this day.

As one wounded person to another, I encourage you to continue walking.

Keep Walking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Measure of a Man

What is the Measure of a Man?

What is the Measure of a Man?

What is the measure of a Man? Is it his bank account? His job title? His athletic prowess? His sexual conquests? His impact on the world?

It is all of these things, according to the world at least.

Heck, even in the church we are guilty of measuring men based on worldly criteria. I know I am guilty of it all the time. We measure men based on their involvement in the church, the size of their family, their leadership, their gifts.

Now don’t get me wrong, all of those things are valuable traits and I am not diminishing them at all. But they are not how we should measure men.

So what is the measure of a Man?

 The degree to which his heart is devoted to the Lord.

This is the only measure that God uses.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7

I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Jeremiah 17:10

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.

2 Kings 23:25

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

2 Chronicles 16:9

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

Matthew 22:36-37

Clearly the Lord sees things differently than we do. He searches our hearts and knows our thoughts. Josiah was recognized for his total devotion to the Lord, and Asa was disciplined for his failure to rely on the Lord in that particular instance. Other translations of 2 Chronicles 16:9 say that the eyes of the Lord “run to and fro throughout the whole earth”.

Just stop and think about that for a moment… God is looking for men with hearts wholly devoted to Him, so he can give them strength!!

And finally we see Jesus affirm that the greatest commandment is to completely devote our hearts (along with soul and mind) to the Lord.

Men in Scripture were measured by the condition of their hearts before the Lord.

And we, men of today, are measured by the same standard.

I pray for you and I pray for myself, I pray for all of us as men- May our hearts be wholly devoted to the Lord today. Amen.

Do Not Be Deceived:Truth

In my previous entries in this blog series I took a look at what the world says men and women are respectively. What defines a man, what characteristics a woman should strive for etc…
Now, I hope to take a look at the truth. As always, we will begin with Scripture. This particular blog has weighed on me because of the nature of the content. What I am about to share has largely been rejected by our culture. It is not popular to “define” gender roles. Christianity is often mischaracterized as a religion that is based on male chauvinism. I pray that I would paint an accurate picture of what the Bible says about this issue.
As I said, the main source I will use is the Bible. For the individuals that do not believe the Bible is sufficient, I plan on adding support from science and my own observations.
The Truth
We are made in God’s image, and that means that we are made with characteristics that reflect attributes of God. Both Man and Woman are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). So I am going to conclude that Men have attributes that reflect God and women have attributes that reflect God.
Lets begin by looking at the men.  If you recall in my previous section about men (found here) I listed Power, Sex, Health/Sports, Money, Cars, Celebrities, and Fashion as masculine attributes that are praised by our culture.
The best place to begin is with Adam. Adam was the first man and he existed prior to sin entering the world.
The story of man prior to sin can be found in Genesis 1:26- 2:25. Using this text, we can discover a large portion of the truth about men.
When viewing this text there are three main attributes that jump out-
·      Dominion:
a.     God grants man (along with woman) dominion over all of the creatures of the earth.
                                               i.     Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
b.     God instructs man (along with woman) to fill the earth and subdue it.
                                               i.     God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
·      Work/Labor:
a.     Prior to popular belief, work existed before the Fall of Man.
                                               i.     Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earthand no plant had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, (2:5)
                                            ii.     The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (2:15)
 Follower of the Law:
a.     The First instance of God’s law is in Genesis 2:16
                                              i.     And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Now, the remainder of the truth about men will be found in the rest of Scripture. (And as I said before, for those of you that don’t feel Scripture is sufficient, I will include scientific support along with my observations.)
·      Warrior:
a.     Men, created in God’s image, are made to be warriors.
                                               i.     Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Psalm 24:8
                                             ii.     Biblical examples include- Joshua, Samson, David.
                                            iii.     Scientific Support- Anatomically speaking men are better suited for war. They have greater muscle mass, larger lungs and hearts, thicker skin, thicker skulls, stronger bones/ligaments/tendons and they are better adapted to walk and run.
Provider:
a.     The role of men as provider for their household is established in Genesis and reiterated throughout the Bible.
                                               i.     Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  1 Timothy 5:8
                                             ii.     He who gathers crops in summer is a prudent son,  but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son. Proverbs 10:5
                                            iii.     Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty. Proverbs 28:19
·      Resident Theologian:
a.     Men are to be knowledgeable regarding Scripture and the spiritual leaders of their homes
                                               i.     Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
                                             ii.     Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her  to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word- Ephesians 5: 25
                                            iii.     Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 6:5-9
·      Headship:
a.     The final attribute, and perhaps the most widely rejected by our culture, is the attribute of headship. Essentially, men are supposed to lead. The opposite of male headship is male domination.
b.     Headship is established in Genesis, and reiterated with the example of Christ.
                                               i.     The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18
1.     Note- Men and Women are equal, but the role of man is to lead and the role of woman is to help. Additionally, the word “Helper” in this text is actually a very powerful word. The same word is used in Psalm 33:20- We wait in hope for the LORD;  he is our help and our shield.
                                             ii.     And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. Colossians 1:18
                                            iii.     For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Ephesians 5:23
Closing Remarks on Men:
It is said that the most dangerous lies are the ones that most closely resemble the truth, and I believe that is the case when it comes to men and the attribute of power specifically. Our culture associates power with male domination, which is then mischaracterized as “headship”. This is a lie that closely resembles truth.
Now on to women.
If you recall in my previous blog about women (found here) I listed Beauty, Fashion, Independence, Sexual Prowess and Fitness/Health as feminine attributes that are praised by our culture.
Lets return to Genesis, because that is where we will find Eve. The first woman. She also existed prior to the Fall. Again we look to Genesis 1:26- 2:25.
There are just three main attributes that jump out:
·      Dominion:
a.     Women share in the dominion granted to men in Genesis 1:26-30. Notice the words “They” and “Them”. Men and Women were created to have dominion together and subdue the earth together. Which leads me to my next point—
·      Child Bearer:
a.     One attribute that is under assault by our culture is the attribute of child bearing.  (In the US alone approximately 4,000 abortions occur each day. Don’t tell me that our culture values child bearing.)
                                               i.     God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.
·      Helper:
a.     The role of Helper is established in Genesis 2:18.
                                               i.     The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Some Biblical examples include Eve, Sarah, Ruth, Esther and Mary.
Side Note- Consider the genealogy of Christ and the mere fact that women are included. (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba.) The claim that the Bible denigrates women is simply false.
Now, before you get upset about how short this section is on women, I want to change up the structure a little bit and just speak from the heart. One of the greatest attributes of God that women reflect is this- Beauty. It is important to note that physical beauty is given very little value in the Bible. The famous Proverbs 31 lists beauty as “fleeting”.  In fact, the Bible says “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”.  1 Peter 3:3-4
I would argue that this attribute is under direct assault from our culture and Satan himself. Beauty is defined as being a certain height, weight, hair color and skin complexion. (Among other things.)
This is what I gather from Genesis:
Women are the crown of creation. If we look at the creation account in Genesis we see that each event gets progressively more complex. And each time, God saw that it was good. And on the final day, God saw all that He made and said it was very good.
The first time that God concludes that something is not good, is when man is alone. He then creates woman. Did you catch that?  In the creation process, the final thing that God creates, is woman. Crown of creation.
Women reflect the beauty, grace, and elegance of God in a way that men are incapable of doing. Conversely, men reflect the power, strength and warrior nature of God in a way that women are incapable of doing. And that is just fine, because men and women are different!
Closing Remarks on Women:
The Biblical picture of the male-female relationship is terribly mischaracterized by our culture. Men are painted as the dominant and aggressive leader while women are painted as the quiet and subservient housewife. Again, this is false. This is particularly relevant to the marriage relationship.
When viewing this relationship properly, one word comes to mind: Sacrifice. People take Ephesians 5: 22-23 and say “Hey, this is proof that women must submit to their husbands” or they will say “See how the Bible paints women, I don’t believe in that.”
But nobody bothers to read just a few verses down where Paul addresses men and delivers one of the most profound statements on this issue when he says- Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Now, ponder that for a moment. “Just as Christ loved the church”. This begs the question: How exactly did Christ love the church? The answer to this question completely changes the dynamic of the relationship. When we look at how Christ loved the church, we see the purest form of sacrificial love. We see humility. We see grace. We see redemption. We see blood shed on a Cross.
This perspective changes everything.
Final Thoughts:
Our culture has rejected this truth and replaced it with an absolute lie. I covered what our culture says about men and women in my previous posts, but I want to make one final point.
Are we really better off since adopting the cultural “truth” about men and women?  Because the culture tells us that Biblical principles are outdated and unnecessary. But is that claim true?
The simple answer is No.
Consider this:
1.     Half of all marriages end in divorce
2.     Only 51% of Americans are married. For some perspective, the number was 72% in 1960.
3.     Cohabitation, Single person households, and single parents have all increased since 1960.
As we can see, the deception that we have bought into has not yielded positive results. Moving forward, as Christians, it is absolutely essential for us to stand for truth. And the only way we can do that is by seeking to be True Men and Women of God.

Uncomfortable Words

Uncomfortable Words. An unusual title indeed. But in my never ending quest for truth, I thought it necessary to investigate various words that make us (men) uncomfortable. Words that make us cringe when we hear them or use them. Better yet, words that when put to practice, challenge us to our very core.

Here we go-

  • Intimacy

    • The concept of intimacy is completely contradictory to the “Macho Man” persona perpetuated by our culture. In fact, the only intimacy that is even mentioned in our culture is sexual intimacy. But relational and physical intimacy at any other level are rarely (if ever) discussed by men. 
    • Truth- God wishes to have an intimate relationship with us.
    • Example
      • John 
        • John describes himself as the “Disciple whom Jesus loved”. 
      • David
        • Described as a man after “God’s own heart”.
  • Gentle (Gentleness)
    • According to society- Gentleness = Weakness
    • Truth- Gentleness is a component of the Fruit of the Spirit. 
      • Personal Note- I think of Gentleness as power under control. Think Gentle Giant. Think of a father holding a child. Think of a Lion carrying its cubs. But we have to think of this on a deeper level. Think deeper than physical power. Think about our words. Consider the power a father holds over his children. He has the power to build up or tear down his children with just his words.  
      • “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
    • Example- 
      • Christ
        • Just think, the Creator of the universe and everything in it, could still place His hands on children in a gentle manner. 
        • “Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” -Matthew 19:13-15
  • Humble (Humility)
    • Lets face it men, humility is not our default setting. 
    • Being humble goes against 
      1.  Our sin nature 
      2.  What society promotes
    • Truth- Humility is a Godly trait and is absolutely necessary for a growing relationship with God (or anyone else for that matter). 
    • He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. – Proverbs 3:34 
    • Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. – James 4:10 

  • Submission
    •  Submission is a word that is often directed at women in a negative way. Critics of Christianity use this as their basis for saying the Bible is a male dominated religion that denigrates women. 
    • Truth- Submission is for both men and women.
    • Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. -Ephesians 5:21

This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good start. We must seek truth and view everything through the lens of Scripture.

That is all I have for now.

– B. 

Proverbs 4:23: Guarding Your Heart

Today I am going to take a look at a concept that I believe is neglected by my generation. As a young adult, I am sharing from experience and observation. The concept I am discussing is guarding your heart. My generation excels at many things, but guarding our heart is not one of them.

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23

This verse is well known, but how much do we practice it? Do we actively guard our heart? Do we believe it is in fact the wellspring of life? Do we even know how to guard our heart?

The answer for my generation is an emphatic “NO”. I’ve experienced the consequences of an unguarded heart. I’ve observed the damage done to close friends due to unguarded hearts. It is not a pretty sight. Christians and Non-Christians struggle with this concept.

With that being said, I want to examine the condition of an unguarded heart.
An unguarded heart is just that, not guarded. Easily harmed.
Question- Would you leave your most valuable possession unguarded for an extended period of time?…Yeah, didn’t think so. So why do we do it with our heart? The Bible says ABOVE ALL ELSE guard your heart. Let me give a few examples before I answer the question:

1) Unguarded heart in a relationship 
In a dating relationship it looks something like this-
Boy meets girl and there is a “spark”. Commonly called chemistry. A short amount of time passes and the boy and girl are communicating openly about everything. More time passes and the two individuals begin to date. By this time, serious connections are being made. Then, the breaking point is reached. The spark fades and the relationship ends. Regardless of who ended the relationship, both hearts are wounded. The depth of the wound will have a direct connection to the depth of their connection. Both individuals move on, but in most cases they carry the wound for a long time, and also into their next relationship.

(Notice the use of “boy” and “girl” in that example. A point I want to make is that a Man will do his best to protect his heart and the heart of the Woman he pursues.)

2) Simple imagery 
Imagine taking two whole pieces of Play Doh and sticking them together, and after a time, ripping them apart. Now, imagine doing that over and over again. What happens? Well, our once pure piece of Play Doh is now littered with several other pieces of Play Doh and pieces of it are missing.

This is how my generation does relationships. We attach our heart over and over again just to get it tainted over time by failed relationships.

Back to the question: Why do we leave our heart unguarded?
I think there are two main reasons-

1) We do not believe our heart is that valuable
2) We do not know how to guard our heart

 

The Bible is true, yes, we believe that. But do we believe that it is sufficient? We must be absolutely convicted that the Bible is sufficient. All of the truth that we need is found in the Bible.
Because if we do not believe the Bible is sufficient, then we will find “truth” in the world.
Find truth in the Word, not the world.
Next point- Not knowing how to guard our heart is not an excuse. Learn. Seek guidance. See what the Bible has to say about the issue. My answer to the question of how to guard your heart centers around Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
The answer is simple: Allow Christ to guard your heart.
If your heart is wounded, allow Him to restore it. Make His Word the manual by which you live your life.
Believe what the Bible says- Your heart is valuable, guard it ABOVE ALL ELSE. 

Do Not Be Deceived: Men

The question I am seeking to answer in this entry is “What does the world say a man is?”

What makes a man: great, strong, powerful, and attractive?

If you are reading this, then I challenge you with this question- What lies have you believed about men? What do you think a man is?

Because here is the reality- We are constantly bombarded with messages to the point that we become numb to what we are seeing, hearing, believing etc. And in this assault of lies, we inevitably accept some of the lies as truth. This is convicting for me (as many of my blogs are) because at some point or another, I have probably accepted these lies as truth.

Disclaimer- While reading this, I imagine you will tell yourself- “I dont believe this, no way.” But the question I submit to you is this- Do your actions match your stated beliefs? Consider that as we evaluate what the world says about a man.

Here we go- What does the world say a man is?

My research on this was very simple. I simply typed “Men” into the search bar. I came to a very popular website. http://www.askmen.com/

I have made some observations based off of AskMen.

  1. Power- Power is a masculine attribute. Powerful men are important. Power is something a man should strive for. Power comes from position, influence and money.
  2. Sex- Sex is nothing more than a recreational activity that is a common act between people, whether they are in a relationship or not. Men are encouraged to hone their sexual skills and conquer as many women as they so choose. Sexual urges are normal and they should not be inhibited in any way.
  3. Health and Sports- The world praises athletes. Our culture glorifies exceptional athletes. Men that have athletic prowess are generally highly regarded. Fitness is also very important. Men are expected to be in great shape.
  4. Money-  Money means everything, especially for men. A man that makes a lot of money is very successful.
  5. Cars- Nice cars symbolize success and status.
  6. Celebrities- Celebrities are the ultimate measuring stick for a man. They have money, power, and status.
  7. Fashion- Fashion is just another way to show that we are wealthy or powerful. How we dress determines the type of man that we are.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is more than adequate. Now,  moving on to Women.