When the Struggle is Real

“The Struggle is Real”

Struggle

This statement has gained popularity lately, and is usually reserved for “First World Problems” or when something trivial happens that we need to make light of.

I admit, I’ve said it before and got a few laughs.

But what about when the struggle IS real? What are we to make of life when we cannot make light of it?

Life is tough. This reality is inescapable. There will be seasons when the struggle is real.

I have been through a few seasons like that. In fact, I am just coming out of a season like that. For a few months, I was just in a funk. I felt like the Lord was distant and there was nothing I could do about it.

Of course I knew this wasn’t the case, but I certainly didn’t feel it.

All of the Christian clichés in the world couldn’t help me feel better about my situation.

I was struggling. I was suffering.

Suffering is part of the Christian experience. Suffering teaches us lessons that may be learned through no other medium.

As C.S. Lewis says – “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In these moments of pain, suffering, and confusion we are driven to a greater reliance on the Lord. Our faith in the Lord is tested, and forced to grow.

We are forced to lean into the Lord and trust that He will catch us in this time. Allow me to share an analogy that helps me visualize this.

The Jump

I went skydiving last September with a handful of friends from my hometown. I was apprehensive at first, but the challenge was just too much for me to turn down. We all speculated on the drive down that our moment of greatest fear would be as we approached the door for our jump. As the plane begin its ascent, reality began to set in. I turned to my buddy Daniel and said “Well, at this point the fastest way down is going to be by jumping.” He agreed, and we both concluded that since we were strapped in, we pretty much had no choice at this point.

We had to jump.

Just think, here I was, attached to a stranger jumping from 15,000 feet into the blue Florida sky. I was relying on this stranger, and our parachute.

The Jump

Needless to say, I survived.

I have discovered that our walk with the Lord is a lot like this, especially in the realm of suffering.

The Lord often invites us to greater reliance on Him but sometimes He pushes us to the edge so that our only choice is to jump and discover our complete reliance on Him. The latter of these two options is certainly more difficult. It is nice to have the choice to acknowledge my reliance on the Lord as opposed to skydiving into His peace. Either way, the fact is that the Lord is really all I have.

I say all of that to make this point: when the struggle is real, it helps to consider that the Lord is likely using that to make you look more like Him.

That is the goal after all: to look more and more like Jesus.

Recognizing this purpose has not made my struggles any easier, but it has helped me to understand and even be grateful for the experience. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

It is my prayer that if you are in the midst of a trial, that you would jump. Embrace it as an opportunity for growth that could not be achieved any other way. Cling to the Lord and recognize that He is ALWAYS all that you have

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

Psalm 119:50

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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. 

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.

Do Not Be Deceived…

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
1 Corinthians 15:33

This particular blog series has been on my mind for over a month now. I have struggled with it, but I finally committed to tackling the subject head on. The topic for this particular series is deception. Mainly, the lies that are promoted by the world. My focus will be on lies that are told to males and females throughout their entire life. The title is derived from 1 Corinthians 15:33. A simple verse, yes, but I think their is power in the simplicity of this verse.

Lets start with some fundamental truths:

Satan is the Father of Lies
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 
John 8:44
Satan is Ruler of the World
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
John 12:31
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4
World Stands in Opposition to Biblical Truth
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 
Ephesians 6:12

Without going into too much detail, some topics discussed in this series will be:

  • Beauty
  • Masculinity/Femininity
  • Identity

And much, much more.