As the shephard of our family I’ve been convicted of late and have had to repent. I’ve had to redeem some time over the last few weeks and have been diligent to do a consistant devotion time together. It has been a glorious experience and the Lord is really showing forth a pattern of direction for us as the new year gets underway. But it has also dawned on me that this is manhood training for me as well.
Reading out of the first 4 chapters of Romans, one can hardly escape the blatent repetition of “we have been made right in God’s sight by faith” (righteousness by faith). I am realizing that as a worldly man in my understanding, even my Christianity, I am prone to resort to a “works based” relationship with God. I realize that, that is key characteristic of “worldly manhood”. Pull up your bootstraps and do it yourself. Figure out what needs to be done and do it.
However, I’m learning that redeemed manhood in God’s sight is much different. He looks to the one who becomes a child. A child of Abraham, “for Abraham is the father of all who believe” (Rom 4:16). We are used to law-living from the head(intellect). Tell me what I have to do and I’ll systematically do it. God’s ways revolve around His promises, not that we have to “do it” but that we have to believe on Him (from the heart), to “do it”. It is such a subtle difference and yet it’s the difference betweem grace and works (legalism), ultimately heaven and hell. The simple distance between the head and the heart, 18″, yet so far!
As men, we must learn this foundational element of our religion. (see Hebrews 6:1-3) Our wives and those around us, know and sense the difference between a man following a law and a man touched by the grace that comes through faith. I’ve found it to be the determining factor in the weight our words carry with others, the difference between whether they listen or whether they disregard our testimony. God help us to seek You from our hearts, the only place where Your grace can touch this deep part of our character as we learn to truly live by faith.
Ever felt discouragement? For Christian men, at least by my perception, it is a bit taboo. We have Christ, we are supposed to be happy all the time right? If we’re not happy and content all the time than we can’t possibly be bringing God glory can we? I think this is another misconception created as a result of us men living from our head.
Case in point, I had a race recently, a half marathon. I was trained up to the best my schedule would allow and I didn’t quite make the goal I had hoped for. Missed it by 2 min 45 sec. However, in the days that followed I was faced with a whole load of feelings that sweep over me like a flood. What do I do? Well I’ve learned that I have to be really responsible with this stuff, it is heavy material that has to be handled with care. I’ve got to communicate it with my wife, first, but also my brothers. Men have a way of understanding one another like no one else can, especially a woman. Great encouragement comes through other men who relate to problems we face, without telling us how we should feel about it.
Discouragement is a real, strong feeling that DOES occur in nature! God grows us through it as we let Him work through our fellowship and our honesty about how it affects us. When the world see’s us Christian men with real feelings they will not feel so intimidated by our “righteousness”. God never promises that as Christians, life will be peaches and cream. He does, however, promise to ALWAYS be there to walk us through the difficulties in life with the nearness of His Presence and love. Hallelujah!
So we observed the silent Lord’s Supper last night. In the past years, whenever I partake in communion, I have developed the habit of taking my cracker and breaking it in my hands. Seeing how it breaks and looking at it in humble observance has helped me see the broken body of Christ and has really brought a reality to me of how His body was broken for me.
However, earlier this spring, I went to break my cracker and a whisper in my spirit prompted me to keep it whole. As was the case last night. As I stared at it whole in my hand, it overwhelmed me that the body of Christ is whole, it is complete, perfect in it’s design. His body is US! In all our imperfection, all our inadequacy, together we make up a perfect, nebulous entity that reflects Christ. And that is perfect!
I was personally blessed by the perfection of the body, in the way we, as a body, served together in the Christmas musical and through our latest men’s meeting. One was a large group of men and women all chipping in a little to do a LOT! It was absolutely beautiful in its function, like a well oiled machine. Then you had a group of men, made in God’s image to represent His masculinity to the world, pressing in to know one another better, taking risks with one another, regardless of the depth.
I am honored to be a small part of this beautiful body of Christ. He is masterful in His design of it all and brings glory to Himself through our weakness and willingness to be a part of it.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” The second GREATEST commandment. How many of us do this? “Well, I love my neighbor all the time”, you might say. Turn the question around now, how many of you love youselves? Now that is a much deeper question that requires some real searching to answer.
Here’s my experience with this critical question. You may have already seen it, but check out this guy below, a bit graphic, I know. Does that look like a guy who loves himself? I can tell you the answer is no.
This picture was taken at the height of my leglism days. If you study it, and I invite you to, you’ll see the eyes of a man who had lost himself in his own “righteousness”. NEVER would I have considered the importance and practical ways of how I should have been “loving myself”. I am supposed to deny myself. I am a worm, God is everything, I must deny self “indulgence”. Well, thankfully this mindset broke with the taking of this photo. It helped lift the denial that kept me blind to the need to take care of this temple God lives in. This weight problem was, as I now know, just an outward manifestation of the inward turmoil and emotional upheaval I was supressing through legalistic mindset. I was avoiding the truth inside of me.
I was reminded of these truths I have experienced when I cut a check to our fitness center this morning. I was tempted by my leglistic self to condemn my action of using that money unwisely. Then I heard the whisper, love yourself. Thank you Jesus that you desire me to love me, that you showed me that I am so worth loving.
Reading Job 8-11 this morning took me back to my days of legalism. It reminded me that as a man it is very easy to “go to my head”. Spirituality had become a way to prove myself and, like Job’s friends, I dismissed things of the heart. Feelings, grief, sorrow were all “not allowed” beacause (1) it made me hurt and (2) I certainly didn’t know how to help anyone else feeling those kind of things. Staying in what I knew (in my head) protected me, it insulated me from those hurtful, uncomfortable things. Problem was, it kept me distant from everyone else and from God.
I was unable to relate to anyone having real emotions. Like Job’s friends, the only counsel I could give was “Repent and pray more” (11:13-14). I couldn’t identify with the pain others felt. “If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together… Then I could speak to Him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength.” (9:33) Jesus on the other hand, as a real man, came along and showed us how. He allowed others the freedom to feel. bridging the gap between head and heart. He validated peoples feelings through His spirituality. Proving that not only was it safe, but that we could even relate to our Father through our feelings as He did in the garden before His suffering began. Thanks be to God that He made us with a heart that feels, as a redeemed man, I don’t have to run from it any more!
What’s so manly about weakness? We’ll I grew up being taught, not so much in word, as through my own interpretation, that it was DEFINATELY not manly, to have, and or show, weakness. As a matter of fact, it was pretty much a guarantee that you would get made fun of at a minimum, if any sort of weakness showed. And God forbid a tear be shed in front of “the guys”. That would have solidified your femininity for sure…
Well, having grown through those painful experiences, having sorted out, to some degree, the foundation of my manhood, I have finally come to accept that I AM NOT STRONG! And darnit, that’s ok. God tells me through 2 Corinthians 11-13 that I no longer have to be afraid of being “less than” in front of “the guys”. That I can actually find strength through the admission of my weaknesses. Well HALLEJULAH! Now if we can just practice this with one another, we would provide safety for one another to just be us; warts, weakness and all, without fear of condemnation. That sounds like living to me…
We’ll try to have some encouraging words shared through this forum. Man specific content that will help us all walk a little straighter. Be praying for the further advancment of this medium as God leads!