Apr 17, 2018

The Tetraodontidae

But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
~1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV)

            Whether it’s scuba diving or snorkeling it’s always exciting to spot Tetraodontidae—a type of fish that you may know as the Pufferfish, Balloonfish, Blowfish, Bubblefish, Globefish, or Swellfish.
One of the Blowfish’s defense mechanisms is to fill it extremely elastic stomach with water (or air when outside the water) until it is almost spherical in shape. Although highly effective in warding off predators, in its inflated state it loses the ability to navigate throughout the water! It just kind of floats around as if to say, “I’m the biggest, toughest fish in the ocean, so don’t mess with me, buddy!”
We men struggle with what I call the “Blowfish Mentality” where we try to look bigger and better than we actually are. While on an elk hunt in September of 2017 I had an epiphany where God revealed some reasons why I puff myself up instead of building others up. That’s a story best told over a cup of coffee between friends. 
We love to do this when we interact with other men. Our natural propensity is to puff ourselves up at the expense of those around us. 
But the Bible tells us something quite opposite; “knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). In other words, we are called to build each other up, to love them, and pump them up. 
Here’s a great way to test whether I’ve backslidden into the Blow Fish mentality. When I’m done talking to someone do they leave thinking how great they are, and how great God is? 
Or, do they walk away thinking how great I am? Ouch. It hurts every time I’m
reminded of self-inflating conversations from my past. John the Baptist is one of the greatest men ever because he lived to build up Jesus saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
            Who do you need to inflate today? How do you need to deflate yourself to do this?

Apr 10, 2018

Defending the Feminine Heart

“I am convinced there’s no greater call today. This is our top priority, to become walls for our daughters: His daughters.”

~ Jeff Voth, Defending the Feminine Heart

Recently, I was in the paint store buying supplies to paint our bedroom and to fulfill a promise I made to Shanna. The store was fairly quiet with a woman clerk helping another female customer, I was talking to a buddy I hadn’t seen in a while, and another clerk was in the back helping a customer. 
            Suddenly the calm was interrupted when I nine-year-old boy kicked open the front door, screamed, “Bitches!” and ran off. At first, I was shocked silent. The women were horrified. All of us were petrified. 
            Then it happened. Something fierce escalated with-in me. A fire began to burn. My adrenaline kicked in. My body temperature rose. I looked at my buddy and took off running. I must have been an ominous sight to this young truant as he was clearly caught off guard when I reached out to grab him. 
            He dodged me. He was lucky. But something in my eyes told him he was getting ready to battle with a giant he couldn’t defeat and he turned back towards the store with me uncomfortably close by. 
            Clearly angry I said, “You can say what you want to men and we will deal with it like men, but you DO NOT talk to women that way. Do you understand me (I didn’t wait for his answer)? Get in there and apologize!”
            He did it without question, twice. 
He walked up the counter and gruffly apologized for using a derogatory word to the now smiling women, I escorted him out the door, offered a few words of parting wisdom, and he scurried back to his former misgivings
            The experience got me thinking. What kind of home life would allow this young boy to wander the streets during school hours? Where is "dad" in this story? How often have I sat idly by as my sons disrespected their mom? Or worse, how often have I said hurtful words to the woman I’m committed to love and defend more than any other person on planet earth? 
            I’m called to cherish Shanna but have failed so many times in my past. I regret that. But that young paint store boy got me thinking that day about defending the feminine heart.

Apr 3, 2018

Practice What You Preach

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 
~James 1:22-24
            In 2007 me, Shanna, and another couple traveled to Cancun, Mexico to celebrate our fifteenth Anniversary. I promised Shanna that we’d go dancing one night in Mexico. I’m not a dancer, but I love Shanna and took her dancing. Glowing purple in my white shirt amid the black lighting I did my white man shuffle to “Play that Funky Music White Boy” when the music suddenly stopped and the DJ started calling men to the stage for a dance competition.
            Next thing I knew I was up there with a bunch of middle-aged guys like myself. Without going into the details, I won the dance contest. It may have been the “Sprinkler” or “Throw-the-Q-Tip-Away” that put me over the top!
           Theologian Johnny Cash once sung, “Get rhythm when you get the blues.”
           The secret to a magnum life is getting into healthy rhythms or practices without veering away from them. Some call them core values, life principles, or even big rocks, and they are four to seven life rhythms we establish to live as the best version of ourselves. We don’t throw these in our mental junk drawer and forget about them. We commit to live by these things before all others.
           A value is as a value does, which is why I prefer to call them practices. It’s easy to say we value something but if it’s not a regular, meaningful part of our routine we’re only giving lip service to it.
           Faith is not one of these core practices. Faith should permeate into every aspect of my life. I practice my faith daily through prayer, Bible Study, fellowship and service but my faith is the reason for my core practices and not simply numbered among them. Among my core practices are: sleep and rest (1/3 of my life), work and career (1/3 of my adult life), physical health, Shanna, family, relationships, and things I do for fun. These are practices that I fight to establish and maintain rhythm.
            I battle on behalf of these rhythms constantly. My phone reveals what I value the most and I hope it would testify on my behalf that I practice what I preach. But maybe not!
            What are yours?

Mar 27, 2018

Best Version of You

 Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”
~Matthew 6:9

Do you want to be relevant to your world or holy in it? Relevance is simply blending with the world you live—a chameleon. Holiness is becoming a light to your dark world—a contrarian
God’s plan is for you is to become the best version of you every day, compounded over time. You don’t need to be relevant but holy as He is holy. Relevance without holiness nothing less than heresy.
If you are an irreligious man, you may be wondering, “Can I be a good man and not follow Jesus?” Absolutely. You can be a great man and not follow Jesus. Any man who disagrees needs to climb out from under his rock.
But tragically I know a huge amount of “Christian” guys that aren’t men. Some of my irreligious friends supersede them in every way—by far. This is a paradox I don’t understand. How can a professing Christian choose a life of total defeat and never get the traction needed to live victoriously? How can he refuse to repent, change, and grow? How can he reject loving, giving, and serving others?
These guys remain males in adult bodies—mere children. We regularly see the collateral damage of “Christian” males who fall short of manhood, leaving a wake of destruction as a trophy to their sin. 
Yes, you can be a good, even great, man and not follow Jesus. But you won’t be your best version without radical devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. How can you be? Without total devotion to your Creator. you’ll never reach the apex of your potential even if you achieve greatness. And if you get close, you’ll credit yourself and ignore the God who equipped you. You’ll merely be a shadow of the best you.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “hallowed (or holy) be your name”. But God—as holy—cannot be any more holy. It’s simply who He is. So why did Jesus teach us to pray in such an odd way? Commentator William Barclay believed this statement meant, “(God), enable us to give Thee the unique place in which Thy nature and character, deserves and demands.”
The Hebrew word for “name” is not used to identify a person, but reflect the character and nature of that man. Your name identified the type of man you were which is why honoring your family’s name was such a big deal (and still is in my family).
We should pray this section of the Lord’s Prayer something like this, “Lord may the way I live show the world your true character and nature. Put me on display that I may put you on display. Let my life make your name holy. Let my life be a light in the shadow-lands!”
Surrender your life to Jesus Christ now. Ask Him to illuminate your path that you might be a light in a dark place. Become a whole man. Become the best version of you.