Feb 12, 2019

Eyes Wide Open

He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.

~ 2 Chronicles 26:5 

When my son Darby was a child we went on a short walk to a friend’s house, as I explained that it was the same as my morning prayer walk. He got silent, in deep thought, then asked curiously, “But Dad how do you pray and walk without running into stuff?” 

“What do you mean Son?” I wondered out loud.

“How can you keep your eyes closed for that long and never walk into parked cars and stuff?” he questioned. 

I burst out in laughter, and then explained that you can pray with your eyes opened or closed—God hears our prayers either way. Prayer can happen with eyes open or closed and while you’re walking, sitting, kneeling, or lying down. God looks at the posture of the heart. How could my son, raised in the home of a pastor, at ten years old, still think his eyes had to be closed to pray? 

Ouch! I took that one on the chin. Darby taught me lesson that day. Have I taken the time to do more than model my faith? Have I actually taught my three sons how to live for Jesus?

My sons will tell you that being a follower of Jesus doesn’t make you the perfect parent; nor does being a pastor. If you’re like most of our men in the arena, you are charging at life full speed ahead. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. 

Slow down. 

Sit back for a second and look at the big picture. Where are your loved ones going? Listen to what they’re thinking. Guide and direct them. Like the arrow fletching, lead from the back. Like the broadhead of that same arrow, get out in front. 

Uzziah ruled Judah from sixteen to sixty-eight years old (62 years). What separated him from other kings of Judah? Uzziah had an older mentor, Zechariah the prophet who “instructed him in the fear of God.” 

Find an older man (or men) who wants you to win? Partner with him. Ask him to mentor you. Men need other men to lock arms with them. We need older men who’ve traveled ahead and will help navigate our way. 

Feb 6, 2019

The Sin of Anonymity

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. 
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 
You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
                                                                                    ~Matthew 5:11-16

Quarterback great, Peyton Manning, once said, “I would rather be in the arena to be excited or be disappointed than not have a chance at all.” I agree. I’m a terrible fan and struggle watching sports without living vicariously through the men in the arena. Our last entry asked, “At you a man in the arena or fan in the arena?” which question naturally leads to a second, “Is being a fan wrong?
        Is it a sin to be an anonymous spectator in my church? Is it wrong to follow Jesus yet being anonymous to those who carry His name and those who need to? Bear with me as I unpack one of the great lies believed by many who claim to follow Jesus.
       There is, however, a legitimate tension that must be dealt with before we go any further. Does the Bible teach that humility is synonymous with anonymity? The word secret is mentioned 24 times in the New Testament, six of those are in Matthew 6:2-12 and 16-18, where Jesus warns against boasting in three specific areas: 1) giving to the poor, 2) prayer and 3) fasting. Those who boast publicly about these specific areas, Jesus cautions, will receive their reward—praise from men—in full.
         Our solution is found one chapter earlier (Matthew 5:10-16) where on three distinct occasions Jesus emphatically encourages His followers to, 1) speak publicly about their faith even to persecution (10-12), 2) influence their world because of the presence of Christ in their lives (13-14), and 3) shine like light in a dark place (14-16).
         What’s the verdict? When it comes to our giving, prayer, and fasting life we would be humble and secretive. But in matters of our faith, we should boldly serve, shout, and sacrifice in Jesus’ name. In other words, men should be on display in whatever arena God directs, with a goal of putting God on display.
         Purposeful anonymity in the context of faith in Jesus and manhood is false teaching, antagonistic to Jesus’ life, and a sin. The Sin of Anonymity is not a sin if you’ve been ignorant. But, now you know and must choose your way. More often, however, it is a choice and a sin of omission on the darkest of levels, ignoring the heart of Jesus for people and God’s plan for your best version.
         What do you choose today? Will you remain anonymous in the bleachers of Witness Stadium (Hebrews 12:1)? Or, will you get up, walk down the aisle, and get in the game? Being a man or a fan in the arena is your choice.

Jan 29, 2019

Man or Fan in the Arena

 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin, which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.                                                                                                                                             ~Hebrews 12:1
Super Bowl Fifty-Three is one week away and fans from around the world will tune in to watch the ultimate exhibition of “America’s Game” between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams.  The average viewership of Super Bowl Fifty-Two was a whopping 112.3 million on NBC, making it the tenth-most watched program in U.S. television history.
            Whether you’re a fan of either team doesn’t matter, most people will be a fan for one or the other at kick off. With an organization named the Men in the Arena, I think about this grand word picture an obsessive amount.
            Olympic Great, Michael Phelps said, “It doesn't matter what else is going on. When you walk into your arena, you're there to take care of the job that you have to do.” Fans have a job to do, albeit different than those actually in the game. Here are some thoughts about fans.
            Fans are in the stadium, but not in the arena.

            Fans live vicariously through those on the arena.
            Fans are active critics, but passive participants.
            Fans are close to the danger, but far enough away to stay safe.
            Fans fly the right colors, but don’t wear the real uniform.
            Fans haven’t paid the sweat equity of those in the arena.
            Fans haven’t made preparations to survive in the arena if need be.
            Fans haven’t made the necessary sacrifices required for the arena.
            Fans are anonymous to those in the arena.
            Fans love to watch, but are unwilling or unable to act.
            But there some flaws in our word picture and how it impacts us as men. First, there are a myriad of men watching a sports event whether in the actual stadium or from a television set somewhere. Being a fan of sports does not make one less of a man.  Second, in the Body of Christ—the Church—every Christian is a called to minister. Thus, every minister should have a ministry. In other words, every man (and woman) is a minister by Biblical mandate. The Church should be filled with more men in the arena than fans in the bleachers.
            Oh, how we long for this to be the reality in our churches today! But sadly there are more fans in the arena, which leads me to a question. Which one are you? Are you a man in the arena or a fan in the arena? In your church do people know your name or are you anonymous? Are you a giver or taker? Are you a servant or a consumer? If you’re an anonymous consumer in the church, then today is the day to get out of the bleachers and into the challenges of the game. You’ve got this!

Jan 21, 2019

Framing Your Wife Well

Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land… and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
                                 ~Proverbs 31:23, 28b-29

My wife is a picture we are proclaiming to the world. Another way of putting it is that we—as husbands—paint a portrait of our wives to the world. She is the canvas and how you portray her is the paint. Portrait, is defined as, “a representation or impression of someone or something.”
          For almost two decades I portrayed my wife wrongly to my sons in an effort to win an argument or look better in their eyes. In so doing I painted a distorted image of her, one of the biggest regrets of my life. By the grace of God, I’ve changed how I paint (portray) her and it has changed every aspect of our marriage.          In the book 31 Days to Paradise: Creating The Marriage You Dreamed AboutDonald Minter tells readers to master “the art of making sure your mind focuses on good things regarding your spouse” He calls this “framing”.
          How do I paint Shanna to the world? How do I portray her to my family? How do I frame her in front of my friends and associates?
          We speak about the “Proverbs 31 Woman” as the goal for a godly woman. But let's dig deeper. Look closer. Lean into what’s really going on here. Her husband is a community leader (23), as he frames his bride in a positive light: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
          When you call the love of your life, “The-Old-Ball-and-Chain”, change tones in a demeaning way when quoting her, or speak negative about her, in that moment you don't love her well. Worse, you are framing the one person you’re called to love the most in the most heinous and derogatory ways. You are inviting those in your world to paint a negative picture of your wife, which is the exact antithesis to what the Scripture demands, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. (Ephesians 5:28-29)”
          How do you frame your wife to others? Give yourself a grade A-F. Be honest. Don’t blame her for your poor portrayal. Make the appropriate changes to become the husband God requires, because when you get it—everyone wins.