Men,

I’ve been away for a while and I’ll give a full accounting of that time later, but let me just say that you can blame this guy:

ConnorWell, not completely him, some of the blame goes to work, seminary, and my ministry here in Dallas. Sorry for the absence!

 

Now for the reason I’ve returned. Hardcore Christian Men will be going through some growth in the coming weeks and months. At Seminary, I have learned to interpret scripture more completely and accurately. I have learned to use observation, interpretation, correlation, and application to gain a full understanding of the word, and this method is what I will be using moving forward.

I encourage all of you to spend time digging deeper into the word when you study. Look for what the author what saying, not what we want it to say. Keep the text in context, rejecting the trend in our culture to use pick and choose scripture. God calls us to abide in Him and in His Word. This is what I am encouraging you to do. I won’t be walking through scripture here with an exegetical comb, but I am in my daily reading.

See you all soon!

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

Dad-Son

A careful man I want to be –
a little fellow follows me.
I do not dare to go astray,
for fear he’ll go the self-same way.
I cannot once escape his eyes.
Whatever he sees me do he tries.
Like me he says he’s going to be –
that little chap who follows me…
He knows that I am big and fine –
And believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see –
that little chap who follows me…
But after all it’s easier,
that brighter road to climb,
With little hands behind me –
to push me all the time.
And I reckon I’m a better man
than what I used to be…
Because I have this lad at home
who thinks the world of me.

~Anonymous

Read this in one of Paul Asay’s books and thought I would just leave it right here.

“Why am I Christian? Because I believe I was built to adore and obey. Because when I stray from that state of adoration, I feel the conflict in my soul. Because when I finally, sometimes painfully, submit to God, I feel the joy of his love and grace in the pit of my gut. Because when I curl up in the cup of God’s hand, I want to smile. Because when I sense His presence in the world around me, I want to sing. Because when I do what I was meant to do, I feel not just my joy, but His flowing though my arteries like quicksilver.
I am a Christian because even though I’m not a very good Christian at times, I can’t imagine life any other way.”

Kinda make you think, doesn’t it?

Until the While World Knows,
Paul

Men,

Have you ever had something that you have prayed and worked for come true? For the last 5 years, Laura (my wife) and I have fought one of the hardest battles a couple can fight, infertility. We’ve been to doctors. We’ve tried diets. We’ve had all the tests. Most of all, we have prayed and had friends and family praying. Yet we had had no breakthroughs. After five years, we had no progress to show. Last February, we were on the verge of quitting. We were war weary. We were tired of the fight, tired of counting days and taking temperatures. We were tired of sex being a chore instead of a bonding joy. To put it simply, we just took some time off. We stopped worrying about when things were happening or what we needed to be doing. We stopped trying to take everything into our own hands.

For those of you who have been in this same battle, know that I pray for you daily. Know that God is faithful and you will experience His plan for you, even if it’s not your plan for you. Don’t read this as me promising He will give you children according to your prayers, but if He wants you to have children, He will bring them to you. This could be biological. Or he could use adoption. Who knows? He does.

On April 1st, Laura and I found out that she is pregnant. We found out that she got pregnant about the time when we just took a break from the fight. God stepped up when we stepped aside. I have been overjoyed, but we had decided not to tell anyone. Because of this, I stepped back from writing because everything I wanted to write revealed this amazing news. I hope you all understand.

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

 

Oh, and here’s one of Connor’s first pictures! This is 12wks5days and is about a week ago. We learned that he is a boy on Saturday.

200Baby12w5d

If you are battling with or have battled with infertility, please leave a comment or send me an email so I can be praying for you. paul@hardcore-christian.com

 

A little fun!

Posted: 2013 04 10 by Paul S in Biblical manhood

Getting ready to post today, I thought I would have a little fun. With all of the confusion of gender roles in the church, sex and marriage in culture, and tradition vs. fad, I thought I would look to God’s creation to figure out a few things. Now, anyone who has been reading my writings for long knows that I a a firm believer in the complementary role of man and woman, with man as the head, but woman as the helper and companion. Helper and companion does not make her less, only different. Now I say that because I want to point out a species of animal I believe to be a good picture of God’s plan for marriage. You’re gonna laugh, so I’ll start with a funny pic.

Funny Cute Pictures penguin 2013 1

So a penguin. Bear with me here. I’ve always thought penguins were cool. Think about it, here you have a species of bird that looks like it’s wearing a tux all the time and lives in a climate where almost nothing else survives. They are the only species, other than man, to control a continent. They are extremely industrious and very self sacrificial. But why do they make me think of marriage as God intends?

The engagement

When a male penguin falls in love, he will travel up and down the shore looking for the perfect stone. It has to be just the right one. Once he finds it, he carries it in his beak to his intended mate and places the stone at her feet. If she accepts it, then they are to be mates. Kinda like the engagement ring? With the perfect stone? This one isn’t necessarily biblical, but it shows that the male penguin will work hard for his relationship, searching for hours or days to find the right stone.

Penguin Rock 2

The Marriage

So, penguins don have clergy and they really don’t have a way to get married, but they do mate. Unlike many animals (and people) when penguins mate, it is for life. They have one mate… ever. This is how God intends marriage to be. Marriage is a permanent thing. In the wedding ceremony, we often hear “what God has brought together, let no man tear apart,” or the classic close to the vows, “till death do us part.” Jesus called divorce an abomination. Marriage is a permanent thing, and penguins seem to have that right.

mate

Sacrifice and Work

Emperor penguins, the breed featured in the movie “March of the Penguins”, show the work ethic and sacrifice that I believe a husband and wife should show. Penguins return to the same nesting grounds each time they breed. Due to the location of these nesting areas, they have to traverse large expanses of barren wasteland (Antartica) without food. During this trip, many penguins die. On arriving, the couple builds a nest and the female lays an egg. Due to the temperature, the egg must be kept on top of their feet and under their feathers for the entire gestation period. This means that someone has to stay behind while the other goes and gets food. The male takes on this role. He take a spot on the nest and remains there for 4 months, fasting. When the eggs hatch, the mother returns with food for the chick and the father.

dad

Sounds like the penguins have got it figured out. He is expected to protect the children. He provides warmth and safety to a single offspring. He sacrifices his health (fasting for four months) in order to ensure that his child survives.

 

Could we learn something from penguins? Men, step up and be the man that God has designed you to be. If you aren’t married yet, work to develop the kind of work ethic and honor that will fill the needs when you are. If you are confused about sexuality, look to God’s creation to understand. Most of all, put your faith in Him. His plan is perfect.

 

Until the whole world knows,

Paul

In the third chapter of Genesis, things get a little dicey. Different interpreters will say different things about the different characters, so I’m going to keep it simple and just go with the specifics that scripture does give us without looking at any cultural input that may have existed when Moses penned this God inspired book. Chapter 3 starts out telling us about the serpent, telling us that he was crafty, it does not tell us this was Satan, but some believe it was, in any case, the serpent was the one who brought Eve’s attention to the temptation presented by the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent is able to take the words that Adam shared with Eve, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, nether shall you touch it, lest you die” (Gen 3:3, ESV) and twist them. He convinces Eve to try the fruit and then she shares it with Adam, “who was with her” (Gen 3:6, ESV).

adam-and-eve

Here we are, not even halfway through the third chapter of the first book of God’s book, and we find Adam sinning. Many of you may be asking what I mean, it was Eve that sinned, right? Actually, if you believe as I do, you see that it was not Eve’s sin that caused the fall, but Adam’s. Adam was with her when the serpent tempted her. Adam was hanging out, but he wasn’t grabbing the serpent and killing it. Adam was present, but he wasn’t standing between Eve and the tree. Adam was passive.

It was not Eve that God had commanded not eat of the tree, it was Adam. Look at Gen 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (ESV) God spoke this command to the man, not to the woman. It was after this command that God created Eve, trusting Adam to lead her, as she was created as His helper or “ezer”.

So Adam messed up, but God is a forgiving God, right? The first thing that Adam and Eve do after eating the fruit is run to create clothes. As God is all knowing and all present, he knew that they had eaten of the fruit, but he gave them time. Even when he entered the garden, he gave Adam a chance to step forward and confess, but instead Adam and Eve hid from God. When God calls them out, Adam tried the old deflection method (or really the new one as he was the first to use it) and blames the woman that God gave him, thus blaming God for Adam’s failure. Eve is a little more straightforward with it, stating that the serpent deceived her and she ate.

It is here that the curse is laid out. I’ll sum it up quickly here.

1: Serpents will crawl on their belly, and there will be enmity between serpent and woman. (a little more depth but I’ll touch that in a second)

2: Childbirth will be extremely painful, women will desire to control their husband, but will be ruled by them instead.

3: Man will have to work for his food, working the field by the sweat of his brow until he dies and is returned to it.

After this in verse 21, we see the first death. God made garments for them of skins, killing the animals to do this. and then he casts man and woman from the garden.

Whew! Rough chapter! But we also see the first prophecy of Jesus. Look again at the curse to the serpent: Gen 3:15 “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Many theologians believe that this references Satan and Jesus. Mark Driscoll shares this “This is the first intimation at a virgin birth. This passage says that the foretold male child would come and battle Satan and that Satan would harm and wound him, but the child ultimately would defeat and crush Satan” (found here). God knew when he created Adam that Adam would fall, but He also planned for the fall and made a way for us to be redeemed, through the blood of Christ, who was crucified on the cross, descended into Hell and defeated Satan, rising on the 3rd day.

So here’s the challenge we face from this passage:

Lead faithfully, not passively. Stand up and defend our family as we lead them on His path.

 

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

Two men talkingI believe we are called to live in our brokenness and not hide from it. Yet it is far to common to act like we have it altogether.  We project images of a great life; we set the stage and tone for others to believe that our life has no flaws.  Our biggest fear lies in others finding out all those secrets we keep hidden about who we really are inside.  The tape plays over and over inside our head – “If anyone really knew these things about you, they would want nothing to do with you.  You are the worst sinner.  You are despicable.  What you deal with, no one else is.  Your just a mess.”  Sadly we believe that tape speaks the truth.

I let that tape play out far to long.  I was not shy about letting others know I followed Christ. I wore t-shirts, listened to the music and bought all the paraphernalia, proudly shoving it in their face.  I made it look good all around.  Yet what was happening at home was a different story.  I lived a very different life, one I was not proud of and kept hidden from others.

I lied, cheated and stole. I downloaded images into my brain that may never leave.  I used others for my own selfish gain.  I spewed words from my mouth I can never take back.  I wished people were dead and I treated some like they were.  I cut ties with people out of frustration and anger.  I enjoyed sabotaging others and talking badly about them.  All of my teens and most of my adult life has been about making really horrible choices.  The worst part being I professed living a Christian life, serving as a leader in church and what I told demonstrated and told others didn’t speak of God changing my heart.  At least not for a very long, long time.

It came to a head when all of my choices now meant I risk losing my family or deal with an addiction out of control.  I began admitting I was tired, worn out and couldn’t keep up the image anymore.  I was mentally and physically exhausted from trying so hard to pretend.  I found some guys, started peeling back the layers and being brutally honest about all I was thinking and dealing with.  It was in those moments amidst anger and tears where I discovered these guys weren’t going to leave me. They didn’t kick me to the curb; instead they loved me in spite of myself.  They loved me, despite all the garbage I shared and stuck beside me as I walked me to a place of healing I had never experienced.

I remember how love in the form of others changed me.  It was through those men that I was able to begin putting words to my story, sharing how I was broken and I saw God working through it.  It gave me the courage to begin sharing my story with others, accepting I was broken and couldn’t do it on my own.  I needed others to walk alongside me.

Since that time I have attempted to live a life of transparency.  Being honest about my struggles and the questions that swim around inside my head.  I still make mistakes and I sill mess up, sadly more than I wish.  I have continued to pray and seek out other guys I can share life with, making ourselves available night or day.

As I continue to pursue relationships where I bare my soul and go deep I often get to a place where I believe they don’t see me as having struggles any longer.  I have somehow gotten past it and have moved forward deepening my walk with Christ.  When I have set backs and I go back to some of my old ways it is then, that I often feel like I can’t be honest and say, you know what, I messed up again. I think to myself, just keep quiet.  You don’t want to look like you are going backwards.  They think you are doing well and you don’t want to prove them wrong.  Just stay quiet and unless someone asks don’t share what’s going on. Meanwhile I pull back, continue to suffer silently once again.

THAT IS RIDICULOUS THINKING

I was having a conversation this past week with a friend who asked why I had been so quiet as of late and why we hadn’t talked.  It was in that discussion where I realized the truth of what I just explained. We both admitted we were guilty of the same conclusion.

I needed that conversation, it was a great reminder – pulling away and masking it, never has and never will work.  We need each other. We are broken, that won’t change this side of heaven.  We need others who are willing to walk through life with us and help us up when we fall down.  We need community where we can share and be ok with our messy lives.

We need to stop pretending, admit when we are failing and be ok with that.  If I have to call my brothers a hundred times and tell them I am struggling, so be it.  The burden falls on the rest of us to help carry those who are weaker and sometimes that means a lot of carrying.

The conversation I had with my friend was also a good reminder of how I want to be living my life.  How I want to set the tone and stage to make it easier for others.  Those are the conversations that remind me of why I need you.

Sometimes things are going well and I feel lime my life is in order.  I am going about my day moving, getting things accomplished, checking off the to do list, engaging well with others and pursuing God with all of my heart.  From the outside looking at me I’ve been told I come across as being organized, structured, disciplined and determined.

Often it feels as though it was more just an outward appearance than what was really going on internally.  I was a wreck – angry, bitter, feeling alone and all I could do to keep it together.  I was going to explode if the right person said or did that one thing to set me off.  I chose to let it all come out at home with my wife and kids.  Unfairly, they are the ones who received the brunt of my release. Adding to my personal frustration was now that I needed to go and apologize once again and make things right.

The more I have pursued wanting nothing but Jesus, the more it seems like I fall into various temptations and trials.  The more I practice surrendering each and every day, the harder it becomes.  Nevertheless my heart is still wanting and desirous of communing with God.  At times I do well battling the war, other times I fall flat on my face and give into temptations.  It’s in giving into those temptations where much of my anger and frustration comes from and really geared towards myself, for my choices and failures to follow God the way I know I should.

When it comes down to it, at the core it is rebellion, plain and simple.  I am making a choice to believe the lies and go against what I know God does not want me to take part in.  I’ve made that choice and know I have distanced myself from God.  I know that I need to run back to him. Grace is there, but often I have used it to excuses and justify my actions. True repentance must occur and I need to go back to putting God first.

I have begun to realize I lack in a lot of disciplines I used to make a regular practice.  Reading my Bible and praying I do almost every day.  Things such as fasting, being quiet and listening for God to speak, Sabbath, tithing and earnestly praying are not things I have done inconsistently.  While I have done many of them often times I do it just to go through the motions.  It is not really a discipline or practice, it’s just an activity.

I have failed to do many of those things more times than I can count.  It comes down to taking my eyes of Jesus, allowing other things to become more important than him.  Despite my best efforts, when I don’t seek him first in all I do, I get lazy, apathetic and chose not to practice the very things that are essential to my spiritual health, which in turn affects all other areas of my health – mentally and physically.

The distractions of this world will always remain and I can easily get caught up in them.  When I chose to put God back in the place he belongs my heart softens, my body relaxes, the tension releases and joy is restored to my life.  I have nothing to be ashamed of or hide and I don’t have to carry around the weight of my sin.  God does offer that when we come to him.

Trials are always going to be there.  It doesn’t get easier, but I know that I have made a lot of it harder because I chose to fill my life with things that took me away from God instead of drawing close and clinging to him.  As I move forward my choice to fully surrender and fully give myself to him is what I want more than anything else.  Everything else has left me empty and drained and that is not the life I want.

Are you the executioner?

Posted: 2013 02 05 by Paul S in Biblical manhood

 

I’m reading God on the Streets of Gotham by Paul Asay. In it, a concept is discussed about submission and the source of morals. This section got me thinking. Asay mentions the scene in Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne rejects Raz al Ghul’s order to execute the farmer turned murderer as a demonstration of the concept. If morals are a creation of man, and the League of Shadows is the ultimate authority of these morals, why should Bruce not execute the man? A little back story, Raz al Ghul leads the League of Shadows, a mysterious group that is focused on making the world good through their actions, they have a no mercy sense of justice that is “above the law.” This group found and “rescued” Bruce from his wandering vagabond lifestyle and trained him with the skills we see him with as Batman.

“I’m no executioner”

This stirs up a lot of mixed thoughts in my head. Having grown up only nominally Christian (or as I often say “culturally Christian”) I didn’t have a clear picture of where the so called morals of the world came from, and I lived a life that showed that. I broke some laws if I wouldn’t get caught (Smoking and drinking underage, speeding, etc.) broke some commandments (sex outside of marriage, lying, idols) and pretty much set my own morals. So what stopped me from breaking bigger laws, from living even more for myself? What caused the shift from an aimless teenager who had no real direction to soldier fighting for his nation to Christ follower?

Let’s look back to Bruce Wayne, the League of Shadows, and the world around them. As any fan knows, the DC universe has been rewritten man times, so it’s hard to paint a clear picture of the world. However, looking at the most recent iterations, we could reasonably assume that God does not exist or is regulated to a minor role in this fictional world. If this is the case, defining where morals come from is very difficult. If we rely on science to tell us the origin of everything, than we have to ask why any mercy would exist. In a science based moral system, it is most beneficial to a person or group of people to eliminate any antagonist to the welfare of that person or people. In this kind of world, Bruce Wayne would have no reason to spare the man’s life. No reason to say those words, “I’m no executioner.” But he did.

In saying those words Bruce Wayne admits to an authority above Raz al Ghul, above the League of Shadows, and above himself. Let me you show how. I’m going to paint a few pictures here.

  1. Bruce views the League of Shadows as the ultimate authority on morality. They say to kill the man as punishment. So Bruce kills the man.
  2. Bruce views Raz al Ghul (or his agent, Ducard) as the ultimate authority on morality. He says kill the man. Bruce kills the man.
  3. Bruce views himself as authority on morality (or center of morality). He is told to kill the man “For [his] own sake” by Ducard. Bruce kills the man to protect his own life.

     

    Or

     

  4. Bruce recognizes something else as source of morality. He is told to kill the man. He rejects this order, submitting to the higher authority that tells him he should have mercy and not execute the man.

 

This is one of those situations that should get anyone, believer or not, to contemplate. Do we believe that we are the center of the universe or do we believe that there is something higher that directs how we should act? Notice I said should, not would. We still have the choice to follow that direction or to reject it and do what suits us best (or what we think does). So now for the hard thought, are you the executioner, or are you willing to refuse, and take your life in your own hands because of a belief that goes beyond you? Bruce Wayne did in Batman Begins. David did when he cut Saul’s cloak rather than killing him. Countless others have when faced with following God or following man.

I challenge you to take the 4th option. Submit to God as authority of how you should act and work to follow Jesus in all your actions.

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul

Creation-hands-L

After completing the first telling of Creation, Genesis grows more specific. The second creation tale is God’s creation of man. In Genesis 2:7 we read that “The Lord God formed the man from the soil of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,and the man became a living being.” This creation is an even more hotly debated topic than the creation of the earth, with many, believers and non-believers alike, arguing for evolution. My argument here is and will always be that God is all powerful. I don’t know the exacts of man’s creation, but I do know that God created man, not random chance. I don’t pretend to know the science of it, but I do know that arguing anything else doesn’t win believers, it simply causes arguments.

After creating Adam, God placed him in an orchard that He created, a place called Eden.In Eden, God gave Adam a job to care for an maintain the garden, giving him freedom to eat of every plant except one, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of this tree, God commanded that Adam was not to eat. He also saw Adam and said “It is not good for the man to be alone.I will make a companionfor him who corresponds to him.” Bringing each of the animals he had created, God had Adam name them, but he found no suitable companion for man. At this God forced Adam to fall asleep and he created Eve from Adam’s rib. On waking, Adam was pleased, and scripture tells us the we are to leave our family and join with our wife, becoming a new family.

So what does this mean to you and me, the Christian man? God stated that it is not good for man to be alone. This tells us that we are not meant to be loners, but we are meant to live in community with others. It is also in this passage that marriage is defined, a man joins with a woman and becomes a new family. While these are important, I believe the most important is what is meant by companion. Different translations use “helper”, “partner”, or “companion” here, but the original Hebrew uses ‘ezer. Throughout scripture, ‘ezer is most often translated as “helper”, but the English word is very limited in it’s meaning. The Hebrew word means much more that a person who helps, it is the person to turn to in times of need, the partner in good things, and the companion in the calm.

Men sometimes take the word helper (in addition to some other scriptures) to mean that he is supposed to dominate his wife and all women. Some even go so far as to declare that no woman deserves anything apart from her husband or father. This is seen outside of the church as well, in our culture and in others. But that is a violation of scripture’s meaning. God wanted a companion for Adam, not a slave or servant. He could find those in the animals. What could not be found was a companion.

So here is my challenge to you men. If you do not already, treat your wife as a companion. Put her in front of your friends and in front of yourself. Love her as Christ loves the Church, don’t rule her like a slave holder.

Until the Whole World Knows,

Paul