Archive for the ‘masculine’ Category

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

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

 

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.

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

When I had turned 18, had graduated high school and was ready to start my life.  That involved getting a job, finding an apartment, purchasing a car and having all the responsibilities that come with that.  Since I moved out of the town my parents lived, I was now in the city and experiencing a life that was different.  I could make all my own decisions and I was responsible for no one but myself.  It was the freedom I had been talking about and dreaming of for years.

At that time making money was the most important thing, supporting myself took precedence over a church I could belong to.  I was able to find one and I attended for a while but money became my ultimate God.  I stopped attending and continued working 1 – 2 jobs to support myself even after college and up until my wife and I were dating.  By this time I had moved a few times, found a regular Monday – Friday job and was able to again begin attending church.

When I finally found a church I could call home and began getting involved I noticed their seemed to be a lot of retired men and women attending.  There was a mix of both young and old, but the older folks kept to themselves and didn’t interact much with folks my age or younger.  At that point the last thing I wanted was some older person telling me how to live my life or what to do and that mindset continued for many years.

Since then I have been involved in a variety of churches and I have come to see the same thing.  The gap between young adults and senior citizen is widening year by year.  Somehow we have failed to connect both generations.  There is a bridge that needs to be built and yet I see very few trying to accomplish this.  I understand as young adults, we as men believe we have it all figured out.  We have all the answers and the last thing we need is someone telling us how to live our lives.  I am well aware, because I believed this to be true for myself.  I also understand from older folks, they feel they are intruding and have nothing in common with the younger generation.  Both sides have fears and it is those fears that keep the two generations from being united.

At some point late in my 30’s I began to see the foolishness of my thinking. I missed some wonderful opportunities to share in the life of an older man or couple and gain wisdom on how to conduct myself, raise kids and be a better husband.  My wife and I started discussing this and both agreed we need to find a couple or individuals who we could build relationships with and allow them to speak into our lives and provide us with insights and wisdom from their own life experiences.  So we began praying, I prayed continually God would connect me with the right man.  After several years and attempts to connect I am happy to say our prayers have been answered.  We have met an older couple and each week for over a year I have been meeting with an older man.  The times we connect with these folks are such good times and we feel as though we have benefited greatly.

We are still lacking in so many ways as a body.  There is so much to learn from those who have already been down those roads.  To sit and listen as they share about their lives, hear stories and understand life lessons experienced speaks volumes.   We are not too old to have them be part of our lives.  As younger men and women we need realize our foolishness in thinking we have our lives all figured out.  We may have had parents who failed us, hurt us and left us with wounds; however we can allow the love from God to be experienced through an older generation who needs to pour out their love on others.

Please know this those of you that are 50 and over, you are needed.  You may have no one in your life and yet there are younger people who need you.  You may feel like you have nothing to contribute, you will be in the way or you just aren’t able to relate.  You can relate in more ways than you know.  You have plenty to contribute, you have life experiences and you are needed to impact the future generations, even if you didn’t make good choices early on, you can use those as examples of wisdom learned.

My hope is the body will purposely find ways to break down the walls.  Create ways to engage both.  Ask retired men and women to help out in the Youth Groups, speak at events, serve, and pair them up with young couples about to enter into marriage and starting families. (You know they have the time).  Create ways for younger aged folks to celebrate and serve.  Invite them over to your homes for holidays, events at school or just to hang out and play games or watch a movie.

As I get older I don’t want to settle into a life of feeling like I am not important, valuable or have something to offer.  Part of the reason I stepped into the role of a Youth Pastor years ago was my love of kids and the energy they held.  That excited me and pushed me forward.  I have no plans to settle as I get older, but to find ways to continually invest in others, both young and old.  How are you helping to close the gap on the generations?

Jesus explained in Matthew 20:21-28 and again in Mark 10:35-45 that anyone wanting to be great would have to be the least.  Jesus did not come to be served but to serve.  Jesus modeled this in all he did.  Eventually he did so by dying the horrible death of crucifixion to endure the weight of our sins.

When Jesus walked the earth he didn’t do it in grand splendor we would think deserving of a king.  He hung around prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and various other folks who no one wanted anything to do with.  He ate with them, spent time engaging with them.

Jesus wasn’t troubled with looks or acquiring status.  He was comfortable in his own skin and knew what mattered was what goes on inside our hearts.  One of the supreme examples of serving someone can be found at the last supper.  Jesus washes the disciple’s feet.  He gets down on his hands and knees and washes their feet.  To me that is exceptionally humbling.  I don’t care for feet and the last thing I want to do is touch someone’s feet.  To lower myself and wash someone’s feet would be a big deal.  I’ve been on a retreat before where I actually washed another person’s feet.  At one point during one of my wife’s pregnancies I washed her feet, rubbed lotion on them and massaged them.  For me to move past my intense dislike of feet and actually do this was truly done out of love.

Leadership is something we strive for.  To lead, reign or rule means one way or another you have established you have what it takes to lead others.  Many get into positions of power because all they can see is a title or a position with the ability to command others.  This goes entirely against the model Jesus presents for us.  He came to serve others without expecting anything in return.

I believe as men we are called to lead through serving.  We are to be an example with our words and actions of what it means to serve others.  This means serving the needs of my wife and kids.  Often I have to check my motives.  I come home from work and find the house isn’t cleaned the way I expected.  Chores haven’t been done, laundry needs to be folded, dinner still needs to be made and a kid needs someone to hear what they have to say.  I can come in and start demanding things get done right away and begin telling everyone what needs to be done.  I can complain, roll my eyes and sigh loudly.  OR – I can walk in, lovingly greet everyone and begin tackling what needs to be done.

I sit in positions of leadership in other areas of my life.  I have stepped into those roles with the mindset of serving others.  My mindset is when I have it in my ability to do good; I will do just that.  I want others to feel like they are seen and heard, hear beyond the words they speak and catch a glimpse into their heart.  Part of my belief is also reminding myself that in order to serve others I must never think highly of myself.

Serving others may mean I have to dust, mop and put laundry away.  It may mean I have to pick up the trash lying around my neighborhood, spending time talking to someone when I have something else I need to do.  There are so many ways in which serving others allows us to disregard our egos, humble ourselves and do what is needed with a positive attitude.  When we serve the needs of others, we begin to demonstrate the love Jesus has for all of us.  Serving others with no expectations may not make you the ruler of an empire, but it will be the place in which your actions back up your words and you set an example that is contagious.

Are we really living?  Are we really impacting the world in the ways Jesus would want us to?  Do we really look at how our lives match up with what Jesus says?  Have we settled into a version of Americanized Christianity that makes it easy for us to live and yet we feel like we are doing what Jesus called us to do?

Honestly, I do not believe the majority of us are.  I think we take his words and look at them through the lens of our culture and what it tells us.  We dissect them, we look up various meanings for words to better understand them, and yet we are still left with not really living them.

How many of us go to church each week, a bible study or other church activities, hear what is spoken, but a few hours later can’t even remember what was spoken?  How many of us just read the Bible on a regular basis just because we feel it is the thing to do, but fail to act and follow the words of Jesus.

As I was reading Luke 6:27 – 49 – it hit me that many of the things Jesus calls us to do, we do not really live out day to day.  They are great principles to live by, but really implementing them into my life and living them out is a different story.

  • Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
  • If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.  If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
  • Do to others as you would have them do to you.  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.
  • Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
  • Do not judge, and you will not be judged.
  • Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.
  • Forgive, and you will be forgiven
  • Give, and it will be given to you
  • For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
  • Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
  • For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

I am more and more challenged by the letters in red in my Bible.  Jesus has so plenty to say on how we live, treat and love others.  So many times, I have heard his words but have never really lived them out.  I do not want to live that way anymore.  As he asks, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  I cannot continue in the way I have lived, I must live differently.  His words must penetrate deep within and I need to begin implementing these words into everything I do?

How do you live out the letters in Red?  What words speak to you that you need to begin living out in ways you have not been?

How much do you really need God?  Is he something you depend on moment by moment to get you through the day?  Is he someone you seek out daily?  Do you only acknowledge God each week when you go to church and hear the pastor speak?  Or do you turn to him when life is crashing down around you and there seems to be no other options.

Living in this great country, we have been blessed over and abundantly.  We have so many “things” that rarely do we have a need for God.  We have a means of supporting ourselves and planning for retirement.  We can go to the cupboard or fridge and grab something to eat anytime we want.  We have a plethora of options when choosing what to wear for the day.  We can go anywhere we want in a variety of transportation modes and we can choose where and how we worship.  The possibilities are endless and we take part in those every single day.

Even the things we consider to be something we must have in our life – computers, laptops, cell phones, cable, dry cleaning, going out to eat, seeing a movie, getting the morning paper.  Going on that yearly trip to Hawaii or other far off destinations.  We have become used to this as a way of life; it has become the expectation for how we are to live our lives.  If we don’t have things when we want them as soon as we want them it is a problem for us.

As I reflect on those items I realize just how much of those “things” become more important than God and our dependence and reliance on God is so minimal.  We have become Gods ourselves and have no real need for God until a crisis hits.  We can take care of and meet all of our own needs.  Well at least we believe we can and through the way our culture has taken shape, it becomes reinforced daily.

Thinking back to when Jesus was on the earth and roaming around – he did not have those distractions, yet he relied heavily on God to provide and to direct and guide him.  As he spent time with the disciples, he continually demonstrated over and over how God would meet and supply their needs.    In fact in Matthew 6:25 – 34 Jesus speaks to this 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We spend entirely too much of our time meeting our own needs and planning so we are taken care of in the future.  How much of our day is spent in communion with God.  Seeking out and asking him what he wants us to do.  Do we ask him every time we go to buy something if that is where he wants his money to be spent?  Do we seek him out when we plan our vacations and who we invite over?  Do we readily seek out his input in our lives?

In meeting our own needs, storing up and taking care of our current situation as well as our future.  Where and when do we have a need?  How can truly rely on God and be able to tell others of the great things he has done in our lives?  Maybe we need to let go of the things we hold onto so tightly.  Maybe we need to scale back and live on less and let go of the luxuries we have in our lives.  Maybe it is time to really allow God to provide for our daily needs.

Right now I am in the midst of doing this very thing.  I am evaluating all areas of my life and in ways that I act like God.  I would challenge you to sit down and spend some time with God and ask him to really open your eyes to your world.  Allow him to show you all the areas where you are taking his role.  In relying on him daily to get my needs met it is there that I will be able to see God really at work and be able to give accounts to not only my children but countless others of how God is truly alive and well today.

Are you ready to have your eyes opened and put God back in the place he really belongs?

First and foremost, I want to apologize for my absence. Since July I have started a second job, launched a second men’s discipleship team, and had some big changes at my old job. Just now starting to figure out how to budget my time. I feel horrible about my absence and will work to be more present here. Now on to the first in this series.
You’ll remember back in July I wrote about whether the New Testament man was more or less of a man compared to modern man. Lets take a look at one of the qualities I mentioned then.

What is strength? In western culture, strength is often centered on muscular strength. In a culture that idolizes sex and the human form, men are expected to be well muscled or sculpted, but most physical trainers will admit that muscular strength is not measured by the size of the muscles, but by the efficiency in which they contract. However strength goes far beyond physical strength. When talking about strength, one could be addressing the mental perseverance that can be shown in the face of strife. There are many other ways to define strength, and it is something that a Christian man has to understand.

Defining Strength

[strengkth, strength, strenth]

noun

1. the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor.
2. mental power, force, or vigor.
3. moral power, firmness, or courage.
4. power by reason of influence, authority, resources, numbers, etc.
5. number, as of personnel or ships in a force or body: a regiment with a strength of 3000.

This is how dictionary.com describes strength, but I’m not sure it’s enough. While this is a complete definition, it doesn’t necessarily explain what we mean when we talk about Christian strength. We’ll pick this up later with a Christian view on strength.