F4 Fearless
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Oct 24, 2011 | 3119 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This is the fourth article in a four-part series . . .

If you have been paying attention, and if you have read the previous three articles over the previous three days, you have been wondering what all this was building up to, and where it was all going.  The only problem with the Fearless Christian life is that I believe so many Christian men wrongly believe they are there.

panicGo back to the Floundering Christian life for a moment, and realize that when you ask God to use you, and God begins to take you into the deeper waters, there is panic.  There is unease.  There is a complete loss of control.  When God intervenes, and we are taken back to the safety of the Favored Christian life, there is a tendency to pat ourselves on the back for having made the effort - never to try again.  As God calls us again though, we begin to resist, and there is the danger.  God wants us to grow, and he will nudge us to grow, and He will call us to grow, but God will never force us to grow.

Peter walked on water!  He also got distracted, sank, floundered, and had to be rescued.  How Jesus responds to him at that moment is telling.  It is not a clap on the back and a "You did really well out there for a few moments!" comment followed by other accolades.  His words are ones of disappointment of what could have been . . . Matthew 14:31  "And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

It is a powerful story, because later this same Peter continues to Flounder.  Ready to die with Christ one moment in the Garden of Gethsemane as soldiers come to take Christ away, he soon denies he even knows Christ by the fireside and runs away . . . runs back . . . returns to his old life as a fisherman . . . back to the favored life he once knew where all was safe, everything was OK, and the floundering could cease.  However, Christ was not finished with him yet.

fearlessHow many fearless men in the Bible can you name?  Moses, fearless before Pharaoh.  Abraham, fearless to offer his own son.  Joshua, fearless to raid the land of Canaan.  Paul, fearless before many trials and afflictions.  What makes these men fearless?  For some, the time of their Floundering is aparrent, but for others the Bible does not focus on this and it is less clear.  Still, I submit to you that each of these men had their doubts, their fears, their time to flounder before coming to the point they were fearless.  Why do I say this?  How can I know this?

Return to the pool.  Go back to the time of learning how to swim.  Floundering in the water, flailing wildly, desperate to extricate yourself from the situation, you slowly built the foundation and the mechanics of swimming.  I remember those times, but I also know that today I am comfortable jumping into any body of water with the sure and fearless knowledge that I can swim.

God has a greater purpose for every man's life, and it is not to continue to live the Favored Christian fearless manlife either.  I believe God wants to use you, too, but to get there, God has to take you into the deeper waters and allow you to Flounder.  There He can teach you, train you, allow you to learn who you really are, and where your talents and strengths God has given you reside.  Coming through all that, you gain a knowledge of your purpose, your place, your identity, and who you really are as a Christian man.

The problem is, too few are ever willing to enter the Floundering Christian life, and so they rush back to the Favored Christian life as quickly as possible.  There are some out there though, dissatisfied with the Favored Christian life, who know there is a Fearless Christian life to be lived with a name and an identity, but they do not want to Flounder.  They resist the unknown, and so they enter and step back, again and again, trying to work up the courage to surrender to the process God has for them.  Of those who enter the Floundering Christian life, it seems all too few ever emerge Fearless.

Look around you.  Who among you has given up and allowed "Failure" to be stamped on their life?  Who among you would rather live the "Favored" Christian life?  Who among you resist the "Floundering" life?  Though they want God to use them, they refuse to endure.  Who among you, is truly Fearless?

Reposted from MenRising.com

F3 Floundering
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Oct 17, 2011 | 1995 views |  0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This is the third article in a four-part series . . .

Learning to swim was pretty traumatic when I look back on it.  Jumping, or getting thrown, into the water for the first time, and the successive times after that, were horrible events.  I remember lots of movement, desperate movement, trying to keep my God-given breathing apparatus above water . . . and failing that, trying to learn to breathe water.  It never worked.  Coughing and belching what felt like gallons of water was unpleasant to say the least, and not something I really wanted to repeat.

drowningEverything that starts something new flounders.  Baby birds flounder to the ground, a newborn colt braces unsure legs trying to take its first steps, and even babies go through a "toddler" phase before really getting their footing and learning to walk.  Floundering, whether we like it or not, is a part of growth.  Where we go wrong is to mistake floundering for failing, and accepting the label of failure.

I learned to swim.  I learned to dive deep, and jump off of high platforms into deep water.  I swam in pools large and small, creeks, riverbeds, and even the ocean.  Though not as agile as I used to be, I can still swim very well.  Then came the time to teach my daughter to learn how to swim.  She had been in the shallow end of the pool and had really gotten used to and loved the water, until it came time to learn how to swim.  In fact, where she used to ask all the time about going to the pool, she now had a tinge of dread to her voice and asked, "Are you going to take me to the deep end again this time?"

She floundered, she sank, she swallowed and belched up what I am sure must have been gallons of water to her.  I do not doubt she thought for sure she was going to die.  I would ease up at times, and just let her play in the shallow end.  At first our swimming lessons were short, but I kept taking her more often, and for longer periods of time, out of the shallows and into the deeper waters of the pool.  She was never in any real danger, because I was always with her, watching her, ready to assist when she really needed me, not just when she really wanted me.

swimmingI let her sink a couple of times.  I pulled her out more than a few times.  I spoke to her as she cried.  I held her up when her strength was gone.  I encouraged her when she wanted to quit.  I kept taking her into the deeper waters.

Today, my daughter can swim.  She plays in the shallow end, but she also plays in the deeper waters as well.  For some people, learning to swim may come more quickly, but I have a feeling it pretty much goes the same way for just about everyone.  To learn to swim, we have to flounder.  However, how we react to floundering is up to us.

I am sure many of you are already seeing the spiritual implications, however, many will not as easily recognize them in their own life.  How often has God, in an effort to take you out of the shallow waters of the Favored Christian life, allowed you to Flounder in the deeper waters?  What has been your reaction to this?  See, I believe God has often brought events into our lives we do not appreciate nor want, and we do not see the reason for them.  How often do we hear people asking God "why" as they struggle mightily to get back to the shallows of the Favored Christian life?

The strange thing is, we enter the Floundering Christian life at one of two points: either we ask for it, or God sees we are ready for it and just gives us a nudge.  Much the way my daughter asked me to teach her to swim, we go to church and ask God to teach us, to use us, to really work in our lives, to make us the Christian men He wants us to be, but then when God does just that and begins to teach us, and we begin to Flounder, we have one of two choices.  Either we turn back and give up, preferring rather to live the Favored Christian life, or we endure.

The Floundering Christian life is not a one-time event, because there are many lessons to be learned, many skills to be developed.  Have you mistaken Floundering for Failure?  Is God nudging you, or have you asked God to use you?  Are you ready to go through the Floundering process?

- Reposted from MenRising.com

F2 Favored
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Oct 03, 2011 | 3509 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This is the second article in a four-part series . . .

I cannot emphasize this point enough, so get ready.  I REALLY like it when everything goes my way.  I have to admit it feels good just to see those words in print, think about what they mean, and envision instances in the past where it has happened.  Living a favored life . . . seems like it would be the be-all end-all of what would end up being a truly wonderful life.

white house marine oneEver wonder what it would be like to live in the White House?

Now there is a favored lifestyle I think any one of us could get used to.  I have read of Presidents past and First Ladies too, who have noted that lifestyle as one of the greatest perks of being in that office.  Everything kept spotless, great food prepared by world-class chefs, beautiful art and artifacts, wonderfully appointed rooms and furniture, and on and on and on the list goes.  For the guys need I say anything more than “bullet-proof limo” “Air Force One” and “Secret Service Body-Guard detail”?  How cool is all that!?!

Everywhere you go the roads and/or the sky is cleared, and people make way.  While we may not get to have that life, we do try in our own ways.  We get the best house we can, the best car we can afford, and whatever else we think will make us happy in this life.  We accumulate these things around us, and consider ourselves blessed with what we have.  Granted, some people are of meager means and do the best they can with what they have, while others can afford quite a bit more, but in the end, we all eventually become used to whatever life we have.  We content ourselves and call ourselves blessed and highly favored, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Except . . . we are not here to live a favored life.

family going to churchA whole lot of Christian men will have gone to church this past Sunday.  Some wear really nice clothes while others simply wear the best clothes they have.  They carry their Bible under their arm, a smile on their face, shake hands and make small-talk with everyone they meet, keep the kids in line, and sit with their wife.  They stand up and sit down at all the right times, sing when it is time, listen attentively to the preacher, and when it is all said and done, they go home.  They love their church, their pastor, and consider themselves blessed and highly favored, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Except . . . we are not here to live a favored life.

Again, let me repeat and be very clear.  There is NOTHING WRONG with having things in this life.  There is not a single “thou shalt not” when it comes to having a nice home, a nice car, nice clothes, and whatever else there is in this life.  There is no commandment against having and living a favored life, however, when that becomes the focus and reason for living, that is when things get off-line.

grain silo on farmLuke 12:16  “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:  17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?  18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.  20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?

There is a time for the favored life.  Where would a baby be without the favored life?  However, every child must grow up.  The favored life is not something we should seek to keep permanent.  Understanding that all belongs to God and that everything God has given us should be used in His service, then we begin to see a greater purpose for the things we have in this life.

Clinging to the Favored Christian life is not God’s plan or purpose for your life.  When things get just a little “out of favor” how do you respond?  Do you find yourself asking, “What’s wrong, Lord?!”  “Why me!?!”  Do you try to hold on to the favored life you are living?  When things go “wrong” do you try to make them “right” again according to the life you want?  Is God trying to teach you or show you something?  What if there is something greater than the Favored Christian life to be had?

Reposted from www.MenRising.com

F1 Failed
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Sep 26, 2011 | 2669 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

This is the first article in a four-part series . . .

When does a man truly fail?  What makes a failure complete?

I remember being a young man truly afraid of getting my report card.  I was six years old and in first grade, and I had no idea how grades came to appear on the report card or what they were based on other than someone else's idea of whether or not I had "done well in school" for some time period.  The report card came in small yellow envelopes of the kind you'd find in most offices when something official needs to be transported from here to there.  I remember carrying mine home with a heavy hand.

f on report cardI suddenly recounted all the things I had been in trouble for up to that point . . . throwing rocks in the playground . . . spitting water when it was my turn for a drink at the water fountain . . . not staying in line when walking between the classroom and the playground . . . and on and on it went.  When I handed my report card to my mother, she began to read down the list of topics I had only heard in the classroom, and was not sure exactly what they meant.  Reading - A, Math - A, Penmanship - A (there was a ship?!) and when she came to the bottom of the list I had gotten all A's.

Glad that was over with, I simply went on my way.  The next report card, however, did not come back so good.  I had a B and a C, and although I was not sure what that meant, I knew from my dad's reaction that it was not good.  The third report card came back with an F on it, and that is when my dad took me into the back room for a talk.

Is the letter "F" for "Failure", stamped anywhere on your life?  Unfortunately, many Christians have this letter stamped on their life, and not by God, but either by themselves or even more unfortunately, by other Christians.  The failed Christian life happens when we do what we know is wrong, but it's not merely getting out of line at the water fountain.  It can be much worse.

Infidelity in a marriage is the biggest one that springs to my mind because it seems to be the most abhorrent and prevalent in churches.  However, there are other ways to get the big "F" stamped onto your life.  For some, it is simply failing to meet expectations.  Whether you set them or had them placed on your life, a broken expectation can feel so much like a broken promise that disappoints those around us.  However you get it, chances are high that you may be walking around with an "F" stamped on your Christian life.  The worst thing about it is it feels permanently engraved there.

failed failureHow do you know a man has accepted that mark?  He stops going to church.  He stops reading his Bible.  He may even stop trying to talk with God.  "God cannot use me" is the message in his heart, and that message can be reinforced in cruel ways by others.

Back to my questions:  When does a man truly fail?  What makes a failure complete?

Through the year of first grade, I was able to bring my grades back up.  The lower grades turned back into B's and A's.  In the end, I was no failure.  I still had the marks of the past to show for the lack of performance, but it was in the past.  The only mark that mattered was the one at the end of the year.  The only way that mark of an "F" would have been my undoing is if I had ceased to try.  If I had accepted the "F" as permanent the moment it appeared, that would have been my moment of real failure.

Too many Christians today live the Failed Christian life, not because of the mark of Failure, but because they have accepted that mark as permanent, and have stopped trying.  What is more, there are too many other Christians out there all too ready to remind them of the mark.  Though life has moved on, they continue to point their finger into the past - "Failure" is on their lips every time they say hello, and the engraving grows a little deeper.

We do not have to live the Failed Christian life though.  All we have to do is keep trying.  Peter fell beneath the waves, cut off a man's ear, denied Christ three times, and still lived a very successful Christian life . . . because he understood . . . a man only truly fails when he fails to keep trying.  Then, his failure is complete.

Reposted from www.MenRising.com

Humble Me, Lord
by JohnBagwell
 Faith & Family
Sep 20, 2011 | 3348 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

“Humble me, Lord.”  How different would your Christian walk and spiritual life be if you prayed that prayer every day and meant it?  What would it look like if God were to humble you?

WWI tankTwo stories stick out in my mind when it comes to humility, and both of them have to do with tanks.  The first story comes from a soldier on the battle field of World War One, called The Great War at the time (there had not yet been a World War II), tanks were just really beginning to come into their own as a tool on the battlefield.  Before tanks, armies would line up on either side, and dig in with mazes of trenches with barb wire and machine gun nests.  In between them was “No Man’s Land” which was a space of land neither side held, and where both sides had equal access to fire the full force of their weapons.

When the tank came along, it changed all that.  As a soldier recalled his first encounter with a tank, he said the experience was both terrifying and humbling.  All the prepared defenses were useless.  The tank rolled through No Man’s Land, through the machine gun fire, over the barbed wire, and caved in the trenches on top of the men who were underneath.  Lines of soldiers followed, and his unit was in an immediate state if disarray.

Tian An Men Square tank columnThe second story takes me back to June 4, 1989.  In Beijing China, in a plaza called Tian-an-men Square, students rose up in protest, and were fired upon and killed by Chinese government forces.  At one point, after much of the square has been cleared, tanks begin to roll into the square.  A single column of tanks grinds to a halt, not because of overwhelming opposition, but because one single man resolved to block them or be overrun, stands in their way.

As he stands there, the tanks rolling directly up to him, I am the one humbled.  He stands there in protest, and we can only assume because of the events preceding he is there on behalf of the Chinese students previously murdered by their own government. In my mind, he also personifies humility in the sense that he has come to the point that, in his own mind, he has given up everything.  Had he any reservation within himself for himself or the things he owned on this earth, doubtless he would not have been there, yet there he stood.

I wonder how many Christians would be willing to make such a stand.  Too many times, even I admit I am too preoccupied with the things of this world, trying to hold onto the status quo of my own life, trying to do the day-to-day things that make ends meet, and sometimes I forget what my real mission in life is as a Christian.  It is worth remembering these stories, because if we pray “Humble me, Lord” it may just happen that God sends a tank over the defensive lines in our lives we have so carefully prepared, so that we may hold no thing on this earth in reserve in a stand for Him.

How different would your life be if you sincerely prayed, “Humble me, Lord” every day?

 

- reposed from www.MenRising.com

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