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.
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.
A 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.
Luke 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
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.
I 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.
How 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.” 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?
Two 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.
The 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
Does God fail? A better question might be, has God ever failed you? As Christian men, our knee jerk reaction may be something along the lines of “God never fails” or “God has never failed me.” I am not here to argue the point, because I would agree with you, however, the way we live our lives sometimes testifies differently than what we have proclaimed with our mouths.
I do not know anyone who has not been affected by the economic turmoil these days. If you have not been personally affected, then you know someone who has. Statistically speaking, it would be impossible for you not to fall into one of those two categories because of the immensity of the problem. Does God know about it? Does God understand how it is affecting you or someone you know? Has God failed? Has God failed you?
Who is your God?
Is your God someone you can count on or not?
In times of greatest distress, I think many of us wonder if we can still count on God. It is the reality of being human. There is a circle of people out there with a very cynical view of God, but their wondering and musing can be helpful when we ask the question, “Who is your God?” I was watching TV the other night when a guy came on asking the question, “Is God in control of everything or not?” As I listened, he began to cite the many things that are attributed to the work of God, such as tsunamis and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
He then assumed that, well yes, God is in control of all those things. Because God, being all powerful could have prevented any of them, yet for whatever reason, chose not to do so. Without missing a beat, he then cited God for all the other tragedies in the world, and ended with God giving aids to babies in Africa. Whatever your reaction to these accusations of God, that is the perception of God to people who refuse to believe God exists. It begs the question: who is your God?
I am reminded by the words of a goodie but oldie hymn called “A Mighty Fortress.” For those who have never heard of it, here is the first stanza of that song:
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.
What those who choose to not believe in God will never understand is that while Christians may never be able to prove to their satisfaction that God is real, there is great peace and power in accepting and knowing that God does exist. God does care, and while we may not understand the tragedies in the vapor of existence we call life, we know that God has never failed us, and that God never fails.
Isaiah 14:24 “The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:”
Reposted from www.MenRising.com
Suppose I gave you a jar of yellow gumballs with this simple instruction: you are to separate one gumball from the rest without isolating it from the others. Could you do it? As soon as you take one gumball out of the bunch, it is separated, but now it is also isolated. As soon as you put it back in, it once again becomes neither separated or isolated.
Can something or someone be separated without being isolated? It is a question worth asking because it drives at the core of the meaning of holiness. As Christians are we to be a holy, separated people, or are we to be a holy, isolated people?
How you look at your Christian life through either of these two possibilities will determine how you relate to the world around you. From two different pastors I heard the following two statements: “Church is not for the saved, it is for the lost to come and hear the Gospel” and “Church is not for the lost, it is for the saved to come and learn how to live a life pleasing to God.” As I took in and thought over these two statements, I could not see anything wrong with either of them except for their exclusive stance toward a particular group. In truth, church should be for the saved AND the lost.
The church should be a place where the lost feel welcome and where the Gospel can be planted in their hearts, however, it should also be a place where Christians feel comfortable bringing their families because they know that the teachings will help all of them learn to live a holy life pleasing to God.
Going back to the example of the gumballs, what if you were to take one gumball out, change it’s color, and then place it back in the jar. Would it then be separated? Well, it would certainly be different, and it would stand out. It would also no longer be isolated.
1Peter 2:9 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” John 9:5 “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
If we are in the world and no different than the world, then I propose that we are not separated, or to use another word, holy. To be holy is to be different in a way that gives honor and glory to God instead of bringing attention to ourselves. If we are so different that we isolate ourselves, and the world has no interaction with us, then they cannot see God in us in that way either. We may as well be a gumball wrapped in opaque packaging completely cut-of from any interaction, definitely separated, but also just another form of isolation.
There must be balance. We cannot hope to influence a lost world if we isolate ourselves from them, nor can we be the light to a world if we are no different than they are. That balance, that distinction between being separated and isolated, that characteristic that points to God instead of ourselves, that is what I believe is holiness.
Reposted from www.MenRising.com