Death In Life Doesn’t Mean Death of the Heart

Last week I attended the funeral of a young man in his 20’s. He began having seizures at age 3. During the couple of decades he lived here on this earth, he bounced back and forth between taking seizure medication—which wrecks your body and mind—and not taking the medication and dealing with the fallout. And the fallout resulted in massive, debilitating seizures. His episodes were so bad that they ripped the corneas apart in his eyes.

Yet he lived on. Every day he lived as though his life was worth living. His funeral saw him surrounded by his friends. That bond formed stronger than most of us could ever understand.

They told the story of his oldest friend: After a seizure on the playground in first grade, this soon to be best friend told anyone who laughed that he was going to kick their ass. THAT is what true manhood is. On full display in a first grader.

Protect the weak. Stop the bully.

No one told him to do it. Something INSIDE him bristled at this demeaning laughter. The other friends all had similar stories. The same bond forged through love and protection in another’s weakness.

I watched as his parents gave a 15 minute view into their lives of dealing with these seizures. The good times. The horrible times. My heart was torn apart as they spoke. He died at their house. As easy as it would be to blame God, as hard as it was to see through the pain, they talked about how they were blessed.

Blessed that he was an incredible kid. An incredible human being. A man of his word. Blessed because they, and his sister, were with him the night before. One big happy family. They are thankful for that last night. They are thankful that he will never have another seizure. They are thankful that he gave his life to Christ.

Because they will be reunited with him. For eternity.

I know this hope. I hope to see my mother there one day. To see her beautiful and complete. Not broken like she was here. I might even be the first to weep in heaven to see such a beautiful sight.

Until then, we live. We keep moving toward Christ. It’s the only place that makes sense. The only place where comfort emerges from grief. Where hope comes from brokenness. Where faith cometh from hearing. Believing in things unseen.

My heart still rips apart when I think of his life and what his family is feeling right now. But, I can close my eyes, lean back, rest in the Holy Spirit….and let Jesus put my heart back together again.

I Can Fix Your Problem, But Not Your Sink.

If you read my last blog, From Stone to Flesh. A Heart Less Heavy, you know that God has made me the opposite of who I was. I don’t struggle with most of the sins of my previous self. I have found that the more time I spend with God, the less I get caught up in those shortcomings.

But some thorns remain. Some thorns I have to pray against often. One in particular has to be crucified daily.

Pride.

Ask anyone who knows me to describe the way I was. Inevitably the words cocky, arrogant, etc. will work themselves into the description.

People have always said that there is a difference between confidence and pride. I’ve always felt like that difference is a razor’s edge. That it’s such a fine line to walk.

I am a lot less prideful now. However, I still find pride creeping its way in. It’s not that I feel the need to posture to cover some insecurity like I used to. Quite the opposite actually. I know who I am in Christ. I’m confident that I have sinned, that I denied God, that He never stopped loving me or pursuing me, that He proved himself to me and that He now fills all of the gaps of brokenness that I had.

I just want to help people and therein lies the problem…

I can quickly (and most of the time, accurately) assess what is going on with people in their lives. I am a Type A personality. I always drive forward. I find solutions. I fix things.

Except the sink. I don’t do sinks.

What I’ve found is that this comes across as extremely prideful. To be clear- this is not my intent. My intent is to help people walk in their freedom in Christ. To be free of their sin and bondage. My Type A self pushes through with efficient solutions and attack plans.

This is taken as prideful by those I’m trying to help. They view this assessment of their problems as judgement. They view telling them what they need to do as cold. And at this point they aren’t interested in attack plans.

So, I have to ask: Is it pride?

The honest answer is…YES. Correction is supposed to be gentle and with love in this area.

I was approaching people the same way I was approaching problems at my job. Assessment (identify the problem), come up with what the ultimate solution is, lay out actions to achieve said solution. But, these aren’t problems…these are PEOPLE. They deserve patience, love and HUMILITY.

God taught me that valuable lesson. I now rise daily, get on bended knee and ask God to crucify this pride that keeps creeping its way in under my good intentions. You see, I know that razor’s edge of confidence and pride is a lie. Because they should be separated by a mile wide plain of humility.

I know I will get there. Someday I will be proud to be humble.

See what I mean?

From Stone to Flesh. A Heart Less Heavy.

Proverbs 13:20
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools will be destroyed.

 

I am intentional. I am intentional on who I surround myself with. I am a friend to all. But I only take counsel from wise men.

Men who want the best for me.
Men who want me to prosper in every way.
Men who will hold me accountable.

I had lunch with a friend yesterday. We talked at length about how changed we were. I told him that I spent so much of my life away from God that I wasn’t going back to living for me. We spoke of the importance of having men that you can meet with that talk about God, that live for God, that want to strive to live in righteousness.

Accountability might be the most important part of wise counsel. You should have men that know your greatest struggles with sin. You should be asked about it. You should be able to call someone about it.

It’s important to me to be held to the highest standard. Want to know why?
Because I am the greatest Christian someone knows.

Let me say that again, I am the greatest Christian someone knows.

If I say that I’m a Christian but I keep the company of fools…a fool I will be. And what’s worse, I’m giving permission for others to act like fools.

I say NO. My life should be my witness. God removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh.

Believe me, I’ve got a lot of people that will testify that I might have had the most arrogant, angry, rude, judgmental, insecure stone inside of my chest. It was huge.

What does a stone that size do? It wears you down.

God removed that stone and gave me a heart of flesh. Those same friends that know the old me will tell you that I haven’t just changed – I am the opposite of who I was. I am changed. God allowed me to go on a long and dark journey. He showed back up like a tornado in my life.

Now I belong to Him. I love Him. I serve Him. That journey was training. And if I want to step into my calling, the very thing God trained me up so hard and so long for, my life must be my witness.

Accountability. See why it’s so important? My life will draw people unto Christ or leave them lost.

Remember, I’m the greatest Christian someone knows.

You know what else?

So are you.

God’s not your homeboy. Now, take your shoes off.

I see you bro.

Rockin that beanie like a champ. You’ve got the piping hot double vanilla low fat soy latte. Your outfit is legit. Chuck Taylor’s are on point. Jeans tight rolled. You are chillin in the sanctuary at church streaming on Facebook live.

Man, isn’t it cool that you’re spreading church through your social media feed?

Not really. You see, you’re showing off church because it’s cool. You know how I know? Because you’ve planned that outfit down to the finest detail- but, you can’t tell me what a Psalm 1 man is.

It’s not your fault. It’s ours. The church has gotten so concerned with being cool to get the millennials in the door, that they have lost the REVERENCE of God.

Remember when Moses came upon that burning bush?

Exodus 3:5-6
“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father— the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.

He was afraid to look at God. That’s power. He didn’t grab someone to draw a selfie of him with a burning bush. I can’t help but think that that would be the reaction of an encounter with God today.

We have no idea the power and magnificence of our God. Isaiah 6:1-4 says …I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”
Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

Wow.
Six winged celestial beings covering their faces and feet…never to touch the ground before God…never to look upon the face of the Holy One.

THIS is God.

This is the being that created the very planet upon which you stand.
This is the being that breathed life into the first human.
This is the being that exclaimed LIGHT BE and the sun exploded into its place.
And for some reason the church thinks we need to make God cool.

No. We don’t.

God is cool.
God is so cool that He is beyond comprehension. He is so cool that He is powerful beyond measure. God is so cool that He sent His son to die for us. And how do we repay Him? We take selfies in the sanctuary.

Not cool.

The bible says that no one can look directly at God’s face and live. So cover YOUR face. WORSHIP Him as He alone deserves. Put your phone up and your latte down, remove your beanie and take off your shoes.

For you are standing on Holy ground.

Late is on time. Early is a disaster.

 Process: a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.

My son is almost 5. I have never seen so much energy in all my life. On top of that, instilled in this young energizer boy is the need to win and be in the lead at all times. Everywhere we walk, he HAS to be in the lead. There’s just one problem:

He has no idea where we are going.

And here’s the other thing. I know EXACTLY where we’re going. But that won’t fill his need to get everywhere first. To show he is a big boy and can do everything on his own. He runs the wrong way. He runs into people. He has to run back to me. He’s doing a lot of running out front. He’s doing far more running than he needs to.

The funny thing is that we are going to end up exactly where I wanted us to end up before we started the walk. The even funnier thing is that he knows this. He is constantly looking back and asking, “Which way now, daddy?” or “Is this the right way, daddy?” Still though, he’s not going to walk patiently next to me until we arrive at our destination.

His desire to run and win and lead is so overwhelming that he literally can’t contain it.

We are smarter than that, right? We are older, more experienced, more mature. Surely, we have learned to be patient and trust the process. To have absolute trust in God’s plan for our lives.

Not.Even.Close.

We quote Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your well-being, not for a disaster, to give you a future and hope.

It makes us feel good. But do we really accept that God wants this for us? I think we do. What I think we don’t want to accept is the process to get that future.

We all know the process.

God will use a refiner’s fire to purify us. He will have us walk through difficult trials. Painful heartaches. Sickness. Betrayal. Disappointment. He will use this fire of pain and sorrow to separate the impurities so they can be removed – leaving a pure metal that can be shaped. And it’s not just about making us beautiful, it’s about making us STRONGER.

 

Make no mistake about it, God is not trying to make us happy….He is trying to make us holy.

 

We inherently don’t like this process. There are those of us that don’t like the pain required for growth. There are those of us who don’t trust God enough to surrender total control. There are those of us (like me) who rush ahead trying to complete God’s tasks as fast as I can. As if God’s plans for me are a destination and not a never-ending journey.

Here is where the genius of God comes into play. He knows that He must spoon feed us our assignments. If He gave us a destination, we would rush ahead to the finish. Upon arriving at the finish line, we would quickly realize that we are unprepared for what is next.

This is not God’s plan. His plan is a swift pace and a strong finish. Someone who can keep running.

So, let’s stop running ahead and having to look back and say, “Is this the right way?” Let’s trust the process. Let’s trust God. Let’s lead in this way as men in our households.

Turns out being late is actually being on time. And that’s just where God wants you.

Never Trust a Man Without a Limp

My dad slipped and fell down the stairs several years ago. He broke his ankle in a bad way. He’s all healed up now, but I see him walk differently. He puts weight on it a little slower. He steps with the other foot first. Whether out of caution, pain or experience…my dad walks with a limp.

He gets real cautious where the carpet turns to slick wood on that evil staircase. Because of that, I know to be careful in that spot. I tell my kids to slow down at that spot.

You see, I’ve learned a lot from my dad’s caution, pain and experience. And I’m not just talking about that staircase. I’m talking about life. He’s lived a hard one and he can point out some of the upcoming slick spots.

I see a lot of men talking. They glide into the room. Every hair is in place. Straight teeth with a super white smile. Their bible is pristine. They offer advice with an heir of authority. They even drop a bible verse as if some earth-shattering insight has just been given.

I wouldn’t follow these men into a Chik-fil-A. Do you want to know why? They haven’t LIVED. There are no scars earned in tough times or bad decisions. There is no weathering of the skin that is bestowed after being exposed to the elements and Father Time. There is no depth to their advice. Their spirituality is lukewarm and wouldn’t fill a coffee cup.

No. I will not follow these men.

There ARE men worthy to be followed. Men that have fought through this life. They have battled with the devil and beat cancer. They have fought with the same woman through thick and thin – but are still married after 40 years. They have lost their jobs and have done whatever is necessary to provide for their families. Men that have LIVED.

But in the churches I’ve seen, those men are largely silent. A wealth of information and experience just sitting there withheld from other men. And yes, I get it, who wants to help Mr. Super White Smile?

I’ll tell you who.
God.

You can’t just sit back and be satisfied to let things play out. We need Godly men to lead in our churches, at coffee shops and through their work ethic at their jobs. We need men that drag a leg when they move.

When a man chooses to test the Father and hold on dearly to be blessed, he pays a price. There is a cost. Just ask Jacob. He wrestled with God. He was blessed. Nations of God’s people were promised to him. He received a new name, Israel. He received something else: a permanent limp.

 

You see, no man can wrestle with God and walk away unchanged. But when I see a walk with a limp, a leathered face, and confident unassuming power….well….I’d follow that man just about anywhere.

Can’t break the skin. A gathering of dull blades.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.
Proverbs 27:17

 

I’ve heard this verse carelessly thrown around. I hear men say it to each other in passing. I know we get the concept. I just think we have missed the gravity of it. Or more specifically, the power that this verse holds.

It’s easy to say it to a guy at church on BBQ night. There’s a nod, a fist bump and BOOM – iron has sharpened iron. Rather, a dull knife has fist bumped another dull knife. There is no substance there, no depth. No CHALLENGE.

Is this really what the verse is supposed to mean? Is this really what God was trying to tell us about our relationships? Specifically the relationships between men? The answer is an overwhelming NO.

In fact, the 6th verse of that same chapter says: The wounds of a friend are trustworthy.

I have different categories of friends in my life. I have a few guys I have known for greater than two decades that I still talk to constantly. I have a close group of men from my church – a fellowship of men if you will. I have men I am beginning to mentor. They are friends, but we are in the beginning stages of those relationships. Finally, there are acquaintances and those on the periphery.

The guys I have known the longest aren’t where I am spiritually. In fact, we don’t really discuss those things at all. But let me tell you what they do bring to my life: Unwavering loyalty and brutal truth. They have been with me since before I knew who I was. They befriended me and stood by me when I didn’t deserve it. They will not hesitate to call me out and tell me that what I’m doing is wrong…or that I’m being a jack wagon…or anything else they see. These men love me. They love me enough to tell me when I’m screwing up. They have earned the right to tell me these things because of their loyalty to me through my most shameful moments.

You know what else? I listen to them. I value their friendship above all other men.

This is where the men in churches are lacking. Do we, as God fearing men, hold each other accountable? Do we use truth for what it is – straightforward assessments of reality to use for growth and correction? Is this enough?

I know men and I’m saying NO, it’s not enough. Remember what I said about my friends that I value above all others? I receive their truth because they showed me loyalty when I didn’t deserve it.

The church defines it a different way. The church calls it grace. This is the basis for where men need to start. We have to exhibit loyalty before the reception of accountability. We are called to share our sins- to hold each other accountable. THIS is how iron sharpens iron.

Someone shares, the others receive without judgement, they all hold each other accountable. When someone gives into their sin, they are corrected with sharp truth. When they look up from their failure and shame, they will be surrounded by a fellowship of loyal, truthful men. A room full of men ready to set them back on the path.

You see, we ALL suffer. We ALL struggle. There’s no reason to do it alone. Stop going through the motions. Stop struggling in silence. It’s time to sharpen your blade.

You know what I call a man with a sharp blade?

Dangerous.

 

The Secret to Making Men

There is a gaping hole in today’s society. There are so many social issues. Hate is running rampant. The distance between the right and the left is an ever expanding chasm. Disagreements, judgement, anger, confusion and many other things have filled this void. What is missing from society that we have reached this state in our country? And even, the world?

I’ll tell you what. Men.

Don’t get me wrong. I see “men” all around me. We are drunk on game day. We spend 5 hours on the golf course several times a week. We cheat on our wives. We expect our wives to raise our children. We lie. We follow those who talk the loudest. Or dress the trendiest. We don’t go to church. Or worse, we do and live out a life that is shallow and self centered. We judge. We gossip. We are silent. We are the problem.

Our fathers did what they thought was right. They did what their fathers did. They went to work. They provided for their family. They did not pour the things needed into their sons. So we do what they did. We work. We provide. We do not pour into our sons or daughters.

WE DON’T LEAD. We don’t know how.

God set a plan for us from the beginning. Adam blew it. He didn’t lead. He let his lack of confidence, his insecurity, his fear, shrink him from his calling – from the place God intended him to lead from. To be the man made in His image. As a result, he was banished from eden.

We have been left out in this harsh world. Twisting in the wind. We are an entire generation of men that have lost our way. When it comes to age and experience there is a noticeable absence of mature men to lead the church. I’m not talking about standing up on the stage preaching. I’m talking about men that get their hands dirty.

No, I’m not referring to their day job. I’m referring to men that are weathered in life. Men that are married and are committed to their wives. Men that lead their wife in prayer and thank God that He fashioned her for him. Men that show their daughters what kind of men they should be looking for….all by watching how that man loves his wife. Men that raise their sons to be men. True men. Faithful men. Loyal men. Respectful men. Godly men.

These sons won’t have to question if they are loved. They won’t have to wonder if they are man enough. They will KNOW they are both. Because a real man will have shown them the way. And they will KNOW who they are in Christ.

That’s family. Family is our obligation. But that’s not what I’m referring to when I say to get our hands dirty.

Getting our hands dirty means identifying other men. Men that have a void of fatherhood in their life. Men that are living with no purpose. Men that are not leaders. It’s our job to disciple them. To get our hands dirty raising up a man where another failed. Taking on their past, their problems, their insecurity, their….dirt.

We need to teach them how to face their past to become restored. That being masculine means being humble, confident and loving. Until it’s time not to. And to teach them to know the difference. We need to teach them to LEAD. To lead in their house, in their marriage, in their fatherhood, in their job, in their church.

We make men here. It’s what we do.
We have been Banished From Eden.
Now we Return to the Fight.

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