What If, Men?

I’ve traveled to Jordan twice this year. Much could be said about traveling to that part of the world. One thing I noticed the first time and then even more the second time is this: Arab men know how to do community.

They enjoy talking to each other. They enjoy healthy disagreement. They share the good and the bad. They lean into one another. They plan time together. From my experience, they do it better than we Americans. So I’m doing what I can now to change that experience.

We have an opportunity. If the opportunity could be boiled down to one word, I believe that word is trust. Much like we have to grow our trust in God, we should pay attention to grow our trust in one another. It’s quite possible that the former is needed and necessary in order for the latter to happen. So how do we go about growing these trusts?

TRUST BY SHARING YOUR FEARS

Yesterday one of my friends did this with me during a breakfast conversation. He shared a fear he’s dealing with, and I’m the first male that knows. He seemed to feel better just because he had a brother to share his fear with. Scripture tells us to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Imagine how lighter the community of men would be if we shared our fears rather than bearing them all alone. What if we started by sharing our fears with God and asking him to give us the courage to share them with a brother?

TRUST BY BEING HONEST

We have the habit of not being real, not being completely honest and transparent. Guys, you are not going to be weak by being real. You are going to be stronger because you are not denying the truth. The truth can only set you free when you speak it and live in it. Earlier this year I watched a brother go through a trying season, life threatening, because he refused to be honest. Imagine how stronger the community of men would be if we embraced honesty. What if we started by being honest with God and humbling ourselves to be honest with a brother?

TRUST BY TAKING THE CHANCE

As I’m writing this, the news is reporting the murder/suicide of a deputy sheriff’s family in a nearby county. Familiar story-no one knows why, no one suspected it, no one saw it coming. We can grow our trust in numerous ways of taking chances. What if we took a personal chance by considering a mental health check up as much as a physical one? What if we took a chance by pointing out odd behavior to our brothers? What if we took a chance by asking how to pray for one another? What if we took a chance to follow through on a Holy Spirit nudge to reach out to a brother? Imagine the impact to the community of men if we took more chances. What if we started by asking God to give us a chance to take today?

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The Worst Case of Being Misunderstood

Ever been misunderstood? I’m not asking have you ever had a misunderstanding. I’m talking about being mislabeled, mischarged, or mispegged to the point that trust was broken. In some cases, these events lead to years of damage and loss, such as years in prison for being accused falsely. If it’s been that bad for you, that’s rough. I can’t relate to that depth of being misunderstood. But I can tell you this, that’s not the worst case of being misunderstood. No, the worst case happened a few millienia ago.

The worst case of being misunderstood happened to God. Yes, that’s right. And just like the case usually is, it was because of a lie. The lie led to mistrust. The mistrust led to the worst decision known. And God and his creation have been suffering ever since. Yes, that’s right. You have been suffering because God was misunderstood.

You’ve probably guessed where this happened. If not, here’s a hint. The lie had to do with becoming like God. (Now that’s a whopper of a lie.) The lie caused Adam and Eve to lose trust in God’s character. The choice to believe that lie in essence said to God, “You can’t be trusted.” The first person to ever be misunderstood created those who made him feel misunderstood.

So here you are. Either being misunderstood right now or thinking about when it’s happened to you in the past. Find comfort in these thoughts:

  • God is the one person in the world who does get you, all of you.
  • God knows what it feels like to be misunderstood. It started soon after he created us and has never stopped.
  • God found a way to offer reconciliation to those who misunderstood him. You can do that too, most likely. But remember, just like his offer, yours may or may not be accepted.
  • God’s character wasn’t impacted by his being misunderstood. At his core, he is love. Strengthen your core with love.
  • God continues to do his work. So can you. Being misunderstood is not your identity. Your identity is found in your Creator. Don’t believe the lie that started this whole thing. 

Real Sabbath: God’s Sovereignty

My latest reading has been on the subject of Sabbath. Why? It’s a curious subject; we all need it; and I’m putting together a coaching program on the subject.

The two books I’m reading through this month are excellent; they’ve made the resource list for the program. Here are links to them: The Rest of God and Rhythms of Rest.

To give you a taste of the goodness of these books and what you could look forward to in a program on this subject, here’s a quote from chapter four of The Rest of God:

Real Sabbath, the kind that empties and fills us, depends on complete confidence and trust. And confidence and trust like that are rooted in a deep conviction that God is good and God is sovereign.

To give the reader a practical way to seek the sovereignty of God and therefore achieve an attitude of Sabbath, the author gave this challenge based on the storyline found in Acts 3-4 (you might want to read that now):

To practice the sovereignty of God today when you pray, start with God. Survey what he has made. Recite what he has done. Proclaim who he is.

So I tried that this afternoon as a journal entry. Give it a shot and see if your mind and spirit aren’t entered into a deeper place of trust and confidence. 

Deep Water

Luke 5:4 (MSG)

When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

If you’ve read the Gospels, you are familiar with this story.  Simon and his coworkers had been fishing all night and caught nothing.  Then Jesus tells them to do this.

Using that deep water thought, what area of life might God be telling you to push out?  What if He knows something you don’t and all you have to do is respond like Simon, “If you say so”?

  • It’s possible you’ve done all you can in the water where you are; it’s time to trust God by going into deeper water.
  • It’s possible you’ve exhausted all your resources in doing the same routine, doing what you know; it’s time to follow God in doing something new in deeper water.
  • It’s possible you’ve matured beyond the needs of your current location; it’s time to believe God has more for you by stretching you in deeper water.

Why be content in your “all night’s” work?

Why not consider the possibilities where God is offering to guide you?

3 Keys to Distinguishing Yourself

In a world where everyone and everything is readily accessible, the idea of making a mark, of being memorable, of branding well is high on the priority list. Believe it or not, there’s a guy in the Bible whose storyline gives insights into distinguishing yourself. You find him in Daniel 6.

“Daniel distinguished himself above the administrators and satraps because he had an extraordinary spirit, so the king planned to set him over the whole realm. The administrators and satraps, therefore, kept trying to find a charge against Daniel regarding the kingdom. But they could find no charge or corruption, for he was trustworthy, and no negligence or corruption was found in him.” ‭‭Daniel‬ ‭6:3-4‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Daniel was a foreigner, in exile. Yet he respected God’s purposes enough to distinguish himself, not for himself but for God. Verse 3 says he had an extraordinary spirit; verse 4 says he was trustworthy and without corruption. How did these three keys set him apart?

Extraordinary Spirit

When you’re forced to be somewhere not of your choosing, your first inclination is not to be extraordinary. Most would be tempted with bitterness or anger. For the person who truly believes like Daniel that God sees and knows all things, those temptations can easily be overcome. Whatever challenge you face-job situation, financial struggles, family tension, unexpected loss-you have access to the God who is working for you who can give you an extraordinary spirit. That’s distinguishing. 

Trustworthy 

Nurturing and cultivating trust in all relationships is worth any amount of time and effort. Think about the people you most trust. How did that trust get built? What character traits do they manifest that distinguished them to foster your willingness to trust them? Daniel had saved lives by his dream interpretation skills. That’s trustbuilding. But even more cultivating was he didn’t take credit. He acknowledged his power source was his God. Daniel built trust by doing his job selflessly and humbly giving proper credit. That’s distinguishing. 

Without Corruption

Position brings power. Power attracts opportunities. Opportunities can be the enemy’s minefield. The storyline of Daniel 6 illustrates the opposing responses to power and opportunity and their results. Daniel remained incorrupt by staying closer to his God daily and avoiding the enemy’s lure into his minefield. Even the threat of death lost its power. That’s distinguishing. 

Should we wonder why God found Daniel innocent  (verse 22)? Just like Daniel, we can be distinguished. Our spirit can be extraordinary. We don’t have to allow bitterness or anger to lead us into mistrust or corruption. Daniel accomplished this by maintaining his routine of communicating with God. His location, occupation, and feelings were not allowed to sway him from being who God wanted him to be. That’s distinguishing. 

31 Proverbs Highlights: #20-Honorable Men

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel…Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man? (‭Proverbs‬ ‭20‬:‭3‬,6 HCSB)

“A good man is hard to find.” How many times have you heard that statement? (Let’s not get into where and by whom)

“An honorable man is hard to find.” I can’t say I’ve ever heard that one. Can you?

Maybe we should have. Or maybe we should be asking it.

These two verses start the list of what makes a man honorable:

  • He works to resolve a dispute rather than pick a fight.
  • He doesn’t always have to get his way.
  • He doesn’t look for an argument just to get into one.
  • He doesn’t have to proclaim his loyalty.
  • He proves his trustworthiness over and over again not out of necessity but by nature of his character.

What else makes a man honorable? Leave a comment if you have an answer.

31 Proverbs Highlights: #14-A Woman and Her House

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs) 

​Every wise woman builds her house, but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1 HCSB

This house is built using truths from this book such as: 

  • Living in the fear of the Lord
  • Following the path of righteousness 
  • Choosing words that instill trust and respect 
  • Giving to the poor
  • Correcting and rebuking the children 

This house is destroyed ignoring and rejecting truths from this book by:

  • Living for personal gain 
  • Following the “whatever feels good” path
  • Stirring up strife and contention with words of gossip and contempt
  • Hoarding 
  • Allowing the children to do as they please

31 Proverbs Highlights: #13-Taking Advice

(A simple series highlighting verses from each chapter of the book of Proverbs)

Arrogance leads to nothing but strife, but wisdom is gained by those who take advice. The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 13:10,20 HCSB

We naturally have different postures between when we seek advice and when someone offers advice. When we seek advice, generally we seek with a receptive heart, with a trusted counselor, and with listening ears. When someone offers advice, generally we listen guardedly, stiffly, possibly arrogantly.

  • What might happen if we always had a receiving heart and an open mind?
  • What if we surrounded ourselves with trustworthy, wise companions that knew they had open access for advice giving?
  • What if every morning we prayed, “God, seek my heart. Remove any arrogance. My heart and mind are yours. I desire to walk with you today. Bless me and my companions with your wisdom. I long to follow your ways. Speak to me all throughout this day“?

Living with Judas

10 Questions to ponder when you think you know a “Judas”:

  1. How am I praying for them?
  2. What role might I play in their redemption?
  3. Has anyone approached them with the truth?
  4. What is missing from my knowledge of their story that would help my encounters with them?
  5. What wholesome character traits are shown by their behaviors? What damaging traits?
  6. Has grace been offered? If so, is there room for more? When does the grace end?
  7. When will it be time to withdraw? What’s the line that when crossed severs the relationship?
  8. What may be the root of cyclical behavior?
  9. What choices do you have when no offense has occurred but their character indicates it’s just a matter of time?
  10. What does God want me to learn from this relationship?

4 Good Don’ts

“Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD ’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! Honor GOD with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over. But don’t, dear friend, resent GOD ’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction. It’s the child he loves that GOD corrects; a father’s delight is behind all this.”‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5-12‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Reading this passage this morning from the Message, I see some good don’ts that I can always use to have in the memory bank.

  • Don’t try to figure everything out on your own – the opposite issues from arrogance and pride
  • Don’t assume that you know it all – the opposite fosters independence that leaves God out of the story
  • Don’t resent God’s discipline – the opposite undermines His authority and character of compassion
  • Don’t sulk under his loving correction – the opposite reveals immaturity and selfishness

To keep these dont’s in check, do trust, do listen, do honor, do give the best and the first, and do run to God.