Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Man of Hope

To understand what a man of hope looks like, we must first understand what it is to be a man without hope. Just about any thesaurus you open will offer despair as hope’s antonym. Essentially, a man without hope is a man of despair; someone acquainted with grief, acquainted with pain—a man of sorrows. The question I have is this; do we truly understand the road of hope without first walking down the path of suffering? Who is the model of a man of hope? I would submit to you that the man of sorrows and despair, as described in Isaiah 53:3, is in-fact the very model of hope for every man. Isaiah 53:3 states, He [Christ] was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (NIV).

I learned how to be a man of hope during the birth of my second daughter, nearly two years ago. She came into the world as a healthy 10 pound bundle. Shortly after her first nursing, she spit up a very unusual substance with the consistency and color indicative of a very life threatening condition. Moments after we alerted the nursing staff, those same nurses very calmly carried our baby girl to the nursery for what we assumed to be a routine assessment. Then enters a doctor, a specialist we’d never met before, making an awkwardly nervous introduction of himself and the new road of suffering we would embark on. As this neo-natal gastro-intestinal pediatric surgeon stood before my wife and me, he shared about the potential need for emergency surgery and a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that could kill our baby. Needless to say, my hopes were shattered—everything changed. I was left in a position beyond my control and certainly outside of my own abilities to alter. Our daughter was segregated from personal contact for many days as she lived in an intensive care unit with younger and in some cases babies that were a quarter of her size or less. It seems almost paradoxical that she was in intensive care yet there she was with wires, tubes, and a device alarming every few seconds. It caused a death-like coldness to fall upon my wife and me as we tried to grasp our new reality. No David and Goliath faith for me, my flesh emerged and my spirit was crushed. I had no hope; I was broken.

With nothing else to lean on, I leaned across a granite sink in a hospital bathroom and made my own Garden of Gethsemane as I cried out to God with brokenness and exhaustion. I felt the Holy Spirit begin his work of comfort and peace as brothers and sisters visited, prayed and cared for our family. Later that week I was joined in the hospital by a close colleague and co-worker who arrived with a wife in premature labor. They had begun their own nightmare and God saw fit to have me walk as a man of hope, with this man of despair, as his premature child began slipping away and ultimately went to be with Christ. I learned how to walk with despair, even as I hoped for my own daughter’s healing. I was sensitive, open to it, I got it, it all made sense to me now because the hurt and pain was now an acquaintance and the outcome uncertain.

You see, God desires to use us at every stage of our own brokenness to minister as men of hope to those around us. Christ himself was a man of hope even while he was nailed to the cross. In his time of despair he reached out as a man of hope to one last man of despair who dared to believe in Him as THE man of hope. Days after walking with this co-worker and his wife, we began seeing improved blood test in our daughter, and x-ray films were coming back clear of any infection. Signs of life and normal behaviors began emerging. Our hopes moved from strengthened to restored as we were invited to hold our daughter a week and a half after her birth only to take her home days later for what has been a beautiful two years.

What is a man of hope? I believe it is a graduate from the school of despair. It is a man who learns obedience through his suffering and put his hope in Jesus Christ. 

What do you place your hope in?

This has been a guest article by a great friend of mine 
and brother in Christ, M. Coffin.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Man of Grace

What is a Man of Grace? What is Grace? Wouldn’t it be easy for me to give a few cliché scriptures and a rah-rah message about being victorious through grace? Who am I to be writing this article about Grace?

Inside of me I have two men: the former man and the after man. I was an evangelical atheist, a physically strong man, an intellectually gifted man, an impatient man, an arrogant man, a demeaning man – a bully of a man. But when I was 22, I had a very powerful experience with God - a paradigm shifting, spiritually awakening, humility inducing, tear generating and thought provoking experience. My whole perception of self, character, reality and behaviors were radically altered that day.

Fast forward to when I was 24 and my wife and I had our first daughter. My wife and I have been together since high school and she has seen me as the before man and grown with me as the after man. Regardless of how close we were, nothing could prepare me for the moment when the doctors informed us that our first child was born with Down Syndrome. Immediately, the before man crept into my mind… “How could I, me of all people, be born with such a mistake of a daughter? Doesn’t God know who I am? My seed should be superior.”

Those thoughts soon faded and we soon fell deeply in love with our girl. She now is almost 5 and truly a joy to us and everyone she comes in contact with. So why have I shared this with you in a supposedly encouraging article about being a Man of Grace?

God has taught me many lessons on grace and the exhibition thereof through my daughter. Jesus never condemned the weak. He never shuffled aside the outcast. He never verbally abused those with less understanding. He didn’t respond aggressively (even if we would consider it just worthy) when he was ridiculed or mocked by those who didn’t know any better. God continually brings up the life of Jesus, when he was here as a man among his brethren here on this world, when guiding me on how to raise my daughter.

Since my daughter has Down Syndrome, she constantly draws attention – some harmless and some demeaning. She looks, talks, walks and acts just a little different than a ‘normal’ child. People look, stare, make comments or make faces and we have even been asked in the nicest way possible, “How could we bring such a child into the world?" The before man would have given them a piece of my mind; or maybe a piece of a few knuckles as well. The after man, the Man of Grace that I am growing into, strives to respond and behave as Jesus did. Sometimes I have to turn the other cheek, sometimes I respond with a blessing, sometimes I have to remind myself that they know not what they do, sometimes I have to remind myself that they are behaving exactly as the world has taught them and sometimes I find a reasonable person that I can reach out to and lead into meaningful conversation.

So am I a Man of Grace? You tell me. I know I am much more graceful than I used to be but I’m always learning, always being molded into the image of Jesus, always struggling with the former man and always thankful that others treat me with grace when I do.

How has God taught or shown you Grace in your life?

This has been a guest article by a great friend of mine 
and brother in Christ, R. Evans.
Look forward to more great articles from him in the future!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Man of Worship

Standing there next to my wife, I can hear her voice amongst the crowds of other voices. We're at Church on Sunday morning and it is the time they call worship. She has such a beautiful voice. I consider that maybe her voice is enough worship for the both us. Excuses. I take a look around the Church at the other men to see what they are doing and find some of the following examples. I'd say most men's mouths never move; they stand there as though they are military and solute the worship leader with a blank face and no heart. I watch some men move their mouth with about as much enthusiasm as driving to work on a Monday morning. And finally I see the men with their eyes closed their mouths moving and their arms raised high. These are the men that get worship; these are the men singing their praises to God.

The definition of worship is this: reverent honor and homage paid to God; formal or ceremonious rendering of such honor. In other words, it is giving honor to our great God. It is a formal way of showing Him our love and respect. It is our way of letting go of all and giving it to him.

"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise."
Psalm 95:1-2

What will it take for you to worship in Song?

A) Pride
You can put on your nice church clothes in the morning. You can shake the men's hands at church and slap that fake smile on your face, but you can't fool God. He deserves our attention, worship and so much more. Your pride puts the brakes on you worship. You're not better than anyone else and no one is judging you. If they are, they have their own issues with worship and so on. Give it up and give it to God!

B) Fear
We're men right? Men are what we are. Sounds like I'm quoting from 'Fight Club'. What are you so afraid of? Feeling weak? Looking funny? Maybe you think that girl you like will think less of you if your arms are raised high and you are actually sincere. Maybe you're wrong; maybe that exactly what she needs to see to even consider you. We are to Fear God, and we can do that through worship. Give it up and give it to God!

C) Understanding
You have to ask yourself 'how am I worshiping God', if I am not worshiping him in song? Is it at work? I would guess not. Is it at home watching the TV? I would assume not, again. If you call yourself a man of God, than worship must be understood and practiced. You should want to do it. You should consider all that He has done for you and sing his praises. I can't say that I always feel like singing or giving Him my all in Church, but I have to remember worship. I want to worship God and give Him my all!

What will it take for you to worship?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Be Strong. Be Bold.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Man of Prayer

Being a man of prayer is about having a conversation with God. In a conversation there is dialogue between two people. If one person does all the talking and the other only listens- that’s called a lecture. How often do we lecture God by coming to Him with all our requests and petitions and then leave and never wait for a response? I think if we pause, and listen- we might find that God has things on HIS heart that HE wants to dialogue with us about.

Being a man of prayer, and keeping a dialogue with God raises a heart belief- and that is- Do you believe that God still speaks to us today? Jesus tells us in the book of John- John 10:27- My Sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. That is a promise for us today, that we can hear God speak to us. Sometimes it’s a still small voice, sometimes it’s in the scriptures, sometimes through situations, sometimes through other people, and sometimes in the night time in our dreams. God is GOD and HE will get our attention.

What about praying for the lost or family members or praying for revival? That’s great to pray for that, but let’s have a heart check up. AM I doing all of this out of a performance or religious duty to make God proud of me? Am I praying to God; or with God?

Did you know there’s a difference? Praying to God is bringing my petitions and telling God what I want Him to do.  Praying with God is coming to God and asking what is on His heart about the situation and asking Him how to pray.  The next time you go into prayer, ask God what’s on His heart; ask HIM how you’re to pray. If I pray His heart- don’t you know those prayers are going to get answer?

Are you a Man of Prayer?
If not, what do you have to do to become one?

                                          This has been a guest post by a very good friend 
                                                         and brother in Christ, C. Elrod. 
                                      Look forward to more great posts from him in the future!

Monday, October 8, 2012

'Guys with Kids' Review

It's the fall television season and all the networks are putting out their new shows. One of the things I look for are shows related and meant for men. Almost year ago, one of the major networks put out a show called 'Man Up'. I actually wrote a post about it that you can check out. Man Up was a complete disaster! It had men in their thirties that did nothing but wine, complain and act like children. The show was not about men "manning up" at all, it merely showed a bunch of immature men that were trying to man up and failed every episode. I think the network realized its faults and the show is not to return. 

Recently a new show popped up on the scene called 'Guys with Kids'. The previews looked slightly skeptical showing three dudes all strapped up with babies and kids around them. At first I thought this was going to be another fail. I figured it would be three guys, all divorced, trying to make it on their own by dealing with the kids and their ex-wives. The worst part is I imagined the show would of course be a comedy. The show would be selling the fact that it is acceptable to be divorced, raising kids and all the time making fun of the scenarios. But this was not the case.

After watching the first episode, I was surprised. There were, of course, guys that had kids, but two of them were married while the one was divorced. I became more interested in the show based on these ideas. The main idea of a show is the relationship among the three guys. They and their families all live in the same apartment building and visit each other often. The one guy has a wife and a couple younger girls; the second guy has a wife and has four boys; and the third guy is divorced with maybe a 12 month old baby. The mother is still present in the show so far, but they mostly deal with trading the baby back and forth. Most of the comedy comes from the relationship between the three guys, but a lot of entertainment is aimed at all the kids. 

Overall, the show is not a complete miss from the target. It shows pretty good examples of a couple marriages. Do the marriages go through some troubles and run into some strange things? Well, yes, but what marriages don't? And most of the time the troubles in marriage can be pretty funny if taken with the right heart. It also shows an example of a divorced couple, but at least the father is around and takes responsibly for the child. In the end, it doesn't set a horrible example and is much, much better than Man Up. 

I don't know if it will last for seasons to come, but check it out and share your thoughts if you get a chance.

Airs: Wednesdays at 08:30 pm
Runtime: 30 Minutes

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning to Cope

My wife and I had just started going to a new Church. We had just got married and moved to a new place in a different state. We had gone to about three churches up to the point, but we really hadn't found 'the one' yet. One Saturday morning, we literally looked online at all the nearby churches and one popped up that we liked. The next day we threw on our church clothes and we were off to a new place. God always has a great plan for you if you are willing to let him work. We sat down near the back and low and behold another young couple sat right behind us. (coincidence? I think not) After the service ended the couple introduced themselves to us and invited us to a marriage class with other young couples from the church. We said yes to the friends, to the class and to the church. This story introduces the friend that taught me how to cope, but I taught him first...

About a month after meeting these and other friends at this new church, my new buddy from that first day gave me a call to see if I could assist him with some work at their house. I had told him earlier that I was a carpenter by trade and he used it for his benefit, which was fine for my wife and me since we had no friends yet. It was later in the night, maybe 6 o'clock, but I grabbed my tools and we jumped in the car. I arrived at his house to find him working on some trim in a small room. He pointed out that no matter what he did, he could not figure out how to get the trim installed and fit together properly. The trim was actually crown molding, so I can understand the difficulty if not worked with before. I proceeded to tell him that the molding had been installed....upside down. His head dropped and I smiled. We had a good laugh about it and started to remove what was up so that it could be redone. I showed him how to properly install crown and also showed him how to COPE the ends so that they would have a nice clean fit in the corners. A cope in trim work is interesting, because you have to cut away the one piece so that it will fit perfectly over the other piece. They work great together.

So far you know about our church and a guy that I taught how to cope wood..

Well, a few years had passed since that wondrous night of trim coping magic. My wife and I still went to that same church, but our marriage had deteriorated immensely. No fault to the church though; we would go there and put on the church smile and attitude. We would talk the talk, but had drifted far from the walk. It got down to a point where I had had enough and finally wanted out of my marriage. I wanted nothing to do with it anymore; I wanted out. Well, this is where the coping skills come into play, no, not the ones that require a saw and a file, but true friendship. Cope means to, face and deal with responsibilities and problems in a calm manner. This is where my friend taught me how to cope. He taught me to look at the bigger picture in my life. What was I not doing? What was my walk with God like? Where was I putting my faith? It certainly wasn't in Christ and it was easy to tell by looking at my life. He was willing to sacrifice his time, he was willing to show me how my life was upside down and he showed me how to use a file on all my rough edges. He showed me how my marriage could be great, if my relationship with God was real and true. Although the molding may have ridges and valleys, you can still learn to cut the perfect cope. God truly works in wonderful ways. He knows the language that we speak and he uses it to speak right to us, even if we don't think we're listening.....

Christ taught him how to cope. I taught him how to 'cope'. He taught me to cope.

You may never know why Christ takes you down a certain paths,
But you can believe that it's for a bigger reason.

I'd love to hear your similar stories!