4 Qualities to Reclaim Manhood

As my 2 boys are well into their teenage years, I have pondered the question, “What does it mean to be a Man?” much consideration.  While I have had many great role models (i.e., my father, grandfathers, youth pastors, etc…), I also have seen that the role and expectations of a man have been changing for decades.  In fact, I truly believe it is more difficult to be a man in this day and age than in anytime in history.

For generations, the role of the man (whether as a father, husband, or others) was relatively clear. Men would protect and provide for their home and family in very tangible ways.  The old black & white television shows defined the value of a man as they reflected the majority of culture.  John Wayne’s characters and the “Leave it to Beaver” shows became the standard for men to live up to.

So, what defines a man today?  Where does a man find role model?  In a day & age when 44% of children are raised in a woman only household*, how does a man know how to be a man?

The greatest place to look is the Bible, for it provides for us the raw truth about men in their victories and their flaws.  We see them in their strength and their weakness.  Over the Summer at the church I pastor, we will be looking at one such man, by the name of Abraham.  Other than Jesus, he may be the most important Biblical character of all of Scripture.  If you would like to follow our journey of God’s interaction with Abraham, you can CLICK HERE!

While the role of men has certainly evolved over the years, I would actually like to propose that the needs “of a man to be a man” have not.  In fact, the need for a man to provide and protect is still predominately present, but may just look different.  Below are 4 Qualities to Reclaim Manhood in which we still provide and protect for our families, and society as a whole.

  1. Dependable Decisions:  The man who is dependable (not infallible) in the decisions he makes for himself and others is a real man.  You will often witness dependable decisions in their financial choices first.  Are they willing to set aside person comforts or thrills for the benefit of the family.  Where to live, if to move, etc… are all part of the decisions that prove a man’s dependability.  Of course, HOW a man makes decisions, becomes just as important as the decisions themselves.  Involve others in the process.
  2. Emotional Stability:  Emotional stability is not the lack of emotions or even the “stuffing-down” of our emotions.  Men who own this quality (which by the way is a choice), have the ability to remain objective amidst emotional situations and conversations.  While we feel the anxiety, stress, and emotional pressure, we choose to keep focused and objective for the betterment of today and tomorrow.
  3. Safe Relationship:  Of course it should go without saying, but a man’s wife and kids should always feel safe around them.  Physically safe, yes, but it is much more.  Is it SAFE to be in relationship with you.  Do you break hearts and promises?  Can they be sure of “who” will show up after work, or are you so moody that everyone has to walk on egg-shells until they see if you had a “good” day?
  4. Moral Fortitude:  A man is only as good as his word.  This sounds like something John Wayne would say.  The definition of “fortitude” is courage in pain or adversity.  It simply means you have the strength of character to do what is right no matter the consequences, or even if anyone would know or not.  You do right because it is right!

The great part of these 4 qualities are even if you have never seen them modeled in a good man in your life, you can start today and CHOOSE to reclaim manhood for you and those in your life.  Not only will you benefit, but everyone around you will be blessed!  It is a blessing to be a man, and a REAL MAN blesses others!

What to do when Facing Set-Backs?

It was the Winter of 1989.  My Sophomore season of High School basketball was coming to an end.  I had been working hard: lifting weights, jump rope, and squats.  Needless to say much of my life revolved around basketball.  The only problem was my knee started to feel “strange”.  Periodically it would lock into place and I would have to “pop” my knee back into position.  At times when I would be playing defense, my knee would give way, and I would stumble.

Jason_Basketball_VFCC

So, on the heals of our season, I had an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon named Dr. Sharp (I like that name for a surgeon).  After a few questions, he had me lay on my back and began to manipulate my leg into positions in hope of diagnosing the problem.  He immediately told me with the confidence only surgeons have, “You’ve torn your Interior Meniscus.”  Come to find out this was Orthopedic jargon for my cartilage on the inside of my left knee.

At that age young men think they are indestructible.  A surgery was out of the question.  But soon I found myself under the hand of this Surgeon as he “shaved off” my torn cartilage.  It would the first of a total of 4 surgeries I will have undergone on my knees over my life time (3 on my left knee, 1 on my right) due to later injuries.

Since my goal at this age was to play college basketball, I could have either abandoned my goal, or I could embrace the set-back and make the most of this experience.  Two years later I would have my 2nd surgery and go through this process again right before going to college to play basketball.  Below are a few ways faced a major set back and made the most of a negative experience:

  1. FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE:  When I first learned the news, I was confused and worried.  However, my mind-set soon became one of determination.  I decided that a set-back wasn’t final and I could and would press-through and persevere.  Set-backs can easily discourage.  No matter your set-backs and discouragements, be sure to not allow the negative to dominate your thinking.
  2. WORK THE PROCESS:  I was always systematic in my training.  Now my training would look different.  Three times a week I would visit the Physical Therapist.  He would stretch my leg, have me lift it straight up without weights at first, and teach me to walk with no limp.  I decided I would take no short cuts, and obey the process that was given me by my PT.
  3. LEAN ON YOUR TEAM:  My team would soon consist of my Therapist, my Family and later the guys I’d play back-yard basketball with.  The question you must ask yourself is, “Who in my life can help me move forward?”  Since everyone plays different roles in our lives, understanding how they contribute to your life (as well as you to their life) is an important aspect of friendship, family, and teammates.  No one person is called to provide everything you need.  Draw on the strengths of those God has placed in your life.
  4. EXCEL WHERE YOU CAN:  This became a time where I got real serious about upper-body training.   Instead of being frustrated that I could no longer lift 5 lbs with my left leg (never mind jump-rope, squats, lunges, etc…) I had to focus my energy and training elsewhere.  This same principle I implemented when in my Junior year of college I tore my ACL and missed the whole season (this was my 3rd surgery on my left leg).  It was during this season of recover I was able to gain 15 lbs of muscle (primarily in my upper body) which helped me come back my Senior year of college and become a 1st-Team All American basketball player.

It is important for EVERYONE to remember that our set-backs are not final and they are not fatal.  You can bounce back.  The set-backs you are facing may be something physical like my knees which you have little control over, or they may be other set-backs in relationships, addictions or the decisions of others.  Perhaps your set-back is a failure you have experienced or a sin you have committed.

Don’t allow your failures to define you.  The one decision that is always yours to make is the decision to RISE AGAIN!  Don’t quit, don’t give up.  Get up and keep trying… for it’s not so much what happens to you, but what happens in your that matters!

Does Pentecost Leave the Church?

This coming Sunday is known as Pentecost Sunday on the Church calendar.  Why should you care and does this really matter?  These are legitimate questions, especially when one considers the common perspective that the Pentecostal Experience is only something that at best makes a Sunday morning church service more exciting, or at worst causes things to get weird or uncomfortable.

The problem with much of modern day theology and doctrine on the Pentecostal distinctive of speaking in tongues, words of knowledge, prophecy, the gift of healing, etc… is that we have limited these elements to things that happen in a church service.  But what if the above Pentecostal gifts became something we experienced at home, at work, and in our community.  It is not that the expressions of God’s Spirit should not be seen in a gathering together of believers (aka., church), but that we have limited what God wants to do, and where He can do it.

So my question is this… “DOES PENTECOST LEAVE THE CHURCH?”  What if the gifts of God’s Spirit were a part of your marriage, your work experience, your parenting, or in your classroom?  Imagine if God’s Spirit was most powerful the other 6 days of the week, and Sunday was just the overflow.  What if Pentecost left the church and follow you home!?!

When Relationship & Leadership Collide

(I wrote this in connection with my Father’s book, BETTER TOGETHER: Harnessing the power of teamwork, which is in the final stages of editing and hopefully will be available later this year.  #DadRules)  

For anyone who has been in leadership any amount of time, you have discovered the periodic collision between Relationship and Leadership.  It could be a loving parent who now has to “lead” their child into obedience when they don’t want to follow, screaming “I hate you” as they slam the door to their bedroom.  Perhaps it is the one who receives an inner office promotion and now has to lead, direct, and even sometimes correct those with whom their had previously been peers.  Then again, maybe you’re the new kid on the block, trying to build relationships of trust with your team, yet at the same time difficult decisions need to be made to assure the success of the organization, team, ministry, etc…  It is in these moments where 2-worlds collide.

So what does a leader do and how do they decide when there is apparent collision between your leadership (& the realistic expectations of your role) and the relationships you’ve been entrusted to manage and lead?  After 22 years of ministry and leadership I certainly don’t have this perfectly mastered, but below are a few insights I’ve gained along the way:

  1. Always VALUE the Person:  There are ways to value the person, while not allowing the relationship to be leveraged (or manipulated).  Remember, if you value the relationship over your leadership, you will most likely lose both.  Besides, if the person you are leading values the relationship, they will respect your leadership.  When you as the leader value the person, you build trust with the other team members, even when the difficult leadership decisions collide with the relationship.
  2. Understand Leadership Timing:  Forward movement always takes concerted and focused energy.  A wise leader understands when to push forward toward progress, and when it is a suicide mission.  If you are the “new kid” you will certainly want to tread slowly, unless you are borrowing leadership strength and backing from a superior.
  3. Lead for the Long-Haul:  With the risk of using aggressive language, you can win the battle, but lose the war.  As leaders we cannot become so fixate on one instance or conflict that we forget how this plays into the bigger picture of what we are called to do, and who we need to be.  I believe this was the context of Proverbs 19:11, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”  As God for the wisdom of when to “overlook.”  
  4. Recognize the 2-Faces of Peace:  I have noticed there there are Peace-Makers and their are Peace-Keepers.  In Matthew 5:9, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”  In fact, if Jesus is our model, we quickly discover that peacemakers are to void of confrontation.  A true Peace-Maker cares enough to confront.  A Peace-Keeper on the other hand will sweep things under the rug, appease the contemptuous party, and placate the critical.  While in the moment you may gain peace, Peace-Keeping leadership always breeds distrust and diseased culture.  Peace-Makers will confront with love and with the hope of restoration and unity.  Unity is the result of right relationship with humble leadership.
  5. Never Walk Alone:  While leadership may be lonely, leadership should never be “done alone.”  Healthy leadership has the context of healthy relationships.  The final thought about leadership and relationships is to make sure you are proactive in building healthy relationships with your team.  When challenging times come (& they will), your team or its member will know that you care even if they disagree.  This doesn’t mean that your leadership will never be challenged or your decisions or character questioned, but you’ll have a relational record that speaks for itself.  Proverbs 20:11 puts it this way, “Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright?”  Invest in relationships before the collision.  

One final thought, Always Stay Ahead of the Wave.  My boys and I love to boogie board surf when we’re at the shore (that’s the Ocean for all you non-East-coasters :)).  If you’re behind the wave, you’ve missed your chance to “surf” and in some ways abdicate a portion of your leadership.  If you meet the wave as it is crashing, you may be crushed by the fury of the wave.  The astute boogie boarder (and leader) has their eyes scanning the waters, determining when to move and on which waves to surf.  If you don’t stay ahead of the wave, the wave will get ahead of you.  Leadership and relationships are not an either/or but a both/and dynamic.  Trust is built when strong leadership and strong relationships co-exist!

If you have additional thoughts about Leadership and Relationship, I’d be interested in hearing from you.  I also know other readers may benefit from your insights as well!

The Road to Calvary: #5 – The Great In-Between

2010 I completed my first triathlon which was held in Philadelphia.  At the time my weakest of the three events was swimming (which was also the first).  I really had no idea what to expect, but I went along with my assigned group acting like I knew what I was doing, and hoping for the best.  When it was our turn to enter the water, I followed the group and soon realized that starting point in the water was deep enough I couldn’t stand.

All the sudden I found myself treading water when they got on the bull-horn to make the announcement.  “As soon as the group in front of you clears the first marker, we’ll release you.  It should only take about 4-minutes… and please stay in the water.”  While I had trained some for this swim leg, I was in no way prepared enough.  Treading water for 4-minutes was something I had never done in my life.  It was a relief to hear the horn blow for us to begin our 1/2 mile swim, but I soon realized I was already tired beyond belief from the 4-minutes of treading water.

From the moment the horn blew, till the time I completed the swim leg, it truly felt like FOREVER.  I’m rather certain the river extended with every glance through my swim goggles.  While it was a very short time in my life, in the moment it felt like eternity! All I could do was keep swimming, and I used every stroke I knew just to keep afloat.

I wonder if the disciples and other followers of Jesus felt like this in the days after Jesus’ crucifixion.  Barely able to keep afloat between start and finish.  Their Rabbi, friend, teacher, and “Master” is dead.  He suffered a public execution, shamed by society, and now threats were pointing their way.  What desperate moments they were facing.  It caused them to be locked in an upper room of a house hiding and fearing for their lives.

This Saturday (between the crucifixion and the resurrection) you may find yourself between the start and “finish” of your miracle.  If not at this moment, then you’ve been there before.  As you evaluate your “in-between” does faith or fear rule your life?  Do you remember the words of Jesus, or are the threats of your enemies/circumstances ringing in your ears?  Where do you go to hide when tomorrow is uncertain?

Of course we know the end of the story:  Jesus rises again, the disciples are restored, and the world has never been the same.  BUT, we don’t know the end of our stories.  Learn from the disciples’ “in-between”.  Like my 1/2 mile swim, just keep moving forward.  You’ll get through, God won’t let you drown!

The Road to Calvary #4: Why is Calvary Beautiful?

Today is called Good Friday.  It is the day we mark as Jesus crucifixion on the cross of Calvary’s Hill.  It was a moment that appeared to be a Great Defeat, but was turned into the GREATEST Victory.

Over the past 40+ years of my life Calvary has become a beautiful word to me.  It represents the grace, forgiveness, and wholeness we receive through Jesus’ work on the Cross.  Ultimately Calvary tells me of God’s love for me and all humanity. So, what did Calvary mean to the 1st Century followers of Jesus?

Calvary was the name of the hill near Jerusalem upon which Jesus was crucified.  The literal interpretation was/is “Place of the Skull”.  In the time of Jesus Calvary was a place of death, execution, punishment and sorrow.  It is doubtful that Peter, or John or Jesus’ own mother, Mary, ever referred to “Calvary” in beautiful terms.  The reason: Calvary represented the Cross.  The cross was a shameful death, as well as a painful way to go.

Interestingly enough, no one talks about the cross more than the two people who suffered most in the New Testament: Jesus & Paul.

From the beginning of His ministry, Jesus understood that the cross was his destiny.  All that he did was with the realization that His life would end hanging on a cross. It caused him to say things like, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). Sometime before his crucifixion Jesus began to prepare his disciples.  “21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Matthew 16:21).

Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, also knew early in his ministry about the suffering and pain he would need to endure.  “15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)  However, Paul understood the is what destroyed the work of sin in us.  He wrote to the church in Corinth who had embraced the “spiritual gifts” of God with enthusiasm, but were not “clinging to the old rugged cross.” 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)

The Cross of Calvary became synonymous with Jesus power to save us from our sins.  That is what Paul calls the POWER of the cross.  Jesus knew the cross is where we exchange death for live, exile for adoption, and sickness for healing. The Road to Calvary is a road to the cross.  It is at the cross where we first see the light!

Why is Calvary Beautiful?  Calvary has grown beautiful to me for without it there is no hope and I am undone.  Calvary is beautiful to me, for it expresses the great price that was paid for my life.  Calvary is beautiful to me, for my Savior was willing to pass through the darkest place, that I might enjoy his restored favor and grace.  He paid the price, so I wouldn’t have to.  Calvary is Beautiful to Me!  Without Calvary there is no Easter!

The Road to Calvary #3: The Last Supper… GREATEST DEFEAT & HOPE

It must have been a somber night.  A few of Jesus’ closest followers have already been sent ahead in order to secure and prepare a room for their Passover Meal.  Although this would have always been a significant memorial for all Jewish people, this last meal was an epic moment from start to finish.

Instead of looking back to Israel’s exodus and God’s provision and protection, Jesus spoke forward.  While the excitement at the beginning of the night was elevated because of the Triumphant Entry to Jerusalem a short time prior, soon things would turn awkward.  The Gospel according to John gives much detail.  Below were major events, conversations and words of Jesus the disciples were not expecting, which sent them into a desperate tailspin:

  1. Jesus Predicts His Death (John 12:20-36):   What a confusing moment following their entry into Jerusalem.  Instead of giving the proverbial victory speech, or rallying His troop, Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to die “be lifted up” (a description of crucifixion that his hearers understood according to vs. 34).  On top of that, there is a thunderous voice that came from heaven.
  2. People & Leaders continued their Unbelief (vs. 37-50):  It seemed that no matter what miracle Jesus performed, there were those who refused to be convinced and believe on Him.  Even some while they were convinced, they still refused to confess their faith “for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (v. 43)
  3. Jesus Washed their Feet (13:1-17):  This act certainly threw them for a loop.  Why would the Messiah take the form of a servant.  While some objected, Jesus continued.  Then in verse 12 asks the question, “do you understand what I have done for you?”  Not only did he do something TO them, but Jesus did something FOR them.  He set them an example to follow.
  4. Jesus Predicts His Betrayal (vs. 18-30):  The air thickened as he now announces that someone from their own number would betray him (them).  The disciples stared at one another partly in unbelief and partly in suspicion.  All were a bit afraid to ask for clarification, so they “nominated ” John.  Jesus identifies Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.  It was at this moment the Gospel say, “Satan entered into him.
  5. Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial (vs. 31-38):  Then to top it off, Jesus announces that the most bold among them would deny Him 3-times.  Their heads must have been spinning with all that was happening.  This is not what they were expecting, nor really what they had signed up for.

I’m sure their countenance must have looked very different leaving this place as they would soon be traveling to the Garden of Gethsemane, then when they had entered for the Passover meal.  To top it off, John records the longest lesson/lecture Jesus gives in our written accounts.

In a few short hours events would turn from bad to worse.  It is tonight that Jesus would be arrested, beaten, tried and condemned to death.  It is tonight which became the darkest night known to mankind, and the disciples had a front-row seat.

What seemed to be the GREATEST DEFEAT, would soon become the GREATEST HOPE humanity would ever be offered.  I do believe this is significant for us to remember, for like the disciples we have limited perspective and understanding.  It is important for us to remember that when we face our greatest defeats, and lowest moments, that our Savior is working events in our favor and for our benefit.  Are they always pleasant… NO.  But don’t lose HOPE, Sunday is coming!

The Road to Calvary #2: Jesus Weeps, Jesus Whips

Welcome to this #2 post of the series, The Road to Calvary.  The week leading up to Easter is called the Passion Week. Today’s scripture shows another aspect of the passion of Jesus and His heart for the people of Israel.  This is a unique insight that Luke brings to us.  Read below:

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”  45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Luke 19:41-45).  

Unaffected by the praise, the shouts of Hosanna, and the palm branches being waved, we gain an intimate moment with Jesus as He weeps over Jerusalem.  The same words Jesus utters were also recorded many times by the prophets in the Old Testament from the Heavenly Father.  Before judgment was ushered, there would be a heart felt plea for the people to turn to the Lord (i.e., Jeremiah 2; Joel 2:12).

To mature in our walk with Jesus, is to become more like Him.  As you examine that Bible passage above and take note of Jesus both Weeping, as well as “driving-out” those who were disingenuous in the temple, it is a great season to examine your heart as well.

  1. What makes you weep?  How does that represent the heart of Jesus?  Do yo weep over what God weeps.  Do you see with His eyes and feel with His heart?
  2. What makes you upset?  With the picture of Jesus driving out those turning the temple into a den of robbers, we see the justice of God in action.  This question is not directed toward what annoys or offends you, rather toward what injustice moves you.  For Jesus, it was those who should have been shining the light, but were keeping their “flock” in darkness.

The one great lesson we learn from this scene is that we should always Weep before we Whip.  If our hearts are not first broken with compassion, then we have no business disciplining.  Jesus’ compassion and drive to seek and save the lost drove him to drive out others.

Ask the Lord to expand his compassion for others this Passion Week!

The Road to Calvary #1: Passing through Praise to Pain

This week we will be taking a daily journey together called The Road to Calvary.  Each day leading up to “Good Friday” we will be examining the last week of Jesus’ Earthly ministry and natural life.  It was the most difficult of His journeys and the most trying of times for the disciples who followed Him.

The week began with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  The people welcomed him as their “great deliverer” (their Messiah), who would free them from Roman rule and oppression.  Their expectation was that Jesus would re-establish Israel as an independent nation.  As Jesus entered the city on the back of a colt, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  However, what only Jesus knew was that the same people who in one moment were shouting “HAIL HIM”, would soon be shouting, “NAIL HIM.”  

I find it compelling that Jesus had to pass through the PRAISE in order to get to the PAIN of the cross.  We often reverse this.  We often believe and are taught that in order to receive the praise (success), then you must pass through the pain.  However, Jesus reverses this order.  He never sought Attention, His goal was Obedience!

As we walk through this “holy week” these few questions will bring the Easter Season alive & personal:

  1. What role has PAIN played in your life?
  2. How does this model of Jesus passing through praise to get to the pain (obedience) affect you?
  3. In what areas of your life are you pursuing PRAISE?
  4. What are your expectations of Jesus?  Do they align with His intentions?
  5. How will I practically pursue to Cross this Week (Denying myself and embracing Christ)?

The Hannah Generation

Sunday we witnessed what a desperate mother’s prayers set into motion as she wept and prayed to the Lord at the Temple. While it is the prophet Samuel who will receive most of the attention, it was Hannah who set the possibilities into motion. In fact, it wasn’t so much what Hannah did, but what she set into motion that is significant.  Below is what we learned about being that Hannah Generation:

  1. It takes one Generation to STAND UP for the next Generation to GROW UP!  In 1 Samuel chapter #1 we see Hannah as she STOOD UP in the Temple making her request known in desperation.  Just one chapter later we see her son Samuel now GROWING UP in the temple under the priest Eli.  Her surrender and submission to the Lord made it possible for Samuel to be God’s future prophet.

WHAT WILL YOU STAND UP FOR?

  1. Where one Generation WEEPS, the next Generation REAPS!  Not only do we see Hannah standing in the Temple, but we also see her weeping bitterly before the Lord.  Hannah, along with her family, we go to the Temple yearly for worship and sacrifice. However, it was her weeping that got the priest’s attention, and her prayer answered.

WHAT WILL YOU WEEP FOR?

  1. What one Generation can BELIEVE, the next Generation can RECEIVE!  The simple fact that Hannah prayed that if God would give her a son, that she would bring him back to the temple to serve the Lord all the days of his life was a Radical Prayer.  Samuel was not born of a priestly lineage, therefore wasn’t privileged to serve in the temple.  BUT, because Hannah had the Faith to BELIEVE it, Samuel had the grace to RECEIVE it.

WHAT WILL YOU BELIEVE FOR?

My ask was and is simple.  What will you set into motion?  I’d love to hear what God is laying on your hearts and the burden he has placed on your shoulders for people.