07 November, 2013

The Measure of a Man

I live in a very progressive city. "My two dads." Transgender elementary school students. Exterminating unwanted children while saving soul-less fish.... Welcome to the Northwest. The place can be pretty backwards. As a Christian, one often finds them-self in the minority in their thinking and believing. However, I find myself grateful to live in a place that has at least figured one area out - and that is to stop pigeon-holing men and women.

Let's be clear: I am in no way one of those weird feminist-types, who take this idea to the extreme. However, I have never been of the belief that women belong "here," and men go over "here," and that's the end of it. And I have adamantly disagreed with anyone who does.

Women can go to work.

Women can preach.

Women can be pastors and leaders within the local church.

And men can stay at home...y their kids.

This is a combo teaching/ranting piece. My social media feeds have been inundated with posts of opinions and articles regarding this subject. And while I live in a region that celebrate what do as a full-time dad, it seems that one such group is still a bit on-the-fence: The Church. Religious teaching has led me to feel like I am somehow less of a man because I am the one staying home with my son. I had a pastor push getting a job on me once, even though I had a son I had to raise at home. Even when I do not talk about my finances, a job seems to get thrown into my conversations with Christians. They can't see how I can stay at home while my wife goes off to work. Other teachings in The Church make it appear that my wife is somehow not fulfilling her duty to our son, because she is not home enough. Thanks Church, for making us feel like losers.

I use capitol C for a reason. not every church in the world thinks these thoughts. However, too many still do. Men belong at work. They are providers. That is their job. Too many teachings still claim that if a man doesn't have a job, he isn't a very good man. And what irritates me the most is the fact that there is very little Scripture used to back this line of thinking. I remember reading one such "opinion" piece (it can't be called teaching, because it had very little Biblical-backing) that has one Bible verse:

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
~1Timothy 5:8

That's it? You rip-off 8 paragraphs on the man's place in the family and you give me one Bible verse?? Taken out of context?! Yikes... You see, this passage is talking about taking care of widows. It actually states that it is the responsibility of children to take care of their parents as they get older - especially the women, who wouldn't be able to take care of themselves at that time in history. oddly enough, most Christians don't abide by this entire passage of Scripture. Most elderly are put into homes now, rather than taken care of by their kids. But we love verse 8, don't we?? According to many preachers I've heard from, if a man loses his job he needs to go find whatever scuzzy work he can in order to "take care of" his family. Hard work at a rotten job that barely pays the bills is seen as a badge of honor a pride.

You got that half right...

Pride is exactly what that is. Our society dictates that our provision is all on us. And the Church has written that mind-set into the Bible - even though it doesn't exist. To say that it is good for a man to forgo his pride and take on any form of employment in order to provide for his family is an oxymoron. That's because it is still an act of pride. God has given each of us unique gifts and abilities. And they are given for very specific purposes. To defy the call of God in order to make money is a supreme act of pride. It says that God is not doing enough to take of you, and that you need to handle that responsibility yourself. Jesus said to seek first the things of God, and that everything else we need will be added to us as a result (Matthew 6:33). Digging ditches and flipping burgers, while neglecting something God called you to, is not an honorable act. It is defiance. 

What about all those verses that talk about women's place in the home? Let me ask you this: does God condone slavery? That may not make much sense, but the passages that tell us that women cannot preach or work outside the home also tells slaves to remain servant to masters:

[T]he older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed... Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.
~Titus 2:3-5, 9-10

The point of Paul's teaching on the place of men and women was so that the Word of God would not be dishonored. He did the same thing in 1Timothy 6:1, for the same reason. In that culture, women in ministry would have been deemed so offensive, that no one would have listened to them. Today, barring women from ministry would be deemed so offensive, no one would listen to those who do it. 
As a man, there are times when I feel I am not good enough, because I am not bringing home a paycheck. However, this is what the Lord wants of me, and anyone who says otherwise can shove-it. Stay-at-home dads are not inferior. We are not acting against the will and ordinances of God. Work for the sake of provision only is an act of faithlessness and often defiance. Those who claim that a man without a job is not a good man need to do what Walter Mathau said in "Grumpy Old Men": pull your lip over your head and swallow. 

Don't take this too far, folks. God expects things of us. But rather than teach our young men to get good grades to get a good job in order to make good money, we need to teach them this: find out what Jesus wants you to do and do it to the best of your ability. Rather than teaching that women belong in the home raising babies, we need to teach them this: find out what Jesus wants you to do, and do it to the best of your ability. 

There are days when I feel down on myself because I know I could have done better with my time. But know this: I work. That kid is exhausting. Dishes pile up. The bathroom is a mess. And I have been instructed to write yet another book (hopefully one of these things will eventually be published). I have instructions from God Almighty. They may not match what some Christians deem that they should be, but they are mine. My wife has a great job. She may want to be home at times, but I know she would eventually get cabin fever. She's designed for what she does. I am designed for what I do. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let sexist pastors and teachers and Christians force their old-school, 1950's gender roles down our throats because they misread the Bible. 

/End rant...
And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 
~Philippians 4:19

The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it. 
~Proverbs 10:22

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 
~2Corinthians 9:10-11

And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
~Deuteronomy 8:18 

21 August, 2013

Gratefully Cocky

This is the first chance I've had to sit and do this for some time now. I really want to finish hashing out the depth of the parable of the sower in Mark 4, but this something new the Lord has been dealing with me about this week and I want to share it with those of you in internet-land.

It is fun how the Holy spirit opens our eyes to biblical revelation in non-Biblical ways. I have been struggling with my mind-set recently - especially in regards to my actual mind. I don't do enough critical thinking any more. I have been cranky. I have felt empty. My brain has felt dull. And I have struggled with feelings of inadequacy uselessness. Being a stay-at-home dad will do that to ya. It can bring your entire countenance down. It caused my prayer-life to fade. That'll mess with your mind-set all the more.


That is sooooo vital to a successful Christian life. I have asked the Lord to help me with mine: to sharpen my mind, to give me greater understanding of Who He is and what He has done, to give me comprehension of the love He has for me and how it is already at work in me for the sake of other people. Oddly enough, the light clicked on today... while reading about the Seattle Seahawks.

If you don't feel like reading that very long article, here is the jist: the Seahawks have begun placing a huge emphasis on positive thinking and meditation as a part of their core values. Football has historically been a sport rooted in yelling, screaming, show-no-emotion, suck-it-up toughness. That has changed over at the V-MAC. Reading the article open my eyes to something...

Everything they do over there is Biblical!

"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he..." ~Proverbs 23:7a

How you think about yourself will ultimately determine your course. The problem many Christians have is that we continue to place too high an emphasis on what we can do. This is the very opposite of grace. We have God's grace (His unmerited unearned favor) in our lives because of what Jesus did for us. However, we still try to "do it" on our own. I know for me, this has played entirely too true in recent months. I try to do enough housework to feel worthy of my wife. I try to do enough playtime to feel worthy of my son. And I unfortunately still try to do enough spiritual stuff to feel worthy of God. It is the "do good, get good" mentality. And it needs to stop.

Works theology must be removed from our thinking. Ephesians 2:10 says that God has good works for us to do. It doesn't say we have good works we need to do or else we are bad Christians who were never really saved in the first place. Jesus did something amazing for us, so that we could have an amazing life. He thinks very highly of each and every one of us. Our merit, our work, means nothing to God. Jesus blood is the key to our success in this life. Our job is not to work to make our lives better. Our job is to find out what God wants us to do, and then to do it to the best of our ability (Ephesians 6:7) - and our ability has already been enhanced by the Holy Spirit working within us. We must realize this.

The Holy spirit has been constantly bringing this to my attention: do not lean on the arm of the flesh. Stop trying to appease God with what you do. Stop assuming that if you do not "do enough" in any arena of your life that God will not move on your behalf. Find out what He wants you to do, and then do it. If your parents disagree, too bad. If your teachers says otherwise, don't listen. If your pastor preaches differently from the pulpit, ignore him for two minutes. Grace has got you covered.

So, why did I title this "Gratefully Cocky"? That's the term that dropped into my head this morning. I stopped reading the article, I put my son down for a nap, and I did what the Seahawks do. I sat down and pondered the Word of the Lord. It is difficult in our day and age to think highly of oneself without a laundry-list of accomplishments to back it up. That's because we place too much emphasis on our works. But Jesus thinks otherwise. According to Jesus, I'm a pretty big deal. I'm His favorite. I'm his brother (Romans 8:17). In Christ, I can do anything (Philippians 4:13). In Christ, I am love (1John 4:7). I am successful in every endeavor because of Jesus. That will make you cocky.

Without Jesus, I am a disaster. With Jesus, I am unconquerable. Satan will throw any and everything my way. Same holds true to you. But, unlike too many Christians, I will never blame God for the tests and trials in my life. With His ability upon my ability, I am going to blow them away - one-by-one. This is thinking highly of myself, because Jesus thinks highly of me, and because He has already placed His Spirit in me to accomplish these things. I just haven't given him enough time to show that to me. So from now on, I am going to spend more time turning things off around here, and listening and meditating on the voice of the Spirit within me. Scripture says God loves me and sings over me and thinks incredibly high of me - regardless of what I do or do not do. I'm a big deal around here, because He made me a big deal. I suggest you do the same. Don't sit and listen to the Word, then immediately run off and continue with life. That's where we lose so much of what God is saying to us. Slow down, ponder His Words. Let what He says about you truly soak in. And you'll realize that, because of Jesus, you're a pretty big deal, too.

For now, though, the next step is getting everybody on the meditation bandwagon. "Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice," [Russell] Okung says. "It's about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn't matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can't do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them and change them."

2Corinthians 10:5, anyone??


09 July, 2013

Sowing and Reaping Pt3 (Cluttered Heart)

Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
~Mark 4:18-19

Life has allowed me some time to finally go back to these thoughts on sowing and reaping. Jesus told us that this parable, found in Mark 4, is the lynch-pin to understanding all the other teachings on the Kingdom of God. So far, we have learned that being hard-hearted toward the promises of God will allow Satan immediate access to steal that Word of promise. Being of a "shallow heart" - one who is easy to forget, prone to give-up, or easily distracted - will allow the pressures of life access to scorch out the promise of God in our lives. Jesus shows us in this parable that three-out-four times the promises of God do not come to fruition in a person's life. And, once again, that is not because of some plan of God to teach us lessons - it is due to the condition of our own hearts towards God and His Word. The final "issue" we must learn to overcome...

The "Cluttered" Heart

I picked up a book at Barnes and Noble. The title is irrelevant (mostly because I forgot it...). The author doesn't need to be named (mostly because I don't want to defame them). I turned through the pages at random. Then I saw the words. Somehow, this individual had come to the conclusion that doubt is a perfectly acceptable, and even healthy, component of the Christian life. I'm not sure what Bible says that, but it certainly isn't mine...

Worry is rooted in doubt. It is thinking on all of the the "what-if" scenarios that could happen should God not come through in a way that would be beneficial and helpful to us. It is a direct result of fear - which is the opposite of faith. Worry (acting in doubt) is a sin.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
 ~Philippians 4:6, Amplified

As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
~Mark 5:36

Do not fear therefore...
~Matthew 10:31a

Get the picture? These are commands, not suggestions. Jesus command to Jairus is the same command He gives to the rest of us. We have been commanded by God to lay aside worry and walk in a life without fear. He has given us His Spirit - a spirit of love - by which fear is cast aside (1John 4:18). Fear, worry, doubt, and Co., are not acceptable elements of the Christian life. That doesn't mean you walk in condemnation concerning these things. If you struggle with fear, make the adjustment. Look to the Lord for help, just don't accept these as fundamental elements to your spiritual growth, because according to Jesus, these demonic cohorts will destroy the progress of the promises of the Word of God. And, so too, will misplaced trust...

A few years ago, I was sitting in my living room watching Dr. Bill Winston, a pastor from Chicago, speaking on God's provision. He said something that blew-up within me. If you look over to your right, you will see the quote has become a staple for this site: "You were not designed to bear the the burden of your own provision." Why are we so determined to take care of ourselves? Somewhere along the line, the "American Way" became the Christian life. It is not your job to provide for yourself, to take care of your family, to amass your retirement account or nest egg. No. It is God's Word, His Blessing, that brings the increase. Look to the proof:

The blessing of the Lord—it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it [neither does toiling increase it].
~Proverbs 10:22, Amplified

But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.
~Matthew 6:33, Amplified

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 
~Philippians 4:19

 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work 
~2Corinthians 9:8

That is just a small sample-size of what God says regarding our provision. We have a job to do in this life. That job is to listen to, and obey, the voice God concerning our lives. Where we work, how long long we work, what we do for work, is up to the Lord. Somewhere along the line, we put all the pressure on ourselves. Too many Christians have placed themselves outside the Will of God, all in the name of the mighty dollar. Jesus doesn't mind us having money - and lots of it. This parable in Mark 4 is not condemning riches. Jesus is condemning the deceitfulness of riches - that they always be there for you. When we put our trust in our ability and in our money - or in our striving to make money - we place ourselves in a position where the Word of God takes a back seat. It will be choked out because of all the other "stuff" that we have put in the way...

Speaking of "stuff," that is the final component that the Lord Jesus specifically points out to us as being detrimental to the fruition of God's Word in our lives. What kind of "junk" stands in the way of us and God? For me, it's sports. I have had times where the Lord has been showing me all sorts of marvelous things. My prayer life is vibrant. I'm feasting daily on the Word. I'm full of strength, love, peace and joy. But then, March... Oh, that stupid college basketball tournament comes around and I get sooo wrapped up in teams and players I know nothing about 11months of the year. Next thing I know, it's April. I'm cranky. I don't want to do my Bible study. My prayers sound generic. Stuff got in the way. And don't get me started on NFL training camps...

The point is, we all have those fun things in life. God doesn't mind them. In fact, 1Timothy 6 lays out for us that He has given us all those things for our enjoyment. I know that the Lord smiles when I watch sporting events, because I'm His kid, and I'm having a lot of fun. The problem is when all the fun things in life take top priority. We neglect our time with the Lord. Our faith stagnates. Our hearts become dull, or in this case cluttered. The things of God get choked out, because we do not give them the time to grow vibrantly. 

So what is it with you? Do you worry too much about your future? Health, welfare, finances, children? I'm not belittling your stuff. I have issues in my own life. It can be difficult at first, to "let go and let God". But He will do it. He will provide, heal and restore. Is your hope, trust and time linked to your job? To your retirement? Your investments? Do you put all the weight on yourself, rather than on the Word and the Blessing? Stop thinking like that. Stop putting pressure on your job, your paycheck, what you can do. Just do what God tells you to do - and expect that He will provide beyond all you can ask or think (Ephesians 2:20). And make sure that all your fun stuff doesn't get in the way. Yes, this year the Seahawks will definitely contend for a SuperBowl Title. Yes, they are going to crush the 49ers, and it will be wonderful. Enjoy it. But don't neglect time spent with the Father. 

Father first. Family second. Football later. 

Clear out the clutter...