Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Manly Characteristic - Determination

Have you ever felt like you were out there by yourself? Or have you ever experienced the feeling of being in a coordinated effort only to sense everyone else just give up and leave you leading a charge of one? Well, that describes what happened to this mighty man of David named Eleazar. Read the text below:
And after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the mighty men with David when he defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel had retreated. He arose and attacked the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand stuck to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to plunder.  (2 Samuel 23:9-10 and 1 Chronicles 11:12)
Eleazar saw the injustice of the Philistine attacks, caught the vision of standing up against them, and threw himself into the fray. The only problem was “the men of Israel had retreated!” Oh, great! Eleazar is standing out there waling on the enemy and his companions have all abandoned him. He could have easily tucked tail and run with the rest of them, but he had something that marked him as unique, different, uncommon and I mean in a good way. He had determination.

Determination is one of those qualities that makes a man finish a task regardless of whether or not the situation changes or the stakes suddenly become heavier. Determination does not say, “Hey, now this is not fair, this is not what I signed up for!” Eleazar showed up and then the rest of his comrades checked out, but he stayed the course, he refused to give in, give up, or go home. The calling was to stand against the enemy shoulder to shoulder, but when everyone else gave up Eleazar reached into his heart and adjusted the calling to simply stand against the enemy, period. In a culture rife with so many wishy-washy, “fair-weather” Christians the need for “Eleazars” is immeasurable.

Another incredible symbolic message found in the life of this hero is in the phrase, “and his hand stuck to the sword.” The Hebrew word for “stuck” is ‘da vak,’ meaning to cleave, overtake, attach, or stick together. It’s a word picture of two things being glued together, in this case Eleazar’s hand and his sword. Now the word “sword” brings to mind the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17).” Eleazar displays for us the indispensable connection of God’s warrior and his quick, sharp and powerful offensive weapon, the Bible (Heb. 4:12). We should be so attached to this Book, so affected by its influence that you can’t tell where your physical person ends and the Word of God begins! With such confidence and training in the Word, it would be natural for a person to be steadfast, immoveable, and determined.
A phrase used in this passage that I pray will happen over and over is “the Lord brought about a great victory that day.” If we as spiritual leaders made the commitment to dive into the Word of God, allowing that life-changing Book to penetrate our thoughts, actions, and attitudes there would be no other result but great victories! Dive in with determination, my faithful warriors.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Men: Uniquely Qualified for Heroism

Serving strong, black coffee in a latte world is sometimes a bit awkward, but we men function best when we are honestly challenged not passively coddled. This is a cup of black, strong coffee intended to give us men a firm jolt. Let’s be honest, in our worst situations the best seems to pour out of us. Think of it, when times got a bit easy, David fell into temptation and sin. Before, he was facing impossible circumstances from enemies, both foreign and domestic, and that was when he shined the brightest, did the most, and accomplished unmatched feats of bravery and courage. We have not changed since that time. We men are equally at our best when the situation is at its darkest. The difference currently is that we are living like it is peacetime when there is a violent war going on all around us. If we would simply recognize this reality it would sober us to become what has been uniquely instilled in all of us – heroism. Gentlemen, we were made for this. Though the evidence is lived out in our military, fire, and police personnel daily, I will give you two physiological anomalies to prove my point.

First, look at how our minds are wonderfully designed to have ‘tunnel vision’ keeping us from realizing personal danger in order to reach a goal or take down an obstacle. It is a mental wiring that is not found in women. The adrenaline starts to flow and the lack of synapses connecting the left side of the brain with the right side of the brain (a condition not found in women) allows us to walk right into a burning building to save a total stranger while blocking the brain’s reasoning of the possible consequences of such a decision. Oh, don’t worry, women can mimic this action (especially when defending their children or family members) but every test will tell you that it is NOT natural. They have both sides of their brain firing at the same time, allowing them to think about the infinite possible scenarios thus hindering them from following through without great internal conflict. However, for men it comes as natural as breathing. It’s a phenomenon exclusively inherent to the male makeup and a requirement for heroes.

Second, the biological design of muscle fibers in the human body gives a dramatic advantage for men to be much stronger and perform much greater physiological exploits than our softer counterparts. Even Peter calls them “weaker vessels” in 1 Peter 3:7, and it had nothing to do with their spiritual, intellectual, or psychological comparisons. The most conservative estimates state that fiber per fiber man has roughly 50% more brute strength than woman. There may be women that are stronger than the average man, but if they were to be placed on a similar workout routine the average man would outpace the average woman at a rate of 3:1 simply because we are programmed for strength, while a woman is less so. The strongest and fastest women in the world will never be able to compete at the same level as the strongest and fastest men. We’re just built for strength and it, too, is a requirement for heroes.
When you add these two up it is plain to see that God gave us men the natural ability to overcome tremendous odds, to tackle impossible resistance, and to perform at a greater level. The real enemy is simply our self. We choose to be lazy, non-confrontational, and accepting the status quo because it is just much easier. But I ask you, why did God equip us for so much more? Why did He not give these characteristics to our women? WE need to engage in the battle! Lead out against the onslaught of biblical dilution, the epidemic of apathy, and the cultural move toward anti-Christianity. Either that or we could just order up another latte and get a mani pedi.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Against All Odds, Part 2

The title gives you a clue that we are looking at the topic of being “against all odds,” a rightful description of the hero in 2 Samuel 23 named Adino. He had the “Rambo” experience of facing down 800 Philistines at one time and he kick serious backside. If you have forgotten the story, it’s just below this blog. Let’s continue…

The characteristic necessary to advance someone to this level of heroism is simply tenacity. You see it in his resolve to not give up or give in to the pressure of the hordes of opponents coming at him. It is an uncommon characteristic unique to heroes – they just “hunker-down” and refuse to quit. It’s “to the death” and they have no intention of dying! They cannot look at the odds-maker’s report, the pundits, or the press, they are in this to win regardless of the personal sacrifice or the buckets of sweat required. You just can’t help but admire this characteristic even if you don’t like the guy. It’s very rare.
Unfortunately, we ARE in an “against all odds” scenario today. The church is now the underdog, the one the odds-maker is betting against. Looking at the current statistics in church growth and development clearly explains this paragraph more succinctly. We are now in the lower 30th percentile in the nation. And that’s in the Bible belt! We are fighting uphill against immeasurable numbers and each year that continues to become more and more frightening. This once Judeo-Christian, ethically-focused land has all but abandoned her former cultural norm in favor of a more socially antagonistic mindset that blatantly stands against basic Christian doctrine and principles. Today it is at least 800 to 1, and we are looking more outnumbered every day. Get yourself in shape, mighty warriors, because the battle is just cranking up!

Adino is translated as "slender," or "spear." You would think it meant "super-buff, gun-show, or ripped," or something of that nature. However, it shows a principle that is a part of the true makeup of a hero of God - the power not found IN the man, but "WITHIN" the man! The power of Almighty God working through the natural fabric of a simple, slender man that has chosen to sharpen himself with the 'whet stone' of God's Word, making every strike with precision, not wasting effort or energy since the battle demands that he work on such a way so that he remains standing in the end. This is the Adino of today! This is the demand for men of God today! We need men with tenacity.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Against All Odds

Sorry I took a bit of a break from my blog. Selling a home, taking family vacation, and searching for a new place to live has rearranged my time. I'm back. Here is my next "Look at Godly Heroes."

Against all odds!” I go nuts over a situation where an underdog is up against an overwhelming enemy and pulls out all the stops and wins the battle. It’s just a rush of testosterone to any man that reads, hears, or watches such a rare, nail-biting event. When we watch someone else face an “against all odds” experience it is very different than when we are personally involved. In the battle, you can’t see all the dynamics of the situation. You really don’t understand just how deep in the hole you are in, nor do you really care at that point. It’s all about survival, using your wits, tools, skills, and anything else you can grab to give you the edge. Well, brother, we are currently in an “against all odds” scenario – our most thorough population demographic research puts those of us that believe in Christ and support the ongoing work of His church in a position of minority status to the tune of about 38% to 62%. With these kinds of numbers the heroic characteristic that is needed today is Tenacity. The best guy to display this “against all odds” characteristic is the number one mighty man in David’s arsenal by the name of Adino. Take a look at the short passage of Scripture that describes this beast of a man.

 These are the names of the mighty men whom David had; Josheb-Basshebeth the Tachmonite, chief among the captains. He was called Adino the Eznite, because he had killed eight hundred men at one time.  (2 Samuel 23:8 and 1 Chronicles 11:11)
 Talk about a “David vs. Goliath” event on a whole new level, wow, this Adino guy is unbelievable! Yes, David was the underdog, but gracious, he didn’t face 800 men at one time! What are the odds of facing 800 men and staying upright as the victor? Oh, that’s easy, it’s 800/1! But what would it take to engage in such a challenge? I believe it is tenacity. Few have it. Few have ever seen it in others. It’s a characteristic that turns a blind eye to the statistics, refuses to stop and think how unfair the situation, it simply visualizes what must be done next and slugs it out in spite of the pain or exhaustion. It doesn’t matter that the rules have changed, that the circumstances have become nightmarishly more difficult, you just throw yourself in the battle with only one thing on your mind – to win! 
We need godly men that can throw caution to the wind, trust God on an uncharted level, fling themselves into the fray expecting victory that will exalt the name of Christ and bring Him honor and glory. That is the sweetness of the reward to know that we will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Being a Benaiah, Part 2

The title gives you a hint that this is a continuation of thought. The earlier blog revealed the characteristics of a mighty man of David named, Benaiah, a man recorded as "more honorable than the other thirty," not an easy feat. He was so outstanding, David chose him to be his personal body guard (2 Sam. 23:23)! Wow, how would you like that responsibility! Personal body guard to the winningest warrior-king in the history of Israel, the one every other nation would love to destroy. We've looked at the nature of honor and how Benaiah won victories against the world, the flesh, and the devil, now let’s look at some other aspects related to this fascinating warrior.

In fighting with the Egyptian, the Bible says he “wrested the spear out of his hand and killed him with his own sword.” This shows a level of creativity to use the very weapons of the enemy against them. I see us as current Benaiahs being effective in using TV, Movies, Radio, and Social Media (a tool often used by our enemy) to “stab” our enemies and get the truth of the Gospel into the hearts and minds of those that have been duped by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Turning our enemy’s weapons back on them is a most creative and effective means of warfare. Benaiah gives us a beautiful picture of a cunning military maneuver.
In fighting with the Moabites, the Bible describes the fact that they were “lion-like,” demonstrating the ferocity and blind focus of this enemy. Being on guard against such a physically powerful enemy is vital in order to survive. The Scripture also says that there were two of them, a clear picture that this enemy comes in waves, never alone, and uses the strategy of flanking. In every man’s heart is the tendency to drift into fleshly pleasures, self-gratification, and carnality. We are prone to slip. Don't be lulled into thinking that this conflict with our flesh is not that big a deal. Seeing the battle from Benaiah’s perspective helps us to keep our guard up and to realize that since the Bible calls these Moabite’s, “heroes,” we must be a hero in order to defeat a hero!

The conflict with the lion is the most interesting. Notice that the Bible states that Benaiah "had gone down" to fight the lion. This shows personal initiative and confidence in doing the right thing. He didn't wait for the "fight" to come to him, but rather he engaged the enemy. Also, it shows the willingness to fight an impossible battle in the worst of situations. Samuel declares that Benaiah fought "a lion," the worst of enemies, "in a pit," the worst of locations, "on a snowy day," the worst of conditions! And, get this, he did it voluntarily! What a guy! What a great character to emulate and pattern our lives after. Here is the vital part of honor - doing what is right regardless of what it may cost, regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the unforeseen consequences. Sadly, this characteristic is woefully lacking in our churches. Oh, Lord, please wake up some "Benaiahs" today!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Being a Benaiah, Part 1

Men that are real men – that’s what we desperately need! Just because a man can slam dunk a basketball, outrun everyone else on the field, and bench press more weight than a building crane it does NOT make him a real man, just a physically fit one.  I’ve seen athletes with these characteristics but they are selfish, conceited, emotional babies that cry anytime someone else looks at them sideways. If they don't get their way, well, honor is NOT the word that describes them.  What we need are more men like Benaiah. Read this short passage. 

Benaiah was the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man from Kabzeel, who had done many deeds. He had killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day. And he killed an Egyptian, a spectacular man (the Chronicles account states the Egyptian was 5 cubits in height and his spear was the size of a weaver’s beam). The Egyptian had a spear in his hand; so he went down to him with a staff, wrested the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. These things Benaiah the son of Jehoiada did, and won a name among the three mighty men. He was more honorable than the thirty, but he did not attain to the first three. And David appointed him over his guard.  (2 Samuel 23:20-23 and 1 Chronicles 11:22-23)
Benaiah was “more honorable than the thirty.” Now, friends, that’s saying something! Those thirty were the “best of the best of the best, yes, sir!” and to say that this man was more honorable is staggering. The character quality of honor has become a rarity in our culture, making this study timely. Let’s tear open the wrappings around this fascinating man and observe the components of an honorable hero. Honor is doing the right thing at all times regardless of the cost or unexpected circumstances. Though our world has lowered the bar regarding honor (as well as the definition of what is “right”) this was also the case in Benaiah’s day. Remember, they had just emerged from the time of the Judges, an era where “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Sound familiar? See, just as before, we need a generation of men that desire to be “more honorable!”

The characteristics that gave Benaiah the mantle of honor starts with the subtle explanation of the three battles that are listed twice in the Scriptures (noted above). He fought an Egyptian, a couple of Moabites, and a lion. Interestingly, Egypt is always a picture of “the world,” the cultural norms and pinnacle of human achievements. The Moabites started out through vile immorality and are constantly guilty of sensual, lascivious actions that were a perverse and unfortunately strong influence on Israel; this is a picture of “the flesh.” (Note: Rahab was the ONLY bright spot in Moab’s history, and an encouragement for us all.) The third battle Benaiah fought was with a lion, an obvious picture that the Apostle Peter described of our most dreadful enemy, “the devil.” So there you have the story in a nutshell – Benaiah overcame the “world,” the “flesh,” and the “devil,” key ingredients of a man of honor. We all face these three enemies on a daily basis, some more often than others, but the man of honor learns how to defeat them all. It’s no surprise that all of our armed forces use the word, “honor,” to describe the caliber of warrior they desire to inspire.
Take notice this week of the number of encounters you face with these three enemies. Mentally record the battles you win and the ones you lose. (Don't pretend you can't do that - we're men, we always keep score!) Go for the gold, my fellow heroic protege', and make the score an annihilation of the adversary, a complete victory, and give no ground over to these 'life-eaters.' This is a choice, a conscious decision. Make it, and make it again, and again. Be a Benaiah.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Issachar Intel, Part 2

Of the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, their chiefs were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their command.  (1 Chronicles 12:32)

To go to war without strategic intelligence (intel) is just plain stupid! The sons of Issachar were blessed with the tools to accomplish two great skills: 1) to understand the times and 2) to know what Israel should do. Last week we looked at the first one and now we focus on the second.

The phrase, “knowing what Israel ought to do,” is actually not as “crystal ball-ish” as one might think. Yes, it did have a certain appearance of prognostication, but the truth is they simply put two and two together! It’s really not a supernatural, out of this world gift given to a special few. Since they could see the “times” and realize that Saul’s continued disobedience in refusing to listen to the wise counsel of Nathan (just like he did with Samuel), his obsession with trying to kill David (a more godly man, one called a “man after God’s Own heart”), and the abuse of power (along with the wasting of military resources) was a recipe for disaster. They saw the current losses to the Philistines in subsequent battles was only going to continue under the current leadership and policies and “knew what Israel ought to do,” i.e., get back to God-fearing governance and national obedience like they had under Joshua.

The sons of Issachar were also listed as mighty men of valor, a picture of able-bodied men that were a force to be reckoned with. This demonstrated a level of comprehensive, well-rounded development in these guys, spiritual acuity along with physical discipline and preparedness. Now is a good time to quote the passage in 1 Timothy 4:8, “Bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things.” These sons of Issachar understood this principle as they “exercised” godliness even more than they exercised their bodies, yet they were physically an intimidating lot.  They clearly understood authority, or the chain-of-command principle, as it stated that the 200 chiefs had the command over their brethren. This shows such a genuine level of wisdom being able to put themselves under authority. In Matthew 8, Jesus saw the centurion understand this principle and He claimed He had “never seen such faith, not in all of Israel.”
The cry for heroes today that can see current trends and patterns from a biblical worldview and give futuristic advice, warnings, and strategy is at DEFCON 1! We have never had a more drastic abandonment of our children away from the evangelical church than we are currently experiencing. Oh my dear leaders, pray that God will raise up in your ranks some "sons of Issachar" that can give clear, confident, godly counsel to this emotionally-driven church culture.  The time for godly heroes that can demonstrate and express what the church must do is NOW!