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!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Issachar Intel

The current topic is characteristics of Biblical Heroes and how we can emulate those giant-killers. The need for solid, genuine, selfless, Christ-like “Spiritual-Rambos” is unprecedented. Without some heroes of biblical proportion our nation is likely to become a by-word and the church in America will continue to slide into oblivion. I’d like to continue this topic looking at the sons of Issachar and their valuable impact of being mentally conditioned. Check out this passage:
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)

 If the description of the Gadites was small, the Issachar boys’ is miniscule! The above verse (and 7:5, “mighty men of valor”) is all that is said about them. Though the information is limited, the skill and contribution they brought to David was immeasurable. What price do military leaders put on good Intel!? This was probably one of the most strategic pieces of the puzzle of David’s flawless crusades. Ask any commander how important good, relevant, timely information is to his decision making process. These sons of Issachar were worth their weight in gold! They were mentally conditioned. What exactly does that look like?

Two statements are key: 1) “understanding of the times,” and 2) “knowing what Israel ought to do.” This blog will focus on the first one. In order to understand the times there must be a frame of reference, a base line of fundamental standards. One cannot truly understand current conditions without having a grasp of historical circumstances and events to overlay across present trends. When a person is mentally conditioned he has an ability to see future successes in the here and now because of the natural cause and effect relationship with obedience and submission to Almighty God that has been proven throughout history.
In the case of Israel, the sons of Issachar had to know the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the subsequent leadership of Moses through the wilderness wanderings, and the successful venture of Joshua’s direction into the Promised Land. The collapse during the time of the Judges leading into the disappointment of the Kingship gave a clear picture to these alert young men that certain actions and attitudes came with drastic consequences! They had the ability to reasonably and logically conclude that disobedience toward God and His principles would lead to negative outcomes for the entire nation. They saw that following Saul was only going to continue the downward spiral of defeat and national despair. David was not only a better option, he was the only wise choice. The sons of Issachar saw future events by understanding the former process of obedience and by refusing to embrace that failed continuance of “doing what was right in their own eyes,” the choice of Saul and the mantra of the time of the Judges.

This is a cry for men to stop coasting in neutral and put it into overdrive! We need, like never before, godly men that have a grasp of what God wants us to do here and now and to make that knowledge vocal. Oh sons of Issachar, come out and be heard! Israel had these mental giants, the times call for them again.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Personal Diversion

I'm breaking off with my Characteristics of Biblical Heroes series to express a thought that still fits our topic. Bear with me as I take a personal diversion.

(David says to Goliath) “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.  1 Samuel 17:46

Big words from a little shepherd boy! God uniquely designed us men with a strong desire to achieve. It is in our DNA to do more, to do greater, and to accomplish something far more spectacular. Over time we experience setbacks, disappointments, failures, and shattered plans and dreams that can stifle this natural propensity for success. Right before David said this bold declaration to a 9 foot, 6 inch giant, his big brother condescendingly questioned why he was even there (v. 28). David looked past the insult and saw the true prize – to take away this reproach from Israel (and the king’s bounty wasn’t bad, either!).

I realized about three years ago that my body had become a bit lethargic, slothful, and soft. I had not really pressed myself to do anything athletic throughout my entire 40’s and it had taken its toll physically. My son-in-law, a former PT (physical trainer) for the Air Force, “provoked” me to do something about it. He recommended a workout video that he had been using and I agreed that I would do it. For the first three weeks I really did think I was going to die. No, I mean it! I could not think of one nice thing to say about my son-in-law. I couldn’t walk right, sit right, nor could I get up naturally from a prone position! I felt sick to my stomach every time I worked out. There were times when I really felt I was near certain death if I didn’t stop, and I actually would have welcomed it! I regretted having asked him to help me. I thought of every excuse to quit, to not thoroughly dread another workout, to stop the madness!
Gutting it out did eventually pay off.  I remember starting to count my push-ups. When I first began I was proud to get to 27. Months later I was doing 50, then 70, then 100. Though improvement was ever so gradual, noticing that I was getting fit was quite an adrenaline rush, a male source of personal accomplishment and progress. It also helped that my wife took notice and expressed her approval. It was taking all of 35 – 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week of gruelingly painful exercise to reach these goals, though the 45 minutes seemed much longer! I had an experiential revelation during this era of “self-flagellation;” men were made for challenges and we are at our best when we have and pursue goals that are against-all-odds, a “David vs. Goliath” scenario. The discipline in my physical life has bled into my spiritual disciplines making everything else have greater perspective and clarity.

My diversion this week is to encourage all men to see that they have been specifically programmed to be more than the sum of their parts. We have mind-numbing lostness in our current culture and in all of our neighborhoods. This Goliath is real. It is big, smelly, and wants you to just shut up and go away. Go find the stones that fit your sling and take his head off! We were made for such a time as this.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Big, Bad Benjaminites! Part 2

The passage of Scripture that we are studying in this continued look at “Characteristics of Biblical Heroes” is 1 Chronicles 12:1-2 (it is in the previous blog in italics). The Benjaminites were unusual in that they possessed the ability to fight and fire weapons with both hands. We looked at this importance of this characteristic in the last blog, but there is still much we can learn from these big, bad boys. We each are equipped with skills, abilities, talents, and natural tendencies that are unique and specialized and we have these qualities through the combined “blessings” of giftedness, aptitude, experience, and upbringing. That is what makes each one of us so different. The “Weapons of our Warfare,” is still the Sword of the Spirit, the infallible, inerrant, living words of Holy Writ. How we utilize, wield, and display our own personal technique of “Sword play” is as unique as each one of us, allowing those individual “blessings” to create our own style of methodology in Weaponry. What we must do is learn the Sword and then allow that knowledge to permeate our own talents, thinking, and skillset. Such a person is indeed formidable!

Studying these Benjaminites also reveals that they were the first group to respond to David’s leadership. This quality of immediate response to a calling or need is attractive and shows initiative and commitment. Chronicles also describes them as blood kin to the present king, “Saul’s brethren,” making the current affairs of state quite personal being directly related to the sitting leadership. They confronted the reality of Saul’s lack of obedience, irrational use of military resources, and poor decision making skills. Notice how they looked past the “blood is thicker than water” tendency and saw that David would provide the type of godly direction Israel needed. Application? Heroes do not give family or acquaintances a pass just because they are personally close. Equally as important they take the initiative in creating the environment for change. These two attributes together illustrate a critical attitude in the heart of a hero.
The take away this week is the fact that we could all do a better job increasing our skill in using the Weapons of our Warfare, the Scriptures. We you consider that Jesus used this very weapon when tempted by the devil (Matt. 4, Mark 1, Luke 4), who are we to think that we could somehow do a better job with some other tool?! There is not a better exercise program we can engage in than to the one that extends our reach, builds our strength, and widens our target by the acquisition of God's Holy Word in our hearts and minds. In essence, Biblical strength training and conditioning IS the breakfast of Spiritual Champions!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Big Bad Benjaminites! Part 1

Our current topic is characteristics of Biblical Heroes. We’ve looked at the lessons from the Gadites and determined that they scream out Personal Discipline. Let’s add to their foundational skeleton the meaty message from the boys of Benjamin. Here is the text.

Now these were the men who came to David at Ziklag while he was still a fugitive from Saul the son of Kish; and they were among the mighty men, helpers in the war, armed with bows, using both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows with the bow. They were of Benjamin, Saul’s brethren.”  (1 Chronicles 12:1-2)

Unlike our previous examples (the Gadites) these Benjaminites are given much less ‘air time’ in the Word. Only a brief description is listed, but there are certain aspects that give us a clear picture of the Heroes’ Characteristic that is attributed to these 22 Benjaminites. One thing you pick up quickly from these two short verses is that they were Weapon’s Trained. The A-K 47’s of their day were arrows, swords, and stones. These guys had two of the three down very well!
I love the fact that these Benjaminites were not one-dimensional thinkers! They were not just good with their right hands, but were equally as dangerous with their left! They didn’t just knock you out with a perfectly thrown stone, they could bull’s eye an arrow right on your backside! These were very well trained militia, equally as dangerous when partially injured since you would have to take out both arms, not just one. Think about it, comfortable using both hands- the natural and the unnatural! To be even mildly adept at using your unnatural hand at anything requires an insane amount of practice.

I played basketball in my youth. One of the skills that we had to master was the ability to dribble with both hands and perform layups (the shots directly under the rim) with equal ability from either hand. If a guy shot a layup with his right hand from the left side of the basket he would hear about it even if it went in! It was imperative that we had a more versatile offensive weapon when close to the goal. I look like some kind of freak when I try to throw a football with my left hand because I never practiced that skill. However, I can still shoot a layup with my opposite hand best because of the loathsome training I was required to endure. Make no mistake, unnatural-handed training did not come easily to the Benjaminites, but it made them quite a formidable enemy. Being fully trained to use weapons from either hand made you much more of a threat and a desired ally.
Here is my point. According to Paul's Ephesians 6 description of our Spiritual Armor, the ONLY offensive weapon we carry is the "Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." WE MUST be trained, and I mean WELL trained, in the basics as well as the 'not-so-well-known' parts of this incredible Weapon. We must know and be able to use those parts that are "natural," popular and a natural fit for our personal giftedness and temperament. But we must also be trained in the parts that are obscure, unfamiliar to most, and not as "comfortable" with our personal wiring. Real heroes accept the challenge and make the difference so they can be effective at all times, regardless of the circumstances, climate, or environment. Train up, my good men, completely in the Holy Word.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gadite Gridiron, Part 2

We concluded last segment that heroism is not just being in the right place at the right time and doing the right thing. Most of our culture dictates that these are the key components, a kind of accidental hero, but a true hero is one that expends the energies, willingly withholds personal pleasures and comforts, and prepares himself for that “right place, right time, and right thing!” It’s not just a flash in the pan, a moment for greatness, but a mindset, an intentionality to be more, not to settle for ordinary. The ‘average’ person is quite content to be just status quo, your basic ‘average,’ and the pressures to be such start quite early unfortunately. As parents we want our kids to fit in, be accepted, and avoid obvious criticism from their peers, and unconsciously we press them into a mold that says, “Don’t strive to be greater!” From our beginnings we are programmed to NOT become heroes!
As we continue to study the Gadites, (refer to previous blog) the main ingredient they seemed to display was personal discipline, demonstrated in their crossing the flooded Jordan. Look at the description of these men. “Mighty men of valor” is a phrase used about 30 times in the Old Testament to describe a “man’s-man” type of warrior. Though the phrase is also used to describe some of Israel’s enemies, it is used enough to give you the mental picture of a chiseled, elite military leader that has laser focus and acuity. The fact that these guys were all “leaders of hundreds, leaders of thousands,” reveals that they had leadership mentalities even if they lacked natural leadership qualities. The famous Shakespeare quotation, “Some men are born for greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them,” helps to describe the readiness of these men of valor. It says they had “faces like the faces of lions.” If you watch a lion pursuing its prey the eyes never leave the target. These characteristics of focus, determination, leadership, and tenacity are the necessary ingredients for personal discipline.

We must have a new breed of spiritual heroes. Our young men gravitate to sports superstars, fictional characters, and Hollywood idols for their heroes. Oh, dear friends, we must create an atmosphere and training ground for developing and modeling spiritual heroes especially in the day when the enemy is mounting such a furious attack on all that is moral, wholesome, and right. We must put away the selfish fulfillments that give only fleeting, immediate pleasure and set our sights on the unbelievable, impossible, uncharted goals of righteousness with bravery. We must take back the ground that we gave to the enemy that now controls our political institutions, educational halls, and even in some of our churches. If you have lost the vision, given up, or just got too tired of the pain and have backed down or backed out, I implore you to take a deep breath, muster up all the courage you can, and make a focused plan of attack. Start by getting on your knees and thanking God that He made you to be a man, a leader, an example, a hero. Ask Him to supernaturally fill you with a drive you’ve never had, to give you a fresh vision of what He desires to do in your church, community, and beyond. Start NOW. See yourself as a spiritual hero for such a time as this. Let’s cross our flooded Jordan!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gadite Gridiron - Part 1

Ok, we’ve looked at some of the ways the modern church has hindered the proper development of manly heroes, now let’s look at some of the characteristics of biblical heroes found throughout the pages of Scripture. The purpose here is to stimulate men to introduce the specific characteristics necessary and then envision themselves being that type of man, a man called for such a time as this. Here is the first group of heroes called, “the Gadites.”

 Some Gadites joined David at the stronghold in the wilderness, mighty men of valor, men trained for battle, who could handle shield and spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as gazelles on the mountains… These were the sons of Gad, captains of the army; the least was over a hundred and the greatest was over a thousand. These were the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it had overflowed all its banks; and they put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west.”  (1 Chronicles 12:8, 14-15)

Our first illustration is found in the book of 1 Chronicles, a group of eleven men from Gad that were quite impressive. The initial paragraph above (in italics) lists their accolades. Verses 9-13 gave the names and families of each of these 11 men, but the verses quoted above describe six key elements of what made these men Biblical Heroes. Here is that list:

        “mighty men of valor”
  “men trained for battle, could handle both shield and spear”
     “faces like the faces of lions”
        “swift as gazelles on the mountains”
     “captains – of hundreds – of thousands”
      “crossed the Jordan…when it overflowed all its banks”

 These were some really tough hombres! Notice some of the phrases used – mighty men of valor, trained for battle, faces like lions, swift as gazelles, my gracious, these guys would bring home the Lombardi Trophy every time! Did you catch how they crossed the Jordan during the monsoon season!? These guys were beasts! When you consider it would take a very strong, healthy man to cross the Jordan on a normal day, imagine the stamina required to cross it when it was overflowing its banks! There is only one way these men could accomplish such feats of wonder and that was selfless discipline. They were in it ALL the way! Men, this is your first characteristic to grab – selfless discipline.
Think about it. Ezer (the first Gadite listed in v. 9) did not wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I’m going to cross the Jordan today while it’s overflowing its banks, just to see if I can do it.” Hey, this is like trying to survive a flood! The amount of training involved, muscle development, increased respiratory and cardio function, along with the sheer determination to accomplish such a superhuman feat required a significant amount of personal discipline that can only be measured in time. Ezer had to have trained for months, crossing the Jordan at normal levels first, adding to his strength and stamina, working out steadily with increasingly more resistance and challenges until he was at his peak. Put more succinctly, it didn’t just happen! Discipline is an everyday kind of thing that requires TIME! It’s not the singular event that makes a hero, but the preparedness and commitment to do what is right consistently because it is right. This is the first lesson to being a hero – selfless discipline.

 Part 2 of Gadite Gridiron to follow.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


On a cellular level, men and women are not even on the same planet. Not just the obvious physiological differences but in ways not as easily recognized. For instance, every muscle fiber in a man’s body has 50% more brute strength (fiber per fiber) than the average woman’s. The average man has a lung capacity that is about 30% greater than the average woman (the reason woman tend to faint more easily), giving him a much higher consistency of oxygenated blood. This super-charged blood allows him to have greater stamina, energy, and endurance. Since this is true, our very bodies make it clearly obvious that God has created us men to guard, protect, lead, defend, and be the hero in times of danger and threat. It’s not that women can’t be strong or develop endurance; it’s just that they are not as genetically fashioned to do so. So here is my point –
Since men are designed to provide heroic leadership and protection, should not the Church provide the best training grounds for such development? We should be a Hero-Factory!

Ok, reality check – my opinion on this topic written in this blog is not going to make any difference in the grand scheme of things. I can’t make a significant shift on a western, church-culture paradigm with a simple 5-paragraph opinion column, but if I can at least get some of you thinking on how to “undo” the damage to the male psyche by our current trends, I will certainly put this in the “win” column! I have been talking with a friend (Al Stone) that has given his lifelong, ministerial energies to seeing Men’s Ministries develop and become an established vehicle in each church. He has expressed a concern that the need for such training as well as the opportunities for men to have an outlet for using their unique gifts has grown to a dangerous level the last several years. Well, I agree with Al, and I would at least like to give some ideas that can help create an environment that will allow some ‘Davids’ to be birthed, developed, and freed to defeat the Goliaths in our current era.
My earlier blogs touched on the focus of our contemporary worship services and how they tend to leave out the manly man. I’m not going to get on a rant here, but at least look at your music selection and make sure there are some “token” manly songs included. Try not to repeat phrases over and over to elicit an emotional response. Men are uncomfortable in that arena. Sing it a couple of times and go to another song. Preach strong doctrine to men. Stop diluting the tough standards and directives from the Scriptures to men that need and desire to be spoken to firmly and unapologetically. Every David needs a Nathan that will point their finger in our face and declare, “Thou art the man!” Strong preaching will create strong leadership from your men! We NEED tough messages that get in our face!

Here is a suggestion that I have some experience with and a passion for seeing implemented. Try to develop ministry opportunities that allow men to use their giftedness, interests, and muscle. For instance, create a construction team that uses mission’s moneys to help rebuild porches, walkways, simple home repairs, or additions for single moms, seniors, or someone that is less fortunate. A car ministry team that has a special day each month to change oil, do simple repairs, etc. for widows, single moms, and the less fortunate in your church and community. Have a team of men that teach marksmanship for bow and gun to younger boys. Provide annual father/son camping adventures with fishing, hunting, and survival techniques emphasized. Have men with experience or knowledge in a particular sport provide lessons for up and coming young men so to give them an advantage when they begin tryouts.  Coordinate the classes to begin right before each season (example – ‘baseball basics’ on Saturday afternoons in February, basketball fundamentals in September), using men with experience, talent, and a willingness to invest in kids.
We need our heroes. There has been a glut in the Goliath market, in every sector, every community. Let’s provide the Lord a place to raise up a host of Davids to match them. If every church viewed their men and the men in their community as mighty warriors looking for a place to do battle against immeasurable odds … well, we might just do things differently. We ought to be a hero-factory!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Black Coffee vs. Half-Calff, Peppermint Macchiato with Low-fat Whip Cream

I’m a man. Not a metro-sexual, hyper-sensitive, skinny-jean, manicured nails, poster boy. Don’t confuse me, I realize that we are all different, having unique personalities, gifts, tastes, and proclivities that create a cacophony of humanity. I also realize that I have a tendency to glamourize the true Renaissance man, the guy that can speak fluently using just the right words at the right time, play a musical instrument, be a crack-shot with a gun or bow and arrow, and have a physical demeanor that would make an enemy second-guess messing with him. You know, a well-rounded man, just the right amount of brute strength and cultural poise. The reason I am drawn to such is because they usually produce the greatest number of world-changing champions. However, these guys are not typically drawn to our current church environments. Why? Here is issue number 2.

The second characteristic that is has become mainstream in the current church model and that is oblivious to its leadership is the overemphasis on emotions. Although real men have emotions and know exactly how to use them and control them, they are NOT the lead! In most of our modern Worship Services emotions are the pinnacle of the Sunday experience. We strive for more and more emotive responses from start to finish! Let me explain my thesis.
The most important part of our Sunday Service is … what? Well, it’s NOT the reading of the Scriptures, the explanation of the text, the application of the message, or the giving of the tithe. We certainly don’t stand up and get excited about that part of the service! In my frequent travels I observe most congregants are very disconnected with the aforementioned elements of the typical service. See for yourself, the most important part of the Sunday morning experience is the song service. We all stand up for that part. Interestingly the only time the congregation of Israel ever stood up was during the reading of the Law (Nehemiah 8:5), not the song service! You see we are placing a higher value on music than God ever intended! We should be standing when God’s Word is read, displaying physical agreement to those precious holy words that are infallible, inerrant, and God-breathed. Today we worship music, which is why we now call music, “Worship!” The shift was subtle, but effective – men are less inclined to be involved in something that is mostly “emotive” and less substantive. Music is emotional. An emotional response only lasts a brief moment, and though it is important to include emotions in our service, it should NOT be the pinnacle, the apex, or the linchpin since it does not last. A changed heart, a changed mind will always outlast an emotional high. God’s Word is the tool that changes hearts and minds, not well performed, emotionally charged music.

Let me explain it another way. Instead of feelings-based activities, sound doctrine boldly proclaimed and connected to applicable, relevant opportunities should be the center of our Worship experience. Each worshipper should find as the highest part of the service the Word of God being connected directly to the daily applications in their lives giving them answers and mental pictures of how they can fulfill God’s will for their life. They should be given a vision, a calling, and a purpose for their special abilities, insights, and gifts. Men tend to find little opportunity for the exercise of their unique wiring. Few programs are offered that allows manly men to be given a challenge. For the modern Renaissance man, the disappointment is the watering down of the godly mandates of Scripture. We are so afraid to offend that we actually offend the very nature of the typical, practical-driven man. Real men want genuine facts, clearly and boldly proclaimed, and applications for their lives. In other words, these guys want their coffee black but we’re serving them some fancy party drink and wondering why they’re not happy.

More to follow.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Are You Running Off Potential Heroes?

If this is your first visit to this blog it might be best to read the short edition right below this one to get some perspective. The topic at hand is how we are unwittingly driving away or emasculating our true male heroes from the modern church. To start with I want to clearly point out that this is not an attack or even a hint of disrespect leveled at our “women folk.” They have historically been the ones to carry the weight of actual church ministry and have always outnumbered their bearded counterparts. They were the only ones to show up at the most important grave side gathering! We are indebted to them and this is not an attack on their contributions or their value to the church. The person of the Lord Jesus was unique in that He perfectly represented the natural strengths found in both sexes. My point here is that He demonstrated a complete picture, both necessary elements for a healthy church – (1) the caring, accepting, forgiving Nurturer, and (2) a confident, strong, disciplining, masculine Leader.
Today, we only have half of that combination in most of our churches. Church life has become very emotive, feeling, and nurturing with strong emphasis on deeds over creeds.  Yes, we all know Jesus was “meek and mild, gentle and kind,” but He also cleared the Temple, making a whip out of cords and driving out the money changers, overturning tables, and notice, no one stood up to Him! He called one of his best friends “the devil,” and don’t forget the 30 years of grueling carpentry work! He did NOT look like those Renaissance pictures of some girlie-man with long hair, frail and effeminate. That image is not the Son of God that was beaten and bloodied, whipped and crucified on a rugged tree, hanging for three long hours. When you compare those classic paintings with the description of Him in Revelation 19:11-16 you just have to scratch your head.
Have you noticed the current move in our society to render real men impotent? Owning guns is now considered a Neanderthal practice, hunting is viewed even worse, and contact sports is doing all it can to lower the aggressiveness so to eradicate any possible injury although the very nature of the activity is to crash wildly into each other in an effort to win. The word I’m looking for here is RISK! The most content men alive are those that have been given a larger-than-life challenge and the opportunity to achieve that impossibility (a definition of risk). However, when men are not challenged at home, at work, or at church they can easily slide into taking other “secret” risks. These can develop into aberrant behavior and suck the very “hero-style” life out of them leaving them disillusioned and in their wake destroyed sons, daughters, and families.
A key ingredient in the development of a hero is a nebulous “something”- it’s this larger than life quality that he is willing to die for as well as live for, and it requires a large dose of risk before it clicks. This, of course, is melded with godly fear.  Without it, men go back on the shelf, living out their “manliness” vicariously through some fictional TV character or worse, some professional sports icon. The bottom line is without this hero mentality they DO nothing. You may have unknowingly shelved heroes, not to mention overlooked the supermen that are in your community, men that will never darken the door of your church because they believe “stallions go to bars and geldings go to church,” and you give them no reason to think otherwise!

Here is my first observation that points the finger at how the church has contributed to the “emasculated men syndrome.” Some of you are NOT going to like this! Just try to critically observe the “worship” music that has become very popular in many of our contemporary settings. This is NOT a rant on contemporary music; however some of the lyrics are extremely feminine, speaking of love affairs with Jesus in words that no real man would ever consider using with another man. Just stop and read some of those lines. You need to realize that men visualize Christ as our Commander and Chief, our King, our Lord, and believe it or not ladies, this is a type of male intimacy. But when almost every song is touchy, touchy, feely, feely we are unable to sing those words with any self-respect. To us, those words come out as forced, disingenuous, and it’s like an affront to how He created us as men. There are plenty of contemporary songs that appeal to men (i.e., the “Promise Keepers” litany of albums) but they are rarely used, opting for the more “emotionally charged” songs. I’m just asking for some consideration, a balance, more songs on His character, nature, holiness and less on how we feel about Him.
This phenomena in music is completely unintentional, but with men making up less than 34 % of the average church membership, and even less of them actively involved, it’s time for us to start contemplating what is keeping away those “mighty men of David.” We desperately need strong, biblically-seasoned, male heroes. This is observation number one, and there are several more to follow. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Where Are Our Heroes?

Heroes. The Bible is full of them! Some are globally popular, like David, the giant killer. But there are others, like Benaiah who killed a lion in the pit on a snowy day, who are basically unknown and stay in relative obscurity. The stories of burning passion mixed with super-human strength are actually quite common across the pages of God’s Word but they seem to lie unread, untapped, and thus left in oblivion. It seems that in every age there are these tough hombres that saw themselves as capable men, able to make a difference by defending Israel and the Kingdom and fighting against immeasurable odds. I read about them, study them, and then stop and ponder – where are these guys today? Is the only location for these “gladiator” style super-heroes on our sports channels? Oh, please, NO!

Let me whet your appetite by giving you some examples of such biblical heroes. There is a man called “Adino” that was challenged by 800 Philistines and he routed them all by himself (2 Samuel 23:8). Man, I want THAT guy on my team! There are the Gadites that crossed the Jordan during the monsoon season, when the river was overflowing its banks (1 Chronicles 12:15). Hey, it’s hard enough to cross the Jordon in normal conditions, and these guys did it when the flood warnings had been issued. I’d take any of them to be on my defensive line and pity any quarterback or fullback that gets the ball. These men are beasts! Or how about Eleazar that stood up and attacked the Philistines until his hand was so weary it literally stuck to his sword until the battle was over (2 Samuel 23:9). You talk about a committed warrior, a true man of principle, yet this guy’s name is virtually unknown.

I spoke of David and his famous battle, but did you know that he fought 4 other giants later in his reign as King? Check out 2 Samuel 21:15-22 and see how he obviously needed all of those “5 smooth stones!” I mentioned a man named Benaiah that fought the worst of enemies (a lion), in the worst of places (a pit), in the worst of conditions (on a snowy day). He also fought two lion-like heroes of Moab and a spectacular Egyptian to become one of the mighty men of David. He is briefly mentioned in Scripture but what a great role model. He was brave (willing to fight the most deadly of enemies), creative (he wrested the spear from the Egyptian and used it against him), and showed initiative (he went after the lion, not waiting on the lion to come to him). What father would not want to model and teach these attributes to his sons! But I must ask the question again - Where are these guys today? Where are the Davids, Adinos, and Eleazars?

I believe these guys are here today! I believe in the hearts of many of our young men (and matured men) is a longing to be more. To be the lion killers, the nation-savers, the ones that will answer the call to fight against all odds. I believe our culture has been slowly and meticulously emasculating our men removing all the tools and environments that create these heroes. Unfortunately, I also believe our churches have unwittingly done the same thing. In the weeks to come I will address some of the current trends that I believe are rendering impotent the seeds of heroism in our men. These are dreadfully desperate days and we need heroes, fully devoted risk-takers to stand in the gap, face the impossible odds, and allow their hands to grow weary while slinging the Sword, never giving up. Unless there are some significant changes in our “training fields” this battle will never even begin. Bear with me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Shift from Professional Ministers to Lay Leadership

This installment is another possible development that I have recently detected but I must remind you that I am not a prognosticator. There are oversized rats that can beat me every year on February 2nd! The almost 3 years in this position as Area Missionary for the North Central region has allowed me to see trends that were not noticeable to me before. This blog is written to describe the patterns I currently see developing and give a heads-up.

Seminaries continue to pump out young, energetic ministers by the thousands while scores of servants in the pew feel a supernatural calling to be in “full-time ministry.” The way leadership will be chosen in the coming years will see a significant change as I see a …

Shift from Professional-Experienced Ministers to Trusted-Layperson Leadership

I don’t expect this idea will find much excitement in ministerial circles, nor do I particularly find this appealing myself since it affects my livelihood and daily occupation. Once the trained, educated, Christian “professional” could simply point to a place on the map, go there, and find a suitable position or outlet for his giftedness and calling. Those days are gone – long gone! Even highly gifted, talented, well-educated leaders are finding ministerial moves exceedingly challenging to say the least. This is an area that I have recent insight and expertise. Rarely does a month go by that I do not speak with an exceptional minister that is struggling to find a place of service. When you consider that I represent over 137 churches, spanning 5 counties in the Metro area, representing 4 Associations, as well as having close relationships with several other Associational Missionaries, placement should be a snap. However, the reverse is the case.

I received in my “inbox” about a month ago a follow up letter from a man outstandingly qualified, desperate for ministry, who has all the “tools” necessary for a successful undertaking, yet he is reminding me that he has not heard from anyone, anywhere for over 8 months. I know he is doing the leg work, sending out resumes, meeting Associational Missionaries, visiting available churches, and getting his name out there. The Bible Belt should be a goldmine, yet all he is getting is the shaft! At the same time, 4 of my larger churches have recruited new staff members, not from stacks of resumes, but from within – from current members that have proven their character, integrity, and have shown giftedness for the needed role, though they have NO FORMAL TRAINING. This is not a surprising trend, as the current economy has accelerated this process. Whenever a church hires a new minister and he proves to be just “good on paper,” this also makes the church leadership feel they can “do better themselves!”

The future “job market” for ministry is going to transition in a way that is unfamiliar to current church-staff models as the trained professional minister is more frequently replaced by the committed layperson member. There are unforeseen variables that could pitch the ship one direction or the other, but the one constant that we must recognize and agree on regardless of how this is played out is this – the church today is not healthy, she is not in any condition to weather out a storm much less proceed in favorable weather. We need Spiritual Renewal, desperately, immediately, and genuinely. Whether she is led by professional, experienced ministers or faithful laypersons from within, her leadership must return to the true Commander-in-Chief, the Anchor of our Faith, the One Who is THE Truth – the Lord Jesus Christ! HE, the Good Shepherd, will fit His under-shepherds suitable for His bride regardless of their education and skill.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shift from Entertainment to Accountability Fellowships

In my earlier blog, I described the noticeable shift from a non-Christian culture to a more aggressive, anti-Christian culture. I would like to discuss a possible trend that could be an outcome of such a seismic change. When considering the enormous abandonment of young people toward evangelical Christianity, those few that do embrace the faith will …

Shift from Consumer-Entertainment to Practical-Accountability Fellowships

With our current climate less than hospitable toward believers, it is not mental gymnastics to conclude that “genuine” young Christians are going to be more diligent in finding an environment that will provide spiritual enrichment, encouragement, and ammunition for the fight they currently are experiencing. No longer will the large, loud, impersonal “youth gatherings” with high sensory stimulation and big-name entertainment be the draw, but rather a deep, meaningful, like-minded fellowship will become the mainstay in order to provide needed accountability and structured encouragement as well as ministry outlets. I can see a move from the mega-church phenomena to a more mid-size or even the small church venue in order to meet the needs of having personal, practical relationships (this is already starting to happen on several fronts).

I also wonder if the current bizarre popularity of social media will start to wane as people that have either grown up with, or that have become enamored with this “cyber-relationship tool” will realize it is a weak substitute for having a commitment-centered, small accountability group in the development of their Christian disciplines. It may stay active as an outlet for expression of faith, but the realization of having a more organic, face to face encounter with fellow believers for true development will replace the frequency of “having to stay connected.” (I have seen several Facebook posts about young people "fasting" from their cell phones for several days each week!)

Two of the unfortunate consequences of the mega-youth models are (1) that so few members are given any opportunity for leadership and (2) so many uncommitted can “hide” in the anonymity of the masses. Problem 2 is simply “too many wolves with the sheep” and this analogy needs no explanation. This first problem however deserves some clarification. Without personal opportunities for leadership, in other words the chance to actually make decisions and be strategically involved, there is no developed loyalty, no “bye-in.” The results of this “lack of an outlet for ministry development” has already been documented in countless books, and most of us can recite the mantra – “by the time active churched youth leave for college, more than 82% will never darken the doors of a church again!” Although we’ve read this, heard this, and lamented its reality we are not currently attacking the problem at its core – connecting our youth with actual leadership opportunities within the church, giving them true ownership! Hence the forced solution of involvement with smaller, more opportunistic fellowships that provides higher accountability.
If larger churches address this issue by offering more opportunities for hands-on ministry it will curb the future departure, but the “song and dance,” performance-based student ministry model will not provide the necessary elements of true disciple-making. The line in the sand is becoming more noticeable and our young people are on the front lines of this battle. Although those of us that are older can see it, they are sweating it out firsthand. For the faithful few that will remain we must provide genuine centers of spiritual development and experience. Babysitting and entertaining them is over.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shift from Non-Christian to Anti-Christian Culture

Check out this very short description of some superheroes that served under King David! "...the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (1 Chron. 12:32)"  Man, that's pretty much all it says about them, but they were so necessary. What they had can be summed up in one word - VISION!
I don’t consider myself a “son of Issachar,” nor am I a “prophet, or the son of a prophet,” and my prognostication skills have never been my strong suit, but I would like to look at an important trend facing the future church.
The Shift from “non-Christian” to “Anti-Christian” Culture
Most people living today in America do not remember Bible reading done in their public schools. They may have  heard about it but have no personal experience of a thoroughly Judeo-Christian ethic being the norm of all of society. It dictated how the family lived, how the “village” operated, and it was all directly connected to the church. Our society was a moral haven, not that everyone was a Christian, but the acceptable bar of behavior centered on the precepts of Scripture and especially the Big Ten. That is why the French historian, Alexis de Tocqueville made the famous phrase in 1840, “America is great because Americans are good.” Well, Lexi, times have certainly changed!

For the last half century our common struggle has been the world’s encroachment on our children, the humanistic philosophies stealing the hearts and minds of our future. We have watched a non-Christian world slowly bleed out our sons and daughters spiritually, leaving them morally incompetent and inept. Although you may still see yourself in this fight, the times have changed yet again. No longer are we living in a non-Christian culture, we have changed the address to an “Anti-Christian” culture. Today we are considered wrong, nay I say, evil, for having Judeo-Christian principles that guide our lives. We are boldly and loudly called names like intolerant, homophobes, Neanderthals, flat-earthers, and “hate-criminals” if we hold to the basic ethical doctrines of God’s Word. Any moral challenge we give to an aberrant behavior from a Biblical perspective is met with vicious outrage, even borderline violence, which is considered a just reward. Our Christian students are not only fighting the immoral onslaught of secular hedonism and rampant sensuality, they are fighting for their lives. One reason most are very timid about sharing their faith is not the embarrassment, it’s because of the popular opinion that Christians are the new Nazis. We are no longer at odds, we are at war, and the culture is the one waging it! What used to be a line drawn in the sand has become a rampart with bludgeoning repercussions. It’s no longer the 90’s!  

If a man makes a poorly produced “YouTube” video that portrays Mohammad in a bad light he will spend over 3 months in jail. Would he have been given the same treatment if he had done the exact same thing defaming the person of Jesus Christ? Think about it. On April 7, 2009 in an unclassified Department of Homeland Security report, “right-wing extremist” were considered a major homegrown threat to national security. It goes on to clarify groups such as Christians, returning US Soldiers, supporters of far-right candidates, homeschoolers, and NRA members should be assessed as a high level of threat. The outcry was deafening and because of that they have since pulled this report, but the fact is our government sees us, Judeo-Christian ethic, Bible believers, as a national security threat! Because we stand for something holy we are now guilty of hate-crimes! How long before they issue another such declaration and there is no outcry? The new culture is Anti-Christian!