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!