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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

We've been hosting the True Men Blog at two blog sites and it's time to roll them into one site. It's been a challenge to take care of both sites.

We've decided to go over to WordPress.

We're so thankful that you've followed this blog faithfully over the last 10 years or so. Please head over to The True Man by Ed Blonski to continue to follow our blog!

May God richly bless you as you begin a new year!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Noble Fir Parable

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. – Psalm 19:1
This is the story of the Blonski family Christmas Tree 2006.
Up to that time my family and I have been going to a Christmas tree farm and cutting down a fresh Christmas tree – usually a Douglas Fir or a Noble Fir.
That year, we were spending our first Christmas in Southern California. After doing some Internet searching, we could only find Christmas tree farms that offered trees like a Monterey Pine to cut down. Firs are grown in Oregon or Washington State and are cut and shipped to the farms and lots around Southern California.
We loaded up the family van with, well, family, and went off to one of the farms in the area. When we got there, we beheld a sight of hundreds of Monterey Pine Christmas trees. And while there was a distinct smell of freshness in the air, it didn’t really smell like a Fir does – and thus, to me, it didn’t smell like Christmas.
Then we found out that these trees were available to cut fresh, however we were not to do the cutting, the employees at the farm would cut the tree we pointed out.
After a serious discussion about this, we decided that we would forgo the cutting of the tree this year. We just didn’t like the look of the trees there. So we ended up at a “lot” establishment. It was just about sunset. Christmas music was blaring out of the loudspeaker. Bright white lights lit up the hundred or so Noble Firs on the lot. All pre-cut – it was claimed - a couple of days ago and shipped on the back of truck here.
We found a nice little tree about five feet tall. It looked and smelled wonderful. We took it home, set it up and decorated it. We had Christmas music on. We had family around. We reminisced about Christmases past as we put up each ornament – one for each year of my wife and I’s marriage.
It was much later, after the kids went to bed. I was sitting in my chair, listening to Christmas music on the stereo. The lights from the tree providing a soft, mellow glow, when I noticed it.
There, at the top of our small but beautiful Christmas tree, was one lonely branch standing straight up. And it was in the shape of a cross.
That little tree reminded me of just what it is that we are anticipating celebrating in five months.
Christmas is about the birth of the Savior who would one day die for the sins of the world. While this tree doesn’t really tell the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – because you can only find that story in God’s Holy Word as special revelation – it does point to the story. It is a beautiful, Noble Fir of a parable. No star on top. No angel. Just a simple little wooden cross that reminds me that Christ was born to die to forgive my sins and give me eternal life.
Ó 2006 True Men Ministries, Inc.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

God's Path

It was hot. So very, very hot. And humid. Temperatures were expected to reach 100 and they met and surpassed that expectation. It was about 105 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. We drove about a half-hour north in relative comfort, air conditioning and comfortable seats in the SUV. Then we reached the turn-off and parked the car at the trailhead. The adventure was about to begin.
We shouldered our backpacks. I was carrying the food and the camp grill in addition to my tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear and clothes. I estimated that my pack weighed in at about 50 pounds. Thankfully, I had a good, well-made hiker’s backpack and the weight was evenly distributed and the shoulder straps were well padded.
I had been looking forward to this trip for about a year now. I had planned on taking a group of 10 men to the mountains of Idaho for four days in July which would include a servant-event project and a couple of nights of wilderness camping. As it turned out, only two men ended up going with me from the Midwest and we met another guy in Idaho. I wasn’t disappointed, though. It was the perfect group for my first attempt at this kind of Advance (because True Men don’t retreat).
So there we were. The four of us at the trailhead, with water and backpacks, ready to hike up into our campsite. It was very, very hot but I was very, very excited. I felt a little like Moses heading off into the wilderness, or John the Baptist, or even Jesus – all who trekked off into the wilderness to commune closely with God in His creation.
Our initial hike was relatively easy. We climbed a little bit, over a hill and then into a meadow that followed the river. The meadow was about a mile long and it was flat and the hiking was easy going.
We came to the end of the meadow and a pretty big hill loomed in front of us. Looking up I could see the dusty trail ascend in switchbacks all the way to the top and over the hill out of sight. We began to climb. It was a steep climb and I began to breath pretty heavy. It was more rough going that I thought it would be.
I had been preparing myself, physically, for this trip over the last couple of months. I went to the gym nearly every day and walked on an inclined treadmill for 45 minutes, lifted some weights and then rode a stationary bike for 45 minutes. But walking and riding in a gym is not exactly the same as shouldering a fifty-pound backpack and hiking up a steep trail in 105-degree heat with the sun pounding down on you.
About three-quarters of the way up this hill, I began to have doubts that I was going to make it. I found myself simply looking at the trail in front of my feet, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I was praying that I wouldn’t fall back down the hill. I was also praying I wouldn’t fall over due to a heart attack!
As we crested the hill – which felt more like a small mountain to me – the trail leveled out and after a five-minute walk we came to a ledge. We were about 250 feet above the river overlooking our campsite. We dropped our packs and sat down, drinking water and, in my case, tried to catch my breath. As I looked over the campsite, two competing thoughts were going through my mind. The first was how beautiful this scene was and how great God was in creating all of this. It felt as if He had created this just for me and just for that moment in time. The second thought was how foolish I was to think that I could attempt this hike! Up to this point I had been more geared to sitting behind a desk and a laptop. What was I doing out here in the wilderness? Thankfully, the first thought won the competition!
After about 15 minutes, we again shouldered our packs and made our descent to the river. That took about another 45 minutes. We walked out of the wooded trail into another meadow and crossed that to the river’s edge. We had to ford the river to reach our campsite.
We took off our shoes and socks and proceeded to walk across the river, which was about fifty feet across here and about two feet deep.
As hot as the air was, that was how cold the water was. I guess about 55 degrees and that was shockingly cold on bare skin!
Crossing this river looked like it was going to be a “piece of cake.” But a wise person once said that phrases like “a piece of cake” are considered famous last words for a reason. That was the case here.
I wanted to put my feet on the large, smooth rocks, as it was easier on my feet than the small, jagged, sharp rocks. But when I would step on the smooth rocks, I found that they were so slippery that I couldn’t keep my feet or balance when I did! I would end up in the water on my back if I tried to do that. So instead of being able to put my feet where I wanted to, I had to put them where I needed to. That was not the easiest or most comfortable path, but it was the safest and, ultimately, driest path. Along the way, I could rest my feet on the large, smooth rocks, but I couldn’t walk on them.
I’ve found that life is much like this. After forty years, I can see an easy, smooth path for my life that I would love to follow. But I really can’t. God has called me to follow Him and that path is often filled with small, sharp, jagged rocks. It makes for less comfort but much more safety. I can stop and rest at the smooth parts, but I cannot stay there and I cannot live there. Most of the time I would like to be able to live the so-called easy life. Get up when I want to. Spend my day as I want to. Not worry about money so I could do the things that I want to do when I want to do them. Not have responsibilities, cares, or worries. But that isn’t how the life of a true man or woman of God is lived. Because God has called us to be His own man or woman, we are to follow Him on the paths that He leads us on. We are to follow in His footsteps. And those steps were made by nail-scarred feet two thousand years ago. The Son of God still leads us today and it isn’t along a path of large, smooth stones. It can be a path of small, jagged rocks. It can be a path that isn’t easy by the world’s standards. But God’s path that we follow is the one that will lead us to the fulfillment of our faith in Christ – eternal life along “white shores; and beyond them, a far green country under a swift sunrise.” [Adapted from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King]
After about a half-hour I finally reached the far shore of that river and 10 minutes later I was setting up my tent at our campsite. It was an ordeal crossing that river – and I would cross it three more times before heading out of the wilderness – but I’m glad that I had the experience.
© 2015 True Men Ministries

On Fire

A brush fire in Southern California is cause for sprinting into action and getting it under control and putting it out as quickly as possible. And that’s a good thing when lives and property are in danger.
Having lived in Southern California, I have a new perspective on brush fires and forest fires. California is a big state. It has a big population. California does just about everything “big”! Including, it seems, fires. Hundreds of thousands of acres can be burned to the ground in a handful of days. Millions of dollars’ worth of homes and property are destroyed in a matter of hours.
Recently, a new company was formed to “up the scale” of fighting these fires. In the past, helicopters have been used to drop water or chemical retardants on the fires. This new company has bought a fleet of jets to do the job. Modified passenger jets that can hold ten times the amount of water or chemicals to drop on a fire.
There are times when forest fires are good things – set off by lightening they can burn out underbrush and revitalize the soil so other plants and trees can thrive. But when a fire is set accidentally at a construction site by an acetylene torch or, worse, set on purpose by an arsonist, fire departments and the forest service work fast and furious to put out the dangerous blaze.
This got me to thinking about being on fire for the Lord. There comes a time in every congregation’s or national church body’s life when a person or a group of people will really be passionate about the Great Commission. They will be “on fire for the Lord” to get the Gospel message to as many people as possible. Most often, they will employ creative and innovated ways of telling the Good News about Jesus.
91 years ago three pastors were ignited by the Holy Spirit to bring the Gospel to the city of St. Louis and beyond through a new medium. It had never been tried before. There were plenty who said, “we’ve never done it that way.” But in 1924, the first broadcast of KFUO AM radio began and the result was hundreds of millions of people who have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ ever since.
Each congregation of the Christian Church has people like these three pastors. Yet there are others who act like the California fire departments! They swiftly and strongly try to put out the fire of innovation and creativity that is used to tell the Good News about Jesus is new ways.
I say, that as long as God’s Word is heeded, let these people burn! Don’t try to put out the fire that obviously comes from the Holy Spirit. Each generation needs to be reached with the ageless Gospel of Jesus Christ in new and fresh ways. When you see someone on fire for the Lord, encourage him or her. Don’t try to put the flames out!
© 2015 True Men Ministries

Friday, August 7, 2015

Role Models

There are many “role models” for us in the Bible. In the past I’ve led a men’s study on the life of King David. The book of Acts tells us that David was a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22). That is the goal of this True Men Ministries’ men’s study – to find ways that we can become “men after God’s own heart” through the examples in the life of David. Of course, sometimes those examples will be of the nature of “what not to do” – especially his parenting style with Absolom and his infidelity with Bathsheba. I led this Bible study on the life of David because he is very much an “every man.” Most men can see a little of themselves in David.

I’ve also been exploring Peter as a role model for men. Considered a giant in the Church – with over 1 billion Christian considering him as the founder of the Christian Church (as the first pope). One of the things that intrigued me about the Roman Catholic’s view of St. Peter is that they promote him as the first pope and such, but seem to conveniently overlook that Peter had a “foot-shaped mouth.” Peter is a great role model for men today because he had many of the “down to earth” qualities that many men have today. But Peter also was used greatly and powerfully by Christ in this world.

Yet another man who could serve as a role model for us today is John the Baptist.

John the Baptist is a difficult character to present to men as a role model. The reason is because there is very little we know of him that men can really relate well to. Sure, we know from Matthew 3 that his birth was foretold by an angel – but how many men today can claim that? He was born to parents that were quite old – some men may be able to relate to that. We know that he was a relative of a very famous person – and I suppose that some men could sympathize with that situation. But after that, all we know of John the Baptist was that he was supremely faithful to his calling from God to prepare the way for the Messiah. While that is an excellent goal for men today to strive for, it is also very intimidating – leading me and, I’m sure, other men to say, “I could never get to that point in my faith life.”

Yet, I believe John the Baptist could be an excellent role model. This is from an article in the September/October issue of New Man Magazine (and can be found here: http://www.charismamag.com/life/men/5329-an-obedient-man ), written by Roger C. Palms:

John the Baptist came preaching in the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah (see Mal. 4:5; Matt. 11:14). He wore hair-skin clothing and ate locusts and honey (see Matt. 3:4). He was a man on a mission sent to prepare the way for Jesus. A lone voice, John cried out not in the big cities but in the desert. He didn't do it for headlines; he did it to make a people ready to meet Jesus so that "all people will see the salvation sent from God" (Luke 3:6, NLT).

John's mission was from God, who gave him the message. John knew who he was and who he wasn't. He said: "'I am not the Messiah'" (John 1:20) and "'Someone is coming soon who is far greater than I am'" (Matt. 3:11). John was not a self-promoter.

How many men confuse the message and calling of God with their own sense of importance? If our birth was announced by the angel Gabriel, would we still say, "'He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less'" (John 3:30)? Or would we go around boasting about who we are? John could have done that. Instead, he was obedient. He stepped aside for Jesus and God gave him the opportunity to baptize and announce the Messiah (see Matt. 3:13-16).

John was born of parents who were faithful to God: "Both of them were upright in the sight of God" (Luke 1:6). But both were also old. John was God's miracle baby for them. In spite of that beginning and the joy he brought to his aged parents, he was never his own. He was a man called by God and he yielded to that call. During his life, John never had the things most men want: a family, house, prestigious job and easy death in his old age.

John's death came at the whim of a powerful woman and a weak husband who did what she asked. John was beheaded during a rich man's birthday banquet and his head was brought to the revelers on a platter (see Matt.14:6-12). What did John do to get himself murdered? He told the truth to the king (see Mark 6:17-29).

"Unfair!" we cry out when a person is treated brutally, as John was. Why was he able to do that? How simple it would have been to keep his mouth shut about the king's morals. There is a way to live an easy, comfortable life—don't obey God. But John did obey God. He was faithful and for that faithfulness he was killed. John didn't invite suffering, but he accepted it.


Are you open to the leading of God even if it means that you must become less just as John did? Will it matter to you if your obedience takes you to the desert rather than to a palace? Will you always point people to the Savior? Jesus had something powerful to say about John: "None is greater than John the Baptist'" (Matt. 11:11). What an epitaph for an obedient man. What a selfless man of God. What an example for today's man.

© 2015 True Men Ministries

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tradition

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.” Isaiah 29:13 as quoted in Mark 7:7.

In 1914, Bayer started putting cotton in their bottles of aspirin to reduce breakage of the tablets during shipment from the manufacturing plant to the store. In the mid-1980s, however, they figured out that if they coated the tablets with Toleraid microcoating, that this would make the tablets less susceptible to breakage. Amazingly, it wasn't until January 1999 that they finally made the decision to get rid of the cotton ball in the aspirin bottle, and this only after four and a half years of testing and discussions. An eighty-five year old tradition ended, some fifteen years after it had become obsolete.

How many traditions in the Church need to also be ended because they are obsolete?

This is part of the point that Jesus makes in Mark 7. The Pharisees are critical of Jesus’ disciples because they don’t ceremonially wash their hands before they eat. Jesus’ response is in Mark 7:7, where He quotes Isaiah 29:13 (see above).

I’m all for traditions. There are some beloved traditions in my own family – cutting down the family Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving is one. Family pizza night on Fridays and Family pancake breakfast on Saturdays are two more. Then there is the “Christmas Candle” tradition that was passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to me.

Some traditions are worthwhile and important to maintain, especially in the Church. But if a tradition is maintained at the expense of the relationship that it is meant to build and strengthen, then it is something that needs to be questioned and, just possibly, discarded.

God wants, above all else, to have a relationship with you. He cares so much – He loves you so much – that He sent Jesus Christ to die in your place, for your sin, on the cross. The traditions that Scripture establishes – such as prayer, hymn/song singing, Holy Communion – are meant to uphold and strengthen that relationship that God desires with you.

If you don’t know why something is done in your worship service, ask your pastor or elder/deacon or altar guild member. Most likely they will be able to tell you and you’ll be amazed at how it gels with the relationship that God wants with you.

But if the answer is “because we’ve always done it that way” then I say it’s a tradition that needs to be seriously questioned. You may find that even though most people feel that it’s only done “because it’s always been done” it really does point to a worthwhile tradition that nobody knew the reason for. Finding out that reason will be a relationship building exercise – and it most likely will be fun, too!

Check out the traditions in your church. I think you’ll be amazed at what you find! And if you find it amazing, share it with me by sending me an email about your tradition and the reason that you found out it is done.


Have fun and have a good worship experience!

© 2015 True Men Ministries

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Light For the Path

After a very long night, we arrived at camp. Last night was a night of flight delays, rowdy drunk guys, and closed car rental places. This afternoon was a short hike up to Fern Falls and then Shadow Falls.

Relatively few people see these two beautiful spots in the creation. They aren’t on any tourist maps. Nothing really tells you they are here except for a brown and white sign that points up a dirt road.


Fern Falls, Northern Idaho 
Shadow Falls, Northern Idaho
 
 The trails to these two falls are wide and easily traveled. Even though it was near 100 degrees, the air around the falling water is cool. After a hot walk, it is very refreshing.

On the way back down the dirt road, we pulled off to take a really great picture of the mountains and valleys around us.


 As I was looking over this sight I began to think about how great God is – it was almost as if He created this just for me at just this moment. Then I began to think that maybe God created me for just this moment and sight. Maybe it’s a little of both.

The three of us began to think out loud and I mentioned how this view is only good during the daytime. At night it would only be dark shadows, unless there was a full moon. I thought that it might look pretty cool under a full moon. But one of my companions noted that it would be scary looking.

As I thought about that for a while, I found that I agreed with him. It was then that I thought that life was pretty much the same way. It looks great in the daytime, in the light of the sun. But it’s scary when there’s no light.

Without the light of Christ in our hearts and shining on our lives, life is frightening. In the dark, walking through life is dangerous. You can’t see the trail. You might wander off the trail and off the side of the mountain, never to be seen or heard from again. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” When I remember that John 1 says that Jesus Christ is the “Word of God” this makes perfect sense to me.

Without Christ in my life as savior, brother, shepherd, warrior, friend, I wouldn’t be safe. I would be living my life like I was walking on that mountain trail at night. It would be scary and I could very well stumble and fall down the mountainside.

Hiking mountain trails in Northern Idaho is amazing. In the daytime. The views are spectacular. It is strenuous due to heat and altitude. But it is all worth it. What I mean is that it isn’t easy, but it is fulfilling and rewarding. But hiking at night is none of those things. It is foolish and downright dangerous. I found that on many parts of the trail I needed to look right in front of me to where I was going to put my foot next. At night I couldn’t do that.

It’s the same thing living life without Christ shining the way. Every day, I need to be in the Word of God so that the Word of God – Jesus Christ – is guiding me, showing me where to put my feet at the next step. I need to follow the footsteps of nail-scarred feet to get through this life.

© 2015 True Men Ministries
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