Monday, March 19, 2012

The True Man - Warrior

The True Man goes through seasons in life.

I’ve posted about the Season of Boyhood and the Season of the Cowboy.

Now we come to the Season of the Warrior.

This doesn’t mean we all join the Army, Marines or any other branch of service. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

Rather, this season reinforces the reality that we are at war in this life. We are made to be warriors, to fight for what is right, to protect our wives and families.

The rise of what is sometimes referred to as the “second wave feminist” movement in the 1960’s brought a change to this season in a man’s life by trying to eliminate it. Fighting for such rights as abortion, pushing an agenda that has at is foundation that there is no real difference between a man and a woman.

While I agree that in Christ there is no “male or female, slave or free,” that all are equally loved in the heart of God, I disagree that there is no difference between men and women. There’s huge differences, for which we should thank God!

Men, we were made to be warriors.

In Genesis it says we are created in the image of God. In Exodus it says, “The Lord is a Warrior, the Lord is his name.”

From Genesis chapter 3 on, we live in a world at war. All the wars that have happened since then have been pale comparisons to the War that is being waged against us. As Paul says in Ephesians

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

This we know. We are at war. But this war plays out in different ways.

Steve Farrar writes in Point Man, “Gentlemen, this is no imaginary situation. It is reality. If you are a husband/father, than you are in a war. War has been declared upon the family, on your family and mine. Leading a family through the chaos of American culture is like leading a small patrol through enemy-occupied territory. And the casualties in this war are as real as the names etched on the Vietnam Memorial.” (Point Man, page 22).

You see, Satan has moved his focus away from the church and to the family because if he can destroy the family, the Church is that much weaker! The first church a child will know about, the first place he will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is at home from mom and dad. If Satan can destroy that, the Church has a much harder time getting the Gospel message out to the world.

Once we understand that we are at war and that his war’s battlefronts are all around us (and not just “out there” in the mission field or where Christians are persecuted), then we will be in a much better position to fight those battles.

Where are the battle lines? Everywhere!

There’s a great scene about this from a somewhat  unusual source – the movie “You’ve Got Mail” (click here to watch it).

Warriors are not just found on the battlefields of the world. We are at war every day! In every day life – at the office, in the bedroom, in front of the classroom, on the football field.

The Season of the Warrior is its own specific season. But there are elements of the Warrior in all seasons, starting with boyhood. Like I said before, it is because we are made in the image of God and the Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name.

All our movies that we love have a warrior theme to them. Even a movie like “You’ve Got Mail.” We fight in all areas of life because in all areas of life, there are still things worthy fighting for.

“When Alexander the Great died, his massive empire was divided among several high-ranking officers in his cabinet. What we would refer to as the Middle East, including Israel, came under the rule of the Seluecids, who continued Alexander’s mission to Hellenize the locals, making all the world Greek in its customs and values. What began as the seemingly innocent importation of Greek culture became increasingly hostile, and eventually violent. The Seleucid overlords took a special hatred of the Jewish insistence on worshipping one God, seeing it—as so many dictatorships since—as a threat to their regime. In 165 BC a Greek officer holding command over the village of Modiin—not too far from Jerusalem—ordered the Jewish villagers to bow to an idol and eat the flesh of a slaughtered pig, acts that struck at the heart of Judaism, at the heart of the people for whom such a command was unthinkable. Blasphemy.

“The people refused, an argument ensued, and the Jewish high priest Mattathias killed the officer with a sword. The villagers—led by Mattathias’ five sons—took up arms against the rest of the soldiers and killed them as well. Mattathias and a growing number of his followers fled to the hills, from there launching a resistance movement against their Hellenistic oppressors. Meanwhile, Antiochus IV (current heir to the Seleucid Empire and a cruel enemy of the Jews) seized control of the temple in Jerusalem, set up in the Holy of Holies a satue of Zeus, and commanded the Jews to worship him. Those who refused to abandon God and his commands—included circumcision—were persecuted, mothers put to the sword with their infants hanging round their necks.

“Meanwhile, Mattathias had died, leaving command of his growing forces to his son Judah Maccabee, who led his outnumbered and outarmed troops against a far superior force (ten thousand Jews against more than sixty thousand Greeks and Hellenized Syrians) and eventually routed their enemies from Jerusalem. They cleansed the temple, tore down the desecrated altar (including the idol) and rebuilt one from uncut stones, after which they held a feast of worship and dedication. Of course, I am referring to the origin of the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah. Historian Thomas Cahill observed that ‘there are humiliations a proud people—even one oppressed for generations—cannot abide.’

“Indeed. It may take time, and require repeated provocation, but eventually a man must come to realize that there are certain things in life worth fighting for. Perhaps, when we appreciate the truth of this, we can better understand the heart of God.” [The Way of the Wild Heart, John Eldredge, pages 136-37]

It may take the battle hitting close to home to rouse the warrior in a man, but maybe that is exactly why God allows the battle to hit close to home.

Monday, March 12, 2012

True Man - Cowboy

When I was growing up, the quintessential cowboy was John Wayne. He was tough, he was rough, he was good (for the most part – only playing the bad guy in a handful of roles).

For American boys growing up in the 20th century, John Wayne was the role-model if they wanted to be tough, courageous, and especially if they wanted to be cowboys.

In John Eldredge’s The Way of the Wild Heart (modified and republished as Fathered by God) he notes five “seasons” that every man goes through in their life. The first season is “Boyhood,” which I wrote about in True Man – Wild Man. The second season is “The Cowboy.”

The cowboy season is full of adventure and excitement, just like in Boyhood. But now the stakes are higher. The danger is greater. But if Boyhood is lived successfully, the danger is not too high.

One of the most popular of “cowboy songs” is Don’t Fence Me In by Cole Porter and Bob Fletcher.

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above
Don't fence me in
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love
Don't fence me in

Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please
Don't fence me in

Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies
On my Cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise

I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hovels and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in

“Don’t fence me in.” A characteristic of the settling of the “Old West” in America was the lure of it having no boundaries.

In the 1960’s – when Baby Boomers started to have children of their own, many of these parents decided to raise their children without boundaries. “We must give our kids freedom – freedom to explore their world, themselves. That way they can figure out who they are, decide for themselves what is right and wrong, make up their own minds about how they should live.” The epitome of this philosophy was Dharma Finkelstein on Chuck Lorre TV show “Dharma and Greg.”

The problem with this is that if there are no boundaries, then there is no safety.

“Boundaries” can be many things, rules, regulations, curfews, limited allowances, etc.

But boundaries are not fences to keep the cowboy in, but are fences to keep danger out.

Let’s be clear. We cannot shelter our kids, we cannot be sheltered ourselves, from the dangerous world. That isn’t the point of boundaries. The true “cowboy” stage is that we know our limitations. We are free to explore – without fear of dying – within the boundaries set up around us.

Being a cowboy means living in the world. Boundaries don’t keep us safe from the world, they help us learn how to be safe, how to live, in the world.

Jesus Christ came to free us from sin with his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection from the dead. Jesus freed us from the sin that enslaved us. Jesus freed us from the power of the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.

But this isn’t freedom in the sense that “we can do what we want, with no boundaries.”

The most famous set of boundaries in the history of the world is the Ten Commandments.

But when Jesus sets us free from sin through his blood and righteousness, the Ten Commandments become boundaries of safety for us. Through the freedom Jesus gives us, the Law of God becomes our trusty guide.

It is something like the railings around the observation areas on the rim of the Grand Canyon or at Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park (I wrote about this in a blog post called “For Your Safety”).

Rather than stifling adventure, they make the adventures we live as Cowboys safe while still being dangerous.

Looking For Good

No less than three times last week I was reminded to look for more good around me.
There is so much bad in the world. So much evil. So much trouble. So much pain and sorrow. And as a Christian, I know that much of the bad that comes my may is either of my own doing (flowing out of my sinful human nature) or of the devil’s doing.
I’ve realized that I’ve been sucked into the devil’s trap of focusing on all that bad stuff. I forget the good that God gives. The Bible says, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning….” (Lamentations 3:22-23a).
When I turn my head – and my heart – to look at the mercies, at the good, that God showers on me every day my whole attitude changes. A smile comes to my face. My heart is lighter. I tend to say nice things, and do nice things, to other people.
When I’m focusing on the bad stuff in my life and in the world, I feel differently. I feel tired, worn out, beat down, and I tend to say snarky things about other people. Mostly without their knowledge. I’ll read something on Facebook that someone says about an idea being stupid and take it personally (hopefully more personally than they actually intended). Or I’ll be driving in the car and listening to talk radio and really get in a poor mood about what they are saying.
I need more good – and more God – in my life.
So, I’m being more intentional about looking for the good from God in my life today. And the second half of the passage from Lamentations is thumping in my heart!
“Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lamentations 3:2b-24)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

True Man - Wild Man

I recently completed leading a group of four men on a journey of discovery. We became a band of brothers that together explored who God is and who God made us to be.

We all read (and for me, it was the third time reading) the book "Wild at Heart" by John Eldredge.

I've used quite a bit of material from John Eldredge and Ransomed Heart Ministries. I've also received a bit of criticism for doing so.

One of the criticisms that that John Eldredge receives about “Wild at Heart” is his perceived “boxing” of men – putting men in the box of the wilderness. That the only way a man can really be happy and be a real man is for him to be out in the wild. I don’t agree with this criticism and I’ll tell you why in a moment, but first let’s look at Eldredge’s premise.

Genesis 2:5-9
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. (emphasis added)

Again, God says in verse 15:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (emphasis added)

God created Adam in the wilderness and then brought him into the garden. Adam's first experience with 
life is out in the wilderness, in the wild with God.

Craig Demartino at the True Men in the Mountains Advance 2008
The point here is that man feels at home with his Father out in the wilderness as well (if not more so) as in the place of work (the garden). God gave us both, as men. Both are safe, both are wild but one more so than the other.

I contend that the wild can be anywhere. The criticism of Eldredge is that a man can only be really a man when he is out in the mountains, hiking, camping, fly-fishing, hunting, etc.

But the wild can be anywhere that isn’t work. Work is ok, there’s nothing wrong with work and a man can be a man at work – after all, God gave us work to do.

But it is in the wild that we feel most at home with our Father. These are the places where we can have adventure and excitement; the places where we can dare to dream; the places where we can push ourselves to the limit and beyond.

Think about it for a moment. What kind of movies appeal to men?

Science Fiction.

Have you ever asked yourself why this is so? The answer is because our Father, who made us in such a way as to enjoy adventure, excitement and action, writes our true story in just that way!

The wild can be:

A little-known and less-visited stretch of river where rainbow trout grow as long as your arm and hit only on a handful of flies that are know by even less fly-fisherman.

The backcountry that's a 26 mile drive to the trailhead, then another 3 miles of hiking to get to a campsite.

The snow-capped mountains of the Rockies or, better yet, the Himilayas.

But the wild can also be:

Water Street in downtown Milwaukee

Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Lower Alabama Street in Atlanta.

The wild is where our lives began and it is in the wild that our boyhood begins.

In the wild we hear and ask our first questions. The ultimate question every person has is “Am I loved.” Man, woman, boy, girl – doesn’t matter. This question is no respecter of age or gender.

In boyhood this question needs to be answered and answered correctly if a man is going to live the life that God intended for him to live.

There are times when a boy is not loved as a child. Neglect, abuse, these are ways that answer that question negatively. A man who has that kind of boyhood has the odds stacked against him. But all hope is not lost.

For we all have a Father who loves us. A Father who loves us perfectly. A Father who sent His Son to be our Brother.

Next week, I'll explore further what this means.