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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Checkpoints: The Midpoint Recap

Prior to the last week, I had been reading Checkpoints faithfully. Last week was hectic with holiday preparations (no excuse admittedly), so I missed a few days.  Nevertheless, instead of the prior week’s recap that is normally posted, I present the opportunity to get caught up on the first 5 weeks.

Week 1: Identity

Week 2: Integrity

Week 3: Community

Week 4: Self-control

Week 5: Courage

The weekly recaps will resume next week.

 
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Posted by on 11/26/2012 in Checkpoints

 

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Checkpoints Week 5: Courage

I’ve said it a couple of times before since I started reading Checkpoints, but this week was challenging. It was arguably more challenging than the preceding weeks, sans the first. Mostly because our Identity is the very foundation of how we, as men, see ourselves. Our ability to exercise Courage in living in our identity, or if necessary, changing it, is what week five focused on.

Courage, as defined in the New Living Translation, is “mental, or moral strength.” For many, courage is also a prerequisite of manhood. It’s not foolhardy, but wise. It takes a certain amount of security within ourselves to live courageously. Courage also comes from knowing who we are in Christ.

There’s a saying that states “courage isn’t the abscense of fear, but acting inspite of it.” Well, that’s all good, but if we haven’t taken the time to acknowledge our fear(s), how can we act purposefully? We must take time to see not only what we’re fearful of, but why. As we identify the causes of it, then we can pray for strength and the ability to face the fears head-on. Doing so increases our reliance on God, stretches our faith, and enlarges the purview of our conquered apprehensions. When doubt sets in, we should remember Philippians 4:13.

Rejection is predicated on fear. It’s the fear of wanting or desiring something or someone, and not attaining that which we desire. If we think we won’t get what we want, we’re apt to not pursue it. However, this is the wrong attitude to have. Christ has told us to ask for whatever our heart desires. If it’s in the Father’s will for us, we shall receive it. If we don’t, then we have to trust in God’s sovereignty that it is not for us, either at that time, or ever. But if we don’t ask, we will never know. The Bible instructs us to come boldly before the throne of God; if we fear rejection, we can’t.

If we are rejected by a situation, or someone, we can develop a grudge against them. Holding grudges is a sure fire way to not be like Christ. We are instructed to be forgiving to those who we feel have wronged us. Not only forgive, but we must be free with it. There are two schools of thought on forgiveness. One says to offer it readily to another, regardless of if it’s been asked for or not. The other says, have it readily available when it is sought. God didn’t wait for us to seek it; it was already extended to us. If He, who is the author of forgiveness extends it freely, shouldn’t we do likewise, and let go of our grudges?

When we forgive, it does something for the forgiver and the forgiven. What it does is effect change from the inside out. The same action needs to happen as we strive to fight against secularism as men. It’s so tough for us because we ideally set the standard for what happens in society. Either we are actively against it, or passively for it. Men have to take a stand first, then make one to combat the increasing hostility against Christianity in the world. We can’t look at women to take the lead in this fight; it’s on us. If we set the standard and be brave in our homes, it will flow over to our communities, and then the nation. But the only way it’ll happen is if we plant our flags now, and tell the enemy that WE are going to be the change we want to effect.

However, if we are to do it, us men cannot show timidity. Forces in the world now are slowly eroding what manhood is. Some images of men show us as bumbling fools, while other images show us as misogynistic ne’erdowells. Neither is accurate. Men are supposed to be bold, stand in the face of fear, be protective of our loved ones, and take charge. Christ is our example, and He embodied all these traits. They’re not the only aspects of manhood, but they’re a good place to start. Take heart and work to exhibit the example that Christ set for manhood. We’ll be amazed at the confidence that will spring forth.

 
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Posted by on 11/19/2012 in Checkpoints

 

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…On Church

Earlier today, I spent some time responding to and asking questions of a person who had a problem with “holy parrots”. Oh, holy parrots (hp) are the folks who go to church, hear something from the pastor, then start espousing this same “church speak” to others in their life. While this inherently isn’t a problem, issues arise when the HP isn’t confronting the same issues in their life.

The Son of God spoke about this in Matthew 7. The irony is, we all are hypocrites in some form or fashion. We all struggle with an issue another may not. The problem arises when people want to point out what “so and so” has done. “Nah bruh, mind your own issues before you even think about dealing with mine!” But I digress. Tangent over.

My second original thought while reading the discussion was, “it’s no need to get upset at that.” Perhaps something the pastor said resonated with that person. But then the original discussion shifted to the “see, that’s why I don’t go to church now and God can talk to me soliloquy. I kindly removed myself, though I realized later that was the wrong move.

People want to say they see God all around them. That’s cool. Still others say they don’t have to go to the physical structure of church to meet God. Eh, well, not so much.

Throughout the Bible, God’s people met at a central location. In the Old Testament the place of meeting was the Temple. Later in the New Testament, the meeting places were houses, and the precursors of the churches we have today. It’s not just traditional; it’s ordained by God. Furthermore, Jesus Himself even said “when two or three are gathered in My name, there shall I also be.” Where is the most likely place for two or three to be together? In a church.

Then there are the folks who say I don’t need a minister to hear God. They are right…to a point. They also miss a bigger part of the picture. The point they are right about is that God can speak to whomever He so pleases; He is God. He will use any means that He so chooses, including a pastor!

If the pastor is truly hearing from God, and seeking His truth, then God will deliver messages through him. Pastors are put in place by God to be spiritual authorities in houses of worship. More importantly however, is that they serve as God’s mouthpieces. The Lord could very well have given a pastor “a word” for someone, but if they’re not receptive to it, then it’ll be missed. It could’ve been a confirmation, a warning, or encouragement. It got missed because of them not looking past the one who delivered the message.

Don’t be like the people who don’t hear the Lord because they focus on the wrong things. Listen to what He has to say. Rest assured that what they’re trying to hear may have to come through the person they feel they don’t need, in the place they don’t want to come.

Through the pastor, in church.

 
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Posted by on 11/13/2012 in On...

 

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Checkpoints Week 4: Self Control

As I’ve been going through the Checkpoints book, various aspects of syrivinf to a godly life have come into clearer focus.  The first three weeks of devotionals have been challenging.  They focused on preparing the mind and spirit for living for Christ.  Week four takes it to another level by using the first three weeks as the foundation for Self-control.

If we know who we are (identity) in Christ, then we’ll be more apt to apply His standards and truths (integrity) to our lives.  Being around like-minded men (community) will strengthen us and allow us to better exercise self-control.  This self-control is rooted in the knowledge of Christ, and what He requires of us.

Where we must allow Christ to make a difference in our lives is our heart and our mind. It is in these two places where addictions reside. Addictions can wreck lives almost as fast as pride. When we become addicted to something, it achieves the status of a god (idol). God explicitly said in the commandments to have no other gods before Him. If we’re addicted to (idolizing) anything, our focus is off of God and we aren’t living as He desires for us to. We must not let anything become more important to us than doing the will of God.

As addictions take many forms, some are more detrimental than others. The ones that cause harm to the body, mind, and soul fall into this category. Pornography is arguably chief among them. Porn feeds sexual lust. It places images in our head that placate carnal fantasies. Not only does porn affect our mind, but it affects our body as well. Watching it can desenitize us to physical contact from our spouse, which affects intimacy within marriage. Being addicted to porn can break fellowship, but professional help, and Christ can restore it.

A by product of an addiction to porb could be an increased desire for self-pleasure. Also known as beatin’ off, wackin’ off, choking the chicken, etc., masturbation is a self induced orgasm. It’s not necessarily a problem in our formative years. However, if it continues as we get older, then its necessary to wonder why. Orgasms are a wonderful thing, but in the context of marriage. When masturbation is a continuous habit, at it’s core it is feeding physical pleasure. The focus has become “chasing the high” of the orgasm. The only way to get control over it is to pray for strength, study the Word, and subjugate our will to God’s will, wholly.

I try to keep myself out of this, but I feel like transparency is called for here. In my life, I struggled with an addiction to porn, and masturbating when I was younger. One of the reasons some drug addicts keep using is because they’re attempting to reach the intial euphoric feelings of when they first started using. I know it was because of “chasing the first high” that I kept doing it. It’s not everybody’s reason, but it was mine. Eventually, “doing me” wasn’t enough and I started having sex.

Pre-marital sex is a big deal for most people. Initially, for me it wasn’t. As I got older, I began to understand why it’s so serious. Sex itself is supposed to be within the confines of marriage. It’s not just a merging of bodies, but also minds and souls that is supposed to be for two people, as God designed it. When pre-marital sex is engaged in, it usurps the originally intended purpose, as well as merges souls of the participants. Perceptions can become slanted as well. Even more serious though is the fact sexual sin is, as the Bible says, is the only one we do to our own bodies. Our bodies are called temples by God, yet if we are doing things to damage our temples, do we really value them?

How do we get into situations where we need to exercise self-control? After the desires arise in our hearts, and thoughts get formed in our minds, we set in motion the actions by our words. Words can make or break people. Destructive words are ones that tear down. We set in motion destructive habits by what we speak, then follow up on by acting on what we say. Even if we think something, it’s not always necessary to voice it. The words we use are just as important as what’s said. Self-control is knowing how to say something, and when it’s best, frankly, to shut up.

The only way we can effectively exercise self-control is by submitting ourselves to Christ. A component in it is staying in the Word, and allowing it to convict us. That’s why effectively studying and scripture memorization is so vital to our spiritual walk. As we hide the Word in our hearts, we will have the necessary strength to not be overcome by the things that seek to take us out.

 
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Posted by on 11/12/2012 in Checkpoints

 

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Checkpoints Week 3: Community

It’s been an experience going through Checkpoints the last three weeks.  The inward focus has made me take a harder look at my relationship with Christ. Suffice it to say, some aspects of it have been found wanting.

I’ve felt like I have a strong Identity in Christ, but it could be stronger. Admittedly, my Integrity. has waned from time to time. I’ve known, but it was reiterated again, that having a strong sense of Community can help men, like myself, who struggle with the first two checkpoints.

Truthfully, I’m not sure how many men struggle with feelings of Isolation. What I do know is that we control it. If we separate ourselves from others, then it’s easier for sin to creep up on us. We can’t withstand an onslaught of negative forces if we try to combat them on our own. Even though He is the Son of God, Jesus had His Disciples, and they were His community. As men of God, it’s important for us to be around other likeminded men, who are striving to live for Christ. As Proverbs 27:17 states, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” We can only sharpen each other, and ourselves, if we spend time with other men.

Conflict can impact community as well. When there is discord amongst people projects, plans, and progress all generally grind to a halt. Nothing gets accomplished because folks are harboring negative feelings toward one another. The feelings can sprout from anywhere, and each man involved has his own. But, whatever it is, the conflict must be resolved for the bonds to be reestablished. Even the Bible says (paraphrased) that “if one commits an offense against his brother, stop whatever is going on an rectify it.” The kingdom of God is about harmony, and if harmony doesn’t exist, then those who are preventing it need to do what’s necessary to make it happen.

What else affects the harmony amongst men? Would you believe Gossip? It sounds weird because not many people automatically think of men as gossipers. We can be. Has anybody ever told you something in private, but you shared it with another? Yup, that’s gossiping. Keeping private things private and not spreading lies is the best way to not be a gossiper. That and minding our own business.

In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to become an inadvertent gossiper though. Why is it you may ask. We’re more technologically connected than ever before. The advent of the internet, and social networking allows us to connect more easily. This can be both good and bad, but doing it too much can lead to what’s termed as Online Abuse. Be mindful of the connections both in real life and virtually, but we’re to never let our virtual ones replace the real ones. Jesus nurtured people outside His circle, but after God, His first priority was those closest to Him. Our lives should be the same way.

The same way we have to guard against isolating ourselves, we must watch for the wrong kind of community that may want us as part of it. Peer pressure is a part of this. Often when we hear the phrase peer pressure, it has negative connotations. The fact is it can be negative or positive. Being around Godly men, such as in a small group or men’s ministry, will exert positive peer pressure. Not only positive, but it can be encouraging as well. When we align ourselves with the right peers, doing so can make all the difference in our natural, and spiritual lives.

***Along with the Bible, Checkpoints gets to the heart of manhood. I’m seeing a difference in my life, and can only assume that other readers of the book are too. It’s still five more weeks to go, but I expect them to be as revealing, and better than the weeks prior.***

 
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Posted by on 11/07/2012 in Checkpoints

 

…On Faith

Lately, I’ve been having issues holding onto my faith.  Coming from a man who believes in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, this may sound like borderline heresy.  Breathe easy because it’s not.  Even Jesus had issues with His faith while in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I’m one of those pragmatic types, but I still believe, and know, that God can do whatever He so wills and desires in my life.   Despite everything that is transpiring, I hold fast to His promises.

Jesus told His disciples that those who maintain even faith as small as a mustard seed can move moutains just by their words.  It seems simple until we look at the mustard plant.  It grows as tall as a small tree.  Birds can roost on it.  So if my faith starts out that small, then ideally is should grow.  Well, what about if my faith is smaller than the seed?

Certain things I question God about; again this is something that Jesus did.  It’s not questions of His promises, but moreso about when I’ll see them manifest in my life.  It’s hard to maintain when life is hitting you in the face, constantly.  Then I read a passage in the Bible that gets me thinking, and answers at least a few of my questions.  Yet, it causes others.

Acts 14:8-15 is such a passage.

In the first few verses of this passage, we get the story of Paul healing the crippled dude.  He was listening intensely to what Paul was preaching, and Paul saw this.  Verses 9 & 10 are sssooo Kobe (that’s clutch, for you Laker haters).

The crippled guy’s faith was evident to Paul as he watched the man.  So evident that Paul called the man out and told him “STAND UP!!”  Now it all sounds simple, but it speaks volumes.  It makes me ask myself questions.

Does my faith show on the outside as much as I say I have it?

Do I truly believe, in my heart, that God can do anything, or do I just know it in my mind?

Has my faith been put to the test?

Do I have faith in God so much that a word from Him will cause me to move?

These questions may not occur to everyone else, but they do to  me.  Then I get reminded that no matter what is going on in my life, God controls it all.  It sounds like a cliche, and I feel kinda dumb saying it, but it’s the truth.  So, my original thinking resurfaces:  I hold on to the promises that Jesus gave.  They’ll come I tell myself, I just gotta be steadfast.  I can still hope and pray they come soon though.

 
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Posted by on 11/05/2012 in On..., Uncategorized

 

The Cap’n Save ‘Em Chronicles: Becoming the Cap’n

In the last episode of the CSCs, I gave reasons why us men need to stop being Cap’n Save ‘Em. In this installment, it’s about how we become one in the first place.

Its no set formula for men to find themselves in the unenviable position of being Cap’n Save ‘Em. From nice guys to the jackasses, if we’re not careful, we’ll end up being the Cap’n. Our kindness can get taken for weakness, and if we don’t rectify it, we’ll quietly stew while being used. What many of us don’t want to admit though is we’re the reason we become the Cap.

We may have a twisted view of chivalry. Holding doors, walking on the outside, even pulling chairs out are acceptable. You know what isn’t? Tossing money aside because a woman says she needs it, or getting involved in physical situations because we think our help is needed. Many of us don’t know when to stay in our own lanes. Not every woman we meet is a damsel in distress. As a matter-of-fact, most aren’t nowadays. Yet, it’s still easy to turn into the begrudging hero.

The easiest way to become Cap is to think you can fix all a woman’s problems. Trying to be their all is a set up from the beginning. We don’t know what is transpiring in their lives, but we want to come to the rescue. Let me be the first to say, “bruh, stay in your lane”. It’s not our responsibility to fix anything. If the lady is ours, that’s one thing. But if she isn’t, we shouldn’t take on responsibilities that aren’t ours.

To that point, we can’t get overly invested emotionally with too many damsels either. Making her problems our problems is a sure sign we’ve entered into Cap’n Save ‘Em territory. What bothers her, now goads us into negative thoughts and feelings. This is a perfect example of when the Bible says “guard your heart.” We must be careful to guard ourselves.

Another one of the ways we end up becoming the Cap’n is just by doing too much. We’ll always offer our assistance, or be quick to acquiesce to a lady’s need(s). Soon we become that super dependable guy who’ll always be around when needed. Since now we’re expected to always be there, we can’t say no. And yet again, we did it to ourselves.

To avoid becoming Cap’n Save ‘Em, we men must practice self-preservation. If something doesn’t feel right, we need to let it go. This keeps us out of Cap’n territory, and fresh for when the “one” we’re to navigate with becomes ready. When we find her, we’ll command one ship, instead of trying to lead a gaggle of them.

 
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Posted by on 11/02/2012 in Uncategorized

 

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