Thinking About Church Masculinity

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Wednesday nights I teach a men’s Bible study. We have been going through the video series Men’s Fraternity. Now I’m not a fan of “rah-rah I’m a man” sort of things. Popular Christian author John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart caused me to shy away from hypermasculinity. As a guy who is not super physical, I’m just not into his gospel.

Erwin McManus wrote a short book called The Barbarian Way. This book helped begin the healing process from the damage Eldredge caused:

Somewhere along the way the movement of Jesus Christ became civilized as Christianity… We created a religion using the name of Jesus Christ and convinced ourselves that God’s optimal desire for our lives was to insulate us in a spiritual bubble where we risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, lose nothing, worry about nothing. I wonder how many of us have lost our barbarian way and have become embittered with God, confused in our faith because God doesn’t come through the way we think He should.

Donald Miller’s book Father Fiction also helped refine my thoughts on masculinity– you can read those here and here–. Miller concludes, in a humorous way, that men know that they are men by the way God designed them (anatomy). Most other Christian men’s books try and come up with some sort of vague definition on what being a man looks like. I find this confusing, not helpful, and destructive.

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Men’s Fraternity has been a good series so far. The content is relevant and applicable. But, I have disliked the format that the series forms.

Wednesday night looks like this:

  • We get together (many of the guys coming in late).
  • We have an hour and a half to watch the video and discuss.
  • We end up starting 30 minutes late due to the guys wanting to talk.
  • We start the video. The videos vary in length from 45 minutes to 50 minutes at max.
  • We Watch the video.
  • We then have 15-20 minutes to discuss.

I find it unnatural to walk into a room, sit down, and watch a video with a group of guys I haven’t talked with, at all. I have no clue how their week has gone, how they are doing on a personal level, etc. There is no chance to build relationships.

I am currently debating on whether to summarize the video’s material and then lead a more pointed discussion or even go back to our read a book of the Bible and have a discussion format. We’ll see what happens.

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Morning Reading: Judges 17-21

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“In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.” – Judges 21:25

The last few chapters of the Book of Judges show the nation of Israel relying on instinct and their own personal morals rather than following God. Sin has heavily infected their worship and everyday life. The end of chapter 19 even has an incident that is similar to that of Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Homosexuality and rape are a societal norm. Everyone did as he saw fit.

This mornings reading has me questioning if I am doing as I see fit; if I am walking alone in this world versus walking with God. This morning I have prayed that I would be obedient and follow God, not doing as I see fit but as He sees fit. Think of it as a realignment of the heart.

Where are you today?

Wednesday Night Bible Study Recap: Conduct

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Wednesday nights, I host a Bible study at my church. The study follows an open discussion format in which we read a chapter of the Bible every week. The insight, conversation, and fellowship with other Christians is what keeps me coming back week after week. I love how God uses something so simple to minister to both myself and others.

This week we were studying 1 Timothy 3 & 4. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul is giving Timothy instructions for how church leadership (overseers/pastors) and believers (deacons/servants) are to conduct themselves.

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife,temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

11 In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

Reasons for Paul’s Instructions

14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

1 Timothy 3:1-15 (NIV)

Reading this made me ask myself some questions:

  • How am I conducting myself on a daily basis?
  • Am I causing someone else to stumble due to my actions?

Conduct

I am sure that like me, you have encountered pastors/deacons/Christians who act one way in church and in a completely different manner outside of church. Sunday they are smiling away, gracious and kind; Monday they are screaming at their fellow man without any sort of control. Have you ever found yourself acting this way? I have. I am quite guilty of wearing the Christian mask at times. I hate it. I want to be open, honest, and real.

Moving Towards Christ

Paul concludes 1 Timothy 3 with verse 16:

16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

He appeared in the flesh,
was vindicated by the Spirit,[d]
was seen by angels,
was preached among the nations,
was believed on in the world,
was taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

As we move towards Christ, we become more like him. Not to somehow exalt ourselves but to exalt Christ. People are watching us as Christians. I want to encourage you to be an example as you go.

Living Life Grounded

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If you wanna steal my show, I’ll sit back and watch you go

If you got somethin’ to say, go on and take it away

Need you to steal my show, can’t wait to watch you go

So take it away – Steal My Show, Toby Mac

I drove to Bible study alone last night. My wife needed rest and my son hasn’t been feeling the best. As the two of them set to recuperate for the evening, I headed out to church to lead the Bible study I teach every Wednesday night.

With Lecrae’s “Gravity” album thumping in the background, I prayed that my teaching the study wouldn’t be all about me. I started to think about personal branding. How we are all out to promote ourselves in some way. Just look at social media and the constant noise some of us project. All of our social noise an effort to be heard above the rest, to be known in some shallow way.

As much as I want to carve my own personal story into this world, I ultimately want my life to be grounded upon God first. I want to serve Him and further His kingdom, no matter what that looks like (so I say now). If that means that I am to be a garbage collector or a serve as President of the United States, I want to be able to do so for His glory, not mine. I want God to be in control. This is not me forfeiting my own personal will but instead me submitting to a Holy and living God who is sovereign.

The seemingly random experiences that make up my life have taught me that God only wants the best for me. In the darkest places of my life God has always called me out to something better. He has always shown me a clear path to walk upon, no matter how much my heart craved that which was murky and dark. God’s will, as much as we fight it, is perfect. I want to live in that will; I want to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

Wednesday Night Study: Acts 2

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After a short summer break, my Sunday school class started back up it’s Wednesday night Bible study. This week we read from portions of Acts 2. We picked up right after the Apostles had received the Holy Spirit. Some in the crowd were wondering if the Apostles were in fact drunk due to hearing them speak in different tongues (languages).

13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

So, Peter addresses the crowd:

14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.’[c]

22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25David said about him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’[e]

29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’[f]

36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

The Fellowship of the Believers

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:14-47 (NIV)

Thoughts from the study:

1. I love how Peter immediately addresses the crowd regarding the thought that the disciples were drunk (Acts 2:13). They weren’t! Peter quotes to the crowd scriptures found in Joel 2:28-32 which talks about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The day they had been told to wait for, by Jesus, had finally come.

49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49 (NIV)

2. My Bible had a side note that talked about how up until the time in Acts 2, all throughout the Old Testament, only select men (some kings and prophets) received the Holy Spirit. Now, all believers have the Holy Spirit in them the moment they accept Christ. We have been clothed with power from on high and sent a helper.

3. I also like how Peter re-accounts Christ’s story. Specifically telling the crowed that:

23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

Verse 23 wonderfully reveals that Christ’s death was not in vain but part of a bigger plan. Oftentimes we can’t see God’s bigger plan for our lives. Rest assured that His plan is active and good. I like the following verse as well:

24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

4. We focused a lot on verses 42-47. Specifically on how the early Christians treated one another. A few thoughts hit me that I was unable to voice:

a. Much was made about how the early believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (42).” Our group openly wondered how we could be like this with our own class. We talked about how we could invite others into our homes and how we needed to get together more than just once a week. Something that struck me during this conversation is how we do not need to make a big deal about when we have people over. Reminded me of Matthew 6:3 – “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”

b. Verse 45 talks about how they gave away their possessions and goods to anyone who had a need. I want to note that this verse says nothing about personal possessions or goods being bad or evil. As our group talked about what it looks like to give stuff away, to fight the American obession with goods, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:

18 This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. 19Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

God is always concerned about the individuals heart. I want to stress that it is a gift from God to be able to enjoy what He has given to you. This means that possessions and wealth aren’t bad! As long as your heart is in the right place, pointed towards God, you are good to go. Anything else is a guilt trip that reeks of legalism that seeks to rob us of a possible area of blessing from God.

In closing, this was the beginning of the early church, believers were excited about what God was doing. The Church still had it’s new car smell. I would argue that it is easy to do things when you are “enjoying the favor of all the people” (47a). Therefore, it would be easy to meet daily and live together when you do not have any conflict. When things are positive, with believers numbers being added to daily, it is easy to be a follower of Christ. What I love about Acts, as a book, is that it shows that things weren’t always easy for the early church and that things won’t always be easy for us. 

Next Wednesday, our Bible study picks up in Romans 1. Should be good!