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Apr 16, 2010

Let Not the Mighty Man Boast

Last week in church, a passage was read from Jeremiah 9:23-24 which caught my attention as it relates to my ongoing encouragement to Christian men to be more manly.
Thus says the Lord: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord."
As I'm encouraging men to be bold, to have courage, and to man up for God, I have to give a word of caution and explanation too. Yes, I believe our present generations of men need to be more manly in a Biblical sense and yes, I'm citing examples of men who are brave, strong, and capable. We need more men who are heroes and role models, men who command respect, even men who are feared, at least by those who oppose them in battles between right and wrong. But this Biblical encouragement has to come with a warning from the Bible too.

Brothers, as you develop your strength and confidence as a man, don't fall into the sin of boasting in your own strength. Don't brag or even allow inner pride in your capabilities or accomplishments. Yes, men, strive to man up and become Mighty Men for God, but "let not the mighty man boast in his might."

There's already enough self-centered machismo and arrogance in the lives of many men. We certainly don't need to encourage this idolization of men's physical strength and false bravado. I even saw a Christian men's conference where they brought in big body builders and guys bending frying pans with their bare hands. I'm not sure what that's supposed to prove to Christian guys trying to figure out how to be authentic men of God.

Remember that pride has always been our most prevalent and deadly sin, especially for men. Most men are naturally prone to be at least a little prideful. We don't ask for directions, we don't need anyone's help, and we don't easily take advice. Some men have a hard time saying sorry or admitting they're wrong. We would rather give advice than listen to someone else's ideas. We're competitive and we like to win. We all secretly love our medals and trophies, whether literal or figurative. This causes problems for us at work when we have to report to our "idiot boss."  We may struggle in our marriage when our pride won't let us listen to a woman's opinion or advice, even our own wife's. We sometimes frustrate our children when just because we're the father and head of the house, we think there must only be one way to do things and everyone else just needs to listen to us.

As with most things, our challenge is to find balance. As men, we need to balance our God given roles of leadership, headship, teaching, protection, and provision with those of humility, service, understanding, and grace. One key to accomplishing this is also found in the verses from Jeremiah. If you look closely, it doesn't tell men never to boast. It only tells us not to boast of our own might. Instead, we're told to boast of God and his strength in our lives. As the old praise song goes, "Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord."

Jeremiah tells us that when we boast, "boast in this, that [God] understands and knows me." And when we boast in God, we should also emulate him and pursue our identity as men by modeling ourselves after God, "who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth." Why should we do this? "For in these things I delight, declares the Lord."

God delights when we too show steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. But if you've learned anything about being a man yet, it's that it often takes quite a mighty man to steadfastly express real love, to fight for justice, and to actively pursue righteousness. For most of us, we're still on the long growth path to becoming men who delight the Lord in these ways.

So men, continue in your quest to become and grow into Godly, real men. Your wife and children, your church, and your world need mighty men of God and fewer wimpy Christian nice guys. Go right ahead. Strive to be like David's Mighty Men or Jesus' inner circle of Peter and the Sons of Thunder. But as you develop yourself into a mighty man of God, one who may be respected, admired, feared, and followed, don't fall into Satan's trap of boasting in your own might. Boast instead in the power, grace, and love of God, from whom all blessings flow and to whom all glory is due.

Apr 10, 2010

Are You Man Enough to Say NO?

One of the greatest single causes of problems in my life, some of which I’m still suffering fallout from today, was my failure as a man to say one simple word – No. If only I had used that wonderful little two-letter word more often, when it was the right answer needed at the time, I may have avoided many heartaches, frustrations, and sins. If only I had been man enough to say… No, I shouldn’t do that with her. No, I better not look at that or go in there. No, we don’t need to buy that. No, we’re not signing my sons up for that.

The first problem with saying no is that saying yes is usually so much easier. Saying yes often takes less backbone than saying no. Saying no requires strength, courage, will power, and conviction. Saying no can mark you as unpopular, difficult, controlling, or worse. The old saying may go that ‘Nobody likes a Yes Man,’ but my experience is that the world likes a man willing to say no even less.

The second problem with saying no is that so many others in our lives expect us to keep saying yes, even when we shouldn’t.

Children want to hear Yes you may have that or go there.
Bosses expect to hear Yes we can do that.
Pastors love to hear Yes I’ll volunteer for that.
Wives and girlfriends hope to hear Yes honey, whatever you want.
Our own bodies beg us to say Yes I’ll have some more of that.
Even our government increasingly demands to hear Yes you can have more of my money, yes I’ll vote for you again no matter what, and yes I’ll submit and hand over my last rights and freedoms.

Despite the draw to always say yes, there can be great advantages to saying no once in a while. Saying no to some things allows you to say yes to more important things. Saying no preserves honesty in relationships. Saying no is often what is needed to protect and prevent abuse. And most importantly, saying no for the right reasons is Biblical and part of being a godly man.

Consider the teachings of the Apostle Paul in Titus Chapter 2. Here we see some very wise instructions to men which we should all memorize.
“Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.”
“Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned…”
After similar instructions to younger and older women and even slaves, Paul sums up the teaching with this sound advice.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives…”
As godly men (and women), we need to say no to much of what is offered to or asked of us in this world. That certainly includes all “ungodliness and worldly passions,” but may also mean some things which are just unwise or not what’s best for us. This may sometimes require saying no to others whom we love or respect. We may even have to say no to morally neutral or even worthwhile things which, while not sinful, may still not be in our best interest at the time.

Here are some examples of when we might need to say no.
Are you man enough to give these kind of answers?

No, I don’t need that to look cool or fit in.
No thanks, I wouldn’t like to super size that for only 39 cents more.
No, let’s not see how fast this thing will go.

No, I won’t work on Sundays.
No boss, we can’t make that delivery date, but we can…
No thanks, I’d rather not serve in that ministry, but I do feel led and better equipped to serve here.

No son, you can’t watch that show or buy that CD or go to that movie.
No my sweet princess, you are not wearing that miniskirt and half-shirt out of this house.
No, everyone else is not doing it, and neither are you.
No, you may not date my daughter. You have no education, no job, and you wear more makeup and tighter jeans than she does.

No dear, we’re still paying off the last vacation, maybe we should wait a few weeks before going away again for the weekend.
No honey, the children are already overcommitted and so are we.

No, I won’t submit to a search without a warrant.
No, I won’t vote for you just because you’re the lesser of two evils.

No, all religions are not the same.
No, I will not bow down!

So what about you guys? Do you sometimes struggle with the courage to say no too? Where have you had to say no in your life? Where should you have answered no but didn’t and what did that cost you?

Please leave a comment with your examples. Just don’t start saying no for the first time by not answering this request! Thanks.