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Apr 30, 2012

Humility and Boldness

I have been calling godly men to be both bold and humble.  But often, these seem like conflicting goals and are certainly hard to perfect at the same time.  Most of us fail in both areas, but often find one more challenging than the other.  Some men are naturally bold, but could use a big dose of humility.  Others are perhaps too humble, or rather meek, and need to step up in their boldness.

My pastor once claimed something I found remarkable, but once I really thought about it, very true as well.  He said that only in the Gospel can you be both humble and bold at the same time.  Think about that for a second.  The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us two critical things.  First, we are lost in our sin and without hope of ever being good enough or of saving ourselves.  That’s humbling.  But second, we are also of infinite worth due to the price God himself paid for our sins, and as eternal heirs of the King, we have been granted truth, salvation, righteousness, and power in this world and the next.  That should make us bold and confident.  If we can remember and embrace both of these truths, we may be able to balance humility and boldness in our walk with God and before men.

Many men, perhaps most men historically, have a tendency towards pride or even arrogance.  Many men without the truth of their lost and sinful state go about their lives bragging, competing with the other alpha males, and living for their own selfish indulgences.  Still, I was shocked when I saw an extreme example of this on the bookstore shelf this week.
It was the title of the book which caught my attention first.  I’m Awesome.  The subtitle was even sillier and just as arrogant – One Man’s Triumphant Quest to Become the Sweetest Dude Ever.  No, I didn’t see this in the Humor section, it’s a real autobiography of an ex skateboarder, ultimate fighting enthusiast, and now radio talk show host.  I was disgusted but intrigued by the title so I had to at least read the intro.
“My book has it all: Drugs, alcohol, wild boars, prostitutes, skateboarding, guns, motorcycles, broken bones, fire, and Tony Hawk.  I’ve been knocked out more than ten times, and done a ludicrous amount of drugs, but this is the whole story, as best as I remember.”
Despite the author’s claim that his book “has it all”, I’m pretty sure there’s at least one thing missing – humility.  This guy seems to be reveling in, bragging about, and now profiting from a wasted life of hedonism, abuse, and juvenile foolishness.  This kind of guy gives the rest of us men our unwanted reputation as adolescent idiots, who without the wise restraining protection of our mothers, our wives, and the government, would have burned out or killed ourselves by age 25.
Could the power and truth of the Gospel message instill some much needed humility in a man such as this?  Just consider one passage from James 4 to get God’s perspective on a life lived (and wasted) in the prideful pursuit of self.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” James 4:6-10

Fortunately the church may not have too many macho fools like the author of the book I saw.  Maybe a few with a colorful testimony of past sins, but hopefully not many still glorifying such a lifestyle with the arrogant conclusion of “I’m Awesome!”  No, for most of us Christian men, our problem in this balance tends to be our lack of boldness.
We go about our lives acting as if we don’t have the Truth or the confidence of being indwelled with power by the Holy Spirit.  We are often timid and sheepish in our interactions with others, believing the world’s lies of relativism, coexistence, and equality of ideas.  We find ourselves passively accepting what we know is wrong, afraid to confront or even disagree with others.  We make excuses for our inaction and silence like “Who am I to say what’s right or wrong?” “How could I make a difference?” or “I don’t want to start any trouble.”
Maybe we have the humility thing down (although I doubt it if we’re honest), but most of us could still use a good dose of Gospel truth to bolster our boldness in this world.  Consider Paul’s encouragement in Ephesians 3 and Philippians 4 that “in Christ Jesus our Lord…we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him,” so that “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

No men, we have no business going around telling everyone I’m awesome, but we should never forget that we serve and are saved by “the great, the mighty, and the awesome God.”  The truth of the Gospel should keep us humble, reminding us daily of our depravity, our helplessness, and our total dependence on God’s saving and sustaining grace.  And the Gospel should also motivate, encourage, and inspire us to confident boldness in the name of Christ.  Yes, only the power of the Gospel can equip us to be both humble and bold.

Apr 22, 2012

AdultBirth - Well Worth the Pain

In a recent sermon from Galatians 4, we heard of the apostle Paul being “in the anguish of childbirth” for his “little children” of the church. Our pastor suggested another term we may consider as parents – "adultbirth". If childbirth is the act of producing a child, adultbirth is the even longer process of producing an adult. Childbirth generally takes nine months and several hours to accomplish. Adultbirth may take 18 to 20 years to finally produce a young, but independent new adult. 

My pastor acknowledged that guys may be a little uncomfortable with the thought of birthing a child. And probably as a result, women bear the full burden of childbirth themselves. Hopefully they are helped through the process with the love and support of their husband by their side, but if you’ve ever been blessed to witness a birth, you know women alone bear the full painful responsibility of pregnancy and childbirth. 

But all parents, including fathers, are responsible for adultbirth, the long process of raising little children into healthy, responsible, loving adults. And just as childbirth can be a long, exhausting, and even scary process, so can raising the child into adulthood. But just as childbirth is ultimately well worth the pain to bring a new life into the world, parenting for all those years is also worth the effort to bring a fully grown adult into our world, prepared for what lays before them. 

Parenting, or adultbirth, can be challenging. For many men, being a father is both the most difficult thing they will ever do, and also the thing they feel most inadequate and least equipped to do. For starters, parents have to keep their children alive, from giving them the right medicine, to teaching our little boys not to jump out of the tree or pick up that snake, to picking out the safest car for them when they’re ready to drive. Parents have many sleepless nights, whether it’s sitting up all night comforting a sick baby, or sitting in the living room waiting for your teenager to finally come home. Parents are expected to know all the answers, from why do squirrels have bushy tails to why do I have to wait if I really love him. And parents have the constant responsibility to set a good example for their children in every way, to model Christ before their eyes every day, to display the fruits of the Spirit in their home, to say sorry when they fail at this, and then to hope that their children make better choices in life than they did when they were the same age. These and many more daily burdens are why most fathers have grey hair if they have any left at all. 

But parenting is also the most rewarding and worthwhile responsibility that a man or woman could pour themselves into. For starters, God places brand new, impressionable little souls under our care to lead and teach in the ways of righteousness. We get the privilege of being God’s primary instrument to evangelize and disciple new believers within the daily confines of our homes for roughly two decades. Each day, if we take the time to notice and appreciate it, we can watch a new human being develop right before our very eyes, growing each day in size, strength, maturity, knowledge, and wisdom. We get to witness a unique personality and sense of humor develop out of what was originally a helpless, mute, little baby. As parents we share in the pride and satisfaction of each new accomplishment, comfort and encourage after each new pain or heartache, and guide and lead through each new challenge. Finally, we get to pass on family legacies and traditions, to carry on our family name, to affect our world through the ongoing impact of our next generation. Being a parent is a blessing without compare and as any parent will confess, no matter how tired they may be by the end, well worth all the years of hard work and sacrifice. 

I’ll leave you with one final word of encouragement to all parents, but especially fathers. Some births are more difficult than others (and none are easy from what I’ve seen). But mothers know they can’t quit no matter how hard or painful it might get. They have to push through the pain and focus on their goal of bringing their new baby into the world. And parents, yes fathers too, have to push through the tough times and do what’s necessary to reach your goal, that of bringing about a new adult. A fully grown, responsible, God loving, ready to face the big bad world adult! And fathers can’t quit this task, no matter how hard it may get, no matter how much our kids still kick and scream to have their way, no matter how easy it would be just to retreat into the much easier worlds of career, sports, and self, leaving the hard work of parenting to our wives. No men, adultbirth is your job too, and according to the Bible, primarily your job, so don’t quit just because the birth pains double you over sometimes. There’s a new adult waiting to be born, and it’s up to you to bring them into the world.