I really enjoy reading the articles at The Art of Manliness. The folks there are a creative bunch and there’s usually not a week that goes by that there isn’t something very interesting to read. Not only that, but it’s an excellently put together website (unlike amateur-hour over here). While not necessarily coming at manhood from a biblical perspective, much of what they share could still receive a hearty “Amen,” from men pursuing godliness.
A while back they posted a two-part series called, “Don’t Waste Your Twenties.” (Click here to read Part 1… and here for Part 2). The first post focused a great deal on how our brains are wired during our twenties and what we are, therefore, able to do better during that decade than when we grow older. Part two is a natural follow-up post that basically says, “Since your brain is, in fact, wired that way… take advantage of it. Don’t waste this prime time in your life” (that’s my very simple paraphrase). Again, both posts are very interesting and I would encourage you to read them both.
Those posts reminded me of a book I read by one of my favorite authors, Steve Farrar. It’s entitled, How To Ruin Your Life by 30. (By the way, I think it’s the perfect gift for both high school and college graduates!) It’s short, simple, and to the point. Better yet, it’s really insightful. Here are Farrar’s nine suggestions for how a young person can do a super job at ruining his or her life by age 30…
1.) Overlook the law of cause and effect
2.) Get off to a bad start
3.) Ignore God’s purpose for your life
4.) Refuse to take responsibility for your actions
5.) Neglect your gifts and strengths when choosing a vocation
6.) Disregard what the Bible says about sex and marriage
7.) Stop Learning
8.) Isolate yourself
9.) Refuse daily wisdom
Obviously, the book is written to make the very opposite points and Farrar offers some helpful wisdom for folks at any age… not just the under 30 crowd.
Of course, the granddaddy of the “don’t waste your life” books is John Piper’s book… you guessed it… Don’t Waste Your Life. There is much wisdom in this book as well. One of Piper’s main desires is to encourage Christians not to give into the temptation of a retirement that amounts to no more than moving to Florida to collect shells on the beach and to play golf every day. He shares the words on a plaque that was in his childhood home that said…
Only one life,
‘Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done
for Christ will last.
The book is essentially an exposition of those words and the countless texts in Scripture that communicate that truth. It’s an inspiring, encouraging, and CONVICTING book. I think of the two, I would buy the Farrar book for graduates and give older folks the Piper book. Both, however, are well worth reading for Christians who take their lives in this world seriously.
Grace and Truth,
This booklet is the fourth in a series on basic discipleship principles for men.
The first booklet in this series focused on becoming a new creation by grace, through trusting in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. We then learned that coming to faith in Christ is only the beginning of our journey with him. God also wants to become more like Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds. The third booklet reminded us that because we are new creatures in Christ and are increasingly becoming like him, we will joyfully and obediently follow him as our Lord.
In this booklet, we will look at what it means to bear witness for Christ in every sphere of life. If Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth, then we, as his ambassadors, will follow him wherever he leads us. We will want to represent him in the varied areas of our lives. In so doing, we will make an impact for him in our homes, workplaces, churches, neighborhoods, cities, and even our wider culture and world.
This resource can be used for your personal devotional time with God. I hope, however, that you will also use it to disciple other men. It will also be helpful to use in your small group.
It is my prayer God will use this booklet to equip and encourage you to faithfully represent our gracious Lord and extend his Kingdom into every sphere of your life.
You can order it or learn more about it by clicking here, which will take you to Lulu.com.
This booklet is the third in a series on basic discipleship principles for men.
The first booklet focused on God’s good gift, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By trusting in Christ alone, and repenting of our sin, we become new creatures in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The second booklet emphasized that coming to faith in Christ is just the beginning of our walk with Christ, not the end of it. God wants us to increasingly become like his Son in the here and now. Through the process of sanctification, followers of Christ become more and more like their Savior and Lord.
In this booklet we will discover that following Christ as his disciple is not easy. It’s hard, which is why Jesus taught that before we agree to follow him, we must first count the cost of doing so. But the good news is, those who do follow Jesus are never asked to do so in their own strength, but in the grace, power, and wisdom he supplies.
This resource can be used for your personal devotional time with God. I hope, however, that you will also use it to disciple other men. It will also be helpful to use in your small group.
You can order it or learn more about it by clicking here, which will take you to the Lulu.com website.
In an effort to communicate my appreciation for, and my indebtedness to his life and writing, I decided to put together a little “blog-offering” as a tribute to C.S. Lewis . I told my wife not too long ago that I really do think I could spend the rest of my days reading his books, as well books about him. His contributions across various spheres of Christian life have been vast. He speaks to me as very few others do, outside of Scripture.
Of course, I’m no Lewis scholar. I’m a rank amateur at best. But I am a fan. And while I can’t cite every fact about his life or how he influenced such-and-such school of thought, I find myself returning to him time and time again… whether it is his fiction, nonfiction, letters, or poetry. For that matter, I usually have a biography of Lewis somewhere near my bedside table.
Until such time as I’m able to put together enough coherent thoughts to write a proper tribute to him, I want to pass along a “mega” Top Ten List that will actually include far more than Ten. Below are a few links to websites by folks who really are Lewis scholars and who have contributed in helping us think about how Lewis may serve us as a spiritual guide, among other things. I have also included links to websites about his friends, his influences, and those who have been greatly influenced by him. Enjoy.
Joy and Truth,
1.) C.S. Lewis Institute – Bonanza of great resources. Check out their publications, Reflections and Knowing & Doing. They have great curricula on two Lewis books as well as many audio messages you can listen to or download.
2.) C.S. Lewis Foundation – Another bonanza. Lots of great resources including an online journal and blog.
3.) The C.S. Lewis Review
4.) Into the Wardrobe
5.) Diana Glyer’s website
6.) Mere Lewis.org
7.) C.S. Lewis at Harper
8.) C.S. Lewis Society of California
9.) Narnia Web.com
10.) C.S. Lewis & Public Life
Websites with lots of articles about Lewis
1.) My old website (scroll to the bottom of the page)
2.) Catholic Education Resource Center
3.) Books and Culture
4.) C.S. Lewis, Literature, and Life
Inklings and Other Friends of Lewis Related Sites
1.) The Kindlings and Earl Palmer Ministries
2.) Peter Kreeft
3.) Ralph Wood
4.) American Chesterton Society
5.) The Tolkien Society
6.) The Inklings
7.) Mythopoeic Society
8.) George MacDonald Society
9.) George MacDonald Info Web
10.) The Hobbit Movie
In preparing for a Bible study of Paul's letter to the church at Galatia, Galatians 1:12 jumped off the page at me. I’ve read that verse many times before, even studied it in depth. Yet, this time it made a unique impression one me. In that verse Paul tells us,
I did not receive it [the gospel he preached] from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
Revelation - God's Personal Disclosure
One of the most helpful books I purchased and read back in my seminary days was Volume 2 of Carl Henry’s series on God, Revelation, and Authority. That book was quite a contrast for me since the two theologians my Systematic Theology class in seminary dealt with primarily were, Paul Tillich and Karl Barth. It was helpful for me to read way back then, (about 1990), what an American evangelical author had to contribute to the debate regarding how God reveals himself. I’ve read many useful critiques of Tillich and Barth since then, but it was Carl Henry who first gave me such nutritious food for thought.
In his six-volume series, Henry lays out fifteen theses related to how he understands the Bible’s teaching on divine revelation. You may find yourself bickering with a point here are there, but I have found them succinct and helpful in explaining to others how God reveals himself to his creatures who are slow on the uptake, and who certainly would have never "discovered” God on their own.
Below are Henry’s fifteen theses with no added comments from him or me. (You can purchase his six volumes if you are craving his explanations for each.)
God is not the Great Perhaps, a clueless shadow character in a Scotland Yard mystery. Far less is he a nameless spirit awaiting post-mortem examination in some theological morgue. He is a very particular and specific divinity, known from the beginning solely on the basis of his works and self-declaration as on the one living God. Only theorists who ignore divine self-disclosure are prone to identify God as the nondescript John Doe of religious philosophy.
1. Revelation is a divinely initiated activity, God’s free communication by which he alone turns his personal privacy into a deliberate disclosure of his reality.
2. Divine revelation is given for human benefit, offering us privileged communion with our Creator in the kingdom of God.
3. Divine revelation does not completely erase Gold’s transcendent mystery, inasmuch as God the Revealer transcends his own revelation.
4. The very fact of disclosure by the one living God assures the comprehensive unity of divine revelation.
5. Not only the occurrence of divine revelation, but also its very nature, content, and variety are exclusively God’s determination.
6. God’s revelation is uniquely personal both in content and form.
7. God reveals himself not only universally in the history of the cosmos and of the nations, but also redemptively within this external history in unique saving acts.
8. The climax of God’s special revelation is Jesus of Nazareth, the personal incarnation of God in the flesh; in Jesus Christ the source and content of revelation converge and coincide.
9. The mediating agent in all divine revelation is the Eternal Logos – preexistent, incarnate, and now glorified.
10. God’s revelation is rational communication conveyed in intelligible ideas and meaningful words, that is, in conceptual-verbal form.
11. The Bible is the reservoir and conduit of divine truth.
12. The Holy Spirit superintends the communication of divine revelation, first, by inspiring the prophetic-apostolic writings, and second, by illuminating and interpreting the scripturally given Word of God.
13. As bestower of spiritual life the Holy Spirit enables individuals to appropriate God’s revelation savingly, and thereby attests the redemptive power of the revealed truth of God in the personal experience of reborn sinners.
14. The church approximates the kingdom of God in miniature; as such she is to mirror to each successive generation the power and joy of the appropriated realities of divine revelation.
15. The self-manifesting God will unveil his glory in a crowning revelation of power and judgment; in his disclosure at the consummation of the ages, God will vindicate righteousness and justice, finally subdue and subordinate evil, and bring into being a new heaven and earth.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
by Edward Reynolds (1662)
I’m embarrassed and ashamed to say that after staring at it on my bookshelf for over 17 years, I finally picked up J.I. Packer’s book, Rediscovering Holiness, and started reading it. It is extraordinary and I am kicking myself for waiting so long. (I’m also groaning over the fact that there’s a revised and updated version available. However, I’m going to resist the temptation and stick with my older copy. Ugh.)
Holiness is a topic that is near and dear to United Methodists (at least, it used to be... and still ought to be). It certainly was to John Wesley and Packer gives several tips of his hat to both Wesley brothers. I’m looking forward to reading the whole book.
Of particular interest in the first chapter was Packer’s distillation of J.C. Ryle’s “12 Point Profile” of what a holy person looks like. It’s fantastic! I thought I would share bits and pieces of his points with you below. The Apostle Paul encourages us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to examine ourselves to see if we are “in the faith” I can think of no better list with which to measure yourself than the following excerpts from Ryle.
I pray the following truths will bless, encourage, convict, and lead you to greater holiness in your life.
Grace and Truth,
1.) Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find his mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God’s judgment, hating what he hates, loving what he loves, and measuring everything in this world by the standard of his Word…
2.) A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment. He will have… a hearty desire to do [God's] will, a greater fear of displeasing him than of displeasing the world…
3.) A holy man will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. He will not only live the life of faith in him, and draw from him all his daily peace and strength, but he will also labor to have the mind that was in him, and to be
conformed to his image (Romans 8:29).
4.) A holy man will follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue.
5.) A holy man will follow after temperance and self-denial. He will labour to mortify the desires of his body, to crucify his flesh with his affections and lusts, to curb his passions, to restrain his carnal inclinations, lest at any
time they break loose…
6.) A holy man will follow after charity and brotherly kindness.
7.) A holy man will follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence toward others…
8.) A holy man will follow after purity of heart. He will dread all filthiness and uncleanness of spirit, and seek to avoid all things that might draw him into it.
9.) A holy man will follow after the fear of God. I do not mean the fear of a slave, who only works because he is afraid of punishment… I mean rather the fear of a child, who wishes to live and move as if he was always before his father’s face, because he loves him…
10.) A holy man will follow after humility. He will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than himself. He will see more evil in his own heart than in any other in the world…
11.) A holy man will follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations in life… Holy persons should aim at doing everything well, and should be ashamed of allowing themselves to do anything ill if they can they can help it… They should strive to be good husbands and good wives, good parents and good children, good masters and good servants, good neighbours, good friends, good subjects, good in private and good in public, good in the place of business and good by their firesides.
12.) Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual-mindedness. He will endeavour to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand… He will aim to live like one whose
treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim travelling to his home. To commune with God in prayer, in the Bible, and in the assembly of his people – these things will be the holy
man’s chief enjoyments. He will value every thing and place and company, just in proportion as it draws him nearer to God…
Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.
Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!
Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!
Based on Proverbs 7:21-27
Like a Mouse...
It’s interesting how, in this Scripture, the unsuspecting man followed the prostitute to his demise. Oh how her beauty, flattery, and persistence wore him down. Yet he was an active participant in his own deception. Thus, he blindly, yet willingly, followed her to her home, supposing he was about to have the time of his life. Unbeknownst to him, he was marching toward his undoing. Observe the language…
Out of ignorance or naiveté, these three creatures fell prey to the traps set for them – a decision (so to speak) that would cost them their lives.
We are the same. We may see great big obvious temptations for what they are. But the serpent’s craftiness is found in his subtleties. It is the consistent smallness of our daily surrenders to those subtleties that lead us into the slaughterhouse, the noose, and the snare. A compromise here and there will have a powerful snowball effect in our lives. We often have no idea when we say “yes” to that first, small, seemingly insignificant trifle of a temptation, that it is the first step on a path that will lead to our destruction. We unwittingly pay a price that will cost us dearly – our very lives… our families… our ministries… and so on.
May the Lord bless you as you think on these things.
Tales of Integrity
Max Anders tells the following story…
“A number of years ago, Cleveland Stroud, coach of the Bulldogs of Conyers, Georgia, led his team to a championship season with a record of 21-5. In their final game in March, they won a dramatic, come-from-behind win that gave them a state championship. But a short time later, a confession was made that stripped them of the trophy. It was not a revelation of wrongdoing but a revelation of right-doing.
“In the first of the school’s post-season games, an ineligible player had played 45 seconds of one game. No one knew at the time that he was ineligible. When it was discovered, the coach voluntarily reported it to the Georgia High School Athletic Association, which deprived them of their trophy. Coach Stroud was widely quoted when he said:
“’We didn’t know he was ineligible at the time; we didn’t know it until a few weeks ago. Some people said we should have just kept quiet about it, that it was just 45 seconds and the player wasn’t even an impact player. But you’ve got to do what’s honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget scores of basketball games; they don’t ever forget what you’re made of.’”
Here’s another story about integrity, or the lack thereof…
Bill Hendricks encountered an illustration of this principle [of integrity] in the real estate market of the 1980s. He met a developer who claimed to have woven what he called “biblical principles of business” into his deals. But when the market went south, he skipped town and left his investors to pick up the pieces… and the debts. (Boa)
One more from Pat Morley…
A man sitting next to me on a plane ordered a drink – a bourbon and Coke. The busy flight attendant said she would come back to collect his money, which he lift lying on this tray table. She passed up and down the aisle several times. It became obvious the flight attendant had forgotten about his money. After she made a half dozen trips past us, my aisle-mate reached over, picked up his money, and slipped it back into his coat pocket. Integrity – what’s the price? Sold for a $6 drink.
Can you relate to those stories? Maybe you’ve witnessed incredible acts of godly integrity by people you know. Or, maybe you’ve seen acts of bankrupt integrity from those you know as well.
Integrity! While the word may not appear many times throughout the Bible, it’s still a dominant theme that runs from Genesis to Revelation. So, what does integrity mean? Well… it has a couple of meanings that relate to one another.
But before I define what it means, I want to give you an illustration from Scripture of its opposite. Have you ever felt that your life was falling apart… that all the pieces of your life just weren’t fitting together? That’s a feeling of DIS-integration. It’s a feeling of being undone or not whole.
In Isaiah 6, we find the prophet Isaiah standing before a vision of the holiness and majesty of God, in God’s throne room. As he stood before a perfect, righteous, and holy God, Scripture tells us that Isaiah began to feel undone. Here are three translations of how Isaiah responded to this vision, to this experience:
“Woe is me! For I am lost;” (ESV)
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined…” (NIV)
“Woe is me, for I am undone…” (NKJV)
Each is communicating Isaiah’s feeling of falling apart, coming undone, disintegrating.
Integrity: Definition 1
And so, the first definition of integrity is that we are integrated. That is, we’re undivided, whole, complete. A building or bridge is said to have structural integrity when everything fits together… when everything is where it’s supposed to be and works the way it’s supposed to work.
Integrity: Definition 2
The second definition is related to the first one. Earl Palmer puts it this way…
Integrity of behavior and actions… As the dictionary puts it, ‘soundness of moral principle; the character of uncorrupted virtue, especially in relation to truth and fair dealing; uprightness, honesty, sincerity.’
What does all that mean for us? The Bible calls us to be same person, no matter who we are with, where we are, and no matter the circumstances.
What does the Bible call us if we act one way with one group of people… and another way with a different group of people? Hypocrites. My son Grant asked what I was preaching on this morning. I told him, “integrity” and told him what it meant as well as what the opposite meant.
He then told me about a boy in the movie, Wonder. He said there was a boy who was a big bully and picked on the other kids. But in front of adults he was super well-behaved, a perfect angel. I told him that’s exactly what I’m talking about. For those of you who are older, we know such a person from the TV show, Leave It To Beaver – Eddie Haskell.
Scripture gives us a picture of hypocrisy, featuring the Apostle Peter. Peter was in Antioch, enjoying fellowship with the Gentile Christians. He knew what the Gospel was, for it had been affirmed and confirmed at the counsel of Jerusalem with Paul, James, and the other Apostles. He knew that no extra works of the law were required to be saved, to be justified, to have a right relationship with God. He knew this and so he enjoyed fellowship with his Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ.
However, the Judaizers arrived, those Jewish Christians who believed that to be properly Christian, one had to first be circumcised and then practice other parts of the Law of Moses. This pressure was too much for Peter, and thus he recoiled from the Gentiles. Out of fear of the Judaizers, this great stalwart of the faith buckled and joined the Judaizers. This hypocrisy of Peter’s was contagious, for not only did other Jewish Christians do the same, so did Barnabas. Peter was rightfully called out on this publicly by Paul.
One writer said,
“Biblical integrity is not just doing the right thing; it’s a matter of having the right heart and allowing the person you are on the inside to match the person you are on the outside.” Boa
Peter wasn’t single-mindedness between these two groups. He lacked integrity. He was not consistent in who he was and what he believed. He was, to quote James 1:8, “double-minded.” He was of two opinions, depending on whom he was with.
A Look in the Mirror
But we don’t have to pick on Peter, do we? Can you spot some of this in yourself? Here are some questions to ask yourself…
· Are you the same person at home with your family as you are at church?
· Are you the same person with church friends as you are with work friends?
· Are you the same person when you’re with your friends at school that you are in your small group or Bible study?
· Are you the same person with your family as you are sitting alone in front of the computer or television screen?
· Are you the same person on a business trip as you are at home?
· How radically different is your thought-life from your public persona?
Jesus attacked this very thing in the lives of the Pharisees. Quoting Isaiah, Jesus said in Matthew 15:8,
“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (NIV)
Elsewhere he called them whitewashed tombs, which looked beautiful and ornate on the outside, but on the inside they were full of dead men’s bones. That’s hypocrisy!
The Gaps Between Is and Ought
A mentor of mine said many times, “I know the better course to take, but too often I take the lesser.” We all do, don’t we? We know what we ought to do, but we don’t always do it. Or, we know what we ought not do, but we do it anyway.
We can think of our integrity like this: How far is the gap between your OUGHT and your IS? In other words, how far is the distance between what you know you ought to do, and what is actually the case about your life? Can you relate to this?
Have you have ever heard the words, or said them yourself… Do as I say, not as I do? You may be doing great in some areas of your life, while other areas need some help. The gaps between what you ought to do and what you are doing, need to close.
Think about all the different areas of your life.
· Private life
· Employee or Employer
· Church member
As you move from relationship to relationship, circumstance to circumstance, role to role, how varied are the gaps? Do they change much, depending on who you’re with, where you are, and according to the circumstance? Our goal is to close the gaps in our lives. To be whole people. To be consistent. To be the same person with the same mind, no matter where we are… or who we’re with.
Closing the Gaps
So how do we close the gaps in our lives? Well, we need a constant standard and we need a power source in our lives.
Think of yourself as a planet. In our solar system, the planets orbit around the sun. My question for you is this: What does your life orbit around? And how do you know when you’re drifting away from where your need to be? How can you tell?
When Jesus Christ is our Lord, and therefore, the center of our lives, we orbit around him. And through his Spirit and his Word, we’ll know when we’re in the right place and when we’re not.
And when we’re not, not only will we be able to spot the drift, but we’ll be able to make the turn and move back in a Christward direction. But if anyone or anything other than Christ is at the center of our lives, then we may not be able to tell when we’re drifting, at first.
For a season, we may be able to fool ourselves and others. But as Christ and our other standard move further and further apart, we’ll begin to experience a breakdown in our integrity.
Think about the performer in a circus who stands on two horses as they gallop around the ring, one foot on each horse. The performer is safe, as long as those horses stay close to one another. But if they ever begin to move apart, the performer will have to make a decision or else be in some real trouble.
Christ is calling us to make that decision today, before there’s an integrity crisis in our lives. He wants us to follow him. He wants to be the center of our lives so we can safely orbit around him and be where he wants us to be.
But we have blind spots, don’t we? Or, we have gaps we’re aware of, but we’re struggling with them.
The good news is that, because of Jesus Christ, we can make the turn back to Christ, and by his grace and power, we can return to him and live a fruitful life of godly integrity. Let me encourage you to dig into and remain in God’s Word. Surround yourself with other godly people who will love you, encourage, you, pray for you, and hold you accountable in your pursuit of godly integrity. Don’t try to live a life of integrity on your own.
God is so good and so patient. He’s waiting for us to close those gaps in our lives by returning to him. Let me encourage you to make that turn today.
The Fellowship of Ailbe
Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
C.S. Lewis Institute
The Gospel Coalition
The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Every Square Inch Ministries
Gene Edward Veith
Center for Cultural Leadership
Church and Culture