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Four Ways to be a Sage in a Stupid Age - Part 4 of the Five Aspects of Manhood

I’m a fairly stupid guy sometimes.

I didn’t say totally stupid-I said fairly stupid.

Some people suffer from temporary insanity.

I’m different.  I suffer from temporary stupidity.

Let me prove it.

Just the other day my wife asked me to remove all of the wasp nests from our front porch.

I spotted an angry looking yellow jacket perched upon his nest.

Rather than grab a fly swatter (the intelligent thought never crossed my raison-sized brain)
I grabbed a broom stick.  

I aimed the end of the stick (the end that you normally hold) at the buzzing bee and began jousting.

I missed the bee over and over and over.

The bee realized its advantage, (he was jousting with a stupid guy) hovered up and over my head, and then flew away, free as a bird.

Let me define stupid.

A good definition acts like a fence.  Some concepts are kept in while others are left out.

Stupidity is a lack of smarts.  

Smart people know things, exercise good judgment and live intelligently with wisdom.

Stupid people know little, fail to exercise good judgment and choose unwise methods to kill bees.

And yet, maybe my admission of stupidity is my first step towards becoming a sage.

When a person exercises wisdom that comes from age, failure and experience he is called a sage.

What are four things a man can do to become a sage in a stupid age?

First he can appreciate that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

Wisdom has always been about not only choosing the right goals in life, but also the right methods to reach those goals at the right time.

Men, we are to fear God first if wisdom is to ignite.

But what is fear?  

Fear is the explosive intermixture of intense desire to get closer to beauty, while at the same time wanting to sprint as far away from beauty so as not to get sizzled by its supremacy.

Need an example?

When a guy sees a new truck or a lovely lady or a breathtaking mountain, he simultaneously wants to get closer and farther away.

He wants to get closer, cause he really wants that truck or girl or challenging climb up the mountain.

He wants to get farther away cause he knows he does not have what it takes to get any of these (I’m too poor, not in her class, unable to climb to the top).

What’s this got to do with being a sage instead of a stupid guy?

Everything.

When we start with God (he is more valuable than a truck or a lady or a mountain) and get close enough to him to submit to his wisdom, while staying far enough away to admit our dependence on him, we actually begin to become wise.

God always has the right goals, the best methods and perfect sovereign timing.  Fear him and you will take the first step towards being a sage.

Second, spend tons of time mastering skills that fire you up.

Men have different likes and dislikes.  Pursue your likes and get some know-how.

Do you like to tinker with engines?  Get your hands greasy, make mistakes, and grow in wisdom.

Do you like to read?  Read good books, think, make some mental mistakes, and grow in wisdom.

After years of tinkering away at a skill, you’ll be sought out to serve others with your sage advice.

Third, beware of abusing your growth as a sage.

Remember Solomon? He is considered the wisest man that ever lived.

God clearly commanded Solomon to fear him by refusing to stockpile gold and wives (Deuteronomy 17:17).  God wanted Solomon to trust and depend on him alone instead of money and ladies.

Solomon acted the fool and his kingdom fractured.

As we acquire and then master skills and know-how, we need to trust God’s goals, methods and timing, so that we do not abuse everyone around us.

Fourth, beware of abandoning your call to be a sage.

Do you habitually read God’s word which reveals God’s goals and methods for living a life of high adventure?

How do you spend your idle time?  Do you fritter it away with the escape of entertainment?  

Look.  I know life is hard for us guys.  

The stresses and strains are knee-buckling.

Life regularly punches us in the face.

But you are a Jesus-man.  

Jesus is called “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).

As we live united to him, following and fearing his goals and methods, we will become truly wise.

Life is a 15 round fight and you are not in the ring alone.

Don’t escape from the ring of life and hide in the playground of pornography.

Have you heard all of the stupid exuses?

I’ve heard them all:    

It releases my sexual tension

Everyone involved is enjoying themselves

It will make me a better lover

My wife is tired

I'm single

Guys, these excuses are beef-brained and we know it.

Instead, let’s get back in the ring of life with Jesus and other guys by our side, and become sages who fear God.

Get trained by wiser men than you.  Laugh at your stupidity as you resolve to rely on the grace of God alone for your salvation.  Pray for wisdom to be a sage in a stupid age.

Howard Cole
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church

Three Signs that Signal When a Boy is Switching over to be a Manly Savior - Part 3 of the Five Aspects of Manhood

I recently had the honor of having lunch with a local fireman. 

As I talked with him about the war he waged against fire, the picture of a man as a savior materialized in my mind.

Remember the danger and drama of September 11th, 2001? 

When everyone rushed out, the firemen rushed in.

Why?

·         Because saviors save.

In the last two blog posts we learned the following:

Mirroring his maker, a man initiates as a lord then cares for what he creates as a husband.

In this third post about Biblical manhood we examine man as a savior.

·         But what exactly is behind the action of a man’s role as a savior?

As a savior, a man wars against evil at the risk of his own life for the sake of the one he loves.

While he depends fully on the saving grace of God, he pushes against danger until the evil is vanquished.

Here are three signs that signal when a boy switches over to be a manly savior.

First, a boy is often cowardly in the face of harm and hostility, while a man is courageous.

Way back in Genesis 3:15 God responds to the treasonous trickery of Satan by promising this to Satan: “I will make you and the woman hostile toward each other. I will make your descendants and her descendant hostile toward each other. He will crush your head, and you will bruise his heel."

The complete story of Scripture explains this mystery descendent who would crush Satan’s head with hostile force as Jesus.  Men that are joined to Jesus, join the war and confront the hostility of Satan, sin and evil.

A man notices that a real spiritual war is going on all around him and even inside of him.

A boy is helpless in the face of this hostility. 

He yields to fear, pain or the threat of harm.  He runs to others for protection.

A man in Christ is not cowardly but courageous. 

How so?

Surprisingly, not by internal fortitude or positive thinking.

Consider Iron Man.

In the Marvel Comic, Tony Stark suffers a deadly chest injury and constructs a suit of armor to save himself.  As long as he is inside of that suit he can courageously challenge hostility and save others.

A man admits his helplessness and rather than constructing a suit of armor (his personal performance) he receives the righteousness of Jesus and wraps it around his life forever.

Living inside of that salvation, he can exercise mental and moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear and difficulty on behalf of others.

Second, a boy bullies others while a man benefits others.

Because of our indwelling sin, men can abuse the desire to save with selfish fighting.

A savior does not bully.  He confronts evil in order to benefit the ones that he loves.

Intimidation, the act of frightening into submission by inducing into another a sense of inferiority marks the bully. 

A savior does the opposite. 

He comforts and encourages those that feel stuck, hopeless and weak.

Young men, do you speak to your sisters, “friends that are girls” and moms with a tone of comfort or cruelty?

Young men, you need to know that bragging (voicing your strength to others without any sacrificial results to show for it) shrinks your manliness in the eyes of the ladies in your life, while quietly benefitting others expands it.

Third, a boy begins to discern virtual good from evil and enjoys competitive gaming and sports, while a man actually sacrifices, with painstaking perseverance, to defeat the real evil all around him.

Boys can be found playing endless virtual wars by means of video games and community sports while men enter into the real flesh and blood harms and threats in their community.

Gaming and sports are a helpful catalyst for a boy to begin the push against the enemy.  But when a boy becomes a man a real sacrifice occurs in the daily battles of life.

A sacrifice is an actual giving up of something of value (your time, money, health, goals, comfort, etc.) so that evil is displaced.

I have struggled with being a savior.  But that’s just the point.

A savior, mirroring the ultimate savior and empowered by the Spirit, leans into struggles against cowardice, bullying and spending endless hours in virtual contests while actual responsibilities are neglected.

What are two things a man can do this week to grow into the savior role?

·         First, just as King David killed real lions and bears that threatened the sheep under his care, go fight a real threat to the people, places and things that you deeply love.

Do you need to weed your lawn, write your congressman, challenge a spiritually wandering friend, correct a child, fight against the status quo in your church or neighborhood, or protect a friend or family member from an abusive person or situation?

·         Second, take the time to look inside.  Sin lurks in the cracks and crannies of your heart and seeks to overpower you.  If you are in Christ the savior, his Spirit is in you and can demolish twisted sin with acts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.

And remember that God did save you, is saving you and will save all that put their trust in Him.

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church 

The Secret is Revealed: How a Boy Becomes a Man. Part 2 of The Five Aspects of Manhood

I love to wrestle with my three sons.

I unexpectedly surprise them by putting them in a headlock, just to see how they will fight their way free. 

Maybe it’s playful combat, or maybe it’s my way to prepare them for the push and pull of life in a wild, jungle-of-a-world.

·         But a dad should be careful about how he trains his boys, because boys become men.

Now that my sons are bigger and stronger, they have turned the tables on their aging father.

When I least expect it, one of my boys will give me a surprise attack, just to see how I’ll wrestle my way out of things. 

Sometimes all three will band together to see if they can overpower their papa.

What exactly is a telltale sign that a boy is becoming a man? 

While any boy can begin something, a man finishes things. 

A man who finishes things has traditionally been called a husband.

A husband cares for what he creates.

A husband cultivates and tends the persons and things within his realm in order to make them fully fruitful and powerfully productive.

We often equate the word husband with marriage but “husbandry” has also been associated with farming or gardening.

A boy can throw a handful of seeds into the dirt, but a man will faithfully water, fertilize, prune and pray for abundant growth and development.

Here are three things a boy can do this week to become a man that husbands well.

·         First, stop living as a consumer. 

A consumer depends on mom, dad and others without taking responsibility.

Authority flows from taking responsibility.

Contribution creates deeper joy than consumption.

Watch a coach, a mechanic, a webmaster, a pit crew chief, an engineer and a pastor. 

They have an appetite for multiplying abundance.

It’s time to be productive for the sake of loving and serving others.

Things become wild when a man refuses to tend and care for that which is under his responsibility.

What is the condition of your room, body, clothes, computer, animals, and relationships?

What is the condition of your relationship with the living God?

·         Second, don’t abuse your husbanding by overwork. 

When we roll up our sleeves and overexert our energy in inefficient ways we sweat.

Cursed with sweat, we often curse when we give our life to our work.

The gospel is all about Christ working for you as He died to absorb your penalty for sin and lives to carry you with his righteousness. 

He said the final “It is Finished” at the end of his cross-work to save fallen humanity.

All work and no play makes men into exhausted, arrogant jerks. 

I know this because I struggle with overwork and the pride and exhaustion it creates every day.

Make sure you build margin into your calendar to wrestle with your boys, date your wife and play at a hobby.

·         Third, don’t slack up or slack off.  Our culture tempts boys to abandon their role as emerging husbands.

Coasting, convenience and comfort tempt boys to stay boys.

Spend more time cultivating the character of Christ rather than competence at trivial games or useless skills.

Men have a fire in their belly to husband productive things.

Slackness creates mediocre and careless productivity.

Christ played hard but never abandoned his role as the husband of his bride, the church by slacking off.

Paul said it best when he addressed his “brothers” with these words:  ESV 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

·         And young men here is the secret of all secrets--

Girls becoming women look for boys becoming men…..men who relish husbanding for the glory of God.

Well guys, what do you think? 

Do you agree that the secret to a boy becoming a man is husbanding things well? 

I’d love to hear from you.

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church

Five Aspects that Animate Mannish Men

Guts. 

Grit.

Manhood:  The glorious inner excitement a guy feels-- from his nose to his toes-- when he assumes sacrificial responsibility.

Jesus would walk up to a guy and call him out of his routine and into a new way of sacrificial living and giving with the simple command “Follow Me.”

I remember the day when my dad “called me out” to join him for a work-out at the Atilis Gym.

The Atilis gym was no Planet Fitness. 

A dilapidated building full of rusting weights and creaking machines magnetized men of all shapes and sizes to enter, “pump some iron” and test the extremes of their testosterone.

Angry grunting, the scent of body sweat and eardrum-rupturing rock music washed over me, like a tidal wave, as I followed dad into that Jersey shore gym down the street from our home.

Brian, the owner, had a body that from the neck down resembled a bulky Coke machine.  A large bobble-head was perched atop his frame as he smiled in my direction.

·         It felt good when he noticed me and then aimed his hulk-like hand towards me for a “welcome to the man-club” handshake.

I knew during that mutual vice-grip squeeze that I was far from the feminine family and in the midst of manhood.

But what actually marks out manhood from womanhood?

A stroll through the Jesus story, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals at least five aspects of manhood.

Men image God as lords, husbands, saviors, sages and bearers of His glory.

Or so says William Mouser, who wrote a book on this subject years ago.  While I don’t agree with everything he says, Mouser helped me with a Biblical framework as I began to raise sons of my own.

While both men and women reflect God in similar ways, men and women also reflect God in different ways.  When we accept the similarities and the differences, a rich-colored picture of God emerges to inform our sexuality and inflame our worship of God.

·         Let’s look at the aspect of man as lord and we will develop the other four in upcoming posts.

Referring to a man as lord may sound blasphemous to some of our ears. 

Only God is Lord—right?  Right.  When God is described as LORD he is the ultimate ruler above all.

I’m not referring to man as lord in that sense.  Our English word lord derives from the Old English hlaford which means “master of the house” or ruler.

We find this concept in the very first command given to Adam in the garden: “…fill the earth, and be its master. Rule the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that crawl on the earth." (Genesis 1:28)

Later in the Jesus story we read “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.  (1 Cor. 11:3)

·         A head rules over a body for its good, not the other way around.

A young man constantly wonders “who am I and what am I here for?”  Parents need to aim their sons at this picture of lordship.  God designed a man to exercise dominance and power on the earth by commanding, controlling, deciding and decreeing good.

Remember that God created man to be an image of His ultimate rule (see Gen. 1:26).  Rulers in the ancient world would erect statues of themselves and place them all over their kingdom.  When someone saw the image or statue, they would be reminded of the power, provision and rule of the ultimate king.

Do we deliver this picture of dignity to our sons?  Wives, do you speak to others respectfully regarding your husband’s God-etched role?  Though they are not God they are masculine mirrors of the true master of the universe.

Just watch the men in your life.  They will try to master this or that.  They will work hard to accomplish great goals.  These are glimpses of lordship.

But sin shattered the image of God. 

Now men do two terrible things: 

·         they either abandon their representative rule on the earth

·         or abuse their power and authority.

Regretfully, I do both of these.  One minute I am passively abandoning an area of rule as a dad, husband, pastor, friend, and neighbor.  I drag my feet instead of making the hard decision.  I wait for my wife to decide so that she can take the heat for the consequences.

The next minute I am abusing others, creation, myself and God due to my sin.  I make unilateral decisions without consulting my wife’s wisdom, God in prayer, or the wisdom of others.

I spend so much energy trying to hide my sin-shattered state or fake a fully-restored image of lordship, rather than admit my true condition.

Is there hope for my masculinity?  Yes.

·         Jesus became a man.  He never abandoned or abused his rule.

He came to restore my masculinity, reversing the curse of sin and is actively restoring me to become more and more like him.

 As all of us reflect the Lord's glory…we are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”. (2 Cor. 3:18)

So moms—allow your sons to rule.  Let them make decisions.  Stop dictating the details of their life and allow them control.

Wives—stop nagging.  We all know this is a fierce attempt to manipulate us into masculinity.  When you manipulate a man, you pour fuel on the fire of our sinful tendency to abandon or abuse.  Stop.  Help us by praying.  Turn to your ultimate Lord and submit to his direction on how to live with such difficult men.  He will help you.

Dads, stop spinning the unimpressive image of your lordship to your family.  They know you are a shattered image.  Instead, admit when you abandon or abuse your rule.  Decide to ask for forgiveness.

Men, we need to spend more time deciding to gaze upon the face of Christ.  He has taken the penalty for our abandonment and abuse of lordship and transferred his resume of righteousness to our account.

He is renovating us right now by his Spirit to rule with mercy and grace.

I look forward to expressing the second aspect of masculinity, “man as husband” next time. 

An unfinished man gazing at the finished man Jesus,

Pastor Howard
Senior Pastor
Metro North Church