Friday, December 23, 2011

What would you do for love?

What would you do for love?

A somewhat vague question, but one that is interesting to ponder none the less.

It sounds almost like the subtitle of some chick flick.  One I would roll my eyes at.

Most people who seem to respond to the question answer with something along the lines of "anything!"  After all, if love is everything the movies would have us believe, who wouldn't do anything for love??  Listen to a few songs on the radio.  You will hear more than your fill of lovers swearing they'd do anything for the one they love.

 "I'd catch a gernade for ya, 
throw my hand on the blade for ya.
I'd jump in front of a train for ya. 
You know I'd do anything for ya...
yes, I would die for ya."  

Just don't listen to the radio too long.  You might hear all the music associated with the other side of the coin.  The heartbreak, pain, and anger at love makes me wonder if Bruno Mar was thinking.  And with divorce rates only going up and broken families becoming the norm, I can't help but scoff at the somewhat hollow promises the movies offer.  Something's missing.  

So as Christmas approaches, I couldn't help but think about the love which we, as Christ-followers, claim has transformed our own.

The question then morphed into "What would God do for love?"

The idea of a cosmic sized God loving His tiny creatures is crazy enough.  But then deciding to love those same creatures after they turn on Him and refuse to follow or return His love.  Crazy love.

I wonder when God had the bright idea of coming down himself.  From all human viewpoints, it just seems like a bad idea.  God becoming man?  Just to try to win back these pathetic sinful little creatures?  Ridiculous.

There is nothing glorious or legendary about it.  The story of Christ lacks the poetry of mythology.  Who's the hero??  The one who was born in a dirty stable?  The one who hung out almost exclusively with the social outcasts of the day?  The one who reached the height of public acclaim a few days before the crowd turned and brutally murdered Him?  Some hero.  Christ doesn't act like a hero, but a servant.  God descending to the land of the mortals is anything but glorious. It must have been mortifying and a little bit enraging for the angels to watch their master humble himself to the size of an embryo and go through the ordeal of human childbirth, let alone in a forgotten stable.   What would it have been like to watch the God of the universe as a human baby, puny and crying in the used straw?

 And all for the love of these mortals who would spit in his face and nail him to a tree thirty-three years later.

Immanuel.  God with us.  The scope of God humbling himself to the level of His creation is unimaginable.   Us deciding to become down to the level of a fruit fly or a cockroach still wouldn't be close.

What would God do for love?  Well, it doesn't end there.  He came for a reason: to die. 

[Jesus Christ], who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
 rather, he made himself nothing
   by taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!

                                              (Philippians 2)

You think you love someone?  You think you would do anything for the one you love?  Alright.  Become nothing.  Become their servant.  And be willing to die every day for them.  That's the love that continues to rock the world.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Manhood in the Shadow of Christ

What does it mean to be a man?  This probing question has been pulsing through my brain for more than a year, begging an answer.  Unable to find the answers I sought or the words to communicate my own ideas, the topic retired to the back burner of my mind.  I had read dozens of excellent blogs (,, books, and articles about what ‘true’ manhood looks like.  But I did not think I had anything to add to the fray.  I had tried to tie a few feeble fragments together, but nothing seemed to connect.  

How can I, who have experienced little to nothing of the world, make a claim about what it means to be a man?  As Elihu said in the book of Job, “I am young in years...that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know.”  

But I have watched and seen men of God.  I have also seen boys in the body of men.  The little I know about manhood, I know from watching my father and other men I respect and seeing how they interact with those around them.  I also believe that the Bible lays out a framework of what it manhood means.   Therefore, I have decided to scrawl down a few of my ideas in the hopes that I may be able to help connect some dots for other people as well.

Which brings me to my first distinction.  Our culture has defines manhood much differently than I do.  Watch a few movies or The Simpsons.  Flip through the channels, taking notice of the commercials especially.  Look at the men featured on the front pages of popular magazines and in the limelight of our applause.  What are they living for?  What are they telling us about manhood?  To be completely honest, I am sick to death of what popular culture has been telling me about manhood.  This generation seems to not even live up to the standard of manhood set forth by generations before us.  As Fight Club so aptly put it, we are a “generation of men raised by women.”  Looking to men around me has proved some benefit, but we are all sinful, broken reflections of what manhood should look like.  Discontent with our cultures’ definition of manhood and searching for sort of hope for manhood, I set out to find a standard.  What should a man look like?  Is there a standard?  I turned to the Bible, my own standard for how to live a life worth living.

After searching the pages of my Bible, I found two men who were truly all that men were created to be.  Oh, I found a lot about what a man should look like.  But I was looking for standards, flesh and blood examples of true manhood.

One was Adam, before he chose to disobey God.  He was created perfect, reflecting the image of God.  He was a flawless image, a standard, of what men were made to be.  Unfortunately, we don’t know much about Adam in the days before the infamous fall.  We do know that when the moment of battle came, when he was called to defend Eve and resist the serpent’s attack, he backed down and gave in without much of a fight.  

That is the manhood I see all around me.  And I hate it.  We know we are supposed to be strong and noble and protect the beauty that still somehow exists in this crooked world.  We know that!  And we feel it burning deep within our souls.  But when the moment of conflict comes, we shrink away.  Thoughts and lies plague our minds.  Something slyly whispers that we need to watch out for number one.  We find it easier to slip into the background than sacrifice our reputations, our comforts, or our very lives.  And so beauty is trampled.  Truth is slandered.  And our own hearts begin to become numb.  

So that leaves the second man, who came to right what the first man did wrong.  Jesus.  I believe that Jesus Christ is a model for every area of life, including manhood.  He was the only one who was what men were supposed to be before sin made its entrance and desecrated manhood.  In Jesus, I find the only true hope for our broken attempts at manhood. 
In a culture where men pride themselves on their strength and straightforwardness, I believe there is something to be said in defense of gentleness.  As Jesus walked through life, he cared for those around him.  Whether it was the pious Pharisee or the prostitute from down the road, He cared enough to connect with them.  He was gentle and caring to both those who loved him and those who hated him.  I believe that part of a man’s mission in life is to reach out to the poor, the broken, the widow, and the orphan.  To care for those who cannot care for themselves.  Also, I believe man must protect and care for those God has entrusted to him, whether it is his wife, family, or co-workers.   Man has the responsibility to protect and nurture.  Which brings me to strong. 

He was strong.  Jesus was gentle and caring, but he was no pushover.  Jesus had a backbone.  He fought to defend the truth, whether it meant cracking a whip and turning tables in the temple courts or delivering a scalding rebuke to hypocritical religious leaders.  He knew the truth and he stood by it.  Even when what he said flew in the face of what everyone else was saying.  Even when every single one of his disciples abandoned, betrayed, or denied him.  In the face of adversity, pain, and death, he stood his ground and still had the guts to tell the truth to those who spat in his face.  Jesus did what it took to protect those unable to protect themselves.  He chose how he fought his battles with wisdom.  He didn’t fight with his fists or even with harsh, bitter words.  He spoke truth, asked probing questions, and didn’t outright condemn.  Far too many men I have seen around me refuse to fight to defend the truth.  It is far easier, it seems, to sit back on the couch and escape from life in the stupor of pizza and late-night football.  We are called to stand take leadership as we are lead by God.  And when the truth is attacked or morals are compromised, we are called to use our strength to fight and protect.  

Jesus was the servant of all.  Servant.  The word tends to bring the image of a whipped dog into my head.  But that’s not what Jesus was at all!  Though he of all people had the right to be proud and a bit stuck up (he was God!!!), he chose to wash the feet of his disciples and live among the poorest of the poor.  We are caught up in a culture where men are taught to be independent, proud, and a bit cocky, especially if you have got the abs, skill, money, and power.   Yes, men are called to be leaders, but not arrogant, proud, power-hungry brutes.  Jesus stated very bluntly that the leader is called to be the servant of those he is leading. 
Gentle.  Protector.  Caring.  Lover.  Leader.  Sacrificing.  Servant.  

Words not typically used, possibly, in defining manhood.  But I believe that the same words that describe Jesus Christ are excellent in setting the bar for manhood.  Want a flesh and blood example of what being a man really looks like?  Come, let me tell you more about him. 

But let me warn you..  Being a man after the heart of Christ may require far more of you than you are comfortable giving.  It will require everything you have and leave you at times sweaty and bleeding on the ground.  But I have found no path worth walking other than one of suffering.  He is the true standard of all that it means to be a man. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

His Heart? Really?

           Many Christ-followers say they want want God’s heart.  Worship songs entreat God to “break our hearts for what breaks Yours” or to give us “His heart for just one second.”  So many times, I have heard people (including myself) praying that God would give us a piece of His heart for certain people or a certain situation.

Really?  Do you really want God’s heart?  I don’t think you or I could handle it. 

So many times, we think of love only in the fuzzy warm feelings we get when we are with someone we love.  Or we think of it in terms of the duty, obligation, or commitment to someone we love.  But I think we forget about the pain.  Love means brokenness and pain.  A piece of this pain is the fact that those you love will be torn from you.  Perhaps a car crash or a heart attack or some other tragic twist of fate.  Maybe they will move to a different city or country.  Maybe they will change and drift farther away from you.  Maybe you will.  Or, if all else fails, death will rip our loved ones from our arms.  But even if we were never to be separated from those we love, we would still be taking a lot of pain.  When we open up our hearts, allow ourselves to be vulnerable, of course we are more at risk of getting hurt. 

We have all had people we love disappoint us.  Parents get a divorce.  Friends one day decide to betray and hurt you.  Your girlfriend or boyfriend breaks up with you.   But all those things hurt ten times worse because you love the person.  Whether it be friendship love or romantic love, you will end up getting hurt.  Pain is inevitable.    

We know a tiny bit about the pain that comes along with loving imperfect people.  But to love on God’s level???  

Can you imagine?  The pain of the entire world.  He loves us.  He created and molded each one of us.  He loved us enough to die the most wretched, horrible death imaginable.  In that act on the cross, He made Himself vulnerable to us.  And what do we do?  Every blasted one of us spits in His face.  Every cursed one of us pounds His nails just a bit deeper through our actions.  

To endure the torment of rejection a billion times a billion times a billion times.  To give your creation the gift of freedom, only to watch them make foolish decisions and hurt themselves.  And then to endure their blame and hatred of you for their pain!  And to still love despite it all.  To still make yourself vulnerable in the hopes that one might one day choose to love you back.  This is what it means to be God.  

And we ask for His heart?  We ask Jesus, the man of sorrow, for his broken, tormented, heart?  

Really?  I cannot handle my own pain sometimes, let alone His. 
How does He do it?  How does He love despite the pain?  I can’t seem to master it. 
Do we really mean it when we ask for His heart?  

What if He answered your petition?  And gave you just a tiny taste of the betrayal, scorn, and rejection.  What if He actually did let your heart break for people you might have just passed on the side of the road otherwise?  I mean really break your heart.  Not the “oh-that’s-too-bad, cry for a while and forget by a month from next Sunday” type deal.  Really broke your heart.  If you could feel the love that He has for each person you walk by on a daily basis.  And then the pain He feels for them.  

Feeling his love for each and every single person. 


It would kill us.  

Do we dare to ask for His heart?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blast it all!

            Really?  Would it hurt us if life were a tiny bit easier sometimes?  Would we be permanently scarred if we had to say goodbye a few less times?  I’m sure it would be a horrific thing if loneliness didn’t try to devour your hope on solitary moonlit nights.  And I’m sure we will all be much better off for all the tears shed past the ache in our chests as we stare at the ceiling late at night.  

            It is because of love.  (I can think of no word laden with enough emotion to express how I feel about love without using profanities).  If I didn’t love you, it wouldn’t hurt when you turn and stroll away. If I hadn’t let this place or this time creep into my heart, it would be ten times, no a hundred times, easier to walk on without a backward glance. 

            So it would appear that the cure would be to become a robot of sorts, a man of steelStore it all in a forgotten  recess.  Do not let others in.  Keep your walls double thick.  If only you knew the pain inside my walls.  Maybe you did before you constructed such an excellent mask.  I like the handiwork.  It looks a part of your real face.  Not that I could ever know what your real face looks like...

            Or love all the more and embrace the pain like a sadistic man who has already lost everything.  To love all, to take the world’s pain as your own.  I don’t know that there are enough tears in all the earth for that kind of abandon.  Someone who really did love everyone would be mauled, probably killed.  I’d throw the first punch.  Maybe it’d ease the pain behind my own wretched walls. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011


The song keeps echoing around the back of my head.  Everyone has had songs stuck in their head at some time.  But I feel this is different.  I heard the song the last night I ventured out to the theater.  But that was before I was confined to this bed.  The words never left me alone.  Each one seared my being, while the haunting melody tormented my mind.  

Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you
Masquerade! Seething shadows breathing lies
Masquerade! You can fool any friend who ever knew you
Masquerade! Leering satyrs, peering eyes
Masquerade! Run and hide, but a face will still pursue you.

The face it speaks of has pursued me as well.  But I don't want to talk about It.  
I lie here staring at the ceiling.  People pass by my door, glancing in and talking in hushed voices in the corridor.  They don't think I can hear them.  
As if I don't already know I am dying.
I cannot sleep or eat anymore.  I can't even look my wife in the eyes.  It's not the dying.  Although that is what began my thinking.  Why does it take death to make one think?   It is the living.  Or rather the lack of living.  

In them he saw himself- all that for which he had lived- and saw clearly that it was not real at all, but a terrible and huge deception which had hidden both life and death.

Some dusty Russian wrote that.  Of course we live a deception that hides death.  No one wants to see him.  We want to pretend we will be young forever and that life will always be as pleasant as it is now.  
But to hide life?  
What is life?  I am lying on my deathbed and I know I did not live. 
But why is life, true LIFE, hidden behind  a masquerade?  What is this masquerade, this matrix we are caught up in?  And this LIFE.  What is it about this LIFE that it has to be hidden?  Who has hidden it?   And why?  How can we get so caught up in living that we forget to LIVE

We are so busy with this demented masquerade that we notice neither the true faces of those we dance with or the reason we are dancing.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Day to Rest?

I always seem to forget the fourth commandment.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."   
                                  -Exodus 20:8-11

I can remember that its one of the big ten. It's in the first five and I can usually remember and spit out something about one of the ten commandments being "remembering the sabbath."  Whatever that means.  But the fourth commandment doesn't really mean a whole lot to me.  Most often, I find that I categorize with other strange laws from Leviticus that don't really affect how I live my life. 

I always overlooked that command.  I am pretty good at the whole "do not murder" command.  And I try hard not to lie or covet.  I know I am not under the law anymore.  I know I have been saved by grace.  I know that more than anything else for me, the ten commandments are a mirror exposing my faults.  Well, I found one maybe.

I believe fourth commandment has got to mean something.  It was important enough that God himself emphasized it over and over in the Old Testament.  It dates back to the beginning of time, when God created the world and rested on the seventh day to set the pattern for his creation.  It's important to God.  Recently, I decided to start trying to take a sabbath day.  A whole day to rest and relax.  No homework.  No studying.  I didn't figure it could be that hard. 

I was wrong.  I did not even know what to do with myself.  What do you do on a day devoted to God.  Ok, it isn't so hard to tithe money to God.  Seems pretty straightforward.  But how do you tithe time?  What do you do with that time?  Do you read your Bible?  Or sit all day praying?  How do you define work?  It says to work 6 days a week and refrain from it on the seventh.  Ok, so it means not doing the things I usually do.  What do I usually fill my days with?  My job.  Classes.  Homework.  Frantic last minute studying.  And a million little tasks that simply must get done now.  What would a day be like if I simply stopped all that, sat down for an instant, and pondered God?  I decided to try it. 

It is hard work taking a day off.  Everything you need to do comes rushing to mind, like hornets swarming honey.  Allowing yourself, or rather forcing yourself, to not get up and write that one letter or quickly read your homework for Monday isn't easy.  And yet, how wonderful is that freedom!

Try it.  I dare you.  Take one day and simply rest.  God will help you get done what you need to do.  Spend some time relaxing with Him.