Monthly Archives: May 2014

Men, Where Are You?

AWOL

I don’t think I have to convince you of the fact that many men (not all) here in America are AWOL. We have drawn back from the front line, failing to take up arms to fight -in honor of God, according to his rules of engagement (i.e., the Bible) – for integrity, responsibility, respect, marriage, family, justice, and purity; and have instead decided to entangle ourselves in civilian pursuits (2 Timothy 2:3-4), reveling in selfish and sinful passions.

We are absent. Though a few of us might be so for reasons beyond our control, scores are absent voluntarily and for illegitimate reasons. We have abandoned our families, communities, and churches. Too many of us are nowhere in sight. No wonder why, for example, women and children conduct their lives or treat us as if we are invisible…because we are! Out of sight, out of mind.

Others of us are present, but not fully engaged. We are here, but not here. We are consumed with achievements, accolades, and assets to the neglect of establishing and growing in our relationship with Jesus and others. We are addicted to hobbies to the neglect of home or work. We are fixated on all things flashy to the neglect of the fundamental. We have hidden in plain sight through our obsessions.

But why are we MIA (Missing In Action)? It all stems from the first man, Adam. Our first father (along with his wife), as we discover in Genesis 3:8-11, hid from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Why did he hide from God? In his reply to God’s question – Where are you? – we find the answer, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10; ESV, emphasis mine). He was afraid because he was naked. But to God the answer to his question was more than skin deep. God knew the deeper reason for Adam’s fear and hiding was because he ate of the tree he had commanded him not to eat of (Genesis 3:11).

And it is the same with us men today. Many times we disappear in life because of our disobedience to God. Godward disobedience produces all kinds of human dysfunction and distortion. When we are not right with God, much gets left…people get left behind to go through the painstaking effort to heal and rebuild their lives in the wake of the devastation of our sinful, tornadic behavior; our wives, children, and God’s churches get our leftovers, while other people and businesses are continually allowed to feast on our “prime” time and energy; and God’s agenda for our lives is left incomplete because we are bent on fulfilling our own.

We are all a product of the first Adam. But thank God for the “second Adam” (Romans 5:12-21)!

Gentlemen, if we are going to be the men that God created us to be – men of holiness, honor, and humility – we must stop running from God in sin, hiding behind the trees of fear and pride. May we, by God’s grace and Spirit, run to God, bowing in repentance, trust, and surrender at the feet of the one who bore our sins on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), Jesus the Christ.

Believe in him. Worship him. Trust him. Learn of him. Live for him.

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A Mother’s Worth (Tribute to My Wife)

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I’ll never forget the day you informed me that you were pregnant with our second child. Even though that was a few years ago, I remember it as if it was yesterday. What joy filled our hearts!

I stood in awe of God’s grace towards you as I watched you joyfully embrace the vicissitudes of pregnancy with such steady calmness and prayerful trust in our God, especially knowing that just a couple of years ago we had lost our first baby in a miscarriage.

Nine months later, there you were wobbling your way into the hospital to your room with me in tow, carrying your bags. Some hours later, after the epidural from hades (I know you remember that!), Desirae Monique Johnson entered the world. The tears of joy that streamed down your face when you saw our daughter for the first time were priceless…oh, and your drugged up state was too. I wish I would have taken a picture, so that we could later smile and laugh at the same time. Oh well, maybe with the next baby.

And then you came home on maternity leave. I am not sure I have the words to adequately express what it was like to see you transition to motherhood at home. Yes, it was normal and natural, but yet amazing all at the same time. The care and attention you gave (and, of course, still give) to Desi, especially in that first year, was exemplary.

It’s been three years now and I am even more impressed with you. With the demands of a career in accounting, an entrepreneurial itch to start a business on the side, and a commitment to be involved in the life and ministry of the church, you have managed, by God’s grace, to keep your priorities in line with God’s by keeping us first.

As your husband of 11 years, I am thankful to God for you being a wife to me and a mother to our daughter. You are truly worthy of honor, not only on Mother’s Day, but every day of the year.

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.'” (Proverbs 31:28-29; ESV)

Vantage Point: What’s Your View?

Anyone who is familiar with me knows that I love basketball…and preaching. So, many times when I am watching a game (or any other sport or television show), illustrations seem to just jump out of the screen into my mind.

One such moment came when I ran across a recent Vine video of Jeremy Lin, one of the Houston Rockets’ point guards, playing in game four of the 2014 Western Conference playoffs against the Portland Trailblazers. The basketball was passed to him by James Harden on a fast-break. Lin caught it, drove to the basket and attempted to score via a layup. The person who uploaded the video of this moment gave her commentary, saying, in essence, that Jeremy clearly traveled. This obviously sparked an online debate, which I was inclined to weigh in on but didn’t (Yes, I love basketball, but not to the point to where I waste pixels and my time over something so trivial).

But I thought to myself, “One of the main reasons people are arguing over this moment in the game is because of their respective vantage points.” To the woman who uploaded the clip, Lin, after catching the pass and executing one dribble, took three steps to the hoop. But from a slightly different angle, I – and apparently along with some other viewers, including the referees who where there – saw Lin catch the ball, immediately go into a dribble as he drove into the lane, pick up the ball and take the two steps allowed before attempting the lay-up. We came to opposite conclusions because of our differing perspectives.

I also realized that for some their view and resulting judgments were influenced by their relationship to the teams. If you were a die-hard fan of the Rockets, Lin most definitely did NOT travel. But if you were a Trailblazers supporter, you were outraged at the refs’ no-call.

This dynamic not only happens in the game of basketball, but also in life. We judge a person, a leader, or a church/ministry/organization based on our vantage point, which often times can be biased and/or subjective, concluding that he, she, or they did or did not commit an infraction.

Misjudging a moment of competition can have some consequences, but they are minor in comparison to those that occur in the arena of life. Relationships have been severely damaged or have ended altogether. Reputations have been besmirched due to slanderous lies, false accusations, and misinformation. Reconciliation has been difficult to achieve because one person continues to believe things that simply are not true (or maybe are true but only a small part of the larger story) about another.

Is there anything that can help to prevent us from rushing to form opinions about others, causing us to misjudge their motives, actions, and life situations? I believe there is. Let me offer three suggestions.

Call a time-out. There are times when we absolutely move too quickly to speak on or judge someone or something. We need to heed James’ exhortation to “be quick to hear, slow to speak…” (James 1:19). We especially need to learn to pump the brakes when it comes to judging people’s motives. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:5, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart…” (emphasis mine). When intentions are not verbalized by others, we should refrain from projecting our judgments onto them as if we know for certain why they said or did something. Even if we think we know a person due to his/her checkered past, we should still be slow to assign motive because, after all, people are complex; God could be at work in that individual’s life (which in many cases we are unaware of), convicting him/her of sin and transforming him/her to Christ; and we are not God, knowing perfectly the secrets of people’s hearts.

Take a closer look. I remember when the NBA implemented Instant Replay. They did this because there were actions in real-time that occurred in such rapid succession that the refs were unable to make a call on but needed to, or made a call but needed to ensure it was the right one. So now the officials, as called for, will go over to the table, put on headphones, lean in close to a monitor and review the play before making a ruling or to announce afterwards that it stands. Similarly, you and I need to view the full footage available to us concerning a matter before we make a “ruling.” Proverbs 18:13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Investigate before you pontificate.

Ask for another opinion. If you’ve ever seen a review in action, you know that even though the Crew Chief makes the final decision, he doesn’t do so without first consulting with the other officials. He does this for at least two reasons: 1. objectivity and 2. compliance. Subjectivism or biased officiating has no place among referees in the National Basketball Association. Their job is to make sure they comply with and execute the official policies of the NBA’s Board of Governors’ during a game, regardless of what they personally think or feel. It works the same for us in life. We should not to seek to wade through issues alone, especially when we are directly involved and emotionally invested in them. Isolation is a breeding ground for misperception. We need to confer with other Christians who will bring God’s word to bear on the situations we pose to them in consultation. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”

Remember, in the end, God’s vantage point is the only one that really matters. So no matter what you are dealing with, seek to view (and respond to) people and situations from His perspective.

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