What I Didn't Learn About Manhood From Esquire

[This originally appeared on the Mars Hill Church blog]

I was originally assigned the task of looking at advice on how to be a man from a men’s magazine. Problem is, there wasn't any.

Esquire's June/July 2010 issue was called How to Be a Man. Appropriate. With a title that declarative and a tagline of “Man at His Best,” I was anxious to comb through it to see what they had to say about manhood. With a base circulation of 700,000 and competition like GQ, Maxim, and Details, Esquire is arguably one of the largest and most influential men’s magazines in the world. They've got to know what they're talking about, right? Esquire’s website describes their audience as "the affluent and successful man." Should be exactly what I'm shooting for here.

With Irony As Our Guide

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American Idolatry

The fact that we have a television show called American Idol is a bit of an indication that we don’t really know what an idol is – or what our attitude toward one ought to be.

I will confess, I am sufficiently behind the pop-culture curve that I have never actually watched American Idol, but because I do not live under a rock, I am familiar with what the show is about, and how it works. (Call it cultural osmosis.) As far as I can tell, it’s a harmless and entertaining show.

I do find the name interesting, however. American Idol. Who will be the next Idol? Lots of people want to be an idol – and millions more are eagerly waiting to find out whom they will idolize next.

But what really is an idol?

An idol is anything that we worship other than the one true and living God.

Sabbatical Entry Final- Empty Hands

When I got back home to Costa Mesa after spending two months in rural Oregon, I went to visit a friend who has been working on getting her immigration status in order.  As we chatted, she pointed out that they had some boxes packed up.  "If things don't work out with our immigration process, we are moving back to Mexico," she said.  She went on to talk about the new furniture they bought to take with them.  "We don't want to arrive with empty hands," she explained.  She went on to talk about the shame they would experience if after all these years working in the U.S. they returned with nothing to show for it.  So they are preparing to return, hands full, to prove their success.

As I walked home her comment, "We don't want to arrive with empty hands" played over and over in my mind.  The next day I would return to work after my sabbatical. The time was meant to be spent in rest and prayer, quieting my heart and mind.  As I prepared to re-engage with ministry work I was feeling similar to my friend, I didn't want to return with empty hands.  The last week away my thoughts had turned to articulating my experience.  How could I explain to others the things happening in my heart and mind?  How would I share with my community the thoughts and convictions that had deepened and changed in both subtle and dramatic ways?  I didn't want to arrive with empty hands. 

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Questions Christians Fear

What are the questions you most fear being asked about your faith? Even as a trained apologist there are many tough questions I hope don’t come up in my discussions with non-believers. Some questions are simply difficult to answer. But we can’t ignore the tough questions. Such an approach is cowardly and counterproductive for the kingdom of God. We must—yes, must—be prepared with an answer for the toughest questions (1 Peter 3:15). We have nothing to fear because the truth is on our side.

I recently had the opportunity to endorse Mark Mittelberg’s upcoming book entitled, “The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask (With Answers).” This book is based upon a survey Mark sponsored with Tyndale Publishers through the Barna Group of one thousand self-proclaimed Christians. They asked each person what faith questions they would feel most uncomfortable being asked by a co-worker or friend. Some questions are expected but a few might come as a surprise.

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With A Heavy Heart [Part II]

"A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray" (Proverbs 12:26).

Apparently, I didn't get that memo. Choose my friends s-l-o-w-l-y? No way! My heart is five-times the normal size. I've experienced just as much brokenness as I have Jesus' glory and healing power. Plus, I have too much to give!!!

Here I am in the midst of writing my second book on brokenness and it's lonely. All those thoughts of hurt floating around in my head. As I write it out it hurts less and less, but when I try and share those experiences with friends I keep getting hurt. Why do I stink at choosing my friends? I have many friends, and yet when I look around...

Honestly? The selfish part in me just wanted to write a three sentence blog with the verse from Luke 5:16 that says, "But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." Then I'd follow it up with I'm lonely. I'm in a desert place? Who else has been there? The end.

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Scratching Where They Itch?

One of the most troubling things I see when I look at contemporary Christianity is the mentality that the church should fashion itself according to the needs and wants of the “audience.” It’s an idea that grew out of the evangelical church growth and seeker movements and is practically an epidemic today. Almost every evangelical church these days is to some extent thinking in terms of what the audience wants and how churches can provide them with a desirable product. It’s unseemly, to be sure, but it’s just a symptom of the consumerist culture we live in. Presumably, it’s how things must be done. Whatever else you might say about a product you’re trying to sell, the one thing you know for sure is this: the audience is sovereign.

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Learning From My Mistakes

As I approach my 20th year of ordained ministry, I can say that my biggest mistake has been trying to will transformation in people's lives. At one point, I was so consumed by my own efforts and creative ideas to revitalize a church that I completely omitted God from the process. I was going to do it by the sheer force of my determination and work ethic.

Right. Try that. See how it works for you. I was trying to lead people towards abundant living, but I didn't know it myself. Guess what? I didn't lead them very far or very well.

Psalm 30 became a constant refrain for me as I found my heart crying "out of the depths." I had to address certain habits and ways of thinking in my own life before I was going to lead effectively towards vitality in Christ. 

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Entrepreneurialism and God's Mission

There comes a day when we sit back and ask ourselves what we are going to do with our lives. In a sense, I’m still asking myself that question. But many years ago, while studying Spanish as a university student in Paraguay, I felt a nudge, a call if you will, to spend time in cross-cultural contexts advancing the gospel.

At the time, I had no idea what that entailed. The only role models I had to look to were the missionaries I had met and gotten to know in Paraguay. They were either medical doctors or preachers. As a business student, it seemed I would have to leave behind my business interests and develop a new set of skills.

Thankfully, I’ve always been good with language and have enjoyed speaking and teaching so over the years, that became the primary focus of my ministry. But a few years into my overseas ministry, I began to ask myself some new questions about why couldn’t one be a businessperson and a kingdom builder at the same time?

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To Pray or Not to Pray?

Everybody sure is talking about prayer these days. Between the hoopla over the National Day of Prayer and Franklin Graham's insistence that he be allowed to pray inside the Pentagon, prayer seems to be on everybody's lips, media included. That's a good thing, right? I'm not so sure.

Consider how we got to this interesting place, where the very idea of public praying has become controversial. First, U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb in Madison last month found the National Day of Prayer, established by Congress 58 years ago and held on the first Thursday of May, to be unconstitutional.

Then, on Aprill 22 the U.S. Army "disinvited" Franklin Graham, who had been scheduled to speak at a Pentagon National Day of Prayer event because his comments about Islam were "inappropriate.'

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Jesus in the Workplace

There seems to be a serious conflict with our current lives and strongly held concepts about church and ministry.

So many churches that I know of, which are actually great churches, hold to a local church-centric view of ministry. This means that the goal of the staff is to get the lay people involved in ministry, which is defined as either volunteering at the physical church location or through church organized service projects in the community.

Undoubtedly both of those are valuable and needed avenues. However, this is really what I call "faith addition", living your faith means 'adding' certain activities to your already busy life.

The contrast to this is "faith integration', living your faith means integrating your faith into whatever you are doing.

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