Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Proverbs: Tend your walls!

More grim news on the marital front.

I'd love to get away from this and paint pictures of pastel posies, but that's not what's happening in the world. Really, the entire purpose for starting this blog is for it to remind husbands that we are in a war. There is a very real enemy who wants to see you destroyed and neutralized in your relationship with God. One of the greatest ways to cripple you and destroy your testimony is to blow your marriage to smithereens. Consider these posts a bit of a STATREP (status report) on what's happening along the front and a tactics brief for countering the enemy wiles. Some grim markers today:
  • The general:  Baby-boomers are now divorcing at higher rates. Joy. That's older folks in longer marriages bit by bit putting their relationship with their spouse through the shredder. The dismal report here.
  • The closer-to-home: My bride is friends with a woman who shared that two couples she was close to ended their marriage. Both had been married for more than twenty years.
As our culture dismantles marriage one thread at a time, it becomes easier and easier for us to give in to the entropy and let our relationship with our woman erode like a sandcastle before the tide. Which brings me to the Proverbs.

It seems that every year I head back to the Proverbs for a season, starting on the first of the month and reading one of the thirty chapters each day for the entirety of the month, and then as the calendar page turns, I start again the next month. Usually, I'll do this for three months running because their is so much treasure in the Proverbs. I want these little nuggets to become part of the fabric of my being. Today's chapter ended with a crucial brick for establishing a marriage's foundation.

A man without self-control
is like a city broken into
and left without walls. 

~ Proverbs 25:28

Once again, brothers, the issue begins in the heart of the man in the mirror. There can be no success without self-control. Discipline. Going the right way. Doing the right thing. Speaking the right words. And really, you know this full well, if you don't administer discipline yourself, it will eventually be imposed upon you either from the world (1 Peter 2:13-14, Romans 13:4) or perhaps a friend (Proverbs 25:12, 27:17). In either case, discipline comes at God's hand (Hebrews 12:4-11).

If we do not maintain consistent discipline in our lives, like termites in our beams, the walls begin to be eaten from the inside out and often completely unseen.
  • Will you repeat that ribald joke?
  • Will you take a second look at the co-ed you passed in the mall?
  • Will you see where that enticing link will take you?
  • Will you let the words fly from the bow string of your lips deep into the heart of your wife in a moment of anger and frustration?
  • Will you take those dollars because no one will know, no one will see?
The warnings of Scripture abound. Truly, we are without excuse for the things that bring us down. As Rome was not built in a day, neither did it's demise come like lightning. The decay and rot takes root in a moment and grows and infects over weeks, months and years. Soon, the walls fall with nary a breeze.

Will we exercise the courage to say "No" or exhibit our love for God by fleeing when necessary?

Husbands, what have you entertained? Where have you not exercised needful self-control? Repent. Now. Only God can provide the strength and cleansing to rid your castle of the rot and the termites that have done their damage. Only he can restore our walls (1 John 1:9). Then, as you go through this day, choose to serve your Lord with each of your decisions. 
    Glorify him in your work. 
    Glorify him in your living room.
    Glorify him in your church. 
    Glorify him in your bedroom. 
    Glorify him at your keyboard. 
    Glorify him on the highway and in the mall.
    Glorify him with your children.
    Glorify him with your friends.
    Glorify him with your wife.
One great way to be a man of self control is to feed upon the Proverbs. As June draws to a close and July kicks off, would you consider reading a chapter of Proverbs each day through July and August, really letting God speak to you on issues of finance, marriage, work, parenting, the tongue, anger, etc.?

Open your ears to hear. Be a man of self-control so that the walls of your marriage will withstand the onslaught of the enemy and your castle will thereby bring honor and glory to God.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The American Man: Boys who refuse to grow up

Randy Alcorn
Sometimes you just can't say it any better.  Please, men, invest a wee bit of time to READ and consider these words from other men on a national tragedy.

Internet porn and video games

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I wanna be a hero, Part II

Bob Parr, "The Incredibles"
In Pixar's masterful work, The Incredibles, Buddy Pine loves the heroes. He wants to be a hero. When dusted by Mr. Incredible (aka Bob Parr), Buddy takes matters into his own hands. He's going to be a hero. He'll be noticed.

And that's precisely the problem with wanting to be a hero. You get your perspective all askew, and pretty soon you've wreaked havoc on a city and have become jet-engine paté.

When last we met on these hallowed shores, the topic on the table was man's innate desire to do things heroic, a desire knit by God into the fabric of his being. If you so desire, you can catch up by touching here (you can also hear there the song that got me cogitating on the subject in the first place).

There is a huge difference between desiring to be a hero and desiring to do something heroic. The one points inward while the other points outward.

But who doesn't relish praise? In the right context, it's not a bad thing. Consider that even Jesus encouraged his hearers to live in such a way that they might one day hear "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" tumble from the lips of the Father (Matthew 25:21, 23). If my entire purpose in life becomes my glory, I have missed the most important purpose for my life and that is his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). When one longs for his own praises, he becomes the character in the second verse of Steve Taylor's, "Hero."
    Growing older you'll find
    That illusions are bought
    And the idol you thought you'd be
    Was just another zero.

    I wanna be a hero.

    Heroes died when the squealers bought 'em off,
    Died when the dealers got 'em off,
    Welcome to the "in it for money as an idol" show.

    When they ain't as big as life,
    When they ditch their second wife,
    Where's the boy to go?

    Gotta be a hero.

    It's a nice-boy notion that the real world's gonna destroy.
    You know
    It's a Marvel comic book Saturday matinee fairytale, boy.
Wow. That's a downer. When hall-of-famers end their human race by putting a shotgun in their mouth because they can't cope. When men of God walk into sin by closing the door to counsel the distraught woman ("she needs me, you know"). When Presidents disgrace their office and thereby our nation with a game of White House fellatio. When families lie in rubble because their man didn't hit it big at the poker table when he knew he would, or because the second mortgage went to pay off the pusher to get one more bag, or because the boss (and the police) finally caught up with the money he was skimming from the company's coffers.

Just another zero. But I wanna be a hero. I gotta be a hero.

Wanna? Okay. Gotta? Not really. Desiring to be used heroically by God or to do heroic things is as normal as Blake Griffin defying gravity and hitting 7.9 on the richter scale with a slam dunk that reverberates all the way to Schenectady. Trying to be a hero leads to vanity, self-absorption, compromise, and putting yourself on the throne in God's stead.

To be usable in the hands of God, to be used in any manner he sees fit, it starts with the small stuff because that's where God calls you to be faithful.

-- Tell the truth because you love God, you know he is the source and God of truth (Psalm 119:160), and you want to look like your heavenly Father.

-- Do not steal but give because God is a God who is lavish in his giving and calls us to be the pipeline of his grace and goodness to those starved for such nourishment.

-- Be faithful to your woman because you love God and because God is ever faithful, you long to be like him and please him by remaining true to your wife.

-- Obey God in all the little things. If we cannot be faithful in the small stuff, can we be entrusted at all with the big stuff (Matthew 25:23)?

The real hero is the guy still eager to get home to his wife after work not despite but because of having lived together for 45 years.

He is the guy who has been a faithful and true laborer for his company for fifty years, happy to have and to do his job which he does so with the dependability of the sunrise.

He's the unknown guy who has served on the mission field for 60 years for God's good pleasure.

Really, brother, the best hero, the real Hero in this drama remains unchanged. He's the example for all to follow, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Verse three from Mr. Taylor.
    When the house fell asleep
    From a book I was led
    To a light that I never knew.

    "I wanna be your hero."

    And he spoke to my heart
    From the moment I prayed,

    "Here's a pattern I made for you.
    "I wanna be your hero. 

    "I wanna be your hero."
Wow, again. The very One who said, "No greater love has any man than this that he lay down his life for his friends," defined heroism with his life. He is the greatest good. He so loved the world that he became man that he might die as a man to save those who would turn to him from eternal damnation. And "To all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God" (John 1:12). Wow.

It is quite likely that the real hero will never comprehend in this life the full extent of his heroics because though he longs to accomplish them, he won't realize he is so doing. It will be the furthest thing from his mind. It will go unrecognized and unheralded, but that never means it will go unseen. 

Be obedient in all things. Live bowed and submitted to our God and King, so much so that when we are finished, we can only respond that we have done our duty (Luke 17:10). We have carried out the commands of our Master.

Then, on that day, the King will call us before his throne. We will go with uncertainty, awed and humbled at the splendor of his glory. Jesus will look into our eyes, put his hands on our shoulders, and with a smile at his lips and a tear in his eye, say, "Well done." Stunned by such proclamation, we will replay the 8-track of our life trying to pinpoint the Super Bowl touchdown or the grenade we fell upon of which he is speaking, only to find that there were no such events. 

With perfect clarity, Christ will recount the tiniest details of the minutest acts that we did for his glory--things we thought so inconsequential, and he will say, "These things you did for me!"

You might not have to dart into a burning home. You may never administer CPR or the Heimlich. You might not score a goal or be asked your opinion by anyone outside your family. Such opportunities are not of your make. You can only be ready to respond, "Here am I! Send me, please." Until then, just do those things God calls you to do and trust him for the outcome. There is nothing more heroic.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I wanna be a hero, Part One

I love Steve Taylor. No, not the Aerosmith guy (or the American Idol guy for anyone under thirty). Steve Taylor is a singer/song writer/producer. Great music, in my humble opinion. Biting, incisive lyrics. He skewers everyone, inside the church and out, not just to skewer but to exhort and if necessary, convict. Consider him a prophet, of sorts. I recommended him to some friends and let them listen to his CD, Squint. When they returned it, they looked at me as if I'd tried to feed them sauteed puppies. To each their own.

Anyway, Taylor penned a little ditty titled "Hero" that speaks to the seed within the soul of every man that long's to be just that, a hero. Here's the first verse:
    When the house fell asleep
    There was always a light
    And it fell from the page to the eyes
    Of an American boy.

    In a storybook land
    I could dream what I read
    When it went to my head I'd see
    I wanna be a hero.

    But the practical side
    Said the question was still
    When you grow up what will you be?
    I wanna be a hero
    It's a nice-boy notion that the real world's gonna destroy.
    You know
    It's a Marvel comic book Saturday matinee fairytale, boy.
Little boys grow up wanting to be heroes. It's as inherent in their nature as dumptrucks and digging dirt. Many women don't understand this about their man, that inside there is a man who aches to do great things, to score the final goal in overtime to win the Stanley Cup or to go all the way and lay down your life for something greater than yourself, for God or for country. Theologian of yesteryear, Phillips Brooks (yes, both ess-es belong), captured this itch when he wrote,
"Bad will be the day, for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life that he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do because he is still, in spite of all, the child of God."
Almost as if he were sticking his finger into the chest of the 21st century American church, Brooks "called for a manliness in the ministry and deplored "the absence of the heroic element" in the churches."*

Why do you think comic books sell? Why do we drop dollar after dollar to watch Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Spiderman? Why do grown men count the days until The Dark Knight Rises? Why is Gladiator a great movie? How about Glory? Why do tears fill my eyes even now when I think of the Iron Giant streaking toward the sky to obliterate the nuke at the cost of his own life to save his friends. "I'm Superman." Why can you find minor league ball parks in tiniest corners of America? Why do we stand in awe as the elderly men of the VFW shuffle down the street during the parade? Why do men enlist year after year after year despite the ebb and flow of American military favor? What gives?

"I wanna be a hero."

I have heard it said that God gives us a good appetite for the good things he has created. Food, relationship, and yes, sex come quickly to mind. I believe that God created his men to long to do great things on his behalf. The man who longs to save souls from the pit of hell has the heart of a hero. So, too, the man who toils to provide an income for his wife and children. So, too, the man who longs to paint the masterpiece or pen a soul-stirring ballad. To save, to create, to provide, to be relied upon and depended upon. To do a good thing. Jesus declared heroism's epitome when he said, "No greater love has any man than this, that he would lay down his life for his friends."

It is truly a God-thing. It's knit into the heart of man.

Heroism is often thankless and mostly unseen. Its costs are high and its rewards often thin. It demands the totality of self, laying ourselves into the hands of our Creator that he might do with us what he will even at the cost of our lives. Considering this is a blog to husbands, you know full well where you are to pour out your life. She might recognize it. She might not. But you are to be your woman's hero on this earth. You are her defender and friend. You are her comforter and provider. All of these things are God-things that he has assigned to you in this life. You are the vehicle through which he pours his heroism into your wife.

Be that man. But be careful. Worse than Syndrome's cape, pitfalls await the man who wants to be a hero. And that will take us to the song's second verse.  In a day or two.

*Warren Wiersbe, "50 Christians Every Christian Should Know," (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), p. 154

Monday, June 11, 2012

B. B. Warfield: Loving through thick and thicker

Gents, you've heard me say over and over (and over and over) that loving our woman depends not one iota upon what she can give in return. In his blog, Randy Alcorn discusses the life of the great theologian Benjamin B. Warfield. This is a man who did not sacrifice his marriage on the altar of ministry.

Soak it in here.

Here's where many go astray, they think that marriage is not "Kingdom work," that training up your children is not "Kingdom work," and that toiling in the field as a farmer or behind the desk as an accountant or in the classroom as a teacher is not "Kingdom work." Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we are to do all to the glory of God. When we give a cup of water to the least of these, we have done so to our Lord and Savior.

So love your wife with the love of Christ, with over-the-top, lavish, ridiculous love--all to the glory of God!

Monday, June 4, 2012


Love has little to do 
with moonlight and balconies
and everything to do
with patience, acceptance,
and hanging in there.

Love can't always
move mountains
or change the world overnight,
But it can open its arms
at the end of a long, bad day
and welcome you home
to true belonging.

Love brings a beautiful wholeness.
Nothing else quite compares
with the sense of completeness
that comes from sharing
with that one special person
for a lifetime.

~ Author unknown

While this verse does not mention God anywhere, it drips with his kind of love. Consider the attributes.
  • Patient
  • Persistent
  • Welcoming
  • Adopting
  • Beautiful
  • Whole
  • Completing
  • Intimate
I might make a single adjustment. Rather than accepting, perhaps "restoring" would be a better word. As God loves us, he saw our wicked, rebellious condition and paid the ultimate price that we might be restored to him through Jesus Christ. He doesn't accept us in our sinful state. No, he cannot tolerate it, cannot look upon us (Habakkuk 1:13), but in his lavish grace, he restores the unworthy to relationship with himself. Far better than acceptance.

Apart from that, I found it a beautiful sentiment for a husband and his bride. Of all places, it was on the Hallmark card sent to me by my mom on the occasion of my twenty-seventh wedding anniversary with Tracy.

As you love your wife as Christ loved the church, let her enjoy these rich blessings that abide within such a love. As she loves you, praise God that he would manifest his love for you through such a treasure as your wife.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Team Leadership Texas-style

As the San Antonio Spurs dominate their way into the NBA finals yet again, J. A. Adande of ESPN rightfully recognizes that this silver and black dynasty can be traced back to one man, David Robinson (great article here).

Certainly, head coach Greg Popovich deserves a lot of credit for keeping the ball rolling in San Antonio, but Pop came to town a half dozen years after the Admiral was already on deck. As Adande points out, Robinson was not about Robinson; he was about the Spurs and their winning ball games and titles. He took whatever role on offense or defense that was required to bring success to the Alamo City. Until Tim Duncan arrived in town, Robinson towered over everyone on the court not just in altitude but in basketball skills. Typically when a newbie superstar enters the forum of an established superstar, unpleasant fireworks ensue.  Not so in San Anton. Adande writes,
"Robinson already had a Most Valuable Player trophy on the shelf, with seven trips to the All-Star Game and two Olympic gold medals. He'd led the league in scoring and blocked shots and was the defensive player of the year by the time Duncan arrived via lottery luck in 1997. But by Duncan's second season, he was the team's top scorer and the MVP of the NBA Finals the Spurs won in 1999.
"Robinson was a willing accomplice in Duncan's takeover."
Now, Tim Duncan has taken the torch from Mr. Robinson and passed it to Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker. The Spurs are crushing other teams because, as Popovich notes he hasn't had to deal with "stars' egos." Pop says, "I dealt with grown-ups, who had character and prioritization already set in their lives and their values, that sort of thing."  Thank you, David Robinson for setting that table.

So what does this have to do with being a husband? Selfless leadership, brother.

Mister Robinson never cared about glory. He didn't care about who got the attention but would do what needed to be done to elevate the team. Robinson said,
"If we can win games, everybody's going to be happy. For me, when Tim came, the very first thing I told him was, 'I'm going to put you in a position where you can succeed. Period. That's it. If you're a better scorer than me, I'll put you down on the block, you score. I don't care. I can do other things.'"
He didn't feel control slipping away. He didn't feel threatened because others were better at, or at least equal to, something than he was. There was only delight at the success of the team.

Really, this is the heart of servant leadership.  It's the heart of the husband's section of Ephesians 5.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
The husband laying himself down for the wife that ultimately a better thing will result. The husband gets the wife back more beautiful, more complete than ever he could have imagined.  So how do we flesh this out?  A few thoughts, not exhaustive:

1. Don't worry about who gets the credit. Yes, the Bible delineates the role of the husband and the role of the wife. It even discusses aspects of those roles, but it is silent on many counts. A classic example is finances. Who keeps the books in the house? Who cares?! If she's better at crunching numbers and it makes her giddy to do it, let her do it. When she finds a way for us to get a couple hundred bucks back in taxes, do I brood because I didn't find it or do I cheer that she just provided a blessing to our family.

2. Solicit her opinion. "But I'm the leader!" Well, sir, you will crash and burn. It's a dopey leader that seeks no counsel, that bounces no thoughts, that simply drops the completed plan on the bride asking "So what do you think?" Really, you do not care what she thinks because the plan is formulated. She will see this and know this. Had you truly wanted her opinion, the time to ask is before the contractor starts ripping out the walls.

3. Let her run. She's got interest and energy in areas you don't understand. So why squash that? She has ideas to landscape the backyard and you like yard work. Talk about a marriage made in heaven. Let her plan and procure and point. You get to lean on the spade and throw the dirt. Does this mean you are no longer the husband? Of course not!

A quick example. While flying F-16's, there were times the squadron commander and even the wing commander were positioned as the wingman and not the flight lead on a particular mission. Did they cede command of their organization at that time? Of course not. This was a single mission. The opportunity proved a boon for the flight lead and gave the commander a great look at his people.

4. Thicken your skin. We must get over ourselves. None of us is perfect. There is one Jesus Christ, and we're not him. You will make mistakes. You will even sin against your family. Guess who's going to see it with amazing clarity? Yep, your woman. Who better to confront you? Yep, your woman. She loves you and cares about you and wants the best for you. So when she shares your buffoonery with you, please don't get your knickers in a junior high school-sized wad and start pouting because she's not respecting you as the leader. Pah! No, she loves you as the leader or she wouldn't trouble herself by risking such a response. Her desire, hopefully, is to help you be a better leader in your home.

5. Go the extra mile. Athletic leaders are typically the guys first to the practice field and last off. They're first in the locker room on game day and last out. No, this doesn't mean your first in the bed and last out. Consider the spiritual realm. If you are going to lead your family before Almighty God, don't you think it would be good for you to know him well? Shouldn't you have an intimate relationship with God that goes beyond any earthly relationship you have? Should you not feed insatiably upon his word? Should you not wrestle non-stop before the throne of God above in prayer for her, for your kids, for your church, for your country, for your co-workers and neighbors?

6. Check her six. Makes me smile even to write that. In flying vernacular, "checking-six" means to look behind your flight lead or wingman to see if there are any bad guys in the area that they cannot see themselves. Simply, protect her from bad guys. This might be in the physical realm (yes, I conceal-carry). Is your home secure? Is her car in working order? But you must also protect her in the spiritual realm. Again, prayer. What are you allowing into your home? There was a day when evil would have to get through the front door. Now it can seep through the laptop or the TV, the iPod or the Redbox.

7. Give her a pat on the--well, you know. It's a jock thing, the keep-on-keepin'-on shwack on the keister. Literal or not, I leave that up to you, but these are discouraging times and discouraging days. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to "encourage the faint-hearted" (1 Thessalonians 5:14). How much more should a husband bless his wife with his words.

Do you think it required hard work for David Robinson to become a hall-of-fame NBA center? Do you think the reward, the success, was worth it? Brothers, consider the outcome of our efforts if we invest deeply in our marriages. Let's not lead as iron-fisted dictators in our home. Consider the example of David Robinson. Consider the example of Christ.

And as we do, let's enjoy the journey and the rewards that come when we love our wives.