Can You Handle The Truth?

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Can You Handle the Truth?

. . . woe to him who is alone when he falls
and has not another to lift him up—Ecclesiastes 4:10

Support and encouragement are crucial for friendship, of course. But by themselves, they aren’t enough—not even close. True friendship requires more. The kind of friendship God intends requires that we look deeper, that we try to see things only friends can see. And it requires that we tell the truth (Ephesians 4:15). So, when friends are stuck or struggling with denial or passivity or sin, true friendship requires that we face awkwardness or embarrassment or fear of rejection head-on, and that we name problems honestly (though gently, too) and make every attempt to challenge and push, rescue and restore (Galatians 6:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). True friendship requires that we go “all in.” It requires that we be willing to initiate tough conversations, when tough conversations are needed.

The inverse, of course, is that we need friendship like that too. To lead robust, upright lives, we too need friends who are willing to be honest. To lead robust, upright lives, we too need friends who, like God, love us too much to let us to get stuck or struggle on our own. To lead robust, upright lives, we too need friends who are “all in” and willing to initiate tough conversations. We must be intentional about surrounding ourselves with such men . . . and, as hard as it might be, we must be willing to learn how to hear honest feedback without indignation, defensiveness, or counterattack.

Bring Life into Alignment

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Bring Life into Alignment

. . . get out there and walk
. . . on the road God called you to travel—Ephesians 4:1-3

A steel beam has integrity when its purpose, its design, its manufacture, and its use are aligned. Said another way, to have integrity a beam must be designed and manufactured for a specific purpose—and it must actually be used toward that purpose. We can count on a beam like that, even to bear a heavy and important load, because all its existence is in alignment.

Though considerably more complex and wondrous, obviously, than a steel beam, we humans need alignment too, to have that kind of integrity. You see, God designs and builds us for specific purposes:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

God gives us natural talents and spiritual gifts and hearts with unique passions. And he shapes us further by our individual journeys. So, for each of us, our purposes, our design, and the way we’re built are always aligned. God does that. Unlike the beam, however, he allows us to choose our uses. He allows us to choose how we spend our lives. If we ask and search, listen and discover what he had in mind when he dreamt us up and knit us together—and then allow ourselves to be used in the ways he intends—we bring our lives into full alignment. If we strike out on our own, though, and follow the world’s “oughts” into other uses altogether, we commit ourselves to living lives of misalignment.

Becoming Fast and Light

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Becoming Fast & Light

How can we who died to sin still live in it?—Romans 6:2

Imagine being fast and light when moving through this life. Imagine being free from things that weigh you down, hold you back. Imagine being free to roam, free to rest. Imagine being free from sin and shame and striving and worry and self-doubt. Imagine being free to love, free to slow down, free to go wherever God calls you to go and to do whatever God calls you to do.

Brother, that’s the kind of life our King, Jesus Christ, has made available—and to which he calls us now. If he hadn’t come, we wouldn’t be able to access it. The things that encumber us would become prisons too strong for us to escape. But our King did come. He kicked open the prison doors. He knocked down the prison walls. He did what we could never do. He set us free (Galatians 5:1). Now we must do our part.

Because we find ourselves without prison walls, we’ve got to stop acting like prisoners and lay down prisoner habits and prisoner beliefs (Hebrews 12:1). We must adopt the practices of free men, men who’re fast and light . . . able to live transparent lives, free from hiding and posing, free to confess struggles and sin openly in community . . . able to make decisions with our lives and our families that align with our King, though probably not with our culture . . . and able to stop and care and help and love people, especially those in need.

Dare You to Pray This …

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Dare You to Pray This . . .

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me—Psalm 51:10-11

In the aftermath of adultery and murder, King David pleaded with God. He begged God not to cut him off (Psalm 51:11). You see, David had experienced what it’s like to know God, what it’s like to spend time with him, to listen to him and trust him, to love and be loved by him—and he dreaded losing that closeness and goodness and truth. So, in desperation, he invited God to do something new in him. He invited God to rebuild his heart, in any way he would like (Psalm 51:10). He gave himself up. He gave himself over . . . to whatever work, whatever journey, whatever adventure God might have for him. He decided to trust God more than he trusted himself.

How about we do that too? We may or may not be guilty of adultery or murder, but we’re all sinners. We all carry sin’s taint. “If we say we have no sin . . . the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). So how about we too invite God to do something new in us? How about we too give ourselves over to whatever work, whatever journey, whatever adventure God might have for each of us? And, how about we do it, as men, together? We’ll be better for it—God’s brilliant, he’s good, and he loves us. Might it be scary? Sure it might. Might it be a little painful even? Sure it might. Will it be one of the best things we ever do? Absolutely it will.

What God’s Like

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What God’s Like

I believe; help my unbelief—Mark 9:24

What should we believe about God? We’re told he’s big and powerful—so big and so powerful, in fact, he created . . . everything (Colossians 1:16). We’re told he sees everything and knows everything and can do anything (Isaiah 55:9; Hebrews 4:13; Ephesians 3:20). We’re told it’s always been so (Psalm 90:1-2).

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8).

We’re also told, despite his size and power, he cares about each of us (Matthew 10:29-31); he loves us, no matter what, even to the point of laying down his life for ours (John 3:16); he wants to spend time with us and for us to know him (Revelation 3:20); and he protects and helps us and never wavers (2 Thessalonians 3:3).

We should believe all that, but do we, really? Most of us, if we were honest, would confess much belief, but some unbelief too. That’s okay; God can handle it. As his followers, though, we can’t leave it there. We must seek to learn more about him. We must seek to reconcile our beliefs with who he says he is. You see, how we see him, what we believe about him, affects everything we do. The “most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do,” wrote A.W. Tozer, “but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”

Living in the Tension

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Living in the Tension

Set your minds on things that are above,
not on things that are on earth—Colossians 3:2

You can’t be successful in life without compromising. That’s a lie. You can’t get ahead without adopting the values of the places where you live and where you work. That’s not true. Now, there’s tension, of course. Our cities, our workplaces are part of the world, and the ruler of this world is the enemy (John 12:31, John 14:30, 1 John 5:19). That’s why arrogance, greed, and materialism often characterize these places and bring admiration and status, recognition and promotion. There’s tension because, while the enemy may rule the world—for now—he doesn’t rule us (Colossians 1:13). The one who rules us stands for humility, generosity, and love.

The lie is that we should try to ease this tension—that we should, by compromising, try to make things easier on ourselves. It’s from the enemy. It’s one he uses often:
“Go ahead. It’s just the way things work in the real world.”
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to compete . . . to survive.”
“Relax. Everybody does it.”

But we’re “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). To be that is to live in the tension. You see, we’re sent “into the world,” but we mustn’t be “of the world” (John 17:14-19). When we’re willing to live in the tension, and only then, can this broken world feel the full weight of who we really are—who God intends us to be, with him.

Keeping Fueled & Aflame

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Keeping Fueled & Aflame

Take your everyday, ordinary life . . .
and place it before God as an offering—Romans 12:1

The author of Hebrews laid down a challenge: “. . . let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Eugene Peterson translated it as, “Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out” (Hebrews 10:24 MSG). What a great challenge for us men, today. It dares us to engage our God-given capacities for imagining and inventing. But, it also dares to direct these capacities toward good purposes, toward God’s purposes.

Too often we use our imaginations to envision prosperous futures for ourselves, futures of comfort and materialism and separation . . . or . . . we use them to envision worrisome futures, futures where our worst fears come to pass. And too often, we use our inventiveness to build our own prosperity . . . or . . . to build barricades around our lives to protect ourselves from our fears.

What if we stopped doing that so much? What if, in faith, we were to refocus these imaginative and inventive capacities? What if we put them toward the task of keeping ourselves, and keeping those around us “fueled and aflame” (Romans 12:11-13 MSG)? What if we dedicated a few moments―every week, every month―to look at ourselves, our families, our friends, our communities, and allowed ourselves to dream and create? We wouldn’t be alone. God the Holy Spirit would be right there, in those moments, guiding us, inspiring us.

Call Out or Call In?

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Call Out or Call In?

. . . and you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free—John 8:32

We cannot mature in our faith without community. We just cannot. The process of maturing isn’t simple, isn’t smooth. It’s one of getting off track and getting on again—again and again. We need help with that. We’re designed to be together. We’re built to need one another. To “grow up healthy in God, robust in love” we need community (Ephesians 4:14-16 MSG).

To help, though, our communities must actually be capable of picking us up and getting us on track and encouraging us on. Our communities must be places where we’re willing to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking that way requires moving beyond simply being polite to one another—and ever ignoring or excusing sin. It also requires moving beyond just pointing out sin or shortcomings or what bothers us or what we think might bother God.

Speaking the truth in love doesn’t require us to call each other out. It requires us to call each other in—into true identity. It requires us to call each other away from sin (e.g., “you don’t need to do that anymore . . .”) and into the identities God had in mind when he designed us, built us, and set us in motion (“. . . because this is who you really are”).

Begin to Pull it All Together

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Begin to Pull it All Together

. . . ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you—Luke 11:9

You can move, brother, into “an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:20-24 MSG). We can all be remade into new selves, true selves—but God won’t force change upon us. He wants us to ask and listen and learn and work with him. He wants us to do so continually, because he also won’t reveal those true selves all at once. Rather, he’ll teach. He’ll guide. And he’ll reveal identity iteratively, in a progression, in a process that builds on itself throughout our lives. How this actually happens will be different for each of us. We’re new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). But, we’re unique creations too (1 Corinthians 12:14-26).

So, when God gives us something, just for us, when he allows us to discover something about ourselves, we’ve got to treat those things with extraordinary care. We mustn’t allow them to be lost or forgotten in the rush and charge of life. We must collect and revisit them—so we can always have the best, most complete picture possible of who we really are and whom we’re really meant to become.