What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 4)

(Hey there! Sorry i’s been a minute, had some internet issues. But here we go!…Again, picking up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, and 3 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man. Women, start making a checklist 🙂 )

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife,…

…temperate…

Temperate. What exactly does that mean? Well a dictionary would define it as exercising moderation or self-restraint.  But the term really takes shape when you look at more detailed definitions: with restraint, without extravagance, in a sparing manner, without overindulgence.  Umm…is it just me or do these terms go against everything our culture conditions in us? We live in a country that encourages us, from day one, to have more, more, more! It goes back to our discussion about the “American Dream”. Our society is structured around obtaining excess. Excessive money, excessive gadgets, excessive entertainment, excessive stimulation, excessive praise, excessive drink, excessive food. We glorify overindulgence. The more people have, the more they flaunt. It defines our social status. And we, as a culture, feed off of this materialism. *Sigh* It’s really twisted because it’s what we have always seen and known, which makes it even harder to break from the cycle. But, for the sake of specific example, I want to talk about food. How, you might ask, does what you eat have anything to do with how well you can lead? Well bare with me for a second, let out your annoyed groan, and hear me out.

Take a look out our nation. We are fat. Really fat–it’s no secret. A portion of that equation is due to the TYPES of foods that are produced and consumed, but an even larger portion of that is due to the AMOUNT we consume. We are flooded with advertisements, commercials, excessive fast food spots, restaurants on every corner, vending machines down every hall, jam-packed grocery stores. Wow, we have so much access to so much food.  We are a food culture.  Now think about the flip-side of things. We are encouraged to eat, eat, eat. Then we take a look around and all we see are advertisement and magazine covers with sculpted men and photo-shopped women. You’re not good enough if you’re not thin enough, or jacked enough, or lean enough. Wait a second, what? We are surrounded by this temptation to indulge and eat, but then we are flooded with this pressure to be thin and cut up. Huh? We are pulled from one extreme to the next and all we are ever left with is a feeling of discontent. Where does that conflict lead us? Into sin. How? Because all of  sudden we become fixated on the number on the scale and the hours in the gym. We become obsessed with calories and we become utterly consumed by guilt, envy, and self-obsession.

I’m no high and mighty preacher here. I was caught up in this sticky web of  this sin once, too. If you recall from the  “My Story” portion of the blog, my high school years were defined by an eating disorder. They were defined by self-obsession, self-centered focus, fatigue, and fixation. My body became my idol, rather than God. Are we not living in a culture that fosters that same distraction? If we are focused on ourselves, constantly, how can we lead effectively and glorify God in our friendships, our relationships, our jobs? If we are focused on our appearance and our confidence is defined by our personal feelings of self-worth, how can we be convicted that our worth is limitless through Christ? In snagging ourselves in this web, overindulging in so much temptation, and operating in such excess, we are not focused on God, we are focused on getting our fix.

While leading a missions trip to the Ninth Ward last year, I had the opportunity to sit down with the group of girls who had come to New Orleans with the missions team to serve. We chatted about a handful of topics, but the conversation quickly and overwhelming turned to the topic of self-esteem and self-worth. As I was listening to the girls talk and complain and nit-pick about their bodies and their appearance, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of utter shame. Not a block down the street, there were homes that STILL, years after Katrina, were stained with water lines and wasting away in their own rubble.  There were kids who were running around homeless, without guidance or discipline, vandalizing and stealing so that they could simply eat a single meal that day.  There was a stench that loomed through the air and a thick hum of insects and rodents that blanketed people’s yards and homes. There was a COMMUNITY that needed GOD more than any neighborhood I have ever seen, yet we, the missionaries who were there to serve and disciple and spread His love, were distracted by OURSELVES. The only topic the conversation kept pulling back towards was the topic of our own self-obsessions and feelings of inadequacy.

I sat up and interrupted the girls speaking to spill out a message that God laid so heavily on my heart that I thought I might burst:  Every single time we look in the mirror and complain about what we see, what we don’t have, and what we desire, we are standing at the foot of the cross, staring up at Jesus Christ–blood pouring from his beaten and battered body, tears flowing down his scarred cheeks–and we’re staring Him in the eyes and telling Him that what He did isn’t good enough for us. In fact, we’ve got more important things to worry about. We are staring this King in the eyes and telling Him that what he has provided for us isn’t quite sufficient enough. And His sacrifices aren’t totally worth our constant and humbled praise. That WE are more important.

What? That makes me want to fall on my face in shame. I’ve done it. I do it all the time.  We get SO caught up in living lives of indulgence and excess, that we distract ourselves from the simple, pure, beautiful point of it all. HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR US.  HIS SACRIFICE WAS ENOUGH.

Don’t you see? I am using the specific example of food, but this can be applied to countless components of our lives and our culture. In NOT practicing temperate behavior, we kick-start a snowball effect and we become utterly consumed in everything BUT God’s love and unyielding grace.  Our consumptions and our over indulgences become our focus, albeit consciously or subconsciously. They create a ripple effect and the shock waves impact so many components of our lives. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LEAD EFFECTIVELY IF WE ARE FOCUSED ON OURSELVES RATHER THAN BEING FOCUSED ON GOD. Men, you are called to live temperate lives for this very reason. You are called to live moderately and with restraint and without overindulgence so that you can lead others, your wife, your family, to Christ. If you live a life of excess and indulgence, it’s like putting on a blindfold and trying to lead your family along the edge of the Grand Canyon. It’s so incredibly difficult, if not entirely impossible.

Jesus Christ lived a temperate life. There was nothing indulgent about His walk, there was nothing excessive. He wore humble clothes, He ate simple, pure food, and He defined His worth by the guidance and love of God.  He never allowed great distraction in His life. By living temperately, He lived abundantly. We are called to live that way, as well. We have the power to live temperate lives–even in the midst of this bizarre society–because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Men, in order to lead, you are called to live temperate lives. Do you have unshakable faith that His grace is sufficient? Would you be willing to run from excess? To fully trust that God will provide for you? Would you be willing to shy away from overindulgence simply to set a model for your family that simplicity is sufficient? Challenge yourself! It’s easy to read through this and “check off” that, “Phew! At least I’m not the worst at this–at least I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m safe there.” But do you? And are you? How can you minimize in your life? How can you live more temperately? What excess is distracting you from God? How can you train yourself to utilize this simple principle to become a better leader?

(to be continued…)

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What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 3)

(…picking right back up where we left off. If you are just joining, read part 1 and 2 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man…)

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach…

…faithful to but one wife,…

Read these 5 words again. Now read them a third time over. The depth of these 5 words could fill the pages of an endless novel. Be reminded, these words are Divinely inspired. These are the Words of God. God is calling man to be faithful to but one wife. Turn to 1 Timothy 3:2…it is right there in black and white. Seems simple enough, right? Ha! You don’t get off that easy, guys. You would be doing yourself a great disservice to simply skim over this passage and take these words at face value. There is much to be learned from these 5 telling words.

There is a MASSIVE difference between a Godly man’s call to leadership BEFORE marriage verses AFTER marriage. In order to understand this passage, you have to dig back and first understand that distinction. Unless you are married, you are “single” in God’s eyes. It doesn’t matter if you are dating, it doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship, it doesn’t matter if you are engaged. Until the day that you and your Divinely designed partner take a vow of unity before God, you are SINGLE. Don’t cringe. Being single is an absolutely beautiful thing.  This society makes “single” seem like some type of disease.  If people hear that you are single, their first response is this muted sigh and pitiful face. Haha, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Their ingrained reaction is to feel pity for you–the forehead wrinkles, the mouth twists into a side-smirk, the first words that roll of their tongue are typically, “Aw man, I’m sorry to hear that.” or “Really?! I never would have guessed…” Heck, occasionally you’ll even get a sympathetic hug out of it. It’s actually pretty entertaining to watch people and see the timeline of thoughts that roll through their minds. Step one: the feeling of sympathy. Step two: they comfort you, as if to assure you that someone will eventually love you someday (haha). Step three: *this step is typically marked by a little glimmer of excitement in their eyes* they recognize that you are most DEFINITELY in need of their match-making services. Step four: the hunt is on. It becomes a mission to find you someone to love. Haha, now maybe I am biased, as a female, and describing mostly how other females react. I feel like in the guy-world they hear that you’re single and the typical initial reaction is a high-five. Afterall, now you’re a perfect wing-man candidate. And now you can bang out all the chicks that you want, right? You’re free to do whatever you want. Or may they feel a little bad for you because you’re only gettin’ it from your left hand. No steady lay. Isn’t that how it works? HA! The humor lies in the truth behind those last few statements.

But there is absolute power in being single. This society typically stamps “single” with a negative connotation. Synonyms include: unattractive, unlovable, desperate…or in my case, VIRGIN. haha. But the fact of the matter is that we should celebrate being single! The label shouldn’t carry a negative connotation, it should carry respect and admiration. Why? Because in God’s eyes, prior to marriage, you ARE single. Single in your walk with Him, single in your pursuit of faith. That is exactly how He intended it. He is SO jealous for your love and SO jealous for your growth in Him, that He yearns for you to be utterly and completely in love with HIM before you ever get wrapped up in another person.  Remember the quote that I shared with you all a while back?

“A woman should never pursue a man. A woman should pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. In turn, God will inspire the one man, designed perfectly and  specifically for her, to pursue her heart. And in his pursuit of her, he too will be drawn closer to Christ.”

Guys, do you get what that is saying? There is no guess work in your end of the deal.  You may not admit it, but I know that men desired to be loved just as much as women do. And so often, single men grab any woman who will give them the time of day in order to create that synthetic love. In order to feel wanted, and to feel that control over another’s emotions. To feel that ingrained desire for leadership. But just stop. Take a breath. LOVE GOD. God yearns for your absolute love. Luke 10:27 tells us to “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind…” If you can strive to do that…if you can genuinely seek that love, He will hand you the woman you are intended to marry on a silver platter in HIS timing. He WILL provide for you the woman who will change your life.  The woman who is designed from you and for you (think back to the Adam and Eve reference from the last post.) You don’t have to search desperately and turn every rock and leave a tattered wake of women behind you in your quest to manhood. You are called to live above that temptation. You are called to train yourself in your single life. Train yourself to be a Godly man. Grow in the Word and dig in the Truth and then APPRECIATE, truly, the magnificence and beauty and grace in the perfect love God presents to you in the form of your perfect wife. Man, powerful stuff.

I’ve so deviated from my initial point that it’s nuts. Haha, sorry, sometimes I just get rolling. I told you there was great depth to those 5 words. Anyways, the reason I talked so much about the glory of single-hood is because your role as a leader in your single life is to do exactly what I mentioned above. Grow, personally.  Train yourself, biblically. Strive to know Christ more. Strive to love Christ more. Strive to better yourself and prepare yourself to be a Godly man and a Godly husband–having unshakable faith that God is preparing your future wife in the same way. And recognize, that beyond a shadow of a doubt, your walk is entirely independent with Him. You are called to be a Godly man and to lead by example, but if you are not married, there is an INCREDIBLY fine line as to how much you can lead a woman. Men, the explanation of that could fill a whole other blog post. I encourage you to find a strong, male, believer who can better counsel you in the details of this principle. But, to put it quite simply, your walk and her walk MUST remain entirely distinguished and separate until the day you say “I do.” It doesn’t matter if you have been dating a girl for 10 years. You’re walks are NOT intended to intertwine while you are single.  You can lead by example, but it is not your place to become her spiritual leader or spiritual teacher. That can become a messy situation when you intertwine unmarried love with spiritual guidance. A VERY messy and misguided situation.

With all of that said, your role as a leader completely and utterly changes when you say the words, “I do.” Now, we will look deeper into the specifics of marriage at a later time, but, for the sake of this transition, let’s look back at the book of Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24 explains marriage very poignantly in saying, “That is why a man leaves his father and his mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Woah, say what? One flesh? Yes. BOOM. There it is. The Word of God. The reason your commitment to become a Godly man and a Godly leader is SO important–when a man and a woman are married, they literally become ONE FLESH in God’s eyes. Their separate walks and united and intertwined. They are viewed as a unit. As one singular flesh. As one entity. Man oh man, men. Do you get what this means? You are called to be FAITHFUL TO BUT ONE WIFE (finally linking it back to the initial scripture). Why is this? Because in God’s eyes, when you are married, when you can call a woman your WIFE, you both are ONE FLESH.

Take a look at your body. You are one, whole flesh. If you were torn about a decision–for the sake of a decent example, let’s say that you are torn about taking another job–would it be possible for half of your body to rip away and go complete that job, while the other half of your body stays your current career? Could your torso go be a coach, while you legs are still working in a cubicle? (Okay that was a really lame example, but cut me some slack, it’s finals week and my brain is fried…) Anyways, no. It couldn’t be done. You would be destroyed. Without the guidance of your brain and the mechanics of your body all working together, you would die. And it would be incredibly painful. Apply that metaphor to a marriage. You and your wife are ONE FLESH. If you fail as a leader and take it upon yourself be unfaithful to your wife, you are ripping the legs from the torso. You will be destroyed. That flesh will be mortally wounded. Your marriage could be destroyed. Your merit as a Godly leader would be absolutely destroyed.  There is no way around it. There is no excuse or permission. Satan is REALLY good at convincing millions of people across our planet that infidelity is acceptable and that you can get away with it and that it’s worth it, but guess what…Satan’s wrong. The Word of God explicitly states that a Godly man–a Godly leader–is the brain of that “one flesh” that you and your wife become. YOU are called to be the leader. You are called to possess the character to lead properly. You are called to stifle your human desires and temptations and to be a husband and a man of integrity. You are responsible for leading your walk, as well as her walk, because in marriage they become ONE walk. You are called to be a man of discipline and to love your wife as Jesus loved the church. LOVE and LEAD in a celebrated single-hood. LOVE and LEAD in a faithful marriage.

(to be continued…)



What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 2)

Alright, swinging back to where we left off–let’s take a deeper look at what it means to be a Godly man. Men, you will likely be very convicted by the next few blog posts, if you weren’t already by the first of this series.  But that’s okay–that conviction is a good thing. Let these words stir your heart. Take a good, hard look at yourself. Evaluate the qualities you possess and evaluate the qualities you could stand to work on. What you think and feel while you are reading this is between you and God. Don’t slip into defensive denial or over-compensation. Grow from the inside, out. And women, learn from these posts, as well. Evaluate these fundamentals. Evaluate what is important to you and the standard you hold yourself to.  We, as women, could save ourselves a WORLD of heartbreak and empty tears if we could be patient enough to step back and wait. Step back and learn discernment–study what a REAL MAN looks like.

I think this society is coming close to losing, if it hasn’t already completely lost, perspective of the true roles we are called to as men and women.  We live in a world that has taken Truth and distorted it entirely to fit convenience, personal opinion, and circumstance. We live in a world that has made it “okay” to bend the Word however we each see fit in order to “work” with our specific circumstance. In fact, we live in a world that has made it “okay” to ignore the Word completely. We live in a world that feeds off of the opinions and examples of other PEOPLE, rather than feeding off of the Truth and example of GOD. We need to go back to the heart of it all–we need to go back to the TRUTH. No bells and whistles, no exceptions and conditions, no reasons as to why or why not. We need to simplify life and go back to what God taught us was sufficient and good and pure. But, in order to understand our perfect roles, we first have to zoom in and dissect the individual components the profile of Godly men and women.

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at a few examples of great scripture in 1 Timothy and Titus that lay out the framework for what a Godly leader looks like.  We discussed, too, that men are called to leadership. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I am not trying to downgrade women here (after all, I am a woman!), but I am clearly and explicitly stating that men hold the utmost responsibility in our world. A man is held to a standard of integrity, character, and responsibility in God’s eyes. How do we know this? Take a snippet from Adam and Eve, for example–the very first people on this planet.  First and foremost, Eve was literally created from Adam (Gen.2:23). And she was created specifically with the purpose of helping Adam (Gen. 2:18).  The Bible clearly states that woman was formed secondary to man, as a helper for man. Does it say that Eve was formed in order to properly lead Adam? No. Does it say that Eve was formed to compete with Adam for superiority? No. Does it say that Eve was formed to show Adam how it’s all done? No. The Word of God clearly, purely, and beautifully states that Eve was created to help Adam–woman was created for the betterment of man, to support man, to assist man. With that said, Genesis goes on to say that Satan tempted Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the ONE TREE that Adam and Eve were instructed, by God, NOT to eat from.  After falling to temptation, Eve ate from the tree and gave the fruit to Adam and he ate it, as well. Why does this matter? What does this have to do with leadership? Eve is the one who made the ultimate mistake. Eve was weaker, she was easily tempted, and she was the one who was deceived. And she is the one who gave the fruit to Adam and led him to eat it. So really, Adam was just  follower in this situation. Want to know the kicker? When God called out to Adam and Eve after they had eaten from the tree, He specifically called out to the MAN (Gen. 3:9). The MAN was held responsible for both of their actions. Even though Eve was the first to eat, the MAN was called out by God for failing. It didn’t matter how it all played out, the MAN was intended to be the leader, and the MAN was ultimately held responsible.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because right there, from the beginning of time, was a simple and poignant example of the ways in which men and women were designed by God. Woman was made from man. Women were created to help men, not to lead them. Women are more vulnerable and susceptible to temptation and deception. Women are, by design, the weaker of the two. But men, don’t start pumping your chests and feeling high and mighty quite yet. This means that YOU bear even more responsibility and pressure and purpose than you can even imagine.  You were created to be leaders. You hold the assignment from our King to lead with integrity and character and passion and heart.  You have the responsibility to lead nations to Christ. You have the responsibility to lead Christ-centered friendships and relationships and marriages.  You have the responsibility to the added pressure of being the strongest. To many, that can likely seem like both a blessing and a curse. You may be wondering, how do I do it? How do I lead effectively? How do I lead as a Godly man and how does that leadership look different from what this society defines as leadership? How do I fill this role? In God’s eyes, you hold a noble position. As a leader, you take on a noble task. And with those words said, we are led back to 1 Timothy and Titus. I want to break down these two, simple scriptures into great detail because, as I said in the first part of this series, the provide amazing illustrations for what a Godly man looks like and is called to…

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task…

Boom. Right off the bat, the Bible is telling you that these following verses are trustworthy. That’s not a word to be taken lightly. This is the real deal. We are being called to takes these words with great weight. They are important, and they are True. All men should aspire to be leaders. As we just talked about, it is your position in your perfect design.  If you are willing to accept this responsibility, your heart is desiring a noble task. What, exactly, does noble mean? My good friend Miriam Webster says that the definition of noble is: having or showing high moral character such as courage, generosity, and honor. Are any of those words easy? Absolutely not. If it were easy to have high moral character, you wouldn’t see this society in such a state of filth. You wouldn’t see people glorifying fools and living in absolute sin. To have character requires taking the higher road, humbling yourself often, and recognizing the necessity of constant betterment and growth.  Being a Godly leader is NOT easy. It is a NOBLE task. A task of character, of courage, of honor. The Word of God is calling you step up and step out of your own tendencies and desires. The Word of God is calling you to be different.

2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach…

What does it mean to live above reproach? (I could write countless pages on this simple verse alone. Understand, for the sake of time, that all I am explaining is greatly simplified. I would challenge you to dig into the Word and grow in your understanding independently.) The word ‘reproach’ means blame, rebuke, disgrace, or shame. As Christians, we are all called to live above reproach. Afterall, that is what Jesus Christ did so perfectly. That is the example He set for us all.  Jesus lived over such reproach that, in His final days, when the Pharisees were trying to find any reason, whatsoever, to hang Him from the cross, they could find nothing.  If you read through the gospels, it is fascinating to see just how desperately the officials tried to find one single thing to pin on Him or use against Him. They couldn’t find a thing. Christ lived above such reproach that they eventually had to charge Him falsely with blasphemy because He truthfully told them He was the Son of God. Now is it possible for any of us to live as far above reproach as Jesus Christ? Absolutely not. Afterall, we are simply human. He was God. But we CAN strive to better ourselves and hold ourselves responsible for our actions and our words.  Let me hit you with a great, modern-day example of a guy that does a beautiful job of living above reproach.  Whether you’re a Tim Tebow fan or not, you cannot help but respect him for the example that he sets and the way that he lives his life.  Throughout his young life, throughout his college career, and now throughout his professional career, Tebow has done something that 99% of individuals can’t say for themselves–he has never given anyone a reason to say “I told you so.” or “I told you he would.” or “I knew he would, eventually…” The man was blessed with a platform bigger than any other college athlete has ever had, and with all the world waiting for him to fail or to slip up or to stumble, he proudly discipled. He remains conscious of every single decision he makes and every word that comes out of his mouth.  He lives with an enormous amount of worldly pressure, but he carries himself with that pressure alleviated by a gracious King.  That is something to respect. That is something you HAVE to admire.  Living above reproach is essentially “walking the walk” while your “talking the talk”.  Humbling yourself, at times, admitting your wrongs, and striving to purify your ways.  Men are called to live above shame, live above disgrace, live above blame. Be a MAN. Don’t give people ammunition to use against you by being your own biggest handicap.  Be accountable. Strive to live in truth.

(to be continued…check back in for the rest of 1 Timothy…)