Archive for May, 2009

Paradoxical Preference

Posted: May 28, 2009 in Uncategorized
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In following my last post, I thought I would include some more suggestions for things you can do to encourage male leadership and service.

First, if a guy offers to do something for you, and you are able to let him, PLEASE let him do it! You may think you’re preferring him by sacrificing comfort. We appreciate that. But often you can unknowingly do him a disservice by declining his offer to prefer you. For example, say you walk up to a table where your group is eating, and there are no chairs left anywhere. A guy offers you his chair. You may feel guilty taking it and decline, and you may truly feel okay standing. But most guys (I dare say any guy) would feel 10 times more comfortable sitting on concrete on their knees than dealing with the mental discomfort of watching a girl stand. He’ll be distracted the whole time with that thought and probably won’t be able to enjoy his meal (not to mention, others may look at him condescendingly because they don’t know that he’s offered the favor. All they see is him sitting and you standing). Same goes for holding a door, opening your car door, offering you his jacket if it’s cold, walking you to your car (unless he’s creepy), running an errand, paying for your meal etc. So next time you’re tempted to decline a favor thinking you’re preferring him, please remember the joy that it brings him to prefer you. It’s not that we want to feed some macho-man ego or anything like that, there’s just a natural, God-given bent to find more happiness in your comfort than our own.

Also, as I mentioned in my previous post, encourage guys to make the final decision in choices that are not unanimous. If you hear a lot of “I don’t know, whatever you want to do,” simply say, “I want you to decide.”

Affirm a guy’s upward steps in leadership. If a guy who used to be hesitant and indecisive has made a quick, confident, decisive choice, tell him you respected that. It’s not weird. Conversely, if a guy who is usually controlling asks for input and suggestions, reaffirm that. Anything to point out that he is learning and becoming more of a man is helpful.

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To my fellow young men, please join me in learning to prefer the women in our lives above ourselves in the small things. Let’s hold doors for them, give up our seats for them, walk them to their cars, etc. We’ve lost a lot of that in our generation…Let’s reclaim it. In these things we can show we care. Let’s be more decisive so they don’t have to take the lead.

1 Cor. 16:13-14: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”

Ladies, please comment with any additional suggestions of small or big things guys have done for you that have showed care. We want to learn from them and emulate their example.

Male and felmale roles have been on my mind lately. I wish I had written last night while the thoughts were most vivid, but here is my attempt to encapsulate my fleeting thoughts.

I’ve been thinking about what my friend Karen was telling me in a conversation at the NEXT conference (hopefully more to come on that in the future). We were talking about how our community/family groups at the conference were going. She told me that she was enjoying the conversations she was having with her group, but wished the leader would ask a few more questions, perhaps following up on comments made, etc. But she basically told me that she didn’t want to take control over the dialogue. Even though this was just a short comment, made in passing with little more said about it, I appreciated what it said about Karen’s heart so much. Karen has a gift for drawing people out in conversation, asking good questions, and showing real care and interest in the way she converses. Therefore, in a group dialogue, it would be easy for someone with her gifting to take over the reins of leading the discussion. After all, she could probably do a better job of it than the man who was chosen to lead. She chose instead, however, to humbly and modestly lay down her preference of more thorough discussion in order to let this man grow in leadership. This was so incredible to me! As a young man who has been in the position of leading a group and has done so many times feebly and timidly, I am so thankful for people like Karen who help us men grow in leadership by their modesty.

I remember when I would do a poor job with chores or move slowly when doing them. Sometimes my mom would show me how to do it properly and do it for me. I saw this as the time to nod my head and slowly back away until I could escape unnoticed to get back to playing games. I simply let her take over, and unfortunately I made this a regular habit. I think sometimes this is what happens with grown men and women. A man may lead poorly in some area, and the woman’s maternal urge to show him how it’s done kicks in. The immature or timid man sees this as a way of shirking his responsibility. “I’ll just let her do it, she seems to be doing it well, anyway.” The man becomes a coward, afraid of leading because he knows somebody else can do it better. Women, if you know a man well enough, encourage him in his leadership and point out ways he can grow. But for his sake, please don’t take over the leadership or he will never learn. His family will suffer in the future. His wife will either usurp his authority or, if she’s humble, will suffer lack of direction and guidance. His children will fall into the same trap, as he will be afraid of making his authority known. They will not respect him because he’s waiting for somebody else to step up, tragically missing the fact that God has called him to be the man and leader of his family. It may sound like I’m being dramatic, but I don’t think I am. I will be bold and say what I believe: Not only can lack of modesty on the part of women be detrimental to the character of men, it is unattractive. Some men may find that super-independent, don’t-need-nobody’s-help characteristic appealing. But I will venture to say the majority, if they are honest, do not. Hollywood may say feminism is attractive. I disagree.

I hope I don’t sound chauvinistic or sexist, as if women should just be quiet and let men domineer them. I don’t believe that one bit. Ultimately, I think in the Bible women are only called to submit to their husbands decisions (or father’s, depending on marital status). Therefore, only in marriage should women submit to their husband’s decision even if they don’t think it is the most wise. In all other male and female interaction, there is not this command to honor every decision. However, I think it may be a good idea to practice submission when the decision does not dishonor God in any way or compromise their love for him (i.e. If you’re with a coed group, give your input but encourage guys to make the final decision in where to go eat or decide what to do). Men, likewise, should practice submission to other men who are in authority over them, so they learn to be humble leaders.

For me, personally, leadership and authority are not always things I want to take on. Some crave power and love the attention of leading. For me, however, I have an equally dangerous tendency toward timidity, not wanting to offend anyone or be thought conceited (even though I am). I say this so that women can understand that dominance is not the only temptation for men, but fear is the flip-side. Out of love and care for the men in your life, please try, by God’s grace, not to contribute to their fear. Similarly, if they are arrogant and controlling, let your modesty shine and bring conviction to them rather than contending with them.

I know these are not really popular ideas, and not all of what I said may be Biblical. I hope they are. But most of this is simply my opinion, to be listened to or ignored at your discretion. My aim is to help women understand some things about beautiful, admirable femininity from a young Christian man’s perspective. You get enough of Hollywood’s and our culture’s perspective as it is. So please, weigh out what I’ve said, toss out the junk, and hopefully you’ll be left with something that’s helpful to you. For advice from God himself, I encourage you to read often the description of the Proverbs 31 woman. Please don’t read it feeling guilty or making discouraging comparisons, but instead be encouraged by what God says is beautiful in a woman. You can forget everything I’ve said, but don’t forget His teaching.

Please let me know what you think. Have I said anything you disagree with? Have I been unclear anywhere or perhaps gone too far in some advice? Not far enough? I’m curious to hear what your thoughts are. Thanks!

Some quotes from Randy Alcorn’s book Money, Possessions, and Eternity, as promised:

What are we to think of all the current teaching on money and possessions that emphasizes what does not apply to us? Confident voices assure us that the Old Testament practice of tithing doesn’t apply to us, that the New Testament practice of sacrificial giving by liquidating assets and giving to the poor doesn’t apply to us, that the biblical prohibitions of interest and the restriction of debt don’t apply to use, that the commands not to hoard and stockpile assets don’t apply to us, and so on. It’s time to ask, “What does apply to us?”

If wealth is a dependable sign of God’s approval and lack of wealth shows his disapproval, then Jesus and Paul were on God’s blacklist, and drug dealers and embezzlers are the apple of his eye

Giving away money puts us in a position of financial weakness. We don’t like that. We prefer being in a position of financial strength. But giving away our excess does something for us that keeping or spending it doesn’t. It makes us dependent on God, and keeps us open to the possibility that at some point we may need to depend on others, just as they are currently depending on us.

“Show me your checkbook, your credit card statement, and your receipts for cash expenditures, and I’ll show you where your heart is.” What we do with our money doesn’t lie. It is a bold statement to God of what we truly value.

Do you wish you had a greater heart for the poor and lost? Then give your money to help the poor and reach the lost. Do you want your heart to be in your church? Put your money there. Your heart will always be where your money is and not where your money isn’t.

When you’re on a long airplane flight, you naturally talk to people, socialize, eat, read, pray, sleep, or maybe talk about where you’re going. But what would you think if a passenger by the window seat started hanging curtains over the window, taped photographs to the seat in front of him, painted murals, and put up wall hangings? You’d think, Hey, it’s not that long of a trip. Once we get to the destination, none of this will matter. Even a long plane flight is short compared to the span of your entire life.

Scripture does not teach what most of us seem to assume–that heaven will transform each of us into equal beings with equal possessions and equal responsibilities and equal capacities. It does not say our previous lives will be of no eternal significance. It says exactly the opposite.

I could continue. These are just a few of the things I highlighted from the first quarter of the book or so. Please, go read it for yourself!

In addition to challenging me to embrace new perspectives, Randy Alcorn’s book inspired me to take my willingness to give and “kick it up a notch”, as Emeril would say. I thought what I was giving before was plenty, but I feel like God is calling me to give more generously out of the wealth he’s blessed me with. I don’t want to hoard here on earth what can’t go with me when I die. In the words of Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.” Yet, it’s tempting to think that giving too much can be foolishness because, in our culture, we should save as much as we can for the future. Alcorn says “We pride ourselves on our ‘financial independence,’ but where would we be without God, from whom our every breath is a gift? The very expression ‘financial independence’ may be blasphemy” (italics mine). I’m excited to give more, not out of duty but out of gratitude for God’s blessings, out of a hope for seeing the gospel proclaimed, and out of a desire to see the needy helped.

When Hudson Taylor was overseeing and working in a hospital in Inland China, a worker commented that they were down to their last bag of rice. “Then, the Lord’s time for helping us must be close at hand,” was his reply. Sure enough, before that bag of rice ran out, the hospital received a check for fifty pounds from a man who had, not knowing the circumstances they were in, felt God place it on his heart to give to them. In his letter, he wrote that he had gained an inheritance from his father and wanted to give more, and asked if the hospital would be able to use more money. This is the God we serve! If he can provide for them in their need, can he not do the same for us if we give generously?

As some of your may know, my sister was in an accident in the Jeep I usually drive last week. A woman pulled out on her on Wheel Road and did some nice damage, totaling the Jeep. By God’s protective grace, Sarah is ok. Unfortunately, the way it looks now, our claim is going to be denied because a witness claimed Sarah was partially at fault. Long story short, nothing is covered right now because we have no collision insurance on the Jeep. A couple of months ago, I probably would have been angered by the situation. I love the Jeep. I enjoy driving it. As my family can testify, I am a little picky about keeping it clean and and like to wash and armor-all it. A massive dent in the side would be frustrating and downright angering. However, God has been changing my heart over these past couple of months, and has used this accident to show me how temporal possessions are. It honestly surprised me that my response is “it’s just a car,” because of the value I had placed on it. God is teaching me to value eternal rewards over material possessions, and I guess God has chosen that the best way to teach me that is by letting my most valued possession be smashed. For now, it still drives just fine, but some day that Jeep will be a pile of rusted metal in a junkyard. The things I do on earth for God and the resources I give to him are the only things that will matter millions of years from now.

Quotes from Randy Alcorn to come…

Money, Money, Money

Posted: May 12, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Money has been on my mind a lot recently. Our church did a series on it, which fueled my journey into a deeper study of the topic. After Pastor Joel’s message on spending, I went home and thoroughly examined my checking account expenditures for the past few months (and was shocked to find I’d spent almost $120 in gas in March and almost $40 eating out, in addition to my regular insurance and cell phone bills!). The next day, I read through Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book, and found inspiration to cut out some unnecessary spending. However, I found that his book, while incredibly practical and inspirational, failed to address some deeper underlying spiritual issues of finances. One of his many mottoes is “live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else.” Maybe I’m misunderstanding him, but to me it sounds like the motivation for sacrificing luxurious living now is so that you can live a cozy life later. After further study and thinking, I have to graciously disagree.

Over the past couple of weeks, I enjoyed reading Randy Alcorn’s Money, Possessions, and Eternity. I can truthfully say I have not read a book in a long time that has so radically altered my perspective and challenged me to think as much as this book did. Throughout, I found myself struggling with some of his suggestions and arguments because of their implications. After weighing them out, however, I found I agreed with most of them because they were simply Biblically founded.

For example, he wrote about the importance of expecting eternal rewards and eternal treasures. This seemed in some way objectionable to me, as if working for reward somehow negated the authenticity of the heart. In my experience, if I work for somebody and expect to be rewarded, I’m working out of a self-serving motive and probably not to bless them. If, instead, I help somebody move without expecting to be paid, that seems more spiritual and selfless. Alcorn argues, however, that it is the expectation of eternal reward from our Father that benefits everyone. God is pleased to reward us because he has promised to and desires good for his children. We benefit from an eternal reward, and the person we help is blessed. Far from being unspiritual, this “selfish” reliance and trust in God’s promises brings most glory to Him. Alcorn says,

“If we maintain that it’s wrong to be motivated by rewards, we bring a serious accusation against Christ. We imply that he is tempting us to sin every time he offers rewards for obedience! Since God does not tempt his children, it’s clear that whatever he lays before us as a motivation is legitimate.”

He also quotes William Wilberforce, who says, “Christianity proposes not to extinguish our natural desires. It promises to bring the desires under just control and direct them to their true object.”

I will continue my thoughts in a future post and will include some additional quotes from Mr. Alcorn that I found particularly beneficial.