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The Second Mountain

“The Second Mountain” is the title of New York Times columnist David Brook’s new book.  In it he describes his path between doubt and faith. The book speaks to deep human longings and the issues of loneliness, alienation, social isolation and hyper-individualism.  The author shares his  journey toward religious faith. Brooks describes himself as “a wandering Jew and a confused Christian.”  As he explains, “I don’t ask you to believe in God or not believe in God.  I’m a writer, not a missionary.  But I do ask you to believe you have a soul.” There you have it, men.  A leading journalist talking about having a soul.

Brook associates the soul and heart with our desires.  We have been taught, argues Brook to be  primarily thinking beings. He disagrees.  He maintains the most  important part of consciousness is a desiring heart.   He argues that life on the “first mountain” – the mountain of personal goals, worldly success, career ambitions, and traveling in the right social circles is temporary and does not satisfy. ”We ‘re defined by what we desire, not what we know.”

There is little time for the soul on the first mountain. The soul is powerful and resilient, but it is also reclusive.   Soul will, “….eventually it hunts you down,” Brooks writes, “In this way the soul is like a reclusive leopard living high up in the mountain somewhere.”  There will be times of a haunting appearance of the leopard.  I am reminded of Mark 8:36, “And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process.”

The “second mountain” is  characterized by other-centeredness and self -giving which in turn brings joy and fulfillment. The path to the second mountain is often through the valley of hardship and failure. Transformation begins to take place because the “ego self, the impressive rational way of being we constructed for ourselves on the first mountain” gives way to the emergence of the heart and soul.  Heart “is that piece of us that longs for fusion with others.”  Soul, “is the piece of us that gives each person infinite dignity and worth.”

The journey is more like a fall then a climb.  We fall, “through the egocentric desires and plunge down into the substrate to where your desires are mysteriously formed….you are looking into the unconscious regions of heart and soul that reason cannot penetrate.”  In the process we get in touch with what Brooks calls “the Big Shaggy,” that messy thicket that sits below awareness.

As adult men we have the tendency to cover over the substrate and drift off to sleep either ignoring or frightened of Big Shaggy.  We live our lives on auto pilot, thinking that living in our heads gives us a true view of reality.  We need to pay attention to the longing, desires and yearning of the heart and soul. Some of our deepest yearning are to know that we are loved by God and that we have worth as persons.

This book will make men stop and reflect on their personal journey.  Hopeful it will awaken them to the reality of their own inner life. With an awareness of soul, ”it’s an easy leap to [conclude] that there’s some connection there, there’s some flowing force.”  May the light of the gospel break through  the darkness to  inner “substrate.”  “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ make his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ in the face of Christ” (II Cor  4:6)

Protection from Propaganda

Recently as I was reading Psalm 12, I wrote in the margin, “Protection against propaganda.” Here  expressed in a prayer, we can find the sentiments  of believers as they encounter the worldview of the dominant media in our day; what we come to call ”fake news.”   The ESV Study Bible notes, “This is a community lament, suited to occasions when the people of God are dominated by liars in positions of authority.  It is not clear whether these liars are unfaithful Israelites or Gentile oppressors; the psalm works for either situation.” How true this is for our day.  Much of what I hear is like propaganda, presented as made up truth to be accepted as fact.

In this short corporate lament (eight verses) the Psalmist asks God to deal with the liars (1-4).  “Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception” (v 1).  They say, ‘We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?” (v 3).  The Message says, “I’m tried of hearing, ‘We can  talk anyone into anything!  Our lips manage the world.’”  The question for us today becomes, “Whose narrative is dominating the news cycle?” and whether it is truthful or not.

But then in verse 5 God responds, “I will now arise….I will protect them from those who malign them.”  The Message says, “I’ve had enough; I’m on my way to heal the ache in the hearts of the wretched.”  Men, our prayer needs to be that of the Psalmist, when he  prayed in Ps 9:19, “Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence.”  When you struggle to make sense of contemporary life pray, “Let God arise.”

In contrast to the unreliability of the wicked, the Psalmist reminds us of God’s Word being absolutely flawless or trustworthy.  “And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times” (v. 5).  The Message says, “God’s words are pure words.” Never forget that God has given us a reliable map to guide our journey in our present surroundings.

The Psalmist conclude his lament by expressing confidence that God will protect the faithful community from the wicked who surround them (vs. 7-8).   “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men” (v. 8).  The Message expresses it well: “God, keep us safe from their lies, from the wicked who stalk us with lies, from the wicked who collect honors from their wonderful lies.”  Pray prayers of protection continually for yourself, your family, your church and your community.

I can take in only so much news at a time.  I have to turn away at times and simply focus on the Lord and his flawless words.  Even when I am trying to make sense out of world news, I continually pray for discernment in seeing the kingdom of  God at work in the midst of the chaos of our day. I pray that God will protect me from the propaganda of so much of the dominant culture.

Imperative of Release

Recently, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with permission from Pope Francis, broke his silence to address the sexual scandal and the general atmosphere of disintegration in the Catholic church.  The Revolution of ‘68 was central in his analysis.  R.R. Reno wrote the following observation: ”The Revolution of ‘68 shattered the prohibitions, inhibitions, and stable norms that are necessary to restrain man’s appetites…..it is important to realize that ‘68 unchained more than just sexual desire……The enduring content of that historical moment was an imperative of release that ministered to a voracious desire for sensual experience and material consumption.”

I lived through the 60’s as a young man, preparing to be a Lutheran pastor (ordained in 1970).  Now in my late 70’s, I praise God for his grace and mercy in my life, giving me strength and confidence to resist the moral tsunami that orthodox believers endured in the late 60’s. I remember well, living through the summer of ‘68. I never experienced it as a “summer” of enlightenment, but rather a turning away from a worldview anchored in Scripture. The words of Psalm 2 come to mind.  “The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one. ’Let us break their chains,’ they cry, ‘and free ourselves from this slavery.’” (Ps. 2:3-4 NLT)

I want to pick up on the phrase from Reno - ”imperative of release.”  Looking back, I praise God for not embracing an “imperative of release,” but rather gladly submitting to the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus in my life.  I can point to at least four aspects of my walk with the Lord that has been consistent, reflecting not release but rather willing submission.

First, submission to the Lordship of Jesus in my life.  The words of Jesus in Matt 16:24-25 have been an imperative in my walk with Jesus. It has meant death to myself on a continuous basis.   ”If any of you wants to be my follower,  you must put aside your selfish ambitions, shoulder your cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24 NTL).  Taking up the cross has always meant for me, the death to my sinful self, so that Jesus might reign in my life

Second, submission to the authority of God’s written word.  I have always accepted the Word of God as the final authority in my life regarding faith and practice. ”Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way.  Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us” (II Tim. 3:16-17 – Message).

Thirdly, the surrender of my sexual life to the work of the Holy Spirit.  I praise God for almost 54 years of a blest marriage to my bride, Judy.  I have been a “one-woman man.”  To deal with my sexual desires has been a struggle in a such a sexual charged culture.  I continue to pray the prayer of Job. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman” (Job 31:1 NLT).

Fourthly, a whole hearted desire to God’s calling in my life.  Now in retirement, in a Senior apartment complex, the desire of my heart is to finish strong for the Lord.  I identify with Paul’s  farewell words to the Ephesian elders. “But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love” (Acts 20:24 NLT).

“Rise of the Warrior Monk”

I was intrigued with a recent article entitled, “Rise of the Warrior Monk,” by Christian Chensvold in National Review.  I think of myself as a ”closet” monk here in the north woods.  My spiritual instincts would classify me as a spiritual warrior,  who is a truth-teller (prophet).   The truth teller sees things more black and white, while speaking the truth. But being more intuitive and feeling in personality, I usually fight with a “velvet glove.”  I identify with the “Tender Warrior” as a blend of “tough” and “tender.”

Chensvold makes reference to “men going their own way.”  “Whether these men are middle-aged and embittered from divorce or lifelong rejection, or in the prime of life but prematurely disillusioned,” notes Chensvold, ”these male dropouts share the view that contemporary society is soulless and effeminate, increasingly demonizing men for all of their natural instincts.”  He wonders if men who are dropping out are not “reviving a long-lost archetype, the warrior monk.

If the Warrior Monk is to have an meaningful voice today he will need to have a gentle spirit to counter the “toxic” label.  Jesus encourages us to take his yoke and learn from him, “For I am gentle and humble in spirit.”  Paul tells us, “Let your gentleness be evident to all.”  He exhorted the Colossians to, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12).  Gentleness is also a fruit of the Spirit.

Chensvold  quotes  Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, who have written on men being “hard wired” as king, warrior, mentor and friend.  “The psyche of the man who is adequately accessing the Warrior is organized around his central commitment.  This commitment eliminates a great deal of human pettiness.  Living in the light of lofty ideals and spiritual realities such as God….so alters the focus of a man’s life that petty squabbling and personal ego concerns no longer matter much.”  This would be a man who stands and fights  for the truth.

Chensvold wonders if, “today’s warrior-monks might very well end up discovering their feminine side…..not the feminist-approved, socio-political kind.” Once again we go back to the creation story.  We read, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27).  Here we learn that masculine and feminine are opposite and complementary qualities.  They are like darkness and light, being two extremes on a continuum.  Both are found in the soul of men.

“The more nearly we function in His image, the more nearly we reflect both the masculine and the feminine in their proper balance – that is in the differing degrees and aptitudes appropriate to our sexual identities as male and female” (Payne).  Men need to be affirmed not only in their masculine, but also in their feminine side. Each man as he is being transformed will learn to walk in the proper  balance.  He will be affirmed in his true masculine soul, while being complimented in  the feminine.

So Chensvold is unto something as he journeys in our confused culture.  The Warrior Monk will express the essence of the masculine, which is taking initiative, standing for the truth.  But it will need to  be supplemented by the feminine response, which is characterized by gentleness and response.

Footwashing

Have you ever attended  a foot washing service on Maundy Thursday during Holy Week?  Or have you had your feet washed by others on a special occasion. I have experienced both.  The most memorable occurred when I was about to leave one of the churches I served as pastor.  I had an emotional farewell with the worship team.  During our sharing time, one of the members of the team went and got a basin of water and a towel.  The team took turns washing my feet.  I came unglued.  I will never forget the experience.

The incident of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples on the night before his death is found in John 13:1-17.  John tells us, “Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the extent of his love” (v. 1).  The Message reads, “…..he continued to love them right to the end.”

On this last night with his disciples, Jesus used the very humble task of foot washing to demonstrate the depth of his love for the disciples.  Why foot washing – because the disciples could only sit and receive this deep expression of love by the Son of God.  Jean Vanier notes, “We begin to discover who Jesus is.  Jesus loves us utterly; he knows that we are afraid of being loved; afraid of love, and that we are afraid of God.” In the humble act of washing their dirty feet, Jesus is attempting to express love that needed to move from head to heart, so they could say, “I know that I am his beloved.”

One of the great liabilities for men is the movement of  God’s love  from head to heart. Imagine yourself  in that room having your feet washed by Jesus.  Could you freely receive his expression of love. Or like an ordinary man, would you want to do something in return or simply say I don’t deserve this kind of attention – “Just skip me.”

It was Peter, of course, who spoke up.  The closer Jesus came to Peter the more nervous he became.  He was not going to have his feet washed.  But when Jesus said that washing was necessary, Peter wanted a full bath. Jesus reminded him that he was already clean.  ”If you’re had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe.  My concern, you understand is holiness, not hygiene.  So now you’re clean” (v 10 – Message).

Peter, like so many of us, want a “quick fix.”  We want to be clean.  We are clean in the sense that we are secure in Jesus, cleansed by his blood.  But there is a lot of cleansing that has to be done because of our fallen nature.  This will take time.  We will need strong doses of God’s unconditional love.

Peter obviously go the message.  The humility of Jesus and our need for cleansing is expressed by Peter. “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud, but give grace to the humble.’  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you’ ( I Peter 5:5-6).

Let Jesus love you in your stink. ”For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Rom. 5:5).

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Confluent Love

Mark Regnerus is sociologist with a strong Christian worldview.  He has had to pay a price, among his peers for some of his opinions.  Recently he said, “We find ourselves in a liminal spot, one between long-taken-for-granted traditional relationships anchored in marriage and the future relationship system characterized more consistenly by ‘confluent love.’  There will not be two dominant systems.”  Which one will prevail in our nations is yet to be seen.  Marriage will not disappear, but in Regnerus’ opinion it may become a minority practice.

John Stonestreet challenges us “to rethink how we communicate biblical sexuality both inside and outside the church.”  As Christian men, living and communicating a biblical view of sexuality can be an effective witness for our Lord.  Stonestreet believes, “Our culture has undergone more that a moral slip into debauched activites.  It’s undergone a worldview shift.  Our gut-level understanding of sex, relationships, love and marriage has changed dramatically.”

The changes between 2008 and 2018 have been more dynamic than most other decades.  Sex has become “cheap” according to Regnerus.  In the past sex was expensive in that women demanded more in return, such as marriage, love and fidelity.  Today women give sex away without expecting much in return, such as time, respect and faithfulness.  As a result men don’t feel they have to behave in an honorable manner.  Women,  notes Regnerus, “are hoping to find good men without supporting the sexual norms that would actually make men better.”

Regnerus looks at five narratives from the last decade, which have produced profound change in our most intimate relationships.  It shows evidence that America is confused and conflicted at a deep level regarding sex, sexuality and the social norms that should be guiding men’s and women’s intimate relations.  Ours is a sexually broken culture of confluent love.

First, same-sex marriage becomes law in all fifty states.  This is the most significant shift regarding sex and marriage, with two out of every three Americans approving of same-sex marriage today.

Secondly, transgender is trending.  The support for transgender issues is found primarily  among children, teenagers, and supportive parents.  It has produced a conflict over pronouns, bathrooms and sports teams.

Thirdly, “Queer” has gone mainstream.  Sexual fluidity is now in.  According to Regnerus, “The term ‘queer’ has now become a catch-all for the panoply of non-heterosexual options available today – identities, behaviors, relationships, preferences, and speech.

Fourthly,  marriage and cohabiting Americans are having less sex.  This may come as a surprise.  But the Archives of Sexual Behavior reported that on average, Americans have sex about nine fewer times a year than they did in the late 1990’s.  Regnerus wonders if the growing similarity between men and women might be part of the cause.

Fifthly, divorce rates are dropping (because marriage rates are dropping).  Americans are getting more pickier about marriage.  Marriage is no longer a shelter in which a man and woman commit to be faithful, but marriage is now seen as  a symbol, a luxury to be enjoyed in  successful adulthood, with children being optional.

How then should a man live.  Here are my priorites.  First, cry out for God’s mercy and grace to live with sexual purity.  Second, be faithful and devoted to my wife.  Third, purpose to live in moral integrity with all other women.  Fourth, come alongside younger men as they journey through cotemporary America.

While knowing that sex is holy and good,  I heed Paul’s admonition, “Keep yourselves from sexual promiscuity.  Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body, not abusing it, as is so common among those who know nothing of God” (I Thess. 4:3-4 – Message).

Self-achieved Identity

I came across the concept of “Self-achieved Identity” in a quote by James Houston.  “What we face in the world today is a self-achieved identity.  As Christians, we believe in a given identity, not an achieved one.  The Christian is found in Christ.  The self-achieving identity is very fragile because we have to sustain it.  Nobody else is going to sustain it for me when I have built it up myself.  The result of this is a tendency toward narcissism, because there is a depleted sense of self.  This is not what God ordained that we should have for an identity.”

I see myself in this “self-achieved identify.  It is not easy to admit after all these years on the spiritual journey.  I hope my reflections can help some man reading this blog  caught the darkness of a depleted self

First, my true identity is in Christ.  The old is dead.  I am new in Christ. I have a new ego.  Scott McNight’s translation of Gal 2:20 tells us: “My Ego has been crucified with Christ.  My Ego no longer has a life, but instead Christ is alive as my New Ego.  The physical life my Ego now lives is a life of faith in the Son of God who loves this new Ego and gave himself for this new Ego. The Message reminders to me: “Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer in control.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).  Remember, Al your new identity is a gift, not an achievement

Secondly, it take a lot of work  to keep up a self-achieved identity. It is fragile, so I have to continually maintain my image of self.  I can be sensitive, insecure and defensive about my image.  My focus in on myself and not Jesus and his kingdom.

Thirdly, no one is going to be able to help me sustain this self identity.  To my shame, I have at times even expected my wife to sustain me in my efforts to prop up my own image of self.  I need to continual ask myself, “In who and what are you looking for affirmation?” Remember you will be disappointed by those around you.   They can never give you what you want.

Fourthly, this will always involve narcissism, a turning inward to analyze how I am doing on  my self making project.  C. S. Lewis described  this self-enclosed movement well: “…..your thoughts merely go round and round a wearisome circle, now hopeful, now despondent, then hopeful again – that way madness lies.”

Finally, the  futility of living  with what Houston calls “a depleted self.”  Instead of being alive and present to the indwelling presence of the Lord, I can get caught in an endless circle of self-deprecating with endless self- loathing thoughts.  Cluttered thought continue in a closed loop, moving downward, as I sink downward in shame or prideful self-justification.  This is not a pretty picture of my depleted self.

To brake out of this downward spiral into self, I need to daily repent of the idolatry toward my old self, from pride, self-loathing and self- sufficiency and turn to Jesus who is the light and the truth.  I invite the Holy Spirit, who is the spirit of truth, to be lamp of the Lord searching my inward self and leading me out of darkness into his  light and freedom.  I keep looking up and out, to receive the healing Word that God is sending into my soul.

Culture of Contempt

I am becoming more and more saddened by the political and social discourse in our nation.  Those who study our culture are giving us fair warning to the dangers of a nation deeply divided.  Arthur C. Brooks in his new book, “Love your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America form the Culture of Contempt,” observes, “America is addicted to political contempt.”

This is his description of what is taking place:  “While most of us hate what is doing to our country and worry about how contempt coarsens our culture over the long term many of us still compulsively consume the ideological equivalent of meth from elected officials, academics, entertainers, and some of the news media…. we have an insatiable craving for insults to the other side…..We indulge our guilty urge to listen as our biases are confirmed that the other guys are not just wrong, but stupid and evil.”

Contempt he believes  is “anger mixed with disgust.”  “Contempt,” insists Brooks, “represents not merely an outburst following a moment of deep frustration with another but rather an enduring attitude of complete disdain.”

Wow. I’m convicted. I want to  resist getting caught in the increasing cycle of contempt of our day.  How about you?  I might not say it, but I want my side to win, even if it  has total disregard for Jesus’ words on the Sermon on the Mount. ”I’m telling you,” Jesus  warns us, “that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder……Thoughtlessly yell ’stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire.  The simple fact is that words kill” (Matt. 5:21-22 – Message).  Opponents are killing each other daily.

We are also reminded about our treatment of those who we consider our enemies. “I’m telling you to love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (Matt 5:43 – Message).  What a challenge – allowing our enemies to bring out our best, showing our true self in Christ.

Here are four relational postures I work on continually in my new apartment community.

First and foremost I want to be a humble, loving follower of Jesus, who is part of the kingdom reign of Jesus.  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Second, my attitude is one of being a servant, putting others ahead of myself, especially when they think differently and are opinionated..  Jesus is my example. ”I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Thirdly, let my words be seasoned with salt.  “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasone with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col 4:6).

Fourthly, learn to listen well.  Show interest in the other person’s story and opinion.  “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” (I Peter 5:5).

Fifthly, live in forgiveness. I can easily be offended. “Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive and offense.  Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you” (Col. 3:13 – Message).

Finally, in a culture of contempt, I am learning to lament and cry out for God to have mercy on our nation.  “In this time of our deep need, begin again to help us, as you did in years gone by.  Show us your power to save us.  And in your anger, remember your mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2 NLT).

Jagged Edges and Unpublished Chapters

I have been reading a book on contemplative prayer by Martin Laird.  He has been very helpful for me on this stage of my spiritual journey.  In the preface  he observes, “Jagged edges abound in even the best-lived lives, and we each have chapters of our lives that are better left unpublished.  The arms of the past reach into the present. ‘The past is never dead.  It’s not even past’” (Faulkner).  Although we may not wish to revisit these jagged edges, these unpublished chapters, they serve the purpose of letting in light and love.  We are made real by love.

God wants us to be real, not our carefully fashioned false self.  God can not have a relationship with an illusion we have created.  He desires to relate to our real self; the good, the bad and the ugly.  We would rather present a self  we have worked  hard to construct with our spiritual improvement projects.  This is a false religious self.  Part of the motivation for doing so, is to protect ourselves from really knowing who we are, thus preventing us from experiencing God’s love.

We are made real, our true self,  by love.  I can testify that when I came to know that God loved me unconditionally in my shame and vulnerability, I was able to open deeper parts of my soul, what John of the Cross called ”the caverns of the heart” to God without fear of rejection or condemnation.  The words of I John 4:18 took on new meaning for me. “There is no fear in love.  But prefect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Surrendering to love has allowed me to loosen my grip on my well constructed false religious self.  This can be painful, since it exposes more of my jagged edges and some of the unpublished chapters of my life.  As love exposes more jagged edges in my character, I can acknowledge my shortcoming and find healing for life long patterns of sin.   There will be more  unpublished chapter to  discover, exposing what has been hidden for years.  How wonderful when I allow God to rewrite the script of my story. I will continue to learn how my “life is now hidden with Christ is God” (Col. 3:4).

Dealing with my jagged edges and unpublished chapter will bring forth more of my  true self in Christ.  In the process I find more freedom to just be me, and to live a more authentic life before God and others.  This has been difficult for me, since I am the kind of guy who always has a thermostat extended into my surroundings.  I have been plagued by what people think of me.  But as Love makes me real, from the inside out, I find freedom to just be me.

Expect your jagged edges and unpublished chapters to be exposed as you grow in intimacy with the Lord.  Remember He can have a relationship only with the real you.  The real you is brought forth the more you know you are loved by God in all of shame and vulnerability.

Men of Straw

G. Shane Morris in an article for Breakpoint entitled “Men of Straw,” gives real help for dealing with the public dialogue  about “bad” and “good” masculinity.  He began  by pointing to a means of writing on the subject of masculinity  “1.) Pick a typically masculine trait (say, strength).  2) Create a false dilemma between this trait and an approved trait (say, gentleness).  3.) Pen an article expounding this false dilemma by using corruptions and exaggerations of the masculine trait to prove its incompatibility with the approved trait (for example, ‘traditionally strong men cannot be gentle’).  4) Redefine the masculine trait as equivalent to the approved trait (e.g., ‘The strongest Men are gentle’)”.  You end up with men of straw.

Men, we always have to come back to the creation story to get our bearings as we face the gale force winds of “toxic masculinity.” The storm creates  confusion, fear, mistrust and insecurity for men. How is a man to behave?  Remember our maleness is not a social construct.  We are created in the image of God.  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27).  Verse 31 tells us, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31).  We live in a time, when we have to pay a significant price for the failure of men to adequately reflect the image of God as being “very good.”

Morris’ comments can be helpful as godly men navigate the cultural minefields  we will face in the coming days.

First,  don’t let others categorize you by their definition of what it means to be a man. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…”(Gen. 1:26).  Each man is uniquely created by God to reflect his image.  This is a matter of God’s design, not a social construct.  Remember your heavenly Father said it was ”very good.”  Only God can affirm each of us in our masculine essence.   It vital for each man to find affirmation from our heavenly Father.  Only then can a man rest in his true masculine self.

Secondly, there is absolutely no reason why a man, affirmed in his masculine soul can’t not be gentle.  But, a this is important - a man’s tenderness and compassion comes through his affirmed  masculine soul.  It is not expressed through feminized man, that is, a man who is not at peace with his masculine soul.  Each affirmed man will express his tender side in a unique manner.  Be assured a strong man can be tender and compassionate.

Thirdly, readily acknowledge that men have failed miserably in being the male image of God, thus not being “very good,” but in some ways “very bad.”  It is now described as toxic.  The irony of our time as expressed by the Babylon Bee is that the “least masculine society in human history decides masculinity is a growing threat.”  I believe godly men who are affirmed in their masculine souls have a golden opportunity to demonstrate within the culture how a man can be both “tough and tender.”

Fourthly, reject outright the redefining of the masculine by those who are feminists and those who are feminized as men.  They have no idea what it means to be a man standing straight and erect before his heavenly Father, coming in Jesus’ name and hearing by the presence of the Spirit deep in his soul, that he is “God’s beloved.”

Oh, God raise up a new generation of affirmed men!!!