Chris De Man is a husband to one, father to five, and reluctant dog owner. After 15 years in engineering, he finished a degree at Liberty Theological Seminary and transitioned to employment in the church. He currently serves as the Director of Support Ministries at Blythefield Hills Baptist Church in Rockford, MI. His passions are coffee, old books, and a bit of blogging (dwellingunderafriendlysky.
blogspot.com). He is deeply vested in ministering to men and young families and recently coauthored the book Man Made: Reclaiming the Passage from Boy to Man.
The origin of that scar is tangled in a wonderful web of boyhood adventure. My elementary years found me joyfully locked in a close male friendship. A friendship of the best type.
My pumpkin orange Huffy bike and I wore a path through our suburb to my friend’s house. His house was much more fun than mine. A friend’s always is. And him having a pine-forested backyard and an old apple orchard across the street certainly sweetened the deal.
My friend and I spent many afternoons busying ourselves with the activities of boyish play. Things like shooting flies in a junkyard with an under-powered BB gun. Hiking through the pine forest with provisions of polish sausage and cheese. Sharpening sticks just because. Frying ants with magnifying glasses. Riding bikes along sandy trails. Sighting-in a slingshot with the help of unsuspecting blue jays. Searching for the once-seen and forever-elusive Blue Racer. Or just lazing in the crook of a tree in moments of boredom.
I thoroughly enjoyed my friend. Our bond was special. For sure, our talks weren’t much deeper than baseball cards and apple wars. But we cared for each other. We were inseparable. We even won the three-legged race on Field Day at school. We were tight.
And then came grade 5. My friend moved away. Far away. I don’t recall crying. But I could now. There would be no more ”fixing” our unbroken bikes. Or boxing until punch-drunk in his basement. Or building snow forts with tunnels. Or taunting chipmunks. Never again would we be held “hostage” together by the mean 6th graders around the corner. Something inside me died. But like my friend, life moved on.
The sad thing about boyhood is its brevity. Too soon the worries of adult life suck the air from youthful wonder. The rugged individualism of manhood coupled with a curse of passivity yields an army of Lone Rangers. Men disengaged from relationship with other men – real relationship that goes further than sports scores and lawn care. Relationships that are an adult-sized version of what I had with my childhood buddy.
In my case, it was pride. I blocked my path to manly friendship but didn’t know it. I thought myself immune to the lies and traps that plague all men. Things like lust, inadequacy, worry, inferiority, laziness, anger, loneliness, and work. I was shackled in a prison of denial, too proud to see how lonely and isolated I was. I was unable to see the shiny, happy façade I’d made that kept relationships safely superficial. My perceptions of manliness left no room for trite, childlike friendships. There were places to see, things to do, worlds to be conquered. Who has time to talk life or get emotional? Suck it up, don’t be a baby, and get busy!
Unfortunately, my jacked-up Teddy Roosevelt rough-riding persona has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. I was empty. Deserted on the island of me. I needed rescue.
So God sent a friend.
A handful of friends, actually. Men who love Jesus. Men who love me. Men who used the light of Scripture to expose my self-centered imprisonment. Men who came, like Jonathan to David, to “strengthen my hand” in the Lord (1 Sam. 23:16). Even today, these men aren’t afraid to look me in the eye and speak the truth with love. To encourage and challenge. To pray with and for me. They are biblically authentic men.
Richard Rohr said, “The false self is a privately manufactured and maintained ‘I am.’ The true self is our participation in the great ‘I Am’” (Adam’s Return, p. 44). Too long was I bound by the lie that I was big enough to handle life. That seeking help was weak and unmanly. That my shoulders were plenty broad to handle life’s weight. Sadly, such thinking squeezed out the source of anything truly manly in my living – Jesus Christ.
I am deeply grateful for the spiritual posse God sent to rescue me. Sure, it took time to reengage and establish trusted, Christ-centered relationships. And it was painful to face the sin of my overly developed ego. In the end, my new manly friendships were key to helping me move from a worldview of “I am” to the “I Am.”
My childhood friendship, with all its fun and mischief, ignited in me a yearning all men carry. A thirst to share committed male friendships. To be fully known and accepted. To speak and be spoken to quickly, boldly, and redemptively. I thought I outgrew what I enjoyed as a boy. I was wrong.
Men, there is nothing noble about being a Lone Ranger. Don’t stifle the hunger the Creator has crafted inside you. A hunger for relationships with other men who seek the Kingdom first. God’s wisdom calls each of us to be in relationship. Too many men are falling – with no one to pick them up. (Eccl. 4:10).
I’ve taken off my Lone Ranger mask. How about you?
Kindle Deal of the Day: Compelled: Living the Mission of God by Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation. $2.99.
Understand what it means to be compelled by love. The authors challenge readers to look at love within the context of God, the church, and the lives of individual believers. Compelled provides readers a basic theological grounding and a platform for personal application as they understand that missional living is all about simply the calling to love others. Look at the love of God; begin to truly understand what is at the center of the church’s foundation, commission, and direction; but most importantly, understand your role within the mission of God as you integrate love into all aspects of your missional calling.
“We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance,” he wrote. “The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.”
In an age obsessed with practicality, productivity, and efficiency, I frequently worry that we are leaving little room for abstract knowledge and for the kind of curiosity that invites just enough serendipity to allow for the discovery of ideas we didn’t know we were interested in until we are, ideas that we may later transform into new combinations with applications both practical and metaphysical.
It’s interesting to compare these jobs with the list of the ten most hated jobs, which were generally much better paying and have higher social status.
So what should actually do when you visit someone in the hospital? What actions will encourage and comfort the person you are visiting?
Here are three steps. They each start with “P” to help you remember.
If pastors and seminarians knew more about Baptist history, they would be better equipped to avoid the mistakes of the past and incorporate helpful insights from previous eras. I want to suggest three quick ways Baptist history can be useful to local church ministry:
Josh Starkey is director of music and worship at Grace Brethren Church in Simi Valley, CA. He also teaches 11th grade English at Grace Brethren High School. He and his wife, Jenny, have two children with one on the way and enjoy coffee, good books, and the ocean. Josh blogs regularly at myborrowedwords.wordpress.
It’s no accident or coincidence that God gives us His spoken Word in the form of a book. God chose to reveal Himself to us through words, and written words at that. For this reason, words are important, and books are important, much more than we often give them credit for.
Think about it: God spoke the universe into existence (He didn’t “throw” matter into the universe or “pull” the dry land from the waters; God tells us that He “spoke” it all into being). God speaks, and things exist. God’s Son, the image of the invisible God, is also called God’s Word: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14). And God completes His revelation of Himself to His created people by giving us the Bible – a book. The written word isn’t simply an accessory to our lives but is something God intentionally and gloriously built into the universe because it is part of who He is. And for this reason, as God’s image bearers, we’re affected by words in profound ways and on very deep levels. When humans speak or write, we imitate our Creator in an intimate way; when we speak or write, it really means something, whether for good or for evil.
My argument, then, is that reading literature can play a significant part in you and I fulfilling our roles as worshipers of God. In addition to Scripture, reading the right kinds of stories can help shape us from the inside out. Though never substitutes for Scripture, stories can shape our desires and our character to desire God and fulfill our roles in His ultimate, spoken Story.
Philip Sidney wrote in his Apology for Poetry (pub. 1595) that the poet (Sidney’s term for a writer of fiction) does something in imaginative literature that, say, a historian or philosopher can’t do. Sidney said the poet has the ability to create worlds that make us see what our world should be like and how the people in it should act. Fiction can make us love good and abhor evil by actually putting our imaginations into situations where good and evil are visible and, dare I say, real.
In keeping with Sidney’s argument, reading Scripture first and the right kinds of literature second can shape us as readers and as worshipers of God. Stories can stir our affections in very beneficial ways. Here are a few:
1. Experiencing a redeemed world.
Scripture reveals aspects of the coming redemption of creation, but it’s often difficult to imagine what a redeemed world will actually be like. And sometimes it’s even harder to really desire that world, partly because we become too accustomed and numb to the descriptions of heaven we read in Scripture.
But stories can help stir up our imaginations so we really feel, with fuller affection, passages like Romans 8:19-23, which says we, along with creation, eagerly await the redemption of all things from sin’s decay.
J.R.R. Tolkien really had an ability to imagine what a redeemed world might be like. He created a fictional world in The Lord of the Rings that’s brim-full with stuff that resembles our own world. As we read, Tolkien’s world becomes our own, and we really feel the things that happen there. Take, for instance, his description of the eternal, heavenly qualities of the forest of Lothlorien:
“[I]n Lorien the ancient things still lived on in the waking world. Evil had been seen and heard there, sorrow had been known [...] but on the land of Lorien no shadow lay.”
“Frodo stood awhile still lost in wonder. It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lorien there was no stain.”
This passage describes things that make sense and fit in Middle-earth. But The Lord of the Rings also makes us experience what a redeemed version of our world might be like. It gives us a stirring example of how it might actually feel to be in a real, physical world of trees, streams, and colors where no sin or “shadow” falls. However imperfectly, Tolkien’s stories can really help shape us into people who desire these things to come true in our own world. And when we desire God and the fulfillment of His promises with full affection, we’re worshiping.
2. Experiencing the return of our Savior.
C.S. Lewis also delves into the themes of redemption and experiencing the reality of a Redeemer. In The Great Divorce, Lewis sends his protagonist/narrator on a bus ride to heaven. The bus passengers get a chance to experience heaven in an “already-but-not-yet” sense as it’s awaiting the final return of Christ and His redemption of all things. The world of heaven resembles our own but is much more solid and real and thereby dangerous and painful for the ghostly passengers. The redeemed souls of people that inhabit the place are imposing, noble, and gloriously good. The whole place is so good that it’s frightening for the bus travelers.
At the end of the story, the narrator is caught in heaven when Christ appears in all His light and glory, and we experience some of the rejoicing of creation in that final redemptive moment. We also experience the narrator’s terror at being caught in judgment, unconverted. He says,
“All the time there had been bird noises, trillings, chatterings, and the like; but now suddenly the full chorus was poured from every branch [...] above all this ten thousand tongues of men and woodland angels and the wood itself sang. ‘It comes, it comes!’ they sang. ‘Sleepers awake! It comes, it comes, it comes.’ One dreadful glance over my shoulder I essayed [...] the rim of the sunrise that shoots Time dead with golden arrows and puts to flight all phantasmal shapes.”
Again in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien helps us experience the return of a good king to his rightful throne. Christians should be those who “love the Lord’s appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8), and sometimes stories can help cultivate a longing for our true Savior and King to come back for His people. Tolkien says in The Return of the King, after Sauron is defeated,
“But when Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time. Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood; and wisdom sat upon his brow, and strength and healing were in his hands, and a light was about him. And then Faramir cried: ‘Behold the King!’”
This passage has clear ties to 1 John 3:2 and the transformation of Christ’s people when they finally behold Him at His return. John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” We do behold Christ by faith as He is revealed in Scripture, but when He appears and we see Him in His glory, simply beholding the King will be transforming for us. Reading stories like Tolkien’s can help us feel a fraction of what 1 John 3:2 will actually be like. Then hopefully we can return to reading God’s Word with our emotions renewed to feel and worship as we read.
3. Longing for redemption and the end of suffering.
Christian or no, the writers of good literature grapple with the hardships of human experience in their stories and with their characters. You won’t find a clear reference to God in every story – Scripture says that unregenerate people suppress the truth of God and are blind to Him on varying levels. But unbelievers aren’t blind to the sufferings and tragedies of a fallen world. Even stories where God has been removed often still portray suffering with intensely tragic beauty and can make us long for the redeemed world God promises to His people. A few standout authors who have a knack for stirring a reader’s affections with suffering are Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Charles Frazier, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Charles Dickens.
Dickens writes a very memorable passage in A Tale of Two Cities that paints the horrors of sinful man at his worst. In his classic novel about the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, this passage occurs during the scene of the storming of the Bastille:
“The sea of black and threatening waters, and of destructive upheavings of wave against wave, whose depths were yet unfathomed and whose forces were yet unknown. The remorseless sea of turbulently swaying shapes, voices of vengeance, and faces hardened in the furnaces of suffering until the touch of pity could make no mark on them.”
This “sea of black and threatening waters” is the multitude of suffering men and women storming the French prison. Dickens brings to life an extreme case of the effects of sin in our fallen world with both vivid description and poetic artistry. Reading this scene, we see and feel what we might become if God left us to our own sinful bent or gave us over to ultimate despair or sinful anger in the midst of suffering. And really feeling the weight of our sin, we have the opportunity to worship as we cry out to God for redemption from it. We have the opportunity to turn in hope to God’s promises to free us from sin once and for all.
So there you have it: 3 ways among many in which good literature can help shape our desires and fuel our worship of Christ.
In a culture and age where we become distracted so easily, stories can raise our affections up to the heights for the things we should be caring deeply about: Christ our King, the redemption of our sinful world, and final freedom from our sinful human condition. Find out who writes the best stories, read them often, and feel them deeply. I hope the few examples above encourage you to do this.
Kindle Deal of the Day: Biblical Authority: The Critical Issue for the Body of Christ by Jimmy Draper and Ken Keathley. $2.99.
The subject of biblical authority is the most critical and sensitive issue facing the evangelical Christian world today. It has a rippling effect on every major theological discussion. Jimmy Draper deals with this issue in a loving and peaceful way, examining modern critical thought and historic positions of the church—providing a workable answer to the issues of biblical authority. Biblical Authority will strengthen one’s faith in the Word of God.
Religion, in the Biblical sense, involves not just holding certain beliefs but acting on them, and the institutions the church creates to help us carry out those commandments are just as “religious” as worshipping congregations. From that it follows that “freedom of religion,” if it is to mean anything, must be extended just as fully to those institutions as to parish churches. Otherwise the church is crippled in its obedience. Which is bad for the church, but also, and more important, bad for the world — unless you happen to think that the State, and the State only, is the proper vehicle for charity and social service.
Jesus came into the Galilee. He was announcing the news of God’s royal victory, telling people that, “The time is now folks, the shot clock has wound down to zero, there is gonna be change of regimes, God’s new empire is coming, in fact, it’s already begun. So turn away from the wickedness and worldliness that’s consuming your hearts, change your verdict about God, give up your sectarian agendas for Israel, and instead entrust yourself to the message of God’s victory that I’m bringing you.”
Primates say that only a traditionalist Archbishop of Canterbury can keep the Anglican Church together:
In a major intervention in the selection process, an alliance of archbishops and bishops from four continents has written directly to the selection committee urging them to choose someone prepared to halt a drift towards liberal values on issues such as homosexuality.
Recognize >> Repent >> Refocus >> Replace.
Keep, O Lord, your household the Church
in your steadfast faith and love,
that through your grace
we may proclaim your truth with boldness,
and minister your justice with compassion;
for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.
Nearly all reject the weak and poor as objects of disgust; an earthly king cannot bear the sight of them, rulers turn away from them, while the rich ignore them and pass them by when they meet them as though they did not exist; nobody thinks it desirable to associate with them.
But God, who is served by myriads of powers without number, who “upholds the universe by the word of His power,” whose majesty is beyond anyone’s endurance, has not disdained to become the Father, the Friend, the Brother of those rejected ones. He willed to become incarnate so that He might become “like unto us in all things except for sin” and make us to share in His glory and His kingdom.
What stupendous riches of His great goodness! What an ineffable condescension on the part of our master and our God.
- Symeon the New Theologian
- quoted from Mike Neglia’s blog
Reposted from 2011.
I’ve gotten a kick out of this Twitter account, written by someone who teaches Biblical Studies for an undisclosed university. The author writes:
These are actual statements from assignments turned in by my students. They’re…um..interesting
As one who remembers completing many seminary assignments late at night, I probably delivered a few incoherent one-liners myself. Here are some of the funniest from the Twitter feed:
- “When you think about it, what we have going on today actually makes the biblical times seem more structured and balanced.”
- “I think sometimes people use the lack of evidence to try and disprove an idea.”
- “Gen 1-3 shows us the wrong and right way to go about everything we do.” (For example, let’s say you are doing auto repair…)
- “I don’t believe the purpose of Genesis is to create some sort of family tree to trace us all back to God.” (Good to know.)
- “Until the Industrial Revolution, the majority of Americans held on to the sacred ideas of individual salvation and limited government.”
- “Marcus Borg almost sounds sure that the bibles parables aren’t literally true. I don’t want to call him arrogant, but he sure seems to be.”
- “I myself have been subject to not always understanding text of the Bible in a more sufficient way due to my mind set.”
- “This was an interesting read. It made me look deeper than I generally care to look at things.”
- “Tim Keller did not impress me, he may be very knowledgable about the Bible but does he have a genuine concern for people seeking God? “
- “Each of the panelists had their own perceptions of what they felt was right.” (Who would have guessed?)
- “I relish in this statement because it gives me justification and clarity for something I already believed before hand.”
- “Brueggemann said Gen 1 need to be understood as an older, extant liturgical tradition on creation. This meant it should be taken literally”
- “I feel that politics never really played a part in the lives of the Israelite’s as much as just having God be the center of their lives.”
Tyler Braun is a writer, worship leader, and pastor from Portland, Oregon where he lives with his wife, Rose. His first book releases on August 1st through Moody Publishers. Today’s post is adapted his book Why Holiness Matters. You can find Tyler on Twitter, Facebook, or his blog:
The collective story of so many people can be summarized in one word: shame. Our own sin and the sin of others has inflicted large, gaping wounds that have pushed us away from God and others as we’ve hidden ourselves and our shame.
In seeking to find my own way in the world, I made decisions that took me down a treacherous road of sin. These sinful patterns ultimately led me to start building walls around my life, so no one, including God, could get a sense for the pain I felt. Looking at my wrecked life next to God’s perfection, holiness, and goodness was a somber reality of my ineptitude. Through it all I had created a false identity for myself—an identity that said all of my worth in life was thrown away through the destruction of sin.
While shame often begins with a mistake made by ourselves or by a hurtful act done toward us, it always results in us finding a false identity. When we fail, we often give up on pleasing our holy God because we clearly can’t keep up with Him.
But here’s a truth I learned while being lost in the disorientation of my own sin and shame: These identities of shame are illusions. They are illusions because identities of shame hide the truth of how God sees us.
I believe God desires for us to live in holiness. Not in sin. Not in shame. All throughout the Scriptures God proclaims to us, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
God saves us to change us—to move us beyond our sin-filled shame, to lives of holiness. How easy it is to overlook this calling on our lives when all we can see is the illusion of our worth being lost in our failure.
Holiness, however, is not a possible reality when life is bound up with shame. Even in our selfish desire to move forward in life without letting others close enough to see our pain, God’s love is continually poured on us. And it is this love that calls us beyond our shame, into the affectionate embrace of our Savior.
Our action or inaction does not dictate His love because His love is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. As we pursue Christ and find ourselves in Him, God’s love surrounds every fiber of our being.
He loves us as His children, even in the midst of our failures. We no longer have to hide, because His love is a safe place. We can swing open the curtain currently shading our lives from others to a God who loves us. The masks no longer have to stay on.
This is truly good news, because if our holiness did not spring forth from God’s movement toward us, it would be something we could achieve on our own. We would establish rules and regulations of what was needed for holiness to be achieved. We would make sure everyone followed the holiness party-line.
If holiness didn’t first begin with God’s pursuit of us through His holy love, we would aim to prove ourselves.
God’s love is an action of goodness in the midst of our unworthiness to receive it.
This shifting narrative from shame to love is what we need to slowly filter into our lives. Rather than being stuck in deceptive patterns of sin, God extends His merciful hand to us, calling us to walk in relationship with Him. I love how J.I. Packer develops this shift in terms of holiness:
“The life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration. It does not grow elsewhere.”
Holiness does not begin with us. It begins with God.
True holiness is a life of unwavering devotion birthed out of a deep affection from and for God.
God desires to create a tabernacle out of our lives to speak His words of truth to our broken world. As He indwells our lives, holiness is lived out through us into a world desperately looking for hope and for life.
Holiness is what we have ignored and holiness is what we need. All along God has desired for us to experience the truth of His immense love for us.
This is where holiness begins.
Kindle Deal of the Day: Every Bush Is Burning by Brandon Clements. FREE.
Jack Bennett has a wife, two kids, the perfect job–and the perfect affair. When he is caught and it all comes crashing down, Jack is left with no one to turn to. No friends. No family, except his recovering drug addict of a sister. On a Sunday morning drive, he sees a homeless man locked out of a church service, banging on the door. He stops and offers the guy a cup of coffee. He asks the man his name, and the guy says Yeshua. As in, Jesus. Jack’s not stupid. This isn’t the real Jesus. But with nowhere else to turn, Jack forms an unlikely friendship with this eccentric homeless man–one that will test his idea of truth, faith, love, and forgiveness.
Through the mirror dimly all we see is the chronically disappointing person who never quite satisfies us: the blogger who is never quite popular enough, the billionaire superhero who still isn’t satisfied, the Facebook poster whose clever or provocative posts don’t ever change anyone’s minds. But in Christ we see more clearly the truth about ourselves: that we are the beloved property of the God of all creation, Who invites us (if we are willing to give up our own sovereignty) to be used as a specific piece of a spectacular plan, far grander than those plans which our own minds conjure up.
Bush stressed the importance of a leader having a vision and principles that won’t be sacrificed for the sake of popularity. ”When that happens, organizations tend to fail,” Bush said. “A lot of my decisions were informed by a set of principles I had developed by the time I went to Washington.” Popularity is like a “poof of air,” according to Bush. ”Principles are enduring,” he said.
While we need to apply the text to a given congregation, does this mean we just use a verse to jump into some agenda of ours? No. That’s not preaching. I have one word for the ranters out there: Keep your finger on the text when you teach and preach. And I will try to do the same.
God has not called us to rant, he has called us to preach the word - faithfully, consistently, pastorally, patiently, and theologically.
David Mathis’ interpretation of Jesus being with the wild animals:
Mark has such limited space to tell about the history-altering life of the Son of God come as man. Why bother mentioning that in his forty-day wilderness venture Jesus “was with the wild animals”? I doubt we should assume it’s a random detail. Mark’s narrative is much too carefully crafted to think that. Then what’s the point?