Thoughts

Priesthood: Obligation or gift?

In our Sunday morning series, we have been exploring concepts of Identity that children of God are automatically called into.

Last month, we spent a good amount of time looking at our identity as priests. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we are a “royal priesthood.” Why? So that we may have direct access to God, and so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

Wrapped up in this identity as priest is a sobering reality: our body (spirit, soul, and physical form) is a very holy place. You are His temple.

It would be easy to take a glance at this reality and be intimidated by all it entails. It would be easy to view it as heavy and burdensome. But, how does God view this identity He has established for us?

“And you and your sons with you shall guard your priesthood for all that concerns the altar and that is within the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood as a gift…” Num 18:7 ESV

I suppose it should be intuitive. Our identity is a gift. Priesthood is a gift. But just in case I get overwhelmed or intimidated at the thought, God gives us the affirmation in writing, “I give your priesthood as a gift.”

The Holy Spirit Hasn’t Changed

As Desiree and I worked on The Holy Spirit of the Bible, a central message began to take form: the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed. He is the same Spirit that was at work as far back as the Old Testament takes us. This is particularly significant for Christians to understand who dismiss the complete work of the Holy Spirit because of confusion over Acts 2 and Pentecost.

I was reminded of this reality once again today as I read Numbers 11. Moses is exhausted, frustrated and burned out as he faces the reality of leading the children of Israel. As Moses brings his frustration to the LORD, God responds by offering to Moses to “take some of the Spirit that is upon him” and distribute it upon the Elders of the 12 tribes. Look at what happens as the Spirit of God, very early on in the Bible, falls on His people:

“…it came to pass, that when the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.” Some sources state that this was a one-time occurrence. Other biblical texts state that they prophesied and “continued to do so.” The point is that the Spirit of God behaved here as He did elsewhere in the Old Testament, as well as in Acts 2, as well as in the rest of the New Testament, as well as He does today. God has not changed, nor has Jesus’s intent for us through His Holy Spirit.

Interestingly, the people’s response to this activity of the Holy Spirit resembles what it often looks like today:

Eldad and Medad, two of the Elders on whom the Spirit had fallen, were prophesying out among the people. “Then Joshua the son of Nun, the attendant of Moses from his youth, said, ‘Moses, my lord, restrain them.’ But Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put His Spirit upon them!'” Numbers 11:25-29

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, reiterates the same exact sentiment when he states, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy…One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now, I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy…”

Many Christians believe that a transition happened after the first century, once the last of the disciples(turned apostles) died off, and that the Holy Spirit stopped being needed in the capacity Jesus told us we would need Him. The Bible, however, doesn’t indicate at all that such a transition would happen.

If there is any sort of transition identified in Scripture, it is between the Old and New Testaments, where Jesus changed how we interact with God. If there is any sort of delineator in the Bible between God’s former and current approach, it is hinged upon the work of Jesus Christ.

And while this, THE transition of all history, does change the access we have to the Spirit of God, it does not change Him, His attributes, or His behaviors as recorded in the Bible.

 

New Release: The Holy Spirit of the Bible

The Holy Spirit of the Bible is a comprehensive look at the activity of the Holy Spirit throughout the Old Testament and the New. With such divergent views on the Holy Spirit in the Church today, Christians are often put-off, misled, or forced to choose a denomination based on how comfortable they are with certain teachings about the Holy Spirit. Our desire is to strip away the fears, hang-ups, and denominational filters from the minds of Christians in order for them to discover the Biblical portrayal of the Spirit of God. The premise of The Holy Spirit of the Bible is simple: We define the Holy Spirit by our fears and whims, and miss out on the best of Him!

Print version via Amazon

Print version via Paypal (Authors are paid higher royalties this way!)

eBook versions are also available on iBooks and Kindle!

The Semantics of Fear

God woke me up in the wee hours this morning: He wanted to talk aboutme. I asked him, “What about me?” and the impression that I got was that He wanted to talk about my being fearful of my calling.

I’m not fearful of calling in the traditional sense of “What if God asks me to do something I don’t want to do.” Instead, I am fearful because I don’t want to miss out on my calling.

I argued back and forth with Him a little about this. “Isn’t it a good thing to be fearful of missing out?” There is a sobriety that comes with keeping your eyes on His lead. He responded by simply stating, “Healthy fear.” “But that’s what I’m talking about!” He was trying to show me that there is a healthy fear and an unhealthy fear of missing out.

I think I missed the point for a while until He pointed out a subtle distinction.

It is the difference between being fearful and being afraid. Listen to the difference:

Fearful: feeling fear, dread, apprehension, or solicitude

Afraid: feeling fear, regret or reluctance

I told God I was fearful of missing out on my calling, but He wanted to show me that the healthier perspective would be to be afraid to miss out on my calling. Being fearful involves dread, and I almost see it now as a state of being controlled: being full of fear. That doesn’t sound healthy to me at all. Being afraid, however, does not involve dread. And the aspect of “afraid” that stood out to me most was the part about regret.

I do not feel dread. What I do feel is an awareness of the regret that I would face if I were to become entangled in the affairs of this life and miss out on the best that God has for me.

I will no longer say I am fearful of missing out on my calling.

This is, once again, a reminder to me that my Father does not want me to be ruled by fear.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18

Sneak Peek: The Holy Spirit of the Bible

Desiree and I have completed our current manuscript and it is officially on the market! The working title is The Holy Spirit of the Bible. In a time when books on the Holy Spirit focus on being primarily inspirational, we really wanted to take a solid, Biblical view of the roles of the Holy Spirit throughout the Old Testament and the New, and laying the groundwork of Scripture, we then illustrated with inspirational examples of how the Spirit of God continues His robust work now as He always has.

Take a look at an excerpt from the first chapter of the manuscript for a better understanding of where the book is going!

Chapter 1-What we are missing is the Holy Spirit

“I was living as a model of Christianity, both in study and in service. But deep inside, I had a growing sense that something was missing.”

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” John 15:16

It all started with the question from my young son who had just watched Star Wars.  “Dad, is ‘The Force’ real?”  For those of you who have not watched this movie or read the books, it is a fantasy story about a future struggle between good and evil throughout the galaxy.  In this setting, good and evil are characterized by either “the light side” or “the dark side,” both being polarized representations of “The Force,” an energy that one could learn to harness and utilize.  The utilization, of course, depends on your desired effect.  Will you use “The Force” selflessly for the good of humanity, or will you use it selfishly to satisfy your own lust for power?

My son was quite unaware of the deeper storyline, or the world-views represented in this film, produced during an era of a great societal search for meaning, fulfillment and spirituality.  Many influential Christ-followers came out of this movement, as did an influx of New Age thought and pagan belief that led into the material excess of the 1980’s.  My son, rather, was fascinated by the cinematic ability to use “The Force” to retrieve a light-saber without even touching it.  “Dad, is ‘The Force’ real?”  I pondered this question briefly before responding from my heart.  It occurred to me that this might be a pivotal opportunity for his young heart.  “Son,” I replied, “There is something much, much better than ‘The Force.’  You think it is amazing be able to pull a weapon toward yourself by just reaching for it, or to change someone’s mind by implanting thoughts in their head.  What if,” I asked him, “What if you could heal someone by praying for them and touching them?  What if you could bring a dead person back to life?”

This was a great opportunity to impart spiritual truth to the mind of my young son, all in language that he would understand. The intent was emphatically clear in my mind.  I wanted him to understand the difference between cheap parlor tricks and true miraculous happenings. You see, for every perfect gift from the Creator, for every attribute of His perfect character, for every manifestation of the great Yahweh’s will, Satan has an imitation.  These imitations are knock-offs, like swap-meet Rolex watches.  They look like the real thing, but when tested, when examined, when scrutinized for the Maker’s mark, they fail the test.  As you will soon see, God’s glory is the core motivation behind every authentic act of God. For this reason, we will spend substantial time in this book examining the concept of counterfeits.

Counterfeits have deliberate targets in their deceit.  There are counterfeit fruits of the Spirit, gifts of the Spirit, roles of the Spirit, miracles and supernatural phenomenon.  False fruits of the Spirit, for example, infiltrate the Church, appearing to be Godly, and skew people’s hearts to a point that is just off target.  These are the subtle ways that Satan and his fellow fallen angels, “the enemy,” weasel their way into congregations and deceive people into thinking they are spiritually healthy.  Counterfeit miracles, on the other hand, are much more recognizable to most Christ-followers, but I think the Church is generally afraid of them, whereas the world obsesses over these supernatural acts, ascribing glory and power to them.  Just take a look at your local TV listings and see how many talk shows and primetime dramas are dedicated to the paranormal.

I personally believe that the enemy’s greatest triumph in this world is in keeping the Church unaware, deceived, afraid, and naïve of its God-given role in His grand design.  More specifically, I believe the enemy targets Christian men in order to keep them oblivious, disconnected, overworked, and disenfranchised, all so that they don’t awaken and discover their destiny as warriors and elders for the Kingdom of God. One of the ways our enemy achieves this is by keeping us from the Heavenly Father, through any means necessary. It may be through guilt over sin, it may be through distraction and busyness, but probably and most tragically, it may be through our denial of the work of the Holy Spirit, whose primary role is to bring us to, and keep us connected with, our Father in heaven. What more effective way to cast doubt on the work of the Holy Spirit than to flat-out deny that the work even exists.

We are robbed by our fear

Our fears in life are typically born out of our instruction and experience, and the same holds true for our fears regarding the activity of the Holy Spirit.

Some of us come from settings where the Holy Spirit was simply never really spoken of. And while there was perhaps no theological slant to muddle or confuse such a person, there was also a distinct lack of models and teachers to introduce these Christians to the Spirit of God.

Others come from settings where the activity of the Holy Spirit is the main focus of teaching, preaching, evangelism and ministry in general, often outweighing teaching about Jesus or the Father. Perhaps they are taught that there are “proofs” of salvation for all believers, such as speaking in tongues. At times they may have been very uncomfortable with how the gifts of the Spirit were portrayed. Maybe they have hungered for deep intimacy with the Father, but the extremes of their church experience regarding the display of gifts only seem to scratch the surface of true spirituality.

Finally, there are those whose church background emphatically denies the miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit, particularly in the area of spiritual gifts. These people are called cessationists, as they believe that the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit ceased when the Bible finally came on the scene, or when the last apostle had died. There are differing levels of strictness in this group: some accept that God may still directly perform a rare miracle, but not through a Christian, while others do not believe in miracles at all.

Tower of Babel depicted on ancient stone stele

by Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

Tower of Babel

Image: Detail of the Tower of Babel stele, with the engraving of King Nebuchadnezzar II. (Copyright The Schøyen Collection, MS 2063).

A team of scholars has discovered what might be the oldest representation of the Tower of Babel of Biblical fame, they report in a newly published book.

Carved on a black stone, which has already been dubbed the Tower of Babel stele, the inscription dates to 604-562 BCE.

It was found in the collection of Martin Schøyen, a businessman from Norway who owns the largest private manuscript assemblage formed in the 20th century.

Consisting of 13,717 manuscript items spanning over‭ ‬5,000‭ ‬years, the collection includes parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient Buddhist manuscript rescued from the Taliban, and even cylcon symbols by Australia’s Aborigines which can be up to 20,000 years old.

The collection also includes a large number of pictographic and cuneiform tablets — which are some of the earliest known written documents — seals and royal inscription spanning most of the written history of Mesopotamia, an area near modern Iraq.

A total of 107 cuneiform texts dating from the Uruk period about 5,000 years ago to the Persian period about 2,400 years ago, have been now translated by an international group of scholars and published in the bookCuneiform Royal Inscriptions and Related Texts in the Schøyen Collection.

The Tower of Babel stele stands out as one of “the stars in the firmament of the book,” wrote Andrew George, a professor of Babylonian at the University of London and editor of the book.

The spectacular stone monument clearly shows the Tower and King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled Babylon some 2,500 years ago.

Credited with the destruction of the temple of Solomon in 586 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar II was also responsible for sending the Jews into exile, according to the Bible.

The first Babylonian king to rule Egypt, he is also famous for building the legendary Hanging Gardens, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, and many temples all over Babylonia.

Calling himself the “great restorer and builder of holy places,” he also reconstructed Etemenanki, a 7-story, almost 300-foot-high temple (also known as a ziggurat) dedicated to the god Marduk.

Biblical scholars believe that this temple may be the Tower of Babel mentioned in the Bible.

In the inscription, the standing figure of Nebuchadnezzar II is portrayed with his royal conical hat, holding a staff in his left hand and a scroll with the rebuilding plans of the Tower (or a foundation nail) in his outstretched right hand.

According to George, the relief yields only the fourth certain representation of Nebuchadnezzar II.

“The others are carved on cliff-faces in Lebanon at Wadi Brisa (which has two reliefs) and at Shir es-Sanam. All these outdoor monuments are in very poor condition,” he wrote.

The inscription also depicts the Tower of Babel from a front view, “clearly showing the relative proportions of the 7 steps including the temple on the top,” the Schøyen Collection stated.

The stele even features a line drawing of the ground plan of the temple, revealing both the outer walls and the inner arrangement of rooms (see below).

 

Moreover, captions clearly identify the tower as the “great ziggurat of Babylon.”

King Nebuchadnezzar himself talks about the amazing construction:

“I made it the wonder of the people of the world, I raised its top to the heaven, made doors for the gates, and I covered it with bitumen and bricks,” the inscription reads in the translation by professor George.

Depicted in a long series of fanciful paintings, including artworks by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Gustave Doré, and M. C. Escher, the Tower of Babel is mentioned in the Bible, which says the people of Babylon were trying to build a tower to heaven.

God concluded that they were simply trying to gain power and caused the workers to speak many different languages. Unable to communicate with each other, the workers gave up the project.

“Here we have for the first time an illustration contemporary with Nebuchadnezzar II’s restoring and enlargement of the Tower of Babel, and with a caption making the identity absolutely sure,” the Schøyen Collection stated on its website.

Interesting article on how to use hardship as a catalyst for improvement

What Man Hasn’t Squandered a Life Changing Event?

by A MANLY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR on NOVEMBER 20, 2011

 

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tyler Tervooren from Advanced Riskology.

The other day I asked myself, “Tyler, how long has it been since you’ve recognized yourself?”

That’s a pretty funny question when you think about it. But the truth is the me that I know today is less than two years old. My life has changed dramatically in the last 20 months—by accident at first when I was fired from my job, and then slowly but surely on purpose as I learned about what really motivated me to make significant changes in my life.

To say I’m happier now is an understatement. When I look at pictures of myself from a few years ago—slightly overweight, mildly depressed, and generally bored—I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the old me. If only Old Tyler had learned earlier what New Tyler knows now…

I turned 27 a few weeks ago. Birthdays have a funny way of making you examine what the hell you’re doing with your life. If you’re lucky, you won’t come out of it too depressed. And for the first time in a long time, I was excited about the year ahead.

And what about the year ahead of you? This is your life after all, and time seems to speed up with each one that passes. If you’re waiting to make a change for the better, then what, exactly, are you waiting for?

Me? I was waiting for something big to happen—a sign from the universe that told me it was time to change. Lucky for me, I got it when I was fired from my job. But should I have needed that? I don’t think so. I certainly don’t feel like I need it now. I’m capable of any change I want to make—with or without any galactic message.

The truth is, these kinds of messages surround me every day if I’m willing to look for them.

What Man Hasn’t Squandered a Life-Changing Event?

Human nature tells us to strive for more: own more, do more, be more. As a man, this is both your gift and your plight. And while we’ve learned to accept and attenuate our desires to have and do more, what man goes a day without wishing to be more?

And is that such a bad thing? Is it not required of us, as men, to attempt to be more each and every day? To be more faithful and less capricious? More dependable and less inconsistent? Filled more with life and less with burden?

What man doesn’t wish to be better tomorrow than he is today? And what man who doesn’t deserves tomorrow at all?

So we aim, strive, and toil to improve, but so many of us find improvement fleeting. Improvement means change. And change is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Change is risky.

Despite the intense desire to pursue it, our habits of yesterday tend to win the fight for the future—the best predictor of how a man will behave tomorrow is how that man behaved yesterday.

So how does a man, flawed as every other and steeped in responsibility and other burdens, change his position to become better? How does he begin to reconcile the difference between the man he sees in the mirror and the man he constructs in his mind?

The answer, perhaps, is not so complicated:

He alters himself in response to a life-changing event.

The Life-Changing Event as a Force for Revolution

If motivation is the missing ingredient for a man to make a change in his life and follow his dream, then fear is almost certainly the culprit. This fear stems from the risk that if he were to try, it may not work. Failure, they tell us, is something to be celebrated, but science tells us—and a man knows intuitively—that depression is the result when we try and fail to change something important.

These are large hurdles to overcome, yet nothing makes overcoming them easier than a truly life-changing event, and almost every man has experienced one in his life.

The unexpected loss of a job, a messy divorce, a death in the family, or the prognosis of a terminal illness. These types of unwanted traumas, time and time again, produce massively positive changes in those fortunate/unfortunate enough to experience them.

Life-changing events work because the unsolicited stress they produce is many orders of magnitude greater than the changes that used to seem enormous and insurmountable. They raise a man’s stress threshold.

When you can look at yourself and objectively say, “Everything in my life has changed, and the world will never be the same again,” what seemed impossible before, now becomes inevitable.

If you were given six months to live, would you spend your day tomorrow the same way that you plan to spend it now? What if you separated from your wife or girlfriend with the knowledge that you’ll never be together again? Would you behave the same as you did yesterday, or would you immediately make a change? If tomorrow you lost the job you hate but can’t imagine leaving, would you immediately look for another one you’d hate, or might you apply a little different criteria to the work you’re willing to do?

Without a doubt, a truly life-changing event can take a man’s dreams and make them a reality in rather short order. The problem, of course, is that you get no control over these things. You have no say in when an event like this will come, so instead, you wait impatiently for one to arrive, all the while praying that it never actually occurs.

But in the meantime while we wait for these life-changing events, we’re squandering many smaller ones every day.

Mini Life-Changing Events: How a Man Changes His World on Purpose

Perhaps the reason we need such enormous events to make an appreciable difference in our lives is because the changes we want to make are equally enormous. When our desires are overwhelming, so to must be the events that precipitate them.

So, what if you were to dial down your desire? Cut it in half. Then cut it in half again. And again.

What if you dissected your desire for change until you had something so small and commonplace that it took almost no effort at all to achieve? Then what kind of life-changing event would be necessary to motivate you to act? An equally small one.

And what if you multiplied these changes over time? What could you accomplish in a week, a month, a year if you acted on one unremarkable life change each day?

What kind of remarkable things might they add up to? Who might you become then?

Each and every day, we wander through the world, manipulating it as we go. And with each step we take, breath we breathe, word we utter, the world manipulates us back.

Each of these moments has the potential to be the catalyst for the world’s tiniest revolution, if only you repair your filter to allow yourself to see them. But with no milestones to guide the way, they’ll go unnoticed—squandered by a need for too much, too soon.

Just as the savvy card player looks for an opportunity in every hand rather than waiting to be dealt a royal flush, so must you look for an opportunity in every moment of every day. The card player may need $1 million to win the tournament, but he must get there $1,000 at a time. You may need to turn your life 180 degrees, but you must get there in excruciating 1-degree pivots.

The beauty, of course, is that these tiny actions don’t act independently. And they don’t only add together, they multiply. Each step, each pivot, builds momentum in an exciting new direction.

The card player may start by winning $1,000 hands, but with several of those behind him, $10,000 hands become the new normal. Before long, he is winning $100,000 hands and his ultimate goal is at the tip of his fingers.

To begin this process, though, a man must wake himself up—not in a physical sense, but in a perceptual one.

The Awakening of a Man to the Realization of His Dream

Once a man realizes that the task in front of him is to make many small changes over time, his immediate goal must be to wake himself up in a way that will allow him to estimate the changes needing to be made.

To do so, he must make three critical adjustments to his life:

  • The tuning of his perception filter
  • The deceleration of the speed of his life
  • The reframing of his daily experiences

By focusing his attention here, he can prepare himself to take advantage of the many life-changing events each day that were never noticed before.

The tuning of your perception filter

In order to make tiny changes, you must prepare yourself to see the tiny things that precipitate them. Where you previously waited for life to hand you a striking blow, you now must turn up the dial on the microscope and become sensitive to the many small events that happen each day that affect how you behave.

By tuning your perception filter to a finer lens, you prepare yourself to take in the many otherwise unnoticed events in your life. Rather than seeing a bad day, you’ll see the individual things that went wrong that lead up to such a day. And you’ll notice the things that went right, but weren’t good enough to overcome your negative feelings.

More importantly, you’ll see the way you reacted to each event so that you might start to alter the way you behave when a similar event occurs again.

Instead of seeing your boss as a jerk, you’ll see the minute characteristics that make you feel this way about him. You’ll pinpoint the problem, and then you’ll see how you react to him so that you may alter your own behavior.

Rather than seeing a task as too hard, you’ll see the many small parts of the task—the ones that are easy to complete, and the ones that will keep you from finishing it. This will allow you to see where your attention must be focused to improve and complete the work.

With the ever finer tuning of your perception filter and each alteration of your behavior, you’ll begin to build small successes that add up to a sum much larger than its parts.

The deceleration of the speed of life

In a modern world, your life is allowed to move at whichever speed you choose for it. And the predominant setting for most men is “fast,” so you’re likely to default there without consciously deciding on it.

But once you’ve adjusted your perception filter to take in more of life, fast becomes incompatible with your new settings. Fast results in information overload and makes it nearly impossible to choose and analyze the most important micro life events that will allow you to make the progress you want.

When you drive through a city, how much detail do you notice? If you were to travel back through on a bicycle, what might you see then? And if you took the whole day and simply walked across it, what kind of relationship would you build with that place that would have been impossible from a car?

The goal now is to place the emphasis of your actions on “effective” over “efficient.” You must give yourself the opportunity to see the right pieces of life to be worked on. When you move slowly, this is easy to do. But if you move too quickly, it’s very difficult because the temptation to “just get things done” becomes more and more pervasive.

In practical terms, this may mean removing yourself from regular social habits and replacing them with solitude where you can reflect on your day. Or it might mean refusing an extra task at work so that you can give your full attention to the project that’s most important to your success.

When life slows down, improvement speeds up.

The reframing of your daily experiences

Perhaps the biggest problem that a man wanting to change his life faces is his frame of reference. When life is diverging from the path that you want it to be on, it’s easy to feel defeated and begin to look at each day as something to get past, hoping that the next one will go better. Unfortunately, with this viewpoint, it won’t.

If this exists in you, then it’s critical that your perception change before progress can be made. Instead of looking at each day as something to get past, you must reframe it as a series of events to get through instead.

When you attempt to get past something, the details don’t matter. But when you’re trying to get through something, you begin to place more emphasis on the method that you use to get through it.

This may seem inconsequential—both of these ways through life are less than ideal—but the difference is important. By allowing yourself to focus on details, you enable yourself to manipulate them. And by allowing yourself to manipulate them, you set yourself up to change them in ways that align with who you really want to be; you open yourself up to the process of change.

A Man on the Right Path

What man hasn’t squandered a life-changing event? Likely no man at all.

But with an improvement-minded attitude and the right perspective, any man can take control of what seems like a wild and unpredictable world, and spare himself from squandering any more.

He can begin to do this by refining his perception filter, slowing the speed of his life, and reframing his daily experiences. And hopefully he will, because even though these life-changing events are all around us each day, their numbers are finite, and one day every man will find himself without any more ahead of him.

Let no man forget that the quest to become who he desires to be is not only possible, it is also urgent.

Go forth and be more.

__________________________________

Tyler Tervooren writes for men making important changes in their lives at Advanced Riskology. Connect with him on Google+.


Commissioned Conference 2011

I just returned from Saddleback Church’s Commissioned Conference 2011, a conference intended to bolster church planters in their passions, strategies, and actions. Rick Warren spoke during the main sessions, and other church planters spoke in the breakout sessions. It was a deeply valuable experience and I had several takeaways.

For many years I have had a deep passion for what the Church could look like. Ten years ago, God began planting the seeds of a vision that has become clearer and more eminent in my own mind and heart. Attending the conference, it was clear that I was not alone. But the clarity that I hoped to leave with eluded me, as instead more questions were triggered that I have yet to find answers to. I took many notes, both from the wisdom of fellow attendees as well as the speakers themselves.

What was instantly obvious is that all the presenters, seasoned church planters, have a shared passion: Evangelism. While it may seem intuitive in hindsight, I was caught off-guard. I’m not sure why, but  I was expecting more variety in the types of passion and roles represented, but the Evangelist clearly is the heart of the church planting movement. This presents a conundrum for me, as my primary passion is for Discipleship. I was designed to be a Pastor, not an Evangelist. Now, of course, there is always overlap. But, the serious question emerged, “Do I have the right passion for church planting?”

We reviewed independent statistics about the church and we discussed all kinds of church planting strategies, but another concept began to take shape for me. The vision that I have believed in for so long, the picture of what the Church could truly be, was deeply reinforced over the course of the conference. The healthiest churches are churches that all share that common core belief system about the purpose of the Church, based in the five principles from Acts 2 and Ephesians 4:11.

I have much to process. Is this vision for a healthy church intended for me to initiate? Is a passion for a healthy Bride of Christ enough, or does a church planter really need a primary passion for the lost? All I know for certain is that I have been discipling within the Church for many years, and it isn’t enough anymore. It isn’t enough to only reach a few.

The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: The Warrior

This is a fantastic post that I have borrowed from The Art of Manliness. I love how it details the “redeemed” and “unredeemed” versions, or the mature vs. immature. If you are wired this way, where do you find yourself in this process?

BRETT & KATE MCKAY on OCTOBER 23, 2011

This is the fourth part of a series on the archetypes of mature masculinity based on the bookKing, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading the introduction to the series first. Also, keep in mind that these posts are a little more esoteric than our normal fare, and are meant to be contemplated and thoughtfully reflected upon.

Every great civilization has a great warrior tradition and accompanying warrior myths. The Old Testament recounts the stories of a warrior people and a warrior God. In the ancient Mediterranean, the Spartans had perhaps the most legendary warrior tradition. From birth, Spartan society nurtured and trained their boys to become warriors, and that rigorous training created men like Leonidas and his 300 men of unconquerable spirit. Japan had their fearless samurai warriors whose undaunted courage came from living life as if they were already dead.

Today the Warrior archetype lives on in our reverence for those who serve in the armed forces and in modern books and movies. William Wallace from Braveheart and General Maximus from Gladiator embody the Warrior archetype.

But in general, modern culture is not comfortable with Warrior energy. The advent of mechanized warfare during the first half of the 20th century dampened the romantic ideal of martial courage. Since the social and cultural revolutions of the 60s and 70s, we’ve generally taught boys and men to avoid confrontation and conflict and to instead nurture their “feminine side.” The result is the Nice Guy; the man who will avoid confrontation and aggression even when confrontation and aggression are justified.

Society pushes men to be sweet and sensitive, because they fear them becoming coldly stoic, abusive, and destructively angry. But society’s perception of the Warrior archetype is not based on the Warrior energy in its full, healthy manifestation, but on the archetype’s shadows. The problem is not Warrior energy itself, but Warrior energy that is not used in harmony with the other masculine archetypes and directed by empathy, contemplation, and order. Fighting itself is not bad, the question is simply: What is a man fighting for? The Warrior’s energy is needed not only in times of war, but on all the battlefields of life.

Properly tapping into the Warrior’s energy provides a man with an unsurpassable power source which will fuel him to reach his goals, fight for worthy causes, achieve greatness, and leave a lasting legacy.

The Warrior in His Fullness

Moore says that “The characteristics of the Warrior in his fullness amount to a total way of life, what the samurai called a do (pronounced ‘do’). These characteristics constitute the Warrior Dharma, Ma’at, or Tao, a spiritual or psychological path through life.”

What are these characteristics? Let’s take a look.

Note: While here we use the language of the martial warrior, the characteristics can be applied to any man’s life mission, whether civilian or true solider.

Aggressive

If you look up the word “aggressive” in the dictionary, these are the definitions you’ll find:

1. characterized by or tending toward unprovoked offensives, attacks, invasions, or the like; militantly forward or menacing
2. making an all-out effort to win or succeed; competitive
3. vigorously energetic, especially in the use of initiative and forcefulness

Of the three definitions, the first is most popular in modern culture. Something unprovoked, out of line. Notice how often “overly” precedes “aggressive” in common parlance. Aggression may also bring to mind military policies a person does not agree with. In general it has a negative connotation.

But true aggression should be thought of in the context of the second two dictionary entries.EffortEnergyInitiativeForce. Aggression is a neutral tool that can be harnessed for either ill or good. How it is channeled makes all the difference. A man who does not harness his aggression at all picks a fight with everyone and about everything; his relationships fail and he is stunted in his personal development. The man who reins in his aggression too much becomes the stereotypical weenie Nice Guy–proper aggression turns into passive aggression. He is too “polite” to go after what he wants, and he’s seething inside because of it. A man who has successfully integrated the Warrior archetype harnesses his aggression as the force that pushes him to compete to be the best and moves him ever forward towards his goals.

Purpose

Of course that proper use of aggression presupposes that a man has goals that he’s striving towards in the first place. A man has to have a clear and definite purpose in life, or he will feel lost and restless, like he is drifting along instead of marching ahead.

Mindful

The mindfulness of the Warrior is two-fold. First, he is always alert and awake, ever vigilant. He has keen situational awareness. He never lets complacency lull him to sleep; instead, he is always watching, observing, studying, and planning. Secondly, the Warrior is mindful of the finiteness of life and the inevitably of death, and he purposefully contemplates that death. His courage is rooted in the fact that he is not afraid to die. Life’s shortness brings clarity to his mind. He knows that any minute could be his last so he makes every day and decision count.Carpe diem! becomes his battle cry.

Adaptable

During the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army knew that it could not match the man and fire power of the British. So instead of facing them down on a field for a traditional battle, the minutemen took to the woods and launched surprise hit and run attacks on the enemy. This is the way of the Warrior; he is a guerrilla fighter. When he’s up against great odds, he bucks convention and uses his cleverness and his strategic intelligence to find creative ways to turn the tide in his favor. He is an efficient fighter–he studies the weaknesses of his opponents and concentrates his strikes there. He is flexible and able to respond to change by shifting tactics on the fly.

Minimalist

The key to successful guerrilla warfare is the fighter’s ability to travel light. While the traditional force has power in its superior resources, those resources also weigh and slow them down. The guerrilla fighter strips away all superfluities and excess baggage; he carries only what he needs and is thus quick and nimble, able to be two steps ahead of the enemy.

Decisive

In times of peace or crisis, whether for big things or small, the Warrior is able to boldly make decisionsHe doesn’t stand there shilly-shally, wondering what he should do, scared of choosing the wrong option. He is calm and cool under pressure. Once he makes a decision, he unhesitatingly moves on it because he does not live in regret. The Warrior is able to be so decisive because he trains so thoroughly for these moments; he is prepared. He thinks about all possible contingencies and what he would do in each situation before the crisis arrives. When the crisis does come, his mind and body already instinctively know what to do.

Skillful

Part of the Warrior’s confidence in his decisions is rooted in his supreme competence. Accordingly to Moore, “The Warrior’s energy is concerned with skill, power, and accuracy.” The Warrior “has absolute mastery of the technology of his trade…the technology that enables him to reach his goal. He has developed skill with the ‘weapons’ he uses to implement his decisions.”

Loyal

If you remember, the Hero is the boyhood archetype which matures into the Warrior archetype. Part of this maturation process centers on a shift in a man’s loyalties. Moore argues that “The Hero’s loyalty…is really to himself–to impressing himself with himself and to impressing others.” The Warrior’s loyalties, on the other hand, “are to something beyond and other than himself and his own concerns.” The Warrior’s loyalty centers on “a cause, a god, a people, a task, a nation–larger than individuals.” The Warrior has a “central commitment” around which he organizes his life. His life’s purpose is rooted in ideals and principles, which naturally strips away superfluities and pettiness and brings his life great meaning.

Disciplined

The Warrior has mastered himself in body and mind. His power is rooted in self-control. He knows when to be aggressive and how aggressive to be.  He is the master of his energies, releasing them and pulling them back as he chooses. He decides the attitude he will take in a certain situation, instead of letting the situation dictate how he feels. Unlike the boyhood Hero archetype, the Warrior understands his limits; he takes calculated instead of unnecessary risks. His discipline also frees him of a fear of pain. Feeble, mediocre men believe all pain is bad. The Warrior knows there is bad pain and good pain. He is willing, even eager to withstand psychological and physical pain on the path to his goals. He’s the kind of man who subscribes to the “pain is just weakness leaving the body” philosophy; he relishes difficulty because it makes him stronger.

Emotionally Detached

Not all the time, but when he is in Warrior mode. To complete his mission, the Warrior must be emotionally detached–from the fear and doubt generated by his own feelings, from the intimidation emanating from his enemy, and from the “shoulds” and demands put on him by friends and family. The Warrior needs the kind of mental clarity that only comes from single-minded purpose, or as Moore puts it, “The Warrior needs room to swing his sword.”

Switching off that emotional detachment when away from the mission represents the great challenge for the Warrior. The inability to do so can result in one of the Warrior’s shadows.

Creative Destroyer

The Warrior is the archetype of destruction. However, the Warrior in his fullness only destroys in order to “make room for something new and fresh and more alive.” His is an act of creative destruction–he doesn’t tear things down simply for the pleasure of doing so. We call upon the Warrior archetype when we quit bad habits and replace them with better ones or when we get rid of people in our lives who bring us down and surround ourselves with people who edify.

The Shadows

The Sadist. As just discussed, men in touch with the Warrior archetype have the ability to detach themselves from emotions and human relationships. While detachment provides a man with much needed focus on important tasks, when it becomes a man’s permanent state, the Sadist shadow controls a man’s psyche.

This is why soldiers, who have a mission-minded attitude while on deployment, can find it very difficult to adjust to life back home and find their place in their families, which are based on emotional needs and currents–the stuff the solider has been used to setting aside. The mission-focused life freed him from human pettiness–and returning to it can be grating. This is also true of lawyers, ministers, doctors, politicians, and other men who may be married to their job–shifting from mission-mode to domestic-mode can be difficult for them.

As the name implies, the Sadist can be cruel, even to those most vulnerable. He disdains the weak. A commanding officer in the Army may try to rigidly run his family in the same way that he led his troops. The Sadist creates unattainably high standards for himself and those around him. When a child comes home with a less than perfect grade, a father influenced by the Sadist will put her down and berate her mercilessly. A man with positive Warrior energy would have kindly shown disappointment, but then offered to help his daughter study for the next exam so she could ace it.

The Sadist’s disgust at weakness is linked to the boyhood Hero archetype. The Hero tries to break away from his mother and from feminine energy in general as he seeks to become his own man. But adult men who are still insecure about being “man enough” project this insecurity onto others. He hates what he fears is within himself.

According to Moore, men possessed by the Sadist also tend to be workaholics. They’re the men who take pride in working all night at the office and coming home at 7AM, only to leave for the office again an hour later. They’ll choose work at the expense of health and even family. They take the Warrior’s comfort with pain to an extreme and grind it out to get to the top. But they’re doing it because they really don’t know what they want out of life, and constantly working distracts them from this fact. Once they do reach the top, they often feel empty, lost, and bitter. But many Sadists simply burn out before they even get there.

The Masochist. The Masochist is the passive shadow in the tripartite Warrior archetype, and its attributes closely parallel those of the boyhood Hero archetype’s cowardly shadow. A man possessed by the Masochist feels he is powerless. He is a push-over who has no personal boundaries and will let others walk all over him. He may hate his job or the relationship he’s in and complain about it, but instead of quitting, cutting his losses and moving on, he digs in and tries harder to be who his boss or girlfriend wants him to be and takes even more abuse. Because while he might complain about the pain, he really likes it. This is the man who enjoys being the martyr.

An archetype’s bi-polar shadows often work together against a man. Men under the Masochist’s influence will take the disrespect others dish out without fighting back or asserting themselves. Then one day something, maybe a criticism from his wife, pushes him over the edge and he “explodes with sadistic verbal [and sometimes even] physical abuse.”

How to Access the Warrior Archetype

Many men today lack Warrior energy. They’ve been told all their lives that aggression is bad and they should just work on being be “nice guys.” But if there’s anything the world needs today, it’s men in touch with the Warrior archetype. It’s the energy that propels men to dare greatly and to fight for a worthy cause. So what can we do to access this positive Warrior energy?

Watch movies about great warriors. Yeah, it’s cliche, but it works. They don’t necessarily have to be war movies. Any film that showcases men with the warrior spirit will do. Here are a few of my favorite warrior movies. I’d love to read yours:

  • Braveheart
  • Gladiator
  • The Seven Samurai
  • Last of the Mohicans
  • Shane
  • Glory
  • Patton

Read biographies about great warriors. Also, dig into writings like those of Marcus Aurelius (the ultimate philosopher-warrior).

Take up boxing or another martial art. 

Do something that scares you. 

Work on becoming more decisive.

Meditate. Especially on death.

Quit shoulding on yourself. The Warrior is able to detach himself from the opinions of others in order to carry out his mission.

Find your core values.

Have a plan and purpose for your life.

Boost your adaptability by strengthening your resilience.

Study and practice the skills necessary for completing your goals. Whether that’s marksmanship, computer programming, or being charismatic, become a master of your trade.

Find the principles that you’re loyal to.

Establish some non-negotiable, unalterable terms (or N.U.Ts) and live by them. 

Compete in a race like the Warrior Dash. It’s got the word warrior right in the name!

Strengthen your discipline by establishing habits and daily routines.

Adopt a minimalist philosophy. Declutter your life. Simplify your diet. Get out of debt.