Manly Monday Meditations2
On this regularly-updated post (every Monday) you will find a thought or two about true manliness in light of God's word. These thoughts will be drawn from the previous week's New Testament readings (from our "5-on-5" Bible Reading Plan). I hope you will...
1. Prayerfully read with us through the New Testament in 2020.
2. Prayerfully consider the current "Manly Monday Meditation".
3. Leave a comment (e.g., thought, prayer, request) about the readings and/or the meditation.*
4. Check back the following Monday for a new meditation.
(* the system requires comments to be approved, so I apologize for
the delay in comments appearing)
May God grow us closer to Him and to one another!
March 16 [Hebrews 5-9]: Take a minute to consider one of the verses from last week's readings: Hebrews 5:12... "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food..." What might the writer have meant by the phrase, "by this time"? I think clues scattered throughout the book paint the picture of a community that had been taught enough and trained enough, that had served enough, struggled enough, and been blessed enough to grow in genuine, spiritual maturity. And as we read here, this is the kind of maturity that turns a learner into a teacher; that is, growing in such a way that you are equipped to not only spiritually get, but also give. Brother, take a minute to think about your personal timeline; about your experiences and opportunities. "By this time", where should you be in terms of maturity? To be clear, there is not one growth chart for every believer. There are many factors beyond our control that contribute to different rates of growth among followers of Jesus. But that reality doesn't negate the question, "where should you be" in light of what God's given you. For each one of us, it should cause us to 'take stock', with humility and gratefulness, and spur us onward, no matter where you find yourself on that path of spiritual maturity. As you seek to glorify God, through the power of his Spirit, what "by this time" growth goal might God have for you?
March 9 [Acts 28-Hebrews 4]: Spiritual healthiness is connected to spiritual attention. This is clear from the opening verse of Hebrews 2: "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." As these Jewish believers struggled with being pulled back to a Christ-less Judaism, the writer of Hebrews encourages them to "pay... attention". Notice he doesn't simply say, "Don't drift away from what you've heard." He calls them to positive action; to deliberatre focus; to intentional mindfulness. What would this look like for you today? Isn't God also speaking to us through these ancient words? Notice the emphasis as well: "pay MUCH CLOSER attention". And to what should we pay this "much closer" attention? To "what we have heard", that is, the good news about Jesus Christ. The writer here is clear about the outcome if we are distracted and neglectful: "lest we drift away from it". An illustration: all of us have to pay some degree of attention to the road when we're driving. But when you are driving at night, in heavy rain, on a very narrow road, with semis barreling past you on the opposite side of the road, you find yourself paying "much closer attention" to staying in your lane. We too must recognize there are serious consequences when it comes to spiritual neglect. Brothers, ask God to show you the extent of your spiritual distractedness and neglect. And in light of His grace, ask him to stir your heart and mind today to "attention". Take time to think deeply and prayerfully about what you "have heard" and continue to hear from Him.
March 2 [Acts 23-27]: Consider what the following exchange tells us about Paul's heart: "And Agrippa said to Paul, 'In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?' And Paul said, 'Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.'" (Acts 26:28–29) We would rightly describe that as an 'evangelistic heart', that is, a heart that desires, not only for other people to personally know God through Christ, but also to be personally used by God in that process. Better still, we would rightly describe that heart as the heart of Jesus, the One who declared in Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” But could that heart rightly be described as your heart? Is it your desire that "all" who are in your circle of relationships might become followers of Jesus Christ? May that be our prayer, brothers; that God work in a saving way, through us, for the sake of those who so desperately need him.
February 24 [Acts 18-22]: How valuable is your life? I think if someone asked us about his or her own personal value, we would be quick to encourage them in light of what God has revealed: that every man and woman, boy and girl, is made "in the image of God" (Genesis 1:27), and thus, has immense value. So how is it then that Paul can declare in Acts 20:24, "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God"? Notice how the second half of Paul's statement explains the first. Yes, Paul knows his life has value. But in comparison with the value of finishing the work to which the Lord Jesus had called him, protecting himself or preserving his life (v. 23: "imprisonments and afflictions") must come second. In short, Paul is affirming that he will lay down his life if necessary to complete his mission. In light of this, ask yourself: "Do I value what Paul values? Do I value as Paul values?"
February 17 [Acts 13-17]: In our movies and news coverage, we are surrounded by depictions of courage; some helpful, some not so helpful. The worst are those that confuse 'courage' with things like stubbornness, pride, and violence. The best depictions are those that highlight how a man or woman has stood firm, in the face of opposition, for both people and principle. Acts 14 contains an ancient depiction of that very thing. The chapter opens with a description of Barnabas and Paul's ministry success in the synagogue of a city called Iconium. But we quickly go on to read that “the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” (Acts 14:2) In the face of “stirred up” citizens, motivated by “poisoned... minds”, a case could be made that is was time for Barnabas and Paul to move on to the next town. But in spite of the hostility, they stayed and ministered. And God was with them: “...they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” (Acts 14:3) And even when they had moved on, facing opposition and abuse in other towns (v. 19), we read in verses 21 and 22 that “they returned” to those same towns, “to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” To be clear, sometimes there is courage in wisely walking away, in order to 'fight' another day (vs. 5, 6). But may we also be inspired by the example of these brothers in standing firm, both for the sake of God's word and the sake of God's people. How is God calling you to this same kind of courage today, or in the week ahead?
February 10 [Acts 8-12]: What does it mean to be a “good man”? Acts 11 can help us answer that. Barnabas (introduced as “Joseph... a Levite, a native of Cyprus” in 4:36) is described in 11:23 as a just that, “a good man”. How did Luke (the author of Acts) arrive at that conclusion? The opening words of verse 23 tell us that Barnabas was “glad” when he “saw the grace of God” at work in the lives of the new Gentile converts in Antioch. This is in stark contrast to the reaction of some of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem when Peter shared about God's grace at work among the Gentiles in Joppa (11:1-3). In some sense, these critics wanted to 'guard the gates' of the redeemed community. But Barnabas rejoiced at how God was opening them wide. He was generous in his judgments, while others were simply judgmental. This was first apparent two chapters earlier when no one but Barnabas was willing to welcome the newly converted Saul (9:26, 27). In the same way, Barnabas's gracious spirit later inspired him to exhort the new believers in Antioch “to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.” Of course, Luke goes on in 11:23 to tell us the ultimate reason Barnabas was “a good man”. As Luke puts it, “he was full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Barnabas was a good man because God is a good God. The God of grace was at work in his life, so that Barnabas would both know grace and show grace. Do you rejoice when you see the grace of God at work in others? Does the grace given you inspire you to give grace, to everyone you meet? Brothers, may the example of Barnabas urge us to grow in grace, through faith.
February 3 [Acts 3-7]: Consider the amazing statement made by the Apostle Peter in Acts 3:12. After healing a man who from birth was unable to walk (and was now, according to 4:22, “more than forty years old”), Peter tells the awestruck crowd, “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” Given the incredible nature of the healing, the people who witnessed it were tempted to glorify the miracle workers, Peter and John. Some may have believed these men possessed such great power because they were inherently great men. Others, who considered themselves more religiously mature, may have believed that Peter and John were so righteous, God would bless them with whatever they asked. But Peter is quick to confront any misunderstanding about his own “power and piety”. A few sentences later in 3:16, Peter is crystal clear about the source of this man's miraculous restoration: “the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” Now think for a moment: what are you tempted to believe when God is at work in and through you? Does the idea of your “own power and piety” somehow shape your perspective? Peter and John knew that apart from Jesus they were powerless and polluted by sin. These men understood that apart from faith in Jesus, they had no standing with God. Brothers, may God work through us in powerful ways, just as he did with Peter and John. But may that power flow through vessels emptied of any lies regarding “our own power and piety”. Pray for yourself and one another in light of these truths.
January 27 [Mark 14-Acts 2]: Why do you follow Jesus? Why should you follow Jesus? There is an interesting pairing of scenes in Mark 14:3-9, and 14:10, 11. For some reason, Judas, one from Jesus' 'band of brothers', one of his designated “apostles” (3:14), “ went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them” (v. 10). But in attempting to explain what motivated the betrayal of Judas, we don't seem to find any clues in the immediately preceding passage. But in reading the other Gospels, we discover that Mark 14:4, 5 most likely describes the 'straw that broken the camel's back'. This comes into focus when we look at another account (John 12:1-8) of the same event we find described in Mark 14:3-9. In John 12, verse 4, we read that Judas was apparently the most vocal in terms of what some of the men saw as a waste of expensive ointment, a commodity that could have been sold to help the poor (Mark 14:4, 5; John 12:4, 5). But John 12:6 provides a critical insight: “[Judas] said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” Could it be that when Jesus placed this woman's act of devotion over possible financial gain (Mark 14:6-9; John 12:7), Judas became disillusioned? Could it be he only followed Jesus because he imagined that earthly riches and glory were in store for everyone close to the Messiah? While Judas may have dreamed of wealth and victory in the here and now, Jesus talked more and more about servanthood (cf. 10:42-45) and his impending rejection (cf. 10:33) and “burial” (14:8). Moreover, the idea that Judas betrayed Jesus because of frustrated greed seems strengthened by what Mark 14:11 reveals about the betrayal: “[the chief priests] were glad and promised to give him money”. Considering all this, ask yourself, “Why do I follow Jesus?” It it for earthly gain, in light of earthly desires, informed by an earthly perspective? Or out of love and gratitude for the Messiah's sacrifice; because He alone is worthy? Disappointment and frustration can often reveal our misplaced motives and confused conceptions of Jesus and his plan. Ask God to search your heart today in light of these things.
January 20 [Mark 9-13]: How easy it is for us as men to “[argue] with one another about who [is] the greatest” (Mark 9:34). Even if we don't do so out loud, inwardly, it's tempting to compare and judge; it's tempting to push others down in order to lift ourselves up, or to be spiteful and envious when others seem to be pushing us down. Do you sense these temptations in your own life, even traces of them? But Jesus shows us a very different path. He made it clear that, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all?” (Mark 9:35) If we claim to be His followers, we cannot look to the world's example: “...those who are considered rulers of the [nations] lord it over them” (Mark 10:42). Christ is clear about the distinctiveness of his disciples: “...it shall not be so among you.” (v. 43) We are called, not to be supreme, but to be servants and slaves (vs. 43, 44), beholden to God and a blessing to others. Stunningly, we do this by looking to Jesus' own example. In fact, His “ransom” (v. 45) sets us free for a very different kind of life (cf. Galatians 2:20); a very different mindset, one not of pride and comparison, but of humility and compassion. Who has God called you to serve today, as you look to the pattern and power of Christ?
January 13 [Mark 4-8]: We often want to be productive as men. But first, God wants his word to be productive in us. Our prayer should be, "God, let your word 'bear fruit' (Mark 4:20) in my life." But such a harvest always begins with vision; with spiritual eyes to see Jesus for who he truly is. "Who then is this...?" the disciples asked (4:41). They were so often blind to the truth (6:52; 8:21). But aren't we as well? What obscures your vision? To see the truth about Jesus, to experience real freedom because of his grace and power, is to be desperate for his presence. The once demon-possessed man "begged that he might be with [Jesus]" (5:18). Only Jesus, through his death and resurrection (8:31), can change our heart-defilement (7:20), the inward condition behind our sinful behavior. Thankfully, wonderfully, Jesus is full of compassion (6:34; 8:2). As you reach for and experience that compassion today, let the word "bear fruit" in the very way Jesus encouraged, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (5:19)