The Foundation of Faith

It’s easy to forget the most important thing and move on to other things. The foundation of the context of our understanding can be taken for granted as focus shifts from design to decoration. How many times have you stopped to admire or even appreciate the concrete foundation of your home? More than likely, it is the paint, flooring, appliances and window dressing that are the focus.

The foundation of our faith is grace. Nothing in the New Covenant works for you as you work it out without an ongoing appreciation for the foundation of the grace of Jesus.

The breath you breath; literally, figuratively, physically and spiritually is only available by grace. Grace got you saved as the death and resurrection of Jesus provided your new birth and provides the resurrection of your soul. It’s His grace that saved you and now it’s His grace that transforms you.

Without a constant focus on the foundation of grace, you and I are going to think it’s about us. Our works, disciplines, ministries, knowledge, attendance, giving or some other decorative additions. Those things are nice and they can be upgrades to the previous structure, but they are secondary to and dependent on grace.

Without the ongoing and urgent embrace of grace, the Righteousness of Christ afforded to us is overlooked for our self-righteousness. We get excited about how good we are at the expense of realizing how Holy is He that lives within us.

You’ll be able to tell when you forget about the foundation if and when you find yourself full of opinions related to the decorative presentations of others. When your approval of them depends on the aesthetics of their extras (good or bad), you don’t see the Righteousness of Christ available to them as the same foundation you have required. The way you see others reflects the way you see yourself.

Mature Masculinity From a Surprising Source

The question of toxic masculinity has received plenty of  attention recently and I took an initial shot at examining the idea a couple of weeks ago here. Not too long after writing that, layers continued to be revealed as I dug deeper into what it was and what it wasn’t.

Along the way, I heard my friend Todd McIntyre teach on masculinity and where he took us blew me away. He went to one of the more unlikely sources I would have imagined. He went to 1 Corinthians 13; otherwise known as “the love chapter.” How in the world was the idea of love from a passage that is typically quoted at weddings going to illustrate or unpack a picture of healthy or true masculinity?

Verse 11, that’s how. Specifically, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit was writing on love and plopped this verse right in the middle of lovey-dovey stuff. He taught on love and wrapped it up with maturity. Specifically, he wrapped it up with mature masculinity (although it is equally applicable by either gender) as he specified that he had become a “man.” A mature man loves in a way that is consistent with the first 10 verses of that chapter. In other words, a mature man:

  • Submits his gifts and abilities to others through love
  • Is patient
  • Is kind
  • Doesn’t boast and isn’t proud
  • Honors others
  • Is selfless
  • Doesn’t act in anger easily
  • Doesn’t keep track of rights and wrongs (is graceful)
  • Rejects evil and rejoices in truth
  • Always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres

That eternal description of mature manhood puts me in a place of repentance. I need to change my mind. I need to grow up. All too often, my thoughts, feelings and/or choices reflect immature love more than they do mature masculinity. All too often, I need the grace of Jesus that comes in the wake of my repentance to heal, deliver, restore and repair my broken, wounded and incomplete soul. Then I can reflect His manhood and not rely on my toxic and temporal efforts.

Is Masculinity Toxic?

Sometimes masculinity is toxic. Sometimes it is juvenile, confused, hurt and insecure and sometimes those things are covered with aggression, manipulation, dominance, control and other defensive and offensive tactics to cover the toxins. When relationships are formed around the acceptance of those unacceptable reactions to internal turmoil, the culture of that group is toxic. The working out of a mature man is a process that requires recognition of the immaturity present far beyond puberty.

I’ve been toxic at times and so has every man who I know. That doesn’t mean that the healthy expression of masculinity I am called to is the wrong target. The opposite of toxic masculinity is not femininity; its healthy masculinity. It’s not time to neuter men; it’s time to empower them. Empowerment, however, is not for the abuse of power but for the unleashing of purpose.

Men need to be affirmed in their identity as men to breed the security that overcomes the toxins that are inherent in both genders. Affirmation and empowerment produce security and security produces humility. Humility is a key indicator of healthy masculinity.

For men, our responsibility is to tend to the toxins by honestly admitting that they are present. They are present from life’s hurts, disappointments, mistakes and challenges. They are present from dads that were absent, neglectful or abusive as they wrestled with their own toxins. The toxic form of masculinity often gets passed from one generation to the next. Healthy masculinity declares to the heritage that produced toxicity, “no more.”

  • No more abuse.
  • No more anger.
  • No more isolation.
  • No more domination.
  • No more manipulation.
  • No more.
  • Not on my watch.

But there has to be a target as you can’t really be defined by what you aren’t. So where there was toxic masculinity the determination has to be emulation and duplication of a model of masculinity that provides a greater alternative.

That Model is the man of Jesus Christ. He was strong enough to be accused and not fight back. He was courageous enough to suffer and not duck out. He was secure enough to love and not pervert. He is the model for healthy masculinity and I’ve yet to meet a man who has it perfected like He did. I count myself among many, however, that are determined to keep trying.

Working From Truth vs. Working for truth

There is a growing belief that truth is flexible and that there are evidences of what is actually right based on circumstances, feelings, compassion and preferences. Many are forming a “belief” system based on their experiences and our culture is embracing the flexibility to ensure that nobody is left out, offended, marginalized or contentious. Truth, it seems, is increasingly an archaic concept.

The problem with that is me. And you. We are too messed up to figure it out; we need a fixed point which is reliable, has stood the test of time and demands more from us than the limits of us. Truth calls us to a higher perspective and changes us in transit by stretching our capacity for actual understanding instead of contextualizing everything to our liking.

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” (Ephesians 4:17-18

The definition for “futility” indicates “what is devoid of truth” and even includes the idea of idolatry. That is, to try to figure the truth of everything out from our own perspective or even the perspective of others is lacking. That inside-out production of “belief” is, by definition, working from a faulty source which his absent the thing it requires (truth). Furthermore, it’s what we all have wanted all along; to be our own little gods. It’s exactly what happened at the fall of man, as Adam and Eve opted for control over wonder and sovereignty over dependence.

Pick a Source beyond yourself and choose One with an eternal scope. For me, it’s the Bible. Written by numerous authors, yet fitting together perfectly and standing the test of time for century upon century, I’m going “all in” with the written Word of God as a reliable Source to work from.

The pursuit of Truth will bring you to uncomfortable intersections; that’s good. Wrestle and ask the Author of the Word; relate with Him and allow for Him to change you where otherwise you might attempt to judge and/or define Him. The beauty of that as a path for pursuit is that He is incredibly faithful and He is good; He loves you more than you even love yourself. And as for the left out, offended, marginalized or contentious? He loves them, too, and His plan for them is better than your well intended attempts to rescue them.

Being Content in Abundance is Just as Big of a Deal as Being Content in Lack

There is most definitely an invitation presented to each of us to move beyond the constraints of what we can manage in our own ability. It’s scary and exciting and exhilarating and intimidating. In part, the challenge comes because the context of the invitation is “all or nothing.” We can’t compromise or carry our binky with us. We’ve got to give up heart level attachment to head level safety nets in order to get from soul to spirit.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t have “stuff” and walk in a mature expression of faith. There is nothing wrong with stuff as long as stuff has its proper place in our heart. Our heart, however, will need to be continually tended to in order to keep the stuff in order. In fact, our capacity for maturity can sometimes be tied to our ability to manage our heart related to our stuff.

The Apostle Paul wrote: ” I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13)

He has learned, which means he advanced in his understanding. More than likely, that means he experienced a variety of situations including lack or abundance. Some would argue that God intends abundance for us and others insist that He presents greater opportunities for us in the suffering of relative lack. What if it is both? If so, both means both and there is value in each. The “x” factor is our hearts.

Contentment is the absence of a need; no need for anything from anyone but OK with how things are as you are currently experiencing them. Paul says he knows how to be that no matter what. He says, however, that the contentment is not of his own doing, but through the Source of contentment. He says that he can face that variety of circumstances through Christ; the One who gives him the strength to get through the good or the bad.

Being content in the abundance can, in fact, be more challenging than being content in the little. With little, the target is clear and the variables are few. The opportunities to connect to the Source for contentment is kind of in your face. With much, however, the distractions are numerous. The external stuff calls out for attention and the pride, greed or insecurity that comes with preservation or growth of resources can be consuming. In either case, the Source for the “how” is “Who,” and His name is Jesus.

It’s Difficult to Get All of Our Stuff to the Places We Should Be

It really is easier to assimilate. It’s easier to round off the edges and fit into a culture that is tolerant of religion. After all, courteous and passive “belief” that is largely kept to yourself is not offensive as it it is futile. The problem is that passive belief isn’t belief at all; only active belief which is manifested in choices and actions is faith-based confidence.

In Matthew 28, Jesus presented a commissioning; a transfer of authority. The transfer of authority was to go into the world and make disciples. That is, go out and invite people to follow Jesus with the same authority. That necessitates a contrast between the current state and the intended state. In other words, it requires a difference between those that are commissioned and those that are invited.

The contrast is necessary, otherwise the invitation is not compelling. The presentation of an eternal King is dependent on the attributes of that King being evidence of His Kingdom. Watered-down, close-enough mutated religious attempts at a belief system with no real belief is neither compelling nor impressive. Jesus is impressive.

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20).

The evidence of the Kingdom of God is the power of God and the power of God is dependent on the presence of God. The presence of God will be most often be seen when we are in reliance on God. We won’t rely on God from a compromised place of courtesy. We will only rely on Him when we are in over our heads as we walk in the authority of His commissioning into places and circumstances that exceed our career strategy or vacation plans.

The more stuff that we have, the more difficult it is to truly not care about anything except for the commissioning. The more comfortable that we are, the more challenging it is to accept the challenges. It’s increasingly as hard as getting a camel through the eye of a needle.

I don’t even want to write this. I certainly don’t always do it. It was easier to actually do it when there was less to tend to. It was easier to actually believe in the contrast of light and dark that exists in the jails and courthouses among people who are in desperate need of hope and healing. Most of the people I interact with aren’t desperate at all; they are well-churched, well-fed and well-rested. And so am I.