Early in one of my first classes in grad school, during the introduction to the one of the classes, I had an instructor make a statement about a concept of counseling that has stuck with me to this day and has become the mantra of ministry and ultimately life to me. It was supposed to make me keenly aware of the brevity of the undertaking that I was trying to pursue and it did. As time has passed, it has grown in scope to be all encompassing and I find myself now applying this concept to everything that I do. Very simply, what this instructor said was that I was called to do the most loving thing possible for those that I came in contact with.

This sounds both simple and obvious. Of course that is what I am supposed to do because the concept of love is all through the Bible. It’s at the center of what pastors preach about every Sunday morning. John 3:16, the most well known verse in scripture, talks about how much God loved the world and what He did about it. Well, the practice of doing the most loving thing for someone is not as easy as it might seem. I think that much of the time we do what we determine to be the most loving thing which actually often is not very loving at all.

The problem is that doing the most loving thing is sometimes not easy and often it’s downright ugly. It’s hard to tell the truth to someone and, in general, people don’t want to hear it and because of the potential reaction to it we shy away from sharing when the most loving thing to do is to share honestly, openly and with true care for someone’s well being. What’s been created is a façade. We share what is comfortable and the other stuff never gets addressed. We live in an entire world full of white elephants especially in the church. They are tromping through our sanctuaries every Sunday morning and we ignore them without a second thought.

The reason that we tend to not want to share the hard stuff is basically selfishness. It’s about our comfort level and it’s about our fear of rejection and it’s about our dealing with change and ultimately our dealing with possibly causing some one else pain. Getting better hurts sometimes. The cross hurt greatly and it was the greatest event in the history of the world. We truly have to calculate what we say and do and be tactful, but we are mandated to love one another and that involves caring about others more than ourselves and truly doing the most loving thing possible.

What I think about and ultimately what I write about comes directly from God. I get this unction that I just can’t ignore. Sometimes, God wakes me up in the middle of the night and I just can’t stop thinking about something and I have learned over the years that I just have to get up and write down what God is saying or sometimes there is something that I have to do. It was one of those moments when God told me to start a blog. I have always wanted to write, in particular a book, but I had never thought about this. As it turned out, I put this blog together in a couple of days. God just carried it along.and I wrote my first couple of posts and everyday God had something new that I thought He wanted me to say. I figured that’s what was going to happen and God would provide daily and I was OK with that.

The last couple of days I haven’t had anything that I felt compelled to share.. I wanted to write, but I wasn’t getting anything from God. Today is Sunday and I went to church and today’s lesson was on the fruit of the spirit, Galatians 5. As I sat there, God was talking to me. The real message today was about abiding. Abiding is an interesting concept and I think the applicable translation for abiding for us is where you live. What I felt God convicting me about today was where was I living the last couple of days. Was I totally depending on Him? Was I living every moment for Him or was I living somewhere else? In retrospect, I think that I was living somewhere else.

In perspective, had anything majorly changed in my life the last couple of days? No, not really. I haven’t committed any great sin that has caused me separation from God, but, there was a subtle difference. I don’t even know if I can describe what I am thinking about, but my life has been different the last couple of days. It’s hard to quantify. How do you gauge the difference between 100% sold out for God and having other thoughts in the way? It’s hard, but I think we have to. It’s the key to abiding in Him.

I think that when God has our undivided attention, then we bear fruit. When God doesn’t have our undivided attention, He spends all His time in relationship with us trying to get it so that we can bear fruit.  He doesn’t call us to be perfect because we can’t be, He doesn’t call us to not sin because that is not possible, but He does call us to loyalty and that is a mindset and a lifestyle. I know the last couple of days I had lost my focus and I will probably do that again, but my goal is to everyday abide in Him. I will know if I am abiding if there is any fruit.

I find, as I counsel people, that it’s easy for me to figure out the issue. Discerning the problem and the root of the cause is usually not hard and I thoroughly enjoy that process. I get excited to meet new people and I get joy from the prospect of helping someone gain insight. I tend to struggle more with the how do we fix it part of the therapeutic process because ultimately you can talk all day about the issue(s), but at some point in time it’s about change and growing or else what’s the point? It’s usually not knowing what needs to be done that hard, it’s conveying it in a way that people can be successful. In my mind, I tend to think to myself “OK now, I’ve given you all the information that you need, now go fix yourself”.

I think that we usually know what needs to be done, but struggle with the process of change and letting go of deep and perceived important parts of our life. Therapy, if it fails, usually does so at this point of the process. It’s easier to talk about the issue(s) and causes, but it gets hard when we are asked to get uncomfortable. I have come to the conclusion that it is easier to choose a bad known over a better unknown. And then, of course, there is the failure, sometimes repeated failure. Change is not easy.

So how does this apply to the Christian life. I think, at some point, it comes down to a simple concept, commitment. I think that much of life is simple, just not easy. I also think that things get complicated by our actions to avoid the simple. If we break it down, we ultimately usually know what we should do, but we lack the commitment because change and growth are hard and it almost always will cost us something. I get it. Why would I deliberately do something that ultimately is going to cause me emotional pain. Commitment is about doing something that I know will be uncomfortable, but understanding that I will be better for it in the end.

In our relationship with God it isn’t any different, but the question is what does commitment look like in our relationship with God? I think it’s simple, but of course it’s not easy. Through some significant life events over the last several years of my life I have gotten to the point of evaluating what’s important. It seemed like I was working really hard at a lot of things and even though I would have told you that I was doing them all for God, they were truly for me.

What I discovered as I evaluated what was important and slowly peeled away everything that was not was that the only thing that God asks us to do is be in fellowship with him. The only thing I am to focus my life on is getting closer to Him. So, I did. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to not worry about money, to not think about what might happen in the future, to not care about everything that I have been taught or taught myself was important? At times, it was downright painful, but slowly, over time, I have achieved some joy. Joy is good.

We live in a world that teaches men to measure themselves by standards that are not God’s standards. The world says that a man is measured by how macho he is. Macho is defined by how many women a man can be with, what kind of car a man drives, how well he can party or any one or combination of a bunch of other empty endeavors that really don’t prove anything. At it’s core, macho really means that a man gets to do what he wants without commitment. It means that when the going gets tough that it’s time to get out or get away and whatever is left in the wake is not really of any concern to him.

Most Christian men would say that they are not anything like that which has been described as macho and I would agree. The problem is that while God calls us to not be like the world, just not being the world’s macho is not God’s standard. God’s standard is much higher and so often men settle for an ideal that leaves them thinking that they are doing fine, but their families are telling a different story. I get to talk to Christian men everyday who don’t understand why their marriage and/or family is suffering. Very often they are functioning from a perceived idea of what they think God wants them to be and it’s not working.

Most Christian men will use at least partially Ephesians 5 to gain insight into what they think they should be and their interpretation of that chapter usually impacts greatly their behavior. The problem is misinterpretation and misapplication of a chapter that says a lot. To me, the main theme is for men to be the leader of their family. The chapter says a lot more than that and its all important, but this is the crux of what God wants from men. The issue then becomes what does it mean to be a leader? I think that we have to look at Christ’s example for a standard. He was tough sometimes, He was compassionate always, He cried when he was sad, He pained over decisions often and ultimately He died for the salvation of all.

So, how do men follow Christ’s example? I think it all comes down to attitude. The attitudes that I see that Christ exuded most were sacrifice and not caring what people thought, but only caring solely about what God thought. Men are influenced more by the world that they live in than most would want to admit. While men may not be what the world describes as macho, the pertinent question is are they Christ like? The issue then becomes how is that done? It’s hard and wanting to be successful leads us back to paradox. We have to be loving and firm, a leader and a servant, ultimately Christ to our families. And that leads us back to the only way we have any chance to be successful at being Christ like. We have to get as close to God as we can so that He can navigate us through the vast amount of traps and distractions that the world uses as temptations to get us not to be what our families need and not what God wants us to be.