The Secret to Brave

(Misleading title alert! It’s not a secret. It’s on the pages of the best selling book of all time.)

It’s a dog eat dog world.

Get all you can, can all you get, and poison the rest.

Look out for #1.

Power up.

Take no prisoners.

All true statements. That is, they are true if God is not near. 

  • If He’s not near, I can’t afford to be gentle, and neither can you. Because you HAVE to look out for yourself.
  • If He’s not near and everyone’s wringing their hands, so am I.
  • If He’s not near and I fear, I get emotionally hijacked and run…or power up.
  • If He’s not near and things are getting dicey – take control! Take control and run over anyone in your way.
  • If He’s not near, in marriage, there is one goal -victory.
  • If He’s not near – His promises all through Scripture? Just words on a page.
  • If He’s not near – my prayers? Talking to the ceiling.
  • If He’s not near – my emotions – probably intense in areas like anger and anxiety. Probably limited in areas like love and peace.

If God’s not near, 
                          my universe is small, 
                                                          I’m at the center, 
                                                                                  and it’s all about control.

But What If God IS Near?

Most folks who memorize the Bible memorize Phil 4:6 – “Don’t be anxious about anything…” We love that… that’s a great command from God with a great promise.

Great verse – great verse. Known it since I was in high school.

But right before it…equally excellent. Phil 4:5:

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”  

Catch that?

“The Lord IS near.” As in Matthew 1:23, “…they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

HE is NEAR. 

That means I can AFFORD to be gentle. Gentle flows out of brave. Here’s why:

 If the Lord is really loving and compassionate and He really has this whole thing under control and He really really knows the number of hairs on your head and He really really knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, and all that knowledge and attention to detail is directed at you – and He’s near…then brave is in the bag, and gentle flows out of brave.

Be brave

The Lord is near.
So brave is in the bag.
And gentleness flows out of brave.

But what in the world does it mean to be gentle? Can be confusing. If I just do a simple word association – when I think of gentle I think of:

  • A lamb. I don’t want to be a lamb.
  • A stuffed animal. Like that creepy talking bear (click link) on the fabric softener commercial.That’s not good.
  • A door mat? No.
  • A wimp? I don’t think so.
  • A picture of a mother cuddling her new born baby taken with one of the soft glow filters so the picture looks slightly out of focus. I’m just not sure how I’m going to pull that off.

Here’s gentleness (male perspective – most get the female 
perspective on gentleness):

  • When everyone is wringing their hands in panic – the gentle man is calm.
  • When everyone is about to come to blows, the gentle man is calm but strong.
  • When the walls are caving in and the storm is blowing and it’s time for action the gentle man is in control of his emotions, confident, ready for action… and still gentle.
A gentle man is safe. Not safe and defenseless.
But safe for his wife, his kids, his friends, his coworkers.
Safe because he’s brave.
Brave because he knows that God has got his back.
He knows that the Lord is near.


A gentle woman is safe. Not safe and defenseless.
But safe for her husband, her kids, her friends, her coworkers.
Safe because she’s brave.
She’s brave because she knows that God has got her back.
She knows that the Lord is near.


Here’s what nails it for me (mentioned in previous post): 
Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
You can afford to speak softly when you have that big stick and you know how to use it.

How much better to speak softly because you walk with a big God? 

You can be a brave man or woman, who is safe and gentle for others to be around, because a BIG God has got your back.

So let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord really is near.

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Man Up!

Lots of confusion about what it means to be a man these days (and at least since the 1970’s). A few years back a political campaign thought the “pajama boy” ad lead_largewould really get men psyched up about discussing health insurance (this ad brought to you courtesy of estrogen!).

Hot chocolate or pajamas are fine but what Einstein thought THAT would inspire men? It was immediately ridiculed to death (a sign of some sanity out there).

And maybe in part, a reaction to the pajama man-child culture, “Duck Dynasty” beards Untitledhave become all the rage. Add military service, and a sleeve of tattoos…you look like you eat nails for breakfast!

I saw a guy with a fierce beard at the gym. For three weeks I thought he was completely jacked! Then realized he was actually skinny to moderate. But the aura of that beard just shown around him like some testosterone infused cloud.

But I’ve been around long enough to know that while looking manly is excellent, it is in no way indicative of “manliness,” or “maturity (see Anthony Scaramucci’s recent gutter tirade).” You really don’t know if you’re looking at a man or a scared self-centered child trapped inside man’s body.

So what is a man?

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV)

WHOA! Now that is a manly verse. And God used Paul to write it.

Paul was an epic man:

  • First century Jew = epic beard.
  • Rugged to the core. Beaten for preaching and left for dead outside of town. Got up and went back into town. Kept preaching. Who does that??
  • Viper latches onto his arm. “Shakes it off” Taylor Swift style, right into the fire.
  • No use for quitters. Canned John Mark for quitting.
  • Didn’t run from fights. Instead preached radical (and true) stuff that caused riots.
  • No fear.
  • NEVER had a cat. Look it up. 2 Hesitations 2:6

Paul had all outward trappings of virility. But what are some of the things he would say are “manly?” I’m gonna give you two that might not often come to mind.

A real man:

1. Embraces his insufficiency. Even boasts about it.

“But I’m bad to the bone! I’m tough as nails! I have muscles, and my muscles have muscles! I post fitness selfies of my muscles all…day…long.”

Are you badder than prostate cancer? All the muscle tone in the world won’t stop it pajama-boy-3from killing you.

“But I meant mentally tough, David. I’m mentally tough! GRRRRRRRR!”

Really. Will your “mental toughness” keep Alzheimer’s at bay? No. In fact, it can steal every ounce of mental fortitude you possess, until you have no mind at all.

Undeniable truth of life:

there is no such thing as a bullet proof man (or woman).

You are NOT the biggest and baddest. God is.

After God told him His power works best in weakness, Paul of the awesome beard said quite famously:

I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

Paul was a survivor who cheated death over and over again. But his success came from43766371_ml knowing he was weak and ordinary, empowered by a God who was strong and extraordinary.

Any man that recognizes his insufficiency and relies on the limitless power of the all sufficient Master of the Universe…is on his way to being a real man.

And a real man…

2. Can afford to be gentle.

I rarely hear that “real men” are gentle. Because it is a dog-eat-dog world! If it’s all on me, I cannot afford to be gentle. I’ve got to use all weapons at my disposal to get my way. I’ve just GOT to:

  • Get all I can.
  • Can all I get.
  • Sit on the lid.
  • Poison the rest. 

And of course, the natural extension of that attitude is sometimes a man becomes a human-hand-grenade-with-the-pin-pulled-out-ready-to-go-off-at-the-drop-of-a-hat. And NOT safe to be around. Never know when they’ll just…BOOM.

But Paul the riot-starting-viper-burner (Acts 28:5) says:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Phil. 4:5

If God is near, has my back, really REALLY means things like Romans 8:28 He’ll-work-all-things-together-for-my-good-and-really-cares-about-me…

I can afford to be gentle.

I can afford to be gentle at work, with my family, with others. I can be safe for others to be around.

NOT passive. NOT defenseless. Willing to bring the heat when appropriate. But safe.

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird – gentle, proactive, strong, epic.

 Teddy Roosevelt said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

How much better to speak softly because you have a big God? You can afford to be gentle because you’ve got a God who is bigger than any stick.

So grow a massive beard if you want! Get ripped from head to toe! Shake off vipers! Do NOT under ANY circumstances take a picture in a flannel onesie whilst drinking hot chocolate! Good Grief!

And take these two truths on as your motto:

  • I’m insufficient but filled with a limitless all-sufficient God.
  • I can afford to be gentle because my limitless God…is near.

That’s the goal. Amen amen.


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Wrath of God?

I’m gonna say something that many folks don’t like.

Was gonna write on The Wrath of Khan, but changed the subject matter. Still, HAD to use this picture! Ricardo’s awesomeness was clearly on display in this role.

God is angry. He’s mad, He has wrath, and this great wrath is being stored up for a great day of judgment which from reading the New Testament, is more terrifying that you or I can imagine.

Just One Example:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18

Being told that God might be angry, the majority of the population RUNS SCREAMING into one of three camps (not literally folks – hyperbole – sheesh).

Singing Kumbayah

Camp #1: Denial. 
“But David, God doesn’t get angry. Anger is my dad when he drank too much or had trouble at work. It was bad and evil, and he’d just as soon give me a slap in the face as look at me, and you never knew why! That’s anger, and it is bad, God is good, so God never gets angry! Come sit with me and let’s hold hands, burn incense and sing Kumbayah.”

Or “David, that’s why the world thinks we’re backwoods hillbillies. And because the world thinks that, even though Jesus said many are headed to destruction, and He is coming with a sword, we need to do away with this belief! So I will declare that God never gets angry!”

Camp #2: Atheistic Agreement with the Wrong Picture.  

“I’m with you David! I know God is angry, and He’s just like my dad who would slap me as soon as look at me, so I’m not going to have anything to do with God! God is angry, so I hate Him!”

Mao, Stalin, Madelyn Murray O’Hair – all atheists and all children of abusive fathers. Paul Vitz argues in his book Faith of the Fatherless that each one of these famous atheists said in effect “I agree that God is an angry, hateful God like my father, so I will reject God…to the point of not even believing in Him.”

Camp #3: Crazy Lunatic Embracing of God’s Anger.

Some folks REALLY like the idea of a God who is pure, undiluted rage. In the old days, these were called “hellfire and brimstone” preachers. They get red in the face and veins pop out on their forehead as they yell at the audience about how miserable they are (even if saved) and how God is furious all the time at everyone and whenever He called anyone “beloved” what He REALLY meant to say was something akin to “heinous beast of woe”.

Like most things, Satan loves to take a little truth and twist it into a caricature. Today the news media is all too ready to promote the caricature as the norm. So you see a little church that is made up of one extended family (40 people in all), being hateful and nasty at military funerals, and you’d think is was the Christian face of America! But it’s not. It’s MAYBE 40 people. But it gets more news than a Second Baptist Houston with a membership of 58 thousand.

So What About God’s Wrath?

So I can deny God’s wrath or reject God b/c of how I view His anger or go crazy with fury thinking erroneously that I’m like God.

Or…I can understand His wrath.  

This seems to be the wisest course. It (His anger or wrath) is mentioned 600 times in the OT, and 25 times in the NT.  So to ignore His wrath, I’ll have to toss out my Bible and start making it up on my own (like a health and wealth preacher!).

Now the question of how you deal with God’s anger is not “do I agree with the preacher?” but “does the preacher agree with God’s Word” and “do I agree with God’s Word?’ For God’s Word clearly teaches about God’s anger. And so it’s important to understand it.

I’ll explain more in my next post, but I will leave you with the best definition of God’s wrath I’ve encountered. Because (this is an important clue of what is to come), God’s wrath, God’s anger is in some ways, VERY different than ours. The definition is by Ray Ortlund, Scriptural genius. He says God’s wrath is…drum roll please:

“His active, resolute opposition to all evil.”
That, my friend, is a beautiful thing. Because evil is so…well, evil! But more on that next post!

See you then. God Speed,


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God of War?

Ares-Greek God of War, my costume last Halloween.

When some folks think of God’s anger, they think it means He’s like a God of war. Now certainly if you enslave His people for 400 years, He will be a warrior (Exodus 15:3), but let me see if I can bring some clarity to the issue of God’s anger.

God’s Anger Is (highlighting with red today because it’s a fighting, “war-like” color that makes bulls angry and upsets “progressive” teachers (this is a great link) wanting to outlaw red for checking papers):

#a. Not malicious, but just.

I read Percy Jackson and the Olympians – got it from my daughter. It’s a fantasy/fiction about a current day boy who has all these adventures with the gods of Greek mythology. Pretty entertaining.

The Greek gods were malicious and spiteful – like school kids at times. The God of War, Ares, loved a fight. He loved to stir it up just for the sake of stirring it up and he didn’t care who got hurt (had a buddy like that in high school!).

The Canaanites – neighbors of Israel – worshiped the god Molech. Molech was considered to be a fierce vengeful god who demanded child sacrifice – and the people of Judah to some extent joined in the child sacrifice! Molech was an angry vengeful god.

That is not our God.

 God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses His wrath every day. Psalms 7:11

RIGHTEOUS is the operative word here.
God’s anger is always just.

Judah rejected God’s grace for hundreds of years, worshiping by having sex with prostitutes and murdering their children as a sacrifice. And God was patient. He waited not years, but centuries to bring mete out His justice. God’s anger was not malicious – it was just.

#b. God’s anger is Not capricious or erratic, but measured. 
The definition of capricious anger, or erratic anger is anger that is expressed at the wrong time and/or at the wrong things.

Testosterone destroying car.
Even THINK you like
it- you lose your man card.

A guy is at work – things get messed up. He’s angry. On the way home, traffic is backed up. He fantasizes about having a bulldozer blade that will plow through the folks in his way, but he’s in his Smart Car so that would be unwise. Now he’s seething. He’s seething because of the traffic, work, and because of the fact that he’s driving a ridiculous car that is actually sucking the man force from his very being. His man card was confiscated at the dealership.

No cats were hurt in taking of this picture.

Then finally…home at last. He walks in and the cat just walks in front of him – barely in his way and BOOM – “meeerroooowwww” – flying cat! Everyone in the room – especially the cat – is thinking “where did that come from???” He’s angry at the wrong time at the wrong thing. Little Mortimer asks “Father…why so capricious and erratic?

God is never like that.  His anger is always accurately measured – it is at the right things at the right time.

A just weight is His delight.  Proverbs 11:1  

When God makes a judgment, when He is angry, His anger is right and true. It is His direct, calculated and accurate response to sin.

#c.  God’s anger is not selfish or impulsive, but selfless and patient.

Much of our anger is selfish. I didn’t get MY way, MY tv, MY food on time, MY, MY, ME, ME. And when do we get angry? After our selfish desires have been patiently simmering for a long, long time? Heck no! I want it NOW.

But Psalms 145:8 says The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 

2 Peter 3:9
 He is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish  but that all should reach repentance.

#d. God’s anger is against wickedness and the wicked. 

Clearly Jesus loves sinners (Romans 5:8). For God so loved the world. God loves me, a sinner.

But many extend that to say that God does not get angry at the sinner – you and me. Ridiculous. REALLY ridiculous.

The Lord was angry with Aaron, angry with Hebrews at Sinai  and with the Hebrews in the wilderness. Not just with their rebellion, but with them!

Mark 3:5 says Jesus looked at the Pharisees “with anger”. He wasn’t angry at their sin – He was furious at them? Called them things like “white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones”. Fighting words! Now He’s God, so remember – His judgment in using those words is right and true.

Jesus made a whip and drove the money changers out of the temple! “Excuse me, not mad you, just what you’re doing. Pardon me while I thrash you.”

Ridiculous. He turned over tables and popped his whip around. He was angry at the money changers.

God’s anger is real. You cannot strip God’s wrath of all emotional content and present it as a completely dispassionate and cerebral thing (Moment of truth-think I read that somewhere-not sure it’s original with me). God is not angry just with the wicked things we do, but with the wicked things we are.

And while it may seem odd to you until I explain it, the fact that God is angry at the wicked things we are is extremely comforting to me. Here’s why:

There is unspeakable evil in the world today. Children molested, children enslaved. Girls captured in India and sold into brothels for life. And not all who commit such crimes are brought to justice. So if God is sitting idly by, unmoved by this great and horrific evil…if He is not ANGRY with those who hurt children in this way, then He is NOT a good God. He’s like the judge who let’s the criminal go free. He’s an evil and wicked God. If God is not angry at unadulterated evil, where is hope in the universe? Alas, all hope is tragically gone, we are undone and God is impotent!

But (and I’m shouting triumphantly in my head right now) He is angry with the wicked.
He is a Man of War  Exodus 15:3
And while justice may not get served
everywhere on this earth in this life,
He promises that at the end of the age, justice 
will prevail for all and His goodness will triumph. 
Praise Him! He is Mighty! He is Good! And He is Victorious! 
This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

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