3 Marks of a Real Man

We live in a society that seems low on doses of masculinity. And the occasional representations of masculinity we do encounter often twist and pervert God’s biblical intention for men.

What, then, is masculinity according to Scripture? In the book of Ruth, Boaz demonstrates three qualities every man needs.

  1. He provides: when Boaz discovers his foreign, Moabite relative Ruth has come to glean in his field, he takes action right away. Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women.” (Ruth 2:8) By asking Ruth to stay at his field, Boaz offered Ruth the opportunity to gather grain for the entirety of the barley harvest. Since Ruth and her mother-in-law were widows, this promise immediately resolved their most pressing need—food to survive. But that’s not all.
  2. He protects: it was a dangerous prospect for a foreign widow-woman to glean from field to field during this time period in Israel’s history. The book of Ruth is set during the book of Judges, a time when “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6; 21:25) And that included their way with women. Ruth was vulnerable, but she found refuge in the fields of Boaz. He comforts her, “Have I not charged the young men not to touch you?” (Ruth 2:9). With both provision and protection assured, Boaz then communicates his long-term plans.
  3. He directs: Boaz tells Ruth, “Let your eyes be on the field that they are reaping, and go after them… And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn.” (Ruth 2:9) It’s hard to express the comfort and relief Ruth must have felt in her heart. She’s at a loss for words. Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10).

We won’t consider the whole story of Ruth, but we can learn a lot from the example of Boaz. How many women and children today are waiting for the men in their lives to start offering provision, protection, and direction? Men, how would your life change if you stopped and considered your responsibilities in each of these areas? Take your wife on a date, lay out these three categories, ask for her input, then buckle up to embrace manhood. It’s a challenge we must rise to meet every single day.

We do better with examples. Here’s how Boaz did it. Notice the provision, protection, and direction he offered in this simple meal.

And at mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here and eat some bread and dip your morsel in the wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed to her roasted grain. And she ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she rose to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. And also pull out some from the bundles for her and leave it for her to glean,
and do not rebuke her.”
Ruth 2:14-16

Boaz pictures for us what God’s loyal love looks like in action. And we have the opportunity to live out that loyal love in our own lives by being real men. I need it. You need it. Let’s covenant together, by God’s grace, to do it.


The Unashamed Joy of Exclusive Love

Few joys rival that of a fiancée as she admires her diamond ring in the glitter of the sunlight. She basks in the glow of exclusive love. Her lover has made a commitment to love her and her alone, and he has affirmed that promise with a diamond ring. She unashamedly shares the news with everyone she knows. 

Marriage, the Bible tells us, is a picture of God’s love for his own people. If you are in a right relationship with God, He loves you with an exclusive love. You have a special audience with the King of creation. And that truth is cause for deep joy and unashamed sharing of the good news!

Consider a few passages from the Psalms. 

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” Psalm 17:8; also see 57:1b

“Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.”
Psalm 25:22

Do you, like the psalmist, wish that your prayers would have special power and significance as they rise like “incense” and “the evening sacrifice” before God (141:2)? Do we pray for and expect God to give us spiritual victory like David’s people prayed for his military victories (20:1-5)?

God has promised to turn His face toward our plight (4:6; 86:16a), to pay attention to our prayers (5:1-2), to see the affliction of enemies, and to be gracious to us. We can ask God to lift up His hand and not forget the afflicted (10:12), to save us (69:1; 86:2b), to consider and answer us (13:3), to hear a just cause and attend to our cry by giving ear to our prayers, answering us, delivering us, and vindicating us.

Credit: Jon Tyson unsplash.com

Just last night I was watching the new animated movie, Pilgrim’s Progress. In it, a pilgrim named Christian is told that help is never far away. All he needs to do is ask. On his dangerous journey, Christian repeats this promise to himself over and over, and often claims it, always with success.

And all any child of God needs to do is ask God for help. Help may not always come when and how we expect it, but it will always be for our good and God’s glory. When we turn to God in exclusive dependence, we experience His exclusive care. Rest in that truth today.


Pastoral Transitions: A Few Thoughts

I’m back in the saddle again. It feels like forever since I’ve written anything, and that’s because it has been forever. I am now writing from a different office in a different church in a different town in a different state, 600 miles away from where I have lived for the last 10 years of my life. It’s not a small feat to sell a condo, pick up your family and all your possessions, move several states away, buy a new home, and settle into an entirely different environment with almost entirely new relationships. So I haven’t written much lately.

Before I jump back into my blog series on the Psalms, I’d like to take the opportunity to blog about the experience of pastoral transitions while it is still fresh on my mind. I have often wondered what it is like. I have often wondered if all the effort is really worth it or necessary. I don’t think I will ever know the full answer to those questions this side of heaven, but I do have a few thoughts you may find interesting or helpful when you experience a pastoral transition, whether you are a church member watching events unfold or you are a fellow minister in the trenches. These thoughts come in no particular priority or order.

  1. God really does “open” and “close” doors. I used to hear this statement and think, “Yeah, you wanted to go do something else, but maybe you just weren’t cut out for it.” That is an arrogant, harsh thought, but I’ll admit I used to think it all the time. As I look back over the last year, I can point to specific circumstances where God clearly closed and opened doors, and it was all outside my control. There are so many factors. Calling. Giftedness. Goals. Timing. Multiple churches. Other candidates. Ministry philosophy. Communication. Money. Relationships. And God is sovereign over it all. Be careful to not belittle God’s sovereignty by questioning where God has placed his servants.
  2. Marry up. I heard this recently as my wife and I watched a special service our alma mater put on for Ron Hamilton, AKA “Patch the Pirate.” Ron Hamilton could not have been the successful songwriter that he was without his wife, Shelly, arranging and fueling into the creative genius that made all those wonderful and wonky songs. And I definitely married up. My wife Emily has been a stable, faithful companion through all the change and transition. We moved from her home church, away from her parents (they lived 15 minutes away), and her town she’s lived in for the majority of her life. She took care of our 1 yr. old and a 4 yr. old daughters while living in temporary housing for a month (thank you Gospel Furthering Fellowship!) before we moved into our new home. It’s a task not quite as daunting as carrying and delivering and raising a baby, but it’s pretty close. We’ll be unpacking boxes for months while settling into a new routine, new grocery stores, new everything. And yet she willingly did all this because she was convinced that if God wanted us to go, we should go. That is a true servant’s heart, a “here am I, send me” mentality that God can mold and use.
  3. God has his people everywhere. When we left Greenville, we had several kind and giving friends who sent us off with personal gifts and cards. They helped us pack up all our belongings and offered whatever help they could. I broke down in tears a few weeks ago when I opened a package with a generous gift from our former church and several hand-drawn cards from kids who were in our Wednesday evening children’s program. That’s what we cherish looking back- the relationships. The disciple-making joint venture that we journeyed on with other fellow sinners-made-saints. And coming to our new ministry, we were overjoyed to discover God has his people here. Many came to help us move our stuff (which is all it really is to them). Perhaps one of the most awkward and difficult experiences is watching other people sweat and grunt and struggle to move your own stuff. You know they won’t get to enjoy it nearly as much or as often as you. Yet they do it anyway. We have had others give up hours and days of their time and resources to help us paint, fix, and prepare things in our new home. We could not have done all this without these fellow believers, without God’s church. We cherish these memories with our new friends, these new relationships that make up the real “stuff” of life that matters most. It makes us excited for the future.
  4. It’s worth it. Whether you are a missionary or a pastor or whatever your calling in life, don’t forget that every bit of effort is worth it for the sake of the gospel and for the furtherance of the kingdom. To quote Jesus, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29) I can’t tell you how many times I have explained to people what we are doing and how we got here, only to find that they think I’m crazy. It just doesn’t make sense to the world to give up comfort, security, familiarity, and on the list goes. I’ve found that in our culture it really is all about climbing the ladder, providing ease and comfort for yourself, and living the American dream. And that destructive mentality has crept into the church. But we have a higher calling. When you have a Great Commission to carry out, you seek God’s direction, count the cost, acknowledge the risk, and plunge in. The reward for those saved and commissioned by Christ is “a hundredfold…and eternal life.” I can tell you from experience, obeying God’s will for your life far better than living the American dream. As John Piper has said, don’t waste your life!