My Dear Brothers,
It has been some time since my last letter to you all, which, if you think of it, is about as redundant a statement a man can make. "Some time." Well, it's certainly not been "no time." But all that is besides the point.
Life on the farm is as good as usual - hard where it needs to be and surprising when you least expect it. The goats have been popping out kids like iPods from a Chinese factory, so I only have a few minutes to write between deliveries.
I thought I might say a few words to you all on the matter of your eyes - as in where it is they look. And so I have called this letter - How Men Look. What I am most interested in here is a directional conversation. And that should explain itself as we move along.
One of the great callings of manhood is learning to look ahead. And by that, I don't mean what my pappy used to say every time we passed one of those roadside signs: "Look... a 'head'!" while he'd point at my cranium's carriage. What I mean is looking to the future, especially as it relates to preparing for what is to come.
One of the true delights of being a Christian, is that we know how our story ends! There is still much about the life to come that is a mystery, but there is nothing mysterious about the overall goal! With that question answered, a man is free to spread the wings of his manhood in looking ahead and planning accordingly.
Every man has a plan, it is just that some men know what theirs is... and they fill in the steps along the way to help it happen. Part of being a man is being a leader, and although we fellows might lead in different ways and with different styles, nobody truly leads without considering where it is they are going.
A man needs to see where it is he hopes to go, and be more than a careless king with good intentions. He needs to work his plan from the end back to today and consider how it is he's going to get (by the Lord's grace!) from here to there.
I knew a fellow that always said he was going to retire at age 55 - not bad for a farmer! Trouble is, he never took the trouble to map out how to get to that golden age until he was 3 years from his destination. Then, surprise, surprise... he had to change his goal by 12 years or so! So man needs to give thought about how to get to where he hopes to go.
Looking forward also means thinking about trajectories - word harder to say than understand. I weren't much for geometrics in the public school, but I know if I want to get my plough straight to the other side of field, I've got to first trace the path in my mind's eye. Doing such might alert me to the fact that a stone wall exists between me and my destination - not the easiest thing to get a tractor over! Likewise, a man needs to consider the outcomes of his current direction and behaviours. If you're flirting daily with sexual sins, you might count it likely you'll end up doing worse in that matter over time. If you tend to waste money now, it is more than likely you'll have none 10 years from now.
Too many men live in a dream world, saying all the right slogans but not doing any hard slugging. If you want to change the port your ship lands at, point your bow in a new direction tonight! Nobody likes to change since it takes work and pain, but thorns and thistles are all yours until eternity friend, so you might as well get to weeding now before your garden gets overrun!
Recall the great apostle Paul. Now that man knew how to plan, far as I can tell. And so he systematically spent his life spreading the good news of Christ to city by city in ever-widening circles. He could've hopped on some ship and sailed for New Mexico, but he knew there were other worlds in-between. So, he started locally and moved outward... and had he lived long enough, part of me thinks he would've been the one to DISCOVER New Mexico in the end!
Not only must a man look forward, but he needs to look beside him as well. There is whole lot in my Bible about caring for our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But you can't care for what you can't see. Now the looking I'm talking about here is a tad more than the "O, look, here is Joe at church again" kind of thing.
Now, I understand that you brothers meet together once a month, and that is why I am taking the time to write this letter. And this meeting together is a mighty good thing, but in my days around the block I have seen men that meet and still don't take a good look at one another. They tend to let their brothers get as close to them as a tail-raised skunk. So, part of what I want to urge you men to do is work real hard, tonight, to get to know one other brother. Ask him a whack of questions and see who it is you talk sports with every other week. You could start by asking a fellow how it is the Lord got to saving him. If that well dries up too quick, ask him to tell you one of the smartest things he ever done - then one of the dumbest!
And once you start to get to know these brothers, you'll have ample opportunity to keep one eye on them. I ain't much for modern music, but I did hear a song once that caught my fancy. It goes like this:
And I will be my brother's keeper
Not the one who judges him
I won't despise him for his weakness
I won't regard him for his strength
I won't take away his freedom
I will help him learn to stand
And I will ~ I will be my brother's keeper
As great as it is to look ahead and march forward, a true soldier never leaves his fellow behind. Besides, one day you might be the wounded one needing a shoulder to lean on!
One of the things a man ought regularly to do is stop and survey the ground behind him. It can be discouraging to wake up every morning to the same old battles, so a wise man will learn to selah here and there - not to catch his breath, but to remind himself of past grace.
Dr. Piper wrote a book called Future Grace that I liked a lot. Well, truth be told, I liked about 30% of it, since I found her a little hard to finish! But the big point made sense to my little mind - we ought to look back in order to strengthen our resolve as we look forward. If God has been faithful to us (and He has) and that at every time we really called on Him, no matter how tough or terrible the situation appeared, then it only makes sense that He is going to be there for us in the future!
Seems to me this is precisely what Joshua was doing with Israel at the end of his life. "Look back in order to go forward" as the case may be.
When is the last time you took a good long look behind you to see where the Lord has taken you? Why, some of you have been snatched out of the fire and others pulled from the bog and still more ripped from the caves - and the Lord did it! And He is just as strong and just as able to do it now as He was then. Thing is, we have this nasty whispering Enemy that is always murmuring something about God running out of power or expecting us to do things in our own strength. Blasted Devil! Would that the Lord would lock him up and throw away the key - Oh, I guess that is coming. Anyway, we need to fight through his smoke screens and cling to the Truth. One great way to do that is to consider what God has done in the past.
And not just with us - but with all the saints of God since time began. Seems to me that was the point of writing Hebrews 11. As if that author were saying, "Look at some of these blokes! Yet, the Lord did some mighty amazing things through them!" Now that brings me some encouragement. Maybe you fellows could do that tonight - you know, tell each other one great deliverance the Lord has wrought on your pilgrimage.
A man's eyes can't always be up and there are a couple reasons why.
First, a man needs to look down when the look forward is full of female flesh he'd be better off not seeing. Now I know that at the root of lust is a heart problem, but it sure won't hurt a man to make a visual contract with himself. Job did and the terms specified he would not gaze on a virgin. That means that although his glance might meet with the painted eyes and over-sensualized dress of an immodest (or mostly modest) lady, he'll stare at his shoes before he'll stare at her.
Better to look down and walk into a wall than gaze at what is in front of you and fall off a cliff!
Now I know that is not always the easiest thing to do, and I don't mean to over-simplify the root of the matter - but you're a heap less likely to get hit by a plane if you stay off the runway! Can a man take fire in his bosom and not get burned? Of course not, and he might as well stay away from the matches and kindling as well!
Of course, when he doesn't, and the mind of his heart wanders to forbidden places, then he ought to be a might quick looking down in a second way - in repentance. Some men think of sin like it were a missed tee shot - something to be mad about, but a thing they can fix next time. But we need to see our sin as sin, and there is no better way to do that than give a fresh consideration to the cross. That is what my sin deserves.
Well, you knew I was going to get to this one didn't you? And rightly so! For no look down is complete without a look up! And just as we need to look up to the Lord for grace and forgiveness, we need to look up to the Lord for daily strength. I took a quick glance over my life the other day and discovered something - I tend to grow a little lax in the Bible reading and prayer department in the summer time.
You'd think those extra daylight hours would be put to better use, but I am a slacker at heart. So, this year, I have made it goal to not miss one day in June, July or August when it comes to reading and praying... and so far, the Lord has given grace.
Maybe this would be a good idea for you, too. Nothing like a week of vacation to drop rats in your grain bin. Why is it we love our rest so much? Why not take that time of less responsibilities to do more spiritual growth? That's what I'm going to aim for anyway, and I'd be happy to have y'all join me in the endeavor!
Finally, having looked forward, behind, beside, down and up - we need to look nowhere. What I mean is that a man needs to learn to humble himself and get some rest. Is it pride that keeps a man up late? Is there some part of us that just wants to believe that we can get by without a respite. Only God never sleeps or slumbers, but men have to do both.
And when you fight rest, you usually end up encouraging sin. Too much late night singularity can lead to too much sin. A man is never so vulnerable to the enemy as when he is all alone and tired.
I realize there are times a fellow has to stay up and get things done, but I'm talking more about the "stay up just because I want to" kind of thing. A wise man will learn to accept the fact that he needs to sleep, and that said sleep will do more to make him do more than a dose of caffeinated coffee in his bloodstream.
Well, such is all I care to pen between the bleating of newborn kids.
Have yourselves a pleasant meeting and remember to not waste a second of the precious time God has granted you with one another.
P.S. -- I hope the red sticks win.