Only A Creator

“In the beginning, God created…”

Last Sunday was Valentine’s Day, a hallmark celebration of love.  For Z-360, we talked about the Love of God as part of an abbreviated “Love Month”.  Bekah has been writing blogs all month about love and relationships.  I wrote a couple weeks ago about the Code of a Gentleman, a resource referenced extensively in one of Bekah’s blogs.  I mentioned in my discourse that  it is my belief that “until a man experiences Christ’s love in His ultimate sacrifice, he is incapable of being a gentleman.”  

As I was thinking about things this past week, I was reminded of a study I did several years ago on what Genesis 1 means.  I had heard the “God loves you” rhetoric all my life, memorized John 3:16 and other passages of scripture, yet it was all just that– rhetoric, impersonal and powerless.  The first thing I realized was the eternal existence of God-> “In the beginning, God”.  Before the beginning of time, God is, not was, but is (remember, there is not time, so there can’t be a past).  Indeed, there are many attributes or characteristics of God that can be found simply by studying the implications of the first verse of the Bible, but I won’t get into that much yet.  It needs to be noted, however, that God wouldn’t be God without being good and perfect.

On Wednesday at youth group, Jeremy talked about an universal difficulty in understanding and experiencing God’s love.  Even Jason, in his Valentine’s Day sermon, mentioned a tendency of people to reject the statement of God’s love out of hand, because of what they did or didn’t do to deserve it.  It is hard to grasp a concept of love that doesn’t require something in return, because we never experience that kind of love without faith.  Sure, there is an understanding of a deep brotherly love (Philio love) like the love between David and Jonathan in 1 Sam 19-20.  We are all well acquainted with eros love, a very selfish love that is probably more appropriate to label as lust.  There is a third kind of love, a love deeper than philio, God’s agape love, deeply rooted in who God is.

Once we move on to the fifth word of the Bible, we find a word that I think helps to explain why God loves you and I.  The word of the hour is “created”.  God created everything, excluding nothing.  God is a creator, the Creator, the perfect Creator.  Have you ever drawn a picture or wrote something and then was disappointed with it because it didn’t accurately capture the thought in your head?  It happens to me all the time. BTW this drive to create is a part of God’s image He imprinted in us.  In any case, you were disappointed because your skill with brush or pen didn’t match the complexity of your endeavor.

But, remember God is limited only by his infinite skill, his infinite perfection, and his infinite imagination.  He won’t be disappointed by His product because it would always accurately capture the thought in His mind.  In Genesis 1, God saw that all that He had made was good.  He didn’t try again because Adam’s nose was too long or his ears stuck out like yoda’s.  Adam was exactly how God wanted him to be.  Psalm 139:13-18 extends that creation to us and continues to describe God’s thoughts toward us as good, even after the fall into sin.

So how does that explain God’s love for us?  Have you ever made something and been incredibly attached to it?  Others may like the picture or writing or what ever, but you as the creator feel a certain attachment to it, a strong attachment.  We know everything there is to know about the thing, but we love it.  It is special to us.  That favorite quilt because we made it, that poem because we wrote it, that drawing because we sketched it.  Those things are not living, yet we still have that attachment.  Perhaps the closest thing  to the Creator’s love for His creation we can use as an example is the love between parents and their children. That love is based on a relationship to the parent, not on what the recipient does. 

In short, God loves because He created.  He can’t love less and He can’t love more.  Nothing better will come along to divert God’s love; in God’s mind, nothing can be better.  Only a creator could possibly love like that.  Indeed, only the Creator could love like that.  He loves you and He loves me.  He proved it on the cross when He declared that He would rather die than live without you and he did die so that you and I would have the opportunity to love Him back.    More on this in the coming weeks.

JA Menter 3

“If thoughts have wings, my head is a feather pillow.”

The Code of a Gentleman

In an effort to chime in with what my sister is doing on her blog, I am trying to finish what I have been working on for about two and a half months, upon her request.  I must say that I approach this “code” from a Christian perspective, as opposed to the secular “Emily Post” type of perspective.  I find that it is easier to act like a gentleman than it is to be a gentleman and perhaps I will make that distinction more clear as we go.

First, I have to make a series of reflections to help with where this is supposed to go.  I believe that a man’s behavior and attitude reflects the God he serves.  Conversely, if one follows God, then his life should reflect Christ’s life, attitude and behavior.  In truth, a gentleman should emit the reflection of Christ’s sacrifice.  Indeed, Jesus himself commanded the disciples in John 15:12  “As I have loved you, so love one another.”  Surely, Christ’s love drove Him to the cross in an ultimate sacrifice.  It is my firm belief that until a man experiences Christ’s love in His ultimate sacrifice, he is incapable of being a gentleman.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “You’re a gentleman and a scholar.”  People have also told me that I am full of theory, scholarly really.  My experiences, or lack thereof, make me feel deeply inadequate to speak on what I’m trying to relate in this dialogue.  Always the scholar, I’ve struggled with the action part of being a gentleman. 

I think we all know what I mean when I talk about a gentlemanly action or offer.  This would be like getting the door or helping someone carry their things.  I believe one of the underlying principles of the concept is that it is the gentleman’s responsibility to offer these acts, but it is the lady’s privelege to accept.  Responsibility would mean that a man can’t be considered a gentleman if he doesn’t offer to carry out gentlemanly actions.  The implications of this can be explained in two ways, (probably both are incredibly confusing)  1) The gentleman is made or broken based on whether or not he offers, but a lady remains a lady no matter how she choses to respond.  2) The extention of an offer makes or breaks a gentleman, but rejection doesn’t break the lady.

These offers must be genuine.  Guys, people know when you are insincere about these things.  The oddest thing I’ve seen is a guy opening the door to the backseat of a car for a girl so that he can take the front.  People see right through that offer.  Remember what Paul said in Philipians 2:3 (and about a half dozen other places) “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”   Here we come to a hard thing to say.

If one’s sole purpose of gentlemanly behavior is to “get girls”, that person is not a gentleman.  Again, a gentleman, like Christ, sacrifices without expecting to be compensated.  James 3:13-18 come to mind here, which relates that “where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there,” and “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in meekness of wisdom…the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”

As a gentleman, integrity is your best ally.  Don’t destroy it; guard it with your life.  It is built slowly over time and destroyed in an instant.  Eccles 7:1 teaches us that a good name is precious.  Indeed, our reputation reflects the God we serve.  Proverbs 6 talks about 7 things that the Lord abhors–1) Pride 2) Lying 3) Shedding innocent blood 4) A heart that plans evil 5) Feet that are swift to sin 6) A false witness and 7) One who sows discord among brothers.  It’s interesting that lying is on the list twice.  Proverbs 11:3 proclaims that “Integrity will guide you…”

Perhaps the biggest enemy of integrity is what we say with our mouths.  As a rule, say little or less.  Prov 10:19 says “In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.”  In verse 29 of the same chapter, Solomon says that the lips of the righteous know what is acceptable.  (Prov 11:12; 13:3) “Do you see a man hasty with his words?  There is more hope for a fool than for him,” Prov 29:20.  James 1:19 says to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath.  James 3 talks about taming the tongue (vs. 2-12)

I think one of the biggest no-nos we can do as men is flatter.  There is a fine line between a compliment and flattery and I don’t think I’ve discovered it yet.  The hardest thing is to find that balance.   Complementing is something we’re encouraged to do (Hebrews 10:24-25), but flattery is a swindler.  “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet” (Prov 29:5).  Indeed, “getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fantasy of those seeking death” Prov 21:6.  “…A flattering mouth works ruin.” (Prov 26:28)

Basically what this means is be real, be genuine.  Own up to your mistakes instead of being proud of them.  We are all human and mess up, but it’s how you deal with the mistakes that reflects your character and others will see that.  A gentleman can be wrong but he shouldn’t be proud of it.

You as a gentleman are responsible for the lady’s safety, so always be alert.  Again, like I said before, many can “act” like a gentleman, but being a gentleman is a continual practice.  Be intentional about it, pay attention to every detail.  In terms of safety, the gentleman should always act as a buffer to potentially dangerous circumstances.  For example, when escorting a lady on a sidewalk close to the street, always take the side of her that is closest to the street.  If by some crazy mishap, she slides on ice or something toward the street, you are in a  position to steady her before she is dumped into the street and the oncoming traffic.

All of this talks about the gentleman, but the lady has an important part in the making of a gentleman.  Ladies, if the gentleman I describe is the man you want to know, you must also be willing to make some sacrifices.   First, don’t comment on or berate a man for not being a gentleman.  If he’s really one of this fraternity of gentleman, he already knows when he doesn’t act like one and is probably beating himself up over it.  It is my experience that this form of encouragement is not helpful nor constructive.  For those caught in that situation, I would just give him another chance or ask him to do the gentlemanly act for you.  That at least gets the ball rolling, because he’s most likely unaware of what you need/want.  In constrast to berating a lack, encourage each act that is offered by accepting as many as you can.  This is where your sacrifice comes in, because I know it goes against the culture of feminine independence and appears to be an admission of need, but it is needed if you want to encourage a consistently gentlemanlike man.

The rewards are vast.  Many have no idea what amount of good the encouragement of such acceptance does for a gentleman.  Likewise, the opposite is true with rejecting an offer (yes, that seems harsh, but that’s what saying, “I’ve got it” is), even in the name of the aforementioned independence or “not needing a man”.  By natural law, you can’t expect offers of this kind to continue if they are constantly rejected.  At some point, the man will give up on this ideal.   So a good thing to keep in mind, ladies, when disappointed by a lack of gentlemanly behavior in guys you know, is to ask yourself when was the last time you accepted an offer that they freely proposed?  If it had been a while, they have already deemed that you will reject their offer so they won’t waste their time with it. 

Nevertheless, Gentlemen are a dying breed in a world and culture where the woman has been “liberated”, but it is truly how God planned the male’s role to be.  They are to be the protector, provider and servant-leader.  Guys, please get on board with this.  First, experience God’s sacrificial love and then take up that mantle of protector and leader.   Revive this enbattled role and live it out.  Don’t be timid.  Step up to the plate and live on the edge, unleash the wildness that God designed in you.  Don’t just act like a gentleman, BE a gentleman.

Also, a good resource for all you men is John Eldredge’s book entitled Wild at Heart.  I should have a copy of it floating around somewhere, if those of you who know me in person want to borrow it for a time.

JA Menter 3

“And whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not to men…for you serve the Lord Christ.” Col 3:23-24

A Post, Quick!

I feel like I got a lot of things done yesterday.  Because I don’t work on Wednesday’s, I was able to take a bit of a step back and do some things that I hadn’t had time for before then.  I revised the script for the Valentine’s DayExtravaganza that Z-360 is putting on as a fundraiser.  Apparently, I have the reputation of working well with words.  I guess that’s what reading my poems last summer did for me.  After I was done going over the script for our murder mystery, I opened the twenty-sixth chapter of my book and wrote a paragraph.  Now, many will think “just a paragraph, Joshua, that’s not very much.”  I agree with you, but the difference between a paragraph and what I was able to do since the beginning of the semester is exactly that, a paragraph.  I’m getting more and more excited about all the information I’ve gathered in the past several months for this final push to the finish.  Oh, and I have about half of a post on  my “Code of a Gentleman” to go along with Bekah’s Love Month Blog series.  It’s already pretty long, but I want to put it up all in the same post.  So look for that sometime next week.

JA Menter 3

Why is it that whenever someone dies young, we say they “died early”, but we still refer to them as “late”?