Sunday, February 28, 2010

The 7 Points of Valor: #3 - Chivalry

Philippians 2:3-4 “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”

Luke 10:29-37 “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Matthew 20:26-28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Team Hoyt: As we watch the video again I remind you of the first 2 Points of Valor. The first was honour, which we identify as integrity. The challenge is to not just know the right stuff, but to apply it. Integrity of words and life are the foundation of our testimony, our witness. If people around us are to see Jesus in us, our word must be true. This is honor. The second is courage. Courage is about working in the present. So often it is the fear of the future or the unknown that holds us back in life; but courage deals with today’s problems. Jesus Himself said to work in today for tomorrow has its own issues. Courage is about doing the right thing, even in the toughest of circumstances.

You will find 2 common denominators in these 7 points of valor. The first is the discipline of self-sacrifice. Jesus asked those who would follow Him to take up their cross and do so. The cross is the ultimate symbol of self-sacrifice, for not only did Jesus give up his mortal life, but in the incarnation He gave up His divine right. For Dick Hoyt , his life and goals were forfeit for what he could do for his disabled son. There was one thing that made his son feel alive - and he has sacrificed so much of his time and energy and resources to give his son that freedom. To be a man of valor, a woman who stands for what God stands for, you have to be willing to pay the price of following Jesus. The sacrifice of discipleship is coupled with the concern for others. We do not follow just words of a book, or ideas of a person long gone, we serve our brothers and sisters, our fellow humans regardless of creed or religion. We sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. That was Jesus’ life, and so it is ours. One way to say this is Chivalry. Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood. It is usually associated with ideals of knightly virtues, honor and courtly love. The word is derived from the French word chevalerie", itself derived from "chevalier", which means knight, derived from "cheval", horse (indicating one who rides a horse). It has a 3 pronged reference: duties to one’s fellow men, including the weak and the poor; duties to God, emphasizing the dedication to one’s Lord and the championing of good over evil; and the duties to women, to his own lady first and after to all ladies in gentleness and graciousness.

A real man is concerned about those who are weaker or less fortunate than he. He would rather suffer personal loss than allow another to be mistreated. He has trained himself to think of others and to act for their good rather than his own. He is always considerate of girls and women and respects their needs for protection and consideration. We live in a man’s world in many aspects and though chivalry is a dated term, it relates to both honor and courage in our lives.

What is our duty to our fellow man? We are called to love our neighbor as our self, and it is in this context we find the parable of the Good Samaritan. Who is our neighbor? Start with those who are in close proximity, and go as far as what Jesus said - the Samaritans of our lives. They are those who believe differently, those who think their faith is right and ours is wrong, those who are racially and culturally mixed; some might even mention our enemies. Paul said it this way in Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” What does it look like? Think of the tales of the knights. They would support those who are weak and downtrodden. They did it because they had trained for battle: they knew their weapons and how to use them. Have you ever read that passage about the armor of God in Ephesians 6? There is a sense that all of us who are mature Christians are garbed in armor for warfare. We all, as mature Christians, wander about our days as agents of chivalry who help those who are spiritually weak and oppressed. We look for those whom Satan has beat down, whom the world has shut up behind religious bars and stripped of all spiritual esteem; those whom the Creator made in His image and then died for so that they could be restored to a relationship with Him. We watch for those to whom we can help, and we use the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet and foot ware and belt of Truth. It is all there, so that God can do His amazing work in people’s lives through us.

Whether man or woman you are called to something set apart for the elite. One understanding of the knights of old is that you had to have been born into the right family to attain that position. It wasn’t just any lackey off the street that could become a knight. It had to be in their blood. You had to have wealth behind you for the training and the armor and the horse. And you, who are followers of Jesus, have been adopted into the right family. You have the blood of the Lamb on your life so you are called joint heirs of Christ. What is your duty to your fellow man? Stand up and make a difference for those who are weaker and poor, especially when no one else will.

What is our duty to God? Chivalry means we recognize we have a Master or Lord whom we serve. Do you get that picture of a knight standing at a gate or a bridge forbidding all to pass? The knight stands by command, and obeys until his strength runs out. Sometimes it is to the answer of a riddle or the display of virtue that allows passage, but it is the dedication to the Lord that makes the knight risk his life. There is no other option, it is do or die trying. This aspect of chivalry is not unlike the Olympic athletes we have been watching these past 2 weeks. They don’t come to Vancouver to lose; they come to win. There chances may be slim, but they still put in years of training and countless other resources of muscle, sweat and tears just for the chance to compete. They give up the things in life that will take away from their training, They do their school work if they are students, and work as they are able, but their focus is on the training so they can complete the task they have been given to do to the best of their ability. Our duty to God is to give him our focus, our abilities, and allow Him to use us in His mission. His example and character lead us on as we give our all to the task at hand.

What is our duty to women? Men, we live in a society that favors you. While we like to think we are civilized, we still struggle with equal rights. The vulnerable ones of our society need help - children and widows, whether widowed by death, or widowed by absence or abuse. You have to go out of your way to be chivalrous to women, because they will not get it from anywhere else. While Jesus lifted the stature of women; a movement in society in the last 50 years has tried to make us all equal by tearing down men and the institutions of family and marriage. At the same time there has been recognition that men and women are indeed different. One of the greatest tragedies of porn beyond the individuals involved is how it shapes society’s concept of women. They become objects and chattel, pretty things to look at but of no real value. There is great abuse given to the young women of our society. Listen to these stats:
One-half of all Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of violence since the age of 16
Almost one-half of women reported violence by men known to them and one-quarter reported violence by a stranger
One-quarter of all women have experienced violence at the hands of their current or past marital partner (includes common-law unions)
One-in-six currently married women reported violence by their spouses; one-half of women with previous marriages reported violence by a previous spouse
More than one-in-ten women who reported violence in a current marriage have at some point felt their lives were in danger
Six-in-ten Canadian women who walk alone in their own area after dark feel "very" or "somewhat" worried doing so
Women with violent fathers-in-law are at three times the risk of assault by their partners than are women with non-violent fathers-in-law
Source:  Statistics Canada. The Daily,  Thursday, November 18, 1993.

University of Victoria's Sexual Assault Centre posts the following childhood sexual abuse statistics:
1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males in Canada experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.
80% of all child abusers are the father, foster father, stepfather or another relative or close family friend of the victim.
Incestuous relationships last 7 years on average
75% of mothers are not aware of the incest in their family
60-80% of offenders in a study of imprisoned rapists had been molested as children
80% of prostitutes and juvenile delinquents, in another study, were sexually abused as children.

In this context, ask yourself how do you treat women? Men, to be a real man today means you have to support and encourage the women around you. While we don’t put them on pedestals, we do recognize the great gift they are from God. In the Creation story we see the partnership God desires, but so often today we are grieving Eden. So much was lost, and we recapture some of that when we honor our women. Respect and graciousness should mark our relationships and our service. Who is looking out for these kids? You and I need to not shirk away from difficult circumstances, but find a way to help women find safe places, and to be a champion on their behalf.

Make the commitment today to be different, to be chivalrous in your approach to people and situations. Stand up for what is right, and strengthen your arm with the Spirit as you go forth in the power of God to proclaim the freedom Jesus brings to our lives today.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The 7 Points of Valor: #2 - Courage

Joshua 1:1-9 “Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.
Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."

What is courage? What does courage look like?

Team Hoyt has many applications. Today we take the lesson of courage from the father and son team. They have run over 1,000 races together including 234 triathlons (6 of them were Ironman competitions and 7 Half Ironman) and 67 marathons (27 of them the Boston Marathon) over the last 33 years. Their best time in a marathon is 2 hours and 40 minutes, their best time in an Ironman is 13 hours and 43 minutes.They have 2 half marathons this year before they do the Boston marathon in April - it is Rick’s favorite race. His dad, Dick, will be 69 this year, his son will be 48. They did a 3,735 mile journey in 1992, running across the U.S. The courage of the father to attempt whatever he could for his son is inspiring.

There is the soldier on the battlefield. He is in his early 20’s and nothing prepared him for the reality and horror that is war; but he does whatever it takes to get the job done. There’s the young mother left alone with a child by an absent father. She works three jobs and lives on little sleep so that her child may have a good start in life. She also does whatever it takes so her family has what it needs. Then there is the person diagnosed with terminal cancer. It comes suddenly and shocks, bringing emotions and feelings deep and dark. Like Job, though, the response is “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Three situations, and perhaps stereo-typical in the messiness of life, but all illustrating courage and inner strength.

Courage is about working in the present. So often it is the fear of the future or the unknown that holds us back in life; but courage deals with today’s problems. Jesus Himself said to work in today for tomorrow has its own issues.

Courage expresses itself in many ways, but if you want to be all you can be in Jesus, courage has to be a part of your life. What’s the antithesis of courage? Is it fear, is it apathy? It is whatever that prevents you from action, from “doing” something. Quite a few years ago I was in a bookstore in a large mall. I walked around the corner of a bookcase on the wall opposite the cash register. Just as I turned the corner a huge man was putting a book under his coat. He turned and in a few strides was out of the store and gone in the crowd. I didn’t yell, or even move. I was shocked - shocked at witnessing a crime, and I choked. I stood frozen and unable to respond to what was happening at hand. It was one of my more pathetic moments and I still remember today that I did nothing. If it happened today I believe I am in a better frame of mind and would act quicker. At the very least I would call out from the safety of another book case; but then I failed to act.

So, how do we apply courage today? How can we become men and women marked by courage, the ability to act in the face of opposition? The process of change has 3 elements that I know of. There is a commitment, a moment of surrender and dedication. There is then the throwing off of the negative stuff and behavior and a throwing on of the good stuff. Romans 12:1-2 illustrates this when it says “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” “Present”, “do not be”, and then “be”. That is the pattern we see again and again in the New Testament, and it is the process of God working in our life. Let me leave you with 3 commitments, or decisions you and I need to make if we are going to be courageous.

Consider David. We think of Goliath or the lion he killed as examples of courage. We could also think of his reign as king and the military exploits he had; but consider something else - David had the courage to be open and honest with himself about who he was; about his life before God and the people. He knew who he was. How many men do you know could stand up in front of a group and recite poetry, much less write it? Real men - poetry, they don’t usually go hand in hand, but David didn’t care. He loved to sing praises before God and to dance before Him, even though he would be considered foolish for doing so. When the prophet Nathan confronted David with his sins of adultery and murder, he didn’t make excuses or hum and haw; he “fessed” up and said “Before God I have sinned.” When confronted with his fallenness he pled guilty before God and accepted the consequences of his sins.

It takes courage to be real, to be authentic in community. It takes courage to show the “not so polished” sides of our lives. This church is your community and you and I need the courage to be vulnerable and make ourselves accountable to each other. There is power, incredible power when we open up ourselves to one another in the Spirit. I was talking to a lady yesterday about the Your Best You conferences. Her comment was the correlation between how “churched” women are and how closed they are. The more “churched” the women are, the more closed relationally they are. That’s the exact opposite of where we should be. Take courage, and let us all to be real.

Consider Abraham. Here he is cruising through life, successful at what he does when God says, “Move!” Say what? Where, why? “Just move!” So up come the roots and off he goes. Abraham heard God and was obedient to the call on his life. He took the initiative God asked of him and left the familiar and comfort. He had the courage to surrender all he has and was, and to step out, to break new ground, to believe God when He said, “Go” knowing God would provide. So, Abraham goes and gets to a wonderful land that God says will be his and his descendents. Then God says, “Offer you son as a sacrifice to me.” Abraham lived in a time when that was not uncommon. The land he came from practiced that, and Abraham thought the God he served was different. So, trusting in God again, with the courage of his faith, he was just about to follow through on God’s command when God intervened. And Abraham’s courage was counted to him as righteousness - his belief in God’s deliverance pleased God. The Psalmist tells us God is not interested in sacrifice, but in the broken and contrite heart that pursues Him. Do you have the courage to pursue God or is something holding you back? Have you dedicated your family and your money and all you have and are to Him? That is what God asks - everything. Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but Thine.” Give up your small ambitions and pursue God. Again and again we see followers of Jesus throwing away careers and money and all the stuff this world holds dear, just so they can do what God created them for. They have the courage to surrender all and follow Jesus. Have the courage to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus.

Consider Daniel. Here he is as a captive in a foreign land, but finding favour with God and moving up in the ranks of government. And there are people who are against him, and jealous and they devise a plan to do him in. He is faced with a challenge - turn away from God or die. He has the courage to stand up for his faith. He had the courage to do what is right regardless of the consequences. Think of this: you have a son or daughter. They have grown up and are now in the exact place of Daniel’s friends Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. How would you want teenage son or daughter to respond to the challenge of bow down or be thrown in the furnace? God does not call us all to stand on a street corner and proclaim the day of the Lord. He does not call us all to sell all our stuff and give it to the poor and live a monastic lifestyle. But He does call all of us to holiness and a life changed by His Spirit. What IS God calling you to do and be. Most often God’s will has to do with being, with who we are in Him and how we live our life before men. Sometimes it is about location and task. Are you up for it? Are you ready for the challenge? Join your brothers and sisters in community and let us make the decision to follow Jesus whatever the cost.