Thursday, February 20, 2020
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David Webster

The underdog advantage

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Anyone watching the FIFA World Cup right now would agree that it’s been a year of upsets so far. But even going in, there was an understanding that it would be a groundbreaking event… Just because teams like Brazil, Portugal and Germany have historically had success didn’t mean much – with Belgium being toted as the ones to watch.

As I am writing this, I’ve seen South Korea beat Germany and send them packing. Portugal lost to Uruguay, Argentina was knocked out by France and Croatia of all nations is top of their Group. There is still a whole lot of football to be played, but even now it is interesting to see a trend forming. No longer are certain teams superior to other just because of their nationality – or necessarily by certain players.

Teams cannot simply rely on Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar or Villa to make them great. There’s a whole new team element that is coming into play. And it has been incredible to see the change in equilibrium as a result of better infrastructure and the ‘globalisation’ of soccer. Players all around the world are becoming more and more equal in their ability and skill based on easier access to science, technology, coaching and finance. It no longer pays to be the ‘big dog’ in the game. It’s the underdogs that make the biggest impacts.

Just think of some of the most memorable moments in World Cup history. All of them have either been scandalous (remember the ‘hand of God’ moment with Suarez) or an underdog story. The latter is really the best of memories: where a team has defied the odds, the rankings and the momentum of their opposition to win.

It’s the same in our lives.

Some of you might be reading this and struggling with your self-belief. Whether you feel useless because of comparison with others, ashamed due to something you have done or are still doing, afraid and insecure as a result of past experiences – you can find yourself trapped in your thinking. But being weak in an area RIGHT NOW does not mean that you have to stay that way.

Here are a few keys in how you can turn your present weaknesses into incredible tales of victory:

Decide your attitude

Not the easiest thing to hear, but unless you do this you won’t be able to change anything at all. We all wish we could change what happened to us or change what we have done, but we can’t. You cannot change the past. But you can change your attitude towards the past. When you look at your failures, the injustice was done to you or the mistakes others have made that affected you, do you cower into self-pity or use them as fuel to change?

In any underdog situation in sport, victory will require a moment where the attitude changes. It’s that moment where the players become indignant – they DECIDE that enough is enough and their determination is fuelled by the odds stacked against them.

You need to turn the pity party around, and put all that energy to work proving the odds wrong. The question is – do you want to live life proving every prediction made about you right. Or will your life be memorable enough to stand out and prove those predictions wrong?

Everyone has negative things said about them. But that doesn’t mean they have to be true. You decide what sticks and whether your teacher saying you won’t amount to anything will be true. You decide whether you will be a failure as a father or husband or not. It’s your choice whether you will think of yourself as ugly or not. You DECIDE what attitude will define you.

Filter the feedback

Wise counsel is needed to beat the odds. You are going to need good strategies, supportive direction and the cheers of the crowd. But you need to be prepared for the opposite as well.

I have come to realise that some people really struggle to accept when you change or rise above the ‘norms’. When people are familiar with your failures, they might not be the greatest fans of your progress.

Just like when an underdog team begins to make headway, the supporters of the opposing team will begin to ‘wolf-whistle’ and jeer at your victories. And if you are not focussed, they could get to you and halt your progress. That’s why you need to be very careful to filter the feedback you receive.

Sometimes people won’t have your best interest at heart because they have bet on you failing. Whether they need to feel superior due to insecurity, feel uncomfortable because they begin comparing, or are defensive because things are going their way – their motives are not healthy and should not sway you in changing your life around.

Know the coach

You need to know what your prize is. You need to know the direction of the goal posts. Focussed on what winning would look like for you. But in order for you to understand all of this, you need solid training. You need a good coach.

I believe that the only way you can truly win in life – defy the odds and get over the internal and issues you have – is to be obedient to the ultimate life-coach: God himself. He created you, knows your strengths. He knows the field he has placed you on and what you’re capable of.  God knows the team’ you are doing life with. And He also knows the opposition.

In terms of life itself, God has multiple strategies on how you can be the underdog and win the game. He sent his Son Jesus to captain your team. He’s by your side – constantly making passes and defending you. He wants to help you outmanoeuvre your opponents and set you up for the most epic shots at goal.

I was once an underdog – shy and timid, stuck in depression, affected by abuse, a victim of my circumstances and tied up in all kinds of bad living – but knowing Jesus and daily going to him has completely transformed me. I now lead and influence people in a way I never thought possible – and many people who knew me early on are extremely surprised by it. But it wasn’t simply just my own effort that got me to where I am. I can honestly say there are elements that only God could have done in me changing. If you would like that kind of change for yourself – click on the link below.

I believe you can be transformed. Cheering you on. Can’t wait to see how God uses us all to overcome our situations and see Africa win like never before (in general and in the World Cup one day, I pray!).

How to ‘shoot to score’ in life

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Have you ever met someone who is obsessed with something completely foreign to you? As I am writing this, I have just had a coffee with a friend of mine who is a competitive fishing champion. Yes – that’s right. People fish for sport! He devotes hundreds of hours to ‘training’ for championships. I don’t really understand how it works, but can appreciate his passion for it. And that’s one of the greatest things in life – we are all very different and diverse. We have different passions, different skills and preferences, different family situations and cultures. But we can still appreciate each other.

If you think that I’m speaking like a utopian idealist – don’t worry, I’m not. I am very aware that people are divided by these very traits as well. If you have more than ten friends on Facebook or take time to actually read comments on Instagram it wouldn’t take long for you to realise that people will use any difference as an excuse to judge, ostracise or reject others. And the problem doesn’t seem to be going away. From politics to business, in education and media – disunity has raised its ugly head.

But I don’t believe that is how we are meant to live. I believe in God – and that He created us all unique for a reason. There are a few reasons why I believe differences are important in every society:

1. Differences guard against boredom

Have you ever had one flavour by itself? Imagine if you just ate a whole meal of just meat. Unflavoured, unsalted meat. I don’t know about you, but as much as I enjoy protein I could not stomach more than a few bites of that meal. It’s the same when it comes to society. We need different expressions, different experiences and different opinions to help make things interesting. Variety protects us from being lulled into a sense of ignorant bland living.

2. Differences help you find your place

If you did not ever meet someone with a different opinion; if you never encountered those that struggle in different ways than you do – you would probably have less of an idea of who you actually are in the context of the world. It is only when you are confronted with things ‘other’ to you that you can actually test and have confidence in what you believe. Say I believed in communism because that’s all I ever knew (which is the aim of most communist regimes). I would never question that version of governance unless I was made aware of other ways of governance. My whole political belief would be based purely on my unchallenged experience. But if I met someone who believed in another version of governance I would be able to weigh up the pro’s and con’s of each and make an informed, personal decision of what I think would be best. Until that point I would not be able to confidently say I was a communist because I had never encountered or been aware of an alternative. This applies to way more than politics – in fact, it applies to every part of life.

3. Differences help you know what the ‘goal’ truly is

Imagine you’re playing football, but you don’t know the difference between right and left. You would have no reference to know how to score. It may be a very simplified analogy, but it carries truth: if you only know one side of something, you wouldn’t be able to know what ‘winning’ is in a society where both extremes exist. And as humans we are not just ‘one or the other’ – we are multifaceted, complex individuals. No one on earth will agree 100% with someone else. We all have differences. But it is in identifying what we agree on – where our beliefs overlap – that we are able to truly make a difference in our spheres of influence.

The soccer World Cup is this month and – thankfully – it is one sport that almost every nation can identify with. I love watching the diversity of the fans at this event and definitely think it is a great picture of how differences can be celebrated while the ONE thing that everyone has in common – their love for the game – unites everyone.

But there is something greater than a soccer ball that unites ever more people. In fact, 2.2 billion people agree on this one thing. Some of them are poor – others rich, some are famous – others nameless, some are highly educated – others in need of education, some are African, Asian, South American, European, Australian. Some are persecuted because they believe this. Others are hailed as heroes for the same cause. ALL of them believe this one thing: they believe Jesus is the Son of God.

I believe that if the goal is Jesus, every single person has a place to belong. There might be areas of your life that are full of struggle or frustration. Difference may have truly hurt you – especially if you being different has been taken advantage of. On the other side, people who are different may scare you a little – the discomfort of understanding that others don’t necessarily agree with you. No matter where you fall on the scale, if you choose to allow Jesus to become part of your life you will be able to truly know what matters in life. Jesus promised that He would draw ALL of mankind to Himself – and I have witnessed it myself. He is the greatest good the world will ever know and my goal is to make sure you and the world would get to personally experience the peace, joy and fulfilment that knowing Him brings.

If you would like to know or have questions about a relationship with Jesus, please click on the link. We would love to chat to you.

What Easter means to me – David

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Easter: the hope of shattered perfection

Life is hard. If you have lived past the age of ten, I’m sure that this is something that you’re familiar with. It gets messy and complicated sometimes. There are failures you have to take responsible for, even if they aren’t your own. Then ‘adulting’ hits a few years later and we are never ready for it. There are clothes to be cleaned and budgets to be kept. If you have ever had a relationship to navigate – whether mother, friend or significant other – I’m sure you would agree that life is never perfect.

But we do live in a world full of ideals and principles. The power of the media in the last two years alone has raised humanitarian concerns with alarming effectiveness. Our generation is forming incredibly strong convictions about what life should be like – what freedoms we should have, how people should be treated and what systems should change.

On top of that there is the incredibly accessible entertainment industry forming our perceptions and expectations of life. Instagram shows us what the perfect holiday should look like, Hollywood portrays the perfect relationship, Netflix documentaries define our convictions and online news – whether fake or not – whips up the emotional storm juxtaposing injustice with all of this idealism.

“What has this got to do with Easter?” you may ask. For me, it is the crucial hinge on which our desire for perfection and our obvious imperfection meet. Easter is the crucial moment that connects the reality of a broken, lost, unstable and bitter world with the incredible perfection of God and Heaven.

I’m not going to lie, growing up my life was hard. My mom is blind, so I took on emotional responsibilities from a very young age because I thought it was my duty. Finances were always rough. I was sexually abused as a young boy. Bullying at school broke me. I struggled with a debilitating pornography addiction for years. I watched my dad go through burnout and a mental breakdown. Insecurity robbed me of most friendships. Above blindness, I had to navigate my mom having cancer as well. Life has been far from perfect. But none of these things has killed or swayed my inner desire for perfection – for justice and freedom, hope and full healing.

Easter is a time when we remember what Jesus did for us – in our imperfect, dysfunctional humanity. It is the time when the one person who was perfect in every way – Jesus Christ – was completely broken. His death was a symbol – a signal fire for us to know how to find healing and restoration from ourselves.

Imagine you dropped your favorite coffee mug and it shattered into hundreds of different pieces. Now someone else comes along and looks at all the shards of porcelain – there would be no perfect reference for them to know exactly what kind of porcelain object it was. They could try piece it back together one at a time, but the task of finding the place for each piece would take a lifetime of focus and effort. But YOU knew what the mug looked like. You had an emotional connection with it. You knew what it was like as a functioning piece of crockery. You would definitely have a clearer understanding of how to restore your dearly loved mug.

It is the same with our lives and Jesus. He is perfect. On earth, He lived without making one mistake. Talk about the ultimate man! But in order for us to be able to piece our lives back together, He had to not only show us how to live, His perfection had to be shattered through death. He took on every problem, issue and imperfection – allowing himself to be destroyed by the wicked injustice of our world. But it didn’t end there. Three days later, He rose again – and in so doing, He showed us that it is possible to become whole after being broken.

We were born into a world already broken – with millennia of knock-on consequences of peoples’ decisions and imperfections. It took someone who knew what life was originally created to be in all it’s perfection to come and help us redeem how we see the world and how we live.

When Jesus was being crucified on the cross, He was bearing the suffering I experienced. He was taking the full force of the consequence of my sin. He was receiving the brunt of my anger and experiencing the fullness of pain. All imperfection was nailed to Him – on a physical, emotional and spiritual level.  He died under that weight – His humanity completely broken. And in that the demand for the consequence of imperfection was met.

But He didn’t only silence the cry for our punishment. He came back to show us a way to find perfection – in relationship with God Himself.

Life is still not perfect. But I have a relationship with Jesus – and He is. As I have lived life engaging with Him and His word, I have found myself becoming restored – overcoming addiction, forgiving those who have done wrong and full of hope for the restoration of my mom’s sight. I have seen my finances become a foundation as I have obeyed Him. I have learnt what it means to be unique and different – that I have an identity that can reach beyond what is normal.

Jesus is alive and very real to me today. If you are tired of the hopelessness that follows imperfection. If you are broken and don’t know how to be restored – I testify that having an authentic relationship with Jesus works. He is perfection. And the more I get to know Him, the more I have seen my life restored.

Man Up! 2.0

In my previous post, I emphasized how the answer to the end to gender oppression is not simply in empowering women, but also changing the definition of manhood as well. I want to focus specifically on what I have learnt about godly manhood.

Firstly, I want to take a step back from the controversy of this all and tell a bit of my own story. When I was very young, a guy molested me and walked out disappointed – saying that I was “not a man”. Those words and that disappointment completely screwed up my identity for many years – and it has been a hard-fought battle to actually live in the fulness of my sexuality and authority. But I am grateful that I have had to struggle with this area of gender roles and identity because I now have a strong revelation that I could only find in God. So I am in no way ‘preaching’ off of the top of my head when it comes to godly masculinity. It is a very big part of my life that has required extensive introspection, therapy, prayer and Bible study. There have been many opinions that have not stuck in the process. But I want to share what has worked for me.

So here is a few definitions of a godly man:

A godly man is committed to learning

I have found that the best example of godly men are those that are aware that they do not know everything. Being a guy, there is a very strong temptation to be the best – to assert authority and be ‘untouchable’. I know how consuming this can be. I know how destructive it is when we fail. The pride of man is one of the scariest downfalls of humanity. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but expose a prideful man and you will say goodbye to the world you live in. The need to be right has fuelled every war and broken generations. That is not God’s intention.

Men are meant to have authority. But not an empty, external, forced authority. The security of knowing you don’t know everything and couldn’t possibly have life figured out allows you to find strength in others. Being teachable is not a weakness. It means you believe in yourself enough to get over pride and actually build the world around you.

A godly man faces himself

We are very good at esteeming courage and being brave. We want to take on the dragons and conquer the world, but there is no scarier thing than facing yourself. I have to say when it comes to courage, I have seen so many guys too afraid to deal with their pasts and their insecurities. They would rather put on a brave face than actually man up and deal with the root of their problems.

Have you ever taken a step back from your life and actually questioned your actions? Cycles of addiction, problems with self-worth and insecurity and anger issues (to name a few areas) aren’t simply part of who you are – they are results of deep pain and disappointment in our formative years. This world is messed up – and it messes you up. But a godly man doesn’t wallow in the pity of the unfairness of life. He has the courage to stare down the sensitive trigger points in their lives and diffuse them with brutal honesty.

A godly man is ruthless about wholeness. He won’t stop until he has fought to the end of his problems. Many Christians today have tried to apply surface-level solutions to ungodly (presumed manly) behavior. Accountability is simply someone who tells you, “don’t do it, you’re a champion” when it actually needs to be someone who will hound down the root of your emotional dysfunctions and stand with you through every stage of healing. Yes, abusers should be convicted and imprisoned. But they also need to be guided through why they acted out such atrocious evil – which is routed in deep identity crisis.

A godly man challenges himself

There are many reasons to get on with life and be responsible – but only one factor will determine whether you will be consistently successful – discipline. Every other form of motivation will be effective for a moment, but a man who chooses to discipline himself will be a reliable asset whatever the circumstances.

Discipline is a form of conditioning for your soul. Strength only truly counts in tough moments – and while many have gone to great lengths to strengthen their outer appearance, it is sad to see how sickly their inner souls truly are. Discipline is crucial for a man. It is the foundation upon which he (and those around him) can build a life that is not easily shaken.

I have learnt a secret to this characteristic: it doesn’t matter what you discipline yourself in. You can start flexing the self-discipline muscle in any area you like, whether it be in your diet, your schedule, your skillset or relationships. You are guaranteed to feel like abandoning any discipline at some point. But every time you stay committed, you grow an internal credibility that reinforces the rest of your life.

A godly man has an internal conviction

Emphasis on INTERNAL! Any man can find motivation from external sources, but that results in the danger of being influenced more by your surroundings than your beliefs. I have spoken to many guys who are simply living out the dreams of their environments. They are becoming a product of the societal average in their respect fields. People, possessions and attention are all connected to their self-worth, and there is a lack of internal staying-power when it comes to the characteristics that make them unique.

It is sad to hide and suppress your natural gifts and tendencies to fit into a world that measures by standards of wealth and power. I have fallen for it myself and know how vapid and pyrrhic achievements can be when they are not based on internal conviction and unique desire.

Godly men are secure enough to defy the norm – they carry on working out what they believe despite any opposition that surrounds them. They have a stubbornness when it comes to honoring God and others, no matter what may happen to them.

A godly man protects others

Compassion is one of the most manly attributes to possess. Jesus was compassionate enough to take human form – experience all of the awkwardness and injustice of being human, proceeding to death to change it. But the kind of compassion that a godly man possesses goes far beyond a ‘mama bear’ expression. Yes – we are to look after those who are more vulnerable than we are, but we are made to do so much more.

Godly men protect the identities of those around them. Guys are the safeguards who ward off the attacks of those entrusted to them. They are meant to uphold others’ identities – doing everything they can to develop and affirm who people truly are.

No other aspect of manhood has been attacked as much as this one. It has been twisted into a weapon that has torn through society – with fathers being everything from absent to destructive in the role where they were meant to be intentional and constructive. A godly man protects others’ futures and internal joy.

If you have read this list and are thinking that it would be impossible to live up to these standards, don’t worry – at a time I thought they were impossible as well. But we were never made to operate by ourselves. Our lives were always meant to be piloted by two. God is the one that enables you to be the man you were made to be. If you would like to find out more about how he partners with you, helps you deal with your problems, rebuilds your soul and empowers you to affirm others, click on the link below.

 

Man Up!

The last few years for men haven’t been the greatest. Many would agree that the degradation of society has been directly linked to the erosion of the identity of men. Poverty, crime, drug abuse, depression, identity crises, abuse and oppression are all situations that have resulted out of the lack of godly manhood in life. We are seeing second and third generations growing up fatherless and there is an extremely large gap in the public eye when it comes to role models for decent men.

All the while, women are on the rise. Their tolerance for past and present injustice and bias has been depleted, and there is finally a strong celebration of womanhood in the media and other public sectors. The fight is far from over for equality between men and women, but as I watch ladies take on the system with interest and excitement I am also extremely troubled by the state of manhood that is failing by the wayside.

Yes, women don’t need men. Men don’t need women. To live a very basic existence we don’t need each other at all. Until we actually want to do something productive in the world (and I don’t just mean sex and childbirth). The fact is, no matter how many gender categories we acknowledge there will always be interdependence between men and women. And it works negatively as much as it does positively.

Before I go any further, I want to make sure you are aware that I believe in strong women. I believe that they are gifted, incredible and should be highly celebrated for all that they are in the home, workplace and every sphere of life. There should be no limit to what they can do – no system or prejudice that belittles or curtails their full potential.  But what I have found is that there is a bitterness that has turned the dialogue from the empowerment of women to the degradation and abuse of the image of manhood in the process.

The throne mentality

You see, in a time where restoration of justice begins to happen, the balance can be pushed off in the absolute opposite direction. In declaring that the future is feminine you are immediately implying “men have had their turn and have failed”. And as a result it is time to kick them off the ‘throne’ they have sat on for millennia.

Now I totally understand why this rhetoric exists – men have abused and misused scripture and culture terribly to hold some false sense of control that has damaged women terribly.  Male superiority in the family, community, media and even in the church has been used as a means for control and selfish gain. It’s been an ugly, ugly cycle that has resulted in an immense amount of heartache.

But in the end, women kicking men off the throne and subduing them with consternation and ridicule is not going to change the cycle. Why? Because the reason why men have abused what they have been given to protect and support in their role is because of insecurity. An insecure man is more dangerous to the world than any natural disaster. Just look at Napoleon, Hitler, King Saul, Hendrik Verwoerd and King Louis XVI to name a few. In fact, anyone who has to assert their authority through ridicule, aggression or propaganda is going to end up hurting humanity in the long run. One of the saddest hashtags on social media was the #menaretrash movement – for two reasons:

  1. Women have been deeply hurt by men in ways that are inexplicably inexcusable.
  2. The role of man was degraded to a degree that made them feel worthless, which would then result in them going to great lengths to assert their authority and continue to damage their own image as well as women.

There is not one ‘throne’ when it comes to gender roles. And as much as I do think there are many things that do need to be reassessed, I do not believe that one side has to suffer for another side to be uplifted.

A positive definition of manhood

We are currently experiencing an absolute revival in the Christian world when it comes to the role of women. Godly womanhood has been researched and discussed. These are exciting days where ladies are finding their worth and their purpose through God. There are hundreds of thousands of women around the world attending conferences and being uplifted by incredible God-movements around the world.

But what is the definition of a godly man? Or take Christianity out of it – what is the definition of a respectable man in this day and age? I must say that I struggled with this question considerably – while girls and women picked away at the integrity of masculinity and critiqued every element that affected them. Right now if you Googled “ultimate man”, you will find pictures of bodybuilders with unhealthy versions of themselves. You will find guys that are on the top of their games in their careers. You will find images of outdoor sporting feats.

Other stereotypes of men in media are:

  1. The clueless embarrassing father – an unhealthy practice of ridiculing that important role in children’s development because so much hurt stems from fathers not fulfilling their roles.
  2. The scumbag – notches on the belt are all they are after and they have no soul. All they want is to feel good and be completely vacuous emotionally.
  3. The dropout – who drinks too much and has given up on showering. He has truly become as pathetic as some women have declared.
  4. The shy nerd – can’t string sentences together and is as fumbling and insecure as people say they should be.

In the 2.0 post on this topic, I will endeavor to answer the question what did God intend for manhood. But for now, I want to beseech everyone – men and women – to change the narrative in your own spheres of influence. To not accusingly be shouting at men to “man up”, but actually to affirm and esteem manhood: to ‘talk manhood up’. Women, there is no world in which this will reduce your authority or freedom. In fact, I believe it could completely change the lives of many extremely hurt, confused men and be the true solution to godly gender representation in society. Men, it’s time to man up and change our impact on the world. Ladies – men need a whole lot of grace and forgiveness and prayer as well.

I don’t know how you have been affected by the sad state of gender. But I am living proof that God can heal and restore your hope where you have been hurt the most. Click on the link below to find out more.

The Intention of Manhood

I don’t know if you have noticed, but the world seems to be getting crazier by the day. In a time when there has been such significant advancement in thought, creativity, technology and policy – we are thinking our way ‘off the page’ of life. Popular culture, combined with ethnic culture and personal experience has conditioned us to believe and behave in ways that would have been considered very strange two generations ago. But here we are. We are living in a generation that wants to care about everything – but also in one that is living with the consequences of centuries of injustice and pain.

One area that this has been evident for me is my masculinity. To be a little vulnerable, I grew up loving creativity in all its forms – from dance through to fashion design. My sensitivity to the world around me and some other destructive elements in my upbringing had resulted in my sexuality being questioned by (so-called) friends. If I were simply a product of my surroundings, I would have probably thought that I was not meant to be a man. Or lived at least with a consistent belief that I was not ‘man enough’. But thankfully that is not how I live my life. I don’t believe that you are simply the sum of things that have happened to you, or identified simply by who you associate yourself with. No. I live to influence my world. Not to be influenced by it.

This way of living, however, was not something I simply chose one day. It wasn’t some random realization I had while watching an inspirational sports ad. It comes directly from God’s Word (the Bible). As a Christian, I believe that the Bible has transformative power when applied practically to ones’ life. And there are countless times where the Bible tells us to impact the world, rather than being impacted by it. It’s a change of direction – a proverbial turning of the tide if you will. Because once you begin to allow God and his wisdom to become the source of your life, your surroundings no longer flow into you – you overflow with the goodness of God instead.

So what does God say about manhood? It is a question worth asking – especially as He created man. It’s time to stop guessing and pretending and actually ask the author of masculinity what He intended. It’s important to recognize that popular culture is currently caught in a whirlwind of female emancipation – which is not all completely ungodly. But instead of focusing on what men should not be doing, I believe it’s important to understand who God intended men to be being.

In looking at who God made men to be, I think it is important to look at it in the context of the ultimate relationship with women – marriage. The Bible addresses many things that pertain to all humanity, not just one specific gender. But within a heterosexual relationship we can clearly distinguish God’s intention for us as men. So, drawing from the passage in Ephesians 5:22-33, here are a few attributes of manhood that God made us for:

  1. Love

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church…”

Nope. This is not the first thing you think of when it comes to what culture says a man is. Unfortunately, many of you would not have seen this trait in men at all throughout your lives. But it is the first thing God instructs men to do. And this is no ordinary love either. This is not the heart-shaped chocolate and roses kind of ‘love’. It’s not the sexually flippant, hotheaded kind of ‘love’. This is true love – the standard is how Jesus loves humanity. This kind of love is calculated and intentional. It is unapologetic and inclusive. It is powerful and extremely personal.

  1. Sacrifice

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”

Yes. It might not sound nice. But guys, we were made to go out of the way for the sake of others. As men, I believe God made us tougher not so that we could control and oppress, but so that we could bear hardship on behalf of those around us. Jesus did not die for His own sake. He was already King of everything. He died so that we could live free, full lives – beyond our earthly existence. The cross was a totally unselfish act that saved everyone except Jesus. True manhood is living with that willingness to serve the needs of others and bear the weight for the world around us.

  1. Restore

“… just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by washing her with water through the word…”

God made man to forgive in action. He intended man to take the brokenness and cast-aside things of this world and make them beautiful. Part of this is seeing the potential in those that haven’t been noticed. Jesus saw the incredible possibilities of humanity restored to God, and in that was willing to sacrifice so that he could eradicate our shame and make us our best selves again. Men were made to take the mess of the world and make it beautiful – to take what has been tarnished and make it beautiful. The verse carries on:

“… and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

The ultimate example of masculinity in the Bible will always be Jesus. He was fully God, but fully human as well. And so the way he lived, spoke, died and resurrected should be the model for how all men should live. But in order for any man to truly understand who God created him to be, he first needs to know the ultimate man himself. Jesus died and rose again so that you could be the best man you could ever be. I know it seems a little ‘out there’, but if you choose to accept that Jesus died for you to be made whole, and then rose from the dead – conquering it so that it no longer could demand your soul, you will meet the very personhood of Jesus. My life changed when I made that decision. And I am a much better man because of it.

Leaving the past behind

New things are always exciting. Or so you think at first. A New Year in some way feels like a fresh start – an opportunity to make developments and initiate change. Seeing your next year as a blank slate is incredibly important, I believe, in not wasting your life – but it’s very easy to make plans without thinking deeper beyond our aspirations to the reality of what we are still carrying from the year before.

People love new – until they realize that it requires them to change. Because no matter how different your situation is – you might be changing location, jobs, relationship, diet or routine – you are still YOU. You still have the same hangups and hurts, frustrations and habits, brokenness and tendencies. In order to make a fresh start I believe there needs to be a commitment to not only look at what you are going to do differently, but also be honest about where you have been.

Avoidance will keep in caterpillar phase

 Yes – you know that cheesy ‘transformation’ butterfly metaphor. I don’t even feel the need to expound on it. But I do believe in the concept of metamorphosis – we can completely change and transform. I have personally seen myself transform emotionally, spiritually and even physically over the last year and am very happy to observe myself becoming someone I desire to be. But that doesn’t come without a cost. There is always a cocoon phase. There is always a time where you will be required to face yourself – introspectively looking at yourself without any guises.

I tell many guys who I am doing life with that the bravest thing they could ever do is acknowledge and face their issues head-on. You can win battles, be the biggest guy in the gym, the smartest person in your class or the most aspirational story of heroism on the outside, but history has taught us that it is what is inside of us that will ultimately determine whether we can change permanently – with lasting effect.

I know coming out of an 11-year addiction that you can try to change your habits, your geographical location, your routine and your friend groups, but in the end if you don’t face the reason why you are looking for fulfillment in external places, you will not be able to change and progress in your life.

Patience is key

On a lighter note – one area that I really wanted to change this past year was in my health and fitness. I was consistently battling sickness and eating whatever was available rather than really thinking about it. The problem was – I had a very deep insecurity when it came to how I looked. (Girls – it’s not only you who struggle with self-image problems. In fact, I think it may be more prevalent in guys these days.) Throughout most of my life I found myself not measuring up to the aesthetic standard I saw as ‘manly’ – from my favorite superheroes to those celebrated in the media. There were many other serious reasons why I was so insecure, but this was one that had kept me out of the gym (I still hate how guys seem to be comparing themselves to each other all the time) and in a place where I had decided to rather cope with defeat instead of making progress.

If you are wanting to move on in life and truly change, you need to play a long game. You need to see beyond the immediate decision to a desire that will span decades. The only way you will consistently stay motivated in your daily decisions is having a conviction beyond your plausible and possible reality. You need to be patient and focussed. When it comes to health, being debt-free and my personal relationship with God, I have had the goal to improve consistently. The finish line is far away, but consciously looking at where you’re heading every time you are confronted with the temptation to stay the same will place gravitational momentum on your future instead of the past.

Supernatural power

Changing by yourself takes a whole lot of willpower and normally ends with disappointment when you become tired or weak. Change within a community lightens that load – as you are allowing other people to support you in those times. But even that has its flaws – because when you find yourself alone and vulnerable there is nowhere to turn for support. Until you allow God to be present in your life. God sees everything and knows everything. He is always with you and wants to partner with you. He’s after a relationship that will encourage and grow you. If you would like to have that kind of supernatural companionship – that will strengthen you in times of weakness and regret – click on the link below to find out more.

New Beginnings require hope right now

I am currently sitting in an airport – watching people say goodbye and hugging. Some are crying. Some are extremely professional – having obviously done this countless times. Airports are incredible places for me. Growing up I was blessed to see the majority of the world – travelling internationally with my family from the age of five. The stories I can tell because of my travels are some of my most precious possessions – but they are started and ended with a fateful encounter at an airport.

Airports are a place of transition. It’s a place where people immediately reflect on their past – what they have done and what has happened while they were in one place. At the same time it is a place where people also begin thinking about the future: when they would next return, what is waiting for them on the other side of their journey or even how terrified they are to fly. There are few places on earth like airports. And I find it is the perfect place to write about new beginnings.

I have heard people say that New Years Day is just that – a random day. It’s just a moment that someone decided would be the change of measurement of time for the whole world. And I agree. There is nothing very special about the day itself. Just like an airport is – in practicality – just a building. There’s nothing very special about it. But the stories, the hopes and emotions and the connectivity that such a day (or building) facilitates is enormous and (now and then) truly historical.

I don’t know what 2017 has been like for you. For me I saw some really hard times – had to navigate some tricky situations and conversations. I find myself a little more weathered, but a whole lot wiser than I was before. It was also the year that I was offered my dream job and saw things that I quietly hoped for come to pass – incredible things that I never even told my family about.

And looking back at all the struggle and frustration, I have come to truly appreciate that quiet hope. You see, if you asked me at the beginning of 2017 where hope belonged, I would have said, “In my future”.  And in many ways I would have been right. I was hoping for things I had not seen, I dared not even put words to what I was dreaming. But that hope did more for me in the moments leading up to the fulfilment of those hopes. It was the fuel that sustained me through many struggles, fights, insecure moments and victories.

I have come to realise that consistently living in the ‘dreamland’ of my future is in no way helping me get there. I am extremely goal-oriented and have a focus that can be detrimental to my present situation and those around me – and I learnt very clearly that my hope for the future is, in fact, not going to help me when it is fulfilled. My hope for the future rather builds my present situation and makes me thrive.

In the Bible the writer Paul speaks about a present hope. Not a future hope.

Going into this New Year, I am sure that you also have some preconceived ideas. You might be dreading what it may bring – to you I would encourage you to find some hope. In 2017 I entered the year extremely distressed – actually questioning my sanity when it came to what I was hoping to see in my life. I was praying for a way to do what I love and have a good enough income to rest. And quite frankly – I was borderline burnout. But I had a hope to hold onto. A hope that God would come through. That even if I was deluded, there was a future – that the best for me was still on its way.

You may, on the other hand be extremely excited for what 2018 holds! Whether it’s a change of scenery, a new career opportunity, a flourishing relationship or something even greater than you can currently imagine – I would encourage you to revel in that hope of new beginnings! Because there is going to come a time when that hope will be all you can hold onto. So bask in all it’s fullness, but make sure you appreciate the present situation as much as the new one you are walking into. Appreciate where you are so that you have no regrets when you walk into your new season.

Hope is a powerful tool. It gives you staying power, it builds endurance and also makes us work harder for greater things to come. But hope is not simply something you suck out of thin air. It has an origin. And the only way I have found a hope that is powerful enough to keep me on track is by knowing Jesus Christ. If you would like to walk into your new year with a powerful injection of hope that helps you enjoy the present as much as it fuels your future expectation, click on the link below.

Approval vs Authenticity

Recently I caught myself starting to slip into a habit that I had taken years to kick. It was a habit that was a big cause behind my struggle with addiction, as well as the cause of insecurity that almost crippled me when I first left school. This habit is extremely stealthy – specifically because no one else would ever be able to call it out. In fact, the more you give in to the habit, the more people might like you. But all the same, it eats away at your soul like acid while the world applauds you. I’m talking about the habit of pleasing others.

Now you might say that pleasing others is not a bad thing… And in many ways it isn’t bad at all. But there is a catch. If you live to please others – shielding who you truly are with external façade of accommodating attractiveness – you will end up lonelier than ever, with more Facebook and Instagram friends than should be acceptable. Everyone around you could be impressed by your actions and your intentions, and all that is great. But if they saw how you’re really doing behind the scenes – would you be embarrassed or defensive?

If you live for the approval of others, you will end up thinking about yourself in the ‘third person’. The way you manage your inner struggle is by taking a few selfies – seeking feedback from your peers on what their opinion is about you. Once you receive affirmation in the form of likes, comments, shout outs and/or conversations, you then conclude how you’re doing. Never before could people canvas for approval or lobby for ‘good ratings’ when it came to their identities. There was a point in my life where the thought of others pitying or thinking ill of me would literally send me into depression. If public opinion wasn’t favorable, then I had an existential crisis.

While all of this ‘acting’ is going on, life still is more raw and real than ever, however. You still have huge issues to deal with and insecurities that are rooted in your mixed-bag past – and even though we don’t want to let on to anyone that things aren’t going okay, we still have to deal with our emotional burdens somehow. Whether it is by internalizing and agonizing over them in silence, or finding some sorry soul to spew all your pent-up emotion out onto, I have learnt the hard way that ignoring my emotions is an incredibly toxic way of living. It’s like trying to keep the surface of the ocean still while a tsunami tide is raging underneath. A few miles down the line, there is inevitable catastrophic repercussions for not facing and being honest about where you are at personally.

That’s where authenticity is vital. You can either live out a shallow, surface level existence – trying to dodge the toxic land mines in your life and worrying about what everyone else is saying about you. Or you could live being real and raw and vulnerable – cutting all of the rubbish and living honestly. This way of living went against every fiber of my being. I have British heritage and the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ mentality was definitely inherited directly. But if I kept up the act and allowed the world to vote on how I was doing as a human being, I would not be free or fulfilled today. I would probably still be holed up in my bedroom – terrified of what the day may hold. Here are a few things I have discovered about the value of authenticity:

Authenticity always starts with you

You have to be honest with yourself first. You have to be aware of your state of mind, your emotions and your spirit. It sounds clinical and it is definitely not a comfortable exercise, but if you can confidently back yourself as being 100% authentic then it no longer matters what the world thinks of you. In fact, authenticity breeds genuine approval from people who truly matter. It might seem like a lot of effort to get people to like you. But when they do, they are actually liking who you are, not who you pretend to be.

The value of authenticity can only be seen over time

When you look at the people in your life today, there is no real way of telling who will still be around in 10 years – who will still be on track and in step with you. Some may have settled for different dreams. Other may have died or been affected by a curve ball. Still others might sprint far ahead of you. But the one thing that will ensure you have no regrets is how authentic you are right now. When the hair starts to grey and the looks start to fade, you will find authenticity will hold you stronger than ever. Anything that you have built that is of value needs to be able to stand the test of time. If you aren’t living authentically, the thought of living in the same manner for more than ten years will exhaust you. Being who you think others expect you to be is a great waste of valuable time and energy.

Authenticity means facing the truth

Here are some uncomfortable truths that I had to face: I need help – from people who are qualified to give advice. I am an emotional mess. I have an issue with pride. I’m no better than anyone else; nor worse than anyone else. I don’t know who I really am. I’m allowing things in the past to make me live like a victim. I am a sinner – I’ve messed up big-time and need the grace of God just like everybody else.

I know this isn’t the most inspiring thing to read, but I pray that it hits home that you are so much more valuable than anyone will ever see. And you need to believe it yourself first if you want to weather the storms of this world. Facing yourself – a broken, needy part of humanity – may be uncomfortable, but if you have a relationship with God it is not the end-point. The hope of understanding that He sees you, as you are in all your failure and hurt, and wants to embrace and love you, is extremely powerful. Click on the link below if you would like to know that great love – that disarms your fake efforts for approval and heals the core of who you are.

Don’t just survive. Thrive.

Recently I have had a battle with a particularly unkind version of flu. After over a week in bed – literally doing nothing – I had been struggling with my thoughts like never before. There is nothing quite like idleness (and self-pity if I am going to be totally honest) when it comes to fighting with your mind. You see, in being sick, the basic requirement for my existence was immediately whittled down to one thing: getting better. I no longer wondered whether I was enjoying myself or if I truly added meaning and hope to other peoples’ days. No. I was out to simply survive. And I have been miserable for way too long because of it.

Now you might think I’m being drastic. It’s flu – not something life threatening. But I have also lived through seasons where the stakes have been way higher. From being unemployed with a dead-end university qualification to sitting in hospital with encephalitis – among other ‘itises’ – counting the seconds away in an isolation ward. Survival is an instinct we rely on when things don’t go well. It is an incredible trait that helps us get through the hard times without giving in.

But I believe there is a better way to live. There are many people going through terrible circumstances right now who are not simply surviving – although by our standards it is more than justifiable that they just focus on ‘getting by’. As much as I do believe pain is relative and everyone experiences life uniquely, I also believe that we were made to do more than simply survive ANY season. It’s what sets us apart from other species – we don’t simply live on instinct, we can create and regulate how we live as humans.

So are you constantly living with the weight of your situation tearing at your thought? Do you struggle to think beyond the bare minimum requirement? Are you tired and worn out? Here are three things that I have found to be ways to kick yourself out of survival gear.

Laugh

 No, I’m not trying to offend you. Yes – your situation might be tough. But choosing to laugh and introduce joy into your thought-life can do wonders for your soul. When life is dire and there are so many reasons to be serious, the last thing you want to do is find something funny to occupy yourself with. But that’s how exactly why you should do it. In acknowledging and enjoying whatever good is present, you are immediately taking your thoughts out of the black and white world of ‘survival’ and into the colorful realm of real life – where the bright and the somber live side by side and the existence of shadows is inseparable from the presence of light.

I remember when my family gathered around my mom before she went in for a major operation due to cancer. We sat in the ward and although there was nothing really apparent to laugh at, we found ourselves having the greatest time. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard for so long. And it made our family stronger. And it got us through a really tough season. Laughter brings perspective. Laughter releases endorphins. Laughter relieves tension.

Make difficult decisions

Once again, I understand when you are in survival mode and everything is treated as ‘life or death’ critical, the amount of decisions available are drastically limited. But if you find yourself stressed and in a tailspin trying to just get by, maybe it’s time to take on some hard decisions. Instead of only looking at how to get out of the problems you face TODAY, looking at the greater decisions that have got you to this place can help make sure you are not stuck in the same survival mode in a years’ time.

Why are you stuck in survival mode right now? Is it because of your own decisions? Is it a result of someone else’s? Are you falling victim to something you can control?

The answer is hard to hear, but whatever your circumstance you are the one who will determine whether you become a victim of it or not. If you look up from the current pain and strife and see what happened before, as well as what might happen in the future, you will be able to make good decisions that might not impact your problem today, but will completely revolutionize where you will be in ten years’ time.

Making hard decisions instantly puts an expiry date on your survival mode.

Give

Give your time, your money, your support, your words, your expertise or even your food to someone else. Generosity does not belong in a survival mentality. When you are living simply on instinct in a season, you will find yourself becoming selfish and self-obsessed. It’s about you making sure you’re alright, who cares about anyone else?

I know what that’s like. And if you get to that point, the most powerful and urgent thing you should do is give. You might say you don’t have anything to give – a poverty spirit is part of a survival mentality. But there is always something you have that could bless someone else. In fact, even if it doesn’t bless anyone the act of you giving in itself immediately shifts your mindset from survival to something greater.

Does it make sense to give when you don’t have enough? No. But when you do it, you open your whole life up to others. It encourages interdependence instead of just dependence. It forces you to use your imagination (one of the first things to shut down in times of crisis). Generosity is a major key to escaping the prison of survival.

You might read all of these points and still feel incapable of doing any of them. All of the above decisions require strength and wisdom. I know I have only been able to learn about them through spending time with one who knows and cares more than anyone about my situation – Jesus. If you would like to get out of survival mode and truly thrive in life – despite the circumstances you find yourself in – then click on the link below.

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