Category Archives: Unity

The Need for Intimacy Among Men

To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it. C.S. Lewis


On August 27th, I led a men’s breakfast at Foothills Fellowship. My goal was to help men see the need for intimate male relationships, encourage them to be willing to explore this concept more, and eventually pursue such relationships. I gave them 6 reasons why I decided to speak on this topic.

1. Occasionally, I find myself telling my wife, Michelle, “I don’t need close male friends. I have you.” Emotionally, I may convince myself of this, but theologically, I know this is not right.

2. Most churches (including mine) stink at keeping single men connected to the church after high school. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that there aren’t any older men relationally connecting with these younger men.

3. Churches must have an answer for single men who struggle with same-sex attraction but want to honor God by remaining celibate. Deep and meaningful relationships with other men and families in the church is pivotal for helping these men stay connected to their faith and keep their commitment to celibacy. I recently blogged on this.

4. In college, I enjoyed deep male friendships, and I miss it. However, once I was married and had children, these relationships faded. Men must figure out ways to stay connected to one another after marriage.

Yes. That’s me on the right! And yes, I was in college. A senior as a matter of fact!

5. The Bible calls us to deep, intimate relationships with other Christian men, but our culture has made this almost impossible.

Sam Allberry, a pastor in Maidenhead, UK explains why: “Our Western culture has so identified sex and intimacy that in popular thinking the two are virtually identical. We cannot conceive of intimacy occurring without it in some way being sexual. So when we hear how previous generations described friendship in such intimate terms, we roll our eyes and say, “Well they were obviously gay.” Any intimacy, we imagine, must ultimately be sexual. But the Bible conceives of these things very differently. Sex and intimacy are not the same. It’s possible to have a lot of sex and yet find no intimacy. Sex is designed to deepen and express intimacy that already exists; it cannot in itself create it. But it’s also possible to have a huge amount of godly, healthy intimacy without sex.”

6. Men’s discipleship and sanctification is dependent upon deep relationships with Christian male friends. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Iron tools are made sharp, and fit for use, by rubbing them against the file, or some other iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. He quickens his ingenuity, enlivens his affections, strengthens his judgment, excites him to virtuous and useful actions, and makes him, in all respects, a better, more godly man.


There are other Scriptures that point to the need for intimate relationships between Christians (men in this case).

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. I read this passage at most marriage ceremonies I perform, but gender is not specified here.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. A friend is sent into the world of another for this among other ends, that he might comfort and relieve his brother in his adversity.

Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing honor. This denotes the affection that ought to exist between spiritual brothers and is a badge of discipleship. To “outdo” one another means going before, leading, setting an example.

John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Christians are called to love one another – and this goes for men too. By doing this 1) it gives evidence that we are Christ’s disciples and 2) it shows unsaved people that we follow Christ.

John 15:12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” This is what Christ did for us. This is what we should be willing to do for others – including our brothers in Christ.

in I Samuel 18-20, we see the ultimate example of an intimate male relationship in David and Jonathan.  We see that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Once Jonathan realized that he would never assume the throne of his father because of his father’s sin and that David was God’s choice to be the next king, he made a covenant with David (rather than try to kill him) because “he loved him as his own soul.” In an act of great humility and love, Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his girdle.

The last time they ever saw each other, Scripture says that “David fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times; and they kissed one another, and wept with one another.” Jonathan was eventually killed, and David eventually became king, but their friendship and loyalty lasted long after Jonathan’s death. In 2 Samuel 9, we see David caring for Jonathan’s son as his own. “I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”


Christian men need friendships like this, and it can happen. Pray that God would show you a man of two with whom you can work toward developing a deep and intimate relationship. It will take work and great intention, but it’s worth it. As a matter of fact, your sanctification depends on it!

To see more of these great old photos of men with their buddies and to read about the history of male friendship in America, click here.

To listen to the audio of the men’s breakfast discussion I had with the men from Foothills, click here.

Smaller Is Better – For Me

I pastor a church where 225 people call themselves “regular attenders” and another 60 or so are “trying us out” on any given month.  When people ask me about my church, I often refer to it as a “small” church, because I know of several larger churches.  However, it looks like I’m wrong.

According to Outreach Magazine, 90% of the churches in the world have fewer than 200 people, and 80% have fewer than 100.  Most pastors will spend the majority of their ministry in small churches. 90% will never pastor a church larger than 200 people.

I love my church – the people that is (as opposed to the building or institution) – and I’m very content (and blessed) to be their pastor.  We may be considered “large” by comparison to the rest of the world, but I’m glad we’re not too large.  Years ago, I was offered a position to pastor a church that at the time had 1,000 attenders.  At the same time, I was offered the position I’m currently in.  I had to decide between pastoring  a “large” church or a “small” one.

the-pastorIt just so happened that when I was faced with this decision, I was reading Eugene Peterson’s memoir called The Pastor.  In it, he talked about the “small” church of 300 people that he pastored for 30 years, and in great detail, he described the deep connections he was able to make.  He said that because of the smaller size, he was able to “know” everyone in the church.

This really made an impact on me because at the time, I was serving as an associate pastor at the 1,000 member church and felt unsettled not being able to connect with and know all those people.  Especially unsettling was when people would come up to me during the week in public and tell me how my preaching was making a difference in their lives, and until that meeting, I had never seen them before.

I don’t have a problem with big churches; God has just made it clear to me that smaller is better – for me.  I’m glad that I “know” the people of my church, and I Iove that they invite me into their lives.

But armed with these newly discovered statistics, I may just tell people – when they ask – that I pastor a “very large” church – one of the top 10% in size churches in the world!

My Brothers. My Friends.


These are my brothers. Pastors from all over the state with whom I meet 4 times a year for lunch, prayer, and discussion. Some have become closer friends who I spend time with in-between meetings.

I get great encouragement from these guys. We’re not from the same denomination, nor do we conduct our worship services the same way. But we are unified around the essentials of the gospel of Christ and unified by our passion to lead God’s people into a closer walk with Him.

I’m thankful for these men – for their prayers, their empathy, their understanding, and their passion. There is great hope in the state of New Mexico – a state not known for its Christian presence and influence. As long as men like these are leading our churches, God’s Word will continue to be faithfully and powerfully proclaimed here in New Mexico.

For more about these men and their churches,

“Well Intentioned Dragons” aka “Sheep That Bite” aka “Clergy Killers”

Wow. This video clip is powerful. Maybe it’s because I’m considered a part of the “clergy,” or maybe it’s because I do have a sensitive heart (really, I do!), but this moved me.  Especially the last few seconds.  I’ve felt what that pastor is feeling.  I’ve said what that pastor is saying.  I’ve been brought to tears like he is.  Please pray for your pastor.  I (we) understand that everyone has pressure and difficulty in life, but I can speak from years of observation, study, and experience that being a pastor is a hard calling.  There is an intense spiritual battle that wages in a pastor’s life and in his family that is not common to anyone else. I know of many pastors who have asked God to remove this calling from their lives.  I have before.  But He has not, and most days, I’m thankful He has not removed this calling.  But there are days…

Years ago, I was given a book by a fellow pastor called, Well Intentioned Dragons, and the book introduced me to what I would experience again and again in my pastoral ministry: “sheep that bite.”  That’s how one of my pastor friends describe people in the church who cause dissension, trouble, and pain for other church members and for their pastor.  And over the years, I’ve been bitten several times by people in the church that I know and love – people that I thought knew and loved me.  In no way am I indicting any one church that I have served.  All are filled with good and loving people.  But each one has biting sheep among them as well.  As one pastor says in this clip, “I don’t think most people have any clue that this goes on.”  Unfortunately, it does.

I was recently sent this clip from a fellow pastor.  I have not watched the full documentary, but I plan to.  And like I said, this clip moved me.  It resonated with me.  It saddened me.

Here’s the link to the web site with more information on this video.


Why I Hate Election Season

I wrote this 2 years ago today during the 2010 mid-term election season. I still feel the same. 

I hate election season.  I’m not anti-voting, anti-democracy, or anti-American.  I just hate the onslaught of negative media campaigns where political opponents slam, slaughter, and condemn one another.  It’s so bad that my kids have caught on.  We try to out-do one another with ridiculous and hilarious fake smear ads.   On the way to school the other day, Taylor and Alexis saw a billboard for one of the candidates for governor here in NM and began spouting off funny smear ads that made me laugh so hard I nearly wrecked the van.  Unfortunately, condemnation of one another is nothing new.  Jesus told His followers to knock it off nearly 2000 years ago.  He said…

“Judge (condemn) not, that you be not judged (condemned). 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5

Judging and condemning one another is standard operating procedure for most.  It’s an American pastime.  So, if followers of Christ are supposed to refrain from judging and condemning one another, then we need to be told how to stop.  From Jesus’ words above, I believe He gives us three very good and practical ideas on how we can stop condemning one another.

1. Recognize that to the extent we do (or don’t do) something, it will be done (or not done) to us by the Lord.

This is what I like to call the Reciprocal Principle of the Kingdom. Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 6 that if we forgive one another, then we will be forgiven by the Lord.  If we don’t, we won’t be forgiven by Him.  In Luke 6, Jesus again shows how this principle works.  He says, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  Recognizing that we will be condemned by the Lord if we condemn others ought to give us good reason to stop.

2. Recognize that we are often guilty of that which we condemn others for.

Theologian John Stott profoundly says, “Human beings unhappily possess an inbred proclivity to mix ignorance of themselves with arrogance toward others.  We have a fatal tendency to exaggerate the faults of others and minimize the gravity of our own.  We seem to find it impossible, when comparing ourselves with others, to be strictly impartial and objective.”  Jesus may have been being a bit light-hearted when he used the log/speck analogy, but there’s nothing light about it.  How can we condemn others when our sin is often so much more heinous than the sin of the one we are condemning.  Recognizing this truth will go a long way in helping us to stop.

3. Recognize that our self-examination must result in mercy toward others.

Jesus says in Luke 6 that citizens of God’s Kingdom are to “be merciful even as your Father is merciful.”  How can we not be merciful to others when we begin to fathom the unfathomable amount of mercy that the Lord has poured out on us?  As we realize that the Lord loves and forgives us even in light of the huge log of sin we possess, then the speck of sin possessed by our brother or sister in the Lord suddenly doesn’t look so bad.  We may need to address his or her sin in order to bring about their restoration before the Lord, but it should be done in a spirit of gentleness and mercy.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”  Understanding the mercy we have received from the Lord ought to kill any inclination to condemn others for their sin.

So…enough with the condemnation.  Bring on November 3rd! (November 6th this time around.)

Am I Listening?

I recently attended a conference along with 1400 other people where Christian author and social critic, Os Guinness, spoke.  Although I was just one of many in attendance that day, it was as if he was speaking to me.  He said, “In America today, everybody’s speaking and hardly anyone is listening.  Focused attention is rarer than gold in America today.”

A few days later, I read these words from one of my Christian heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Just as the love of God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them.  It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.  Christians, especially ministers, so often think they must contribute something when they are in the company of others, that this is the one service they have to render.  They forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking.

He who can no longer listen to His brother will soon be no longer listening to God either.  This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life.  Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother – but only for himself and for his own follies.

I’m pretty sure the Lord is asking me if I’m listening – to Him and to others.  Is He asking you the same?

Hate the Sin. Love the Sinner.

mugHate the sin.  Love the sinner. I’m really starting to hate this saying.  It’s a phrase that has been used repeatedly by Christians over the years who are trying to figure out how to deal with people who live like hell.  For the most part, the Christian world has endorsed it, but I for one, can’t endorse it any longer, and here’s why.

First of all, it makes the assumption that those who live like hell are the only people who should be labeled “sinner.”  But the last time I checked, the Scriptures say that ALL of us have sinned.  In God’s eyes, we’re all in the same boat.  All of us are sinners and all of us deserve hell.  Therefore, not only should those who live like hell be labeled “sinners,” but ALL of us should.  Christians who say, Hate the sin.  Love the sinner. come across as if they are a notch or two above the person they’re referring to when the say it, but this simply is not true.

Secondly, how does one actually hate something about a person while also showing them the kind of brotherly love the Scriptures instruct us to show to one another?  If I allow myself to hate something about someone, then it’s going to be very difficult (if not impossible) for me to show that person the kind of love that God requires of me.  We should never give ourselves license to hate anything about anyone, because if we do, that hate will eventually ruin our entire view of that person much like making cookies with dog-poop morsels instead of chocolate chips will ruin the entire cookie no matter how good the other ingredients are.

Lastly, the phrase Hate the sin.  Love the sinner. is not found in the Bible anywhere…nor is the essence of the phrase found there either.  It was originally coined by Mahatma Gandhi and printed in his 1929 autobiography, yet Christians toss it around as if it was from the lips of Jesus.  It wasn’t.

Jesus commands us to love one another; love our enemies, love those who persecute us, and forgive those who hurt us (not just once, but every single time).  Does this mean that if we know of a fellow believer who is involved in blatant, on-going sin that we should not say or do anything about it?  No.  That would be sin as well (Matthew 18:15-17).  Does this mean that we should not say or do anything about a non-believing friend or family member who is involved in blatant and on-going sin?  No.  But, no where in the Scriptures are we given license to allow hate to be a part of how we view other people.

The Scriptures tell us that the Lord hates sin and even hates those who practice wickedness and love violence (Psalm 5:5; 11:4-5).  He hates sin so much that in an incredible act of love, He sent His Son to die a brutal and devastating death to pay the penalty for those rotten people who practice wickedness (of whom you and I are included).  Therefore, we have no right to look at a fellow sinner and call him a “sinner” while not acknowledging that we are just as hard to love as he is.

I heard a comedian recently say that the phrase should be changed to Love the sinner.  Hate your own damn sin. While I think this is kind of funny and is probably a little closer to being biblically correct, I still have some problems with it.  Therefore, I propose that we just stick to the phrase that Jesus used.  Love one another. Period.  No exceptions.