The wealthiest man in the world.

One of the best compliments I have ever received is "I want your friends." How many of you guys know that we get the friends we deserve. If you have not done the work, if you have not been the friend you would want to have, you will not have the friendships that you need.No matter how successful you are in other areas of your life, with out significant friendships all will be empty.If you want to get better, if you want to fix a problem area in your life know that the problem you think you have is really at it's core a relational problem. When you peal it all way, strip it down and see your penis problem, drinking problem, financial problem, over eating problem.... what ever it is it will be solved long term by significant relationships.We have good friends because we are an awesome friend. Because we love ourselves, because we are a good person to spend time with with. I have been recently thinking about who is my favorite person in town and after sometime debating it I realized that my favorite person is me. I am my favorite person in Redding.I am a friend that you want to have. I am man's best friend because.I am loyal, honest, will make you laugh, people around me gain from my strength, I am visionary, I do what I say I am going to do, I am big picture smart, intensional, leave people better, I listen, encourage, I am not for sale, my relationships are pure, I am not in sin, I make good choices, I take risks, I grow my own food, I am a good money manager, an solid businessman,  I learn, I am always getting better, helping others get better, I am passionate, purposeful, I have zero problem saying no, I do not live under obligation, I answer my phone, return my texts/emails/phone calls, I read a lot, I am knowledgeable, wise, funny, true, humble, confident, I have a great smile, I am good looking, I catch fish, I kill when I hunt and eat. I passionately love good food, and more importantly who I eat it with, I experiment, I fail, have victories, home runs, mic drops, and walk away knock outs. I can talk, touch, feel, I cry, have time, friends that are smarter than me, I am holy, fierce, I defend the week, never forget a kindness, appreciate personal uniqueness. I am the the wealthiest man in the world. 

Permission to Grieve  by De'Andrew Brown

Check out this blog by De'Andrew Brown

Permission to Grieve

PainMost men do not know how to grieve, or they feel like they are not allowed to because they have to be "strong." I am here to tell you that not only are you allowed to grieve, but you must grieve in order to live in complete freedom. My wife and I moved to Redding from Guam with at the time our one year old daughter (Petal) and five months pregnant with our baby girl (Posie). Three weeks after moving to Redding we found out that Posie no longer had a heartbeat, and a week after waiting to see God bring her back to life her heart remained silent. Rosie was going into her third trimester. We then went through labor just like when you have a healthy baby. Four hours later my wife (Rosie) gave birth to Posie not only in physical pain but with so much more. I remember crying so hard when I held Posie, because I had an ounce of hope that she would be born crying and living. When that hope was completely gone, I turned to feeling the loss of my daughter. Undoubtedly the hardest day of my life, feeling so much pain in such a short amount of time. My wife and I prayed through the entire process and believed that God was a God of miracles up to the moment of birth, and then we had to make a decision that we would continue to believe that. GrievingThree weeks later, I joined manalive and was placed in Nick Harper's group. I did a good job at talking about my pain, but I needed help processing it. After having a healthy man (Nick) walk me through it I then started crying every time I talked about Posie and could not talk about her without crying. I started learning how to grieve in a healthy way and Holy Spirit was with me every time I opened up my heart and let others inside. Every time a memory came up or a new detail was discovered I had to choose to either face it and share it or suppress it and move on. I continued to face my pain and sit in it. Sitting in my pain meant I had to feel it without knowing the outcome or length of how long I would feel it. No matter how much it hurt I had to allow Holy Spirit into my pain. I remember feeling like it was my fault and I took ownership in Posie’s death. I had to speak this out loud and share it with Holy Spirit and healthy men. I had to choose to ask Him questions that scared me. If I did not choose to move my family across the ocean with a pregnant wife would our baby have lived? Did I actually hear God say go and was I just listening to my own desires? Asking these questions were painful because I did not know the answers. God responded to each question by taking it all off my shoulders, telling me there was absolutely nothing I could have done to prevent this. This was not my fault and I was hearing His voice. I also needed to hear that from healthy men whom I respected. After grieving and going after my pain I started seeing change in my family. My wife and I became even closer, and my confidence as a man started growing drastically. I was free from regret, free from thinking it was my fault, and free from trying to be strong through the loss of my baby. Because I grieved her and processed my feelings I believe I was able to receive from God in ways that were very intimate. He brought me back to the delivery room and let me see it from His eyes. He told me that I could revisit that moment any time that I wanted to.OthersI was amazed to find out that one in four babies do not live and realized that with that many not making it I rarely heard anyone talk about it. Then I thought about men never talking about it, and I could not remember a single time I heard a man talk about the loss of his child. This hurt my heart because I actually experienced freedom in talking about it and processing my pain with others. Each time I share my story I meet someone who has also lost a child. Almost every time they have never truly grieved and processed their pain. This is holding us back! Mathew 5:4 says “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."RedemptionMy story is a story of redemption, and continues with hope. Seven months later we found out that my wife was pregnant again, bringing a ton of fear and pain back into our lives. Walking with God and trusting Him that this baby would not have the same outcome as our last. There was no guarantee that we would have a healthy baby and we had to completely trust God. The journey was scary, painful, and was a rollercoaster of emotions. April 2018 we had a healthy baby girl and we called her Primrose. As soon as she came out of the womb I started weeping, thinking about the journey we had just gone through. Holy Spirit showed me that since I had grieved Posie so well, I was now able to give Primrose my full heart and hold nothing back. She is eight months old now and she is healthy as can be. She is our rainbow baby and reminds me of how good God is. That He is still a God of miracles.

Eat your vegetables

I have a deep and universal love for the Church. God put that love in me but John Wimber among other mentors modeled and articulated it for me. John said once that “were all just different vegetables in the garden.” that resonated with me, still does. There are great things about every church, and always things to appreciate about our brothers. Here are a few of mine:I love evangelicals stand on scripture. How well the Nazarene church is committed to preach the gospel to the poor,t heir passion for missions, commitment to our youth. I love the Catholics stance on the protection of the unborn, I love how often they take communion, the special holiday mass is great, I slip into these often.  I really like the rhythm of the Anglican Church, the liturgy, love the robes too. Bethel Church’s stance on homosexuality, and how they steward the presence of God. Pentecostals pursuit of the Holy Spirit. I love how the Vineyard so greatly influenced so many different churches around the world with the introduction of not just talking about it, but doing it. Their pioneering of worship as we know it today. The style of preaching/teaching, the post service prayer, and how they introduced evangelicals to the Holy Spirit in a way most had not experienced before. I love how presbyterians do family. The community that Baptists create. The efforts that so many community/non-denominational churches make to connect with unbelievers, and to be relevant to our culture. I love all the churches that regularly do communion, love them. We have this little community church near our home I slip into sometimes and I love how they take time to pray out loud and individually for those with needs among them and around the world. I passed a church out in the country a few days ago that had a sign with a box under it that said “drop prayer requests here” oh my gosh, love that too. I love the Harvest Crusades that Calvary chapels puts on each year. I love the peaceful atmosphere of the Mennonite Church. The family orientation of the AmishI love all these things and more. What I don’t like is anyone who thinks other churches are wrong. Say your right all you want but do not under any circumstances say that anyone else is wrong. So not cool and doesn’t line up with Gods heart for his Church. Jesus’s last prayer before he went to the cross was and is that we would all be one. Last year our small group was out having some beers and watching the game when a gentleman for a reason I can’t remember went on a rant about the Catholic Church and how screwed up they are. I of course didn’t let it go and we went at it for 10 minutes of heated discussion in front of the other men. He was lawyer, and I am a decent debater and we just went toe to toe for some time. It ended with and uneasy peace and next week when it was his share his homework was….Yep…he must attend Catholic Mass this week and come back with 5 things he can appreciate about the Catholic Church. He did it, and we’re all better for it. There is gold in Gods church, dig for it and you will find it.  We're all just different vegetables in the garden, raw, organic, and right out of the dirt.

Cussing Christians by Mark Peterson

Cussing Christians by Mark Peterson The way out of addiction isn’t through behavior control, it’s through relationship. We are to be Holy as He is holy; to pursue purity in all things. To get there, we have to be honest and getting honest removes the religious filter we have been conditioned to live through.Honesty, radical honesty that gets you better digs so deep that some ugly often comes up with it. Sometimes for the man who has been a good outward Christian for much of his life,  yet cannot control his penis, or looks at porn, or fantasies about women/or men sexually, who is caught in chronic masturbation has to say some not so pretty things to get that sin in the light and when they finally do sometimes cuss words can find their way into their vocabulary.Fist off, let me say this. I am not advocating cussing. We should pursue purity in all things and in our speech as well. The high road, the right road is purity of speech as well as being sexually free from porn, masturbation, over eating, or whatever(add your struggle whose purpose is to avoid pain here) it’s Gods desire, and  our focus at ManAlive is to go after that holiness together. All that being said, the way to holiness is messy, it’s very difficult be perfectly holy on the way to holy, sometimes a man will use words he wouldn’t want his grandma, pastor, or his daughter to hear.I am OK with the mess, and there is zero judgment from me.  I see beyond it to where a man is heading, not where he is at. Cussing is verbal masturbation, it feels good temporarily but comes back to bite us as it separates us from some relationships and we need all the relationships we have available to us to keep moving toward the better.All sin separates us from relationship. The story of the bible is a relational story, if you don’t understand it as relational, you don’t understand it. Addiction, at its core is a relational problem, a relational disorder, relational disfunction.  Fix the relationships, fix the problem. Have a penis problem? Make friends both male and female. Find mentors, and people to help all at the same time. Forgive by dropping the weapons that defend you from further hurt, the weapons that keep you from the relationships that you need. You will know you have forgiven if you feel empty, if you do, you’re doing it right. Now you are ready for the relationships that heal.Cussing pushes people that you need away. Churchy people get offended by it and will withdraw from you and we need them in our lives.  Cussing is to the religious what church words are to the unbeliever. Just as cussing pushes people away, church words push non believers away. On your way to better you may cuss on occasion as part of your healing process as you learn to talk and express yourself.   But if the process takes you to a place where you land on an overt Christian vocabulary you have now just swapped one anti relational problem for the exact problem but reversed and isolated yourself from the unsaved who can’t stand all your church talk just like you can’t stand their cussing.25 years ago I heard a statistic that after 3 years of becoming a Christian new believers have no non christian friends. I was struck by this and have worked very hard to always have non believers as friends. I have a passion for honesty and non Christians are naturals at, so make sure you are hanging out with them and let that honesty rub off. Yeah, I know, “come out from them and be separate” OK, but only to the extent that they are pulling you into sin.Cuss if you need to, I can guarantee you that God does not care just don’t stay there long. Get the ugly out to get to the holy, to get to the pure. Plunge the toilet, then flush the crap and let the clean water flow back in.  Lose the church words, let others know who you are without hiding behind a religious vocabulary. Let your standard be if you wouldn’t say it at the auto parts store, or a hockey game, then don’t say it. Pull people in, don’t push them away. We need them all, and they need you. 

My First Time

The first time I walked in the door I tried to just sit in the back of the room.  Some leader got up and made us all pack into the front 3 rows.   Low key but intense worship, lots of hugging,  at least 7 uncomfortable long hugs with strangers.  Most of the guys were confident, a bit brash.   Perfect strangers kept asking probing questions and then they would casually break the norms and customs I could hide behind. Men kept tossing  truth at me like a challenge.  And yet, there was this love in the room, a thick camaraderie I remembered from the military. The leaders were walking in a victory I never thought was possible.  The message wasn't the high fluff of polished sermons meant to inspire me with God's promise of an easy fix.  The message was born of men walking in unconditional love with practical responses to real pains and an authenticity I could connect with and trust. I was hurt, confronted, offended, and weirdly enthralled.  There was a power here.  God was here.  What in the world was this place? Why aren't you all groveling in unending repentance for your wicked sins and failures? Where was the shame? Yeah, there's something here and I wanted it. Hope was rising and besides, I thought I can just sit here in the back of the room and get better.  After the talk the speaker said, "the best decision you can make right now is to come up here and join a group." Yeah.. I can do this. So I jumped up after the talk to join a group. A bunch of us new guys gathered around  this cocky man up front.  He said something like "This isn't church.  You are not going to come here and hide in the crowd.  You've got to do something and participate.    So, thanks for coming, glad you enjoyed the talk. Here's the deal, are you willing to put skin in the game?  If so,  pay up and get in a group or get out." What the heck! WHAT THE HECK! Where do they get off charging money for this and then dare to tell me to leave if I don't want to pay.  Who are they? Looking back, I see that right there, my battle began.  This room exposed my pains, my fears and all my internal monsters.   Telling me I had to participate and pay was a huge trigger for me.  They forced a healthy confrontation by not letting me be passive about money or my commitment.  In or out?   I was faced with my problems, a promise, and a battle.  Would I fight for freedom, would I fight this battle or run away again? I  joined, and It's been one of the top decisions of my life. See you Monday.

Unmet Expectations

Forgiveness. Easy to preach about yet abounding in hypocrisy because it’s hard. A nice easy practical step: forgive people for not meeting your expectations. Don’t tell them about it, don’t share it with them, just do it. Be brutally honest about your expectations, makes it easier. At this stage, you are practicing forgiveness without needing anything from the person. Begin unwinding judgments and setting people free internally.Besides, most of the time forgiveness ends up being about yourself anyway. Might as well start tidying up where the risk-reward for your bumbling attempts has limited collateral damage.

Did You Shower This Morning?

Nathan Nisly, a small group leader at ManAlive, offers a good view on the value of friendship and why we need it.

 

“You stink. Did you shower this morning?”

 

Hudson wasn’t joking. Instantly I was on the defensive. Every part of me wanted to argue. He didn’t understand or know my situation. I had all these reasons in my head for my circumstances. But the truth was, I had not showered in the morning and I knew that he had a good point. I stank.

 

I had a choice. I could fight and argue about it and we could disagree on this point for the rest of the day. Or I could admit that my choices were negatively affecting him and make a change.

 

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

 

We all have places that need to be sharpened. We all have blind spots. We all have weaknesses. We all have parts of us that aren’t that pretty and we are all dysfunctional at times.

 

Without friends, you are flying blind. You can’t see your weaknesses. You won’t know when you are doing something stupid. Being human means that we get distinctly smelly at times, but the beauty is that we can engage in relationships with others and allow ourselves to grow, change, and get clean.

 

The opportunity for building meaningful friendships has been one of the most rewarding things I have encountered at ManAlive. This place champions men to build deep, powerful friendships. We set the standard and show what can be done and that friendship is essential for a man to live fully alive.

 

A good friend will call you out when you stink. I need that. You need that.

Feed Your Soul With Hope

This is a testimony from a guy that used to attend ManAlive and is currently living in the freedom we talk about:  Hello Mark Peterson. This is a message coming to you about 9 years after the last time I spoke to you. Maybe so much time has passed that it's hard to remember me – the worried, burdened kid from Australia who sheepishly wandered into your Group, ready to work and strive and beat himself up on his way to sexual wholeness. But I know it will be impossible for me to forget you. Or the time I spent in that group.I'm back home in Australia now, and it's almost 9 years after my time at Bethel, in 2009. I was battling my attraction to men, fighting to find some hope and re-learn my identity, and get whole. I cried my eyes out. Spilled my guts. Bared my heart to a bunch of guys I didn't know, so they would know the real me. I heard the voice of God in their encouragement, their prophetic words, their listening and their actions. Their refusal to reject me the way I'd rejected myself. Their refusal to be afraid of me, the way I was afraid of the man I might or might not become. Their strength in not letting their ranks break when I tried to spiral out of control. Their fierceness in confronting me with the truth of who I was, their reminders of who I was not, and their wisdom in pushing me towards my Father God, until I could hear from Him again who I would be.I was there in those Monday night meetings. With Justin Byrne, and Paul Turner, and Matt Murray. Listening to Jason Vallotton, and Mark Lex and William Paul Young, and you, Mark. All those words hitting the deep places in me, burning inside a heart that was being radically restored. Made whole. Dunked into unconditional love and grace and truth until it could beat fiercely on its own again, pumping out that same love and grace towards other people, in the context of healthy relationships.So that was 9 years ago. Why am I writing this to you now? Well Mark, it’s been a month since I married my wife. A month since I committed to a lifetime of pursuing this woman whose story God has interwoven with mine. Since I stood in front of hundreds of people and showed them what hope looks like. Told them what marriage really is (and is not). Committed to jump into this scary, exciting, vulnerable, hilarious, challenging and unknowable adventure God designed for me and my wife. A month since Justin Byrne stood by me as a groomsman, bearing witness (along with family and close friends who have walked this journey with me) to the incredible grace of God. It's been two years since I trusted God urging me to jump into this relationship. Not to trust fear. To follow the spark of feeling and attraction growing in me for my incredible wife. To risk. To be a man. To explore. To be brutally, painfully honest, and let her love me. To allow God to reward our faithfulness, and the purity and honour we chose to establish in our relationship.Today I remembered Group. And I suddenly realised I needed to tell you this part of the story. There are men in your group who believe that there might be something fundamentally, irreversibly wrong with them. Men who believe that God can fully heal and restore sexual brokenness... for others. Men who think they might have to white-knuckle their way through life, live a life of sacrifice and joyless love, out of will power. Men who feel that if anyone really knew their story, if they ever told their woman the truth, that they would be rejected outright. These are dumb lies. And I wanted to add some fuel to the fire that's starting in a few of them right now. The hope that's beginning to burn in them.Fear tried to convince me it was real. That I would end up as a gay man, fighting to stay within God's will, in church circles that couldn't understand. That I'd always be on the outer. That I'd never be fulfilled. That I'd break people's hearts. And I nearly believed it, many times. But the thing is, if you walk through your fear, and come out the other side, you see it for the illusion it is. None of that was real. I wasn't just attracted to men. I wasn't headed for a life of sin. This was a lie that Satan would love to have derailed me with. I am actually a man, created in His image. I can love my wife wholeheartedly, and lay down my life for her.I'm letting you know that the devil is a liar. One I almost believed. I almost followed his suggestions of the life I'd have to live. But the Truth is so much greater – it is for freedom that Christ set us free. We are made in His image. He makes all things new. He gives us the desires of our heart (and he even reshapes the desires we've bent, giving us even better ones). He also delights in defeating the devil through really good sex inside the covenant of marriage.This is an unusual letter, I can appreciate that. But if there's even one man in that room who thinks or feels or looks like the boy I was in 2009 – with the weight of sin on his shoulders, struggling to stay afloat, desperate for healthy male relationships, fearing connection, but fearing rejection even more – and this gives him a spark of hope, then this has been worth it. I will probably send you a letter like this every year. And tell you the ways that my love and attraction for my wife has deepened. How much better the sex is. How glorious God's healing is, and how incredible His victories in my life are.I know my marriage is only a month old – it's young and untested, and we will go through much in the years ahead. My battle is not magically over. I will continue to walk out this healing, towards wholeness. There are still giants in the land to slay. But my wife and I have learned how to fight. Not in our own strength, but in His. I'm walking this thing with one hand holding my wife's, and the other firmly grasping onto Jesus' hand.Mark Peterson – bless you. I speak a blessing of complete freedom, deep intimacy, brutal honesty, sexual purity, white-hot passion for the presence of God, revelation of identity as sons — and really, really good sex — for every man in that Group. Feed your soul with hope, men. Hold on to Truth. Swing it like the weapon it is. Destroy the works of the devil. Be strong and courageous. You are not alone. You are not powerless. You are not who Satan says you are. Your greatest strength is on the other side of your greatest weakness. And as I said, when I left that day in 2009: Keep doing what you are doing there, on Monday nights. I honour you for it. The battles you fight here in this room are what they are writing about in Heaven's history books. Thank you, from Melbourne, Australia. 31. Married. Living proof that God is good. 

Patterns. Wounds. History. Hurts, Pain.

A friend of mine Tim Wright sent me his journal writing this morning along with one of the best compliments I have ever received. He said "I had no idea how messed up I still was until i met you: ) "
Here is Tim journal entry, it's really good, I was tempted slightly to make a few adjustments to it but after reading it twice I knew I wanted you to see exactly as I did so I didn't change a thing, here it is, enjoy.
I wrote this in my journal this morning.
Everyone has these things. Everyone has been hurt in some way or another. Sometimes we hurt ourselves. Sometimes we are hurt by others. Sometimes we are the ones doing the hurting.  
Putting some time between you and the hurts or events is not that hard to do; just keep breathing and time will pass.  Sometimes letting time pass is a momentous feat, worthy of shouting for all to hear ‘I made it through another day! I haven’t quit or given up!’
When experiencing these days, often surviving feels like a Divine Gift. The thing is, while we can continue to survive indefinitely, surviving is not really living.  Perhaps surviving is what happens in the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’.  Living is what is meant to happen when you come out on the other side of the valley. 
But how many really live on the other side of hurts? There are some hurts that seem to leave a permanent limp, scars that never quite heal.  Some hurts genuinely seem to heal with time. Others are not so easily left behind. 
When a healthy person is hurt, they have a vision of normal, a vision of healthy to move towards as they heal. But what about someone who has never known healthy or whole? What do they move towards? If you have lived your entire life with at least some part of you in the valley, how are you to know what lies on the other side? How do you even know if there is another side? 
Writing a story on a blank canvas is hard. Writing a story on top of another story is harder. Add in a co-author and the tasks seems impossible.  Inevitably, each author will see the other one writing lines on top of old lines and will hear the hurt say ‘they are writing the same old story again’. Pain shouts ‘nothing will ever change. This will always be your story.’
Perhaps in times like this, when you don’t know what healthy looks like, or how to even starting moving towards it, the best guide for where to start, for where to focus is to find fear and pain and to go after them. Find the parts of the story that you are most scared to rewrite and start there. 

Self-Control: Being an Expert on You

Jenna Zint recently spoke at ManAlive (totally crushed it) and gave the men homework at the end. Here is a brief summary of her message, with a link to the homework:If you are working with a machine that you don't understand, chances are you will not have much success in getting it to do what you want. That's why most new things come with an instruction manual; because you can't control what you don't understand. So guess what?You cannot have self-control unless you understand yourself.We need to become experts on ourselves. Start by asking questions. Just like you would get to know anyone else, get to know yourself better. Ask the people who know you well to answer some of the same questions to get an outside perspective and most importantly, ask God about you, the One who wrote your instruction manual. The process of understanding your personality, your common triggers, your reactions to stress, your conflict resolution skillset and style, what brings you life, what drains you, is something that takes time. Experts in a field aren't given that title over night. They work hard at it because they are passionate about it and because they care deeply about it. Become an expert on yourself. Discover and write out your own instruction manual so that you can be an expert on you. Click here for a link to Jenna's homework: Knowing Yourself Homework

Self Control: An Expert On You

Jenna Zint recently spoke at ManAlive (totally crushed it) and gave the men homework at the end. Here is a brief summary of her message, with a link to the homework:If you are working with a machine that you don't understand, chances are you will not have much success in getting it to do what you want. That's why most new things come with an instruction manual; because you can't control what you don't understand. So guess what?You cannot have self-control unless you understand yourself.We need to become experts on ourselves. Start by asking questions. Just like you would get to know anyone else, get to know yourself better. Ask the people who know you well to answer some of the same questions to get an outside perspective and most importantly, ask God about you, the One who wrote your instruction manual. The process of understanding your personality, your common triggers, your reactions to stress, your conflict resolution skillset and style, what brings you life, what drains you, is something that takes time. Experts in a field aren't given that title over night. They work hard at it because they are passionate about it and because they care deeply about it. Become an expert on yourself. Discover and write out your own instruction manual so that you can be an expert on you. Click here for a link to Jenna's homework: Knowing Yourself Homework

Walking through Fire without Smelling like Smoke

Here is a awesome post by one of our local leaders;  Dustin Schultz. When my wife started a job working for a pastor at our church it took about a month before she shared the story of my unfaithfulness that happened early in our marriage. This wasn’t a counseling session and it didn’t come about from anything odd being perceived about my wife. The conversation came while they were just getting to know each other and as we’ve walked out our healing process we’ve seen how these conversations become easier and hold less shame.After listening, the pastor responded, “Wow, I never would have known. Normally when there has been a fire you can smell the smoke.” We all know what they meant by that; that couple or individual you see or talk to and you just know something is off. You can almost, dare I say, 'smell the smoke'. Something has happened, they are in or have gone through the fire and will never be the same. They disqualify themselves from being great or try to over compensate. They manipulate or come across as victims. The list goes on.Naturally I’m an analyzer in my mind, so a statement like this made me wonder, “What did we do differently?”. Then of course, there was the other nagging question, “I’ve heard a phrase about people not smelling like smoke before, but where?”. Oh right...24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singged nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God (Daniel 3:24-28)Healing well wasn’t about what I did at all, it was about how I did it and who I did it with. Here’s the difference; we so often are looking for a formula to deal with our situations, but it’s not actually about the decisions we make as much as it is about why we make the decisions we do.The WhoPlease don’t skip over this as you quickly skim this blog and say, “Yeah, I know, I go to church, the answer is Jesus”. If that’s what you’re thinking, you’ve missed it entirely and what you’ve missed is the wonder of who He is, what He has done, and what He’s doing in you now. It wasn’t Shadrach and his two amigos who told the king who was in the fire with them. The king saw and knew! Do people look at your life, the fire that you’re in and see why you aren’t being burned up? Jesus is the one who doesn’t just take our mistakes and ‘fix them’, He actually turns them in victories that others are in awe of.If you’re healing process isn’t leading you closer to Jesus, it’s fake and will fail. Period.The HowNow that you’re reminded who you’re doing this with, look at verse 28, “…His servants who trusted in Him…and yielded their bodies”. This is the ‘how'. Yielded, submitted, giving ourselves up in trust.When I first started to get well, to let go of pornography, sexual sin, passivity, etc. the first thing I wanted to do was run around and shout, ‘I’m free! I’m the man! I have all the tools, I can help anyone!’. Red Flag. Celebrate for yourself and with those close to you, but don’t start booking your speaking tour just yet Rambo. You need to stay in the fire until those watching you can’t help but call you out of it to ask what has happened (verse 26). Many times, especially if you are reading on this blog, the fire you are in you’ve lit yourself. That wasn’t the case for our three Israelites in the story above, and yet they submitted to the process. If you make your decisions from a place of submission, you won’t have to worry about your actions, your words, or the results they bring. We are simply called to worry about obedience, no matter how uncomfortable. A Side NoteShadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were chosen to be exiled from Israel and to come work for the king because they were the best; the wisest, the most handsome, etc. (Daniel 1:1-5). These men were removed from their homes and their very identities were stripped when the king renamed them (Daniel 1:7). Great men don’t blame their circumstances. Great man are great wherever they are.

A father's mystery

When my dad was about to turn 60 in the fall of 2007, my mom asked me to give a speech at an elaborate birthday celebration she was planning at their church.  This request legitimately terrified me, and for a long time I couldn’t think of the first thing to say.  When I was growing up, my dad had always been a fairly private man who expressed his love for his family through his provision.  I never lacked for anything I needed (or even most things I wanted), but we were never particularly close or expressive in our affection, and after I graduated high school and moved away, our communication grew more distant and less frequent.Sometimes I would watch a movie with a poignant scene between a father and a son or listen to a friend’s story about a tender moment with his father, and something in my heart would convulse.  I felt like a blind man having a rainbow described to him – it triggered a visceral longing completely out of the grid of my life experience, where on one hand I would be crying from raw emotion and on the other hand I felt detached and unable to relate in any personal way.If I stayed in that place too long, I would start feeling guilty.  I knew my dad’s way of showing love was by taking care of us physically and materially, and I knew he was a first-generation Taiwanese immigrant whose father had been a strict and private man himself.  In my mind, my best response was to just be thankful for how my dad loved us in his way and to accept that moments of shared intimacy between fathers and sons were meant for other families, not ours.After a few days of internal struggle, I decided to open my speech with this line: My father has always been somewhat of a mystery to me…One afternoon in the summer of 2015, my wife and I huddled together in our backyard over an envelope from her ob-gyn which contained the gender of our third child.  As we opened it and realized we were about to have our first boy, we both began to cry, and throughout the rest of the day I would find myself wiping away tears without having even realized I was crying.There’s something about both being a son and being a father that resonates in the core of a man’s heart.  Knowing I was about to experience the father-son relationship from the other side, I realized I couldn’t continue to ignore the effects the lack of relationship with my own father had on my heart.  That’s what categorized our relationship really, it wasn’t negative, it wasn’t abusive, it just…wasn’t.  And so for the first time, I admitted to myself that I had a need for a tangible father’s presence in my life, that the convulsions in my heart actually came from a desperate longing to be fathered.Over the past few years I’ve reached out to my dad by writing him heartfelt emails, by sharing my entire journey towards sexual purity with him, and by telling him I love him more times than I have in my first 30+ years of life combined.   Early on in this process, a counselor told me that I needed to have realistic expectations about what my dad would be able to give to me, that he most likely wouldn’t just suddenly develop the capacity to fill the open wound of fatherlessness that I carried.   And it was true, his responses have ranged from awkward to hurtful, most recently last New Year’s Eve when I gave him a hug and told him I loved him, and was met with an offhand comment about my weight.One of the main axioms of ManAlive is that it’s relationships that hurt us, and so it’s relationships that will heal us.  One offshoot of this is that as our capacity for relationship grows, so does our potential to be hurt, and so does our compassion for the hurt that others carry.Last week as we sat down for our evening family prayer time one night, my two young daughters were fighting over who gets to sit in mommy’s lap as they often do, and in that moment, I felt wounded and rejected by them.  My brain knew that they love and adore me and that in their innocence they didn’t intend for me to feel one ounce of rejection, but my heart felt differently.  I thought back to my New Year’s Eve interaction with my dad, and for the first time, I thought about how I, as his only son, may have unknowingly hurt him in a thousand different ways as I was growing up.  With his cultural background and life experience and a complete lack of access to all the tools I’ve gained over the years for healthy emotional processing, his only response would have been to shut his own heart down to numb the pain, suffocating any connection we may have had before it even had a chance.Ten years ago, I ended my speech for his 60th birthday with this: Thanks Dad, for your mystery, for your heart, for everything.Sometimes I wish that my father-son story had a singular momentous turning point and that I could point to one day when everything changed and we began living life as Father and Son.  That day hasn’t yet happened, and in truth it may never happen.  What I have gained instead is an understanding that my capacity for wounding and being wounded is much deeper than I ever realized, and that the journey to healing and wholeness is comprised of a seemingly infinite number of small steps.  All I can do, what I must do, is continue on this journey one step at a time, in unending pursuit of the connection between hearts that gives everything its meaning.  My hope is that one day, my dad will be walking alongside me.

The antidote for shame

Written by: Laura Duncan one of our secret weapons who will be speaking at the ManAlive Experience this weekend. .Compassion is the antidote for shame. For many years, I thought shame was a form of conviction. When I felt shame I thought it would lead me to repentance and then I would be able to grow closer to God. Shame is not conviction of sin. Shame covers up of who God created us to be. In our shame, we separate ourselves from God, the most devastating act we will ever do in this life. When Adam and Eve ate of the knowledge of good and evil their eyes were opened and they hid themselves from God. God came to them personally in their sin. He called them out of hiding and covered them. He gave them consequences for their sins, and in his mercy had them leave the garden so they wouldn't be stuck in sin forever. Through the repentance of sin and the blood of Jesus we have been restored to God original design, restored to right relationship. (Col 1:20-21) We are no longer seen for what we do, we are seen for who we are. Why then are there so many Christians still hiding in the "bushes"? Why do we continue to eat of the knowledge of good hoping to better ourselves and eat from the knowledge of evil hoping to protect ourselves? The answer is we still live in shame. The only antidote for shame is compassion. Jesus was moved with compassion and healed all those that came to him. Picture this, Jesus sees a person and has such tender affectionate love towards them, that it erupts out of him and heals them. We may focus on the healing but the true miracle is compassion. To receive Jesus's compassion in our own lives we must go back to when we first experienced shame. Our eyes are opened to the knowledge of good and evil in our early childhood development. During these formative years we begin to cover up who we are and hide from ourselves, God, and others. Shame looks like any area in our life that we don't believe we are seen, heard, accepted, valued, or good enough. When I was a little girl I thought I had to make my world ok, so I could be ok. I helped my parents in their chaos hoping that if they had what they needed they could give me what I needed. My shame was, I needed to be good in order to gain acceptance and connection. Looking back I was able to give my younger self compassion, in the same way I would give compassion to my own children. Through compassion, I knew I was ok even if my external world still felt chaotic. When our hearts experience compassion, we will become tender and allow God and others to come close. We will no longer hide in the bushes but we will walk with God and talk with God. We will be restored to innocence, restored to the garden 

The beginning of the rest of your life

Let’s talk about masturbation. From time to time I get asked about it, and on occasion, by very prominent people. There is a lot of messed up thinking on it, so if you are one of those men that has thought about it incorrectly in the past, that is about to change. Let me clear things up for you.

First of all, there are over 500 blogs on this site over the last 9 years. I have never written about it directly, but any thinking man will get the picture in a short amount of time without me having to say it in black and white print. But now is the time, so here it goes. I am not, or do I ever wish to be the masturbation or penis police. If you want to spank it, go for it and don’t let me know how that goes for you because I already know.

I get asked, “Is masturbation okay?” What they mean is, “Is it sin?” The answer is almost always.You fantasize when you do it, so you are breaking the 7th commandment, and the Biblical mandate Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5:28 when He says, “Do not look at a woman lustfully because if you do you have already committed adultery in you heart.”

“But I have a higher sex drive than my wife, isn’t it okay to level things out a bit?” Suck it up, sex is not a need. You have been lied to about that forever, you bought it, and now you don’t enjoy your wife to the fullest because she can never live up to your fantasies or your hand.

“But I’m single, I will stop when I get married.” What you do when your single, you will do when you are married. Marriage doesn’t fix things sexually, it will only make it worse, and now you have enrolled another person in your mess. You will take all that porn in your brain into your marriage bed, and it will take many painful years to get free of it. It will cause you pain and disappointment. It will hurt your wife, steal from your life, your time, your finances, your children, and your relationships. Masturbation is an act of selfishness, it’s an act of isolation, an act of loneliness, an act of poverty, and it leaves you empty. Why do you feel bad after you do it? That is conviction willing you to change, the Holy Spirit directing you, drawing you toward holiness.

All you single women reading this, and I know that there is a lot of you, should ask very early in the relationship (if your father has not already, and he should have before you ever went out), when is the last time he has looked at porn? That will tell you a lot. It will tell you what you will get. If it’s been less than a year, walk away, and don’t look back. He is not good enough for you. He’s not man enough to save himself for you. You are out with a boy, you need a man. A man who is holy, a man who is pure. A man who will protect you, a man who is good, a man who is faithful.

Side note: I have a friend whose wife is disabled, so he will bring himself to orgasm with his wife beside him. This is very different as they are together and intimate inside the context of their relationship.

I attend a large and very influential church, and my senior pastor agrees with me, as has every other senior pastor I have ever had in my life. However, one of the other main pastors here does not, nor does James Dobson, whom I have a lot of respect for. On the latter two, let me explain their position and what influenced them. One was masturbating as a teenager and and his father didn’t shame him for it. It was a huge relief, he never forgot it, and now doesn’t push that on others.

The other had a large youth group and an outsider came in and spoke telling the youth there that masturbation was a sin that they would burn in hell for. He lost half of his youth group and it took him months of hard effort to get them back. Both of these men, good men, are speaking of youth, boys, and I would agree with them that when dealing with young boys, it is good not to shame them or preach to them. If they ask, tell them in story form, tell them your story, tell them why, answer the questions they ask and do not go much beyond that.

The best thing you can do for your boys, boys in your life, or youth group, is to live holy, live alive, be interested in them. What you will find is that you’ll be doing a regular, informal small group with them without any pressure or schedule. You will represent to them how a man should live, how they will want to live.

The best thing a man can do for his sons is to be and live sexually pure. One birds and the bees talk doesn’t cut it, it’s not close to enough. That talk should be ongoing. Be ready to have it whenever they ask about it. Articulate what is in your heart. Your holiness is their inheritance. It starts with masturbation and builds into every last detail of life. When you are able to go to that place comfortably, it will bring them comfort, give them hope, free them of shame, and start them on the the path to manhood.

I have seen some very masculine young men as young as 12, and I have seen many boys as old as 65. ManAlive is making men. We have chosen the age of 18 for both legal and developmental reasons and we do not let anyone younger in the room. If you are 18, it is time to pull your hand out of your pants. The step away from masturbation is the step toward manhood. It’s the beginning, it’s foundational. Freeing your mind from pornographic images is a game changer. You will feel like you just got saved, because you did. You will think clearly, you will find out who you are, what you really need, what really brings you alive. You will make real friendships, you will be honest, you will learn to talk, to touch, to feel. Your life is about to begin. You are about to become a man.

It’s amazing how, when a man stops masturbating, that coffee dates with women aren’t good enough anymore. He wants to get married. He starts pursuing women, not girls. He is better, he is good, he is clean. He is thinking clearly, working hard, living holy, and he want’s someone who is doing the same. He wants a mother to his children, a friend, a companion, a wife he is proud of, a partner, a woman he is happy to bring home for Christmas.

Women: Let men pursue you. Be who he is looking for, and let him find you. Do not pursue boys. You are looking for, praying for a man. Men will not let you pursue them. He knows what he wants, and it is not a girl who flirts, it’s woman who knows who she is, knows what she wants, who is pure, ambitious, godly. She is prepared, she is good, she is beautiful, and her inward beauty overrides the outward. He will know it when he sees it and it will draw him to you, and you will do more together that you ever would have alone.

Back to masturbation. God isn’t breaking up the party, He created sex and wants you to experience it to the fullness of what it was created for. He wants you to wait, not to arouse your love until it’s time (Song of Solomon 2:7), to bring the whole you into the relationship. He wants you to have great sex, to be known, and to fully know. Begin the practice of delayed gratification, the better is later. If you waited, the better is now. If you didn’t, you are still trying to crawl out of a hole and it hurts everyone you are in relationship with.

You are better than masturbation, you don’t need to work out a time to be alone, a time you won’t get caught. You will no longer masturbate until you bleed then keep masturbating. You will no longer use it as pain management, as failure control, as the one thing you’re good at, because you are better than that. Your time is valuable. You have been wasting it for years, but now you are done. Life is before you; it will hurt at first, it will be hard to stop, but you can. Many men have, and the fruit of their life is fantastic.

Jesus is the model. Everyone who says they abide in Him should walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). He didn’t go bust one out behind the wood shed. He didn’t catch a glimpse of Mary’s nipple when she was washing his feet and take a trip to the bathroom. He didn’t give into false comfort when he was about to be crucified and tell his disciples to wait here while I go masturbate, oops, I mean pray. He was pure, He was holy, He is God. Walk as he walked. You can, He is in you and has given you the power to change.

The end of masturbation is the beginning of the rest of your life. You will start to think clearly, act aggressively, pursue what you want, find what you need, have the friendships you want, find the woman of your dreams, travel to exotic places and laugh to yourself about how cool it is to be there. You will feel like the only sane person alive, but others will treat you like you are the one who lost his mind. They are wrong, and you are losing your care bone because what people think doesn’t control you anymore. You can see the future, and it’s good. You will begin to love yourself, you will make money, you will be full of hope, you will get revelation and ideas, your wife and children will be awesome, you will have encounters with God and the character to hold on to them. You will be at peace, yet ready for war.

You are a man, and men don’t masturbate.

Experience It

Gentlemen. Never before have we offered what we have, who we are, and what we are doing to the public. The way into ManAlive, the healing that happens, the intimacy that is experienced has always come with with the price of commitment, honesty, hard work, and facing significant pain.Now for the very first time men can come get 2.3 days of a firehose experience of ManAlive for the price of a ticket. This will be the best money you have ever spent for an experience you will never forget.You will not just sit and be talked at. You will participate, and engage physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It will change you, you will find what you have been looking for and more importantly you will get the tools to hold onto it.Sign up now for the ManAlive Experience January 11-13th

Good Cry: a review of Mark's new book

I want to take minute to brag on the incredible new book from Mark Peterson, Good Cry. Before coming to ManAlive, I hadn't cried in front of my wife in our entire marriage. I couldn't figure out why and didn't realize how much intimacy and wholeness I was missing out on for both my marriage and myself. At ManAlive, I heard from Mark, over and over, the necessity of tears and accessing the depth of emotion, honesty and vulnerability that only crying can. Not only did I hear Mark talk about, I watched him demonstrate it. No matter the setting or situation, if he felt it, he let it out. When I finally allowed myself to open up with my wife through tears, I experienced something I hadn't before in our relationship. I felt truly known. From there I couldn't stop holding it in. It was just too good.I had one good cry after another and I slowly, but surely, got caught up emotionally. All of this was possible because Mark continually articulated the reasons why we get stopped up emotionally, how to get unclogged and what a good cry can do for us. The book, Good Cry, captures these insights through Mark's unique and distinct voice and unfolds them through his own personal stories. I had the privilege of getting a sneak preview of Good Cry, and I couldn't put it down. I sat for hours and read it in one sitting. It reminded my why Mark is qualified to expound on the emotional and relational impact of tears. I can't wait to get my hands a few more hard copies and start giving them to all the people in my life who need this message. Mark, thank you for not being scared to open yourself up on a regular basis and in writing for posterity. I can't wait to see the generational impact Good Cry will have.

All about the better

What we do at ManAlive is get better. It's about better. Even if you're doing great, there is always better. We applaud better no matter how much, even a little because better is what we're after. Better at work, better at play, better in our marriage, better in our communication, whatever the better is, we'll take it, it's good.When you have a mindset of better and you're always progressing toward better you get a natural hunger for everyone you know to get better. When you have been working on personal radical self improvement for a while it becomes easy to see what other people around you need. Your hard work becomes a gift to everyone you know. Even those you have just met.Men are created to leave their world a better place where ever they go. That is what men do. When you have time with someone, help them by moving them somehow and in some way toward better. Just as it usually takes 14 steps along the Engel Scale to conversion it takes similar steps toward changing behavior in other areas of our lives. Our job is to move everyone we spend time with, everyone we come in contact with along the Scale closer to God and somehow closer to better.Getting ourselves to better is painful, our better is work but helping others get to better is fun.When you are living in the better you stand in a place of power and benevolence to help those around you who are hungry for better to get there. Everyone wants to get better, but most don't know how to do it, they've been beat up. They have accepted mediocrity,  they've lost the hunger, the hope, the vision. For those walking dead that are are trapped in complacency and empty routine use the tools that you have worked so hard for and kick the down the door and drag them out of that burning house they are in.The more you're living life, the more opportunities you have help others get better.Let me repeat, it's our job to leave people better than we found them. In some way, anyway. From hitch hikers, to repairmen, government bureaucrats, school officials/teachers, law enforcement, employees, the check out lady, our hairdresser, to the teller at the bank. Bring the love, the honesty, ask questions, and use your insight in every conversation you have to release hope.Complement, don't flatter. Smile. Project a positive mindset. Use humor, be intelligent, interested, and caring. If you do all those things you will radically affect peoples day, week, year, and life. There is no way I could get close to counting the times people have come up to me and thanked me for something I said. They repeat the comment I made...but most times I hardly ever remember saying it, ...sometimes it doesn't even sound like something I would say, but they remembered it and they got better because of it, pretty cool.The rewards to helping others are eternal, and they come in the moment too. With a facial expression, a returned smile, a noticed change in their thought pattern, an aha moment. The rewards are ongoing too, we reap what we sow, so plant generously every time you you get the chance.Our approach to leaving people better should be determined by how much future time we will have with them. If it's a classmate, someone on your baseball team, someone you work with, or in your small group take your time getting to know them, collecting information, modeling, and planting seeds. If it's someone you are in a 5 minute bus transport from the airport parking lot that you know you will never see again bring the heat and move them along the scale to better with the time that you have.One of my favorite people to influence is the person who cuts my hair. Every 6 weeks you sit down in the chair and you get 20 minutes alone with someone. They think you came to get your hair cut and you did, but more importantly you came to improve their life in some small way.Let every connection be an opportunity. Purpose yourself to give away what you worked for and you will receive many times more back in returns that will come in surprising and satisfying ways for the rest of your life. These "leave them better" moments are deposits in a high interest bank account, but more than that they give purpose to everything you do, and on going value to everything that you have done.  

Rebuild

Gentlemen, welcome to our new website rebuild. We started this website with a simple blog 10 years ago. This site was first built by Graeme Morris, then redone 6 years later by Jack Vu, then this fall it was completely rebuilt by Josh Cogar.We started with 3 men in lawn chairs on the ball field, today there are 250 (we'll go well over 300 by May) men in small groups in Redding and many more groups that now meet around the country and internationally as well. Our online groups have really taken off this year since starting with one, and are now up to 6 groups meeting with 3 different small group leaders one of which is a woman, Nick Harper's wife Gabriella.We have our first conference coming up January 11th called The ManAlive Experience here in Redding that would be a genius move to come to if you can. Forget "if you can",... make it happen, it will be 2.3 days that you will not forget as it will be unlike anything you have ever attended.....it will be an experience.Man-i-Fest as always is the first week of May, a do not miss for men in a group here in Redding, in online groups, or one of the many now around the globe as well.Back to our web site rebuild. First off I just want to give a big shout out of thanks to Josh Cogar a small group and worship leader on Monday nights and a tech extraordinaire who did a bunch of things that are very uncommon and hard to do. He did a great job completely on his own dime for the love of what we do, for what we stand for, and his passion to reach men around the world. Thank you Josh, may it return to you many times.Some new features besides looking really cool are automated group applications for small groups. This is going to make Michael Kunz's (our most excellent money guy) job significantly easier.We also commissioned a new logo to be created and went with Brad Webster who did a fantastic job. Not only does it look great, the meaning behind it matches us perfectly.We carried 10 years of blogs over to the new site....we did lose 3 recent ones in the transition but the vast majority are still there now with a cool picture beside them as well.There is also a leader portal that ManAlive group leaders around the globe can access via a pass word that will have announcements, and resources to support you men as you change the world. Mark Lex who is a a group leader and speaker on Monday nights as well as a father figure in the room will be in contact with the group leaders out there to support you guys as best we can. We'll be recording our leader meetings and leader training and will soon make that available on the leader portal as well. We are also updating our map that will have contact email so men in your area can find you.We've been pod casting now for 2 years. There are 65 podcasts available to date, and hopefully adding 40 to 50 plus per year moving forward. We just added some podcasts we did out in my shop that is my best stuff yet...we'll have more of these to come in time. The conference sessions, and Man i Fest talks will be podcast as well and offered in bundles following the event. All Monday night pod casts will be offered at no cost until the next podcast goes up. When it does it will be archived here forever at $2 An alert email will be sent out when each podcast goes up so just jump on the site to down load it at no cost each time one posts. To get the alerts subscribe at the bottom of our home page.ManAlive is now a 501(c)(3) registered non-profit, so now we can directly receive support and give tax receipts. Thank you for the many who have opened your hearts/wallets and given to the great things that are happening in us and through us at ManAlive. May it return to you 100 times. If you would like to give before the end of the year, click here to make a donation. We are still very much a part of Bethel Church in Redding and have had excellent pastoral oversight over the last 10 years in Lori Byrne, Sheri Silk, and Candace Johnson. I know, all women....but they have been great and each perfect for the time they have worked with us to help as reach as many men as we can, and fast as we can, as well as we can.Hope you each had an excellent Christmas, and May 2018 be the best year of your lives.