Thrift, Part 1 (in store)

Have you ever wondered how to get deals and score some stellar clothing in the process?  Have you ever looked at a person and thought, “They look like they spend thousands on clothing–I could never look like that!”?  Have you ever thought that you didn’t need to worry about style or fashion because following the rules of style seems too complicated?

You’re in luck.  The following posts are designed to help you create a killer wardrobe at minimal cost. But first, you need to change your mindset.  You have to be willing to do what many people don’t: haggle, nitpick, and change your habits.  If your style of shopping involves going to big department stores to find the trendiest items, or going to specialty stores just to buy a name brand, then you’ll never be able to design a wardrobe on a tight budget.  You will get, at most, a few new articles of clothing per year, and by the time you’ve completed your wardrobe, it will be so outdated, you’ll need to start all over again.  You must change your mindset and put your pride aside to grab those deals.  It will be worth it when people start complimenting you daily on your wardrobe!

First, you have to lower yourself to go to placing that specifically sell at lower prices.  This includes thrift/resale shops, places like TJMaxx, Marshalls, Burlington, and others.  The larger chains (Burlington, Marshalls, etc.) won’t have nearly as low of prices as thrift/resale shops, but they sell new merchandise, which most people are comfortable buying.  Going into a thrift/resale shop can be rewarding and exciting, or it can be gross and revolting.  If you are buying a gift for someone, it’s best to go to a chain and buy new, unless you know that the person doesn’t mind used clothing.

I love going to resale shops, and I’ve gotten some fantastic deals.  Oftentimes, the people working at those stores (like Goodwill and Salvation Army) aren’t aware of finer men’s clothing labels, so a lot of good suits, sport coats, and blazers come through there.  You can find dress shirts, ties, and hats, as well, but these items tend to show their age and wear a bit more, so be careful what you buy.

If there is a “fancy” or “upscale” neighborhood somewhere in your vicinity, find a resale shop as close to that neighborhood as possible.  You will be amazed at the items that people take to those stores.  I have a small circle of upscale thrift shops that I frequent, and have made some great purchases at up to 90% off retail price for garments that look brand new.  However, to ensure that you’re getting a good deal, you need to know what to look for: brand names are a good indicator, but you might not always recognize some higher-end or tailor made clothing.  Look for the materials used in manufacture and also country of manufacture.  Try to get 100% natural materials (cotton, silk, wool, etc.) and avoid polyester, spandex, rayon, etc.  Be sure to know the price point of certain items to ensure that you’re getting a good deal.  Make sure that you you know when the sale days are (thrift shops usually use some sort of color coding and have certain color tags on sale on particular days of the week).  Use these to your advantage and get the best deals that you can.  Also, familiarize yourself with their return/sell back policy.  If you’re buying a gift for someone, they might not like it, then you’ll need to take it back.  Another aspect to this is that many thrift stores offer discounts if you donate your clothes.  Know these policies and maximize them.  If you get a discount for donating, use it, and use it often.  You’ll be able to turn in clothes that you don’t wear for new ones (or at least new to you!).

When going to a chain store or specialty store, you can still find good deals, but it takes a bit more work.  Memorize the following phrase and use it often, “Can you please show me your clearance section?”  Go to the clearance section FIRST.  This isn’t the last stop, but the first stop in savings.  After a season is over, you’ll be able to find excellent deals on the previous season’s attire.  Don’t be afraid to shop for next year’s wardrobe!

This brings me to my next MAJOR point.  You’ll be able to find lots of cheap, trendy clothing for next to nothing.  That’s because some manufacturer (probably in China) will pump out millions of pieces of clothing to ride on a trendy wave.  Don’t get fooled into buying these clothes.  Buy CLASSIC style pieces that don’t follow fashion trends.  These will be stylish in next year’s wardrobe and for a decade or more to come.

When you’re in the clearance section, look for quality merchandise.  Oftentimes, cheap, low quality items will wind up in clearance simply because they don’t sell.  Avoid these.  If people en masse aren’t buying an item, there’s probably a good reason for it.  Look for single items, or a style that only has a couple of items on the clearance rack.  Look for the designer label first and then the material second.  A 100% wool blazer from a lesser manufacture will outlast and look better than a 100% polyester blazer from a better manufacturer.

After you’ve found an item that looks nice, try it on.  If it’s a good fit, great.  If it’s a bad fit, don’t get it.  If the sleeves are a bit short or a bit long, that’s ok.  You can get it tailored.  If it’s a bit loose in the mid section, that’s ok, too.  If it’s a jacket that’s too long or too broad or tight in the shoulders, don’t buy it.  Shoulders really can’t be fixed, and the length of the jacket is difficult to correct at an affordable cost.  Almost anything can be taken in (or let out) a little, and usually for around $10.  Finding a $300 blazer on clearance for $30 and then spending $15 at a tailor is a steal.  Buying an ill-fitting garment at any discount isn’t a steal–it’s a mistake.  Fit is the most important factor in any garment.  A properly fitting cotton sweater will always look better on you than a baggy, sloppy cashmere.

After you’ve found the item(s) that you want, examine the item carefully.  And I mean carefully!  Look for any snag, loose thread, slight imperfection, etc.  Make note of every defect and then, with great confidence, walk up to the register and say to the clerk, “This is a really nice article of clothing, but there a couple snags, one of the buttons is loose, etc.  Could I get a discount on it?”  A retail chain can always take an additional 10% off.  Always.  Even on clearance.  Always.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  I can’t tell you how much embarrassment I’ve caused my wife by asking for deep discounts.  I also can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved on designer labels by being bold and asking for a discount.  James 4:3 says, “You have not because you ask not.” Use this mentality when you go shopping.  🙂

When you approach the register, nearly every chain store offers a loyalty program with discounts for signing up.  They also offer credit cards with rewards.  If you’re savvy, you can sign up for the rewards program and the credit card for deep discounts, then pay the card off and close it out.  This is great for making big purchases, like adding multiple items to your wardrobe in one trip.  Take advantage of coupons, doorbusters, etc.  Also, if you’re going to a place like Jos. A. Bank, where they offer “buy one get 30 free,” (although, they’re not doing that anymore) you can say, “I don’t want 6 suits.  I want one.  Can I buy one for 65% off retail?”  They will.  Every time.

Finally, the best way to maximize your money is to be sure that you purchase quality items at as low a price as possible.  Buying one finely crafted wool suit, even at $300, will be a better investment that 3 polyester suits at $100, each.  If you buy quality products at the lowest prices, you will be happy for years to come.  If you buy cheap junk, you will be happy for about a week.  When the material starts to pill and you start looking shabby, you won’t be happy.  Shop smart, look for deals, and don’t be afraid to ask for better deals.  The more you ask for, the more you’ll get.  If you can’t get the item at the price that you want, put the merchandise down and walk away.  You’d be surprised at how many times a clerk will tell you to turn around and work out a deal.  Make it your goal to never, ever pay retail prices!

The Sharp Dressed, Thrifty Man

The winter months give lots of opportunities to dress sharp–family gatherings, office Christmas parties, special church services, weekend getaway trips.  However, what’s a man to do when he doesn’t have appropriate attire for such events?  Simply put, jeans and a t-shirt or your favorite football sweater look slouchy when worn to a Christmas Eve candlelight service or a fancy holiday party.  You will need to add some pieces to your wardrobe to cover these special events, but doing so without breaking the bank can be challenging and rewarding, or it can be frustrating and demoralizing.

The posts that follow will feature tips on how to find good deals on excellent clothing, how to tell excellent clothing from cheap, mediocre clothing, and how to put a wardrobe together on a budget.  These posts will be helpful to any man assembling a wardrobe, or any woman trying to help her man get put together in a sensible, stylish way!

Follow the clickable links to read each individual article:

Thrift, Part 1 (in-store)

Thrift, Part 2 (online)

Style, Part 1 (at home)

Style, Part 2 (at work)

Style, Part 3 (at play)

Style, Part 4 (special occasions)

Handling Holiday Conflict: the Survival Guide

As we enter the holiday season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s), for many of us there will be family gatherings. With these gatherings there will also be something that is inherent in all families around the world. Conflict.

What follows is a quick reference guide for how to retain your sanity in these difficult times. Whether you are a single Man, or a husband and father, you will need to be able to work through conflict during family gatherings to make the most of the time that you have with your family.

Many of us do not like conflict. Even more of us do not like confrontation. But the two often go hand-in-hand. The key is to recognize the difference between the two and use one to stem the other. Often times it will be necessary for you to be confrontational in an effort to avoid conflict. Confrontation is something that many of us do not like but is often very necessary for a healthy family dynamic.

Before even entering a conflict filled family gathering, it is necessary to prepare yourself and maintain a proper mindset throughout family gatherings and interaction. You must first decide if you will add to the conflict, or if you will help ease the conflict. The decisions you make leading up to the stressful family gatherings will have great consequence and how effectively you handle conflict in the midst of the situation. You know that there will be people with whom you do not get along in your family, so prepare for that ahead of time.

First, you must decide that you will do what is necessary to achieve normal healthy family relationships. That means making difficult decisions not based on what is easiest, but what is best. Often, we sweep family conflict under the rug in an attempt to protect someone’s sensibilities or their own brand of reality that exists only inside their head. As leaders in our families, men must decide to stand for truth and what is really real.

That means being honest with one another, which is incredibly difficult at times. However honesty really is always the best policy, and we owe it to our families to be honest. If someone is living with a false sense of reality as a defense mechanism, we must lovingly bring them through that for the sake of healthy relationships.

This means not indulging in someone’s fantasies about what family is really like, but addressing true problems in a godly loving way. That means speaking plainly and truthfully. If someone has done something to hurt the family or others in the family, do not pretend like they have not done so. As long as that pain and hurt is brushed aside, and as long as people pretend like it did not happen, there can never be true healing and peace in your family. Be brave, and decide ahead of time that you will not put up with lies or alternate realities in which things are better than they really are.

Second, do not put up with bullying at family gatherings. If something is always done a certain way to placate A particular family member’s selfish desire, stop doing it. Odds are, that person is not being helped and the rest of the family is discontent and resentful. I’m not talking about having pumpkin pie because uncle Joey likes it. I’m talking about the way we do family gatherings, which is often based on keeping the whiniest member of the family happy by doing it their way. That’s not helpful, loving, or gracious. It’s convenient, pandering, and slightly psychotic.

Third, if you know that there will be an explosive exchange, make a preemptive strike. Family gatherings are a time to draw closer and celebrate togetherness, not engage in trench warfare. Take time before a holiday gathering to talk with the person. Be bold, blunt, and do it in love. Try to work things out in private before duking it out in front of a captive audience.

Fourth, take drastic measures. If there is a particular family member who always causes trouble and picks fights, uninvited that person from the family gathering. That sounds callous, but you will be surprised at how much more you enjoy the holidays and how much less stress you have without that person around. And, if done properly, that person will see that it’s better to be with family and at least TRY to be civilized in the hopes of getting an invitation next year.

Finally, remember: love is tough and requires difficult actions. Confrontation is not easy or enjoyable, but it ISnecessary for healthy, adult relationships. Part of growing up is dealing with difficult situations, and if we’re all supposed to be adults, then we have to start acting like adults. That means having tough conversations, but tough conversations produce healing and health. Make that your goal this holiday season, and I can guarantee that you will have healthier, happier family gatherings in the future.

luxury barber box unboxing

A very important, and often overlooked, element for men is hygiene and grooming.  It isn’t right for a man to smell, have bad breath, or look “unkempt.”  The secret is to take care of yourself and, at least at a minimal level, clean yourself up.  Getting a shower, using deodorant, styling your hair, brushing and flossing your teeth–these are all important elements that you should incorporate into your daily routine.  It doesn’t take hours to get ready, and if you take just five minutes each day to care for your appearance, you’ll probably find that you feel better, people treat you better, and you might even be more successful.

The fact of the matter is this: appearance is important to others, no matter how unimportant it is to you.  As such, men need to take at least a cursory interest in their appearance.  If you’re married, you need to show your wife respect and love by making yourself look decent for her.  If you’re looking for a woman to marry, you need to especially care for your appearance, because it’s the first thing that a person will notice about you.  If you’re a business man, your appearance will be one of the loudest advertisements for your business.  If you’re in ministry, as I am, appearance can play a big role in how well you’re accepted by the community, and how effectively you can minister to that community.

If you walk around a rural community in a three piece suit all day, people will be put off.  However, if you climb into the pulpit in your jammies, flip flops, unshaven and with bad breath, people will still be put off.  As a godly, manly man, it’s key to be able to look at your surroundings and dress/groom appropriately.

So, today, I am putting up a video of me opening up a monthly subscription box from Luxury Barber Box.  It’s a great program designed to put quality hair, shaving, and skin care products together for men.  Their website has the pricing, as does the video.  To watch the video, click here.

I have to say that it’s a beautiful box!  I’d actually hate to get a solid box like this and have to throw it out every month.  The magnetic closure is really nice, and the smooth, satin finish is terrific.  Maybe I’ll keep my shoe products in it. Everything was packed neatly and safely, and no products were damaged.  I have to admit, that I thought there would be a bunch of stuff in there that I wouldn’t use.  I’m pretty much a minimalist.  I don’t use a lot of cologne or sprays or hair product.  However, everything that came in that box is something that I will definitely use.  a month or so ago when they were promoting the box, I was in contact with Josh Mello from Luxury Barber, and I expressed some of my concerns and questions.  He was a big help and a generally friendly guy.  Luxury Barber cares about their image, and so they also care about the customers and try their very best to get quality products out to their people.  I was impressed.

One of the things that I’m most impressed with, though, is the shipping.  If I pay $30 for a box of products, I want it to be packaged and shipped carefully.  And, I believe that the people at Luxury Barber did just that.  A nice, padded envelope, bubble wrap, and a job well done.  The whole thing was clearly assembled by hand with care taken to make sure that it would be safe during shipping.  There were a few dings in the box, but you can’t really avoid that unless you ship in a wooden crate.  And that’s just dumb.

So, here’s the finished product–a great looking box with great product from Luxury Barber!

Box

If you’re just deciding that you need to better care for your appearance, or if you’ve been grooming for decades, a box like this is a great way to try new product.  I don’t use a lot of stuff on a daily basis, so one tub, bottle, or dispenser of anything will last me a long time.  It’s nice to have small amounts that I can get into without breaking my bank account.  Also, there’s no hassle or contract with Luxury Barber.  If you just want one box, you can buy just one.  Or, if you want new stuff every month, you can choose the subscription plan you need.  Also, if you do a lot of traveling, something like a box subscription would be really helpful, as all of these items are pretty much “travel size” and can fit pretty much anywhere.

If you’ve received the first month’s box, Luxury Barber is having a photo contest to display the box.  You can check it out here and maybe win some cool stuff!

One thing that I didn’t show in the video was the backside of the card that I removed from the box.  It states everything that comes in the box and has a description.  It also gives the pricepoint for the items on the Luxury Barber website.  Pretty cool.  Here is the photo:

This is the card that came with my box.  Nicely done!

This is the card that came with my box. Nicely done!

As you can see, my box is missing an item–the comb!  They didn’t put it in my box because I had previously mentioned to Josh Mello from Luxury Barber that I don’t use combs because of my thinning hair.  A personalized box!  At Luxury Barber, they actually take input from their customers and listen.  Refreshing.

If you decide to give Luxury Barber a shot, I don’t think that you’ll be disappointed.  Exceptional service, exceptional products, exceptional people.

how to survive traveling with children (or other needy people!)

Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Florida to visit with some family.  It sounds like a dream come true: two weeks in Florida, visiting beloved family members, relaxing at the beach.  But did I mention that we live 1,000 miles away and have a 3 year old and a one year old?  With the holidays just around the corner, many of us will be traveling.  Some of us will be traveling with small children, so some of us will probably be dreading this holiday season.

So, what’s a man to do?  Scream?  Kick?  Stay at work while your family vacates?  There’s a better solution to this problem.  There is a godly, manly way to travel, but it takes some serious preparation.  Whether or not you prepare properly will determine wither or not this is one of the best trips or the worst trips that you’ve been on.

First, take a look at the route that you’re traveling on.  If you’re like me and you’ve spent any time on a motorcycle, you will probably like more scenic routes that require you to slow down and enjoy the scenery.  But that’s not the best way to travel with small children.  Instead, you will want to look at your route and plan to use as many interstates as possible.  If you are going to be traveling by any major cities, see if there’s a bypass so that you can avoid as many potential traffic jams as possible.

Second, it’s not enough to travel as fast as (safely) possible, but also travel as short a distance as possible.  Most people think that they should try to knock out extended portions of mileage each day.  That doesn’t work very well with children.  In my experience, 300-400 miles is about the max that you can happily travel with children in a given day.  If you encounter traffic jams, winding roads, and inclement weather, be prepared to travel even less each day.

That being said, you will need to make planned stops at the end of each day.  Set a reasonable goal to reach and then research hotels in the town/city nearest those goal points.  Hotels with pools and other attractions are great distractions for kids, and it will make your trip more enjoyable.  I’ve found that even a hotel room with a jacuzzi tub can be a big enough distraction for youngsters to relieve some travel aches and anxieties.

Third, plan to make frequent stops.  In fact, it’s possible that you might have to stop at every rest area along the interstate, which could be as often as every 50 miles!  That will add a lot of time to your travel estimate.  A trip that should take a single person one day bight take a family with small children up to three days.  Don’t let it unnerve you or frustrate you.  Instead, plan ahead and plan to take more stops than you actually need.  That way, when you say, “Does anyone need to go potty?” you might be surprised that they don’t and you can blow past that rest area and make up some additional time!

A good idea to supplement this, is to carry a “travel potty” with you when you travel.  We have a small folding potty chair that’s just right for kids up to about 4 or 5.  It uses disposable bags as liners, and it has been a life save.  There have been times when we have passed an exit where no one needed to go to the bathroom and 2 miles later, an accident was imminent.  The potty chair saved some vehicle upholstery, for sure!

Another good point to make here is that it’s recommended that children in the back seat are within arm’s reach of parents.  Not for discipline reasons, but to make sure that you can hand children snacks, drinks, games, toys, etc.  If kids are out of reach and you can’t safely had something to them without stopping, you will find yourself frustrated at how often you have to pull off the road just to hand then a toy that has fallen on the floor.

You can also minimize the number of stops if you carry a small cooler with you loaded with snacks and drinks so that you don’t have to make stops for these items.

FYI-if you are traveling with a pregnant woman, be prepared to stop at every rest area and even some exits in between.  The pressure on a pregnant woman’s bladder will necessitate this.

Fourth, if you can break up your travel and make a day or two stop at a midway point, you would be amazed at how much better your children travel.  Kids (and you) will enjoy it more if there is a midway destination that offers some fun and variety to the trip.  Amusement parks, historic towns, museums, and other relatives’ homes make great midway points for the family to rest and recharge before the next leg of a long journey.

Fifth, if you can travel at night, you will be able to travel a much greater distance over a shorter period of time because children (usually) sleep at night.  Of course, if you’ve been awake all day packing and then hop into the car at 11PM expecting to drive 12 hours straight, think again.  Safety is the number one priority.  Make sure that you’re well rested and prepared to drive a pre-established number of hours.  If you can’t safely do it, then don’t!  Nothing ruins a vacation faster than falling asleep at the wheel.

Along the same safety lines, it’s absolutely necessary that you, your spouse, and your children are appropriately strapped into the vehicles.  You should only use new (never used) car seats that are correctly secured into the vehicle.  Car seats have expiration dates anywhere from 6-10 years.  If your seat is older than that, it’s time to get a new one!  Also, if your car seat has ever been in an accident, you must get a new one.  Usually, your auto insurance will cover the replacement cost of a car seat.  When you get rid of an old car seat, you must cut the straps, remove all covers and padding down to bare plastic and write on the seat with permanent marker “Expired/Deffective-DO NOT USE.”  Also, make sure that you and any other adults have their seat belts on and seats in an upright position–even if someone is sleeping.  Your vehicle restraint systems are designed to be effective ONLY with belts engaged and seats upright.

Finally, the most important part is: be flexible and be patient.  Traveling with children, even in the best of conditions, can be frustrating.  Be prepared to take your time and help everyone have a good time.  You will find that you and your family will enjoy yourselves more if you’re not constantly screaming or threatening to “come back there.”  Plan on making the traveling part of the trip and look for ways to engage your family as you travel.  Listening to kids audio stories (Like Adventures in Odyssey) along the way is a far better alternative to movies and video games because it’s something that the whole family can listen to.

If there are any accidents (automobile or underpants), the stress levels will automatically skyrocket.  Be prepared to be flexible with this.  Have a roadside assistance service for your vehicle and carry garbage bags and spare clothes for the kids.  A few towels and sanitary wipes never hurt, either.  Take time to plan for any emergency that could arise, and your vacation will be great.  Don’t be afraid to make traveling to your destination part of the fun!

making godly, manly decisions

People are faced with decisions every day.  Typically, we face hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions every single day.  These decisions range from inconsequential (what flavor toothpaste do I use?) to life and death (do we stop life support for a family member?).  Unfortunately, most people aren’t very good at making decisions.  We see the result of our inability to make wise decisions by the politicians that we have elected and sent to Washington, D.C.  We see it in the amount of credit card debt that most Americans carry.  We see it in the fact that most people live from paycheck to paycheck.  We see it in the fact that half of all American marriages end in divorce.

So, what’s a man to do with decision making?  It’s a shame to say, but there are a lot of guys out there who would rather stand along the sidelines and not make difficult decisions, but let the natural progression of things take their course.  The solution to this is to not bury your head in the sand, but to stand up and make a decision.  It’s easy to wait it out and not decide.  Unfortunately, by doing that, we really do make a decision: we decide to not decide.

It might take some prodding and some motivation.  It might take someone outside of us (a parent, spouse, or friend) to help “force” us to make decisions.  However, when a man starts making decisions for himself, a whole new world of possibilities will open up for him.  There are too many men out there who feel helpless, like they don’t have any say in the direction their lives are headed.  The way to counter that feeling is by taking charge and deciding to change the things in life that are changeable.  Standing up and making decisions will boost your self-esteem, confidence, and performance as a man, husband, and father.

But there is another component to making decisions.  It’s not enough to just make manly decisions.  It’s important that men also make godly decisions.  Making godly decisions takes three important parts: decisiveness (the ability to make decisions), time, and discernment (knowing when it’s really God talking, and not just our brains).

I’ve already addressed indecision above.  But being decisive takes time.  Namely, it takes time to pray and talk to God about decisions and listen to what He says in response.  The truth is that most people just don’t take enough time to pray and tell God about their decisions.  And, even if they take time to do that, most people don’t take the time to wait and listen for God’s response.  Making godly decisions requires time.  It’s not enough to spend 30 seconds before we make a decision and throw up a generic prayer and hope that we make the right choice.  It takes a man spending daily time talking with God and listening to Him.  As men, we have to be willing to sacrifice our time to talk to God so that when decisions come, we will be in tune with Him and know what to do.

That brings us to the final point: discernment.  Knowing if God is really talking to you, or if it’s just your mind making stuff up is the most difficult part about being a godly man.  It’s not something that happens overnight.  In fact, even after spending a lifetime serving God, it can still be difficult hearing God’s voice.  That’s because the world is full of distractions and those distractions speak louder than God, sometimes.  That’s why it takes time to develop this skill.  We have to learn to hear God’s voice and listen to Him.  Jesus said that He is the good shepherd, and His sheep know His voice.  We have to spend time talking with God to know what His voice sounds like.  And, the good news is that the more time we spend doing what God tells us to do, the easier it is to hear Him.

An example of this is a few weeks ago, my wife and I were looking at purchasing a newer vehicle.  We didn’t really have the extra money, so we were going to take out a loan from the bank.  We had the vehicle picked out at an auto auction and we were going to bid on it.  But before we did that, we both spent time praying about it.  After spending some time in prayer, I felt like God was saying not to buy the vehicle.  I told my wife this, and she confirmed that she felt the same way about it.  As it turns out, it would’ve been disastrous for us to take out a loan and stretch ourselves too thin.  We made the right decision, and it was the godly decision.  I don’t think that we would’ve gone to hell for choosing to buy the vehicle, but I do think that it would’ve made our lives worse, rather than better.  But since we included God in our decision making process, we have been blessed.

Bad decisions have been around since the beginning.  If Adam would’ve made the godly, manly decision back in the garden of Eden, he would’ve chosen to keep his wife, Eve, and their home safe.  He would’ve sent the serpent out of the garden and removed the temptation to sin from his family.  But, he didn’t do anything.  He stood back and watched events unfold, refusing to make a decision until it was too late.  By the time his wife had eaten the fruit, what choice did he have left?  Rather than stand up and do the godly, manly thing, he chose to let a snake make a decision for him that would have lasting effects throughout the rest of human history.  Don’t let others make decisions for you.  Stand up, be a man, and make good, godly decisions for yourselves, your families, and your world.

Manly Sacrifice

In Malachi 1:6, God says through the prophet, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? …It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name.” He then continues to tell the people of Israel how they have shown contempt for His name: by offering sacrifices that aren’t worthy of God. He indicts the people of Israel, stating that they have not offered Him their best, but their worst. They would promise to offer the best ram in their flock, but at the last minute, they would switch the animal out and offer a crippled, sick, or blind animal to God. They saw it as a way to remove the worst animals from their flock while keeping the best for themselves.

A lot of times, men are like this.  Let’s be honest: men tend to be lazy.  That’s why a lot of men get fat and sit around in their underwear watching TV.  It’s a lot easier to do the bare minimum and hope that you scrape by just enough to make it to retirement.  We especially see this when it comes to men and faith.  As men, we can get caught up doing a lot of things: work, sports, financial problems, car repairs, and the list goes on.  It’s easy to devote our time and energy to the problems of life, and then, when it comes to God, we just don’t have any time left.  It happens every time a wife has to drag her husband out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church.  It happens every time a man grumbles about putting a check in the offering plate (“That’s MY hard earned money, and I’m not giving it to that church or that pastor!”).  It happens every time there’s a family in need and, instead of helping, the man goes home.  It happens when a man should be reading his Bible, but he’s too tired because he stayed up late to watch the game go into overtime, and he has to wake up early the next day to go to work.

But that’s not what God wants.  He has made it very clear what he desires out of every person: everything.  That’s a bitter pill to swallow sometimes, and for good reason.  We, as humans in general and men specifically, like to hang onto things.  We like to keep holding onto our problems and try to fix them ourselves.  We like our “hard earned” money.  We like to control our remotes, our wallets, and our time.  But that’s exactly opposite of what the Bible tells us that we ought to be doing.  In Luke 21:1-4, Jesus points to what God expects.  He’s watching a bunch of rich people drop a lot of money into the collection box, thinking that they’re doing something great for God.  And then, He sees a widow put a couple of pennies–all that she has–into the box.  He says that she gave more than all the rest because she gave everything that she had.  She trusted God with her life enough to say, “Here’s all I have, and it’s yours.”

As men, that’s the type of trust that we need in God.  And the only way to prove that we have that kind of trust is to make the kind of sacrifice that the widow made.  Are we, as men, willing to give everything that we have?  That means opening up our wallets and giving what God wants us to give.  That means that we take the initiative and take our families to church, rather than have them make us go.  That means doing the right thing all the time.  That means going to work, not to earn a paycheck or make our bosses or our wives happy, but to do our jobs to the best of our abilities because God is our real boss, and pleasing Him is the most important thing in our lives.  Are we willing to do that?  I hope so.

In America, we have a tendency to do the bare minimum, but we need to raise the bar and say, “I won’t settle for less.  I only want the best.”  And then we have to put our money where our mouth is and start acting like men and start giving of ourselves.  We’ve given the couch, the TV, the boat, and our computers enough.  It’s time to start giving to God.  Be a man.  Give your heart to God, and give Him everything that goes with it.  If you do, you’ll find that everything else falls into place.