Jody Burkeen, Author of MAN UP! Becoming a Godly Man in an Ungodly World and founder of MAN UP! God’s Way Ministries.
Think back to your childhood. Most every man will be able to recall the time when he was growing from a boy to a man. The title of this book comes from that point in childhood when you were trying to assert yourself into manhood, a time when you had to man up.
Perhaps you can remember a time when you were called a sissy. It might have been from the school bully, your best friend, or even your father, but you remember it vividly. “Sissy,” they said, dogging you about some situation you were in.
It might have been sports, a fight, or even just a jump over the creek. Someone challenged you by calling you a sissy. At that moment, you had a choice: you could walk away and continue to be a sissy in the eyes of the accuser, or you could puff your chest out, grab your “webbles,” and take the challenge. All of us walked away at least once. It’s painful, I know, but I’d like you to remember that day, that one moment in time when you were a coward by someone’s reckoning.
No matter how insignificant the situation, I’m guessing that part of you still feels like a coward today for turning down the challenge.
Maybe you can also recall a time when you stood up to the challenge. But this memory is more about accomplishment or victory, not failure. It’s a memory of that day you were no longer a sissy. But now you are a grown man. The days of childhood bullies and peer pressure are behind you. Or are they?
Although there aren’t many people calling you a sissy to your face, it may be that you’re unknowingly acting like one. Take a look at what the Apostle Paul wrote in the Bible:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
You may actually be allowing the world to dictate how you live, how you act, and how you don’t act as a Christian man. If you are doing this, you are, in essence, a “spiritual sissy” because you are walking away from the challenge Jesus has laid out before you in the Bible.
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:34–35)
It’s a challenge that is requiring you to take a stand for God’s kingdom, not the kingdom of the world, and TO be prepared for the “bullies” of the world to hate you as they hated Jesus. It’s a choice to be a sissy or not to be a sissy, to ManUp! or shut up. It’s a choice to be different from the world. It’s the choice to be an intentional Christian.
Some of the biggest spiritual sissies are in the church today! This book is written with a concerned heart for the Christian man. He is being pulled in a million directions and losing the battle. It’s time to man up and get serious about saving the modern-day Christian man—before we become extinct.
Are you or other men you know having trouble in their Christian walk? Do you want to make a difference for God’s kingdom? It is my prayer and my hope that this book will open your eyes to the trouble that Christian men are in today.
The good news is that these are troubles that can be avoided if we will just Man Up and follow Jesus.
Join me on a journey through seven areas in a Christian man’s life that need major attention. Areas in which we can add some spiritual muscle and stop being 98-pound spiritual weaklings. In a minute you will read my testimony, and there you will see the 98-pound spiritual weakling I am referring to. It will give you a glimpse of the struggles I faced and the spiritual workout I used to gain the spiritual muscle I need to face life’s challenges.
The courage comes from Him:
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Jesus changed me, and that changed my family. And that enhanced my witness for Christ and allowed me to be the man He’s called me to be. My hope is that someday it will change the world. Join me in this hope.
A SISSY’S TESTIMONY
When I was a young boy, my mom did the best she could in raising me. I was the oldest of five and a member of a family dealing with divorce. My mom and dad had divorced when I was four, and she had been left to raise three kids all by herself.
I had just turned seven when Mom remarried. My brother and sister and I were welcomed into a new family by my step- father. He added to our family my stepbrother. A few years later, my dad married my stepmom. Within ten months, I had a half-brother. In total there were five of us. I then had three brothers and a sister.
During my early years, my mother and stepfather were very devout in going to church. I always tell people that by the age of twelve I had a drug addiction—I was drug to church every time the doors were open. This was where I learned about the Bible and also where I learned to hate the church. By the time I was thirteen, I hated church so much I was causing problems at home just so I didn’t have to go.
My hatred stemmed from many reasons, but it came mostly because I began to see the hypocrisy of the church. People saying one thing in the church and doing something different outside of it. I just couldn’t take fake people. So this was my opportunity to separate myself from the church. It was also an opportunity for me to be overtaken by the world. My early years in church were spent with people telling me the rules and regulations but never why I would go to hell if I didn’t follow them. Never once was I shown how to have a relationship with Christ.
But in my justification of my hatred of religion and the hypocrisy behind it, I was just being a coward. Too scared to search for myself for the real meaning of Christianity. Deep down inside, I was a sissy.
For the next few years, I lived with my dad and stepmom. I just couldn’t handle living with my mom and stepdad always making me feeling guilty about church. Living with my dad and stepmom was like moving to another planet. It was completely void of guilt or shame about church. I think both of them were a lot like me, in that for them church had just become a religion and no relationship. I now had a freedom like I had never had before: freedom to express myself, to say what I wanted to say, and to do whatever I wanted to do. This is where I began to hate everything to do with God, the church, and everyone involved with church.
Although all four of my parents were great parents, throughout my life there were times they were there for me and times they were not. There were times they lifted me up and times they let me down, and vice versa. This book is not about how I was raised, but more about how the choices I made though my life were a part of God’s sovereign master plan.
By the time I finished high school, my disdain for church and the people who went to church grew more and more. For some reason I became angry with God (assuming there even was one) and even more angry at the church.
I had started drinking heavily, and now I began to do drugs. My weekends were spent looking for trouble, and most times I found it. I remember spending one summer with a group of guys who made me look like a choir boy. Just about every weekend we were fighting, stealing, and chasing everything and everybody we could.
One night we broke into a house, and I was the getaway driver. We had taken a safe out of the house and put it into a four-door car. This safe weighed as much as the car, but somehow we managed to get it into the back seat. As we drove through town to take the safe somewhere so we could cut it open, we pulled next to a police car at a stop light.
Here we were, four big guys in the front seat of a car and a safe in the back, stopped at a stop light waiting for it to turn green. To this day, I don’t know why the cop never looked our way, but he kept his eyes straight and drove on through the light. We then drove on to a garage to break open the safe . . . and to clean our underwear.
That summer night was the last time I ever stole a thing. I was scared straight by that encounter. In case you’re wondering, we did break into that safe, only to find four rolls of quarters and an old handgun. I could have spent years in jail for forty dollars and broken gun.
In 1988 I met my beautiful wife. We began dating in college and married in August of 1990. I was twenty-one and she had just turned twenty-two. Our wedding was very simple, and our honeymoon was spent traveling to my duty station at Fort Riley, KS. I had just finished Army boot camp, and we were privileged enough to get to start our lives together in Fort Riley, Kansas.
After a few years of marriage, my wife began to think twice about what she had gotten herself into. I was a handful. I was a lazy slob, and I didn’t really have a care in the world. I pretty much was allowing my wife to raise me as her child. Not really being her husband, especially in the biblical sense. She was the head of the household, and I liked it. For me, there was no responsibility, no failure, and no success. I just coasted along in our marriage. It was great—for a season. Unfortunately, this season went on for eleven years.
“You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). About eight years into my marriage, I began to get serious about creating wealth. I had finally found a god I could worship: money. It was awesome. At one point I thought about changing my last name to Jones, because everyone was trying to keep up with me (you’ll get that later). My house, my cars, and all my worldly stuff was the best and the most expensive. I was a complete showoff. And I loved it! I remember people trying to witness to me, especially family, and I would tell them “Just look at my stuff—whose god loves them more?” What a jerk I was.
I was headed to the top, and nothing was going to stop me. I have always gotten what I wanted, and right then I wanted more. In 1998, I started buying real estate. This was how I was going to be rich. My wife and I bought two houses and ten condos within a year. Our portfolio was looking good. Donald Trump, look out, here I come.
Money had become my god, and I was worshiping it daily. I my mind, it was the lifeblood I needed to make me feel important and that I had arrived. My god was taking care of me . . . for now.
After eleven years of marriage, my wife and I wanted to have kids. We were ready, and so, like everything else, I was going to get what I wanted.
But that didn’t happen. I found out, after many months of trying, that we weren’t able to have kids—and it was me who had the problem. You talk about a punch in the gut. How could I not have kids? I had everything I had ever wanted, and now when it came to the most natural thing on earth to do, I couldn’t do it! I was hacked off. As a matter of fact, I cursed God. I ask Him, “Of all things, why take away this? Not a good way of getting me to believe in You.”
After a few months of feeling sorry for myself, my wife and I tried invitro fertilization. Two times. Once again, it failed, and we were disappointed. I cursed God again. And, after much anger and heartbreak, thinking I had failed as a man, we came to what would become a wonderful conclusion: We should adopt.
My wife was a pharmaceutical sales representative, so she had many contacts in the medical world. She began to put out feelers for a good adoption agency we could use or even if anyone knew of someone who had a child for adoption. After a few weeks of talking about it to numerous doctors and nurses, she ran across a nurse who had a friend with a daughter who was pregnant and looking into adoption.
My wife rushed home and told me the news, and we were prepared to call her that night. We were excited but not overly optimistic. Well, that night came, and the nurse called us and told us the young girl had run away. Another blow to my emotions. Once again, I turned my anger to God.
A few months later, when my wife was making her usual sales calls, she stopped back by the doctor’s office where the nurse worked who knew the girl who had run away. She hesitantly stopped by just to say hi to the nurse, the thought of opening up old wounds seemed too hard to bear. But after a polite greeting and some niceties, the nurse told my wife that she hadn’t heard from the pregnant girl. My wife left a little disheartened and went on her way.
Miraculously, that night, we received a call from the nurse enthusiastically telling us they’d found the girl and that she wanted to talk with us. We freaked! We were excited and nervous, fumbling with what to say to this girl.
By this time she was seven months pregnant. A few days after our conversation, we went to the house of the girls’ parents and met with her. Our meeting was awkward and very intense, but all went well. She liked us, and we fell in love with her. So we began the process of adoption.
Fast-forward to two months later. I was sitting in the hospital praying to a God I didn’t believe in, waiting for the birth of what I hoped would become my daughter. My wife had the privilege to be in the birthing room and was able to witness the beautiful birth of our daughter.
Once the doctors had checked her and the nurses had cleaned her, they handed her to my wife. She then came to me, overflowing with joy. We couldn’t believe we were staring at our daughter.
Months later, life was back to normal. The adoption was final, work was busy, and I was back to building my empire. My wife was back to work, and we hired a full time nanny to take care of our daughter. Life was great! Once again, I had gotten everything I had ever wanted and didn’t need anyone’s help to do it . . . so I thought.
Later that year, my wife and I moved to a new state. We wanted to leave behind all that was in our past. Starting a new life, we built a new house and were ready to conquer our new jobs.
Within a few weeks of moving, the same young girl called us. As my wife was talking with her, I saw her eyes get wide and she looked almost scared. Then there were tears welling up in them. My wife covered the phone with her hand and asks me, “How would you like to have a son?”
What? I was jumping off the walls. I was going to have a boy. The young girl was pregnant again, and this time it was going to be a boy.
Once again we had only a couple of months to plan and prepare for another child. We were again blessed to be in the birthing room and again blessed to walk away with a beautiful baby boy. We were overjoyed.
During the birth of both our children, I spent time in the waiting rooms praying to God. This is the first time I ever remember praying. I prayed at both births: “God, if You’re real, please bring this child into this world healthy, make them mine and I will do whatever You want.” Each time, God gave me what I asked for, and each time I broke my promise, the promise to do whatever He wanted.
After the births, life began to become normal. Back to work, a live-in nanny, and the world is ours to conquer. Life was good. Nowhere in my life was a resemblance of any promise I had made to God. I was back in the “world,” and that was all that mattered.
Having children changes your life. For me, I drank and partied less. For my wife, she couldn’t stand the thought of someone else raising her children and often thought of staying home. This is where she and I started to struggle.
My fear was that there was no way we could maintain that lifestyle if my wife quit her job. I loved the life we were living, even though it was tearing our family apart. I didn’t think I could make it without the money. So I basically told my wife she didn’t have a choice—she had to work.
When my kids were one and two, my wife came to me and reminded me of a promise I had made early in our marriage. The promise was that I would take my kids to church when they were old enough. What she didn’t realize was that in that promise there had been a catch. In my mind I wanted to take the kids to church so they could learn to hate church as badly as I did. Then we would never have to go again! But she didn’t know about the catch. In her mind, it was a chance for us to be a complete family.
So one Sunday morning, for the first time since the kids were born, we went to church. I’ll never forget it. We were driving down the street, and I turned to my wife. “Which church are we going to?” At this point in our marriage, she was still very much head of the household. She made the plans, and I just showed up.
But she wouldn’t tell me where we were going. In my mind, I had my vision of church and what it should be like. And there was nothing like that in the town we were living.
When we reached a certain spot on the road, she had me pull into a hotel parking lot. “Park here.”
“Where!” I asked.
“Here, in the hotel parking lot,” she said. “The church is here.”
I scoffed. “No way am I going to a church in a hotel.”
The materialistic, self-conscious, showoff side of me was coming out. My thought of a church was it should at least be its own building. A church. Not a hotel. At this point, I was pretty much cussing her and refusing to go in. But she reminded me of the promise to take my kids to church. So, like a little kid pouting, I went in. I was reminded of my early childhood drug problem. Once again I was being drug into church.
I grabbed the kids and walked madly into to the old Holidome. “If they want us to sell flowers at the airport,” I murmured to my wife, “we are out of here.”
Well, come to find out, it wasn’t a cult. It was a church full of loving, non-hypocritical sinners. It was nothing like the church I remembered from when I growing up in. They took us in with open arms. It was nothing like the church I remembered growing up in. I couldn’t get enough.
Filling the Hole with Spiritual Growth
For most of my teenage and adult life, I was an addict of just about anything that was addictive. From pornography to drinking to drugs and even sports, I was addicted. Throughout all stages of my life, I had some form of addiction.
X-rated videos and Internet pornography grabbed hold of my life, and I brought it into the bedroom, coaxing my wife to believe we needed it. In my social life, I became a drunk. I was the guy who was the life of the party—’til the party was over. I didn’t know how to drink socially, only to be a social drunk. Alcohol had become a part of my social life, and I thought I couldn’t live without it.
But once I began going to church, my family and I never missed a time the doors were open. Sunday school, Sunday worship, Sunday night and Wednesday night devotions—we were there. There was a hole of emptiness in my soul, and all the drugs, drinking, pornography, and money I was stuffing into that proverbial hole didn’t satisfy me. But now I had finally found something that was satisfying. That something was Jesus Christ.
After months of hearing God’s Word on a constant basis at this church, it slowly deprogrammed my worldly brain. God began to penetrate my hardened heart, and changes started happening.
On May 21, 2003, my wife and I invited our pastor over to our house. We spent hours praying and talking with the pastor. I had a few questions left unanswered, mostly about the church, the leadership, and the direction of the church. These weren’t really critical questions, per se, but I think, looking back on it, that they were just a deterrence from the inevitable: my salvation.
Feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit, my wife and I gave our lives to Christ that night.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Romans 10:9–10)
I can’t explain the feeling I had that night. Maybe it felt like accomplishment. I had finally kept the promises I’d made to God when my kids were being born. I had finally given my life to Him and had begun the process of doing His will for my life.
Whatever the feeling, I knew things were going to be different. I just never knew how much so. The process of the where I am now is what this book is about. It’s a process that involves God, my family, and the church. It’s a process that isn’t easy and is not for the lukewarm. I knew I had to Man Up.
But God never said that following Him would be easy. Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 10:34–39:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
Over the next several chapters, I want to analyze the areas where men need to man up and stop being spiritual sissies. These areas are where I was a sissy and where I am learning to man up every day.
These areas are struggles for all men, and I will be candid as possible about my life and the lives of the men around me. I will be honest and brutal about what it takes and doesn’t take to be a Christian man based on God’s Word. If we will stop being spiritual sissies, we can man up and change the world. But it can be done only with the help of God.
If you were to study every person used by God in the Bible, you would see that there were a lot of former sissies. But what separated the sissies from the men God used mightily was that moment when they chose to allow God to take control of their lives. When they chose to man up.
I pray this book challenges you to do the same. Let God rule your life, and stop being a spiritual sissy. Learn to Man Up in faith.