My last Wednesday men’s group…

– After my last Wednesday men’s meeting

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

That was fun! My final meeting with the Wednesday men’s group played out a little like a Q&A session. I sat at one end of the table and the guys took turns peppering me with questions they had prepared ahead of time.

I set the meeting up by opening – after we prayed – with a question for them. “When you were growing up, who was your hero?”

The answers were as diverse as the guys around the table. We had everyone from James Bond to sports figures to inspirational authors to grandfathers to a youth leader who simply took the time to listen.

Mine included: Peter Marshall, Corrie ten Boom, Dave Wilkerson, Richard Wurmbrand, Cliff Richard, and Geoff Hurst (preacher, survivor/author, evangelist, priest/writer, pop icon, soccer player).

My ordinariness = God’s opportunity:

The devotional I then shared was – essentially – the preface to my first book, GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men. I talked about my teen romanticism of imagining a hero’s story; and then – as an adult – being somewhat disappointed in myself when I realized how ordinary I had become. That is until I received the revelation that my ordinariness is God’s opportunity; that my day-to-day “normal” life is exactly where God purposes to shine.

Then we opened the floor for questions. Some were easy, like “What are a couple of your favorite memories from this group?” Some were more challenging, such as asking what my thoughts are regarding an afterlife involving hell. One asked if I planned to continue writing. Another wondered what I thought Rebekah would do with, “all that creative energy!”

Probably the most important question asked, “What – if any – have been my major shifts in thinking, theologically, during our eight years in Wake Forest?”

The answer key:

I don’t have the space in this post to answer all these questions. But I will say this much: I have always been a Reformed Theologian, even before I knew the Presbyterian Church existed. Because somehow, since my early teens, God has given me the clarity of thought to question myself, and to understand that wisdom is a journey and that God is always acting and interacting with this world, speaking into our experience and inviting us to join in with the ongoing mission of love, grace, mercy, justice, redemption, light, hope, and promise.

“If I have changed in any way,” I said, “- other than addressing the specific details of how wrong I have been in terms of the broadness of God’s invitation and welcome – I would say this: ‘The older I become the more my errors and my misunderstandings have been tilting to the side of grace’…

“In other words,” I continued, “and understanding the inevitability of my being wrong much of the time, when I stand in front of Jesus on That Day and he points out the errors in my theology (if that counts for anything…), I want my mistakes to have erred in the favor of grace, not judgment.”

And that’s pretty much it from my last meeting with the current cadre of Wednesday evening men (George, Andy, Ray, Robert, Keith, David, Dave, Harold, Larry, Bob, Paul, Wayne, Ed, Eddie…).

– author/teacher Derek Maul

Other than to say that I reminded them to always read the scriptures, and listen to God, through the active lens, the filter, of Jesus. Jesus pointed out that “all the law and the prophets are contained in the idea that we must love God with all our heart, soul, intelligence, and strength – and to love our neighbor in the same way” (Luke 10:25-28).

To say that I am going to miss meeting with these amazing men of faith, and curiosity, and intelligence, and grace, and imagination, and faithfulness would be an understatement. Ditto the Saturday morning crew. – DEREK

God’s riches and victory live in jars of clay – to show that this transcendent power is from God and not from us. We experience pressure from every side, but we are not crushed; we are (sometimes) perplexed, but despair is never an issue; we may be persecuted, but we are never abandoned; we can be attacked, but not destroyed. We carry around our story about the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in the way that we live (author paraphrase).

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