Man on the Throne
Copyright © 2020 by Jordan Burgen.
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or other - except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION®. Copyright© 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Names and identifying details of some of the people in this book have been changed to protect their privacy.
For information contact :
Flatirons Community Church
400 W South Boulder Road STE 1700
Lafayette, Colorado 80026
Book and Cover design by Jordan Burgen
Crown by Alvaro Cabrera from the Noun Project
ISBN: 978-1-54-399804-7
eBook ISBN: 978-1-54-399805-4
First Printing: January 2020
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Dedicated To Leah, Jonah, Carter, and Eden
ONE OF MY DUTIES AS A PASTOR is to perform wedding ceremonies. The usual protocol prior to the wedding day is for the couple to attend a premarital workshop and then, a few days before the ceremony, meet with me to work out the logistics of the ceremony.
I didn’t know the young couple very well but I accepted the invitation when the prospective groom took me aside and said that while he didn’t have the funds to pay the normal stipend for me to officiate, but instead, he did have a slightly used .45 caliber Sig Sauer handgun with built-in red-dot sights that he hoped I would accept instead. Now, to be clear, I was about to waive the stipend aside, but I thought to myself, who was I to rob him of his blessing of giving this generous gift? (Don’t judge me. I live in the wild, wild west.)
When the big day arrived and all the guests were seated, just before the groom and I took our places at the front, off the cuff, I asked him a simple question: “Are you ready to be a husband?”
Most of the color drained out of his face, and all he could mutter was a whispered, “huh?”
I could sense a panic attack on the way so I quickly asked, “Are you OK?”
He just looked me right in the eyes with one of those “save me, I’m drowning” looks and said, “Yeah, I guess I haven’t really thought about it like that.” Cue the music, here we go.
I wish that this story was an isolated incident, but unfortunately, it’s not. While no man really knows or is fully prepared or aware of what it means to join themselves to another person in the holy covenant of marriage, the reality is that most of the attention surrounding “getting married” revolves around flowers, colors, groomsmen, tuxes, wedding venues, honeymoon destinations, and housing adjustments. Very little thought or conversation takes place around actually BEING married.
The young man in my story was just thinking, “I’m getting married and heading to Cancun for a week of guiltfree, (hopefully) mind-blowing sex”. He hadn’t thought about the thousands of days and weeks that would follow the honeymoon. He was ready to GET married. He hadn’t given any or much thought to what it meant to BE married or STAY married … for the rest of his life, ‘til death do us part. He was going to do what most of us men do. Try to figure it out or make it up as we go. Not a good plan.
Men, as a gender, are notoriously bipolar. Not in the medical or psychological diagnostic sense, but in the way that we tend to operate our lives, especially when it comes to masculinity, marriage, and parenting. We swing from “I’ve got this, I can do this by myself, I don’t need any help” to “This is impossible, this can’t be fixed, this isn’t what I signed up for, I don’t want to do this anymore, I quit.”
And, somewhere in between, there is a moment that has been growing for quite some time, like a volcano about to erupt. Typically, we try to ignore it, deny it, or distract ourselves with toys, hobbies, or activities. Or, just do what I do: keep plowing ahead thinking that with enough effort, hard work, or dedication, we’ll figure it out or it will go away or fix itself. But it won’t. That moment is called “exhaustion.”
Men get exhausted, not because they are bad, weak, or stupid. Men get exhausted because we are wired to fix things, build things, protect things, figure stuff out, and get things done. Exhaustion comes when we do all that we know to do, try all that we know to try, change everything that we know to change, and what we thought was supposed to work, doesn’t. But, somebody, somewhere, somehow let us know that “real men” should know what to do so we just keep doing more stuff until eventually, inevitably, we wear out, give up, tap out, and quit. And in the process, we leave a wake of carnage behind us. Not because we’re bad, weak, or stupid. We’re just frustrated, scared, and exhausted.
Trust me. I know. I type these words fresh off of my six-month sabbatical. A sabbatical is a season of rest, recovery, reconnection and restoration so that a soul that has been running hard for a long time can rest and heal so that he or she can return to the battle.
I’m a good man, husband, father, pop-pop, pastor, and leader. I’ve been doing ministry for almost four decades and this year, my wife and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. But I was exhausted. And in that exhaustion, I had tunnel vision, blind spots, and unintended sideways energy which had caused wounds and pain to the people that I love the most: my wife, my family, my friends, and my staff. As an act of love and grace, the leaders in my life gave me the gift of rest.
Not long into it, I had my first sabbatical counseling appointment. I actually said these words before I could stop myself, “I wish that I was strong enough and smart enough to not need anyone’s help,” and I knew that “anyone” included God.
Does that strike a chord with you? Say it out loud. “I wish I was strong enough not to need anyone to help me, even God.” Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It may be the first time you’ve ever said it out loud, but I (we) sure do live my (our) life like I’m (we’re) trying to live that way. After all…
What kind of man can’t figure out how to be a good husband?
What kind of man doesn’t know how to be a great father?
What kind of man has to stop and ask for help or direction?
A weak man. A stupid man. A man who is not enough. A typical man. Which is why none of us have a tough time building a list of broken marriages, families, friendships, and relationships caused in part or in full, by angry, frustrated, scared, worn out, or passive men, all fueled by exhaustion. Something needs to change.
I recently read some of the writings of an old Quaker pastor named Thomas Kelly who penned these thoughts; “God is always the initiator. Even when we think that we have an idea or a plan, really, God is initiating something in our lives and we are responding either poorly or properly.”
I think that my sabbatical was God’s idea. My leaders administered it. At first, I fought it. I didn’t want to “need it.” But, as an act of love and grace, God initiated it because he wanted something good for me and I wasn’t going to get there by myself.
Which brings me to this book that you hold in your hands. It’s not just a Bible study, although its wisdom comes straight from God’s Word. It’s not a “how to” instructional manual. It’s not a checklist for Biblical manhood, marriage, and fatherhood or 5 steps to becoming a great anything. Then, what is it?
What if you hold in your hands, a “God-initiated act of love and grace”? What if there really is a God who has a plan for your life and wants to give you an abundant life, first as a God-imaging man, then as a Christ-modeling husband and father?
What if God initiated and manipulated the universe so that you could hold in your hand, at this moment, a story of the journey of imperfect men being redeemed out of and above their circumstances, caused by their own mistakes or the mistakes of others, and being used to bring about the salvation of their families? And, what if, no matter where you are on your journey, no matter what kind of family you came from or find yourself in right now, what if God has a plan to redeem your past, present, and future so that those who love and need you most, will look at you and call you “blessed”? I truly believe that it’s not a matter of “what if?” I believe it’s true. It is true because God is a good father, YOUR father, and he wants good for you and those that He has entrusted to you.
I love what you’re about to read on the pages of this book. I say that not because it is written by my son, Jordan. I say that because, at 57 years old, after doing ministry and marriage for 35 years, as I read and meditated on the truths that you are about to encounter, I experienced new grace. I experienced new hope. I met a new face of Jesus, the “husband,” described to me, not by a grisly old seminary professor or condescending preacher, but by a young husband, father, and pastor who is currently on the front lines fighting the fight, not trying to remember how it used to be from a rocking chair on a front porch.
It was written by my son, but today, my son became my teacher. Thank you, Jordan, for this God-initiated gift of grace to, not just me, but to every man who reads it and to the wives and children who will be blessed because of what God taught them through you. God is a good Father. Christ is a good husband. So are you.
-Jim Burgen
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Ephesians 5:25
Where To Begin?
IF YOU WERE TO COME OVER TO MY HOUSE and take a look at the books on my bookshelves, you would almost immediately notice a theme. That is because I exclusively shop for books in one section of the bookstore: Fantasy/Sci-fi. And in this particular section, I tend to be blind to anything with spaceships on it and focus primarily on any books with dragons, knights, and swords on the cover. I am a total fantasy nerd. And I am proud of that fact. I read everything from C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien to J.K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin. If the author’s name has more than one initial in it, sign me up. I’ll probably love it.
What I have found as I have read all these stories, and probably what drew me to them as a kid when I first fell in love with the genre, is that most of them have a similar theme. They usually revolve around a character who is completely unqualified and seemingly insignificant being thrust into a circumstance where a lot more is expected of them than they think they can handle.
Frodo was a tiny hobbit. Harry Potter was a neglected child living in a closet. Jon Snow was a lord’s illegitimate son living in the shadow of his legitimate half-brothers. However, they all went on to do incredible things in their respective stories.
Well … guess what? You have just been or are about to be thrust into a circumstance where a lot more is expected of you than you think you can handle. And I hate to say it but you are probably right. From your perspective right now, there is no way you can accomplish what needs to be accomplished. You are Frodo setting off for Mordor alone. You are Harry entering into the final battle with Lord Voldemort without ever going to Hogwarts. You are Jon Snow … sorry my “nerdery” is getting out of hand. But you get the point. None of these characters actually remained unqualified. Someone always accompanied them or trained them for what was going to be expected of them down the road.
You would be foolish to enter into (or continue in) this insurmountable feat without becoming adequately equipped.
I don’t think I am being at all dramatic when I say that this quest we have to go on as men is any less daunting than the quests of the most famous fantasy characters of all time. The lives and souls of our loved ones are at stake. Real enemies, be it Satan, culture at large, or someone else, are trying to kill and defeat them and us. A DARK WIZARD WITH A LEGENDARY WAND IS AT OUR … sorry, there I go again.
What I am trying to say is that marriage is HARD! Fatherhood is HARD! So come with me as I lead you on this magical journey of adventure and peril as we try to figure out what it looks like to successfully be the spiritual leader of your home!
This is a question I have consistently struggled with. When I think of the role of a husband and father, the words “provide” and “protect” always come to mind. I must provide – put food on the table, make sure there is a roof over their heads, and make sure everyone has clothes that, for the most part, fit – and I must protect – make sure everyone in my house is as safe as I can possibly make them from threats, both foreign and domestic, or something like that. But is that it? I’ve always heard this other phrase– “spiritual leader of the home” – floating around out there. When that comes to mind, the real fear starts to sink in. “Provide and protect” is tangible. Results can be seen immediately. But how do I lead them, especially in spirituality? What is expected of me? What “counts”?
I think the best place to start when trying to tackle this question is figuring out what the Bible means when it lays out its instructions. It gives a lot of guidelines to the roles and relationships between a father/husband and his family, but it by no means spells it out in great detail. There is no book of the Bible dedicated to the detailed situations a husband/father finds himself in and how to deal with each one. Nor is there one with a checklist of everything you should do with your family to make them more spiritual. So, what is it talking about exactly when it says, “Love your wife”? That is vague.
I think this is why so many young men heading into marriage do not know exactly what they are getting into. They don’t know what is expected of them because they assume they know what “love your wife” means, but fail to grasp the big picture. And, I believe, this starts with a failure to grasp what marriage actually is. So, the first question we must answer is: what is marriage?
At its core, marriage is a representation of the relationship between Christ and His Church. Paul states this very clearly in Ephesians:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
Just before this, in verse 25, he states, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her …”
Another term for this spiritual leading of the home, which you may have heard before, is Biblical male “headship.” This is a term fraught with controversy in today’s culture, but all it really means is that the Bible calls the male in the marriage to carry the responsibility of being the head or leader of the household. Ephesians 5:23 says this: “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” So, in trying to understand what it means to lead your home, we must first understand how Christ leads the Church.
At the forefront of everyone’s mind, especially since it is directly stated in verse 25 we just saw, is that He “gave himself up for her.” He literally died for the Church. And if it comes to that in your marriage, where you must choose between your life or hers, or that of your sons or daughters, you are called to do the same. I have never met a man who would say he would not die for his family. It is easy to grasp and a very noble promise. But it is usually theoretical. Most men don’t have to do that for their family. It does demonstrate the extreme of how our love should be shown, but how are we supposed to love and lead when their lives aren’t on the line?
Luckily, that isn’t the only thing Scripture tells us Christ did for the Church, so there are plenty of other applications. Here is a list of some of the other ways that Christ led and loved the Church, especially in regard to spiritual leadership. We will dive into each of these later:
He knew His role and who sent Him, and prepared accordingly
He dealt with obstacles to His and the Church’s success (Temptation, Pharisees, and Fear)
He lived and led out of the blessings God had given Him
He taught, prayed, and worshiped with His people
He attended to His own spirituality and relationship with the Father
He commissioned them to continue the work of the Father
He gave them good gifts (Grace and the Holy Spirit)
And all of these were done for the glory of God, not to glorify Himself or his Church