Black Panther Stories
When I was about 10 years old, I went to deer camp with five of my friends for the weekend. One of the dads decided one night that he was going to tell us many, many stories about the elusive Black Panther at the deer camp. Stories about how he snuck up on grown men who barely escaped his attack, how men had seen him jump up into tree stands silently in a single bound, and how one time he even attempted to jump into a moving vehicle. We were on the edge of our seats the whole time. The truth was there had never been a real black panther sighting ever verified in MS. He was just trying to scare us.
He then asked us around 10:00 that night to join him and a couple of other men for a coon hunt. Not wanting to come across as wimps, we all agreed. We were scared out of our minds, but we didn’t want to show it. They gave us all flashlights, and we set off into the woods with the coon dog. About two miles into this magical journey of darkness, coyotes starting circling us. Thank goodness for our plastic flashlights that we were carrying as weapons. We were all walking slowly, but still trying to be brave.
Then suddenly, the trees tops above us sounded like they were going to crash down on top of us. My first thought…Black Panther. I immediately hit the ground and curled up. My best friends started screaming like a girl which always deters hungry animals. Two of the boys literally turned immediately and ran 2 miles back to camp. Left us for dead. They had everybody talking about black panthers when we got back.
It was actually just a flock of wild turkeys that we scared out of their roost. All that triggered by a bunch of turkeys.
All that to say, the stories of the Black Panther had so much irrational fear built up in us that all it took was a bunch of turkeys to scare the mess out of us all. The men told us there were really no black panthers, just stories, and we really enjoyed ourselves the rest of the hunt. Our irrational fear had turned into laughter and an openness about how gullible we all were.
Satan loves to tell us stories… big scary Black Panther stories. Romans 1:25 talks about how our flesh wants us to exchange truth for lies as well. We listen to these stories and let him instill a sense of shame or worthlessness in our lives. He knows that he can’t touch our salvation. If you have accepted Christ, you are new creation before God, and in John 15 it says that no one can take you out of the Good Shepherd’s hand. But if he can’t kill our salvation, he wants to kill our stories and our influence. In Rev 12 it describes Satan’s attempts as the accuser before God, but God then throws him out of heaven. God doesn’t care about Satan’s accusations. God allows Satan to roam the earth and stir up trouble, but at the end of the day, Satan’s days are numbered. God can use the trouble and brokenness that Satan creates to draw people to the only true hope of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 12:9 together and see how God uses our failures for his glory in authenticity. To set the table, Paul has pleaded to God to remove his thorn, his failures, from his life three times, and Jesus himself answers him:
“And He [Jesus] said to me [Paul], ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’”
Jesus’s answer to Paul is a game changer for Paul and us. Think about it. He’s saying – It’s not your secret faults that need to go away. Your secrets about the thorns in your life need to come out so that my amazing grace can take center stage. One of the most potent, powerful versions of the Gospel that you can share is your authentic story simply because it perfectly magnifies the grace and power of Jesus Christ and effectively minimizes self-righteousness.
Paul’s whole outlook changes, and instead he responds:
“Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
Paul’s changing his tune from pleading secretly to joyfully exclaiming it. He was taking himself off the pedestal and putting the grace of Jesus Christ back in His rightful place. In the original Greek, “dwell in me” could also be described as “a covering over me.” It is a better visual that the tentmaker himself is saying that by elevating his faults, the power of Christ is seen better like a tent over his sinful life.
So think about a lost neighbors you want to reach with the gospel. If they, in any way, see you as “perfect” (or maybe they know more about you than you think and just see a hypocrite), in a moment of crisis or struggle, what is the likelihood they are going to come to you? Not very high. What is the likelihood that Satan gets their ear with his lies? Very likely. Being appropriately authentic with the people around you opens doors for the gospel and gives them the much stronger version of the grace of Jesus Christ. Don’t dilute the gospel in your selfish desires to appear perfect to those around you.
Authentic Men’s Groups
Suddenly Satan’s lies also lose their power in your own life. The blinders come off and we can see our sins in a much healthier way – a way where we can actually deal with them appropriately. Your men’s group is a great place to practice this. Authenticity is contagious. In a group setting, authenticity will create incredible perspective on the lies that Satan tells us all. You get to see his schemes in other context. You will see the common threads of shame, loneliness, and fear. You will immediately think of others in your life that you care about that you want to experience it. It fuels your desire to share about the love and grace of Jesus Christ. That we are not alone, that God still loves us. It also creates a more comprehensive view of grace as we see how it weaves into all of our lives so powerfully.
The group just needs to be ready to experience and exercise grace towards each other. REPEAT – the group just needs to be ready to experience and exercise grace towards each other. Just let the guy get it on the table and don’t see it as an opportunity to show how much you know about the topic or to give him a five step plan to correction. Just show him love and acceptance. Exercise grace and let him know that you will be praying for him. You are called to love him, just as God loves him.
The covering of the power of Christ over your group will begin to solidify, and your new outlook will fuel a greater purpose for the kingdom. A better understanding of the grace and love of Jesus Christ elicits a response. It is not forced. It is a natural response when you gain a better understanding of how much you are loved by God. Loved just as you are.
If there was a major area when we are getting smoked by Satan as men, it would be in the area of sexual brokenness. It is an area where the lie of shame is screamed at us. It’s so pervasive that we can’t afford not to talk about it. When you look at the stats, there is a generation of men where over 65% are completely addicted to pornography. Sexual brokenness is much more than pornography, but pornography is a major starting point that feeds into many areas of sexual brokenness. The effects of this could be catastrophic to the church and the gospel if we don’t embrace a strategy of authenticity and establish a safe, grace-filled place for men to share their hurts and failures.
I encourage you to watch the video and to hear a very, very authentic story about sexual brokenness. If this is your struggle, I would also encourage you to join us at Johnson Ferry in one of our Walking Free groups. Simply send us an email at MenOfGrace@jfbc.org. It is completely confidential. Just tell us how we can serve you and help you. If you can’t get your issue on the table with other men, get it on the table with us through email, by phone, or in person. You are too valuable to God to believe Satan’s lies.