Like Father Like Son – 2016 Granada Men’s Retreat

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 7.58.48 AM

What does grace have to do with being a “real man?” Let’s talk about how real faith and real manliness co-exist. We are privileged to have the Executive Director of Men’s Studies for Man In the Mirror Ministries and author of the book “Like Father, Like Son” Dr. Pete Alwinson lead the Granada Men’s retreat this April 29-31.

We have limited space at the Canterbury Retreat Center in the Orlando area, so please sign up now at

Payment of $225 is due next week. Payment can be made by check payable to Granada Presbyterian Church. Make sure to write Men’s Ministry Retreat in the memo line.


A Man and His Story – 33 The Series returns this May


I am a huge Led Zeppelin fan.  If you don’t like Zeppelin, I am sad for you.

One of my favorite songs from their catalog of hits is “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”.  It’s in my top 5 list of Zep songs and if you haven’t had the pleasure I suggest you turn up the volume and give it a listen.  Bonham’s drumming and Page’s guitar… forget about it.  Pure mastery.

But it’s not their song.  It was originally written by “Blind” Willie Johnson, a gospel blues singer from Texas. Little is known about Johnson’s life.  What is known is tragic.

At the age of 5, Johnson told his father he wanted to be a preacher.  He also loved music and at that young age he fashioned a guitar out of a cigar box and began playing.

He wasn’t born blind.  The story goes that when he was 7, his father beat his stepmother after catching her with another man.  In a rage and out of spite, she threw some lye in Willie’s face.  He permanently lost his vision.

Little else is really known about Johnson, except that he was a masterful blues guitar player.  I think Jimmy Page realized this and unfortunately ripped the song from Johnson for Led Zeppelin, never giving credit to Johnson as the songwriter.  Page even changed the lyrics, adding deep thoughts like, “Brother he showed me the gong, Brother he showed me the ding dong ding dong…”

But I like the original lyrics best:

Ah Lord, Lord

Nobody’s fault but mine

If I don’t read it, my soul’d be lost

…I have a Bible of my own

I have a Bible of my own

If I don’t read it, my soul’d be lost

It’s nobody’s fault but mine

Johnson lived his life in poverty. A life full of hard times and heartache.  He died of malaria and syphilis.  Though little is known of his life, it appears he actually became a pastor; the Reverend W.J. Johnson.  This blind man spent his last days singing in the streets of towns all over Texas, playing his guitar and sharing the gospel the best way he knew how.  As he was dying hospitals refused to treat him, reportedly because he was a black man.  He was buried and forgotten, Led Zeppelin doing little to keep his memory alive. If not for the internet, most people would have no idea he existed.

It’s a sad story.  And yet, it’s a story.  That is how it all happened, and no amount of wishful thinking will change that.

Southern writer Harry Crews wrote once “Stories was everything and everything was stories” when explaining what life was like growing up in the sticks of the south.  Stories long told full of violence, sin, spit and dirt.  Like our own stories, they are full of blindness, pain, and also joy and triumph.  We try not to look at the darker shades of our story; the tragic parts. The greatest tragedy however doesn’t stem from the pain endured.  Tragedy strikes when we start trying to forget the stories that made us.  The ones that brought us to where we are today; good and bad.  Or when we dumb them down to shallow modifications about “ding dong gongs” because the truth is too hard to look at.  When we try to forget or outright lie to ourselves and others about our story, we miss out on the beauty and artistry of taking in our stories, and learning from them.

We miss opportunities to take inventory of the things we need to hold on to, and those we need to let go of.

I think Page liked the music of the song, but was bothered by the lyrics.  True, Blind Willie’s lyrics were too backwoods and thus unmarketable.  But more than that they were honest and utterly repentant. So Page had to either pretty it up or make it nonsensical so folks could just rock to the music.  A beautifully simple song, theologically questionable as it may be, was stripped of its soul. We don’t really care much for repentance anyway. The emotional cost of it all is too high and our pride can’t stand much of it.

We don’t want to look at ourselves, and songs that make us reflect end up being sung on street corners for disinterested passersby.

I think sometimes as Christians – yours truly included — we invest much of our lives trying to forget parts of our story, hoping we can cover things up so we don’t have to look at them, and more importantly, making sure nobody else sees those parts.  The truth is too painful to peer into so we sideline it; we modify it. We put on a good face to impress the passersby, hoping they will be impressed with our façade. We want to make ourselves more… marketable. We minimize the parts in our story that don’t look as pretty. Proverbial rock stars, we change the lyric of our story so as not to offend; to get the accolades we feel we deserve, letting the world around us know everything is fine, there is nothing to see here, and they can move along.  Things like divorce, physical and sexual abuse, and violence we have committed toward others or was inflicted on us, loneliness and shame; we just don’t talk about those things.  Addictions?  Nah, that’s for alcoholics and weak people.  Please (for God’s sake) move along.  We pray no one will notice the spit and the dirt.

And yet there it is.  My story and yours.  We can ignore it.  We never even have to mention it.  But we can’t forget.  Our story is imprinted in history.  And like it or not, it has made you into the man you are today.

At the closing of the Granada sermon series entitled “Epic”, many of us have been thinking about our own stories.  Silently maybe, but we’ve been thinking about it.  In the fall of 2014, many of us participated in the series called “33”.  A study where we defined authentic masculinity.

In May of 2015, we enter into part 2 of the series entitled, “A Man and his Story”.  In this series you will have the opportunity to look at your story, and how it has made you into the man you are today. “To be a real man, you’ve got to look back” urge the writers of the series.  We want to invite you to join us on this journey.  You won’t go it alone either.  We’ll take the road together.  In the end I think you will be surprised to find you are not alone in your experiences.

In the 90’s, little-known and brilliant rockers The 77’s covered Nobody’s Fault but Mine, crediting Zeppelin and adding “with apologies to Blind Willie Johnson”.  Once again the lyrics were rewritten, this time in keeping with the integrity of the original version:

Nobody’s fault but mine
Nobody’s fault but mine
if I don’t keep my soul alive

It’s nobody’s fault but mine

It’s your story guys, and it’s part of a bigger Story.  It’s time to take a look at it.  See you at 33.

Marcos Ruiz

“It is a dangerous thing to underestimate your role in the Story.  This is no child’s game.  This is war – a battle for the human heart.” Epic, John Eldredge

The Samson Society is back!

The Samson Society is back!  Join us for our first meeting this coming Tuesday 10/14/14 at 7:45pm at 3119 Coral Way.

The meetings for the Samson Society will be held at the Life of Freedom Center.  This location offers a nice spacious and private meeting room. Look for the door that reads “Just The Funny”  in big letters (appropriately, we will meet next to a comedy club… because we are serious, not grave, about the gospel).

The Life of Freedom Center helps protect women and children from sex trafficking.  Check out their site here for more information.

The men of Granada and the Samson Society will have the opportunity to become Defenders, standing in the front lines of the daily battle against sex trafficking.

But for now, we will meet and talk.  The Samson Society invites men on a long, no rush, no pressure walk with other men, who are speaking honestly about their struggles and finding comfort in the fact that we are not alone in them.

If you are not familiar with the Samson Society, we invite you to contact us with any questions.  We’d love to sit down and tell you all about it.  Or just come to the meeting on Tuesday.

I, Samson… A word from a brother.


Robert develops trading strategies for a living.  But if you ask him, his passions are his wife, his newborn baby girl… and killing gators (that head isn’t store-bought).

Robert is also a Samson brother.

Here’s what Robert has to say about Samson Society:

I enjoy attending the Samson Society meetings because its members are guys like me; men actively engaged in spiritual battles against the sin in their lives. Any sin can be discussed at Samson Society without the fear of condemnation or judgment from the Samson community. Whether a man battles anger, selfishness, addiction, lust,  or some other sin, the shame and guilt felt are the same.  The Samson meetings and daily walk provide a format for healing through confession and community.

Samson is our anti-hero. God gave him a mission but he failed to accomplish it because he tried to do it by himself, he tried to do it all at once, and he was mastered by sin. We try to be the opposite of Samson.  Instead of allowing the shame of sin to isolate us, the men of Samson battle sin together. We pray for each other and encourage each other and remind each other of God’s grace when we miss the mark. Each member has a teammate called a “Silas” that he can rely on for support when he needs it.

Through Samson Society I am learning not to rely on my own will power to live a righteous life but rather to rely on the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and lives in me. The power of the Holy Spirit leads me into a more righteous walk than I ever could accomplish on my own, and the community of my Samson brothers reminds me of this. I’ve given up on seeking self-control and am now seeking God’s control.

Instead of fighting for complete victories all at once like Samson did, we strive for incremental victories. We fight battles against sin one temptation at a time. In the Bible growth is presented as a process, first the blade, then the ear, then the full kernel in the ear. Spiritual maturity is a process, not an event.

Samson failed at the mission God had given him because he was mastered by his sin. He repeats his mistakes and doesn’t learn from them. At Samson Society we analyze our past attempts to live outside of God’s law and the consequences that resulted from them. We learn from our mistakes and seek to do better now, not through our own power but through the power of God, all while remembering God’s grace.

If you are a man battling sin alone, and you are ready to let go of your guilt and shame, Samson Society is for you. Isolation is one of the devil’s strongest weapons and it can only be overcome through community. There are other men fighting the same battles as you, but they are fighting as an army, not by themselves. Don’t be a Samson!

Miami Chapter of Samson Society opens at Granada Presbyterian Church

The Miami Chapter of the Samson Society is officially open to any man interested in attending.  Meetings are held Saturday mornings at 7am.

So, what is Samson Society?

The Samson Society is a fellowship of Christian men who are serious about authenticity, community, humility & recovery – serious, not grave.

Samson guys are traveling-companions on a great spiritual adventure, not grim pilgrims on a death march to personal holiness. We challenge each other daily to believe the incredible news that God actually knows us, loves us, and has restored us to himself. As we follow Christ together, we find our lives progressively interrupted by righteousness, peace and joy.

Who can attend a Samson meeting?

The Miami Chapter of Samson Society is open to any man in Miami.  That means you don’t need to be a member of Granada or even attend Granada to join.

What do I need to equip myself with for SS?

You need a copy of the book, Samson and the Pirate Monks, by Nate Larkin.  We will have copies of this book available for $10.00 a copy (below cost).  If you don’t read the book, you won’t understand the Samson Society.

Who is Samson Society for?

Natural loners – who are learning to recognize the dangers of isolation and are determined to escape them.

Natural wanderers – who are seeking spiritual peace and prosperity at home

Natural liars – who are now finding freedom in the truth

Natural judges – who are seeking wisdom and discernment

Natural strongmen – who are experiencing God’s strength as we admit our needs and weaknesses.

We hope you will join us this Saturday at 7am.  Bring $10 for the book, and some extra cash for breakfast.  We meet every Saturday, unless otherwise noted.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here is the video from Nate Larkin:

Fools made Wise

John Calvin at His Gospel-Saturated Best

From a stunningly gospelicious preface John Calvin wrote for Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534)

“Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe …” (66)

“It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death. This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.” (69-70)

The above taken from The Gospel Coalition website.

Here’s the link:

Worthwhile Music – Mumford and Sons

I’ve really been enjoying this group.  Amazing depth to the lyrics.

It’s empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you’ve left behind

The harvest left no food for you to eat
You cannibal, you meat-eater, you see
But I have seen the same
I know the shame in your defeat

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

Because I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I’ll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind

So tie me to a post and block my ears
I can see widows and orphans through my tears
I know my call despite my faults
And despite my growing fears

But I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again

So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker’s land

So make your siren’s call
And sing all you want
I will not hear what you have to say

Because I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again       

The Bumper-Stickered Life

 A popular bumper sticker used by church-going men reads “Real Men Love Jesus.”  There are many reasons why a guy might decide to glue this heavy declaration on his car.  Maybe he believes it to be true.  Maybe he just came from a retreat, saw it on another dude’s car, and thought it was cool.  Or maybe, just maybe, his wife thought it would be a good idea to put it right next to his “I Love My Wife” bumper sticker.

Another bumper sticker is the one that reads “Coexist”.  It looks pretty cool I think, in a new-agey ‘I’m enlightened and you’re not’ kind of way.  But I feel like I’m being preached at whenever I see it.  

Basically, a bumper sticker holds the driver to a standard.  And I think that if you’re bold enough to make a statement, you better be ready to back it up.  If you’re the guy with the “Coexist” bumper sticker, careful what you say the next time you want to pass judgement on a Christian protesting quietly at an abortion clinic, or stare a little longer at the Muslim-looking guy at the mall. 

The “Real Men Love Jesus” guy faces the same problem, except the standard set conjures up images of Ronald Reagan riding horseback dressed in white, a cross in one hand and a Bible in the other (Or maybe you see John Wayne.  For me, it’s Ronald Reagan.).  Personally, I think this is setting oneself up for disaster.  All eyes are on you, so be careful.  Don’t even give someone a dirty look — not to mention the middle finger — when you get cut off.  And when you’re driving down Ocean Drive at Miami Beach… eyes forward son!  Remember, real men love Jesus and aren’t at all interested in looking at women in bikinis.

Another observation.  Ronald Reagan (or John Wayne) is riding alone.  He is Shane riding off into the sunset, by himself.  He is a cross-bearing super-Christian, Bible-Thumping loner. 

Preparing for this Thursday’s study, I came across this verse:

For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

Reading that made me think.  What would it look like if our standard was serving one another, instead of always acting like we have it all together?  What would it look like if “freedom” actually meant freedom from the shame and guilt that keeps us stuck in the approval hamster-wheel?   

What if instead of trying to look like Christian men, we lived like Christian men; men loved by God… adopted sons of the God of the universe?

I think a real Christian man is learning not to fake it anymore.  He is learning to walk with other men who will sharpen him.  The real Christian man has looked at the depths of his sin.  He is learning to look outside of himself to something greater.  The God of creation has pursued him, and he has realized that there is more to this life than the tiny world of his own construct. 

The real Christian man, has come undone.

Bumper stickers tell us to “coexist” with other people.  Jesus didn’t tell us to coexist.  He commanded us to love, not tolerate.  Tolerating and pretending are easy.  It’s the type of bumper sticker living we prefer because it requires nothing and makes us (we think) look good. The beauty comes when we no longer have the need to look good, and are compelled instead to love and serve others.

Over the past few months of the “MANALIVE!” study, we have been learning that this Christian walk needs some closer consideration.  Maybe there’s some things we had right, but maybe there were some things we had horribly wrong; things that were limiting our view of ourselves, and of God.  If you missed out on the study so far, you can still join us this Thursday.