Living Like Lions by JR Duren

Posted by on Sep 4, 2015 | 3 comments

Living Like Lions by JR Duren

J.R. Duren states his convictions in a powerful way. His book, Living Like Lions – 20 Influential Christian Men Past and Present (Christian Living) challenges men to “be a force in the world, not a follower.” It is a challenge for both Christians and non-Christians alike who desire to be a positive force for change in our world. We would love to hear your comments. Signing up on the Rafflecopter at the end of the page  increases your opportunity to win.

Fabulous Fridays

Welcome J.R.! Tell us something about yourself and how you started writing.

Well,  I spent the first two years of my life with my dad and mom, but they divorced and I lived with my grandparents and I didn’t see my dad again for six  years. When I moved in with him again, he’d remarried and had another son. Tough times for me, indeed, but one of the ways I managed to handle the transition was through writing. From about eight years old forward, I’ve been a writer.

Living Like Lions sounds like such an intriguing book! The list of Christian men is a group that is bound to instruct and encourage Christians today.  What inspired you to write it?

Steak. That’s what inspired me to write this book.

I spent my college years serving at a Christian camp just outside of San Diego. One summer I had a meeting set up Living like Lionswith one of the college-age staff; it was sort of a discipleship meeting. So, I bought some steak – London broil, I think – borrowed a friend’s knife and we sat in front of an open fire and used sharpened tree branches to roast the stuff over the fire.

By the end of the summer and for several summers to come, “Man Night” became a tradition. We all roasted meat around the fire. Loincloths were worn. War paint was streaked across faces. Portions of the meat were set aside for guys who, for one reason or another, didn’t have any steak.

As “Man Night” grew more popular, I started to wrestle with the definition of masculinity – it wasn’t all knives and steak and savagery. Spirituality played a huge role in it as well. The Eldredge-esque definition of a man as a protector and hunter and risk-taker is half of the story. Godliness is the other half. The man that can merge the two, I believe, can influence so many people.

That’s a very long way of saying I wrote the book as a vanguard of true masculinity but also as a polemic against one-sided or culture-influenced definitions of masculinity. Masculinity isn’t  a one-or-the-other proposition. It’s a steak and spirituality kind of a thing.

A book such as Living Like Lions requires a lot of research. How long did it take you and what are some of the most helpful resources you used?

The research. My wife has a video of me that she posted during my launch party last year. I’m sitting at our kitchen table with my laptop and several stack of books that rise up like old, weathered ramparts.

I have to be honest with you, those books were my most valuable resources but they were also my nemesis for so many hours.

The research was brutal at times not just because it was tedious, but, as every non-fiction writer will attest, the pressure to be perfectly accurate causes a lot of stress. One wrong fact or misleading sentence can ruin the credibility of the book.

Do you have a favorite in your list of famous Christians? How have these men impacted your life and ministry?

I think that two examples which have impacted me the most are those of Jim Elliot and John Mott. They each had a firm belief in the importance of spend time with God every day through prayer and reading the Scriptures.

Mott, speaking to a missionary convention in Kansas City at the beginning of the 20th century, said, “It takes time for the fires to kindle and burn. It takes time for God to draw near and for us to know that He is there. It takes time to assimilate His truth. You ask me, How much time? I do not know. I know it means time enough to forget time, I know it means time enough to meet God and to hear His voice, and to be sure we hear it.”

Elliot , on the other hand, lived with a sense of urgency that acknowledged our time here is short.

Both men present personal narratives that challenge us to live with urgency but also to devote time to cultivating legitimate, revolutionary relationships with God.

How would you like to inspire your readers? What do you see as the most important reasons for someone to read your book?

I hope my book inspires men to embrace godliness and strong leadership. For me, the two are inseparable and are, perhaps, the best definition of masculinity that exists today – a man who is godly and has the stones to lead his family, friends or community will create massive, unseen change.

Why is this important? Because we live in a time when culture is defining godliness, leadership and masculinity. While our culture’s definition of these three principles is threatening, far more threatening is the tendency of Christian men to gravitate to these prevailing notions based on ease and a fear of making people angry.

Do you want to be a man? Mine the Bible on your own. Let God’s word shape your definition of godliness, leadership and masculinity. The result will astound you – you will reflect Christ more and more each day as the Holy Spirit transforms you away from a weak-willed man pushed about by contemporary currents and toward a man who embodies Christ-likeness.

To put it another way, I want men and myself to be like the man Augustine aspired to emulate: “To my God a heart of flame; To my fellow man a heart of love; To myself a heart of steel.”

Tell us about a moment when something one of your readers said or wrote gave you pause, inspired you to think about your work a different way, or made you change some element of your narrative.

My editor Donna Flegal encouraged me to rework some of the sentences in my book in order to reach a wider audience. She believed that Living Like Lions could inspire both men who believe in God and men who do not.

Tell us something about your ministry in Barcelona, Spain?

It’s coming to an end! After spending nearly three years working in southern Germany and Barcelona, we’ve decided to return home. Our goal was to come to western Europe and open an arts center that would use creativity as a bridge to the Gospel.

Over the past three years, we’ve had some high points and low points, hosted some amazing house concerts and built relationships with neighbors, musicians and people who attended our concerts. However, our passion for the arts center has waned and we don’t have a clear calling to continue our ministry here, so we’ve decided to return home.

What is the state of the evangelical movement in Europe today and some of the challenges you face in ministering there?

The evangelical movement in Barcelona is in its infancy. There have been several churches doing ministry here for many years, but the most encouraging sign of an openness to the Gospel has come from Hillsong Barcelona. We attended that church for a year and each Sunday we saw people making decisions for Christ.

However, Barcelona in particular still remains disinterested in religion and I don’t blame them. During the reign of Francisco Franco, principles found in the Bible were used as the basis for some crazy laws: divorce was illegal, homosexuals were persecuted and everyone born in Spain was required to have a biblical name. Organized religion has left the nation – and particular the younger generation – disenchanted about the true nature of God.

As someone serving in the ministry, what is the biggest challenge/obstacle you face in protecting your writing time?

This hasn’t been a problem for me because I’ve been using my writing to supplement our income while we’ve been in Spain. Through different job sites and freelancing sites I’ve been able to keep a steady stream of work going – website copy, marketing material, product descriptions, blog posts, news articles and tons of other stuff.

What do you see as being the most important issues facing Christians and the Christian church today?

In terms of American Christianity, the most important issue facing Christians and the Christian church today is the way that conservative politics have become the guiding set of principles on which many Christians view economic, race and immigration issues.

We are Christians first and voters second. The Scriptures must guide our philosophies about the poor, the oppressed, the foreigners and the marginalized. The Bible tells us to help the poor, side with the oppressed and identify with the marginalized.

Peter calls us aliens and strangers in the world. Paul says Christ became poor so that by his poverty we might become rich and he told the Corinthians that “God chose the weak in the world,” “the low and despised” and “the foolish.”

How is it that, as followers of a Savior who emphasizes the themes of poverty and often reminds us that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom rather than an earthly one, we’ve become so hardened and judgmental toward the poor and so harsh toward illegal aliens?

Do you have plans for any more books in the future that you can share with us?

No, not at the moment.

Please share one of your favorite passages from Living Like Lions with our readers.

This is a passage from my chapter on Woodrow Wilson, the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner who led a very racist administration. The quote  hearkens to your earlier question about how I want this book to impact men:

“Never let the opinions of men dictate who you are. The opinions of men shift and change like the wind; with every new era of thought and prejudice, definitions of right and wrong are transformed. Perhaps in your past or on into the future, the honor of others will grace your reputation. This recognition is a sweet song, but also tends to be a skewed one. Only God knows the depth of your heart and your mind. Only God knows the true man inside of you. Hold yourself accountable to Him, no matter what others say. Let Him be the judge of your heart, your work and your thoughts. As you keep your mind and your heart in His Word, you will find words more timeless than the deepest prejudice and the greatest praise. And, there, you will find what truly gains God’s approval.”

Book Blurb:

A lion is a ferocious protagonist rippling with fervor and strength. Loyalty to the pride, surgeon-like strikes and a keen sense of the world around him make the lion one of the most feared animals in the world. At the same time, the lion is an affectionate beast who lets his guard down among those he loves.

History is witness to a handful of men whose lives resembled the tenacious fervor of lions. The men of Living Like Lions are a rare breed of tenacity, strength and love. A monk stands face-to-face against the emperor of Rome. A bishop goes toe-to-toe with soldiers. An inventor creates the world’s biggest wheeled machines. An artist resurrects the heart of his fellow creators.

Each story reveals bravery, commitment and masculinity. These men challenge us to rise above the contemporary definitions of masculinity and embrace godliness. Study the lives of J.R. Mott, William Wilberforce, Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Woodrow Wilson, Jim Elliot, David Brainerd, C.T. Studd, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Augustine of Hippo, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Athanasius, Mikoto Fujimura, Blaise Paschal, R.G. LeTourneau, Johann Sebastian Bach, Dr. Francis Collins, Oswald Chambers, and Brother Lawrence. Learn how each one “roared with life” and advanced the kingdom of God.

About the Author:

JR DurenJ.R. Duren is an award-winning journalist from San Diego, California. He graduated from Bethel Seminary in 2007 with a Master of Divinity. He and his wife Heather have most recently lived in Barcelona, Spain, where they ran a faith-based community arts center.

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  1. Thanks for featuring me, Norma Gail!

  2. I am definitely getting this book for my husband. I see my husband falling in love with the lord more every day and it is such a blessing to our family. He only reads inspiring non-fiction and I think this would be a book that speaks to his heart. I know, by personal experience, what it is to not have a husband who reads the Word everyday, nurturing his relationship with the Lord. For three years, my husband was over-medicated while being treated for PTSD. He was here, but not connected with us, God or anything else. It took a big toll on our family. It broke my heart that my son didn’t have his dad as a positive role model during that time. It’s been nearly two years since he all, but stopped the psychiatric meds and I feel it took another year for it to get out of his system. Looking back, he realizes the negative effects of the medications he was taking, but he was incapable at the time to recognize it. I love having the leader of our family back and seeing his heart for God. Best wishes to you in your future writing, J.R. and any and all ministries the Lord leads you to. Norma, as always, you bring the perfect mix of authors who love the Lord to your blog. Thank you.

    • Terrill,
      It’s so good to hear that your husband is falling in love with Jesus more and more every day. I can’t imagine what it was like for him to go through drug regimens while dealing with his PTSD. But I’m so glad you guys have stood by him through the difficult times and I pray that he continues to grow in the Lord, to work out his salvation and to lead with kindness and strength. I hope that LLL can be an encouragement to him and can play a small part in his growth.

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