Manhood at the Master’s Feet

The Psalms and Matthew 18-19 tell us that manhood is more than bullets, brawn, and beast-killing. Jesus was the manliest man who ever lived, and he bounced children on His knee:

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away. (Matthew 19:13-15, ESV)

Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them,” but American men say, “Leave the children to the women, I’ve got hunting to do,” – as though killing animals, even to feed your family’s bodies, is more important than spending time with them to feed their souls.

Jesus says, “Children are a blessing;” American men say, “Children are a burden,” – as though pouring one’s life into someone else’s is not the best use of our relational time on this earth.

Cultural views of manhood reduce children to annoyances, play-toys, or “choices.” Jesus has a better stance: children get blessings, and they give blessings.

Dads and would-be dads out there, maybe instead of listening to Planned Parenthood, mainstream media, or hip-hop artists, we should sit at the Master’s feet.

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Is This What We Want Boys to Do?

Former angry teen and current high school teacher Peter Brown Hoffmeister writes on the hidden link in America’s school shootings: angry young men who love violent video games:

I asked one of [the violent video game-playing students] later, and he said that he played Call of Duty “an average of 40 hours per week, at least.”

Is this what we want angry, adolescent boys to do? Do we want to give them this practice? Do we want them to glorify violent actions, to brag about violence in the school’s hallways? Or even worse, given the perfect equation of frustration + opportunity + practice, do we want them to do as Weise, Roberts, and Lanza did, and act out these fantasies in real life? Do we want them to yell, “I am the shooter” as they enter a crowded mall – as Roberts did? Or dress like video-game shooters – as Lanza and Roberts were – before heading into a murder spree?

Especially with teenage boys, we have to decide what we want them to do, what we want them to love, what we want them to emulate. Even if they don’t end up shooting people in a school, if they’re practicing car-jackings, knifings, and putting on body-armor as first-person shooters, what are they preparing to do with the rest of their lives? Will these video-game practice sessions make them better husbands or fathers? Will these boys become patient and understanding friends? Better co-workers?

In other words, do these video “games” contribute anything positive to any real relationship a young man has?

On Christian (Un)Citizens

1 Peter 2:11-17  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.  Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,  or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Nearly caught in the kind of teaching trap those of us educators are familiar with, Jesus tells the Jews in Luke 20:25 to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” and He leaves it at that. He doesn’t elaborate much, because the situation didn’t call for it. It was meant to be a crafty ploy (20:23) to get Him to slip up.

But it got me thinking: what does it mean to be a Christian (un)citizen?

God teaches us plainly that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20). So what does it mean to be a citizen of heaven while living on earth?

Without the time to go into all the details, Christians recently have struggled with two gross extremes: militant escapism and foolish assimilation. Or, more directly, being citizens of heaven that don’t live on earth vs. being citizens of earth that aren’t bound for heaven.

This is where Peter helps us immensely. Recall the context of 1 Peter: Peter was writing to suffering Christians to encourage them to hold on to Jesus in the midst of terrifying troubles.  So it might seem odd that he writes a section on honoring the government and its officers.

Notice that verse 11 has the encouragement to avoid “passions of the flesh which wage war against the soul,” then moves right into a discussion about . . . obeying authorities? This must be a bigger deal than we realize.

Verse 12 says that this conduct outlined in verses 13-17 is what will glorify God in front of the Gentiles, that is, in front of the unbelieving but watching world. Living under the authority of emperors and governors as “servants of God” is what shows the watching world that we are, in fact, not citizens of this world. What a strange concept?

Who would have thought that neither escapism nor assimilation was our calling?! So what is our calling, brothers and sisters? To fear God and honor everyone as He calls, including our (ever-so-often failing) government.

As to how exactly this ought to work with other callings (like standing up for the unborn, clarifying the meaning of marriage, voting regularly, etc.), we will work out in a future post.

Your Job Doesn’t Care About Your Family

Exposing a Popular Lie

I’ve been enough swanky, avant-garde offices to know that the new buzz-phrase is “we care about our employees.” It’s still chic for many companies to provide their employees exercise, health, counseling, and family services.

And everyone pays lip service to that most important of personal areas: the family.

Companies might have a family day (or they might, like one recent employer, even ban spouses from attending a company ballgame outing). Schools want teachers to care about and focus on their students’ respective families, but they often fail to provide the space for teachers to focus on their own families. More corporate-stye jobs are well-known for over-(yes, over)-working their employees, some past the point of even being able to see family members during the workweek.

So my thesis remains: when the rubber meets the road, your company doesn’t care about your family.

If your company, your manager, or your coworkers cared about your family, they’d act like it. But they don’t.

However, I know my readers are employees, managers, supervisors, coworkers, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, children, and grandparents, so I don’t want to end here but instead give some tips to those of us (all of us) who can change this:

  1. Make and seek clear employee expectations. Hours, pay, and any expected extra duty must be spelled out and agreed upon. Don’t be like the supervisor who once asked me why I wasn’t coming to an optional, after-hours get-together. I told him I was going home to be with my family.
  2. Past 40 hours, consider telecommuting or even reduced-pay options. Encourage prospective and current employees to think of the literal toll their beyond-full-time hours will take on their families. And, yes, it takes a toll. Both employer and employee must be honest about that up-front. Do you want employees who hate their jobs for asking too much and destroying their families? Didn’t think so.
  3. Take stock of the family life among your company’s leadership. If most of your managers are single, divorced, or headed for it, beware. Companies that place such people in supervisory roles implicitly value singleness over marriage. There’s a reason those people tend to be leaders, and they will lead out of their own view (or anti-view) of family.
  4. If you require weekends or holidays, make sure your employees get that time back with their families. Who wouldn’t want to be home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and summer vacation? You do, so treat your employees and teammates the same. Often companies act like this is “just part of the job;” it isn’t. It’s asking for more.
  5. Actually care for your teammates’ family lives. This doesn’t mean passing conversation. This means helping each other see that families are more important than companies. Always, always, always remember that. No two-decade career is worth missing your son’s childhood.
  6. Understand that a company’s pride will constantly strive against employees’ families. When a boss asks her employee to come in on Saturday or stay late on a weeknight, she is saying, “The company is more important than your family. If you don’t do this, you could lose your job.” Such situations always present difficult decisions, so think ahead.

Does that mean you can’t work extra? No, but it does mean that your company may well misunderstand the work/family balance. Such a work environment, while not initially toxic, is always unhealthy and may well toxify your marriage and family.

Every company’s view of family is being lived out in its employees right before you. If many employees have unhealthy/dying/dead family lives, chances are that the company aids that. Don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. No job is worth your precious family.

T4G Panel #1: Complementarianism

Below are some highlights from the first panel discussion at Together for the Gospel 2012.

John Piper:

  • “[Complementarianism] a vision that steers a path between the nullification or minimization of differences as they are played out in society and the abuse of those differences.”
  • “We want to call women to full personhood and men to initiative and leadership in a Christlike demeanor.”
  • “I fought battle after battle with college students in the late 70’s and early 80’s over these things, but now we have thousands of young men and women who are receiving this [complementarianism] and flourishing.”
  • “The question that egalitarians can never answer for me is, ‘What do you do with a little 8-year-old boy that asks, “Daddy, what does it mean to grow up and be a man, and not a woman?” Or a girl who asks, “Mommy, what does it mean to grow up and be a woman, and not a man?” ‘ “
  • “Carefully walk through Ephesians 5 about marriage. It’s what every woman wants in her marriage.”
  • “Walk through the eight or nine evidences from Genesis 1 and 2 [sic, he included 3 in his explanation] that show that role reversal is what wrecked the world.”

Russell Moore:

  • “I fear that we have many people within evangelicalism who ‘check off’ complementarianism but live functionally egalitarian lives and marriages.”
  • “I recently spoke with a woman who told me her husband wants to get a sex-change operation. He didn’t want to leave her. They were going to stay together. Now, Martin Luther never had to deal with that.”
  • “When a wife submits herself to her own husband, when a young woman submits herself to a future husband she does not yet know, she refuses to submit to other men and the culture’s idea of women being defined by how men see them.”
  • “We as the church need to stop mimicking the outside culture in the way women are portrayed.”
  • “[You have to pay attention to complementarianism because] you have to deal with specifically complementarian texts: Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy 2, and others. And you have personal sanctification issues to deal with.”
  • “Complementarianism bears the cross.”
  • “When Jesus washes the feet of the Church, she refuses Him. . . When He is going to die for her, Peter tries to stop him.”
  • “Jesus always gently and lovingly, but decisively, leads His bride.”

Greg Gilbert:

  • “We have men who think that complementarianism really has no feet on it until you come to a disagreement, that they have no role in leading in the home, in establishing an environment in the relationship, in taking initiative.”
  • “To get to an egalitarian position, you have to bring in some bad DNA, some bad principles and ideas, into your interpretation of Scripture. And eventually you will bring that to other texts as well.”
  • “As a pastor of a local church, you can’t ‘back-burner’ the issue [gender relations, complementarianism, etc.], because it’s so practical.”
  • “Too often, we let the discussion [about gender roles] be about negatives rather than positives.”
  • “God-given role does not speak to God-given dignity.”
  • “God has every right to give out roles to His created people.”

For more resources, go to CBMW.org . Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and other resources, are available as free pdfs.

The Happy, Grueling Bicycle Ride

This morning, pedaling in the rain with a gaudy yellow helmet, I’m sure I looked foolish. Drivers-by likely thought, “Well, that’s silly. It’s a lot of work, and he’s getting all wet. And he looks dumb.” True enough.

And I realized that, at one level at least, that’s the way our culture treats marriage. It looks silly. It’s foolish. And marriage-happy people are blissfully, blindly unaware of the world around them.

False.

My wife and I might be pedaling hard in the rain, but we’re pedaling for our lives. We might not have the insulated warmth of a lonely car ride, but we lean on the promises more than the self-assured fool. It’s not easy to carry someone else’s weight around from time to time (just ask my wife!), but at least we’re serving someone other than ourselves, which is what Jesus calls real life.

And, yeah, it’s grueling, but we get to enjoy the downhill coasts and all the strange twists and turns together. And we don’t care who turns and stares and drives by in the rain. God’s grace is with us.

I love that my wife is on the bicycle with me, pedaling for our lives.

Sin’s Rigor Mortis in My Kitchen

or “Why I’m a Bad Husband: How Sin Ruins with a Man’s Communication

One of the things that happened through sin and because of sin in the Garden was that the man and woman started fighting, blaming, and hating each other. (If you read closely, actually, it’s happening while Satan tempts Eve. Adam just stands there! So passive.)

Adam and Eve now will fight over leadership. They will go to war with each other in violent and escapist ways. They will wall each other off with stiff-arms, absent emotions, browbeating, and even extreme physical force. They will hate instead of love.

One of the ways this affects me is that, because of my sin, I often prefer not to communicate very clearly. And, if I’ve learned anything about communication, it’s that, if it doesn’t start most problems, it sure can solve many. But I’d rather not communicate. I’d rather keep to myself. I’d rather leave my family in the kitchen while I do my own thing.

What’s Daddy doing? No one’s sure.

Maybe you’ve seen the same things:

  • A father at the park who’d rather play on his IDrone than with his own children.
  • A husband who passively follows his wife around the store looking like a frightened puppy.
  • A grandfather who sits quietly and lets grandma do all the leading at family events.

What do these men have in common with me? They’d rather not communicate.

We would rather not communicate because communication and leadership require you to give yourself up to be criticized, questioned, ignored, or disobeyed. Every man, woman, and child in the universe has the pride of a thousand actors, crying, “Me! Me! Listen to Me! Look at me” when it comes to speaking out, but men particularly take offense at these negative responses (criticism, questioning, ignoring, disobedience, etc.) to their leadership. We take these things as a slap in the face, a cruel joke, or a cause for physical retaliation.

So our pride keeps us from speaking. We’d rather be silent than slammed, quiet than questioned, reserved than ridiculed. But leadership is precisely as Jesus intended: great sacrifice as great service to others that points to the greatness of God. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many,” (Mark 10:44-45).

As men, we don’t like that. As someone somewhere has said, we want the crown without the cross. We want the acclaim without the agony and pain. We want the adoration without the humiliation.

But Jesus told us: it won’t be so for us. God has charged us men with leading our families and those otherwise in our charge. We’re His. So we must speak, speak clearly, speak love, speak the truth, suffer for it, and by grace through faith be saved in the end.

Sin still shakes its death quakes in my kitchen and in my heart. But sin is dead in me, because Christ lives again.

How the Great Commission Will Get Finished

African Bible College professor Larry Brown weighs in:

But I am convinced that the Great Commission will not be completed by a “seeker friendly” church with an in-house rock band, a comedy team, a gift shop and a coffee bar. Nor will it be completed by a mission trip that looks like a church youth group retreat. It will be completed by the career missionary who has just buried his child who died from a tropical disease. It will be completed by the “developing world” pastor who has just been released from prison where they pulled out his toenails with pliers because his government didn’t like his evangelistic activities.

We all know that because of what Christ did for us, salvation is free. But the Great Commission calls for sacrifice. Who will pay that “cost of discipleship?”

The Substitute Servant Saves Sinners for Ecstasy

God would substitute the Servant, this servant would gladly die and rise for sinners, and both would be happy with the result.

Expositing Isaiah 53 in chapter 4, “Promise,” in my forthcoming book on the gospel.

Like a Turkey in an Ever-Warming Pot

I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of things, but Thanksgiving and Christmas tend to remind me . . . of them all. Some holiday seasons, it seems that every little family vacation moment boils my sinful self-love and my self-directing desires.

At the same time, what could be more enjoyable than being with the people you love for four days of family fun, making memories as wide as the Thanksgiving spread? Yet I find my soul is less nourished by family time than by God’s Word. I badly need the Word of God to rejoice my despairing heart, revive my dead soul, and make my simple mind wise (Psalm 19).

As God revives and wizens my mind, I’m slowly realizing that I’m the worst sinner in the room. I’m the source of all my failures to love others. I’m the source of all my holiday problems.

But praise be to God that He is taking me and killing my evil self-love because I am with Jesus, following on His path of pain, suffering, death, and resurrection. So, this Thanksgiving, God is slowly refining me. Or boiling me, like a turkey in an ever-warming pot.

Missions for Maturity, Not Dependence

Pastor Doug Wilson, ruminating on Scripture and common observation to show why Christian missions to third-world countries should be “Fathers, Not Sugar Daddies“:

When someone is paid for being poor, it is often the case that they will do their job, and will work at being poor. When someone is paid for being entitled, then it is not surprising that they become indignant when someone points out they are feeling entitled. That’s their job.

He points out that this principle has very clear application to our own country’s welfare state as well.

Son, Girls Aren’t Your Toys

Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me, Pt. 3:
Son, Girls Aren’t Your Toys

The Problem
Boys quickly get the idea that the world is their muddy oyster. Not only are we deceived into believing that the world spins around our giant personalities, we even get to ruin it as we please. So dads ought to teach their boys servanthood and humility in general, but, in our day, especially with regard to ladies.

Without such teaching, boyhood, young manhood (wrongly termed, “adolescence”), and grown manhood spin wildly into slothfulness, narcissism, and carnality. My young life sure did. To my shame, I found all kinds of ways to make my relationships with young women center on me.

So, boys, young men, grown men, girls aren’t your toys. Women image forth our Creator in special ways that men don’t; and they are valuable to Him, first and foremost. To play with them in manifold ways is to take God for a joker and a sloth. He is neither.

Further, to begin such misogyny at a young age amounts to training in the kind of false manhood currently plaguing our country. Our incredibly high rate of violence against women, our holocaust against the unborn, our other violent and cruel acts against children, as well as the untold number of broken families, fatherless children, broken relationships, and emotionally battered women, can all be traced back to grown boys treating women as toys.

Be A Gentleman
To be even clearer, young men and grown men ought to always walk in such a way as to honor and protect women, even females who are total strangers. With this posture at the beginning of a relationship, it is much more natural to remain a gentleman once any sort of friendship or romantic relationship begins. Further, a gentleman ought never to put himself, by words, actions, or even placement in a room, in a position to offend, embarrass, or degrade a woman.

This would absolutely exclude standard man-child practices toward women like:

  • insults and name-calling
  • yelling and general bossiness
  • harsh grabbing and “petting”
  • any angry “silent treatment”
  • dis-communication and vagueness
  • inappropriate, immoral, and/or crude talk, writing, or texting
  • avoidance of proper responsibility and commitment (I’m looking at you, lifetime “players”)
  • slothful, lazy behavior when active service is needed

In other words, be a gentleman. Find out about a lady, what her interests are. Learn to support her in the callings God has given her. Encourage her to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Learn how to spend time just having fun in a group, and later just the two of you. Enjoy serving alongside one another. Laugh, have serious conversations about things bigger than the two of you, and don’t dwell on physical/sexual matters that have no place before marriage. She’s not your toy.

These things must be so because both men and women are God’s creation. We image forth God! God Himself! He is supreme, and supremely valuable! So our lives ought to reflect His glory, His Son, His character, particularly in holy love. And in this our days are numbered in this life; don’t waste them.

By God’s grace, women are beautiful, intelligent, resourceful, funny, kind, and generous in special ways. But, boys, they aren’t your toys. They aren’t meant to be spent, but served. They aren’t to be consumed, but cared for. They aren’t for loathing, but truly loving, in the kind of self-sacrificing love that Jesus Himself lived out for His bride.

***
Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me

  1. Son, You’re Going to Get Dirty
  2. Son, Get Ready to Take on a Load
  3. Son, Girls Aren’t Your Toys

Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me, Pt. 2:
Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

In part 2, we turn to finances. Working at home for an allowance and getting a high-school job are just baby steps, and living as a single college student and then a grad is kindergarten stuff. Providing for an entire family is the real deal (I’m assuming here that, for the health of your future marriage and family, you want your wife to work really hard . . . in your home).

Here’s what changes: when you’re a child and a young man living at home, you pay zero of your own bills. Your parents do it all (see where this is going?). When you’re a single man in college, and even after, you likely split your bills with your many roommates. Even if you don’t have roommates, it’s very unlikely that you’re supporting anyone else.

When you get married (“stop test-driving your girlfriend“) and subsequently have children (and you should), that all changes. All of it.

You are no longer “an army of one,” making cash and going out to play. You are now the captain of an army, all of whom depend on you to lead with love, provide with responsibility, and protect with thoughtfulness. Your home-army won’t be working jobs outside the home –  and, even if your wife does, it’s still your job to provide.

All of the financial responsibility for your wife, your children, yourself, and anyone else you should take in along the way now falls on you. Just you.

So what do we do? Three things:

  1. Ask God for help. We can’t faithfully lead and love our families without special grace. Unbelieving fathers may do it here and there, but they can’t even lead their own children to Christ. We need Jesus to help us, gentlemen. Learn that in prayer first.
  2. Be on the lookout for your calling as a worker. This is known as “vocation,” and you find it not by looking mainly inside but outside at the places and ways you can best serve. I used to be afraid of having a career, as though it would define me. Now I see it as a service to others.
  3. Mentally prepare yourself for raising a family. This takes deliberate thought and preparation. Am I going to spend this money on another movie or save it for an engagement ring? Am I going to buy another shirt or spend it on books for my son? Even if you’re young yet, these thoughts will help you prepare.

I could wish that I had known these things, but God has been gracious. Leading a family is a load of work, but it’s a happy burden when carried along by Christ.

****
Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me:

  1. Son, You’re Going to Get Dirty 
  2. Son, Get Ready to Carry a Load

Abortive Mothers, It’s Not About You

Last year a popular television show chronicled one high school student’s
struggle through the decision to have an abortion. She said things
like:

  • “I can’t take care of a baby.”
  • “I have my whole life ahead of me.”
  • “I don’t want to have a baby and then resent it.”

And these statements, if cliched, at least are honest for many abortive mothers. Their decision is heartbreaking, intense, and painstaking. On their own terms, they agonize over killing their own unborn child. But, with reasons like this, it becomes clear that these mothers must do it. Why?

The key here (as always) is in the grammar. “I . . I . . . my . . . me . . . I . . . ” These are the words of an egocentric, megalomaniacal heart. The whole “Well, these mothers are the only ones who will look out for themselves,” the response that people well-trained in the Planned Parenthood way of thinking most often give, is   d e a d   wrong. By definition, mothers are meant to be focused on others, namely, their children.

That’s what it means to be a mother.

Mothers are meant to live to give, love to love, and sacrifice for the lives of their children. And before you label us “woman-haters,” pause and think of just how you would define a mother.

(For the record, fathers have the same other-centered calling, as do brothers and sisters to each other, children to their parents, and all every other type of relationship in family and society.)

So, abortive mothers, your decision to “abort” your child is not about you. It’s just not. Your life isn’t about you, and your motherhood certainly isn’t. If you think the world spins around you, you are universally mistaken.

We are meant to live for others, because a life focused on loving others is a full, happy life. It’s what God wants for us, and it is fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mothers, don’t be fooled into thinking your children are about you. Rather, your life is about them.

Son, You’re Going to Get Dirty

Ten Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me, Pt. 1:
Son, You’re Going to Get Dirty

Today begins a ten-part series on advice I wish my dad had taught me. First up (only because it’s been on my mind lately): being a dad means cleaning up waste, junk, unclean matter. You get the idea.

From about the ages of seven to marriage, guys don’t deal with a lot of waste matter. We know how to eat meals without throwing milk on the floor (most of us), we don’t like to clean our bathrooms (mostly everyone), and we keep our clothes neat (okay, 60/40 split). All these come from the same desire: avoiding dirt, junk, and excrement.

But when you get married and have children, gentlemen, that all changes. Children volley food onto kitchen surfaces like it’s Wimbledon, drag all manner of sticks and stones into your living room a la James Audobon (“ooh, look at this!”), and (sooner or later, new parents) have many potty accidents all over your house. I mean all over your house.

A few months ago, our potty-training child had accidents in the closet, in the hallway, in the living room, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, and beside the toilet (!!!) all in a span of three weeks. I’m learning that I can’t control it, but I do wish my dad had taught me. So I’m telling you: it’s going to get dirty.

Your house is going to get dirty and your kids are going to get dirty, so you’re going to get dirty. You’re going to do the dirty work because you can’t conscientiously ask your wife to do it all the time. You just can’t. It’s not fair and it’s not right. You need to man up, grab the bucket and rags, and get to work.

So dudes out there who think you’re ready to marry that girl and start a family, know this: you’re going to get dirty. And, if you love the sacrifice of Jesus to take on all of your dirty sins, you’ll love this little gospel-picturing sacrifice, too.

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