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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Isolated and Jointless

Your Body is Meant for a Bigger Body

Reflecting on the recent Atlantic article by Stephen Marche about how loneliness is on the rise, particularly with internet users, I remembered God’s words in Ephesians and Colossians about how the local church is held together by its “joints and ligaments,” in other words, by its relationships.

If people are the parts, the joining-together-ness (to coin a rough word) must be their relationships.

And if, as Marche says, “Loneliness is at the American core, a by-product of a long-standing national appetite for independence,” then we as Americans are particularly tempted to isolate ourselves. Westerners, it seems, are self-separators, more likely to retreat than truly connect.

In other words, since we value independence, we implicitly value our own rights to stay away from other people. Other people are messy, other people are time-consuming, other people are sinners.

Yet the Bible tells us at this point that the sins, time, and gifts of others are exactly what we need. Why else would God tell us to forgive each other and bear with each other in the church, if we aren’t even interacting enough to wrong each other? These are surely not the commands of loneliness.

So we must ask ourselves:

  • Do I feel isolated and jointless?
  • Am I self-apparently a lonely person?
  • Do I invest significant time, daily and weekly, into the people who ought to be most important to me?

Disciplining ourselves for godliness means disciplining ourselves for
costly, time-consuming, needy relationships that matter most in
eternity. God surely didn’t give us those relationships to throw away, and the deepest of them ought to be in the immediate family and in the local church.

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.

A Family Better than a Billion Bars

Working the late-night shift lately I’ve seen how easy it is for single men (and, sadly, too many married men) to architect shaky “friendships” with women. These men drink, they party, they say dirty things to these women and their friends. Despite themselves, they might even get a few phone numbers.

But what they never get is a real relationship. Not out there, at the Irish bar at two in the morning anyway.

What’s more is this: I know that I could easily be out there with them, if not for the mercy of God.

I would be out there with them because I enjoy hanging out with women. God made women beautiful, but not mainly on the outside. Ladies have a kind of joy, gentleness, compassion, and love for people that men like me find baffling.

So instead of leaving me to seek such false friendships in an unsafe, foolish, and evil way (read: flirting and fornication), my good Lord gave me a mother who exemplifies each of those. So I was blessed to know and grow up with my godly mother.

Through her prayers, God brought me my wife, whose beauty shines in her character, full of love, compassion, and service, then it shines through in her appearance. She is my glory, and I am blessed to know and be known by her better than anyone.

Though my wife, God gave me daughters to know and love. In their lives, I see how God has particularly shaped young women to show off Jesus.

And through the rest of my family, grandmothers, my mother-in-law, aunts, sisters-in-law, cousins, and nieces to boot, God has give me a family literally full of godly women. In such a family, He graciously protects me from my sin while showing me the beauty of Jesus in the character of these godly women. I am truly blessed.

The Bible teaches the same principle in places like 1 Timothy 5:1-2:

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

While there is always more to the Scriptures and never less, one of the things Paul is teaching Timothy is that, in the Lord, we have safe familial relationships in the church. Men, we are meant to treat younger women as sisters, not lust-targets. We know this because God says we are to encourage these ladies “in all purity.”

In the Lord, I have a family better than a billion bars. I praise Him for my wife and the so many more godly women in my life.

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.

Ignoring the Marriage Context is Evil

Susan Baer, in the poorly-titled “A Family Learns the True Meaning of the Vow ‘In Sickness and in Health’” from The Washington Post on January 5, 2012, tells the true story of a woman (Page) who divorced her mentally ill husband (Robert) to marry an old high school sweetheart (Allan). A key section:

Allan felt uneasy at first, guilty about befriending a man [Robert] with limited cognition while starting up a romance with his wife [Page].

Page tiptoed into the subject of dating with Robert, telling him that she and Allan were beginning to be more than just friends, and asking if he understood and was comfortable with that. Robert told her it was fine. “He’s a really nice guy,” Page says he told her…

Page felt 30 again but was racked with guilt. “I believed my vows so strongly that they just kept ringing in my ears.”

She consulted her minister, who told her that by continuing to take care of Robert, she was still honoring those vows.

A few observations are in order:

  1. Allan felt “uneasy” and “guilty” about befriending Robert because he was committing adultery against him. No wonder. No amount of “I’m ok, you’re ok” from Page or their minister (see below) can take away the guilt one feels before God’s law.
  2. Page also “tiptoed into the subject of dating with Robert” because she was committing adultery against him. The fact that her husband misunderstood the context of their marriage bears no weight of the intrinsic meaning of their marriage.
  3. “What God has joined together, let no man separate” applies to husband and wife, too. Or do we think too little of verses like Matthew 19:6? Yes, our own sins and weaknesses are the reason we need such vows.
  4. Page’s minister ought to be fired. Whoever this “minister” is, he wickedly ignored the context of Robert and Page’s marriage vows. Those vows are taken as husband and wife, not as nurse and patient, not as mother and overgrown child, not as friend and friend – as husband and wife. A minister who understands this not ought not advise others, au revoir.
  5. The WP trumpets a lie. Apparently, WP and author Baer want to applaud Page for her courage to “stick with” her former husband and yet “find happiness” with  her new one. In pursuit of that self-congratulatory end, they controvert the meaning of marriage.

Which brings us to some final thoughts:

  • Remarriage, part deux: What happens when Allan, Page’s new husband, becomes mentally ill or disabled? Will she divorce him, continue to care for both him and Robert, and marry a third man? Which one will be her children’s father then?
  • The media and the meaning of marriage: How soon will The WP and other confused media outlets begin reporting on simple divorces that end happily? How long will it take us to see that they have an agenda in promoting divorce, broken families, and unhappiness?
  • An offense against God: The most important person in any discussion is God. When will we see that, when we seek to redefine what God has already spoken, we are shaking our tiny, childish fists in the face of the Almighty? Do we really expect to be “ok” when we mock His ways?

May the Lord Jesus give us grace to listen here, learn, and repent.

Want Your Child’s Heart?

Show them how to give it away, says Doug Wilson, just like our Father shows us how.

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.

Church, Love All Your Families

From Pastor Kevin DeYoung, in “Love for the Big and the Small

Think of all the trouble we get into in the church, and on this issue in particular, because we assume the worst. Big families assume smaller families are being selfish. Smaller families assume big families are out to prove something. Parents assume their children are rejecting their choices when they make different ones. Children assume their parents would have acted like them if they were more spiritual. And everybody assumes everybody else is assuming something about them!

This is not the way of 1 Corinthians 13 love and it has to stop. Let’s assume the best of each other on this issue and not assume we’re being judged because someone else feels strongly about the way they do things.

“A La Carte” Sex, Love, and Parenting

Washington Times writer Joy Jones explains the state of marriage in the African American community, quoting one of her students who said, ‘Marriage Is for White People’:

Traditional notions of family, especially the extended family network, endure. But working mothers, unmarried couples living together, out-of-wedlock births, birth control, divorce and remarriage have transformed the social landscape. And no one seems to feel this more than African American women. One told me that with today’s changing mores, it’s hard to know “what normal looks like” when it comes to courtship, marriage and parenthood. Sex, love and childbearing have become a la carte choices rather than a package deal that comes with marriage.

She goes on to explain why longtime bachelors are harder to marry, why single African American women have much to lose in marriage, and why she recently turned down a marriage proposal.

Yet another newspaper chronicling the disease of me-centured culture eating away at the family, Jones’ article is long on facts and anecdotes but short on real help.

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

My Wife Does Work . . . In Our Home

In the past few years of schoolteaching, I’ve often been asked the backloaded question, “Does your wife work?” The mere posing of the question brings me half a laugh and half a gasp. I generally to answer pleasantly, “Yes, she does work, very hard, in our home, with our children.”

But the whole conversation goes deeper than two or three sentences can show. Like the well-written banter of a good drama, every phrase carries meaning:

Does your wife work?” The whole question assumes something, namely, that – lest they be left to gallivant around town on their husband’s money – every wife should be working outside the home. Let’s examine that biblically for a moment. Titus 2:3-5 says,

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

So Paul tells Titus to teach his church about their roles as older women, younger women, older men, and younger men. He tells the older women to disciple the younger, and in that discipleship to teach them to be the kind of family-first women that will honor “the word of God.” That’s a high calling.

So, the very question is at its essence anti-biblical: “Does your wife work (primarily outside the home)? Because she should.”

On the other hand, though, the “work” part of the assumption is a good thing. Proverbs 31 tells us that the excellent, hard-to-find wife is like an nocturnal ant-army:

She rises while it is yet night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her maidens…
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
Her lamp does not go out at night.
She puts her hands to the distaff,
and her hands hold the spindle.

So, yes, my wife should be working, but not mainly in the way this question means it. The Proverbs 31 woman works hard, mainly for her own family.

“Yes, she does work . . .” Of course she works. If she didn’t, if I didn’t, and if anyone doesn’t, that person is a sloppy, sluggish worm burping, grazing, and floating through life. They don’t deserve even to eat. So that can’t be the question.

So I try to both agree and disagree with the question. First, I’m saying, “Yes, you’re right. She should be working.”

But then I’m disagreeing. . .

“very hard . . .” Before I state my exact disagreement, I want the questioner to know something: my wife works very hard. Whatever you think about what she does, you need to know that she works as hard or harder than your or I do. You need to know that working in the home is no joke.

“in our home . . .” Instead of making my disagreement sound disagreeable, I try to phrase it as a clarification. “My wife does work – just not where you think she should. She works in our home, on our family.” The questioner needs to know that this work I’m describing is the work of a home-maker, and it’s not easy.

“with our children.” The final phrase is meant to point out that God means wives to truly build the family, and not just “keep house.” The excellent wife is the earthly glue that holds a family together. She doesn’t just “cook, clean, and do laundry;” she thinks, plans, acts, and oversees the family while the husband is providing for the family.

She is his vice president of operations; he authorizes her to do everything necessary to care for the family while he is gone. She is her family’s main lover, laugher, counselor, schoolteacher, organizer, purchaser, tailor, caterer, interior decorator, and on the list goes.

Conclusion
While none of this is meant to be a slam on the questioners or wives who work mainly outside the home, we must acknowledge that God’s plan is for the wife to work mainly inside the home, loving her husband so he doesn’t have to do the wife’s job and caring for her family by wearing a million feminine hats. The excellent, home-making wife truly is a gift. I know mine is.

Christian Colleges, Highlight Your Graduate Moms

And why not? This is what Pastor Kevin DeYoung asks in this thoughtful piece about Christian colleges, alumnae, and motherhood:

The last thing we want to convey is that moms haven’t gone on to do anything significant. The second to the last thing we want to convey is that a mom doesn’t really benefit from a good education and a Christian worldview.

In other words, Christian colleges, show that graduates who become mothers really are important to you, because they’re important to God.

Gospel Meals

Here’s an interview with Tim Chester, the author of a new, good-looking book on eating and the Gospel, A Meal with Jesus:

How do the meals of Jesus image the gospel?

Let’s take one example. Jesus ate with tax collectors. Tax collectors were collaborators with the Romans, the people who were occupying God’s promised land. This meant they were not only betraying the nation, but they were enemies of God. God sits and eats with his enemies. That’s what happening in the meals of Jesus. It’s an amazing expression of gospel grace.

You would not believe it if it were not in the Scriptures. The Pharisees certainly could not believe it. And that is without considering how the feeding of the 5,000 points to the messianic banquet of the future or how the last supper points to the cross.

Later, Chester explains how and why Christians ought to associate with the “outcasts” of our society:

How would you practically encourage readers to begin associating with the marginalized?

No doubt there are lots of ways to begin, but in the book I highlight the importance of eating with people.

There is a danger that if we only “do” things “for” people then we communicate by our actions “I am able and you are unable.” Then the message we convey is not the welcome of God, but the message “become like me.” We may talk of grace with our words, but our actions communicate the need for social or moral improvement. But when we sit and eat with one another then we are together round the table. Then we can speak of grace as fellow sinners.

I’ve been encouraged to eat with my neighbors, coworkers, and people I formerly only “ministered to.” May God give us the grace to go, take, and eat together.

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