I Can’t Love You and Tell You You’re Not a Man

I can’t love you well while lying to you.

I can’t love you well by lying about God to you.

He made you and He’s good and you’re a wonderful creation of His. And He’s made you a man. There’s beauty in that, startling beauty in this reality that the crafter of the earth chose to make you as a man.

This transgender philosophy is lying to you. Speaking broadly, the world is lying to you. Many within both are doing it from a place of misguided kindness, the sort that just goes along to get along and doesn’t want to bother anybody. (“Oh that’s how people are living now? Well, you know, to each his [er, I mean her] own.”) But kind lying is still lying, and you’re still a man. Carefully woven by a good God, you are a true and complicated and thorough man. Your feelings can never change that. And this is good.

I know there are wounds and sins and fears that run deep in your heart. I know they are a part of this. But Jesus’ grace is deeper. And that grace can address what their lies (and your own) can’t. Because true things always run deeper than false ones.

It’ll take a lot of time and even more love to put to death the deceit and the sin that are under all of this, but I have a lot of both with your name on them. I’m not going anywhere. I was rescued from abject spiritual rebellion. I was a gossip, a narcissist, a disrespectful son and a hateful brother. I sinned sexually and relationally and vocationally. But the God of the Heavens broke my heart and my knees and gave me a love I’ll never be able to earn. He saved me. So how can I not love everyone? And how can I not tell them the truth?

How can I not love you, having been loved so deeply myself by our common Creator?

Here are my affection and my commitment to you. I’m yours, friend, and I’ll give you what the world won’t.

The world can lie to you. The world just can’t love you very well.

Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.

Galatians 4:16-17

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A Foolish Transgender Ruling

Last week, a visiting Juvenile Court judge in Hamilton County ruled in favor of parents losing custody of their 17-year-old.  The reason?  They would not allow their minor child to pursue transgender surgeries and therapies at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati.  

A quote from Judge Hendon and the article:  

The family would have been best served if this could have been settled within the family after all parties had ample exposure to the reality of the fact that the child truly may be gender nonconforming and has a legitimate right to pursue life with a different gender identity than the one assigned at birth,’ she said.

Hendon also called on state lawmakers to craft legislation that would give the juvenile courts a framework to evaluate a juvenile’s right to consent to gender therapy.

The judge took away the minor because the parents would not permit him to pursue genital mutilation surgery, hormone transplants, etc., and then recommended that my state pass laws to make it easier for juveniles to supercede their parents if they will not support transgender surgeries or therapies. 

Let me say first that feelings and desires can often be self-destructive.  A boy desiring to turn himself into a girl through mutilation or hormone transplants is simply one extreme example, but my own desire to give into anger or selfishnessis another.  Feelings do not determine reality or morality.  Courts don’t have the authority to tell parents they must let their children receive hormone transplants or genital mutilation, regardless of whether the child wants it.  If a 17-year-old felt like he was really an amputee despite the fact that in reality he had two healthy arms, and he wanted to have one arm surgically removed, the parents would be right to keep that from happening.  And a court would be wrong in pretending it was right, or that it had the authority, to step in.  

Secondly, Judge Hendon’s assertion about gender being “assigned” is incorrect.  Gender is not given out like a social security number.  That is not reality, nor is it fact, nor is it basis for this sort of act.  

But my sadness and anger isn’t just that the Hamilton County Juvenile Court grossly overstepped its authority.  It isn’t merely that a powerful judge is wrong on what “gender” is and used that belief as a basis for removing a minor from his parents’ custody.  

No, I’m also angry for the kid.  

It isn’t simply that cutting off your penis or breasts in order to act like a different gender is sinful and self-destructive and foolish.   It’s all those things, but there’s something else.  It’s too small.   Our world has a habit of offering promises it can’t deliver on.   “Do this and you’ll be better.  I promise.”

Jesus Christ has a better offer.  He delivers on every last promise He makes.  “I made you.  I know what’s evil and broken and scary inside you.  And I came to die and be raised to fix such things.  But the first step is to come to me.  All other saviors are liars.”

Mutilating yourself is sinful and foolish.  But it’s also impotent.   It can’t resolve what our world currently promises it can.  This young person made in the image of God has been promised a false bill of goods, and that’s what gets the dad and pastor and former teacher in me worked up.  If I could spend time with him, after listening to him for as long as he wanted to talk, that’s what I’d tell him.  “This is sinful, but it also won’t fix what you think it will.   It won’t heal what they’re telling you it will.

“Jesus has a better offer.  And I know to the marrow in my bones He can deliver.”

That Our Sons Might Be Good Men

Do something.  Build something.  Improve something.  This bundle of impulses lies at the heart of manhood.  And if you don’t understand that, you don’t yet understand manhood.  

And our culture doesn’t understand manhood.  

It doesn’t understand why it exists, what is good about it, or who possesses it.  I read an article today about the very young son of an influential businessman here in my city.  The entrepreneur and his wife have begun to encourage their son to wear dresses and live as though he were a young girl.  They are also starting a foundation to “help” parents who are in similar situations, a foundation that will apparently work in our public school district.  This sort of thing is welcomed by our culture because it is ignorant on the nature of manhood, the why and the what and the who.  Our men don’t know why they are men (no one has told them), and because they don’t know why they are men they don’t have anything but a superficial understanding of what a man is or who a man is.  

And yet, because you can’t change reality (even by refusing to teach it), they have these impulses.  These longings hum away in their chests, unabated by a culture willfully blind about what manhood is.  There is a thirst in most men’s souls to do and to build and to protect.  Put another way, most men have an unspoken hope to bear something with whatever manly strength they’ve been given.  And there is a desire to bear a burden (the what) and an ability to bear a burden (the who) because they were made to bear a burden (the why).  

It isn’t the thirst itself to build or to protect that make on a man.  A man is someone who is born a biological male.  But these are healthy characteristics of normal manhood.  A tree is a tree regardless of whether it currently has branches, but having branches is a healthy characteristic of being a normal tree.  

Men have been given strength in order to physically and spiritually bear burdens.  But make no mistake, if we don’t teach them that, they will use their strength for something.  Those thicker bones and deeper muscles and mechanical minds were designed to build for others, but they will build for self given the chance.  Sin can’t change the what or the why or the who of manhood (or womanhood), but it has radically twisted the how.  Unredeemed men will often use their strength to abuse rather than protect, to wreck rather than construct.  They will fight for self instead of others, and act as a battering ram when they should be a shield.  A boy might grow to violate and damage women, to use them the way a thief uses money he boosted from a cash register.  Or he might grow to be faithful to one woman, to spend himself bringing out of her all the goodness and loveliness that God has planted in her soul like an early spring seed.  A young man might tick away his hours playing fantasy battles on a screen.  Or he might aim to fight for his wife, his children, or his neighbors.  All men have not been give the same manly strength, but all men spend what they have been given on something.  

Our sons were built to build.  But they will not learn this from our culture.  They’re not going to be taught about the true nature of manhood, of themselves, from television or social media.  It’s our calling to tell them who they are, what it means, and why.  That is our burden to bear.  

And it’s a high calling.  The world needs good men.  My goodness, can there be anything more obvious right now?  Is there anything more plain than that the world needs more self-restrained, constructive, fatherly, loving, sacrificial men?  There is so much damage out there, and one of God’s favorite instruments to repair it is the good man, stumbling and imperfect as he is.  From Noah to Moses to David to Peter to Paul, God has used faithful men to build good things and fix broken ones.  He has given them a uniquely manly strength to do just that.  God made the first man to reflect Him by cultivating His garden, and even after sin scarred all things God still gave to that man the task of cultivation (Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis 3:17-19).  Our sons have a great endeavor before them.  We are cultivators, restorers in a wild world with much to be cultivated and in need of restoration.  There is nothing new under the sun, but there are many old things that must be set right.  Let us raise men who will be up to the task.  

If you are like me, a dad of boys who loves Jesus, be encouraged.  We are a part of a great story, here.  The world was once saved by a Father and a Son, and they made us to image something about them.  Be strong.  Act like men.  This great reclamation project includes ourselves and our boys. 

Our sons will be men.  That die has been cast.  

What is left for us is to raise them to be good ones.  

He Loves Kids, So Should We


One of the indicators of how much you love God is how much you love what God loves.

And God loves children.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

Genesis 1:28

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’

Luke 18:15-17

Much of our culture seems to view children as a nuisance.  Where C.S. Lewis could once say that he didn’t much care for the company of children but saw that as a defect in himself, our day and place seems to see the presence of children (and especially of a lot of children) as itself a defect.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a premium placed on childbearing.  Children don’t seem to be viewed as a blessing.  A husband and wife having more than a kid or two is usually seen as a weird thing.

Our culture doesn’t appear to value this valuable thing.

I say this with three kids being bad in the other room and just after a shift of nursery work this morning at our church’s service that was a touch exhausting.

Childbirth was God’s creation.  And God is the author, the pleased author, of each human soul.  So to despise children is to despise the creation of God.  And there is no way to hate what God creates and at the same time have a healthy relationship with Him.  

I know kids can be loud and annoying.  But I don’t think that’s the root of our culture’s disdain for them (however widespread it is).  Instead, I think we have a particularly self-absorbed spirit in this generation.  I think we don’t like being inconvenienced.  I think we don’t like sacrifice-on-demand.  I think we want to give of ourselves, if we want to do it at all, on our schedule.  The work of disciplining and teaching and hugging and joking and answering the questions of and feeding and providing and bathing some little person when and how he needs it, not when and how we’re ready to do it, is repulsive to a self-centered heart.  This is why parenting has been so instructional for me.  It has forced me to love God more and rely on Him more.  The reality is that I’m a selfish jerk apart from Christ, and through parenting and being around other people’s kids via the church, God has forced me to be more like His Son.

God has forced me to love Him and other living human beings more through parenting.

The more you love God, the more you’ll love what He loves.  If our churches don’t value kids, if we don’t value kids, we may need to perform a little self-examination on our faith.  And if you agree with me that our culture doesn’t have a good appreciation of children, childbearing, and child rearing, then we have an even greater responsibility, as Christians, to get our hearts in line with His.

A watching world needs to see what a healthy love of kids looks like.

60 Seconds On Men


We live in a culture that is desperately confused on what manhood is and on what to do with men.  “Here are these creatures designed with a modicum of strength and resolve, designed to generally need a helpmate to support them, a helpmate for them to sacrifice for and lead…  Hmm…  Well, we can’t accept that…”

I do not think our culture has a sufficient, coherent answer to the question “What should a man be?” or to the question “What should our men do?”  

What behaviors should it commend in men?  What sorts of men should be praised?  Should our culture exalt braggadocious men like Conor McGregor?  Abusive ones like Floyd Mayweather?  Should it exalt ones who seek to be women?  Should it tell men to stand up for their loved ones, or tell them to let women do the standing up?  And why?  Says who?  

May call in with a question, 2017 America?  

Thank you.  

Ahem.  Where are you getting your standard?

I can take your answer off the air.  

Which men should be jokes and which men should be praised?  What should our sons use their muscles and their desires and their fight for?  What is a man?  And please, oh please, oh please tell me, again:  Says who?  Where are you getting your standard?

I think our culture is standing on some mighty soggy ground, here.  

Proposal:  I think our culture produces Floyd Mayweathers because it exalts Floyd Mayweathers, and I think it exalts Floyd Mayweathers because it doesn’t exalt men rightly using their manhood.  

2nd Proposal:  A culture that says it is bad for a man to use his strength to self-sacrificially lead his wife and children will begin to find more men using their strength for evil things.  

Listen, where God and nature have clear enough presentations on what men are and what men should do, our culture is temporarily lost on the topic.  

The happy news?  That means the church is in a unique position to do some real good.  

I mean it.  There is some mighty good work to be done.  There is a generation of boys among us right now who need to know what being a good man really involves, and the church may just have a monopoly on that message here on the American landscape.  We have a grounded, coherent answer as to what men are and what they should do.  We can help.  

There is good work to be done here.

I trust Christ can use us to accomplish it.  

Re:  Wonder Woman


A culture that does not even have a coherent answer to what a woman is is not fit to give anyone a feminine icon.  

Me:  “What is a woman?”

America:  “A strong, independent human.”

Me:  “So can he be a woman?  Steve over there?”

America:  “If that’s what he identifies as.”

Me:  “So what is a man, then?”

America:  “Look, Wade, these are really just arbitrary social categories, anyway.”

Me:  “If they’re arbitrary, then why are you trying to give me a ‘feminine‘ icon?”

America:  “Umm…”

Me:  “Can that guy over there bear children?”

America:  “Umm…”

Me:  “You can get back to me.”

Our culture no longer accepts that God created men and women, at least not in its most prevalent institutions and platforms.  Instead, down deep in its bloodstream, is the belief that no one created us.  And from that flow at least a couple of assumptions.  (1) We don’t owe anyone anything for our existence, or owe anyone anything as created moral beings with moral obligations, and (2) There’s no objective standard of definitions that are just true, not conjecture.  

Now on that (2), abortion rests.  We get to define what a human is, each of us individually, because there isn’t any true answer to the question.   But also on that one rests this dangerous, human-assaulting and humanity-assaulting thing that I’ll call “gender confusion.”  There isn’t anyone to tell us what a man is and there isn’t anyone to tell us what a man should do, our culture says.  There isn’t anyone to tell us what a woman is or what a woman should do.  

“But,” our culture says, “we’ll darn sure tell you what a woman is not.  And no one can tell us what a woman should be.”

Our culture has convictions, but it can’t give a coherent, thorough-to-the-bottom defense of them.  And it can’t tell us why its convictions are right.  It says it knows that women are not designed, when married, to submit to their husbands.  But it won’t, and can’t, coherently say what they are designed for in marriage.  Or in society.  Or as mothers.  Or as daughters.  

This came up when a movement started to swell to allow women into combat situations in the US Armed Forces, and then when two Republican candidates for the presidency in 2016 said they favored women having to register for the draft.  Our culture has produced an ethos where no one could have the down-to-the-ground logical reasoning to say why that was utter nonsense. 

And then it also comes up with this Wonder Woman schtick.  

Here is a fundamental question:  Are women supposed to rush into conflict to save men?  Is that a good thing to be normative?  

Let me ask the question from my vantage point, standing over here on a solid, level ground called “God made the World through Jesus and He gets to say what’s good:”  Are women designed and called by God to rush into battle and save men?

The answer is no.  No, they are not.  No, it is not good for that to be normative.  It would not be healthy and fitting with human flourishing for a society to bless or be proud of its women rushing to the front of conflicts to protect its men.  

No, a society that blessed that should be ashamed.  

We can rail against this all we want, we can be uncomfortable with it until we’ve bitten our nails clean away, but God made men with the design of physically and spiritually protecting their wives, daughters, and the women they are bound to, as well as, in many cases, women and all those who are weaker than them generally.  

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 

1 Peter 3:7

Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’  Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.  And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.  And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. 

Genesis 2:18-25

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.  Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 

1 Timothy 2:8-15

God did not design grown women to lead, protect, and save grown men.  Men should want to take the first bullet, to sacrificially lead the way, and to spend themselves to protect women.  While that may not be what happens in each and every circumstance (a woman may save a physically disabled man, for instance), it is the design.  It is what is normative and praiseworthy.  

Our culture seems to want to say, “What’s a woman, you ask?  A woman is a strong and resilient human being.  What’s a man?  Well, a man is something else, we’ll get back to you on that.  But both are the same.  I mean, they can’t be the same, I guess, because we’re telling you what each is, and because we also are telling some men they can be women and some women they can be men.  But men and women are not different.  Get it?  They’re the same and can do all the same things and are totally identical, but some of the one are really the other.  But don’t don’t you dare tell me what the one or the other is.  Or should do.  Nobody really made us or gets to tell us what we should be or should do.”

It’s incoherent.  Our culture has no robust definition of woman or womanhood.  All it can offer is stories and images of women doing those noble and good things that God calls men to do.  But at the same time it supports some men wanting to pretend to be women (the very thing it says are just like men) and celebrates (albeit totally incomprehensibly) “womanhood.”  

This is folly, guys.  Women and men were made in the image of God, and made wonderfully distinct.  Women are a beautiful creation of God.  When in congruence with God’s pattern, they reflect His glory and beauty and majesty in their gentleness, their motherly strength, their physical gifts, their Godly obedience to their husbands, their discipling of their sons and daughters, their teaching of younger women, their resilient faith in their Father, their deep and fierce love, their faithfulness, and their rich emotional palate.  

Our culture tries to rob women of their God-given identity by telling them to just be like men, because being what God made a woman to be isn’t good enough.  

If you can’t answer how men and women are differently glorious, if you can’t answer the question of why God didn’t just create two men or two women in the Garden of Eden, then you’ll inevitably tell one to just be more like the other.  

This isn’t pro-woman.  It’s anti-woman.  It’s saying, “‘Woman ‘ isn’t good enough for us.  Instead, let’s just have ‘physically smaller man with long hair.’

“And, um, we’ll give it boots and a rope thingy.”

A Mother’s Day Plea

  
One of the greatest gifts that God has given women is the ability to bear children.  My wife just listened to the rapid little heartbeat of our fifth child (3 living, 1 in the womb, 1 we lost last December in the womb) using one of those home Doppler devices on our living room couch.  And our oldest, our 5-year-old daughter, listened in awe.  My wife smiled and took a picture of her.  My daughter talked about the baby as she listened to the heartbeat whir on the monitor.  

It was a lovely little image, that moment, of childbearing and mothering:  1 child listening to the heartbeat of another as the mother smiled, cherishing them both.  

These are human beings made in the image of God that we see in ultrasounds and listen to with heartbeat devices.  They are tiny people with all the worth and dignity that come from being stitched together as humans by the Creator.  

And in our nation it is legal to murder them.  

Please stay with me for just a minute.  

God is wonderful.  I mean He is just wonderful.  Look at the beauty that He’s made.  Despite all the deceit and greed and destruction we sinful people wreak on creation, still, look at sunsets, morning dew in the early summer, mists in the Appalachians, robins and monarch butterflies and humpback whales.  Look at His might and His goodness written like a title page on all of His creation, not least of all on our own wearied hearts.  This is a beautiful world that He has spoken into existence around us.  And we deny little babies, helpless and small and silent children, the gift of entering this creation He made them to enter and to taste and to seek Him in.  We kill them.  We stop their hearts and their brains and their lungs and then find something to do with their tiny, lifeless bodies.  

How many who might read this are pregnant and considering abortion?  I don’t know; probably not many.  But I wanted to write it anyway, because if I can persuade one, it was well worth my time.  

I’m writing to you and you only, now, anonymous mother.  

Yes, I said “mother,” because by God’s providence that’s what you are.  No matter how it happened to be that this baby was conceived, the little person within you was knit together by Him.  This baby’s small form was created, and is sustained, by the power and plan of God.  Do you love him or her yet?  You probably do, but even if you don’t, or if you perhaps don’t love like you thought you would, no matter.  The baby is loved.  By God.  

The proof is that he or she is here.  

I don’t know your situation.  It could be that you are scared, it could be that you simply don’t want the baby to inconvenience your life.  But, and I say this with Christian charity for your God-made soul, it doesn’t matter.  If someone were prepared to murder you because it would somehow ease his life, I would say the exact same thing to him:  “It doesn’t matter.”  We do not get to end the life of another human simply because we want to or because we feel we need to.  

It may look dark from where you are.  I can empathize.  If you’re worried about how to pay for the child’s needs or how you’ll live and work, I can empathize with that, too.  But murder is not the way forward.  Paying someone to kill this baby will not better your life, despite what some may tell you.  There is a cost that comes with the killing of an innocent, and it is always greater than whatever the sin promises to give you in return.  

Mother.  It’s a beautiful word, isn’t it?  It speaks so much.  There’s a world of weight in that word.  Mother.  It’s His design that women should bear children, and, again, He is so wonderful.  

The lie is that the world knows better.  That murder won’t be murder, or that even if it is it’s somehow just necessary.  

Don’t believe it.  

That’s my plea to you, Mother.  Don’t believe it.  You have been given this marvelous little life. This small one is growing in your womb right now by His hand.  

He has made you a mother.  A mother.  

And you always will be.  No matter where they would put his or her little body after the abortion, no matter how far they might go to hide the little hands and feet and face, they can never clear away that word from your soul.  And neither can you.  

So please, don’t try.  

You are a mother.  

And so this day, like this plea, is for you.