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.  

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60 Seconds for Husbands (and Wives, and Anyone Else)


This is just a little counsel for husbands, from one who has borne the scars of doing the opposite.  

Don’t take so much personally.  Don’t take every aggravated comment or slightly less affectionate touch or instance of the family trip not going like you planned as a slight to your worth and your stature.  The less you take personally, the better.  I have never had an evening with my wife made better or Godlier or more fun by taking a small comment or action from her as an insult.  Never.  Not once.  

Your wife doesn’t hug you when you come in the door.  You expected her to.  You hoped she would.  At this point you have a few options.  One of these options is to let it go.  Another is to calmly talk to her about it.  But then there are insulted options.  The personal affront options.  The ones that are poison to the evening.  You can sulk about it only to lash out later.  You can yell at her.  You can say something snarky as you breeze past her.  It goes without saying that each of these are harmful and sinful, but they’re also foolish.  And they don’t do anything to help you, her, or the two of you as a couple.  

Instead, have a sense of humor.  Laugh it off.  Take yourself a tad less seriously.  Find your worth in the love of Jesus, and the fact that He chose you, silly and stupid and stumbling you.  Don’t wrap your identity in the small gestures and words of another frail human being.  Don’t be so thin-skinned and brittle that any mishap verbal slip-up by your wife can offend you.  If you are Christ’s, then you are free to think less of yourself, and to think of yourself less.  And if you are not Christ’s, cast yourself on Him in faith.  He can make you a better man.  He does it for all of His disciples, day by day, slowly and certainly.  

Now let me go home now and put this into practice.  

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.

Comfort In the Chasm


I’m a lay elder in a rough neighborhood.

Along with two other men (so far), I pastor some people with some deep, deep wounds from broken families and from awful or absent fathers.  And today, after being shaken by one of those stories, a comfort the Lord brought to my mind from Scripture is this:  The chasm between Hell and Heaven.

It’s a great hope.

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.  And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.  Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.  The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.  The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’  But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 

Luke 16:19-26

How is that a hope to me right now, as I’m grieving the past and present pain of my brother in Christ?

Because once my friend is with his Savior face to face, his unrepentant father will have no more wounds to inflict.

The final coming chasm between Hell and God’s people is one way of God telling every unrepentant belligerent, every drunken and abusive dad, every nasty and violent parent or relative who refuses, to the end, to repent and bend their knees to King Jesus:  “Once I have brought my busted saint home, you will have inflicted your last damage.”

When you have an unrepentant drunk who takes his bitterness and his selfishness out on little kids, kids who end up believing in Jesus, or when you have this rich man who viewed Lazarus the way you or I would view a weed, one of the justices of Hell is that the person who ends up there can’t sting the saint anymore.

Their hate cannot cross over.

That hateful father’s sin can cry out from an echo chamber, but it will not deafen his little boy’s ears ever again.  He is hearing a different voice, now.  Different altogether.

And to the unrepentant dad on the other side of that chasm, that voice says something he may have never expected.

“There is a great chasm, here. You cannot hurt him anymore. You cannot wound him. All that is over.  Look around you at where you are.  Your power is gone.  

“And his power is me.”

How I Apologize to My Kids

*There seems to have been some interest in these practical family and parenting posts.  I do not write as an expert in anything.  This is simply one sinner saved by grace explaining his best approach to those awful 5 minutes after slamming a door or yelling at his children, when he realizes he behaved like a fool.


The screaming starts.  Almost always over a toy.  If it’s not that, it’s that somebody hit somebody.  

Then Daddy throws open the door, angry that his 9:30 PM peace and quiet is being interrupted.  

He isn’t angry because his children have sinned against God and each other by stealing or hurting each other.  Well, maybe a little, but not primarily.  Primarily he’s angry because the created thing he wanted (peace and quiet, food, TV) was disrupted.  That’s what has his fingers digging into his palms.  

And do you know what we call it when a created thing is so important to you that you freak out if you don’t get it?

Idolatry.  

So, now Daddy’s idolatry play out in all its ugly glory, here.  He clenches his teeth and points with his finger at Kid #1’s bed.  “Get.  In.  Bed.”  He raises his voice a few decibels to Kid #2.  “If you do anything to him again I will spank your butt.”  Then he shouts over the crying of Kid #3.  “Enough!  I don’t want to hear it!  All of you:  Be quiet.”  He turns on a dime and slams the bedroom door.  

And now sin has wrapped its poisonous vine around these four souls.  Three children sinned against each other out of idolatry, and their father responded with anger at his own idol being threatened.  None of these four souls were, at that moment, resting in the Lord Jesus Christ and savoring Him.  That would’ve resulted in joy, forgiveness, peace, and patience.  

Oh, and if you haven’t figured it out yet:  This Daddy is me.  

So, after a few minutes, I open the door, and tell the two who are old enough to get down out of bed to sit down with me.  The other can listen from the crib.  And then I say the following.  

  • “Daddy sinned.”

Before you apologize for a sin, you need to acknowledge that it was sin.  It was not merely a “mistake,” it was not that you “lost your cool,” it was not that someone “made you” do it.  Jesus did not die on the Cross to redeem good people for their “aw shucks” mistakes.  He died to save sinners from their sins.  

I sinned. Period.  No excuses, no qualifications.  

My kids need to know that sin is serious.  If they don’t see Daddy taking his sin seriously, they’re less likely to take their sins seriously.  And to live a Gospel life, a true Christian life, one must take sin seriously.  

  • “Daddy is sorry.”

If I’ve sinned, then I have at least two parities I need to apologize to, two people with whom I need to reconcile.    

  1. The God whose Law I broke
  2. The person I sinned against

These apologies are essential for these relationships (mine to God and mine to the person I sinned against) to be restored.  In general, if I am not a person who confesses my wrongs from the heart, I will not be a person who has healthy relationships.  

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:8-9

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 

Matthew 18:15

My kids need to hear me grieve my sin, hear me say that I am sorry that I did such a thing to God and to them.  I realize that to some people this may sound like overkill for something as “small” as angrily raising your voice, but I firmly believe that that sentiment is usually arising from the flesh.  

See, our flesh always wants to minimize our own sins and magnify others’ sins against us.  We understand that it’s good for someone to apologize to us when he has committed even some “small” sin against us (and we are usually unhappy or feel slighted if he doesn’t).  But because of our flesh and our pride, we often think that it isn’t necessary for us to apologize for our own “small” sins. 

But it is.  Jesus died to bear God’s wrath for every instance of bad anger I’ve ever committed, every harsh word and bitter thought and nursed grudge.  Those sins are no small matter.  

And, hear me on this part, too:  Sin brings death.  And so if I want life flowing through my relationships, I must confess my sins in those relationships and receive the grace and restoration of God.  

  • “Do you forgive me?”

Say what?  You’re going to ask your kids to forgive you, dude?   

Yes, because I (almost always) make them ask my wife or I to forgive them after they have sinned against us.  

So, obviously we are in authority over our children, authority given to us by God for their good and His glory.  They answer to God and to us.  But one of the truths of the Bible is that authority comes with responsibility.  I have a responsibility to God and to the children He’s given me to love them selflessly.  When I treat them, even for a moment, as an impediment to my own pleasure, as an annoyance keeping me from TV or a snack or a good book, I am breaking that God-given responsibility.  I am putting my own good ahead of theirs.  And after acknowledging that sin and then grieving it, I need to give them the opportunity to forgive me.  

Now, until children are born again through faith in Jesus Christ (something I hope all you parents pray for for your own children), they cannot forgive like a Christian can.  They aren’t able to forgive from the bank of grace they have received in Christ Jesus, because they haven’t received that grace.  But they can begin to see how important forgiveness is.  And they can also begin to see how impossible it is to truly and humbly forgive without being made a new person.   

See, one of the best things I can do to drive my children to the Cross is to make them try to forgive from the heart.  Because in time, they will see how weak and selfish their hearts are.  And so, I pray, they will call upon Jesus to change them and save them.  

So, there you have it.  That’s how this one Christian father does it.  Daddy sinned.  I’m sorry.  Do you forgive me?”  

They’re no magic words, and it doesn’t always go smoothly.  But often enough it builds trust, and it shows them just a little bit of what Christianity is, of who Daddy is, and of who Jesus is:  The God who saved sinful father.  

It’s no silver bullet.  But I can honestly say that they increasingly feel comfortable enough to tell me if they think I’ve sinned, and they also feel a little more comfortable with owning up to their own sins.  

Which is the point.  

Because by God’s grace, I pray, someday each of them will come to Christ’s Cross on their knees and say to Him, in faith, words they once heard from their imperfect Daddy.

“Jesus, I sinned.  I’m sorry.  Will you forgive me?”



To the Lost and Abused


You are not forgotten. 

You are not irrelevant.  

This world of sin and sinners is often a place where young girls are sexually abused.  Where little boys are ignored by their fathers or beaten by their fists.  Where the small or disadvantaged are trampled by the anger or selfishness of warped men with warped hearts.  

Creation groans under sin.  

And Satan delights in it.  

He hates truth, hates Jesus, and loves pain.  

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?

Genesis 3:5

And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.  When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability.’  And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.  But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done.  Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.’  Then the Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites!  Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it?  And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’  As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. 

Like 13:11-17

This is a world where Satan often whispers a violent and treasonous song over the most helpless of people, and then dances to their fear and their pain and their bewilderment.  And it is a world where others join his twisted song.  

But it is not his world.  

Hear me.  

Let Hell and death and sin clamor for your soul.  Let them.  But their loudest ragings will not prevail if you will despair of all other hopes and instead call out to Jesus, like a lost and helpless child.  

Let your anxieties and all your most jagged memories creep up on you like old ghosts with sharp teeth.  They will not get to claim you if you are ransomed by the King of Kings.  

Let pain be pain and fear be fear.  Neither will have the last word if you will believe in Jesus.  

I know you have been wounded to the bone.  

You don’t trust people.  You don’t trust God. And you don’t trust “the world,” by which you probably mean people and God.  

You have heard that God is different from the one who abused you, but you don’t believe it.  

Believe.  

The one who violated you?  I know he used you.  But this is a God who was obliterated to bless people just like you.  

He lied to you.  But this is a God who speaks only truth; He can do no other.  

He promised to change, to be better, only to hurt you time and time and time and time again.  But this is a God who endured Hell and shame and death and agony to keep His promises. 

This God is different from the one who hated and harmed you.  Unimaginably different.  This Jesus will never leave, never forsake, never forget you.  He would rather die than lose those He claims, and the Cross stands as a vertical proof of it.  This is a Lord with a heart for the lowly and the bruised, and who breaks all the violent who refuse to repent. 

You have suffered.  

So has He.  

And at the place your suffering and His meet, namely your faith, a new song starts.  One that sin and death and Satan hate to the core.  

And one that is no whisper, no lie, and that never, ever ends.  

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 

1 Peter 5:8-9

Would He Be Enough?


Would He enough if I lost everything else?  

If my reputation were destroyed.  If my name were shattered and everyone who’s opinion I cared about most began to think I was a joke. 

If my family were taken away from me.  If the the deep and abiding love of my wife and children were somehow lost to me.

If all my material comforts were gone.  If television and good food and my house and the internet and books were all taken away.  If I had none of my first world diversions or enjoyments or hobbies.

If my job any my ministry and my vocation fell apart.  If I had no obvious successes, and after 20 or 30 or 40 years, nothing had worked out as I’d hoped.  If everything I’d tried to build landed flat, and I was branded a failure.  

If all the lives I’d wanted to see changed seemed simply static.  No growth.  No healing.  No apparent revival.  

If everything were taken from me but Christ, would He be enough for me to live on?  Would I feel like I still had my one most precious thing?  Would I be content despite my sadness, because I still had the thing my heart feasted most on:  The love of my Savior?  

Your inner impulses run like little workers on a sinking ship to protect whatever your deeest treasures are.  When whatever it is you most love, the thing you find the most peace and joy and satisfaction in, is being threatened, you’ll your nerves and behaviors all scurrying to protect it, to patch the hole and make sure no water breaches the hull there.  You can feel it when you lash out in anger over your reputation being damaged.  You can feel it when you protect at all costs your time in front of the TV.  You can feel it when you ignore prayer or family or work for social media and internet videos.  You will protect and gravitate toward whatever you most treasure, whatever you most enjoy.  

So am I worshiping idols?  Or is He that treasure for me?

Do I ask family or reputation or comfort to bear all the weight of my soul and my hope?  Or would He be enough?

I’ll answer in private.  And in prayer.  But I thought hearing the question might benefit some of you.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 

Philippians 3:7-11