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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30 Seconds for Father’s Day

  
My Heavenly Father, the One who sent His Son Jesus to save selfish people like me, is slow to anger and abounding in rock-steady love.  He always tells the truth.  He forgives the wrongs done against Him.  He gives profoundly beautiful gifts, chief among them His Holy Spirit.  He disciplines me in order to make me the kind of man I’d want to be if I had a heart as good as His.  

Gracious, honest, forgiving, generous, and ready to discipline.  That is my Abba Father.  

And so I have a template for what to be for my three little ones.  

Happy Father’s Day, guys.  

Father.  

The word has meaning because a Father made the world.  My prayer, as I sit outside my house just about ready to go in and give the kids lunch, is that I can, more and more, have the posture towards my children that He has towards His. 

For Dads and Tippers

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I tip the way I do because of my father.

My dad was a restaurant manager when God saved him from heroin addiction, right before I was born. So as a young man who had managed, served in, cooked for, and delivered pizzas for a local Cincinnati pizzeria for years, he always made a point to tip generously when he took his family out to dinner. I grew up watching him pay the check at restaurants, and I took note of it. I absorbed it. It became normal to me. And now as a thirty year-old father of three, I tip what I do because of him.

I am my dad’s son.

Listen, as a father, you are putting yourself into your children. You are going to be in your kids, whether you want to be or not. If you choose, you can walk out and never even meet them, but you’ll still be in them. If you leave, they’ll still have your blood and they’ll have the hatred or hole you leave in their souls. And if you stay, they’ll have what you show them about fatherhood.

You know what your kids’ first thoughts about the fatherhood of God will be?

That it must be like yours.

What are you putting in your kids?

I sin in anger and self-pity. I have for as long as I remember. And I am resolved that I don’t want that in my children. I don’t want to rebuild my brittle self-pity or the very same fury I’m trying to crucify in me in my little children’s souls.

Today at lunch I went home and read a verse of 1 John 2 for my wife and kids, and did my best to explain it in the light of the rest of God’s Word. It was hot and I had to be brief so I could be back at work on time. The kids didn’t understand what I was saying; they’re too young. And my wife was tired though lovingly trying to listen. But when I was done with this imperfect little attempt at faithfulness before my Creator, I took my little girl and I put her on my lap and we prayed a one-sentence prayer to the Savior. And when I said “Jesus loves His…” and paused, seeing if she’d know the rest, she finished the sentence for me: “Church!”

I am an idolatrous, still often petty man, but I refuse to leave that in my children. I will fight for their hearts, and I will leave them with the only Jesus who can save them, the One who redeemed and sanctifies their Daddy.

What do I want to put in my children?

The words of Scripture.

The sure sense that those words are breathtakingly beautiful, unshakably true, and healing beyond all measure.

The confidence that Daddy would’ve been a wreck and a wretch if it weren’t for Jesus Christ, the living Holy Spirit, and God the Father.

The love of a Christ-made dad, meaning one who is sacrificial, patient, bold, honest, worshipful, and adores their mommy.

I don’t want to just put in my kids my love of baseball or the Marlins or The Twilight Zone. And I don’t want to brand them with my anger or my grudge-holding or my greed. I want to kill my sin day by day by God’s grace, and then put in my little kids the faith that’s remade me and remaking me.

I want my daughter to be reading and loving and trusting Jesus Christ for as long as she lives. I want my little boy to grow up ready to live and die for the Gospel of His good God. I’m hoping that the daughter we haven’t met yet will pull her hover car up into its holo-port next to her floating condominium and thank Jesus Christ for the gorgeous day around her. Then I hope she’ll go inside and tell her little guys about how wonderful the risen Savior is.

We are in our children. Each day, each week we are putting more and more of our selves, more of what they’ll believe about the concept of fatherhood and about the world around them, into their minds and memories.

What do you want it to be? What do you want to leave with them and in them?

The first place I learned how to tip was sitting next to my father. It’s also the first place I learned how good Jesus is.

I am my father’s son. I hope someday my children will be able to say that with the same gratitude.

Don’t Be Like This Guy

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A warning to young men idolizing UFC fighters, boxers, or certain musical artists: Self-exaltation is not good manhood. It is wicked and suicidal. Manhood done well, done honorably, done to save one’s soul and live life well, is strength spent for the good of another.

The most powerfully, virtuously masculine man who ever walked the Earth surrendered Himself to the violence of those who came against Him. And He could’ve killed them, could’ve killed you, could’ve undone me, with a word. So why didn’t He? When being spit on, mocked, slapped, and whipped by humans whose molecular structure He could’ve unwound with a whisper, why did the Lion of Judah who knew what true manhood was submit Himself to murder and defeat?

To bring God glory and bring the weak great good.

Good manhood doesn’t brag about its exploits. It doesn’t pound its own chest and shout about its abilities. It doesn’t abuse others for self-gain, nor does it humiliate for self-glory.

True manhood, manhood that is actually worth something, spends itself on others. It uses its strength, whatever limited capacities it’s been given by God, to protect and serve and sanctify. It fights for holiness in its wife or the saving Gospel proclaimed to the lost who need it. Godly men of truly strong stuff want redeemed souls and a world in awe of God more than fast cars and fruitless lust.

Godly men live for the only wise God and for others. Childish, shrill men live for games, pleasure, and applause.

Godly men protect women, devote their muscle and energy and spiritual sweat to one woman alone, and honor the Christian sister as an adopted co-heir. Lazy or diabolical men use women or chase them. They are too slothful or spiritually dead to promise and protect, too idolatrous or timid to love and lead.

Godly men love children, as Jesus did. They teach, admonish, discipline, and shepherd. Brash and unteachable men act like children, unwilling to live for or love anyone other than themselves.

Godly men, men living in tribute to the only perfect Man, and living with Him in them to enable it, call evil evil, while forgiving quickly the wrongs committed against them. They are unafraid to say what is sin, but they hold no grudges. The fights these men choose are for the glory of God and the protection of the weak. But small men fight battles for their own fame and glory.

Godly men control their anger, but spiritually weak ones surrender to it.

Godly men speak and sing and work and play with the goodness and glory of God in mind. Stupid and sinful men seek shallow joys in deep graves.

I want to be like the Savior who rescued me and lives within me. I want to be the man He calls all men, shepherds and servants, fathers and friends, to be. I want to be less about myself and more about Him and others. I want to use the muscles and vocal cords and brain and heart, the tongue, testosterone, and tenacity He’s put in me for His fame, my wife’s good, my children’s upraising, the service of the saints, and the salvation of the lost. I want to shove the pictures of selfish sex, loud chest pounding, and smug self-glory far from my head and heart. For they are not manhood. God made the first man, and He decides what manhood is. No, those infantile screechings and idiotic, wicked prides are hollow shells, walking bodies with nothing to give and no desire to give it.

I rebuke them from my own heart, and I ask God to remind me to live and sweat and fight and pray for His glory and my neighbors’ good. Vainglory, lust, unbridled temper, and idolatry be, quite literally, damned.