Raising Them Up

lion dad and cub

If you want to stack the deck for the immediate outcome, you likely won’t be able to grow up the next generation. Bringing up the next generation will include allowing them to stretch and even to fail without punitive reaction. If you’re not bringing them along to invest in them, then you might as well not bring them along to start with.

I recently led a men’s ministry event which was staffed by volunteers. The volunteers ranged in ages from 23 to 53 with varying responsibilities and abilities. The common core that glued the team together was evident when there was an invitation into worship. The men, no matter their age, entered into worship of the King with identical passion and intention.

A few of the youngest guys were great to have around, even if their abilities and maybe even effort weren’t as obvious as if they had more seasoning. This is a different generation with unique strengths and weaknesses. They won’t do it like you did it so what are you willing to do to bridge the gap with them?

When things were delegated to these younger men, they required some prodding to get it done and some follow-up to ensure that it was done correctly. Their attitudes were great, even if their intensity was questionable. One of the leaders got a little frustrated and was about ready to deal with them harshly when I reminded him that investing in them is part of the deal. If we’re going to meet our obligation to raise up those that follow, we’ll have to remember some things as we go:

  1. Fathers raise sons. This requires a father’s heart.
  2. They can’t do the same things older team members can. Don’t expect the same results.
  3. Give slices of bread, not the whole loaf. This is a process that takes years; don’t rush it.
  4. Share of yourself with transparency . . . not only past mistakes, but present problems.
  5. There is a great possibility that the mature “product” of your investment will serve someone other than you.
  6. Bringing up sons doesn’t mean promoting them prematurely. That will crush them in the long run.
  7. Be under authority as you exercise authority. Submission and honor are critical and you can’t give away what you don’t display.
  8. It’s shoulder to shoulder inclusion of the younger from which they can learn service and submission while being exposed to Truth and maturity played out practically.
  9. Delegate at appropriate levels of readiness and check their work as you encourage, encourage, encourage.
  10. Resist the urge and even their desires for premature promotion. It’s a trap.

Side by Side

Someone told me the other day that the greatest loss of the 21st century came as a result of the industrial revolution. Prior to the advent of massive manufacturing, which was obviously a good thing for the economy and country, the nation was predominantly agricultural. Men, for the most part, would work their family business/farm and their sons would join them at their side at the appropriate age. The result was that boys started watching their fathers work, negotiate, interact, and problem-solve from a first-hand perspective. There was an opportunity to observe, ask questions and eventually mimic the father’s behaviors thus developing the boys abilities and beliefs through a life on life investment.

Upon the shift that came as a result of larger companies driving the economy and providing more and more jobs, the men that previously worked with their sons at their side now left in the morning to go to work. The boys were left at home to go to school, help around the house, play sports or whatever. The difference, of course, was that there was not the same interaction and experience with the father.

photo 2-1croppedSince my son has been an infant, I’ve been involved with the Quest ministries of Fellowship of the Sword. Upon returning from a Quest, my son has always joined the circle of men for the final charge as we encourage one another at the conclusion of the event. From the time he was barely walking, Haynes would go into this circle with me. As I’ve had opportunities to lead, I’ve stepped out to address the group and Haynes walks out beside me. I’ve never invited him or prohibited him, he just instinctively walks out and stands beside me. If I step to the left, he steps to the left. He doesn’t tug on my leg or interrupt nor is he intimidated by the focus of the moment being directed towards us. He’s just there with me, observing and taking a part, however small.

We want to be intentional about our children being able to observe and participate with Julie and I in “real-time.” Julie leads a ministry that serves single mothers, some of whom come from difficult circumstances. Our daughter, Olivia, is often involved in ministry and service to those ladies from an up close a personal perspective. The conversations and emotions that can’t be replicated in a lesson nearly as well as they can be lived out in person have a weight to them that comes with personal experience. She’ll know how to serve people without judgement regardless if we ever “teach” that lesson from any kind of intellectual reasoning.

Plenty was gained from the industrial revolution. It’s time for our families to take back that which was lost.

Ashes, Ashes . . .

Some things matter, no matter how much society refuses to acknowledge the depth of their impact. The Homer Simponization of fathers and sitcom disintegration of families works out in 30 minute segments, not so much in real life. The devastation of individual lives in the wake of fatherlessness will continue to be felt in the lives of children and grandchildren for generations following the abandonment.

DominoI spent time with a young lady recently as she told her story. It was a life riddled with drugs and destruction culminating in a long prison sentence and the loss of her children. It all started, according to her, when her parents split. She recounts with great detail that the pain she felt as a pre-teen was so intense that she chose hard drugs over even the hope offered in attempting a rehab. Note that was “pre-teen.”

Later in the same day I met a young man who had been suffering seizures since his dad walked out. Literally, the night that his father left, he seized for the first time and has suffered seizures many times since then. Same night. Coincidence?

Fatherlessness breeds heartache at a level which is not comprehensible. The emotional and even physical reaction to the abandonment by the one that was intended to watch over our soul cries out for relief. We cannot easily compensate for the trauma of the leaving.

The children of the first lady that I described were already having physical and emotional problems. One of them had an “anger problem.” Of course he does. And it started with the leaving of his grandfather impacting his mother and now effecting him because of her bad choices made from a broken heart.

Some might read this and dismiss the connection or anecdotally explain that they came from a broken family or absent father or something similar and “look at me, I did what I needed and turned out just fine.” Well, maybe, but maybe that isn’t as easy for others. Some are just wired to feel differently, maybe even feel more. Some are just designed to lead with emotion and passion rather than logic and reasoning. The value of that type of creativity is self-evident but the pain is felt that much more intensely.

There’s only one Cure, there’s only one Remedy. Jesus restores us to the Father that none would be orphans. He takes the broken patterns of destructive relationship and replaces them with His promise of reconciliation. He softens the hardened hearts of the broken-hearted and restores the health of their soul to align with the adoption initiated by His Spirit.

True Religion

My wife, Julie, spoke to over 400 local leaders at a banquet to raise support for the local Pregnancy Care Clinic last night. I was incredibly proud of her and the way she stood in the bright light of the stage inviting these local leaders into deeper levels of grace and love. The fruit of the service that she and the ladies of our church and Embrace Grace was standing on the stage with her, with their babies in their arms. These ladies had chosen life and were experiencing love born of service.

Someone else was going to speak to challenge the attendees to give. Julie challenged the mostly church-going, mostly Republican crowd that was pro-life to become pro-love as well. She asked them to step past their perspectives into the grace necessary to not only support the women’s choice of life, but the women themselves. The chasm that exists between the ladies that Embrace Grace seeks to serve and the relatively affluent, well-adjusted audience is wide and deep in many ways. The bridge that can close the gap is love, not money.

Money is necessary to support the work of places like the Pregnancy Care Clinic, but love is what changes lives. Support and funding are required to keep the operation going, but grace is what keeps the hope of the operation alive. Giving is right and valuable while engagement is messy yet powerful. Investment of resources produces opportunity, investment of love produces transformation.

Julie came from a difficult beginning and knows that the cry of a teenage girl’s heart during the time of pregnancy and young motherhood is one which calls out for love.  It usually comes from a void born of a lie and can only be resolved through the kind of Eternal intimacy available through Jesus. That love of Jesus is contained in us as we are chosen as His delivery system. We can pray and we can pay, but the ultimate intersection is one of life on life without judgment or conditions.

Every one of the women of our church who are investing in the lives of these young mothers through Embrace Grace will tell you that the benefit to their service is mostly their own. Sure, the girls that are having babies are loved and mentored and receive a great baby shower as well as a beautiful banquet. These ladies that allow His love to flow through them, however, benefit from the manifestation of Grace in their own lives as they represent Jesus  by physically embracing those that are so deeply in need of a vision for what He looks like. He looks like Julie and the other ladies that pour out.

Masculinity from Beauty

Order is healthy. Identity and the gifts that flow from identity are necessary to compliment each other so that each part fits in its place and we are free to operate within the fullness of our part without distraction of tasks outside of our gifts. We have to allow others to express what they have been created to operate within if we want to operate within what we were created for.

This is obvious at the most basic level with how men and women interact in the church. Because women have been relegated to second class citizens in the Body of Christ, the men have had to fill the voids which should have been covered by women. Since, too often and for too long, women can only minister to children and other women, men are left needing to attempt to nurture others with little to no nurturing in them. The result is a castrated male presence.

Because the strong, intelligent female voice of God has not been allowed to flow through women, the female voice of God is attempted (at times) through men who are trying to be things that they were not created to be. The catastrophic impact is that strong men who might be attracted to a True Kingdom calling look around and see this effeminate expression. They run away at the thought of it without ever being able to see that it is an aberration of the Truth.

Some women can lead. Some women can teach. There have been attempts to legalize singular passages of Scripture (e.g. 1 Cor 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12). There is no way to accurately interpret those passages as absolute prohibitions against women in ministry when taken in context of the rest of Paul’s message or the place of women in the Bible from Eve to Revelation. Any attempt to read them in a vacuum, formulate a rule and enact a law is outside of the New Covenant and inconsistent with the obvious heart of God as expressed throughout Scripture.

Men’s role is to cover and protect with sacrificial headship. Women are to submit (enjoy the benefits and protection of) to the way made for them by men of God called by God to glorify and put His beauty on display through women. When women are allowed to exercise in their gifts, which will be inherently female and inherently an expression of their Creator, then men can get back to men’s business. When men are walking as men, other men will follow as will their families.

Well Done

The place that men have to get to in order to reach their destiny is entirely dependent on women. It’s a paradox of sorts that requires the promotion of another. The glory that results from the increase of women is credited to the woman and the man, but the ultimate glory was never intended for either.

People of faith make up the church. At the same time, the church is not the smallest unit of grouping bu the family is. The purposes of the family and the church are basically the same or at least closely related. In each case, the group is formed to glorify God.

Ephesians 5:25 says: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

So the “just as” connects the husbands/wives and the church and clearly calls out the sacrifice of the groom for the benefit of the bride.

In verse 27, the passage goes on to say, “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

The sacrifice for the bride is to present her as glorious. It is to make a way for her glory to be presented, or put on display. The presentation of the bride is back to the groom.

A friend of mine who works with his wife was recognizing the success of his wife and realizing some insecurity as he considered that maybe she was more valuable than him. The truth is that when he sacrifices for her success and for her promotion, the glory of her presentation is credited back to his sacrifice.

A leader who I know recognized that Julie was radiating with evidence of the presence of God within her. She lit up the room with her purity and righteousness being evident. When he saw Him in her, he commented to me, “well done” as he credited her glory to my leadership.

It wasn’t about me, it was about Julie. It was about Julie, it was about Jesus.