He’s Not Your Baby

One day as I was checking the docket at the courthouse, a woman approached me and asked where a particular courtroom was. She went on to explain that she was nervous because her son was scheduled to appear on a possession of marijuana charge.

“Why does that make you nervous?” I asked.

“He could go to jail,” she said.

“Did you drive here today?” I asked. After confirming that she had driven her son to the courthouse, I responded by encouraging her, saying “Well, if he goes to jail, just drive home.”

“But he’s my baby,” she explained.

“How old is he?” I asked. After learning her son was 19, I told her bluntly but as kindly as possible, “He’s not your baby. He’s a grown man.”

It was about that time her son joined us. “Is this him?” I asked, and she affirmed it was.

“Listen,” I said, turning my attention to him, “you are not a child anymore. Smoking weed and getting your mom to drive you to court are childish. You are a man, you are equipped to be a man and it’s time to start being a man. When I was a child, I acted like one, but when I became a man, I put childish things behind me. It’s time for you to do the same; you are a man and you are capable of putting childish things away.”

This young man’s shoulders straightened up, his eyes locked in and everything about his body language accepted the reality I was presenting him. His mom, at the same time, looked terrified. It was clear she was much less ready for him to be a man than he was.

I don’t know what happened with his court case, but whatever consequences he had to deal with were a benefit to him. A misdemeanor on his record is a small price to pay if he was able to allow the consequence to draw him into responsibility.

Love allows for consequences because consequences allow for repentance. When we have to deal with the implications of our immaturity and/or depravity, we are more aware of the goodness of God. From the place of pain that results from our rebellion or immaturity, we get to choose. We can either choose to submit our lives to the goodness of God or maintain our rebellious attempts of making our own way. The choice to submit our lives back to the goodness of God is much more appealing when we have tried it without Him and are facing the reality of our choices.

We all mess up, but what we do is not who we are. Don’t rescue people from their consequences and don’t believe their mistakes are who they are any more than your mistakes are who you are. The kindness of the Lord leads to repentance, not the sloppy compassion or harsh judgment we may offer in its place.

It’s graceful to let people realize grace by letting them deal with their own consequences. The realization of grace is born of fire, and fire burns every time. Let it happen. We aren’t doing others any favors by being less than honest in our relationships. Honesty includes the willingness to allow others to choose as well as to experience the results of their choices.

From “Abundant and Free; Seeing Life Through the Lens of Grace” now available on Amazon.

With Isn’t For

imagesThe bad news is we can’t do it; the good news is we don’t have to. We really don’t have anything we have to prove or accomplish that advances us in favor or blessings. We don’t have any burden to do stuff that protects God’s reputation or advances His cause of our own initiative. We do get to, however, join Him in the stuff that He will do.

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” 2 Corinthians 6:1.

Paul writes about the opportunity of walking as an ambassador of Christ, offering the message of reconciliation to a world that needs to be reconciled to Him. The only thing that qualifies anyone as an ambassador of Christ and minister of reconciliation is that they have been reconciled to Christ. The qualifier is Him. The Savior is Him. We just receive.

In the same way that we once were lost and dead in our separation from Him, others still are and we are commissioned to bring them the good news of His salvation. In the bringing of that good news, however, He doesn’t become any less the Savior than He was when we were saved. It’s Him that saves and we get to be there when He does. We get to participate with Him. We don’t do it for Him because we don’t have capacity to save.

Remember what Paul wrote in the passage quoted, “together with Him.” How many times have we said or heard others say they were doing something or wanted to do something “for Him.” Big difference between the “with” and the “for.”

Agreement with Christ as King in the advancement of His Kingdom is acceptance of an invitation into life and living. We are just as impacted in engaging the lost and broken as the lost and broken are in our engagement. We are encouraged and alive in the purpose that comes with accepting the invitations into the eternal even as we are otherwise bound by the temporal.

Doing stuff for Him is burdensome and lifeless. It’s fulfillment of an obligation that never existed towards a purpose we can’t accomplish. It’s hoping distant father notices the striving child and grants approval based on performance. It’s orphan stuff.

As children of God the Father through Christ the Son, we are already in Him. We can’t get anymore in and we don’t need to do anything else. We are invited to experience Him in an infinite variety of ways through our finite earthly existence. We are sons and daughters in Him and we don’t need to prove it or earn it.

Prime Factor

dadIf we tend to the main thing, we’ll impact the other things. Finding the one factor that can change the other factors the most brings multiplication.

Men walking in their proper places will have a multiplying effect. If men will stand in their place as the head of families, the families can enjoy the benefit of the sacrifice. When a man properly serves his wife and family, it fosters a culture of honor where every member of that family is released to walk in their identity.

We don’t have to reinvent the wheel with various programs for every conceivable branch of the tree; we just need to tend to the roots. It is important for men to know they are the head of the home and that doesn’t mean that they are to rule over those that live there. It means that they are commissioned to make a way for the benefit of those that have been entrusted to them.

If we will call men into their place as the head, where they sacrifice for the benefit of others and foster honor by offering honor, the rest can fall into place. We won’t have to have nearly as many remedial or tangential efforts to try to manage consequences of homes that are out-of-order. We can simply go to ones that are called to tend to others and equip them for the multiplication that is available house to house.

Our services and programs have to be based in recognition that they exist for the equipping of others and not validation of the ministers. They need to call to hearts that are open to transformation and not intended to simply attract those seeking entertainment. Men will sit passively being entertained until and unless they are actively compelled to step into their place.

Their place is entirely about their hearts. They need a jump-start at a heart level much more than they need more information. Information is safe and easy while it can be managed to maintain the status quo. Going deeper won’t be their first choice, but without an option they will sit and observe where they are intended to be quickened to carry.

Want to minister to marriages? Minister to men. Want to minister to families? Minister to men.

Commission them to tend to their homes and release them to be the priests and kings they are designed to be. Women won’t feel left out, they will feel alive to follow in the wake of the way that is made safe for them. Children won’t want for entertainment, they’ll have a model and champion advocating for them.  Dads will show them the way to go instead of just talking about it, or worse, delegating the talking to a Sunday morning professional.

The Recipe of Courage

reuters_mexico_venezuela_baseball_25Aug11-878x652When my son started playing baseball, he wasn’t so sure. He was seeking his confidence through some fear of getting hit by the ball. Throwing and catching didn’t invoke fear, but the coach pitching it at him for him to hit left him more concerned about getting hit than he was about hitting it.

After practice one night, he told me that he was afraid. I initially told him what every father since Abner Doubleday has told their sons, “it won’t hurt as bad as you think.” That didn’t work for me any more than it did for countless dads since Doubleday. Later that evening, however, things changed.

I was sitting in the living room when he came walking through and I spontaneously said, “You are very courageous. I know that you’re facing some fear about getting hit and you are hanging in there. I know it’s not comfortable and your courage is taking you through it. I’m proud of you.”

He lit up. There was a thing that appeared to happen inside of him that showed up on his countenance and in his posture. He crossed the living room and gave me a hug. The next night at his first game, he hit well and stood in there without flinching. Same for the next game after that. He was beyond the fear.

We are all afraid. A wise friend of mine told me recently that he told his sons when they were being raised that the only requirement for courage is fear. Without fear, there is no need for courage. Fear is inevitable. Courage is born in the confrontation with the inevitable. If there is one characteristic that I have consistently seen in men, its fear. The degree to which they invoke courage is directly related to the success they have in overcoming.

The Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit (Romans 8), and He tells us of the Father’s love. He calls us courageous like He called Gideon valiant despite the clues to the contrary. With ears to hear, we’ll change from the inside out when we step into the truth of the Father’s love.

Transformation requires challenge and challenge uncovers insecurity. Insecurity longs for a Remedy and there is only one Source for the eternal reminder of our courage. Sons need to hear from their Dad that He sees “it” in them and the dad we have is either a bridge or a barrier to the reminders that Dad is sure that we have what it takes. He’s sure because He put it there within us.

Bridging the Generation Gap

beatlesedsullivan-splshWe need to be in the same room. It’s important that the exchange isn’t segregated by age or other demographics. The value of the diversity is too rich to sacrifice it for programs or comfort. The potential discomfort has an infinite return on investment but the cost is intentionally staying in the same room.

I had the privilege of leading men on a Quest recently. We went away for five days on an individual pursuit collectively as a group. Each man was invited to chase and encounter God for himself, yet much of the time was in a group setting. There were eighteen year olds, twenty-somethings, forty-somethings and a sixty year old with a seventy-one year old to top it all off.

There were points where the cross-generational transfer was so evident that it was revelatory. Times like:

  • When the forty-year old business owner needed the eighteen year old’s raw and sincere expression of the love of God for a generational breakthrough
  • When the millennial’s needed the love of a grandfather expressed through the seventy-one year old
  • When an eighteen year old needed gentle assistance from a forty-something in harnessing a legitimate passion to display what meekness is
  • The forty-something, in that same exchange, seeing meekness differently for himself so that he could walk in it himself

Millennials aren’t “done” with church just because. They are “done,” to some measure, by the lack of value. Value is in the authentic relationship that is expressed across generational lines, not the segregation into a forum with louder music or edgier presentation. They want permission to be who God has created them to be and need the maturity and wisdom of those that have gone ahead of them.

The more mature believers need the fresh infusion of raw expression that the millennials offer. They need to see and feel the zealousness of youth which resists restraint in an abandoned worship. They need the permission to worship like kings that the millennials grant in their authentic pursuit.

All sides need validation. They need validation that they aren’t weird and that we need the other for the greater. We all need to be in the same room pursuing the same God and experiencing Him for ourselves and in each other.

Bowing Out of Destiny

Man_or_King_on_Throne_with_Kneeling_Man_(Supplicant)The difference is remarkable, really. The difference between stepping into your place and overstepping your place is in a place that I’m not sure most of us would look to find it. We assume certain privileges based on our position, sometimes accurately so, and in those assumptions we ignore the responsibility that comes with the privilege.

Last week, I looked at the third temptation. The trap is set for us to believe that we can do this by ourselves. The bait is the lie that we don’t need anybody else and we certainly don’t need God. In our culture, it can be pulled off to some degree but not without a price. The price comes in all forms as pursuit of a kingdom built of our own effort costs relationships, peace, health and other valuable assets for the accumulation of different things of different value.

The difference between accepting adoption by God as Father and choosing instead to do it on our own is in our willingness to endure suffering. We step out of the house of God and off of the course towards our intended destiny when we take control to avoid discomfort. We want what we want when we want it and we won’t compromise even for the short-term to get what we think we deserve. That puts us in the driver’s seat. That makes us our own little gods. We want the glory, but we won’t pay the price.

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:16-17.

“Provided we suffer with him . . . ” is probably the most overlooked phrase in teaching today. Part of the problem is we have become so attractional for the sake of maintaining the institution that we don’t want to run anybody off. Suffering isn’t an attractional message. Suffering isn’t desirable in a culture of comfort.

When we want the benefits of God (the glory, according to Romans 8:17), but without any sharing in the suffering, the result is that we fall for the third temptation. We accept the invitation to bow to the prince of this world to accept the enemy’s invitation in Luke 3:6, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.”

The glory of God which He desires for us to experience comes at the cost of us. Our character is simply not developed to carry His glory without the shaping and development which results from discomfort. A lack of discipline produces a spoiled child who will not be prepared to carry on the responsibility of the family business. Avoiding the process leaves us ill-equipped to share in the Kingdom.