The “Lost Boys”: A Crisis in Male Leadership and Faith

I read with interest a recent article published by a woman author describing a generation of middle class men without purpose and hope, disillusioned by failed marriages, cultural marginalization and unfulfilling careers.  Despite the silly and unflattering generalization about the male gender which a feminist would scorn if the tables were turned, the article raised some serious points about the current state of men’s hearts and minds.

In a world where there are no absolutes, where truth is relevant to each person’s individual experience, many people are lost trying to discover who they are. Where anything goes, anything is accepted and anything “works,” men and women lurch from crisis to happiness and back again without any sure foundation.  No one knows what to expect of themselves or others.  Every belief, every emotion must be accepted and honored in the face of a cry of bigotry, intolerance and “hate.”

Men have long been a target for cultural and social experimentation.  Told they are too  strong, men tried to become “feminized” yet then found rejection by women uninterested in another child to raise, but instead seeking someone to admire.  Studies and polls issue conflicting information.  Ultimately the results attack men as less intelligent, less thoughtful, less serious, less mature, less committed, less compassionate, and with lesser parenting abilities.  Authors of serious articles have claimed that families don’t need men, and that men bring little to the family unit other than financial support. Of course this is all obnoxious and untrue as a proposed definition of an entire gender.

As men attempt to follow the changing cultural and social landscape, trying hard to meet the latest expectations about who they should be, they are understandably lost.  The caricatures of gender, for both sexes, are no less harmful and insulting than those offered up for race, ethnicity and other class designations the world has created to marginalize the human being created in God’s image.  The Bible informs us that God is no respecter of persons…there is no one in a protected class, or a special class when it comes to God’s love and judgment, yet the world establishes descriptive buckets and then places people in them from whence they often cannot escape.  Men feel trapped in a bucket not of their own choosing and for good reason.

As with most personal crises, the solution is found not in the world but in the Word of God.

God created an order to things.  As the Creator He not only Had that right, but He was the designer who knows what is best for us.  We have instead substituted our own design, based on our selfish, self-centered sense of superiority that has resulted in more and more violence, instability, confusion, anger, bitterness and disillusionment such as that experienced by the men interviewed in the article I mentioned.  We are so often told “do this” and “change that” and the world will be better for everyone, and yet despite the trillions of dollars spent, the tens of thousands of social programs, the thousands of government agencies, and the hundreds of current political leaders, nothing ever changes.  Why?  Because humans can never change their fallen nature without the intervention of God, and the further we push ourselves away from Him the further we get from true and lasting peace and joy.

To truly “find themselves” men need to embrace the role God created for them: leaders in faith and in the home.  Men must make God first in their lives, and then their wives and their children.  Decisions about the home, about the workplace, and about their future must and should be made only upon fervent and humble prayer and with knowledge of the Word.  Humility, obedience and commitment begins first with God, and then this relationship will foster the kind of strong marriages, strong families and strong communities that can really make a difference.  Knowing your place with God will also firmly establish a strong and immovable foundation for life that will shelter and protect you against any storm of life.  One of my favorite photographs depicts a man standing at the door of a lighthouse perched upon a large rock formation as huge waves drive the surf up and over the supporting ground.  The lighthouse remains unmoved by the forces of nature and then man relatively dry and unafraid.  He knows that even the worst gales of a hurricane will never topple the lighthouse from that rock.  A relationship with God is like that:  trust, faith, strength and confidence in who you are as a child of the Creator.

I have met with many crises in my life to date, both personal and professional.  I was able to survive them all because I know who I am and I know my Father in Heaven.  I remain humble to His power and glory, and abide in His Word in matters of my family, my personal life and my career.  After all, who do you really want to follow?  The latest public opinion poll or social study, or the blueprint for life given to us in love by the Creator of the universe.

Men be strong.  Take charge at home with humility and patience in a relationship with God.  You were created in His image for a purpose.  You are loved and not cursed.  You are defined by His Words and judged by His expectations, not what the world insists for you.  You are highly favored and blessed.  Know yourself as God knows you and the rest will fall into place.

God bless and keep you!

 

Thoughts on Love, Sex and the Bible for Valentines Day

There I said it: sex.  A word not often heard from the pulpit of a church on Sunday.  A word often used as a weapon against Christians to deride their values and beliefs and falsely accuse them of being prudes or (worse) hypocrites when sexual misconduct takes place.

The truth is that God created us with the ability to engage in love and sexual activity, for procreation and for pleasure.  There is no sin in sex for a Christian.  There are some boundaries that God expects us to follow, and those boundaries are logical and for our best interests.

Love and sex outside of an existing marriage violates God’s desires and plans for us.  It violates the marriage contract, pledged before God, and strikes at the very heart of the intimate and trusting relationship every man and woman enjoys and expects in a marriage.  The sacred nature of the marriage relationship, which involves sharing your very essence and soul, innermost feelings, hopes dreams and fears with another, is so deeply personal that to violate the trust that is required to be so exposed is devastating.  This is why so many people never get over such a betrayal.

Love and sex without marriage also violates God’s desires and plans for us.  The beauty of physical love and attraction combined with the marriage commitment is the intense splendor it brings to our soul.  The unique mixture of friendship, physical attraction, soul matching and family-building is like the perfect cocktail mix of all the best that there is in life.  It is the perfect mix of love.  Sex without love is just an act, appealing to our physical and emotional impulses. Once it is over feelings disappear.  Sex with love satisfies our souls and enriches our lives. The good feelings last forever.

The greatest physical pleasures I have ever enjoyed were those I have experienced with my wife in a marriage filled with friendship, physical attraction, spiritual bonding and mutual love for the Lord.  God planned it this way and it is the perfect combination!

The Bible offers us the Song of Solomon which in quite explicit detail discusses the beauty and joy of physical love as God planned it for us.  Solomon, whom God tells us was the wisest man of his day, was clearly as brilliant about love as he was about faith, conflict and human nature.

This Valentines Day forget the cheesy Hallmark Card…pull out your Bible and write a love poem to your soul mate that speaks of the depth and breadth of  true love made possible by the deep love God has for each of us, and the spiritual, physical and emotional pleasures that we are blessed to enjoy in a true loving relationship:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;  your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out. From Song 1

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love. From Song 2

On my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not. I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not. The watchmen found me as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?” Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who conceived me. I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases. From Song 3.

Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them has lost its young.  Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.  Your neck is like the tower of David, built in rows of stone; on it hang a thousand shields, all of them shields of warriors. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that graze among the lilies. Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will go away to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. From Song 4

How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride! How much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! Your lips drip nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. From Song 4

My beloved is radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand. His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven. His eyes are like doves beside streams of water, bathed in milk, sitting beside a full pool.  His cheeks are like beds of spices, mounds of sweet-smelling herbs. His lips are lilies,  dripping liquid myrrh. His arms are rods of gold, set with jewels. His body is polished ivory, bedecked with sapphires. His legs are alabaster columns, set on bases of gold. From Song 5

Surrendering Your Fears

Fear.  Whereas love is the fuel of the human soul, fear is the fire extinguisher that douses the flames of desire, promise, hope and joy.  The enemy loves fear and uses it to limit us, feed our inner monologue with negative thoughts, dampen our spirits and kill our dreams.

God created us for great things.  He has promised us blessings beyond measure and also promised to shroud us with the armor of his protective hand.  Yet as believers so many of us allow fear and the enemy’s whispers to paralyze us and cause us to forget how great we really are.

God created us in His image, for His purpose, and for glory not just on this earth but for eternity.  Satan has no real control over us except what we cede to him by listening to his lies.  He is the father of lies and deceit.  Everything with Satan is a mind game, if he can get us to listen.  This is why praying, reading the Bible and being a part of a group of like-minded believers in fellowship helps us.  It girds our armor, helping us focus on God’s Word and not the enemy’s false narrative.  Staying focused on God reminds us of our heritage as the Servants of the Lord.

Don’t let fears control you.  Fight the doubts and whispers that you are less than glorious in God’s eye. Surrender your fears to your Father in heaven and trust that He will help you manage them, dispel them and replace them with the confidence and blessed hope that we have inherited as children of the Creator.  You are greater than you think!  You can achieve more than you realize!  You can find lasting joy and peace!  Simply surrender and trust.

No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lordand this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord. Isaiah 54:17

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to [a Christ follower]…. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:14-16

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  Ephesians 6:11

Controlling Vanity

Vanity is the bane of mankind.  It elevates personhood above community, fuels selfishness and self centered behavior, and ultimately separates man from God. Controlling our vanities brings us closer to God while tempering our behavior so we can be more humble, generous, empathetic and compassionate.  It also puts God in His rightful place in our lives: first and foremost.

In the Book of Ecclesiastes God, through King David, reminds us that the world is not ours, and our lives are only temporary. Whatever we build, create and achieve for ourselves is eventually just dust in the wind.

“Vanity of vanities…all is vanity.  (This is KJV, NIV translates vanity to “meaningless!”) What profit hath a man of all his labor under the sun? One generation passes away and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever….there is no new thing under the sun…I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”  Ecclesiastes 1:2-4, 9, 14.

Too often our lives become efforts to build monuments to ourselves….important jobs, financial wealth, big homes, fancy cars and such.  We strut and preen and boast of our accomplishments as if our lives are unique and historic and memorable.  Kind David reminds us that (1) we are no different than the many who have lived before us, (2) many will come after us and have no memory or recollection of anything we did or said, (3) whatever we accomplish is temporary, fleeting and deteriorating into nothingness and that (4) the earth, God’s creation, will outlast us, which is a testament to its amazing Creator who was and is and always shall be.

Does this mean our lives are themselves meaningless?  No!  It does however mean that we need to embrace humility and reverence for God understanding all that we are, all that we have, and all that is to come to us is from the Lord.  He is to be the object of our efforts.  He is the one to be exalted.  He is the one to get all the credit for every blessing we enjoy.

Have you ever been around someone who cannot stop talking about themselves?  Oftentimes there is no room in the lives of these people for the feelings, concerns, and interests of others.  God is “no respecter of persons” as we are all His creation.  The mightiest of us pales in comparison to His strength.  The smartest among us can never understand the thoughts and ways of God.  We are to humble ourselves to Him and reach out the hand of love and brotherhood to our neighbors, whom we are commanded to “love as ourselves.”  Kind of hard to do when you are in love with yourself!

When you love those around you as much as you love yourself, or more, vanity gives way to selflessness, compassion and understanding.  Be amazing at what you do.  Reach for the stars.  Do great things with the skills and talents that God has blessed you with.  However in doing so, never forget where your blessings came form,  how you are expected to use your gifts, and who has ultimate authority over you.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  Romans 12:3

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Luke 14:11

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10