Category Archives: Father

What Does It Mean to Be a Man Today?

What is masculinity? Is it tattoos, Harley’s, head-bands, or neck chains tangled in your chest hair? What is a man? What should he believe? How should he behave? What should he try to achieve? Boys and young men are adrift today, wearing pants that hang around their knees, hats that are crooked, and merely respond with “Whatever?” to the deeper questions of life.

Men themselves don’t know how to answer this question. Masculinity is not always looking for a fight, walking with a swagger, and giving people those “make-my-day” stares. Being a man is not the same as living like an animal ready to pounce and conquer half of Vietnam.

There’s a book I am anxious to read entitled, Missing From Action: Vanishing Manhood in America, by Weldon Hardenbrook. From what I’m understanding from others, the author talks about four different types of false images of males.

First there is the Macho Maniac — Dirty Harry, Rambo, Charles Bronson. These guys deny all their feelings; they ignore the law. They never worry, they never complain, they never apologize. They just sweat. They accomplish the impossible every eight minutes and take whatever they want and they bully people.

The second is the Great Pretender — the Archie Bunkers of the world who try to build up their self esteem by belittling everybody else, particularly his wife and family. He imagines that he rules his family but really behind his back every is just ridiculing him. He is frightened by the world so he keeps it at an arm’s distance by talking tough and being critical.

The third type is the World Class Whimp. These are the Dagwood Bumstead’s of life. They are so inept that they are constantly outwitted by their children, wives, their dogs. Nobody takes them serious. Their motto is “Blessed are the passive for they will avoid conflict at all costs.” Kind of like Hal on Malcolm in the Middle.

The fourth image is the Gender Blenders. They are the Michael Jackson’s and Boy Georges that don’t even pretend to be masculine. They have a complete reversal of roles and identity. I often have to ask, “Is this person male or female?”

Our culture is in trouble because we have lost our vision of true manhood. We don’t know what it means to be a real man anymore. Manhood is not a calling today; it’s more about a problem to overcome. Men are depicted as clumsy buffoons on sitcom after sitcom.

What is a man? If you have a certain anatomical part, does that make you a man? And when do you become a man? When you start shaving? When you get your first buck? When you drink your first beer? Does manhood come with a driver’s license or a diploma or joining the Army? Does it take intercourse with a woman to become a man? We say, “Be a man” but we don’t know what that is.

I wrestled with how to define a man. Here’s where I’ve landed for now: “A man is a creation of God, born to fill a task-oriented role with a mental and physical, and chemical disposition that uniquely enables him to lead, work, explore, conquer, provide, protect, love, create, play, discover, compete, and bear the responsibility of ensuring the welfare of family, government, and church.” What this definition assumes is that in order to be a man, you have to reject passivity, to rise up and lead in love and self-sacrifice.

A man should be the corner post of society, leading families, rejecting passivity regarding spiritual things, and living a God-honoring worldview. And when something pushes against the fence, the corner post holds true. A man is the marker of boundaries, the moral compass, the ethical benchmark. But this has been lost. We have lost the truly honorable male distinctives. We no longer “act like men.”

Paul says it best: 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Be a corner post, true north, the shaper of boundaries. Play the man. God made you male, and he’s called you to be a “corner post.” True masculinity calls for discipline, character, and courage. Authentic men show affection, release their feelings, hug their children, admit when they’re wrong, ask for help when they need it, and treat women with utmost respect. A true man can lead their family spiritually, praying for them and offering observation on spiritual truths. A man will engage others in conversation on the deeper questions of life. A true man will fight for justice, appreciate beauty, and stand for truth.

So boys and men: Pull up your pants, turn your hat around, and stop saying “Whatever” all the time. Be a man. Lead your generation.

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Filed under Christian Worldview, Family, Father, Femininity, Masculinity

Why is My Child An Atheist? | Rules Minus Relationship = Rebellion

Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

There have been many parents who have questioned why their child has become an atheist (and doesn’t appear to be coming back to their spiritual roots), especially in light of what Proverbs 22:6 says. What are we to make of this?

Chuck Swindoll in writing about this verse said, “I know any number of rebels who were forced into a restricted, parent-dominated, externally religious lifestyle during their early years in the home. And when they got free of all that, they split the scene and ran wild. I mean, really wild! And they never did stop running. In fact, they didn’t return to the Lord, even when they grew older. I know some, in fact, who died while running from Him.”

If I could give just a simple word of advice to parents, especially those with their children still at home. Parent each child individually according to their natural inclinations, rather than a “one-size-fits-all” approach. You must raise children, not just a family.

Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go (the way he is inclined to go, i.e., habits and interests), even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Some things to remember when you read and apply this pithy saying of wisdom to your life, particularly in the context of this question.

Remember, this verse is not a promise; it is a proverb, or a probability. A child still has a choice when he is grown and may choose to depart from what he or she was taught. But if you get to know your child deeply, and you become a student of his/her ways, the lessons you teach about God will not be soon forgotten. Chances are they’ll grow up to be Theists, but there is no absolute guarantee. Abraham Lincoln said, “There is but one way to train up a child in the way he should go, and that is to travel it yourself.” When you do that, there is a strong probability that your child will also follow your lead. What you do has more impact on that probability than all the lectures you could ever give.

Remember, this verse requires some wise disciplinary measures. The text says, “Train up a child.” This is more than just a one time event! And, this process of training starts at child birth. According to one prominent psychologist, it’s best to start disciplining your children when they’re young, approximately 14 months of age. Youngsters are more pliable until they’re around 4 years old. After that, the concrete hardens a little and you have to work harder at breaking it up. The pyschologist summarizes discipline like this: At a football game when a guy jumps off sides, what does the referee do? He doesn’t get red-faced and begin screaming about the virtues of keeping the rule. He drops the flag and he steps off the penalty. In the same way, when your child messes up, don’t break the peace of your home. You step off the penalty –– and you do it consistently. Don’t reason with the little guy or gal. Discipline them in love and with full explanations.

Remember, this verse requires that parents know their children deeply and create memories with them. The text says, “Train a child in the way he is inclined to go.” In other words, if your child likes baseball, teach him about God, about values, about life through the game of baseball. If your daughter loves art, become a student of her art and teach values through art. If your child loves hunting, teach him about God, about values, about life through the sport of hunting. And, if you personally as a parent loved to play the sport of baseball (but your son doesn’t) and couldn’t stand the sport of hunting (but your son does), learn how to hunt too if you kid loves hunt! If your child has some great questions about the deeper things of life, encourage them to keep asking them and answer them the best you can, doing research and guiding them in a Christian Theistic worldview. Remember, it’s according to “his/her way” not your way, your plan or your curriculum. Memories are more important than things. When you know and do things that your kids love to do and teach them about God in the process, they will attach your words with some of their fondest memories.

My friend Ed Frank shares that it’s important to “Discover Your Child’s Passion and Giftedness” in thinking about these things: “I would perhaps show parents ways to expose their kids to a bunch of different things while they are young (music, sports, languages, etc) and learn how to identify something their kid may enjoy and excel in, and if they do enjoy and excel in something – to “exploit” that and be willing to channel whatever resources of time, energy, and money to allow them to excel….And also to point out that if their child is a “plain jane” then that is alright because the foundation of everything is character…” Good advice Ed. But, he has more: Show the parents not to try and live their lives (with their missed goals and dreams) through their kids by forcing something on them that “isn’t them” and also avoid not exposing their kids to something because the parents don’t personally like it – like athletics (since they may have been couch potatoes all their life).

I have learned that for the most part if someone is going to be great at something – the passion and foundation is usually going to be formed during those first 18 years while at home. Start creating a thirst for God early in their lives. Do this as long as their living with you. Make being a Christian Theist a normal part of life.

Remember, this verse applies to all of your children equally, not just a select one or two of them. Otherwise, you will fuel what already exists – sibling rivalry. One of the biggest things that parents must guard against in their home, especially in the blended family situation, is sibling rivalry and parental favoritism. Susan Yates wrote about her friend Joe and his two boys. Joe’s first boy was real athletic. Because he was so athletic, he was the apple of his father’s eye. His dad loved to roughhouse with him and he encouraged him to be tough. Joe’s younger brother, Jeff, was a very sensitive child with a slight build. He disliked sports and shunned physical activity. His tendency to recoil from aggressive play irritated his dad, and he began to make fun of his son by saying, “You need to be like your brother, Joe.” But Jeff couldn’t, and he soon became the object of sarcastic comments and subtle ridicule. It was no surprise that the boys began to dislike each other. Today, as adults, the siblings have nothing to do with each other. Parents, the tendency is to favor the child that brings you the most glory and honor. If we play parental favorites with our children, showing more pride in our athlete as opposed to our artist, we’re only setting the stage for problems between our children now and down the road that may take them years to sort through defunct atheistic worldview explorations.

Sibling rivalry generally occurs for one or two reasons: (1) children are discovering who they are, and in the process, they are competing to find their own niche (their own talents, activities, interests); or (2) children feel that they are receiving unequal amounts of attention, discipline, and/or responsiveness from their parent(s). Love your children equally. Become a student of their ways and desires. Don’t compare your children with each other. Instead, study the unique way God made each one, and nurture their individual gifts. Train them to support and cheer for each other. Parents, when you pull into the driveway at home and you step out of your car and into the house, at that point, you’ve got to forget about your hard day and go after your kids like your life depended on it.

1. Parent’s, make sure before you go to bed tonight that you tell your son or daughter, “Son/Daughter, I love you. I’m proud of you.” Make sure your home is a place of affirmation. Take time with a problem child. So often what they need is meaningful human interaction.

2. Brothers and Sisters, the day will come that you’ll go your separate ways. Before you say that critical remark or offer that scourging rebuke, remember, God might want to use your sibling in a powerful way and he might want to use you in building them up.

3. Parents, love your rebel. I love this line from Josh McDowell: “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” Rebellion is a cry for relationship – “Pay attention to me.” If you have a rebellious child, don’t let it ruin your future. Create the kind of home and relationship that they will want to run back to. Lovingly hold them accountable and make sure they see how their behavior negatively impacts others in the family. But in all of this – love them.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Children, Christian Worldview, Family, Father, Home, Mother, Parenting

How A Father Can Avoid Raising An Atheist Son

I learned recently how many renown atheists had poor relationships with their fathers (I would venture to say that 95% of atheists have had poor relationships with their dads). This is indicative of the “Father Wound” that so many children take on early in life. Our concepts of God are formed from the type of father that we have. An aloof, harsh, disconnected, obnoxious (even religious) dad has produced far more atheists than any “evil God” argument, or “fairy-tale Bible” argument, or a “bad church experience” argument has ever thought about producing. Check out the de-conversion blog for more “arguments”. But what they will never tell you is that “My father wounded me deeply and I’ve never been able to get over it.” De-converting and rejecting belief in God is my way of getting back.

Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. Many of our social problems can be traced to fatherlessness – to dads who refuse to be dads. Newsweek ran a cover story about “The Boy Crisis”. The author said, “A boy without a father figure is like an explorer without a map (Eldredge, Way of the Wild Heart…xii).” So many boys are pretty much on their own. “Figure life out yourself and good luck.”

God recognizes the stupidity of such an approach. Even Jesus needed to know that His Father loved him and was going to guide Him. Two of the most prominent occasions where God speaks in the New Testament occur when He is blessing His Son, Jesus.

At his baptism, Jesus comes out of the water and a voice from heaven says,

“Mark 1:9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased (NIV)’.”

Then at Jesus’ transfiguration, the voice says again:

Mark 9:7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! (NIV).”

Three valuable blessings were bestowed on Jesus from his Daddy (Canfield, They Call Me Dad, 39-40).

First, God communicated belonging. “This is my Son.” We must communicate our acceptance of our sons and our pride in them, no matter what. If there’s something we can’t be proud of, let’s deal with it openly. But they must always have a special place in your heart that no one else will have. Affirm who he is – “You’re mine. I’ll stand up for you and fight your battles with you. I’ll provide for you. The heavenly Father loves his children. He never abandons his own and I will never abandon you.”

Second, God communicates value. God said “Whom I love.” Jesus could live with confidence knowing that God, His Father, loved Him. A quiet confidence exudes from a child who rests in his fathers love. God was so committed to His well-being. “I love being your dad” are words every son needs to hear. The greatest words you’ll ever hear as a Dad are “Dad, I love you.” A boy needs another man to look up to and learn from.

Third, God communicates that Jesus was competent. “Listen to Him.” When we tell our sons, “Great job!” it conveys competence, adequacy – that they have what it takes. A dad is to watch and observe his boy and notice what he’s good at and encourage and affirm that. Admire his work. Affirm what he does.

We must have fathering. You have to give your sons your words. They convey importance, protection, comfort, tenderness, and caring. Many atheist sons have never heard an “I love you” from a dad. Or “I’m proud of you son.” Unaffectionate dads fail to bestow these fatherly blessings and end up creating multiple atheists who are still looking for a father to love them.

Be authentic and real with your sons. If you’re afraid; admit it. If you don’t know; say so. But, whatever you do, stop posing, faking, and wannabeing, and be a real man – love your boy, represent God well, and set your affection on your son.

Dads, make sure the sum total of your relationship with your children is encouragement. The world is tough enough on them as it is. Give them the gift of a nurturing, loving, supportive, present father. Let your son hang out with you. You can’t influence him if you’re never with them. Talk to him about key topics from an early age while you’re doing other stuff. Stay attached no matter what and be nurturing in that attachment. Avoid the “Cat’s in the Cradle” kind of stuff.

Jean Lush adds that the ripe age of 13 is absolutely critical mass between a boy and his dad. Don’t get disconnected, washed out to sea, when everything is on the line. Don’t pretend like you have the answers for everything; just walk with them through the issues.

A godly father is one who participates in the lives of the people in his home. He is active in the rearing of his children. He does not avoid responsibility; he seeks it. He sees his commitment to become responsible as a God-given calling. He provides the financial resources needed for his family. He is the one who makes sure the family is at church where their spiritual needs are ministered to. He is the primary one in the home who talks about God, right and wrong, and leading an honorable life. He leads by example by living out the values he espouses.

Larry Crabb said that what impressed him as a boy was that his father loved something and Someone more than he loved anything else, even his family. But he didn’t feel rejection. He knew he was loved. It was a mystery, an invitation to discover what that Something was all about for his father and for him personally.

What kind of father and father-legacy do you want? Place yourself on the spectrum from “I want to be just like him, he is showing me how” to “Good guy, but not who I want to be” to “Checked out, no clue” to “An evil man. May God deliver me from his legacy.” What are you saying with the message of your life? Accept the fathering challenge and leave a great legacy and avoid raising an atheist.

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Filed under Atheism, Father, God