Sunday, July 17, 2011

Keeping Promises

When I was a Pastor in California, the local paper, The Pleasanton Weekly, did a series of articles asking questions based on current events. Below is a repost of one of those questions regarding Promise Keepers.

Q: This weekend marks the first major gathering of Promise Keepers in the Bay Area, as members of this Christian men’s organization rallies at the Oakland Coliseum. In your opinion, what is the groups value in today’s complex society? How do you respond to criticism that it advocates a continuation of male privilege?

A: Perhaps the most important game in the history of the Oakland Coliseum is being played next weekend. No, it won’t involve Jeff Hostetler throwing a touchdown or Rickey Henderson stealing another base. It will be the sound of 45,000 men stepping on the playing field to respond to society’s cry—“Where are you, Dad?” “Where are you, husband?” “Where are the men of character and integrity?”

If Promise Keepers has done its job, a random view of the jam-packed Coliseum should reflect the complexity of our society, Doctors will be sitting next to mechanics, Asian-Americans with African-Americans, Anglo men with Hispanic men, all trying to figure out what’s wrong with our culture and all trying to sort through the complex issues facing men today. In stark contrast to the “victim mentality” so prevalent today, these men from all walks of life will not be blaming it on the government, their bosses or their parents. For a refreshing change, they’ll be examining their own shortcomings and failures, and seeking personal change to better the larger society. Promise Keepers is male privilege at its finest. Let me explain.

With privilege comes responsibility. I see Promise Keepers as a wedding of those two. Abusing, controlling “Me Tarzan, You Jane” leadership takes all the “privilege” that comes with it, but is never there to assume the responsibility when that faulty ideology crumbles down in the form of broken homes, shattered lives and strained relationships.

C.S. Lewis wrote: “It is painful, being a man, to have to assert the privilege, or the burden, which Christianity lays upon my sex. I am crushingly aware of how inadequate most of us are, on our actual and historical individualities, to fill the place prepared for us.”

Promise Keepers echoes that feeling. It is all about accepting responsibility. At a time when almost 30 percent of children grown up without a father in the home, it’s time for males to answer the charge that maybe we are responsible for some of the issues that plague our country, cities and individual homes today. Issues such as the isolation and vulnerability youth feel today, the increasing need young men have for affirmation, demonstrated through gang involvement, and how ill-prepared many teen-age boys feel as they approach adulthood.

Promise Keepers is calling men to step to the plate and realize that by abdicating their place of leadership and responsibility, all aspects of society are affected. Perhaps it’s time for men to stand before the cultural tribunals and try to justify that innocent perusal of pornography as just a “guy thing,” that adultery is a “mid-life crisis,” or a host of other things that men often feel have not effect on people in their lives.

Recently, in a newspaper story, sociologist Stuart Wright of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas called Promise Keepers, “an attempt to raise the authority status of angry white men who find themselves declining in privilege and power.” A pretty serious accusation. Maybe Wright would label me one of those angry white men, but 45,000 men with tears rolling down their faces with a goal to spend more time with their families, turn their backs on sexual impurity, work toward racial reconciliation, confessing their shortcomings and working toward changing them doesn’t appear as anger, nor a threat to anyone.

Except, of course, for those afraid of responsibility and accountability.

When the speeches are over, the crying has stopped and the last car leaves the Coliseum parking lot, the jury will still be out on the success of Promise Keepers. When each man walks through his front door, and his children come looking for him, his wife looks for a man who can keep his wedding vows, then we will find out if the men who came to the conference left the Coliseum ready to play.

Next Generation

When I was a Pastor in California, the local paper, The Pleasanton Weekly, did a series of articles asking questions based on current events. Below is a repost of one of those questions regarding the next generation.

Q: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the upcoming generation of young people now in their late teens and 20s? Do you see this group of people, often dubbed “Generation X,” as being more or less interested in spiritual matters than their elders?

A: In many regards, we have presented this generation with a set of challenges that no other generation has ever had to face. Raised in a world of MTV, AIDS and monumental federal government debt, people in this age group have been called a sundry of nicknames—Generation X, post boomers, baby busters, twenty somethings, slackers, whiners and who knows what else when all is said and done.

Statistics give us some insight into what they are facing: There are 38 million young men and women who were born between 1963 and 1977, with nearly 50 percent of those coming from divorced families. Many were latch-key kids who came home from school every day to an empty house and the responsibility of having to fend for themselves and/or their siblings. They also grew up in an era that was largely devoid of Christian culture. By that I mean they were raised in a society that jettisoned Christian values and morals as the foundation for its reasoning and structure.

This generation is also bearing the fruit of choices made by society during the 1960s and ‘70s. The chickens have come home to roost in a society that chased so many cultural and moral experiments. I often wonder where the Timothy Learys, Jane Fondas and Dr. Spocks are now, now that so many people have to deal with the pain and dislocation caused by the ideas they espoused.

Every generation longs for a sense of purpose and identity, something that separates them from the previous one. Every generation has the distinct advantage of having to build this identity. Generation X is no different. They have looked at the materialism and the price paid by their predecessors, the baby boomers, in trying to acquire “things.” They’ve, by and large, rejected those values and long for purpose and relational intimacy.

Based upon this, I believe there is an incredible spiritual hunger in members of this generation, not a hunger for formal religion, but for the real thing. As a result, churches today have an extraordinary opportunity to step up to the plate and if—and it’s a big if—religious leaders can demonstrate not only in word but in action the authenticity and intimacy of Christian faith, members of this generation will flock to church.

Young people today are incredibly perceptive and street-wise enough to see through all the smokescreens of a religious faith that lacks substance and reality. It is the challenge of the church, and a healthy on in my opinion, to live and demonstrate what one really believes. Many members of this generation have broken lives and live in a world that is shattered and dislocated, but they’re able to ask tough questions and demand honest answers. Churches that provide biblical solutions to their search for spiritual fulfillment are well-equipped to take the brokenness of this many-named lost generation and provide them with a sense of purpose and destiny.

On Fatherhood

When I was a Pastor in California, the local paper, The Pleasanton Weekly, did a series of articles asking questions based on current events. Below is a repost of one of those questions about the role of fathers.

Q: In recent years, many fathers have taken a more active role in their families, particularly in relation to raising children. Describe, from a Biblical perspective, what a father’s role is in his family? Does the current model for fatherhood—more sensitive and more involved—fit into the Biblical ideal?

A: A father’s role in his family is to be a leader. He is the one who is the point man for pressure and an icon for stability in a world filled with uncertainty. His role includes being a protector, listener, and provider of much more than just money. He is there to nurture, guide and foster an atmosphere of stability and security so family members can grow and develop and springboard into life from a solid foundation. He should also serve as a model of how men should relate to women, and how men handle the inevitable pressure and conflict in life.

What a daunting task it is to be a father!

The challenge that we face as men today as we strive to be good fathers is: Who are our role models? Who do we pattern ourselves after? Do we try the John Wayne School of Fathering, the tough “never apologize mister, it’s a sign of weakness” course of study, or should we attend the Clint Eastwood Academy, where we’re encouraged to express the core of our inner being even if that expression is found in the arms of another man’s wife – as in his film, “The bridges of Madison County.” It has been said that passing the torch of manhood has always been a fragile task. That is more true than ever before today as we live in a culture still grappling with its definition of masculinity and fatherhood.

A brief look at recent history reveals some patterns. In my father’s generation, boys became men during World War II. They were taught that to be a man, one must bottle up his emotions and that to display vulnerability was a sign of weakness. In a family setting, the man was in charge and the woman changed the diapers. They struggled to raise the next generation, whose members longed for intimacy and expression. Our fathers often kept their distance and were never trained to talk about feelings and core relational issues. This resulted in the next generation throwing off authority and restraint, eventually developing a “if it feels good, do it” fathering philosophy.

But you can’t lead a family based on feelings alone, partly because there may be times when a man doesn’t feel like providing, listening, or keeping his word.

The result is an identity crisis for fathers. Should we be Rambo or Alan Alda?

From a Biblical perspective, being a father means walking in balance. It means taking the soldier—the mission orientation of our father’s generation—and incorporating it into the tenderness associated with the younger generation of dads. It means taking responsibility for all of our actions and not running and hiding from the position while blaming our failures and shortcomings on someone else.

Being a father today means keeping your word, holding to your promises, honoring the commitment you made to your wife, being vulnerable enough to cry, strong enough to admit weakness, and, unfortunately, available enough to change diapers.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"The Ring"

I am Pulling for the Mavericks to win the NBA championship this year. Really only for one reason. I want Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd to get a ring. It is interesting that if they lose how their careers will be defined as successful BUT... they were not able to win the ultimate prize. Thank God the Kingdom of God is different. Hebrews 11 brings clarity to this thought;

“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing”

What a idea to embrace; they died in faith yet did not possess what they had hoped for. What this tells us about the Kingdom is that a) we won’t always get what we want b) our not apprehending the “object” of our faith does not mean we are lacking faith c) not getting what we want does not give us the right to whine, become a victim, or most important give up.

What ever your dream is today my prayer is that you will see that getting or not getting the “ring” does not define your success but that is defined by the God you serve.

Come on Dirk and Jason get it together tonight!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome to a fresh Start

Wow! Today is the start of a New Year as well as a new decade. Ten years ago today we were all breathing a sign of relief when Y2K did not result in a world wide meltdown. Looking back over your life is a good practice as long at it is a glance in the rear view mirror and NOT a fixation to stay and live in the land of the "What if's". Life is best lived with a glance toward the past, two feet planted in your current reality, and an eye fixed on the future and all that lies ahead.Lets dream together for all that God has in store for us in 2011 and the many years to come

"God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us"
- Ephesians 3:20 Message Bible

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fall Season in Virginia is simply spectacular. A mundane commute to work becomes a kaleidoscope of colors. A morning run becomes a jaw dropping display of creativity of God. A back Virginia road becomes a artist's pallet of vibrant colors splashed on the canvas of God's creation.

The Psalmist expressed it this way; "What a wildly wonderful world, GOD! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations." (Psalm 104:24 Message Bible)

I hope we never come to a place in our lives where the array of God's creativity becomes commonplace to us, where the splash of God's creative character fails to elicit in us a pause, a pondering, a thankful heart for the chance to live another day under the canopy of his Grace and Mercy.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Grass Is Always Greener

Psalms 16:5 puts life in this perspective "Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance"

Virginia is horse country. The interesting thing about horses is that no matter how green the pasture they are in is they are always looking over the fence; longing for the next field simply because they are not in the one they are gazing toward. They will stretch their necks under the fence line to grab a bit of “forbidden” grass when behind them are acres of delight for them to have. Hence the phrase "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence"

If we are not careful the same can be said about the fields in of our lives.

Psalm 16 is a fence line against that. In faith we realize that God has assignments for us, portions for us to steward, and the necessary security to flourish with both the assignments as well as the capacity. In faith we trust in all of these boundary lines and lovingly graze into our delightful inheritance while content in our current field.

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