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Mar 29, 2010

Real Dogs and Wimpy Men

Would you believe that our modern society may be more concerned with helping our dogs reclaim their true nature as real dogs than we are with the identity crisis of human men?  I wouldn't have until I saw an advertisement from Alpo for Real Dogs.  It's actually a cool ad campaign and I love the concept.  They have a series of TV commercials showing pampered dogs getting bubble baths or dressed in silly little skirts with a slogan warning to "Get that dog some Alpo!"  A page on their web site states that "Real dogs drool and dig.  They strut their stuff, mark their turf, chew things up, and roll in dirt.  They eat and sleep with supreme gusto."  They even have a Real Dog Handbook, a how-to manual for dogs who have "lost their inner dog-ness."

Great concept, and yes, like I wrote earlier about my mouse catching cat, I think many of our dogs have not been allowed to be real dogs.  Case in point, one of my two dogs.  I have a real dog.  My wife and step-daughter also have a dog who needs some help sometimes finding his inner dog-ness.  I'll let you figure out which is which below.

But what about us men?  Does anyone care about us reclaiming our nature as real men?  What's more of a danger to our world after all, pampered pets or wussified men?  Don't we need to worry about us men, or just our over-domesticated dogs? 

To answer this with a big dose of irony, let me show you something.  I first came across the Alpo Real Dog campaign through a contest I saw on a NASCAR website.  There was a link for the Real Dog contest and ad at  But when I first hit, a (supposedly) random pop-up ad flashed onto my screen for another event they were sponsoring.  Here's what I saw when I was just trying to enter my tough bulldog in the Real Dog contest I found while reading about stock car racing :

This is an ad for the inaugural Gay & Lesbian Consumer Conference, an event designed to help "300 brand marketers, creative officers, media executives, and entertainment moguls" "win a stake in the $700 billion gay and lesbian market," estimated at over 15 million individuals and which the Wall Street Journal called a "dream market."

Wow, how our world has strayed from God's laws.  What Scripture refers to as sinful, impurity, degrading, a lie, shameful, unnatural, indecent, and perversion - all in just two verses of several addressing the issue in the Bible - our society sees as a "dream market" of affluent, double-income-no-children customers to be marketed to.

So you tell me, with all the attacks on authentic, Biblical masculinity in our society, do we need a campaign for Real Dogs or Real Men?  Quick, get that man some Scripture!

Mar 19, 2010

Whose Man Are You?

As men, we seem to carry as many labels as we do responsibilities. Our lives are a constant balancing act between often conflicting priorities and demand on us in our many roles. Our character is tested by how we juggle these demands while trying to stay true to what we really consider important. What we call ourselves (or what others call us) helps to identify us, define our priorities, and distinguish us from other men who may choose to go by different titles. But when we settle on a single label, it also defines our primary role or our main priorities.

So what kind of man are you?

Are you a family man or are you a company man?

Do you dress and act more like a college boy or a working man?

Does the old Styx song Blue Collar Man remind you of yourself or just those guys down at the construction site? Do you follow Lynyrd Skynyrd’s call to be a Simple Man?

Maybe you see yourself as a ladies man? Or are you such a manly man that even your buddies at the gym consider you a real man’s man?

Hopefully you’re not known as a mamma’s boy. And even Christian guys rarely want to be called a choir boy. Don’t be a girly man or Hans and Frans will have to “Pump, you up!”

Useless Trivia Fact: Did you know that the term G-Man, slang for an FBI agent, originally came from the label of Government Man? Well now you do.

There are many labels we may wear, but what do they really say about us? If we look at the dictionary definitions of some of these terms we’ll see some key concepts that might explain what labels convey about us.

A family man is “a man devoted to his family and home.”  
   Nothing wrong with that, right?

A ladies man is “a man who strives especially to please women and to attract their attention and admiration.”
   OK, maybe not the highest calling for a man, but not too dangerous.

A company man is “an employee whose allegiance to his employer comes before personal beliefs or loyalty to fellow workers.”
   Warning Will Robinson, warning!

Notice the concepts in these definitions of allegiance, devotion, and loyalty. There’s also the idea of striving to please a particular group of people. These ideas relate to our focus and priorities.

So when you willingly (or unwillingly) take on one of these labels, you’re stating something about your life’s purpose and priorities. You’re telling the world what you as a man find important and who you’re trying to please.

With that in mind, is there any label that you would rather wear than Man of God?

However you want to phrase it - men of God, Godly men, or as one ministry calls them, God Men - these men have the following traits defining them:
  • Their ultimate allegiance, loyalty, and devotion are to Jesus Christ alone.
  • They put pleasing and obeying God above pleasing all others, including themselves or even those they love.
  • Their identity is found in their Christ likeness and their self worth is counted by the price that Christ paid to save them from their own sins.
  • Their priorities in all aspects of life are centered on their world view as fallen but forgiven sinners, redeemed and restored disciples, and graciously saved and sanctified new creations in Christ.
That’s a Man of God!

So how do you want to be known? What label best identifies you to others?  In other words, whose man are you?

And whose man am I?  As imperfect of an example as I’m sure to be, I’ll simply strive to be God’s man, that’s who!

Mar 15, 2010

David – Gentle Shepherd Boy or Mighty Warrior King?

What image do you have of King David of the Old Testament? Do you imagine him as a boy, holding a sheep in his lap while he quietly plays a harp? Or maybe you picture him squaring off against Goliath with only a sling and a few stones in his hand. Perhaps you think of him as a king, leading his armies or bringing back the Ark of the Covenant. If you’re more acquainted with modern cultural icons than Sunday school stories, you might picture Michelangelo’s great sculpture or Hollywood’s Gregory Peck or (Heaven forbid!) Richard Gere.

Most of us, however, don’t immediately picture David lusting after a naked woman, committing adultery, plotting murder, or watching as his family is torn apart. Yet, this is unfortunately part of his biography too.

As we’re trying to define Biblical manhood, it might be helpful to consider the life of David, as he was called by God “a man after His own heart.”  The question I pose is whether David was a gentle shepherd boy, the youngest of several brothers, a sensitive poet and musician; or whether he was a mighty soldier, leader of men, conquering king, and ancestor and archetype of Christ. The answer, of course, is yes, he was all of those and more.

However, I’ve noticed something when studying the life of David that reminds me of many men today, including myself. I believe that David, in some ways, was more of a man as a boy than he was as a full grown adult. Think about it for a minute. Many of David’s characteristics were evident throughout his whole life, including his love for God, his loyalty, his artistic abilities, and his bravery. However, other negative traits seemed to only appear as he got older. After a faithful and promising start as a boy and young man, David later fell into some of the oldest and most deadly temptations and sins facing men.

As a young man, David was already responsible, brave, and skilled. He claimed to have killed both a lion and a bear protecting his father’s sheep. But what strikes us most from his early life was his indignant attitude towards those who opposed God and his almost na├»ve bravery and boldness. We see this in the story of him facing Goliath. While other full-grown men, including his older brothers and even King Saul, feared the Philistines and their giant Goliath, David was shocked and disgusted at the way the Philistines mocked the God of Israel. Then, as if unaware of his apparent physical disadvantage, he boldly asked for a chance to face Goliath himself. Of course, he prevailed, but I’m sure his confidence and bold action shocked all who witnessed it.

It wasn’t until he was much older, after patiently waiting for God to replace Saul, after having the kingdom united under him, after marriage and children, in relative peace and prosperity, that David finally fell into great temptation and sin. We read in 2 Samuel 11, that “at the time when kings go out to battle”, that “David remained at Jerusalem.” Instead of leading his men into battle (his job as the king), he found himself idle and bored, restless in the lap of luxury with too much free time. In this time of his life, he finally found himself in temptation that he could not resist, and began a series of great sins which affected himself, another married couple, an innocent baby, his other children, and ultimately the nation under him.

How did the same brave, principled boy who would face a mighty giant to defend the name of God, become a man who could fall into such commonplace sin and depravity, even after seeing all that God had done for him for years? And if someone with the early promise of David could have such a great fall into sin, is it possible for even the godliest young men we know to fall as well? Of course it is, but how?

For every man, the temptations and life experiences we face will be different. But there may be a few typical temptations and dangers that we all face, which we will do our best to guard against if we are wise.

From David’s story we can see the danger of success and complacency. It seems that David may have been closest to God when he needed him most. When David was facing Goliath, or running from Saul, or betrayed by those he trusted, he relied on God and was close to him every minute. But as the years went by and David’s battles diminished, when he started to reap the rewards of success and wealth, he found himself bored and restless – and straying from God.

Of course, most men are naturally prone to sexual temptation. It’s interesting to note that David’s other sins of deceit, scheming, abuse of his power, and ultimately murder all started with just a lingering stare at a naked woman. How easy it is to fall into such a sin, but how powerful and dangerous that indulgence can be. Even a man after God’s own heart was not immune to such a temptation and we’d be foolish to assume we are.

Finally, I think we can learn from David that to stay close to God and out of trouble, we need a battle to fight. When David was fighting against evil, defending the name of God, he was never far from his presence. But when he laid back for a while and let others fight the battle, he lost his real purpose in life. Men, when we simply go through life without any real purpose, enjoying our domesticated lives, with no struggle or fight for good, the Enemy will find sinful distractions to occupy our idle time.

To the young men reading this, I urge you to maintain your enthusiasm for the Lord, to learn about him, obey him, and serve him with all your youthful energy and boldness. Never lose this, even after your life becomes filled with careers, marriage, children, and any number of other things as adults.

To my fellow middle-aged or older men, join me now in reclaiming the spirit we had in our youth, when there were great giants to face, when we had as much boldness as we now claim to have wisdom, when we had larger goals than just surviving until retirement, when we still believed we could make a difference for the Lord.

No matter what our age, we can learn from David’s example, both as a youth and as a man. Like him, we too can be men of God.
“The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart…” (1 Sam 13:14)
Will you be that man today - and tomorrow?

Mar 8, 2010

News Flash: Missing 12-Year Old Boy Found Safe in Father's House

Out of the entire recorded life of Jesus, there is only one written account of anything between his first year and when he began his public ministry at age 30. This one brief glimpse of Jesus as a pre-teen gives us insight into his childhood but also provides an important lesson about what it means to be a Godly man. Yet, remarkably, the story begins when Jesus’ earthly parents lose their son on a road trip for three days because he didn’t stay with them as he was expected to.

The story is recorded in Luke 2:41-51. To me, there are three remarkable things about this story. First, he was missing for three days; second, he was amazing the teachers of the law by age 12, and finally, his startling reaction and words spoken to his mother.

The first surprising observation in this story can quickly be explained through historical context. In our day, the thought of a child being missing from his or her family for three days sends chills down our spines. We would have certainly had an Amber Alert issued and the FBI on the case within the first few hours and been absolutely frantic to find our lost child. But in the time and place of Christ’s childhood, people traveled in large, extended family groups of many members. Children would have typically traveled and lived together for extended periods. It was the custom at the time for the men and women to travel separately, so it’s also possible that Mary and Joseph each thought their son was with the other parent. The text says that they noticed his absence after the first day, but didn’t find him until the third day. Apparently their first thought was not to go look for him in the temple back in Jerusalem, but more on that in a second.

The next aspect is a little more remarkable, at least until we remember who Jesus was in his incarnation. Jesus had remained behind the rest of his family to worship, learn, and perhaps even teach in the temple. At only age twelve, he was “astounding” the teachers of the law with both his questions and his answers. It would be very impressive for most twelve year olds in our day to impress scholars and professional religious teachers, but of course, Jesus was no ordinary boy. In addition to having a human nature, he was also still fully God. He knew the scriptures inside and out because, as God, he had divinely inspired their writing. Besides, as the eternal God, he had been there for every historical event recorded in the Old Testament, from before creation, through the whole history of Israel, through every prophet who often foretold of – Him!

Still the Jewish leaders at the time certainly did not yet realize that this small boy was the Messiah in their midst. He had not yet been baptized by John and the Holy Spirit. He had not performed his first miracle or preached his first public sermon. To anyone witnessing this scene, including even Mary and Joseph, he was simply the most remarkable boy they had ever witnessed.

Thus, the most amazing and startling element of this story is how the boy Jesus reacts and responds to his earthly parents, especially his beloved and loving mother. At first glance, it might seem that he may even be a little harsh with his mother. After all, he had been missing from them for days. Who knows what could have happened in that time. Any parent who has ever lost their child, even for just a few minutes, knows the panic and fear that immediately overwhelms you. I still remember losing my youngest son at Disney World, probably for no more than ten minutes, but the fear was immediate and intense. You can hear this in Mary’s question to Jesus, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” A mother today might have said it as “Where were you? Don’t you know we were worried sick?” We might think as parents, yikes, give poor Mary a break, she was terrified.

Yet, when Mary confronts her son about his absence, Jesus almost seems to rebuke her, and certainly offers no apology, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?”

How are we to take this? Was Jesus rude or insensitive to his own mother? Was he wrong to have left them for so long? Even if he wasn’t, shouldn’t he have at least shown his parents a little sympathy and remorse for what they had just gone through?

The Bible clearly answers these questions for us. First, we know that Jesus never sinned, not even as a child. So we can set aside the question of whether Jesus was wrong or disobedient to be gone or even in his response to his parents. Second, we also know that Jesus loved his mother (we’ll assume Joseph too even if it’s not stated so in scripture). Jesus apparently took care of his mother as an adult (perhaps after Joseph died). His last earthly act of love and honor to his mother was when he delegated her ongoing care to John, the disciple whom he loved. Finally, we know that God (Jesus included in the Trinity) exulted and honored Mary and spoke blessing to her through the angel Gabriel, a ministering servant of Christ.

So Jesus didn’t disobey his parents and wasn’t unloving or disrespectful to them. So why do we still have that initial reaction when we read this story? Because in our sin, and in our misplaced priorities, we still value pleasing people more than pleasing and obeying God. But Christ, as God himself, did not struggle with this. He was perfect in his priorities, and thus (the point I’m finally getting to) is that Jesus was a perfect model of a godly man, even as a twelve year old boy.

Jesus put his obedience to his Heavenly Father above even the quite appropriate and moral obligation to honor and obey his earthly parents. I suppose we can still ask why he didn’t at least tell his parents that he was staying behind, because the Bible doesn’t explain this. But the real confrontation only begins after he is found and his mother questions him in her heightened emotions of fear, relief, anger, and bewilderment. It is here that Jesus gives his mother, and us, a lesson in priorities. We would be wise, as Mary was, to listen and learn from the Master.

Jesus stated that he must be in his Father’s house. He states this as a given assumption, as if his parents should have known where he’d be, where his priorities were. Once he presents this as a moral choice, to please his parents wishes or obey his Heavenly Father, he again acts as if it’s a given what he would do. He didn’t even offer an apology for his absence. For Christ, the perfect man even as a boy, there wasn’t really a conflict or choice to make. He would be obedient to God. His parents, I suppose, should have known this.

But for us, we are faced with choices like this all the time. We choose whether to go to church or sleep in. We choose whether to speak up for God or keep quiet. We choose whether to tithe or keep “our” money. We choose whether to live like Christ or live like the world. For most of us, it’s anything but a given that we’ll be obeying God in all things.

For men, we are often vulnerable to a more subtle but powerful temptation in this area. When we love a woman, initially our mothers but later our girlfriends and wives, we can be tempted to put pleasing them ahead of pleasing God. For me in my first marriage, this was my greatest failure and a large part of why we ended up divorced. From our earliest dating period through most of our entire relationship (almost 20 years), I often put trying to keep my wife happy ahead of obeying God. As a result, we fell into sin, she lost all respect for me, and the relationship eventually degraded into contempt, mistrust, and misery.

Fellow men, ever since our brother Adam in the garden, our greatest temptation and potential failure as men is often to make our wives into idols. An idol is anything or anyone we serve and aim to please more than God. Of course we’re called to love and cherish our wives, even as Christ loved the church. But when we put pleasing them at all costs ahead of pleasing God, we are doomed to fail on both accounts. We will not please God, and in sad irony, we won’t even please the woman we spend our lives trying to keep happy.

Thank God that Jesus, even as a young boy gives us a wonderful example of how to be a man with our priorities in line. He put pleasing and obeying his Heavenly Father ahead of all earthly relationships, even above the woman he loved the most on earth. And women, praise God for the wise example he gave you in Mary, who after having very natural and understandable feelings (and I know how much you all feel), had the Godly attitude and insight to “treasure up all these things in her heart.” When Godly men put God above all else in their lives, Godly women will respect them and treasure it in their hearts.

Mar 7, 2010

15 Rules for Boys Not Found in the Bible (and 7 Which Are)

Boys will be boys…until they’re told enough times not to.

15 Rules we give our boys that you won’t find taught in the Bible:

1. No roughhousing.
2. Sit still.
3. No running.
4. Get down from there.
5. Quit fooling around.
6. Don’t play with matches.
7. Put that knife away.
8. Don’t get dirty.
9. Get back in the house.
10. No burping, belching, farting, or blowing snot bubbles.
11. Be quiet.
12. No shooting, not even for pretend, not even with your fingers.
13. Leave your little brother alone.
14. Tie your shoes, tuck in your shirt, and comb your hair.
15. Can’t you be more like your sister?

Now, 7 Rules for boys (and men) you WILL find in the Bible:

1. Run! Run the race until it’s won (1 Cor 9:24, Heb 12:1). Run away from sin (1 Cor 6:18). Run from an adulterous woman (Gen 39:7-12).

2. Get dirty! Subdue the earth (Gen 1:28), work the land (Prov 28:19), get sweaty (Gen 3:19).

3. Speak up, proclaim, and shout! (Mat 10:7, Col 1:28, 2 Chron 13:15)

4. Climb a tree or even a mountain when you need to! To meet with God (Ex 19:20), to see Jesus (Luke 19:2-6), even to make love to your wife (Song of Solomon 7:6-8).

5. Go out into the world! (Mark 16:15, John 17:18)

6. Know how to make a weapon out of anything! Out of a rock (1 Sam 17:40,49-50), some cords (John 2:13-16), or even a donkey’s jaw bone (Judges 15:15-16).

7. Forget tucking in your shirt, gird your loins! (Job 38:3)

Mar 6, 2010

Wanted: Real Men

...but only occasionally and in small doses

Every see one of your normally docile household pets really cut loose and act according to their original, non-domesticated, God given nature? It can be a thing of beauty when it happens, but our reactions to it may reveal something about our nature too.

When I was a teenager, living at home with my family, we once found a little white mouse in my brother’s bedroom. We corralled the mouse into my brother’s closet where it hid until I came up with a brilliant idea. Let’s get the cat!

I grabbed our normally wimpy, lazy house cat and put him in front of the closet door. He immediately perked up and alerted, obviously able to smell the invading rodent even before he could see it. The cat started scratching at the door, his tail flicking back and forth, ears up, eyes staring at the crack under the door, alternately meowing and growling as I teased at opening the door.

At first, I honestly thought this was just good, safe fun at the cat’s expense. I’ve never really liked cats, mostly because they’re not dogs. I fully expected the mouse to run away to another safe corner and our silly, domesticated house cat, foolishly pretending to be a lion, would be embarrassed and frustrated in his failed attempt to catch a little mouse. I was wrong.

As soon as I cracked open the closet door, the mouse ran out, straight towards the waiting cat. What I saw next was truly awe inspiring, if not unexpected. Quicker than I could believe, our cat swatted at the mouse, knocking the bewildered rodent from one paw, to the opposite paw, and then into his open mouth! Bam, bam, munch, as quick as that.

For at least three or four ignaseconds, we all stared at the cat, not knowing what to do next. The cat didn’t eat the mouse, but he had it fully in his mouth, except the long mouse tail coming out the side. Then the cat looked up at me, I swear, with pride and a sense of accomplishment in his eyes. He had captured the invader and he had done so with nothing more (or less) than his natural tools and abilities. Even my mom having him declawed so he didn’t scratch her furniture didn’t stop him from doing what he was made to do.

While I was marveling at our brave feline, and considering the new found respect I now had for him, my mom and sister started screaming at me and my dad to save the mouse and not let the cat eat him. My dad, ever the efficient engineer, quickly calculated that the best way to get the mouse out of the house was simply to transport him in the container he currently found himself in. So he picked up the cat, with the mouse still safely within his clenched jaws, and ran them both out the back door to the yard. Outside, I pried the cat’s mouth open and the unharmed, but no doubt terrified and confused mouse, ran out and into the safety of the nearby bushes.

The cat then looked up at me again, but this time with rejection and disappointment all over his furry face. Without speaking, I heard him say, “Hey, what was that all about? I thought I just saved the family. Why didn’t you let me finish the job?”

I couldn’t make the poor cat feel any better about what had just happened. After all, how can a house cat understand how cute women and girls find little white mice and how much domesticated fathers and sons do what they’re told? But for me, I always looked at that cat in a new light. For at least one brief moment in his life, I had witnessed what he was truly capable of. I saw a glimpse of his true, God given nature and ability. And I was impressed.

We men are like that cat too. We have abilities and instincts that make us able to do what we were created to do. We can be brave, we can be bold, we can control our emotions when we need to, and we instinctively jump into action when we need to provide for, defend, or protect our families. When we act within that nature, it can also be impressive to witness. But like our domesticated cats, we’re often constrained and controlled too for the sake of fitting in, being nice, and not scaring anyone. We’re taught to repress our nature and our abilities as protectors, defenders, and warriors. At least until we’re really needed.

One in a while, men are called (and allowed) to act like men. Let’s face it, even the most ardent feminist would probably like a big strong man by her side when she’s walking down a dark deserted sidewalk at night. Most wives sleep better when their husbands are home and trust that he’ll go investigate that strange noise she heard downstairs at 3 AM. And most children feel safe in their daddy’s arms, no matter how big or small those arms may be.

But usually, like my brave house cat, we’re kept in check and told to behave and play nice. Acting like real men can be scary, offensive, or even disgusting to some people. We might be called to catch the invading mouse, but we’re smacked in the head if we try to eat it.

Mar 4, 2010

Where Did My Boyhood Heroes Go?

When I was a young boy, and even through my teen years, I had plenty of strong male role models to look up to. There were cowboys, detectives, fighter pilots, and firemen on TV. I had my favorite pro athletes to cheer for. And in real life, God blessed me with teachers, coaches, and scout leaders who taught me about being a man along with their lessons in geometry, water polo, or knot tying. I was fortunate to have so many men to emulate and follow and their lessons are still with me as a man today.

But when I look around at our society and culture today, and watch who today’s boys and young men have to model, I see very few positive, male role models to mold our next generations of men. Where are the heroes for today’s boys to look up to? Who’s inspiring and teaching them to become strong, responsible men in the world?

Heroes on the Screen

When I was a boy growing up in the seventies and early eighties, there were plenty of real men all around me. Like any generation since the invention of the movie camera and the television, I found many of my role models through TV and movies. Today’s children are no different than I was, only I think I had more quality heroes to watch on my TV and movie screens.

I started out watching reruns of the Lone Ranger, a quiet but strong defender of moral justice, who had a faithful best friend by his side. Then there were crime solving detectives like Steve McQueen as Bullit, Starsky and Hutch, and Jim Rockford. But my favorite TV heroes were probably LA firemen paramedics Roy DeSoto and Johnny Gage in Emergency.  Plus, suave and cool Dr. Brackett on Emergency was played by an actor named Robert Fuller, so you know I was a fan of his.  These were some of the men I wanted to grow up to be. These were the TV role models that helped define masculinity for me as I was growing up.

But what appealed to me in these men? What did I as a young boy want to emulate in them?

On the surface, but a strong draw for sure, almost all of my heroes drove hot cars! I grew up in the decades of the muscle car, so most of my boyhood heroes drove around in big, loud, powerful Detroit muscle cars. As a boy, and let’s be honest, even well past when I had my first driver’s license, I pictured myself chasing bad guys (or maybe even running from the Sheriff myself) in any number of classic muscle cars.

My dad had a 1968 Pontiac GTO and not surprisingly many of my favorite heroes drove Pontiacs as well. There was the Bandit in his awesome black Trans Am, Ponch from CHiPs had a cheesier, but still awesome, gold Trans Am, and even milder mannered Jim Rockford chased, and sometimes ran from, bad guys in a gold Firebird. As soon as I had my first car, I immediately figured out how to execute a perfect J-turn just like Rockford did in almost every episode. I even taught my younger brother how to “pull a Rockford” as soon as he learned to drive.

Starsky and Hutch somehow worked undercover in their big, not-so-subtle red Ford Grand Torino. The Duke boys had their iconic General Lee, a ’69 Dodge Charger. And speaking of Chargers, who can forget the classic chase scene of Steve McQueen being pursued endlessly in his ’68 Mustang GT by a couple of anonymous but tenacious bad guys in a big black Charger? Even Batman and Robin (who I never really looked up to, given their tights and capes and the fact that I never saw either one with a girl) still protected Gotham from the seats of a menacing, black hot rod with mag wheels and flames shooting out the back.

Besides what these guys drove, I think I also looked up to what they did for a living, or at least how they lived their lives. These men spent their lives (in 30 minute chunks on my TV set) rescuing people and putting out fires, solving mysteries and chasing down criminals, fighting corruption, and defending whole communities. Most of them had a partner or best friend to count on. Even the Lone Ranger was never alone.

But mostly, these men were men. They had courage, strength, resolve, and talent. They could all take a punch and throw them even better. They could handle a 400 horsepower car through the turns and were just as good handling the curves of a beautiful woman. But these guys were also the good guys. They lived by a code. Even supposed criminal types like the Dukes of Hazard and the Bandit, still had a moral code they lived by that included defending the defenseless and fighting against corruption.

I didn’t know it at the time, sitting on my living room floor in front a big wooden TV set, but the Lone Ranger lived by a set of beliefs and principles that guided his every action and decision. The creators of the Lone Ranger character actually wrote a strict moral code for the character to follow. In fact, the men who played the Lone Ranger and Tonto, took their responsibilities as role models so serious, they even strove to live by this code in their own personal lives off-screen. Some of the beliefs of the Lone Ranger were;
To be prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right.

To have a friend, a man must be one.

A man should make the most of what equipment he has.

And belief in my Creator, my country, my fellow man.
These core beliefs came through the TV screen into my impressionable young mind. As far as I knew, this was just how good men acted. This was what it meant to be a real man. To act any other way would make you a bad guy, and I knew exactly what happened to all the bad guys.

Heroes on the Field

As any real American boy, I also played sports and looked up to my favorite athletes. I grew up outside of Philadelphia and played little league football and baseball. So when I played baseball I imagined myself throwing, catching, and hitting like Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Greg Luzinski, or Larry Bowa. On the football field I tried to throw like Ron Jaworski and tackle like Bill Bergey. One of my greatest childhood memories was getting to meet Eagles linebacker Bill Bergey at my little league football awards banquet. I was all of 98 pounds (in full gear and helmet) and only nine years old at the time. When I put my little hand into his and looked up at the smiling face coming through his big dark beard, he looked like a giant. Heck, to most full-grown NFL quarterbacks he was a giant. But to me he was a larger than life man of a man, taking a night off to hand a little boy in the suburbs his wooden plaque, and another example of someone I wanted to grow up to be.

Now before you complain that my impressions of my boyhood heroes were worldly and simplistic, let me explain something. I didn’t become a true Christian until I was an adult. So when I grew up with these childhood role models, I didn’t yet know all that the Bible teaches about authentic, Biblical manhood. I hadn’t yet learned very much about great Biblical heroes such as David, Moses, Joseph, Paul, Peter, the Sons of Thunder James and John, or even Jesus. My juvenile mind was judging these men on the screen and the ball field based only on what my natural male instincts valued. But even without a Biblical foundation, I was still drawn to honorable character traits and authentically masculine images of men. I think most boys are until it’s driven out of them. The man that I am now better understands what a real man is, by even as a boy I still instinctively knew what I wanted to be some day.

Heroes in Real Life

Of course, even better than my imaginary heroes on TV and in movies, I had a few real-life heroes to look up to. My grandfather and great-uncle fought in World War II but never needed to talk much about what they went through there. I didn’t learn until I was much older that my uncle never wore shorts or a short sleeve shirt, even in Southern California, because of the horrible scars he ended up with from when his Navy ship was sunk and engulfed in fire. All I remembered was how nice he always was to me. My dad taught me about sacrifice and providing for your family, being calm and steady in the midst of life’s storms, and how to show patience and strength at the same time. And he also drove a lot of awesome muscle cars in his day. I also had men as teachers whom I looked up to, a water polo coach that cared more about developing character in his young players than winning every game, and three great scoutmasters who committed their time to me and helped transform me from a little boy into a capable and respectable man.

Heroes Today?

But where are these role models for boys today? Where are the real men for them to look up to, to help form them into adult men capable of defending themselves and others, ready to fight evil, able to survive in this world, and guided by principles and values larger than themselves? Where are their examples to show them how to one day become good and Godly husbands and fathers, leaders in their communities, and defenders of what’s right? Where are today’s heroes for the next generation of men?

I look around today and I don’t see many male images I want my sons to emulate. On TV and in movies we have weak, stupid fathers, hen-pecked by their dominant but all wise and knowing wives. We see bumbling idiot Homer Simpson characters botching their jobs, failing their families, getting smacked between the legs or over the head, and becoming the brunt of most jokes. We see plenty of supposed males, so effeminate and metro sexual that they are almost indistinguishable from girls. Or on the other end of the gender distortion perspective, you have cartoon caricatures of what we’re supposed to accept as real men like professional wrestlers, narcissistic self-indulged body builders, idiot sexist violent racist rappers, and overpaid arrogant selfish professional athletes.

I almost can’t watch TV anymore without getting frustrated or depressed. I’ve seen young boys dancing and singing in basketball uniforms who’ve never even shot a basket for real. There are so many effeminate, lisping male hair stylists, clothing designers, interior decorators, models, and dancers on screen that it makes me feel like a GEICO caveman in comparison.

So how are today’s boys ever going to become men with role models like these? I worry that they won’t, but my goal is to help inspire some changes so that more will.  I hope to encourage more men to become positive male role models to their sons or grandsons, their students, their communities, and even as a standard for their daughters to see.  With God's help, we can be heroes as men once again.

Mar 1, 2010

Why a Blog For Men?

Today I’m starting a blog for men. Not just for any men, but for Christian men who desire to serve and glorify God by being what they were created to be – men. I intend my writings to be about true Biblical manliness, for true Biblical men (or at least those who want to become one some day).

We need to define what true, Biblical manhood is really all about. We need to paint a picture of what a real Man of God even looks like, since most of our society has forgotten or distorted God’s original image for men. We need to identify what manliness is not, to dispel and reject the myths, distortions, exaggerations, and lies we’re given in place of true manhood. We need to identify and combat the agendas, tactics, and efforts of many enemies who would marginalize, replace, or even destroy Godly men in our societies, churches, and families. And finally, we need to encourage men of all types to regain and embrace their true nature, to be real men, created in the image of God and designed specifically for a calling that only they are equipped for.

Why do we need this? Why is this so important to me?

Real men are disappearing

What once used to be a given in our world, as accepted and understood as gravity or the tides, is now under constant debate, confusion, and attack. That is, the concept of masculinity and the inherent value and need of it. In short, in most societies today (certainly in modern Western cultures), we are hard pressed to find many true men. We have feminized, emasculated “men” more concerned with being nice, keeping their wives happy at all costs, and not making waves or picking fights than being what they were really created to be. We also have exaggerations and distortions of genuine masculinity; the macho man, the insensitive jerk, the male chauvinist, and the sexist. Then there’s most of us in the middle, with some inherent lingering sense of being masculine, but feeling constant pressure to repress or eliminate that nature, to behave and fit in more as women, to embrace our sensitive side, to sit still, keep quiet, and play nice.

Certainly we have very few role models of real men today. Most so-called men we get to see on TV and in movies are either hen-pecked wimpy idiot husbands or cartoon exaggerations of all the ignorant and evil male traits we’re all supposed to eliminate. Gone are most balanced examples of quiet strength, confidence, competence, virtue, and wisdom. There aren’t enough solid examples of real men for our sons to emulate and follow or for our daughters to hold out for as a husband.

Real men are under attack

As men, every day we are surrounded by and bombarded with messages (some subtle, some not) to repress our masculine nature, embrace our inner feminine side, and stop acting like a bunch of animals. Most of us still have our competitive nature, instinctively want to somehow subdue and order the earth, and thinks it the right thing to do to help and protect our women and children, perhaps as our fathers or grandfathers did before us. But our societies tell us that these impulses are evil and ignorant, that we must fight to eliminate these antiquated and primitive urges, and become more like – well - women.

Real men need help

If you still want to be a real man, if you still feel God calling you to take a stand and be who you were created to be, if you still have moments when you think it’s OK to be a man, then you need help. But not psychiatric help, like society may be telling you. You need help in the form of affirmation, encouragement, and teaching. You need other men to lean on, fight next to, and even lead. You need to believe once again that it’s okay to be who you were made to be. If you have lost that belief, or had it beaten out of you, you may need even more help to recover what you’ve lost. Either way, you need other men, and you need God, to walk with you in your path back to your true Biblical identity as a man.

Why me?

Why is this my personal passion? Why do I want to pour my life into this endeavor? Two words – loss and restoration. Through struggling and failing with my identity and purpose as a man, I have experienced great personal loss. But praise to God, I have also been restored as a man and given a new hope for the future. I’ll detail my personal journey at another time, but in short, after an exciting boyhood and youth, then a 17-year marriage, I eventually experienced an unwanted divorce, loss of my two sons to parental alienation, costly and lengthy legal battles, and great financial strains, in large part due to losing my way as a man.  However, God has shown his unfailing love and mercy by giving me a renewed identity and purpose, the best wife a man could ask for, and even a wonderful step-daughter to help raise.

It’s my goal to take the personal tragedies I've endured, learn from them, and pass on my experience as a warning cry to other men so they don’t have to go through what I have. I also do this to praise God, my Redeemer, for his grace in my life and for the restored hope he has given me going forward again.

I can only humbly hope that my words, my personal experience through this journey, and my encouragement can help you in some way, no matter where you are today.