Friday, November 13, 2009

Pastor Dad

On the flight home from Rwanda, I read one of Driscoll's new "books" (at 45 pags – it's really more of a long pamphlet) called Pastor Dad. This is a book that was written to be given away, and can be downloaded for free here. I really admire big time Christian pastor guys who give away books. It says a lot about their character. (Incidentally, Rick Warren, after his Purpose Driven Life book sold like hand sanitizer at a mom's convention, wrote a check back to the church for his salary up to that point - all 20+ years. And Dennis Rainey has given every penny of book royalties back to FamilyLife for ministry use – well over 1 million dollars).

So I read the book and it was interesting – though a bit heavy handed at points (which is to be expected at times with Driscoll). There were some parts that will resonate with many (Italics are my comments):

"The safest place for children is with a man who fears the Lord."

"Before any father disciplines his children, he is commanded to delight in them." This is so true, and would solve many discipline problems men face with their children.

"One night while tucking my daughter into bed, I asked her, 'What should a good daddy do?' She said, 'A daddy should make a lot of money, read his Bible, teach his kids, love his kids, be silly and have lots of fun.'" – Well said!

"A wise dad may realize that a personal quiet time for himself is unwise; rather than hiding away in a quiet place to read the Bible, it is often best to do so in the noisy living room where the kids can see and climb on their dad while he reads his Bible." - This reminds me of a man who had it as his goal that his kids would always find him studying his Bible at the kitchen table when they woke up. One of his Children recalled that they could only remember a handful of times when he wasn't doing that very thing.

He also tells a great story (Ch7) of how he disciplined his out of control son and restored their relationship in the process. He concludes the story with the biblical truth that it is the father's role to "lovingly lead their children toward heartfelt repentance of sin." These two pages (35-36) are worth reading for every father.

A few good pointers along the way and lots of encouragement to be a man. Might be a good resource to pass along and discuss with other men in your church. But please review it yourself before doing so.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Bit of Wisdom

Appearances are deceiving.  Things are not always as they seem.  I've had too many conversations with men that seem to be walking the walk, just to watch their marriages disintegrate later as they pursued suppressed passions, those not put to death at an earlier time (Rom8.13).  Of course, I've seen many women do the same.  The sad part is, this tendency rests in the heart of us all, the tendency to be man pleasers instead of God pleasers.  The tendency to look the part, yet be dreaming of another world on the inside.

Once again, a bit of ancient Jewish wisdom from Rabbi Nathan to pull us back to center:

There are four types [of disciples] among those that frequent the study house:  One takes his place close to (the sage) and is rewarded; one takes his place close to (the sage) and is not rewarded.  One takes his place at a distance (from the sage) and is rewarded; one takes his place at a distance and is not rewarded.

One engages in discussion and is rewarded; one engages in discussion and is not rewarded.  One sits and keeps quiet and is rewarded; one sits and keeps quiet and is not rewarded.

If one takes his place close to (the sage) so that men might say, “There’s so-and-so drawing close to and sitting down before a sage,” he is not rewarded.

 If one takes his place at a distance so that he might honor someone greater than he, he is rewarded.

 If one takes his place at a distance so that men might say, “So-and-so has no need of a sage,” he is not rewarded.

 If one engages in discussion in order to understand and learn, he is rewarded.

 If one engages in discussion so that men might say, “So-and-so engages in discussion in the presence of sages,” he is not rewarded.

 I one sits and keeps quiet in order to listen and learn, he is rewarded.

 If one sits and keeps quiet so that men might say, “There’s so-and-so sitting quietly in the presence of sages,” he is not rewarded.

So one appears to be learning, but is merely self promoting.  One appears to be serving, but is self-serving.  Motives can be difficult to discern - even our own. 

I remember years ago i was invited to a man's house to meet a church-planting missionary.  I was excited to go, but I ruined the party.  It didn't occur to me until months later that I had just wanted everyone to see how much I knew.  As I talked with this man about church and theology, it was all about me.  It had nothing to do with anyone else there.  What fun, to watch a guy trying to puke up every bit of information he has stored on a topic.  How sad.

Yet great men, like Billy Graham, are life-long learners.  A man who studied him, even wrote his PHD dissertation about his evangelism techniques, had an opportunity to meet Billy Graham.  Once BG found out about the PHD, he began to ask this man to help him improve his evangelism.  The man was dumb-struck, "but I learned everything I know from you!"  Yet BG would not let up, he wanted to improve.

So how can one know that they are motivated out of pure intentions?  Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh (Gal 5.16).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Actions of a Wise Man

Rwanda has a heavy respect based culture.  Sure, this can be abused and lead to a superiority complex in some, but the concept is good.  It plays out in many aspects of life, like the way people shake hands (looking down and slightly bowing) or hold a conversation (always waiting for others to finish - not rushing to interrupt someone).

This morning I read from an ancient Jewish text called The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan.  In it is a description of a wise man:

Seven qualities characterize the wise man: 

  1. He does not speak before him that is greater than he in wisdom or in age.
  2. He does not break into his fellow's speech.
  3. He is not in a rush to reply.
  4. He asks what is relevant and replies to the point.
  5. He speaks of first things first and of last things last.
  6. Of what he has not heard he says:  "I have not heard," and is not ashamed (to admit it).
  7. And he acknowledges what is true. 
A few comments:  

Over the last year I've tried to be intentional to follow #5.  Many are guilty of answering questions that no one is asking - or of merely rambling on about something to display your knowledge, rather than actually answering the question.  This has been a challenge for me and I'm praying for growth.

Also, related to #6, the Lord provided some amazing examples for me in the form of a professor and two fellow students in Phoenix.  All three of these men are incredibly bright and have a wealth of knowledge, yet they were never ashamed to admit ignorance of a matter.  They were hungry to learn and for that I am grateful.  A weak, insecure man (i.e. myself for many years) is afraid to admit ignorance, because he is more concerned about appearing wise than actually being wise. 

May we seek knowledge and hunger for wisdom, so that we may hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt 5.6)!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Some Reflections on Rwanda

Just returned from the most AMAZING trip to Rwanda.  The country has made unbelievable strides from the 1994 genocide - it's really quite remarkable.  My personal observation is that they have been able to move forward because of their willingness to embrace the past and learn from it.  The government continues to encourage the people to talk about their genocide experiences - to remember what happened and share it with the world.  Not in a bitter way, but in a way that brings healing.  They have a number of genocide memorials and burial grounds throughout the country.  It's hard to believe that this country is so small (about the size of Maryland, yet with 9 Million people - most densely populated African country) because the hearts and the vision of the people are so big.

I returned home to a birthday gift from my parents - Churchill's six volumes on WWII.  In Volume 1, The Gathering Storm, he states, "it would be wrong not to lay the lessons of the past before the future."  He called WWII "the unnecessary war," for he believes there was never a war more easily avoidable.  So the Rwandan people are moving forward by remembering the past and using it to heal.  They are preserving a horrific memory and allowing it to drive them towards a new future together.  And you can feel a buzz about the future all over the country.  "Vision 2020" is a program promoted by the government, and everyone is talking about it.  I was in a home in a small village in a very rural part of the country, and they even had a poster about it on their wall (very close to a 2-Pac poster).

And the priorities of the government seem right - symbolized by the still bullet ridden parliament building.  A dictatorial regime is more interested in appearances than reality.  They want to appear strong - so they build big palaces and neglect the people.  In Rwanda, they left the Parliament building full of cannon holes (even 15 years later), and are instead filling the holes in the roads and electricity grid.  This is the power of remembering.

This stands in stark contrast to Theodore Roosevelt.  I finished a gripping biography about him while in Rwanda called The Rise of Theodore RooseveltIt's a book I think every man should read and, if possible, read it with your son.  But his response to the tragic loss of his wife was to end the chapter of his life and never return.  At 24 years old, he was serving in the NY state legislature.  His wife died giving birth to his first son with a month left in his term.  Weighed down with sorrow, he finished his term and set forth on a 5 week western expedition in solitude.  But before leaving, he penned a tribute letter to his wife, then went west and grieved.  When he returned from the trip, he never spoke publicly about his first wife again.

I shared this story with a man I met in the airport in Nairobi.  He was returning from a 5 week tour of Eastern Africa - a trip he had dreamed about for years.  His first wife left him years ago and he was still healing.  He went alone to find recovery and restoration.  After telling him the story, I thought he was going to cry.  He shared that he went to Africa on a mission - to Climb Killimanjaro.  Part of the mission was to reach the top and burry a letter he wrote to close the very painful chapter of his life involving his divorce and the death of his father.  He spoke of his excitement to return home to his girlfriend, who is now expecting (coincidentally, we share the same due date of May 10th).  We flew to Amsterdam and re-united there to chat more.  While walking around the airport for over an hour (to stay awake) he shared that he was buying an engagement ring in the airport - BIG STEP!

I started reading the book, Adopted into God's Family on the plane ride home.  It's a theological evaluation of the doctrine of adoption.  The most beautiful part of this book is the reminder that God is the perfect father.  Though we all have failures in our family:  divorce, death, bad parenting experiences, difficult children, we can depend on God to be the perfect Father, and we can learn from Jesus how to be the perfect Son.  While in Rwanda I taught pastors about the Gospel of John.  I couldn't get over how often Jesus talks about his Father in the book.  Every time he taught the disciples or a crowd, he goes on and on about his Father (try circling the word "Father" in your Bible in the book of John and see where it show up the most).  In chapters 14 and 15, he's teaching the disciples before he heads to the cross, and all he can talk about is his Father.  Their love for one another is perfect and pure, and even in our messed up, war riddled world we can depend on their example.

One of the more striking things to experience in Africa is seeing men holding hands.  It is a common practice for men, who are just friends, to hold hands.  In America, that means one thing:  homosexuals.  But how beautiful to see pure love displayed by the simple act of holding hands.  Close friends showing camaraderie and intimacy publicly.  This struck me as a good thing - and was especially meaningful when my son, while walking through the airport, instinctively reached up and grabbed my hand.  It was good to be home.