Publication: One-to-One, Autumn 2008
HOW TO RESPOND TO THE GREATEST CRISIS IN OUR GENERATION
The defining characteristic of the emerging generation here in America is fatherlessness.
We live in a generation who increasingly do not know their fathers, nor the God of their forefathers. The defining characteristic of the emerging generation here in America is fatherlessness. I’ve heard my own Dad teach on godly fatherhood, and heard him warn that “Father failure affects us all.”
Recently, Dad was ministering to a group of men, and shared about how both Hitler and Stalin were shaped by the lack of a good father in their lives. Because of their policies and the wars that resulted from them-it is estimated that 80 million people worldwide died. Dad studied the lives of 14 of the most notorious and destructive characters of the past 150 years, including Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, and discovered that none of them had a good relationship with their fathers.
Let me hasten to note here that if you did not have a good relationship with your father, that doesn’t mean you are a bad person or that you are cursed to do bad things. It does mean that you have had to overcome significant hurdles in your own path to manhood or womanhood. And it’s very difficult to discover how to be a good father or a good mother if you have not known what it means to be a son or daughter. Difficult … but, thank God, not impossible.
That is why spiritual fatherhood and godly mentoring for the next generation are so important in times like these. For anyone who has not known what it means to be fathered in your own natural home, God has made provision through spiritual fathers. (I am focusing here on natural and spiritual fathers because there is a profound shortage of both in homes and in churches today.)
THE FATHER CALLS FATHERS
Fathers are called to initiate, nurture, encourage, train, discipline, protect … to profoundly shape their children by demonstrating and speaking the truth in love. Fathers, naturally and spiritually, are called to give identity, security, direction, and focus to their children. Young men need fathers to show them how to be a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good brother. Young women need fathers to show them what a good man looks like, so that she might learn to discern the difference between a shepherd and a seducer.
Natural fathers ought to be the first of many models of godly manhood to their children. Fathers-both natural and spiritual-can be a link between the wisdom of the past and the opportunities of the future.
We should also say that fathers are called to war against the militant anti-family forces that are running amok in society and even in some segments of what is called “Christianity.” This battle must be fought in the Spirit, with spiritual weapons; and, with godly wisdom, knowledge, and action. The enemy of our families is relentless, ruthless, and cunning. This enemy will not be pacified and he cannot be ignored, but he can be defeated by the anointing of the Holy Spirit filling godly men who are willing to take personal responsibility to reach their own homes and fatherless children in our communities.
The enemy’s toll in the past two generations has been heartbreakingly high. Teen pregnancy, abortion, suicide, drug addiction, gang warfare, sexually transmitted diseases, abuse, and abandonment have beset our children. Today, atheism, cynicism, depression, despair loom large in young lives. Among all too many teens, life seems cheap and pointless; heritage is devalued and disdained; senior citizens are disrespected and disregarded.
The faith of the Christian student in secular colleges lasts, on average, through the first semester. Many colleges and universities see it as part of their mission to challenge, undermine, or even attack the teaching that students have received from parents, churches, youth groups, and previous schools. To the students who are unprepared or improperly grounded in faith, this undermining effort-coupled with the other pressures that college life offers with sex, alcohol, drugs, and other lifestyle issues-can have a devastating and lasting effect on their souls. According to some surveys, the percentage today of the American population that identifies itself as Evangelical Christian is 36%; but that plunges to 4% within a generation if trends do not change. The ramifications of that projection are startling.
My point would be this: it need not be so! In order to reverse this tide, it is urgent for every godly father to renew their commitment to God that they are going to take personal initiative to reach out person ally: it starts, of course, with our own families, but we must extend this concern to the friends of our children and their families, as well as to the youth of our churches and communities.
A LOST GENERATION
The inter-generational connection must be made strong and it must be made now. If we fail in this hour, in this generation, then it may be said of us what was said of a lost generation in Israel:
“…another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals; and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers….And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies” (Judges 2:10-12; 14).
When we read the history of ancient Israel, particularly in Judges and Chronicles, we see a repeated pattern of the people forgetting the ways of the Lord; God giving them over to their own destructive desires; wicked kings arising; wicked behavior and idolatry ensuing; failure and suffering coming as a result; desperation and sorrow leading to repentance; God mercifully restores them; that generation dies off and a new generation rises up that does not know the God of their fathers, nor do they walk in His ways. This pattern has continued too often throughout history since as well. If something doesn’t change in America in this generation, then the same will be said of us also.
Our founders and great leaders of earlier generations would not recognize the incoherent, self-centered, and shallow ethos of much of America today. What passes for wisdom in high places such as the Supreme Court or various Circuit Courts would rightly be decried as foolishness by heroes of the past. And many of the decisions being made by these courts will be cursed by future generations, if any generations survive.
SAVE THE MALES
Boys are falling further and further behind in school, young men are fleeing the Church, and husbands and fathers are fleeing their families and responsibilities. We will not discover what it truly means to be men from any other source apart from the One Who created and called us to be men.
Too many men have been shaped by Hugh Hefner’s “Playboy Philosophy” and too few by the Sermon on the Mount. God told Job, “Gird up your loins and act like a man!” It’s time for us to buck up and take responsibility. Wrong models of manhood will doom the next generation to destruction; we are not called to be feminized, spine-challenged wafflers; self-centered and vain metrosexual bimbos; macho sex- stalking lust slaves; violent hot-heads; willfully obtuse rednecks; flesh-focused Nimrods; apathetic and passive slumber mongers; hippy dippy purveyors of sloppy agape; grumpy old hope crushers; or anger-driven rebels without a cause or a clue.
The destiny of the man of God is so much higher and greater than the models we currently see paraded in the media, in education, in entertainment, or even in many churches and homes. And the fulfillment of this destiny is not for the glory of man; it is for the glory of God and the salvation of this generation.
Dads, your faith and your family are not the responsibility of the Church or the state. Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s important for you and your family to be a part of a spiritual family and, there’s a place for you to function within the larger culture with its benefits and responsibilities. But, God gave your wife and your children to you.
Did you know that you are called to be the spiritual leader of your home? You may have a church pastor, but God has called you, Dad, to be the pastor in your home. You are to be, under God, a prophet, priest, and king in your house.
How is that working out? Do you ever pray with your family? Do you ever share the Word together? Do you talk about the Lord together? What kind of example do you set at home? How is your own walk with the Lord?
Maybe it’s going great-if so, maybe you can be an encouragement and strength to another brother. Or, maybe things have been a little tough around the house lately. Maybe the struggles you are having with your wife and kids are because you need to get right with God yourself. Maybe you’re having a hard time getting them to be accountable to you because you are not being accountable to the Lord or to spiritual authority.
TURNING THE HEARTS
Wherever we are today as men, we can have hope for renewed strength, restoration, and purpose from the Lord. When the enemy comes against your family, you have authority from the Lord Jesus Christ to stand in His power and rebuke the destroyer. You can receive the promise of God which says: “I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children” (Isaiah 49:25).
My friend Keith Currie, the founder and principal of Covenant Christian School, says that too many boys are trying to learn how to be men from other boys; and therefore, when they grow up to be men, they are still acting like boys. We need to encourage strong inter-generational connections for the sake of all generations.
Malachi prophesied that the Messiah would “…turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse”(Malachi 4:6). If Jesus had not come, then the last word in the Bible would have been “curse”. But, joy to the world, the Lord has come! Who came to reveal the Heavenly Father and taught us to pray, “Our Father,” has also anointed the hearts of fathers and children to bring restoration in relationship and revelation of purpose.
Scripture Reference: Judges 2:10:12; 14; Isaiah 49:25; Malachi 4:6