Would all the good men please stand up…

I was speaking to a single mom not too long ago, and she spoke rather candidly about the frustration she was experiencing with the father of her son.  (And rightly so, since he was failing on many fronts…)

She was also somewhat deflated by short fallings of the numerous (it seems) poor fathering examples (of men) found in the Bible.

David, Noah, Lot, Jacob, and Abraham (who also made some poor choices), and the list goes on…    From favouritism to infidelity and in some cases incest (yuck),  I agree some of the examples are quite hard to read.  (Should I even begin to mention others biblical characters who were less than stellar husbands?)   However, interestingly enough, still God had some positive things to say about some of those very same men.

I can understand how this could leave some women scratching their heads… (even when trying to make sense of these behaviours in the light of cultural and social historical norms)

So here’s the sacrilegious question, was God being sexist?  Does God care about proper fathering?

 

Here are my thoughts, and they are just my thoughts…

First of all, because God chose to highlight these men, (with bad rap sheets – from our vantage point) it doesn’t mean that other good fathers and husbands didn’t exist.   It doesn’t mean that they were a representational cross-section of all males from those time periods.   The Bible is not a survey.  These men don’t necessarily represent a cultural “riding” or some kind of social ratio.

So why did God chose some of these men (for example David -a man after God’s own heart, committed adultery; Noah “walked with God” yet was guilty of alcohol induced incest)?

Why?  That’s a good question.

Here’s a consideration, perhaps the overwhelming currency in the Bible is that of redemption and restoration,  and with in the best of all of us (male or female) is the very worst of us…  but God makes the difference.

 

In any case, men, you may have made a spectacular train wreck of your lives, leaving the carnage of damaged people and emotions (really, that’s not good), but God is good.

I’m always optimistic that whatever has happened in our lives, (yes, consequences will be faced) God can redeem and restore us,  and will say positive things about us.

One comedian said; It’s unfair that women call all men dogs… After all, dogs are so loyal…

 

God can help us aspire to live out and live in the qualities of true masculinity, and true manhood found in the Genesis Man.

 

One more thing men…November is “Movember”!  Be proud, grow out those mustaches and let’s bring awareness to the issue of Prostrate Cancer.

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We Are Sparta??

Happy New Year Genesis Men!

 

This morning I woke up with this reflection: Why is the vision of the Genesis Man so important to me?

 

The Genesis Man is simply just a way of existing as males, as men.   It’s a way of purposefully navigating the journey of being a male and being a man.  It’s a way of moving towards a destination with our eyes open.  We may never actually arrive, but I believe with all my heart, with the deepest part of me that there is great value in the journey.  It’s about living life well,  right where you are.

 

The Genesis man is about purpose, relationship and Christian spirituality.  You don’t have to be an expert in any area, no one is… but these “pillars” must be on your radar… your compass must point true north.

 

Many young men and men roam (…at best, meander…) through their existence without a defined sense of purpose, life vision (or at the least) employment.  Mentorship is the only antidote we have as males and as men to deal with this chronic ailment.

 

The Life Coach Program I’ve developed with James Morgan has four reflective exercises you can do with a mentor.  It could take the minimum of one to six months.  While attempting to persuade young men to get on board, I find that taking the plunge seems to be the hardest thing to do.  Equally challenging is persuading men that they need to take an active and proactive part in the lives of young men and boys.

 

One of the great myths (and it is a big one!!) of manhood and masculinity is that we can do it on our own.  Many young men and men struggle with their issues, sins, baggage, and lack of purpose on their own.  The feel that somehow, it’s more… well “masculine” to get it done by themselves.  (What a lie that is.)

 

We were meant to fight like the ancient Greeks (We are Sparta!) in a phalanx like formation.  As men, my shield is to cover the guy beside me, and another man’s shield covers me, and we move forward in our missions with our spears pointed at the enemy.  What is our enemy?  (I’ll get to that.)

 

I’ve often felt that the term “at risk” was much too narrow in definition.  At risk, in my vision, is not just about being at risk because of “risky” behaviours.

At risk means being at risk of not following or finding your purpose.  At risk is about not existing in the richness of relationships we were designed to participate in.  Being at risk is about not being the “kind” of men we could be, and I think that is the real enemy.

 

So gentlemen, Genesis men, boys, young men… I wish you a happy and prosperous and purpose driven 2015.  I invite you to email me and help me fulfill the vision of my heart to mentor and to make mentors, and to put you on the road to purpose.  What is keeping you from taking the plunge?

 

Israel Harriott

 

When Children are better off fatherless…

An assistant professor at Northwestern University wrote the article “When Children are Better off Fatherless”.  She starts off by saying…

 

“The 24 million American sons and daughters growing up without fathers are not all doomed.”

“Our society must not assume that these sons and daughters are damned.”

 

This is a true reality.  Growing up with a father doesn’t automatically make you a good person.  Growing up without a father doesn’t make you a bad person.  The Bible on this issue deals with “best practice”.  A mother and a father is the ideal situation for children.  Of course, however, we know that God can do anything with any circumstance.

 

The article then goes on to say…

“The government itself sends the message that children are better off with a father.  The reality is, many children are better off without their fathers.”

She then quotes a Cambridge psychologist, “We think it is misguided to see increased paternal involvement as a universally desirable goal.”

 

She grudgingly admits, “Certainly it is optimal to have two parents who love and nurture their children…”  but then slams the door shut in the same breath “…but rather than insist that all men can be good fathers, we should fill the lives of children with love and support from untraditional directions.”

What are “untraditional directions”?  Further more, all men can be good fathers, isn’t there potential for that?

She then makes it personal and explains, “The myth is personal to my family, because I raised my sons as a single mother.”

Myth?

I do not believe that many people can subscribe to her point of view, but the problem is that this philosophy finds its way into our culture and thinking.

If we deny the importance and necessity of fathers, do we not hinder those sons from their own destinies of fatherhood?  Yes, we as men do have our own very serious issues, and we must strive to be the “Genesis Men” that we were intended to be, but let us not limit the potential and power of change.  As the saying goes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

This Sunday at Erie Street Gospel Centre will be our Men’s service and I hope to do an exploration of fatherhood  through the life of Noah.

I hope you can join us!

Being Erica (Definitely not Eric): A Portrayal of Men in our Modern Society?

Being Erica is television show I don’t particularly recommend, but it is Canadian, which is nice. The concept is intriguing… Erica Strange travels back in time to redo and reassess some regrets that have brought her to her present set of life circumstances. Along the way she learns a lot about herself, relationships, and the world.

I do have a desire to understand psychology and human nature, and I must admit, that is what initially attracted me to the show -at least for a little while.

With Father’s Day just past, it put me in a rather reflective and contemplative state of mind, and I’m always intrigue at the portrayal of men in our modern media. Being Erica definitely isn’t “Being Eric”. The parade of male characters were far from impressive. The main character (Erica) had a boyfriend who was a pushover and largely unsupportive. The group member (and love interest) was a violent person from a violent past. Erica’s therapist also struggled from a violent past. There was another male group therapy member who couldn’t talk to women. Erica’s (spoiler alert) Jewish father cheated on her mother and they eventually divorced. Interestingly enough, the gay male couple were strong men in a committed and supportive relationship.

I have to say, what also got me was the two friends (a man and a woman) who were married (not to each other- of course) who had an interesting exchange as they were contemplating marital suicide. It came down to the male character noting that he was just not happy. The kids and the family were…well acting like kids and a family, and he just wasn’t …happy. Essentially, his feeling was “to heck with love and commitment”, I need some happiness.

At best Being Erica promotes a negative expectation and understanding of men. At worst, it portrays the reality of men in society.

Whatever the point of view, we (as men) can, and must still strive to be that authentic “Genesis Man”. Purpose/ Employment, Wisdom, Family/ Mentorship and Moral Responsibilities and Words of Declaration…these are the things that must represent us.

Being Erica (?) I wish that there could have been at least a really good Eric…

The Words of a Man

Declaration

 One of the pillars of the Genesis Man’s masculinity and manhood is that of declaration.  As a man, declaration is simply the things that you say to build up your family or those you mentor.  We see Adam (in Genesis 2) making statements of declaration about Eve not long after they first met.  He said that she was “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!”  In essence, he was saying, “How could I not but love this woman because she is made up of me!   I love you as if you were my own body!”  He said that “her name should be called woman…”  Right there he was helping her know who she was.

A true element of manhood is the responsibility we have to build up our children, wives and people we mentor.  I’m not a throw back from the Father-Knows-Best 1950’s, but I know that there is something powerful about the words a man speaks.  I believe that men were not just made to build bridges, buildings and automobiles, but we were made to build people.

Over the Christmas break I had the opportunity to watch the Gridiron Gang – a true story of a correctional delinquency organization that used a football program to help change the male young offenders.  While overlooking the more colourful language, there were some important lessons that were realized.  The main character (The Rock) -who was the coach, he never forgave his father for the hurtful things that were said to him.  The character “Willy” shot his stepfather who was verbally and physically abusive to him and his mother.  (Besides being a gang member, that’s how he ended up in juvenile detention.)

In one scene there was a visiting day, and a variety of people came to visit the detainees…girlfriends, mothers, buddies… but there were no fathers.  I kept wondering, “Where are the fathers?”  Through out the movie, I kept looking…  Some of the young men might have had absent biological fathers, but where were the stepfathers?

Socially, stepfathers have an uphill battle and are almost always depicted as abusive and relationally detached.   I mean, they always seem to get a bad rap, but are they not important and valuable as biological fathers?

Who was the best stepfather of all time?  The most famous was Joseph the stepfather of Jesus.  God put him in charge of His Son.  There is no one more vulnerable than a child, and the Child Jesus was in the hands of Joseph.  God valued, and still values stepfathers.  The situation may not be ideal, but as men, we fill in wherever we can -be it as a father or a stepfather.  I can bet Joseph was a “Genesis Man”.  The New Testament may not have recorded the declarative words he said to build up his wife and his Stepson, but it was so obvious by looking at how he lived and loved.

I challenge all men, fathers, stepfathers and mentors…buy a $1 journal from a dollar store and write words of declaration to your sons, daughters, wives and the people you mentor.  Give one to each person in your life, and regularly write in the journal and give it to them.  Tell them who they are in Christ.  Tell them lovingly about the pitfalls of life and encourage them.  Help define their identities.  Tell them that you love them.  Men, let’s build a whole generation of people, and lets start in 2013.

Israel

Striving to be a Genesis Man

Defining the Genesis Man

What is a man?

The potential problem with Men’s Ministry is the definition of what is masculine.  If our definition of masculinity is culturally based, it may not be inclusive enough to embrace all men.  If it’s just about sports, what about the man who isn’t athletic?  What about the man who may enjoy a hobby that’s not considered “manly”?

I’m not saying that to be effeminate is acceptable; rather masculinity should be defined in a biblical context which is free from the vacillating culture.  What does culture say about men?  Physically men are to be big, burly “hunks”.  They should have tattoos, participate in activities that are adventuresome, dangerous, competitive, loud, and violent.  They should drink beer, have a strong sexual drive,  be objective, problem solving, rationalizing, assertive, controlling, egocentric, controlling, autocratic, dictatorial, performance/ achievement, goal oriented, detached, emotionally suppressed and uncommunicative beings.  (To name just a few…)  Now I am not saying that we should abandon all cultural norms of masculinity, I am just saying that we should be aware of what the Bible has to say regarding the subject.

Now, who is a man?  What is more devastating than when a woman (or even another man) utter the epitath:  “You are not a man!”  If a male (of age) is not a man, then what is he?  Is it a wonder that there tends to be confusion out there?  There is a lack of on the job fathers and male role models, and maybe even a slight feminization of education.  A man should never be accused of not being a man.  The real question is not whether a man is a man, (God settled that when he made the person male) the question has always been, “What kind of man is that man?”   Men should strive to be like the “Genesis Man.”

In Genesis 2:7 the Bible states quite magnificently that God created man –Adam.  God made him from the dust of the earth and “man became a living soul.”  God made man to become “living” –meaning lively, active.  Man was devoid of life and activity, and then God breathed “soul” into man.  It is a term that comes from the idea of breath.  Soul: the seat of emotion, a platform for eternal life –God gave this to man.

Everything that God made in the beginning was perfect, including man.  Adam, the original Genesis Man, was made in the image of God.  By examining Genesis 2, and treating Adam as the prototype of masculinity, we can find elements of true manhood.  Specifically, these elements are revealed; Work/Purpose, Moral Responsibility, Family Relationship, Wisdom and Declaration.  From these ideas Men’s Ministry can be transformed.  However, let’s unpack it through some closer observations.

Scripture References Genesis 2:15-23

15Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

18 And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.

23 And Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”

The Genesis Man could be defined by these five elements.  Although they are revealed in the above order, it may not necessarily indicate hierarchy.  The Genesis Man seems like a “Genesis Hand” involving five fingers.  No digit is more important than the other, but together the hand functions in unity and purpose.

Elements of Manhood and Masculinity [cont]

Work and Purpose

As soon as Adam is created –a fully grown man, God’s first inclination is to put him to work.  God took the man and put him in the garden and said “tend and keep it.”  It seems that work is an important part of the identity and purpose of a man.  Underneath the activity of work lies the element of being committed to care and tend for something -purpose.  God’s desire for a man is to take care of something; it is to work in whatever “garden” we find ourselves in.

Now I do not know if there were any weeds, probably not, but whatever is implied by tending, there was work to be done.  Maybe Adam had to keep the lions from eating the bark off the mango trees, I’m not sure.  Nevertheless Adam was involved in some kind of physical labour.  Even before there was need for a paycheque, there was need for a job.

During the 1930’s when North America was in the grips of the Great Depression, it was particularly difficult for men.  The inability to work and provide for their families had a devastating impact on men.  A man needs to be active –God has hardwired this desire into the very fabric of our being.

“Tilling the ground” goes beyond just the idea of merely punching a clock.  In Genesis 2:5, God makes the statement; “and there was no man to till the ground.”  What a curious thing to say before His creation of man.  He spoke in that same scripture about the mist watering the ground, highlighting the organizational processes of natural creation, and then He makes the previous mentioned statement.  “There was no man to till the ground.”  This was not just about real estate ownership.  This seems to indicate an important relationship between men and the earth.  There are those who for various reasons can not work.  In the deepest sense we can see that tilling and caring speaks of purpose. It is indicated that men have a special purpose and their presence is required for the earth.  Men were created to be an integral part of the earth.  Men are created for a function and a purpose.  God made the garden before He made man and therefore men were designed with purpose in mind.

One aspect of Men’s Ministry is need to create a network to help support those who are looking for jobs, and provide opportunities to prepare our young men for the workforce.   We need to help each other discover our purpose.

Moral Responsibility

Can the ability to make moral choices really be considered an element of masculinity?  In verse 26 we see that God tells men that there is a need for parameters in his life.  We see Adam (our prototype) being given a commandment to righteous responsibility.  “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

There was a moral choice, and Adam was responsible for doing the right thing.  He was given the opportunity to obey.   This leads me to believe that living right must be an element of true manhood and masculinity.  Don’t you hear Jesus’ words a few thousand years later on the hillside in Palestine?  “If you love me, keep my commandments.”  Why don’t we associate morality with manhood?  Adam was expected to live in obedience to God.

Interestingly enough there is much freedom in the parameters of righteous choices, and if one examines carefully, it is noticed that the parameters are not narrow at all, but quite wide.  God told Adam that he had the freedom to eat of any of the trees in the garden but one.  With my imagination, there must have been hundreds, maybe thousands of consumable possibilities, each tastier than the next!  All God said was not to eat of that one.  Like the men we are, isn’t it always those few choices, those few things that constantly trip us up?  Sex, power, money…  Is this not where many make questionable choices?

A man has an obligation to making righteous choices because God has commanded him to make them –with the understanding of dire consequences.

Family Responsibility

Isolation is not good for men.  All through the beginning God’s pronouncement on things are; “good”.  Throughout his creation be it animals, or land masses or constellations, we see that they were declared “good.”  After man’s creation God said that it was not “good” for man to be alone.  Why?  Maybe it was the plurality and partnership that naturally existed and was contrasted by the singleness of man.  The Father, Son, and Spirit were the Trinity.  The animals were created male and female.  There was a connection between things; heaven and earth, land and sea…  Still, man did not have an equal or a balance.

Why would God insist that being alone was not good?  Personally, I find that those times of lonesomeness often bring the greatest opportunity of temptations.   Also, it could refer to the gregariousness of the human heart.  Solitude is good at times, but aloneness is not good.

God then decides that Adam’s life needs a family, (verse 18).  The Genesis Man is not alone; he has a wife made by God.  He has a responsibility to care for his family for it is given by God.  By no means is a man not a man because he doesn’t have a wife.  A man is a man.  Period.  That doesn’t let a man “off the hook.”   Mentorship is also family responsibility because we are all children in God’s family.  Men are responsible to care for and lead boys and other young man, just as if they were their own.

Wisdom

Why did God give Adam the opportunity to name the animals? (verse 20)  The Genesis Man has some connection with wisdom.  As men we need to have wisdom, knowledge and understanding –the clarion call of Solomon.  Looking further, how could Adam name the animals? Isn’t that a rather lofty expectation?  As far as he (Adam) was concerned, he had just gotten there not too long ago.  God, however, knew His creation, and He must have designed Adam with the creativity, capacity, and resources to accomplish this task.  Adam with the insight of observation perhaps was the very first naturalist.  Before we (our organization) were the Genesis Men’s Ministry it evolved from the Proverbs Men’s Ministry.  As a matter of fact, the vision of our Men’s Ministry flows right out of Proverbs:

Prov 4:4 He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live.  Prov 4: 11 I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths.

(Our Mission) 

SPEAK:  Men engaging others into conversations –transferring their experiences and Knowledge – guiding youth through manhood (Prov 4:4)

TEACH: Sharing the Word of God with youth and each other –travelling together and supporting one another through the Journey of Manhood. (Prov 4:11)

LEAD:  Leading boys and young men into and through manhood through ceremony, special projects and events.  (Prov 4:11)

As of November 2012 the key words of the mission change to more tightly express what we were doing.  ( An effective ministry is always tightening and sharpening its vision and mission.  The more you grow in a ministry, the more you learn.)  The above words are still essential elements in what is done, however the change was as follows: Share, Encourage and Honour.

SHARE values with “Josiah” boys through trips, “Rites of Passages”and pre-teen programs.

ENCOURAGE maturity in our young men through planned ceremonies, celebrating “growth check points”, while guiding and challenging them.

HONOUR our Senior men through “Legacy Interviews” and participating in “Acts of Service.”

Declaration

The Genesis Man is a man of declaration.  When Adam saw Eve, he declared “she is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”  Who was he talking to?  God did the operation, so He already knew.   Adam was making a declarative statement –probably to Eve, saying “How can I not love and care for this woman?  After all, she is literally made up of my bone and my flesh.”

On that same level, Adam named Eve, he defined who she was.  Adam said that she should be called Woman.  Declaration is the God given responsibility to guide those like our wives and children in understanding who they are in Christ, and who they can become.  As men, when we seek to be God-breathed and living in that right relationship in Christ, we can with all confidence help those know who they are, as we remain under the consultation of the Holy Spirit.

The words we speak to the people in our sphere of influence –be it family or those we mentor, matter and define the quality of men we are.  I would argue that true masculinity can be reflected through our lips.  Mom might talk too much and dad too little, but when he speaks the children listen.  This is not just a 1950’s (now extinct) father-knows-best mentality, but it is one of the key functions of a man.

On a personal note, because I find it difficult to say planned words of encouragement to my children (I don’t know why) I decided to do so with journals I purchased from the dollar store.  I write in those journals and I tell my children in descriptive language who they can be and who they are.  It doesn’t matter if they have not arrived there as yet.  Children look forward to the words of their fathers, as a matter of fact when I did not write in their journals for a while, I get a reminder from my children to say something.  (They also like to write back to me sometimes, and I find it to be such an encouragement to me.)

There is more to say, but I’ll save it for another time.  I will say, however, that as I was working through these truths I realized that I overlooked a key linchpin… the most vital aspect of masculinity and manhood is relationship with God.  Without this, it is impossible to be a true “Genesis Man”.

I. Harriott

Journey Through ManhoodImage