I’ve been doing a lot of interviews lately in conjunction with my new book and the launch of the new era of Promise Keepers. A lot of the questions are the same, but every now and then a question takes me by surprise, and I answer from my heart more than my head.
This was the question, “Why is it that you have such a heart for men’s issues that you are bringing Promise Keepers back?” It was a fair question, and my answer was immediate: “I don’t really have a heart for men’s issues. I have a heart for women and children.”
This might not have been the smartest thing for the head of a men’s ministry to say, but it welled up within me and I couldn’t answer any other way.
Women and children are the ones who suffer when men are screwed up. If it’s true as Josh McDowell says that 70 percent of men in the church look at pornography twice a week or more, who are our daughters supposed to marry? How are we supposed to expect men to treat women with respect as their partners unless we change the hearts of men?
What I saw in my days as an LAPD street cop in South Central is that almost all the problems in this world come from the pride and the greed of little men.
Calling men to be men isn’t chauvinistic or somehow against women — although it is countercultural and controversial. But it is a fact that when men check out of their families, women suffer the most, and so do their children.
Look at all the ministries fighting sex trafficking in the world. They’re all very, very, very important. But every one of them is fighting a war that cannot be won by only attacking thesupply side. And for every girl rescued from the horrific world of slavery, traffickers will enslave 100 more. But if we can change the hearts of men, we change thedemand side. When we attack supply and demand, then we defeat this evil.
That’s why Promise Keepers is so necessary. It’s not that we’re aiming for men, it’s that we’re aiming for the whole world. We owe that much to our kids.
I think there’s a desperation in America. I think men are becoming more and more passive, obsessed with video games, sports, pornography, and it’s women and children who are suffering.
But when a man is a man and keeps his promises, those around him get cared and provided for. Real men will never do anything solely for their own benefit. But we will swim shark-infested waters for those who are counting on us.
That’s what a man is — being a leader, being courageous and stepping into the fight, cherishing our wives and families, and being unshakable in our commitment to making the world around us a better place.
I believe that the time is incredibly urgent for men to come back to the basics of what it takes to be a man, and what it means to be a man of God. That’s what Promise Keepers is about. That’s our mission, to help men understand who they’re called to be.
And when men understand that it will change the world.
This Father’s Day, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a father like me — a conversation that all fathers need to face.
I had just finished giving a presentation to a large audience when a line of people formed to ask questions or give their input to the talk.
Then I noticed the desperate face of a desperate man.
“I need to talk to you,” he said.
I shook more hands and answered a few more questions, and then as the crowd thinned, he and I were able to move to a private corner to grab a few uninterrupted minutes.
“My wife doesn’t respect me!” the man told me. “My kids don’t listen to me.” His face was shrouded in anger, the kind of anger that comes from pain. We settled down for a long conversation.
He was a retired Marine — and hew looked like one. He was lean and muscular and stared through me as we talked. We went through the usual symptoms of the problem until we got to the root.
He didn’t listen to his family.
“Man,” I told him, “if there’s one thing you can offer your wife and kids, it’s to listen. You can’t imagine how important it is to them that you hear them out. Don’t have a solution to the problem, don’t offer to help. Just listen and try to empathize.”
“I try,” he said, “but it’s all just so boring. My daughter goes on and on about who’s dating who. She talks about all her silly friends. It drives me crazy. I really don’t care. I sit at the dinner table and wait for it all to be over so I can turn on the TV and unwind.”
I paused. “You know,” I told him, “when I was a newlywed, my wife was traumatized because her jewelry store was burglarized. She went on and on about it.”
“In those days I was a cop in a brutal area of Los Angeles,” I added. “I averaged over one gun arrest and two felony arrests every day. I had to buy six watches in one year because mine kept getting shattered while I was fighting with some bad guy in a gutter or tackling some gangster in a parking lot. In my world, a jewelry store getting burglarized was nothing.”
“But as I watched her face while she told her story, I realized that she felt violated. Some bad person had broken into her store and taken some of her inventory. I listened intently to her because it was important to her. I don’t know why I had the wisdom to do that, but God gave it to me.”
To be a true disciple of Jesus, one must take a genuine interest in the cares of others.
“Who’s dating who may not matter to you — but it matters a lot to your daughter, and for that reason, you should give her your full attention. She’s developing her expectations of the man she’ll marry based on how her dad treats her — and that’s you. Are you teaching her that she’s important and deserves to be listened to? If you’re bored by what matters to her, she’s picking up on it. And she’ll carry that with her for the rest of her life.”
“You need to teach her,” I added, “that what is important to her is important to you, simply because it’s important to her.”
“Everything I just said to you ain’t bad marriage advice either,” I also told him. “You’re a Marine. I doubt that your wife doesn’t respect you, but I’m betting she doesn’t feel cherished by you. She doesn’t feel cherished because you don’t listen to her.”
About six months later, I spoke again in that city. And wouldn’t you know it: That same Marine came up to me afterward. I recognized him right away. He had the same desperate look in his eyes. “How’s it going with your family?” I asked him.
“Well, you know,” he said, “I tried to take your advice, but it doesn’t work. I try to listen, but my mind just drifts away.”
He seemed to want to settle in for another long conversation in which I’d give him advice that he’d then choose to ignore.
Instead, I stood up and clapped him on the shoulder. “If you want to take up my time again, make sure you know the names of all your daughter’s friends. And tell me all about them.”
I spoke again in that city again about a year later — and he wasn’t there.
We men understand that our responsibilities are to protect and provide for our families. Often, the most important thing we can provide is to make them feel loved. All too often, men listen for an assignment: We listen for something to do, or for a problem to solve. Yet sometimes, just listening and caring is all our loved ones really need.
To be a true disciple of Jesus, one must take a genuine interest in the cares of others. Things that wouldn’t normally interest us become interesting because they matter to someone we love.
As you examine your life in Christ, don’t look at the outside — at whether you’re following a certain set of rules. Instead, look on the inside. Do you take a genuine interest in what’s important to others? Do you pray daily for them? Do you authentically wish the best for them?
If not, take a deep look into your heart and ask God to help you to see others through the eyes with which He sees them.
He will answer that prayer, and the world will begin to look vastly different and more interesting.
This Father’s Day, I pray that God gives you and me and all fathers the patience and strength to really listen. I pray that He makes us fathers worth celebrating.
We are in a fight. If you don’t feel like you’re in a fight, then you aren’t paying attention. There are misery and need all around us, and God has called us — as men who have received His gift of grace — to fight for His suffering people, and fearlessly share the Gospel.
A continuing theme in Paul’s writings is that we are soldiers in God’s army. But soldiers fighting what? Paul wrote, “Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand” (Ephesians 6:12–13).
So we see that the deceivers and the deceived are really just tools of Satan and must be rescued from him. Most refuse to be rescued. Some just can’t see the truth. Some love their sin and don’t want to repent. Some just really love evil. If you stand firmly, gently, and humbly for Christ, people will have one of two responses: “To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life” (2 Corinthians 2:16).
A man of God in today’s society will have enemies because he is standing for the truth. If you don’t have people who dislike you because of your commitment to following God’s Word, then you’re probably not even in the fight.
My wife, Elliette, got a call not long ago from someone claiming to be with the IRS, stating that they were sending the police to arrest her and she needed to give them all her information to save herself. I’ve gotten that call; you may have gotten it too. When I got it, I just hung up. Not Elliette. “How could you do this?” she asked the caller. “Don’t you know that these kinds of calls only deceive the elderly and the uneducated? How could you steal from such people?” The caller hung up.
Unfortunately for them, they hadn’t called me; they’d called her and she’s a fighter! She prayed against them and the damage they were doing to people, and then she felt a strong push to call them back. And she kept calling them. Each time, as soon as she explained why she was calling and began her lecture, the person on the other end hung up. Finally a supervisor answered the phone and yelled at her for interfering with their business. She cussed at Elliette and hung up. Elliette kept calling.
On the thirteenth call, a young man answered. This time, when she asked how he could do such a thing, he answered her, “Because I’m a wicked man.”
“Why would you choose to be a wicked man?” she asked.
“I don’t mean to be,” he said, “but where I’m from there are no jobs. This is the only way I can make money.”
“Do you know Jesus?” she asked.
“Yes, but He won’t listen to me. I’m a wicked man.”
“Jesus died for wicked people. He died for you,” she told him. “He will listen to you if you repent of your sins and give your life to Him.” Elliette walked him through the gospel and they prayed together. Elliette, like a marine in World War II, took the rock in front of her, and a young man on the other side of the world is on his way to heaven. Twelve other people rejected her or cussed at her, but she found the one whose heart God had been working on, and now he’s saved.
In our fight, we mustn’t concentrate on those who reject the truth; we must just keep pushing forward for those who will respond. We are commanded to love our enemies (Luke 6:27). And we see from examples in the Bible that the more closely we follow Jesus, the more intensely the wicked will hate us. There was only one perfect man who ever lived, and they nailed Him to a cross. After that, they hunted down His apostles and murdered many of them too. It’s worth pausing and asking yourself a very serious question: Who hates you and why?
Men, what your wife wants from you this Mother’s Day is to be cherished. Far more than an expensive gift or a thoughtful card, she wants you to lead her family with her best interests in mind. She doesn’t want a man who is silent and soft, a man who is passive and withdrawn, or a man who is paralyzed by regret over past mistakes. Your wife wants you to be a man of God — a “Servant King.”
She wants you to be a King — proactive, courageous, generous and humble. A man who embraces his identity as leader with authority and conviction.
She also wants you to be a Servant — a man who puts his wife and children ahead of himself, who nurtures them and makes sure everything he does is in their best interest, and who is ready to lay down his life for them if necessary.
God did not create man to be sufficient in himself. The ultimate intimate relationship a man can have on this earth is with his wife, whom God calls his helper. We see that they are to be “one,” a picture of how the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. That is, they are to be in such complete unity that they are of one purpose and one spirit.
God gave man the role of leader of his family, but what does that look like? The world often tells us that leadership and authority are the same thing, but this is not so. Authority is that influence that the law gives to a police officer or a military commander. Authority says, “Sir, please exit the vehicle,” or “Grab your backpack and sit down.” Authority offers no reward for obedience, only punishment for disobedience.
We are not called to be in authority over our wives; rather, we are called to lead them. Leadership creates the space for a person to choose whether or not to follow. Notice that a woman is commanded to submit to her husband, not to obey him. I obey the commands of a police officer out of fear of punishment, but I don’t submit to him. This is because submission involves equality and choice. Obedience involves a hierarchy and offers no choice. A slave obeys his master, and a child obeys his parents. But an equal chooses to submit or not, based on the value in the relationship.
Jesus always offers us a choice when it comes to submitting our lives to Him. Submitting to the perfect Leader maximizes our fellowship with Him and gives us ultimate joy as a result. In the same way, a wife chooses to submit to her husband or not.
As husbands, it is not for us to judge her willingness to submit. It is for us to be the kind of leader to whom she can gladly submit.
Therefore, it is incumbent on a husband to be as much like Him as we can be so that her choice is an easy one.
Give Your Wife the Gift of Leadership
“I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:3). We seek to lead our families as Christ leads the church. How does He do this? He “gave Himself for her to make her holy . . . to present [her] to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25–27). Someday Jesus will present all His children to the Father, having given everything, including His life by being tortured to death, for the purpose of presenting them without blemish. Whether they will be presented as such will be dependent on the level of their willing submission to Him. Similarly, we will be judged on how we present our wives to the Father. Did we give our lives for them, as Jesus did for the church?
Does your wife see in you the heart for her that Jesus has for His church? None of us will completely measure up, but the closer we get to this standard, the more oneness we’ll have with our wives.
Going further, there are three overarching qualities that I’ve observed in great leaders:
1. Vision—All great leaders know and communicate who they are and where they are going, whether in an organization or elsewhere. Your wife must know that your relationship exists to glorify God. Leaders always keep themselves accountable to their people and remain open to constructive criticism. Does your wife feel the freedom to express her opinion in a safe and loving relationship? Leaders are not defensive and they do not argue. Are your words leading to life and unity or to division and distress in your marriage?
2. Ambition—Great leaders focus on the health and growth of their organization (or family). From the moment they rise until they close their eyes at night, they relentlessly pursue the implementation of their vision. Does your wife see that you are seeking to present her to Christ “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless”?
3. Empathy—Empathy is the ability to see things from the other person’s perspective. There is no more important place for this than in our relationship with our wives.
This Mother’s Day be the Servant King your wife is longing for, the Servant King your God has called you to, and that you were made for.
After seeing the destruction that such teaching wreaked on society, the world now teaches a new message about men. It is convoluted and vague. It flees from machismo toward an equally dangerous lie; it teaches men to be effeminate.
Let’s tear down the lie of society, which has come from the enemy of our souls, and look at what God says about masculinity. First, we must destroy the foundational lie upon which every other lie about society over the past several generations has been built: the lie of modern superiority.
We tend to read Scripture through a lens of modern arrogance, interpreting it using our “superior” intellect. We act as if the God who wrote the Bible and created the world and the very minds with which we reason needs our help in updating His dated ideas. We have become easily deceived by each new idea that comes along, and that tendency is pulling us from a foundation of biblical truth to devastating effect.
Satan has been around since before the human race, so he is playing the long game. His lies build on his lies until even people who love Jesus have assumptions they believe to be true that are not. We seek passionately to avoid becoming pawns in his wicked game; therefore, we must understand his plans so that we can fight and defeat them.
Satan has been attacking gender, gender roles, and especially masculinity with a vengeance over the last few years, and even Christians have been deceived. Let’s take a scalpel to the things that some of us may accept as truth that are not truth at all; rather, they are cancers that our enemy sowed in our minds when we weren’t even aware.
Satan’s scheme, now and forever, is to disrupt the two most foundational building blocks of society:
1. Our relationship with God 2. Our relationship with one another
First, there is something not right in us, and to make things right, we must throw ourselves on the grace of the Creator. A philosophical change has spread across the world to convince people that there isn’t actually anything wrong with them and, if there is, it isn’t their fault. We are seeing Romans 1 play out before us now—not only are sin and perversity abounding, but people publicly commend those who live this way.
Second, there is nothing more foundational to who we are and how we relate to one another than the fact that God created us male and female. Humanity was created as two types—both are equally loved in God’s eyes and both will have equal status in Heaven. However, their relation to one another on earth is defined through distinctive roles determined by God at the foundation of creation.
The two genders, male and female, are together the earthly representation of who God is. Neither, on its own, is a full representation. This is one reason marriage between a man and a woman is so important and meaningful. The truest representation of God’s nature is a healthy marriage between a fully masculine man and a fully feminine woman, each acting in submission to Christ and in submission to each other.
“Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Every man is to be a leader. This is why being proactive is the foundation of being a man. When something needs to be done, a man seeks to do it.
When we understand that a man is called to lead, we see that a hallmark of being a man is accountability. This is difficult for many men to accept, but you must recognize that you and only you are accountable for your walk with Christ, for your marriage, for the state of your children, for providing for your family, and for protecting your family and anyone else who may need it.
Your family—and your God—are counting on you to act like a man.
The Bible is filled with stories of immense bravery: Moses leading millions of people into the desert with no water or food; David fighting Goliath; Gideon; Jeremiah; Esther; Abraham. The apostle Paul’s life is one long saga of bravery and suffering. And at the core of courage is humility. Humility was the mark of each of these heroes’ lives. There were some falters, especially with Abraham, but courage marked by humility was the overarching quality that each possessed.
Courage isn’t something conjured up at the moment that it is needed. It is the expression of your character at a moment of testing. Courage is the sum of all your virtues expressed at a single moment in time. The person you have been, your secret thoughts, the skeletons in your closet, and a lifetime of training suddenly spill out. Would you run into a burning building to save a child with a crowd watching? What if no one is looking? What if you are rescuing an old man instead of a child? What if it is your enemy?
Near one of San Diego’s best surfing spots, Solana Beach, a sixty-six-year-old man was training for a triathlon. He was just off Fletcher Cove and in a line with several swimmers when he exploded from the water, both legs in the mouth of a twelve-to-seventeen-foot great white shark. The man emerged long enough to scream that he was being attacked before being dragged under again. Despite the obvious danger, two swimmers in front of the man turned and swam back to him, into the growing cloud of blood where a monstrous shark lurked, and pulled the man through the surf 150 yards to shore. Sadly, he died a few minutes later.
Courage is the expression of someone who sees something more valuable than herself.
Courage defends a victim by standing up to the bully, even though he’s bigger.
Courage says grace aloud in a restaurant.
Courage witnesses to a stranger. A lack of humility says, “I don’t want to ask that woman if she knows Jesus. I might look stupid.” This is an attitude that values self more than another person’s soul.
“Hang on. That’s not fair! I don’t really know how to share my faith,” you might object. Then care enough to learn. Put down your pride and pick up a book by Greg Stier of Dare 2 Share. He’ll teach you how.
Countless times I have seen my wife walk up to a stranger and say something brief and watched while the woman crumbles in tears. Elliette prays beside her for a long while, and then the woman hugs her tightly. I used to ask Elliette, “What was that all about?” “God just told me to go ask that woman if I could pray with her,” she’d answer. “I hate it when He does that. I’m always terrified that I’ll look stupid.” Yet she obeys and lives are changed.
Courage isn’t a lack of fear. It’s being terrified and obeying anyway. Here we see why humility is the foundation of courage. True courage flows out of concern for others without regard to the risk to oneself.
“The spiritual person, however, can evaluate everything, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by anyone” (1 Corinthians 2:15, HCSB). Many Bible translations use the word judge where the word evaluate is used in this scripture. The English language has two meanings for the word judge: one is “evaluate”; the other is “condemn.” People who don’t follow Christ love to quote Jesus saying that we are not to judge (Matthew 7:1, HCSB). Jesus means not to condemn. He isn’t telling a godly person not to evaluate or discern.
How do we evaluate or judge true courage? Courage is an outward expression, but its true motivation is inward, and we can’t observe that. As an example, let’s take two platoon commanders in the same battle. Both charge a machine-gun nest, brave the bullets, and save their men. Each gets a medal for his actions.
The first man saw that the guns would soon mow down his men. He was drafted into the war; he didn’t volunteer. He comes from a broken home with no father to teach him honor in battle. Terrified and without thinking, he charges to save his men’s lives. He captures the guns, and his men live.
The second man is also terrified. He comes from a decorated military family. He joined the military because that’s what all the men in his family do. He looks around for escape and sees none. He doesn’t care about his men but is terrified to be branded as a coward. He’d never be able to look members of his family in the eye again. Seeing no way out of his predicament, he charges and his men are saved.
Are these men the same? We don’t see their hearts; we see their actions. They each earned the military reward that is given by mere men, but God knows who they are on the inside, why they did what they did. “I, Yahweh, examine the mind, I test the heart to give to each according to his way, according to what his actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:10, HCSB).
One man says grace in a restaurant with meekness and humility out of pure gratitude to God, who gave him the meal. Another says grace to impress the people around him with how religious he is. He smacks of religious pride. Both have completed the same action, but one said grace in humility and the other in pride.
So how do we properly judge courage? We judge it only in ourselves. We can judge—evaluate—others only by their actions, because we can’t truly know their motivations. And this is where the man of God must dwell—at a point of constant self-examination:
Why did I say that? Why did I react that way?
Guard your heart and your integrity. Courage, or lack of it, is a window that reveals your level of humility, which makes it a primary signpost on your walk with Christ . . . and on your journey to becoming one of God’s servant kings.
This article appeared in the April Issue of Solutions Magazine and in Fox News.
How would you complete the following sentence? The goal of my life is ____________.
The goal of football is to score touchdowns. The goal of running a company is to increase profits or stock value. What’s the goal of your life? Matthew 25:14-30 provides the best answer: to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A man with a goal in life is active because he knows what he’s pursuing. Let’s live lives that the Savior deems “Well done!”
God delights and communicating himself in his ways to every man who is prepared to receive him. God can work in you only to the extent that you are submitted to him. We all have some “self” left in us. Every believer is granted the Holy Spirit the moment he receives Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14). The amount of influence the Spirit has on you depends on the extent of your surrender: the more self, the less God; the less self, the more God.
When I was with the LAPD and arrested someone, sometimes I was present when the jailer fingerprinted the prisoner. He would roll each finger in ink and then roll it onto the page. The jailer needed the finger absolutely yielded to him to get a good print. If there were any smudges, he would have to throw the card out and start over.
Often the prisoner would try to help and would smudge the print. The jailer would get angry and order him to relax every muscle and trust the jailer to do all the work. Some prisoners were unable to simply yield, and the process took a long time compared with those who yielded and completed the process easily.
That’s the picture of how God wants to work with us — life gets better when we relax and let him work through us. He’s patient, willing to work on us throughout our entire lives, teaching us to yield to him. But we have to let him do it. Self wants to help; self wants to get the credit. It chafes at the idea that God will do all and self can do nothing — except yield.
In our efforts to “help,” we have smudged the edges, putting the ugly print of human pride and self-effort where only our Lord should have received the glory. Jesus said that for us to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must be like little children (Matthew 18:3). He meant that our surrender must be one of simple, childlike trust in our Father. He will accept our surrender and fill us with his great power and fellowship.
Too many men today are doing life like it’s a preseason football game. We think that because we’ve received Christ and can’t lose our salvation, there is nothing left but to seek our own pleasures and obey some set of rules that someone somewhere told us. We do the best we can, but it really doesn’t count, does it?
No one likes preseason football. God told us to snatch people from the hands of Satan and bring them into his loving arms. He’s told us to protect and provide for his children and to care for the less fortunate. Life is the playoffs, not the preseason.
And when the game’s over, we’ll get only one shot to hear Jesus say, “Well done, my son!” So let’s do the work that God gave us and, with it, experience the joy and reward of serving our Lord.