Fathered by God – let us be intentional

Tomorrow morning, we will wrap up our summer Manschool series on learning to be “Fathered by God”.  I hope it has been good for you.  Here are the notes…

John was shown how to fly fish by an older, experienced fisherman.  And it worked.  He caught fish.  On the way home, he knew God was fathering him that day.  God met him in his deep desire.

A fatherless man hurls himself at life trying to prove he has what it takes, striving, indulging.  30 years of “I am on my own to make life work”. It doesn’t work.

To journey to find God as Father – it can be awkward.  It is easy to transfer our feelings about our earthly fathers onto God.  As in – He’s not there much, he’s distant, he’s not going to talk to me and he surely isn’t going to come through for me.

We must ask God, “What is it that I believe about YOU as Father?”

Try to reorient how you look at life.  We are men in need of fathering and much in need of initiation and to believe that God is our father, coming for us to take us on this journey.   Sometimes it comes to us through another man – an uncle, a mentor, a sage, a fishing guide, a client, a neighbor – men who can speak into your life and teach you how things work.

Sometimes it comes directly especially as we start to take our questions to him like “Do you love me Father?”  “Do you even like me?”  “How am I doing as a man?”  “What do you think of me?”

One of the ways He honors us is that He’ll wait for us to engage in the process of being intentional towards Him.  Put yourself in situations where you know you’ll need Him to show up.  Ask for help with finances.  With help in your marriage.  Take on a sport outside your comfort zone.  Get into situations where you know you need initiation and where you will wait for God to show up.

John took up bow hunting for his healing and initiation.  Most of how he normally lived his life was that he was reckless and he charged into situations depending on his natural giftedness to get him through.  He flew by the seat of his pants.  It is a very boyish way to live life.

Bow hunting slows you down.  You have to be cautious.  Keenly alert of all your surroundings, all the time.  It changed the way he lived life. He brought the skills of hunting back into his daily life and gave up this boyish approach to be a more centered, patient man.

At any point in your life, something needs to be dismantled and something needs to be healed.  What needs to be dismantled is the fatherless way you live your life.  What needs to be healed is your genuine masculine strength.

Isaiah 61 says “He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free – to free us of our bondage” and the fulfillment of this process is “They will become Oaks of Righteousness” – that is to say… settled, true, that which people can count on, which brings a sheltering strength that bears the glory of God.  THIS is the goal of being Fathered by God.

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Fathered by God – the Sage

The last stage of our life — it typically starts around 55 and continues through the rest of your life.  It is a time of wisdom and fathering of others.  The elder at the gate whose lifetime of wisdom is now a fountain of blessing for others.

It can be a tough time because he can feel like his position is shrinking as a king.  Maybe he steps down from his position and goes into retirement but it actually is his time of greatest influence where all his experiences flow over to shape and guide others.  It is a time of communion with God where your inner life is actually greater than your outer life.

The Sage invites you to come closer to God.  You don’t feel pressure but rather you feel the invitation of his life.

It can be wounded and undeveloped when he doesn’t learn his life’s lessons and pay attention to the journey.  He can have very little to offer if he hasn’t submitted to God in the process and paid attention to all God has tried to teach him.  He can be wounded when he is dismissed and no one wants to listen to him.  As in a church or a business when the young are arrogant and want to run the show and push the older to the side.

The call for all of us – no matter the stage you’re in right now – is to learn our lessons in life and pay attention.  It all builds for your future.

When you’re around a sage and you’re wanting to hear from him, hear what he has to say … have you noticed, he lights up.  As he starts talking, he looks like the years fall off of him.  He cranks up with passion, wisdom, counsel, stories, etc. gesturing wildly as he talks … he has an apprentice who wants to hear what he has to say.  That’s the power of this.  We all need a Gandalf.  And the Gandalfs need us!

There is an amazing process that takes place when an older man sees something in you.  When he sees it and has confidence in you and freely gives to you – imparting his experience to you … that is so powerful in a young man’s life.

“He who  keeps the company of the wise will become wise.”  It is available.  But you have to ask.

There is a world of younger men desperate for sages.  The power of the presence of a Godly, older man cannot be measured.  And for those men 55 and over … you have so much to offer.  There is an osmosis that comes off you onto these younger bucks and they need your wisdom.

Fathered by God – The King

The truth is, all of us want to be king.  We all dream about money and success and power and prestige.  We all dream of getting to that place where we will be served.  But the truth is … a good king isn’t about being served.  He’s all about serving others…

The goal of this journey of manhood is when we come to this stage, the King.  It is a time of ruling and authority that starts in our 40’s and 50’s.  It is when God begins to entrust a man with a sense of influence and power.  It can come through wealth, a certain job, command of a unit, Senior Pastor — where we obtain a position of influence.  You’ve come the point where you have a place to rule where you can bless others.

You’re meant to rule – designed for that role in its proper time.  David knew God had made him King for the sake of his people.  It is a time of great testing i.e. “What is it like for those under his care?”

The danger arises when he gets some success and then makes it all about him.  We’ve all been under bad kings – men who made it all about them and it sucked the life out of the people reporting to him.

The question is when can you entrust a man with power and the answer is – only when he’s gone through his initiation.  Without a proper initiation and time in the saddle, a man isn’t prepared for the burden of leadership.  If he was never a cowboy then when he gets success and money, he’ll spend it on a never ending series of adventures or toys.  If he was never the warrior, as a king he’ll start fights that aren’t needed to prove himself or he will lead his people into passivity.  If he was never a lover, then when he reaches power, he’ll go and get the trophy wife.

A middle age crisis = a man who is supposed to be a king but is acting like a boy.

The heart of the king is undeveloped when as a boy, he is never entrusted with power.  His heart is wounded often by other kinds when he was a young man in need of a good king to shepherd him but he got a bad king and there was a wounding and a betrayal.  Out of that wounding, he is reluctant to ever lead.  It is also wounded when he is never called out and up to his potential by older men who say, “We see this leader in you and we want you to take this on.”

As a king, you need an unbroken dependence on God realizing there are unfathered places in you where you’re not as strong as you need to be.  Moses, David and Jesus all inquired of God before they moved.  There was a humility to be guided and shepherded and fathered by God in their role as leaders.

When you’re around a bad king, you see the selfishness and the falsehood and it makes you say, “I don’t want any of it”.

As a young man, God wants to build your character before you set off to build a kingdom.  If you take on too much, too young you will stumble and it can make you say, “I don’t have what it takes” and we want to avoid that.  The desire for wealth and significance and validation = a young king looking in wrong places.

The biggest battle we have as kings is integrity.  Our character will always be tested.  Those that are under you and around you are looking to you saying, “right here, in this moment, I need you to live well”.  They are saying (pleading), “Be a good king.  We need you”.  Others will depend on you.  Come through.  Live UP to all that you’ve come to be.  Humility and patience will be needed along with integrity and character.

As you go through all these stages and hit your 40’s and 50’s and you start to make a little money, the temptation is “Hey, it’s my time, I want to enjoy myself” and that will be right at the precise moment when so many other people will need you to come through for them.  At the time we’re wanting to make it about us, it’ll be all about others.  It is … excurvatus ex se.

The battle is selflessness and not making it about me but rather in serving others.

The truth is, all of us want to be king.  We all dream about money and success and power and prestige.  We all dream of getting to that place where we will be served.  But the truth is … a good king isn’t about being served.  He’s all about serving others.

Fathered by God – The Lover

Stage starts in your teens and runs your whole life.  Comes in really strong in your 20’s and 30’s.  The girl awakens the lover heart in you.  You all remember this.  You remember when the girl first awakened something in you.  Here is a priceless clip from the Wonder Years that captures that moment we all experienced …

Haunted by her beauty – she represents “All the beauty that he longed for beyond the beauty that was in her”.  You see, Eve captures us but the inner longing is larger than her. The longing we have for beauty – yes, she can represent it – but there is more.

This stage is primarily about the awakened heart.  Most men hide in reason and analysis but the heart is where the action is. “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life”. This is so important because when the woman comes along, she will want access to your heart – not your reason and your analysis.  Your heart.  She is not a problem to be solved.  She doesn’t want to be fixed.  She is a mystery to be loved and enjoyed.

Our hearts are wounded at this stage often through experiences of rejection or abandonment where we come to resent the longings of beauty and love in our hearts.  Or … when we have sexual experiences too soon that go too deep and she breaks up with us and breaks our heart making it hard for us to then trust our heart to another woman.

When the heart gets shut down, we need to invite God in to father us and heal the wounded places.  And we need to go back into those old, broken relationships and break soul ties and ask the Father for forgiveness for our sin.

This whole stage of manhood is about finding an intimacy with God.  It is finding what makes you come alive – the oceans, mountains, water, woods.  Find what awakens your heart – the places that make you come alive and as you go there, you can feel the presence of God.  In these places, you realize God is bigger.  He has a much grander vision for you than just Eve.  She isn’t meant to be the “end all and be all” of your existence.  There is more…

Chapel

This is the crucial thing … How you pursue a woman’s heart is not to go and see what you can get but rather what strength you can give to her.  It is a shift from looking to “get” vs. a looking to “give”.  Most men don’t get this.  Our souls are created for beauty…to drink it in.  Beauty nourishes the soul.  God hardwired that in you.  The desire is innate.  It is Excurvatus Ex Se – a life lived outward instead of the Incurvatus – an inwardly focused life.

The rescue from the vicious cycle we typically fall in of “take, take, take” from her to get our validation – to – discovering there is something transcendent I am longing for that goes beyond Eve.  It comes from God.

Make no mistake, Eve is intoxicating.  “The naked woman’s body is too much of eternity for the eye of man to behold”.  She is amazing.  She is captivating.  She’s meant to be.  BUT we need something greater.  You need more than Eve.  God is the rescue from this.

As we spend time in those places outside Eve that restore us, we start to realize that God inhabits the beauty.  Fly fishing on the stream late into the day, drinking in the beauty.  It is beyond Eve.  He’s there in the sunsets, on the stream, at the beach, hiking the mountains. He’s there.  Those things you love, He’s there.

This is tough because Eve is available and present and within arm’s reach and it is easy for us men to believe “she’s enough”.  But the truth is, you can be embraced by something even more beautiful than Eve.  Really.  That is possible.  Yes, and in fact, it is even more loving than Eve.  Mercy.  Healing.  Comfort.  The Father brings all this.  Spending time with the Father in communion is healing.  You disentangle.  It is something that goes way beyond her.

When you realize that God can, in fact, provide for you in ways Eve can’t, it actually helps you love Eve better because you are no longer depending on her to come through as a fountain for you.

Fathered by God – The Warrior

The Lord is a warrior.  A man wants to be something to be reckoned with – it is the heart of the warrior.

Everything you’re going to want in this life, you’re going to have to fight for.  Life is hard.  You were born into a world at war.  Your marriage, kids, jobs, dreams, extended family – you will have to fight for all of it.  It is opposed.  You are opposed.

The warrior heart is essential to overcome the passivity we all inherited from Adam.  Adam fell through passivity.  We need to overcome it.

We’re wounded in the warrior stage when we are taught as boys that all aggression is always wrong.  The stage is stifled when we have a passive father.  We are wounded when we try to rise up and we’re beaten down i.e. facing down a bully and losing.

The good news is that God wants to restore the warrior in us.  He allows hardships, trials, difficulties to come our way not because He’s abandoned us or is cruel but because He’s trying to teach us and train us.  When you see the passivity creeping in on you – choose against it.  Say to yourself, “No, I will not go passive here. I will stand up. I will speak up”.  Every time you do, it strengthens you and you will feel like more of a man.  Overcome your fears, overcome your self-doubts.

The warrior heart is that inner resolve, that inner strength that says “I will yield to nothing”.

Most of our training comes in the spiritual realm – spiritual warfare.  Whatever comes at you, the accusations, discouragement, assault…the warrior rises up in you and you say “No” – shut it down by the authority given to you by Christ.

Our tendency is to either go passive or take on too much.  “I must take this on to show I’ve got what it takes” and you take on way too much – or — the fear “I can’t take this on.  I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes.”  For all of us, in the crucial moment, when the battle is fierce, that question will always arise “Do I have what it takes?”

The enemy wants to shut down the warrior heart – through passivity, fear, shame, humiliation or defeat.

Stay in the battle, regardless of how it turns out.  (Think of fighting for your wife)  That is the heart of the warrior.

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt became an American symbol of the “strenuous life” – one of his favorite phrases.  He believed in hard work, in pushing the body, in living on the aggressive, muscular, energetic side of life.  He worried that his generation of men were going soft and that the body would rob the mind and then the manhood of the nation.  He was right to be concerned.  We should be terrified of this today.

He didn’t start out like this.  Born into a wealthy family, he was a sickly child with severe asthma.  He was intellectual with a fierce curiosity and zeal for investigating life, but his body failed him.  Exertions brought on breathlessness which left him weak and bedridden.  Even when he paced himself, he quickly ran out of energy.  He seemed doomed to a nearly housebound life.  His father finally intervened and sat him down and said, “Theodore, you have the mind, but you have not the body, and without the help of the body, the mind cannot go as far as it should.  You must make your own body.  It is hard drudgery to make one’s body, but I know you will do it.” 

It was a turning point.  What boy wishes to disappoint his father?  What boy does not take to heart his father’s solution to a life-altering challenge?  A family member who watched the conversation later said that young Theodore, “the sorry little specimen”, looked up at his father, “threw his head back and declared he would do it”.  He devoted himself completely to the challenge.  He lifted weights, hammered away at a punching bag, swung dumbbells and spent hours grunting himself into position on the horizontal bars.  Years went by with little improvement.  Finally as a freshman in college, it started to take hold and Teddy experienced a “miraculous transformation”.  Those dreary years of exercise, hour after hour, made him into a man who knew the power of work, of will over body, and of the need for a man to live a strenuous life.

Later in life, he tragically lost his dear wife and his mother in one 24-hour period.  He was destroyed – “the light has gone out of my life” he would write.  He had a baby daughter he knew was in need a woman’s care and what he did next shocked the upper crust NY society but it completed the process of making him a heroic man.  He handed his beloved daughter to his sister, sold nearly everything he had, and moved to the Dakota territories, where for several years, he had been investing in a cattle ranch that overlooked a bend in the Missouri River.  He remained there for three years.

Why did he go?  Why such a dramatic move?  The answer seems to be that Roosevelt needed to restore and rebuild and he knew only one way to do it: return to the strenuous and the difficult.  Perhaps those hours of lifting weights and balancing on horizontal bars had surfaced forces of soul he needed to summon once again.  Perhaps a return to the arduous physical life was the only way he knew to quell the turmoil of his heart.  Obviously, he needed space, wilderness, difficult tasks, and looming danger.  He knew this was the key to healing.  He had experienced this truth in his life before.

After arriving in the Dakotas, Roosevelt did not spend three years in a comfortable chair by the fire with a brandy in one hand and a book in the other.  Instead, he became the western hero of his dreams.  He herded cattle and broke bucking horses.  He stood down grizzlies and fought off desperados.  On one occasion, he tracked down thieves for three days across 300 miles in subzero temperatures.  Once he took the criminals captive, he then traveled another six days and 150 miles to surrender them to authorities.  And the wilderness healed him.  He tamed the wilderness around him by way of taming the wilderness of his own soul.  He grieved and got through it.  He lived in the moment, in the physical, and in intimate connection with nature.  It forced him from living entirely in his thoughts to living a rooted, earthy life in which thoughts come only after work is done.

All men need what Roosevelt found – a strenuous physical life, the possibility of harm, challenges to face, enemies to oppose, land to conquer.  Our lives push us away from this.  We work in cubicles or comfortable vehicles.  Technology serves us and keeps us from exertion.  We live in opulent blandness – overfed, over-tended, over-entertained, and overly preoccupied with ourselves.  But men need aggressive, physical lives.  They need contest and conquest, strain and struggle.  Otherwise, we lose ourselves to softness and effeminacy.  It is not much of a surprise that a New Testament world that is translated effeminate from the original Greek actually means “soft through luxury”.  It is a warning. 

Roosevelt reminds us we are not disembodied spirits.  We are souls sealed into bodies.  We need to work the machinery, be alive in both body and soul.  It will awaken the masculinity in us.  It will help us untangle our inner knots.  It will remind us we are men.   (from the book Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men)

Fathered by God (3) – The Cowboy

About age 13, the question arises and it is “the” question of the masculine journey – “Do I have what it takes? Am I a man?”  It defines our life as men.  We get it answered through older men in their affirmation, validation and initiation through experiences in adventure and hard work.  Like when your Dad or Granddad tasks you to do something for the first time by yourself and you think “Wow, he thinks I’ve got what it takes and he thinks I can do this.”

The heart of the cowboy is wounded at this stage when he doesn’t have any of these experiences – when he never ventures out, never takes risks and never has those experiences that test him.  Or it is wounded when he does and he has failures and his Dad labels him – “you’re a Mama’s boy” or “You’re an idiot” or a “whimp”.

Teddy Roosevelt knew he was an unfinished man and so he put himself into hard places, learned to hunt, took on hard work with his hands and tools = he went into that unfathered place and got it.

So the encouragement to you is to fix things at your home.  Fix the broken sprinkler.  Fix the busted door.  Go to Home Depot, ask for help, watch youtube videos, figure it out and then do it.  Don’t just call someone.

Without these experiences, we become men who won’t take risks, who are hesitant, soft, stay in areas where we feel safe.  It’s wrong to let a man stay on the couch or the boy to stay in front of the video game.  Seek adventure with other men.  Your heart loves being a part of something and being invited up into something big.

The risk is that you find something you’re good at and you lock onto it.  Work.  It’s safe.   I can do it.  “I can do my job” and so you go there. All your energy is poured into work and you disengage from the rest of life.  Work becomes your life.  You don’t need to take risks, work justifies you.  It justifies a small existence.  And so everything else in his life suffers because work is his life.  The contra is true as well – that we can become adventure junkies and just spend our lives seeking the next, greatest adventure.  And that’s a small life too because where is the wife?  Where is the investment in the kids?  Where is community?  We must seek an appropriate balance here.

If you’ve missed this as a man – go get it.  It’s there.  God can take you there.  You can learn to hunt or to fix a lawnmower or build a table. It’s never too late.  You can pick up deer hunting at age 40.  You can learn to fish at 50.  You can learn woodworking or plant a vegetable garden.  You can hike the Appalachian Trail.  It doesn’t have to be outdoors – though we suggest that because there is something about nature that tests us – adventure can be starting a new ministry, working at a food bank or starting a small group of men.   The point is, adventure is just beyond your comfort zone.  Will you take the step?

It seems like God allows hardships in our lives because there is something He wants to surface.  It’s one thing to be told you have what it takes, it’s quite another to be tested and see there is actually a resolve in you that rises up in the face of adversity.

So the question for you today is “At what point in your life do you find adventure?”  Where is it?  Are you living any adventure?