Category: Transformation

Children of Light

Children of Light

We are entering the Season of Light, the Light Festival, the Christmas season when so much of the world decorates trees, wreathes, streetlamps, and even homes, with spectacular displays of light. Even those parts of the world that may not traditionally be Christian do so. There is an evident way in which the world loves light.

Yet truthfully, there is an equally evident way in which the world loves darkness. The apostle John made that clear when he wrote: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)

It’s a sad irony: Jesus, whose birth is the center of this season, declared himself to be “the light of the world.” (John 8:12) But, though much of the world might willingly accept him as a man born two millenia ago, so much of the world rejects him as the divine light. 

I love the biblical theme of “Light.” One of my favorite verses about it is Eph. 5:8. I’m stirred by the author Paul’s language, yet doubt that I fully understand it’s theological depth. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” 

When I teach on this verse with men, I use contemporary language to make its startling impact clear: “If there was one word that accurately describes who we were at one time, it’s the word ‘darkness.’ We were filled with, defined by and controlled by darkness. Darkness is who we were.”

Strong words. But the rest of that verse is even more startling! Again, in my words to men, “But now, because of our relationship with Jesus, if there is one word that accurately defines who we are it’s…light! Can you believe it?! Light! Light is who we are now!” 

Yes, of course, we are still extremely aware of our shortcomings, our struggles with temper, our vulnerability to temptation, our tendency toward selfishness, but the condition of our souls is now…light. How can this be? Three crucial words, “in the Lord.” This fundamental, eternal transformation in the nature of our souls is due to Jesus.

Jesus’ life and his death changed everything for us and about us. Everything. Even though we may be discouraged by our continuing tendency to act “darkly,” the truth about us is we are light. This is shockingly wonderful news, but there’s more.

In the last phrase of verse 8, Paul makes his final point, “Live as children of light.” In today’s language he might say, “So for goodness sake, since this is true about you, live like it!” The redemption of our souls is taken care of, now we should live in such a way that reflects that truth. Not just for our benefit, but so others see light in our lives. Paul makes this clear in the verses that follow 8.

But Paul wasn’t the first to give believers this same charge. Jesus, who in John 8 referred to himself as being the light of the world, says to his followers, “You are the light of the world…In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14, 16) We, who were once defined by darkness are now defined by light. Further, Jesus who is the light of the world, uses the exact same words about us who follow him! Remarkable.

This Christmas, the Season of Light, we celebrate the miracle of Jesus’ birth as a vulnerable child. Let us also celebrate the stunning truth that his life and death are so transformational for us that we are now light-bearers for him. We are children of light. A world in darkness desperately needs to see the light we bring this Christmas season.

Honesty and Hope

Honesty and Hope

Perhaps you’ve seen the recent Gillette commercial about men being the best they can be. The phrase “the best a man can get” took me back to hazy “wonder years” when I wondered when I might need to shave anything at all.

As I watched the clip, it evoked similar beneath-the-surface feelings: recognition, conviction, inspiration and commitment. So I was surprised to hear and read that not everyone had the same positive impression of the clip as I did. In fact, I saw through one source that reactions against the commercial were 4:1 versus those that saw it as positive.

Reading a few of the angry posts denouncing it I saw a consistent theme: “I’m sick and tired of the countless messages I see and hear these days that tell me I’m not good enough as a man! In fact, I refuse to listen to your hate, shame and condemnation for what it means to be manly!”

If we’re honest I think we’d have to admit that, as timely or as needed as many think they are, #metoo or #timesup or the #toxicmasculinity posts often have a common thread to many men, “You’re gender is the problem. The less the rest of us have of you the better off we’ll be.”

I’ve met virtually no men who feel righteously convicted let alone inspired by that message. Especially if the communicator combines it with a sneer or a finger in the face. Any finger.

But that doesn’t mean the message is entirely off target; just the communication of it.

If you’re a guy, (or a woman for that matter), imagine a soccer coach, band director or debate coach who pulled you personally aside put his arm around your shoulder and said, “I’ve been watching you and I like what I see. But you consistently miss anticipating that pass, (or that key change or that opportunity to bring your point home). I know you have it in you. In fact, I’m convinced you have it in you. Others are counting on you because you matter. We need you.”

Is there anything you would not do to focus on that issue, listen to those around you, or learn from him in order to be who he sees you as being? No.

What I’ve learned over the years of being a guy, and speaking to them, is that men will respond to two significant messages: Honesty and Hope. But they both need to be present. Too much Honesty and no Hope, my brothers and I will walk away in disgust, shame or anger. Too much Hope and no Honesty, and the message doesn’t pierce. It just bounces off the outer armor.

Honesty and Hope. Jesus called it Truth and Grace. The apostle Paul called it Truth and Love. That’s what men need to hear. That’s what anyone needs to hear if they are going to be transformed.

So, male-bashers, enough with the shaming, demeaning, profanity-laced, one-directional messages that tear men down and ignore their God-designed glory. And men, lay down the armor just a minute when you see or hear a message that has both Honesty and Hope.

I’m telling you, I think Gillette got this one right. I’m done being one of the guys at the start of the clip. I want to be one of the guys at the end. I want to be the best man I can be. I think you do, too.

And we need you.

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”

Those were my words when the first accusations against Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek, came out in the Chicago Tribune and Christianity Today last spring. My words were in response to a group of men who asked how it felt for me, knowing I had served on staff at the church for four years in the 1990’s.

Those words still hold true for me today; they are just stronger. As weeks have gone by more women have courageously stepped forward to reveal shocking stories of harassment, intimidation and inappropriate behavior they say they experienced from Hybels. He still denies the accusations and the elders are now re-investigating the claims, after months of their own denials and unkind characterizations against the women.

“It’s shocking. It’s awful. It’s tragic. There’s hope.”
Which Will It Be…Rights Or Rites?

Which Will It Be…Rights Or Rites?

Rite of Passage. Western culture largely views these as age-based rights young adults automatically deserve once they hit a certain date. Depending on local laws 18 or 21-year olds are allowed to consume tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and pornography; they can now purchase weapons and ammunition. In most cases, this “right” is granted regardless of whether youths have benefited from any guidance in the inherent dangers of these practices nor any training in discernment in their use.

High school sports team and college fraternity hazing rituals involving sexual abuse, or deadly alcohol over-consumption, as we saw this week at Penn State and in 2013 at my own alma mater, Northern Illinois University, confirm the consequences of the absence of effective guidance in rites of passage.

Cultures across the globe have practiced the often-sacred ritual of male rites of passage when the fathers of a village suddenly take the sons away from the familiar and expose them to a new understanding of their roles as young men.   These practices universally include the stages of separation—encounter—challenge—return—celebration.

Jewish culture, Native American, African cultures and others continue these time-honored traditions today. North American and European cultures have largely abandoned this kind of “initiation” to responsible, self-disciplined adult behavior at great cost.

This week Peregrine Ministries guided six dads and six sons through a modern version of this sacred practice we call Passage to Manhood. The dads “stole” their unsuspecting and bewildered sons from their high school for a day of mystery, teaching, challenge, movie clips, story-telling and sharpshooting. The journey culminated the next night with a room full of moms, siblings and grandparents who witnessed story-telling and blessing.

This isn’t a one-time deal where the sons suddenly become men overnight. But it is a profound and significant step in a journey that encourages young men to love God and others with all their heart (compassion), soul (confidence), mind (conviction), and strength (courage.)

Do you have a son who needs to hear this truth and experience this kind of encounter with you? Let us know. Because he matters.

Today’s News Confirms: Men Matter, They Just Don’t Think So

In one breakfast of scanning the newspaper this week I came across these stories:

1. The Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker wrote a moving editorial regarding Charleston church murderer Dylann Roof. He’s the self-professed white supremacist who slaughtered 9 African Americans while attending a Bible study at their church. (Just typing those words makes me both sick and angry.)

Roof may want the public to believe his insistence that he wanted to start a race war, or that he has justified grievances against blacks he supposes are the cause of his life of misery and social rejection.

Parker eloquently lifts the veil to the real truth of what drove him to this awful act:

Today’s News Confirms: Men Matter, They Just Don’t Think So
A Village of Fathers

A Village of Fathers

If you’ve read many of my posts in the past there’s a good chance you’ve seen me quote an African proverb I learned from a Kenyan pastor: “The boys in the village must be initiated into manhood, or they will burn down the village…just to feel the heat.”

When I heard this statement it caused many observations I’ve had about our society to fall into place.

  • It explains why fatherless inner-city gang members turn to violence.
  • It explains why self-absorbed frat boys, with no healthy mentors, assert their will on women.
  • It explains the profound urgency of father-son programs like Peregrine’s Passage to Manhood.

Watch this remarkable clip illustrating some mentors who have their eyes on the next generation of African American young men.

Man, am I glad for men like this! May their tribe increase.

Beneath the Surface of Addictions

This is a fascinating, brief insight into what is going on with addictions of all types. Yet another reason for men to get out of the man cave and experience authentic community. “It’s Not the Chemicals, It’s Your Cage.” For more info on, or help with, sexual addictions go to Craig Glass My greatest […]

The Lure of Passivity

The Lure of Passivity

I really couldn’t have said this any better than my friend Chris Bruno of Restoration Project just did. In fact, he says it even better than I could have. This is worth your time…

A Good Man

What does a good man look like?

“He whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;

whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;

who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;

who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things
will never be shaken.”

Psalm 15