Tag Archives: Following Jesus

Why Are So Many Fatherless?

By Eugene C. Scott

Sean Daley (Slug) of the hip-hop group Atmosphere wrote and preformed a song, “Yesterday,” that reflects the struggle many of us have after losing our fathers:

“I thought I saw you yesterday . . .

Was that you? Looked just like you

Strange things my imagination might do

Take a breath, reflect on what we been through

Or am I just goin’ crazy ’cause I miss you?”

I too have been looking–in one way or another–ever since my dad’s heart suddenly stopped beating. I remember the day of his funeral sitting on our living room couch, hoping it was only a nightmare, watching for him to reappear. My uncles kept trooping by and, not knowing what else to do, rubbed the top of my head saying, “You’re the man of the house now.” I think they too were still looking for him. In me.

I was eleven then, the oldest boy. I had two older sisters and a younger brother. I tried to become the man of the house but failed. I was not a man and would not be for a long time. As I wrote last week, fatherlessness was to become a long odyssey. Sean Daley’s song goes on:

“Chip on the shoulder, anger in my veins

Had so much hate, now it brings me shame . . .

I thought I saw you yesterday

But I knew it wasn’t you, ‘cause you passed away, dad”

No matter how we lost them, in many ways we’re a culture in search of fathers.

My uncles seemed like perfect candidates for me. But it wasn’t to be.

“I’ll just keep these until you boys are old enough to take care of them,” they each said loading their cars with my dad’s tools. My dad was an airplane mechanic and owned a tool set that would make Tim Taylor weak in the knees. I never saw the tools–and rarely saw the uncles–again. They were incredible tools. Humor aside, however, I have tried to care for some of the fatherless kids in my family. It’s much easier to take care of tools than someone else’s kids.

Since then I’ve noticed more and more men are having trouble even taking care of their own kids. Fatherlessness is epidemic. As I wrote last week, 24 million kids today are growing up in fatherless homes.

Why? What’s going on?

The reasons may be as many as those without fathers themselves. Fatherlessness is a complex social problem with no easy answers. But there is a common denominator: men. As a group we have fallen asleep at the switch. We have lost our courage and forgotten our purpose.

Yes, we are also the victims (I hate to use that word) of the unintended consequences of a changing culture.

For example, I saw in my own family the truth that welfare programs tend to devalue those depending on them. Because food was laid on the table by Big Brother, the men who begat my nieces and nephews and great-nieces and nephews believed they weren’t needed or wanted and simply walked, or ran away. Yes, these men were often young, uneducated, underemployed, and maybe even fatherless themselves.

But since when do men–or women for that matter–walk or run away from a challenge? When did we men, as a group, lose the courage it takes to look at our own flesh and blood and say, “I will give my all, my life, so that you can live.”

When did we, in such huge numbers, lay down the true courage it takes to father, protect and provide for our offspring and take up the fake bravado it takes to grab a game-stick or gun and mow down those we call enemies?

I remember well the terror and wonder that filled me as I held each of my three naked, vulnerable children. Their every breath depended, in part, on me. What if I turned out to be as much of a failure as a father as I was at being the man of the house? Then God seemed to speak to my heart, “You were made for this. Be strong and courageous. With my help you will do it.”

I have, though far from perfectly.

Another unintended consequence of a social change is that in order to gain God-given equal footing in a patriarchal world, women tore tooth and nail at the definition–not only of womanhood–but manhood too. They said real men aren’t angry, emotionless, distant, driven John Waynes. And they were right. The problem was, in our hurry to demolish straw-men we forgot to replace them with a working definition.

So, I found myself not only growing up without a living, breathing model of what a father was, I struggled to become a man when not many were able to say what purpose real men served. What was my purpose in the world? I wondered.

Again, the answer is forming out of my faith. I was not invented to live for myself, self-discovery, self-fulfillment. These things are crucial signs on the path of becoming who God created me to be. But the end of the journey is not becoming a better me but becoming more like Christ and, like him, to give myself away. First to my family. To show them how to work, live, fail, think, succeed, worship, sacrifice, hunt, fish, and–highest of all–to love God and others.

Men, there may be odds against us, but the root of the problem of fatherlessness is in us and the seed of the solution too.

God is telling us, “Be very strong and courageous.” Father your children; don’t settle for being merely a sperm-donor.

There is no greater gift and purpose in life than to have someone created in your image and then have that Creator say, “Here she is. Show her what it takes to be human. Show him how much I love him.” This takes much more strength and courage than simply being the man of the house.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO

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Avoiding Shortcuts To Nowhere

For a few years, our family lived in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. After spending most of my life in Denver, where the streets run north and south in straight lines, Philadelphia threw me for a loop. Literally.

Many of the roads in Philly date back hundreds of years. One of the main roads in an outlying town is called “Cowpath Road.” Obviously, the road was once a cow path that was converted into a road. Cows don’t walk in straight lines. This is just one of many examples.

So at times, when the traffic on the two-lane roads backed up, I tried taking side streets to get ahead. On more than one occasion, my “shortcut” brought me back to my starting point. I was literally driving in circles.

That’s often the case when we take shortcuts in other areas of our lives.

Please join me today as we look at one such shortcut.

If you don’t have plans for celebrating Easter this Sunday, and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join me at The Neighborhood Church. We meet at 10:00 a.m.

TODAY’S READING

Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23
Luke 8:40-9:6
Psalm 71:1-24
Proverbs 12:5-7

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Deuteronomy 13. Prophecy, healing and other miraculous works have played a significant role in my spiritual journey. In fact I wrote a book about my experiences that was released about a year ago entitled Strange Fire, Holy Fire.

Despite my belief in the existence of what the Bible calls “signs and wonders,” I was mildly surprised to read Moses’ words at the beginning of this chapter. He tells Israel to follow God rather than any prophecy the people might hear.

Many people with backgrounds like mine will benefit from Moses’ instruction. Signs and wonders are exciting, but they should never serve as the point of our spiritual journey. And they should never replace the importance—and authority—of God’s word.

Next, Moses tells the people to kill anyone who might tempt them to worship other gods. Obviously, we can’t—and shouldn’t—kill anyone today who might lead us astray. But we can incorporate that same attitude toward temptation.

Deuteronomy 15:1-11. Once again, the theme of caring for the poor presents itself. In verse 11, Moses tells the people, “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”

Jesus quoted this verse in the Gospels. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26:11, et al). As a result, many Christians take a fatalistic approach to caring for the poor: “Jesus said the poor will always be with us, so why make it a priority?”

But the force of Moses’ instruction here is that because the poor will always be with us, we should always be generous to them.

Luke 8:40-56. To reread what we discussed on the story of Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage, read the post from February 21.

Luke 9:1-6. After watching Jesus minister to the crowds, he sent his disciples throughout the region to imitate him.

The New Bible Commentary offers some interesting insights into Jesus’ instructions to the disciples:

They were to live as simply as possible, perhaps so as to avoid any criticism for making money out of their work, and also to avoid being mistaken for other travelling people who made money unscrupulously…They were not to go round looking for (better) hospitality.

Psalm 71. This is an anonymous psalm written by a middle-aged person who is encountering adversity but wants to end well.

In verse 7 he writes, “I have become like a portent to many.” A portent is an example that others can see.

In spite of the psalmist’s adversity, this psalm resonates with hope. He writes in verse 5, “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.” Then in verse 14, he writes, “But as for me, I will always have hope.”

God was the psalmist’s hope in the past and will be his hope in the future.

Verse 20 really jumps out at me:

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Growing up in the church, I’ve witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly in church leadership. At various stages in my life as a pastor, I must admit that I’ve done my part in presenting a poor example of leadership as well. So please understand that I’m not casting stones.

Our reading in Deuteronomy 13 addresses who we follow in spiritual leadership. Our human nature gravitates toward following charismatic individuals who will speak to us on behalf of God. Often, this is the result of our laziness. Relying on someone who will “stand in” for God is like opting for the Cliff’s Notes version of a great novel. Rather than read the Bible for ourselves and seek an intimate relationship with God, we prefer that someone do it for us.

Moses was concerned that the people would follow false prophets who would lead Israel away from God. So Moses warned Israel, “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere” (Deuteronomy 13:4).

When our walk with God is dependent upon the leaders we follow, we set ourselves up for tremendous disappointment and pain.

Pastors, TV preachers, televangelists, and authors all must be compared against the truth of Scripture. Just because they say something that sounds good, or they say something that you want to be true—doesn’t make it true! Many have led well-meaning believers astray. And history continues to repeat itself.

Nor can we allow them to play the role of God in our life.

Not long ago, I witnessed first-hand a church split that affected thousands of people. Some of the people who were damaged by the fallout were devastated and vowed never again to return to church or trust a church leader. In my judgment, many of those people followed the Senior Pastor rather than God.

My friends, please join me in following Moses’ advice. Let’s follow God and avoid the unnecessary disappointment and pain that inevitably meets people who depend on fallible men and women for their walk with God.

Shortcuts in our walk with God lead us nowhere.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What shortcuts have you tried in your walk with God? Where did they lead you? If you were hurt from the experience, how did you recover? Have you recovered?
  3. Why would God want us to avoid following people instead of him?
  4. What does this tell you about God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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