June 2008


How do we raise our boys to be real men?  From what little I have read there seems to be a consensus among evangelicals that the idea of manhood has been all but lost in our society today.  It has no real meaning.  Consequently, we don’t know what it means to be a real man and sadly the church is not much different.  There is a lack of masculinity in our culture as men have become passive, irresponsible and downright wimpy.  So the problem is clear, but how do we fix it?  How do we raise our boys to be real men?

I’m concerned that in an effort to raise our boys to be real men, we have swung the pendulum too far and forgotten our goal is not for them to be like Superman, but to be like the Godman-our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Perhaps an illustration would help.

You see it quite often where a little boy scrapes up his knee and his daddy quickly tells him, “Get up, son.  You’re fine.  Rub some dirt on it.  Be a man!”  Now being brave and being strong isn’t wrong.  It’s a good thing.  We don’t want our boys to be sissies!  After all, Jesus was strong.  Mark Driscoll says it best:

Jesus was a dude.  Like my drywaller dad, he was a construction worker who swung a hammer for a living.  Because Jesus worked in a day when there were no power tools, he likely had calluses on his hands and muscles on his frame, and did not look like so many of the drag-queen Jesus images that portray him with long, flowing, feathered hair, perfect teeth, and soft skin (Vintage Jesus, 31)

Yes, Jesus was a real man.  He was a hard-working carpenter.  He offended lots of people.  He even made a whip of cords and drove out the money-changers in the temple.  Yes, Jesus was (and is) a real man.  But is this the full picture of Jesus?  And is this the full picture of what it means to be a man? 

As I took a cursory look at the Gospels, I saw a picture of Jesus that may not seem very “manly” in our culture today, but nevertheless must be taught and modeled to our boys if we want them to be real men–men like Jesus.

  • Jesus was humble and gentle (Mt. 11:29)
  • Jesus was compassionate (Mt. 9:36, 15:32)
  • Jesus was dependent on his Father (Mt. 24:42)
  • Jesus cried (John 11:35, Isa. 53:3)l)
  • Jesus was a servant (John 13, Phil. 2:7)
  • Jesus hugged children (Mt. 19:13-15)
  • Jesus loved his mother (John 19:26-27)
  • Jesus needed the fellowship of others (Mk. 14:32-33)

Jesus is the man we want our boys to be like.  So if Jesus is humble and gentle, than I want my son to be humble and gentle.  If Jesus is compassionate on others, even willing to cry for others, than I want my son to feel free to do the same.  And I want him to know that being a real man is not having to choose between being brave and strong and gentle and meek.  It’s both, because Jesus is both.  After all, he is the lion-like lamb and the lamb-like lion.  He is tough and tender.  And he is safe and strong. 

So, instead of being so concerned about whether my boy grows up to be brave and strong like Superman, I want my boy to be like Jesus.  He may not be your typical “man’s man” but hopefully he’ll be a real man.

My son, Luke, with his first pair of shades!

Is God happy?  According to the Scriptures he is.  In 1 Timothy 1:11, Paul refers to “the gospel of the glory of the happy God.”  He uses the Greek word makarios, which refers to a pleasant state of satisfaction.  This reminds me of the familiar phrase coined by John Piper: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.  We can be satisfied and happy in God, but when is God satisfied?  When is God happy?  And is it possible for him to be happier than he already is?  

If you’re like me, most likely you have a polished theological answer to this question ready at your disposal.  In fact, you might quote John Piper on God’s pleasure or happiness being rooted in his name being glorified.  And yes, that’s true.  But this morning God helped me to take off my theological cap for a while to see what makes him most happy in a more simple, childlike way.

This morning I shared the gospel with a boat load of kids at our Outrigger Island Vacation Bible School.  Afterwards, our teachers followed up with these kids and spoke with them one-to-one about their responses.  One child, in particular, was sobbing.  He told his teacher that his grandmother was getting ready to die, and this made him think more about heaven.  When his teacher asked him about his church background, he told her that he had been baptized when he was younger but didn’t really understand what he was doing.  So, this teacher came to me with this information and requested that I talk to him as soon as possible. 

It wasn’t long before this boy made his way into my office and we sat down together.  I asked him about his grandmother.  I asked him about the morning.  And then I shared the gospel with him again, reminding him that faith is not doing something for God, but believing what God has done for you in Christ.  I asked him more questions to see if he understood that he was a sinner and if he was ready to follow Jesus as his Savior.  He fought back tears as I put my arm around him.   I asked him if he wanted to pray and tell God what was in his heart.  He looked at me and said, “I don’t know what to say.”  I smiled and told him, “Just talk to Him like you’re talking to me.”  Then, with tears running down his cheeks, this kid prayed the most genuine prayer I’ve heard in a long time.  No formalities, no Christian lingo, no holding back.  He just told God he was sorry and asked for forgiveness.  He thanked God for Jesus dying for him.  And then he prayed for his grandma to get better.  It was so simple and so sincere. 

After that I prayed for him and then gave him a book, A Faith to Grow On, by John MacArthur.  I wrote a note on a slip of paper and gave him my phone number and email.  I told him that I’d like to meet his parents in the coming weeks.  We talked about him coming back to church and plugging into a Sunday School class.  He seemed excited and eager about it.  As I walked him back to his class, I had a smile that wouldn’t go away. 

A little while later the Holy Spirit led me to a familiar story in the Bible.  A story that reminded me of when God is most happy.  Luke 15:7 speaks of the parable of the lost sheep and ends like this:

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

God is a happy God.  But it seems he is most happy when his lost children repent and run to Him for forgiveness.  I tasted some of this happiness today and it made me want more.   It was a child-like happiness that I couldn’t keep to myself and so I shared it today with you.  And so may we be reminded that God is most happy, and I think we are too, when sinners turn to Him for salvation.

Brent Thomas pointed me to a site called Wordle where you can enter your text and it will create a word cloud for you which you can edit.  You can change the colors, fonts, etc. Pretty cool, huh?!  Here is a tag cloud that Brent made of the book of Colossians:

Name: Hilary Pepper

Family: Not yet, but patient and hopeful.

Where on the map? Deep in the heart of Texas! (Eh hem…it was during my time at UNI when I said I’d never live in Texas!—oops!)

Full Time Job/Ministry:
My dream job! I’m teaching in an intensive English program in a university environment with international students from literally all over the world; however the majority of them are from the ME and Asia/East Asia. My heart has been burdened for the peoples of the ME for quite some time. Not knowing when I’ll go, I’ve had the joy of working alongside like-minded brothers and sisters through the local church. Together, many of us are also laboring in a CPM among M’s, believing that He has called some of the thousands living here (Acts 17:26-27). We are in the first year and are depending on our Father for so much!

Is this what you thought you’d be doing when you were in college?
I knew I would be working with other cultures, but I had no idea it would be like this! These past 10 years have been more than I had ever envisioned or dreamed for my life. It has certainly been an Ephesians 3:20 decade.

What do you dream about doing 10 years from now?
Similar to what I’m currently doing but dreaming and believing God for even more. I have no idea the location, but I’m confident it will involve the unengaged, a team, and Lord-willing, a family.

Favorite UNI Memory:
Not sure if you all remember this, but 98% of my college days were Christ-less days. In God’s perfect timing, He used high-school friends Mark, Doug, Katie, Laura, Jesse, and Dennis to point me to Jesus during the rough years, and Spot’s testimony to draw me to Main Event ’97. While there, He used Justin’s cross-dressing (old woman?), Mark and Aimee’s small group time, and Caligiuri’s re-enactment of the crucifixion to reveal His Truth to me. Therefore, aside from my final two months on campus, my UNI memories with everyone don’t run too deep. However, I’ll never forget the team mascot who was strapped to our van’s windshield the entire way to Passion ’98 and, while there, the group’s obsession with front row seats and Piper-sightings. I kept thinking, “My new friends are kinda weird!”

Being a part of the gals’ bridal showers and learning how to play “Hot Seat!”…blaring (and dancing!) to Peder Eide’s, “Where Justice Rolls Down” in my sorority house. I forget who exchanged the Oreo cream filling for toothpaste at a church potluck. Dirty.

Seriously, though, you UNI grads have no idea how much each of you has helped shape who I am today. Your examples of grace and love and Christ-likeness in my initial months/years of learning to walk with Jesus were foundational and life-giving to me. http://www.seeandknow.wordpress.com.

While churches continue to seek out the best “strategy” for reaching their communities for Christ, some have simply returned to the timeless tradition of opening their homes to others.  No, it’s not flashy.  And no, it’s not programmed.  It’s just the most natural setting for proclaiming Christ to your friends and neighbors.

I agree with Tim Chester in his book, Total Church, when he says,

People need to encounter the church as a network of relationships rather than a meeting you attend or a place you enter. … In our experience people are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message. 

People are looking for a place to belong.  And I believe the home provides the best atmosphere for this type of authentic community.  Why?  Because it’s a place where pretence and perfection can’t live.  Unlike the church (building!) it’s too hard to put up your best front at home.  Like one pastor said, “You get to know folks when they have spaghetti sauce on the front of their shirt.” 

So how do we get started in opening the doors of our homes to others? Alexander Strauch gives these helpful guidelines:

  • Set a regular time each week/month to invite people to your home
  • Make a list of people who would be encouraged by your offer of hospitality
  • Remember to invite people to your home during holiday seasons — especially those who rarely receive an invitation and cannot repay you (Luke 14:13)

I would simply add this:  Don’t go at it alone.  Get others who can join you. When you have your next time of fellowship with other believers, intentionally invite some non-believing neighbors or friends.  Free up those who have the gift of hospitality to plan the event and host it.  Invite those you know who have the gift of gab to rub shoulders with your neighbors.  Get others to pray for this time who you know will labor in prayer.  Bring other believers who are encouragers and love to have a good time.  And when you’re all together, just have fun hanging out.  Eat together, talk about life together, enjoy one another’s company.  This kind of love for one another is attractive to the world.  And through these relationships, pray that God would open up a time where you can share the reason for the hope that is in you. 

Wolters-2How do you talk to your children about the gospel?  That’s the question I was asked just recently by a good friend of mine.  Let me begin by telling you I don’t consider myself to be an expert on the subject!  I have three children now, and with each child I am humbled, realizing that whenever I get it right it’s purely by the grace of God.  So rather than striving for greatness, I’ve learned over time the power of weakness in parenting.  Like Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20, I often cry out to God, “I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You.”  This is the starting point as parents–humbly depending on God.

Having said that, my wife and I aren’t sitting back passively as parents hoping our children will come to Christ.  We want to do whatever we can in the strength of the Spirit to bring our children up in the Lord.  We want to be intentional and very practical in our parenting.  There are many books that have helped us in this pursuit, but ultimately the Bible is our foundation.  One verse that I keep running back to as a guide and a goal in parenting is 2 Timothy 3:14-15.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

From this passage I’ve learned that Christian parenting basically consists of two things: modeling and teaching the gospel.  These two things, when combined together, are a powerful means of making our children “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

So, what does that look like in the Wolter home?  Here’s some practical things we do–keeping in mind we fail often!  If you could watch us for a day or two, I am sure you would observe something close to Super Nanny on ABC.  But, by the grace of God, we keep growing as parents.

Modeling — What are your children observing?

  • Seeing God in everything — we try to see God throughout the day and point our kids to Him (e.g. as we take a walk, we remind our children of God’s beautiful creation; as we watch a TV show or movie we try to talk about how it either supports or goes against a biblical worldview of life)
  • Praying at all times — we try to stop and pray throughout the day, thanking God and acknowledging our need for God (i.e. trying not to make prayer just a dinner table experience!)
  • Not hiding our emotions — we try to be real with our kids and let them know when we are feeling happy or sad (if it’s appropriate) and then going to God together as a family in those times
  • Admitting our sins to them — many times I have messed up and needed to go and ask my girls to forgive me for my sin (this inevitably creates another opportunity for me to let them know how much “daddy” needs Jesus too)
  • Inviting others into our home — this has gotten somewhat more difficult with three kids, but Jaime and I want to model for our kids an atmosphere of love and openness to others

Teaching — What are your children learning?

  • To Begin the Day — I usually get up and get the girls breakfast (Jaime does so much, I try to serve her in this way — plus I’m a morning person and she’s not!).  During breakfast, I read from a couple different devotional materials (Big Book of Quesions and Answers by Sinclair Ferguson and A Faith to Grow On by John MacArthur) and we talk about them.  It only takes about 5 minutes, but it’s one way I start the day teaching them about the gospel.
  • Sometimes at Supper — Although we’re less consistent with this routine, we’ve found that it’s fun to pray for someone in our family by having each person take a picture off the fridge and pray for that person before we eat.  After we eat, sometimes I’ll pull out My First Book of Questions by Carine MacKenzie and “quiz” the girls for fun.
  • To End the Day — Nearly every night we try to read from The Jesus StoryBook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones and pray with our girls.  We like them to pray with us as I believe it’s good to have children learn to pray as they hear us pray.  We’re also teaching them the Lord’s Prayer.
  • Listening to Music as we drive — Jaime likes to put in CD’s for the girls to listen to.  Here’s one that our girls really like: Seeds of Faith
  • Reading Good Books Together — There are so many books I could mention here.  I’ll just mention two: Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers by Joey Allen, and The Priest With Dirty Clothes by R.C. Sproul.

These are some practical ideas we have tried to implement in modeling and teaching the gospel to our children.  But above all, Jaime and I try to pray for our children on a daily basis.  We know that God is the only one who can extend grace to our children to save them and sanctify them just as He has with us. 

How about you?  We would love to hear from you and learn from you as we “do life together” as weak parents.

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