Lost Boys

Wendy: “But where do you live mostly now?”

Peter: “With the lost boys.”

“Who are they?”

“They are the children who fall out of their perambulators when the nurse is looking the other way. If they are not claimed in seven days they are sent far away to Neverland to defray expenses. I’m captain.”

“What fun it must be!”

“Yes,” said cunning Peter, “but we are rather lonely.” 

JM Barrie, whose dialog is quoted above, was the author of Peter Pan, the stage play, and several other works that contained references to the lost boys. These stories hint at a darker tale than we have gleaned from the Disney films. Barrie’s first lost boy was his older brother, who died as a child, leaving Barrie to compete for his mother’s attention with a sibling who would never grow up. The rowdy crew of animal-boys described in Peter Pan were actually the childless author’s surrogate children who lost their own parents and eventually became Barrie’s wards. Two of them also died in the Neverland of adolescence. Barrie’s lost boys inhabit a child’s limbo where they will never mature, never find love and where they will never really live.

This is uncomfortably close to the situation for boys who are leaving the church today in droves. Most of them would say they have quit the world of make-believe faith for the reality of science and culture, but they have chosen a half-life, based on their own brand of faith, where they will find it hard to mature, difficult to know love and impossible to hope for eternal life. I suppose we had best consult Chaos Theory to know why this phenomenon is occurring, since the variables must be nearly infinite, but I would like to consider a few of them.

Superficial Heroes. Pick up a few children’s books from 150 years ago, and you will see that kids today are given little concept of philosophy, honor or purpose by comparison with generations past. Media heroes today are often violent, simplistic caricatures who save only themselves and achieve only pleasure. Such are our sports heroes, financial titans and video stars. This is an especially glaring lack for boys whose God-given love of adventure and combat can serve a bright purpose or an easy, empty vanity.

Surrendered Science. Boys mapped the known world and launched the first rockets, invented the telescope and split the atom. There is a reason beyond discrimination (which has also played a large role) for their prowess in the field. Boys are better at problem solving and spatial thinking. It’s how they are made. But science today has been conquered virtually unopposed by deists and atheists. Although there are some excellent Christian scientists, they are a small minority, and their influence has been tainted by other Christian voices which spoke disparagingly of things they did not understand. So boys, who still pursue scientific endeavors in greater numbers, are exposed to mentors and teachers who shame their belief in something they cannot quantify.

The Feminine Church. Churches are largely female and becoming more so all the time. There are denominations where more than half the ministers are women, and every denomination is plagued by desultory male attendance. It’s a self-perpetuating problem. But there is something else which has become increasingly feminine about the church: an emphasis on the softer side of God. Whether it’s the unbiblical grace of universalism or the true grace of a sinner’s salvation, you will hear more about grace in the church today than ever in history. Salvation grace is real and necessary and good, but our God is also a powerful and uncompromising warrior-king, capable of great ferocity in service to righteousness (see Revelation 16, for example). His love demands something of us and asks us to count the cost. He is a God who imparts strength, equips leaders, commands attention and makes an impact. This is a man’s God, and He has gone missing from the church.

Barrie’s Lost Boys cannot become real men unless they give up their make-believe world of shallow and selfish pursuits. One might be willing to make that leap of faith if there was a place where real purpose, real adventure, and real love could be found together. That is the place we must make visible, by telling it in our own stories and living it aloud every day. As a last word, I must say that I believe in the sovereignty of God, that neither Satan nor human beings can thwart the Lord’s intentions, that He is not wringing His hands ineffectively over our folly but is continually working in time and events. However, that does not excuse us from doing our very best to make God known and to be most like Him, our intrepid Savior who fought His great enemy and confronted death and to save women and men, girls and boys alike.


Related Material:

Gender Gap in World Religions – Pew Forum
What Men Want from Church – CT Pastors
Another Thought on the Gender Gap – The Gospel Coalition

Dark Thoughts

Dear Christian Counselor,

I have been married for over 35 years, and we have had good times and bad, like everyone else, but last week my husband said one thing to me and it killed me. I have tried with ALL my heart to trust God over the years and I even fail at that. I have had friends that I have known since kindergarten that STILL have a close relationship with God… how do people do that? I admit when I try to read the Bible I do not make it very long because I don’t understand it. I have understood four books in my life. I am making and thinking about doing some very deep and dark art.  I think that if I had God to make me feel the way all these other people have felt, then maybe I wouldn’t have to die to live. So my desperate plea to you…. How does a heart that is dying trust God?

Deep and Dark


Dear Deep and Dark,

First, if you are feeling suicidal, please tell your husband or someone else you trust or a doctor or a counselor. I can guarantee you, because my father committed suicide, that your attempt would wound everyone you know. They would carry it with them for the rest of their lives. Don’t do that to them. It sounds like you are really depressed. Get help. You can get through this. I have.

The short (and possibly not very satisfying) answer to the trust question is that you trust God in the middle of the mess. Trusting God doesn’t mean you suddenly feel better; it means you trust Him anyway. You trust Him in your pain and distress and dark art and deadness of heart. I love that you can pour out your emotions through art, by the way – that’s a great thing to do – it’s another form of prayer. Just practice it in a way that doesn’t hurt you or anyone else so that it IS prayer.

Some people seem to have a simple connection with God that others don’t. I am not one of them. If you add them all up, I have spent many years of anger, doubt and dryness toward God in my life. Even Jesus felt that God had forsaken Him at one point. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that all the stories have a happy ending (Rev. 21:4), and sometimes that’s all we can know – not how or when or how much it will hurt in the meantime. Maybe it brings God more glory and us more reward when we barely hang on than if we had one of those easy relationships we envy in others.

As to books, it is not necessary that you read them. Only in the last few hundred years have people had access to books. There are other ways to learn. I would suggest counseling and/or mentoring. But if you are determined to make headway through reading, try some children’s books. You can read them to actual children, if you like, and learn while you are doing it.

Finally, I want to ask you to forgive your husband. He did not know what he was doing, how deeply he was wounding you when he spoke. He is not God that his words have to control you. Forgiveness does not mean your husband gets away ‘scott free,’ either. If you need to have a conversation with him first, do that, but then trust God to deal with the man for you. That’s called forgiveness, and you may have to keep doing it for a while before it sticks.

I want to repeat what I said at first. Don’t hand your pain to everyone else around you by hurting yourself. Get the help you need. You are loved. You are valuable. It’s still true, even if you don’t believe it. That’s pretty much the definition of trust.

The Power of the Resurrection

… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10a)

According to news sources, David Hall lived with his girlfriend for over a month after her death, lighting candles and opening windows in the middle of a Michigan winter to counteract the odor. Police do not suspect foul play. It seems the man simply couldn’t live without her. Some would say – have said – that’s what the Apostles did after Jesus was buried: they stole the body of a dead felon and lived with a lie because they couldn’t live without Him.

Death is the ultimate separation, the final humiliation and the greatest expression of our human weakness. For Christ, who gave up His heavenly glory to wash the feet of a few fickle friends, death meant all those things – separation from those He loved, the humiliation of the grave, the ultimate defeat. I imagine the disciples were deep in discussions about how they might learn to live without Him when the resurrection stunningly revealed they would never have to. The resurrection disclosed something in Jesus of which they had only seen a glimpse. It revealed His power.

Power for the King

  • Death is defeated. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him (Rom. 6:9). And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Col. 1:18).
  • The King is exalted. After the resurrection Peter says of Christ that He has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him (1 Peter 3:22). The king’s right hand is the hand of power, the hand which bestows, the position of honor. In taking this place, Christ assumed His rightful dignity as heir to all God possesses.
  • The Ruler reigns. In His life and death, Christ laid down His power. At the resurrection He took it up again. This is the beginning of the rule and reign of Christ and His people which will culminate in the judgment of the earth and the condemnation of Satan and his minions. The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15).

Power for Us

  • Eternal life. As when an ambassador negotiates a treaty, what is given to the representative belongs to his people. What He gets, we get. By the death of Christ our sins were forgiven – by His resurrection, we receive eternal life. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead (I Cor. 15:21). And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power (I Cor 6:14). I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26).
  • The indwelling Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets and heroes of the Old Testament, but He did not live with and within God’s people. King Jesus sent Him to us to reveal His completed mission and empower us for His service. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7).
  • Christ’s intercession. The power of Christ is no far-away promise to be enjoyed at a later date, but it is a living and active power which works on our behalf because of His love for us. He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25).
  • Overcoming sin. We have inherited the righteousness of Christ as a result of His death, but as a result of His resurrection power, we are now able to live in ways that please God. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him (Rom. 6:7,8). Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:24-25).
  • Overcoming trials. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • Overcoming the evil one. Little children, you are from God and have overcome [evil], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
  • The power to hope. That you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Eph. 1:18-21).
  • His unifying power. The most diverse people around the world and throughout history now have the most important thing in common. “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23). 
  • The power to preach. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

Power for the world

  • The Church is empowered to serve. Only through the resurrection of Christ is the power of God available to the Church. Christ’s return to Heaven allowed Him to send us the gifts and the Spirit which make our work effective in the world. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:7-8).
  • The Gospel goes forth. Christ was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations (Rom. 1:4-5).
  • All things made new. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

Our Jesus is not a dead body to be mourned eternally. He is the living One in Whom all things hold together (Col 1:17). Jesus Christ our Lord, raised from the dead, declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4) – because we can’t live without Him and we don’t have to.