Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Courageous Fathering

“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

I want to invite you to a free movie night at First Baptist Church on Friday, March 9. We’ll be showing “Courageous,” a compelling story of four police officers struggling with their faith and their roles as husbands and fathers. Our doors will open at 6:00 p.m. for refreshments (also free), and we’ll roll film at 7:00 p.m.

This movie speaks powerfully to people of every stage in life, but especially to fathers. That’s why we’re also offering free childcare during the movie, because we really want to encourage husbands and wives to come and see this together. And I’m sure your children will have a great time with our caring volunteers while you enjoy the show. If you need childcare please call the church office at 632-2488 so that we’ll be prepared.

It is clear that the absence of fathers from children’s lives profoundly and negatively impacts not only families, but communities and nations. Research continually bears this out. The website of the National Fatherhood Initiative includes several studies on this issue and finds that children who live without their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behaviors than their peers who live with their married biological (or adoptive) parents. You can check them out and learn more at

I remember reading a story some time ago about Hallmark. Prior to Mother’s Day the card-makers went into one of the federal prisons and gave away cards for the inmates to send to their mothers. As I recall there was so much interest that they ran out of cards. The event went so well they decided to do the same thing for Father’s Day. However, not one inmate came to get a free card to send to his dad. You get the picture?

You may also be interested to know that in 2006 the federal government spent $99.8 billion to provide assistance to father-absent homes. That’s a conservative estimate which does not include indirect costs related to some of the issues mentioned above.

The point is this: kids need dads. Communities need dads. Nations need dads. I have the utmost respect for single mothers who have been left to bear the responsibility for raising their children. I applaud their courageous efforts, and many do an outstanding job despite the obstacles. But even they would be quick to say their children need a dad.

It’s time for men to take responsibility for their families and homes. In the verse quoted above, Joshua was one such man. He understood the call for men to lead their families in the ways of the Lord. He also knew that many wouldn’t. But he courageously stood up before the nation of Israel and declared his allegiance to the Lord, and took responsibility for his house as well.

Men, if you’ve dropped the ball or let go of the wheel, let me say this to you: don’t quit. Maybe you haven’t been the husband or father you know you ought to be, but starting now you can begin to change things. Even if your children are grown and out on their own, what do you think it would mean to them to receive a letter or a call from their dad saying he’s sorry for messing things up, and wanting to make things right? Hearts may not be healed overnight, but don’t give up hope. Start somewhere. Seek the Lord’s help. Walls can be broken down. Relationships can be mended. Lives can be changed by the power of God’s grace and mercy. You can become the man God made you to be.

Come and see “Courageous” with us. This movie might just be the motivation you need to become a better father. As a church we want to help. We’d love to pray for you. Call our prayer-line anytime at 632-5937. Together, let’s be courageous!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Resolving to Be Men of Courage

When my wife purchased for me last fall the book, The Resolution for Men, I must confess that my first thoughts were a bit defensive. I’ve been married for 18 years. I’ve been a dad for 12 years; 15 if you count our first dog. What do I need this book for? Am I not a good enough husband? A good enough father? A good enough man?

Isn’t that kind of like giving Phil Mickelson a Golf Digest instructional video on improving your short game? Or signing up Mark Zuckerberg for a computer class at the local community college?

What a stinking, terrible, arrogant attitude! Talk about a revelation of pride. How could I even begin to imagine that I had somehow “arrived” at a point that I had nothing more to learn? That I didn’t need to continue to grow as a man, a father or a husband? If this was already as good as it was going to get, then I really haven’t learned anything.

Usually I love to learn. I’m always reading a book on preaching (believe it or not!) or church health or something that will hopefully help me become a better pastor. I’m willing to learn to play the guitar better. I want to be in the gym more to work on my jump shot. But learn to be a better man? I thought I’d figured that one out.

The funny thing is, after I’d finally decided to open up the book and at least see what the authors had to say that I was convinced I already knew and didn’t need, I quickly realized how much I didn’t know and how much I really needed this. That’s humbling. Man, I have so far to go!

This is a powerful book that boldly and unapologetically challenges men to “man up” in a culture that has mocked and undermined the God-given responsibilities of manhood and fatherhood. Allow me to quote from the opening chapter:

“Our generation desperately needs courageous men to step up. We need men who will not be swayed by the culture or afraid of criticism. We need men who are resolved to lead their families no matter what. We need men to teach sexual purity to their sons and daughters so that more children won’t enter the world without married parents. We need men who stick to their marriage vows and cry out for God’s help to love their wives rather than giving up during difficult times.

“We need men who refuse to sacrifice their families for the sake of a promotion at work. Men who refuse to let entertainment eat up all of their time and deaden their consciences. Men who will speak out against laws and philosophies that are destroying families. Men who will forgive their dads, break the chains of the past, and set new standards. Men who will pray for their pastors and revival in their churches and make decisions that will strengthen the next generation. We need to be these men. And we need one another!” (p. 21).

I don’t know about you, bro, but I want to be a better husband, a better father, a better man. By the mercy and grace of God, by the power of Christ in me, I want to learn and follow through on resolving to be a man of courage.

If that resonates with you, I invite you to come along with us on a journey to live for what matters most. On Friday night, March 9, we’ll be showing at the First Baptist Church the recently released movie, “Courageous,” which spawned this book my wife bought for me. If you’ve already seen it, come see it again. If you haven’t, then I promise you it will be worth your time. Be watching for details, but go ahead and mark your calendar. March 9, 7:00 p.m. We’ll even provide childcare. Call and let us know.

I yearn for greater faithfulness as a husband, a father and a man, and I want the same for you. Men, let’s resolve to be courageous!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Joy of New Life - There's Nothing Else Like It

One of the most incredible and memorable experiences in life is the birth of a baby. Moms, even if it’s been 70 years since you’ve given birth, I bet you can remember nearly every detail. You remember when and where you went into labor, who was with you at the time, how long it took and what you felt through it all.

You may even recall something of the pain you endured, though hopefully the joy of seeing your baby has far eclipsed the momentary anguish of the actual delivery process. Personally, I thought it was a piece of cake, though my wife may beg to differ.

Nothing really prepares you for the moment of birth. For nine months prior to our first child being born we planned for his arrival. We bought a crib with “some assembly required,” which was probably the most difficult thing about this whole pregnancy business. We shopped for cute little outfits. We baby-proofed the house. We held long and vigorous discussions about possible names for our child. We talked with other parents about what to expect and how we should go about raising this little one. So when the time came, we were all ready to go.

But there is something miraculous, even mysterious, about witnessing a baby being born into the world. I guess we weren't prepared at all. We had seen the grainy ultrasound pictures, we heard the heart beating, we felt the baby’s movements in the womb; so we knew this was a real, living being. But when we actually saw our baby’s birth, we were overwhelmed.

There was joy mixed with love mixed with awe mixed with excitement mixed with gratitude mixed with just about every other emotion you can imagine. If you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about. It was a holy, sacred moment. I even cried.

Two days later they let us take him home. I distinctly remember thinking, “So, they’re just going to let us walk out of here with this baby, all by ourselves? What are we supposed to do with him when we get home? Who’s going to make sure we’re doing everything right? Who’s going to help us change his diapers, give him baths, rock him to sleep and generally take care of him?”

Well, apparently, they don’t send the nurses home with you. I cried some more. We have a video of me attempting to strap our two-day old baby into the car seat in the parking lot of Rockford Memorial Hospital. The video runs for about four minutes as I fumble with the straps and vainly try to figure out how this seat works. At some point I turn to my wife who’s filming this episode and sweetly say, “You can turn that thing off now.” I’ve chosen to not remember how much longer we sat in that parking lot before finally getting him buckled in.

Life has never been the same since. There are times of frustration and anxiety, periods of feeling total inadequacy and epic failures. But there’s a blessing in raising children like nothing else. There remains an ever-present joy and gratitude to God for such a precious gift as children. The constant weight of responsibility for the care and well-being of a child never goes away. Our dependency upon the Lord for His help in this role as parents increases daily. I’ve never regretted it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Parents never get over the joy of having children. And if I may say so, a Christian never gets over the joy of having Christ as Savior and Lord and Friend. There’s nothing else in the world like having a personal relationship with Jesus, the Almighty God of heaven and earth. I can’t describe it adequately for you. But I can invite you to come and see for yourself. You’ll never regret it.