President Obama Talks About Fatherhood–His Father and Being a Better Father

President Obama at MorehouseThough we may not agree on all of the political or social issues with President Obama, we can all relate to some of his remarks about fatherhood that he shared as part of the commencement address he gave to the graduates of Morehouse College a couple of weeks ago. Here are some of those comments (the entire commencement address can be seen at the WhiteHouse website www.whitehouse.gov

Personal Reflection-

…I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home — where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.

Order of priorities–

It’s hard work (being a father) that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice. And I promise you, Michelle will tell you I’m not perfect. She’s got a long list of my imperfections. Even now, I’m still practicing, I’m still learning, still getting corrected in terms of how to be a fine husband and a good father. But I will tell you this: Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.

 

Leaving a Legacy

I know that when I am on my deathbed someday, I will not be thinking about any particular legislation I passed; I will not be thinking about a policy I promoted; I will not be thinking about the speech I gave, I will not be thinking the Nobel Prize I received.  I will be thinking about that walk I took with my daughters.  I’ll be thinking about a lazy afternoon with my wife. I’ll be thinking about sitting around the dinner table and seeing them happy and healthy and knowing that they were loved.  And I’ll be thinking about whether I did right by all of them.

To view President Obama’s full address to the graduates of Morehouse College on YouTube, click here.

Great Fatherhood Requires Cross-Training

GREAT FATHERHOOD REQUIRES CROSS-TRAINING by Stephen Kendrick

As Christians around the world join together every year to celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday, let me challenge you, Dads, to direct your attention and boldly train your children in the powerful and transformational truths of the cross.

Let me summarize thousands of years of history and theological books for you. The cross of Jesus Christ is the secret to knowing God, experiencing His love and walking in true victory in life. (Romans 5:8)

Cross-training2Embracing the cross transforms a man from the inside out. Living the cross guides him to die to his fears and self-centeredness and to be more like Christ and walk in courage and truth in this world. (Luke 9:23) Teaching your children about the cross is fundamental to leading your kids to the heart of God and training them to make the most of their lives.

Jesus said it this way, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:23-25 nasu.

Palm Sunday and the Passover week leading up to Easter are really about the cross and Jesus becoming the sacrificial lamb whose blood would save people from God’s wrath (John 1:29, Luke 22:14-20).

Did you know that the cross is the central theme of the entire 66 books of the Bible? The Old Testament is constantly using symbolism and prophecies (Genesis 22:4-18, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53) to point people forward to the cross. The New Testament looks back to the cross. The four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all take you on a journey to the cross.

The cross is also the central theme of true theology.

Through the cross, Jesus dealt with everything that our selfishness and sin has brought into the world. Sin brings guilt and shame, but Jesus bore our shame on the cross. (Hebrews 12:1-2) Sin brings bondage, addiction and spiritual slavery. (John 8:31-36) But Jesus sets us free from these. (Romans 6:6, 17-18, 22, Galatians 2:20; 5:1) Sin brings the judgment and curse of the law. Yet Christ died on a tree and became a curse for us to deliver us (Galatians 3). Sin results judgment, death, and the fear of death. (Romans 6:23 Hebrews 2:14). But Christ conquered death, hell, and the grave.

At the same time, the cross of Jesus reveals and uncovers the character of God’s heart. It glorifies and announces the very nature of God Himself in vivid color.  If you want to see God’s wrath upon sin, then look at the cross.

So much blood. So tortuous that Romans exempted their citizens from it. So painful, a new word was invented to describe it. In English, our word “excruciating” actually means, “out of the cross. ”

But at the same time, if you want to see the beauty of God’s mercy, look at the cross and how He bore our sins for us. (Romans 9:16; Eph. 2:4-5). The height of God’s LOVE was revealed at the cross. (John 15:13) Jesus paid the highest price possible to those us who deserved it the least in order to give us the greatest gift possible.

When we men and our children realize how much we deserve God’s judgment and yet how much love and mercy He has offered us through the cross, it does something amazing within us. It humbles us.

Charles Spurgeon wrote,  “My sins were the scourges which lacerated those blessed shoulders, and crowned with thorn those bleeding brows: my sins cried “Crucify Him! crucify Him!” and laid the cross upon His gracious shoulders. His being led forth to die is sorrow enough for one eternity: but my having been His murderer, is more, infinitely more, grief than one poor fountain of tears can express.”

Yet, knowing what Christ did for us transforms us. It awakens us to God’s love and mercy poured out for us. It inspires us to let go of what is wrong in our lives and embrace what God wants from us.

The cross answers life’s toughest questions. Which religious leader is worth following? Look to the One Who died on a cross for you. How can I know that I am really loved? Run to the cross. How do I get encouragement on a daily basis? Be inspired by the cross. How do I get set free from addictions? By embracing the cross and following Christ. What does God think about my sin? Gaze upon the shame of the cross. How do I get eternal life? By bowing your knee and your heart at the foot of it.

How should I then live? The Apostle Paul beautifully explained it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20 NASU

This is the power of the cross.

Embrace it and teach it to your children.

Well Done Good and Faithful Dad

“Well done…good and faithful dad”

Recently I wrote a blog post for Dad Matters, a new blog for dads from Focus on the Family called, Defining Manhood: Reflecting on Steubenville.  This blog post was a letter to my son about manhood in light of the tragedy in Steubenville, OH.

In the post I wrote, “May I stand before the Lord some day and hear the words, “well done, good and faithful dad …”

“Good and faithful dad …” isn’t that an interesting thought?  The more I think about servanthood in that context the more I long to hear it.  As a man, I want to be found faithful in my calling to the Lord.  To be a good steward of the talents and skills He has given me…but always within the context of being a husband and father.

opentomb-crossYou see, to know at the deepest level of our being that God is our Father and that we are his sons and daughters is the result of what Christ did for us on the cross.  It is to know Him as ‘Abba, Father.’

No Longer On The Cross

In today’s culture, fatherhood is often merely an afterthought, but Christ changed all of that for every single one of us on the cross.  In the garden of Gethsemane, Christ expressed a childlike trust yet was willingly obedient when he prayed.  “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36).  You see Christ was basically saying…”you are a good and faithful Father and I will trust you with this…”

As we celebrate Easter, may we celebrate Easter within the context of being a dad.  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”  (Galatians 4:4-7)

Easter is an adoption ceremony that allows us to become His sons and daughters.  And as dads…do our children see us modeling and living out our sonship?    As Christ was found faithful, may we be found faithful to our callings as fathers so that one day we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”  That’s a life that’s no longer on the cross but now living in freedom!

Happy Easter.  I hope you know the power of being one of his children.  If you don’t, you can.  Check out “Restoring Our Relationship With God.”

Blessings
Roy

Don’t Miss Out on Real Life

fatherhood comission mitch temple ute passWhen our family lived in Colorado Springs a few years back I loved taking walks along an old Indian trail called “the Ute pass.”  Often as I hiked I noticed large pines bowed down toward the ground pointing to the earth. I assumed this was due to heavy snow storms but I read a historical marker one day which said that these are most likely “prayer trees.” Prayer trees served as markers to mark sacred spots along the trail as Native Americans traveled from the plains through the Stony pass heading deep into the Rockies. When these travelers sensed a spot that felt was sacred, they would simply bend a young sapling over without breaking it and tie its bows to the earth with a leather strap. Through the years the tree would continue to grow but would remain postured as if bowed in prayer.

As fellow tribesmen and women passed along these trails from hunting or gathering food from the plains, they would see these trees and be reminded to slow down, stop and pray. To pass these sacred spots without praying was not looked upon with favor by peers.

Just as Native Americans needed prayer reminders as they carried on their daily journey of life, so do we.  Not only do we need to be reminded to refocus our thoughts to the One who made us and the things around us, we also need to be reminded to refocus on those we care about- our family and friends- the “big rocks”.

Sure it’s easy to pass hurriedly along our “trails” each day. I am the world’s worst at running wide open often missing “sacred moments.” But if we forget the people and things that mean more to us than our  “must do” responsibilities, we can miss out on the most important opportunities of life.

We may not be able to bend trees to remind us of the sacred or what means the most to us, but it’s good to place reminders along our daily expeditions to slow down, remember the important.   “Sticky note to self: Call Dad tonight; send my wife an email thanking her for working tirelessly to care for us; send a text to my daughter telling her how proud her daddy is of her. And, most importantly, say a little prayer thanking God  for it all.“

Championing Fathers – There’s More To This Than Meets The Eye

Often when we look at an organization or big initiatives from “the outside” we typically have little “insight” as to what it takes to keep the “wheels in motion.”  I learned this first hand when I went to work for Focus on the Family back in 2004. At that time Focus had over 1400 fulltime employees and operated out of three massive buildings at their headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Coming from a local church I was really clueless about the incredible processes that have to occur on a daily basis in order to offer hundreds of resources to millions of people all over the world. As I began to bury myself in planning meetings day after day, I soon began to realize how much work really goes on “behind the scenes.”

I have experienced the same thing by being involved in the launch of the Fatherhood CoMission. It takes hours upon hours of planning, phone calls, emails, building and managing social media, web site production, event planning and days of travel to pull together an organization which is designed to be a collaboration platform for numerous organizations to come together for one cause- the cause of championing fathers and fatherhood.

Fatherhood CoMission

Then, there is the Fatherhood CoMission board. This is a group of men who have willingly, selfishly volunteered hours upon hours to provide leadership to FCM in order that we might work in unity to champion fathers to the church and culture. This is in addition to the fact that each of these men are senior level executives at some of our nation’s top Christian family and fathering organizations (Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, Iron Sharpens Iron, National Center for Fathering, Sherwood Pictures). Add to this the fact each of them are devoted husbands and fathers to their children. One of our board members has eight girls all under the age of 16!  Bottom line- these men are true servants. They sacrifice above and beyond their day to day responsibilities for others and for the cause of building up fathers across this country.

Fatherhood CoMission team

The verse that comes to mind regarding this group of servant leaders is: Matthew 23:11: The greatest among you shall be your servant. (ESV). They are incredible examples of great men who live out their daily lives by serving others.  May each of us be inspired to do the same in our homes, with our kids, spouses, neighbors and on the job.

P.S.: Please pray for our leadership as we move forward with executing the mission of the Fatherhood CoMission.  God is really blessing this initiative and we will be making a very exciting announcement soon about an initiative for the Father’s Day 2013 weekend, which you, you’re organization and church can participate in. Stay tuned!

Appreciating Life In Reverse While Moving Forward

“Mrs. Eyster, we think Westley is OK but…”

It’s one of those calls that every parent fears. Your heart sinks, everything that seemed important just moments earlier is long forgotten and trivial.

appreciating what you haveWe got just such a call; our 16 year old son was with some friends riding his dirt bike at a friends house. When Tracey answered the phone, it was the friends father who explained that Westley had had a crash and that he had an obviously broken collar bone, probably a broken wrist, his back was hurting, he was awake and responsive and on the way to the ER!

To make a long story short, Tracey and I got to the ER and foundd that while he did have a broken collar bone that required surgery, a broken wrist and a number of scrapes and bruises, he was going to be fine. Tracey and I knowingly looked at each other and praised God for his protection with a keen appreciation for how many parents are called to the ER with dramatically worse situations.

This situation, and my recent bout with West Nile Virus, has stirred in me a greater appreciation for the gift and brevity of life.

Psalm 39: 4 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”

In fact, I can’t get away from it. The Lord continues to “show me the number of my days” in what I am reading, in bible study, in conversations, in relationships.

This heightened appreciation for God’s blessings of life is doing a work in me. I find myself wanting to be more about the things of life that matter and have meaning and be less presumptive on the future.  I am increasingly mindful of the instruction to “keep watch” and “be ready” (Matt 24: 42-45).

Here is one way that has helped me in appreciating life more that might help you:

Take some time and look at the last 30 days or last 6 months of your calendar and look for how God has blessed you and your family. Look for answered prayers, for unexpected joys and even look for trials and suffering that caused new learning, growth or dependence on the Lord. The old saying, “hindsight is 20/20” is really true. For me, appreciating life in reverse by examining what has been going on in my life gives me a keener awareness and understanding of how God is at work.

 

By Bill Eyster, COO and Executive Vice President at FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru

Finally A Dad Ad Worth Watching

I recently came across a really neat commercial that featured (for a change) a really powerful “dad moment” in of all things a commercial…for coffee.

I like it for several reasons.  First, it stands in contrast to most commercials that feature men or dads that are catatonic dolts.  You know the guy I’m talking about…the dad that can’t figure out the simplest things, that acts like a big kid all the time (while the all-wise, all-knowing woman tolerates his stupidity, and the all-wise, all-knowing kids do, too).  I’m very tired of that stereotyping of men and dads in particular, because it reinforces the lie that dads do not matter.

Another reason I really enjoy this commercial is that it’s based on a real story.  We need to share our real stories as men, to encourage each other.  To sometimes warn each other.

I’m also fond of this “dad ad” because it reminds us of the powerful and enduring impact of a dad…for good or bad.  In the commercial, the grandfather is bringing coffee to his grandson’s hockey game, while his son is already there looking on the game. Flashbacks tell us that this game…hockey…has been a passion for the son (father of the grandson) since he was a little boy. We also sense that the grandfather didn’t approve of his son’s love of hockey.  He didn’t refuse his son’s desire to play ALL the time, but he did put studying above hockey MOST of the time. And yet…the son realizes by the end of the commercial that his dad was not as disconnected from his hockey playing as he thought.

His dad would sneak into his games…his dad would watch from a distance and cheer him on…his dad even kept a picture of his son in his hockey uniform in his wallet for YEARS AND YEARS.  The faded picture is shown to the adult son as proof he watched the games and knew about the effort of his son in the sport.  The picture is precious to him.

This sets up a moment of peace, implied forgiveness, gratitude…and pride.  The grandfather is proud of his son.  The grandfather is proud of his grandson.  And the implication is clear. That pride and admiration and respect of your dad means a lot.  And even that statement is an understatement.

Research shows that an engaged dad in a child’s life has a huge impact in the social, emotional, academic, and spiritual well-being and development of our kids. So how are we doing, dads? Do we take or create opportunities to let our children know we are proud of them? Do we have our own “This is my beloved son/daughter in whom I’m well pleased” moments?

I’m humbled by this commercial.  I’m warned, in a way, as a dad. The warning to us is this:  Don’t wait for decades to pass before we tell our kids that we love them, that we are proud of them, that we appreciate what they can do and are capable of doing. We can talk all day long about government programs, church programs, non-profit ministry programs and the like that we need to encourage dads.

But some times as a dad…we just gotta go do it.

So let’s tell our kids and our grandkids today how much they mean to us.  Let’s not let the day go by without making an opportunity to do that.

What ways have you been blessed by a dad or grandpa that told you that they were proud of you?  What creative ways have you seen this type of blessing shown in public?  Share your comments below.

 

Leon C. Wirth is a Christian speaker, husband and father. He serves as Executive Director of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family and host of the Dad Matters podcast with Dr. Greg Smalley. He is the co-author of the book The One Year Father-Daughter Devotions. Leon lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Michelle, and their daughters.

The Vison for The Fatherhood CoMission — The REAL Impact of the Movie, COURAGEOUS

This past November, The Fatherhood CoMission hosted over 50 key fathering leaders from across the U.S. to pray, learn, laugh and build collaborative relationships in order to champion the cause of fatherhood TOGETHER with one heart and one voice.

On Thursday night (Nov. 29,2012) Stephen Kendrick, FCM board member, presented an update on God’s faithfulness regarding the film, Courageous, over the past year.

courageousbannerStephen began his session recounting how he came to be part of the Fatherhood CoMission leadership and vision. He and a few others had caught the vision of what FCM could accomplish- to create a collaboration platform where Christian organizations and leaders passionate about fatherhood could come together in the spirit of unity and champion the cause of fatherhood together.

How Will We Fund This New Venture?

After Stephen came on our board, one of the big issues facing us was how do we fund this cause and organization that doesn’t exist? Stephen mentioned an idea that Courageous was being submitted to the San Antonio film festival, and if it won, the $101,000 prize might could be used to launch the Fatherhood Comission. But there were about 7 different hurdles that had to be overcome including the fact there were over 300 other submissions and that if Courageous won, all the parties and organizations benefitting had to agree to give up their portion of the winnings. The possibility didn’t seem likely in human terms.  But, Stephen and I prayed, “God if you are in this, make it happen.”  Guess what? Every hurdle was broken down. The movie qualified, won the festival, everyone cooperated, and God provided the money to start the Fatherhood CoMission. This past year the organization was formed, web and social media presence built out, national leaders’ summit planned and executed and that’s just the beginning. God is giving us the ideas and strategy to make a bigger impact together in 2013.

The REAL Impact of COURAGEOUS on Men and Families Around the World

During the Leaders’ Summit presentation this past November, Stephen went on to detail testimony after testimony of how God blessed the movie Courageous and has been using it to help bring the hearts of fathers back to their children not only in America but around the world.

“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Mal 4:6, ESV)

Here are a few highlights of what God has done and continues to do through Courageous.

  • Courageous was the number 4 movie in the nation when it released theatrically.
  • Over 4 million people went to theaters to see Courageous.
  • Courageous remained in theaters over 17 weeks.
  • It was released in theaters in over 20 countries.
  • It was the number one DVD in the US the week is was released to the market.
  • The Courageous DVD was released in over 75 countries.
  • Some of the proceeds Sherwood’s movies are being used to establish missionaries where there are none like among the Dutch speaking people in Germany and buying motor scooters so pastors in Sudan can share the Gospel throughout the barren region. Over 100 new churches have been established this past year as a result.
  • Courageous was translated into one of the dialects of the Philippine language. Over 1,000 police officers came to Christ in the Philippines as a result.
  • In Ecuador, key government leaders and thousands of Police Officers saw the movie and many believe this could have an impact on turning corruption around in that country.
  • In Malawi Africa, Courageous was shown by a local missionary in various villages. 100’s of men came to know Christ, gave up drinking their daily wages away, rededicated themselves to their families and have been holding resolution ceremonies in their cities.

Tumbuka Tribesman with their signed Resolutions

  • In Afghanistan, soldiers saw the movie and rededicated themselves to their spouses and children. Many marriages have been saved and fathers returned to their homes.

The REAL Power Behind the Success of COURAGEOUS

Throughout the presentation Stephen reiterated that Courageous was God’s thing, and no one could take credit for it. They prayed for over a year about what the next Sherwood film would be about. God gave them the story behind Courageous. Even during filming and production, they began each day with prayer asking God to guide and bless each scene. They prayed for the right actors, God gave them strong believers who could produce professional performances. They prayed for a scene that would make the audience laugh after a deeply emotional scene. God gave them the “Snake King” idea (by far one of the most popular scenes in the movie). Every aspect of this film was given over and dedicated to God and the Lord ordered their steps and blessed their efforts. (Proverbs 16:3)

It’s still bringing people to Christ and leading men back to their families. Resolution ceremonies are still being conducted all over the world. Men are stepping up to the plate and being the courageous leaders of their homes that God has called them to be. Sherwood Baptist and the Kendrick’s freely give all the glory to God for what is happening.

Keeping the Light From COURAGEOUS Shining – The Fatherhood CoMission

And now through the Fatherhood CoMission, fathering leaders are coming together from over 30 organizations asking God to take the foundation that Courageous has laid and allow them to build upon it and keep the winds blowing in the sails of this incredible movement. Egos and logos are being laid to the side and God’s leaders are coming together asking Him once again, “how can we, together, continue to champion strong fatherhood in the world?”

Join Our Team to Champion Fatherhood!

Will you join us in rejoicing with what the Father has and continues to do through Courageous and now through the Fatherhood CoMission? Will you pray with us as we begin our 2013 plans to help churches and communities encourage and equip men to be strong fathers? Will you consider helping us financially in 2013 to champion fatherhood in our nation?

As we continue to serve together, we believe that that dads will respond to the call and step up to the plate. Dads will recommit to their wives and children, they will start spending time with their children, they will lead their families spiritually. The result? Stronger churches, communities, states, countries. Less crime, less addiction, less incarcerations. Better schools, safer neighborhoods. More families coming to Christ and more families Courageously raising future generations for the glory of God.

*Click here for more information about the Fatherhood CoMission or to support our cause.

Together we can make 2013 the Year of the Father!

 

 

Reflecting on 2012

by Bill Eyster, FamilyLife

As we ring in a new year, it is often a time of reflection on the past year and anticipation of the coming year. Here’s a suggestion for you and your family to build intentionality as you transition to 2013…

Happy-New-Year-2013-Facebook-CoverGather your family together (maybe even turn off the football game) and ask this question,

“How were you blessed in 2012?”

It’s a great question. The responses offer start with the most recent activities (gifts they got at Christmas or travel to see family for the holidays). But, if you keep digging and probing, you will be amazed at the very real and varied ways you and your family have been blessed.

Probe by recounting:

– Trips that each of you have taken. (family vacations, mission trips, etc)

– Major milestones reached (16th birthday, anniversaries, start of school, etc),

– Significant activities or efforts (ACT tests, sporting competitions, etc),

– Big purchases (car, home, bike, maybe something one of you has been saving up for)

– Friendships that are new or deeper,

– Key lessons learned,

– Major sicknesses or accidents.

You get the idea…

Our family has been doing this for many years. it has given us a great perspective of how God is at work in our lives and how he provides so many blessings that are often taken for granted. This perspective gives us great hope and expectancy as we look toward the coming year!

So, give it a try.

We All Need a Little P D C

A new friend and member of the Fatherhood CoMission family, Jamie Bohnett, shared some quotes from a book written by Henri Nouwen back in 1979 entitled, “The Wounded Healer.” They are worth sharing:

“The man of prayer is a leader precisely because through his articulation of God’s work within himself he can lead others out of confusion to clarification; through his compassion he can guide them out of the closed circuits of their in-groups to the wide world of humanity.” (p. 47)

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” (p.72)

“The man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men might be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all men are one at the wellspring of  pain and joy.” (p. 73)

As a father and leader, these quotes struck me deeply. They caused me to really reflect asking these questions:

  • Am I a leader of my family and others who is led by prayer? Honestly, not always. Often prayer comes behind my own thinking, desires and failed attempts. I’m still learning to ask God before trying to solve the challenge at hand.
  • What “deserts” have I been through in my life that I have not yet shared “the path out of” with others? What difficult times have I been through as a father, leaders and what have I learned that I have not yet allowed others to know about? Do I have the courage to share them or will I keep them hidden and lost by my passing? I am praying that God will give me the insight and courage to do so.
  • How compassionate am I really to “the one” person that God puts in front of me? Often as fathers and leaders of others, “the one person” gets lost in “the many”.  “Lord, help me to focus on “the one’s” in my family and those I lead. Help me to understand, feel and clarify their pain and joy’s and in turn do the same for “the many.”

My thoughts have been swirling around these questions today. I believe they have helped me to be take one step to being a better leader, father and granddad. My prayer is that these quotes will challenge you similarly.