Roy Baldwin

What is a Father?

I am always baffled by how much men, especially fathers, are shamed into action.

The latest satire video from Cool Carl of Sunday Cool, is a very funny but sad reflection of what is often true of the experience some dads will hear this Father’s Day.

I wonder if, at the root of this problem, is our inability to accurately define what a father is, the value a dad’s role plays, or impact he has on his children or family as a whole.

Stop Shaming Fathers

Church sermons, men’s ministry groups, men’s conferences, men’s retreats, men’s prayer breakfasts, men’s accountability groups, men’s curriculums…I have participated in these activities, I have spoken at these activities, I have designed some of these activities. And so often we start off by lecturing men about all the things they are not doing or not doing well, as husbands, fathers, sons, and as men.

Look, I know there is an abundance of data (fatherlessness, divorce, violence, drug use, suicide, depression, etc.) that would suggest men are not doing their parts when it comes to our homes, families, and marriages.

BUT I also know there is strong evidence that would counter this data and say men in some ways are being better fathers and spouses more than ever before (a post for another time).

Although the “over the top” video from Cool Carl is funny, it demonstrates a very destructive worldview that can live in our churches, about who fathers are and what they do or don’t do. I think this worldview is often very subtle, but nonetheless, it bankrupts our understanding of what a Biblical definition of fatherhood is and, on a greater scale, what masculinity is.

Men are drowning in shame

I do feel much of the data overwhelmingly shows that men/fathers are already drowning in shame.

Here are just three of many data points:

Recent research suggests that men have no close friends.

Men commit suicide at a rate 2-4x higher than women.

Depression in men is being called a “silent epidemic” due to its impact on coronary disease and other health conditions.

These factors cannot be ignored or explained away. If men are drowning in shame, the last thing we need to do before throwing them a lifeline is to lecture them on why they are drowning. 

What is a Father?

So often I think we approach men using the same tactics Jesus used when teaching his disciples about the Pharisees or how Jesus interacted with Pharisees. He saw them as hypocrites and “white washed tombs (Matthew 23). If this is our view of men or fathers, then our approach of challenging men to do better and be better misses the mark completely. It’s like pouring salt into an invisible wound.

Our approach needs to be more like the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3. Although the Apostle Paul doesn’t hold back about putting to death the old self, he encourages believers to put on the new self.

In 2015 I wrote a piece for the blog, Authentic Manhood, called “4 Traits of An Authentic Man,” I have updated those 4 traits for this post. Obviously, this isn’t comprehensive in regards to defining biblical masculinity, but I do think it lays down some foundational pieces.

  1. Authenticity (V.16)
    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

    Being grounded in God’s word, as described here, isn’t just an intellectual understanding. It’s with the understanding that as Christ transforms me with his Word, I become a different man and it is for the greater good of those around me. People should feel drawn to Christ, not because I have all the answers, but because of the “emotional and relational connectedness” they feel when they are with me.
  2. Content of our Character (v. 12-14)
    “…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

    These attributes become the content of our character as men. Our spouses, children, co-workers, friends family, even strangers are drawn closer to Christ because of these elements. As you will see from these attributes, there is an initial application of messiness (patience) and brokenness (bearing with one another), as well as redemption (forgiveness).
  3. Secure Identity (v. 12)
    “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…”

    Paul affirmed their identity in Christ. “This is who you are.” What we believe about ourselves will inform all of our decisions and those outcomes. This is why lecturing men doesn’t work. No one is harder on a man than a man himself. Start leading them. Gain their trust. Create a safe place for men to be true to who God is calling them to be.
  4. Gratitude (V.17)
    “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

    As Christ transforms men as they surrender to His work and process of transformation, the entire community (family, home and church) is blessed and grateful for this man who is giving his all for the cause of Christ.

A dear friend and former co-worker Glenn Stanton wrote a book called, “Secure Daughters Confident Sons.” He writes this:

Don’t you think the world becomes a better, happier, and healthier place when men are encouraged to become the best version of who they already are? That’s part of our job as parents raising boys. Still, we are wise to remember that Clint Eastwood is not Albert Einstein is not Harrison Ford is not George Washington Carver is not Abraham Lincoln….is not your husband or your son.” (p.20)

Men need to be inspired, encouraged, and discipled.

Final Thoughts

May we truly change the way we think about the men and fathers in our lives. I know there are a lot of broken promises, disappointments, and unmet expectations out there. My encouragement is to seek to restore, redeem, reconcile, and forgive.

To Fathers (bio, step, foster, adoptive, father figure): Thank you for what you do day in and day out. We play such a vital and critical role in the health and life of our families. Don’t give up. Our families need us more than ever. Be the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical provider and protector God has created and designed you to be. It’s hard…but anything hard is usually worth fighting for.

To fathers who feel like they are drowning and can’t undo what’s been done:
Find another man or person to talk with who will encourage and support you. There are some incredible resources for men out there. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone. As someone who is coming out of a very dark and hard season, ask for help.

I know this post doesn’t fully answer the question, “What is a father?” I do hope it challenges us to rethink our own beliefs about dads and the role they play especially in the church. I love the sentiment Bart Millard expresses in the movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” which captured the true story of his broken yet restored relationship with his dad. May this sentiment be true of us, “God will give us the grace to allow His redemption to come into any relationship whenever we are ready to receive His gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.“

Karen Baldwin

Looking Forward

 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6 NLT

A little over a year ago, I found my spot at camp.  I would sit on the bench, which was on the bridge overlooking the creek.  It was a protected sanctuary that had a roof of large trees and leaves.  They would protect me, drawing shade from the hot sun and a shelter in the midst of a rain storm.  I would sit there to get away from the unknowns, the struggles, and honestly, the realities of having no control of my family’s future.  I would praise God there. I would sob for forgiveness in my unbelief. I would beg for assurance and peace of what I could not see ahead of me.

But it was a place where I could escape and find a moment of tranquility in what seemed turbulent and unsettled.

Sitting there where all I could hear was the invisible wind, making its presence known, birds singing as if they had no cares in the world, water flowing with a confidence of where the path would lead…it was peace for my soul.  It was a moment to just be still, and to know that the God of creation and the nature that surrounded me cared more for me than the beauty those sounds and visuals could ever fully express.

And as has been my thought many times before when God slammed doors shut on our life journey, I would wonder what a year from now would look like.  Obviously God knows the plans he has for me, plans to give me a hope and future.  And a peace would come over me, knowing that I would look back a year from that time, and see a glimpse of his perfection and goodness in my life through the changes a year would bring.  He has a plan, He cares enough to have it all laid out.  He has the moments that will take my breath away, moments where I’ll fully see his hand, and the pieces will fit together.  Moments where he will take me to new places and answer the prayers that have been most pressed on my heart.

Here I am.  A year later…seeing the pieces fit together.  Completely? No!  I’m still in personal transition.  It takes me the longest to find my place!  But I have a home…what a miraculous experience it was to find the only home with the desires of heart and location.  Close to the schools that fit our girls so well.  Three minutes from the church we’d call home.  Across from a shopping center where our daily needs are met. A neighborhood with walking paths and a pond.  Did I already say it was the only house available?  It fit our family perfectly.  It is beautiful, spacious, with little maintenance, fenced-in backyard, and a refreshing place to rest, enjoy family time, eat, sleep and feel at home.  We longed and prayed for those things: good schools, a good church for our kids and for us, a place where we could be safe, feel cared for and to experience God’’s goodness…together.  He not only answered, but he blessed more that we could’ve planned or imagined on our own.

He provided a job for Roy.  I’ll let Roy tell his side of that journey…because like every other chapter, God showed his perfection in the job, ministry and passion to the things that built up to this moment.  But I will share that once a door first opened, it was less than 8 weeks before our house was packed and being moved across the country…again.  And so again, all of the details we had to figure out in that short amount of time…between holidays even…God had to take our hands and dictate many of those details for us.  It’s like a parent, he clearly said, “call this moving company, this is the home for you, fill out the paperwork in a parking lot, this is the church you will attend (not the one we had planned on!!), register your kids in these schools.  Here’s the dates.  Here’s the plan.  Just follow my lead.”  He had to dictate.  We could’ve never figured it out on our own.

Nebraska?  Really God? 

Where the heck is Nebraska anyway? 

I know it’s out there somewhere between NH and CO…but exactly where?  What?  No mountains?  I know there’s no big bodies of water…but corn and endless fields?  Ugh…but the people.  The beauty of people is so much more beautiful than even the greatest of mountains.  I’m still on the relationship building journey, but people out here are NICE!  I mean they just make you feel like family, like they’ve known you for years.  I’m still learning to raise my head and give eye contact as I pass people…because they really want to be cordial!  Though I’m still navigating relationships, I see my kids make friends and connect, at church and school.  And for me, that was the priority.  They are so happy and so very content.  They’ve adjusted quicker that I could have imagined.  And they each have found friends who are in the foster care system or have been adopted.  That just is a God wink for the call to which he had for us here.

Did you hear my repeated words throughout?  More than I could’ve ever imagined or planned in my own strength.  Every part of the journey has found its place in the greater story of our last this last year.  I won’t lie.  I questioned and grieved, worried and doubted a year ago.  But I also fought the lies that God couldn’t move us on to greater things.  I fought it by reminding myself that the questions of the present will have many answers a year later.  The faith isn’t a one-time belief in a God who protects and orchestrates.  Faith is the journey by which we live each day, depending on the One who already has it all figured out.

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad He has it figured out. I’m completely exhausted when I take those measures into my own control. I’m reminded today, as I look back and remember,  I just need to follow His lead…and find peace, joy and purpose in the midst of the journey, which is the here and now.  And be expectant.  Because a year from now, I think I’ll be looking back at relationships, where my kids are at in their own journeys, and the  passions he’s placed on my heart…and I’ll see the pieces of the coming weeks and months play out perfectly and often miraculously.

Roy Baldwin

Embracing Humility at Home, Church, Work

“Trust and safety go hand in hand.  How safe do we feel with each other?

Are we authentic and open?

Do we place the most difficult and important issues and questions on the table…

Trust ignites safety and togetherness.” 

If trust and safety are a couple of the tires on a mission driven organization, humility is going to be the fuel in the vehicle. 

What is humility and where can we find it? Well, I believe the essence of humility is found in the life of Jesus and the Apostle Paul exhorts believers to mimic Christ:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
– Philippians 2:3-8

Three times in this passage we see the word “humble.” Why is humility so important? Because anything else stands in the way of our relationship with Jesus and with others. If we are to give witness to the Light and Hope that has come into the world, we must not cast our own shadows to distract from its brilliance. 

This is not a humility of thinking less of ourselves, but as Tim Keller says, a “thinking of ourselves less.” He says, the thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.”

C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

If I can stop anchoring every experience and every conversation back to myself, and instead look upward to Christ – I can then experience the hope, the peace, the joy that otherwise evades me.  This is just as true for a mission driven organization such as a family, church, workplace, school, etc. 

There are a few stories I don’t normally share, but I want to share one that will shed light on this.  Working with at-risk kids in my life, there have been a few instances where I have been falsely accused of something. I have been placed on administrative leave as an investigation is done. I cannot even begin to express the hardship associated with such investigations – it is painful in every way.

Each of these situations ultimately revealed things about me and my calling and purpose in my life that, although difficult to walk through, has helped shape me in becoming the man and leader I am today.

If I moved through all of the painful events in my life, without Christ, I could come to the wrong conclusions and arrive at the end of these experiences with bitterness, resentment and without forgiveness. My hope is not in how I arrive at the end of my destination. My hope has to rest in the truth and redemption of an empty tomb.  If Christ can humble Himself in obedience in God, so must I. So must we. 

I cannot know true hope if I do not humble myself. I cannot humble myself if I don’t understand that brokenness and suffering are gifts and the pathway to humility and ultimately hope. 

I know there are many aspects of suffering and challenges all of us have had to endure personally but as we walk through these things personally it shapes the “organizations” in which we are participants in. Our ability to grow in wisdom by humbling ourselves shapes our culture and our attitudes especially in our homes where our children are ever watching and ever repeating. It impacts our co-workers and staff. It shapes those in our pews and fellowship halls.

The initial questions offered at the beginning of this post are great questions to ask around your dinner table, in a church staff meeting, in a board room, and as you ask these questions take on the attitude of Christ: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, think of others as better than yourself. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others…”

Video

Your Marriage Mindset

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to have a Marriage Mindset, what the Bible has to say about it, and define what a healthy growth mindset and an unhealthy fixed mindset looks like.

Watch the full video on YouTube and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content!

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Even before the strenuous pandemic that forced us to stay close to each other 24/7, marriage was at times hard and discouraging. It’s why throughout this series we have been constantly pointing back to Galatians 6:9 – Keep at it! Do not be discouraged when times become hard, love your spouse and strive to continue working on and growing your relationship. That is what we will be talking about in this conversation as we dive into our marriage mindset, and figure out the answer to WHY we do WHAT we do.

Defining Mindsets

Our behavior in marriage is influenced by our Mindsets.

Mindsets are the assumptions and expectations we have for ourselves and others. These attitudes guide our behavior and influence our response to daily events. Your mindset will affect how you feel about something, and even how well you do at something.

According to Dr. Emerson Eggerich, people tend to hold one of two basic types of mindsets:

  1. Fixed: A fixed mindset is one that is set in place, with the person feeling that there is no need for anything to change, or work towards changing. They will say that “I really don’t have to work hard at bettering myself.” These types of people to blame others outside of themselves and flee when troubles and challenges arise.
    This is a very Unhealthy mindset to adopt.
  2. Growth: A growth mindset is one that is always looking to improve and change, and put the effort in to make things work out. The person with this mindset will say that they, “must work at being better”. A growth centered person will grow through pain and challenge.
    It certainly isn’t the easiest path, but it IS the Healthiest.

So where do our mindsets and attitudes come from?

Our mindsets actually stem from our Belief. Our belief about something is so powerful that it can change our reality: it can make something appear to be different than it really is. Belief does not require something to be true, only requiring us to believe that it is true.

When something doesn’t line up with our belief system, we resist it, no matter what we are told/given evidence for.

Think About It:

Where have your beliefs and worldview stemmed from?

What does the Bible say about Mindsets?

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2

This verse is telling us to allow God to change the way we think, and that opening up our perspective not only allows us to change our perspective, but to be transformed. Its why reading God’s word and letting what He has to say resonate within us is so important.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 

Colossians 3:2

Our primary focus is not to be the things of this earth. We instead need to focus our belief on the God of the Bible. Our lives/marriages will be better off, and stronger, in a unity of belief.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Philippians 4:8

Do you see your spouse in this way? Do you see them as true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable? You should strive to fix your thoughts on them in this way, even if there are times when you don’t want to. It’s why we need to constantly be checking our thoughts, and realign them if they start to stray away from this view of our spouse.

Unhealthy Mindsets

As you go through this list and identify some of these places where you struggle, be open and honest with yourself, and learn to replace these with a Growth Mindset.
(The following is material based on the work of Robert Leahy, PhD and Director/Contributor to the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy)

  • Labeling — You attribute a negative personality trait to your partner, leading you to believe that he or she can never change. As an alternative, rather than label your spouse, you can look for “variability” in his/her behavior.
  • Fortune-telling — You forecast the future and predict that things will never get better, leaving you feeling helpless and hopeless. An alternative to this is to look back at positive experiences that you have to challenge your idea that nothing will improve.
  • Mind-reading — You interpret your spouse’s motivations as hostile or selfish on the basis of very little evidence. Rather than engaging in mind-reading, you can ask your spouse what he/she meant or how he/she is feeling. Sometimes it’s beneficial to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt.
  • Catastrophic Thinking — You treat conflict or problems as if they indicate that the world has ended or that your marriage is a disaster. A better way of looking at this is that all couples face problems — some of them quite upsetting. Rather than look at an obstacle or a problem as “terrible,” you might validate that it is difficult for both of you, but that it is also an opportunity to learn new skills in communicating and interacting — a growth mindset.
  • Emotional Reasoning — You feel depressed and anxious, and you conclude that your emotions indicate that your marriage is a failure. A better way of looking at your emotions is that your feelings may go up and down, depending on what you and your spouse are doing. Emotions are changeable and don’t always tell you about how good things can be.
  • All-or-Nothing Thinking — You describe your interactions as being all good or all bad without examining the possibility that some experiences with your partner are positive. Whenever you use the words “always” and “never,” try assuming that you are wrong. The best way to test out your distorted and biased negative thinking is to look at the facts. Maybe the facts aren’t as terrible as they seem to be. Remember, mindsets are influenced by our beliefs.
  • Shoulds — You have a list of “commandments” about your relationship and condemn yourself or your spouse for not living up to your “should.“ Rather than talk about the way things “should” be, you might consider how you can make things better. Replace your shoulds with “how to” and “let’s try.”
  • Personalizing — You attribute your spouse’s moods and behavior to something about yourself, or you take all the blame for the problems. It’s almost never all about one person; it takes two to tango and two to be miserable.
  • Perfectionism — You hold up a standard for a relationship that is unrealistically high and then measure your relationship by this standard. No relationship is perfect — and no relationship needs to be perfect.
  • Blaming — You believe that all the problems in the relationship are caused by your spouse. There is a grain of truth in almost any negative thought, but blaming your spouse will make you feel helpless and trapped. A better way of approaching this is to take a “Let’s fix it together” approach. You can validate each other, share responsibility for the problems, plan to catch each other being good, reward each other, plan positives together, and accept some differences.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:5 (NIV)
Faith, Roy Baldwin

Resilient Faith

I was recently having a conversation with someone about the impact and fallout of COVID-19. For reasons that we may never understand, COVID-19, a dangerous pandemic that has derailed plans and routines, put lives at risk, and shut down businesses and schools, has impacted every one of us.

The conversation then shifted to the impact this has had on marriages and families. I shared some of the things we are doing as a family to adjust and get along. How do you manage close spaces? How do you work through healthy conflict and disagreements? How do you handle stress and anxiety? How do you manage the loss of familiar routines and the pain of creating new ones?


It begs the question:

How can we thrive in the midst of a global pandemic?

I then remembered this very important principle designed by our Creator: Resilience. I have often preached or spoken about this topic.  I’m extremely passionate about it because of my own personal journey and growth, but also because of the many at-risk families and youth I have worked with for more than 25 years.

RESILIENT FAITH

From the moment we are born to the moment we draw our last breath, we are placing our faith in someone or something. All of us are on a faith journey, not just those who have placed their faith in Christ.

Resilience is often a misunderstood concept in our society. We hear about resilience as the ability to: “spring back;” or “pick yourself back up;” or “overcome challenges.” Don’t confuse these descriptions with the definition of survival, which is “the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.” (Oxford Dictionary) There is a really BIG and significant difference between the two:

Real resilience is “the process of coping with disruptive, stressful, or challenging life events in a way that provides the individual with additional protective and coping skills than prior to the disruption, that results from the event.” (Resiliency in Schools, 2003)

Resiliency is not about surviving through adversity: it is built because of the presence of adversity and how you learn and grow from it.

Would you describe your faith journey as resilient? The challenge and reality for most of us is that we don’t always come out of it stronger on the other side, do we?

I know in my own faith journey I have gone through immense amounts of loneliness, pain, and subsequent addictions that I am not proud of. Although pain is a part of the faith journey, I have, at times, let my pain point me to places where I did not place my faith in Christ, but rather in a cheap substitute.

Too often we choose a path that medicates or numbs our pain, instead of allowing our faith to grow into something bigger and stronger. Growth is painful. And pain is something we are culturally conditioned to fix, instead of endure. But Paul says this:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

Hope? Is that all we get from toughing it out?

But this isn’t the kind of hope where we think, “Geez, I hope this works out.” This is the kind of hope that is like an absolute anchor or rock. We can put all of our faith in it without wavering because it will hold firm and strong. When the storm surges and the wind howls, we can have this hope through Christ that transforms our faith because, as Scripture tells us, it is producing something in us.

Our circumstances are not just a source of pain and challenge.  They have a purpose.  The challenge for many of us is seeing the things we face in life are opportunities and not just obstacles.  Here is a chart to help bring some general understanding of the difference between a surviving faith and a resilient faith:

A Surviving Faith A Resilient Faith
Bitterness (Hebrews 12:14-15) Acceptance (Psalm 19:14)
Resentment (Galatians 5:20) Contentment (Philippians 4:12-13)
Unforgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15) Forgiveness (Psalm 32)
Addiction (1 Corinthians 6:12) Connection (Galatians 6:2)
Loneliness (Psalm 25:16) Community (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Depression (1 Peter 5:7) Peace (Philippians 4:7)
Shame (Psalm 69: 5,7) Wholeness (James 1:2-5)
Guilt (2 Corinthians 7:10) Resolution (Hebrews 4:15-16)

*A couple of points about this contrast: its not exhaustive; its not meant to condemn but to provide a filter which looks at how you are processing the different aspects of your life.

When you look at your pain points and wounds, would you say they have strengthened your faith or weakened it? Have you medicated your pain (alcohol, drugs, pornography, cutting, unhealthy relationships, etc.), instead of facing it? Have you invested your faith in self-reliance instead of in the Savior?

Faith as a Rubber Band

Resilience is much like a rubber band, though for a Christian it takes on a deeper, fuller meaning when you combine it with your faith.

A rubber band, when stretched, returns back to its original form. I don’t think our faith in Christ was ever intended to return back to its original form. I believe as our heavenly Father stretches our faith he does so to transform it into something bigger and stronger. Thicker and wider. Wiser and kinder. Our faith should begin to produce fruits such as peace, patience, faithfulness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The point of our faith is that it isn’t just for us.  It’s also for those whom we love and serve. Our families should be direct recipients of our faith, witnessing it being stretched and conformed into His image. Our churches and communities should change and grow as the family of God experiences together, a faith being stretched into something that proclaims His glory rather than personal achievement and significance.

When we walk through the tough stuff of life and are not strengthened through the trial, we rob God of His glory. We deprive God of the opportunity to strengthen, not only our own faith, but those around us.

In Ephesians 3, Paul writes, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21 NIV)

I hope this post helps you to reflect on your faith and how you are currently responding to the things of life.  Are you able to see and trust the Lord as he stretches your “faith band” into something more beautiful and more profound than anything you could ever dream or imagine?  Maybe some of you feel like your faith rubber band is torn and tattered.  If that is you, my prayer is that you would know there is a God who redeems and restores the broken, if you seek Him and cry out to Him. (Isaiah 61:1-3).

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3


Don’t just survive. In Christ, you can thrive.

Much love from someone who is constantly having his rubber band stretched.

Roy Baldwin

The Beautiful Messiness of the Gospel

If you have been in Christian circles for any amount of time, then you know that the term “gospel” is a part of our everyday lexicon. It should be, considering it represents the hope and distinctiveness of Christianity. The Gospel articulates the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, the redemptive nature of his love, and the inheritance of an eternal family and life. Here is the problem…the Gospel isn’t as clean and neat as we have made it out to be.

While there are lots of books on this topic, my goal in writing this post isn’t to give a treatise on this subject: merely to share an observation, especially during this unprecedented season of life filled with fear, loss, and hatred. 

The Gospel:

It’s messy because God wants me to love the unlovable and bless those who persecute me.

It’s uncomfortable because He wants me to grab a cross and hoist it upon my shoulder.

It demands everything: my life, my goals, my dreams, my time, my passions, my hobbies, my education

It demands me to offer forgiveness even when it’s not deserved.

It requires me to move beyond just tolerating people to truly loving them.

It draws me out of my comfort zone.

It encourages me to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

It pushes me to ensure justice for those being crushed and extend mercy and grace to those who do not deserve it.

It prunes the branches that are not only dead in my life, but the ones that are bearing fruit.

It urges me to serve by kneeling and grabbing some water and a cloth to wash feet that are dirty.

Radical Sacrifice

As pastor and author David Platt reminds us about the gospel, “it demands radical sacrifice.”

If this is true of the gospel, then why is it good news? For this simple reason “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

I saw that back when I was the Executive Director at Monadnock Christian Ministries.  There were times when I wanted to replace our “Welcome Home” sign with “Triage Unit” or “Emergency Room.”  The brokenness was very real, and I am not just talking about the guests we served. The more we served others and the more we pointed others to the cross, the more I realized how broken I was, the more I realized how much I fall short and how much it cost Him.

A few years ago, I went on a trip to Haiti with Love in Motion ministry (now a part of Mission E4). The whole experience really brought this to light for me.  Because of my work with at-risk families, I am very familiar with US poverty.  Going to Port Au Prince was overwhelming for me because of the plight and needs of the Haitian people, especially their children. It’s one reason why we sponsor a child through Mission E4.

But seeing it firsthand changed me.

One situation while we were down there that really hit home for me was witnessing true street orphans, in which I saw 2 young girls surviving on the street that were the same age as my daughters.  Paul Deasy, who at the time was our director of Love in Motion, had shared with me that some of the girls recently brought into the orphanage had been sexually abused and/or raped.  As I came face to face with them I saw they were wearing dresses that were way too big for them and dirt smeared across their faces. I knew they were going to sleep tonight without the protection and safety of a family, of a father, and without hope.

The choice for me from this experience is to simply ignore the ramifications and say, “How can I do anything about that?” and move on…or I can allow The Gospel, in all its beauty and messiness make me uncomfortable. You see, If the Gospel isn’t radically changing me, is it truly the Gospel? If I have good news to share and I am unwilling to share it, does it mean I never received it?  If I cannot do what Christ did:  leave his home and comfort and to take on the grief and sin of this world, to bind the wounds of the broken, provide a voice to those who are marginalized, to love my enemy, has the Gospel truly changed me? These are hard questions for me to not only ask myself but to ask God. But I have to ask them. And not only should I ask these questions but I have to find ways through my actions and words to share with others that the Gospel is the only answer to the fear, doubts and hate we see in our world today.

How about you?  How is the Gospel radically changing your perspective about who you are and the world around you? My fear is that many young people are walking away from truth because they see the hypocrisy of our faith rather than the hope it provides. The Gospel has answers to the messiness of our world and our lives. The Gospel wasn’t meant to avoid the mess but to embrace it. Just like Jesus did…His life modeled for us the messiness of loving people all the way to a cross and empty grave. This example would eventually become the good news we know today. We see this beautifully illustrated for us in Philippians 2 :


“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminals death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.


I love these words. “Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.”

Jesus chose the messy path.

He chose your mess.

He wasn’t afraid of it. In fact, He is going to redeem it.

He is going to make your mess beautiful and he did it the way of a cross. 

During these trying days, when there seems to be so much brokenness, fear and evil, the God we serve is calling us into the difficult and uncomfortable reality of this messy world so that we may see and experience the good news.  He isn’t calling us into it because we have it all figured out. On the contrary, He is calling us into it because we are his billboard for what he can do with a messy and broken life. This messy world is depending on the Gospel’s beautiful and redemptive power.

Video

Developing Spiritual Intimacy in Marriage

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to be spiritually intimate with your spouse, and why it is an important aspect of your marriage.

Watch the full video on YouTube and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content!

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Its no secret that marriage isn’t a perfect fairytale ending: it can be messy. A great marriage, however, does not need glitz, glamour and even excitement. On the contrary, what we really need to be focused on is how much depth there is in our relationships. Depth can be given through good communication, and being kind to each other. The bedrock for an enduring and deep marriage, however, is Spiritual Intimacy.

Developing and maintaining spiritual intimacy in a marriage isn’t easy. It’s important to read your Bible and pray, but it’s a lot harder to show and demonstrate what spiritual intimacy is, especially in marriage. If you gain one thing from todays conversation and developing spiritual togetherness in your own home, it’s to live according to Galatians 6:9 and to NOT GIVE UP!

The Value of Spiritual Intimacy

One of the key things to keep in mind going into this is that Spiritual Intimacy will NOT make your marriage perfect. What it will do instead is keep you in touch with the CREATOR of marriage – the One who has the answers to your most deep-rooted marriage challenges. Spiritual Intimacy allows you to connect with one another at the deepest levels of your soul, as well as link you with God’s purposes and plans for you. It allows you to bless each other with God’s love, and unify both of your deepest desires and values.

As you and your spouse grow spiritually intimate and submit to the teachings of scripture, your biggest goals and beliefs will be in harmony with one another.

Think About It:

What are some Hindrances to developing spiritual intimacy in marriage?

Tending the Soul of your Marriage

Faith in a personal God who loves you and is concerned for your well-being is fundamental to a deepening spiritual intimacy in your marriage. 

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Experiencing God together helps develop spiritual intimacy

There are many ways for you and your spouse to experience God together:

  • Worshipping together – At home, in small gatherings, at church
  • Read the Bible or a devotional book together
  • Talk about what God is teaching you in your individual devotions and studies.
  • Attend or lead a Bible study with other married couples
  • Make your devotions simple and brief
  • Be accountable to each other, sharing and receiving correction from each other
  • Compliment your spouse on his/her spiritual growth (no matter how small it may be. 

Together, you should seek God’s will for your life and marriage, while also counting the blessings God has given the both of you. Encourage the expression of spiritual gifts in ministry as a couple. You may have different interests, but if you can find a place where you can minister as a team, you will strengthen your spiritual togetherness.

Do not underestimate the power of prayer in your marriage.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-6

Les and Leslie Parrott report that couples who frequently pray together are twice as likely as those who pray less often to describe their marriage as being highly romantic. These couples also report considerably higher sexual satisfaction and more sexual delight. While these are certain great benefits, prayer can mainly:

  • help you with your perspective on problems.
  • help you reorder your priorities.
  • Give you a sense of purpose.

With the importance of prayer established, how can you make it a significant part of your marriage?

  • You can agree together that you will make prayer a priority in your marriage. 
  • You can keep the prayer time brief. It is not necessary to pray for hours as a couple in order to have a meaningful prayer life. If one of you is not comfortable praying aloud, the shorter time will be encouraging, and you can always extend the time when it is mutually agreeable. 
  • You can include words of thanksgiving for your spouse, along with praying for his/her needs. 

Define and Understand your shared core beliefs, allowing those beliefs to be lived out in your marriage.

Ask yourselves:

  • What do you believe about life, death, God, marriage, family, etc?
  • Do your core beliefs include a personal relationship with God?
  • What do you believe about Jesus and his teachings?
  • What are your beliefs about forgiveness, hope, or pain in the world?
  • What difference do your core beliefs make in your daily life?
  • If someone looked at your life and marriage today, what would they say are your core beliefs?
  • Are you living out your spiritual core beliefs day by day, or is your faith in a God a “Sunday thing”?

Having shared core beliefs lived out in the lives of couples is related to higher marital satisfaction and a more connected relationships.

Video

Be Nice

The following is an overview of a conversation between Roy Baldwin and Pastor Willie Batson, founder and lead coach of W.C.Batson Coaching Services, as part of a series on Marriage. In this episode, the two discuss what it means to be nice to your spouse, and why it is so essentially, especially during the Covid pandemic.

Watch the full video on Vimeo and check out Willie Batson’s website for more content.

“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time.”

Galatians 6:9
Intro

Throughout the years of Covid lockdowns, people are finding that they are spending a lot more time with people that they don’t usually spend 24/7. Families are stuck at home, with parents needing to find space to work while their children are always around.
Some spouses are even afraid that, through all the time they are spending with each other, that their significant other is getting tired of them.

Extended time with those close to you may reveal things you didn’t want revealed, such as the fact that you might not necessarily be as nice to them as you probably should be.

It is important to approach this issue by applying Galatians 6:9 to our lives: “Don’t get tired of doing the good things in your marriage that will be a blessing to you.”

In a time of upheaval, it’s important that we don’t get tired of doing what is good, as there will be a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time. Because of this, we should strive to be nice to one another.

Think About It:

What are three “Nice” things your spouse did for you this past week?

There need’s to be a balance between positive/negative in order to maintain a healthy relationship, as noted by marital researcher John Gottman. “To offset one negative word or deed, you need five positive words or deeds.” Knowing this and keeping this in mind is key to establishing a safe space between you and your spouse.

The 7 Ways to be Nice to your Spouse
  1. How do you greet each other after being apart?

You might think this isn’t applicable, considering you seem to always see your significant other during this Covid season. However, this doesn’t just apply to long periods of time being apart: this could be when coming together from being in different rooms, or small periods of time being apart. Research shows that the first four minutes of a conversation can define the interaction between two people for the rest of the day. It is important that you are intentional about how you greet your spouse.

2. Kiss your spouse goodnight or when you leave

Research sadly shows that 8 out of 10 couples no longer kiss each other before going to sleep. Shows of affection, even during times of anger or tension, is a way of being nice to your spouse. As Willie asked during the discussion, if you or your spouse were to pass away, what would you want your last memory with that person to be? It is good to show them you love and care for them, even during times when you might feel like brushing them off.

3. Say Thank You to your spouse as often as possible

You should strive to take note of what your spouse is doing and thank them for what they do. It is important, however, to NOT compare or make it a competition. If you must make a list, track all the good things your spouse is doing and thank them for it. Thanking your spouse and letting them feel appreciated for what they do is key to sustaining a healthy marriage.
Don’t wait to start when your spouse starts: take the initiative!

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

4. Watch your words and the tone you say them in

Choosing your words and being meaningful with them is key to good communication within a marriage. Words themselves can give off different impressions, such as the difference between “You SHOULD clean the room” versus “Could you clean the room”.
While words are powerful, the tone in which they are spoken also hold great impact in a conversation, as nice words can be interpreted by your significant other differently than you maybe intended.
Instead of a tone of compassion, we can have a tone of cold-heartedness.
Instead of a tone of kindness, we can have a tone of hard-heartedness.
Instead of a tone of humility, we can have a tone of arrogance.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians 4:29

5. Find ways to serve your spouse

One of the biggest enemies to being nice is selfishness. Having a selfish spirit, looking out for yourself over your spouse and family, is very toxic to any relationship. Part of working past the temptation to act on selfish desires is to work on being more of a servant leader, and developing a heart for service to others.
Gary Chapmen, author of The Five Love Languages, found that he and his wife were not getting along, an issue that both sides wanted to fix. Something that Gary did to help rectify this was asking his wife three questions at least twice a day:

1. How can I help you?
2. How can I make your life easier?
3. How can I be a better spouse?

A something to keep in mind with these questions is to understand where the heart of the giver/receiver is at. If you are being asked these questions, you shouldn’t give your spouse a laundry list! One or two small, immediate tasks, followed by a show of appreciation. To the one asking, it could be being mentally and emotionally prepared (especially when it comes to asking the third question).

6. Look for ways to say “Yes” more often

Most of the small regrets you will have someday are refusing to step out and say “yes” to do things. This goes back to the “If I or my spouse died tonight…” question: would a decision someday come to haunt you because you thought you had more time and didn’t simply answer “yes”?

7. Learn how to let things go

This goes back to point 2: being nice to your spouse means loving them, and not holding a grudge over something that happens.

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry

Ephesians 4:26

Its the small, nice moments that fill a marriage. And in these times of anxiety, uncertainty… and too much time together, we want to encourage you to be nice to each other. Even if it feels contrived, don’t stop striving to work on and improve your marriage.

Roy Baldwin

All Things Come to an End

All things come to an end: life, seasons, a job/career, a calendar year, summer camp, a decade…and the list goes on. The end of a year can bring with it a chorus of different emotions and thoughts.

The end of every calendar year brings a time of reflection and evaluation for most people. I believe we naturally do this as humans because we are ultimately seeking answers to life’s 3 biggest questions:

“Who am I?”

“What is my purpose?”

“Where am I going?” 

Did you ever notice that people tend to ask us these questions indirectly? People are always wanting to know how we are doing, what we are doing and where we are going. Depending on where we are at in life, these questions can sting when we are in between careers and relationships, what we want to be when we grow up and why we are still single.

As I reflect on the past year, wrestle with what has transpired and grapple with what the future of Monadnock holds, I have found myself really wrestling with these bigger questions of “Who I am?” “What is my purpose? and “Where am I going?”  These questions are not just applicable to me as a ministry leader but more importantly as a husband and father. I feel the weight of not just answering these questions for myself but in leading many others.

The circumstances of life and the answer to these BIG questions can be extremely overwhelming and daunting. One of the biggest things that can exasperate this natural and spiritual process of reflection and evaluation is our busyness and hurriedness.

Why do I share these things with you? My fear for all of us is that if we don’t take the time, we will ultimately miss the blessing that God has in store for us and for those God has called us to love and serve.  It’s at the heart of what we find in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  You will see throughout the Old and New Testaments, and specifically Jesus’ teachings, that there is an emphasis on “looking forward.” The Lord guided, encouraged, inspired, pushed, pulled, challenged, humbled those he was calling to something greater than themselves, in order to fulfill his ultimate kingdom purposes.

Why do so many falter in taking possession of the things Christ has called them to?  The book of Hebrews reminds us that those who have gone before us, the heroes of our faith, (Hebrews 11) had a faith we need to emulate.  What kind of faith did they have? They had a faith described as “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Would your faith be described as “the substance of things hoped for…”

To be very candid with you…I am tired of telling others or even myself, “This has been a challenging year and hoping this next year is better.” I keep thinking, “it cant get any worse” and then each year seems to get harder and more challenging.  

Ann Voskamp writes in her advent book, The Greatest Gift,  “You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph’s, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob’s, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, God’s arms have you. You can never be undone. No matter what intends to harm you . . . God is never absent, never impotent, never distant. You can never be undone.”  If this is true, which I believe it is, means that regardless of our past or future, blessings or challenges, joy or grief, peace or anxiety; in Christ, we truly can do all things in Him. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1–4)

As we look forward to the coming year, The Greatest Opportunity for you and for me, is how do we make known to others the hope we have found in Jesus Christ. When we see those around us struggling with the 3 big questions of life, can we point them to the author and answerer of those 3 questions? How can we allow Christ to take all of the circumstances of our lives and use them not just to strengthen our faith, but for others to see faith played out and to experience the hope and joy of knowing Christ on a deeper level.”

Ministry, Roy Baldwin

Fragile

When you hear that word what comes to mind? Webster Dictionary defines fragile as: “easily broken or damaged; delicate; not strong.” We quickly assign this word to things like glass or fine china.

Some of us might describe our hearts and lives as fragile. Our hearts can be as easily broken by a hurtful word as a glass is when dropped onto the kitchen floor.

Have you ever experienced a broken promise? Our promises can also be seen as fragile.

How about your family? Have you ever noticed how fragile our families are, how quickly the family “boat” if not cared for can quickly take on water and sink?

How about your mission or calling? Have you ever thought about the things you aspire to be as being fragile?

God has been reminding me recently in both positive and not so positive ways of how fragile our dreams and callings are and how we need to handle them with care.

WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?

A few years ago I noticed a piece of paper lying on my office floor. Now, if you ever saw my office you would not be surprised that I had papers on my floor. But this piece of paper looked old. It was folded and creased and had a tinge of yellow around it.

I picked it up and turned it over. At the top it said, “Personal Mission Statement.” My heart warmed as I saw it. It was over 20 years old and must have fallen out of one of my boxes I still had yet to unpack.

I kept reading.

At the top of the paper it had a scripture verse and a quote “Never choose to be a worker, but once God has placed His call upon you, woe be to you if you turn aside….to the right or the left…” (Deuteronomy 28:14) and “He will do with you what He never did before His call came to you, and He will do with you what He is not doing with other people. Let Him have His way.” – Oswald Chambers

I then had a list of my priorities in order: my relationship with Christ; my relationship with my wife; my relationship with my kids; etc.

Now, it has been a long time since I saw that piece of paper. As I read my thoughts, I realized how fragile life is. I was also reminded of how far I still needed to grow as a follower of Christ, as a husband to my wife, and as a father to my children.

OUR CALLING IS FRAGILE

If I asked you to state your calling in life, could you do it? Would that statement line up with the choices and decisions you are making each day? Why or why not?

As a follower of Christ we might be quick to say, “My calling is to tell others about Jesus and to love God and love others,” and you would be correct in that answer. Each of us has been given that as a part of our calling. The problem with that approach is that we forget our mission and calling are as unique as our fingerprints.

Your mission in life is to be found faithful to the personalized calling God has given you. You live that out each and every day by the way you work, live, love, and lead. The secret to being found faithful to your calling is what Oswald Chambers writes: “Let Him have his way.” Fully surrendered.

A fully surrendered life is your calling and mission and as you live that out His story is brought to life in your story.

While I was at Focus on the Family (2009-2014) I helped dream and launch the Dad Matters Blog along with a couple of other key staff. It was very near and dear to my heart. It was one of those things that I hoped would live way beyond me. It was legacy thing for me. Focus on the Family decided to end the blog after I left in 2014, after two years of dads sharing their reflections and most intimate moments as fathers, husbands, and sons.

To be honest, I was devastated. I was hit with the fact that my dreams and longings are quite fragile. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of fathers and affirm them in their God-given role. I wanted the blog to far outlive my life.

This is the challenge we are faced with daily. Am I OK with what God determines with my efforts? Am I good with the fact that I practice and compete to win the prize that God has called me to run and then trust him with the results of those efforts regardless of whether it lasts two years or 40?

In his book, Victorious Christian Living, Alan Redpath writes:

Therefore, in relation to any duties which you would undertake for God, I want to say very earnestly that the supreme question is not, “Are we qualified?” but “Are we called?” Are you grasping for position, or are you called of God? Answer that to the Lord, in His presence. Nothing is more important in your life than the answer to that question.