Community, Faith, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

Let’s stop trying to fix each other.

This past week through multiple interactions with people, reading different articles and posts, and listening to a few different podcasts, this one thought has permeated through my feelings: “We need to stop fixing other people and start truly loving them.”

Context

For those who know my story, its a journey of coming alongside families and youth who have experienced some sort of trauma, loss or neglect. This includes our own journey as a family, with losing parents, 4 major moves and dealing with our own brokenness (conflict, stressors, sin, etc.) as a couple and as a family.

In a post I wrote a few years ago called, “The Beautiful Messiness of the Gospel,” I shared my understanding of the Gospel (which is important to this post):

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.

This perspective of His work in and through my life and my own brokenness is important context for what I want to share next.

A Sense of Belonging

In his book, “What Happened To You?” Dr. Bruce Perry shares,

“Love, given and felt, is dependent upon the ability to be present, attentive, attuned and responsive to another human being. The glue of humanity has been essential to the survival of our species-and to the health and happiness of the individual…It is in the small moments, when we feel the other person fully present, fully engaged, connected and accepting, that we make the most powerful and enduring bonds.”

“What Happened To You” (page 81-82)

We see this so clearly in 1 Corinthians 13…:

“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. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13:5-8

We use the word “community” a lot in Christian circles. We talk of its importance and the benefit of being in Christian community to help grow faith. I think this is especially true coming out of a pandemic but I wonder if we truly know the purpose and significance of community. Typically when we speak about community we do it through the lens of programing and activities (small groups/life groups, Bible studies, men’s and/or women’s groups, etc.), but that isn’t really getting to the essence of community.

If I asked you for words to describe the benefits of community, we might use words like; authenticity, trusting, safe, united, a sense of belonging, etc.

Unfortunately for many people this never becomes their experience in many of the programming mentioned above. Programs in and of themselves cannot produce the kind of faith many of these programs hope to achieve. Programming cannot replace relationships. For these initiatives to work we actually need to have a deeper understanding of what it means to produce healthier people and interactions. We need to have a fuller and deeper understanding of how faith is transmitted and strengthened.

Let’s Stop Fixing Each Other

One thing I often see, especially in men, is our desire to fix things.

I know I struggle with this at times, especially with my wife and kids, to always having an answer or response. We do this a lot in churches. We throw a Scripture verse at someone or use some Christian cliché.

I had hoped that a lifetime of coming alongside other people would help me be more empathetic and a better listener, but I always have work to do in this area. I do like to think that some of my greatest growth over the past few years is to give up trying to constantly managing others perceptions of me and just being fully present in the lives of other people.

What does it mean to be fully present:

To listen. To empathize. To not only ask good questions but the right ones (Jesus was amazing at this). If correction is needed, to do it with gentleness and grace. If you speak truth…do it in love.

I am struck by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2. Despite much opposition from the locals Paul shares his intentions:

We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children[a] among you” and then he shares an incredible image, “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

1 Thessalonians 2: 6-12

“Just as a nursing mother cares for her children…” Paul is describing the bond of attachment a mother provides for her children that goes beyond just the physical benefits of nursing, but the emotional and relational attachments that are also forged and the benefits such as lower stress, increased calmness, a feeling of safety, etc.

Research has shown in multiple studies, such as The Mills Longitudinal Study and the Harvard Study of Adult Development, that people who feel connected to others is critical to healthier outcomes. These relational pictures of mom and dad that Paul is writing to describe his relationship with the Thessalonians as one of safety, healthy, nurturing, loving and caring. You don’t see judging, fixing, shaming, condemning. You see gentleness. You see in verse ll and 12, “as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging to live lives worthy of God…”

Maybe what we desire more than community is actually connection. And not just any connection: Healthy connections. Safe connections. Godly connections. Gospel-centered connections.

We do not necessarily achieve connection by always trying to fix each other.

So…the next time we feel like we need to fix someone… we need to stop and listen. Identify with their humanity as an image bearer of God. Be fully present. Care for them. Love them…yes, even our enemies. Ask clarifying questions. Be safe for them. If we must disagree or correct…do it with a spirit of gentleness and care for them. We need to care for them as much as we care for the truth…because what we see in Christ and in research…healthy relationships and connections are the key to healing and restoration.

Culture, Family, Hardship, Roy Baldwin

“Building Trust or Walking on Eggshells…”

Let me start off by saying that I am not always approachable.

If I was truly candid, which I am about to be, I would tell you that my most important relationships seem to suffer the most when I am not approachable: My wife and my kids.

I am sure if they were most honest, which they usually are, they would say, “dad is loving but sometimes being near him is like walking on eggshells.”

“Walking on eggshells…” I am wondering how many of you can relate to that feeling or phrase.

RABBIT TRAIL: Did you know the phrase, “walking on eggshells,” first started out as “walking on eggs.” Considering how trauma is passed down from generation to generation…I suppose eggshells are all that’s left.

This idea or phrase of “walking on eggshells” implies “to be very careful not to offend or upset someone” according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Patterns like these can leave lasting damage in our homes, although mood swings are a natural part of life, it is important for all of us to deal with and manage appropriately.

We see this in foster care, especially when working with vulnerable children and families. Did you know that witnessing abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, neglect) between parents/adults in the home carries the same risk of harm to children’s mental health as being abused directly?

How we emotionally regulate in our homes is critical to the health of our children. If only 4 out of 10 kids are currently flourishing (pre-pandemic) how much of this comes back to our homes and the closeness and connection occurring in our relationships? Oftentimes it’s our dysregulation that leads to fractured relationships. In his book, What Happened To You, Dr. Bruce Perry writes, “Regulation is the KEY to creating safe connection. And being connected is the most efficient and effective way to get information to the cortex (page 144),” meaning, “getting to the place where you can communicate rationally with someone (page 143).” He goes on to write, “If we don’t feel safe, we become dysregulated (page 148).”

Here is a great article on this, “Walking on Eggshells” by Dr. Steven Stosny. He shares, “Everyone in a walking-on-eggshells family loses some degree of dignity and autonomy. Half suffer from clinical anxiety and/or depression. (“Clinical” doesn’t mean feeling down or blue or worried, it means that the symptoms interfere with normal functioning. You can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, can’t work as efficiently, and can’t enjoy yourself without drinking.) Most of the adults lack genuine self-esteem (based on realistic self-appraisals), and the children rarely feel as good as other kids.

Side note: I was reading an article recently that tries to tackle the mental health crisis in our schools…but I feel they miss the point entirely…which is to hire more mental health workers for schools. Make our schools safer by addressing grief and trauma. Although necessary this is tertiary intervention at best. We need to make our schools and communities healthier by seeing emotionally healthier parents leading and loving their children. We need to address the root of this grief and trauma which is happening in the homes…and not to be cliché…but we need to address fatherlessness.

A Fatherhood Class

During the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I had the pleasure of facilitating a fatherhood class at Lincoln Berean Church here in Lincoln, NE. We had dads and some single men from all walks of life and different experiences participate in the class. It was full of amazing conversations and interactions. We spent a great deal looking at data from different studies about dads, looking at some Scripture and unpacking its application in our lives.

One key truth we unpacked came from the book, “Families and Faith Findings: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations” by Vern Bengston (which I have also mentioned before in multiple posts). The study found this to be true – “Parental warmth is the key to successful [religious] transmission” (p.186).

As I reflect on this idea of parental warmth, I think of relational or emotional safety. I think of closeness. I think of connection. I think of trust.

I love what Dr. Henry Cloud says of trust, “Trust fuels investment…trust is built when it is reciprocated (gives/receives).” Trust or relational warmth helps grow and fuel any relationship and its not optional. We are giving or receiving this emotional “currency” in every interaction.

Is it any wonder that our faith grows in proportion to our trust? Think about all the areas in your life where you do not trust. What lives there? Fear. Anxiety. Control. How much of that fear then carries over into the areas of my life and into the relationships most important to me?

Am I trustworthy? “Am I approachable?” If not, then why am I not? What inhibits my ability to be that trustworthy person to God, to myself and to those I have a direct impact on?

“Fire can warm or consume, water can quench or drown, wind can caress or cut. And so it is with human relationships: we can both create and destroy, nurture and terrorize, traumatize and heal each other.”

Dr. Bruce Perry (“The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog…”)

Practical Application:

I know I have been processing a lot about how I can be more approachable to my family. Why should everyone else get my best? They shouldn’t. I have to become so much more self-aware of my own emotional fuel tank and make sure I am not just physically present at home. I have to be emotionally invested. I have to be aware of my emotional triggers.

Side note: As a follower of Christ, I have to take some ownership of my own walk but what I cannot do is think I have the ability to change myself…or clean myself up. I need Jesus to do the work in me that I often try to do myself. I must offer myself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2)

I shared a critical perspective of this in my post, “Sincere Faith Cannot Be Outsourced” and the important role the Gospel and my sincerity plays in this work of trust and emotional warmth.

Below is an exercise I recently did through a small group my wife and I are a part of with some other couples. The 9-month experience is a program through Trueface Ministries called Trueface Journey. The “Trust” exercise provides a prayer as well as an assessment that I found to be quite challenging and convicting. It exposed some areas where I am not trusting the Lord… I hope you find this helpful. It’s a great self-reflection tool… and an exercise you could discuss with someone you trust to be loving and honest with you.

FINAL THOUGHT:

I wonder if the areas in my life where I am not trusting God are the very areas that cause others to “Walk on eggshells” around me? Scripture speaks of this. “Husbands, in the same way, be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect…so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7) and “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). Does my lack of trusting Christ lead to my stress and anger? Yes it does. Truly trusting His work replaces the eggshells I offer with the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)

My prayer is that those we love most would feel the warmth of His love through the sincerity in which we live our daily lives and taste of the fruit His Spirit.

Faith, Family, Roy Baldwin

Sincere Faith Cannot Be Outsourced

This is a follow up to a previous post I wrote entitled, “We Are Failing Children.” This post tackles the subject of passing faith down to our children.

Sincerity

Being sincere is important to me. Sincerity is a character trait in which I want others to see in my life. I want others to see it in the way I interact with them, listen to them, how “present” I am with them and what they have observed in me as I interact with others. I would want this to be true of me regardless if I am with my children (who know me better than anyone else) or with a complete stranger.

Let me define sincerity.

Sincerity is defined as “the absence of pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy.” One example would be found in the life of Ben Franklin. He saw sincerity as one of 13 virtues in which to live by. He defined sincerity as, “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.” Living a sincere life is seen as a virtue in most cultures and faith traditions over the centuries. Confucius stated, “To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.“

Sincerity is an incredibly important part of our Christian faith as well…in fact I believe it is the lynchpin to faith transmission.

Sincerity…a lynchpin? YES.

Why is sincerity so important? I believe sincerity brings to life (demonstrates) on a daily basis, in our words and actions, the very things we have placed our hope in. I love what Dallas Willard writes about living the Christian life. In Renovations Of The Heart In Daily Practice he writes, “Our lives are a result of what we have become in the depths of our being-what we call our spirit, will, or heart. From there we see our world and interpret reality. From there we make choices, break forth into action, and try to change our world. That is why the greatest need of collective humanity is the renovation of the heart…The Revolution of Jesus is one of character, which proceeds by changing people from the inside through an ongoing personal relationship to God in Christ and to one another. It changes their ideas, beliefs, feelings, habits of choice, bodily tendencies, and social relations.” (p.15)

This change as Dallas suggest impacts every aspect of our lives. The sincerity of which we live this out internally and then in relationship with others becomes a critical part of how faith is transmitted.

If sincerity is a virtue and a pursuit we should all be after…what does this have to do with faith?

Having worked with many parents over the years, I often ask parents what their deepest longing is for their children (Both Christian and non-churched parents). Two answers would typically surface: for Christian parents it was for their children to know Jesus (eternal life) and to be happy or fulfilled in life (aspects of flourishing), and for non-churched parents it was for their children to be happy or fulfilled typically by what they could attain (career, money, etc.) In some ways, Christian or non-Christian parents alike always expressed the following sentiment, “I want my kids to be better off than me.”

If we long for our children or grandchildren to flourish in life, which by the way, requires the “right” character traits (sincerity as one) and behaviors that will last, there are certain things we cannot outsource or abdicate as I tackled in my last post. Are you going to trust just anyone with your deepest longings for your children? If a sincere faith or character isn’t near the top of the list, I would hope by the end of this post it would be.

Let me explain my thinking

Let me define sincerity from a Biblical perspective. A gospel-centered sincerity is an intentional, transparent, and honest pursuit of grace (undeserved favor that we cannot earn) and truth (consistent with the nature of God’s character and His design of all of creation) in all of life. The pursuit of grace probably needs to be unpacked more, but for the sake of this post, the sentiment I am after is found beautifully in the words of Dallas Willard, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning.” This includes grace and truth about ourselves, grace and truth about others—but most importantly, the impact of grace and truth as we experience the work of Christ in our lives. Our attempts to achieve true sincerity are experienced and revealed as we unpack these three aspects – self, others, and God.

For a growing Christian, desire will always outstrip performance or, at least, perceived performance. What is it then that will keep us going in the face of this tension between desire and performance? The answer is the gospel. It is the assurance in the gospel that we have indeed died to the guilt of sin and that there is no condemnation for us in Christ Jesus that will motivate us and keep us going even in the face of this tension…That is why I use the expression “gospel-driven sanctification” and that is why we need to “preach the gospel to ourselves every day.” (Jerry Bridges)

“Gospel-centered sincerity” is not achieved when we try to discover our real selves and throw it into the microwave of personal feelings, performance-driven results, and cultural opinions as we strive to “be real” although these responses at some level are a part of the process. This lifelong process of sincerity as a virtue is only achieved as it collides with the Gospel that hopefully we are preaching to ourselves daily.

Some Key Scriptures:

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.” Joshua 24:14

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” 1 Peter 1:22

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:17

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1 Timothy 1:5

We know our faith is truly sincere or authentic when people are drawn closer to the heart of God by witnessing the process of our pursuit of grace and truth.

The verses above demonstrate the nature in which we live out His work in our lives. This process should be transformative. This transformation is not just for a Facebook and Instagram world where everything looks great or I have all the answers.

This process is messy and broken. It is never sanitized. Faith is discovered and tested in those moments when I am prone to get angry, fearful, or selfish.

Hopefully those closest to me (my wife and children) can “give testimony” of my growth as they see the Gospel come to life as I sincerely allow His grace and truth to transform me.

What I have come to learn in my life is that this kind of sincere faith is deeply personal and drives my convictions and beliefs. I cannot outsource my faith to anything or anyone and this is also true for my children (Deuteronomy 6). I need them to see and experience His work in my life.

If Christ’s people genuinely enter Christ’s way of the heart, they will find a sure path toward becoming the persons they were meant to be: thoroughly good and godly persons yet purged of arrogance, insensitivity and self-sufficiency.” (Dallas Willard)

How do I pass faith onto my children then?

I am no expert in this, other than I see the data and read His Word and I am pursuing it the best way I can for my own children and family. The programs we offer in church are not necessarily producing the outcomes in regards to faith transmission…and as I mentioned in a previous post it is because we have forsaken the impact that mom and dad have on their homes and the sincerity of which faith, love and hope are transmitted.

According to a study by Vern Bengston (Longitudinal Study of Generations), they found that faith is transmitted through the emotional warmth exchanged between parent and child. Learning the practices of faith such as prayer, attending church, and studying the Bible are critical. But what makes it “sticky” and brings those practices to life happens within a flourishing relationship between parent and child.

Here are a couple of the big takeaways from Vern’s book, “Families and Faith Findings…”

“Parental warmth is the key to successful [religious] transmission” (186)
“Families do matter in determining the . . . religious outcomes of young adults, and they matter a great deal” (195)
“Fervent faith cannot compensate for a distant dad” (196)

PERSONAL APPLICATION

This past year I sat down with my family and I acknowledged that I was sorry for not being the dad they needed me to be. Anger. Moodiness. Tension. All of these things in my life were influencing the safety felt in my home. My children were quick to say, “Dad, you are not failing us,” but the reality is that I was being a poor example of Jesus in my home. I have to own that. Since that time, I have been working really hard to be a healthier person in my house and in my car.

I have been working really hard to be emotionally warm and present with my kids. I have been intentional in truly listening to them and loving them. I have also been sharing with them my devotions and having conversations and sharing thoughts about the work God is doing in my life. I want them to see it…I want them to know that the change they see in me isn’t my own work…but His. (“The Revolution of Jesus”)

I want them to see the sincerity of my faith shine through my imperfections as much as my perfections (what I get right). You see if they don’t see it…they will walk away from faith because they will see the hypocrisy in it. This is THE BATTLE for families and for the church. To see sincere and authentic acts of faith lived out in homes. Sincere and authentic faith is transmitted when my family can truly see me being my most sincere self in light of the redemptive work of the Gospel. If my kids can’t see that… then I have completely missed the point of not only my faith but what it means to be a parent. 

As the world continues to fail my children, I will keep pointing them to the One who will never fail.

Community, Culture, Faith, Family, Ministry, Roy Baldwin

We Are Failing Children

The intent of this post is not to blame, shame, or politicize data. I also don’t want to oversimplify a very complex issue. I simply want to share a perspective I don’t hear talked about a lot in Christian circles. (This is the first of two posts.)

It is difficult for me to watch the news and scroll through my social media feeds nowadays without a sense that at some level we are failing children and youth on an unprecedented level. It’s everywhere. Postmodernism is redefining everything. Yuval Harari in his book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” provides some excellent descriptors of postmodernism: “Modernity is a surprisingly simple deal. The entire contract can be summarized in a single phrase: humans agree to give up meaning in exchange for power...Since there is no script, and since humans fulfill no role in any great drama, terrible things might befall us and no power will come to save us or give meaning to our suffering. There won’t be a happy ending, or a bad ending, or any ending at all. Things just happen, one after the other. The modern world does not believe in purpose, only in cause.”“Meaning and authority always go hand in hand. Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”

If postmodernism contends that there is no objective truth…is it any wonder that children are suffering?

I typically have the following filters: a deep transformative view of the Gospel (good news); the sacredness of every life; the loss and trauma of our world. I have worked with at-risk and vulnerable children for decades and in multiple venues and situations. These filters I have are not just merely sentiments…they have been forged in the fire of life.

So, as I think about the sentiment of “we are failing children” there is a deeply personal part of this for me that comes out and that I have to process.

There are stories and faces of the young men and their families that had a huge impact on my time at EGA (residential care facility serving the 5 boroughs of NY City). As I served as a houseparent with my wife at a residential school, loving and supporting a home of 8-10 girls (70+ girls in 9 years). The lives, the stories, the joy, the loss. When I think of our own family journey of 27 years of marriage and three kids. It’s been a hard but beautiful adventure. There have been some really amazing and beautiful moments but there have also been hardships and losses.

Why are children failing?

I firmly believe that the family unit has been outsourcing and abdicating its responsibilities for decades (generations) because the very institutions meant to support and partner with families, such as schools, churches, and government, have effectively neutered the authority of the family by telling families, “we can do it better than you,” and “we know better than you.” (Whoever determines the meaning of our actions – whether they are good or evil, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly – also gains the authority to tell us what to think and how to behave.”)

In essence, how dare you show up to a school board meeting and express your concerns about what is being taught or talk about the safety of your children without being labeled or looked down upon.

How are we failing children you ask? Let’s look at some of the data:

  • Prior to the pandemic less than half of children in the US were flourishing according to a study out of John Hopkins. Children who are flourishing are directly connected to the strength (resilience and connection) of the parent/child relationship.
  • Since the pandemic, these indicators of children failing have gotten worse. According to the CDC: a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health; 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless; 55% reported experiencing emotional abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including swearing at, insulting, or putting down the student.
  • 11% experienced physical abuse by a parent or other adult in the home, including hitting and beating
  • 29% reported a parent or other adult in their home lost a job.
  • Teen suicide is up (31% increase from 2019-2021) – and a fivefold increase in suicide attempts in children ages 10-12 (2010-2020)
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that hospital visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 jumped 51 percent between February and March 2021. For boys, that number increased by 4 percent.

If this data is true, (and there is so much more data) then why are we not talking more about this? Why are children, after spending more time at home during the pandemic, seem to be worse off? Research tells us that the healthy parent/child relationship is critical to the long-term resilience of children and leads to better outcomes in children and adults than anything else. If children are doing worse, then what does that say about the health of homes and families? Our children should not be worse off…

This doesn’t mean we start shaming parents, although there is plenty of blame and ownership to go around with how parents are raising their children today. If you ask most parents, they would probably tell you, “I was just following the norm and expectations of taking kids to school, loving my child, being involved in their activities, occasionally taking them to church and they will turn out ok.” At some level, the pandemic ripped open these norms and expectations and the data doesn’t lie…our children are in trouble.

Things are not ok and these very institutions have betrayed (intentionally or not) the sacred trust that should exist to help protect the family and children even if it means calling out the very unhealthy behaviors that probably should be addressed in families. I know many teachers and school personnel that feel absolutely helpless in dealing with many of the behavioral issues and challenges in schools either by their own policies and/or what is tolerated for fear of reprisal and threats by parents. It’s not healthy on any level.

The Role of the Church

As I process what is happening culturally, what role does faith and the church play in all of this? Is this another institution that has missed the mark? I often hear the following sentiment from parents whose children are no longer in their homes and who have “walked away from the faith” yet attended church most of their lives and wrestle with regret about not being a better parent to their children: “I just wish I knew sooner what they needed from me.”

Well, why didn’t they know sooner?

It’s because their primary and life-giving role is not elevated within the walls and programs of the church. It’s a secondary or tertiary intervention at best to help parents when it should be a primary role of the church to equip and inspire families to thrive and flourish.

On a regular basis, parents need to be reminded from the pulpit that they are their child’s number one pastor and then offer and design innovative ways to help them do that. Church Programming such as Sunday School, Youth Group, Retreats and Camps, and many other programs are meant to support the role of the parent, not replace.

Somewhere along the line, we have bought into the idea that a youth leader is better suited to teach our children about Jesus than parents are. We let them handle it – after all, they’re “cooler” than us. They understand scripture, have a better understanding of the pressures teens face, and probably have some training on how to make a better impact on their lives.  Most youth leaders I know play a huge role in teens’ lives and in most cases the previous descriptions are true (cool, relevant, and can teach the Bible).

But that doesn’t mean I outsource my child’s faith.

I hope you do not hear criticism of the amazing work we are doing in our churches, that being said, we can no longer pay lip service once a year to a child’s dedication of the important role parents play and then never mention it again.

How is Faith Actually Transmitted?

Research (i.e. Families and Faith, Vern Bengtson) and scriptures (i.e. Deuteronomy 6) instruct us that parents play the most important role in faith transmission. As Christian Smith (professor and author, “Souls in Transition”) has stated about the role parents play, “Parents are their child’s number one pastor.” I don’t believe that is hyperbole.

We are failing children because we are not respecting the design God has created in the way faith is transmitted.

If my main role as a man (husband and father) in my house is to be pastoral in my home, how would that change and influence my everyday life? I would suggest that being pastoral is not optional. It’s a part of the design. As a dad, whether I am present or not, I am passing some sort of “faith” tradition down to my children. They will then live their lives accepting or rejecting the truth which I have modeled and taught them by the way I have lived and loved them. Do I lead with a Gospel centered worldview or a postmodern worldview?

The truth is we are impressing something onto our children. If not us, someone is waiting to impress something onto them.

There is no substitute for the direct investment a parent has on their children. As many scholars and researchers will tell you, no one can replace or even come close to the impact a parent has on the faith of their children. Our faith is something we cannot outsource to someone who has them for one to two hours a week. We need to find partners in youth leaders and in the church to help reinforce a strong faith, but their key role is to come alongside to support.  It is my job as a parent to find key adults and communities to speak truth, love, and grace into their lives, and trust me…most youth leaders want to see you involved.

Final Thoughts

This is a complex subject and at some level, I have not given it justice. Working as the CEO for a faith-based child placing agency (foster care and prisons) where we stand in the gap between many of the institutions I described above, I see every day how we are failing children. Every day I am tired of the poor outcomes despite the many amazing individuals who work in these fields working desperately for better outcomes for kids. The truth is… it starts with these very institutions to stop playing the hero… and focus their strategies and programming around inspiring and equipping moms and dads in their families with the tools and truth that actually lead to better outcomes in them and in their children AND ultimately point to the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus (who is the ultimate “hero” of this story). There is no way around this truth. There is no way around its created design.

Look for post #2 on this topic as I go further into defining a critical aspect of faith and how faith is transmitted.

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.“

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…”

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.

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.