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.“

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.

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.

Roy Baldwin, Uncategorized

The Right Question

Imagine for a moment that the CEO or boss of the company you work at is this huge toddler, meandering his way around the office, asking this simple yet profound question, “Why?” Now, I am not talking about the occasional why. It’s the “Why” about everything.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why

Well, the truth is, we need to always be asking and evaluating the “why” behind our decisions and processes. It helps you stay on mission. As someone who has had 3 major job changes in the past 12 years and twice as the leader of the organization, asking lots of why’s are critical to the assessment the leader makes of the organization. I feel like anytime you make an assumption about any decision, process, or program you leave yourself open for problems and challenges.

You see, I believe in not just asking any question or questions, but asking the right question or questions.

You see, I believe that great leadership is about asking the right questions. The day you stop asking questions about who you are (yourself and others) and where you are going (of yourself and others) is the day your leadership has failed.

By asking the right questions, we can then arrive at the right answers.

I believe there are many benefits to asking the right question:

  • It can reveal the inner thoughts and feelings of a person (or organization) who is answering the question, as well as the person (or organization) who is asking the question.
  • The right question allows for ownership of the issue or problem at hand.
  • The right question can not only teach responsibility but it models what responsibility looks like.
  • It creates teachable moments and lifelong learning. (Deuteronomy 4:32-33) What do I mean by “lifelong learning?” It’s the belief that learning isn’t just what happens in a classroom. All of life is about learning and the learning will continue as long as I draw breath.
  • It provides opportunities to process truth and dispel lies.
  • It creates the right moment to have courage and take a risk versus accepting the status quo and what’s comfortable.

Did you ever notice how Jesus interacted with people? He almost always asked a question to get to the heart of their need.  John Marshall, Bishop of Burlington, Vermont, and later Springfield, Massachusetts, wrote a book titled But Who Do You Say That I Am? In the book, he collected and listed all the questions Jesus asked in the Gospels and there are over 100 times Jesus asks a question.

Some of Jesus greatest miracles started with the right question? He was able to get to the heart of the matter by his ability to ask, listen, assess, and then he acted. His work was always redemptive and purposeful.

So often we fail to listen. We start with lecture and stating our position, and in all sense shutting down the conversation or relationship before it even has a chance. I would encourage you to look at the benefits of asking the right question and see how your situation, regardless of the environment, can lead to better outcomes.

Roy Baldwin

What are You Known for?

Before I came to Christian Heritage, I had seen the best and worst life had to offer many families and kids. My path from Edwin Gould Academy to Milton Hershey School to Focus on the Family to Monadnock Christian Ministries has shown me a great deal about the pain and brokenness of the breakdown of the family. During our summer and winter camps at Monadnock I often wondered if we were a camp or an emotional “triage unit.”

The pain and brokenness that many teens and adults had experienced, whether of their own decisions and choices or the impact others had on them, defined them. The decisions and choices we make every day flow from these identities and they begin to define our future. They reveal what we believe about ourselves and our worthiness for love—both to give and receive it. It also reveals what we believe about God.

What Would People Say of You

If I were to interview your family or your closest friends and I ask them, “What phrase or words would you use to describe ______ (your name)?” what would they say?

“He loves his family!”

“She loves her husband!”

“She loves to give to others!”

“He is committed to his job!”

“He loves to drink and party!”

“She loves to shop!”

“She is a straight A student!”

“He loves God.”

What are you known for?

A few years ago Karen decided to give out our Valentine’s Day candy a little differently to our family. She placed a basket of candy in the middle of our dining room table after dinner and said, “You can grab a piece of candy but you need to give it to another person and then tell them something you love about them.” Our kids’ hands dived into the basket.

As we sat there going around the table I loved seeing the interaction. Then Emily said something that surprised me. She said, “Daddy, the way you love mommy!” Huh??? She loves me for loving her mom. I was shocked by her response.

Isn’t it amazing what our kids see? Now, I confess I don’t always get it right. I often feel like I fall short as a husband and dad. But this is the point….people are constantly watching. People can see, especially our family, those things that have grabbed the attention of our hearts and time. I am glad that at that moment my wife made the list of what is most important to me and my kids noticed.

You see, all of us are known for something. Maybe it’s our way of having a good time and letting off steam, maybe it’s the way we express our anger, maybe it’s the way we express love. Maybe for some of us we are known differently depending on who we are around.

Paul writes, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14).

As we strive to live up to our calling and mission in life, my prayer is that we would be known by those same virtues as Paul describes. I would also pray that they would be evident to my wife and kids, my friends and extended family. That is how I would like to be known.

One word of caution: Don’t let your busyness and schedule define your value; your schedule simply lets you know what you are pursuing. A quick way to find out about what is defining you is to pull your calendar from the past week. What have you spent the most time on? What does your activities say about your pursuits and identity. It might be time to re-prioritize. “The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” ― Brandon Sanderson, “The Alloy of Law”

How about you? What qualities would you like to be known for and are you actively pursuing them? 

Roy Baldwin

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

I have been feeling that those championing the cause of social justice are well intentioned but are doing one of two things: they are “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”—which means “to lose valuable ideas or things in your attempt to get rid of what is not wanted” (Cambridge Dictionary) OR as expressed in the book by Amy Tan, Saving Fish From Drowning, “that even what seems noble has severe and devastating consequences.” She writes,

A pious man explained to his followers: “It is evil to take lives and noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save a hundred lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out a hundred fishes. I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning.’ Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and I sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.”

C.S. Lewis sums this up well for me in how I have been thinking and contemplating about the social justice movement and what seems like “cancel culture” is really after. He states, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

In an attempt to rid our country and ourselves of the shame of the past and present we are forfeiting our very freedoms; this in itself is creating something shame worthy. Shame cannot heal shame which I believe is at the root of the hypocrisy and our “whataboutism” we see and are experiencing. We have moved away from relativism—your truth is your truth—to a culture of shame and blame.

You see, I find myself grateful for my faith in Christ, because He has stated a different case for our lives. In our sin, He didn’t come to throw the baby (humankind) out with the bathwater (sin). He allowed Himself to be thrown out with the bathwater. He died, conquering sin and death AND the shame associated with sin and death, and He redeemed what was lost by dying the death I deserved. The beauty of the cross and empty tomb is that he conquered shame. Shame is not just feeling guilty about something. Shame at the core says, “I am not worthy of love or value.” I know my moments of surrender, as I pursue this deeper understanding of my faith, always came in the moments I knew I could not carry the burden and weight of my life and the sin and havoc I was causing myself and others. My experience of Jesus has never been one of shame…but of forgiveness and the opportunity freedom in Christ gave me.

The conflict I often experience with my faith and my understanding of His Gospel is then how it is played out in our churches. We either reject the mercy or grace our faith offers or we reject truth. Our churches have to embrace both grace and truth, mercy and justice. Jesus often commanded us to “love our enemies,” “speak truth IN love,” “to stand firm…knowing we battle not against flesh and blood,” but typically many are turning away from the very truth we have been taught to uphold because of the hypocrisy of our doing not lining up with our being.

A world that is broken and seeking answers sees the very hope I cling to as nothing more than religion: a bunch of rules that are oppressive. If that is what we are teaching, we have become the very thing Christ detested. Did Christ die for nothing then? Of course not but I have to wrestle with the significance of my salvation.

Is there evidence in my life that his death and resurrection have actually made a difference in my life and those around me?

The answer I believe is found in Philippians 2:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

I am glad Jesus’ approach wasn’t “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” I am glad He saw in us something of value and significance, that our sin and all of its messiness was worth redeeming. It cost Him everything…and I cannot be afraid of it costing me everything.

Here is the full quote from C.S. Lewis.

May you contemplate your own life, like I am, to see the truth of what really is at stake.My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position [imposing “the good”] would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some points be satiated; but those who torment us for their own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to heaven yet at the same time likely to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insults. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on the level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.