Denzel Washington On Fatherhood and Family values

Make it easy for your child to believe, love, and obey a good God.

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So, anytime someone in Hollywood says something that makes sense, it should be memorialized. Furthermore, if the statement contains wisdom, then we should probably scream it from a rooftop.

All jokes aside, after I finished my Bible reading (Psalms and Acts today) and prayer, I glanced at the news. I like to scroll through headlines and read a few articles. Most of the time, you can scan headlines to keep up with current events (a tip to leaders who need to stay up on what is happening in the world). Today, an article about Denzel Washington caught my eye.

Denzel Washington stars in ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.He has always been one of my favorite actors. Granted, I have not watched every film he has been in, but I enjoy his work. He has just recently starred in the film, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” written and directed by Dan Gilroy. In what is called a “press junket” (language I borrowed from the link), he made the following statement about fatherhood:

“It starts at the home…It starts with how you raise your children. If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure. So, you know, I can’t blame the system. It’s unfortunate that we make such easy work for them.”

The sentence, “If a young man doesn’t have a father figure, he’ll go find a father figure,” is one of the most powerful statements I have ever read or heard pertaining to fatherhood.

The article where this quote is found ends with the statement, “Traditional family values, the left has long said, are racist, sexist and chauvinistic.” He is right. Of course, this will not be a popular view among feminists and the lesbian community. In an overreaction to male chauvinism over the past few decades, the feminist agenda quite often swings to the other extreme, claiming that the male presence is not needed. It is superfluous. A woman can do the job of a man.

I don’t agree.

Let me flip this around as well: A man cannot do the job of a woman. Now, of course there are jobs and roles that both can fulfill. I am not denying this. But I don’t believe this is possible in the home. My main point is that both genders offer something unique to children and society at large. It is a sign of ignorance and superficiality that on one hand, our society trumpets the message of our uniqueness and value as individuals while on the other hand attempting to eradicate gender lines that contribute to this uniqueness. Essentially, our society preaches, “Select the gender that you want to identify with in order to express your true self.” Self is central. Self is God. Therefore, self-expression takes precedent over all else. Arrange everything else accordingly. A byproduct of this movement is that gender becomes arbitrary and thus motherhood and fatherhood can now be fulfilled by anyone no matter their biology.

Being married to someone of the opposite sex and having kids truly opens your eyes to the distinctness of each gender. When I am playing rough with my son, my wife always says to me, “A boy needs a daddy. He gets things from you that I can’t give him.” This truth goes both ways. I also cannot give him what she provides. Together, he is given fullness. He is offered the opportunity to see a more complete and complex picture of who God is. I do not mean to imply that the categorical lines are thick. Different men and women have different temperaments. Some men will be strong in areas that women typically are and vice versa. But my point is that in general, both genders were created to mirror the person, wisdom, and beauty of Christ in different ways.

Back to fatherhood. If you are father, read these words and take them to heart. You may be living under the same roof as your children but be totally absent. This kind of fathering can hurt children just as badly if not worse than an absentee dad. You are there and won’t even look at them. At least the child of an absentee father can make up reasons why the absentee dad is not present.

The bottom line is this: A child will find a father. If you are a dad, you are in position to be that person. With your time, laughter, silliness, wisdom (taking advantage of teaching moments), money, worship, acts of kindness, words and tone, and the way that you treat others (including your spouse!), shape your child. Make it easy for your child to believe, love, and obey a good God.

As a parting thought, I believe that there is something to the fact that some of the most significant, anti-Christian philosophers in the Western tradition did not have a father-presence in the home during their childhood. Arthur Schopenhauer lamented the loss of his father when he was 17. He spoke of the negative impact this had on his life. Friedrich Nietzsche, who famously wrote, “God is dead,” lost his dad at age four. And Jean-Paul Sartre, the philosopher in which Atheistic Existentialism reached its peak, also grew up without a father.

Remember, fatherhood counts. If you will not be the dad of your child, someone else will.

You can find the quote from Denzel Washington along with a short article by clicking on the following link:

Denzel Washington on fatherhood, family values – Washington Times

Mike Pence and How to Protect Your Marriage

During my 11-12 years of serving as a pastor, I also strove to abide by this rule. 

 

The following link will direct you to an article in USA Today. The rule that Mike Pence lives by regarding his interactions with the opposite sex is a rule that my dad (a senior pastor in Northeast Texas) has lived by for decades. During my 11-12 years of serving as a pastor, I also strove to abide by this rule.

Wedding_rings

I have never met anyone that regretted living by this rule. However, I doubt there is enough space to list names of those who wish they had (including spouses, children, and friends who were hurt).

The rule that Pence lives by is not morally right or wrong. Rather, it is wise. Quite often, the question, “What is wise?” transcends the moral right-wrong divide.

Whether you are a pastor, educator, business owner, manager, or whatever else, I hope you will click on the link below, read, and consider this for yourself.

After Weinstein, consider Pence rule to protect your heart and marriage

I Visited a Church as a Layman Last Sunday

I wonder if the youthful infatuation with Christ and the disdain for anything semi-institutional is nothing more than a disguised rebellion.

The-Edinburgh-Reporter-street-Morningside-1After about a month in Edinburgh, my wife, son, and I finally began our search for a local church to put down roots. In the last month, I have missed being a part of a local spiritual family. I am convinced more than ever that if someone doesn’t care about the church (i.e. the Bride of Christ), then Christ doesn’t rule in his/her heart. To neglect the church or to merely “attend” might rightly be classified as sin. If you genuinely love Jesus, His passions and affections will be constantly growing in your heart. In other words, if you don’t love what He loves, how deep can your love for Him actually be? Sorry Millennials, but if you love Jesus, how can you have little regard for His wife?

I wonder if the youthful infatuation with Christ and the disdain for anything semi-institutional is nothing more than a disguised rebellion. In other words, we want Jesus and the spiritual feelings that can accompany such a quest. But church? Someone that preaches? Or leads a discussion? Or confronts my sin? Or says that certain lifestyles are wrong (i.e. the gay lifestyle)? Or that I should care with my wallet about starving children on the other side of the world? You get the idea. When you are not part of a spiritual community, it is easy to avoid several of the difficult “one-another’s” in the New Testament (the ones that are impossible to fulfill apart from the dynamic power and continual internal influence of the Holy Spirit).

Moving on.

I actually desire to obey Christ, so we are looking for a local church.

We visited our first church in Scotland this last Sunday. We got off the bus in Morningside (area in Edinburgh) and began the 50 meter (metric system! I am adapting and so proud of myself) walk toward the church building. I was a little surprised at what I felt: nervousness. 

That is right. I felt nervous.

I was a youth/college/small group/associate pastor for over a decade in Texas and Mississippi. I am accustomed to being a part of staff conversations and plans to make other people feel more comfortable. Now I know just how important those conversations, people (door greeters), and strategies are.

People approached us. People took time to ask about where we came from and why we are here. It was wonderful. I noticed the power of someone making you feel like your presence (not just God’s) is important.

This week we will attend a different church. Our desire is to visit a few churches over the course of the next 2-3 weeks. After that, it is time to choose.

We will not church-hop.

We will not drag our feet in deciding.

May the Holy Spirit guide our quest as we search for good “soil” in Edinburgh.

Thy will be done.

Our Church: Embracing Refugees

At some point, your “red-white-and-blue” should probably take a back seat to someone’s little girl dying because you were afraid you might get bombed (there has never been a terrorist attack on American soil by a refugee).

syrian-migrant-boy-turkeyThough I have not blogged in nearly two months, I figured this was as good of a time as any to pick up my pen again (not really a pen as you can see). Today I came across the article, 25 Refugees’ Bodies Were Found In One Boat in the Mediterreanean Sea (click on title) and am more convinced than ever that America, to be a nation worth anything at all, needs to open the doors wider and wider to refugees. I am not a fan of necessarily reducing the “vetting” process, but rather, for reallocating funds so that we have more people in government helping with this process so that we can admit more people at a faster rate. And if you are a Christian, this should definitely be your position. At some point, your “red-white-and-blue” should probably take a back seat to someone’s little girl dying because you were afraid you might get bombed (there has never been a terrorist attack on American soil by a refugee).

I am a part of River City Spokane Church. It is a collection of Gospel Homes spread throughout the city. Last night a lady from World Relief came and spoke to our church. We have decided to become a “Good Neighbor” team. As a church team, we are signing up to essentially adopt a refugee family when they arrive in the United States. We will actually be at the airport when they get off the plane. Pretty amazing, huh?! After that, we will become their friends, go to their apartment and eat, hang out, show them how to use the bus system, etc.

In the midst of her presentation, she shared a YouTube video that I found very informative. It is only four minutes long, so please watch before going any further (Process of Screening Refugees).

In watching the video, I saw just how silly our fear-based, American-first, let kids-and-women die, mentality is. I mean, think about it. How do you follow Christ and think that prioritizing your red-white-and-blue at the price OF ACTUAL HUMAN LIVES is Christlike? It can’t be. The only reason a Christian can say this in my opinion is that they are not Christ-first. Okay, let me be more blunt: selfish. 

Christ always gravitated toward the most vulnerable. Who is more vulnerable right now than refugees?

There is a major difference between an immigrant and a refugee. A refugee is actually fleeing a country due to a “well-founded” fear of harm. If you recall, Jesus fit this description. When Jesus was an infant, Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt because of coming persecution that was a direct result of a decision by a political leader. If not for Egypt, what would have happened to Jesus? To Joseph? To Mary?

Jesus was once a refugee.

One thing I learned last night is that if anything, our country is almost too intense about the vetting process (I am only half kidding). I definitely see the value of the process being quite rigorous, but my desire is that instead of limiting the number of refugees, we would instead reallocate funds to help speed up the process so that we can receive more refugees. This is not about choosing others over America. As the video points out, this is more about the type of America that we desire.

As for my son, I want him to see the person dying on the other side of the world as his neighbor. They are people, and I can’t imagine Jesus protecting a national flag while more children like Aylan Kurdi continue to wash ashore.

So, donate online. Or if you are in a city, grab some friends or get your church involved.

 

 

 

A Tribute to Grace Fellowship Ministries

By eighth grade, I had already planned my religious escape…and then Grace Fellowship happened.

GraceFor those who don’t know, my dad is the senior pastor at Grace Fellowship Ministries in Winnsboro, Texas. This is the text I just received from him:

“22 years ago today Grace began Sunday morning service!! Been a journey!!! Aug 14, 1994. STILL BELIEVING!!!”

Oh my, congratulations dad. Congratulations mom. Very few could have made it. Very few would have pressed through. People stabbed you in the back. Friends betrayed you. People around town would not talk with you. The church even hurt our family. A lot. But you persevered. We all did. I am so glad. I would not be where I am at today spiritually if you hadn’t.

The church began my freshman year in high school. It is amazing to think that this church began in God’s heart, traveled to my mom and dad’s heart, then to our living room, then to a downtown storefront, and now to a 25-acre property with a beautiful building surrounded by a forest. If you are struggling to hold on to something God has put in your heart, my dad’s church ought to be a fresh reminder of the following: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4:10 NLT).

Keep going.

Daddy God always starts with little bitty seeds and a pile of dirt.We are the dirt (Genesis 2:7; Psalms 103:14). He plants the seeds.

By eighth grade, I had already planned my religious escape. I loved my parents so much and I loved God. However, I was so, so, so bored in church. There seemed to be so little life and power. I decided that in order to honor my mom and dad, I would stay in the church until I graduated from high school (four years away). Then, I would walk away from the church for good. What was extremely difficult for me was that I, in my eighth grade mind, could not reconcile how I was going to be able to love God (because I did) yet forsake the church (you know, what so many Millennials have regrettably mastered). But I knew that there was no way I could sit around and be a part of something so dead and boring for the next 60 years of my life.

And then Grace Fellowship happened.

Through a series of unfortunate events and quite frankly, suffering and disappointment in the life of my parents, new desires were birthed.

Suffering truly is a womb of sorts. A matrix. A greenhouse. A launching pad.

For the first time in my life, we began traveling to Dallas, Texas every weekend to visit churches that were more “open” to the Holy Spirit, the spiritual gifts, healing, and God’s power.

And not long into this movement, we were meeting in a home one night and God demonstrated his power. My brother had a milk allergy so severe that a few sour-cream-and-onion chips could send him to the hospital. You can only imagine what milk or ice cream would have done.

While I played in an adjoining room, a group of people gathered around my brother Clay, laid hands on him in Biblical fashion, and prayed for him. They really prayed. The next day we were scheduled to leave for vacation and before we went, Clay wanted a glass of milk (or ice cream, I can’t remember). But dad and mom told him that we were going to wait until we returned from vacation to “test” things out. Clay insisted. The rest is history. Rather than go to the hospital, we left for vacation. Nothing happened. Clay was healed! HEALED! Physically healed. He never looked back. He has enjoyed dairy products since that day.

Since that time, God has fulfilled the vision that he gave dad at an old run-down car wash full of broken appliances. God would bring people to Grace, heal them, and send them back out. I am one of those. I was going to walk away from the church after high school. But God used this local church to show me that there is life and power both in Christ and his community.

Thank you Lord for my dad, my mom, the suffering you used, and the beauty of Grace Fellowship Ministries. I am one of those changed.

Congratulations dad, mom, and the people of Grace.

*** You can check out Grace Fellowship Ministries’ website at http://www.gracefm.org/.

Life and More Life

For those who have been following our story, the jury is still out regarding whether or not I will have the opportunity to work toward my Ph.D. overseas. The scholarship for which I am most hopeful was just posted and it will probably be another 2-3 months before the process concludes. 

In the meantime, there is life to be lived.

My son’s birthday party was yesterday. He turned two. Guy and Jill, Allison’s parents, flew all the way to Spokane from south Mississippi to celebrate with us. In addition, two sets of friends and their kids came to the park where we were having his party. As a dad, I felt so much joy to see my son having a great time on his birthday though we moved so far way from so many people we loved a few weeks ago. And besides experiencing joy, I felt such deep gratitude to the people who came so that my son could have the day that my wife and I envisioned and worked hard to create (I literally do not have the space or time here to mention all that my wife did to make this day special). 

The past is gone. The future is not yet. The present, well, that is all that you have to chew on. 

What if I don’t win a scholarship? What if it turns out that God does not want me to get my Ph.D.? These would be hard life conclusions for me to swallow, but hey, there are no guarantees. We sense in our heart that it is still what God wants, but for now, the coffee is brewing, a new gospel-home is beginning at River City Church, we are meeting people, our son is growing, I am getting to teach, and the trout are waiting! When I think about Jesus and the life he lived, he was always, simply, wonderfully present. Granted, he knew where he came from and where he was going (John 13:3), but he stood in his sandles, looked at people, and didn’t hang on the cross until he actually arrived. One encounter at a time. One season at a time. One deep breathe at a time. The psychiatrist Carl Jung once said, “Hurry is not of the Devil; it is the Devil.” Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline, writes, “In Contemporary society our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied.” 

What is keeping your from living in the present? A morsel of shame that keeps you trapped in the past? An exciting dream for your future that makes it easy for you to escape the mundaneness of the present? Too much activity? Too little activity? A dating relationship that you know you need to let go of? Mourning a loss in the past that you have yet to grieve? You tell me. What is it? Did Jesus, our wonderful Savior, not say, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). 

Quit looking for fireworks and explosions. A peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich will do fine. Whether it is a worm on your hook or a good book, open your heart to the present and the people around you and find creative ways to love and worship Daddy God and seize every last moment in this season for His kingdom and glory as well as your good. If you waste your present, then your “future” presents will suffer. 

And remember, ultimately, this is about Christ. All is spiritual. More of you Lord, more of you. 

(Thanks to Jill Stegall for the picture!)
 

My Newest Book

Breaking Ground Kindle FrontI am excited to announce that I have finished my fourth book. Over a month ago, my senior pastor Allen Hickman gave me the assignment of finding a book that we could use in a relational sort of way for discipling new believers in our church (we will assign mentors to each person to walk through the book together). As I looked, I could not find one that fit our taste. Some were too long, some had too many fill-in-the-blanks (felt a little academic), while others did not cover the topics that was desired. So, I decided to write one. Below is the description on Amazon:

“This book was written with the intent of helping new believers establish a basic, Biblical foundation. David wrote, “If the foundations are destroyed, what will the righteous do.” Far too many believers remain clueless regarding the basics of following Christ. This study consists of five modules per week for six weeks (30 total) and is designed to be discussed with a mentor once per week throughout the duration. This text requires the reader to open his or her Bible to read and sometimes write scripture. Each module ends with a prayer guide and space to write questions and/or comments to discuss with mentor. Ultimately the reader will develop the habit of spending personal time with God on a daily basis.”

I believe strongly that this book will be a great tool in helping new believers (as well as anybody who does not feel they have a strong, Biblical foundation) establish a strong foundation so that there is something in place for God to build upon in the future. One of my favorite parts of the book is that it requires you to have a Bible right beside you at all times. Rather than spoon-feed scripture, you have to look it up for yourself. Sometimes you will be asked to read a passage and at other times write. Check it out. Feel free to recommend to your friend, family member, or pastor.

The book is available in Kindle or paper format.

Note: If you are a RLM member and are going to help us disciple people, do not buy the book yet. Pastor Allen will be hosting a meeting soon to train all of us as we prepare to use this book to help new believers get off to a great start in their spiritual journey.