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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Importance of Marriage & Family



The Importance of Marriage & Family

By: Pastor Bob Tousey

In the Book of Genesis, the first book of the bible we learn that a man will leave his family and take a wife.  So it is clear that from the very beginning of time it was God’s intention to create families through marriage. 

In the Book of Ecclesiastics 4:9-12, we are taught that two are better than one.  The author provides several examples of how by combining their different gifts that a couple is stronger together than they are individually.  The verse concludes with the words “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  The message that is being conveyed in this last words is that not only is a couple better when they work together but that when a couple includes God at the center of their relationship it becomes unbreakable.

Through time God has continued to send us messages that marriage and family are very important to Him.  Many of us are familiar with the miracle performed at the “wedding in Cana” which is relayed to us in chapter 2 of the Gospel of John. 

Jesus was a guest at a wedding feast and they ran out of wine.  Jesus turned water into wine.  This was His first miracle.  God could have chosen any place for His Son to reveal Himself as the Messiah but He chose a wedding.  I believe He did this to once again communicate to us that marriage and family is very important to Him.

In recent years we have seen a weakening of marriage and family.  Many people say times have changed.  Marriage and family is not as important as it was in biblical times.  God witnessed this as well and in the early 1990’s he responded by inspiring the late Pope John Paul II to write the Prayer for the Family.  Here is the prayer in its entirety.

“Lord God, from You every family in heaven and on earth
takes its name.  Father, you are Love and Life.
Through Your Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, and through the Holy Spirit, fountain of divine charity, grant that every family on earth may become for each successive generation a true shrine of life and love.
Grant that Your grace may guide the thoughts and actions of husbands and wives for the good of their families and of all families in the world.
Grant that the young may find in the family solid support for their human dignity and for their growth in truth and love.
Grant that love, strengthened by the Sacrament of Marriage, may prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass.
Through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that the Church may fruitfully carry out her world wide mission in and through the family.
Through Christ our Lord, Who is the Way, the Truth, the Life forever and ever. Amen.”

I urge everyone to read this prayer carefully.  Read each word and let it soak in.  The prayer asks God to guide the thoughts and actions of husbands and wives for the good of their families and the good of all the families in the world.  Then it asks that the young find in the family solid support for their human dignity and for their growth in truth and love.  Finally it asks love strengthened by God prove mightier than all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass.  Finally it asks that the Church carry out her world-wide mission in and through the family.
In those few words not only did God send a message that marriage and family is important.  He made clear that it is His intention for His work to be carried out in and through the family.  We are also reminded  that parents must seek God’s support as they lead their family because their thoughts and actions not only affect their families but all families in the world.  We also learn that parents need to establish an environment in their family that supports their children’s growth.  We are finally reminded that if God is at the center of our families that we will be able to overcome all the weakness and trials that come our way.

Marriage and family is as important today as they ever were.  Having God at the center of the family is critical.  Many of us including myself have fallen short in this area.  It is important that we change course.  It is not too late for us to be courageous and fearless moral leaders for our families.  We cannot do it alone we need to seek God’s help.  Let’s pray each day for the Holy Spirit to inspire us as to God’s will for us and to grant us the wisdom, strength and courage to carry out God’s will.  Let’s pray for God to guide each member of our family.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Suicide: What do you say at a time like this?



Suicide: What do you say at a time like this?

 


By: Pastor Bob Tousey

Over the years I have had numerous opportunities to be with families as they struggled with the sudden loss of a loved one from suicide.  When I was a fire department Chaplain, I was often with the family immediately after the tragedy.  More recently I have been called upon to officiate the funeral services.  Family and Friends always have questions and concerns. This blog will attempt to address some of them.

The first question I will deal with is often “the elephant” in the room at the funeral of a suicide victim.  

 “What about eternity?”,  “Is suicide the unforgivable sin”?

I have heard people say that suicide is the unforgivable sin.  This is not true and there is simply no biblical basis for that position.

First, while suicide is certainly tragic and falls short of God’s glory, there is no where in the Bible that God tell us suicide is unforgivable.  In fact, just the contrary is true.  In Matthew 12:31 Jesus tells us “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”   

The only unforgivable sin is rejecting the Holy Spirit, a sin most theologians believe Christians are not capable of and in my opinion most, if not all, people of faith are not capable of.

There are seven accounts of suicide in the Bible.  They can be found in Judges 9:54 (Abimelech ordered his armor-bearer to draw his sword and kill him), Judges 16:29-31 (Samson collapsed a building on himself), 1 Samuel 31:3-6 (Saul ordered his armor-bearer to draw his sword and kill him), 2 Samuel 17:23 (Ahithophel hung himself), 1 Kings 16:18 (Zimri set his palace on fire around him) and Matthew 27:5 (Judas Iscariot hung himself).  

 There is no where in these seven Biblical accounts where God took the opportunity to tell us that suicide is unforgivable.

In fact, in Romans 3:23-24, which was written after all the Biblical accounts of suicide, took place, we are taught “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  Therefore, I think it is abundantly clear that suicide, like all other sins except rejecting the Spirit, is forgivable by God.

Family and friends often feel anger towards their loved one for ending their own life.   

This is a very understandable feeling.  Suicide has all the trappings of having been a voluntary decision by their loved one. It is important to remember that a decision to take one’s own life is often the result of a mental illness. Because of the illness their loved one was not in complete or balanced control of their decision making at the time they took their life.

Your loved one may have been struggling with depression, substance abuse, loss of hope because of job loss, illness, poor decision, etc..  All of these conditions and many others would have affected their loved one’s decision making process and therefore the act was no more voluntary than a death by cancer or heart disease is.

Understanding this is an important step to letting go of the anger and forgiving your loved one for the hurt that you are feeling.

After a suicide the loved one’s left behind often feel guilt.   

They feel they did not do enough to help their loved one and prevent the suicide.  First, as just discussed suicide is often the result of a mental illness. Even the best of care and the love of one’s family & friends are not enough to overcome the disease. Also, quite often the illness goes unnoticed and undiagnosed.   

Because mental illness carries with it some degree of stigma, people will deny they have it and go to great lengths to cover it up.  Someone suffering from depression, substance abuse and such will often wear a happy mask. Reasonable people will never suspect the hurt and pain their loved one is going through.

It is also my experience that people who are successful in taking their life do not talk about it.  They are already comfortable with their decision and have a plan in mind that they do not want interrupted.  They do not want others to know what they are planning and will work very hard at making sure others do not find out.  Chances are you did not miss anything and there was very little you could have done to prevent the suicide.

With the above discussion in mind I do feel a responsibility to point out that we should not ignore talk of suicide.  The very fact that it has entered someone’s thought process and is being discussed warrants professional attention.  For someone deeply troubled it might not take much to go from the talking & thought, to becoming comfortable with the decision and taking action. So please take any talk or thoughts of suicide very seriously.

Another question that occurs is how should we proceed with the funeral? 

Some families just have a quiet direct cremation and grieve privately; others have a viewing and service but just say the death was sudden, while others are open about the manner of death.

Like with any other manner of death there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.  Each family must make a decision that will help them cope with their grief and begin the healing process.   Every family will be different.

When a family decides to be open about the manner of death it is often a good idea to have a short “opening” service before the viewing with family and close friends with a comforting reading from scripture and some prayers asking for God’s strength and comfort.  It is often a good idea, if scheduling permits, for clergy to be present during the viewing as much as possible.  Mourners might have questions or just need to talk.  A loving and understanding Pastor can be quite comforting at a time like this.

The funeral service should acknowledge the tragedy, speak of God’s love for all His children and remind the family & friends that God does have a place in Heaven for those who take their own life.  It is important for the loved ones to be reminded that this is not good bye and there is hope of an eternal reunion in Heaven.

For families who choose to keep the manner of death a private matter then that decision should be respected and the service should be conducted as it would be for any other death.

Remember if you are called upon to work with survivors of suicide treat them in a compassionate and loving manner.  Do not be condescending, judgmental or express shock over the manner of death. 

For survivors of suicide is often a good idea to obtain some sort of professional grief counseling and get any questions you have answered by a caring and loving professional who understands suicide.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Blended Families: Making Them Work.

This article was written by Pastor Bob Tousey in the Spring of 2006 and appeared in The Single Parent, a publication of Parents Without Partners, International, Inc.

Blended Families: Making The Family Work
 
BY: Rev. BOB TOUSEY
 
I recently saw the remake of the 1960's classic "Yours, Mine and Ours". This film reminded me in a very comical way the challenges that are faced when you try to join two families. While the movie had it base in reality, I am sure many families in the 60's thought of it as more fictional. Blended families were the exception rather than the rule. The remake has a different audience. Each day another 1,300 step families are formed . Some 6.4 million children in the United States live with one step parent and one birth parent. Sixty five percent of all remarriages involve children of another marriage. Sixty percent of these marriages end in divorce.
 
These eye opening statistics are not surprising when we consider the challenges faced in blended families. There are issues arising from loss of the traditional family, jealousy, misunderstanding and different styles of discipline and trying to blend in family rules and cultures. There is a great need to address these issues and make these unions more successful.
 
One of the first steps is to include the children in the ceremony planning. Donna Ellis, the founder of Idotaketwo.com, a web resource for second marriages has observed that by including the children in the wedding planning "It helps them feel like they're making a family, rather than their parents are just getting married." My article "Getting Remarried: What About The Children?" in the spring 2005 issue of the Single Parent discusses ideas to include the children. But to make the family successful requires more than just including the children in the ceremony.
 
Emily Bouchard, a therapist and founder of blended-families.com provided me with four thoughts to remember when entering a blended family. 1) begin with the end in mind. Know what you want to accomplish and work towards it. 2) Respect is key. Respect the children and you will earn their respect in return. 3) The kids did not sign up to be in a blended family. Understand this in your dealings with your step children and finally, 4) Parents and Step Parents can not undermine each other. If you disagree with something another parental figure did it should be discussed with them in private away from the children. It is important to point out that this goes not only for disagreements with your spouse but also with the former spouse and the other step parent.
 
Step parents face an interesting challenge and must earn the respect of the children. Peggy Barta, MSW LCSW observes "when a step parent enters the family as disciplinarian, competitor or replacement parent, the chances for a satisfying relationship are greatly hindered."
 
My stepson, Christopher Barnard, now 24, had step parents and siblings on both sides. When I was preparing to write this article I asked him what was the best thing his step parents did and what was the worse. His answer was quick. The best thing is they never tried to replace my other parent and the worse was when a step parent would "trash" the other parent. Respecting the other parent was a key theme as I spoke to members of step parent families. Kat Ralston, who married her husband, Craig, while her daughters were in elementary school, said "Neither one of us ever spoke poorly of the girls' father."
 
I have found a step parent can not come in like a bull in a china shop. A step parent must respect the child and all the other "parents" in the child's life. The step parent must also earn the respect of the child. Once respect is earned then there is a solid foundation to build the rest of the relationship.
 
I have found it is best to define a step parent's role as being another adult who is able to provide support and encouragement for the child. The step parent provides the child with another shoulder to cry on, another person to share joy with and someone else to seek counsel from. It is good to keep in mind Emily Bouchard's observation the kids did not sign up to be in a blended family. Be gentle, be kind, be respectful and keep the lines of communications open.
 
Kat Ralston spoke of how her husband Craig was able to build his foundation with her daughters. We spent a lot of time together as a family. "We would always figure ways to include the girls and to teach them." It also helped that Craig was still in school at the time and assumed the duties of what we now affectionately refer to as "Mr. Mom". He involved the girls in projects and let them do things. When he was taking a sailing course one of his step daughters served as his sailing mate. Kat recalled another humorous antidote "One day I came home to find my 6 and 8 year old daughters sitting with Craig at the dining room table as he taught them how to rebuild a carburetor." Craig understood need to earn respect by mentoring and interacting with the girls.
 
The success rate for blended families can be increased. It takes time, effort and commitment but it is worth it. Take it from me being a step parent is one of life's most rewarding experiences

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Perspective on Life from an Eternal View



A Perspective on Life from an Eternal View

This article is not from a particular message I delivered but taken from various messages I have delivered at Celebration of Life Services.

When we someone we know dies we are sad because we miss them. It does not matter if we knew them a lifetime or just met them recently the person in some way touched our heart and we will have an emptiness in our hearts. Fortunately for us the wonderful memories of the time we shared with our loved one will begin to fill our hearts and we will once again be able to smile when we think of them.As we examine life from an eternal perspective I would like to share with you some words from the Book of Ecclesiastics:

A Time for Everything For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

This teaching begins by reminding us that there is a time to be born and a time to die. In the view of eternity, our life on this earth is very short. But what is important to remember is that while our loved one’s life here on earth is over her eternal life in Heaven has just begun. In eternal life there is no illness, no pain or suffering and no word that means good bye.

We are also reminded that there is a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to grieve and a time to dance. Today is our time to cry and our time to grieve but our loved one would not want her memory to bring us sadness. She wants our sadness to be brief and for her memory to more often cause us to laugh and dance.

When I was a young boy, my brother and I sat on our mother’s lap while she gave us the news that our dad had died. She explained to us that God only loans people to us, some for a very long time and some for a very short time. My mom was wise not to try and explain why some people are taken way too soon, because scripture does not even attempt that.


What Jesus does tell us relates to His own earthly death and it is in the Gospel of John 16:33 “I have told these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart I have overcome the world.”


Former Baltimore Raven’s Quarterback Trent Dilfer when speaking about the death of his five year old son shared some terrific insight on eternal life by reminding us that if the motivation for your faith is what's going on in the...years we have here on this earth, then you are missing the truth of God's promises. What God promises is eternity. This is not our home. When we make our decision to trust in Him and to follow Him, our home is with Him for eternity.


Now it is time to share with you one of my favorite readings from the Gospel. It also comes from the Gospel of John and is found in Chapter 14. These are the words that Jesus spoke to His friends shortly before His own earthly death.

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.

In these verses, Jesus makes three promises. First, that there is more than enough room for each of us in heaven. When it comes time for God to call our name we do not have to worry about being greeted by a “No Vacancy” sign. Our reservation was made when Jesus died on the cross, all we have to do is be willing to accept His wonderful gift. When I think of this promise I am reminded of the old Motel Six commercial where Tom Bodett promises to leave a light on for us. This analogy has a biblical basis. In Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelations, John describes eternity to us with the following words “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp. I believe our loved one was greeted by the light from the glory of God as she entered the gates of heaven.


Now the second promise is incredible to me. Jesus promises to prepare a place for us. I am not sure about you but I have never had a place prepared especially for me. I remember buying my first house, it was nice house but other than getting to decide if I wanted crown molding and a fireplace the house was pretty much like the other houses in the neighborhood. It was not prepared especially for me. Now we have the Son of God, who in his earthly life was a carpenter by trade, promising to prepare a special place just for us. I could stand here and try to describe our loved one’s new eternal home but human words and even human imagination would not do it justice. God’s home is more magnificent than we can ever imagine. What we do know from the Bible is that heaven is a special place. A place of love, a place where there is no suffering, no pain and there are no words that mean good bye.


The final and in my opinion the most comforting promise is that when God calls our name that Jesus will come and take us there himself. I have had the opportunity to be with people during their final hours of earthly life and I often hear them say “they are here”, “I am ready” or “its time”. In his book “The Other Side of Suffering” John Ramsey recounts the death of his wife Patsy. She was in a coma, she opened her eyes, she had a wondrous expression on her face as if she was seeing something glorious. I believe what Patsy was seeing and what the people I have been with were seeing was Jesus keeping His promise. I believe that shortly before our earthly death Jesus and the angels come to escort us to our new eternal home.


We can find comfort in knowing that our loved one was not alone when she died but that she was in the comforting and loving arms of Jesus. I believe as she entered Heaven’s gates she was greeted by a welcoming committee which was made up of her family and friends that went before her. While we were grieving over her death here on earth, there was a celebration going on in Heaven. It was a family reunion of sorts and the good news is that each of you have the opportunity to have our loved one on your welcoming committee. Today is not good bye but simply until we meet again.


About two thousand years ago Peter gave advice to his friends in Asia Minor and it is still good advice today and I want to share it with you.

“And now this word to all of you: You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy towards each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.”

Over the next few hours, days, weeks and months there will be difficult times. You will need each other. Be there for each other. Love each other. Be a shoulder to cry on or lend your ear to hear a story. Sometimes you will not even have to say a word. Friends, do not avoid the family because you do not know what to say. You don’t need to say a word. Just being there is often very welcome support. There might be times when the family just needs a night alone so please don’t take offense if they tell you they so.


Before we close I would like to share with you a short poem entitled Afterglow. It is often chosen by families to be placed on the memorial cards given out at funerals. I ask you to listen to the words as I believe they are words that would be spoken by our loved one if she could:


I'd like the memory of me
to be a happy one,
I'd like to leave an afterglow
of smiles when life is done.
I'd like to leave an echo
whispering softly down the ways,
Of happy times and laughing
times and bright and sunny days.
I'd like the tears of those who
grieve, to dry before the sun,
And think of happy memories
when the day is done.


Our grieving at a loved one’s death should be for ourselves, because we are going to miss them on this earth. We should not grieve for them for they are enjoying the reward that awaits each of us who graciously accept God’s gift of redemption. We should all share the hope that we will be reunited with our loved one and God when we are called home from this earth.





Building a Foundation for Your Family



Building the Foundation for Your Family

This is taken from a message I delivered at Journey Church of Columbia on Sunday June 9, 2013 https://www.facebook.com/journeycolumbia

Applying the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7 verses 24-27 to your family.


Parents and future parents remember  all eyes are on you.  Little people do not miss a thing.  They absorb everything that you do.  They learn by your example and follow in your footsteps.

In Robert Lewis’ book “Raising a Modern Day Knight”, Lewis references a survey that revealed 76% of high school students and 81% of college students list parents as their biggest moral influences.  This puts a lot of responsibility on parents, who are truly shaping the next generation.

A month ago we celebrated Mother’s Day and next week we will celebrate Father’s Day.  These are days where we take time out of our busy schedules to pay tribute to those special people who raised us or are raising us.  Most of us are very lucky and have had good parents that we love and respect but speaking honestly none of our parents are perfect and they all make mistakes.  I know I have certainly made more than my share of mistakes as a parent.  We all must admit that we are ill equipped for the enormous responsibilities that are heaped on us when we assume the title of mommy or daddy.

This week we will discuss the importance of providing a rock solid foundation for your children.  A portion of today’s discussion will focus specifically on the biblical responsibilities of men.  The reason for that is sadly us guys just don’t do a great job with living up to the role God assigned.  Now this is not an invitation for women to check out or to nudge your spouse and say “I told you, he is talking about you.”  There will be a lot of discussion that applies to both men and women.  Remember as parents you are a team.  Let’s look at what the Book of Ecclesiastics teaches us about working together.

“Two are better than one: they get a good reward for their labor.  If the one falls, the other will lift up his companion.  Woe to the solitary man!  For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up.  So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm.  How can one alone keep warm?  Where a lone man may be overcome, two together can resist.  A three-ply cord is not easily broken.”

Parenting is and always has been intended to be a team effort.  By the way the three ply cord in the last line of the verse includes God on your team.  If you want to provide your children with a rock solid foundation you must invite God to be part of your family.

The idea of a rock solid foundation is not a “Bobism”, it actually has a biblical basis.  Let’s take a moment and examine the Gospel of Matthew , Chapter 7 verses 24-27 and see what Jesus had to say about building a foundation.

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

If we practice what Jesus teaches us we provide our children with a rock solid foundation so they too will be able to withstand the storms that blow through all of our lives.  If we neglect this responsibility and provide a soft foundation our children are more likely to fall for any temptation Satan throws at them and will eventually crash.


Former Governor Bob Ehrlich recently observed “During my tenures as Governor, Congressman and Legislator, I visited many of Maryland's juvenile and adult correctional facilities. Often, I left in a melancholy mood. These are no places for the faint of heart. The scenes are right out of "Scared Straight" and disturbingly predictable: jails full of mostly young men with little formal education. Dropouts are plentiful. Many are alcohol or substance abusers. Some suffer from mental illness. Few possess marketable skills. And a majority come from fatherless homes.”

This observation is backed up by Department of Justice statistics that 90% of all prison inmates are male. According to these same statistics the life time chance of a woman going to prison is 1.8% while it is a staggering 11.3% for males.

Speaking at a Fatherhood summit in 1998, then Vice President Al Gore made the following comments:
“The most influential moral teachers in the world -- are mothers and fathers. But fathers -- often because of their absence -- are making far less use than mothers of their power as moral teachers. That is why I believe the single most promising approach for improving our lives, our society, and our world in the next century is to help men become better fathers. Fatherhood, I believe, is the most underused power for good on the face of the earth.”


Governor Ehrlich and Vice President Gore, despite their political differences both consider fatherhood a critical tool in shaping a child.  Today we learn the sad reality that for a variety of reasons many dads do not take an active role in their children’s lives.  An absentee dad creates a serious wound that their children will carry through life. 

Every child likes to view his or her father as a super hero.  Most of us can remember bragging to our friends how our dad was bigger, better and brighter than all the other dads. For the lucky kids this is only a small stretch from reality, but for far too many it is only a fantasy because their father was absent either emotionally or physically.

Ladies, your role is critically important as well.  The good news is that more of you remain engaged in the life of your children.  However, more is not all.  In the book “I am Second”, Biggest Loser winner, Michelle Aguilar recalls the affect of a phone call she received from her mother.  Five words spoken by her mother during that phone call would change her life forever.  Those words were “I am leaving your father.”  Michelle could not believe what she was hearing and that her mother didn’t even bother to tell her in person.  Michelle recalled “I couldn’t help but think that her leaving meant there was something wrong with me, that somehow she was leaving me as well.”  She remembers crying as she told her mom “I am going to have to love you from a distance, Mom. I just can’t speak to you anymore.”   Michelle turned to food for comfort.  Six years passed without seeing her mom and she gained over a hundred pounds.  Her mom called and said she would like to be part of Michelle’s life. Eventually, they applied to be and were selected as contestants on the T.V. show The Biggest Loser.  After a series of twists and turns which were at times painful, Michelle turned to God and was able to forgive her mother.  Michelle observed “God taught me forgiveness.  With my mom I used to associate her with pain, hurt and anger, but now I have been able to forgive her and to love her where she is at.”

The theology of this church is that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes and fall short of God’s expectations for us.  It is important for each of us to understand this and prepare ourselves to resist temptation and when we do fall short be ready to admit it and move forward in a positive fashion.

I am not standing here because I am a shining example of purity and perfection.  Last week Mark reminded us that we are all broken and I am no different.  Early in my life I struggled with alcohol abuse, twenty years ago my marriage failed, I have had points in my life where I struggled with integrity and sexual purity.  But I have grown and while I am still far from perfect I now accept responsibility for my failings.  I am not proud of this but I share it because it is important for you to know that we all fall short and I understand I am not a perfect man and too often fall short of God’s expectations.  I like you am not alone.

Let’s take a brief look of the people God chose to carry out His most important work.  Adam, had a problem accepting responsibility.  In chapter 3 of Genesis we learned what Adam said to God when he was asked why he ate the fruit "The woman You put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."  Let those words sink in for a minute.  “The woman You put here with me…”  Not only doesn’t Adam “man up” and assume responsibility, he blames not only Eve but he also blames God, Himself.  Wow, Adam, what were you thinking? Let’s ask ourselves is this the type of example we want to be to our children?  I venture to say no but sadly we too often set this type of example.

When God chose Moses, Moses was a fugitive.  He was wanted for murder.  After God chose King David, David committed adultery and the murder to cover up his sin.  Peter was a liar, who denied Jesus three times, Matthew, a tax collector struggled with integrity by cheating his own people for economic gain, Paul was a murderer and the Apostle Thomas doubted his faith.  I say this so that we recognize that God chooses the broken to accomplish great things.  As we learned last week no matter how far we have fallen God will not label us, he still loves us and is willing to help us. If we are open to it He might even use us to accomplish great things.

I venture to say that most, if not, everyone in this room has broken more of the commandments than they have kept.  I know I have.

It is important to remember that even after we accept the Lord into our lives we will fall short just as King David and Peter did.  In fact, it is with believers that Satan works his hardest trying to get us to follow in his footsteps and reject the Lord.  Missteps made after accepting Christ in our lives make for a messy and complicated testimony and will probably confuse the young eyes that look to us for guidance.  However, missteps as a Christian are a reality that each of us must be ready to encounter and we cannot let our missteps derail us or define us.  We must rebound and move forward.  Our children will be watching how we handle adversity and how we respond when we make our own mistakes.  They learn how to move forward by our example.
It is an important part of the foundation that we create for them.

 I know that I just painted a pretty ugly picture.  But there is hope.  We have a great head coach and His name is God and He inspired the best playbook for us to follow.  The playbook is the Bible.  We have already learned that the Bible tells us we are more successful when we work together with Him and how it is important to have a rock solid foundation.  Now let’s examine how to apply these concepts in our lives and also what other principles God teaches us.

Years ago when Tony Dungy was a rookie with the Pittsburg Steelers he asked Coach Noels what it takes to win a Super Bowl.  Coach Noels told him there were three keys.

1.   Know what to do;
2.   Know how to do it;
3.   Do it consistently.

He did not say win every game, make every play perfectly.  He said you need to know what to do.  Know how to do it and to be consistent.

In football you learn “what to do” by learning the playbook.  You learn “how to do it” by practicing and once you know “what to do” and “how to do it” you begin to become consistent in your performance.  Even with consistency there will be the occasional fumble or intercepted pass but we will increase the odds of making a successful play.

Remember our children look at us the way a football player looks at his coach.  They watch the way we live our lives as they would watch their coach demonstrate how to make a play.  The better example we set the stronger foundation we are building for them.

To the single folks here, this message is for you as well.  The eyes are on you.  Youngsters look up to you.  When it comes to assuming your God given responsibilities there are no warm ups and there is no pre season.  It is game time from day 1.

The Bible calls for men to be leaders. This calling is often misunderstood by both men and women, so I want to take a few minute to unpack what God thinks of as leadership.

People often think of leadership as being about domination and power.  It is not. Leaders care about their group.  Leadership is about love and service.  When a man assumes the leadership role in his family it should be as a servant leader, where you humbly serve your family. 

Jesus gave us a good example of what a servant leader is when He washed the feet of His friends. This was a job typically reserved for the lowliest of servants.  As a leader Jesus took on the role of humble servant and led by example. 

Men do the same in your house.  Real men pitch in and wash the dishes, scrub the floor and clean the toilet.  Leaders should not shout orders but they need to get their hands dirty, lead by example and serve the people they lead.

They also need to honor and respect their wife’s talents and gifts and allow her to develop them and use them for the family’s benefit. Remember you are a team.  Guys if your wife is better at the budget than you are --- let her take on that responsibility.  If your wife is better at doing repairs around the house then you are let her do it.  A true leader throws out stereo types and allows each member of the team to develop and use their gifts to make the team successful.

I participated in the Men’s Fraternity program and one point that was emphasized is that male domination is not a Biblical principle, it is a character flaw.  A man who thinks leadership is about bullying, beating up and dominating is not a leader.  He needs professional help and should get it as soon as possible.  God did not intend for men to dominate, he intended for them to be servant leaders.

Leadership is a responsibility, it is setting an example, it is doing the right thing. There is no superior in God’s earthly creations.   We are all submissive to God and need to be obedient to His word.

In the early church various groups vied for superiority.  The churches in Galatia were no exception and this is what Paul said to them:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

We are all equal with different responsibilities.  Sadly, many men abdicate their leadership responsibility and the results show.

Coach Dungy always had a sign in his locker rooms.  What it said was simple and it applies to life.  Expectations, Execution, No Excuses, No Explanations. We need to know the expectations, practice the execution, not make excuses nor should we offer explanations when we fall short.  We need to accept responsibility for our short comings and move forward.  When you are a leader the buck stops with you.  No Excuses, No Explanations. You are the one ultimately responsible for your team’s execution.

Let’s talk about marriage and relationships.  In both the Old and New Testament we are taught that a man will leave his family and take a wife.  From the very beginning of time it was God’s intention for families to be created through marriage and for marriage to be a forever deal.  I am discussing marriage because many people in our society no longer think of marriage as a forever deal.  If we are going to provide our children with a rock solid foundation we need to make sure they understand the responsibility you assume when you walk down the aisle.  I know this is an uncomfortable subject for some in this room.  It is uncomfortable for me as I clearly failed in this responsibility but I would be short changing you and failing in another responsibility if I did not discuss it.

People often ask me if I will ever remarry and the answer is simple.  I have another marriage in me but I do not have another divorce.  Having experienced a failed marriage and seeing the affect it has on the entire family has strengthened my resolve that marriages, like life, must have a rock solid foundation.

Since my marriage failed I have attended Men’s Fraternity, observed couples who have successful marriages, read countless books, participated in and led workshops on relationships, written articles on blended families, worked with countless people who also had marriages fail and with approximately 500 couples preparing for marriage. 

I have learned how unprepared I was when I took the step to the altar and had no idea of the commitment that was necessary to make a marriage work.  I regret that I could not be a 24/7/365 day dad to my children and was not able to fulfill the vows I made before God and family.  I firmly resolve to share this experience with others to help them to be more successful.  To remind them that the words in the vows “for better or for worse”, “for richer or for poorer” and “as long as we both shall live” are true promises not only to your spouse but also to God.

Marriage is difficult.  Anyone who tells you marriage is or should be easy does not know what they are talking about.  Relationships take work.  You will be tested.  There will be times that you will want to throw up your hands and quit.  There will be times when both you and your spouse want to throw up your hands and quit.  Most married couples will tell you that there are times in a marriage that while you still kinda love each other you do not always like each other.

A Pastor I know shared a story with me.  A friend of his called him at 3:00 in the morning and was distraught.  His friend was on a business trip and had gone to the hotel bar.  One thing led to another and he wound up in a woman’s room and broke his marital vows.  The Pastor told him that he needed to tell his wife.  That man had already breached a sacred trust and it was not going to get better by breaching that trust a second time by hiding it.  The man called his wife later that morning.  She was obviously very hurt and upset.  I am sure there was a very cold and awkward home coming but the couple eventually worked through it and as far as I know there was no further breaches of this very intimate trust.

This is a remarkable story as most men probably would not have the courage to tell their wives and most wives would not have been graceful enough to forgive this transgression.  I tell you this story for a reason. 

I tell it to most of the couples I work with preparing for marriage because before marriage, you have to ask yourself would you consider forgiving your spouse if they committed to ultimate breach of trust.  Many will not be able to do that and that is understandable.  However,  you need to look at where you are on the continuum.  What will cause you to walk away from your marriage? 

If you would leave your spouse for spilling coffee on your shirt, well you certainly are not ready for marriage.  The closer you are in being willing to try and work through the difficult issues, the more ready you are for marriage.  The children will be watching how you handle these tough situations.  They will see how committed you are to keeping your promises.  Now that we talked about marriage let’s examine some other places where being proactive can make a difference.

I would now like to spend some time dissecting the video clip that was the lead in to this message.

The first thing the little boy said he was watching was how his dad treated people.  When was the last time you thought of how you treat others.    Remember those little eyes are watching you every time you interact with others.  How do you treat people when they let you down or hurt you?  Do you show grace, or do you try and get even or maybe hold a grudge.  If someone is not having a good day do you try and do something to make life a little better for them or do you ignore it and say it’s their problem?

The little boy in our lead video said he is watching dad’s work ethic.  How do you do in that regard?   Do you ever call out sick when you are not sick?  Do you take short cuts at the expense of quality?  Do you extend your lunch hour or leave early?

How much time do you spend with your children?  Do you make the extra effort to spend time with them? 

Harry Chapin’s song Cats in the Cradle really unpacks how kids learn by example and often imitate their parents.  This song is about a father who was always too busy to spend time with his son then when dad retired and wanted to spend time with his son, his son was too busy to spend time with him.  Let me read some of these lyrics.

“ I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you"

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me”

Now in the song the dad reaped what he sowed and we cannot really feel sorry for him but what the song does not answer is whether his son was neglecting his children the way his dad neglected him.  I would love to say that son broke the cycle and is spending time with his children but the more likely scenario is that he is following in his dad’s footsteps and is an absent dad because that is what he learned from his own dad’s example.  If you had an absentee parent it is your responsibility to break the cycle and do better for your children.

The little boy then discussed integrity.  In the clip dad hit a parked car and could have easily drove off but he did not.  He left a note, thus demonstrating for his son that you do the right thing even when no one is watching.  How do you demonstrate integrity?  Would you have left a note?
Do you lie about your children’s ages in a restaurant or at the movies to get the under 12 price?  Do you tell their mother to tell someone you are not home when you are?  Do you tell white lies when it is convenient?  

The boy asks if dad really believes what he says he does about God. Dad needs to be a leader in teaching his children to be faithful to the Lord. Sadly, too many dads abdicate this responsibility and such abdication most times have a lifelong affect on their children, in fact it could have an eternal affect on their souls.

When Dad consistently goes to church with his family 60% of those children will continue modeling that behavior for the rest of their lives.  When Dad does not consistently go to church only 4% of their children attend church regularly as adults. 

Look around this room.  How many dads are here?  This church is not different than any other I have been in.  Men seem to feel it is ok to abandon their responsibility to raise their families in the faith.  There are many moms who assume this responsibility after dad drops the ball and thank goodness for that but that is not the way God intended it.  While mothers should be active in the religious upbringing of their children they should not be doing it alone.  They need their husbands to step up to the plate and demonstrate leadership in this area. 

Men we need to be the ones getting up early Sunday morning to make sure the family is ready to get to church on time.  Men we need to encourage our children to attend retreats and church youth group.  Men we need to show the example by actively participating in a Men’s Ministry.  Men we need to set an example by praying with our children.  Men we need to set an example by sharing the Bible with our children. Men we need to step up and teach Sunday school and volunteer for youth retreats.  Men I could go on and on but you get the point.  We need to be more active in the faith development of our children.

Let’s take a minute and talk about why men should be participating in Men’s Ministry and why every man needs a mentor also known as an accountability partner. 

Women don’t count yourself out.  You need other women to share with and hold you accountable.

We need the support and accountability we get from other men.
Proverbs 27:17 puts it best “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  I call on all men here, young and old to make a commitment to Men’s ministry.   To the high school and college guys here count your selves among the men and make the commitment.  I have a sheet in the back sign up give us your email address and I will let you know what is going on in Men’s Ministry.  I also have a sheet for women so we can begin a women’s ministry to serve your needs as well.

Finally, are we afraid to show our children our failures?  Are we transparent in our acceptance of responsibility?  Are we able to own up to our mistakes, apologize and do our best to make them right?  Remember our children learn as much if not more from how we handle our failures and missteps as they do from when we do the right thing in the first place.  Let them know missteps are something we should try to avoid but that they will happen and we must respond to them by accepting responsibility and doing our best to make things right.

As we close I would like to remind you of the wisdom given to us in Proverbs 22:6 “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

I would now like to close in prayer.  At Journey we feel it is important to receive communion on a regular basis.  We have the elements in the back. Jeannie will lead us in worship, you can reflect and pray and when ready go back and receive communion. After communion we will close in prayer.

 This is a prayer that was inspired by God in the early 1990’s and is entitled The Prayer for the Family.  It was penned by the Late Pope John Paul II:

Lord God, from You every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  

Father, you are Love and Life.  Through Your Son, Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, and through the Holy Spirit, fountain of divine charity, grant that every family on earth may become for each successive generation a true shrine of life and love.

Grant that Your grace may guide the thoughts and actions of husbands and wives for the good of their families and of all families in the world.

Grant that the young may find in the family solid support for their human dignity and for their growth in truth and love.

Grant that love, strengthened by Marriage, may prove mightier that all the weaknesses and trials through which our families sometimes pass.

Grant that the Church may fruitfully carry out her worldwide mission in and through the family.

Through Christ our Lord, Who is the Way, the Truth, the Life forever and ever. Amen

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