Friday, December 31, 2010

The Aha Moment

An Aha moment is a moment of clarity when an individual realizes the one thing that really matters in any given situation. It is an instant when an answer to a problem is revealed.

Students who have Aha moments transcend from being average to excellent in their academic performance. Athletes who have Aha moments go from being losers to winners on the field through preparation, practice, and hard work. Children have Aha moments when they mature and realize the advice and good counsel that they received from their parents really does make sense as they experience life. In the corporate environment, workers or professionals who have Aha moments go from mediocrity to very good in their work performance.

Even in regards to our relationship with God, there is an Aha moment: The Apostle Paul had an Aha moment on the road to Damascus when a light from heaven shined on him, he fell off his donkey, lost temporary vision and Jesus spoke to him (John 9:3). After this, Paul went from persecuting the Saints to preaching the Gospel of Christ. God would later use him to minister to the gentiles (non Jews) and to write a great portion of the New Testament scripture through his Epistles.

The woman at the well had an Aha moment when she came to know that the person who asked her for a drink was in fact – Jesus Christ (John 4:7). The Bible says she dropped her water pot and evangelized the whole town of Samaria. And who can forget the prodigal son that Jesus spoke of in his parable which talks of a young man who requests his inheritance from his father and goes off to a far country and wasted it on partying and riotous living.

But after all his money is gone and his friends have left, he went to work for a man who owned a pig farm. It was there that he found himself eating the same food (husks) that the pigs ate because no man gave to him. In the midst of being in the pig slop, he had an Aha moment and decided to return to his father’s house with a repentant heart (Luke 15:11).

The ultimate Aha moment is when we recognize that without Christ, we are nothing and that there is no way we can make it without the Lord in our lives. The Aha moment helps us realize that Jesus Christ was right as he said “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul or what will a man give in exchange for his soul.” (Mark 8:36)

Some of us have different levels of Aha in our lives like when we come to know for ourselves that with God nothing shall be impossible, or that we really can do all things through Christ that strengthens us (Philippians 4:13) or even the personal revelation that we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us (Romans 8:37). Finally, I am reminded of the songwriter who said “Life now is sweet and my joy is complete for I’m saved, saved, saved." Thank God for the Aha moment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Focused Father

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” ESV

As parents and as fathers in particular, we must strive to create a wholesome environment for our children by focusing on their physical, intellectual, and spiritual needs. In addition, as we encounter stressful situations in our lives and as we deal with our children in regards to their own behavior, fathers must be careful not to go overboard in how we respond to, handle, and discipline our children.

The following is a list of things that fathers should focus on in training children. It includes ten things that provoke our children to anger and ten things that fathers can do to nurture their children.

Ten Things that provoke our children to anger
1. Abandoning your children and removing yourself from their lives
2. Failure to provide for your children financially
3. Being abusive and overly aggressive in disciplinary measures
4. Not providing any discipline at all
5. Putting work, church, and various social functions before your children
6. Being overly negative and never offering encouragement
7. Being inconsistent in your method of punishment
8. Over promising and not be able to fulfill commitments
9. Failure to support them in their extra-curricula activities and goals
10. By favoring one child over the other

Ten Things that fathers can do to nurture their children
1. Be there for them when they are born and throughout their lives
2. Love their mothers (even if you are not married or no longer involved be respectful toward the woman who brought your child into the world)
3. Provide for them financially (I Timothy 5:8)
4. Train them in the Word of God (Proverbs 22:5)
5. Spank them in Love when they misbehave (Proverbs 13:24)
6. Support them in their extra-curricula endeavors
7. Be affectionate toward them
8. Leave an inheritance for them (Proverbs 13:22)
9. Give them good advice and offer positive encouragement
10. Put God first in your life and live for Christ

The Psalmist was right who said “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” (Psalms 127:4)

In conclusion, a father’s true legacy rests not simply in his personal achievement, or in the amount of property he has accumulated for himself. The true measure of a good father rests in his ability to focus on the character of his children and his overall desire and ability to take care of his family.

Failing Father Figures

Congratulations to all the good dads who make incredible sacrifices for their children and refute the negative stereotype of men not providing for their sons and daughters. The fact is, one doesn’t have to work hard to be a bad father. Failing father figures are not a new phenomenon. Being a nice guy, good business man, or even someone of great stature and importance does not make a man with children -a good dad. Yet and still fathers must be careful not to do things that illicit bitterness, hatred, rejection and ultimately anger from their children.

There are numerous examples in the Bible where fathers fell short of proper leadership of their children. Consider the case of the Prophet Eli who in his old age failed to address or correct his sons for their evil actions in regards to how they lay with the women who came to the tabernacle for worship. (Judges 2:22). A good father holds his children accountable for their behavior and deals with them accordingly.

We can not overlook the poor example of fatherhood exhibited by King David when one of his sons (Amnon) raped his daughter (Tamar). And while the scripture says David was angry, he nevertheless failed to act upon this horrible action by Amnon his son which would lead to his other son Absolon murdering Amnon. (2 Samuel 13: 14-20). Sometimes as dads, it is our lack of action that is our greatest sin.

And while we celebrate Joseph for receiving a coat of many colors from his father- Israel (Genesis 37:1-28), we are also introduced to Israel’s act of extreme respect of persons among his children by showing favoritism to one child over eleven others- ten older brothers and one sister. Israel’s favoritism evoked bitterness, envy and strife among his children toward Joseph. And as fathers we must have integrity and be just, and fair in how we deal with all of our children.

Finally, there is the interesting case of Onan (son of Judah) who based on Jewish custom had to marry the widow (Tamar) of his deceased brother (Er) and raise up children to carry his brother’s name. However during sexual intimacy, he intentionally spilled his seed on the ground. (Genesis 38:9) Onan wanted the pleasure of sex without the responsibility of fatherhood.

God was so displeased with Onan that He took his life. Many brothers today have the same mentality as Onan. Even still, God is greatly displeased when fathers fail to maintain accountability and responsibility for their children.

Indeed the impact of fatherlessness is the United States is staggering. And the statistics don't lie. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of the Census)

Moreover, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. And 70% of juveniles in state-operated correctional institutions come from homes void of fathers based on a report released by the U.S. Justice Department.  Indeed many of the social ills of of our community have been caused by the lack of fathers in our homes. Brothers need to "Man Up" and take responsibility for their children.

In conclusion, as men and as fathers, one has to recognize that if you are going to let it flow, you must be prepared to help him or her grow. And if you’re going to seed it; you better be prepared to feed it. If you are going to lay around then stay around. Fathers must be accessible, available, active, financially responsible and engaged in the life of their children. And Mad props to the dads who go the extra mile because time is out for Failing Father Figures.

The Father Factor

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” ESV

There should be no question about the impact of fathers in the life of children. Children with fathers who are involved in their lives do far better in every measurable category than children where the father is not active. Children need their father.

A study by the Minnesota Fathers and Family Network suggest that young children with involved fathers display enhanced social skills including more self-control, less compulsive behavior, higher self esteem, more generosity and greater empathy. In addition, active father involvement also increases cognitive capacities for young children to include higher verbal skills, and higher scores on assessments of cognitive competence.

On the flip side, fatherhood also benefits men. An extended sense of accomplishment through the achievement of one’s children, increased friendship with your children through various activities, and a greater sense of purpose through the legacy of one’s offspring are some of the ways that men benefit from being active fathers.

The lack of a father in the home is perhaps the single most important factor for many of the social problems affecting our communities today. The statistics don’t lie. The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families.1

Not only that, but “young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families...those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated -- even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant.”2

Even in regards to educational performance and achievement, the role of the father cannot be overlooked when one considers that 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.3 Moreover, children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. And almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes.4

Ultimately, we should do more in our communities to promote, and maintain marriage. And fathers (even those who do not live with their children) must be accountable, active, available and financially responsible. In conclusion, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge our mothers as the backbone and foundation of our families. Nevertheless, we must be cautious not to underestimate, devalue or overlook the incredible impact of - The Father Factor.
[1] A. Anne Hill, June O'Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College. 1993
[2] Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University cited in "Father Absence and Youth Incarceration." Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397

[3] National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.) One Hill, June O'Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College. 1993

[4] One-Parent Families and Their Children, Charles F. Kettering Foundation, 1990).