Archive | June 2015

Fathers Matter (Every Day of the Year)

Fathers Matter!Last Sunday was Father’s Day — a day for celebrating the parent that goes largely unnoticed and under-appreciated the rest of the year.

Dads are under-appreciated partly because our society is no longer conditioned to hold fathers in high esteem.

Fathers have long been a favorite target of television sitcoms, where the vast majority of them are depicted as inept, irrelevant idiots more deserving of ridicule than respect.

For decades, fathers have been marginalized and emasculated and treated as if they have nothing of value to contribute to their family’s life beyond its economic support (if that).

And to the degree that life imitates art, men must fight against these stereotypes, not only in contemporary culture, but sometimes even in their own homes.

But another reason dads go unnoticed and under-appreciated is because so many of them are absentee fathers — they’re seldom around to attract any attention or appreciation.

This may be due to death, divorce, abandonment, or career choice; regardless of the cause, their absence comes at a high cost to the children they’ve left behind.

Despite what the liberal media might lead us to believe, fathers play a vital, irreplaceable role in the development of their children. Despite the divorce lawyers’ assurances that “kids are resilient and will quickly adjust to life without you,” the children rarely (if ever) escape such an ordeal unscathed. Most will carry scars from their parents’ split for the rest of their lives.
Do Fathers Matter?
And while having a loving, engaged father living in your home, eating at your table, and taking interest in your life is not essential to success, studies show that paternal involvement makes such success a lot more probable.

According to a fascinating new book by Paul Raeburn, Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, the general consensus, at least in the research community, is that fathers do matter. They matter a lot.

Beginning before conception and moving through pregnancy, delivery, infancy, children, teens, and all the way to fathering in old age, Raeburn covers cutting-edge research that gives insight into how fathers shape their children, for better or worse.

The bottom line? When fathers are involved, everybody fares better:

The children benefit.

  • Infants respond most positively to the way their father plays with them, which tends to be more physical and idiosyncratic than their mother’s play. (p. 126) Furthermore, children of fathers who engaged in the most physical and enjoyable play were less aggressive, more competent, and better liked by their peers. (p. 152)
  • Fathers have a huge impact on their children’s language development, even more so than mothers and irrespective of the mother’s education level or how she speaks to the children. (p. 145)
  • Children with fathers who are supportive and encouraging show a boost in intellectual development. (p. 147)
  • They also do better in school, both academically and socially: Paternal encouragement is associated with better relationships between children and their school teachers, as well as better behavior and social skills. (p. 150)
  • Engaged, attentive fathering has been linked to higher IQs in children, lower risk of smoking as teens, and even lower incidence of depression and psychological ailments decades later. (p. 151)
  • Sadly, there appears to be a robust association between father absence — both physical and psychological — and accelerated reproductive development in daughters, increased sexual risk taking, and higher incidence of teen pregnancy and STD infection. (pp. 160-164)

The wives benefit.

  • When fathers are present in the delivery room, mothers are less likely to cry or to require pain medication. (p.111)
  • Supportive parenting on the part of fathers has been shown to improve the behavior of mothers toward their children. When he’s more loving and attentive, she is, too. (p. 147)
  • When couples forge a strong alliance in parenting, their marriage is strengthened, as well. (p. 85)

The fathers themselves benefit.

  • Fathers who are involved with their children have a reduced incidence of illness and mortality. (p. 138)
  • Men who devote more time to fatherhood also have higher self-esteem and lower parental stress. (pp. 123-124)
  • Interestingly, low testosterone is not only associated with increased longevity, but also with better, more attentive fathering (pp. 74-75) — so why does our society push supplemental testosterone on middle-aged men as if it were candy?

And those findings are just the tip of the iceberg. I’d encourage you to read Do Fathers Matter? to get the details on the benefits mentioned above and to discover a myriad of others.

So what does all that mean for us? How should these studies affect our day-to-day lives?

For me — and these are my thoughts, not the author’s — this book serves as just one more reminder of how vitally important it is that I nurture my marriage. The next generation is counting on it!

No matter how much others would like us to believe that marriages are just contracts of convenience that can be dissolved without consequence, that simply isn’t true. When Mom and Dad go separate ways, the children are always affected.

No matter how often society argues that what consenting adults do in private should be of no concern to anybody else, their behavior does affect the community around them — especially the children.

And no matter how emphatically our culture insists that one definition of “family” is just as good as the next, the preponderance of research indicates there is an optimal design, at least when it comes to rearing offspring: that of a father and a mother firmly committed to one another and jointly and lovingly involved in the lives of their children.

Praying for Our Country

Pray for America: Here's a free printable prayer guide to get you started!Today is Flag Day, which commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States by the Second Continental Congress in 1777.

Whether you celebrate such occasions by sending up the Stars and Stripes or not, I hope you will make it your practice to send up a prayer for our country — and not just on national holidays.

America needs prayer. She needs it now more than ever.

We all do.

But God has promised,

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14

Won’t you join me in praying for our country?

Here’s my prayer. If you’d like to make it yours, as well, just scroll to the bottom of the post for a free printable copy of this guide:

Praying for Our Country


C is for Conviction of Sin

Pray that God would open our eyes to personal and corporate sin and would call us out of darkness into light. Ask Him not to abandon us to wrong thinking, but to forgive us and cleanse us and break the chains that bind us. Pray that He’d give us the strength and willpower to forsake, repent, and turn completely away from the sin that entangles and enslaves us. Pray that He’d enable us to live as servants of righteousness instead. (Acts 26:18, Romans 1:28, 1 Kings 8:50, Psalm 51:2, , Isaiah 58:6, Isaiah 55:7, 2 Corinthians 7:9-10, Hebrews 12:1, Romans 6:18)

O is for an Outpouring of God’s Spirit

Ask God to revive our hearts and draw us unto Himself. Pray that He’d fill us with His Spirit, that we might speak the Word boldly and with such authority that others would recognize we have been with Jesus. Pray that He’d empower us to walk in His presence, according to His calling, dedicating ourselves to the good works He prepared beforehand for us to do. (Psalm 80:18,John 6:44, Acts 4:31, Titus 2:15, Acts 4:13, Psalm 140:13, 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 2:10)

U is for Understanding and Wisdom

Pray that God would grant us an extra measure of wisdom, that He would fill us with knowledge and understanding and discernment. That we would see things as He sees them and would stop calling that which is good “evil” and evil “good.” Pray that we would center our minds on what is true and right and noble and pure and lovely. (James 1:5, Philippians 1:9, Psalm 119:125, 2 Kings 6:17, Isaiah 5:20, Philippians 4:8)

N is for News You can Use

Ask God to raise up an army of journalists, reporters, and newscasters who are more concerned with proclaiming truth than with pushing politically-correct propaganda or propping up ratings. Pray that He’d break our country’s addiction to celebrity gossip and sensationalized accounts of current events and that we’d instead learn to use the news, not as entertainment, but as motiviation to pray and to make a difference in our world for good. (1 Corinthians 13:6, Proverbs 22:21, Galatians 1:10, Exodus 23:1-2, Proverbs 16:28, 2 Thessalonians 3:11, Colossians 4:2-3, Matthew 25:35-36)

T is for the Truth to Prevail

Pray that truth would be spoken in love, that it would be proclaimed, not only over our newswires, but in our homes, in our churches, in our schools, and in our courtrooms, as well. Pray that parents would guide their children in the truth, that pastors and teachers would rightly handle the Word of Truth, that judges and juries would uphold the truth, that the Holy Spirit would help us discern truth from error. (Ephesians 4:15, 3 John 1:4, Deuteronomy 11:19, 2 Timothy 2:15, Zechariah 8:16, John 16:13, John 8:32)

R is for Righteous Leaders

Pray for those in authority over us, that they might fulfill the purpose for which God placed them in their current position. Pray that those elected/appointed to office would be trustworthy and God-fearing, and that they would issue decrees that are just. Ask God to grant wisdom and discernment, both to the elected and to those doing the electing. (1 Timothy 2:2, Romans 13:1, Exodus 18:21, Proverbs 8:15, Daniel 2:21, Acts 1:24)

Y is for Yourself — Where Real Change Starts

Humble yourself before God and plead for mercy. Pray that whatever work He wants to do in your country would begin in your own home, in your own heart. Ask Him to enable you to recognize and address the log in your own eye, rather than focusing your attention on the speck in your brother’s. Pray that He would deliver you from evil and help you live an exemplary life in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. (James 4:6, 2 Chronicles 34:27, Luke 6:42, Matthew 6:13, Matthew 6:6, 1 Timothy 4:2)

Praying for Your Country Prayer Guide

[Click on image to print B&W version or here for full-color version]

I know many of my readers are not from the US. I would encourage you to pray for your country and its leaders as well. Other than the clip art, this guide is not specific to America. 🙂

7 Smart Reasons to Save Sex for Marriage

7 Smart Reasons to Save Sex for Marriage Earlier this week, I published an essay written by my daughter concerning her commitment to save sex for marriage. Choosing to walk a path that others have long since abandoned can make for a lonely journey, and she sometimes wonders whether her carefully preserved virginity will ever be valued or appreciated by anybody else.

I’m confident it will.

I am trusting that God — in His perfect timing — will bring my precious girl an amazing husband, one who will recognize and appreciate what a treasure she is. I know He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20; Romans 8:32; Matthew 7:11)

In the meantime, I pray for her. I affirm her good choices. And I encourage her to keep walking that lonely path, as there are lots of smart reasons to save sex for marriage:

  1. The Bible Commands It
  2. God designed sex to be enjoyed only in the context of marriage; He forbids it in every other circumstance. His commands are safeguards designed not to confine us, but to protect us. Not to stifle our enjoyment, but to heighten it. That should be reason enough to cooperate with His plan, but for those who need more convincing, here are six other compelling arguments for saving sex for marriage:

  3. Limits Exposure to Disease
  4. In the US alone, there are nearly 20 million cases of new sexually transmitted infections every year — all from just eight viruses and bacteria. One in two sexually active persons will become infected with an STD by age 25. Saving sex for marriage greatly reduces the risk of contracting STDs — and when a virgin marries a virgin, that risk is almost completely eliminated.

  5. Prevents Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancy
  6. Abstinence is the only 100% fail-safe method of birth control (and carries with it none of the health risks associated with hormonal contraceptives). Barring in-vitro fertilization or immaculate conception, if you don’t have sex before marriage, you won’t get pregnant before marriage. Children do best when raised by a mother and a father; saving sex for marriage increases the odds they’ll have both.

  7. Minimizes Comparisons
  8. If you have no sexual experience with anybody prior to marriage, you will have no frame of reference by which to judge your spouse’s performance. This goes a long way toward putting minds at ease — your husband won’t be constantly wondering how he measures up against your past lovers. The same holds true for a woman who marries a virgin husband. Instead of being anxious and self-conscious, couples who are inexperienced in the area of physical intimacy can learn and grow together, just as God intended.

  9. Reduces Guilt and Stress
  10. Saying “no” to sex before marriage means saying “no” to the worries that often accompany it: the fear of being found out, the worry that your partner is using you, the misgivings about where the relationship is headed, the concerns about pregnancy and disease, and the guilt for violating Scriptural injunctions. The hook-up culture is fraught with stress, so don’t sleep with someone you haven’t married — sleep with a clear conscience, instead.

  11. Encourages Marriage
  12. There was once a time when a major impetus for marriage — at least, for men — was the promise of sex that came with it. I don’t think we’d see so many young people waiting until they’re nearly thirty to marry, if it also meant waiting until they’re nearly thirty to do what married couples do. The fact that sex is so freely available to singles today has, for many, removed the incentive to get married ever, much less early. (Why take on the burden and responsibility of a wife and family when immediate, no-strings-attached gratification is available via hook-ups and porn?)

    Saying “no” to sex outside of marriage may not change the current cultural trend toward postponing marriage (or forgoing it altogether), but it will keep you from wasting time dating guys who are only after one thing, as they won’t stick around long once they realize you’re serious about waiting. That works out, since a man with that mindset (who’d pressure a girl for sex and ditch her if he doesn’t get it) is not good marriage material, anyway.

  13. Rewards Commitment
  14. Virginity is a very special gift you can only give away once. Saving sex for marriage allows you to give it to a person who isn’t just saying he loves you to get what he wants, but has proven it by making a lifelong commitment. Plus, couples who save sex for marriage fare better, both in terms of marital stability and sexual satisfaction.

7 Smart Reasons to Save Sex for MarriageBut what if you’ve slipped up? What if you are unmarried, and your virginity has already been given away?

I am speaking from experience when I say there is still hope (Ephesians 2:3-10). You do not have to let your past dictate your future.

In Christ, you can find forgiveness, grace, and strength to follow a different path going forward.

It takes intentionality and determination, but there are several things you can do that will make preserving purity easier.

And for those who are already be married but may be regretting mistakes made beforehand, I offer this word of advice: You can’t make up for being promiscuous before marriage by being frigid afterwards.

Don’t punish your husband in the present for mistakes either of you made in the past.

There’s a time for everything under heaven, but our society has it backwards: The time for saying “no” to sex is before you tie the knot.

Once you are married, the response your husband should hear most often from you in regards to sex is “yes.”

(For the rationale behind this statement, read: Why I keep Saying Yes to Sex)

Join in the conversation:

  • What are your thoughts on these matters?
  • How did your attitudes toward sex before marriage impact your relationships afterwards?
  • How would you encourage a young person who wants to save sex for marriage, but has grown weary with waiting?