Monthly Archives: June 2010

Fathers’ Day Reflections

I realized this evening that it has been 17 years since I had the chance to call my father and wish him a happy Fathers’ Day. Dad passed away in March 1994, so his last Fathers’ Day was in June 1993.

Fathers’ Day has gone through a number of changes for me since then. For a couple years, I took my family out for dinner. Granted, I was paying for the meal, but it still felt like they were treating. (I did get to choose the restaurant.)

Beginning in 1997, Fathers’ Day had a new format for me. My wife and I were separated the previous November, and eventually got divorced, so my son lived with her in Missouri throughout the school year. Daniel would arrive on or around June 15 each year for his summer in New York. So, Fathers’ Day was frequently the first (sometimes the second) Sunday of his two-month stay with me. Just having my son with me was all I needed for Fathers’ Day. There were a couple years when his mother sent him out a little later than usual, and in those cases I refused to celebrate Fathers’ Day until Daniel arrived. It just did not count without him.

It did take a slightly different turn after Joyce and I married in 2000, as now we were also celebrating with her father. Nevertheless, for me the biggest part of Fathers’ Day was having my son with me.

Over the last few years, Fathers’ Day has been in a state of metamorphosis in my life. My son is now grown and married, and celebrates his first Fathers’ Day this year. (In reality, it is his second. He was a father one year ago; but at that time, his child was still in the womb.)

This will make for a change in Fathers’ Day for both of us. Last year, Daniel sent me a card and called me on Fathers’ Day. This year, he not only gives honor, but also receives honor as a father. I will celebrate, not only as a son and father, but now as a grandfather as well.

I have experienced Fathers’ Day and fatherhood from a variety of perspectives over the years. Two years ago, I was trying to enforce a curfew for a recent high-school graduate. Now, I find myself learning to relate to my son as two men: still as father and son, but no as longer man and child. My status as a father has not changed, but the role has evolved and I have had to adapt. My role as a father is no less important now than it was a few years ago; it has just adapted to a new situation.

With each change in my fatherhood status and role over the years, I have become more keenly aware of the important job fathers have. As I prepare for Fathers’ Day this year, I am reminded of how much God values fathers. The New Testament reveals God as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Ten Commandments urge us to honor our fathers and mothers. Fatherhood is so important in the mind of God that the entire Old Testament ends with a statement about fathers:

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6, NASB).

Many Bible-believing Christians believe that, even though Jesus said Elijah returned as John the Baptist, this refers to a future reappearance of the great prophet before the second coming of Christ. (Some will debate whether Elijah actually returns to Earth, or a great man of God emerges in the spirit of Elijah, or a mighty movement manifesting Elijah’s spirit emerges among God’s people. Another of those issues that I will not go into at this time.) I am inclined to believe that this passage does refer to a future restoration, preceding Christ’s return.

Fatherhood is so important that God wants to restore it before His Son returns. We live in a sad age. With approximately half of all marriages ending in divorce, and out-of-wedlock births becoming socially acceptable, a huge number of children grow up without Daddy in the home. In a recent column, 2008 Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin writes:

The ramifications of raising children without a father are taking a toll, not only on children, but also on society itself. According to published reports, 63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes, 90% of all runaways and homeless children come from fatherless homes, 80% of rapists come from fatherless homes, 85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes, 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes, 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes, and 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes.

These are tragic numbers. I realize we can always point to women who raised their children solo and succeeded. Yet, the numbers do not lie: generally speaking, children are worse off when they do not have both a mother and father in the home. I would dare say that, in most cases, those women who did a good job raising a child without the father’s help would have done even better, if Dad had been there doing his job.

In the light of Malachi 4:6, coupled with those statistics and other research, I would dare say that anybody who is committed to furthering the breakdown of the family in American society is an enemy of Christ’s gospel. This is a serious issue, perhaps one of the two most significant social issues facing the church in America today.

Is it any wonder that, if the hearts of fathers and children are not returned to each other, the land will be cursed? Our culture continues to fall apart at the seams. We can look to the government to fix things; we can keep boycotting sponsors of lewd or otherwise immoral television programs; we can keep handing out Bibles and tracts; we can keep protesting outside abortion clinics or handing out voters’ guides in our churches. However, if we do not seek the restoration of fatherhood to its proper place in the home and society, our culture will continue to slide into a sociological abyss.

As a former pastor, I would urge all sincere ministers of the Gospel to continue to value fatherhood, and to encourage the men of their churches to become seriously committed fathers. Yes, the hearts of fathers must be turned back to their children; that means that many fathers have their hearts in the wrong places. Some have their hearts in the right place, but do not know practically what God expects of them (the hospital always sends those babies home without an owner’s manual). Being the head of the household is much more complicated than bringing home a paycheck and commandeering the television remote control.

In recent months, I have felt that God is really trying to impress upon me the importance of a spiritual legacy. Even though my son is grown, and he is raising his family 1200 miles away, my job is not over. Having raised Daniel, trying to instill an ideal of godly manhood in him, now comes the next phase. What will it mean for me, and then Daniel, then James and his future siblings. and then their descendants, to preserve the “Lynch” name? I thought about this, and made certain to share it with Daniel as quickly as possible during our most recent visit. Rest assured, he will hear it again.

I gained a vision of what our heritage should be at my father’s funeral. Dad and I did not always have the greatest relationship. For most of my childhood, alcoholism kept him from being the father God wanted him to be. He tried to make up for it after he obtained sobriety, while I was in high school.

At Dad’s wake and funeral, I met many people whom he had sponsored or otherwise influenced through a 12-step program to stop drinking. There were people who told me, “Your father saved my life,” and other glowing testimonials. When we arrived at the church for his funeral, the place was packed. A passer-by might have thought that some famous local dignitary was being buried that day; instead, it was just some guy who struggled through life, had little money, and held no important-sounding official title.

There is the legacy that I want to pass on to my son, and to his son, and so on. Our goal should not be wealth, fame, or worldly power; it should be to positively impact the lives of those around us. I desire to impact others for eternity, drawing them to Christ. I hope and pray my son does the same, and teaches his son(s) to follow suit. Maybe it will not be through a 12-step program; God will gladly use us wherever He places us in life, using the gifts He has given us and the experiences He has brought us through.

So, this Fathers’ Day, let us place the barbecues, the cards, and the new ties in their proper place. Fellow fathers, let us renew our vows to build a godly heritage.

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For Future Generations

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6, NRSV).

Several months ago, I was at a retreat, organized by the Cathedral Church of the Intercessor, at Mount St. Alphonsus (one of my favorite places; so much so that I use a picture from one of its windows at the top of this blog!). The Lord was speaking intently to my heart about some of the issues in my life.

For years, I have prayed for God’s strength in some areas of my life and wondered, “Why are You not meeting my needs in this area? Why do I still struggle? Why do I fall sometimes?” God’s answer: “Because you are thinking too small. You are not getting the big picture.”

This was not exactly a “new revelation.” It has been there all along. I just missed it, even though it is a verse, which I memorized decades ago, from one of my favorite books of the Bible.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3, NASB).

Usually, we read that verse and think God is talking about all of those materialistic prayers we babble. This definitely applies to those times when we pray for easy money, a big house, fancy car, or other stuff to make us happy.

It is true that we ask amiss if we are only trying to feed our physical or fleshly desires. What about those times when we want to stroke our egos? When we want to impress the rest of the church with our holiness? That may be an extreme case, but some of us enjoy being more “holy” or “spiritual” because that makes us better than the other guy. “At least I’m not like that tax collector” (or whichever modern-day label you choose to substitute: drug addict, alcoholic, criminal, pervert), as the Pharisee in Luke 18:11-12 prayed.

Should a Christian pray for a closer walk with Jesus? Absolutely; but if we are praying to be better than others, or to be more highly revered by church people, or to be one of God’s favorite people, we are missing the boat. If you have already accepted Jesus Christ into your heart, and you are praying for a closer walk with Him to secure your salvation, you have missed the entire point of grace.

So, why should we seek a closer walk with Jesus? Why, if we are bound by addiction or other sinful habits, should we pray for deliverance or victory? There are a number of answers to these questions. However, the verses I highlighted above, in the Ten Commandments, bring out a perspective that we often do not consider. Our society is so self-centered that most Americans—including mature, committed Christians—have a hard time thinking beyond what they can see.

We think in a short term, but God thinks long-term. As a married man, it is easy to think about how the choices I make today will affect my immediate family. If I spend money foolishly, my wife may have to cut back and miss out on things she needs.

God, however, sees a much bigger picture. He sees generations yet unborn and calls me to seek blessings for them, as well as for the family I have now. My decisions and choices today do not affect me alone: they affect future generations as well. God does not punish the third and fourth generations because He holds grudges and likes to hurt people. He does so because sin tends to find its way into future generations; however, a godly heritage does too.

I am encouraged by a story I heard at one of my wife’s family reunions a few years back. Joyce’s great-great-grandfather was a devout man who prayed frequently for future generations in his family. His prayers were answered; most of his descendants in this country are faithfully serving the Lord now. God is a central figure at most of their family gatherings. He did not see the fruit of his prayers, but God remembered to answer.

On the other hand, we can bear the weight of previous generations’ sin. Alcoholism is often called a “family disease” for a number of reasons. For one, children and grandchildren of alcoholics frequently grow up to develop drinking problems.

As I participated in the services at that Mount St. Alphonsus retreat, mentioned earlier, and spent time praying and studying the Bible, the Lord called to mind the “generational curses” in my heritage. (I will not go into a debate about the idea of “generational curses” at this time. It will take another blog posting or more.) Alcoholism is rampant in my family tree, with heavy drinkers on both sides. There has also been a lot of divorce. I will not go into too much detail. I know some people whose families have more dark sides than mine, but my family’s heritage is the one I am concerned about.

One blessing I received by following Jesus is the fact that I never became an alcoholic. I am free of that affliction. However, I have a greater goal in mind now: I want my son to remain free from that. I also hope my grandson (and any siblings he may one day have) do not fall prey to the bottle.

I have not been spared the divorce bug. Thank God, my current marriage is good. However, the past cannot be changed. My son, though, has the opportunity to see that curse broken in his generation. I pray that he and his wife remain married “’til death do they part.” I pray the same for my grandson and his siblings (even though my grandson is only eight months old, it is not too early to begin praying for his future).

So, what can I do to affect future generations?

  1. I can live a life that pleases my heavenly Father.
  2. I can live a life that I, as a Christian, would want my descendants to imitate.
  3. I can pray daily for my descendants: not just for their current situation, but for their futures as well.
  4. I can encourage and exhort them every chance I get, in the hope of guiding them to follow Jesus.
  5. Most importantly, I can leave them in the hands of God.

If I keep God’s commandments and serve Him faithfully, rejecting all false gods and idols, He has promised to visit His lovingkindness on future generations.

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