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Illigitimate Fathers

Statistics and research available online at fatherhood.org (website for National Fatherhood Initiative) shocked me recently when I visited the site. "Mama Says," the first ever comprehensive, national survey of mothers' views about fathers and fatherhood, revealed that 93% of mothers think there is a fatherhood crisis and that most moms think dad is replaceable. But is he? The same website reported on another study entitled, "The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man: The Annual Public Costs of Father Absence." The findings of the study are truly staggering. Are you ready for this? "The federal government spends $99.8 billion dollars every year on programs – such as child support enforcement and anti-poverty efforts – that support father-absent homes." And that figure represents only the public costs of absent fathers. The personal costs in terms of human suffering and broken hearts and homes are simply off the scale.

What's a father to do? And what is a nation to do with a crisis of absent fathers? Words penned two thousand years ago deserve consideration. The words are from Hebrews 12:7-9, and in the original context the writer was seeking to help early Christians understand the pain and suffering they experienced for their faith should not be interpreted to mean God did not care but just the opposite – when they were "chastened" by God, it was a clear sign He was their father and they were His children! Read the passage and see. There's a lot in these three little verses, with little room to comment. Zoom in on the words at the end of vs 7 and vs 8 – "what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons."  A powerful truth is expressed in those words. A truth our overly permissive, father-dismissive culture has all but airbrushed out of its collective conscience and value system. Children are supposed to have a daddy! A daddy who is engaged and available and attentive enough to supply such things as nurture, affirmation, guidance, restraint, discipline and, when appropriate, corporal punishment (so the Greek word for "chasten" suggests). It is so right and so self-evident and so natural to expect this that the writer can say children without such a father are "illegitimate." But the raw, naked truth is that in America today the real problem is not illegitimate children but illegitimate fathers. That is, men who are absent and distracted from and/or unengaged with their children and the responsibilities that always come with fatherhood.

A young sentry was on guard duty for the first time. His orders were clear and concise: do not admit any vehicle unless it had a special ID seal. The first unmarked car rolled to a stop at the check-point. In the back seat sat a 5-star general. When the general told his driver to go right on through, the sentry said, 'Excuse me, Sir, I'm new at this. Who do I shoot first — you or your driver?" That young soldier had something every father needs – a clear sense of his duty and an unshakable commitment to be true to his calling. Dad, no one has a right to say you can be replaced. Are you a legitimate father? Think about it.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ