Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Remarkable Medical Breakthrough?

I recently read an article in Forbes magazine revealing that the American people spend roughly $2.5 trillion on healthcare each year — almost $8,000 for every man, woman, and child.

How would you respond if someone claimed that they had discovered a brand new treatment that could radically change the face of medicine in America? The person then assured you that this same treatment had already radically changed his own life, and he wanted you to share in it. If you’re like me, every cynical instinct in your brain would launch into hyper-drive. You would assume that this treatment must be a financial scam or a worthless remedy. Suppose you then learned that several major universities, government agencies, and other institutions endeavored to examine its effects on people, and the researchers were stunned by their positive findings!

  • Researchers from Florida State University, the University of Colorado, and the University of Texas found that this treatment extended a person’s life expectancy by an average of 7.6 years. Upon further research, you discover that a study conducted by researchers at Duke University produced similar results. Even WebMD affirmed the veracity of these incredible findings.
  • The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine reported that this particular treatment is associated with dramatically reduced blood pressure.
  • Duke University Medical Center published a study revealing that recipients of this treatment typically had superior immune systems.
  • The University of Manitoba found that people who take this treatment are far less likely to commit suicide.
  • One article in U.S. News & World Report explained that this treatment “benefits health in ways that science hasn’t fully explained.” The article added that these treatments “appear to lengthen life expectancy, strengthen immunity, improve the body’s response to stress, and boost other measures of physical health.”
  • The University of North Carolina discovered that high school seniors taking this treatment were less likely to drink, struggle with addictions, face depression, engage in violence, receive traffic tickets, be combative with parents, skip school, steal, trespass, and suffer from in-school disciplinary actions. They were also more likely to have a positive outlook on life, receive higher grades, exercise, experience happier home lives, participate in extracurricular activities, graduate high school, and find stable relationships with their peers.
  • USA Today published an article verifying that this treatment had impressive effects upon the nation’s college students. According to the article, these students “have better emotional and mental health…. In addition, the students [who did not take this treatment] are more than twice as likely to report poor mental health or depression.”

In a society that spends $2.5 trillion on healthcare, how much would our culture be willing to invest to secure such a remarkable treatment? The good news is that this treatment is available to you as a free gift of grace! The truth is that the benefits highlighted in each of the above studies are associated with regular church attendance and a life of faith. While the Christian faith offers and requires far more than a recipe for a healthy and balanced life, it's interesting to find that a life centered around God's Word is baffling many of the same scientists who have claimed that faith ignores science. Indeed, this is further evidence that the Designer of life knows what He is doing.

The Proverbs instruct: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Referenced Articles:
  1. Christine Larson, “Health Prayer: Should Religion and Faith Have Roles in Medicine?” U.S. News & World Report, December 22, 2008.
  2. Sarah Hofius, “A Spiritually Inclined Student is a Happier Student,” USA Today, October 26, 2004.
  3. “Religious 12th Graders Hold More Positive Attitudes About Life,” UNC News, December 2002.
  4. “Duke Study: Attending Religious Service May Improve Immune Status,” Duke Medicine News & Communications, November 3, 2004.
  5. “Can Prayer Lower High Blood Pressure,” Jet magazine, August 31, 1998.
  6. “Research Shows Religion Plays A Major Role In Health, Longevity.” Science Daily, May 17, 1999.
  7. “Attend Religious Services, Live Longer,” WebMD, November 25, 2008.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Hey Dads.... You Matter!

Hey dads!

Your investment in the lives of your kids matters… a lot more than you may think!

Over the course of the past several years, I have reviewed a lot of research regarding the ideal circumstances for optimal childhood development and education. In light of this research, I have grown increasingly convinced that the collapse of America’s educational system has far less to do with funding or teaching philosophies than it does with the collapse of the family.

As we all know, the days of Father Knows Best are long gone. Instead, the prevailing cultural and legal sentiment is that the father is little more than a source of financial security for the family. In a recent article published in Psychology Today, Dr. Ditta M. Oliker lamented:

The world began to radically change with the social, economic and technical changes of the 20th Century and, with those changes, came a basic change in the structure and function of the family — with a consequent shift in the authority of the father. His influence was increasingly seen as minor, even negligible, and his importance was defined by how well he provided for the family.

Maureen Dowd, a columnist for The New York Times, has even written a best-selling book titled: "Are Men Necessary?" Sadly, as a result of this broadly embraced shift in perspective, our culture began to denigrate the role of fatherhood in the home. And far too many men have bought the lie. In 1960, only 11% of American children lived in fatherless households. In that era, fathers were still seen as essential pillars for the general health and wellbeing of a family. Only five decades later, this percentage has more than tripled, and the rapid growth in the number of disengaged fathers has shown no signs of slowing.

As our nation buckles beneath the tidal wave of absent or unengaged fathers, all of the latest research is now pointing to an undeniable conclusion: society was dead wrong! A father’s involvement (or lack thereof) has an enormous impact on the future development of his children.

You are so much more than a paycheck. You are shaping and forming your children in ways that you may have never imagined. I would like to share just a small sampling of this research. The evidence now reveals that the children of involved fathers are typically more likely...

  • To enjoy school.
  • To have positive attitudes toward school.
  • To participate in extracurricular activities.
  • To graduate from high school.
  • To demonstrate a greater tolerance for stress and frustration.
  • To have superior problem-solving and adaptive skills.
  • To be more playful, resourceful, skillful, and attentive.
  • To manage their emotions and impulses in an appropriate manner.
  • To demonstrate more advanced verbal skills.
  • To perform at a higher level on achievement tests.
  • To excel in mathematics.
  • To show an increased level of curiosity.
  • To confidently explore the world around them.
  • To confidently approach problem-solving exercises.
  • To demonstrate heightened mental dexterity, empathy, and self-control.
  • To receive straight A’s on report cards.
  • To have higher grade point averages.
  • To have advanced language skills and literacy development.
  • To show better communicative skills concerning the world around them.
  • To demonstrate higher cognitive competence on standardized tests.
  • To achieve higher levels of educational and economic success.
  • To achieve higher levels of career success and occupational competency.
  • To have higher expectations for educational performance.
  • To exhibit better physical health conditions.
  • To work above their grade level.
  • To exhibit superior psychological well-being.

Sadly, the inverse is true for children with fathers who are disengaged.

I will be the first to tell you that fatherhood can be extremely difficult and tiresome. I will also be the first to tell you that I often stumble in my responsibilities as a husband and a father. Too often! To be a good dad requires a huge commitment of time, energy, resources, and emotion. But there is nothing more rewarding than the knowledge that God is using this investment to shape the life of your precious son or daughter.

The following scene was taken from the movie “Courageous.” I would encourage you to watch the short clip and consider making this pledge (or something like it) your own.

There is only one perfect Father, but He is our perfect Father. Thankfully, our Father is gracious and loving. He watches over our families even when we drop the ball. And because of Christ, we can rest assured that all of our shortcomings as dads have been forgiven. We can also be confident that He has equipped us to become the dads that He has called us to be. One of the gifts that God has given to each of us in this journey is one another. He has created us to be part of a thriving community of friendship, encouragement and support. No man was created to walk alone. So I would encourage you to get plugged into life at Bethany. Get to know the families of your child's friends. Invest in each other. Help each other. Pray for each other. And pray that God would continue to do amazing things in the lives of Bethany's families!

“Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5). 

Referenced Articles:
Dr. Ditta M. Oliker, “The Long Reach of Childhood: How Early Experiences Shape You Forever,” Psychology Today, June 23, 2011.

“The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families, 2006.

Dr. Sarah Allen and Dr. Kerry Daly, “The Effects of Father Involvement: An Updated Research Summary of the Evidence,” Father Involvement Research Alliance, May 2007.