It was an old boss of mine, a really sharp business owner, who taught me all about finances. I was just a 16-year-old kid, and this gentleman taught me about budgets and saving and taxes and investing. Mind you, he did not owe me any of that knowledge and expertise, but he generously gave it anyway. I started investing at that young age and continue to do so to this day.
Fighting was another matter. Honestly, though I acted tough (as most scared boys do), I did not have a clue how to even properly make a fist. My karate instructor, though, was relentless. He did not quit until I was standing in front of him five years later, dripping in sweat, bruised from head to toe, beaming from ear to ear as he put my newly earned black belt around my waist.
Being courageous and confrontational when needed came from a great man named Ron. I had just gotten to a little church way out in the country a few weeks earlier, and on this particular day I was sitting on the next to the back row, talking in church. A little old lady fussed at me and my two friends, so we just got up and walked out. And then we sat on the front porch of the church talking. But less than a minute later, this guy walked out, stood in front of me, and said, "Get up, boy."
I was instantly livid. I got up, I stood nose to nose with him - and he never so much as flinched. He said, "I love you, and you'll always know me because I'm the ugliest man here. But you are not going to sit out here while God's man is preaching in there. Either get in your car and leave, or get back in here and sit quietly and listen."
A moment later, I was sitting inside quietly, sort of listening. I say "sort of listening" because it is hard to listen when one's brain is shouting, "That man cares about me enough to back me down and make me do right!" He is still one of my favorite humans to this day, and I have emulated him countless times through the years.
Loving the Bible came much earlier in my life. I was about 5, I guess, when I started following my pastor around like a little puppy going, "I'm going to do what he does!" It would not be until I was 12 that God actually called me to preach, but in the meantime, that man had taken me under his wing; he even taught me the Greek alphabet. Who even thinks of things like that for a kid?
Learning how to treat a lady was something I picked up by watching many wonderful husbands in the two churches I grew up in and by listening daily to the radio show of Dr. James Dobson, still one of my heroes. Ditto for learning how to guide children.
A passion for sound biblical doctrine came from my father-in-law. An understanding of how to study and dig for the truth came from a community college professor who could have passed for a mad scientist in any number of grade-B movies. Training in logic came from one of my seminary professors and is something I still use every single day. A love of books, especially old ones, was put into me by my genius grandfather. A drive to work was something I gained at 13 years of age at the hands of a farmer who let me work for him.
In other words, it took the work of probably 30 or more men to replace the work of a father in my life.
I was raised by an incredible, amazing, godly single mother. But a mom can only do so much, especially when she is working multiple jobs just to keep a roof over her son's head. Had it not been for men who filled in the gaps and taught me to work, handle money, think, study, behave right, stand for truth, be manly and be godly, I would have doubtless been a wreck.
Ephesians 6:4 says, "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
Bring them up. But not just any old way; bring them up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Fathers are tasked with being spiritual and moral guides to their children. As society has both intentionally and incidentally minimized and weakened fathers and fatherhood, children have been left to pay the unfortunate price.
I could give the crime statistics - I keep them handy and footnoted - but I will instead just state the obvious and provable: Kids without dads are far more likely to end up poor, in trouble with the law and uneducated than their peers who have a present, active father in the home.
Ladies, if you want the best for your children and society, do not have sex with a man, any man, until he puts a ring on your finger, meets you at an altar and says, "I do." Men, if you want what is best for your children and society, stay a virgin until you are married, then be 100% faithful to your spouse, then stick around for a lifetime and raise your own children.
And don't just keep a roof over their heads; be the head of the home. Be a spiritual guide, a disciplinarian, an example of how to be a husband, a financial teacher and a strength and fitness coach. Be a filter; keep bad influences of all kinds out of their lives, whether they like it or not. Teach them to work. Teach them good manners. Tell them that the family name is precious and that you expect them to never dirty it up.
Don't send them to church; take them to church. And participate when you get there. If God and his house mean nothing to you, it will likely mean nothing to them.
Happy Father's Day, men. Now step up to the plate and do your job.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.