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Make a spiritual difference, speakers urge Christian men

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–More than 2,800 men wearing everything from tattoos to ties attended a guys-only conference at First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., Feb. 18-19, where they were told how they live now will impact future generations.

Sports and spiritual leaders including Joe Gibbs, former head coach of the Washington Redskins, and Henry Blackaby, author of “Experiencing God” discipleship materials, encouraged men to live a life for God during this premier men’s event, “Stand Firm: Men Leaving a Legacy.”

Designed to give men a shared vision of Christian leadership, the conference was jointly sponsored by First Baptist of Orlando, Florida Baptist Convention Men’s Department and LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was one of two regional events of its kind being held this year. The next will be April 14-15 at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.

In a general worship session, Gibbs, now a NASCAR team owner, founder of a group home for troubled youth and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, compared life to the game of football.

“God made us with competitive spirits. And we always want to win the games we play. The life we get to live is a game, and you and I are the players. Do we want to lose? No.”

Gibbs said in football and life, “We’ve got to have a head coach.”

“When I was a coach, I really cared about my players. And God really cares about us. I loved my players, but I wouldn’t have sacrificed either of my sons for them. God was willing to do that. That’s love beyond what all of us can comprehend.”

In life and football, Gibbs said a clock is always ticking.

“Guys, I’m in the fourth quarter of life,” said Gibbs, 59. “The game is usually won or lost in the fourth quarter. Before the game is over, you need to start scoring.”

Football, like life, is a team sport, he said, and family members are more important in the game of life than your vocation.

“What you’re taking care of at home is more important than what you’re taking care of at work. Don’t ignore your wife and your family in order to be a success. The most important thing you can leave in life is your influence at home.”

Football and life also both have a game plan, Gibbs said.

“The Bible is God’s game plan. It’s the greatest example that God’s plan exists.”

As in football, people experience both wins and losses in life, Gibbs said.

“But if you’re using God’s game plan, no loss is too big for God to handle. Sometimes our losses end up being the greatest victories in our life. The real question is: How are we playing?”

In the wrap-up session of the conference, Blackaby told the men, “God wants to take you from where you are to where he wants you to be. Hopefully, you will look to this moment as one where God has changed your life.”

Blackaby, director of the office of prayer and spiritual awakening at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board in Atlanta, said all fathers must work toward establishing spiritual markers they can relay to their children.

“Let them know how you’ve become the person you are; they will never know unless you tell them.”

Blackaby outlined several ways men can provide a Christian influence to their families.

“Establish good relationships with your father. Your relationship with your father will help you in your relationship with your children. You can’t be the father you should be if you have anger toward your own father.”

Blackaby also told the men to treat their wives with respect and dignity.

“How you treat your wife is one of the most significant and serious legacies you can leave a family. I love my wife more today than when I first married her,” said Blackaby, who will have been married 40 years in June.

Husbands should openly display affection for their wives, treat them with respect, pray for them, respond to them and help them grow, Blackaby said.

“Live with integrity” as you try to teach your children to do the same, he said.

He said children should never catch their fathers in small lies or hear them say they cheated on their income tax.

“Your lifestyle must be honest and righteous.”

Fathers are “most vulnerable when you watch television and videos,” Blackaby said.

“You have to decide if the legacy you leave is worth the sacrifice of not having that junk at home. What starts as one degree off with you can become a long way off when it comes to your grandkids,” Blackaby said.

He advised men to work “one day at a time and every moment” as they attempt to leave a legacy of righteousness with their families.

“Do it by choice, by setting priorities, by concentrating spiritually, with sacrifice. You will never leave a legacy with your children if you’re not paying the price to do it.”

For more information about the April 14-15 men’s conference being held in Woodstock, Ga., call 1-800-254-2022 or e-mail [email protected].

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  • Terri Lackey