Raising Arrows

Arrows come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They can be different, look different, have various purposes. They can have plastic vanes, actual feathers. They can have an arrow head made of stone, metal. Arrows can vary in length. They can even have completely different designs specific for target shooting, competitions, or hunting…. And even then more specific to WHAT kind of hunting. Fish aren’t going to need the same arrow makeup of that arrow used to hunt say a bear.

However, they are all alike in their basic design. Each one has been crafted and carefully fashioned, molded and balanced. They ALL are intended for flight, that ALL are created to hit a target and they ALL are intended for maximum impact on that target.

This Father’s Day I want to talk to you about arrows every dad has in his life.

The Bible says, 

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children on one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them,” Psalm 127:3-5

 

Each and every father, and each mother pulling double duty in dad’s place has an arrow or two (or 3, or 4, or 5…) they are all different from one another. They all have different looks, different personalities, but they are also very similar in the way that each of them were fashioned and crafted by God and each of them should be molded and balanced and readied for flight from our home.

Children, like arrows, are meant to be handcrafted and eventually released. If they aren’t’ crafted well, they won’t shoot straight. And if they aren’t released they’ll never hit their target. Dads with kids at home, it’s reality– one day these kids of yours will be aimed and released out into the world. I spoke to a friend about this earlier last week and she told me she wasn’t coming to hear my message when I preached this to our church if I was going to insist on reminding her that her little girl would one day leave the house and move on… Well, I searched for the right words to soften the blow.. But when it comes down to it, we just can’t stop the inevitable, so in the meantime, we need to equip them for that moment they head out to find their target! We have to choose now to be intentional in order to equip them for that journey.

There’s a broad spectrum here. You have some parents who lack intention. They have a full quiver but the arrows are just a bunch of sticks. They are un-carved arrows with knots of bad habits, and rough attitudes. They are crooked and unpolished. So when they are shot out, they waver and falter and fall short of their intended target.

Then you have some parents who are so intentional. They correct grammar and politeness, and posture, and habits and attitudes. They have such sharp pointy straight and smooth arrows. Oh, they have it all together… perfect little mommies and daddies!!! But they have no intention of shooting them out of the quiver. 30 year old Bobby still gets all his meals home-cooked from mommy. Sally dear is still grabbing her allowance from daddy as she goes shopping with her 28 year old friends… This just doesn’t work.  These arrows, like children, need to be shot out into society as sharpened arrows, ready to take on the world and hit the mark…
But who am I kidding, this is a FATHER’S DAY message… Father’s ALWAYS want to shoot the kids out! I have to remind my husband that our son isn’t quite ready at 12 years old!

But in all seriousness if your kids are still at home. The day is coming and we must get them ready. But, don’t fret, if you’ve already shot your kids out of the quiver, praise God you get to sit back and watch them hit their target… but don’t tune me out just yet. You still have a job to do… and we’ll get to that.

When this verse that I read to you earlier was written, men didn’t go to the ammo store and purchase their bullets they were going to use for protection or war or hunting, no they had to fashion their bow and arrows themselves. They had to select a good branch, sand it down until the stick was straight and smooth. Then they found rocks to sharpen to fashion the arrow head. There were no shortcuts. If they wanted to hit the target, they HAD to spend the time to fashion the equipment. These arrows were important, they HAD to be straight, they HAD to be smooth, and they HAD to fly the distance. In the same way that archers fashioned their arrows, parents must equip their children with the skills and disciplines to be effective in life.

Looking at an arrow, you have 4 major parts.

 The Shaft, the Fletching, the Arrow Head, and the Nock. Looking at your child, there are 4 major things it needs to make it into this world and to hit it’s mark. Discipline, Encouragement, God’s Word, and YOU! 

Let’s explore further…

The shaft of an arrow is the long part of the arrow. Every arrow shaft has a degree of stiffness and resistance. So you have to craft it in such a way that will allow it to bend when it needs to bend (as it thrusts out of the bow) and when to bear it’s weight (when it hits it’s target). If they arrow shaft is too thin or too light weight, they can bend in an extreme way resulting in missing the mark.

 Your child needs discipline. Time and time again in the Bible, God speaks through the writers to extend the message to us that we MUST discipline our children. Here’s just a few..

Proverbs 29:15- The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

Proverbs 29:17-Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.-
Disciplining is just as much for you as it is for them… a disciplined child is a peaceful child… come on. We’ve all seen undisciplined children… they’ll have you reaching for the excedrin immediately!

Proverbs 23:13,-Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. **See, it’s right there in the Bible… spanking your kids won’t kill them! HA!

Proverbs 13:24-Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Do you love your kids? Then you need to discipline them… look at this last one

Proverbs 19:18- Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

I keep saying that you’ll shoot your kids out to hit the mark. What is that mark? Eternal life. That mark is a life with Jesus! Discipline is the first step to getting there. Discipline your children for it’s the way to show them salvation, and eternal life.

We often tell our children that they need to be obedient to Pastor and me, that being under our roof, and learning to listen and obey is their practice for listening and obeying God. Parents, that means there’s a big job for us! We’re teaching them a skill that will bring ETERNAL LIFE! We must discipline our children.

If the shaft is too weak and too light, it won’t fly straight. Our discipline towards our children need not be too light. Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. It does NOT mean ignoring bad behavior… it means CORRECTING IT! It does NOT mean doling out punishments every single time you’re annoyed… it means TRAINING! It’s no easy task, but it’s the one God gave us as parents, and even more specifically gave to fathers.

The fletching on an arrow is the feathers or vanes. This part  creates drag and can help the arrow spin as it soars through the air. It provides the arrow with stability and accuracy in flight. This little part of the arrow can give it a little extra jump out of the bow.

When we discipline our kids we have to do it without provoking them. Ephesians 6:4 says  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 says Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

To exasperate means to irritate, to provoke, to pick pick pick pick pick pick. Guys… I love my kids… I love your kids… but man oh man, kids can be SO annoying sometimes! But, that’s in the DNA makeup of kids. Kids will be Kids. yes, we have to discipline, but we must not provoke them in the process. We need to encourage them in the way to go. Tell them you love them, tell them you think they are amazing! Did you notice that both of these verses are to Fathers. Most mothers tend to coddle, to protect their kids feelings. They are more likely to think every little thing is just so cute… Dads… not so much! They have a bigger tendency to be short, and harsh, and say things like, “Suck it up, rub some dirt on it, quit cher belly achin!”
Daddies, your words of encouragement provide stability and accuracy, giving kids a head start as they jump from the “bow” of life. Fathers need to encourage, and not provoke. They need to be loving and involved. Do not embitter your children. Do not push them out with a long list of things to be bitter about.

James Dobson says that Dads are the ones that encourage their kids to try that high dive at the pool. They are the ones that instill in their kids the courage that it takes to venture out and try new things. They are the ones that increase the arrows longevity and help it to go further, The more encouragement they can get, the more umph they receive leaving the bow, just like those feathers… Fathers, encourage your children.

Okay, so what if your husband isn’t reading this, and won’t. What if they don’t do these things? What if they are short and harsh, and abrupt more than they are encouraging? I’ll get into that a bit more in a minute, but let me encourage you now… pray! Pray for your husband to start doing this, and in the meantime, model this behavior for him. Moms can provoke their children, too… Unfortunately I know this first hand!

Next the arrow has an arrow head. Whether it be a craftsman’s arrow head, or a rock carved to a point, these are placed at the end of an arrow shaft and secured in place to penetrate its target. Without this, the arrow may shoot far, it may spin and soar beautifully, but once it gets to the target, it will bounce right off and fall dead to the ground.

You can raise your children to climb the professional ladder, to obtain the highest education with the top of their class. You can raise them to be caring and charitable helping every person they come in contact with…  but if they are not taught the ways of God, His salvation, His word, they will miss the mark.

Speaking about God’s word, Deut 6:7 says,  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
Isaiah 54:13 All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.

Psalm 78:5-7 talks about God telling Jacob to teach his children the word so that the next generation would know it, and then the next. It even talks about reading it to the unborn child! By doing this, the children would put their trust in God and would not forget His ways but would follow the Word.

We must be teaching our children God’s word. We began reading to our kids at a very young age. They’d play on the floor with cars, or dolls. All we asked was that they stay quiet so they could hear the Bible. They may not understand it all the first time, but keep reading and start over when your done and you’ll get through it multiple times as it settles into their hearts. Pause within the reading to explain, ask questions, answer and dig deeper if they want. And remember… ALL scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16). So as you discipline… use the Word of God. As you encourage… use the Word of God, and as you teach God’s way… use the Word of God, it’s all in here!

Lastly, there is a tiny little spot on the back end of the arrow called the nock. It goes unnoticed many times, but it’s a plastic tip on the rear that holds the arrow in position. It’s the part that allows the bow string to rest inside steadying the arrow just before it launches. All the pent-up power in a bow is of no value if it can not be effectively transferred. That’s why every arrow has this small little groove. (Slide 7: Dads, Our kids need YOU) Dads, our kids need the strength, comfort, encouragement, discipline that only a daddy can give. Many moms are forced into that role but in reality, backed by study after study after study they need that anchoring point from their fathers. A review of studies by the Father Involvement Research Alliance shows that babies with more involved fathers are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident in new situations, and eager to explore their surroundings. As they grow, they are more sociable. Toddlers with involved fathers are better problem-solvers and have higher IQs by age 3. They are more ready to start school and can deal with the stress of being away from home all day better than children with less involved fathers . Moms who are doing it for dad, good job! But every chance you get to encourage Dad to step up, do it. And every time Dad does step up… back off. Let him set the rules and enforce the rules. Ask his input, involve him as much and as often as you can. And Dads who have been there, help those still at target practice. Titus 2 speaks of older men teaching the younger men. Share your experiences, check up on dads in the trenches and encourage them to do these things for their kids. And yes, Titus 2 also speaks to young men and tells them to listen to those who have gone before! Pastor Dave is an amazing Guy… but even he will admit that he’s not perfect, he is still learning, and would gladly take advice from a dad who has done this before. I do not preach this message because I’ve perfected all things parenting! I have great kids, but their parents fail A LOT!!! We are all still pushing through trying to do the best we can.

But the point of my message today, the reason we have these arrows, why we discipline, why we encourage, why we teach them God’s ways can be perfectly summed up in the Message’s version of Proverbs 22:6

Point your kids in the right direction– when they’re old they won’t be lost.

Letting your kids go can be scary, not just for us, but for them. But if you can equip them, train them, and release them to hit the mark, when they are out on their own they won’t be lost. They’ll know whose they are. They belong to the Lord and will continue following Him.

This verse ends speaking of these children being a man’s protection. Imagine walking this life with all your arrows equipped with the armor of God around you. When you are in trouble, they will be your protection. They’ll cover you in prayer, they’ll bombard heaven on your behalf… the more you send out, the better the prayer protection.

I’m praying for you, Dads! I pray you step up to the plate and prepare your arrows. I pray you steady them, aim them, and shoot them out with eternal life in their path.

Happy Father’s Day!

Can They See Jesus in You? Lesson 4 of 5

Speaking of lessons… I have learned mine… writing 5 blog posts in a week just isn’t my THANG! We’ve already jumped into the summer schedule here and that means I am taxi-Mom! This gives me about 30 min of unscheduled time a day! But, oh what fun we are having!!! So, onto the 5 biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past 5 years of ministry.

Lesson 1: Grow where you’re planted. Don’t wait for a big change in your life to start making positive changes, start now! You can read more here.

Lesson 2: Invite people to YOUR church! This is not only the Pastor’s responsibility. Help us grow the church! You can read more about this here.

Lesson 3: Follow God’s instructions. When someone does something hurtful against you, God has a specific way to handle that… if you want to know what that is, read here. (So far this post has quite the most feedback! I’m assuming because it happens to us all, and it can hurt us to the core! But there is a solution!)

Lesson 4: Understand the importance of pointing people to Jesus!

About 3 years ago I started really studying how Paul did ministry in the early churches. If you really want to change your outlook on the people around you, and all the PRE-believers you come in contact with, study how Paul loved, how he stretched himself in order to present the gospel to as many as he could. Then start implementing some of these ways into your ways… It’ll change your heart like no other.

One thing Paul did, and did well, was to give Jesus. He would meet people where they were without ever bending on his beliefs. He believed so strongly in Jesus and his life backed that up. Paul had such boldness because he so boldly believed in who he preached. He believed that Jesus was the answer for every problem we could ever face.

So I began to pray that. I prayed (and still pray, and hope to always pray) that everything I say and do will point others to Jesus. HE is the answer to every situation!

When I’m disciplining my kids, I should be doing it in a way that would never make them question things I’ve told them about Jesus. If I say that Jesus forgives, I should forgive. If I teach them that as we grow in Christ, we begin to produce good fruit, then I should show them what Jesus has produced in me and if I lack those, I now know where I need to grow! (Parents, we NEED Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and SELF-CONTROL!!! but that’s another lesson altogether).

When I’m on facebook, I need my every status, my every comment, even my every page followed, to represent the Jesus in me. I can not invite people to church using “church jargon” and with the same mouth (typing hands) spew hate in a comment towards someone on facebook (or twitter, or instagram… or whatever other form you may use).

When my husband and are at the local restaurant, even when the conversation is just between the two of us, our conversation needs to be pointing others towards Jesus. How can my husband preach from the pulpit about grace and peace and wholesome teachings if when he is outside he pulpit he is cutting people down, stirring up strife, and carrying on unwholesome conversations at the restaurant table? He can’t! And neither can any of us!

Now I’m not talking about every single encounter I have talking strictly about Jesus. “Paper of plastic?” “Well… let me tell you about Jesus!!!” That would leave the grocery clerk annoyed… and probably all the people behind me waiting to get through annoyed, too.  No, I’m talking about our conduct, our words, our LOVE for one another. The way we interact with every single person we come in contact with (kids, husbands, parents, co-workers, grocery clerks, librarian, car mechanic… you see where I’m going) should not contradict the Jesus you say you serve.

Imagine this scenario: It’s Monday, the weekend was action packed, and instead of getting enough sleep, you accomplished a LONG to-do list. The alarm awakens you about 8 hours too soon. You grumpily get up, drag yourself to the shower and complain about how horrible work is going to be. You do this too long, making yourself run behind. By the time you race yourself into work (whether it be raising the kids for one more day, or a high pressure position in town), you are already ready for bed. You grumble and complain, even if just in your head, over every task you have to do that day! By the end of the work day, you’ve had it! You begin rushing to get home, already grumbling about dinner. Suddenly someone crosses your path, too close to comfort. You lash out. You yell. Maybe it’s your kid. You’ve told them one too many times to pick up his baseball glove. Maybe it’s your neighbor who borrowed your  hose without asking, maybe it’s a complete stranger who was in a hurry of their own. You lose it. You begin yelling, screaming, belittling, just throwing the perfect adult fit (which, by the way, looks just as ridiculous as the kids form of a fit… just sayin’!) In that instance, if God prompted you to, could you effectively witness to the person you just lashed out at? With a good conscience, could you tell them how great Jesus is, and what a difference He’s made in your life? And if you could… would they believe you?????

When I started thinking this way, I chose not to comment as often on facebook when I was upset. I chose not to respond to a negative situation until I had prayed. And sometimes I prayed for days… and then chose not to respond at all. When I started thinking, “What will THIS action say about the Jesus I’m trying to show?” I truly started to change the way I behave. Don’t get me wrong, we do not behave in such a way to please men… at all costs, we please God. But in that process, we need to be able to point others that direction as well.

Myth: As a Christian trying to point others towards Christ, we must come down to a level that no longer addresses sin. 

Paul never shied away from correcting sinful behavior. But he reminds Timothy (and ultimately us, as the Word of God is written for us as well) to be prepared in season and out of season to correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim 4:2) You can approach sinful behavior in love. You can conduct yourself in a way that expresses love and patience instead of judgment and condemnation. But you must be prepared in season and out of season. You have to live with such a conduct that you can point someone to Jesus no matter what season you are in.

Pray for that idea to penetrate your heart. Ask yourself the hard question, “Am I living in such a way that others see the Jesus I serve?” Before you hit enter read your comment, ask yourself, “Does this show Jesus in me?” (***Even if you are responding to a complete stranger***). Before you let out a loud annoyed sigh at your child for spilling ANOTHER cup of water at the dinner table, ask yourself, “How can I show her Jesus right now in the midst of this mistake?” I’m telling you… this will change your life… and change your ministry!

Myth #2: You have to be perfect in order to point people to a perfect God!

Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! NO! We will make mistakes, we will have bad days… we WILL inevitably scream at our kids with all the windows open so the entire neighborhood can hear (of course I’VE never done that… but…. ), or honk extra long at the car who wasn’t moving fast enough at the green light, or give someone at work an earful because we failed to get enough sleep the night before. It will happen, because, despite what we may think at times, WE ARE NOT PERFECT! Seek forgiveness (from God AND the person you’ve wronged) and start anew. Then do that again the next day, and the next… it won’t ever stop, we’ll mess up a lot. But the harder we try, the better we get, and sometimes, we even point people to Jesus through our mistakes (if we seek that forgiveness). Don’t give up, POINT up!

 

We aren’t perfect at Crossroads Church, but we definately strive to point people to Jesus. Please join us! Follow us on Facebook for more details!

Grow Where Your Planted: Lesson 1 of 5

It was a Wednesday. We packed our moving van. Thursday we said goodbye to friends and family, cried for the first 50 miles… then again 100 miles into the trip, again 200 miles in, and probably again at the 400 mile mark as we pulled within a town over from our new home. It was a thrill, but stressful. It was what we felt God calling us to, but it was so full of anxiety as we moved our family of 6 to our new church.

That was 5 years ago. I’ve been in church ministry with my husband for 16 years (20 years total), but this past 5 years has been the first 5 years of being in the Lead pastor position, and boy oh boy is it different. 5 years go be VERY fast and we can either look back with regret of wasted time, or marvel in the lessons God has taught us. I’m a “glass half full” kinda gal… so you’re going to get the lessons I’ve learned. Plus, I can not look back with an ounce of regret… This has been such an amazing 5 years! It’s only been 5 years… but already we’ve learned so much (and I pray we just keep on learning and growing).

I can’t possibly put this vast amount of new-found knowledge into one post… no one would want to read that many words. So come back each day as we lead up to our 5th anniversary…

Let’s start here…

Starting over in a new town where no one knows you can set you on a path to a new you.

We were given 4 weeks to inform our employment, pack our home, and move to our new town and church. In that month I began to pray, “What kind of pastor’s wife do you want me to be?” I began to evaluate who I was, what I had to offer, and who I WANTED to be. I’m not saying we should be fake. I’m saying that sometimes we get stuck in our ways and changing isn’t easy. But when you move, and you are completely unknown, it’s easier to change. I may have started out struggling to be loving, to be patient, to be compassionate,  to be bold, but the more I prayed about the traits I wanted to have, the easier they became, and the more they became a part of me. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago. And I like the new me.

Myth: You have to move in order to become the person God’s calling you to be. 

Nothing could be more WRONG! I allowed my concern of what people thought of me hold me back from being who I wanted to be… and more importantly, who GOD wanted me to be. I fell into bad habits, found friends who didn’t mind those bad habits, and never sought ways to change those habits. I underestimated my friends and family and figured they’d see me as fake if I made big changes in my personality.

Can I encourage you to begin seeking where you are, and begin making the changes necessary to be who God is calling you to be. Do you want to be nicer?… start acting that out until it’s really WHO you are. Do you want to be more compassionate? Look for ways to show compassion to people with whom you come in contact. Do you want to be more evangelistic? Start stepping out. Don’t delay, and don’t wait for God to call you to another town… that may not work. You may never move from where you are (whether that be physically or spiritually) if you’re unwilling to make those changes.

For me, I wanted to step out of my shell and be bolder, nicer, friendlier, more purposeful. I look back now, and wish I would have done all those things where God had me. I let idea rejections keep me from coming up with new ideas. I let myself get lost in “bigger cities” where my niceness and friendliness wouldn’t go as noticed (although it may have made a bigger personal impact one on one). I missed opportunities because I was too set in my ways.

Moving certainly allowed me to step out and be bold, more enthusiastic, more evangelistic. What could I lose? I’ve learned my lesson though… living this way is powerful, it’s life changing. I will not hold back again. If God wants me to change, nothing will hold me back from making that change for Him. I praise God for giving me this opportunity to be who He’s called me to be. I thank God for this new adventure, and for still working in me through it. I pray I’ll keep making changes as He calls me drawing me closer to Him.

Please don’t hesitate. Don’t wait for any reason, jump right in, start your new adventure, and draw close to God. He will guide you, change you, and create a more perfect you!

Check back tomorrow for lesson #2

If attending church is one of the changes you’d like to make, please find a church in your area. If you need help with finding one, please email me at thepastorswifeslife@gmail.com and I will get to work on finding one in your area!

If you live in my area, Crossroads Church is right for you! Please join us this Sunday at 10am for amazing teaching straight from the Bible… I’ll save you a seat!

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Is Your Iron Sharp?

I recently noticed something. Something big. Something profound. Maybe you’ve noticed this, too… but are you willing to admit it? I recently noticed that it is REALLY easy to see the faults in others while being completely blind to my own faults! GASP!!! I know! I’m in my upper 30s, I can’t believe I’m just now figuring this out! My guess is that you’re like me. That you’ve known this little fact for a while, but you haven’t really given it much thought.

I’m at home all day with the amazing task of teaching 4 children. Kindergarten, first, fifth, and sixth grade. I correct grammar, math problems, behavior and bad attitudes all.the.live.long.day! And sometimes, unfortunately sooner than it should, I become short, frustrated, and sometimes downright unloving. This goes on for some time before my husband comes home. Then my husband walks in, who knows what kind of day he’s had (I mean, I didn’t even ask) but he says one comment in a grumpier-than-I’d-like way and BOOM! I’m all over him! “Why are you short!?” “Why are you so frustrated!?” “Why can’t you be more loving!?” I promise, I don’t really shout this! But I am so quick to see it in him… why was I so unwilling to see it in myself?

I know I’m not alone. I’m a facebook user. I see the “advice-seeker” who posts an issue they’re having, asks advice, but then immediately turns angry when the advice doesn’t go their way. I even have a secret group of pastor’s wives that I’ll take my issues to. But as soon as one of them says something that requires me to look inward at my own bad behavior, I want to high tail it out of there! I’ve even deleted my posts so I don’t have to deal with it (I mean, let’s get real here, right?). It isn’t easy when we are faced with our own sins.

I googled “Why is it so hard to be held accountable?” You can’t even imagine how many responses I got to that question… NONE! Not one!  It’s rare to find someone who truly wants to be held accountable. We may SAY we want it. But our actions tell a completely different story. I tell my husband many times a year, “Honey, please talk me off this ledge! Please remind me of my goals of being a loving parent in the midst of my knit picking and nagging.” Then I wonder why he isn’t quick to do so after I bite his head off for not agreeing with me that whistling is the root of all evil. (Oh, have I never mentioned my hatred of whistling and how quickly it makes my blood boil in anger??? Maybe another blog post…). We say we want to be held accountable, but we actually hate correction. I believe this to be one of Satan’s most successful tools. If we can fight against correction, we can turn a blinds eye to the sin that is so easily visible to those close to us.

The word “accountability” isn’t found in the Bible. But the concept is all over the place.  In Hebrews the Author says,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. -Hebrews 10:23-25

The author knows that in order to hold on to our hope without wavering, we’re going to need each other to stir one another up. This is the purpose of gathering together on a regular basis. Our relationships are so important in this process. This is accountability!

To stir up can be translated urge, spur on, or motivate. It can also mean to provoke or irritate. Have you ever tried to cheer up a really grumpy person? It can be downright irritating! It’s not always easy, even when the accountability is coming in an encouraging way. However, this is needed for us to be at our best spiritually. Done right, accountability can be and should be encouraging. The word “encourage” means to call someone to your side in order to strengthen them with your words; it can refer to a variety of encouraging speech: instructing, comforting, admonishing, warning, urging, begging, and consoling. Whatever it takes to pull a friend from the dangers of sin.

I would expect my husband to remove a knife from my hand if I were about to harm myself with it. I would actually feel unloved if he sat back and did not act quickly when he could clearly see I was hurting myself. So why do I feel so attacked when he steps in to lovingly warn me about the sin I’m involving myself in? Done the correct way, accountability should encourage you to choose a more godly path in life. Galatians 6:1-2 says, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

If God is telling  a person to help restore a friend, He must expect that friend to receive the restoration. Just imagine the change that can come to your life if you’d receive the correction as a blessing instead of an offense. We are to bear one another’s burdens. Why not take some off yourself and let someone help you with it? Sometimes anger is too heavy of a burden to bear, Confess your sins, and let someone pray for you and hold you accountable (James 5:16). Gossip is a hard habit to break. Ask some friends to stop you before you sin against another person, causing both them and you harm. Depression is a dark hole to get lost in, connect with a friend who won’t leave you alone even when you withdraw. Help a friend help you.

Being held accountable isn’t always easy. It isn’t always comfortable. It isn’t always painless. We are called to admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Admonish isn’t a pleasant word. It means to warn or reprimand someone firmly. Firmly, not harshly. As grown adults (and I guess even as children), we don’t like to be told what to do. Somehow we thought that when we became adults we could do whatever we wanted and no one could tell us what to do! And yet… The Bible tells us that we should admonish one another. I’m sure many of us read that and allow it to give us permission to rebuke others. That’s easy. But what about when you’re the person who needs the rebuke?

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17). Are you sharpened or do you live in a dull state with no desire to live up to your full potential? Try cutting a tomato with a dull knife. It’s a mess. And so is life when we refuse correction. Would you take this sharpening journey with me? Ask someone to hold you accountable. Tell them to be loving, but to correct you on the sin you’re struggling with. And then actually receive the correction. Pray over it, and make the necessary changes in your life. Don’t let your pride ruin your walk with God.

There is no need to be around toxic people who correct, rebuke, and admonish out of mean spirits and divisive intentions. There are people like this lurking behind every corner. They are not there to encourage you, but rather point out your faults, push you down, and walk away. Search for those with their hands outstretched in love pulling you up. Choose a person that loves you, and loves what God could do in your life. Ask someone to come along side you  in order to strengthen you with their words. And then pray for the humble spirit to take their encouragement and grow closer to God.

 

Church is a great place to find this kind of friend. I’d love to invite you to visit us on Sundays at 10a at Crossroads Church in St. James, MN. 721 Weston Ave. Make plans to visit with a friend, I’ll save you a seat!
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Slave to Busyness

In the first year of marriage, I ran circles around my husband. If he took the last drink out of his glass, I hopped up and put it away (whether he was hoping for more to drink or not). I mopped our hardwood floor EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. It was just the two of us. No shoes were worn in the house… but those floors NEEDED to be mopped. There were nights my husband would sit on the couch and say, “Honey! STOP! Come sit with me.” I had to stay busy all the time. Funny thing though, I got off work at 2p (went in at 6a) and cleaned the apartment and took a short nap because, well, I wanted to be completely available to my new husband once he got home from work. Yet, I spent most of the night running around doing… busy work.

We live in a society that glorifies being busy. We value one another based on our schedules and how much space we can fill in on that little hourly grid. We come home and sit just long enough to brag about our busy days on social media… or we do it from our phones on the go.

We see statuses like
– It may be 3am, but I’ve crossed off the 40th thing on my to-do list! #whoneedssleep
-Yep, that’s an empty 12-cup coffee carafe… and it’s only 7am #busyday
-Not sure how I’ll get this paper done, dinner made, house cleaned, dog walked, work completed! #notime
-Up at 6a, and still going strong at 1am #insertyourenergyboostingproducthere

It’s absurd! It isn’t how we were designed. The Bible says, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” -Psalms 127:2

All this running here, there, and everywhere (even if you stay in your own house) is useless. Sure, we have to prepare meals, we have to work (whether it be outside the home, or in the home caring for children), we have to maintain our living spaces. There’s nothing wrong with signing up for a sport or book club, or church choir. It’s not useless to volunteer, pursue further education, or train for a better job. Of course if we try to do them all at once, we have to eventually give up rest. And rest is a gift from God.

Busyness can soon become a disease in your life. It can destroy your happiness, your health, and your walk with God. Busyness may get you through life, but it will not BRING you life. John Ortberg says in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted ,”For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.”

I often wonder if the reason we fill every minute of our day with activity after activity, and the reason we boast about all we can fill in to our 24 hours is because society has filled us with this idea that the more we do, the more value we have. And yet, the more we do, the more pressures and temptations we put in our life. We may think that the packed full schedule means success and security and comfort and happiness. But it only attempts to fill a void that only God can fill. Our success isn’t measured in how well we can function on a tiny amount of sleep. Our security isn’t secured in a life with little down time. Our comfort doesn’t seem very comforting when we fill our lives with activities over people, and our happiness will be shallow when we fail to step back, slow down, and find solitude in God.

Hey, I’m not saying I don’t fall into this trap. I do, too often and I’m sure that’s why this is laid on my heart so heavy lately (well, for the past few years really). I see it, I recognize it, and I want out of it. We live in a society where pulling out of the busyness of life isn’t encouraged. We live where fast-food isn’t fast enough, we have to go through the drive-thru and eat in the car. And if that isn’t bad enough, we have replaced our meals with pills and patches, and tiny little power bars. We’ve gotten too busy for simple MEALS… we are in trouble. We put our kids in so many activities that we not only cut into their healthy sleep time, but we have completely done away with family time. Our kids are in school 7 hours a day, given 3 hours of homework, and still encouraged to try for varsity in every season of sports (sometimes those sports even overlap). And this has become so important that church hasn’t found itself on our schedules in months.
We must do something! But what? It’s the world we live in, right?

Author Dallas Willard speaks of a study done where mice were given amphetamines. Some mice were in solitude, some were in a group. It took very high dosages to kill the mice in solitude. However, the mice in the group started hopping around and hyping each other so much that a dosage twenty times smaller was lethal to those mice. They even introduced mice that had not been given ANY drugs to the group and within 10 minutes, the crowd had gotten them so hopped up and hyper that the drug-free mice died. This is the great effect of this “World” that has been created around us. We look at all of our friends get all hyped up on busyness that we feel we need to as well. We begin to put a value on ourselves based on how much we can cram into one day. But, let’s just STOP.

Let’s stop over scheduling our kids. Let’s stop boasting about everything we’ve done that day. Let’s stop letting our to-do list define how great we are. Let’s stop neglecting the rest God has given us.

And let’s start…
1. Planning ahead. When we procrastinate, we find that we cram way too much into a 24 hour period, and we miss out on the abundant life God wants for us. So plan ahead, and be sure to plan some down time into your life.

2. Praying and seeking God first. Give time to solitude with God. If that means getting up before kids do, then go to bed earlier so you can get up after a healthy night’s rest. This also may mean you have to cut something out. *You can also choose to go have time late at night… but only on nights where you can still get healthy amounts of sleep to prepare for your next day.

3. Cutting things out. Yes, getting a degree would help you get a better job. Getting a better job would help your finances. Better finances will…. Well… can I stop here and say, “Not always”. I don’t make 6 figures. And I’m doing great. Money isn’t everything. Simpler living just may be happier living. If you are pushing to get a degree just to get a better job to make more money… stop and ask yourself if that also means more hours away from family and church. I’ve seen this way too many times. Dad goes back to school while working full-time. He tells his family it’s just 2 years, then I’ll have so much more time. But then the new job requires more time away… and the cycle never stops. Maybe this isn’t the time for the new degree. Maybe wait until kids are grown and there is more time to pursue it. (Moms, this goes for you, too). Sports are fun. But don’t allow your kids to fill their time so full that they aren’t learning about quiet times. Stop the cycle now.

4. Take time to do nothing. Don’t plan something in every single slot on your calendar. Leave room to life. Do not be afraid of boredom. Let the day get away from you. You will start to feel free. Probably not right away, since busyness has such a great hold on us. You will have to make this a discipline, or a training in your life. But I guarantee it will bring freedom soon.

5. Change the stigma. Let’s start changing the scene. Stop glorifying busyness. Encourage others to come and enjoy life.

It’s time to change things, to choose another way of living, and to eliminate busyness from our lives.

One last thing… God wants more of you. He values you. He longs to be with you, to be in your thoughts, to be king over all your activities. If rest was good enough for Him… it’s good enough for us.

Ok…so one more thing…
Please watch this funny clip…
And remember, not everything that “saves time” makes life better. 😀

Don’t Give Up

screenshot-2017-02-20-at-11-20-32-amWe’ve been struck by Influenza A. It wasn’t so bad, fevers, sleepy. But then it turned into coughs and runny noses. Friday night I took our 5-year-old in with a temp of 105! He has double ear infection and bronchitis. His 3 hour stretch in the ER kept me from my pre-overnight shift nap. Oh well. So after working my overnight, I stayed up to wait for the pharmacy to open and get him his med. Then slept about 3 hours and got up for our day. By 11 that night I was struggling to stay away and finally fell asleep on the couch. About an hour later I woke up to my husband clutching and rubbing his chest. He was having pretty bad chest pains. I ran to the cupboards and found one measly little baby aspirin. A whole 81mg! made him chew it, and woke my 12-year-old up gave him Dad’s phone and then headed to the ER. Praise God he had pneumonia, not a heart attack. So we leave the ER with the instructions “NO WORK TOMORROW, PASTOR!”. On our 3 minute drive home I convince my husband that I had a sermon tucked away that I could write out and that we could do CD for worship and all would be fine. 3:30 and I started writing out my notes, bed at 5:30, up to preach at 7:30. I LOVED what God did! I love that  God equips those He calls. So I put that to the test when God gives mamas babies, he lowers her need for sleep! haha (don’t get me wrong, we NEED sleep, but God helps us function on little sleep a lot!). So I preached. One of my favorite things to do… and so you may not get Pastor’s notes this week… but you’ll get mine!

The Book of Hebrews was written to a people who were about 40 years removed from Christ’s life. And as we’ve been learning through Pastor’s sermons, the Israelites have a hard time remaining faithful even for a short time.  However, these Jewish Christians are only a living generation from walking with Jesus, and already the writer is encouraging them to run the race, stay the course, and not fall away. They are slipping, and in a very dangerous way.

Who among us needs encouragement? I’m raising both hands here! When the world’s messes are delivered on our doorsteps each morning, on our computer screens, or scrolling across the bottom of a newscast, it’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to join in with the world’s anger and hatred and get discouraged… maybe even begin to turn away. We need some encouragement.

With little time to prepare the message, it’s great to open the Word of God and have a sermon right in front of you. So although I won’t have the notes on the screens like Pastor does, you’ll have my sermon notes right in front of you if you open to Hebrews 3 and 4.

Let’s start by reading Hebrews 3:1-2

Because Jesus is our High Priest, we actually can learn something about ourselves here. To know that we belong to such an amazing God reminds us that there’s hope! We’re put on the most amazing team, our partner is Jesus… THE SON OF GOD!

Think carefully about that. When you’re discouraged and weary, think about this Jesus we declare as God!
When a spouse isn’t a believer and we don’t have Christian support at home– Think of who your partner is!
When sickness keeps us from feeling ourselves– Think about the healer you’ve partnered with!
When you work hard but feel undervalued– Remember that God sent you a high priest as your PARTNER! The highest of high has chosen YOU!

Now, that is meant to encourage you, but this knowledge also is a challenge. We must give honor to this high priest we’ve been given, And we need to submit to Him, something not so easy to do.

The Jewish Christians were beginning to stray just as the Israelites did so many times as they wandered their way through to the promise land. The writer here brings Moses up. Maybe the pastor of their time was also walking through the scriptures and was right about where we are in Pastor’s sermons… He mentions Moses. Hebrews 3:3-7

One of the worst compliments you can give a photographer is, “Wow! You’re camera takes amazing photos! What model is that, if I had a good camera and photoshop, I could save tons of money!”
Heaven forbid it has anything to do with the good shot the photographer craned her neck to get. I mean, it couldn’t be that the photographer who is laying on the ground to get the perfect lighting of your grumpy baby smiling for that very split second actually has an eye for things. No, definitely, photoshop that does that. (Enter eye-roll and sarcasm). These Jewish Christians were upholding Moses, but missing the lighting behind him– GOD! God was the reason Moses was who he was. Yes, Moses was great but he pointed to the Master.

When we, like the early Christians here, lose sight of that Master, the builder of our lives, we’re going to get discouraged. When we focus on whether or not our candidate won the election or whether our neighbor loves the candidate that did win and we take our eyes off the Supreme Authority– Anger will begin to take the place of contentment and our standing with God will become shaky. When our focus is more on the job that we weren’t offered and less on the One who gives security– We’ll begin to doubt God’s provision for us, and unbelief sets in.  When we take our eyes off the builder of our faith and sift it to ANYTHING else, we will lose our courage and confidence and our overall hope in Christ. That is why the holy Spirit says… Hebrews 3:7-12

“BE CAREFUL!!! Make sure that your OWN hearts are not evil and unbelieving TURNING YOU AWAY FROM THE LIVING GOD!

Sin is all around. We brush elbows with it each and every day… we aren’t perfect, we sin, too. You’d be hard pressed to find a T.V. show that isn’t compromising to some degree. The news can lean so far in one direction that sometimes it’s not good for our spiritual walk to even watch it! Relationships can pull us in directions that aren’t always glorifying to God. We’re pulled away on social media, magazines, top selling novels… but none of those are excuses for the fact that we are in charge of our own hearts. It’s OUR hearts that we allow to grow evil and unbelieving, and if we don’t get it under control, we’ll slowly turn away from God.

Unbelief and sin is deceitful. When we are unbelieving, when we fail to trust God at his word, and/or we fail to act in a way that shows God is who He says He is, we don’t simply stop believing. We actually start believing something else. We start believing lies.

  • God can’t help me pay this mound of bills!
  • God will never fix this broken relationship!
  • My addiction is bigger than God!
  • God is not who he says He is!

Lie, lie, lie, LIE! So… we must be warned– While it is still today. Keep reading Hebrews 3:13-19

If those walking to the Promise Land, with daily reminders of God’s provision through manna, and could hear God’s voice and rebel… We can, too! We can let our discouragement turn to disbelief and our disbelief turn to sin and we can let our sin keep us from God.

Unbelief kept an entire generation that escaped Egypt and wandered the desert out of Canaan. It’ll do the same for us if we keep it up! We’ll wander this Earth all for nothing… worse… all for Hell!

But there’s Good news. Hebrews 4:1-3
God’s rest, Heaven, is our rest! Oh how Great! A place to rest from sorrow, from pain, from disappointment, from ridicule. A.place.to.rest! I don’t know about you, but I could use some rest (read my first paragraph!!!)

Hebrews 4:6-11

Ok, GREAT! We’ve established that life is exhausting, discouraging, weighs us down. We’ve acknowledged that all this in life causes us to lose faith, live in sin and come close to missing out on heaven (if not completely)– GREAT! What a great message, Stevie! When’s Pastor coming back!? This is pretty dreary! I mean, I want that rest…
But wait… you have the sermon notes… read on. Hebrews 4:12-13

Oh! Good… much bett…. wait, what? What does the Word of God have to do with my discouragement and wavering faith!? I want to know how to keep my faith strong, how do we stay out of discouragement and sin? The answer is simple… to realize HOW POWERFUL the Word of God is!

My kids (almost) 12, 10, 7, and 5 have read through the Bible a least twice (the older ones maybe more). Front to back! A couple of weeks ago we finished reading Revelations and so the next day when I called them all down, “Bible reading!” my 5-year-old says, “But mom! We finished that yesterday!!!” Oh my little bambino! One does not simply FINISH the Bible! That’s like saying no thanks to dinner, “I ate last week, I’m good!”

The Word of God is POWERFUL! It digs down to our innermost thoughts and desires. Want to stop getting discouraged, let the living word of God cut between your soul and spirit, and expose you to God and hold you accountable!
Want to trust God to provide? Read about the woman who only had enough flour and oil for one last meal, shared it with Elijah and her jar never went empty.
Want to feel like an overcomer? Read about Moses defeating the Amalekites simply by raising his hands up to the Lord (then try that in your own battles!)
Feeling alone? Read how God himself goes before you, never leaving or forsaking you!
Feeling bound in chains? Read how a little praise and worship SET PRISONERS FREE!!!!!
Want to replace anger with joy? Read about the Love Jesus had for those who plotted to kill Him.. He gives His life up for them, he Loved them (and YOU) so!
Want to feel valued? Finish this life-giving chapter with me! Hebrews 4:14-16

A preacher can not make the Bible come alive! The Bible makes the preacher come alive! I praise God we attend a church that preaches the Word of God. I am so thankful that we have a pastor who pours over the Word. He preaches with such gusto… not because he’s bringing life to the Word, but because we have a pastor who LOVES the Word of God and that Word brings Pastor ALIVE (*** When preaching this the congregation was almost in a standing ovation… I wish my hubs could have seen the love these people have for the Word and for a preacher who preaches it!)
The Word of God will bring YOU alive, as well… as long as you’ll receive it!

Because God has given us a High Priest in Jesus we CAN RECEIVE IT! Let’s hold firmly to what we believe and we believe that He understands, he’s been in our shoes, and he still offers. It’s up to us to receive it. Praise God we can come boldly, We can come get renewed, encouraged, and cleansed.

We open the alters for prayer after the sermons for the church to respond to the message God has given. You may be reading on your break, or before bed… still I invite you to reflect, to begin praying and find the mercy and grace to help you where you need it most.

I’m believing in God’s healing touch and believe pastor will be behind the pulpit again next week. Please join us. The Israelites are getting so close to that promise land… I can’t wait for that sermon!!! If you are in the St. James area, please join us at Crossroads Church 721 Weston Ave at 10 am each Sunday. I’ll save you a seat!

Fix Your Eyes Upon

I just finished a personal study of the book of Hebrews. Although SO many lessons can be learned from this chapter, one I’ve been mulling over was presented to me again in my husband’s sermon yesterday (Of course, you can find that awesome sermon here).

Although the book of Hebrews was later broken up into different chapters and verses for our study purposes, it wasn’t originally written that way. So the book can and does flow from topic to topic but with many connections throughout. Fixing your eyes on Jesus, the one who initiates and perfects your faith, is one of those topics.

It’s amazing what can happen when we do such a thing. When we decide to take our eyes away from our current circumstance and give things over to God.

There are times kids are fighting, babies are crying, husbands are sick, jobs are draining, life is HARD. Those times seem to take over. They weigh us down. They cloud our minds, they steal our joy. One after another and our positive visibility is at an all time low.

Herbrews 12 starts out by saying Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith {This was presented in Hebrews 11}, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Do we think those mentioned in Hebrews 11 (Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ mother, MOSES, Rahab, Gideon… David… and a few more) didn’t deal with issues that seemed to weigh down, cloud their minds, try to steal their joy? Yet, their examples are there to show us we don’t have to succumb to the pressure to give up. Instead, we can use their examples of how to overcome! Their faithfulness makes our faith a little easier to live out. So now, we can throw off all the things that are holding us back.

It’s obvious to most that sin will hold us back… it so easily ensnares and all, but what about that earlier phrase… “Every weight that slows us down” Of course sins do that… but the word “especially” shows us that there are things that maybe aren’t sins that are weighing us down. These things may be part of what is stealing our joy.

Please know that kids will fight, babies will cry, husbands will get sick (some even can become VERY sick), and jobs can be draining. And we can’t just ditch them. That’s not the answer. So since we know that we can’t get rid of those things, we have to look for things we can get rid of. Can we implement a new rule for our family? Can we nap with baby? Can we look for a better job? Maybe? But we CAN get a new attitude. We can fix our eyes on Jesus, know that He pulled the heroes of the Old Testament through, and bank on the fact that He’ll pull us through as well. We know that God considered those mentioned in Hebrews 11 triumphant, and he wants us to be, too. He wants us to run the race with endurance.

We all have a race to run. But it’s our OWN race. God calls us to finish it with joy. We will have to deal with the things of life, but we are responsible for our own joy. (Even when we fall into trials of all kinds…) We have to choose the joy in the midst of… well… LIFE. A race isn’t a race if you sit in the starting blocks and refuse to run. You can’t just sit in your unhappiness with your eyes fixed on every joy sucking event that occurs (and seriously, some struggles are much larger than others). Are you only focusing on the current discomfort, and not looking at the future victory in God? If so, look at the finish line… and start running! This race will only be won with endurance.

Endurance is determination,  unhurrying  yet undelaying, which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected.

HOW? I mean, how do we refuse to let misery set in? Sometimes life is just THAT hard. And, I think Jesus understands that… actually I KNOW He does… Read further.

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Jesus faced a much bigger “joy killer”. He faced death… on a cross… in front of everyone… naked! He faced mockery, hatered from people around him… a hostile work place if you will. And if you can realize this, you can keep from becoming weary and giving up. You’ve made it this far!

Can I ask that you look just a tiny bit further in this passage…  “And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children?”  Much difficulty in our Christian life can be traced back to those 3 words: “Have you forgotten”. Perhaps it is some principle we remember in our minds, but our hearts have FORGOTTEN. Have you forgotten that you are a child of God? That he WILL bring you through? Let your joy focus on THAT! On Jesus and what He has already done for you and what he is surely going to do as you endure this race ahead of you.

*I’d be wrong if I took that first part of the verse out of it’s full context… it does go on to talk about God disciplining those He loves, and to be honest, although this isn’t the point of my writing today, it is possible you are experiencing hardships and misery because of the sin that you’ve gotten yourself entangled in. And if that’s the case, my point still stands… FIX YOUR EYES ON JESUS, who initiated your faith, and perfects it. He will walk you out of it.

We go through difficult times, and we can get discouraged, but we need to turn our eyes to God! Do not get bogged down by the troubles of today, know that there is victory and salvation from these difficult times in the future! (From pastor’s sermon)

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This song ran through my head the entire time I typed… I HAD to go look it up and let this repeat through and through.

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.