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!

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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My evolution of Worship

When I made the decision to follow God, to live for Him, to allow Him to guide me, I learned right away that worship was a powerful thing. At the age of 13, I could feel that wonderful, yet very powerful, Holy Spirit at work during the worship aspect of Church. Sometimes it was warm and comforting, other times it was a heavy weight on my shoulders. I learned very quickly to enter in, or get out!

At age 13, worship was a learning process for me. I was learning how to listen to God. I was learning to follow His prompting. I was learning what to do with all the emotions that ran through me during that time. (When we youth pastored, we often saw teens that suddenly had to use the restroom in the heaviest part of worship. This was their physical bodies being uncomfortable with what their spiritual bodies were encountering. They were learning.) I either worshipped, or I would walk out.

At age 16, I became a worshipper. I no longer counted down the minutes until the song service was over, instead I was free to raise my hands, or lower my head, or fall on my knees, however the spirit led. I loved every note, I loved singing and truly worshiping. I would grow with each church service as I really listened to God speak to me. I felt called into ministry not during a sermon, but during the worship time.

At age 20, I attended a Christian College. I loved chapel services. I set my work schedule around the chapel services each day. The service was 40 minutes long. That left about 15 minutes designated to worship. I learned at this time to enter in quickly. I learned that if I wanted to gain the benefits of true worship, I could not wait for the perfect song sung by my favorite worship leader. I had to walk in, begin to sing to God and enter in. I never felt like it was enough, but I learned quickly to get as much as I could out of worship in the little time I had. It was at this time in my life that in the midst of worship God spoke to me and shone a supernatural light on a gorgeous man pacing at the altar in prayer. The lifeline that God had established between me and Him during worship was used to show me the man I would marry. (unbelievable, yet SO amazing!)

By age 24, I had allowed myself to get too dependent on songs, great singers,  and “the right atmosphere” in order to enter into worship. I got bogged down with ministry, busy with work, weighted down with the things that come with life. I still worshipped, but it wasn’t the same. I walked through the motions, had few breakthroughs, and didn’t anticipate it as much as the 10 years prior.  I would have never known this was where I had allowed myself to fall had it not been for a church that loved worship. Pastor and I had taken a new youth pastorate and the church was a church of worship. I felt myself starting all over. I had to relearn to worship. I had to learn how to let go and surrender and allow God to take over. I had to learn that worship wasn’t just about me. It was about us! About God and me! I had to relearn the convicting power the Holy Spirit holds. I had to relearn how to deal with that conviction. I had to learn again how to enter in no matter what the circumstances. Oh, how I praise God for teaching a forgetful student. I believe that church, and their obedience to God, and their openness to worship SAVED MY LIFE!

At age 26 I found myself and my worship loving church under attack. Our worship was being threatened. It was a time in my life where I fought for my worship time. I moved my physical body away from those who would not allow my spiritual bodies to be moved. I pressed forward even when the circumstances were purposefully attempting to hold me back. Worship became a lifeline, a sacred time, something I NEEDED to fight for.

At age 29, I had a 2-year-old and an infant and worship was not an undivided event any longer. Our church at the time kept the kids in the worship service. So Pastor would be on the stage leading worship, and I’d be cuddling a baby while chasing a 2-year-old. Life wasn’t easy, church wasn’t easy, and worship wasn’t easy. I had to worship differently. I had to find time at home, in my car, late at night, or in the few minutes where my son was building with bibles beside me and my daughter was fast asleep in her carseat. It wasn’t ideal, but I craved worship.

Now, at a (VERY) young age of 35, I find myself at our very own church, where my FOUR children are now sitting beside me as we worship. I’m a seasoned worshipper. I’m an educated worshipper. I am a lover of worship… yet, I am a distracted worshipper. To put into perspective of what I mean, this is how my worship experience went today… First song, I was snapping fingers on one hand with another hand raised in worship. I was shushing in between my words of affirmation to God. The 2nd song, I had my 2-year-old entertained, my (soon to be) 4-year-old looking for ‘Rs’ in the Old testament, my 7-year-old sitting at the end of the pew, and my 8-year-old beside me and I got one whole song to myself. I cried for it had been so long. I closed my eyes (with an occasional one eye opened ), asked God to speak, and reminded Him how much I love and adore Him, His presence, and the life He’s blessed me with. I was able to raise both hands, let loose and sing my heart out (oh, I’ve learned by now that if I want to sing loud, I should! God loves it, and worship is for Him, not the people in the pew in front of me!). It was heavenly. By the 3rd song I was giddy (it’s amazing what a 3 minute uninterrupted corporate worship time can do to a person). I was on such a “super”natural high that I continued worshipping as my 4-year-old applied fake fingernail polish on each of my fingers, blew them dry, then proceeded to put on tons of pretend makeup all over my face (which she also blew dry with her mouth). But oh, how heavenly it was to close my eyes, give God my attention in church. I loved it. My fake makeover and my spiritual one! By song 4, my 2-year-old was screaming because the 4-year-old walked in his row and touched a car. The 4-year-old was upset that she couldn’t play with his cars and my worship experience was over.

Worship evolves. It won’t always be the perfect scene, the number one song, sung in the perfect pitch. But it’s always available. I worship while loading the dishwasher. I worship in my shower, where kids can not come in. I worship in my bed that last 5 minutes before I drag my tired body out of bed. I let the vacuum stand alone for a bit while I step back, raise my hands, and pour out my worship on an almighty God. I worship in my living room with my 4 tiny worshippers. We dance, hold hands and shout the lyrics. We worship.

Don’t let life get in the way. Don’t let circumstances keep you away. Even if you have to worship with one eye open… just worship.
We love that our kids get to be a part of worship. I’m watching my 8-year-old enter in in his own special way. I get to see my daughter when she feels that spirit lead her. They are beginning their worshipping journey. And I pray they will write their own worship story, for worship is a lifeline. So, find some time, a quiet corner, or just set out to worship even through your distractions. Just Worship!

Simply_Worship

For the purposes of this post, I am using “Worship” with the meaning of the song related part of a church service. Yes, I believe that worship comes in many forms. When we read our Bible, when we pray, when we tithe, when we listen to a sermon we are worshipping, but I am specifically speaking about the song portion of a service.