Psalm 127 likens children to arrows in a warrior's quiver. Handled correctly, they can be a source of life and joy and bring glory to God. How are we doing as parents - and more importantly as God's kingdom of priests - at investing in this resource? Are we shepherding our children, both those in our homes and those in our community, in a way that will be a blessing to this generation and those to come?
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Warriors and Their Arrows: Caring Both for Children in Our Families and Those with Childlike Faith
Good morning. I am glad to be with you guys and glad to be able to talk at all. I have not had much of a voice for the last three or four days. I was in Haiti this last week and got to teach at a little conference down there with some pastors, as well as work with some of my friends down that way, and in the midst of having some fun and doing a little craziness we lost our voice.
I called all of my singing friends and said, "Okay, man. Where is the homeopathic solution for hoarseness?" I have no pain, but I don't sound that great, so if y'all bear with me as I scratch your ears this morning with my voice, but it'll come back. One of the things that happened when we were down there… We took a bunch of medical folks as well, and how great it was for folks to come and be cared for and loved and ministered to.
I found myself on Friday when I really couldn't speak when we got back… I literally couldn't say anything. I called a friend of mine who's an ENT who got me in touch with somebody else because he was out of town and unavailable. I went and sat in this man's office, and I have to tell you, I was so encouraged, because I was not unlike the folks in Haiti who were in a tough spot who needed some help.
He took me into his office and checked out my vocal cords. I told him, "Look. This is kind of my hamstring. If it's just strained, I'm fine. I can play through some pain. I just don't want to turn it into a rip, a tear, where I'm going to be out for eight weeks, if that's the deal." He said, "No. I think you'll be all right. If you can go for it, go for it." We just sat and talked. We had a great conversation about life and about some tough stuff he has been through, a wife with some brain cancer, a little 16-year-old girl he lost. We just prayed together.
I walked out of there going, "I wasn't really in here to check on my vocal cords. I was in here just to be ministered to and be reminded that God's people are everywhere and folks are ministering to each other all the time." I just walked out of there with my heart thankful that somebody had invested in him, not just in a medical way so he could put a camera up my nose and down my throat and look at my vocal cords (that wasn't really thrilling), but somebody had invested in him, too, to build into him a perspective on life.
Just those short 30 minutes we had together, as we talked and fellowshipped as brothers and prayed together, I thought, "You know what, Lord? I want to be the kind of guy who is raising up others who can serve people." I was so thankful for the skills that folks from Watermark had medically in Haiti and, even more, for the skills that had been built into people the way they genuinely ministered to souls.
So much of medicine out in fields like that is not really leading to ultimate solutions, but it's providing comfort and hope and reminding them of things that are true, because every single one of us is terminal. We do know that. The statistics for death are overwhelming. They are 1:1. Everybody who's born is headed that way. We're all terminal. I thought to myself, "I want to be a guy who the rest of my life is building into others that which will make them ultimately useful to people."
That's what we're going to talk about today. I talked about how we, as a body, this year are going to focus on a couple of things we've always said we need to be about. In fact, God said, "Look. I don't care what you do as a church. If you are not concerned about imparting to others what I have imparted to you… My program for life change, for transformation, for kingdom blessing to come into this world is life on life, a life that has met me that has become familiar with grace and has come to understand truth that will then invest that life on others."
I bet you I quoted the verse three, four, five, or six times, talking to the pastoral leaders all throughout Haiti. I said, "These things, gang… The reason I'm down here investing in you… These things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." If all you do is come in here and take a few notes and get a little wiser, we have not accomplished what we came here to do. You are accountable for taking this truth and passing it on to others, as are we.
What I want to say as we move today… I don't know if you guys have noticed or not, but there are some new ways to make folks move through our campus a little bit easier, but all of our kids are moving up here right now. This is the time of the year where we really see once again the need we have in terms of shepherding our children and the number of folks who invest with us day after day, week after week, in shepherding those children, and we invite you into that. I want to throw up this chart really quickly and show you about what our needs are as we head into the fall.
These are not lead teachers. These are not folks who are what I would call gifted, necessarily, or passionate about creatively designing lessons and leading those lessons. These are folks who we need to come around folks who are called and gifted as ministers to children just to make sure our numbers are correct, to know names, to laugh with them, to love them, to invest in them, and to be there and welcome them, and to remind them that what they're there to do as they enjoy and meet friends is to know God and to walk with him.
Those are the folks we need just to come support our gifted leaders. Out of that, folks who respond in this way will allow us, certainly, to find some of you who are gifted in that very way, but don't think you have to have a calling to be a great teacher. You just have to have a willingness to love others, to jump in there with us. So that's the need that is there. The way we're going to give you a chance to do that this morning is to rip off that little perforated section and step up and say, "I want to go."
Part of being a member of a family is that we all use our gifts in our very unique and special ways, but each of us needs to do our part to care for what happens because we are a family, and that means sometimes you step up and say, "I'll stay home tonight so others can do this" or that means "One Sunday a month I'll come for two services so I can be over there and be over here." This should not be a conversation we have again.
You can see we need 55 folks to work with small kids, the 9:00 and 11:00 services and right on through. So don't sit there, please, and think, "Somebody else will take care of this." This is your chance to dive in and to love some kids. I'm going to talk about why that's so stinkin' important today. You will never know the impact you have on a life when you love a child.
Now here's what I want to do. I'm going to use this idea of shepherding children to drive home what is God's ultimate heart, which is discipleship. There's really no other greater discipleship course I was ever taught than when God gave me six kids and said, "For 18 years, you get to grow them and prepare them for life." I am in the middle of an 18-year discipleship course with my children. There's a great stewardship when you are given biological children.
What I love about the Scripture is that God says all of us have a stewardship in the way we build into those who are around us. In some way, every one of us is a teacher. All of us are leaving a legacy. Every single one of us is impacting others and is accountable, as a teacher, for the way we teach others. Certainly, when we elevate ourselves, as I am intentionally imparting to you wisdom (there's a higher calling, as it says in James 3:1), but nobody escapes the fact that you are accountable for what you are passing off into others.
There's a little verse that comes in Luke 17, and it says this in verses 1-2. Jesus is talking to his disciples and says, "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble." What God is saying there is "I take seriously the way you treat little ones."
I do believe little ones there is referring to children, but it's also, I believe, referring to folks who are just beginning to discover who God is. This is a rebuke to the religious leaders. There were people who were not developed in their understanding of who God was and who Christ was, so he said, "If you cause these folks who are just beginning to understand who I am to stumble because of your error, your teaching, the way you treat them, the way you make them feel, I have a problem with that."
He literally says, "It would be better for you to upset John Gotti or Sammy the Bull and to die a mafioso-style death than it would be to jack with one of my kids; to have a millstone tied around your neck and to be thrown into the lake. You're not coming up from that. Those cement boots are not going to let you swim." That is a temporal consequence, but God says, "If you don't care for those who are precious in my sight, I have a real issue with you."
Certainly, biologically, chronological children who are small fit that category, but so do those who are in this community who have no idea that God is a loving God, he's a just God, but that he wants to give them life. He doesn't want them to attend a service; he wants them to walk with him. The way you live your life out before them, as a person who says they've come to know God, the way we greet you this morning if you're here trying to investigate the faith… God says, "I take very seriously the way you treat little ones who are trying to grow in their understanding."
Now, he says we are to receive little ones and that we are not to hinder little ones, but he says, "In no way should you ever be led by little ones. That is why I have given the church such great responsibility. While you receive them and while you don't hinder them to come to me, if you don't develop them, you are in big trouble." In fact, God says one of the ways he judges a nation is to let them be led by somebody who is like a child. In other words, they have grown older, but they have not grown up.
Look at two places with me. One is in Ecclesiastes, chapter 10, verse 16. It says, "Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning." In other words, if they get up and all they are is about themselves. Their first focus is not, "What should I do in my position of greatness?" but "What can I do to bring comfort and pleasure and joy and ease and satisfaction to my body?" If you are led by somebody like that, if your king is a lad, you have trouble.
In Isaiah, he goes on a little farther. He says this in chapter 3, verse 4. As a result of the fact that the priests and the prophets (the parents, if you will), the leaders of that nation, had not done what they should do, he said, "And I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them…" When you get somebody who rules like a child…
I just sat down one day and thought, "Okay. What are children like?" I started to have some fun. First of all, they're selfish. They're naturally not others-centered. They're demanding. When they want something, they pitch a fit so they can get it. They're shortsighted. They lack any discipline in the area of delayed gratification. They lack wisdom. They are both childish, which means they do things because they don't know the right thing to do, and they are foolish. They may know the right thing to do, but they don't care if it's right. They're going to do what they want to do.
Think about leaders who are largely helpless, who really can't do anything to change their environment. That's what a child is like. If you are led by somebody like that, you have issues. They're impulsive. They are prone to temper-tantrums and fits. They are easily deceived. They are fearless in the fact that they won't run from danger. They don't know the difference between a rope and a rattlesnake, a cliff or a curb.
I was talking about this with my Haitian friends this week about the state of their country and their leadership, and I was sharing with them these ideas, and somebody said, "Yes. They will play with fire and they will not be concerned." Someone else said, "Yes. They're shameless. They will run around naked."
That made me laugh, because one day we left the little area we were at and went to a little village to go love on some kids, and when we pulled up in our car, kids from everywhere started running and following after us. They knew we were coming to play with them and interact with them a little bit. They came in all different stages of dress. There were two boys about 10 to 12 who came in no stage of dress. I'm not talking about 2 or 3; I'm talking about 10 or 12.
They were running after that bus as fast as they could. It was great, because they ran up and started immediately grabbing hands and jumping up and wanting to be touched and all this different stuff. So we're sitting out there. We're playing soccer. We're throwing football. We got a wiffle ball out. We're just having all kinds of fun, and these kids could not have been more like Adam and Eve before the fall.
I mean, he's doing slide tackles. He's doing all this different stuff. This kid is getting after it. All of a sudden, out of nowhere (it really cracked me up), his sister (I assume she was his sister) came walking up and just smacked him on the rear right in front of everybody and laid into him in Creole, talked to him, yelled at him. Then she pulled out of her pants a pair of flip-flops and threw them down at his feet.
He went, "You're right, you're right." He slipped that flip-flop on, slipped that flip-flop on, and went right back after the soccer ball. I thought to myself, "Sister, that's not the flip-flop you should be worried about right there. That dude left the campfire without something else." I could not believe it. It was hilarious. "Don't you ever leave home without your flip-flops again." "Yes, ma'am." Shameless.
Kids make messes they can't clean up. They're fickle in their friendships. They're indiscriminate what they put in their mouth. They'll shove anything in there. They're filled with greed. If you have leaders who are like that, you have a real issue. So what does God expect us to do? He says, "Don't hinder them. Receive them. Let them come to me, but if you let them stay as children, you have problems."
The reality, the truth we all need to be aware of, is you are writing your future right now. What do I mean by that? Abraham Lincoln is the one who basically said, "The philosophy of schoolchildren in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next generation."
If we are not raising our kids now to have an anchored sense of accountability, if we're not teaching them truth that is not relativistic, that we don't live in a world that can be filled with random ideas and we can just all get along and "You just believe what you're going to believe, and I'm going to believe what I'm going to believe," if we have kids who grow up with a sense of entitlement and not others-centeredness, if we get kids who have no delayed gratification, then that will be the government of tomorrow.
What we have is a bunch of folks who are ruling like children. Why? Well, here's the thing. If you're going to complain about your country, if you're going to complain about the state of your church in America, if you're going to complain about your children, you'd better look where God lays the blame, and it's time for us to get in the game. You are training your caregivers. Do you know that?
The folks you're building into are going to grow, and they're going to be stronger than you, and they will rule over you. You are training your kings, your future congressmen, senators, presidents. How are you doing? All of a sudden, it takes on a little different meaning here, doesn't it? This is why God says you take children but don't leave them as children. Ephesians, chapter 4. This is what God wants us to be about.
It says, "And He gave some as apostles…" That simply means those he sent forward. "…and some as prophets…" That means he sent some forward. Prophets are men and women who had on their heart the truth of God so they could speak God's word to others. By the way, this is the key to discipleship: to spend time with people you love while you have on your heart what is on the heart of God. You are being sent forth to have on your heart and your tongue what is on God's heart and God's tongue. "I've sent you forth for that way, to speak truth, to love others." Why?
"…for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…"
So how are we doing? If you're not personally engaged right now in having your life impact another life, where you're deeply sharing with them truths that have been informed by God's Word, then you are not only hindering their development the way God wants, but you are setting yourself up for future pain and suffering. One of the ways God judges a rebellious people is he lets them live with the consequences of their rebellion, and part of the consequences of their rebellion is when they ignore the future generations, those chickens will come to roost, and you will live under them in the chaos that ensues when you are led by adult children.
So God says, "You make disciples. You teach them what I have taught you. You repent of your own wanderings, and you seek after me." Look at what it says in Psalm 127. That's where we're going to focus some time today. "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep." That's Psalm 127:1-2.
Let me make a couple of quick observations there, and then I'm going to get down to what he says about kids. When it says, "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it," it is basically saying that any work that is done independent from God is ultimately futile. It's great that you build a house, but if you try to build that thing apart from God's intervention, it will not be a house that is built with a structure that's going to stand.
We must not expect God to work without our building, without our watching, without our praying. It doesn't say you should not build a house and let God build it. It says, "Unless the Lord is involved in building the house, you labor in vain who build it." That doesn't mean you can abdicate your role. It doesn't mean you send them to a good church, a good youth group, so they can be taught things while you step back. No. You are to labor to build your house.
You are to labor to build your neighborhood. You are to labor to build your country. You are accountable. You can have supplements that come alongside of it, but you can't ever sub out. God says, "You labor along the way, but when you labor, don't just do it with your own understanding. Trust in the Lord." We must not expect God to build without our laboring, but what we must expect is if we labor intensely but do it separate from God, we will fail. There's always dependence upon the Lord. John 15 says, "Apart from me you can do nothing."
So the first part of that psalm is just saying, "Don't retire late. Don't eat the bread of painful labors. Trust in me. Don't guard the city like you don't need me. Know that you need me, but then guard the city. Don't build a house like you don't need me. Build the house, but do it using a divine blueprint." This is why I always tell folks, "If you want to know how to have a successful marriage, you have to start with somebody else who wants the Lord to build that house."
This is why God loves you enough to say, "Don't be unequally yoked." I'm going to stick this in for my single friends. Proverbs 24:3-4 says, "By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." If you have somebody you want to marry because you're attracted to them in some way, but they are not committed to building off the same blueprint you are, that is a recipe for disaster.
God says, "You cannot build a home that's going to be filled with all that you want it to be if you guys come at that thing with two different blueprints. So don't find somebody who's okay with me as an architect, who acknowledges that I'm a divine architect. You find somebody who is absolutely, passionately committed to building according to the blueprints I gave them about what a relationship should look like, how a man leads and serves his wife, how a wife serves and leads with and follows the husband.
You find a guy who is going to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind consider you as more important than himself, who understands how Christ loved the church and is committed to loving you that way, a guy who is going to be absolutely filled with passion for fulfilling his covenant commitment to Christ." This is why premarital sex is such a tell as to whether or not you have a guy who's committed to that.
If you find a guy who says, "I love Jesus," but then he's going to go ahead and treat you in a way that is inconsistent with the way Jesus says he should treat you outside the context of a covenantal marriage relationship, what you really have is a guy who says, "Okay. I'm good with his blueprint except when his blueprint offends me or sometimes gets in the way of what I want or in any way threatens pleasure I think I deserve. Then I cut out the blueprint and design my own rooms that I live in."
That's what premarital sex is. It's a guy sending you a notice that "No matter what I say about who the architect is in my life and how committed I am to building that, what really matters is what I want to build when I want to build." Yes, there are many other complications, but the biggest one is that you are walking through not just a flashing yellow light but a screaming red one that says, "This guy does not build with wisdom and understanding."
That house you're about to build with him will not be filled with precious and good things. So unless he tears down some of that work and repents of it and says, "This is error," run, because he is telling you… No matter what he says about where he goes to church or what he believes or what she says about what she believes, if you're seeing areas where God's Word says one thing and they say they're covenanted with God to build the way he wants to build and doing their own thing, you should know them by their deeds.
Now, when you get to verse 3, here's what it says. I love this section of Scripture. It's one I've looked at many, many times. It says, "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord , the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate."
We have this silly little deal up here, these little arrows and this target. This is one of the ways you read Scripture. You just make some simple observations about arrows. Why did David when he wrote this thing say that children are a gift and that when you take an arrow and use it wisely…? When you get a bow and arrow in the hand of a warrior, it becomes a very useful thing if he uses it wisely.
You want to stop when you read something like that and go, "Why did he use this metaphor? What are some things I can learn by asking myself about arrows and warriors?" Let's just do that. Here are some very simple illustrations and reasons that we're going to be committed, as people, to taking these arrows and making them fly the way God wants. Little ones. Biological? Chronological? Yes. But folks who are coming to us either with a perverted view of who God is who are little in their understanding and it needs to be corrected or have no concept of who God is, and he wants us to love on them.
First of all, when you get something like this and you have an arrow that's on the ground, I would make the observation that an arrow by itself is helpless, useless. It really can't do very much. Its value is only going to come from that which I build into it. When it lies there, I can step on it. I can snap it. It needs somebody to come alongside of it to take it and make it what it's going to be. I love what so many folks do with all of the conversations about weapons, if you will, because an arrow is a weapon. I'll make the observation in a minute about what you can do with a weapon.
We talk a lot about weapons in our country. Gun control is the arrow of the day. There are all kinds of folks who tell you what we have to do with guns or with the arrows of today, that we shouldn't let people have arrows or guns. I'm going to read two things that were written in 1999 that really are relevant to today. One of them was done by Paul Harvey. Paul Harvey wrote this right after the Columbine thing:
"For the life of me, I can't understand what could have gone wrong in Littleton, Colorado. If only the parents had kept their children away from the guns, we wouldn't have had such a tragedy. Yeah, it must have been the guns." Or in this illustration, the helpless arrows. "It couldn't have been because half of our children are being raised in broken homes. It couldn't have been because our children get to spend an average of 30 seconds in meaningful conversation with their parents each day. After all, we give our children quality time.
It couldn't have been because we treat our children as pets and our pets as children. It couldn't have been because we place our children in day care centers where they learn their socialization skills among their peers under the law of the jungle while employees who have no vested interest in the children look on and make sure that no blood is spilled. It couldn't have been because we allow our children to watch, on average, seven hours of television a day filled with the glorification of sex and violence that isn't fit for adult consumption.
It couldn't have been because we allow (or even encourage) our children to enter into virtual worlds in which, to win the game, one must kill as many opponents as possible in the most sadistic way possible. It couldn't have been because we have sterilized and contracepted our families down to sizes so small that the children we do have are so spoiled with material things that they come to equate the receiving of the material with love.
It couldn't have been because our children, who historically have been seen as a blessing from God, are now being viewed as either a mistake created when contraception fails or inconveniences that parents try to raise in their spare time. It couldn't have been because we give two-year prison sentences to teenagers who kill their newborns.
It couldn't have been because our school systems teach the children that they are nothing but glorified apes who have revolutionized out of some primordial soup of mud. It couldn't have been because we teach our children that there are no laws of morality that transcend us, that everything is relative and that actions don't have consequences. What the heck, the president [does stuff he wants to do and] gets away with it. Nah, it must have been the guns."
Do you see what he's saying? It isn't the arrow's fault. In fact, the Scripture says you should train up the arrow in the way it should fly, and when it is sent, it will not depart from it. Now, I want to tell you, there are ricochets in life, and every now and then, an arrow that was sent the right direction will hit a tree and go a different direction, both for good and for bad, but I would not bank on grace and just take my arrow and fire it off and hope God has it bump into something righteous later and redirect it.
Likewise, you're not responsible if, through some incredible fate, you aim that arrow the way it should and it gets deflected and goes a different direction, but what you have to ask yourself is "While it was in my hand, was it cared for? Was it nourished? Was it made straight? Was it shot well or am I going to blame the arrow?'
One of the things I will tell you in Scripture (I said this to my friends in Haiti) is when God sees a problem with a nation, when God sees a problem with a people, when God sees a problem with a church, when God sees a problem with a child, he sees a problem with a leader. So if you have a problem with the people in this country, if you have a problem with children in this country, if you have a problem with people who call themselves Christians in this country, guess where God sees the problem: with the leader, with the dad, with the prophet, with the priest.
We all want to sit around and talk about what's wrong with the arrows, and God says, "Those were your arrows, and you are the ones who left them be." An arrow by itself is useless and helpless. It's the one who uses it who determines its greatness. As a kid, I grew up watching Ozzie Smith play shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. I put that same ball glove on, but when Ozzie Smith puts that ball glove on, it comes alive. I've shot a lot of baskets in my life, played a lot of basketball, but when that basketball is in Michael Jordan's hand, it is a different basketball.
I've seen kids who are in some environments. You pull them out of that environment and put them in some other place where they are loved and cared for and begin to be shepherded, taught truth, held under consequence. They're not pawned off for the television to raise them, not allowed to do what all of their friends are doing or what everybody in society says today is okay, but they're shepherded well, and I see that glove, that ball, that arrow fly differently. I want to be one of those ones.
I want to be one of those individuals that when an arrow is in my quiver, when a person is in my path, I help participate by grace with the Spirit of God to make it great. I have to tell you, I was really humbled this week in Haiti to watch the way 20 folks went down there, and I saw some arrows fly in a way that blessed Haiti, because this church has loaded them well, others have shepherded them, they have cared for each other, and they were a blessing to that nation, just like so many of you are around here. It's the one who uses the arrow who ultimately determines its greatness or its worthlessness.
An arrow will go where you aim it. If I take that arrow and put it on my little bow and I seek to fire that thing off, if I aim at that target, I have a chance to hit it. The old statement says, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." It'll just go everywhere. The great Roman philosopher Seneca is the one who said, basically, "If you don't know what harbor you want to sail to, you'll never know what wind to catch to get you there."
You have to determine, "What is it that I want to produce in this child? What is it that God wants me to produce in this disciple? What does God want me to do in this member of my Community Group? How does God want me to engage with my neighbor? How does he want my life to come alongside him, as iron to sharpen his iron, so he can become more of the man or woman God wants him to be?"
An arrow is going to go where you aim it, and what a nation honors, what a daddy honors, what a mommy honors, what a church honors, a nation becomes, a congregation becomes, a child becomes. Look at Hosea, chapter 4, with me. This is what it says in Hosea 4: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest."
In other words, "You're not going to be my priest. You'll still be a priest, but you're not going to be my priest. You're going to be the kind of priest I talked about in Luke 17, a priest who offends me, who hinders and destroys and confuses others who I want to come to me." A priest is supposed to be somebody who mediates, if you will, between God and man, who helps them reconcile.
We really have only one priest, Jesus Christ. The rest of us are under-shepherds, but we are a kingdom of priests. The question becomes…Are we a good kingdom of priests or are we a wicked kingdom of priests? God says, "Because you've rejected knowledge, you don't have wisdom or understanding, you're not going to be my priest, and I will deal with you." Why?
"Since you have forgotten the law of your God…" Look at what the consequence is. "…I also will forget your children. The more they multiplied, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. They feed on the sin of My people and direct their desire toward their iniquity. And it will be, like people, like priest; so I will punish them for their ways and repay them for their deeds."
The idea there is that everybody, the priest and the children who followed their lack of leadership, are all going to experience the consequence. An arrow will go where it is aimed. That's why God doesn't have a problem with guns. Guns don't kill people; people kill people. Arrows don't kill people. Children don't ruin countries. Ineffective schools that will not teach morality and accountability and help them understand that they aren't here because of chaos, time, and chance… That destroys children.
Parents who don't show what covenant love looks like, parents who are seeing children as a distraction or maybe even seeing them as a source of pleasure to live vicariously through them to make up for all of the failures they had in their life. I want to tell you something. Children don't question a parent's expectations; they question their own value. Kids in today's society are seen all kinds of ways. When you have individuals who view children as an interruption…
Like one gal said, "I'm trying to figure out if I'm going to get a cat or a child. I don't know if I want to ruin a carpet or my life." That's kind of funny, but it lets you know where we've come as a society. Fifty million children in our society… We didn't even want to see their smile or hear their cry. Other children when they come in are forgotten while we continue to live in our little drug-induced state or we chase in an intact family our careers, telling ourselves all the while that what they really want is more and nicer things so they can be happy.
I've never had a kid, not one kid, who came in and was talking about the relationship with their parents and said, "You know what? I had a great dad. I had a really good dad. He was there. He loved me. He spent time with me. He made sacrifices to shepherd me and to be involved with my life, but do you know that every year in August we never once went to Nordstrom's?
My sorry dad… We'd go to T.J. Maxx. We'd go to Marshall's. My mom would wake me up on Saturday to go with her to garage sales to buy stuff, because my dad spent time with me instead of hitting the road and making some cash and getting after it and allowing us to really make it in life. That's why I'm ticked off."
I've never heard it. Not one time. But I have all kinds of kids who have a big ol' trust fund who could not be more confused, could not be more dissatisfied, could not be more pathetic, because their daddy convinced himself what he needed to pass on was financial riches. Nuh-uh. A kid will go where you aim them.
Do you want to do a favor for yourself? Go home and sit your kids down and say, "I want you to write down what your daddy is passionate about, what your mom is passionate about. What are the top two things I really care about?" If God's Word and devotion to Jesus Christ don't show up one and two, then you'd better take a look at your target one more time.
So, arrows by themselves are useless and helpless. It's the one who uses those arrows who determines their greatness. An arrow will go where you aim it. What arrows can be is a source of life, of food, of protection, of blessing, or great pain and destruction. Think about that. You get a guy with a gun, and he can protect you. He can go out and provide food for you. There can be great blessing because a man can use a gun or an arrow well, but they can also cause a ton of pain.
There is no pain like the pain of a godless child. It's grief to a mother. Proverbs 15:20: "A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish man despises his mother." Proverbs 17:25: "A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him." Proverbs 19:13: "A foolish son is destruction to his father…" That's, by the way, why it ends in Psalm 127… If you raise your kids well, you aim them the way they should go, it says he will not be ashamed when they speak with the enemies at the gate.
Why? Because whatever the world wants to say about our crazy belief in God, whatever the world wants to say about our passion for Jesus, whatever the world wants to say about how we're slaves to an ancient myth, when they watch our children live with dignity and morality and honor and selflessness in the public square, we will not be ashamed. In other words, if you do well with your kids, let them mock your faith all day long, but wisdom will vindicate itself by her deeds.
Here's my question: How are the kids of churchgoing families doing at college compared to the kids of non-churchgoing families? Answer: not much different. So we are ashamed in the public square. Do you know why? Because God's goal wasn't that kids grow up in church; God's goal was that kids would grow up loving Christ, walking with him. Too many kids grow up with parents who have a churchianity but not a deep devotion to Jesus Christ.
I want nothing to do with churchianity, and I want everything to do with my life being informed by God's Word and by wisdom building my house and by understanding establishing it and by knowledge filling it with all pleasant and precious things. I want my kids to know this isn't just something we go through life with; this is life. For 18 years, I have the privilege of building into my children and helping them grow and understand what it means to be a Christ follower, and now for 10 years with you. How are we doing?
It's not just how the kids of churchgoing families do when they go to college. How do the workers who go to church on Sunday do compared to workers who don't go to church on Sunday? How do we do in our neighborhoods compared to people who are just taking a jog around White Rock today?
If there is no transformative effect in our lives, if we're not more generous, if we're not more eternally minded, if we're not more holy, if we're not kinder, if we are not more others-centered, then we should be ashamed of ourselves, but, boy, if we train ourselves, if we put ourselves under mighty warriors who love God and can teach us to walk with him, then whatever they want to say about your foolish faith, at the end of the day they'll go, "I can't argue with what they're producing. I can't argue with the way the arrows fly out of that study, out of that community, out of that friendship." That's Psalm 127.
See again. That depth of despair is sometimes something you watch those children experience, but often, it's what we're going to find that our children will create. I want to remind you we are training our future masters. I want to remind you you are training your future caregivers. I want to remind you you are training your future governors and presidents and senators and generals. How are you doing? One of the consequences God allows us to experience when we're a rebellious people and are not attentive to what he wants us to be attentive to is to live underneath those consequences.
A warrior who leaves his arrows unattended is inviting destruction upon himself and his people. In other words, if this is my quiver and I just delegate out my quiver to whoever wants to pick it up, whether it be Hollywood, music, neighbors, friends, or peers… These are valuable commodities. Somebody is going to pick this thing up and load their bow with it, and they're going to fire where they want to fire.
If you don't say, "I'm going to take these folks who are far away and lost, I'm going to take these kids who God has brought to me, I'm going to be the one responsible for raising them and shepherding them," then somebody else is going to pick them up. Charles Manson, who has been interviewed ad nauseum about different things… They asked him one time, "How in the world did you get these kids…?" It's California, many of them very well off. "How did you get these kids to follow you and do the things you told them to do?"
Do you know what Manson said? He said, "They were your children, and you turned them out. I took them in." Manson picked them up. In his distorted, psychotic, broken little mind, he aimed those arrows a different direction, and to this day, our country lives in horror at what they did 40 years ago. Why? Because some warriors left their arrows unattended.
Arrows are a warrior's responsibility while he has them, but once he lets them go… Arrows are eventually useless unless you let them go, but they're your responsibility while you have them. Once you let them go, it's too late for you to be involved in ultimately changing their course, so you have to jump in while you can.
One of the things I love about where we are in Dallas is that some folks are around our church for two, three, four, or five years, and then they're gone. Do you know what I think God is going to say to us as they get transferred by whatever company it is to a different city or something pushes them another way? He goes, "I gave you four years to aim that arrow." Do you know what he's going to say to us?
We're about 10 years old as a church. Our very first crop of kids who are going to go all the way through with us are about to come out of Watermark, and they're no longer our responsibility at that moment, but I have to tell you something. There is a great responsibility while we have them. Once we let them go, we pray for them. We hopefully have raised them up not just to be effective arrows but to be warriors themselves to fire the next generation of arrows very, very well.
As I said, we like to blame kids today. We like to say, "What's wrong with today's generation?" We like to blame our government. "What's wrong with today's government?" Many of us look around and go, "What's wrong with the state of the church in America today?" I'm going to say it's the prophets, it's the priests, it's the parents.
I told you I was going to read you two things. I'm going to read this last one. This one I've read before, and it's one I like to read often, because it reminds me of the fact that when God sees a problem with a people he sees a problem with a leader. I want to call you this morning to be a leader. Before I read this, I have to tell you, you cannot use an arrow wisely unless you commit yourself to being a warrior, unless you discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.
You have to first of all say, "I have to figure out how to get myself trained. I have to go to boot camp. I have to take advantage of these things. I have to raise my hand. I have to get myself in a community where there's somebody in there who's going to love me and shepherd me." It doesn't take as long as you think if you're attentive and if you get around somebody who understands how precious you are in God's sight.
I don't care how old you are. When you're ready to step up and get trained, you can change. It is a lie that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. It is true that that dog has a nature that will want to keep going back to old things, but if you know that those old things are vomit and you're sick of going back to it, you can learn new tricks. The first thing you have to do is say, "I have to get myself trained."
The Marines do it in about 90 days, but it's with intensive submission to somebody who is going to drill you in truth and teach you that your body is not your master, and then you continue and train the rest of your life. I invite you in. If you're here and you've never been discipled, come on. We have stuff going on on Wednesday morning for women, Thursday morning for men. Thursday night we have stuff going on for a whole new generation of folks. We're going to start something really exciting this fall.
We have The Porch on Tuesday. I don't think we're going to call it the "Back Porch," but on Thursday night, if you're an empty-nester and around there, Scott Coy is going to start doing a thing on Thursday night for you to speak specifically into your age group and come up here where you can get yourself taught and discipled, pushed into Community Group where you'll be further taught and further discipled, and we're going to grow you up and unleash you and let you keep firing arrows faithfully.
We want to build into your life. We have Equipped Disciple 1, 2, and 3. We have basic training stuff. We have Training Days. Let us say, "Life on life, we want to build into you." If you are ready to be a warrior, we have men and women who want to learn from you. Take that little perforated section in your Watermark News and say, "I'm a warrior. Where are my men? Give them to me."
The first thing I'm going to do is tell you that if you're a warrior, you would already have arrows in your quiver. How are you doing with them? You tell them to go get some more arrows to jump on that quiver with you or you can say, "I want to be a warrior. I know that's what God designed me for. This arrow has never been trained how to fly. Who can put me in their quiver for a while?" We will disciple you. We'll teach you greatness.
I love this little phrase by this little girl. In 1999, Marcy Musgrave actually wrote a letter to the Dallas Morning News, and this is what she said. This is tough stuff. This is going to be hard for some of you to hear, but it's a great reminder of why God says, "You care for my little ones." She says Generation Next has some questions.
"I am a member of the upcoming generation—the one after Generation X that has yet to be given a name. So far, it appears that most people are rallying behind the idea of calling us Generation Next. I believe I know why. The older generations are hoping we will mindlessly assume our place as the 'next' in line. That way, they won't have to explain why my generation has had to experience so much pain and heartache.
'What heartache?' you say. 'Don't you know you have grown up in a time of great prosperity?' Yeah, we know that. Believe me, it has been drilled into our heads since birth. Unfortunately, the pain and hurt I speak of can't be reconciled with money. You have tried for years to buy us happiness, but it is only temporary. Money isn't the answer, and it is time for people to begin admitting their guilt for failing my generation.
I will admit that I wasn't planning to write this. I was going to tuck it away in some corner of my mind and fall victim to your whole 'next' mentality. But after the massacre in Littleton, CO, I realize that as a member of this generation that kills without remorse, I had a duty to challenge all of my elders to explain why they have allowed things to become so bad.
Let me tell you this: These questions don't represent only me but a whole generation that is struggling to grow up and make sense of this world. We all have questions; we all want explanations. People may label us Generation Next, but we are more appropriately Generation 'Why?'
Why did most of you lie when you made the vow of 'til death do us part'? Why do you fool yourselves into believing that divorce really is better for the kids in the long run? Why do so many of you divorced parents spend more time with your new boyfriend or girlfriend than with your own children? Why did you ever fall victim to the notion that kids are just as well off being raised by a complete stranger at a day care center than by their own mother or father?
Why do you look down on parents who decide to quit work and stay home to raise their children? Why does the television do the most talking at family meals? Why is work more important than your own family? Why is money regarded as more important than relationships? Why is 'quality time' generally no longer than a 5- to 10-minute conversation each day? Why do you try to make up for the lack of time you spend with us by giving us more and more material objects that we really don't need?
Why does your work (in the form of a cell phone, laptop computer, etc.) always come with us on vacations? Why have you neglected to teach us values and morals? Why haven't you lived moral lives that we could model our own after? Why isn't religion one of the most important words in our household? Why do you play God when it comes to abortion? Why don't you have enough faith in us to teach us abstinence rather than safe sex?
Why do you allow us to watch violent movies but expect us to maintain some type of childlike innocence? Why do you allow us to spend unlimited amounts of time on the Internet but still are shocked about our knowledge of how to build bombs? Why are you so afraid to tell us 'no' sometimes? Why is it so hard for you to realize that school shootings, and other violent juvenile behavior, result from a lack of your attention more than anything else?
Call us Generation Next if you want to, but I think you will be surprised at how we will fail to fit into your neat little category. These questions should, and will, be asked of the generations that have failed us. You have pursued your selfish desires for years, but now is the time to reap what you have sown.
Some rude awakenings like the Littleton massacre have occurred and probably will continue until you can begin to answer our questions and make the drastic changes to put us, your kids, first. Time is running out, for in just a few short years, we will be grown, and it will be too late. You might not think we are worth it, but I can guarantee you that Littleton will look like a drop in the bucket compared to what might occur when a neglected Generation 'Why' comes to power."
That's well written. What I want to say to the generation Marcy represents is bad parents are a fact; they are not an excuse. You will be accountable for how you ultimately fly, as will the warriors that should have aimed you, but God is the Father of the fatherless. Some of you guys are 60 and have never had a daddy. You never had a man disciple you. Some women here are still deeply scarred because they grew up in a home that was not led by a warrior of Jesus Christ.
I want to introduce you to the God of grace. I want to invite you to come, and we want to reparent you, even as we ourselves learn to walk like our Father in heaven who loves every one of us and who is tender, especially toward those of you who have been abused or neglected or forgotten, but you have to come out of that broken world you're living in and say, "Okay. Is there somebody who can teach me to love? Is there somebody who can teach me to forgive myself and even teach me to forgive my warrior?"
Yes, there is. His name is Jesus, and by the grace of God, we are his people, and we want you to come. We're not going to tell you to feel stupid because of what you don't know. We're going to set you on that little bow of Christ and that life of grace, and we're going to let you find how useful you can be when you're aimed by a Spirit that is holy, true, and good.
We have a bunch of kids over there who need you to jump in with a bunch of folks who are trained to love them. We have a bunch of people in this community who are Marcy's age and older who need you to step up and say, "I'm going to love you, and I'm going to invite you in. Come with me Thursday. Come with me Wednesday. Come with me Sunday. Be there Tuesday. Let my life get along yours."
Do you know what God's plan is for this world? It's your life on another life while you have on your heart what's on the heart of God. If you have God's heart, you go get them. If you don't, you come. Let's pray.
Father, we want to be a body that is consumed with that which you say we should be consumed with, that we should be a people of passion, that we should have one target in mind, and that is the lives that are honoring to you, that set our hearts on the things above and not on the things that are on the earth. So we close today with a simple prayer: Father, would you give us one pure and holy passion? Would you give us one magnificent obsession? Will you teach us to run hard after you and to be a disciple in the truth?
Whether we have already been discipled and need to teach others, even as we learn, or whether we need today to step up and go, "Okay. So the leaders before me failed. That is not my excuse to keep failing myself," I pray there would be some who would come today and say, "I want to know somebody who knows a good dad who can reparent me and lead me to a life of grace and greatness." I pray they'd come, I pray we'd be faithful, and I pray you'd fill us now with that which pleases you, amen.