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Mothers’ Day 2013 - Arrows From Heaven

Psalm 127 - 128

Here is one thing we know for certain: God has a heart for children and his heart grieves today for the suffering and pain. Our children are gifts from God. We should treasure them and not take them for granted. Jesus declared that "whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me" (Mathew 18:5). Then he offered this solemn warning, "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea" (Matthew 18:6). Jesus loves children, and those who harm children will answer to him. It’s a Different World Now Adults don’t always realise the kind of world our children face and how it has changed. Kids in the ’30s grew up during the Depression when times were hard, everybody had to work, and a pound was a lot of money. Kids in the ’40s grew up with World War II and Frank Sinatra. Kids in the ’50s grew up with hula hoops and Elvis Presley. Kids in the ’60s grew up with the Beatles and LSD. Kids in the ’70s grew up with disco and Saturday Night Fever. Kids in the ’80s grew up with crack cocaine, AIDS, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Nintendo. Kids in the ’90s grew up with the Simpsons. Kids in 2000’s grow up with the Internet, Facebook and Twitter. It’s a different world out there. Raising Kids Then and Now Is it harder to raise kids today? 1940s - teachers dealt with -Running in the corridors, Chewing gum, having your shirttail out, Making too much noise, Not putting paper in wastebaskets. 1980s onwards – Robbery, Assault, Personal theft, Burglary, Drug abuse. Times have changed - not for the better. Our kids see more, know more, experience more - they grow up so much faster. Dr. James Dobson: "We must make the salvation of our children our number one priority. Nothing else is more important." That represents a Christian view that places an extremely high value on our children as precious gifts from God. We turn to Psalm 127-128 - 2 short psalms placed together for a reason. They speak of happy domestic peace that seems far removed from the terror that many experience today - teach us how God feels about children and how they can be a blessing and not a burden.

1. Children are a Gift from God 127: 3

Children come directly from the hand of God. They are gifts of grace sent from heaven to earth. God takes personal responsibility for the creation of life in the womb. Genesis 30: 18 "God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant." Genesis 33: 5 "The children God has graciously given your servant." Genesis 48: 9 "The sons God has given me." Deuteronomy 7: 13 "He will bless the fruit of your womb." Children are a special sign of God’s favour. Instead of building empires, parents must first build a family. Children are a "heritage" from God, a way of preserving the family into the next generation. All of us want to be remembered after we are gone. If you are a parent, you will be remembered by the children you leave behind. That legacy will remain long after your personal achievements have been forgotten. Sometimes a couple can’t have children for various reasons. This does not say that not having children is a sign of God’s judgment. It simply declares that children are a blessing from the Lord. In holding up this truth, it’s important that we say what the Bible says and not go beyond that. What about those couples that desperately want children but cannot have them? Those couples often become parents to the children of the world. They are the ones who minister to the fatherless and the motherless. Often they adopt children, they become foster parents, they work in a crisis pregnancy centre, they teach Sunday School and they reach out to at-risk children. So many children have no one who cares for them. God bless those adults who show the love of Jesus to the children of the world. There is no pleasure in life that can equal the pleasure of seeing your own children grow up. So much like you, made in your image, a miniature of you, yet so very different. They walk like you, they talk like you, they laugh like you, and yet they definitely have a mind of their own. No one can be said to have lived in vain who leaves behind children who love the Lord and follow in his steps. 3 John 4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." Children bring God’s love to us. There are no atheists in the nursery. When you look into the face of your child, you will know that only God could have done this. Your doubts will vanish like the morning mist in summertime. Time and eternity meet in the heart of a child. Each one comes bearing the fingerprint of God. The Lord Jesus loved little children … and so should we!

2. Children are like Arrows that need to be Sharpened and Aimed 127: 4

An arrow is small but powerful. Think what our children can do. An arrow must be sharpened well. So must we shape our children. An arrow can travel far. Who knows how far our children will go? An arrow must be aimed in order to hit the target. What are you aiming at? Archers spend countless hours preparing their arrows. They carefully choose the right piece of wood, cut it to size, spend hours polishing, shaping and fitting the feathers and the arrowhead. They carefully aim their arrows because an errant arrow can do great harm. Statement, written 100 years ago -"Parents must not trifle with their children, like idiots playing with sharp tools." I agree. Too many parents trifle with their children then wonder why they don’t turn out well. What is your aim for your children? Most Christian parents live hoping our children won’t smoke, won’t drink, won’t do drugs, won’t sleep around and won’t get in trouble. As good as that is, that’s too low a goal for Christian parents. We ought to raise our children to learn how to change the world for Jesus Christ. Learn to be impact players in the world for Jesus Christ. Sometimes our dreams for our children are too small. We want them to get an education, find a career, settle down, marry a good person and move out of the house. That’s not enough. Do you want your children to serve the Lord? It won’t happen by accident. You must sharpen them like arrows and aim them in the right direction.

3. Children are the Strength of the Home 127: 5

Large families are a special sign of God’s blessing. How full is "full?" Like asking "How long is long hair?" The Bible doesn’t specify how many children you should have, but in every place it speaks to the subject, children are always a blessing. Not all Bible families were large, of course, but many were. God doesn’t mandate how many children a couple should have. Quivers are like shoes, they come in many sizes. Work out what size quiver you have and then ask God to help you fill it. Age and health play a part - but motive is also important. Children were the Biblical old age pensions. They provided for their parents in their old age. If parents have loving children, their future is more secure than if they had R5m in the bank. The city gate was the place where men of power and influence conducted their business. It was also the place where wise men ruled and made judgments. Men would meet their adversaries "in the gate." A father with many children has many defenders when he is falsely accused. They stand and testify to his good name. "Your enemies don’t stand a chance against you; you’ll sweep them right off the doorstep" (Psalm 127:5 Message). Here is a family united to defend itself against all attacks. Nothing is said about money or power or position. God’s blessing is not seen in worldly wealth or the accumulation of "things" but in a happy family that rallies to the call whenever trouble comes. This is a word to workaholic husbands (and wives): What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and yet loses his own family? Raising children can be tiresome and difficult. Children are both a burden and a blessing. The greater their promise, the more challenging will be the task of raising God’s children. Our children will be a handful before they become a quiver full.

4. Children are the Hope of the Home 128: 3, 4

The vine is a symbol of charm and beauty. The woman in this verse offers a marked contrast to the faithless woman of Proverbs 7: 11 - "She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home." In this Psalm the wife is attractive, charming and faithful. God’s ideal is not for a marriage to endure, but to grow happier and better and more enjoyable. The vine makes the house beautiful. It shades the verandah, cools the house and enriches the table with ripe, succulent grapes. Thus is a godly wife to her husband. She is the crown of her husband who is her support and strength. He is happy everywhere because he is happiest at home. Olive shoots speak of great potential for the future. Mature olive trees produce fruit, wood and valuable oil. In the same way the children given by God have vast potential for good in this world. What a privilege God gives us to be caretakers of his vessels of blessing for the world. No one can tell what a child may become. 6 Important Conclusions 1. Children are a gift from God and happy families are a gift from God. They do not come by human effort or from government policy but only from the hand of God above. 2. God’s blessings are available to anyone who seeks them. The only thing God asks is that his people fear him and obey his commandments. Money and worldly success are nothing measured against the joy of a happy family where mom and dad love each other, the children respect their parents and together they meet around to share their joys and sorrows. 3. We must recapture the high value of the family, of monogamous marriage, of abstinence before marriage and a happy life together after marriage. We must teach our children that true love waits, that marriage is desirable, that motherhood is a noble calling, that being a godly father is more important than being a CEO and driving a BMW, that a loving family is worth more than all the gold in our mines, that sexual promiscuity leads only to sorrow and heartache, and that our children are worth all the love, all the effort, and all the investment of our time and resources. 4. I think we need to honour our fathers and mothers, and our grandparents and great-grandparents. At the same time we must not overlook those who have chosen the single life or those who for various reasons cannot have children. 5. I think our church ought to emphasize the role that godly fathers play and the high calling of motherhood and homemaking. I also believe we are fully justified in spending money on our ministries to children and youth because our children represent the hope of the future. 6. We must continue to support our single parents, step-parents, foster parents, adopted children and those in blended families. Many times their burden is great because the happy family portrait of Psalm 128 is not fully achievable. Those individuals need our support, not our condemnation. We live in a world that downplays the value of childhood and causes our kids to grow up too fast. It’s never been easy to be a child, but today the pressures are greater than ever. I believe happy families are still possible where God’s Word is taken seriously. We can partner with the Lord Jesus Christ in the building of our homes. When we do, our families will be blessed, our children will prosper, our marriages will flourish and Jesus Christ will be praised. When our work on earth is done, we may look back with joy and say, "God blessed us with a happy Christian family." There is no greater reward, no better testimony, no higher goal for Christian parents. If we can say that when the day is done, we may go out of this world singing, knowing that we prevailed in the one area of life that matters the most. (Invite parents and grandparents - commit themselves to pray for their children. Pray for God to protect our children from those who would harm them - that they would have bold faith to speak up for Jesus no matter the cost. Ask God to save those who are living far from the Lord. Pray for your children and grandchildren that they would serve the Lord. Be sure to hug your children today and tell them you love them. You never know what tomorrow may bring.)

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