Fatherhood Survival

This morning, we come together to celebrate and honor fathers.  Fatherhood is one of life’s greatest adventures, joys, and at times, challenges.  One thing that we quickly learn as a parent is that you never know what to expect when it comes to your kids.
They can say or do some of the most amazing things that leave you in awe of who they are.  They can also say or do things that leave you in awe in not such a good way.  As parents, we’ve all had those, “What were you thinking?” moments!
(pics of kids) I’m still in the early fatherhood stages myself.  I made it through the infant and toddler years and am just beginning into the teen years.  Thankfully, Nathaniel’s way of flirting with the ladies right now is to put on his Darth Vader mask and chase after them with his light saber.  It’s a reminder, though, that I’m on the verge of a whole new set a challenges as a father.  He’s growing up in a world much different than the one that I did!
It felt at the time like I’d never get through each stage of these times, but looking back, I sure do miss some of those early years!  As we continue throughout these stages, we learn to make the most of each challenge because they are so critical to the growth and maturity of both us as well as our children.
Think about it, how better to grow the spiritual fruit of patience and gentleness and self control than to deal with a relentlessly whiny child without becoming whiny and throwing a temper tantrum yourself?  How better to learn to be slow to anger than when you walk into the bathroom to find your child, and the entire room, covered in baby lotion, oil, and powder?  How much better can we understand the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father and His discipline that hurts Him as much as it hurts us than to be a father ourselves and to discipline our own children?  All of the challenges that our children put us through force us to grow and mature more than we ever would on our own.
This morning, all the guys received a gift.  This survival bracelet will help us to remember some critical tips in surviving fatherhood.  Whether you’re a future father or already a father of a father, these five necessities stand the test of time.  We desperately need these things whatever stage of life that we find ourselves in!
1. Compass – Holy Spirit
In the same way that we can rely on a compass to always point us in the right direction, so the Holy Spirit remains constant and will always guide us back to our own Heavenly Father, no matter where we may find ourselves.  Jesus said:
John 16:12-13
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
Just like a good father, the Holy Spirit is always future-minded.  What’s done is done, what’s in the past will always remain there, and all that we can do is move forward.  Like a compass, the Holy Spirit always guides us forward into what is yet to come.  God, the perfect Father, has good plans for us.  He has plans to prosper and not to harm us; to give us hope and a future.
As Fathers, we should always seek after the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things.  We also need to teach our children to do the same.  We need to train them how to hear from the Holy Spirit and how to follow His guidance.
2. Blade – Word of God
We’re reminded in Ephesians chapter six that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit.  As fathers, we teach our children that there is a time to turn the other cheek and a time to fight.  We also get to teach them not only when to fight, but also how to fight and defend themselves when the time comes to take a firm stand.
Ephesians 6:13-18
13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Of course, the best way to teach our children these things as a father is for them to see us doing it ourselves.  As guys, it isn’t natural for us to show our weaknesses, especially to those who we are called to protect and provide for.  However, when our children see us fighting the battles that lie in our weaknesses, we show them in the post powerful and effective way how they can also gain victory in their own battles.
The word of God will never fail us.  His words are true and will remain constant even after this world is long gone.  It is on His word alone that we can stand and stand firm.  It is on His word alone that we are sure to gain the victory in every battle.
Not only do we stand on God’s word alone, but we also stand with one another.  This scripture leads us into our next item.
Proverbs 27:17
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
3. Buckle/Paracord – Brotherhood
The buckle and paracord reminds us that no man needs to fight his battles alone.  As men, we may be strong on our own, but we’re better together.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
9 Two are better than one,
  because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
  one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
  and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
  But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
  two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
The truth is that we need each other.  We all stumble and fall in many different ways, but together, we can help each other stand firm and overcome our common enemy.  No matter what we might be going through, we do not need to go through it alone.  We’re here for one another, so we need to learn to reach out to one another as brothers in arms in our times of need.
4. Whistle – Battle Cry
That leads us to the whistle.  This whistle is to remind us to make that call.  Think of that call not as a call of shame or of our weakness, but as a battle cry.  Think of it as the battle cry that rallies together your brothers in Christ.  When Isaiah was prophesying about the coming of Jesus, he said:
Isaiah 42:10-17
10 Sing to the Lord a new song,
  his praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
  you islands, and all who live in them.
11 Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices;
  let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice.
Let the people of Sela sing for joy;
  let them shout from the mountaintops.
12 Let them give glory to the Lord
  and proclaim his praise in the islands.
13 The Lord will march out like a champion,
  like a warrior he will stir up his zeal;
with a shout he will raise the battle cry
  and will triumph over his enemies.
14 “For a long time I have kept silent,
  I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
  I cry out, I gasp and pant.
15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills
  and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn rivers into islands
  and dry up the pools.
16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
  along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
  and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
  I will not forsake them.
17 But those who trust in idols,
  who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’
  will be turned back in utter shame.
Let this whistle be a reminder that when you feel alone and defeated, you are anything but.  Lift up your voice.  Give out a shout of worship.  Sing to the Lord a new song from you heart.  Raise the battle cry.  Let your brothers in Christ come running in and together, triumph over your enemy.  He’ll learn to back off the more and more that he hears that cry.  That sound will become a cause of terror and trembling within your enemy the more and more that we learn to use it.
5. Fire stick – Ignite a Fire
Finally, we have the fire stick.  When flint and steel collide, the sparks that come from it are awesome.  Those sparks have the ability to quickly set tinder and kindling aflame and could be the start of setting millions of acres of property ablaze.
Jesus has called us the light of the world.  He’s calling us, especially as men of God, to take His light into the darkness.  He’s calling us to spark a fire for God in the lives of others, especially our children, and to fan it brightly into flame.  There are just too many Biblical references to mention on this one!  Our God is truly an all consuming fire and His Holy Spirit within us burns brightly so long as we do not quench and extinguish Him.  In fact, this is one of the reasons that Jesus came:
Luke 12:49
I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!
John also said about Jesus:
Matthew 3:11
I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
We need to kindle the fire of God in our lives.  We need to not be ashamed of it, but to let it consume us and burn brightly for all to see.  This is something that God has just created within the fabric of us guys.  We love fire.  We can’t just light a fire and sit back and watch it.  If we notice a piece of wood on the outskirt of the fire, we just have to shove it into the red hot embers so that it is consumed, too.  We just can’t help ourselves but to play in a fire!
In fact, this was one of the priestly duties of God, a way to actually serve and worship Him:
Leviticus 6:12-13
12 The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. 13 The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.
In the same way that we have a natural desire to keep a fire going at our campsite, that same natural desire is there to keep the fire of God burning in our lives and in the lives of others.  If we see someone growing lukewarm in their faith, we should urge them closer into the Lord’s Presence where they will be set ablaze once again on fire for Him!  If we feel ourselves tempted to quench the Holy Spirit in our lives, this same desire should override it so that our fire doesn’t fade away, but is kept burning strong and brightly.
This morning, may this survival bracelet be more than a cool toy.  May it remind us of all of these things that we need to not only survive fatherhood, but to thrive as fathers and as men of God!
Salt & Light