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Entries in Mothers (3)

Monday
May152017

A Woman Who Follows Jesus

Philippians 2:1-4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Mother’s Day Sunday, 5/14/2017.

There are many voices today that promise women a better life by offering some philosophy or way of approaching life.  However, most of them are various ideas that come from the same source, the spirit of this age.  So women have a choice they can listen to the spirit of this age and go after the things that it promises by the ways it promotes (self fulfillment, self love, self adulation), or they can listen to the Spirit of God calling to them, “Save yourselves from this wicked and perverse generation!”

It is important to recognize that women have had a tough road throughout history.  Too often, men are guilty of not recognizing this and not loving women as we should.  So women need encouragement.  Yet, like any of us, they also need challenged.  Women are not inherently drawn to do things right.  They have the same battles with the sin nature as men do.  I believe our passage today has a good balance of encouragement and yet also challenge for God’s people, including women.  In fact, this is a hallmark of the Bible.  On one hand it recognizes our weakness and does much to give us encouragement and comfort.  Yet, on the other hand, it also recognizes our spiritual lethargy and does much to wake us up and get up headed on the right path.  Let’s look at our passage today.

She has much in Christ

In this passage Paul is trying to encourage Christians to have unity.  But he starts with a series of things that we all have in Jesus.  He uses a grammatical device of a series of conditionals.  These are intended to remind them of the fact that each of these conditionals is understood to be rhetorical.  Of course we who are Christians have all of these things.  There is no “if” about it.  This is going to be critical later.  But just understand that Paul is highlighting our relationship with Jesus.  We have everything that we need in this world without having to clamor and strive against others to get it because of our relationship with Jesus.  Christians are called to quit looking to the world for fulfillment and start receiving from Jesus all he has for us.  So what do we have in him?

The first “if” is consolation in Christ.  This word may give you the idea of a consolation prize.  Who wants that?  The word has the idea of calling someone to your side in order to speak to them.  Thus it is generally connected to some kind of help, encouragement, comfort, or even advice.  In Jesus we have this relationship in which the God of heaven calls us to His side and He speaks into our life those things that we need to hear.  You could say that the “if” statement does more than remind.  It can also be a testing question operating in such a way as to question.  Are you receiving this from Jesus or are you blocking his words into your life?  There is no question that it is available and at work in the life of a Christian, but sometimes we are not so cooperative with the Spirit of God.

The next “if” is comfort of love.  It is still understood to be “in Christ.”  The comfort of God’s love for us, especially through the person and work of Jesus, is immense.  When one thinks about how Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, it leaves one with a powerful sense of God’s love for them.  However, the love of Christ also comes to us through other Christians who are also cooperating with God’s design to love others.  In fact, everything that we see around us becomes a testimony of the love of God intended to help us.  We are swimming in His provision and grace.  What a comfort that gives to our hearts, “if” we are seeing it and resting in it.

Next we are reminded of the fellowship of the Spirit.  “Fellowship” refers to the emotional bond that we have with other Christians by the Holy Spirit.  It starts with an inner relationship with the Holy Spirit.  He speaks to us and teaches us to follow Jesus.  When we connect with other believers who are doing the same thing, we have a powerful, shared experience of listening to the Holy Spirit.  This shared experience of learning to trust the Lord gives us a bond that is more than emotional; it is even spiritual.  When we connect with others of “like Spirit,” we have fellowship with them.  This also refers to the common lot, and common place that we have in this group we call Christians.  We have dropped away from the spirit of this world and taken our place among those who are following Jesus through the Holy Spirit. 

Lastly we are reminded of the affection and mercy of Christ.  Affection is a reference to the knowledge that God deeply cares about us, which leads to his compassionate mercy towards us.  His emotions have and do lead to actions of mercy in our life.

In all of these things there is a direct reception of them from Christ spiritually.  However, there is also an indirect reception of them through those who belong to Christ.  Granted, this is received imperfectly because it is flowing through imperfect people to a person who imperfectly receives.  That is why Paul is writing this letter.   Think about how often we wonder why God is “holding out on us,” (insert thing you want here).  Yet, at the same time He is daily pouring out such wonderful treasures upon us, directly and indirectly.  The real question is this.  Are you taking time to open yourself up to Jesus and when you do are you receiving it or are you pushing it away?  It is when we are filled with what Jesus has for us that we are enabled to get along with others, and this is directly where Paul wants to go with this.

She can have much with others also

If we have all this stuff from Jesus then it should be possible for us to be unified with other believers.  Our relationships become better because we no longer seek to satisfy ourselves by them.  Instead we are fulfilled by the vast and amazing grace that Jesus pours out upon us daily.  Before we talk about our relationship with other believers, it is important to recognize that this applies to our relationship with unbelievers, too.  Instead of needing something from them, we can love them fully and without selfish ambition because we have all that we need from Jesus.  Yet, having all that we need in Christ can never mean that we disconnect from others and become apathetic towards them.  It is Jesus himself who whispers in our ear, “Love them with my love.  Regardless of how difficult it may be, show them who I am.”

In our passage Paul points, in verse 2, to the need for believers to get along and to have a unity of heart, mind and soul.  Think of it.  We can have unity because we are no longer looking at each other as some kind of payday.  Jesus is our source.  Yes, he may use others.  But it is not dependent upon them.  His list in verse 2 goes through three aspects of our inner being that need to be unified with other believers.  He mentions the mind twice.  Love is generally connected to the heart.  And the word translated “one accord” in the NKJV literally means “same-souled (inner life).”  Now, the world recognizes the power of unity.  It has its own attempt at unity which usually employs a kind of dog-eat-dog system in order to see whose mind, heart, and soul gets to dominate the group.  But this is not the way of Christ.  You see, Paul wants us to have unity around the mind, heart, and soul of Jesus Christ.  It is his mind that should instruct us and lead us.  As we each surrender to Jesus, we are enabled to have unity with one another and Christ’s love can flow through us to each other.

So, what are the things that typically get in the way of Christians having unity?  Verse 3 tells us to put away selfish ambition and conceit.  When we adopt such attitudes and vices, they destroy our unity.  The word translated “selfish ambition” is actually one word.  It was used by the Greeks for those whose political electioneering was underhanded and marked by unfair means.  Such a person was willing to do anything in order to get ahead, to get what they wanted.  Now the word for “conceit” is a compound word that has the idea of vain glory, or empty pride.  Such pride is empty because it has nothing to offer others.  It is always selfish and sucks the life out of everyone that it touches.  A good metaphor would be a dark, rain cloud.  A farmer who is longing for rain is excited when they see a rain cloud.  Imagine that the cloud works very hard at looking like a good rain cloud, but in the end it sails on past and only sucks up more moisture.  Such are those who are conceited.  They work hard at looking good, but they are only good for themselves.  In fact, they are not even that.  One day they will approach their death bed and how empty they will be on that day.  They will look back with sorrow on all the relationships that they sucked the life out of, like some kind of vampiric beast.  They will be left empty in the end.  And, standing before God one day, they will be empty of anything to avoid their fate.  If we want true unity of the Holy Spirit, then we have to reject the voices and the spirit of this age, which incessantly stir up angst within us, calling us to selfish ambition and conceit.  So if these should be avoided, then what should we embrace?

The second half of verse 3 and all of verse 4 point us to the need for a humble opinion of ourselves and the need to esteem others above ourselves.  When we walk into a room our sinful nature seeks to find those ways in which we are better than others.  We tend towards an inflated view of self that affects our relationships.  So what does it mean to esteem others above self?  I don’t think it means to put yourself down in the sense of hating yourself and thinking that you have nothing to offer.  Rather, it is when we see all the ways that others are better than us.  In the world this is a threat.  But in Christ it is part of His grace to us.  Yes, we want Him to put all wisdom within us.  But in the end He scatters His gifts of wisdom, and yet for each of our benefit.  Even then we need to get to such a lowly place precisely because that is the place we need to get to if we are going to actually help others.  You cannot help others full of yourself.  God will bless you through others.  But that is not to be your focus.  Your focus is to be on Jesus and receiving from Him what you can then turn and give to others.

So ladies, and guys too, who are you following?  The next time you find yourself annoyed with someone and fighting with them over something, take time to stop and think.  What do I think I lack, and why do I think this person can give it to me?  Lord, forgive us for making others our source, for looking to others in the way that we should only look to you.  Lord, help us to walk in unity with other believers so that the world might see and know that you are a glorious savior.

A Woman who follows Jesus audio

Tuesday
May122015

Motherhood in Perspective

Today is Mother’s Day and as such we are going to talk about how important it is for mother’s to keep things in proper perspective.  By way of illustration I am going to read a short letter from a college student to her parents, which has no known origin.  By the way, this letter is not purported to be an actual letter, but was more than likely created to emphasize how perspective affects our outlook.  Here is the letter:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Just thought I’d drop you a note to clue you in on my plans.  I’ve fallen in love with a guy called Jim.  He quit high school after grade eleven to get married.  About a year ago he got a divorce.  We’ve been going steady for two months and plan to get married in the fall.  Until then, I’ve decided to move into his apartment (I think I might be pregnant).  At any rate, I dropped out of school last week, although I’d like to finish college sometime in the future.  (Letter continued on the next page)…

Mom and Dad, I just want you to know that everything I’ve written so far in this letter is false.  None of it is true.  But, Mom and Dad, it IS true that I got a C- in French and flunked my math class…and it IS true that I’m going to need some more money for my tuition payments.

Being a mom is a difficult task that presents a unique set of challenges.  Yet, it is easy to lose perspective about it.  What is it I am really supposed to do?  What is success and what is failure?  Today we are going to look at three phases of life for moms: before being a mother, during the child rearing years, and after the kids leave the house.

Is Motherhood To Be Desired?

Over the last century being a mother has come to be a despised thing in some circles.  Whether it is Margaret Sanger calling for a 10 year moratorium on child births in the 1940’s or modern arguments that refer to motherhood as an enemy to women, a mom and dad raising a kid have much to overcome.  So, for a young woman, a very serious question to wrestle with is this: Is motherhood to be desired?  Is it some ancient form of slavery and restriction of women?  Does it necessarily ruin your professional and marital life?

Now before we deal with this question, I want to recognize that there are many women who, for one reason or another, have not or cannot have children.  I do not intend to diminish the difficulties of desiring to give birth to a child and being told you can’t.  Let me just say to those who are in that situation, trust God and talk with Him about your desires.  He may have something different for you that can be just as rewarding, whether becoming a foster parent, simply blessing kids around you, or mothering children spiritually.  So don’t make the act of birthing a baby of your own, the end all, of life and purpose.

Let’s go back to the question of the desirability of being a mother.  In Genesis 1:27-28, we see that motherhood is part of God’s design for women.  A man and woman coming together in a committed relationship to create the next generation is part of God’s design of humanity.  Whatever motherhood is, women were designed for it and it is not just a good thing, it is a God thing.

We also see in this Genesis passage that God refers to this process with the metaphor of being fruitful.  This is a powerful picture because no one would say that a tree without fruit is useless, and yet a tree that has fruit is something quite different altogether.  Throughout the Bible fruitfulness is more than physically giving birth to a child.  It is at its core a giving of life.  Yes, a child is birthed.  But it must be cared for and nurtured for it to be able to come to a point where it can live on its own.  Thus a woman’s fruitfulness is more than giving birth.  It is her ability to come alongside of another and give life to them.  This can be done regardless of one’s ability to conceive.  In fact the case can be made that the physical fruitfulness becomes a curse if the higher fruitfulness of physical and spiritual nurturing is neglected.  Rotten teens are not an argument against raising children.  They are an argument against the lack of a higher order of birthing that must happen.  The conception to birth process can be seen as an analogy of the higher order process that brings a child from birth into adult society.

In Psalm 127:3-4 we are told that children are an inheritance from the Lord.  In other words it is a portion that he has for many women that they can enjoy and tend to it.  It is not the only possible inheritance for women in life (If you are unable to have children recognize that God has an inheritance for you).  But neither should it be slighted as undesirable.

Motherhood is something that is good and desirable.  Take time to walk with God and He will make it clear if you are to be a mother or not.  Don’t lose perspective of the fact that you will come to the end of your life and there will be no going back.  Yes, we all have regrets, but don’t wall yourself off from motherhood without first spending the time in prayer to seek God’s will.

Am I A Failure As A Mother?

Once a woman has had a child, or more, it is very common to be plagued with doubts as to your success at it.  In fact they are very rarely doubts.  Generally you may feel quite sure that you have failed at it.  In Psalm 119:105, we are told that the Word of God is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  Thus, if you feel that you are a failure and don’t know what to do, turn to God for wisdom.  Let His Word shed light on what you should do. 

James picks up on this in James 1:5.  However, he not only counsels us to let God’s Word be a light to our path, but also counsels us to pray and ask for it.  Reading God’s Word is the content side, but we also have a spiritual and emotional side.  Spend time in prayer asking for wisdom to raise your child.  On top of this we can take our anxieties and worries, and put them in God’s hands because we know that He cares for us both emotionally and practically.

Now here are some rapid-fire encouragements that all of us know, but need to hear often.  Be realistic in how you judge yourself.  We can expect far too much of ourselves and our children.  In fact, a unrealistic expectation can make our “failures” even worse, by an unhealthy emphasis on perfection.  Relax and realize that you are not God.  There is only so much that you can do.  God does not expect you to be super-mom.  But you can be a supernatural mom by relying on God for His help.

Also, learn to prioritize.  Priorities help you to decide between what is going to get done and what isn’t.  Being a parent is one of those jobs that is never done and you’re always on the clock.  Many things that we see as failures are simply our limitations as a human.  You can’t do everything and God doesn’t expect it from you.  Prayerfully set priorities that make the really important things primary and the not so important things tertiary at best.

Another important thing is to find some friends that can understand what it means to be a mother.  The power of being able to talk with someone who understands us cannot be underestimated.  Don’t wall yourself off from others because you are such a “miserable failure.”  Isolation can make a person feel lonely even when they are surrounded by family.  So purposefully counteract it by seeking out friends who are raising kids themselves.  Alongside this, you can pray for God to lead you to a good mentor who is further along in life, a seasoned mom who can help you gain perspective.  In the now it feels like it is never going to end.  But a mom who has raised her kid can help keep you encouraged.  Normally this would be your mom and/or grandma.  But if this isn’t an option for you, don’t sit there.  Proactively seek out a mentor.

Lastly, moms, trust God.  Ultimately this is what we all have to do.  Many kids have come from horrible homes and grown up to become amazing servants of God and society.  So clearly you don’t have to be perfect for them to become all God wants them to be.  However, this is not an advocacy for not even caring.  You will have to give account to God for how you raised your kids, but not in the perfectionist way that you often do to yourself.  Your kid is going to grow up and make their own decisions.  You will be a powerful influence on them, but yet only an influence.  It doesn’t take perfection to do a good job; it just takes a love that is willing to be perfected.  “Lord, teach me to love my kids as You would have me!”

What now?

It is called the empty nest syndrome.  Some people look forward to the empty nest with far too much glee and, yet, others dread it with far too much gloom and depression.  A hyper-desire for what is down the road can adversely affect our actions in the now.  No, you don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to be engaged in the here and now.  Emotional abandonment can be a very heavy thing to place upon the shoulders of a child.  On the other hand, those who are depressed over the emptying of their nest can develop an unhealthy selfishness and lack of faith that God has other good things ahead for you.  If God gave you kids to enjoy then He will be faithful to give you things to enjoy at the next stage.  Yes, all you have known for the last 20-30 years is suddenly gone and you face an unknown future.  But you have been there before.  The same God who has led you to this point has a plan forward.  Take His hand and rejoice!

We see such attitude in Hebrews 11:24-27.  Moses is given a task by God.  He knew what was being asked on the macro-level.  But there was much ahead that required trusting God.  Surrender to the next stage and let God lead you forward just as God led Moses.  There is a reward ahead.  This highly transitional time can go in many different directions and will definitely go through several transitions.  Some of them will be your choices, and yet, some of them may not.  Many a couple has emptied the nest only to immediately be presented with failing parents who need their care.  Or perhaps you have an adult child who has special needs and will never be able to live on their own.  Many things can lie ahead: grandkids, travel, new professions, hobbies, and expanded horizons.  No one thing is necessary for you to have a full and rewarding life.  The only thing you really need is to trust God as He leads you into the next phase of your life.

Let me close with a passage in Titus 2:1-4.  Here Paul encourages the older women to help the younger women to see the importance of loving their husbands and children.  Though he doesn’t use this word, I would see this as mentoring.  You have alot of experience that you can share with younger women.  It should not come across as a “know-it-all” attitude.  In fact mentoring is not so much about showing a young mother what she is doing wrong (this can short-cut her own learning and developing process).  At its heart is one woman telling another woman that, if she will lean on Jesus, she will be woman enough to meet the daunting things in her life.  Encourage them and keep them trusting in Jesus and His wisdom.  And, a practical tip from time to time won’t hurt at all ;)

Motherhood in Perspective audio

Tuesday
May142013

The Holy Spirit Helps Moms

This was Mother’s Day weekend and so we want to be thankful for moms and encourage them.  I am going to use the series we have been doing on the Holy Spirit to do exactly that.  However, I also want this to be an exercise for all of us in which we see how to take biblical truth and apply it to our particular life.

Being a mom is often a thankless job.  We do not want to be like the 9 lepers who did not return and thank Jesus.  We need to often go back to the moms in our life and recognize what they have done for us. 

Now, moms and dads are tasked with raising their family for God and being a continuous influence towards Him on into their lives.  We see this early in the Scriptures in Deuteronomy 6.  Parents are instructed to teach the Word of God and thus the Ways of God to their kids as they go about each day.  It is an on the job learning experience.  Moms, you need to know and trust that the Holy Spirit is helping you in this task.  As we look at the different ways He is helping you, first make sure these are happening in your life and second share these things with your family.

He Helps You Bring Your Family To Salvation

In John 16:8 we are told, “when He [The Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”  The greatest need for any person is to be in right-relationship with God and, thus, to believe on Jesus.  It can be easy to throw our hands up and want to quit when kids seemingly don’t respond as we hope.  In fact, many will continue this into their adult lives causing much grief and sorrow for moms.  Let me just encourage you, mom, that the Holy Spirit hasn’t given up on your kid.  He is working every day to point out their sin, show them what is right, and warn them of judgment.  You might grow weary in these things, but He doesn’t.  Take strength from that.  Keep strong even when you feel unappreciated because God knows how you feel.

Now, God’s best plan is a mom and a dad encouraging each other in this as they cooperate with His Holy Spirit.  However, even a single-mom is not alone in this battle.  God will supply even more grace for those who do not have the best situation.  If your kids are without a father, then trust that in a way you may not understand, God will become their father.  In fact, for yourself, though you be without a husband, God himself will give you extra grace if you will look to Him for it.  Now for us in the Church, we need to have the heart of God that sees those who are “without” and choose to step in and fill up the gap.  Thus we cannot say to moms, “Just trust in Jesus.”  As true as those words are, if we say them so that we don’t do anything, then we are denying the very heart of who Jesus is.

He Helps Moms Set Their Family Apart For God

Romans 15:16 says, “…ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  Like Joshua, we all need to make the resolution, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”  Your determination to share Jesus with your family will make a difference that sets them apart from others.  They will think differently from those who have never been taught the ways of God.  So make sure you are in the Word, living the Word, and speaking the Word into your kid’s lives.  Let them see that you too needed the Gospel to cover your sins.  Help them to know that before God you are actually their older sister, just teaching them the ropes.

Yet, moms also need a chance to “recharge.”  God designed us to recharge.  No one can last long without laying down and sleeping at night.  Often stepping away from a project for a moment can open the door to new creativity.  We need times to spiritually, physically and emotionally recharge and these are often closer together than we think.  They really are interwoven together.  When you step away from the task at hand you can grow in understanding that this is not a quick work.  It is a long range plan that works because line upon line, precept upon precept, one layer on top of another layer makes a difference over the long haul.  In fact we need to recognize this in one another and be quick to help each other recharge.  Find someone who “can’t take a break,” and help them get one, or seven. 

He Helps Moms Protect Their Families

Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”  Raising a family is warfare.  No, you are not fighting your kids, though it may feel like that at times.  First of all know that you must maintain your own spiritual health.  This is the first line of defense.  If Satan can discourage you then your young ones will become fair game as you wallow in despair.

Then be vigilant to demonstrate and teach your family to trust in God’s armor.  Teach them the value and necessity of Truth, Right-actions, Sharing the Gospel, Faith in God, Salvation, The Word of God, and Prayer.  Satan is not afraid of burly, muscle-bound, marines.  But he is afraid of a man or woman who will dare to trust God’s armor enough to make it their daily life.  Your presence in the home will help to protect against all that Satan would be free to do if you were “checked out.”

He Helps Moms Share The Gospel With Their Family

Though we may all feel inadequate to try and convince people of the Gospel, kids are an excellent place to “cut our teeth.”  First of all, they trust you probably more than anyone else.  However, they are difficult at times.  Help your kids to “get” the Gospel.  Though we are to correct our kids, our correction should always have direction.  Sometimes we can be so focused on stopping wrong action that we can forget that we are still sinners saved by grace ourselves.  We can use times of correction to remind kids of the reason why we need Jesus.  Use the correction to turn their eyes into the direction of Jesus and God’s provision for them.

He Helps Moms Pray For Their Family

Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.”  Raising kids will drive you to your knees, which is good.  However, we feel so inadequate at times.  The answer is not to tell ourselves that we are all-sufficient.  But rather, it is to recognize that God has promised to help us in our weaknesses.  When we are weak then God’s strength will become more visible.  As you pray for your kids know that God is praying with you.  And, when you are at a loss for what to pray, know that He is not.  The Spirit intercedes for you and on your behalf.  Take encouragement from this reality.

Final Thoughts

We need women who will choose to raise kids for Jesus.  In the midst of a world that looks like it is going to hell in a hand basket, courageous moms who dare to raise kids for Jesus are precious.  Choose to be that woman.  Even if you have failed, know that God can help you stand upon the failures of the past and move forward.  He is all-sufficient and will supply your need no matter how great it is.

We also need a Church that will come alongside of moms and lovingly assist them.  It isn’t easy raising kids and we don’t need a constant reminder of how far short we fall.  But we do need those who will come alongside and help lift us up. 

Lastly, we all need to remember that it is not ALL up to us.  Are you a big part of it?  Yes, of course!  But do you shoulder the sole responsibility?  No.  God Himself is in the harness with you, not to mention the personal responsibility your children have for themselves.  Take time today to rest and say, “Yes, Lord, I will continue to partner with you to point my kids in the right direction.  Amen.”

 

Holy Spirit and Moms Audio