Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

Our pastor's wife asked me to speak to the congregation on Mother's Day. What an honor and a privilege! I have posted my notes below for those that asked. Please feel free to leave me a comment.

Thank you for letting me speak today. It is an honor to be here with you all. Thank you Pastor Janet for asking me. Thank you, Mike, for encouraging me to do this.

I would like to begin by applauding those of you have taken on the difficult challenge of being Christian mothers who dedicate much time and devotion to training up your children. Women who pour into their children are not missing out on opportunities to make a difference – they are creating them. I did not lose my identity by raising children. I multiplied my legacy. There is no example in the Bible of God cursing someone with children. They are always a blessing. We must relish these opportunities to strengthen God’s kingdom. I hope that today you are encouraged and invigorated to continue with renewed strength in your motherhood journey. I pray that God’s love would be obvious in my subject matter and that you would be moved toward His best for your family.

First I would like to discuss the nature of children and our roles in their development.

There is a sweet image that people love to think of children as angels. They even do newborn pictures with little fuzzy wings and a sweet halo.

This is simply not true. Children are not angels. They come into this fallen world and sin the first chance they get. They are flesh-driven and selfish in every way. This is not to say that God has not given them some things to love. As they grow we get to see their personalities and their talents. We get to watch them enjoy the wonders of this world. But we cannot be blind to the work to be done. We must love the way God created them to be and encourage their spiritual growth while encouraging them to stop bowing to their sinful nature. That is why we are admonished in scripture to train them up night and day in the Word of the Lord. This is the best way. It is best for a peaceful home and best for the future of their spiritual lives.

Next, I would like to consider how we might be fruitful in training up our children in the ways they should go.

There is a difference between having children and growing a heritage. Children in the Bible are described in many ways. Initially all children are gifts from God and should be considered such. However, depending on how they are brought up they can either become arrows in the hand of a mighty warrior or a source of sorrow to their parents. What is the delineation between these two extremes?

I believe it is their training. Some people ask why their children, “throw fits in the grocery store,” “cry when they don’t get their way,” “are mean to other kids,” or “whine about everything.” Why their teenagers “don’t want to be around them” or “ignore them” etc. I believe that the answer is not that they were born that way or it’s just God’s will for their personality or even that it’s just a phase. That’s a worldview that Christians should not buy into. Most times the parents have trained the children to be this way. I don’t mean that we purposely set out to develop a fit-throwing brat or a crazy dishonoring teenager. But what we tolerate is what we encourage.

Your children know. They know you’re not perfect. Pretending otherwise trains them in hypocrisy. Your children know you don’t have all the answers by yourself. Pretending otherwise trains them in pride. Your children know when things aren’t okay. Telling them otherwise teaches them that pretending is better than laying your worries at the foot of the cross. Your children know a lot. And they are learning from you at all times. This includes infants and teenagers and grown adults.

Your children know how far they can push you. How often to pull you. How to use guilt. How to use your pride and fear of being embarrassed. They know how to push your buttons to get what they want. And the more we allow them to use these weapons against us the more we are training them in the ways of ungodliness. Children should not be developing their arsenal of rebellion and manipulation. They should be expanding their righteousness and becoming more obedient.

The good news is that it is never too late to be retrained. Parents, if you notice that you have trained your child in less than desirable behaviors then take the hand of the Lord as you refocus your child’s path. This is not an easy process because the person that will need the most retraining is the parent. We have to be retrained to listen and respond to our children with their spirit and soul in mind. What a great responsibility we have been given to train their flesh to obey our voice that they might one day heed the mighty voice of the Lord. They are His children after all.

I think about the children of Israel wandering the dessert after leaving Egypt. In Deuteromy 1 we hear about the immediate consequences of delayed obedience. The only hope for God’s people was in the children. We can say this definitely because God did not allow anyone from the hard-hearted, fearful generation to enter the promised land – except Joshua and Caleb. The adults could not trust God’s instructions and denied His command for them to take the land. Without hesitation or wavering, God told them that the land was closed to them and that their children would take the land and dwell in it. As soon as the parents heard this, they picked up their weapons and said, “Okay, we’re ready to fight now. We believe you now.” But it was too late. Their fear and lack of instant obedience caused God to warn them that if they went in now by their own force they would be destroyed. This to me is the strongest admonishment that we should train our children to be instantly obedient through OUR EXAMPLE. It allows them and us to receive our greatest blessings from the Lord.

If there is an ounce of regret or guilt on your shoulders right now for your parenting past, don’t let your conviction be confused with condemnation. I don’t want you to leave here with regrets but with hope.

Some of us may have to repent to our Lord and apologize to our children for our past shortcomings. If we repent He is excited to forgive us and able to restore the years that have been lost. This would be a great opportunity to begin anew in the ways of godly parenting. Nothing opens the door to a new chapter of success like a good apology. Don’t ignore any convictions. Thank God for the working of the Holy Spirit and walk forward from glory to glory!

Training and retraining is a big task but nothing is impossible with the Lord!

It is my goal that my children would seek the Lord all the days of their life. So I must ask myself in what ways am I pointing them to God? It is my goal that my children would be salt and light. So I must ask myself how to encourage their pure saltiness and teach them to reject darkness. It is my goal that my children would affect the world for Christ. So I must ask myself what their giftings are and what weaknesses they need to be trained to fight against. These might seem like grandiose, ridiculous goals for such a young group of people. But we fight these giant, spiritual battles with training in godliness that can be as simple as serving others before you serve yourself, allowing others to go before you, helping your parents to maintain the home, speaking to all adults with respect, introducing yourself with cheerfulness, speaking kind words instead of complaints, praying for someone who is sick or hurt, being happy for those that are happy and sad with those that are sad.

I would like now to address all the adults in the congregation. If you notice that there are ways that your parents trained in you that do not line up with God’s ways then ask Him to show you those areas in His pure light of love. He desires for us to walk in His righteousness and holiness. He knows our parents were not and are not perfect. But as adults it is not the picture of Christian maturity to maintain childish ways. Perhaps our parents were unable or unwilling to train us out of our pridefulness, selfishness, laziness, or an assortment of other sinful ways. But as adults we are to examine those lifelong stumbling blocks and pray with faith that the mountains in our lives would be moved. We don’t have to walk in those wornout paths our whole lives. God has a bigger plan.

God can change people. He can change anyone. He can change their heart and their soul. He can change them down to the core of their being. He can do it in His timing and in His way. God can change your mother and He can change your children.

Only God can change people. Only God can change the fiber of someone’s being. Only He knows their hurts and pains and can heal them completely. Only God convicts people of sin. Only God can change your mother or your children. But He can certainly use you to love them through the process.

I would like to speak for a moment to those of you who might not have a perfect mother and you find it hard to be thankful and honor her on Mother’s Day.

You can’t know the full picture of sacrifice that your mother went through to bring you into this world. Don’t take your life for granted.

A friend of mine has changed lives through selflessness.

She was sexually assaulted as a young teenager.

It was a terrible and scary time for her. It became much more difficult to cope when she found out she was pregnant.

The enemy was hard at work in this young girl’s mind. He told her it was her fault and filled her with anger toward the young man who hurt her.

The enemy reminded her of her previous dealings with boys. She had been promiscuous and had previously had abortions to cover her tracks. The enemy wanted her to believe that this story would end the same way. Abortion wasn’t out of the picture in her mind.

But God told her to save this child’s life.

She carried this child for 9 months and gave the baby girl up for adoption through a Christian agency. This young mother updated her address and contact information with the agency every time she moved in hopes that one day her daughter would reach out and find her.

That daughter did find her birth mother over 25 years later. That daughter is now living a life. She’s had trials and triumphs. She’s graduated from college and found a man she wants to marry. She’s been a revered ballerina dancing with companies all over the country…all because a teenager made a hard choice to give up her identity as a carefree child and leap into the world of motherhood, if only for 9 months.

I have often thought of how the daughter in this story must have felt when she finally learned the truth of how she came to be here. She was the product of such a horrible event. She’ll probably never know her biological father. I can’t imagine the emotional roller coaster such news would bring to my life.

To me she is the poster child for hope and selflessness teaching us that what the devil means for evil God can turn to good. God turns all things to good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Maybe the story of your birth is not this dramatic. But don’t take for granted the gift of life you’ve been given. Some of our mothers did the best they knew how. Others didn’t try at all. But love can cover a multitude of sins. Bitterness is a root that should be dug up and replaced with thankfulness. Maybe you can’t be thankful for your mother. Try being thankful that you’re simply alive.

The fifth commandment to honor your father and mother was not given only to people 18 and younger. It was for you and me. Honor does not mean that as adult children we must obey or like everything about our parents. I challenge you to dig out a place of honor in your heart for your mother. She is not the Virgin Mary but God chose her to be the vessel He used to bring you here with us today. I thank God for your mother that she made such a contribution to this fellowship.

One way I honor mothers is to call them and thank them on their child’s birthday. The first time I called my mother’s mother I think she thought I was crazy. My mother was one of 9 children but I am thankful that my grandmother had her. My precious children wouldn’t be here if my grandmother had made up her mind to the contrary.

My final point is to illustrate a caring way for mothers to dispense wisdom to other mothers or to their own adult children.

There’s a difference between giving advice and dispensing wisdom.

I know a mother who is more than happy to give you advice on hundreds of subjects in which she considers herself an expert. She’s got lots of information and knowledge and is eager to share it with everyone within earshot.

She has many words and speaks them with such authority that it is difficult to discuss alternative viewpoints with her. She’s very much a confident know-it-all who lets her voice be heard.

There is another mother I know who has taught me through her example and through her love for her husband and children.

The most important piece of parenting advice I’ve ever been given was from this woman who didn’t say a word to me until I asked. She had been around me and seen me with my children but never said a word about my methods or failures or utterly disobedient children. She didn’t raise an eyebrow to my frustration or lack of patience. She simply set her mind on her own family’s growth. She had plenty of opportunities to correct me and set me straight. But she chose to wait until I was seeking the right path.

This is the mother I seek to emulate. She is full of discernment and wisdom. She is quick to listen and slow to speak.

The difference between these two women is not their intelligence or their willingness to help. It is discernment and love. I am convinced that someone who asks for your opinion or input is more likely to receive it. And when one is not looking for wisdom it is difficult to see it as such.

Happy Mother’s Day and God bless you.