It’s my contention that in North America today, particularly in Ontario, the role of the parent is deeply undervalued. I could talk all day about the epidemic of absentee fathers, broken marriages, and the dismantling of the traditional family that is causing the foundations of our civilization to crumble – but I don’t really want to do that today. That’s a bummer topic for a beautiful spring day when we are meant to be celebrating mothers.
But I stand by my statement – that parents, even the role of mothers, is being undervalued by our society these days. I’ve talked a lot about the rise and curse of individualism over the past weeks so I won’t repeat that, but one of the effects of radical individualism is that people are distancing themselves from their mothers at very early ages and staying away.
Consider the expectations in the province of Ontario, right? As a girl grows up in this province it is very rare for them to consider being a full-time, stay-at-home mom, as a life-choice. We tell girls that they can be whatever they want to be and celebrate women of achievement in business, science, and athletics (which is great), but when we ask a girl, teen, or person in their 20s what they want to be when they grow up, the one seemingly unacceptable answer is “wife and mother”. “Ok, but’s fine to do on the side”, we respond, “but what do you really actually want to be?”
That’s why Rachel felt lost and discontent when she was forced to become a stay-at-home mom, right? She couldn’t process how being a mom would bring God more glory than her being in the workforce. Like many girls and women, she’d been conditioned for years that her greatest value was in her ability to gain a career, make money, and become a success.
I’ve talked to so many women who were taught that they need to be everything to everyone all the time – and they feel guilty no matter where they are. When she’s 10 she loves playing house and when she’s 16 years old it occurs to her that she would love to be a mom – but now somehow she feels bad saying so. Instead she feels pressure to find a “career path”. She doesn’t want to, but the idea of being a mom somehow feels counter-cultural, and the peer pressure is immense, so she goes to university to take something she is only sort-of interested in. When she’s at university her biology is telling her to find a husband, make some babies, and make a home – but somehow that also feels wrong too. She’s been told for so long that she’s supposed to want sex but not kids, boyfriends but not husbands, relationships but not marriage – that she pushes down her natural desires as unnatural and tries to distract and medicate her feelings away. She feels that quitting school to be a mom is somehow letting down all women everywhere. She feels guilty for wanting kids and sad for not having them. She feels guilty for not wanting to be at school but afraid of being stuck doing something she doesn’t even want to do. She feels shame for even wanting a husband to take care of her and that she can take care of, and is afraid that as time wears on that the deepest desires of her heart will never be met.
But she looks around and this whole province seems designed to keep her out of the home. The lifestyle most people desire here actually requires a dual income family. To stay home feels like a financial risk. That makes the government happy because they need you out there paying taxes and buying things – so they make it so you never even have to go home. IF you’re a normal couple, by the time you get around to having kids, you’re usually up to your eyeballs in mortgage and car debt, but ok, sure, have a baby, but you only get 55% of your income for 12 months, so you’d better get back to work or you’ll lose the house. But don’t worry, the government will pay for daycare. And when they’re older, they’ll pay for before school programs and after-school programs so you stay at work. And they’ll pay for community programs and all kinds of things so you can stay at work and never even have to see your kid. It’s almost like they’re saying, “Thank you for creating another citizen, now get back to work, we’ll take it from here.”
Being a mom seems not only counter-cultural but downright anti-establishment! Is it any wonder that there is time and research money going into developing artificial wombs? I know I sound like a tinfoil hat wearing nut, but I’ve already seen articles where feminists are championing these artificial wombs as amazing devices that can liberate women from the burden of childbirth so they can get rid of that pesky reproductive thing that keeps them from their career goals. One article was entitled “Artificial wombs could liberate elite women at the expense of the reproductive classes”. There’s a healthy level of moral insanity in that title that I don’t even want to get into.
Rachel’s discontent and deep question about her value as a mom are ones that many women these days understand: “Should I stay home with my kids? Is being just a mom enough? Why, when I go to work, do I want to be at home and when I stay home, I want to be at work? Why do I never feel like I’m in the right place doing the right thing?” Both stay-at-home moms and career women wonder if they’re achieving their purpose. And often, both are miserable.
It wasn’t until Rachel surrendered her discontentment to God and had that epiphany moment where she heard God speak to her that things started to change and the guilt and fear and discontentment started to subside. She said she felt God say, “I see you there and yes, you are valuable, you are important, you are doing what I want you to do, and you are in the right place. Yes, I’m with you, and despite your weaknesses and fears and temptations, you being a mom is exactly what I want you to be. It is exactly where I want you.”
Moms Show Us God
We should be championing the role of moms in our society – and I’m not just talking about biological mothers, though obviously, that’s a unique and very special bond. I’m talking about the women who give their lives to children as step-moms, adoptive moms, foster moms, and grandmothers. They have a special, unique role in this world that needs to be championed and protected. The maternal role can’t be replaced by dads or government agencies. It’s special, and the women who give their lives to be mothers are special people.
When scripture speaks of mothers it gives them unique characteristics, using them as examples, even to teach about God. In Deuteronomy 32:18 God describes himself in maternal terms saying, “You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.” In Isaiah 49:15 God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Moms, especially biological moms but certainly all moms, have a special version of love and compassion for their children that no one else has – not even dads. There’s a bond there that is unlike any other. No matter how much you’ve messed up, your mom will never forget you. And so God says, “You are my kids. I birthed you. And just like it’s crazy to think of a mom forgetting and not having compassion on her crying, hungry, pained baby – it’s even crazier than you’d think I’d forget about you or stop loving you.”
God brought His son into the world using a human mother and that was a special relationship, even until Jesus’ death where Mary stood at the foot of the cross. As Jesus wept over Jerusalem He compared his love for them as being like a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wing. Paul actually used motherly terms a lot. He said the heavenly Jerusalem is called the “mother” of Christians (Gal 4:26) because she is where we will be protected and cared for. He said that at times he felt like planting churches felt like being a mother in labour and his teaching like nursing babies (Gal 4:19, 1 Thess 2:7)
There are negative examples too. When the leaders of Israel were sinning against the nation they were compared to an unfaithful mother who leaves their family to pursue selfish pleasures (Hos 2:2-5; Isa 50:1). The idea was meant to be outlandish and condemning, that a mom would choose to take off on her children to become a prostitute – but that’s what they were doing.
God’s Design for Moms
And so, for the little bit of time, we have left this morning I want to advocate for the position of mom as being something special, unique, and important – something that no one else can do. Maybe reverse a tiny bit of what culture is trying to do to moms these days.
Pregnancy is God’s Idea
First, we must realize that moms are God’s design. Eve was to be “the mother of all living” and the way she would have children would be, even in the Garden of Eden, would be to conceive a child inside her, to hold it for a long time in utero, and then to feed it with her own body until it was strong. That’s not a biological accident, it’s God’s design (Gen 3:16, 20). We know from nature that there are lots of options that God could have gone with for making babies, but He chose for babies to be literally inside their mothers, protected by them, feeding them from their own body’s nourishment, bound to them unlike anyone else.
That tells us something about what God wanted to do with motherhood – the bond he was creating between mother and child to teach us about the bond that God has with us. It’s deeper than any other relationship. Deeper than friendship, deeper even than marriage. And it’s a picture of God’s love for us – that He is our source, our provider, our protector, our comforter, and the one who loves us more than anyone – no matter what.
Moms Are Not Dads
The second thing is that moms are not dads. I believe that the Bible teaches that men and women are the same in some ways but different in others. We were not designed to be exactly equal, but to be complimentary – like two pieces of a puzzle.
Generally, moms are more nurturing and protective, dads are more about consequence. Moms are the ones who will ask everyday if you’ve had a shower, if you cleaned behind your ears, if you’ve washed your hands – dads won’t notice until you start to smell.
If a mom is cold, the whole family has to put on sweaters whether they like it or not. Why? Because she can’t help but want to protect her family. A dad is more likely to let you freeze and tell you it’s building character – and then when you turn blue from hypothermia say, “Well, you should have gotten a sweater.”
It’s been said that women civilize men, and that’s true of their families too. It’s the mom that is concerned about manners, proper dressing, what others think of you. It is from mom that we learn to give ourselves a once-over, check our teeth for parsley, ask ourselves what effect our clothes will have on others before we leave the house. Sure, that can get carried away, but it’s also a gift. The civility of culture is in large part connected to the civility of mothers. As mothers have gotten more self-centred, superficial, rude, impolite, and vulgar, so has society.
Mothers are more emotional and more empathetic. It is from the mom that you learn that it’s ok to cry and be comforted – and from the dad that sometimes you need to suck it up. The mom dotes over the sick child reminding them that they are cared for, the dad makes a joke and then pokes the part that hurts to remind them that life is pain.
Moms also have designed into them special kind of fragility. Now, I don’t want to get in trouble, and I’m sure I need to think this one through a bit more, but moms have a special kind of fragility that causes their sons, especially, to learn something about the world. You can wrestle and punch your dad, you can trade insults with your dad, you can tell your dad you hate his guts and wish he would drop dead – and he’ll roll with it. You can’t punch your mom, insult your mom, or tell your mom to drop dead – because it’ll cut her to the heart. A mom can get fierce when defending her children, but when it comes to her own children, she has a special kind of fragility that teaches the child something special about life that dads usually can’t. From your interactions with your mom you learn that your thoughts, your actions, your emotions are valid and important and powerful – she listens and feels along with you – but you also learn that they have consequence, because there are some things you can say or do that will leave scars in your mom that never fully heal. That’s a difficult, but necessary gift God gives people.
And of course, all this teaches us about God, right? As we watch our moms we learn what God is like. Though He tells us to address Him as male, God has no gender, and sometimes in the Bible presents Himself as having maternal characteristics. In the life of Jesus we see a man who men can relate to – a man who stood up to injustice, yelled at hypocrites, handcrafted a weapon and drove the evil out of His house, ordered demons around like a general commanding an army. But we also see maternal tears, deep compassion, overflowing love, high levels of empathy for others, a nurturing heart, willingness to express emotion and even fragility. No matter how messed up someone was, Jesus listened, and forgave, and restored, and loved, and protected. No matter how sick they were, no matter how contagious, He touched them – just like a mom would. No matter how much of an outcast they were, they found themselves accepted at Jesus’ side. We learn a lot about Jesus from moms.
Moms Are Human
And finally, I want to remind us that moms are human. I honestly feel bad for women today, especially moms, who are constantly bombarded with the message that they are not enough, that they don’t do enough, that if they just did more, things would be better, and that everything wrong with their family is somehow their fault.
A husband makes bad financial decisions and then guilts his wife into both working and keeping up the home. A messed up kid gets himself in trouble and then blames his mother for not being perfect. Internet articles telling women who have just had a baby that they need to look like supermodels and get back to work within six weeks. The church telling busy moms that they don’t host or serve enough. A hundred books and blogs and social media posts showing Instagram perfect homes and families that just telling them the dozens of things they are doing wrong.
We have to remember, and moms, you have to remember, that moms are human. We hold women to an impossibly high standard – and moms, sometimes, more-so. I’m pretty sure that every mom I know if you sit them down and ask them, will almost immediately tell you why they feel like a failure. They feel like a failure as a wife because they’re not fulfilling their husband’s needs. They feel like a failure as a homemaker because their home is messy and their kids eat too much processed food. They feel like a failure as a role model because they are tired and busy and think their kids are way behind where they should be. They feel like a failure as a Christian because they’re not reading their bible or praying or serving enough. They feel like a failure as a citizen because they want to volunteer but can’t. They feel like a failure with their own bodies because they don’t look the way they want to.
Moms, I want you to stop all that. What you are hearing is not the voice of God. It’s the same thing Rachel went through. Satan’s voice says, “Your husband doesn’t love you, your kids are stupid because of you, your house is disgusting because of you, your friends are all doing better than you, you’re fat and ugly, you’re lazy, your wrong, you’re not trying hard enough, you aren’t good enough, you’re the problem, and you should just quit.” That’s the devil sowing seeds of discouragement in your heart.
Mom, you’re human, and that’s ok. Kids, mom is human and that’s ok. Dads, mom is human and that’s ok. And to the mom’s, if you stop your guilt trip for a minute and listen to God’s voice, you will hear something very different.
You may feel like your messing everything up and the weight of the world is on your shoulders – that everything you do wrong will ruin your family. But Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Who gave you that child? God did. Gave you that family? God did. Who started that good work? God did. Who will bring it to completion? God will. Can you stop God? No. If God called you to be that person’s mom, He will equip you to do the job – and all the things you can’t do are things you’re not meant to do. God gets the glory because God does the work. You just need to admit your weakness and trust Him. Your weaknesses are not your fault and are not a reason to feel guilty. Your weaknesses are built into you so that you will learn humility and realize your need for God and others.
You may feel forgotten and unappreciated, but Hebrews 6:10 says, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” The work you are doing, even the stuff you get zero credit for and no one even notices, is all taken into account by God and credited to you. He sees. He knows. He rewards. He is just.
You may feel exhausted, stressed out, and like you’re way behind, like you need another schedule, another plan, another set of hands, more hours in the day – and if you could just get that then you’d be under control – but listen to Psalm 127:1–2, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” And Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
The first and most important relationship you need to build is between you and God so you can understand that the safety of your children doesn’t depend on you but on God. The peace of your home and your own soul doesn’t depend on you, it depends on God. The building of your home and your family doesn’t depend on you alone, it depends on God.
That’s why it’s ok to nap sometimes, why it’s ok to step back, why it’s ok to release the worry – because God is real, God is strong, God is there, and God knows best. He acts on behalf of those who love Him.
When the apostles had returned to Jesus from their first mission, they were probably like kids after a long trip – a mixture of tired, excited, grumpy and happy – and it says in Mark 6:30–32,
“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.”
You see how Jesus treats these guys? It was better for them to walk away from all the people and plans and bustle so they could be with Him. Why?
Another time, it says in Luke 10:38–42,
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”
Why would Jesus rebuke Martha in this way? Because, if you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and then all the things that you are worried about will come after (Matthew 6:33).
I know that moms are always worried that they aren’t doing enough and that somehow they are wrecking their kid’s future. Dads don’t feel this way all the time – we end up feeling it in retrospect as we look at the results of our parenting and wonder how we messed up our kids later.
But moms, you need to cut yourself some slack. You need to trust God and build your relationship with Him first. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” Do you want your prayers for your family to have power? Then seek righteousness first. Put down the controls, stop guilt tripping yourself, stop listening to the voice of Satan, stop listening to culture and embrace one the greatest gifts imaginable – being a godly mom. I may not know everything about you, but I know this… with God, you are more than enough.
Nuclear War, Bio-Parents, MST3K, Bill & Ted 3, Is Thanos Right?, Furtick vs Chandler, Pastors and more! (Ninja News)
I know, it’s been too long, but here’s the latest episode of Ninja News! Don’t forget to leave some comments below or on the Facebook page!
Bill & Ted 3: http://deadline.com/2018/05/bill-and-ted-sequel-keanu-reeves-alex-winter-bill-and-ted-face-the-music-1202384903/
“Before I was a Mom”
By Suzana Haertzen (Hart-zen)
Before I was a Mom…I made and ate hot meals. I had unstained clothing. I had quiet conversations on the phone.
Before I was a Mom… I slept as late as I wanted and never worried about how late I got into bed. I brushed my hair and my teeth every day.
Before I was a Mom… I cleaned my house each day. I never tripped over toys or forgot words to lullabies.
Before I was a Mom… I didn’t worry whether or not my plants were poisonous. I never thought about Immunizations.
Before I was a Mom… I had never been puked on, pooped on, spit on, chewed on, peed on or pinched by tiny fingers. I had complete control of my mind, my thoughts, and my body. I slept all night.
Before I was a Mom… I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests or give shots. I never looked into teary eyes and cried. I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin. I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.
Before I was a Mom… I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn’t want to put it down. I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn’t stop the hurt. I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much. I never knew that I could love someone so much. I never knew I would love being a Mom.
Before I was a Mom… I didn’t know the feeling of having my heart outside my body. I didn’t know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby. I didn’t know that bond between a mother and her child. I didn’t know that something so small could make me feel so important.
Before I was a Mom… I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay. I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache, the wonderment, or the satisfaction of being a Mom. I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much before I was a Mom
The Persistent Love of God
I think I like that poem because it reminds me of the persistence of mothers. There are many words that we can use to describe moms. Words like loving, patient, compassionate… but of all of the words I think the word persistent is one that works the best. Movies and books are replete with stories about good guys who credit their mothers for how they turned out and bad guys who could always count on their mother loving them. That’s why I think we can safely say that a good word to describe a good Mother is persistent.
But if a mother’s love is persistent, then how much more is God’s for us? That’s what I want to talk about today: God’s persistent love. I believe that the perpetual, persistent, stubborn love a mother has for their child is part of how God designed them – and is mean to reflect and teach us something about God’s love for us. In scripture, God is presented as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the one in which “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:24-29; Psalm 104). He is persistently ensuring the existence of all things.
When Jesus was challenged about healing on the Sabbath, he looked at the Jews and said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17) meaning that even though God invented the Sabbath by resting on the seventh day, God was still upholding the universe – if He were to stop, everything would cease to exist.
God is the God who just won’t quit. Think of the nation of Israel who did everything they possibly could to offend and reject God, trying to thwart everything He was trying to do for them. They worshipped demons, killed the prophets, and turned their backs on His Word. At more than one point they were so far gone that they forgot about their miraculous deliverance from Egypt (Judges 2) and even lost the Book of the Law (2 Kings 22).
Yet, as much disrespect as God suffered, He continued to treat them with special care and persistent love. When one generation didn’t respond, He’d come back to the next generation and try again. When they went on their trip through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, they whined about everything . It was like the world’s worst car trip! God’s taking them to Disneyworld and they spend the entire time complaining about the food, water, directions, view, signs, and kicking the seat of the one driving the car.
Yet, God continuously and persistently provided what they asked for and needed. A prophet would ask for a sign and God would give them one. A king would go into a foolhardy, selfish battle, and God would allow him to succeed. When the nation of Israel couldn’t get over their worship of idols, God treated them as children and sent them to their room – a whole generation into Babylonian captivity as a discipline – and then rescued them so they could be with Him again. God showed persistent devotion to His people.
Our Lack of Persistence
Most of us are lousy at being persistent. The divorce rate, even among Christians, hovers around 40%, and many aren’t even getting married in the first place – and more and more couples are refusing to have children. That makes you mothers very special.
But people don’t just drop their marriages, they also drop out of high-school and college at alarming rates – especially young men.
Most people can’t even keep the same job for more than a few years. According to a Workopolis report, 51% of people stay in their role for under 2 years, and only 30% stay at one job for over four. The average Canadian will have roughly 15 careers in their lifetime. And another statistic is that the average new, small business will last less than five years. And it’s not because of the financial crisis. 75% of the time it’s because they end up with too many personal problems that get in the way, so they have to shut down their successful small business.
I could go on, but I think that most of know that we have a problem with persistence, and the problem is getting worse. Our lack of tenacity is causing us all sorts of problems.
The Persistence of Jesus
As in all things, we would do well to model Jesus, who was doggedly persistent. Consider His disciples! His own disciples denied Him, sold Him out, and fled the Garden of Gethsemane, cowering in the dark as He died on the cross, but He loved them, forgave all who asked, restored them to Him, and gave them a new mission in His name. They kept asking the same dumb questions, doing the same dumb things, and Jesus kept forgiving them, repeating Himself, teaching them and loving them.
Our salvation was brought by a man persistent in his desire to win us back to His Father. He marched to the cross of His own will, despite the clueless disciples and abusive religious authorities. He obeyed His Father in the face of great temptation, so He could finish the work of salvation. He stood firm on the promises and the power of God. When everything looked the bleakest, He was able to say, “I trust you God. I won’t quit, and I know you won’t quit on me.”
My hope today, as we consider the persistent love of God, in Jesus, and seen in our good mothers, is that we will be able to say the same thing – “I won’t quit on God and God won’t quit on me.”
God Makes Strange Selections
“But”, we say, “I’m not like Peter, or Paul, or John, or Moses, or Elijah, or any of the other heroes of the Bible! They had special powers and special faith. I could never be like them!” Actually, yes, yes you are – maybe more than you know. What is awesome about the love of God is that He shows it most often in the strangest places, and to the weirdest people. Most often He doesn’t go for the best and brightest, but for the small, weak, dumb, pitiable, faltering, failing, down and out people that no one would pick.
Did you ever play dodge-ball as a kid? By the way, did you know that many schools have outlawed dodge-ball? One expert said, “We take the position that [dodgeball] is not an appropriate instructional activity because it eliminates children and it does not respect the needs of less-skilled children.” That guy sure wasn’t around when I was growing up! I was definitely one of the “less-skilled” children and had absolutely none of my “needs respected” during dodge-ball!
I absolutely remember what it was like when the teacher would yell out “DODGEBALL!” Fear immediately gripped my tiny heart. Except for a few of the girls, I was easily the smallest kid in my class. And we would always line up against the walls, the teacher would pick two “Captains” and then they would pick teams. Anyone else go through this?
They would go through the whole class and take turns picking the big kids, fast kids, kids that threw hard, the popular kids… and there would be me, the fat kid, and the kid the kid that got asthma attacks, standing against the wall as the kids fight over who had to take us. I hated that feeling – but I knew why: I wasn’t big, or strong, or fast, or popular.
Here’s my point: If God was picking the dodgeball team, He would do it differently. He would have picked me, the little girls, the fat kid, and the kid with the asthma attacks first, and then shown how He could win the game with us. To God be the glory!
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 is something I read often and it says:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Isn’t that awesome?! God shows His persistent love by loving those who need it most. He chooses the weak things of the world to show His glory and work His purposes. Why?
God’s Overwhelming Optimism
I think it’s because God has an overwhelming amount of optimism in His people – not because of what we can do for Him, but because He knows what He can do through us! He knows what we’re like. It’s not like we can fool Him into believing we are better than we are. We can’t pad our resume before God. God knows – but He still has an overwhelming optimism that when He chooses us to do something, that we can get it done.
When He picks us, introduces us to Jesus, saves us from Hell, gives us the gift of His Spirit, and then gives us a mission in this world, He actually believes we can do it! Is it a strange thought to believe that God has faith that you can overcome temptation, overcome your addiction, overcome bitterness, overcome fear, and grow into a better image of Jesus? God knows what He can do, and so He knows that when you are depending on Him, you can do anything!
In Philippians 4:13 Paul says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” And in 2 Corinthians 12 Paul asks God to make him stronger by getting rid of a terrible malady he is facing, and God simply tells him “no”. Why? God says, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” And Paul’s response was, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9-10)
J Oswald Sanders once said:
“There is an optimism in God which discerns the hidden possibilities in the unpromising character. He has a keen eye for hidden elements of nobility and promise in an unprepossessing life. He is the God of the difficult temperament, the God if the warped personality, the God of the misfit.”
We look at ourselves and that’s what we see: “the difficult temperament… the warped personality… the misfit.” We don’t see a person God could use – let doggedly persue with His persistent love. We see our sin and addictions and feel defeated all the time. We see our hang-ups and fears, and all the hidden things in our lives and minds that we think prevent us from being loved and used by God. We see our lack of ability, lack of holiness, lack of understanding, lack of courage – we are too afraid, too young, too old, to uneducated, too different, not different enough.
What I want to tell you this morning is that the persistent love of God covers that. God believes in You because He believes in Himself – and when you feel weak, all He requires is that you lean harder into Him. A life turned over to God will be imbued, infused, permeated, saturated with His amazing power and love.
God’s Relentless Pursuit
God believes in you because it is God Himself that is working through us, even despite our weakness and flaws. Just as a mother can’t forget her love for her child, but continues to love them no matter what they have done, even more-so does God relentlessly, persistently pursue us and love us. He can’t forget His love for us.
We have a book at home called “I Love You Stinky Face” which is about a child trying to see how far his mother’s love will go, coming up with all manner of terrible ways he thinks that he could make his mother not love him.
“But Mama, but mama! What if I were a big, scary ape? Would you still love me then? But Mama, but Mama, what if I were a swamp creature with slimy, smelly seaweed hanging from my body, and I couldn’t ever leave the swamp or I would die? Will you still love me then? But Mama, But Mama, what if I were a super smelly skink, and I smelled so bad that my name was Stinky Face?”
And the mother always sweetly responds, assuring her child that she will love him no matter what:
“The I would give you a bath and sprinkle you with sweet-smelling powder. And if you still smelled bad, I wouldn’t mind, and I would hug you tight and whisper in your ear, ‘I love you Stinky Face’.”
Psalm 23 is like that. Who is the active person in this relationship?
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
That idea of God being the one that pursues us with relentless love is found all over scripture. He stubbornly, tenaciously pursues us, inviting us over and over to turn more and more of our life over to Him because He knows that if we give our life to Him fully that we will finally know true joy and purpose. God won’t quit on you.
“But God, But God, What if I continuously work myself into a frenzy, anxious about almost everything in my life? Will you still love me then?” (“Yes, and I will lie you down in green pastures, beside still waters.”)
“But God, but God, what if I destroy my soul with sin, harden my heart with bitterness, and corrupt my spirit with lusts of the eye and the flesh? (“Yes, and then I will restore your soul, and I will lead you down the paths of righteousness.”)
“But God, but God, what if I go through a depression so bad that it’s like walking through a valley of the shadow of death? One so dark that I can’t even see you? Will you still love me then? (“Yes, and I will walk with you, and comfort and protect you every step of the way.”)
It is the devil preaches the message of despair. He’s the one that whispers in your ear that God doesn’t care about you, that you are beyond His grace and forgiveness, that you’ve finally gone too far, that you’ve reached the end of His patience, that you should just quit praying because He’s not listening, that God gave up on you, that God’s punishing you. That’s the voice of Satan lying to you, not God.
God will never quit on you, and will always love you. So long as you are still taking breaths in this world, you will always be loved and given the chance to come to Him – because he’s not just waiting on you, He is constantly, and relentlessly pursuing you with His love.
Push-ups and Doughnuts
I’d like to close with a (likely fictional) story that illustrates the passion of God’s relentlessly persistent love for us.
There was once a Professor of Religion who taught at a small college. The course he taught was a required that every student needed to take during his or her freshman year, regardless of their major.
The Professor tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, but he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take it seriously.
One year the Professor came across a special student named Steve. Steve was a freshman studying with the intent of going into ministry. Steve was popular, well liked, and was an imposing physical specimen who quickly became the starting center on the school football team. He also happened to be the best student in the professor’s class. One day, the Professor asked Steve to stay after class to talk about an idea he had. After the brief chat, Steve said he’d be happy to help.
Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front row, and watched the professor pull out a huge box big, extra fancy doughnuts with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone who came in was pretty excited. The Professor announced that he had decided that today was going to be a class party! Everyone whooped and whistled, and when they calmed down, the Professor walked up to the girl in the first chair of the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?”
Cynthia said, “Yes, of course!”
The Professor turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”
“Sure.” Steve jumped down from his desk, did a quick ten, and sat back in his desk. The Professor put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
The Professor then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?” Joe said, “Yes.” The Professor asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?”
Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut.
Walking down the second aisle, The Professor came to Scott. Scott was on the basketball team, and in nearly as good of condition as Steve. When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?” Scott’s reply was, “Sure, but can I do my own pushups?”
The Professor said, “No, Steve has to do them.”
Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.”
The Professor shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?” With perfect obedience Steve hit the floor and started to do ten pushups.
Scott looked at the Professor and said, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!”
The Professor said, “Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
By this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. Instead of getting back in his desk, he just stayed on the floor between sets, and a little perspiration was starting to form on his brow.
As the Professor started down the third row the students were beginning to get a little upset. The Professor asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?”
Crossing her arms, Jenny sternly said, “No.”
The Professor looked at Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?” Steve did ten and Jenny got a donut.
By now, a sense of uneasiness had started to fill the room. The students were beginning to say “No” and there were many uneaten donuts sitting on the desks. Steve was tiring. He had to put forth a lot of extra effort to get the pushups done for each donut. A small pool of sweat had formed on the floor beneath his face, his arms had started to shake, and his face was turning red because of the physical effort.
The Professor sent Robert, one of the most vocal members of the class, over to watch Steve to make sure he did the full ten pushups, saying he couldn’t bear watch Steve’s work so hard for all those uneaten donuts.
The Professor started down the fourth row, and when he looked toward the door, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were now 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it.
The doughnuts continued to be placed on the desks in front of the students. Steve was now having really having a hard time, taking a lot more time between sets, but the Professor went on.
A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, walked into the room and was about to sit down, when all the students yelled in one voice, “NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!” Jason didn’t know what was going on. Steve picked up his head and said through heavy breaths, “No, let him come.”
The Professor said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him?”
Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut.”
The Professor said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?”
Jason had no idea what was going on. “Sure,” he said, “give me a donut.”
“Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?” Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
The Professor finished the last row, and then started on the visitors seated on the steps. Steve’s arms were now violently shaking with each push-up, struggling to lift himself off the ground. Sweat was pouring off his face, and there was no sound in the room except his groans of pain and heavy breathing; there was not a dry eye in the room.
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular. The Professor came to Linda, the second to last, and asked quietly, “Linda, do you want a doughnut?” Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”
The Professor sighed, and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda. He merely lay on the ground after he was done.
Finally, the Professor turned to the last girl and said, “Susan, do you want a donut?”
Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Professor, why can’t I help him?”
The Professor, with tears of his own, said, “Because Steve has to do it alone. I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not. When I decided to have a party today, I only wanted to give it to students who got a perfect score in my class. But looked my grade book and Steve here is the only student that achieved an A+ Grade. Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he has to do push-ups. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party, and he said that he would pay the price by doing your push ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes.”
“Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?” As Steve very slowly finished his last push up, he knew he had accomplished all that was required of him, and his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
The Professor turned to the room and said. “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, ‘into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, He yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.” Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile.
“Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, adding “Not all sermons are preached in words.”
Turning to his class, the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of the love, grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God didn’t even spare His only Son, but gave Him up for all who would believe, now and forever. Nothing was going to stop Him from allowing you to be with Him. He would not, and will not, ever quit on you.”
[If you are part of my church — SPOILER ALERT — this is Sunday’s sermon! I’m sending this out into the world early to help folks who are looking for a little Mother’s Day inspiration. This isn’t just for mom’s though, it is a message for everyone with children in their lives — the Biological, Adopted, and Spiritual Mothers and Fathers throughout the Christian Church.]
Psalm 78 is a Historical Psalm. A Psalm that tells the story of the nation of Israel in song, and along the way draws out lessons from it. This is the longest of the Historical Psalms, but it only really has one lesson, and it hits it home over and over: Bad things happen when you forget who God is and what He has done. Today I want to read the first 8 verses where the writer of the psalm introduces the theme and gives the first challenge: Pass your faith along to your children so they won’t forget and fall away — then we’ll key-in on verses 2-4.
“1 O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3 what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. 8 They would not be like their forefathers— a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.”
The Decline of Mom’s and Dad’s
Moms and Dads, I want to give you a challenge today. I want to challenge you to pass along your faith to the future generations and be the second most dominant voice in their lives after the voice of the Holy Spirit. Some of you may not be biological mothers and fathers, but that doesn’t mean you are not spiritual parents, just as Paul was the spiritual father of Timothy. Just because you don’t have biological children does not mean you have not been given the responsibility and privilege to be the spiritual mothers and fathers to the next generation. This challenge is for you too.
We need men and women who pass along their faith without compromise, without error, and without fear. We need an older generation who will be a consistent voice in a child’s life, pointing them to Jesus, to Scripture, to God, to Prayer, and to Wisdom. We have a generation of kids who have a head full of voices which are causing them to fall away from God. The dominant voices in their lives are corporate advertisers, a corrupt educational system, intellectual garbage throughout the internet, their own foolish peers, and a host of pagans who are leading them away from faith and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dad’s have been absent since the industrial revolution which took them away from the farm or family business and stuck them in factories and buildings far from home for hours and hours per day. And since the sexual revolution and the rise of feminism we now also have a couple generations of children who have grown up without a consistent, faithful, positive, mother’s influence in their lives either. Instead they are raised by government institutions, television and their peers. Both Christian and secular studies are now showing how detrimental that has been to the children, and how messed up these kids now are.
I’m a Mama’s Boy
I’m the firstborn of two brothers and I’ll freely admit that I grew up a momma’s boy. I had a childhood that, I’ve learned, is exceptional these days. My dad was a shift-worker at the mill, my mom a stay-at-home mom. Both have been an active Christians for as long as I can remember. They are still married today and will celebrate their 37th anniversary this year.
When I think of my mother, one thing that comes to mind is her love of trying new things – something she’s passed on to me. She loves getting gizmos and do-dads from the shopping channel or other strange places and then seeing what they can do. She loves to experiment with food, decorating, crafts and lots of other things just to see what will happen – sometimes included me.
For example, I have very, very straight hair. One day, it crossed her mind that it might look nicer if it had a little wave in it, so she bought an at home perm kit. I wasn’t so sure about it, but she assured me that all she would do was me a little wave in my hair… what I ended up with was a very tight, very fuzzy perm that I had to explain to all of my friends for months to come.
My mom also made sure that I had some life-skills that most boys don’t have the luxury of knowing. She taught me things like etiquette and manners – like how to set a proper table with all the little forks and spoons (all of which I’ve almost completely forgotten). If a fancy dinner ever broke out in the cafeteria of my high school, I would have been prepared.
My Mother’s Voice
I didn’t get into all of the nonsense that many high school kids got into, and get into, these days, and I credit the grace of God and my mother’s persistence with that. At the time, it was very frustrating, and I argued with her about it, but she had a set of rules which she drilled into my head, and I lived by them. I give thanks to God for my mother’s voice, because I don’t have to deal with a lot of bad memories and regrets that others have to.
I had a secure home where I knew I was safe, accepted, loved and special. And in that home there was always my mother’s voice… and when I left that home, no matter where I was, she was in my ear, guiding me through life.
I remember, at times, wanting to do something bad… but not doing it… only because my mother wouldn’t approve. I had convinced myself, and my friends told me it was a good idea, and I wanted to, and it was right there in front of me… but there was always my mother’s voice… “Allan… that’s not a good idea. Allan… that’s trouble. Allan… that won’t end well. Allan… you’re not stupid, so don’t act stupid.” And so I’d walk away. My friends and peers, who didn’t have that voice in their head, got themselves in a lot more trouble than I did.
Moms, Dads and Spiritual Fathers and Mothers… my challenge to you is to be the voice in the head of the next generation. You may think that you’ve said it a 1000 times, and that you don’t need to say it again… but I tell you to say it 1000 times more. You may think that they are not listening, but I assure you, they are. You may think that it’s too late… but it’s never too late for a child feel love, comfort, forgiveness and wisdom from someone being guided by God.
Turn for a moment to Judges Chapter 2 and listen to a scary passage. Judges 2:8-13,
“8 Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten. 9 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Heres in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.”
There was the generation under Moses who followed God and came to the Promised Land. Then there was the generation of Joshua who had followed God and conquered the Promised Land. Now, read from verse 10,
“10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel. 11 Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. 12 They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger 13 because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.”
One generation. All it took was one generation of parents not passing along the story, not teaching their kids, not being the voice in their children’s heads, for them to forget what God had done for them and turn to evil. How could a generation not tell the stories of Moses, the Red Sea parting, the plagues in Egypt, the pillars of fire and smoke, the walls of Jericho falling? How could they not pass along all that God had done? I don’t know, but it only took one generation.
And I believe it’s not different today. Surrounding us are a generation of children who were never told the stories of the faith – they are completely ignorant of Christianity. Their mothers and father’s didn’t pray with them, many because their grandparents didn’t pray either. We have a generation of parents who want to be friends with their kids… not their parent… they want to be cool, modern and culturally sensitive – instead of being loving, Godly and righteous.
We are surrounded by men and women who want to be politically correct instead of giving their child loving, godly guidance towards what is right, good and holy. A group of adults – parents and non-parents – who look at these children and say foolish things like “I just want to let them find their own way.” avoiding their responsibility to lead and guide them in the way they should go (Pro 22:6). We have a generation of adults who are not intentionally and proactively being the voice in the head of the child God has placed around you. Instead, they are allowing other voices to dominate. They are not the voice of reason, and truth, and godliness, teaching those children how to listen to God. And that’s all it takes to lose a generation.
Sharpen Your Children
I implore you not to give away this privilege and responsibility to others. Don’t let unbelievers and fools be the most prominent voice in the life of the young person (whether it be your own children, or the children God has placed around you). Mom’s especially — others do not love your child as much as you. Others do not know your child like you do. You need to be the dominant voice in your child’s life, the one they hear everywhere they go. Because if it is not your voice, it will be someone else’s. If you are not guiding them, teaching them, and helping them to see Jesus, then who is? Who are you allowing to be the foremost voice in your child’s life?
And if you do not have children, or you don’t have children at home, then you need to be all the more diligent and intentional about being inside the head of this generation. They are lost and they have no guidepost. They have no one pointing them to Jesus, to scripture and to wisdom – and the precious little time you have with them – whenever that is – is the time you must intentionally capture to give them a new voice in their heads. You can be the one voice in their lives that points them to Jesus when every other voice is seeking to corrupt them and turn them to an idol.
You may not think you’re cool enough, or have the right language, or understand technology, or the newest trends, but I promise you that none of that matters – the universal need of all people is for an authentic relationship with Jesus, and passing along that message has nothing to do with being culturally aware and everything to do with simply sharing your heart sharing with another person.
This is be heart of God for Christian mothers and fathers – and I would say by extension, spiritual mothers and fathers as well. Listen to what God said to the people of Israel when it came to passing along the stories. Listen to Deuteronomy 6:4-8,
“4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
The word “impress” there… is the word SHANAN and it means to be sharp, to sharpen or whet like a sword, or to prick or poke. Sharpen your children with these words. Poke your children with them. Drive these words into them. Let them be ever-present in their life, let them be everywhere they turn. Every day, all the time. When they wake up, they hear your voice, and your voice guides them to God. When they sit down at home, they hear your voice, and your voice guides them to Jesus. When they lie down to bed, the last thing they hear is your voice guiding them to know the Holy Spirit.
When they look at you and listen to you, they need to see and hear the heart of God. When they look around your home, on your doorframes, your walls, your gate, your fridge… they need to see the words of God, the stories of Jesus, the reminders of His Grace, provision, and protection. Parents, saturate your home and your children in the things of God – and remove the demonic, distracting, life-sucking, confusing and worldly garbage that has crept into your homes. You have been given the charge, the responsibility, and the privilege, and the gift of being the most consistent voice in this person’s life… will you guide them in the way they should go, or are you going to abdicate your responsibility and give that amazing gift to someone else? What voice will they hear for the most formative years of their life?
There are so many people that want to be the biggest voice in your child’s life. I pray that for your children, it is your voice. And that one day, as your child grows… that your voice will be mingled with, and then taken over by the voice of God, because you have taught the children God has given you to how to hear the voice of God.
Echo The Voice of God
And that’s the most important thing. That the words you repeat, that you embody, that you write on your homes, must be the words of God. Not your own personal opinion. Not your own worldly wisdom. Not your own hang-ups and fears. Not your own hopes and dreams for them, but God’s. God’s voice. God’s wisdom. God’s strength. God’s plans and hopes and dreams for that child, that boy or girl, that young woman or young man. What God wants may not be exactly what you want… let that be ok. I know that my mom never would have guessed in a million years that I would be a preacher one day… she still can’t! But she knows it’s the will of God. Point your children to the voice of God.
Let the words of Psalm 78 guide you. Commit to them. Let them be your commitment to your children. Commit to being different than the other voices out there.
I would like the mothers and fathers – those with biological children, adopted children, and the spiritual mothers and fathers who have spiritual children in their lives, just as Paul was a spiritual father to Timothy… to stand repeat after me the commitment of the words of Psalm 78:2-4:
I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.”