Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Legacy of Moms

Last week, my boys and I had the chance to honor my wife and my mom by sharing with them some favorite memories from this past year and how they have had such an impact on our lives.  We looked through all of this past year’s pictures and picked out our favorites and then for my wife, we made her a bouquet with those pictures with statements of why we love mom.  For my mom, we made her a video of favorite moments with Grandma and then sent that to her, because she lives far away from us right now.  It was a fun way to share what these special women mean to us.

I don’t know what you did to celebrate your mom or the memory of your mom, but let’s face it.  Moms play a very important role in our lives, don’t they?  Granted, some of you didn’t have very good experiences with your moms.  Like all of us, moms are sinners, too.  They need Jesus and the forgiveness He brings too.  But for many of us, our moms played a major role in who we are today.

We see that evident in the life of a guy named Timothy in the Bible.  Who’s Timothy?  He’s the guy who has two books in the Bible with his name on them, even though he didn’t write them.  He received them from the apostle Paul.  Timothy was originally from Lystra, a town in present day Turkey.  His mom was a Bible-believing Jew and his dad was Greek (Acts. 16:1).  On Paul’s second missionary journey he invited Timothy to go with him on the mission trip, which he did.  Timothy traveled with Paul to Macedonia and Achaia and eventually back to Jerusalem.

When Paul was first thrown in prison, Timothy visited him (Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:1, Ph. 1:1).  This might be why, when Paul was imprisoned right before his execution, he asked that Timothy would visit him (2 Tim. 4:9,21).  And Timothy even went to jail himself for his faith (Heb. 13:23).

Timothy must have had a big influence on Paul.  He was named a co-writer in six of Paul’s letters recorded in Scripture.  In fact, listen to what Paul had to say about Timothy in Philippians 2:19-22, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you.  I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare…you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.”  Wow!  That’s the way to be remembered.  This is Paul, the guy who wrote a good chunk of the Bible.  This is what he thinks of Timothy.  So Tim’s a nice guy, so what?  Why bring him up today of all days?  Why spend time talking about him now?  Because Timothy is a prime biblical example of the legacy of M.O.M., short for the ministry of mothers.

Let’s take a closer look.  Take a look at what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1, verse 5, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”  Paul apparently knew Timothy’s grandma and mom pretty well.  They had impressed Paul by how they shared and lived their faith.  It was obvious by how Timothy was living and sharing his faith!

Moms, let me ask you: Can the same be said about you?  Are you leaving behind a legacy of faith in your ministry to your family?  Notice, in Timothy’s case, how his sincere faith was passed down from his grandmother to his mother and from his mother to him.  That’s the first part of the legacy of M.O.M. – Mom’s share their faith.

Actually, that’s the number one responsibility of every mom and dad!  The number one responsibility is not to make sure that your kid is the best soccer or baseball player.  The number one responsibility is not to make sure that your kid has all the best clothes or eats all of his vegetables (which can be a real challenge).  The number one responsibility isn’t even to make sure that your kid is a good student.  Those are all important responsibilities of parents.

But remember, the number one responsibility is the spiritual well-being of our children!  Timothy’s grandmother was serious about passing her faith on to her daughter.  She made it a priority.  And look what happened?  Her daughter Eunice passed it on to her son, Timothy.  And here we are reading about it 2000 years later!  Moms, you need to share your faith with your children.

But that’s a big question that all parents wrestle with: should I influence my child’s faith?  This is a big question I hear from people who are contemplating having their babies baptized.  The common practice of many churches is to dedicate their babies and then have them baptized when the children are old enough to make the decision.  Some parents do this because they don’t want to make the decision for their child.

But my question is this: why wait?  There are lots of decisions that we make as parents for our children, right?  I don’t let my 3-year-old dress himself.  My wife doesn’t let our children pick out the dinner menu.  So why, in the most important decision that can be made for them, would we leave it up to them?  I don’t know a single ten-year-old who is going to voluntarily wake up early on Sunday and memorize Scripture for fun.

As Christian parents, it is our God-given responsibility to set the example for our children and to encourage them to make faith a priority!  We do so, not just by bringing them to church, but also reading the Bible with them, having devotions with them, talking about God and His impact on our life throughout the day, praying with them as often as we can!  When we do this, we are leaving a legacy that will last for eternity!

That’s why God asks moms, and dads, to baptize their children and then instruct them in faith.  Do our children know Jesus and live for Jesus?  Do our children know that they are forgiven, no matter how bad their failures may be?  Do our children know that there is a God who loves them so much that He sacrificed His one and only Son for them?  Do our children know that they have meaning and significance in life because God has made them just the way they are for His purposes?  That’s the most important legacy of the ministry of mothers – to share the faith!  That’s true for dads too!

But there’s a second part to every mom’s legacy.  Do our children know that they are loved?  The second part to the legacy of M.O.M. is this: Mom’s share their care.  A few years ago Barna, a Christian polling organization, did a study on teenagers and asked them what grade they would give Mom for her parenting prowess.  Three-quarters gave her an A, one-fifth awarded her a B and just 6 percent gave their mother a C or lower.” (Barna, Real Teens, p. 69)  Why is it that moms get such a high rating from their teens, even when their teens don’t seem to be listening?  Mom’s share their care!

And that’s by God’s design!  God has made husbands and wives and dads and moms in such a way that we are designed to complement one another.  God’s design is that dads are to be the head of the home: to protect, preserve, provide and lovingly sacrifice themselves for the good of their families.  Dads, do we always do that?  Thank God for our loving Father’s forgiveness!  Moms are designed to be the suitable helper in the home: to help the dad be the leader he needs to be and to provide the compassion and care that dads sometimes forget to show.  Moms, do you always do that?  Again, thank God for His loving compassion and forgiveness!

Just a little side note here: For those who are single parents, don’t worry, because even though you may not have your complementary partner, you have God!  And He will fill whatever void is in your life.  And He will help you fill whatever void is in your child’s life.

But the fact is that moms often times share their care better than dads.  I was thinking about this as I wrote this message.  I thought back to my days as a kid.  If I fell and hurt myself, which happened a lot (we had good climbing trees out at my grand-parent’s farm) who do you think I ran to when I was hurt?  Mom.  Why?  Because when you’re hurt, mom hugs you and tells you it will be okay and kisses your boo-boos.  What does dad do?  He tells you, “Rub some dirt on it and get back out there.

Moms, you take care of us, which is by God’s design.  It’s through moms that we get to experience God’s love, until the day we experience God’s love for real and forever in heaven!  It’s through moms that we get to see the hands of Jesus at work in our lives as the hands of our moms change diapers, clean our rooms, wash dishes, and give us hugs.  Moms, never forget how important your role is.  Thank you for how you make Jesus’ sacrifice, Jesus’ love, and Jesus’ forgiveness tangible!  Happy Mother’s Day! 

Take a look below at this 5-minute video about a mom through a child’s eyes.  After you watch the video, please comment on this blog by answering this question: How did your mom most impact you?

-Pastor Chris Johnson, Outreach and Young Adult Pastor

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Follow Me

57 As they (Jesus and his disciples) were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:57-62)
To the seasoned Christian and new convert alike Jesus is pretty straight forward about what it looks like in everyday life to be his follower. Each individual who wanted to join Jesus had to  wrestle with their priorities. Each man had good things to be concerned with, having a place to sleep, a burying his father, and saying good-bye to close family. Yet when it came to following Jesus those answers would not do. The reason found in a couple little words that creep in to their response to Jesus, “I’ll follow you but first let me…” They were saying, “Jesus you’re important but not that important. You can fit into my life at best in second place.” Would our answer to following Jesus be different?

Jesus says to us, “follow me”. “I want a relationship with you. I want you to listen to me and talk to me.” Honestly, most often I’ll bet we sound something like, “I’d love to God. I want to follow you, it’s just. I don’t have the background. I want to “but first” I’ve got to drive the kids to the next event. I don’t have the time right now. God I know I can talk to you all the time and you speak to me through the Bible but I’ve had a hard day at work, first I need to watch TV for a couple hours.” But first I need too… the phrase that jumps in and shows misaligned priorities. To one degree or another I think we are all guilty of this. I know I am. It’s not that we aren’t busy doing good things, taking care of niceties for our families or ourselves but too often these other things take the primary place of Jesus in our life. It is as if God is good and I keep him part of my life as long as he doesn’t get in the way of my wish, wants and desires.

Jesus’ takes issue with the “but firsts” of our life and basically says, “No, no, if you will follow me then you must follow me, period. I am God and must be that in your life.” If anyone deserves first place it would be God and it is right that he would demand it. But there is another reason he wants it. When he’s not first in our life the one missing out the most is us.

When Jesus is number one it changes everything. How we carry ourselves, our self-worth, and our value in Jesus is based not on past mistakes but on his Words and promise. Why do I matter? God says, “This is love: not that we loved God (Him), but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Instead of focusing on who or what I am or am not my identity is based on who God says he is and what he has said he has done. I matter because I am “one who is loved” or as God puts it elsewhere in the Bible, “beloved”.

This is why we regularly remind partners at the end of sermons: You matter and are loved. God has placed such a high value on you and your soul not only in the unique way he has made you but also in the unique way he has saved you. His only Son took your place. I think we can forget the “but firsts” of an overly busy life and relax by just listening to our God in the Bible and praying to him from the heart. Take Jesus words to heart and follow Him.

How are you going to connect with Jesus this week?

-Pastor Eric Hansen, Discipleship Pastor