Monday, May 14, 2012

Give Thanks for Godly Mothers!

Give Thanks for Godly Mothers! 2 Timothy 1:3-7
Our theme for last week’s message was the question of suffering, and we reflected on the truth that we are living in a world under the curse, affected by sin and infected with the consequences of sin. A couple of book titles in my library reflect the challenge of parenting today: “Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World,” and “Parenting isn’t for Cowards”! Today I am speaking about mothers, though fathers have been delegated the responsibility as the leader and chief shepherd of the family, the plain truth is that mothers, by virtue of the time and opportunity they have to teach and guide their children usually have the greatest impact on them. The “world” offers powerful temptations to our children and poses tremendous obstacles to faith, but a godly mother, by word and example, can guide them toward the truth. Famous men throughout history have stated the impact their mothers had on them: -George Washington: “The greatest teacher I ever had was my mother.” -Abraham Lincoln: “All that I am, and all that I ever hope to be I owe to my mother…” He also said, “…no man is poor when he has a godly mother.” -Emerson: “Men are what their mothers make them.” -The story is told of a London editor who submitted to Winston Churchill a list of all the teachers he had had throughout his life. Churchill returned the list with the comment: “You have omitted to mention the greatest of my teachers—my mother.” When we consider the obstacles to godly living and the evil in the world, If a mother had to face the job of parenting in her own strength, it could be overwhelming. Ideally, she shares the task with her husband. But whether or not she has that support, thank God he has given His guidebook, and he promises the presence of his Spirit to lead us.
The Big idea: A godly mother has what she needs to impact her children for eternity: He has given us His Word, and he has promised us His presence.
I. The Problem in Raising a Godly Heritage: S-I-N.
Last we talked about the problem of evil, and the challenge of living the life of faith in the presence of the difficulties we struggle with in this world. The plain truth is this is a sinful world and in this letter Paul warns Timothy how bad things are going to get (cf. 2 Tim 3:1-5,12,13). We see how secular and relativistic our nation is becoming – with mass media and internet the filled with bad influences, with secular education espousing a worldview that contradicts Christian Theism, raising kids today is a challenge. Eunice raised Timothy in a pagan society—you are not the first. This is a sinful world, but to make the task of mothers more challenging, …Our children are born sinners – Psalm 58:3 says “Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.” David recognized in Psalm 51:5, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” If you are a parent you already know that is true. I’ve heard one of our ladies say “I haven’t seen a child yet that needed to be taught to sin.” We’re born sinners! Our children are sinners, but its also true of parents, mothers and fathers alike, we are sinners, so we make mistakes. I recall some years back hearing a speaker on the “Focus on the Family” radio broadcast recalling a time he came home and found crayon all over the front of the TV screen… He went and asked his young son if he had anything to tell him… How did that happen?... Finally, he confessed… The next day a friend who had visited the day before called, apologizing for her daughter, who had confessed that she had colored on their TV screen while visiting the day before! We will at times fail to be consistent, we may even punish an innocent child. I remember my cousin’s son, at age 5 or so, speaking to his parents of the discipline they administered the previous day, “You made my heart bleed when you did that, I’m only a little boy!” But don’t despair, though the task of parenting is formidable, a godly mother has what she needs to impact her children for eternity: God has given us his Word, and he has promised us his presence.
II. We see The Possibility of a Godly Heritage in the example of Timothy: The Good News is that God will give us as believers what we need to raise our kids well.
It is a bad world… but don’t despair! It’s a bad world, but today’s parents are the first to have challenges. Think of the world Moses was born into, a slave, Pharaoh ordered the death of the male children, God still enabled his mother to impact his life. God has given us His Word, and promised us his presence! N.B. v. 5, Timothy was marked by a “sincere faith” for which Paul thanked God… It is fairly clear that Timothy’s mother did not have an ideal situation, yet she was able in the midst of an immoral world to raise a child who made a positive impact for Christ. Acts 16:1 indicates Timothy’s father was a Greek. Paul makes no mention of him here, which may imply that he wasn’t a believer. Yet Eunice, guided by the example of her own mother Lois, made a positive lifelong impact on her Son. Paul could see the faith of Eunice and Lois, a sincere, authentic trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, was now evident in the life of Timothy. “Unfeigned faith…”, authentic, genuine trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. ***Though the task is formidable, a godly mother has what she needs to impact her children for eternity: He has given us his Word, and he has promised us his presence.
III. The Promise of a Godly Heritage: We can affect the life, the character, and the eternity of our children.
Churchill said: “If we want to change our nation, begin by enlisting the mothers.” 2 Timothy 1:5 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. With all the uncertainties of living in a Fallen World, we can influence our children toward coming toward the truth. Prov. 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Someone said, “The lessons of the cradle go all the way to the grave.” By what we teach and model, we help develop their character, notice 2 Timothy 3:15, “...from childhood you have known the holy scriptures…” Archbishop Leighton said “fill the bushel with good wheat and there will be no room for chaff and rubbish.” The world will supply plenty of chaff, we need to take responsibility as Christian families and as the Church helping our families, to add the good Wheat! *It goes two ways with kids: Cardinal Wolsey spoke of Henry 8th and said, “Be well advised and assured what you put in his head, for you shall never pull it out again.” Every mother wants to care for their child and give them good things, nothing could be better than introducing them to the savior. From childhood Timothy heard the Scriptures, which are able to make one wise unto salvation. He has given us his Word, and he has promised us his presence. We have truth, and we have God: a godly mother has what she needs to impact her children for eternity.
IV. The Potential of a Godly Heritage: We can affect not only our children, but our children’s children, and the innumerable other lives they touch.
Someone once asked DL Moody how many converts he had had at a meeting. He replied, “Two and a half.” “Do you mean two adults and a child?” “No,” he replied. “Two children and an adult.” An adult’s life is half gone, a child has their who life in front of them! Notice that Paul mentions not only Eunice, but also Lois. In referring to the faith of Timothy, it seemed important enough for Paul to mention two generations of believers in that family. As a godly mother by word and example teaches her children, she is potentially affecting not only them, but also their children and grandchildren. And think of the lives that Timothy touched! Paul was himself encouraged by Timothy, and the letters that Paul wrote to Timothy have encouraged the church for over 19 centuries. Paul encouraged Timothy to pass the things he knew on to others (2 Tim 2:2) “The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these….” Cf. Titus 2:3-5, teaching and learning never stops. As long as we are here, we have responsibility to and for one another.
What is God saying to me in this text?
A godly mother has what she needs to impact her children for eternity: He has given us his Word, and he has promised us his presence.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage?
Mothers’ day can be a time of mixed emotions, for some who have never been a parent, or who have tragically lost a child, or others who perhaps gone through an abortion, there can be an emptiness, others may be conscious of mistakes they have made, some feel sorrow over estranged or rebellious children who seem far from God. Some may feel sadness about a mother who wasn’t a mom, or grief over a mother who has passed away. What ever your history or your situation, God’s mercies are new every morning – He is faithful. -If you had the example of a godly mother, be thankful for her – if she is still alive make sure to thank her today. -If you are a parent and have a prodigal, know that he or she is responsible for their choices: Proverbs 1:8 says “Hear my son your Father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching…” The very fact that that admonition is given indicates it is a possibility. If you have a prodigal, don’t despair, pray, be an example, love them, entrust them to God. We want today to especially honor the mothers present in our body, and to encourage you (and your partners in parenting!): The task of parenting is formidable, but you have in His Word and His presence godly mother has what she needs to impact her children for eternity.

Monday, May 7, 2012

If God is good, why do we suffer? John 9:1-5

If God is Good, why do we suffer? John 9:1-5 Introduction: The statistics in the Compassion presentation this morning are heart breaking—children starving to death every day around the world. We are bombarded with news of people in pain and suffering hardship and injustice. This week you probably saw the story of a family of seven traveling on the Bronx River Parkway in NYC– the driver loses control, hits the concrete divider, veers across several lanes of traffic, crashes through a guard rail, and plummets 60 ft. off an embankment – all seven die, including three children. Tragedies are in the news every week… In our own town a house fire and a fishing accident suddenly ended two lives last week. And Christians are not exempt. Just look at our prayer list and we are reminded that believers and their families suffer and experience trials just like the world around us. The five year anniversary of the death of my Hebrew professor from seminary just passed. He was diagnosed with melanoma that had spread to his lungs and eventually his brain. His wife and four children watched him struggle with treatment for a little over a year before the end came. He kept a blog and a year after his diagnosis, a month before his death, he wrote,
…We have grieved, but always with hope in the resurrection we have through faith in Christ. While we would not have chosen it this way, we have seen God’s goodness, nearness, steadfast love, and faithfulness in unprecedented fashion. We have rested in the reality that he is absolutely in control and He is good.
The story of Joni Erickson Tada is another example of this: a 17 year old girl dives off a float in the Chesapeake Bay and hits her head, snapping back her neck. She was stunned for several seconds and realized she couldn’t move and something terrible had happen. Her spinal cord had been severed, and she was paralyzed for life. It wasn’t long before that that she had given her life to the Lord. How could He allow such a tragedy in her life? She struggled and gradually came to the point of accepting God’s presence in her life in the midst of her pain, ministered to others faithfully for 40 years, and then a couple of years ago was diagnosed with breast cancer! If we have a God who is good, who is all powerful, and also loving, why is there such suffering in the world? A famous story from over a century ago is that of Horatio Spafford. In the 1870s Spafford was a successful Chicago lawyer and businessman, and a close friend of evangelist D.L. Moody. Spafford had invested heavily in real estate, but the Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out his holdings. His son had died shortly before the disaster. Spafford and his family desperately needed a rest so in 1873 he planned a trip to Europe with his wife and four daughters. While in England he also hoped to help Moody and Sankey with their evangelistic tour. Last minute business caused Spafford to delay his departure, but he sent his wife and four daughters ahead on the S. S. Ville Du Havre as scheduled, promising to follow in a few days. On November 22 the ship was struck by the English ship Lochearn, and it sank in twelve minutes. Several days later the survivors landed at Cardiff, Wales, and Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband the brief message, "Saved alone." How do you survive crises like these? How do you go on? Today’s text tells us the story of Jesus and his disciples meeting a man who had been born blind. We can only imagine the experience of his parents as he came into the world. Joy and excitement—a son! What a blessing from God. And then realizing, oh God, he’s blind! No “braille” to help him read, nor special education to help him become independent—he would almost surely be a beggar for the rest of his life. Why God? What did we do to deserve this? Have you heard that question? Have you asked it? The Bible doesn’t offer easy answers, but it does point us to the One who is the answer. The Big Idea: Even in the painful situations of life we can be assured that God is good, and that He is working everything together for our good, and for His glory.
I. The Problem of suffering: There is suffering and injustice in the world.
Read John 9:1, “And as He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.” That is the issue this story begins with. Where does it come from? Why does God allow it? We might add, why, for Heaven’s sake, do Christians have to go through it? First of all, the Bible makes it clear that God created a world that was a paradise. He planted a garden in the midst of it and placed the first humans there. A sinless man and a sinless woman, in a paradise without pain, sickness, suffering and death. God gave them everything they could possibly need, and they lived happily ever after, right? Wrong! Inexplicably, the sinless man and his wife succumbed to the temptation of the evil one. Augustine pondered the truth that they were created without sin, so they were able not to sin, but they also were created with free will, so inherently they were able to sin, the possibility was there. Suffering and hardship and pain and death are not normal. The point is that when we see suffering and sickness, tragedy and pain, death and injustice, that is the result of human rebellion against God. Paul said in his letter to the Romans that “By one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all have sinned.” So there is a connection between sin and suffering, but not the connection the disciples were assuming. We can’t point to individual suffering and say it is the consequence of their personal sin. Many times I’ve had people come to me in the midst of horrific suffering and ask, “What did I do to deserve this?” They wonder if God is punishing them for something they did, or if He is unjust and they don’t deserve what He’s giving them. More often they are simply trying to make sense of what’s happening. Losing a job, a bad report from a doctor, a sudden accident and a serious injury, a break up of a family… It is normal and good in the midst of crises, and to cry out to God. The Psalms are full of the pleas of God’s people in the midst of their pain (See Psalm 3:1, 13:1, etc.). *God understands, we have a High Priest who can sympathize with us, He was tested in all point like as we are, yet without sin. There isn’t much doubt that this blind man’s parents cried out to God, why? What now? It’s probable that he did as well: Why am I different from everyone else? There aren’t easy answers, but we can be assured that… Even in the painful situations of life God is good, and that He is working everything together for our good, and for His glory.
II. The Purpose of suffering: Why do bad things happen to good people?
The disciples saw two possibilities, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born blind?” The purpose had to be that God was punishing, or at least chastening someone, right? Rabbi Kushner posed addressed the problem of suffering and the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” in a book by that title in 1981 and he was by no means the first. The church has approached the issue and struggled with it through the centuries. To the world it is usually assumed that either God is not all that good, or he is not all that powerful (that was essentially Kushner’s conclusion, “God can’t do everything, but he can do some important things”!). Biblical Christianity takes a more complex view: God is good, God is sovereign, He is so awesome that He is working together a master plan that is good, even over-ruling even the sinful acts of humans and the consequences of the Fall to accomplish His good purpose. The truth is we may never know “why” in specific cases, but we can know that God is working is working out His good plan in the world (vv.2-3).
John 9:2-3 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.
First, we see a wrong presupposition: The disciples thought that personal suffering must be related directly to personal sin. Surely either his parents had sinned or, the Jews of the time thought it was possible for someone to sin even while still in the womb, and so he was born blind as a direct consequence. The Hindu idea of “karma” has found its way into a lot of popular American theologies that allow for previous lives influencing the status or conditions that a person might experience in this life. None of that is biblical. It is appointed unto humans to die once, after that the judgment. The biblical world view is different in that it recognizes a bigger picture: God is good, and He is sovereignly working behind the scenes, causing all things to work together for our good and for his glory, even in the painful situations of life.
III. Our Purpose in Suffering: Jesus’ response really turns the question of the disciples completely around.
Rather than answering questions we might have about the sovereignty of God and the origin of evil, He points us back to God. We may not know why things happen, but we can focus on pointing people to Jesus, the One who endured suffering so that we could be saved (vv. 4-5). Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me…” (Phil 4:13). Because we are in Christ we can thrive in every circumstance of life. A. In 9:4 He says, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work…” Literally it says “It is necessary (dei)[often used of a “divine requirement”] to work the works of Him who sent me…” Some translations take that as “I must” (KJV, NKJV), others “we must” (NIV, NASB). Both are true. As the Scripture reminds us, we are His body, we are light in the world. While we are here we have a mission to carry out. Wednesday night we’ve been reading through the story of Joseph. This week was the amazing story of how Joseph was elevated from his position of imprisonment to second in command over all of Egypt. The account goes on to say that God gave Joseph two sons: Manasseh, which means “making forgetful,” he said “…for God has caused me to forget all my toil…” and Ephraim, “fruitfulness,” for “….God had caused him to be fruitful in the land of my affliction…” The point is, God didn’t take J. out of the land of his affliction, he blessed him in it (Joseph understood, see Gen 45:5-8; 50:19-21!). Jesus said in v.5 "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” We know the story, the cross is the prelude to the resurrection of Jesus and his ascension into heaven. From there He sends the Spirit to empower the church – His “sent ones” (He’ll say in this Gospel, “As the Father has sent me, so send I you…”). As Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand, we are His body in the world. WE are the light of the world. One way our light shines is our response to the trials we face. Another is our willingness to come alongside those who are suffering, not with easy answers, but to show them Jesus. What is God saying to me in this passage? Even in the painful situations of life we can be assured that God is good, and that he is working everything together for our good, and for His glory. He understands our pain and stuggles in this life. We have a High priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses, he was tested in all points like as we are, yet without sin. And just as Adam brought death and the curse, Jesus provided the way to life: Hebrews 12:2-3
“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”
As he blogged, just a few weeks before passing into the presence of his Lord, Al Groves reflected on some lessons God was teaching him:
First, God has continued to be a father to me. He still ferrets out the issues in my heart and leads me in repentance. The need for sanctification never ends; difficult circumstances have not given me a free pass. My failure to respond well to people or to reach out to others has been particularly an area in which I have been challenged. As painful as this kind of ‘heart’ surgery can be, I am reminded each time he puts his finger on something that he is there and is ever loving me. It may seem strange to some, but he shows his fatherly love and concern by continuing to love me through discipline (Heb 12:5-6). Secondly, as I already mentioned, we have peace and hope afresh in the resurrection, and we are learning about grieving with hope. Thirdly, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we are not alone. We walk with one who has walked it already and has emerged alive on the other end, who leads us through that valley, and who will lead out to life all who trust him. We have had wonderful care, which we see as part of God’s providential hand in sustaining us. God alone heals. He does so in many ways. Sometimes his purposes are best served as we put off the perishable and put on the imperishable. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be his name.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Remember Horatio Spafford? He made the ocean crossing to meet his grieving wife, and sailed near the place where his four daughters had drowned. There, in the midst of his sorrow, he wrote these unforgettable words that have brought solace to so many in grief:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blessed assurance control, That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.