Responsible Parenting

Parenting is simultaneously a joyful and overwhelming task. The responsible parent will regularly feel a sense of contentment and the fear of inadequacy. One question at the root of many of our thoughts is, “how do you know if you are parenting well?”

There are many principles and applications to consider as we think through a good answer to this question, but I’d like to keep things simple and basic in this post. One Bible passage that speaks directly to children and parents is Ephesians 6:1–4. Let’s read it here, and then let’s note a couple of things.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

This passage emphasizes at least a couple of things.

One “the Lord” is the foundation of parental authority, and this is closely tied to the reality that children are indeed a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3). We all want to praise and thank God for His good gift of children and the opportunity He has given us to parent them. Also, remembering that parental authority comes from God will help us make good use of our fatherly or motherly authority without being too soft or too hard.

The second thing we can notice in the passage is that parental authority comes with a divine command and responsibility. Especially addressing fathers, the Scripture clearly places the responsibility to discipline children (that is to teach and to train them) according to the instruction of the Lord. God gives fathers and mothers the authority to teach and train their children, and He gives them the responsibility to do so as well.

What a sobering and humbling thought!

God has entrusted these little ones to the care of their father and mother. Moms, God has given you an allotted time to cherish and nourish the tiny one you hold (who may or may not be so tiny anymore). Dads, God has given you an allotted time to cultivate and develop the child He has placed in your care.

May God help us all, as God’s stewards, to love and lead our children well.

A Pastoral Word about Mother’s Day

Pastors have a responsibility to speak truthfully and honestly about all things… especially those things about which we are often far-too-sentimental. Therefore, Mother’s Day can prove to be a somewhat difficult occasion for pastors.

On the one hand, I want to celebrate motherhood and encourage the already lofty spirits of those proud mothers in attendance. On the other hand, I want to remember the experience of those women in attendance who may not have such good feelings about Mother’s Day. In fact, I know some women who avoid church services on Mother’s Day precisely because of their ill feelings.

Mother’s Day is certainly a time for us to thank our own mother, congratulate mothers, and admire motherhood generally. There is much to be admired about motherhood, and all of the women who have given themselves to this role are worthy of thanks.

As with all things in creation, God defines motherhood. God created motherhood before the Fall and curse of sin, commanding the man and his wife to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28); therefore, motherhood is rightly understood as part of God’s good creation.

Motherhood can be a joyful experience. Children are a blessing from God (Gen. 29:31, 30:22; Ps. 127:3), and there is great wonder in watching them grow and learn and become adults… right before our eyes.

And yet, because of the Fall, motherhood is full of pain as well (Gen. 3:16). Some mothers may dread the arrival of Mother’s Day because it is another aching reminder of a child lost or a child aborted or a child estranged from the family they once knew. Maybe some mothers have deep regrets regarding their own past failures.

But isn’t this how things always seem to be in our fallen world? Aren’t we always looking at beautiful pictures through the broken glass of damaged frames?

Aren’t we always looking at beautiful pictures through the broken glass of damaged frames?

May God bless those mothers who are overjoyed by the blessing of motherhood.

May God bless those mothers who are overwhelmed by the pain of motherhood.

May God bless those women who aren’t mothers at all. Your femininity is certainly not incomplete without children, and God is the good heavenly Father who knows what is best for you.

 

A Candid Approach on Mother’s Day

Last Sunday was my second Mother’s Day as pastor of FBC Diana. Here is the brief statement I made at the opening of our service on Mother’s Day 2016.

A mother found a paper on the table one morning. It was a bill from her young son. “For being good: $1. For taking out the trash: $1. For feeding the dog: $1. For brushing teeth: $1. Total: $4.” At lunch, later that day, the young boy saw a note beside his plate at the table. It was a bill from his mother. “For making your breakfast: nothing. For washing your clothes: nothing. For driving you everywhere you go: nothing. Total: nothing.”

The message was clear, mom does all she does because she loves, not because she will be rewarded.

And yet, the Scripture speaks of the praises of her husband and children for the “excellent” wife and mother described in Proverbs 31. Certainly there is good reason to praise, to admire, and to honor a wife and mother who exhibits such wisdom and faithfulness. However, we would miss the entire point of Proverbs 31 if we overlook a single verse. The book of Proverbs is all about wisdom, and the constant refrain is that wisdom is granted by God to those who fear Him (that is revere and love Him). No less than 20 times, the author presents the “fear of the LORD” as desirable and profitable. Proverbs 31:30 is the last of these verses, and it says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” That’s it! That’s what Proverbs 31 is all about!

Since this is true, then we may (and should) put less emphasis on the accomplishments of this wife and mother. Rather, we should emphasize the wonderful benefits of a life devoted to God and motivated by reverence towards Him. This is great news for all women, not just for moms.

As a pastor, I am aware of many people who love Mother’s Day. Some moms are able to convince their children to come to church on at least this one Sunday each year. However, I am also aware of the reality that not everyone is so excited about Mother’s Day. There are likely some women here who want to be mothers, but have been unable to conceive. There are women here who have lost one or more children in death, and there are many here whose mothers have already died.

Additionally, I am aware of the painful reality that some mothers were or are not exemplary mothers. The thought of your mother may not bring back fond memories, and the thought of your own attempt at motherhood may stir feelings of guilt and despair. All of this swirls about in my head during the days that lead up to Mother’s Day, and as I stand before you now I nearly tremble at the thought of addressing such a complex and emotional matter, so full of expectation.

Since I am inadequate for the task (as with so many of my pastoral responsibilities), I find great confidence and comfort in the Word of God on this matter. So, let us briefly return to the oft-cited Mother’s Day passage – Proverbs 31.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30).

A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. A woman who reveres God, is devoted to God, and is marked by a heart-felt love for God; that woman is to be praised.

Well, if your mother fears the Lord, then praise her this day. Make the time to praise God for His gift of such a mother. For a God-fearing mother is a true gift indeed.

If your life has enjoyed the benefit of a God-fearing, God-honoring, and God-loving woman, then be grateful for such an influence. Praise her, and praise God for her.

If you hope to be a praise-worthy woman, then you should not aim to be like the Proverbs 31 woman… at least not in any way she is described before verse 30. If you try to accomplish these feats in order to receive the praise of others, then you will be sorely disappointed.

Rather, begin with the fear of the LORD, for here is the beginning of wisdom, and here is the true treasure.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Prov. 31:30).