Lucia's Blog: May 2016
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

BUT ONE THING I DO! PRESSING ONWARD

"Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may layhold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,  I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." 
Philippians 3:12-14


When a cowboy mounts his horse, he does not ride off in ten directions at once.  I sometimes feel that is how we live our lives. We are all very busy working very hard for many good reasons, but what is our focus?  Let's take a moment and think about this inspiring challenge from the apostle Paul.

I have been thinking a lot about this beautiful and encouraging passage.  As I began meditating on each word, I remembered my early walk with Christ, when I acknowledged and accepted that I had to focus on just one thing: to do what was necessary to enter the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  It would in no way be an easy task.  It would require a lot of letting go, dying to self and even pain in the journey.  It was not going to be easy to crucify the old man with his sinful habits. I knew I had to consider myself dead to sin but alive to Christ, as one that was brought from death to life to become an instrument of righteousness. As in the sentiments expressed by John the Baptist, "He must increase but I must decrease." (John 3:30).

I knew well that the cost of following my Lord was going to be very high.  But I considered the high price He had paid for my sins.  This made my journey easier, my steps lighter, and brought me much joy as I walked with my Master.  YES, I knew even then, that I had to let go of the past and stretch forward to the future; living for Jesus my Lord.  I had to learn that my life is a race to be won, a course to be completed, and a life to be lived in righteousness brought to fruition.  It would require me to set heavenly goals rather than earthly ones.  It would demand lots of discipline, like the training of an athlete or soldier so that I could press on, reaching forward to win the prize, the crown of righteousness, glory, and life.  There was no room to give up and quit regardless of my circumstances. It was going to be a continual battle, but Heaven is worth it all!  There would be times for climbing mountains peaks and times for crossing deep valleys.  Periods of sweet rest, then more troubles to come. Times of discouragement as well as opportunities for revival or refreshing of my soul.

I learned early on that apart from Jesus and His principles of righteousness there is no way of salvation.  He is the only way to heaven (the ultimate prize).  So, I needed to fix my eyes only on Him and not on men.  I needed to walk with an unfeigned faith and a living hope that I might fight the good fight of faith and finish the race victoriously.  It would demand all of my life, energy, and enthusiasm. Heaven is not for quitters.  It is for winners!  But we must keep pressing on toward our goal until our last breath of life.  Victory is just around the corner!

Many people set high goals for things that are physical, forgetting the most significant ones in the spiritual realm. We can learn a lot from the apostle Paul about how to discipline ourselves in pressing on toward the right goals, those that pertain to the kingdom of Christ and His righteousness.

There was once a man who lived for things that seemed to him more praiseworthy. Notice what he declares in Philippians 3:4-6 concerning the external things that he possessed to a high degree:
“Though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh: if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.  Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.”

Indeed, Paul surpassed many of his contemporaries, Galatians 1:14.  He had a lot to boast about his flesh, his externals. However, he declared that there was no virtue whatsoever in the things of the flesh. All those things mentioned in Philippians 3:4-6 in which many of his fellow Jews still trusted. Paul acknowledged that to trust in the flesh would be to give too much importance to the list of things mentioned before. He then said in verse 7 that “what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ.”  Things such as honor and distinction, illustrious ancestors, higher education, leadership among those of the strictest sect, and the great respect and honor of his contemporaries. Notice that in verse 7 Paul used the language of accounting. He put all these things under the category of “jettisoned cargo” and not under “essential to survive.”  We are all in one way or another “accountants.” The word “loss” in the Greek “zemian” is used in Acts 27:10, 21 (to save the crew, sailors, and soldiers). Many things in the ship and cargo were cast into the ocean. Significant “loss” is suffered with great joy when contemplating the lives that were saved.

We are all in one way or another “accountants.”  Every day we have to judge the worth of many things: a good education, wealth, prestige, skills or talents and so on. But are these things really “gain” or “loss”?  It all depends on how one uses them. They can indeed be great “gain” if they are employed to glorify our Lord or they can be a significant “loss” and destroy the soul. 

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”  (Matthew 16:26).

Paul learned that apart from Jesus, everything he lived for was mere rubbish. Indeed, Paul cast many things into the sea to save his spiritual ship, Hebrews 10:32-34. Paul's primary goal was to gain Christ, becoming like Him in His death and as well as His resurrection from the dead. Paul viewed his life as a race to be won, a life to be lived in righteousness and a course to be completed or brought to fruition. Although he acknowledged that he had already run a lot, fought a lot, and had won great victories for Christ, he had not yet reached the ultimate goal for the prize. He recognized that though now he was an old man who had done great things for Christ; he was not free from the dangers of sin, (I Cor. 9:27).

If Paul, who excelled in love, zeal, self-denial and complete devotion to Christ, thought it necessary to speak this way, how much more should we who have not even begun to sacrifice like he did?! Even though Paul certainly knew he was on the right path, the Way, (John 14:6; Mat. 7:13-14; Acts 24:14), he never believed that he could not fall, (I Cor. 9:27; 10:13). He has taught us that we must run our race well until the battle is over. YES, Paul, who was so faithful and endured so much for the Lord's sake, could not “rest,” how much less we!

The word “perfect” the way Paul uses it in this text, means that absolute perfection of “the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” (Heb. 12:23). This is accomplished when one finishes the race. In Philippians 3:15, the word “perfect” is used in the sense of maturity. (Philippians 3:8-11).

Consider what Paul had to do to keep pressing on toward the goal: to “gain Christ.”


I.   HE HAD TO FORGET THE PAST:
“forgetting the things which are behind.” (Phil. 3:13).

The key word here is “forgetting.”  
  • Forgetting what? 
  • Leaving behind what? 
  • How can we leave behind all of our past failures, regrets, and disappointments?
  • Those who have let us down? 
  • Sins of the past? 
  • Wounds, wrongdoings, and betrayals left by those who intended to hurt us? 
  • How do we let go of the past's ugliness and sorrows? 
  • Slandering and gossip? 
  • How can we leave behind honor or recognition, material gains, or pleasures? 
  • How can we prevent our past from destroying our future even as it pollutes our present?  
  • How can we do that? 

Paul gives us his attitude of heart as well as the answers found in God's revealed Word. Few can rival the apostle Paul for reasons to have regrets. Remember, he had persecuted the church and had Stephen stoned to death; he dedicated all of his energy and time as well as his greatness to chasing down Christians, throwing them into jail. He tortured them and compelled them to blaspheme. In his own words, he was the “chief” of all sinners. 

Paul chose to “forget” his past and move forward. Paul did not try to dwell on all the heinous or wicked acts he had committed when he persecuted Christ and His church, (I Timothy 1:13). He could not afford to allow success to puff him up. Not the greatness of his past, nor his great achievements, or his severe sacrifices or even the surpassing greatness of the revelations he received, (2 Cor. 11:24-28; 12:7). He was resolved not to let anything distract him. Paul refused to live in the past. He focused on the future and moving forward. The highest prize was still ahead, at the goal line!

Perhaps, Paul in Philippians 3:13, is referring to all of the advantages or benefits he had in Judaism (verses 4-5); but it could well encompass anything concerning his past life that might keep him from running and finishing his race in Christ. Impediments such as discouragement, sorrow, persecutions, and success. Paul forgot about all those things he could have trusted in. He also had to forget all that could have discouraged him or distracted him.

So, Paul was forced to forget everything. If he didn't, it would have been like the Israelites who kept longing for and remembering all that they had left behind in Egypt, (Numbers 11:5-6).

We too must forget all that we have left behind, our forgiven sins, (Hebrews 8:12). God in His infinite mercy has forgiven us of our sins. Therefore, we must forgive ourselves. We must not continue afflicting ourselves all the time for having committed them. Sadly, many Christians have not stopped grieving. They don’t want to. Their memories are still very alive in the heart and mind. Their guilt and remorse prevent them from moving forward. They cannot win the spiritual race and the prize that God has set before them. We must move forward and not get stuck in the past. Let us correct what can be rectified and leave the past behind. It is not good for the salvation of our souls. Our goal must be the future. Our prize is future, and we have not yet reached it. The past is past and must be forgotten and left behind. It is the only way to heaven!

Moreover, we must forget past offenses. It is vital that we forgive others so that our Father in heaven can forgive us. A grudge does not edify the soul, nor does bitterness and anger, (Ephesians 4:31-32). We cannot forgive someone as if we were doing them a big favor. Because in doing this and having that negative attitude of heart, the forgiven person is still indebted to us. And it must not be this way among us!

In like manner, we must forget our past sufferings. Some are obsessed with them. We must not allow the memory of our suffering to dominate our thoughts and hearts. Instead, we must focus on the kingdom of righteousness where Christ is seated and ruling. Even our present suffering should not be the focal point. I have met many Christians who do not speak of anything but their sufferings, regrets, failures, disappointments, afflictions, and trials. It is a mistake to seek for sympathy and to feel sorry for oneself.  It is the desire of the flesh that does not need to be satisfied.  

I realize that each of us has his fair share of suffering, both mental and physical, but we Christians must be careful not to unload our sufferings on others all the time, apparently being obsessed with them.  Follow Paul’s example. He turned all of his sufferings, trials, and problems into opportunities when he said,

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Philippians 1:12-14).

So, why not have this attitude of heart like Paul did?!


II.   REACHING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE
“Stretching forward to the things which are before.” (Philippians 3:13)

Paul redirected his focus by moving forward with the work he had at hand to do. We are either moving forward, standing still or falling behind. Paul believed in moving forward, and we must use all of the forces God has given us to move on and not get stuck in the past. We must meet all the challenges that our God has for us. We must accept this challenge and make a difference. The difference must come as we live rooted and grounded in the Word of God. 
  • Accept and embrace the challenge to move forward in evangelizing even if many are not open to the Gospel; 
  • the challenge of leadership; 
  • the challenge of obeying God's Word; 
  • the challenge of praying more; 
  • the challenge of rejoicing more and being content rather than being anxious and ultimately
  • the challenge of moving the Lord's church forward into the future, but that involves every member. It is the only way to bring souls to the foot of the cross.  
Life is too short to get stuck in the past, not moving forward for the glory of God.  Life is too short to neglect the opportunity to move forward with joy doing good for others, enriching them spiritually as you speak to them about our Savior and His plan of redemption. Let us not get stuck in self-pity. Let us move forward and let go of whatever impedes the furthering of our souls and the church.

Paul knew he could not afford to get stuck in the past and fail to move forward. There was strenuous work to do. He did what was in front of him to accomplish as his highest goal. Getting ourselves busy helps us with so many afflictions of the flesh: depression, valleys of suffering, and problems. We must leave behind the negative conversation within our heart because it will not amount to anything and never get the job done. It dooms us and keeps us in the past. But we must get down on our knees that we might be able to press on toward the goal, “to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me. “ (Acts 20:24). It is all about our journey, forgetting what lies behind and stretching forward, always pressing on toward our goal.

In this same letter, Paul speaks with a singular voice, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” There is nothing to be anxious about. Worries choke the Word, (Luke 8:14) and are incompatible with peace, (Phi. 4:7). So let us resolve our worries and anxieties, with joy and gentleness, casting all of our fears and anxieties on Him because He cares and loves us immensely. Let us be careful and grateful about our circumstances. Every suffering, affliction, and heavy burden has a Bible solution, (2 Timothy 3:16-17). And let us fix our eyes only on Jesus rather than men. Our Lord and Savior is the “goal” and nothing else. Let us not be moved from our hope. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Therefore, let us be successful athletes who play to win, (I Cor. 9:27). But strong desire and motivation are vital to reaching forward to those things which are ahead, (Phil. 3:13).

So, let us find true contentment, (Phil. 4:11-13).  Let us change how we react to all of our problems and sufferings. No tranquilizer can alleviate even one of life's problems or the anguish of heart we feel. Pills cannot change our circumstances. We must find our strength in Christ. It is all about an attitude of the heart. Paul did not become bitter, angry, anxious, or worried but chose to say, 

“To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Cor. 4:11-13).
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Oh, how I love to read these passages when my heart is overwhelmed with the heavy burdens of this world. It fills my soul with joy and hope!!


III. HAVING OUR HEARTS FIXED ON THE GOAL
“I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

The Greek word for “press toward” is a stronger word than the one in verse 13 translated “reaching forward.” "Reaching forward" implies the direction one is headed toward the goal. On the other hand, “pressing forward” indicates using pressure that one may advance toward that goal. Likewise, it conveys the idea of intense endeavor.

The word “goal” refers to the “target” which is the primary objective (target, goal) that is reached by the one who is running. Now, the “prize” is the reward given by the Author and Finisher of the victorious race, that is, the “crown of righteousness,” (1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4:8); the “crown of life,” (Revelation 2:10), the “unfading crown of life,” (1 Peter 5:4).

Regarding this race, Paul exhorts us saying, 
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” (1 Cor. 9:24). 

So, what is the final goal or target?  The final meeting with our Lord Jesus, either when one dies (1:23) or at “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:13). Paul's primary focus in his life was on the future glory that was to be revealed, (Romans 8:18). Paul is our greatest example of heavenly perspective. Heaven was his primary target. He would obey God with all his might, pressing on toward his final goal of heaven. He pressed on as a faithful Christian that he might receive the crown of life. What a motivator this is for us!

Paul was not controlled by his past but rather looked with anticipation toward the future. No wonder he had so much joy! He knew his life did not depend on those things of the world, but the eternal principles of righteousness found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is vital that we concentrate on just one thing,
  • "but one thing I do." (Phi. 1:13);
  • “but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42); 
  • “One thing I do know.” (John 9:25).

Our prize cannot be obtained without both effort and focus. Remember that the runner presses on and finishes the race because he does not give up. He is focusing on the reward or keeping the prize in mind. Therefore, he is not willing to quit, even for a second, despite his pain, agony or exhaustion. That is what we must also do. Even in the midst of persecution, tragedy, pain, suffering, etc., he still keeps his faith. The winners of the contest will be rewarded! The winner will receive an imperishable crown. 
  1. So, how are you running your race? 
  2. Is heaven your goal? 
  3. Are you motivated and dedicated enough to achieving it at any cost? 
  4. If you are not putting Christ and His kingdom of righteousness first, I don't see how you can have heaven as your primary goal or target! 
  5. Are you making significant sacrifices for God according to His Word? 
  6. Are you pressing toward the goal, the prize, eternal life, or are you just dreaming about it, and living as you please?   
Think about it! Don't let go of your prize! 


Therefore, 
  1. Let us set our “minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col. 3:2).
  2. Let us not get entangled in the affairs of this life, (2 Tim. 2:4). 
  3. Let us walk like Paul and Christ, who walked faithfully, (1 Cor. 11:1). 
  4. And let us walk after the pattern we see in the New Testament that we may win the race and receive the prize.

IV. THERE MUST BE A FERVENT DESIRE TO WIN THE PRIZE: 
“for that is far better.” (Phil. 1:23).
There must be:
  • a “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” (Matt. 5:6); 
  • a thirst for the living God, (Psalm 42:2); 
  • a desire for a “better country, that is, a heavenly one.” (Heb. 11:16); 
  • a desire “to strive to enter through the narrow door.” (Luke 13:24).

VI. THE HOPE OF SALVATION IS VITAL TO RUN THE RACE WELL:

We must run our race with the full confidence of winning. Otherwise, we will not reach the goal. 

“For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” (Romans 8:24). 
“But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” (1 Thess. 5:8).

Therefore, all athletes who enroll must contend to win.  They are the ones who play with the real hope of winning. This is of great importance! Revelation 21, 22 and Matthew 25:34 must be our top motivators to victory in heaven, where we will receive our crown of righteousness, glory, and life. Our hope is so strong that we can almost taste it!


CONCLUSION:

Sometimes our past is our worst enemy. We struggle with our past (mistakes, disappointments, failures, wrongdoing, wounds, past sins, accomplishments, achievements, traditions, etc.), finding it almost impossible to forget and move forward. It is easier to remember than to forget.

The apostle Paul exhorts us through the revealed Word to forget what lies behind and to reach forward to what lies ahead. Paul was able to get beyond his own past mistakes and great accomplishments by forgetting the past and reaching forward to the future for the prize of the upward calling of Jesus our Lord. And though Paul had won many spiritual battles, extending the Gospel of Jesus to the Gentiles in Asia Minor, he did not claim to have attained spiritual maturity (the state of completion as a Christian). So he pressed on, pursuing consistently with all deliberate speed to obtain the prize that Christ had in store for him. He seized Christ just as Christ seized him (on the road to Damascus, changing his life forever). His desire was to take hold of Christ, to know and love Him as much as Jesus had taken hold of him.

In other words, Paul pursued the goal of being like Christ. He did so with the enthusiasm and perseverance of a runner like those who participated in the Greek games. He conformed to the image of Christ. He knew but one thing: “forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Indeed, Paul ran focusing on those things that matter the most, the spiritual ones and not the things of the flesh which are only temporary. He focused on his citizenship, heaven and not earth. We must be of the same mind as Paul, who kept reaching forward and pressing on toward the goal of eternal life in heaven; that is where we belong.

Sadly for many, their affections are not on heavenly things. They become distracted by this world (materialism, entertainment, recreation, lusts, pleasures, etc.). They are willing to lose their souls for earthly pursuits. Are you?  May we always seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

As Christians, we must move forward with the right attitude of heart about God, His Word, His church, the lost and our lives, accepting the challenges by focusing and being rooted in the Word of God. But to move forward, we must fight with tooth and claw the enemies of ignorance, unbelief, apathy, and sin. We cannot afford to lose the battle and our race. We must run well and fight that we may win our prize.

We must fix our eyes on Jesus and not man, to reach our goal. Likewise, we must have an intense hunger and thirst for righteousness, and for the living God so that we might reach the goal. We must strive to enter the narrow gate. But one thing we must do, one thing is needful, one thing I know: “reaching forward to those things which are ahead.”

The hope of salvation is vital to run and finish the race victoriously. We must run with the hope of winning the race to win the prize.

Therefore, let us not allow ourselves to become distracted by the past or be discouraged. On that final day, the faithful will be given incorruptible, glorious and heavenly bodies. They will be with the Lord for eternity.  Such hope is worth fighting for!!

May we continue to press on toward our goal, heaven where our citizenship is. May we never allow ourselves to become distracted by the things of this world and give up our heavenly citizenship. May we gain Christ for this is indeed gain. May we compete according to the rules, as real athletes, to win the prize. And finally, may we fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith and receive our award, the crown of righteousness.

Luci

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

THE BLESSEDNESS OF GIVING

"In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive."' 
Acts 20:35


A "taker" is not necessarily a bad person.  He is just someone who expects others to give to him. He is not especially good at seeing opportunities for giving or generosity toward others. He misses the joy that comes from the love that is willing to sacrifice his own wants and needs for the good of others. Let us think about the Lord's promise, "it is more blessed to give than to receive."


One of the everlasting beatitudes in the Bible is:  "It is more blessed to give than to receive."  (Acts 20:35).  Is the giver happier than the receiver?  I wonder how many actually believe this and put it into practice?!  Indeed it is "more blessed to give than to receive."  Surely, it is more blessed to be a giver than a taker.  The givers seem to be happier than the takers.  It is natural to want to be blessed or happy but I wonder how many actually know what it takes to be completely happy?! God, our Creator, knows and tells us in His Word how to find and pursue happiness.  Happiness does not depend on our material riches.  As material riches soar, happiness remains relatively unchanged. So the question is:  is there a connection between giving to others and increased levels of happiness?  This is exactly where I want to focus in my study.

But, there is a problem!  Our intuitions or instincts cry out against it.  Ironically, many are unaware of the hidden key to true happiness.  Most fail to acknowledge that giving to others brings more joy than spending money to satisfy the desires of the flesh.  But, Christ's followers must not think this way! Our Lord Jesus has taught us that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."  (Acts 20:35).  The question is:  do we believe it and live accordingly to our Lord's teachings?  It is God's plan for man to give.  Man has been designed to give to others, so as a matter of fact, this is what will bring him the greatest satisfaction.

As children of God, we must grasp the importance of giving to others freely since God has blessed us and given us so much, beyond our comprehension.  Our desire should be to bless others because our Creator has blessed us so abundantly, both with physical and spiritual riches.  In a few words, all Christians ought to live to give; not to earn blessings and praises, but because we owe our God immensely (the gift of salvation).  It is the right thing to do and will lead us to greater joy and blessings. So, do you want to find satisfaction in life?  Then, start giving more!

Consider the following reasons why it is more blessed to give than to receive:

  • God is the preeminent Giver: 
God is the one who gives to mankind life and breath, everything, (Acts 17:25).  He has also given us the gift of salvation by sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins,  (John 3:16).  He has given us abundantly all that we need that pertains to life and godliness, (2 Peter 1:3). He gives us wisdom, (James 1:5).  He has given us peace and grace through His Son, who gave Himself as a ransom to deliver us from God's wrath, (Galatians 1:3-4).

  • Everything belongs to God:  
The world and its fullness, the heaven and the heaven of heavens are His, (Psalm 50:10-12; Deut. 10:14; Haggai 2:8; I Chr. 29:14; Deut. 8:18; I Tim. 6:17).

  • We are stewards of God's blessings:  
It is crucial that we understand that we are not "owners" of our "possessions."  Instead, everything belongs to Him alone.  We are His stewards and will have to give an account to Him of how we have used all the blessings He has bestowed upon us.  Jesus emphasizes this principle in all of His parables.  Consider some of them:
    • The parable of the talents:  (Matthew 25:14-30).
    • The parable of the rich fool:  (Luke 12:15-21).
    • The parable of the unrighteous steward:  (Luke 16:1-13).
    • The parable of the ten minas, usage of money:  (Luke 19:11-27).

All Christians are God's stewards and ought to administer God's grace freely with all diligence.  In the first century, the apostles would lay their hands on certain Christians to impart a variety of spiritual gifts through the Holy Spirit, (I Corinthians 12:4-11).  And though today we don't have the same "miraculous spiritual gifts," we still have spiritual gifts that we need to manage and use well. Consider what Romans 12:6-8 has to say about the best use of God's gifts to us:  
"Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;  if  service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness."

Notice that the "distribution" is a gift of God.  Therefore, we must use those gifts well accordingly to the will of God.  "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."  (I Peter 4:10).

  • It is in giving that we are doing God's will, obeying His commandment:  
Our Lord and Savior has left us a great example of giving by dying a cruel death on the cross for the remission of our sins.  Considering such a gift, our giving must be done with a cheerful heart without complaint.  The Lord expects and demands of us that we give freely the way that He has freely given to us.  He demands that we be zealous for good works.  All of God's laws or commandments were given to enhance our lives as we obey them.  The giving that God commands likewise will enrich our lives increasing our happiness.  It will bring joy!

"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'"  (Matthew 25:34-40).
 "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need."  (Ephesians 4:28)
"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.  They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share."  (I Timothy 6:17-18).
"who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."  (Titus 2:14).
"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work... that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.  And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful."  (Titus 3:1,8,14).

  • It is in giving that we are submitting to the Lordship of Jesus:  
Every act of total obedience acknowledges and makes valid or legal the higher authority that is in our lives:  our Lord and Savior.  He is the head over us and therefore is entitled and worthy of all honor and reverence.  "Did you know that our submission to God is tested in this area?"  Our selfish nature makes it difficult at times to be givers to others.  Sadly for many of us, it is difficult to obey this order to share our riches (such as money) with others who are in more need than we are.  Our wallet seems to be the target.  It is the last citadel to fall to God's rule.  If only we had the heart to remember that Divine Lordship is in no way a threat to us but rather a place of great safety.

  • Giving shows God's loving kindness, His grace to all man:  
Lest we forget, God is the GIVER of every good and perfect gift, (James 1:17).  As His children, in His likeness, we are commanded to imitate Him.  That means GIVING.  God wants us to enlarge our hearts just the way He does.  Don't forget that the wider and larger our hearts are, the better we paint a picture of His likeness, His character.  My question is:  "what do others think of God when they see our behavior regarding the way we use our riches, our money?"

Jesus’ sacrifice is our measure of sacrificial giving, (John 3:16).  The apostle Paul exhorts us to give more.  This is seen in his letters.  In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul pointed them to Christ, Christ's character,  "For to this end also I wrote, so that I might put you to the test whether you are obedient in all things."  (2 Corinthians 2:9).  When we give sacrificially with eagerness of heart, we abound in God's grace, love, faith, obedience.... It is in giving to others that we are proclaiming the "good news" of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior.  There is no other way!

  • The grace of giving:  
God loves a cheerful giver, "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."   (2 Corinthians 9:7).  Giving delights God.  He is well pleased when His children, enlarge their hearts gladly providing for the needs of His children.  Through Paul, God repeatedly commends those like the Macedonian brethren, who gave beyond their monetary resources and gave of themselves to the needy saints in Jerusalem, (I Cor. 16:1-3; Romans 15:26).  They enlarged their hearts to supply the needs of others.  They did not offer breadcrumbs to the Lord but rather emptied themselves to bless others.  In doing this, they clearly removed all greed!

"Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God."   (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).   
So, is it possible to know how much we ought to give?  We find the answer in Acts 11:29: 

"And the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judaea." 

In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of the grace of God.  So, what does grace have to do with giving?  It has much to do with it.  The word "grace" means "favor."  Therefore, giving is an expression of God's favor, a blessing from God.  When we give, God is blessing us.  When we fill God's plate, He is filling ours as well.  If we only knew that there is nothing else that can make a Christian happier than knowing that he is doing the will of God.  And in doing this, our God is well pleased.  He is delighted.  Giving glorifies our God.

  • Giving trusts God's provision:  
Fear is one of the biggest discouragements to many.  We fear that if we are abundantly generous, we will not have enough for this or that.  We need to remember and take to heart that when we give sacrificially the way God expects and demands of us, we are expressing our faithfulness and trust to God, to provide all of our daily needs.  This is walking in FAITH.  Many Christians have found out that there is joy when they cast their bread crumbs upon the waters.  They find out that the return or exchange is multiple loaves after many days, "Cast your bread on the surface of the waters, for you will find it after many days."  ( Ecclesiastes 11:1).  If only we knew how much joy and blessedness there is in giving!  It is in giving that we are fulfilling God's promises of provision.

  • Giving advances or grows God's kingdom, His church:  
Many of us have contributed in one way or another to the success of a secular business and so on.  But we must not forget that we must contribute to the Lord's work, His church.  We must give to the Lord our time, ourselves, our riches, everything, for the success of His kingdom.  This will help the work of the church in evangelizing and meeting the needs of the saints.  We must purpose in our heart to invest spiritually for the welfare of those who are dying because of sin.  We can help and be partakers financially of what God has blessed us with in the spreading of the Gospel to save souls.  We can provide for the needs of a local preacher who has dedicated his life to evangelizing and changing lives that have been damaged because of the weight of sin.  Our dollars can change homes, relationships, nations and most importantly the souls of those who are lost.
  • Giving sanctifies us:
Not only does giving promote God's works throughout His kingdom, but also allows God to work in us, to our own sanctification.  Giving teaches us self-denial and self-dying.  It is in giving that we are showing God's grace freely to others.  God's grace is spreading largely in our hearts.   Material possessions can leave us bankrupt, but sin can also bankrupt our souls.  And our souls are priceless!

  • Giving is a demonstration of our love:
Giving proves our genuine love for God and others:  "I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.  So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men."  (2 Cor. 8:8, 24).

"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."  (I John 3:17-18).


  • Giving testifies of God's power:  
Although we have been commanded by God not to let our left hand know what our right hand does, it is evident that Christians give plentifully to the churches and secular charity organizations.  Even the unbelievers notice the generosity of Christians.  They may not say it but surely they think it.  This generosity testifies of God's power to provide for His children so richly so that they may provide for the needs of others.

  • Giving praises and vindicates God's character:  
Giving cheerfully without remorse is an act of worship.  It renders a tribute of honor and praise to God.  This is how we must express our gratitude toward Him.  It reveals our faithfulness and thanksgiving to Him the "Author" of all our blessings:  The good gifts that come from above to us.  As David sang:  "What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me?" Psalm 116:12).

    CONCLUSION:

    God has blessed us bountifully.  He has generously blessed us with both physical and spiritual riches. Likewise, He has blessed us richly with a family (wife, husband, and children).  This is one of God's most special blessing toward us.  He also has blessed us with a spiritual family, the church.  As His children we ought to imitate Him in our kindness, generosity, love and giving, (Ephesians 5:1).  And though it is God's commandment to us, it is the only way to find satisfaction and true happiness. With all the blessings in giving, let us be cheerful givers without regret.  Let us give with joy in our heart.
    "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work."  (2 Corinthians 9:8).

    May we learn from Jesus, who gave Himself freely on the cross to die for our sins.  May we always remember that giving gives us joy and glorifies our God.  May we give ourselves completely to our Creator and freely extend His grace to others.



    Luci

    Saturday, May 7, 2016

    LET US SING THE PRAISES OF OUR SACRED CALLING TO MOTHERHOOD!

    "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well." 
    2 Timothy 1:5


    I cherish the memories of my mother's care for me. Of course, not all mothers were like mine. Only now as an adult do I understand that the special love and sacrifices that my mother made for me are what God expects of all mothers. Let us think for a while about what God expects from us as married women and mothers.

    God's Word has forever changed me as a woman, a wife, and a mother. He has changed both my goals and my perspectives. And though that same Word was not very comforting at times when it cut like a sword through my heart, I always knew that it was authoritative, correct and true, regardless of culture, circumstances or perceived relevance. It is then that I realized that God did not want me at all to adapt His Word to my circumstances but rather to adapt myself to His principles of righteousness as found in His Word. It became clear to me that God expected me “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” (Romans 8:29). This, of course, would include my gifts, my intellect, and my creativity. God demanded my absolute obedience and submission to Christ even though our culture was dictating otherwise. As a result of this, my role as wife and mother became very significant in my walk with Him. All that was of great importance to me (my academic and professional training) I began to view in a new light. My commitment to please God, my Creator, in my marriage and my home gained and added a new dimension. 

    Today, many women (even Christians) have become “liberated,” devoting themselves to ambitious busyness everywhere, except the home. They are entangled and swamped in achieving goals of success, honor, prestige and recognition. Sadly, many of these are wives and mothers whose primary goal is to generate professional pursuits that promise them power and money. As they do this, they cut the apron strings of motherhood. Modern culture urges young women to cut the apron strings of their mothers, launching them prematurely into a menacing world!  Our mothers have been replaced by institutional day care centers and the cold apple turnovers from McDonald's!  It is outrageous!!

    Our women have been liberated to pursue their personal goals instead of following their God-given role of overseeing the home and rearing children as a heritage for generations to come. They have been brainwashed and deceived into thinking that if they don't become enslaved to a secular career, a titled occupation with a good salary, that they are wasting their time, that they are a failure, and are imprisoned in a boring home. What they don't realize is that liberation, self-fulfillment, personal rights and the breaking of barriers mean the opposite. Why? Because a paying job and titled position can indeed inhibit a woman's natural maternal instinct by reversing her priorities. Tragically, this is a total failure since it affects inevitably the rearing of her children and the sheltering protection of those that God has entrusted to her, her children. Lest we forget, that in our quest to be all that we want to be, we forget what we are meant to be by our Creator. The real question is this:  Is being a wife and mother really worth all our investment in life?

    The heart of motherhood has been broken and perverted throughout history.  Modern society has corrupted God's divine design for the home. As a terrible consequence of this, families have been torn apart. Parents have failed in their sacred calling. And children have rebelled against their Creator because of this. Men and women have degraded and mistreated each other as well as their offspring. Those children have suffered the painful results and have passed them along to their own children. This is sad!

    There is no greater calling for a woman than God's design for her as a mother, wife, and homemaker. It is such a blessing to be co-creators with the God of the universe; to be able to conceive and bear a new life. There is nothing in the whole world (prestige, money, fame, social status, honor) that can even come close to the supreme calling of motherhood as designed by our Creator. Indeed, there is no calling that is more challenging but at the same time more dignified than that of being a mother, a wife and a homemaker. Our God in heaven wants us to embrace this sacred calling with great joy. God's purpose for me as a mother is to do His will and to glorify Him. It means that I must follow His design for marriage (cleaving to my husband, supporting him and most importantly honoring him and loving him as my own flesh).  As a child of God and mother, I am to steward carefully all that He has bestowed upon me and make wise use of the gifts and talents He has given to me that I may bring Him glory and further His kingdom. That is, I am to delight, obey, worship and praise my Creator in whatever circumstances I find myself.

    God's sacred calling for me as a wife and a mother, is to follow His design for the home. It means that I am to shepherd the hearts of the children He has entrusted to my care. I am to care for them gently and lovingly and to collaborate with Him and my husband in leading my children to Him through His Word in obedience, that is, to do His will. As a wife and a mother, I am to nurture and honor my vocation in the home.  How?  As I exercise my skills, training, and gifts toward those whom God has entrusted to me. The way I live my life as a Christian (whether it is walking in righteousness or unrighteousness) will have a clear impact on the lives of my children.

    God's design for motherhood is filled with purpose, joy, peace and fulfillment. To embrace that design, I must understand Him and His purpose for life. He demands maturity so that I may make wise decisions. He requires that I develop my skills of hospitality, homemaking, spiritual nurturing, truth, morality, physical and emotional security, diplomacy, leadership, training and much more. God's design indeed provides all that is needed for completeness in life. Motherhood is not just a lifestyle choice; it is a divine calling that will certainly affect eternity.

    My vision or perception of motherhood and of a life that pleases God has expanded over the years as I have matured in Him, as I have learned to trust in Him, my goals for the family have grown bigger and bigger.

    Sadly, the role of motherhood and homemaking has been dishonored and neglected in our society. God's purpose for the family has been viewed with disdain in our society and even in the church. Alas, many Christians have been wrongly influenced by our supposedly sophisticated, intelligent and modern culture that views the “family” as passé, i.e., old-fashioned and out of date. But God is not impressed with our sophistication.

    My prayer is that I may encourage mothers and wives to secure a spiritual legacy. Our children are like empty treasure chests that need to be filled with God's spiritual riches, nurturing and love. Each child whose treasure chest is full of abundant riches will be able to endure life's demands. I thank God with all my heart for giving me a mother who helped me with wisdom and perspective during times of difficulty. A mother's relationship with her children will be dearly embraced for a lifetime. How blessed is the child who has that anchor of strength and support!


    I.   IN THE BEGINNING:  GOD'S BEAUTIFUL DESIGN

    In Genesis 1-3, we find God's original arrangement of creation. It is the perfect foundation for marriage and the family. Without a clear understanding of God's intent for marriage and of His design for the home, dysfunction, moral anarchy and chaos reign. You see, God had a design in mind when He created the family. And when we follow His perfect pattern for the home, we can bear much fruit. The family was to be the unit of life around which all of life should be organized.

    Each of us was made with a different role to complement and help each other. God created woman to be the life-bearers, the nurturers. This is what is means to be a woman. God made women to be queens of their home. I am pretty sure you have heard the saying, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” It means that the ones who teach the next generations are the people who decide who will rule and govern the world. So, who rules the cradle in our culture today?  The public schools, government, caretakers, strangers, etc. Sadly, there are fewer and fewer women today who accept the importance of the role of wives and mothers and of daughters and grandmothers. They ignore God's unique role for women as coheirs of grace to be helpmeets to their husbands and help bring up godly children so that they may beautify God's kingdom.

    In Genesis 1:26-28, we see a clear picture of God's primary intent when He made man and woman to rule the earth and take dominion over it. Genesis 1:28 speaks of God's main purpose for families from the beginning. Men and women were to “fill the earth” with children; being fruitful was part of God's blessing. To “subdue” means to rule over and bring something into productivity.


    II.   THE BLESSING OF CHILDREN:

    The blessing that God pronounced on Adam and Eve carried an essential element. Not only were they (man and woman) to rule over and subdue the earth, but were to also “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” They were to have many children!

    Before the fall, man and woman's greatest responsibility, as well as privilege, was procreation (i.e., to bring other human beings into this world). This was God's purpose for their marriage. These offspring were also expected to know God's design. It meant that they would learn the significance of being made in the righteous image of their Creator, to subdue the earth for God's glory, to populate the earth with their own children thus producing a godly heritage.

    It is vital that we understand and accept that children are a blessing and that bearing children likewise is an essential part of God's divine design for us. The Scriptures continue to support this design today.

    Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. “ (Psalm 127:3-5).  

    There is no shame in having many children, even today! The shame is in not having children.

    “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:1-4)
    The man who fears the Lord and walks in His ways will labor for his house and seek children. He will rejoice when the Lord gives him a fruitful wife. He will not mourn should God give him children, but rather rejoice.

    What a beautiful picture of blessing that comes from fruitfulness!

    The fruitful family was the foundational setting in which the Son of God was born, to present His Father to us. In His earthly home, He was not an only child. When God, the Father, chose to send His Son, Jesus into this world as a full reflection of His glory, He chose to bring His Son into a simple family composed of a mother and father and several children. It was in this family context that Jesus was instructed, trained, loved, nurtured, protected and prepared for His ministry that was lying ahead.

    Throughout Jesus' ministry, He affirmed and upheld God's divine design for marriage and family. Likewise, He stressed the needs and concerns of children. In Luke 2:51-52, we read that Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the authority of his earthly parents and that He prospered in the role of a son to parents. Even when He was on the cross, Jesus expressed His respect for the family when He requested that His disciple John should take care of His mother, Mary.

    Jesus portrayed a consistent concern and love for children when He compared the kingdom of God to the character of children. We read of Him spending time with children, talking, drawing them to Himself and blessing them. He even demanded that we become like children that we may enter into His kingdom. Why did He do that?  Was it just a metaphor or was He making a critical point about the value of children?

    God's mind has not changed concerning His design for the family and the centrality of children in His plan to bless and redeem the earth.


    III.   MEN AND WOMEN WERE  CREATED WITH DIFFERENT GENDER ROLES:

    Genesis 1 gives us a clear explanation of God's original design. Gender differences were an important part of God's good creation from the beginning.  In Genesis 2 God created Adam first, assigning him a variety of specific tasks such as cultivating and taking care of the garden for Him. (Genesis 2:15). He was also to name the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). As Adam got involved in performing these tasks, God allowed him to notice his need for a companion, a helpmeet who would help him to fulfill his God-giving purpose on earth. But God was already thinking about finding a remedy for Adam's loneliness: "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'"  (Genesis 2:18). So Eve was created to be Adam's helpmeet (helper) in subduing the earth to glorify God. Eve was to be more than a helper. She was also to share, comfort and love him in the intimacy of marriage, (Genesis 2:24-25).

    This design by God had a purpose and meaning. Man and woman were called together not only to subdue and rule over the earth but to provide companionship for one another, a partnership for the purpose of producing children, procreation. God's primary intent was for this relationship to be a mutual blessing. And to help ensure this blessing, God created them physically and emotionally different, with different attributes and different gender roles.

    For example, the man, Adam was more suited for arduous physical work since he was bigger and stronger than Eve. The woman was the weaker vessel, more fragile than her husband even though she had many of the same traits. But she was blessed with a unique ability that made her vital for the survival of all that God had created. She was able to bear children.

    In Genesis 3:20 we read that the first woman was named Eve, meaning “life” or “living” because she was “the mother of all living.”  She was the first woman as God's creature made in His likeness. She was to bring life to another human being. This was part of God's blessing. What a beautiful picture of God!  From the beginning, He supplied the woman with what is necessary to bring life into this world from her own body and to nurture a growing family!  How wonderful and precious it is for God to have given her a womb to bear children, breasts to nurse (“Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!”  Luke 11:27), the makeup of the right hormones to be able to nurture and care for her children to maintain a special connection with them!

    From the beginning, God equipped women for a particular role in the family; that of bringing life into this world to nurture. And though Genesis does not spell this out for us, I am convinced that this was God's primary responsibility for a family, to bear children and establish and maintain a home.

    Proverbs 31 gives us a fuller picture of both a woman's gifts and the variety of ways she can be a blessing to her family as she fulfills her God-ordained role. All the activities listed in this beautiful proverb revolved around her dominion, her home:
    • the preparation of good food, verse 14.
    • clothing, verses 13, 21.
    • ministering to others (hospitality), verses 17-20. 
    • teaching or instructing her children as well as others, verse 26. 
    • her faithfulness to God, verse 30.
    • the work of her hands, verse 16. 
    • her future and well-being, verse 25. 
    • her productivity, verse 27.
    • meeting her husband's needs, verse 11
    • The sum of all these traits is “She looks well to the ways of her household,” verse 27.

    Proverbs 31 contains a full-length portrait of how a woman of God ought to be.  Here we don't read of a woman's right or pursuits of self-serving interests nor do we hear any mention of the husband being assigned to the domestic pursuits of his home. In fact, his occupation, as well as his other tasks, are clearly stated, “Her husband has full confidence in her... Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land,” (Proverbs 31:11, 23). This beautiful Proverb is written as an acrostic perhaps to emphasize the characteristics of God's ideal woman; committed to homemaking, chaste helpmeet, upright and God-fearing woman of strength. And though many women don't match her perfect skills and creativity, we all can identify our respective talents within this model and can strive for this woman's spiritual excellence of strength and dignity. Half of this proverb is composed of personal and domestic strength. The only way to succeed in our task as homemakers and wives is to do it joyously as unto the Lord. The only way to avoid the drudgery of mundane tasks is to pray for God's help in the making and nurturing of our homes.


    IV.   A “VERY GOOD” DESIGN:

    Many in our culture look at the biblical view of the home and gender roles with disdain and difficulty. Of course, they are ignorant of God's Word when He said it was a “very good” design. It was God's perfect plan to bring about His purposes on earth and blessing to all people. When God's commands are obeyed, we all flourish because we are living in harmony with the way we were designed and with the One who designed them. What makes us great women of strength in the eyes of our Creator is the obedience to God's Word, the joyful submission to our role and the willingness to be used by God in the way He designed us to be. We are to glorify God in whatever circumstances and boundaries we find ourselves in this life; using our gifts well.


    V.  WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO GOD'S DESIGN?

    From Genesis and throughout the New Testament, the family has always been the center of God's design for all people. Men and women were created in God's image, being called together to a lifetime commitment. Women were created to bear children, to care for them and oversee their household. The family was designed from the beginning to be a place of security and a stable foundation from which all life could flow. Men and women working together were God's perfect picture of mutual partnership of stability and unity. The love and commitment of both parents and children were to provide a clear vision of life to be handed down to each passing generation. When God completed His design, He pronounced it “very good.” Throughout the Bible, He has reaffirmed and elaborated on the goodness of His plan for the family.  So what happened to God's design?

    Sin has destroyed God's original design for the home as set forth in Genesis.  From the beginning of time, Satan has eagerly sought to destroy God and all the goodness of His design, (I Peter 5:8-9). To destroy the foundation of the family as designed by God is a natural place for Satan to attack.  So what does this have to do with motherhood? As we look at our current culture, it is easy to see the implications. As men delighted in living a life according to the philosophies of this world, God's original design for the home was constantly attacked. Over the centuries, it has teetered on the edge of destruction because of various distortions.

    I heartily believe Satan has succeeded in destroying God's divine design for the home for a significant portion of our people. He is breaking up marriages, denigrating the home and trying at all cost to destroy us because he hates us. The role of wife and mother was held in high esteem just a few generations ago; and was also considered worthy of great honor, appreciation, and respect. The homemaker was seen as noble, sacred, strong, capable, intelligent, dignified and irreplaceable in the home and society.

    Sadly, much has changed. Satan has indeed diverted us. Over the last century, Biblical womanhood has been under extreme attack both from radical feminists and Marxists. One of their main attempts to annihilate the traditional (God-ordained family unit) is by removing women from their rightful sphere. One of their most successful strategies has been to belittle and demean the role of the woman in the home. They fervently proclaim that it is the worst and least useful position and one that must be abandoned at all costs. They have succeeded in making many women fail to their God-given role, leaving their homes as though they are wasting their lives in mindless drudgery and that they are even a burden on society. Consider the following quotes from some famous feminists and humanists:

    “The chief thing is to get women to take part in socially productive labor, to liberate them from 'domestic slavery,' to free them from their stupefying and humiliating subjugation to the eternal drudgery of the kitchen and the nursery. This struggle will be a long one, and it demands a radical reconstruction, both of social technique and of morale. But it will end in the complete triumph of Communism.” V.I. Lenin, International Working Women's Day Speech, 1920.
    “The housewife is a nobody, and housework is a dead-end job. It may actually have a deteriorating effect on her mind... rendering her incapable of prolonged concentration of any single task. She comes to seem dumb as well as dull. Being a housewife makes women sick.” Sociologist Jessie Bernard, The Future of Marriage, 1982.
    “A parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism … the housewife's labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable... Woman's work within the home is not directly useful for society, produces nothing. The housewife is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a 'career for woman.'” Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949.

    Tragically, Satan convinced women to go as far as to the other side and be men; the ones they have criticized so much. In the process, they have denied their own womanhood. They now have two problems. 

    Take for example abortion. Women were created by God to be life-bearers. Now the world of feminism is telling them that it is actually noble for a woman to discard the fruit of her womb. She is just exercising her "right to choose."  
    • What about the child's right to be born, nurtured and loved by his mother? 
    • What about those women who choose to abort their child even though their God-given instinct is to protect her baby? 
    Such acts of lawlessness do violence to a woman's soul.

    None can deny that Satan has been lying to us and now multitudes of women have drunk deeply of the contaminated waters of feminism's well without realizing it. The shocking statements mentioned earlier by feminists have permeated the thinking of the entire world, even Christians. The consequences have been devastating.


    VI.   WHAT HAPPENS WHEN GOD'S DESIGN IS IGNORED?

    When God's ordained purpose for the home is lost, we start to see a deterioration. Remember, God wants us to build a family and a heritage to glorify Him. Instead, we see homes crumbling every day as more marriages end up in divorce. All because men and women will not surrender to God's ordained design. Self-centeredness in the marital relationship is a problem ready for failure. The glue that was intended to hold together their marriage is just not there. They get divorced so that they may start searching for the perfect mate all over again. They jump from relationship to relationship all their lives, trying to find the kind of elusive love found in the movies. Others want to find fulfillment outside the family (work, affairs, sports, hobbies, charities, the internet, friendships and so on). Some women even turn to their children for something meaningful. Of course, the main consequence of all this mess is that they are leaving behind God's ordained plan for the home.

    When one willfully ignores God's divine plan for the home, it is going to be difficult to pass on God's ideals and ways to the next generation to build a godly heritage. Children tend to lose their proper place of value in life. And instead of being welcomed as God's blessings, they are valued by how well they fill their parents' own needs, turning their children into sources of emotional fulfillment. They have children for the same reasons they marry; to make themselves feel good. The children are considered blessings as long as they fulfill their needs. They put heavy burdens on their children to meet their expectations and emotional demands. The tragedy of this is that they are teaching their children to be self-absorbed, passing on a legacy of emotional neediness rather than godliness and righteousness.

    Another consequence of this is that they regard their children as a burden, inconvenient. They utterly lose their sacred calling for having children. Therefore, children are seen as a time drain, a monetary expense, a career impediment and an imposition on personal freedom. This has devastating effects on both personal and societal levels. It leads tragically to birth control, high abortion, child abuse and neglect; all of which are clear symptoms of our culture today. Therefore, children are not important, why have them and raise them?

    Once children lose their value in society, so does the work of bringing them into this world, tending and caring for them once they are born. It is nothing but the terrible consequence of leaving behind God's design for the home. Motherhood is devalued instead of being revered, honored and supported by society. As a result of this mess, many women are confused and torn between our culture messages and God's eternal message. It is the plan He has written for them to put in their hearts. Sadly, many of my sisters in Christ feel this way.

    The problem here is that once they are absorbed by this cultural message, they avoid having children, limiting the number of children so that they can have plenty of time and energy for their so-called “real” work. They even resent their own children, because the care they need keeps them from being “productive.”  It becomes a choice between a successful career and a vibrant home.  My sisters this ought not to be!

    As a result of all this, a whole generation of children ends up feeling rushed and pushed into a home with little or no stability, comfort, and joy. They forget that a home without a strong support structure can never pass on righteousness or morals to our society. When the biblical mission of motherhood is degraded, it quickly disappears from our culture, and the next generation suffers the consequences both morally, emotionally and spiritually. Take heed!!

    On the other hand, a minority of godly mothers who chose to devote their lives to the nurturing of their children so that they pass it on as a godly heritage, find themselves unsupported and unaffirmed by our culture and even the church that does not value the contribution they are making. Their sacrificial work of making a home a haven is often perceived as menial labor instead of godly. As a consequence of this, many of these mothers suffer from feelings of isolation, loneliness, and even discouragement. Let us be wise!  We don't have to follow in the madness of this world!  Our homes deserve something better. Our families deserve a haven of refreshment, a thriving metropolis of productivity rather than McMansions devoid of life. Indeed, they are pretty to behold but are empty and lifeless while their occupants live a hectic, frenetic, 100 miles an hour life in the fast lane; trying to get ahead and get to the top of the corporate ladder; trying to squish as many activities as possible outside their domain, their precious home. I invite you to tour our beautiful neighborhoods and look for any signs of life aside from the family dog that might be barking in the back yard. They are sterile. They are dead quiet!

    Mothers, daughters, wives and sisters remember that we have in our hands the making of the future of our nation. We must rise up at once to our sacred calling. Ah! Throw away your weakening follies of fashion, and soul famine and rise to God's challenge, the one He intended for you to achieve, the woman He designed you to be.

    • Start making each of your homes from now on schools of true politeness, righteousness, and tender affection. 
    • Teach your children what the kingdom of righteousness is all about and start exercising your power now that you may reap the fruit of your ripe age. 
    • Start being the wife, the godly wife God has intended for you to be. 
    Take these words to heart!!


    VII.   WHOLEHEARTED MOTHERING IN A HALFHEARTED SOCIETY:

    Our culture has lost the vision of the crucial role mothers play in the life of the next generation. We are not encouraging our women to embrace motherhood with their whole heart as an occupation worthy of our full life's devotion. Part of the design of our femininity has been devalued. God created us to nurture and provide a life-giving environment in our home, to be the center of life for those who live there. Let us be women of vision. We are not here to serve ourselves, to be lauded, petted, admired or “affirmed.” We are here to do God's will in building men, godly cultures and kingdoms. We don't have the time for self-pity! We have much to do and time is short! We need to have a better vision of home than just ourselves. We must understand that we are at work to build God's kingdom for eternity. And where does it start?  At home!  It is not just about raising children who sit politely at the table; is not about having homes that sparkle with cleanliness. It is not about having spouses who love one another, presenting a glorious picture of Christ and His bride; although these are very important. It is about bringing all these things together to build a godly culture. Let us put our focus on the things that really matter in life.

    • Are we teaching our children to serve Christ, helping around our homes by doing acts of love, obedience, and kindness? 
    • Are we teaching our children to be servants of all? We have Christ as our best example! (John 13:12-17). 
    • Of course, to accomplish all this, we mothers need to be examples, leading in a godly way. There is no neutrality. There is no other way!

    Mothers, we are building cultures, societies, and kingdoms while we are training our little ones at home. And if we don't train them well, someone else will, our rotten and corrupt culture. Let us then not forsake the God-ordained design for our homes. Let us return to God and our homes and start rebuilding a godly heritage that can reach into the future.

    Sisters take heart!  You are helping the generations to come. There is nothing more significant than the work you do at home for your family. Embrace your God-given work and responsibility with joy and delight. Let no one fool you. What you do with what God has set before you makes a big difference either for good or ill in this world.

    Grandmothers, aunts, and cousins, you are also a part of God's vision. It is a lie that only mothers can affect or impact the future generations. We are all part of the Body that needs each member. The arm cannot say to the eye, “I don't need you; I can do this work by myself.” We must all pull together so that we may further Christ's kingdom, the one He has built for us. We sisters need the guidance and encouragement of the older sisters in Christ. Likewise, we need the servant-hearted help of our younger sisters in Christ. We are all a Body! We are all in this together!

    So if we want to see a culture that values righteousness rather than lawlessness, we must return to the “old paths” spoken of in Jeremiah 6:16. It is only then that we will find rest for our souls.”  But we must be willing for others to call us foolish. We must die to self that we may find true life. This world thrives on the “foolishness” of the world rather than on the wisdom of God! We must be willing to demonstrate the beauty of Christ in our homes and let the world watch in awe while we shine our Light. It is the only way to bring back biblical womanhood as ordained by God.

    Don't forget that we are daughters of the King! We are building a kingdom that will have no end and that our homes are part of that kingdom plan. Let us be women of purpose and vision, serving the Lord of lords and the King of kings with all of our heart and strength.


    VIII.   CHOICE AND SACRIFICE: THE COST OF MOTHERHOOD

    There is no higher calling, no greater privilege than being a vessel of life and a teacher of souls who will live forever. It is vital that we grasp this. Our children will live forever in heaven or hell. We have the privilege of introducing them to God and His Word. What an honor! There is no empire, nor credential, nor golden treasure, nor corporate success that can rival the glory of this calling, motherhood.

    The church is in need of praying mothers, teaching mothers, and faithful mothers.  She needs mothers who will long for children, loving and blessing them to become warriors and maidens of virtue for generations to come.

    Oh, motherhood, blessed motherhood!  Let us sing the praises of our sacred calling. Though bloodied by the darts and arrows of feminism, godly motherhood will not be crushed or defeated.

    There is a cost to motherhood, and the price is no small sum. And we must be willing to pay this price that we might be encouraged with a joyful heart and be satisfied. The price of motherhood is no different than the price we have to pay for being a disciple of Christ. We see our duty as mothers flowing from our calling to Jesus Christ. So what does this cost?

    • Our complete dedication to serving others. 
    • Being servant mothers, mothering with the heart of Jesus, (John 15:13). 
    • Standing beside your husband, following him and investing in the lives of our children. 
    • Giving up our present satisfaction for eternal rewards. 
    • Investing in the lives of others who may never fully appreciate our sacrifice or grasp the depth of our love. 
    • And finally, it means doing all these things, not to receive the praise of men, for we will not, but because our Father in heaven made us to be a woman and a mother. 
    There is so much joy in this higher calling! Motherhood requires living by faith and not by sight.

    These are some of the reasons why motherhood is both the most biblically noble and, at the same time, the most socially unappreciated role to which a young woman may aspire. A mother that fears the Lord need never ask if her life matters. Upon her faithful obedience depends the future of the church and the hope of our nation.

    Oh, that God would give every mother such a vision, perception of glory and splendor for the task He has given to her; to nurture and train! Oh, that she would see, that there is no other work as noble and worthy as motherhood! To marry and have children is the ideal life for a woman. To contribute to this world splendid men and women. Is not this the noblest of things a woman could possibly do?

    We as mothers and wives are to reflect the majesty of God. A strong and stable home can well influence our society. But we must equip them well with the Word of God that they may do the work the Lord has assigned for them to do. How do we accomplish this?  By teaching godly character, love for the Lord and love for the lost without becoming discouraged ourselves. We must understand that many souls are at stake, even the souls of our children if we don't teach them well. Our godly influence through our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren can impact future generations. We can't afford to neglect this noble vocation since our Lord has called us to do it and we must obey. The Lord is using us as mighty instruments in His hand.

    Our women today need to be taught the true meaning of what a biblical motherhood looks like. There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who embraces her God-given role for the home wholeheartedly, understanding her noble and blessed purpose on earth. Such a mother does not allow the world to steal away what she was uniquely made for.


    CONCLUSION:

    God has designed mothers to partner with Him in His eternal work. He has promised to reward our faithfulness. Our children are precious souls whom God has entrusted to us. He has placed them in our hands hoping that we will be faithful, hoping that they will follow our example in their own lives.

    We are to give our lives for our children's sake. It is in doing this that we are protecting future generations that they might be strong on the battlefield of their faith. We are God's authentic picture of love, strength, and encouragement for our children.

    The home is like a kingdom where the mother is queen, and the father is king.  In this kingdom, the children find a place of refuge, comfort, and inspiration. It is a place where great souls can be formed and shaped. It is a place from which men and women of great faith and conviction can emerge.

    As a wife and mother, we have the power to impact this nation. We can strengthen and turn this nation toward God as we strengthen our marriages and our homes. The decisions to build can many times be sacrificial, but this brings so much fruitfulness.

    Christians parents, brothers and sisters in Christ, we can have no greater calling as Christians than to raise up the next generation of faithful servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. But we must make sure that we are training them properly, earnestly, honestly from the heart, soul, mind and strength, offering reasonable service, their spiritual worship to God their Creator.

    We need God's grace and strength; therefore, we must pray so that we may not lose our purpose and become discouraged. Our strength comes from our joy in the Lord, and our joy in the Lord comes from trusting Him. When we trust in our Lord and His Word, we can rest in Him, and we no longer need to rely on our own strength but on His to hold us up and carry us through. Our trust in Him strengthens us to obey Him, and our obedience to Him leads to greater confidence.

    Let us rise to the sacred calling of motherhood with the strength that comes from leaning on God, so that we may glorify Him.

    Our high calling of motherhood includes responsibilities: teaching the Word of God to our children and modeling Christ in our lives so that they may be inspired to follow our example. Let us be like Timothy's mother and grandmother who were godly influences in his life, (2 Timothy 1:5). Timothy was able to observe his mother's walk with God, living for Christ, studying His Word, and teaching the Scriptures to him relentlessly. As mothers, we must model godliness to our children. Children must see the beauty of Christ in their mother as she submits to her own husband and especially to Christ. They must see purity and godliness from the way their mother talks and conducts herself.  Let us take heed!

    The preeminent responsibility of every parent is to teach the Word of God, the Gospel of salvation to their children so that they may be saved from the wrath of God. A parent’s greatest ambition is to see the children walking in Truth and righteousness. A godly mother leads her children to the cross, instructing them in the Truth. Motherhood is sacrificial in that it provides no breaks, no rests, no days off and no slacking off. Our primary goal must be that of pointing our children to Christ always, in word and deed. Our labor is a labor of love, not just for physical needs but to nurture their souls for eternity.

    A godly mother trust in her Lord all the time rather than in human ideas, especially when it comes to the eternal welfare of her children. She knows she must seek the Lord all the days of her life. She perseveres in her sacred calling of motherhood.

    Our older women have a responsibility to teach the younger women how to be good wives, mothers, and homemakers. It is God's mandate. Likewise, the younger women have the responsibility to listen to the counsel of older women and avail themselves of their wisdom.

    I am afraid this rotten and corrupt world is teaching and shaping our younger women. The world is constantly sending negative messages to them. In the eyes of our self-centered culture, pursuing our sacred calling of motherhood is a waste of time and of our lives, but what the world views as a waste, God sees as precious.

    The spirit of feminism is still influencing the thinking of multitudes of Christian women and men. We are constantly being attacked by a humanistic culture. We must be on guard and embrace God's plan for womanhood and accept the danger of abandoning such a realm. If we don't guard our hearts against this monster of feminism, we will lose our vision, perception and forget the value and worth of our vocation, becoming self-absorbed, miserable and discontent. Let us be careful!  Our enemy, Satan wants to render us weak, hopeless and ineffective.

    It is imperative that we close our ears to the lies of feminism. We can defend ourselves by bombarding ourselves and filling our hearts, souls, and minds with the unchanging Word of God. It is the Light that is a lamp to our feet; it is the two-edged sword with which we vanquish the enemy and build the little kingdoms entrusted to us by our Creator, our children. But we must keep His standard of Truth that we may press on.

    The Bible home is under attack today.  The only way we are going to rebuild the Lord's church is by building strong homes and marriages. If we don't put into practice what we preach and teach, its hurts our influence before the eyes of a dying world. When we allow our homes to disintegrate, the Word of God is blasphemed. 

    Imagine how much blessing it would be for the kingdom, the church:  to raise children as mighty warriors who know the Truth, speak the Truth and give a defense of the Truth.  These are the arrows that will attack the enemy of the kingdom, the church.  We are molding children for eternity, doing their Father's will.  It is shameful that we have raised two or three generations that are too materialistic and self-absorbed to have and raise many children.  It is a shame that our churches and our culture are dying for lack of children to carry on our beliefs and convictions (our faith).  When we lack the faith, we will be ashamed at the gate.   

    Therefore, let us rise up and build better homes. As children of God, we must maintain the kind of homes that God intends for us to have upon this earth.  The family unit is the first divine institution ordained by God.  It is as ancient as time and revered as an expression of God's headship over all His creation.  God placed the first humans, male and female in the Garden of Eden.  Likewise, He provided companionship in one for the other.  This reflects the perfect unity of the Godhead as well as the divine design for the family, reflecting God's wisdom and providential care for the crowning glory of His creation.

    The world is in desperate need of homes where God is recognized as the Head; His Word as the only guiding light; and His glory as the only motivating power.  Apart from these Biblical principles to govern the home, our homes and family system are in danger of collapsing altogether.  This is leading us to a blatant ignorance of authority, flourishing in decadent societies.  God calls for faithful parents to guide, nurture and train their children in His ways as His perfect arrangement, (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4; I Timothy 5:14).  The godly home is our last line of defense against the ills that overtake the world.  It is commonly said, "As goes the home, so goes the nation." 

    Let us victoriously reclaim our thrones for the sake of our families and the furthering of the Gospel and Christ's kingdom.

    May we rule our little corners of God's kingdom honorably and well. May we keep our eyes fixed on Him alone and His Word. May we seek wisdom and faithfully persevere in our God-given role, motherhood. May we never forget the might and power of our calling and our dependence on the Heavenly Father to fulfill our role as queen of our home. May we always treasure in our heart the purpose of motherhood.  Mothers reflect God to the world.  May we lay down our selfishness at the foot of the cross. May we also remember that mothering is what we do as servants of Christ.  And may we enthrone the LORD in our hearts as godly and excellent women and wives so that all might see His glory shining in us.

    Let our righteous deeds and our holy lives be carried out as excellent women of God.

    The following is a poem that I adapted from an unknown author that gives a tribute to godly motherhood.

    BLESSED MOTHERHOOD!

    BLESSED is she whose labor of love is her willing hands and merry heart to perform the daily tasks, of her duty and commitment, which becomes a privilege and a service to God.

    BLESSED is she who opens the door to welcome both strangers and friends because gracious hospitality is a test of brotherly love.

    BLESSED is she who with her understanding mends toys and broken hearts, for her kind, compassionate and patient heart becomes a balm to those who are touched by it.

    BLESSED is she who from a pure heart cleans and scrubs, for she knows that cleanliness and godliness are an expression of devotion and reverence to God.

    BLESSED is she whose most precious and valuable treasure is love for her children, for to her the love that she has for her children is worth more than fortune or fame.

    BLESSED is she who while she’s working is singing, for she knows well that music cheers and lightens the heart of the heaviest load and tedious chore.

    BLESSED is she who sweeps out and dusts away doubt, fear and confusions, for she knows well that her faith and devotion will always triumph over all hardship or difficulties.

    BLESSED is she who serves every meal with mirth and smiles, for her cheerfulness of spirit aids mental and physical digestion.

    BLESSED is she whose sacred trust and calling can defend and maintain the sanctity of the home, for she sings the praises of her sacred calling to motherhood which crowns her with dignity and praise.

    By Luci Y. Partain