"Try praising your wife even if it does frighten her at first." - Billy Sunday
"If evolution is true, how come mothers still have only two hands?" - Spotted on a church sign
Possible opening illustrations
Illustration: "As we began to pastor our first church, my wife, Lori, and I found we were going to have a third child," Bill wrote. "Several weeks later, Lori was going through her clothes, which no longer fit. Watching her, our 5-year-old son asked, ‘Mom, now that you're going to have a baby, are you going to have to wear 'eternity' clothes?'" (Source: Bill McKibben, Woodlake, California)
Eternity clothes? Yes, it seemed that way at the time!
Illustration: And what of a wedding? A little boy was attending his first wedding. After the service, his mother asked him, "Son, do you know how many women a man is allowed to marry?" "Sixteen," the boy responded. His mother was shocked. "What do you mean, 16?!"
"It's easy," the little boy said. "All you have to do is add it up, like the pastor said: 4 better, 4 worse, 4 richer, 4 poorer."
Illustration: One of the mothers in our church put her son to bed on the eve of his fifth birthday. She was trying to communicate that birthday idea to him. "Kevin," she said, "this is the last night of your fourth night. Do you understand that?" Kevin was ready to communicate with his hands. For a full year, he had shown people four fingers for his four years, and now he was ready to add a thumb. Seeing his four fingers, his mother nodded, and said: "When you go to sleep tonight, you'll still be 4-years-old. But do you know how old you'll be in the morning, when you wake up?" Kevin nodded enthusiastically, added his thumb to his four little fingers and said, "Tomorrow, I'll be a handful!"
For all the mothers who have had their hands full, we celebrate Mother's Day.
What a wonderful thing that God's Word has so many messages just for moms, messages for parents really, for moms, dads, and grandparents. There are also those listening who will one day be in the delightful company of parents, and there are single adults who have such profound influence on our homes.
History's most famous mother was called by mother to her task, just as parents today are called by God to their task.
I. A mother called by God submits completely to God's will
When Mary was only a teen-ager, she was confronted with the challenge to be completely submitted to God's will. When Gabriel gave her the angelic message that she was to carry the Christ, Mary was stunned.
The key phrase? "I am the Lord's servant. May it be …"
Mary never wavered from her complete submission to God's will.
Was she nervous? Certainly. Was she unsure of her own abilities? Who wouldn't be? Was she anxious about the prophecy that part of her future would include pain? Of course.
Mary was a little like the mother who sits up late at night, far past her bedtime, waiting for the date to be over. She was like the father who said the silent, heart-felt prayer as he watched his child drive away from the house, taking all those raw instincts into streets of great danger. Mary was like any parent in this room, who wanted only the best, only the most protection, for her child ... and fully aware that life happens, and not all of life is pleasant.
But Mary was unlike a lot of parents in the world today. Mary was first of all completely committed to God. She was so committed to God, she had no room for commitment to anything else. And that made her a mother worth imitating.
II. A mother called by God does not have to be perfect
This is great news!
Linda Huckins, of Malden, Massachusetts, tried perfection one day, on the day her daughter got married. As she tells the story, she went to the front of the church to light one of the three candles. "Not realizing the potential hazard, I got too close and set my acrylic nail on fire.
Trying not to ruin my daughter's big day, I calmly lit the candle from my flaming nail and then, like a gunslinger with his six-shooter, I blew it out. Needless to say, my blackened nail was the talk of the reception!" (Linda Huckins, Malden, Massachusetts. "Rolling Down the Aisle," Christian Reader).
Dr. Benjamin Carson, renowned surgeon at Johns Hopkins, tells a moving story about his mother. Mrs. Carson insisted that Ben and his brother Curtis write a book report every couple of weeks. This wasn't for school - this was for their mom. Ben and Curtis dutifully obeyed.
About the time he was in junior high, Ben finally realized something quite shocking. His mom couldn't read. For years Ben had read books and scratched out reports, assuming that his mom was checking every word. But she didn't have a clue what he was saying.
Now consider this: Raised by an illiterate mother, Ben grew up to be a world-famous surgeon who was featured in many articles and was the author of several books. His illiterate mom didn't twist her hands over her lack of learning and give up hope of raising intelligent boys. Instead, she gave her boys what she had - interest, accountability, and the courage to demand extra work. (Gifted Hands, 1990, Ben Carson).
Despite the fact that she was the mother of Jesus, Mary wasn't perfect! When Jesus performed his first miracle, Mary's conversation is the most unusual part of the water-turned-into-wine story.
Jesus said to Mary, "Woman, why do you involve me?" It's not my time! Two things: First, a word to children … Don't try this at home! Second, think of the awkwardness of this situation. Mary's request and conversation with Jesus appears to be out of line with what Jesus was ready to do. Though Jesus performed the miracle, there's a feeling that he did so in part because his mother put him on the spot.
If that's not a clear indication of Mary's imperfection, a second case is.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
If Mary had understood the task of Jesus, would she have tried to interrupt him, or even agree with his unbelieving brothers that his ministry needed to be tempered. Stopping the ministry of Jesus, even for a little white? That was a mistake on Mary's part.
You've made mistakes in the past, you'll certainly make a mistake or two today, and you'll make more mistakes tomorrow. Through it all, God will love you, work with you, and accept you. Through it all, your task of mothering, or of grand-mothering, will be accomplished.
How many women have been discouraged by the last few words of Proverbs? It is there that the author writes of the perfect woman. There are 22 lines in the poem, and each one of them begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It's an acrostic poem that speaks of an imaginary woman. She never sleeps, and she always works. OK, so that's the part of the poem that is reality. But in the poem, she manages a fleet of ships, she runs a farm, she manages a staff, she sews like a fashion expert, she cooks, cleans, and home-schools her children. She has a feast waiting on her husband when he arrives home from his much-less demanding job, and she needs no car pool whatsoever. She simply puts on her Super-mother cape and flies her children to their next appointment.
If we were to see in English what we can't see in Hebrew, perhaps it would be a poem that said, "A is for the Apple pie she bakes; B is for the babies she loves; C is for the cleaning of the house;" right on down to "Z is for the Zoo she manages in the back yard." Any woman who tries to emulate the woman of Proverbs 31 will understand the first line that says, "A wife like this ... who can find her?!"
III. A mother called by God never relinquishes the title
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother ...
Mary didn't stand stoically and passively by at the foot of the cross, as if she were already made out of stained glass. She crumpled at the cross. She fell down to the depths there, moaning and wailing and begging the God of heaven to stop her hell on earth.
The truth of Simeon's prophecy at the birth of Jesus was suddenly true. The cross cut deeply into Mary's heart. Despite the pain, however, Mary was there. She was a mother from the beginning, and a mother at the end. A mother called by God never relinquishes the title.
You'll find mothers like that in the halls of children's hospitals, in funeral homes and in the counselors' offices. Mothers never relinquish the title, even if the child is rebellious, harsh, or cruel. Her heart just will not allow it. Not when she is called by God.
Sometimes, the most difficult decision a mother will ever make comes right at the beginning. There continue to be that brave lot of young woman who realize, under the rarest of circumstances, that the best gift they can give their child is the gift of adoption. And all over the world, that painful giving up of a baby is a whole lot like the painful giving up of a son on a cross. But even at that moment of giving up, a mother's love dominates the scene. It is sacrificial, it is painful ... but it is a loving moment of care, and mothers who give their children to families patiently standing in a line of love need to be applauded, loved, and recognized.
When a woman becomes a mother, when a man becomes a father, there is an instant realization that the day will almost certainly come when pain dominated the picture. The crosses are different for every family, but frankly, the crosses usually come. There may be a divorce, or disease, or death. There may be harsh words, and unacceptable actions. There may be tough love, and impossible nights.
Through it all, mothers called by God never relinquish the title. Never. There is nothing like a mother's love.
Mary had a chance to see God's entire plan played out. She suffered through the crucifixion, celebrated the resurrection, and even was part of the small group that witnessed the powerful presentation of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14)
What a gift from God, to live long enough for parenting to make sense! Some parents live long enough to see God's plan for their children. Some see God working in the lives of their grandchildren. Some surely only see God's plan from the halls of heaven.
It's a bit unusual to close a message from the newspaper comic strips, but the children of Family Circus were once discussing babies. One of the young experts announced: "Storks don't bring babies. They come UPS." Some of the other children had different ideas, but the best was saved for last. "Babies," said one, "are connected to their mothers by a biblical cord."
Every idea from this message has come from the Bible. There are so many solid principles for parenting in the Bible, no parent can afford to not know them. If you're going to be a godly parent, be sure to be immersed in God's Word, fully committed to the calling He's given you.