Putting first things first

Entry into parenthood can be a tough transition. It certainly takes a mind shift. I have a little human with me all the time; one who is totally dependent on me. He needs me to eat, sleep, and keep warm and clean. He needs me to show him the world, stimulate his brain, and soothe him emotionally. He needs me to love him, calm him, respond to him, and interact with him. It can be a hard task. I can understand why some parents can’t wait to get back to work; they love their little ones, but they need a breather.

I must say that I’m not in a hurry to get away from my little guy. I am the mother who feels their boy is growing up all too quickly – and he’s only 5 months old! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult at times; I often feel that I’ve gained another limb, so attached is he to me. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t need Glenn’s loving affirmation I’m doing a good job, that I’m a good mother, and that I’m still being a good wife to him during the transition (Thanks Love!).

So where am I going with this? I was reflecting back on the initial days with our boy. I felt the call to motherhood fiercely. I felt completely content in motherhood. I had amazing times of connectivity with God. I had nothing on my agenda aside from worshipping God and loving my family. Since then, however, I’ve been pulled in different directions.

Glenn and I have moved to a new community and are helping with a church plant. We now co-lead a home group (even if it mostly falls on Glenn) and I’ve also been blessed by the opportunity to preach. I’ve finished up an editing project and am working on another writing project. I have a job interview coming up to teach English on-line for a few hours a week. Life continues, and it continues to be busy.

Life is always going to pull us in different directions. Glenn and I are trying to be pulled by the Holy Spirit, and not by any wind that comes along. And as I have been taking time to reflect on my call, I’m reminded of my primary calls in life: love God, love Glenn, love my children.  I am called to intimacy with my heavenly Father before my family. I am called to serve my family before others.

I do feel called to be a stay at home mum and to home school my children down the line, but I equally know that others do not have this call or inclination. But just because we may not be at home all the time as parents, does not mean that our primary call transitions from our family. Too often, family gets put behind work, finance, school commitments, and even church and church meetings.

God requires us to be faithful stewards in the area of family.

In the Old Testament, we find Scriptures, such as:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

We also see godly men with messed up families, because they were absent fathers:

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. (1 Samuel 2:12)
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. (1 Samuel 2:22)

And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” (2 Samuel 13:4)
But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:32)
Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” (2 Samuel 15:14)

And in contrast, godly children where parents have prioritized their children:

And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11)
Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man. (1 Samuel 2:26)

Is this left behind in the New Testament? No, I don’t think so. Otherwise we would not have Paul commanding that Elders and Deacons must:

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, . . . Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. (1 Timothy 3:4, 12)

. . . if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. (Titus 1:6)

We also wouldn’t have Paul commanding husbands to love their wives (what wife doesn’t want to come first?), wives to respect their husbands (what husband doesn’t want to be served first?), and fathers to love their children (what child cares that his father isn’t promoted if his father is available to spend time with him?).

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

And, of course, we have our beloved Christ, who set the example for us to value little ones:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. (Mark 1:13-14)

Yes, we all have been given different gifts of the Spirit. Yes, we are all in different seasons regarding our marriage and parenting. But we are all called to love God first, and then provide for our spouse and children.

Are you pursuing God with all your heart? How about with all your soul, with all your might, and with all your strength?

Are you honouring your husband or wife with your time, thoughts, emotions, and finance? Are you putting them above your job, ministry, social activities, sports, and friends? Do you faithfully pray for your spouse and take time to pray with them?

Are you spending time with your children? Do you know their unique personalities, their interests, their goals and their friends? Are you teaching them about God, His ways, and His Word? Are you modelling godly living to them so that they can follow in your footsteps?

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A Painful Comparison; 3 of 3

You were asked whether you would take a Sunday school class this term, and you are sitting in church wondering why you foolishly agreed to do so. You look at Bob, sitting next to you, and think: “Why am I doing kids’ ministry? It’s not fair that I spend hours each week preparing for my class and all Bob has been signed up for is door duty. Bob only has to stand out front and greet people a couple of Sundays! I hope I get that duty next quarter…”

What does God say? Perhaps something like: “Stop looking at Bob. You’re where I placed you. Let it build your character. Keep your eyes on Me.”

Meanwhile, Bob gets to church early the next week and as he stands out side, waiting for the first members to arrive, he thinks: “God, why did you give me this job? You know that I’m horrible at making small talk! I never know what to say to people. My palms are sweating, I’m so nervous! Can’t I hide out in the kitchen, preparing morning tea?”

What would God say to Bob? Maybe: “Be strong and courageous.” Perhaps, He would not give any words, just a gentle peace to Bob that He was beside him.

It can be easy to compare our ministry to that of others. Sometimes we do so pridefully, believing we have the more important, or more significant, call. Other times we do so covetously, wishing we were living their life, or had their giftings. Often we do so simply out of idle curiosity.

This issue of comparison is not a new one. It is shown even amongst Christ’s disciples. How did Christ respond? Let’s have a look:

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?”
But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
(Mark 9:33-35).

And on another occasion:

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
(John 21:20-22).

Christ calls us to follow Him, not looking to the right or to the left. Do not stumble by gazing on the task of another. Keep your eyes on Christ and you will remain sure-footed.

 

A Painful Question; 1 of 3

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17)

We can focus on Jesus’ calling Peter to “feed the sheep”. We read in the Gospels and book of Acts how Peter became the leader of the young church and think that he was privileged to receive such a call (as indeed he was). But we can also learn a lot from his response to his call.

We need to consider the question:  Why was Peter grieved? Peter was hurt that Christ had to ask him the question three times. Eventually he answered:

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” (John 21:17)

Peter was forced to look deep within his own heart. And what did he find? A consuming love for Christ. Immediately after this, Jesus said to him:

“Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” ( John 21:17-20)

Peter was martyred for his faith. Perhaps, being forced to see his love for Christ was what he needed to endure the later persecutions; he knew his faith was stronger.

Recently, I’ve been counting the cost of God’s call on my life. It’s hard to go away from family and miss out on special events in the lives of one’s friends. It has been difficult to accept that I may not ever own my own home, or even a car. But, through this, I have been forced to come to accept an even scary truth: regardless of what God asks me to sacrifice, I know that I’ll obey. That’s scary! That’s terrifying! Because when you read of what God has asked others to do…

Christians are not called to an easy life, but God gives us the strength we need to endure. He gives us the courage to step bravely out into an unknown future. And He reveals more and more of His character to us through our walk, because the more we see of Him, the more willing we will be to follow Him. When you have fallen in love with Jesus, you are compelled to follow Him.

God demands all of us, but He is worth everything!

I repeat the prayer of Maris Willis and pray that you will, too:

“Father, hear the prayer we offer; not for ease that prayer shall be, but for strength that we may ever, live our lives courageously.”