"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).
Solomon's advice to parents has come down through the years as the rationale for all manner of ill advised and desperate means to keep the kids in line. His own life does not reflect the efficacy of this pat counsel for troubled parents, but then, with 1,000 wives and concubines and countless children, he had to think of something to comfort himself for the rotten pukes he had fathered, such as Rehoboam, who rent the kingdom in sunder after Solomon's demise (I Kings 12). Our parents' generation saw things more or less in black and white. Right was right and wrong was wrong and there were no shades of gray. If the child messed up, it was his or her fault, never the parent's fault. I was the first in my immediate family to go to college, and Psychology 101 was quite an eye opener for me as the professor lectured on how family dynamics determine the success or failure of most children. In those days, psychologists thought the fault usually lay with the mother. The why of that is unclear, but let's just say that when the mother thinks all mistakes are the child's fault and the child believes that all his or her mistakes are due to mom's poor parenting skills, it does not make for happy homecomings.
Time rocked on and I became a mother. That was a glorious and gripping experience as I soon discovered that parenting was nothing like June and Ward Cleaver made it out to be, nor did Dr. Spock's advice help much either. I had a difficult time, because children do not come with operating instructions and you can't tell for years if what you thought was right, really turned out to be. It also came to me somewhere amidst my struggles to get it right, that God didn't intend for it to be easy, or for us to meet our children's needs perfectly. If that were possible, which of course, it is not, then our kids would never need to seek God for themselves. They could worship at our throne, but think of the disaster for them when we die and leave them adrift with no one to guide or rescue them.
Since I believed the Psychology text books, at least the parts reflected in the Bible accounts of parenting gone bad, I blamed myself for years for my daughter's problems. I no longer do that; God showed me that since I don't even have control of my own life, how could I control hers? Besides, she has become a wonderful, loving and successful mom to her three bright, loving children who excel in school and music. That speaks volumes to me of God's ability to do in her what I couldn't by myself.
Each of us is born in the image and likeness of God. Lenny said once that all 6,781,521,494 of us are like little mirrors, reflecting a tiny bit of our Father. Put them together, and you have a complete image, but individually, you have only a tiny refraction of who He is in us. We were called by God in the womb to be who we are: "Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: "I am the LORD, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth. Who was with me?" (Isa. 44:24). Jeremiah testified, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations" (Jer. 1:5).
The Psalmist spelled it out clearly: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Ps. 139:13-16, NIV). How wonderful is that? And what a burden it lifts off the shoulders of parents who think that when their kids have troubles, it is because they did something wrong. Maybe they did, but God bears the ultimate responsibility for all men and all their deeds (Rom. 11:32; I Cor. 11:12). Rejoice! For, He who began a good work in your womb will complete it to the glory of God!
Many of the parents whose stories are recounted in the Bible, were abject failures, including, but not limited to Adam, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Aaron, Eli, David, Solomon, and most of the kings of Israel and Judah. There were some successful parents, of course. The mother of Saul of Tarsus comes to mind, for in his words, her son was, "circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless" (Phil. 3:5-6). He did his mother proud, no doubt; nevertheless, his attempts to serve his Faith by killing Christians proved yet again the folly of trusting in the flesh and self effort. God had more glorious plans for Saul's life than his mother or his rabbi ever dreamed of or could even understand.
Paul said of the life changing moment in which he renounced the works of the flesh to flow instead from the grace of God, "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man" (Gal. 1:15-16). Paul's prior confidence in religion was based on Law and works, not on the grace of God for all men. God overturned his parenting, his religion, and his calling and made him a mighty instrument to spread the gospel across the known world at the time. God used this little Jew to turn the world upside down! His mother probably wrung her hands and wondered where she went wrong.
Even Jesus' mother had problems with her son's radical teachings. Mark is the only one who relates this account of what His family thought of him: "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind" (Mark 3:20-21). My family probably thinks the same thing about me, and it's hard for the flesh to endure, but God knows what He is doing, even if our relatives do not. What He has called us to say and do, we must say and do and let Him pick up the pieces. To put it another way, we need only worry about what God thinks of us. If He's happy with me, then why would it matter if mere mortals are not?
On one occasion, Jesus was ministering to a crowd inside a house when His mother and brothers came 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'" (Matt. 12:47-50). He was not being disrespectful to His mother, but merely acknowledging WHO called the shots in His life, WHO directed His steps. That's a hard and rocky road to walk sometimes, but it is necessary by God's grace, to choose the kingdom way over familial or religious directives and expectations.
Churches are really an extension of parents, and indeed, churches fail as often as parents do, no matter how well meaning they are. My long-suffering friends know that for decades, I had deep resentment and downright anger toward the church I saw on planet earth, because it seemingly bore NO resemblance to the church universal and triumphant which Paul describes in his letters. The failure of men to replicate that and live up to Paul's high standards filled me with bitter recriminations against what I viewed as hypocrisy.
Time has a way of bringing mysteries long hidden into focus and walking with the Lord over time showed me that He has all things and all people under His control. What I finally realized with a lot of loving patience and guidance from the Holy Spirit, is that it is not up to man to improve himself or his religious organizations because he cannot succeed.
All improvement efforts fall under the category of "God's job," which is why I love this passage: "Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you without blemish before the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen" (Jude 14-15). How glorious is that? For most of my younger Christian life, I was holding on by a thread to keep from falling into hell. No wonder I praise God each time I reread Jude's proclamation that it is God who will keep us from falling; it is God who will purify our works with the refining fire of His burning love; it is God who will bring us into His presence where we can praise and honor and glorify Him now and forevermore. Hallelujah!
So many denominations have been formed out of some man's idea about how to purify the church and rid it of the failures which have plagued it since it first began in the fires of Pentecost. Paul clearly made known whose responsibility the church is, saying "that he (Christ) might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). This one verse proved to me that the church's failures are NOT my problem or your problem, but God's problem, which He is so very capable of taking care of. So, why hasn't He, you may ask? I've asked that as well, but His ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and He does NOT need us to advise Him. Lenny says that if we ever had a perfect translation of the Bible or a perfect church, then it would become like the tower of Babel, whereby men would try to get to heaven through that translation of the Bible or that church. In fact, the only way any of us will make it, is through what God has already done for all men in Christ. "And we can see that it was at the very time that we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men" (Rom. 5:6). I believe the category of sinful men includes us all.
When parents and churches fail, as we all do, it helps us to remember that God is at work even in our failures! Wonderful words like these comfort and encourage us: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Eph. 3:16-21).
Father, we thank you that it is not up to us, never has been, never will be. We love you and all that is within us cries HOLY is the Lord whose mighty arm is not shortened, nor His power abated. You do today what You ever did and that is VERY good news for Your children. Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Surrendering to God is harder than giving a cat a pill
Working for Jesus? Surrendering to God, II
Fighting the Good Fight? Surrendering to God, III
A Covenant With Death? Surrendering to God, IV
The Family Fix, Surrendering to God, V
Your Mortal Body, Surrendering to God, VI
Echoes From Sodom, Surrendering to God, VII
Judgment: His or Ours? Surrendering to God, VIII
Why did Christ have to die? Surrendering to God, IX
The Pearl of Great Price, Surrendering to God, X
Tested by Fiery Trials? Surrendering to God, XI
Sibling Rivalry, Surrendering to God, XII
The Blessed Hope of His Appearing, Surrendering to God, XIV
Does God Need Us? Surrendering to God, XV
Does God Need Our Faith? Surrendering to God, XVI
The Glory Road
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This site was created on 05/25/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister