No Easy Answers: A Mother's Day Gift
by Mike Molenaar
Scripture: John 15:1-27
by Mike Molenaar
Today is Motherís Day and some see this as just another way to market the US economy. Many children have bought cards and flowers to give to their mothers. Many will spend time on the phone talking to their mothers. Still others may take their mother out for dinner and give them a kiss and a hug. But is their anything more honorable to a mother when she sees her children and grandchildren producing good spiritual fruit? Is there anything greater than a generation that is connected to the same vine that she is connect too, the vine of Jesus Christ.
In the text that we have today, Jesus does focus on bearing fruit. There is only one way a person can bear fruit and that is through pruning and cutting. This is what Jesus does for us as our parent. Jesus allows us to experience the real world and in that world there is pain and suffering. The real world is not an easy one to live in but it is possible to make it in this world if we place our faith in Jesus and we walk by faith. A mother and a father produce fruit in their children as they show them what it means to live by faith. Parents cannot protect a child from the cruelties of this world but they can show them how to live by faith.
This week I received an e-mail that had 11 principles from Bill Gates. I believe he gave these as part of a speech to High School students and I think they are very good to hear whether you are a parent, teacher, or student these principles are reality about life that are also Biblical in nature.
Rule number 1: Life is not fair-get use to it. As parents and teachers we do a disservice to our children when we always try to stand up for them and rescue them from difficult situations. It is not easy when we see our children being treated unfairly but that is a principle found in scripture. Life isnít fair and that is why a person needs Jesus to rely upon because he is the only one who can bring us through unfair situations.
Rule number 2: The world wonít care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. As a Christian our strength does not lie in ourselves but it lies in Jesus Christ. If we think that we deserve a pat on the back for every accomplishment then we are not living in the strength of Jesus Christ. Jesus said in chapter 14:12 "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." Self-esteem comes through our relationship with Jesus Christ. If Jesus is living in you there is nothing you cannot do in him. Does that mean Jesus will not allow us to fail? Yes, Jesus does allow us to fail and fall flat on our faces at times. When this happens it becomes important that we get back up by focusing in on him. Sometimes we need to be pruned back in order that we might be able to bear even more fruit. Donít blame others or God for you failures but see it as an opportunity to grow.
Rule number 3: You will not make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You wonít be a vice president with a car phone, until you earn both. Jesus tells a story of a man who was going on a journey and he gave 10 talents to one man, 5 to another, and 1 to a third. It was their task to earn even more for the sake of their master. Jesus gives us opportunities in life to bring about his blessings into this world. If we take advantage of those opportunities, Jesus will give us even more. But if do not take advantage of those opportunities donít expect to be much of an impact in this world.
Several years ago a woman short in stature stood behind a podium she could hardly see over. Many referred to her as a mother. Before her sat some of the most powerful people in the world. There was the President of the United States along with his vice-president. There were people from congress and those who held power in Washington DC.
She stood before them as a mother telling them the difference between right and wrong. This is what she said, "The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortionÖif we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill each other?" But this mother did not stop scolding those of political power. She continued by saying, "Please donít kill the child. I want the child. Please give me the child. Mother Teresa of course spoke those words, but what gave her the right to address some of the most power people in the world with those words?
She had earned that right. Jesus said to his disciples and to all those who would be his disciples this, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." This woman had done this in the streets of Calcutta, India. She took in the children of the street and people who were dying from leprosy. She did not complain about the life God had given to her but she saw it as an opportunity to serve Christ and demonstrate his love. Since, she had been faithful; God gave her the right to chastise those who are in political power.
Rule number 4: If you think you teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesnít have tenure. If you are connected to vine of Jesus Christ your attitude at work will be effect by that relationship. In Ephesians 6:5-8 Paul writes these words, "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free." Hard work is a reality in life. We donít always work hard to receive a better position or pay check but we work hard because God has given us another opportunity to serve.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. You grandparents had a different word for burger flipping-they called it opportunity. Jesus lowered himself from his throne in Heaven so that he could become a man. He not only became a man but he even lowered himself to the point where he was willing to serve by washing the feet of the disciples.
Jesus calls us to live a life of sacrifice, not a life of selfishness. A mother is someone who gives a great deal for the sake of her children. It takes sacrifice of oneís life to be committed to oneís children. To be willing to raise them up in a family that focuses in one love rather than personal needs and wants. A mother who is a disciple of Jesus Christ takes advantage of every opportunity to show her children what that love is all about. It is a life of unselfishness and that often does not fit into our societies way of doing things. In our society we often speak about our own wants and needs first and then if anything is left we are willing to share it with others. Mary Ann Bird wrote this true story about her life. It is called "The Whisper Test." I grew up know that I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I must look to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip crooked nose, lopsided teeth and garbled speech.
When schoolmates would ask, What happened to your lips? Iíd tell them Iíd fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside of my family could love me.
There was, however, a teacher in the second grad that we all adored, Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, a happy sparkling lady. Annually, we would have a hearing test. I was virtually deaf in one of my ears; but when I had taken the test in past years, I discovered that if I did not press my hand as tightly upon my ears as I was instructed to do, I could pass the test. Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I know from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something and we would have to repeat it backÖthings like, "The sky is blue" or "Do you have new shoes?" I waited there for those words, which God must have put into her mouth, those seven words, which changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, I wish you were my little girl."
We have reached another end to a school year. Some of you will be going off to college and often times we look at vocations according to the income we will make rather than on the impact we can have on another personís life. Money may seem like a big issue when you are young and for some people even when they are older it is all about money. But the reality is one will only find contentment in doing the work of Jesus Christ.
Rule 6: If you mess up, itís not your parentsí fault, so donít whine about your mistakes, learn from them. Paul tells us in Romans 6:1-2 "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" If Jesus has saved us from our sin then we learn from past decision admit our faults and go on in life serving him. There will be times in which we will fail in our life but what is important is that we take full responsibility for what we have done wrong, rather than always coming up with excuses.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents werenít as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to your talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parentís generation, try delousing the closet in you own room. Jesus said in verse 16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit-fruit that will last. Then the father will give you whatever you ask in my name." There are some things in life we have no control over. We did not choose are parents, God did. We did not choose our brothers and sisters, God did. We also did not choose God but he chose us to be one of his adopted children.
I know I should not brag but I not only have a wonderful wife, but also she is a wonderful mother. A couple of weeks ago we had one of those reality checks. After supper Dan was standing next to his chair and Deb knelt down and asked if he was all right. Apparently he wasnít because he puked all over her. That had not happened in our home for along time. She did not get upset but she first of all held him and then she cleaned it up. I helped by getting the paper towels.
You bear fruit that will last in your children by showing them unconditional love even when they think you are out of touch with reality. Unconditional love is shown even when a child does something that hurts you but you are reminded that Jesus shows us unconditional love those times we have rebelled against him.
Rule number 8: You school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and theyíll give you as many times, as you want to get the right answer. This doesnít bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. There are many people in this world that have this I donít care type of attitude. Not only do they have this attitude generally in life but they have this attitude concerning their spiritual life as well. There are many people today who have an attitude that I donít have to be concerned about my spiritual life because I can take care of that later. There are parents who refuse to raise their children in the church or stress the importance of having God in oneís life. Many people have bought into the idea that all roads lead to Heaven and if you try to live a good life on this earth then God will welcome you into his home.
Jesus makes it clear that there is only one way to Heaven and that is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. And if we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ we will bare fruit. However, Jesus also makes it clear that those who try to fake their way into Heaven are not going to make. In verse 6 Jesus said, "If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."
Moms and Dads it important to encourage our children to do their best in life but it is of far greater importance for us to encourage them on in their spiritual life. As parents we need to be setting the example and living our life as if their salvation depended on it because it does. We cannot save our children only Jesus can do that, but we certainly can drive our children away from Jesus Christ. If we take our spiritual life lightly the same is going to be true for them.
Rule number 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You donít get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time. In life it must be our goal to try to please our employer. After all our employer has given us the privilege of working for him or her. We might not always consider it a privilege but it is and our employer counts on us to do our job and to do it well.
In verse 14 Jesus says, "You are my friends if you do what I command." If we listen to Jesus and we live under his will for our lives, we become friends with him. A friend is different than a servant. A servant does what the master wants but doesnít always understand why. He or she does what they are ordered to do. They follow the commands, as a person would do in the military. We may be in the Lordís Army but it isnít the military because as the friends of Jesus, he tells us what he is doing. The father guided Jesus so that fruit would be produced through his life. If we are friends with Jesus he shares with us the will of his father as well so that fruit can be produced in our life.
Rule number 10: Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs. Jesus said in verse 4, "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me." Television creates a false reality of life. It makes life out to exciting with very few consequences for the decisions a person makes in life. Jesus makes it clear to us that if we want to have an exciting life, it will not occur outside a relationship with him. Only Jesus can shape our character and the reality of his love can then be experience through our life.
I have a nephew named Matt. Matt is now graduated from college but when he was in high school he was quiet and not very athletic, but he was smart and all around good guy. He had a boy in his class who was the shortest and had buckteeth and always had trouble getting along with other kids. Matt was never a friend with this person but he didnít tease him or cause him any grief either. One day the teacher left the room and another student who loves to tease, went by this boy and kicked out his chair. The boy jumped to his feet and he turned around and thinking that Matt had done this to him, slapped Matt across the face.
Although most kids might have hit him back, Matt did nothing. When the class yelled at him for hitting Matt, he refused to apologize. It is not easy living as a Christian in this world but the reality is this world isnít always nice but as Christians God does require that we live like Jesus and react to this world in the way Jesus reacted. We show unconditional love.
Rule number 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are youíll end up working for one. Letís face reality none of us are perfect. Our parents are not perfect and our children are not perfect but we are all connected in the vine of Jesus if we follow after him. Jesus is the one who we live for.
On this Motherís day there is no greater gift that we can receive from our children than their choice to be connected to Jesus Christ. We cannot keep our children from the realities of this life but we can give them something far more important and that is a taste of the fruit produced from the vine of Jesus Christ so that they too will want to be connected to the giver of life.
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