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9 May:  HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

Here is a Mother’s Day prayer that I ran across in preparing this lesson:

Dear Mom – I love you – for so many reasons:

  • For being there when I need you the most
  • For being there “just because”
  • For believing in me – even when I don’t
  • And for loving me – no matter what.
  • MOM, I can’t say thanks enough!!!!!

I love you and hope you have a beautiful Mother’s Day!!!!

For many of us we make this day a special day to stop and take the time to show appreciation for our mothers, and it is good that we do so. But in my study, I ran across an interesting reality that I had not given any thought to before because it has never intersected my life. There are situations and families where celebrating Mother’s Day is not appropriate. There are families where death, separation, desertion, anger lie at the core of the family unit. CELEBRATING this day causes hurt instead of joy. And it is interesting to note that during the three years of Jesus’ ministry, He does not exactly prescribe a situation where this type of celebration receives His blessings. As a matter of a fact, shortly I want to present a bolder and larger plan which Jesus does suggest that we should follow.

Now I don’t want to make the mistake of dismissing the importance of our parents. Especially, or to include, our mothers.

In 2 Tim 1:5 Paul gives credit to Timothy’s faith because of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice.     Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” From this passage we understand the importance of the guidance given in Prov. 1:8,9 “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching – indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck.” Prov 6:20-22 “My son, observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart, tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you.” 

Our parents, mothers and fathers, have a very special role and responsibility in the raising of their children. Look at the 10 Commandments. God picked 10 specific things to make into HIS LAW!  And one of them tells us to HONOR our parents.  But one of the interesting things about Jesus’ teachings is the way He turned things up on its head. What did the Lord say about murder, adultery, swearing and hating your enemy? He took the Old Testament attitude and expanded them into something much larger and grander   AND  turned the teachings of  “minimalism” into teachings about a deeper fulfilment and a spiritual fulfilment of those laws or ideas. Consider this: most of us would think Jesus would be big on family values and responsibilities, wouldn’t we? But look at the following passages:

Luke 11:27-28  “While Jesus was saying these things, a certain woman in the crowd spoke up: ‘Happy is the mother who gave birth to you and who nursed you.’ But he said, ‘Happy rather are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’”

Luke 8:19-21  “Jesus’ mother and brothers came to him but were unable to reach him because of the crowd. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who listen to God’s word and do it.’”

Notice how Jesus passed up the opportunity to glorify His mother and family and instead redefined who His family was – His family was NOT the bloodline of His physical nature but “FAMILY” were those who sought after and followed God (His Father) and His Word. His family was not someone who had the right bloodlines or genealogy – but His family are those who have the indwelling Spirit of God which unites all people into one body. Why do you think the first letter to the Corinthians was so long? Paul chose to address the many, many different issues within in the Church which was causing divisiveness and divisions.

How did Jesus see our unity with each other, Him and the Father?

John 13:35 “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I John 4:21 “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

I Peter 1:22  “Since you have, in obedience to the truth, purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart”

John 17:20-23  I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;  that they will all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in Us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory You gave to Me I have given to them, that they may be one just as We are one— I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that You sent me, and You have loved them just as You have loved me.

It is obvious that Jesus seeks and sees each and everyone as FAMILY. That is also His desire for us – that we view one another as family members – BUT, family members in God’s Family.

When we look at the fifth commandment again:

Ex 20:12 “Honor your father and mother so that your days may be prolonged in the land which the lord your God gives you.”   Let’s look further at the rest of the commandments –

YOU SHALL NOT:  murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness against your neighbor, covet your neighbor’s blessings.

Even in the Old Testament God was causing us to look after the welfare of the larger national unity of His people. The whole set of ten commandments was the start and implementation of the two Greatest Commandments:  Love God and Love your neighbor!

 

Paul, in the Spirit of the Lord, writes that we are to be a united family, a united church, a united body.

In Ephesians 4:3, Paul says that we are to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

In these words, the unity of the Spirit is already a fact for believers, but we must be diligent to preserve it.

Then in Ephesians 4:13, after talking about the ministry of pastors and teachers who equip the saints for the work of ministry, Paul adds, “… until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” This unity of the faith is not yet a reality, but is attained to as we grow to maturity in Christ.

In speaking to the nature of Gentiles vs Jews Paul says:  Eph 2:19 “So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.”

So on this Mother’s Day I want to honor those who certainly deserve it but I also want us to honor one another equally. I want us to realize that we are a part of something God planned and brought into existence: a spiritual family, a church family, HIS family. We have been bought with a price and as His children let us respect, honor, love each other – as is His hopes and plans.

On this Mother’s Day let us enlarge our compassion and empathy and live out the intended response to Jesus’ question: “Who is My mother, and who are my brothers?”

Realize something else. When Jesus was on the cross, do you remember what some of His final words were? To Mary and the apostle John, Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son!” and to John, “Behold, your mother!” “From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.”  

Now Jesus had brothers and sisters, yet He chose to hand off the responsibilities of taking care of His mother to one of His followers, brothers in the Spirit. Jesus constantly deepened and enlarged the family of God this way.

 It can truly be said, a mother’s love is like God’s love

  • They want the best for us           God wants what is best for us:    Jer 29:11For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”      
  • They are willing to forgive us        God forgives us: I John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
  • They will always be there for us     God will always be with us:  Deut 31:8It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."
  • We owe our mothers so much       We owe God so much  I John 3:16 “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us”  Gal 3:13 “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us”
  • Thank you, Lord, for our mom’s and the love they bring into our lives!!!   Thank you Lord God for your love and salvation.   John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
  • Today I would like to share that in the same way there can pain and disappointment in the life of a family –  that is true with us as well. It is inevitable in the sinful human relationships of this broken world that there will be problems and misunderstandings. But in God’s Spirit and love, we are a family where second, third and fourth (or seventy times seven) chances are given for building healthy and life-giving relationships. Scripture tells us that if we love God – we love one another – blemishes and all.

 

 

2 May: Finding The Lost Sheep:  Lk 15

 

Lk 15:1,2  “Now the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him.   Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’  

We have just finished the Easter story and resurrection and looked at the plan God had regarding the CROSS. We can clearly see how the cross symbolizes God’s desire for there to be unity in our relationship with Him and with each other. When you begin reading the parable of this lost sheep it is being told because the religious leaders were complaining about how Jesus was spending time eating and mingling with tax collectors and other various sinners.

You and I – we have an advantage over these complainers. We can see the ultimate purpose of Christ coming to this world – to fix the lost state of the world’s sinners. And luckily, or maybe not lucky but as planned – this includes you and I.  But before we jump into the parable, I want to ask this:  why are these “religious leaders” complaining about Jesus’ behavior? I know the phrase: “birds of a feather flock together” AND “two peas in a pod”  AND  “a person is known by the company he keeps.” But why are they complaining about HIS behavior? Why do they even care? How come they are not just washing their hands of Him and simply disregarding His presence and actions?

I think the answer might be that Jesus is capturing the attention of the people and they are looking for everything they can to knock Him and degrade Him; they are trying to reduce His popularity and undermine His leadership over the people. They are growing in envy and worry about His leadership role with the people.

NOW, HERE IS OUR question:  Do we see ourselves in these verses????                            Are we one of the sinners in this world and are we coming to Him for the Words Of Life?   Acts 2:42  “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teachings and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.”  For us, THIS generation this means study Scripture. Are we continually devoting our focus to the Word? Is fellowshipping with the saints of primary importance? Do we sincerely desire spending time in worship with one another?       OR   Are we like the religious leaders of the day – trying to constantly find something wrong, inappropriate or uncomfortable? Do we look forward to our time together or do we look for excuses not to be a part of God’s work. Mt 13:22  “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and becomes unfruitful.”

In other words, this man hears, believes, understands and agrees with Christ’s teachings but is still so connected with this world that he is unable to let go and become a 100% follower of Christ. He becomes unfruitful.

Ezekiel 34:1,2

Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Say to those shepherds – Woe, Shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?”

 

During Ezekiel’s time and in Jesus’ time,  the religious leaders are more concerned with themselves and their leadership role then in doing what leaders of a people are supposed to do:  TAKE CARE OF THEIR PEOPLE. Isn't that what we see in JESUS? Both here in this verse in Luke and Jesus on the CROSS -  Jesus taking care of His people.       Look at the parable that Jesus responds with:

Lk 15:3-7   “So He told them this parable, saying, ‘What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!  So what happens in this parable?

  1. One of the shepherd’s sheep gets lost and the shepherd goes looking for it.       Why is this critical? The sheep loses the protection of the shepherd. John 10:11  “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” So the sheep loses the protection from those who would do it harm.  I John 3:8  “. . . The Son of God appeared for this purpose: TO DESTROY THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL.” Isn’t that the example we see when the seed falls into the thorns. God is not able to direct and lead those individuals in their lives, cares and concerns. John 14:6  “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth and the life”  Separate from Jesus we are alone and vulnerable to all the schemes of the devil.  That is why Paul discusses the armor of God in Eph 6. Why does the shepherd look for the lost sheep – because he cares about his sheep. (J 3:16)
  2. When he finds the sheep he places it on his shoulders. You will notice that he doesn’t take his staff and guide the sheep back to the fold.  HE CARRYS IT home. What does John 3:16 say? That God GAVE His only begotten Son. What does I Jhn 3:16 say?  “We know love by this – that He laid down His life for us” What does Heb 2:9  “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. When the shepherd places the sheep on his shoulders he is accepting complete responsibility. Isn't that EXACTLY what happened when the cross was placed on the back of Jesus???
  3. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’”   Lk 15:7  “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  What was the response of the father when the prodigal son returned?  Lk 15:22-24  “But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Isn't that what the cross did for us? James tells us that those who persevere will receive the crown of life as does Revelations.   I Peter 5:4  “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. John 6:40  “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” 

LOST SHEEP SUMMARY: 

  1. God watches over each and every one of us and cares about us.
  2. He seeks to protect and to watch over us (Footprints in the Sand poem)
  3. He has searched for us, reached down to us and provided eternal life for us
  4. He rejoices over our life with Him and promises to extend that life with Him throughout eternity in His eternal Home
  5. They, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit ARE our Good Shepherd