Holidays (Other)

The Blessing of Freedom

Originally published April 10, 2008

Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be a Christian in other parts of the world?

Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be a Christian in other parts of the world1?

Indonesia, Nigeria- Christians are slaughtered for not conforming to Islamic law. In Nigeria, since the year 2000, thousands have been put to death.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, North Africa, Mauritania, Iran, the Comorros Islands, Sudan- Direct persecution by the state is written into the legal code. Any non-Islamic or dissident Islamic religious expression is forbidden. Any Saudi who seeks to leave Islam faces the strong possibility of execution.

Egypt- The Coptic Church (which is somewhat similar to Catholicism in its roots and practices) has been the target of church burnings and local massacres.

Pakistan- In 1997, the Christian town of Shantinagar, was effectively leveled.

China, Vietnam, Laos, Belarus, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan- Generally, there is freedom to worship in state-controlled religious bodies, but any religious expression outside of these bodies is strenuously controlled or suppressed.

Roman Catholicism is outlawed because it accepts the authority of the Pope, who is from outside the country. Priests and bishops have been imprisoned. Hundreds of Protestant leaders of the underground church have been arrested and sentenced to jail and labor camps.

North Korea- Nearly every free exercise of religion is viciously repressed, and thousands of people have been sent labor camps for practicing their faith.

Burma- An organization called the State Law and Order Restoration Council brutally oppresses tribal minorities, which, in large part, are comprised of Christians. Their tactics include: massacre, rape, forced labor, and the use of children to clear minefields.

United States-
Christianity is protected under the Constitution and is the majority religion in this country. We even have the right to legal redress if our religious liberties are infringed upon.

We can worship publicly with no fear of government, military, or other attacks.

We do not have civil rights (such as the right to vote, work, or own property) taken away from us simply because we embrace Christianity.

We have the right to proselytize (as long as we’re not harassing anyone), advertise and spread our religion.

Persecution is usually limited to people hurting our feelings when we witness to them, and social issues that offend our sensibilities.

We have beautiful, comfortable churches (as well as Christian schools, organizations and stores), complete with heat and air conditioning; comfortable pews; nurseries; indoor plumbing; Bibles, music, and materials in our own language; musical instruments; technology; and paid, and frequently seminary-trained, pastors and staff.

So what are we doing with all these blessings? Have we gotten so used to freedom and opportunity that we consider them a birthright rather than a precious gift from God that He has the prerogative to revoke if He chooses? He did it with the Israelites time and time again in the Old Testament: They obeyed God. He blessed them. After a while, they got comfortable with all the blessings and became lazy. They strayed away from God. He gave them over to oppressive rulers. They cried out in repentance. He delivered them and blessed them, and the cycle started all over again.

What will it take to shake Christians out of our complacency?

What will it take to shake Christians out of our complacency, humble us in gratitude for the opportunities God has given us, and motivate us to use the freedom with which He has blessed us to build His kingdom?

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.

Luke 12:48b

1Insights on Law and Society: A Magazine for Teachers of Civics, Government, History & Law, Vol. 7.3 (Spring 2007); Published by the American Bar Association

Holidays (Other)

Top 10 4th of July Twisted Scriptures

Originally published July 7, 2017

Independence day is my favorite of the non-major holidays. Fireworks, picnics, barbecues, and what other holiday has such grand music that nearly the whole country can enjoy and sing together? It’s the one day of the year when we, as Americans, can set aside our political differences and bickering and celebrate our God-given freedom to have political differences and bickering.

It is good to thank God for the blessing of liberty. It is right to be patriotic and celebrate our nation’s founding. It is evangelistic to use Independence Day as a springboard for explaining to people how they can find real freedom in Christ.

And with that freedom – our freedom in Christ and our freedom as American citizens – comes great responsibility. Namely, the responsibility not to throw all of those things into the Cuisinart at once and turn them into an Americhristian smoothie with red, white, and blue sprinkles.

There is a vast difference between American political freedom and the spiritual freedom found only in Christ. But when we lift Bible verses out of their context and stick a flag behind them in celebration of Independence Day, we conflate the two. Weaker brothers and sisters in the faith who already muddle American citizenship with heavenly citizenship are further confirmed in their confusion. We should be making these distinctions clearer, not encouraging their commingling.

Yet this is exactly what happens on Christian web sites, social media, and even in our churches as the 4th of July draws near. Sisters, this should not be so.

None of the verses in the Bible which contain words like “freedom” and “liberty” are referring to American political freedom. None. The verses containing these words are usually speaking of freedom from sin in Christ, freedom from Mosaic Covenant law, or freedom from literal slavery. We must use and understand them in context, or we are doing violence to the text and treating God’s holy Word with apathetic irreverence.

Here are the top 10 Scriptures I’ve observed being twisted on the 4th of July.

1.
Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Most of the memes using this verse omit the first phrase, because even including those six extra words tends to give too much context to the verse for the person trying to make it about American freedom. If you read all of chapter three, or even just verses 12-18, you can see that this verse is about being set free in Christ from the demands of the Mosaic Covenant. Although 2 Corinthians 3:17 was misused by many, the first place I saw it was was from Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 Facebook page – emblematic of why Christian women should not receive Bible teaching from anyone associated with this organization.


2.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Most incorrect citations of this verse include only its first phrase. Indeed, Christ has set us free for freedom, but freedom from what? English tyranny? Political oppression? No, as the rest of the verse goes on to say, Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery to the Law. In Christ, we are free to stop striving to be good enough to earn right standing with Him, and to rest in His finished work on the cross to clothe us in His righteousness. That’s way better than American constitutional freedoms because that kind of freedom is available to anyone, in any country, at any time in history who repents and places her faith in Christ for salvation.


3.
For you were called to freedom, brothers.
Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh,
but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13

This is a great verse that Christians can live out in service to our families, our church families, and even our fellow Americans. But we need to understand that when this verse says we were “called to freedom” it’s not talking about the rallying cry of the American Revolution. The freedom we were called to – as with Galatians 5:1 – is the freedom from striving to obey the Law to obtain righteousness. But just because we’re no longer under the constraints of the Law doesn’t mean we can go out and sin at will, or indulge the flesh by doing whatever we feel like doing. That’s antinomianism. Instead we’re to use our freedom from the Law as an opportunity to deny self and serve others.


4.
if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

I’ve written at length on this verse in my article Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today? The short answer is “no,” it is not about America. Although there’s plenty that Christians can learn from this verse, it is a promise to Israel, as the surrounding context clearly indicates.


5.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Even adding just two verses (34-35) to this one gives us enough context to help us understand that Jesus is talking about being freed from slavery to sin through the salvation only He can provide – the salvation that is about to cost Him the agony of scourging and death on a cross. It is appalling that this verse – spoken by our Lord Himself, about the earth-shattering, awe-provoking amazingness that is the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God in Christ – should be so lowered and sullied as to try to make it refer to American freedom.


6.
Live as people who are free,
not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil,
but living as servants of God.
1 Peter 2:16

The context of this verse is similar to Galatians 5:13 (#3 above), but it adds a couple of extra facets. If you read verses 9-17 of 1 Peter 2, you’ll notice the same instruction to live as people who have been set free in Christ and to use that freedom in Christ to serve others. Why? “…So that when [the Gentiles] speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God… For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (12,15) When we use our freedom in Christ to serve and do good, it is a testimony of the gospel to the lost. This passage also exhorts us to be subject to our government and our political leaders. And if you know anything about the first century Roman Empire, you know its Christian citizens (Peter’s audience) knew nothing of the political freedoms American Christians experience.


7.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
Psalm 33:12

In the immediate context and application of this verse, “nation” and “the people” is referring to Israel. Examining verses 10, 16, and 17 alongside verse 12, it’s a safe assumption that the psalmist had observed some part of Israel’s history that included war against neighboring nations. And, certainly, any Old Testament Scripture referring to the people God “has chosen as His heritage” could only be speaking of Israel. America didn’t even exist at that time, nor has God, at any point in Scripture, said that America is His chosen people or His heritage. If you want to think of a New Testament “nation” or “people” God has blessed and chosen as His “heritage,” that would be the church- the worldwide body of born again believers. While, ostensibly, any nation whose God is the Lord would be blessed, we have only to look back at Old Testament history to see how unlikely it would be for America’s God to be the Lord. Israel was God’s chosen people and heritage. They were “the nation whose God is the Lord”- literally. They were a theocracy – under the direct rule of God Himself – yet they rejected Him in favor of earthly kings and repeated cycles of idol worship. And we think America is capable of becoming “one nation under God”?


8.
And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property
and each of you shall return to his clan.
Leviticus 25:10

It’s pretty easy to see why only the phrase “proclaim liberty throughout the land” is lifted out of this verse. It is obviously talking about Israel’s Year of Jubilee which has never been practiced in America because we are not, and never have been, under the Mosaic Covenant. Even Israel doesn’t observe the Year of Jubilee any more. The use of this verse is simply a case of someone looking for a Scripture to attach to a patriotic meme, doing a concordance search for the word “liberty,” and whittling away everything in the verse that is obviously un-American.


9.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
Luke 4:18

Except for the fact that this verse includes the word “liberty” or “free,” depending on your translation, it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone would see this as a verse to use in the celebration of Independence Day. This verse doesn’t even make any sense when applied to America. It’s not about a country, it’s about a person: Jesus. Jesus spoke these words. He’s quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, which is a prophecy of the Messiah to come. If you read a mere three more verses of Luke 4, you’ll see in verse 21 that Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Meaning what? Jesus is saying, “You know that Messiah you’ve been waiting on for centuries, Israel? I’m it. I’m here.” And the liberty or freedom He’s talking about? Once again, it’s freedom from sin and freedom from the Law. Because that’s what Jesus came to give us.


10.
Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.
Psalm 118:5 

Nope, this one isn’t about American political freedom either. A couple of things to notice: first, this is clearly set in the context of Israel’s Old Testament history, as verses 2-3, with their references to “Israel” and “Aaron”, indicate. Next, look at the personal pronouns, not only in verse 5, but also in verses 6-7: “I,” “me,” “my.” This verse is not about America being set free from England, or even about Israel being set free from one of its enemies. This is a descriptive passage about an individual – the psalmist – being in some sort of distressing situation, and God answering his prayer for deliverance. Have you ever prayed that God would deliver you from a difficult time in your life? If He did, do you think that unique situation is applicable to anyone else, much less an entire country? This passage is kind of the same thing. The psalmist is sharing something God did for him, not commenting on politics or even assuring other individuals that God will do the same for them.


Memorial Day Bonus:
Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

Memorial Day is a solemn and precious day to honor those who have laid down their lives for our freedom as Americans. Every male member of my immediate family has served or is serving in the military, and I know just how blessed I am that they have all returned safe and sound. It takes a special kind of person to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from that. But as meaningful as that is, it can’t – and shouldn’t – compare to Christ laying down His life to make sinners His friends. And that’s what this verse is about. For twelve verses, Jesus has talked to His disciples about abiding in Him because He loves them so much. In verse 13, He talks about the proof of His love for them: He’s about to give His life as the atoning sacrifice for their sin. He wants them to love each other the same way – that for Christ’s sake, in Christ’s name – they would be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. Eleven of the twelve of them would go on to do so. When we use this verse in reference to Memorial Day – as deeply consequential as that day is – it tarnishes the infinitely more important sacrifice of Christ by comparing a mere man’s offering of his life for temporal, earthly freedom, to God’s offering of His sinless Son to purchase for eternity the redemption of sinful rebels.

I’m proud and grateful to be an American. I’m thankful for this nation and the freedoms we have as citizens. But for everyone who’s a citizen of the Kingdom of God, our loyalty and reverence must lie with Him first and must surpass all other loyalties – to family, to friends, and even to country. That means we reverence God’s holy Word by being good students of it and handling it correctly, by preserving and standing up for its meaning and intentions, and by refusing to manipulate it for our own lesser purposes- even such a noble purpose as patriotism.


Photo Credits
The references below are for the purpose of photo credits only. I have not examined most of these sites and do not endorse any which contradict my beliefs as cited in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.

1. https://www.facebook.com/Prov31Ministries/photos/a.390955286960.162138.99550061960/10154692176801961/?type=1&theater
2. https://stjosephslanc.com/july-5-2015-the-fourteenth-sunday-in-ordinary-time/
3. https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedWomenforAmerica/photos/a.119423980992.123545.77903485992/10155305900670993/?type=3&theater
5. https://twitter.com/robertjeffress/status/746696996208074752
6. http://dailybiblememe.com/tag/1-peter-216/
7. http://simplylkj.blogspot.com/2016/07/happy-4th-of-july.html
8. http://redbubble.com/i/poster/Motivational-Bible-Quote-Liberty-People-4th-of-July-by-mairabay/50664737.LVTDI
9. http://www.klove.com/
10. http://bibleversestogo.com/products/psalm-118-5-freedom
Memorial Day Bonus: http://unitetheusa.org/id165.html

Holidays (Other)

The Mailbag: Patriotism in Church

Originally published July 2, 2018

Every year on the Sunday closest to the 4th of July, our worship service turns very patriotic. All of the hymns and worship songs are replaced with patriotic songs like God Bless America, America the Beautiful, and the National Anthem. The choir and whoever is singing a solo that day sings a patriotic song. A color guard marches in with the American flag and we say the Pledge of Allegiance. Sometimes the sermon is even on a patriotic topic. It makes me uncomfortable because I think the worship service should focus on God, not America. What do you think?

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love the fireworks and picnics, the bands, and watching my favorite musical, Yankee Doodle Dandy.

I’m as red, white, and blue, rah rah America as the next guy, but there’s a time and a place for all that, and the Sunday morning worship hour isn’t it. You’re correct. The worship service is exactly that: worship and service. And who are Christians supposed to worship and serve when we go to church? God.

We are to sing to, and about, God. The pastor is to preach the Word of God. We pledge our allegiance in prayer, worship, and confession to God. Our thoughts are to be focused on God. Every element of the worship service – songs, symbols, readings, offerings, prayer, praise, everything – is to draw our attention to God. He is the only One worthy of our worship.

Patriotic songs, the Pledge, and all of those other things can take the focus off God and put it on something lesser. Sometimes God gets pushed aside in favor of what we want to focus on. That’s a very man-centered attitude in the very place and time when everything is supposed to be centered on God.

And really, if you think about the main reason America was founded – freedom of worship – what better way is there to honor our forefathers and celebrate the gift of freedom God has given us than to exercise our First Amendment right to worship God? Certainly, we could use the 4th of July as a reminder to take some time in corporate prayer to express gratitude to God for our country and our liberties and to pray for our country. Scripture tells us to present our requests to God with thanksgiving. We could also dedicate some time to praying for our governmental officials as 1 Timothy 2:1-4 instructs us to do. There’s a biblical, worshipful way to be thankful for the freedoms God has blessed us with and intercede for our country and our governing authorities. And it shouldn’t be limited to one Sunday a year.

But when it comes to patriotic hoopla, we can set aside another time for that and still celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If your church family wants to celebrate America’s birthday together, that’s great! Have a church-wide cookout on the 4th. Schedule an Independence Day patriotic sing-along or choir pageant. Meet up and head out to the county fireworks show together. Fellowship! Have fun!

But when it’s time to worship, let’s make sure we’re reserving that time for worship of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It’s fine to love America, but let’s demonstrate that we love Christ more by not letting anything take His place in His church.

photo source

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Church, Holidays (Other), Worship

7 Ways to Honor Mothers During Your Mother’s Day Worship Service

Originally published May 7, 2021

Mother’s Day is just around the corner.

It’s nice to have a day set aside to recognize moms, be thankful for them, and appreciate them for all their hard work and everything they’ve done for us.

And if there’s anywhere motherhood should be honored, it’s in the church. Over and over, the Bible teaches us that motherhood is a high calling. A sacred trust. A solemn responsibility. No woman should ever be made to feel that she’s “just” a wife and mother. That’s the world’s perspective, not God’s.

So, pastors and women’s ministry leaders, how can the church best honor moms during the Mother’s Day worship service? Here are seven ways…

How can the church best honor moms during the Mother’s Day worship service? Here are seven ways…

1.
Don’t

2.
No, seriously…don’t.

Yes, you read that right. Don’t make the sermon, songs, and prayers all about motherhood, and don’t do the typical “honoring of the mothers” hoo-hah that has become traditional in many churches during the Sunday worship service that coincides with Mother’s Day:

  • “Will all of our mothers please stand?” Congregation applauds. Sometimes a flower or other small gift is handed out to all the mothers standing.
  • Honoring of the youngest mother, or mother with the youngest baby present (“newest mother”) with a flower, gift, or corsage
  • Honoring of the oldest mother (strangely, I’ve never seen the mother with the oldest child present honored) with a flower, gift, or corsage
  • Honoring of the mother with the most children (or most children present) with a flower, gift, or corsage

Why? Because, though it might not be visible on the surface, when you do this, you open a Pandora’s Box of thoughts and emotions. And not all of those are godly or happy thoughts and emotions.

When you take people’s focus off worshiping God and put it on honoring people, what they’re going to be thinking about is their feelings toward the people being honored, and their feelings about themselves:

“That woman is the meanest old biddy in the church. She shouldn’t be getting honored for anything.”

“I have more children than she does, but some of mine live out of state. It’s not fair that she gets the corsage just because she guilted all of her kids – who don’t even go to church – into showing up today.”

“Us single women never get honored for anything.”

“I’d give anything to have a baby. Why them and not me, Lord?”

“This is excruciatingly embarrassing. Thanks for reminding me and the entire congregation that the reason I’m the youngest mother here is because I sinfully gave up my virginity at 14.”

Keep people focused on Jesus during the worship service. That’s where their focus is supposed to be anyway, and as an added bonus, you’ll avoid stirring up all of those often-ungodly thoughts and feelings.

3.
And especially don’t…

…do this thing that some churches have started doing of honoring all women on Mother’s Day. You think what you’re doing is preventing anybody’s feelings from getting hurt, but in many cases, you’re just pouring salt in the wound:

“Sorry you’ve been going through the agony of infertility for ten years. Here’s a piece of Christian kitsch for a consolation prize.”

“Here’s a carnation to highlight the fact that not only do you not have children, you’re in your forties and are still waiting for Mr. Right.”

“So you’re getting puked on, and pulled at, and you’re dealing with colic and temper tantrums and potty training every day, and your family budget is decimated and you’re operating on about three hours of sleep a night and you can’t even get five minutes alone in the bathroom? We’re going to take the woman sitting next to you who put her career first, has power, prestige, and position in the world, plenty of money in the bank, and all the “me time” she wants, and we’re going to honor her the same way we’re honoring you.”

That’s not how kind and loving churches mean it to come across, of course, but that’s how it can feel to the women being “honored,” nonetheless.

About thirty or so years ago, some well meaning person in kids’ sports came up with the idea of every team – win or lose, and every kid on every team- super jock or perpetual ball-dropper, getting a trophy at the end of the season so nobody’s feelings would get hurt.

It didn’t work. Those kids knew which teams had won the most games and lost the most games. They knew who the best players were and who always got sent out into deep, deep, deep right field (like I did). They knew who had earned the trophies and who had not. And when everybody got a trophy at the end of the season, it was a meaningless prize for the winners and feelings of shame for an undeserved award for the losers.

The women in your church know it’s Mother’s Day – a day for honoring mothers. And they know whether or not they are mothers and whether or not they’ve “earned,” so to speak, or qualified, for the honor you’re giving them.

If you really don’t want to hurt the feelings of women who aren’t mothers, keep everybody’s focus on Christ and His Word instead of on Mother’s Day.

If you really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, keep everybody’s focus on Christ and His Word instead of on Mother’s Day.

4.
And along those same lines, don’t…

…reinforce narcissistic navel-gazing – the “it’s all about me and my feelings of worth / loss / sadness / fulfillment” that they’re already being fed by the truckload by the world and by pop-women’s “Bible” study.

Many women are already living life being led around by their noses by their feelings. They wear their feelings on their sleeves. They’re easily offended. They lash out at anyone who even inadvertently hurts their feelings. They demand that the sharp corners of the world be padded so their feelings won’t be hurt.

And if you’re doing the “honor all women” thing on Mother’s Day, I know you don’t mean to, but you’re subtly reinforcing that outlook and coddling any feelings of bitterness, discontentment, resentment, entitlement, and anger that are silently flying around the room. (“Please don’t freak out because the mothers all got a flower and you didn’t. Here, you can have a flower too.”)

Yes, the pain in the heart of a woman who has lost a child, has wayward children, has lost a mother, had an abusive mother, has been unable to conceive, or desperately wants to be married is deep and real. And it is absolutely and inarguably incumbent upon us as compassionate, caring, kind, and merciful followers of Christ to weep with those who weep in the midst of suffering.

But God also requires us to draw upon His strength, look past our own pain, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Just as it is good and right to comfort a friend who’s infertile or grieve with parents who have miscarried, it is also good and right for that friend and those parents to rejoice on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with those whom God has chosen to bless with children, or to celebrate with loved ones who have just announced a pregnancy. We take the focus off ourselves and put it on others, just like Jesus did.1

If you really want to honor all the women in your church, counter the worldliness, fleshliness, and selfishness many of them are imbibing. Teach them – all year round – that God’s Word is their authority, not their feelings. Drill down on the golden rule. Show them how to put others first. Help them learn how to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

5.
Don’t neglect…

…the ministry of the Word. What all Christians – mothers and non-mothers alike – need during the worship service is to have God’s Word proclaimed to them.

Now I know that some pastors will immediately respond, “But I’m going to be preaching the Word. I’m preaching on Naomi and Ruth / Mary / Hannah / Proverbs 31, etc.” And if you’re rightly dividing and expositing whatever that passage is, I’m not knocking that, but you’re the exception, not the rule.

Just some food for thought between you and the Lord as you consider your sermon on the Sunday of Mother’s Day…

  • Are you really rightly handling the Word, or is this basically a Hallmark homily or a sentimental eulogizing of mothers?
  • Are all of the Mother’s Day awards, songs, videos, testimonies, and so on cutting down on the sermon time so that you don’t have time to properly proclaim the Word?
  • Are you so focused on motherhood that you’re leaving out of the proclamation of God’s Word anyone who’s not a mother – men, children, childless couples, singles?
  • If your ladies aren’t yet well schooled in not being led by their feelings, and/or you’re of a mind not to hurt anyone’s feelings, is your motherhood-focused sermon going to hurt the feelings of women who aren’t mothers (and are you going to get an earful about it on Monday morning)?
  • Are your Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons accidentally falling into the pattern many have noted in recent years: mothers can do no wrong, and fathers can do no right, mothers are “saints,” and fathers are “sinners”?
  • If you’re typically an expository preacher and a motherhood-focused sermon deviates from the book you’re currently preaching through, are you deviating because God is leading you to do so? Or is this deviation being led by the calendar? Or by the thought that the women of your church will pitch a fit if you don’t focus on motherhood during the Mother’s Day sermon?
  • Do you realize that many doctrinally sound mothers prefer that you keep right on preaching through whatever book you’re currently in because they’re enjoying it and God is using it to grow them? I’m one of them, and I’ve heard from many others like me: “I don’t want to hear how great I am. I want to hear how great Christ is.”

I don’t want to hear how great I am. I want to hear how great Christ is.

6.
Don’t overlook…

…the fact that there are lots of ways and times you can honor and encourage mothers besides during the Mother’s Day worship service.

  • When you’re preaching through a book and come to a passage about mothering, go ahead lift up what the Word says about mothering. (That might sound a little contradictory to what I’ve already said, but preaching about motherhood on October 9 or July 31 is a lot less emotionally triggering than it is on Mother’s Day. Plus, there’s a good chance the passage isn’t exclusively about motherhood.)
  • Have a Mother’s Day potluck or picnic – everyone invited, of course – after the service where the dads and kids do all the set up, cooking, and clean up. (And have one for Father’s Day, too, with moms and kids serving!)
  • Host a parents’ night out from time to time to give moms a break and give husbands and wives some quality time together.
  • Make sure you’ve got Titus 2:3-5 going on, in some form, in your church. Young women need spiritual moms to lean on and to train them.
  • Make a baby cry/nursing room (with sermon piped in) and a nursery available during the worship service for those who want them, and offer children’s classes or child care whenever adult classes are offered. Also, don’t make being on the nursery rotation a requirement for moms to leave their children in the nursery.

    I know these ideas won’t be popular with some churches, but hear me out: as a young, stay at home mom with lots of small children, some weeks the only time I made it out of the house and got to talk to other adults was Sundays and Wednesdays at church. The churches I belonged to that offered a nursery and the other aforementioned amenities served, honored, appreciated, and loved me well by doing so. I needed that brief time of undistracted respite in God’s Word with God’s people to rest, recharge, and keep from losing my mind.

A quick “Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!” from the pastor is no big deal, but, generally speaking, keep the focus on God during the worship service, and have fun honoring Mom some other time.

7.
And most importantly, don’t forget…

…God. A worship service isn’t (nor should it be) like any other gathering of people. At any other gathering of people, people are in charge, and people are the focus. People decide the reason for the gathering, the theme of the gathering, who or what the gathering is to center on, who’s going to run things, which materials are or aren’t appropriate for the gathering, which activities are going to take place during the gathering, and what’s going to please or displease the people who are gathering.

Not so with a worship service. God dictates all of those components and parameters in His Word, and we obediently carry them out.

The reason for the worship service is to honor God – not mothers or any others – and worship Him.

The theme of the worship service is worshiping God.

The worship service is to center on God.

The men God has appointed to the offices of pastor and elders are to run things during the worship service.

The only appropriate materials for the worship service are God’s Word and materials that focus our worship on God and His Word.

The activities that are to take place during the worship service – the proclamation of the Word, prayer, praise, singing, and giving offerings – are prescribed by God in His Word and directed to God.

And the worship service isn’t about what’s pleasing or displeasing to the people in attendance, it’s about what’s pleasing to God.

Should mothers be appreciated, even honored, by the church? Sure! But not during the time we’ve specifically set aside to honor God. And really, shouldn’t mothers and motherhood be appreciated and honored much more than one hour a year?

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there!

Let’s hear from you, readers.
What’s a great way to honor moms and motherhood that keeps the
focus of the worship service on God, where it’s supposed to be?


1Excerpted from my article Safe Spaces and Wearing Our Hearts on Our Sleeves: 6 Ways to Follow Jesus’ Example of Handling Hurt

Holidays (Other), Parenting

Beautiful Motherhood: A Mother’s Day Bible Study

As we look ahead to Mother’s Day,
let’s check out what the Bible has to say about mothering.
This is lesson 12 of my topical Bible study:

Imperishable Beauty- A Study of Biblical Womanhood.

Read These Selected Scriptures

Questions to Consider

1. What are some attributes or character traits of a godly mother from Proverbs 31 that we can emulate? In today’s lesson, rather than attributes to emulate, we’ll be focusing on God’s instructions to obey for mothers. We’ll examine how we’re to regard motherhood and our children, how we’re to train our children in godliness, how we’re to discipline our children out of ungodliness, and the example we’re to set for our children. Some of these instructions can also apply to childless women in their relationships with their spiritual children (i.e. younger women or children they disciple) and others. As you read over today’s passages, explain how childless women might apply some of these Scriptures.

2. Examine the first three passages (Psalm 127-Titus 2) together. What do these passages say about how we are to regard motherhood and our children? What should the attitude of our hearts be? In what sense are children a reward? How do we know that Psalm 127:3 does not mean that if you act in a way that pleases the Lord He will reward your good behavior with children? What does this verse mean? Is loving your children (Titus 2:4) simply a feeling of affection toward them? If so, why would young women need to be trained to love their children? When you finish today’s lesson, come back to Titus 2:4 and give a fully-orbed biblical definition of what it means to love your children.

3. Examine the next five passages (Proverbs 22-Ephesians 6) together. Why does God want us to train our children in godliness? Explain the phrase “in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6). How does the gospel figure in to training your child? Look carefully at the three Old Testament passages. At what age should we begin training our children in godliness and the Scriptures and how long should this training continue? Is Proverbs 22:6 an iron-clad guarantee or promise from God that if we raise our children in a godly home they will definitely get saved and turn out to be godly adults? Why not? (Scroll down to the Deuteronomy 21 passage if you need help.)

To whom are the Colossians and Ephesians verses addressed? Does this mean they don’t apply to mothers or that it’s OK for mothers to provoke their children, but not fathers? If they apply to both parents, why are they addressed to fathers? How are we not to deal with our children according to these verses? What does it mean to provoke your children? Why are we not to provoke them (Colossians), and how are we to deal with them instead (Ephesians)? Compare Ephesians 6:4b to the Old Testament verses in this section. How are they similar?

3. Examine the next three passages (Proverbs 29-Deuteronomy 21) together. What is the purpose of godly discipline? What are the biblical definitions of the words “discipline” and “reproof”? Are discipline, reproof, and training the same as punishment? Why or why not? What are some of the consequences of disciplining your child? The consequences of refusing to discipline your child? According to Proverbs 13:24, what motivates someone to discipline her child? What motivates someone to refuse to discipline her child? Are “love” and “hate” simply emotional feelings in this verse or an attitude, posture, or orientation of mindset toward the child? Look closely at Deuteronomy 21:20. Is this passage most likely talking about a very young child or an older child/teenager? According to the Deuteronomy 21 passage, does godly discipline always result in an obedient son or daughter, or can there be exceptions to the rule?

Why is it important to both train your child in godly ways and discipline him out of ungodly ways? Explain how this fits into the “put off the ungodly, put on the godlymodel of biblical sanctification.

4. Examine the last five passages (Deuteronomy 21-Matthew 10) together. What do these passages teach us about the godly example we need to set for our children?

Sometimes we see implicit instructions to parents in passages that explicitly teach children how to treat and regard their parents. For example, if there were a verse that said, “Children, love your parents,” we could learn from that verse that we need to act in a way (lovable) that makes it easier for our children to obey that Scripture. Considering this concept, look at the Exodus 20 and Proverbs 1 passages. If your children are to honor you, in what manner should you behave? What should your teaching be like if your children are not to forsake it and to consider it a “graceful garland” and a “pendant”?

What is the context of Ezekiel 16? To whom is the parent/child metaphor in this  passage addressed? Explain the phrase “like mother, like daughter”. Why is it important to set a good example for our children with our own behavior, and why was this a good metaphor for God to use in addressing Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him?

Examine the Deuteronomy 21 and Matthew 10 passages together. What is to be a mother’s highest priority – her relationship with her child, even the life of her child, or her love for, obedience to, and loyalty to Christ? Do you love Christ more than your child? If you had to choose between your child and Christ, who would you choose? What message does it send to our children when we show and tell them that we love Christ more than we love them? How can you demonstrate to your child that your highest love and loyalty is reserved for Christ?


Homework

Examine each of the instructions in Deuteronomy 6:6-9. Make a list of practical ways your family could put each of these instructions into practice and discuss it with your husband. Together, pick one of these practices and implement it with your children this week.


Suggested Memory Verse