My Sunday sermons given at Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR, for those who missed church or just want to see what we're up to. You can also listen to these sermons if you prefer. Just go to our church website and click the "Online Church" tab. Here's the link:

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Will the Real Mom Please Stand Up?" - (05/08/11)

I Kings 3:16-28
May 8, 2011 (Mother’s Day 2011)

            Erma Bombeck was an American humorist who achieved great popularity for her newspaper column, “At Wit’s End,” that described suburban home-life from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s (she died in April 1996).  Bombeck also published 15 books, most of which became best-sellers.  She wrote based on her own life experiences and personal adventures as a wife and mother.  Some of her most famous book titles include:
  • Just Wait Until You Have Children of Your Own
  • I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression
  • The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank
  • If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?
  • Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession
  • When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time to Go Home
She is also famous for her great one-liners.  Here are a few of her most memorable ones:
  • “Insanity is hereditary. You can catch it from your kids.”
  • “My second favorite household chore is ironing.  My first one being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.”
  • “If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead.”
  • “Mothers-in-law who wear a black armband to the wedding are expendable.”
  • “The only reason I would take up jogging is so I could hear heavy breathing again.”
  • “In general, my children refused to eat anything that hadn’t danced on TV.”
  • “Seize the moment.  Think of all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
  • “Never loan your car to anyone to whom you’ve given birth.”
  • “A child needs your love more when he deserves it least.”
  • “If you can laugh at it, you can live with it.”
            The following is a quote from Erma Bombeck that while humorous, also has a very serious side to it.  Listen carefully:
For the first 4 or 5 years after I had children, I considered motherhood a temporary condition, not a calling.  It was a time of my life set aside for exhaustion and long hours.  It would pass.  Then one afternoon, with 3 kids in tow, I came out of a supermarket pushing a cart (with four wheels that went in opposite directions) when my toddler son got away from me.  Just outside the door, he ran toward a machine holding bubble gum in a glass dome.  In a voice that shattered glass he shouted, “Gimme! Gimme!”  I told him I would give him what for if he didn’t stop shouting and get in the car.  As I physically tried to pry his body from around the bubble gum machine, he pulled the entire thing over.  Glass and balls of bubble gum went all over the parking lot.  We had now attracted a sizable crowd.  I told him he would never see a cartoon as long as he lived, and if he didn’t control his temper, he was going to be making license plates for the state.  He tried to stifle his sobs as he looked around at the staring crowd.  Then he did something that I was to remember for the rest of my life.  In his helpless quest for comfort, he turned to the only one he trusted his emotions with -- me.  He threw his arms around my knees and held on for dear life.  I had humiliated him, chastised him, and berated him, but I was still all he had.  That single incident defined my role.  I was a major force in this child’s life.  Sometimes we forget how important stability is to a child.  I’ve always told mine, “The easiest part of being a mother is giving birth... the hardest part is showing up for it each day.”

            Mother’s Day is traditionally the day when children give something back to their mothers for all the spit they produce to wash dirty faces, all the old gum they held in their hands, all the noses they wiped, and all the bloody knees they “made well” with a kiss.  This is the day mothers are rewarded for washing all those sheets in the middle of the night, driving kids to school when they missed the bus, and enduring all the football games in the rain.   It is appreciation day for making your children finish something they said they couldn’t do, not believing them when they said, “I hate you,” and sharing their good times and their bad times.  Their cards probably won’t reflect it, but what they are trying to say is, “Thank you, Mom, for always showing up.”
            Today we want to thank all you moms for the difficult and often thankless job you do.  Mothers are so very important.  We could not have made it without you.  You have provided great comfort and stability for your children through the years.  God says, “Honor thy father and mother,” and I think most would agree that mothers are worthy of honor.  So today be sure to let your mom know that she is special, and that you really appreciate her.
            I’ve titled today’s message, “Will the Real Mom Please Stand Up.”  And yes, I know that this is not your usual Mother’s Day text, so please pay close attention as I read I Kings 3:16-28 (NIV).  Feel free to read along with me in your own Bible.  Now two prostitutes came to the king (Solomon) and stood before him.  One of them said, “My lord, this woman and I live in the same house.  I had a baby while she was there with me.  The third day after my child was born this woman also had a baby.  We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.  During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him.  So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep.  She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast.  The next morning, I got up to nurse my son - and he was dead!  But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”  The other woman said, “No!  The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”  But the first one insisted, “No!  The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.”  And so they argued before the king.  The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No!  Your son is dead and mine is alive.’”  Then the kind said, “Bring me a sword.”  So they brought a sword for the king.  He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”  The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”  But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him.  Cut him in two!”  Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman.  Do not kill him; she is his mother.”  When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

       That is quite a story, but do you know what one of the problems is with Bible stories?  We often learn the primary lesson and fail to see the rest of the story.  This incident is used in the text to prove that God had indeed given Solomon the wisdom he had requested.  It proves that wisdom comes from God.  The story also provides several LESSONS OF MOTHERHOOD from an unlikely source.

The first LESSON OF MOTHERHOOD from this story is…

            I do not say this to drag mothers down, but to build them up.  No one needs to be treated with more tenderness than our mother.  Perhaps no one is more caring and conscientious than our mother.  Sometimes we are too hard on them.  Sometimes they are too hard on themselves.  The two mothers in this story were prostitutes!  Their babies were evidently conceived under sinful circumstances.  Think about that for a minute.
            Why did Solomon, king over God’s chosen people, take the time to deal with two prostitutes?  After all, these women, and the sinful men who paid for their services, were living outside of God’s will.  Yet Solomon was concerned about these two women because God was concerned about them!
            We would all agree that the church should stand for moral purity.  But the church should also stand for forgiveness and restoration!  These women were not living up to God’s ideals - yet He still loved them!  If any of us had to wait for God to love us based on our performance we would all be out of luck!
            No, there is no such thing as a perfect mother, just like there aren’t any perfect ones among the rest of us.  And if there’s anyone in whom we should be willing to overlook faults, it should be our mother.  Why?  Because they’ve overlooked so many of our faults.  We need to lighten up on mom a little, and moms need to lighten up on themselves a little.  Moms need to laugh and have a good time.
            Now I’ve never been a mother, but I certainly appreciate the work that they do, even though I’m sure that I don’t even know a fraction of the investment they make in their families every day of the week.  However, I have a little video I’d like to show you that explains one of the chronic problems of motherhood.  This is Anita Renfroe, a Christian comedienne who is well known from her presentations at Women of Faith conferences all over the country.  It’s called, “Sleepless.”  I hope you like it.  [Show the video clip]

Here’s another LESSON ABOUT MOTHERHOOD from our story:
            Don’t look for stress-free motherhood, because it doesn’t exist.  From the pains of giving birth, to the empty nest, to grandchildren and beyond, motherhood is stressful!  Once again, I do not say this to discourage anyone.  There is good news!  God is willing and able to assist moms in the problems they encounter.
            God didn’t give Solomon wisdom so that folks would stand around the palace and say “Ooh!” and “Ahh!”  He gave Solomon wisdom for a purpose.  God not only loved those two prostitute mothers, He also loved the little baby in this story.  So God dispatched His wisdom to Solomon to save the child.
            He also has wisdom to spare for parenting responsibilities today.  He can guide and provide for mothers in all kinds of life situations - single moms, adoptive moms, step-moms, moms with special situations, you name it!  Some kids today have special needs.  That’s okay.  God has the wisdom to give you for the task.  He can teach you what to do and what to say in every situation.

There’s the third LESSON FOR MOTHERS that I see from this story:

            The real mother in this story would rather see another woman raise her child than see him split in two.  You have to be willing to give up some things to be a good mother.  Personal sacrifice is a pivotal part of motherhood.  It begins by them sacrificing their own bodies by carrying the child around in their womb for nine months.  No mother’s child ought to get over that sacrifice!  Our mothers fed us, nourished and protected us with their own bodies before we even saw the light of day.  I’ve never known anyone else who loves me enough to carry me around for nine months.
            But a mother’s sacrifice doesn’t end there.  They keep on giving!  They give up sleep for the midnight feedings.  They give up personal goals to help their children achieve their goals.  Ask yourself how many times you got a new outfit and mom wore the same old clothes, or how many times she gave you the last helping at supper.
            We honor moms for all the giving they do.  They remind us of God who is the ultimate example of sacrificial giving.  He gave His only Son for a world of wayward children.  That kind of love should not go unnoticed and unappreciated.  We should respond to our moms with great appreciation and love, and we should respond to God who created motherhood the same way.

            Before we leave this concept of a mother’s love, I think we need to define love a little bit.  Sometimes simply saying you need to love is not enough, since our world has so perverted love many don’t really know what to do or how to make love practical.  To help us we are going to take a look at the Love Chapter, I Corinthians 13.  I know we usually use these descriptions in weddings and to talk about the love between a husband and a wife -- but AGAPE love applies to all relationships, including the parent/child relationship.

            How do we apply the truth that love is patient to the mother/child relationship?  Well, our children may be intelligent, but they still do not have an adult grasp of certain concepts because they are still just kids, not adults.  They are also forgetful, so we must patiently remind them of their chores, of their homework, and of the necessity of picking up their toys and clothes.  When they are having fun, hours can seem like minutes; but when they are sitting still or standing in line minutes can seem like hours to them, so we must be patient as they fuss and fidget.  I am not encouraging permissiveness and I do believe in discipline and responsibility, but God tells us to be patient, doesn’t He?  Is God patient with His children?  Does this mean that God is permissive?  No!  Do you think He wants us to be patient with our children?  Love is patient and our patience can go a long way in demonstrating our love.

            Kindness refers to tenderness and affection.  Children need kind and gentle words of love and concern and loving embraces.  How often do we tell our children we love them?  How often do we praise their efforts?  How often do we tell them we appreciate them?  Do we spend more time criticizing them and showing irritation with their actions and attitudes than praising them?  How often do we hug, kiss or embrace our kids?  Touch is so important.  In the OT a father always made physical contact with his children when he gave them his blessing.

            A mother should be polite and courteous to her children, just as she is to other people.  We expect our children to say “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “I’m sorry,” but do we treat them with the same consideration?  We don’t want our children to interrupt us when we are talking but we think nothing of interrupting them.  We know that bad language and saying “shut up” shows disrespect, so why do we sometimes use such terms with our children?  We want our children to share food, toys, etc. but how many times do we guard our own possessions from our children’s touch or use?  We must be alert to how we are treating our children and determine to be polite and courteous to them just as we expect them to be to us and others.

            We need to forgive our children, and when we forgive we need to really forgive and not bring up past mistakes that we said we’d forgiven.  We need to be like God the Father.  When is the only time God is pictured as being in a hurry? -- when He is forgiving His repentant children.  He is quick to forgive.

            A loving mother will maintain her honesty and integrity no matter the circumstances.  Her children will be able to trust her word and her promises.  They will see her honesty displayed in all aspects of her life.  No “white lies,” half-truths, and situational lying.  And she will not excuse her child’s actions by blaming a school teacher or others when her child makes mistakes.  She will encourage her children to pay their debts and take responsibility for all wrong doing.  And she will not tell “stories” or white lies to appease her child’s curiosity or silence his questions.

            A mother must instill at an early age her belief in her child.  She must let him/her know that they have a bright future, that they are special, and that they are a vital part of the family.

            My goal here today has been twofold.  First, I wanted to honor our mothers and to let them know how much we appreciate them and all their sacrifices and efforts on behalf of their children and families.  My second goal has been to point us all to the greatest parent of all time, God Himself.  He must be our pattern for parenthood, for both mothers and fathers.  The way He loves, nurtures, and protects His children is the model for us to follow with our own children.  Moreover, when we run into trouble, He offers us free counseling and parenting advice.  He has promised to freely give wisdom to any who will come to Him and ask for it.
            And just a closing word… I know that Mother’s Day is very painful for some people.
  • Some of you did not have the kind of loving, nurturing mother that we have talked about today and you still grieve over that.  Maybe your mom wasn’t the greatest mother and you still carry the emotional scars.  If you are one of those people, just remember that we need to forgive others the way Christ forgives us, and then move on.  We can’t fix the past.  We can only change the present and future.
  • Some of you may be feeling pain today because you miss your mom.  That’s my case.  I still miss my mom even though she been gone for 5½ years.  I still haven’t gotten over her tragic death.  So all I can do today is give thanks to God for the years that I had with her and for the certainty that I will see her again one day in Heaven.
  • And some of you may be feeling pain today because of distance from your children, geographical distance, or emotional distance.  Estrangement from your children is especially painful on days like this.  All I can say is that God understands, and He can fill in that gap and give you peace in spite of the fact that you may not hear from your children today.  In that case, let God the Father parent you.  Let Him comfort and hold you in His strong arms, and let Him remind you that He knows what it is like to be rejected by those He loves.  He is no stranger to that kind of pain.

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About Me

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Since 1994 I have been the pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church in Portland, OR. Before that I was a missionary in South Brazil for many years. Until just recently I have also served as a police chaplain with the Portland Police Bureau. Now, however, God has a new assignment for us. My wife and I have been appointed with WorldVenture and are preparing to move to Ireland to help plant a new church in Sligo, a small city in NW Ireland. I'm married to Ramel, a crazy, beautiful redhead that I love more than life itself. We have three great kids, Jonathan, Chris, and Simoni who have given us ten wonderful grandchildren. We are truly blessed.

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