Climbing peas

Unlike other years, the seeds got into the ground on time.  As expected, in about a week’s time they pushed up and started to show their little heads.

Same packet of seeds, same soil, same time, same water.  All got fertiliser at the same time.  Yet, some grow faster than others.

Along the trellis the leaves of all of them looks healthy and strong, but some pushed out their tendrils in search for something to anchor the plant as it climbs. It’s amazing how strong these little squiggly ten
tacles are. IMG_0871

Then, some growing next to the one who succeeded in climbing the trellis, twist their tendrils around their strong-growing neighbour, and so they get help to mature and bear fruit.

But other plants just fall over, not achieving the same result.  Instead of growing up, they remain low.  They too have tendrils.  These little anchors get tangled up with those of the neighbouring plant, and together they hold one another back from growing upwards.  They still look healthy, but they need help to grow upwards to bear fruit.

I visit my garden everyday to marvel at the growth of those who found the the way upwards.  But most of the time I spend with fallen over the peas.  Because they are not anchored, they choke the growth of those next to them.

It’s the same way with Christians, even those growing up in the same environment.

God gives the growth, and He provides the fast growing, strong and mature members of his family to provide the anchor for the others to help them up and reach the top, producing fruit to the glory of God.

Others just keep falling over.  The sad part is that they prevent those around them to grow upwards too.  They are so demanding, spreading their spiritually wandering tendrils so tightly around their neighbours, that even they can’t mature.

We thank God for the fast growers, proving the necessary help for others to mature and reach the top.

We pray for those who are struggling.  Peas can’t look for strong support and supplant themselves for help.  But Christians can make sure that they lean on mature Christians for help.

Weaker Christians should constantly be aware of is their restraining effect on those around them.  They might justify their weakness in faith be finding another weaker brother, resulting in both of them never growing upwards.

The reason God put us on the face of the earth is to bear fruit to his glory.  He provides growth, but He also calls us to grow up as we feed on His Word, and His Son, our Anchor.

Be Wise (2)

Mind your wife (or your mother)

Scripture Readings

  • Ephesians 5:22-32
  • Proverbs 31:10-31

Introduction

They say it’s Mother’s day, and we need a day like this.  But for the church Christ every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.  Every sermon should be about Him and his work of salvation.  Every worship service should bring honour to God in the first instance; that’s our chief aim in life. But, even on a day like today, we want to thank God for our mothers.  We want to bring Him thanks for having mothers who love, care and live by example. So wen we read Proverbs 31 about the Excellent Mother we need to look further.  We might be surprised to see that mothers, how much we love and adore them (and we should!), should be loved and adored through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ – the wisdom of God.

Wives

Let’s learn from a man who knew women far better than anyone on the face of the earth.  We can say this because all up he had 1,000 of them – 700 wives in his harem, and another 300 as concubines, more or less the slaves of the wives he had.

(Was he really wise having a thousand? Must be; there are times I yearn for more wisdom to really understand the one I have! Not really,  she is a gift from God, and I truly love and adore her.)

Solomon wrote the best part of Proverbs and has quite a few things to say about a wife:

A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones. (Proverbs 12:4, NIV) He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord. (Proverbs 18:22, NIV) Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord. (Proverbs 19:13–14, NIV)

There are also a few negative things about a wife:

Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. (Proverbs 21:9; 25-24, NIV) A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; (Proverbs 27:15, NIV)

So, Solomon makes it very clear that we need to be careful when it comes to the the choice of who we marry: is it God’s choice for us? Further, how we live with them.  It is of the outmost importance to make sure that we marry within the will and providence of the Lord.  It flows then that a man needs to do whatever in his power to keep his wife happy, and (of course) vice versa – marriage is after all a partnership, requiring two people to make it work.  Who wants to live on a corner of a roof instead of inside the house!   Who wants to live in a house with a leaky roof in a rainstorm!  We will do whatever we can to avoid it.  This calls for wisdom.  Happy wives means happy marriages and happy families. To be fair, the same can be said about husbands.

Mothers

When it comes to wives being mothers, Solomon also had a few things to say too:

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother. (Proverbs 10:1, NIV) A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. (Proverbs 15:20, NIV) Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace. (Proverbs 19:26, NIV) If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness. (Proverbs 20:20, NIV)

Once again the point here is to be wise, to make the right choices and bring joy to the heart of a father and mother.  The best gift any child can give their mother is to be wise and to follow the Lord with a complete heart.  Yes, sending roses and cards, buying gifts and making telephone calls are all important.

To tell our mothers that we love them is of utmost importance, but to tell our mothers or wives that we love them because we love the Lord would be the best news.

There are many mothers who weep for their children – the children of the verses we heard today:  they are foolish, they set their hearts on the wrong things, they chose bad friends and put their hopes on the things of this word.  When evening comes the mother would open her heart and pour out her grief before God for a child who lost direction.  Many mothers fear to openly move around in their circle of friends because of ridicule for her son’s bad life-choices.

How many times have I sat and prayed with mothers who weep for their wayward children.  How many times have I listened to the heartbreaking story and hurt of a mother who can’t sleep out of concern for her children.

Today is perhaps just the occasion to make things right between you and God and then tell your mother about it.  Confessing towards God and then confessing to mother (and dad) for despising the teaching and example they set. Or perhaps today might be the best day and opportunity, if she does not know the Lord yet herself, to tell her about Christ, pray for her and with her.

The excellent wife

Let’s now turn to Proverbs 31. I look at this chapter and I remember my mother. Mom was not perfect, but to us she was a gift from God.  She was indeed noble, and a woman of strength. Let’s go quickly through this chapter again:

This wife’s husband had confidence in her.  This was not only a “for-better-and-for-worse-thing”. This word expresses that sense of well-being and security which results from having something or someone in whom to place confidence.  It conveys something or reliability.  some place it is translated as “hope”.  It is that sense of “all is well”, the feeling of being safe or secure; trust; contentment, fulfilment.  Something in the original verse speaks of no need for plunder – take what belongs to others.  The truely happily married husband has no need to wander into the paddock of his neigbour – his own wife is all-satisfying.   His wife greatly enriches his life.  The noble wife supports her man who manages the land.  He is well-known in the gates of the city among the civic leaders.  She spurs him on to serve in his community with integrity.  She brings him good:  her love and companionship is to him a recompense and reward.  Where this word is used elsewhere in the Bible it is contrasted with harm.  If conveys the nurture of a mother who breastfeeds a baby up to the point when she weans it.

She is wise, industrious, and clever. She works hard and provides for her family like a lioness looks after her cubs.  She gives instructions to her servants – she has everything in control as she plans the day.  She is energetic and strong, a hard worker (she girds her loins with strength, an expression which is through the Scriptures reserved for soldiers.

When she speaks, her words are wise, she gives instructions (torah) with kindness.  She carefully watches over everything in her household.  She is not lazy in her care and provision for her family. She inspects a field, she acquires it with the fruit of her hand (actually, palms).  She complements her food she grows and prepares with wine.She makes sure (tastes) her business dealing are profitable.

She is a discerning and wise women. She spins wool for clothing for her family – she provides clothing for her family.  When she is done with the care of her own family her care spills over into the community.  She cares for her community and the poor.  Her family is looked after in cold weather. the reference in verse 21 to scarlet scarlet is reference of well-being and with luxury.  There is something in the original that talks about double layered clothes which protects against the cold of winter.  There is more than enough from the clothes she makes so that she can trade with it. She herself is clothed with dignity, she laughs without fear of the future.

She knows well charm is deceptive and beauty does not last.  The fear of the Lord surpasses them all, and that is what instills in her family: true values that will last. She makes her children happy, and they called her blessed for it.  They return her dedication with likewise love and dedication. She is their tree of life. She is best of the best: the best wife, the best mother, the best friend, the bast companion.

This is the woman we want to reward her for all she has done.   Her deeds publicly declare her praise. We thank God for our mothers.

Mothers as wisdom examples

Maybe somewhere through this chapter some mothers here today felt a bit like the boy at the funeral of his father.  In the eulogy his father was praised for all the things he did and how well he did it.  In reality he was a lousy husband and father.  So this little fellow poked his mom and said, “Let’s go Mom. I think we are at the wrong funeral.”

Let’s face it, not all mothers can ever display all the qualities of Proverbs 31.  And if you feel a bit guilty about certain things you don’t do or never achieve as mother, for a moment just sit back and relax.

I believe this chapter tells us something very important:  mothers can be a wonderful example of wisdom – that wisdom which is also described as a woman in Proverbs.  By living out the fear of the Lord and knowing Him and following Him, being satisfied in Him, expecting all good from Him, looking up away from earthly wisdom and riches, the wise mother exemplifies wisdom and attracts her family to wisdom which became her only goal and purpose in live.  This same applies to the menfolk as husbands and fathers. Of wisdom is said about the same which is said about the excellent and noble wife of chapter 31.

Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. (Job 28:18, NIV)

She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 3:15, NIV)

… for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Proverbs 8:11, NIV)

So, in the final analysis, our mothers are not the measuring stick or the benchmark of what is perfect life.  Like we heard last week:

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. (Proverbs 4:6–8, NIV)

To despise wisdom is to love the other woman, the bad one with loose morals.  She is also dressed in fine linen; but she looks and acts like a prostitute.  She destroys and her paths lead to death.

Wisdom will reward us in the same way as our mothers do when we put our minds and hearts to loving wisdom and be wise.  We will be looked after, we will be clothed and fed, we will be satisfied and safe when we are wise and love Gods’ wisdom revealed in his Word and made know to us by his Son.  This is the ultimate lessen of Proverbs 31.

We follow our earthly mother’s example to love wisdom.  It this, the calling of a mother is extremely high. But ultimately we hear the call of wisdom which leads us to God.  We hear the call of the Gospel of Christ which leads us to God.  We follow Him who makes us wise to now live as wise people to please God, glorify Him and think his thoughts after Him.  We listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit who takes the Word and writes it in our heart so that we will know to turn from the folly of the world and set our minds on Christ.

The church as the bride of Christ

Just a final thought:  the church is the bride of Christ.  Our relationship with Him will be consummated at his coming when we will live with Him into all eternity. But it seems reasonable to think that the perfect wife of Proverbs 31 should also apply to the church:  our example of service to our Lord, service to our community, hard work and integrity, our dependence upon Christ, and making his Name great in this world, living wisely making clever choices, should be as attractive to those living around us so that they will be drawn into a relationship with Him who call us his bride.

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:21–33, NIV)

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:1–7, NIV)

Make God give us the wisdom to live like his church bride on earth. Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 10 May 2015

Mordecai meets the Messiah

Never underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit through the reading of the Bible.

Be Wise

Mind your children

What struck me about the makeup of the Presbyterian Church when we arrived in Australia some 20 years ago, was the absence of what seems to be a complete generation.  We had older couples in church, but their children were absent.  Then there were a new generation with smaller children attending church.  I was intrigued about this:  what happened to the missing generation?  Why were they not there?

The answer is not simplistic, and I don’t pretend to have a definite explanation.  Maybe the returned soldiers had scars so deep that they found it very hard to talk about life experiences to those close to them.  Add to the liberal teachings of humanism and evolution of the time.  But one thing that stand out like a sore thumb is the fact that some children of the next generation did not appreciate the value of serving the Lord as they saw it exemplified in the everyday living of their parents.

That was the age when children were dropped off at church for Sunday school while parents drove around the corner to buy the Sunday paper.  Children were enrolled in Christian schools for the benefit of the social standing it would provide for further opportunities in life.  Church life and worship services were nothing but formalistic.  It became a drag to children and Sunday worship made no sense to them.  So, at the first opportunity they dropped out.  The worst part is that parents had no appeal upon their children because the way they practiced Christianity was hollow and meaningless.  This is more relevant to fathers:  the father figure was missing, especially his way of life as an example of Christian living.

A generation was lost.

Fair dinkum instruction

In chapter 4 of Proverbs a father is teaching his sons.  Two different words are used for instruction here, and it seems as if helps us to understand the role of both mother and father in the upbringing and equipping for life of their children.

The first is torah, the law.  Mothers usually took on this role.  One could say it involved the formal teaching of the Bible or Bible knowledge. Sunday-school-at-home.  The second word is mitzvah.  This is where the father applied the Bible knowledge into life principles.

Both involved a process of knowledge transfer; the first was more education, the second teaching by example.  The first is facts, the second is wisdom, or the art of being street wise, but then along the principles of God’s Word. The father says to his son:

I will guide you in the way of wisdom and I will lead you in upright paths. (Proverbs 4:11, NET)

 When does teaching wisdom start?

This father says, “When I was tender, the only child of my mother.”  That’s when both his mother and father started to teach and set the example.  It can never be too early, but it can surely begin too late.

When did my mother teach me how to make my bed?  Well, I don’t know.  The interesting thing is, I can’t remember her telling me to sit down so she could instruct me in the process of bed-making.  I just grew up see her making our beds as we got up in the morning, and in the end it became our job.  Was it perfect at the beginning?  No, but I think I got it now.  The example and the principle started very early.

So, reading the Scriptures to our children and praying with them at a very early stage of their lives are very important.  But the going out into the world with the Scripture knowledge and living as a Christian while applying those principles in whatever we do is almost more important.  Children are not dumb; they know when we mean things; they know when we apply double standards, or when we are plainly hypocritical.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. (Deuteronomy 6:6–8, NIV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6, NIV)

Why do we need to instruct our children?

All children are foolish, but firm correction will make them change. (Proverbs 22:15, CEV)

See, their is no such a thing as an innocent little baby.  Not one of us is born with a clean slate, as if our deeds will determine how much we get written on red for the bad things we have done, and on the green side for the good things we have done.  Our slate is already blotted with evil the moment we are born.  David says:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5, NIV)

Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one! (Job 14:4)

“What are mortals, that they could be pure, or those born of woman, that they could be righteous? (Job 15:14, NIV)

Children need instruction, and we need to impart that instruction from the very first moment of their earthly journey.  If we wait with it, or let them make up their minds – as we are told these days – be sure, the spirit of this world will help them make up their minds.

The father was teachable when he was instructed, and now he speaks as one who knows what he is speaking about. This is not a theoretical argument. The parent’s instruction has behind it the compelling logic of experience: “Don’t turn away from my instructions.… Don’t turn your back on wisdom” (4:2, 6). Wisdom—my words—she will guard you and protect you, as she did me. She will make you great like me (4:8).

Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. (Proverbs 4:8, NIV)

She will crown you with honour like me. I, your father, am a living illustration of the truth of what I say—so listen!

What basis do we have to teach our children?

The basis for discipline is grounded in the covenant relationship which the Lord has with us.  We do not only have the right to teach our children the ways of the Lord, but we are obligated to do so.

It is sometimes hard to lay down the principles for life before your children.  It becomes easier when we ourselves bow to the same authority as we expect our children to do.  What is not right for them is not right for us; what is good for us, is good for them.  It is not my life choices that count; it is the way I become obedient to the will of God that counts.  Only then can I, based on the Word of God, set the standards and teach my children to follow the same standards.

In other words, I have to talk the talk and walk the walk.  I need to be under the authority of God, and live in a personal relationship with God before any teaching to my children will ever make sense. This all stems for God’s covenant relationship in Christ with us.  God called us to be his children; to live in a relationship with Him through Christ.  He wants us to live sanctified lives, so He gave us the Scriptures so we can know and obey his will.

So, it speaks for itself that parents need to know the Word of God; they need to know Christ as the source of their salvation and the Giver of their sanctification.  They need to live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit first – and then, based on their living faith in Christ, take their children by the hand and say, “Follow me as I follow Christ”.

For example:  our marriages, the Bible tells us, are and example of the relationship between Christ and his church.  I need to love my wife as Christ loved his church; like the church submits to Christ, so wives submit to their husbands.  It means that fathers would respect and very highly regard their wives, and as such, their daughters.  I find this principle in the Scripture 1 Peter 3:1-7), and that binds me to obedience in the Lord.  The way I set an example of treating my wife and my daughters will teach my son to first of all submit to Christ, love and obey Him, and then treat his mother, his sisters, his girlfriends and his future wife as people Christ died for so that they can set the example in their future marriages as the bride-church of the Lamb.

What do I teach my children?

I teach them what’s important in life.  I tell them that their hearts should belong to God – only then will they be able to live life well.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7, NIV)

Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!  I will keep telling them; I will keep setting the example and never stop doing it for as long as I am their father.  God expects it of me.

When I get so involved in acquiring the things of this world that I lose sight of what is really priority, it becomes so hard to tell my kids to not run after what is not lasting.  How many really good and successful fathers look back and regret not spending more time with their children and showing them what is most important in life.  The father of Proverbs had a father who taught and showed him that to find wisdom in fearing God and doing his will is better than storing up riches, treasures or gold.  His father had time to talk to him about God, pray with him, love him and find out if life makes sense to him.  His father taught him to be honest, hard-working, a man of integrity, helping others, not to mix with evil-doers for the sake of being popular.  His father cried when he cried when he was done in by so-called friends, and his father picked him up in love when he fell into temptation and sin.

His father taught him there is no godless path to wisdom.

Conclusion

The true example of being disciplined is seen in Christ.  The discipline He received was not instruction as how to live; as the only sinless person who ever trod this earth He knew that; but He was punished for our transgressions, because of our waywardness.  He is our only way to the Father, and as such we can only point our children to Him and teach them the most important lesson of life:

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5, NIV)

… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, NIV)