Rooted 5

As part of my position as a pastor I am asked to perform funeral services for people I have never met.  On such occasions I rely on the surviving family to provide me with details and insights of the loved one that I might offer an appropriate service.  I am also quite open with the family when I tell them that I base many of my comments on how they behave.

I point out that a person’s life and influence may be difficult to sum up and remember in times of grief.  I can determine what type of person the parent was by how the children are living.

Today’s passage consists of two verses which comment on a wife and mother.  It is a celebration of all the goodness that is found in the woman being described in the 17 verses that precede them.  If a woman were to live in such a way as described in Proverbs 31:10-27 then that woman will be praised by her family and spouse.  She will be called blessed and seen as the best woman ever.

This praise comes about when a person provides a good and nurturing environment for the family.  This is what is being described in the earlier verses.  She provides food and clothing for her family.  She helps in business transactions.  She has strength and dignity.  But she also “speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)

As we celebrate mothers this weekend we must also celebrate all women and the contribution that they make in developing and guiding young people into holy living.  Whether a woman is a biological mother or not, all women (as are all men) are called to be a person who helps to provide the deep roots of faith in younger believers.  They are called to be clothed in dignity and strength.  They are called to speak with wisdom and provide faithful instruction.

Those who live a life of holy example and good spiritual instruction will be called blessed by all around them.  They will cause the young who grow up under their guidance to be a blessing to others.  They will plant the faith of others by the stream of grace that flows from God.  They will nurture deep roots of faith.

Their goodness and holy teaching will be evident to those around them.  And such goodness in faith will be lived out through those who are taught.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  What blessings can you pass on to others?  What noble things are you called to do?

Rooted 4

People in business and in real estate will tell you that there are three keys for success – location, location, location.  The idea is that in order to succeed you must place yourself in a location where you might prosper.  This is true of real estate.  If you want to have a nice home you must find a place that is in a good location, a nice neighborhood.

If you want to have a successful business you have to choose a location that will facilitate growth and good business.  Where you are is an important determining factor on your ability to succeed or fail.

The same is true of our faith and our ability to grow strong spiritually.  The psalmist offers some guidance on how to be spiritually successful.  What should a blessed person avoid?  What should a blessed person seek out?  What comparison is made?

A great deal of our spiritual potential is determined on how we are raised up.  If parents desire their children to live a blessed life, to have a prosperous life, to grow strong in faith then they must provide an environment that helps this growth.  Parents should guard their children against the negative influences of society and the world.  Parents should be an example of holy living.

If any of us – whether biological parents, adoptive parents, or spiritual parents – want another to succeed in faith, to be blessed by the presence of God we must put them in a location where they might succeed.  That location is provided by us.

It is the responsibility of parents and the responsibility of all other believers to provide a spiritually nurturing environment for another person to grow in faith.  This applies to all believers who are part of the body of faith where young children are present.  We all must set the good examples of belief and kindness and love for these youngsters.

It also applies to those who are young in their spiritual walk.  We all should be that guidance, that nurturing presence which encourages strong and holy living.  We must guide the young – those who are children and those who are new to the faith – in walking in the ways of God.  We must guide them away from the influences of evil people, of the temptations to sin in the world.

When we provide a location that is holy and spiritually nurturing we are like gardeners planting trees near a stream.  The young among us are able to grow strong in faith and in a relationship with God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Examine the environment that you are providing.  Is it a place that helps others grow in faith?  Does it lead to a blessed life?  Are there improvements that should be made?

Rooted 3

We can tell from the conduct of people in this world that they do not have this guidance. But a sanctified child has access to the knowledge of what God expects, and from that he can make it his goal in life to act that way. He can set his will to do the right thing. He is sanctified, and divine guidance is what he gains from it. - John W. Ritenbaugh

Verse 14 seems at first like it is a great blessing to our children, and it is.  Our children are sanctified through our belief.  In plain English... our children are good in God's eyes because we believe in Him.  (And note that there is no age limit on this... I believe it carries into adulthood as well.)

But it is not only a blessing.  It is also a responsibility.  For those who have been taught by a Godly parent (or grandparent) we are given the task of living our lives the right way.  There are  expectations now.  

Recently my daughter and I were discussing a fellow student who is just 16 and smokes and lives in a way that really upsets Bren.  I asked her what kind of family this child must have grown up in to have that behavior tolerated and encouraged.  I doubt that this young man has been given much Godly guidance in his short life.    And not that he can't reach out to God and commit his life.  But without those around him encouraging him and guiding him, it will be much more difficult. 

So remember that although it's not your parents that get you into Heaven (or send you to Hell) a Godly parent is enough to sanctify you, making you aware of God's blessings and laws... and making you responsible for living your life in a Godly fashion.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Think today about the rules and blessings you parents gave you as you grew up.  If you had a Godly parent, how do you think your life would have been different without their guidance.  And if you didn't have a Godly parent, how do you think your life would have been different? 

Rooted 2

I apologize for a longer reading today.  But this is a story that I want to make sure is shared this week as we lead up to Mother's Day.  I have never struggled with infertility.  But over the years I have had many dear friends who have.  I know that this week is a very difficult one for them because of their desire to have children.  And I want to make sure we all read this story and remember Hannah and her amazing prayers.

Peninnah is not a character we hear alot about in the Bible.  But she was also married to Hannah's husband Elkanah and each year when they would go to the temple for a sacrifice, Peninnah would flaunt her many children to Hannah.  This section breaks my heart:

  ...her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.

I remember a time when my children were very young, when a friend of mine didn't want to be around me anymore.  We had been friends for years, but she withdrew because seeing other women pregnant and giving birth was just too much for her to bear.  I felt so awful, but there was nothing I could do about the situation.  I wasn't provoking her like Peninnah, but as time went on being around babies was upsetting to her.  

Hannah goes to the temple and prays so fervently that the priest believes she is drunk.  She begs God for a child.   She even promises to give him back to God (and she does).  God grants her prayers.

But the purpose of sharing this passage today isn't to tell our sisters struggling with infertility to just pray and believe and God will give them a child.  But rather to remind us to never be Peninnah to the Hannahs in our lives.  Be sensitive this week to those who want to be mothers so much that they prostrate themselves before God and pray to the point that others think they are drunk or obsessed or foolish.  Bless them and encourage them.  Pray for them and love them.  Let these beautiful women know that no matter what, God is with them on their journey and so are we. 

DAILY CHALLENGE:   Ask God to show you where those around you are hurting and could use some encouragement this Mother's Day. 

Rooted 1

Let God uphold you in His hands.

I have never met anyone who doesn't worry about their children.  When they are little we worry about their every little need.  Our lives as parents are consumed with the tedium of bottles and diapers and naps and pacifiers and the dangers from choking and poisoning and all sorts of treacherous things that can happen to them.  When they go off to school we worry about them fitting in, doing well, having friends and all of those things.   

My children are now beyond those stages and I feel like the real worrying is just beginning.  Will they pick the right spouse?  Will they find a job?  Will they ever move out?  (just kidding!)  (not really)

But today's reading reminds us that God has our children in His hands.  It doesn't matter whether they are infants or grandparents themselves -- when they do what God commands He holds them.  The Hebrew word used in verse 24 for "uphold" means to rest or lean against.  Like when you are exhausted and you lean against a wall.   You know it's going to support you.  

And in verse 26 it says that their children will be a blessing.  But it means more than "their children will bless them."  It really means that their children's names will literally become a blessing.   When people talk about them, they will be blessed just by hearing the names.  

What a great thing for a parent to want for their children!  I want my kids to be blessings to others.  I want them to be so generous and loving and Godly that other parents say "Why can't you be more like him?"  (Oh, what a curse to put on my children from the world's point of view!)

Mother's Day is this Sunday.  DON'T FORGET!   It is through our parents and grandparents that we develop who we are.  It is through them that we learn to be generous and just and good.*  But it is in God's hands that we all rest.  He is the one who upholds us and He is the one who lifts us when we stumble.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Thank God for your parents.  Be a blessing to them, even if they are no longer in this world.  How can you let God uphold you this week.

*Even if you weren't blessed with Godly parents (and believe me it is a blessing) you learned these things.   Maybe it was even an "opposite" lesson of how you never want to be... but remember that God is our father and mother and loves us as His children.  So hang in there for this week of Mother's Day and be a great mother yourself or give yourself to a child who desperately needs Godly guidance.