Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘home’

African American mom & daughterHere’s another opportunity from Ezer’s Handbook

#6: Mentor the Vocation of Motherhood
The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20).

Take a stand for life. Satan wanted woman to be the mother of death, but Adam named his wife “Eve” (Hebrew: chawwah, “life”) because she would be the mother of all the living. With this name, Adam expressed hope for the future through new life and, most importantly, through the promised Seed of the woman: Jesus Christ. How does God help us understand “choice” in Deuteronomy 30:19-20? Regardless of our choices in the past, what can we choose to do now? How does being pro-life affect the way we see ourselves and others? On Mother’s Day, celebrate the noble vocation of motherhood with a thank you to mothers and grandmothers. Pray for those who longed to be mothers but lost a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. Remember the mothers who chose abortion because they feared motherhood, that they might know the mercy of Jesus’ forgiveness and hope for new beginnings.

Trust God’s Word. A woman is, by God’s design, a “helper”.  This is her first vocation. God equips wives and mothers to help men be good stewards, grow children in faith, defend human life, and serve neighbors. In what ways does a woman connect fathers to children? Raise standards of behavior? Nurture moral character? Encourage husbands and children to stand against evil? Write your vocational job description on a notecard and keep it by your bed or above the kitchen sink.

Create a peaceful “nest” for your family and guests. God’s Word in Isaiah 32:18 tells us, “My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” The world is loud, selfish, rude, stressful, violent and disorderly. When your family and guests come in the door, welcome them to a different environment. A man should strive to bring order to his household, but the woman creates the “nest”. A mom doesn’t have to be a “super woman”, but she can keep her home clean, hospitable, peaceful, and Spirit-filled. Little things can help, such as: the music of teachable hymns, a scented candle, the table set and ready to receive the family, the Cross of Christ the Savior somewhere visible, personal composure, carefully spoken words, the practice of kindness, respect for “house rules”, limited TV and computer time, establishment of family traditions, and intentionally scheduled family time.

Invite your pastor to bless your home. Ask a few Christian friends to join you, your family and pastor for a “house blessing”. Join in prayer and God’s Word. Invite the Holy Spirit to live in your home and to fill it with truth, compassion, and faithfulness. Pray that God’s holy angels stand guard and resist evil.

Start a Titus 2 mother’s group. Be sure to include younger and older women. It is easy for young women to think that motherhood is different today than in the past. While it is true that work outside the home and modern trends may contrast the way “things used to be”, children themselves have not changed. They require discipline, boundaries, and the mentoring of agape love in order to grow in faith and face the challenges of a sin-filled world.

Incorporate Titus 2 mentoring into scrapbooking. While hands are busy preserving memories of children and families, resist idle gossip and, instead, keep conversations focused on all things good, right, positive and hopeful. Before you meet, invite everyone to read, for example, Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Amazon) or Where’s Mom? (The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective) by Dorothy Patterson (CBMW). Discuss the concepts of the books while working.  Consider the resources found at Titus 2 for Life.

Encourage the single moms in your congregation and community. One suggestion is to order copies of Not Alone, a devotional booklet I wrote for single moms (#LFL901B—$2, Concordia Publishing House). Deliver one tied to a small flower bouquet or tucked in with a freezer-ready meal that you’ve prepared for her convenience.

Offer comfort to women who have lost a child to miscarriage or stillbirth. Sometimes, words of comfort and compassion fail us. I wrote Into His Loving Care after a pastor asked me if I would compose a devotional for parents who mourn the loss of their child to miscarriage or stillbirth (#LFL902 – $2, Concordia Publishing House). I admit to being surprised by the response. Often, when traveling the country, someone will approach me to explain that they received a copy from a friend or family member. “God’s Word comforted me,” said one mom, “even as I was reminded to entrust my child into the Savior’s loving care.”

Evaluate what comes into your home. Do the websites you view and the magazines and movies you bring into your home encourage or discourage the vocation of motherhood? From where does your help come? “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Next?  #7: Mentor in the Midst of Opposition

Ezer’s Handbook is a resource developed by
Linda Bartlett and presented at Titus 2 Retreats.

Read Full Post »

The question is: “Who steps first into the circle of love and respect: The husband or wife?”

It helps to remember who created that “circle.”

God did.  And, true to His design, there is order.  God created human beings in His image, but He did not make them to be the same.  They are equal, but different.  God did not create woman at the same time as man, in the same way, or for the same purpose.  In fact, God revealed to man that he was incomplete.  “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18).  “Fit for him” literally means: “Like his opposite.”  (Think of this!  Anatomically.  Hormonally.  Psychologically.)

Is it significant that woman was made for man?  To complete him?  Be his helper?  Yes.  The created order shows that man was to be the steward over all and she would help, assist, encourage, comfort, and be his advocate.  (The word “helper,” by the way, is not dissimilar to the word used by Jesus to describe the Holy Spirit [John 14:16,26).  In her privileged role, she is free to help without any initiative on his part.  She doesn’t wait for him to ask before she offers encouragement, comfort, or good counsel.

God’s created order is a reflection of Himself.  He is one God, yet three persons.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal, but with different functions.  There is headship in this orderly structure… and there is submission.  The same is true with male and female.  Even after sin spoiled God’s perfect design, the order of creation remained in place for our benefit.  Sin broke man and woman’s relationship with each other and with God.  But, in mercy, God used the submission of the Son, Jesus Christ, to save His Bride, the Church, and serve with humility.  A woman might resent the created order.  A man might abuse it.  But, whenever it is honored, it continues to serve family and society well.

Doesn’t the created order beg the question from a leadership perspective?  Shouldn’t the man be the first to step into the Ephesians circle?  No, not necessarily.  Even if he is stepping out front to fight wolves at the door, she is fully engaged as his ally and encourager.  In God’s design, the man is responsible for bringing order out of chaos, but she helps that happen.  Regardless of their different functions, both husband and wife can practice loving and respecting at all times.

There is no measuring stick.  No fairness meter.  In a godly home, neither husband nor wife keep track of what the other does or doesn’t do.  Both have the same goal: To do all they do to God’s glory.  And, when they fail, they apologize and forgive.  Both take their sin baggage to the cross — and leave it there.

Visits to the Cross happen all the time even in the best of marriages.   Let me approach this from a woman’s perspective.  Helping is what I naturally do.  But, flawed by sin, this becomes difficult.  My husband might not think he needs help.  Might not invite help.  Might resent help.  Might interpret my help to mean he needs “fixing.”  So, how do I enter the “circle of love and respect” at such a time?  Hopefully, I haven’t disengaged from the “circle.”  Hopefully, I am faithful in offering encouragement.  If I need to help, but he’s too prideful to accept it, I need to take care.  Be sensitive.  I may need to move slowly.  Mary told Joseph that she had been visited by an angel with news of her pregnancy, but Joseph was of the mind to quietly divorce her.  In their “circle of love and respect,” Mary understood that it wasn’t up to her to convince Joseph.  She needed to wait on God.  In His time, God helped Joseph get his arms around the situation.  A woman is helping — in one way or the other — all the time.  She may be helping to good… or bad.  To build up… or tear down.  To encourage… or discourage.  To trust God’s plan… or shape her own.

Ultimately, two are better than one.  One may fall, the other lifts up.  One may be overwhelmed, a team of two stands firm.  One alone is cold, two together stay warm.  One might fall out of the “circle” momentarily, the other welcomes him/her back in.  Woven with God, both are able to engage in the “circle” freely and unconditionally.

The pure circle of love and respect is tainted on this earth.  We too easily think of ourselves first.  How we’re not being served… or how we’re doing all the serving.  But, challenged to “shine like lights” and “hold fast to the word of life,” we do what we do for Christ — even if it means being “poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of our faith” (Philippians 2:14-17).  Faith produces a sacrificial attitude for husbands and wives that frees us up to think less about self and more about other.

With this attitude, one might even forget who started, paused, stopped, or re-started the circle to go ’round.

Read Full Post »

Remember when God’s people were taken captive by the Babylonians?  Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, took seige of Jerusalem and moved the people of God to live in his land.  These days, I feel as if people of the Word have been taken captive, too, but didn’t have to leave their homes, schools, churches, or places of employment.

The question is, how do we live in Babylon?  Some, intimidated into thinking “we can’t mix church and state,” are paralyzed into silence.  Some, feeling overwhelmed by powerful forces, pull back into the crevices of the familiar and safe.  A great many, believing themselves to have progressed out of God’s Word, have become like the Babylonians.

There are others, however, who are affecting a pagan culture — one heart and soul at a time.

We live where we live.  Here’s the question for me: How do I, as an ezerwoman (helper), make the greatest difference where I am and with what I have?  How do I affect a pagan culture — one heart and soul at a time?

Babylon, like America today, was a mighty civilization that tolerated opposing religions, thoughts and practices.  But, many Babylonians were good neighbors, friends and co-workers.  God placed me where I am and, although it may feel like I’m living in a strange and foreign land,  I think I’ll better affect good neighbors, friends and family whenever I remember who I am and live accordingly.

I am, first and foremost, a creation of God and a treasure for whom Christ gave all He had.  That is my identity.  It does not change with the circumstances of my life.  Trusting this identity, any semblance of racism melts away.  Trusting this identity, every human life — from conception to natural death — is valuable and worthy of respect.  Trusting this identity, I am free to be the “helper” God made me to be.

Do you know that the term for “helper” used in Genesis 2:18 (Hebrew: ezer) also applies to God in Psalm 70:5?  Jesus said to His followers, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  You know Him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).   That Helper is the Holy Spirit.  The Greek for “helper” (parakletos) means “comforter” or someone who appears on another’s behalf (“advocate”).  Do you understand why I find no insult in being a woman?  In being a “helper” or “helpmate?”  As a helper, I’m in good company!

As an ezerwoman, I can help, encourage, comfort, and be an advocate for my husband, sons, grandsons, father, brothers, uncles, nephews, pastor, and every male with whom I work or fellowship.  I can help by choosing to build up the struggling men in my life rather than tear them down with disrespect or cutting words.  I can help by practicing patience when my husband needs a little more time to get his arms around a new idea (1 Peter 3:1-2).  I can help by speaking, dressing, and behaving in such a way that encourages men and boys to act chivalrous and godly (1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:4).  I can help by using the model of Titus 2:1-5 with younger women.  I can help by contrasting “silly myths” (1 Timothy 4:7-10) with the “Way, the Truth, and the Light” (John 14:6).

Daniel found himself captive in Babylon.  He was educated in Babylon.  He was called to serve the king of Babylon.  But, he remained faithful to God in all things.  Daniel acknowledged that he was of no use to the wicked (Daniel 12:10).  That’s true for me (and you), too.    But as an ezerwoman who remembers her identity and clings to God’s Word for Life, I am encouraged to encourage, joyful to share joy, and strengthened even in a strange and foreign land with faith, hope, and patience.

You know, when I think about it, I’m happiest when I’m helping.  I’m more content when I’m encouraging others.   Perhaps God is showing me the best way to live out my days in Babylon.

Read Full Post »

How did we forget the meaning of vocation?

Gene Edward Veith, Jr. has done well to remind me.  I’m grateful.  He doesn’t know it, but he’s helped me to weave the teaching of vocation into Titus 2 for Life (www.titus2-4life.org ).   Gene Veith and I met when I was serving as President of Lutherans For Life.  We have mutual friends.   These days, I see his writings in many publications.  Good thing.  Through his many vocations, he is engaging the culture with the Biblical worldview.

His book, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life (Crossway Books) and his recent article, “Arenas of Service” (WORLD,8-28-10) have been very helpful to me.  Somewhere in my instruction between home, catechism, and Bible classes, I’ve heard God’s call to live out my faith in whatever I do.  Of what good is my faith if it’s private or left in the pew?   Non-Christians often seem very committed to living out their particular belief.   But, many Christians act as if they’ve either forgotten or never been told what vocation really is.

After the Reformation, Christians held to three key teachings: the authority of Scripture, justification by faith in Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of vocation.  “Modern” and “progressive” thinkers work hard to ignore the first two.  As for the doctrine of vocation, well, it “faded from the church’s memory,” says Veith.

Vocation, as Veith explains, is like justification: It is God’s work.  Vocation is how God works through us.  God uses us to care for and govern His creation.  He uses our gifts and talents to make a difference.  We are called by God into vocations.

Vocation is more than a “job.”  Every Christian has multiple vocations.  Martin Luther, notes Veith, sorted them into four “estates,” or spheres of life that God established: the church, the household, the state, and what he called “the common order of Christian love.”

God calls His people to vocations in the church.  Pastors are called into the ministry.  God works through them to teach His Word, preside at His sacraments, and give spiritual care.  Laypeople are called, too.  They serve in human care, as elders or trustees, singing in the choir, teaching children, and caring for one another.

God calls His people to vocations in the family.  Marriage is a vocation.  Fatherhood and motherhood are vocations.  In fact, as Veith points out, being a brother or sister, a grandfather or grandmother, or nephew or niece are all vocations.

God calls His people to vocations in the state.   As citizens, we have responsibilities to our government and to our culture.  Some of us are called to serve in positions of government.  The United States is unique.  U.S. citizens, writes Veith, “have the unusual calling of being both subjects and rulers at the same time, since our democratic republic places the governing authorities themselves under the authority of the people who elect them.”  The Christian is to involve himself  in civic roles and cultural engagement.

The fourth vocation is “the common order of Christian love.”  God calls us to serve Him and others through our ordinary, everyday life and relationships with our neighbors.  Some may believe we serve God only by doing “church work,” but this isn’t what Luther and the other reformers taught.  We are not to withdraw from the world, but be engaged in it.  God transforms the culture through Christian men and women who use His Word in all areas of life.

We go to Divine Service on Sunday to find the forgiveness of Christ, feed on God’s Word, receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, and grow in our faith.  Then, we go back out into the world — our families, neighborhoods, jobs, classrooms, voting booth, volunteer activities — to serve God by serving others.

Galatians 5:6 and 1 Timothy 1:5 remind us that the purpose of every vocation is to love and serve our neighbors.

Faith bears fruit in love.

“God doesn’t need our good works,” Veith quotes Luther, “but our neighbor does.”  Our relationship with God is based completely on His work for us in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  But just as God is hidden in vocation, Christ is hidden in our neighbors.

As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.

Matthew 25:40 reminds us that we love and serve God by loving and serving the people He puts into our lives — friends or strangers, easy to love or not, in good times or bad.

In some vocations we exercise authority.  But, think of how Jesus exercised His authority… He was a servant.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

This Word of God found in Mark 10:42-45 makes me ashamed because, too often, it’s all about me.  In my selfishness, I sin against my vocation.

Faithful to God’s pro-life Word, Veith writes, “Vocation clarifies moral issues.  Mothers are called to love and serve their children, not abort them or abuse them.  Doctors are called to heal their patients, not kill them.  Leaders are called to love and serve those under their authority, not exploit and tyrannize them.”

Here’s something else.  “Some actions are sinful when done outside of vocation but good works when done within vocation.  We have no calling from God that would authorize having sex with someone to whom we are not married.  But within the vocation of marriage, sex is not only authorized, it becomes the means by which God creates a one-flesh union, engenders new life, and builds a family.”

Veith explains that “vocation has to do with the priesthood of all believers.  A priest is someone who performs a sacrifice.  We no longer need sacrifices for our sins, since Christ, our great High Priest, offered Himself as our sacrifice once and for all (Hebrews 9:26).  But, in light of that sacrifice, God calls us  (Romans 12:1)

. . . to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

We are not called to lord it over others nor are we called to obsess on self-fulfillment.  Vocation focuses away from self to others.

Fathers are living sacrifices for their families when they faithfully protect and provide even in weariness and frustration.  Mothers are living sacrifices for their families when they put their own feelings aside to encourage husbands and nurture children.  Workers on the job are living sacrifices when they do their best to serve both employer and customers.

Veith explains that “Christ, who is in vocation and in the neighbor, takes up all of these sacrifices, small or great, into His sacrifice.  And He loves and serves His creation by means of our love and service in our vocations.”

A Biblical understanding of vocation means that nothing we do to God’s glory is ordinary or insignificant.  Luther said that changing a child’s diaper is holy work.  In that vein, so is preparing a meal, changing a tire, looking after an unmarried aunt, being a good listener, doing homework, donating blood, sitting by the bedside of a dying spouse, being informed about candidates before election day, praying, training in purity, paying fair salary, and performing honest labor.  The list goes on… and on.

Our vocations are many.  God works through our vocations to serve others.  Trusting this, says Veith, changes the quality of what we do.  He’s right.  It changes the words we choose, the music we sing, the business we transact, the clothing we wear… even the table we set.

Thank you, Gene Edward Veith, for helping me review my vocations.  May God help me see every word and deed as opportunities to serve not self, but others.

Now, for the rest of you, move on over and sit a spell with The Blog of Veith www.geneveith.com

Read Full Post »