The Greatest Need Of Young Mothers Is…

I am absolutely convinced that one of the greatest needs in the church these days is for older women to help young mothers get some time on their own without their kids.

I’m not talking about older women mentoring younger women. What most young mothers need is not more teaching and nagging to do better, but simply to be “delivered” from their homes and children for a couple of hours a couple of times a week.

By “delivered” I mean simply this:

  • Older Christian women arranges to come to young mother’s home once or twice a week.
  • Young mother leaves house and sits in Starbucks for an hour with a book or an iPad, or goes to the gym, or walks in the park, or meets an old friend, or whatever.
  • Young woman comes back to house two hours later to find a room or two cleaned, the washing basket emptied, etc.

It’s not much to ask, is it? And yet, it would totally revolutionize so many young mothers’ lives to look forward to that couple of hours every week when they can just escape the 24/7 non-stop demands and stresses of mothering crazy young kids and running a home.

“But in our day…”

“But what did they do in the past? How did we all manage then?”

In the past there was a lot more close family support and even next-door-neighbor support for young mothers. But most families are now so busy and neighbors are more difficult to trust. Young mothers have never been so isolated and lonely and stressed and depressed.

Older women without children, I really believe that the greatest single thing that many of you can do for Christ and for your sisters in the Lord, is to offer them even just 1-2 hours, just once or maybe even twice a week, where they can walk away from unceasing and increasing responsibilities and just get some peace, quiet, and personal time.

And in the course of enhancing their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, you will also bless their children and husbands as they get the benefit of a happier and healthier mother and husband.

It would also mean a lot less depressed women for pastors to counsel.

So why not pick out a young mother you know at church next Sunday, and say, “I’d like to help you get some much-needed time to yourself every week. How about I come round every Tuesday at 2pm to look after your kids and you do whatever you want for two hours.”

And bring a Kleenex with you, because you’ll see tears of joy.

Dear Evangelicals, You’re Being Well-Served

Last week I commented on a Daily Beast article entitled Dear Evangelicals, You’re Being Had.

On Monday, I received a note from a friend here in Michigan that I deeply respect, who, while agreeing with the problems of Evangelicals being too enamored with the political process and their naïvety about the ways politicians want to use them, also wanted to offer some gentle pushback.

While sympathetic to my main point about prioritizing heart-change more than law-change, he felt I painted with too broad a brush and had undervalued the good work that is being done by Christians in the political arena.

He didn’t ask that I publish his points, but I contacted him and he gave permission for a summary to be posted. Here it is below:

  • Although many Republicans don’t give a rip about evangelical Christianity, a great many sincerely do.
  • There are regular prayer meetings of Christian Republicans who serve in the State Capitol.
  • I can think of one elected Republican who though not a Christian himself, yet has many around him who are and are trying to make the best decisions for the state and for the glory of Christ.
  • In the last ten years numerous states have passed strong pro-life measures at the state level—invariably these have been passed in GOP-controlled legislatures.
  • In Michigan right now there is a fierce debate about religious freedom and its relationship to the LGBT issue. It’s almost certain that our state would have more onerous restrictions on religious freedom were it not for Republicans.
  • The State of Michigan requires abstinence-based sex education and each district’s sex education committee is required to have clergy participation.
  • The Attorney General is a Christian and a Republican who took a big hit in the polls for upholding our state’s marriage amendment.
  • The district court for this region (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee) is the only one to rule thus far that a state’s marriage amendment is not unconstitutional. Our Attorney General’s office defended the marriage amendment in court. This would not have happened under a different administration.

As I said in my original article, “I don’t believe that Christians should give up the political battlefield – there’s still an important role there for some Christians.”

But in the light of my friend’s comments, let me also express my deep gratitude for the Christians who do serve Christ in the political process and thank God for the successes in Michigan as outlined above. I’m sure this is duplicated in other States as well. May God continue to bless these worthy efforts for the good of many.

Building and Leaving a Legacy

Like many of you, I’m “indebted” to Dave Ramsey for his financial advice delivered through numerous books and his radio show. I still listen in whenever I’m driving in the early evening and usually pick up further nuggets of helpful counsel, as well as motivation to keep on track. For the first time in my life, I’m actually saving a little money, not so much by earning more, but by managing it better.

What’s Next?
But what then? Up until now, Dave Ramsey has largely been known as the debt-guy and the budget-guy. He gets you out of debt and on to a monthly budget. But what happens next?

That’s where Dave Ramsey’s new book, The Legacy Journey comes in. It’s focused on helping those who are now out of debt and on a budget begin to think about building and managing wealth.

“Building and managing wealth?” you say. “That doesn’t sound very Christian to me. Aren’t we meant to live as poor as possible and give the rest away?”

The War On Success
Ramsey tackles this common idea throughout the book, especially in the chapter, The War on Success. While also warning about the many dangers of wealth, Ramsey says his primary purpose is “to biblically give you not only permission to build wealth for kingdom purposes, but to challenge you to consider that it could be your responsibility as a believer to manage and grow wealth” (p. 56).

Pretty revolutionary, especially in a day when many seem to think that the worst sin is to be in “the 1%.”

Although many of the stories in the book are about the super-rich, which feels like a different world to me, Ramsey argues that as the biblical principles of managing wealth and giving generously are the same, we just need to scale the figures down to our level. 

What’s clear throughout the book is the responsibility to manage our money with a view to blessing others, both the present generation and even generations yet unborn. We might think that just because we don’t have ten talents, there’s no point in doing anything. However, this book gave me a renewed sense of responsibility and even excitement, about managing whatever resources God has given me for the good of this and future generations.

We won’t be called to account for the millions that some have been entrusted with. But we will have to account for whatever monthly surplus, God has given us, whether it be in the tens, the hundreds, or the thousands. This book will help us to give that account with a clearer conscience.

8 Activities For Senior Years

Yesterday, from Psalm 92, we saw how God compared His seniors to fruitful date-palms and strong Lebanese cedars.

  • They grow
  • They are fruitful
  • They are fresh
  • They are fruitful

But that doesn’t absolve seniors of responsibility. They can’t just sit back and say, “Oh I like that description.” No, the description challenges and stirs seniors to live up to how they are described. That means:

In his superb little book, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging, J I Packer warned, “Aging is not for wimps.” It’s going to be hard, tough, trying, and demanding. Therefore we need to steward our resources  - our mental, financial, physical, and spiritual resources.

  • Mentally, we need to continue to challenge our minds and keep them lively.
  • Financially, we need to make adequate pension provision and also plan our estate so that the Lord’s cause benefits from at least some of it.
  • Physically, we need to take care of our bodies, eat as healthily as we can, and continue to exercise.
  • Spiritually, we need to be gathering verses, doctrines, and grace that will carry us through the senior years.

It’s no coincidence that the Psalm where God speaks to favorably and beautifully about the aged, starts with four verses of praise and thanksgiving to God for His goodness. If we reach senior years, that’s great reason to praise God for His sparing and sustaining mercies.

Freed from the stress and time-demands of paid work, seniors have time to read all these books they wanted to read but never had time to. This must include learning more about the Bible and especially about how to pray. Seniors should also fight stubbornness and pride, and remain teachable and open to correction and instruction.

Senior years are wise years. Given all the accumulated wisdom and experience of many years, this is not a time to be retreating from church leadership but offering it. And even informally, there are many opportunities for seniors to influence and mentor younger people and families.

The world’s wisdom is to slow down, enjoy oneself, spend days and months on the golf course. That’s a sure fire way to guarantee a sense of worthlessness, insignificance, and even an early death. While there must be time to relax, being freed from paid work frees us to do more church and family work. “Where can I serve?” should be the most dominant question and will produce the most satisfaction too.

In his book, J I Packer wrote about the tremendous opportunities of the senior years due to much increased longevity and quality of life:

Maintaining zeal Godward as our bodies wear out is the special discipline to which we aging Christians are called. Realism requires us to remember that memory, particularly short-term memory, will weaken; logical tightness of speech will loosen; powers of concentration will diminish; physical exhaustion will overtake us sooner or later, and energy levels will keep going lower. Zeal, however, should be unflagging every day, all day, and all the way. But if this is to happen, zeal must be fed by hope. 

Instead of getting up each day and wondering what, if anything, we should do, J I Packer, urged daily planning and goal-setting:

Whatever long-term plans we may have, we need to get into the habit of planning each day’s business in advance, either first thing each morning or (better, I think) the day before.

Packer urges seniors to keep race imagery in the forefront of their minds:

Put positively, the apostle’s race image clearly combines these four notions: first, clearheaded goal orientation (you run to win); second, purposeful planning (you think out how you should run the race, pacing yourself and preparing for the final burst); third, resolute concentration (you put everything second to training for and then running and hopefully winning the race); and fourth, supreme effort (you run flat out, putting everything you have got into what you are doing). Thus Paul conceives the faithful Christian life; the believer runs, as did he.

We can’t ignore the elephant in the room. Senior years mean last years, dying years. We must use our senior years to prepare for that. We prepare with faith in Christ, remembering that even if we have not believed and it’s now near the end, the thief on the cross was saved with only minutes to spare. We also prepare to die by anticipating heaven. It should be a topic much read about, thought about, and prayed about.

Counsel to non-Seniors
But let me finish with some brief counsel to non-seniors.

Treat seniors as individuals: Although, to young eyes, they may at a quick glance look similar to one another, each has an individual personality with unique gifts and graces. Avoid age-ism as strongly as racism.

Respect seniors opinions: Seek them out for wise and experienced counsel and listen carefully when they speak.

Remember you’ll probably be a senior one day: On average, women are living to age 84 with five of these years being dependent, Men live to eighty with three years of dependency. Get ready for it, by asking seniors for advice and counsel.

You may not ever reach senior age: Don’t count on it but rather prepare to die so that at any age you are ready to go and meet your Maker.

God’s Favorite Garden

A few minutes away from me here in Grand Rapids are the famously beautiful Meijer Gardens, where expert guides can provide so much fascinating information about the latest and newest displays of flowers, shrubs, and trees.

In Psalm 92v12-15, God gives us a guided tour of His beautiful garden, His Church, where He views His people as palm trees and Lebanese cedars (v. 12). His special interest, though, is not so much in the bright new arrivals, but in the older more mature disciples. He says, “They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing” (v. 14).

Seniors are often neglected in today’s youth-centered church, but notice God’s kind and encouraging words for them. 

They Grow (v. 12)
Fatigue, decay, decline, weakness, and pain are the words we usually associate with old age. And they are biblical words (Eccl. 12:1-8). However, here the Lord gives us another perspective. He compares senior Christians to fruitful date-palms and mighty cedars! 

Though growing physically weaker, they also grow spiritually stronger (2 Cor. 4:16). They grow in faith, holiness, wisdom, hope, and love because they are planted in the healthy soil of God’s church (Ps. 92:13).

They Are Fruitful (v. 14)
The psalmist especially refers to the date-palm here, which not only provided fruit for desert nomads but also indicated where water was located as its deep roots sought out underground water.

Although many trees stop fruit-bearing as they get older, God’s seniors don’t. They produce the fruits of the Spirit as signs of health, and for the benefit of others. They’ve been well-pruned and so bear branches heavy with spiritual fruits.

They Are Fresh (v. 14)
“Fresh” here could be translated “sap-full.” There’s an inner sap, an invisible and secret source of moisture and refreshment deep within. Their flourishing without is from a fatness within. They are not living off stale past spiritual experiences but rather are experiencing ongoing renewal by the inner sap of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

The Are Flourishing (v. 14)
In contrast to the wicked, whose flourishing is brief (Ps. 92:7-11), the righteous flourish right through their senior years. Of course, this is not saying that Christian seniors don’t age. It’s not talking about the body, or even the mind, but about spiritual abilities and senses:

  • Their eyes no longer see, but faith sees and believes the promises.
  • Their ears no longer hear, but they can still hear the voice of the Savior in His Word.
  • Their voice is getting croaky, but they can still make melody in their heart to the Lord.
  • Their feet are shaky, but they are still walking steadily on the paths of righteousness.
  • Their skin is shriveling and wrinkling, but they are beautiful in the eyes of the Lord.
  • Their appetite is diminishing, but they still hunger and thirst after righteousness.
  • Their taste is disappearing, but they can still taste and see that God is good and feed on the bread of heaven.
  • Their heart is failing, but their spiritual heart is beating regularly and constantly.
  • Interest in the world is diminishing, but interest in the world to come is growing.

Much of this flourishing takes place invisibly in the spiritual realm as they fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil. They focus especially on battles with bitterness, loneliness, fear, and anxiety.

They Are Witnessing (v. 15)
Matthew Henry said, “Every aged Christian is a letter of commendation to the immutable fidelity of God.” They do this by their lives and their lips. They declare that the Lord is righteous and the Lord is their rock (v. 15).

Faith not Feeling
Most seniors do not feel as if they are growing, as if they are fruitful, fresh, and flourishing. But God says it’s true, and Christian seniors are called to believe God’s Word more than they believe the image in the mirror or the creaks in their bodies. 

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