GraceFULL ParentingPosted: May 13, 2012
NOTE: You can listen to this sermon at the sermons link of Calvary Baptist Church!
“The year that was easiest for me and yet the one I matured the most was the year I spent in the arms of another’s man wife.” She is even here today! My mom! Now what were you thinking? I want to honour my mother today for the tremendous Christ-like character you have shown me my entire life. I also want to honour the mother of my children, my beautiful wife Lori. Thank you for taking up the mantle of the most difficult job in the world being my wife and the mother of our children. Mothers are amazing! None of us would be here without them!
Today I want to not only address mothers but everyone who has been a child too, which includes all of us. If you were looking for a parenting seminar, you will need to wait until Pastor Kelvin and Pastor Dwayne host another one. I don’t feel qualified to give much parenting advice other than what I find in Scripture. Instead, my message focuses on a woman who I believe had the most difficult assignment as any mother ever has had – raising the Son of God. You would think that raising the only truly perfect child would be easy but that was not the case. Imagine being responsible for and raising somebody who knew more than you (Luke 2:49-50). Sometimes our kids think they know more than us when they are young but in Mary’s case, her kid really did! Mary’s son from the beginning surpassed her in every way. Most times we know that eventually “our ceiling will be our kid’s floor” but it was like this from the beginning for Mary, the mother of Jesus. I’m sure Mary and Joseph felt helpless at times and unsure of themselves. And this is why this message is for everyone who has ever felt helpless and unsure of themselves as a parent or otherwise.
If you have ever felt helpless and unsure, and I think parenting certainly causes you to feel that way much of the time, then let’s read Luke 1:26-38 to find what is foundational to parenting and to life. At first glance, it might not be apparent that there is any assistance in this passage as to what we should do when we feel helpless and unsure, but let’s unpack it further. Notice that Mary is probably in one of the most exciting times in her life. Her dream is about to be fulfilled of getting married. She probably played “wedding” with other little girls in Nazareth and now as a teenager that was becoming a reality. She was pledged to be married to Joseph and everybody knew it. Betrothal in that day meant that the couple was considered married except for the year waiting period to consummate the marriage so that the husband could build a house for his wife and that their purity was proved. Remember, there were no artificial methods of birth control at the time.
Imagine Mary on her way to pick out the flowers or wedding dress, and she is interrupted by God. God often interrupts us in the busy times! God brings somebody into our life to speak to us. Mary was specifically interrupted by God’s messenger, the angel Gabriel showed up and declared, “Greetings, you are who highly favoured! THE LORD IS WITH YOU!” (v. 28) Literally, Gabriel is telling Mary that she has been “greatly graced.” It is in the perfect passive tense so we understand that Mary is a passive participant like we all are when receiving grace. Today, you might be focused on fulfilling a life-long dream and then God’s grace comes out of nowhere. God wants to give great grace to you. How? The Lord is with you! Our Roman Catholic friends often pray “Hail Mary, full of grace…” Where does grace come from? It is always external; it comes from something or better yet, someone outside of ourselves. Grace comes from the Lord. Grace is a person – Jesus! Grace for Mary and grace for us is always and only because the Lord is with us. That is what you really need today. There are three times that we find in this passage where is the Lord is with you and they cover every instance of your life. The first instance the Lord is with you is during the disturbing times! Often grace comes when we are working hard to fulfill our long-awaited dreams. God says drop everything because I have a different plan for you. It could be not getting that job you hoped for or a report from a doctor. It could be becoming a parent like Mary and Joseph so that career is on hold. Or maybe you are forced to move away like Mary and Joseph were. It is disturbing. We know this because Luke writes, “But she greatly troubled (disturbed) at this statement and kept pondering what kind of greeting this might be.” (v. 29) I touched on this already but put yourself in Mary’s sandals. She was young, full of energy, the future looked bright, and she was probably bursting with anticipation that finally the man of her dreams, a strong and tender man with a job, would come to sweep her off her feet. Then an angel came out of nowhere and gave her a different dream and vision for her life. The wedding was off! Now Mary was facing an initial unwanted pregnancy! In a second, she went from everybody in the town smiling at her to soon sneering at her. Even worse, she was now in jeopardy of not only being an outcast but being stoned to death for adultery (Leviticus 20:10). Joseph, Mary’s husband, decides to protect her and take her away from the trouble to Bethlehem. We don’t read of any wedding ceremony unlike the usual seven-day community affair that was custom in that day, so most likely they eloped. As a side note, I personally think this is one of the reasons why the first miracle that Jesus performed was at a wedding when He turned water into wine. His mother was advocating for the couple, maybe in part because she knew embarrassment herself at a wedding or lack of a wedding (John 2:3). Jesus not only wanted to validate the importance of marriage but also was redeeming it in part for what His mother was feeling losing the dream of her own wedding for His sake. Jesus always redeems what is lost for His sake if we come to Him. This is important because today, maybe Jesus has disturbed your long-awaited dreams and you have had to sacrifice for His sake. If He hasn’t yet, He will disturb you! Maybe you are a parent who kids haven’t turned out exactly as you expected? Maybe you are a young parent and are having trouble keeping up? Maybe you have been faithful in your duties at work or school and now instead of honour, you feel like God is doing the opposite to you, putting you in a place of scorn or shame. Can I please remind you that during those disturbing times, especially if that time is right now, God is gracing you greatly? “Hail, favoured one! The Lord is with you!” If you are afraid and fear is casting its dark shadow on you, the angel’s words still ring true for you too, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favour with God.” (v. 30)
The second instance the Lord is with you is during the destiny-fulfilling times! The Lord is with you despite having few or no credentials. (v. 32-35) Many of us are very concerned about our own destiny. Young people wonder what they should do with their lives. Middle-aged people wonder “how far can I go in fulfilling my sense of purpose? …Or what would it take to pick up a whole new calling in life and do the thing I’ve always wanted to do?” Or maybe some of you are asking, “When do I stop doing the things that have always defined me?” Or “What have I done that will outlive me?” Parents can mask concern for their own destiny and legacy by seemingly being concerned about their own children’s future. This week I was confronted with this truth. My son Josiah was invited to try out for a select team. I wanted him to play so bad but the games were on Sunday nights during the church. We talked to Josiah about and he understood why we couldn’t put baseball first and he was okay with it more than me, probably because it was my dream for him to pitch for the Blue Jays and fulfill his destiny as getting a closing pitcher so we can finally win the American League East.
God knows how we can be so focused on our own kids so this is why the angel Gabriel tells Mary, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33) God wants to reassure her despite the fact that she had no credentials to recommend her as somebody considered great in society. Yes, her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather King David (40 generations back). The family inheritance had been exhausted long ago. Nevertheless, God greatly graced Mary because her son was great. She would give birth to the God-man and His kingdom would not end. What a promise to Mary whose credibility was jeopardized at the announcement that she would give birth. She kept herself pure and now she was paying for it. Young people maybe you feel the same way. You have tried to remain pure despite the constant bombardment of sexual images and the pressure to express yourself sexually. You wonder whether your sacrifice of remaining pure is worth it. Remember, God will use your purity to give you a legacy for the generations to come. You can tell your children, living pure was difficult but God will always bless it.
But don’t become proud! Maybe you have thought that God owes you a family who behaves well and who everybody looks up to? Mary fought this lie from the Evil One and stayed humble. She says in Luke 1:38, “Behold, I am the Lord’s bond-slave; may it be done to me according to Your word.” As a female slave she “was the lowest kind of female servant.” Her humility is echoed later on in Luke 1:47-48, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.” God rewards this humility because He always gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). As Darrel Bock remarks, “The announcement of His birth shows the great lengths God goes to in order to identify with the most humble people of the world.” Here is the key to remember about destinies – the Lord is the one who determines your child’s destiny. And like He did when He conceived Jesus in Mary, “The Holy Spirit will enable you to be and do more than you could do by yourself.” When you and I give over our destinies and those of our offspring to Jesus, this is where grace meets us in our time of need.
Not only is the Lord with us during the disturbing times and destiny-fulfilling times but also during the difficult times despite our faithfulness. Notice what the angel says to Mary about her barren cousin Elisabeth, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37) Sometimes we mistake “faithfulness” for “work-fullness” because we think we have to the work for God without trusting Him to the work in and through us. Maybe God puts us in the difficult times. This is more than being surprised or disturbed. You feel trapped. There is no possible exit except through Divine help. God loves you enough to do that to you. How do I know? Because He did it all to His Own Son! Think about it! The Lord God is with you because He disturbed heaven by sending His Son to come to earth. Furthermore, the Lord is with you as evidenced by how He fulfilled the destiny of His Son and in fact the universe through Jesus. In other words, God knows how attached our hearts are to our children because He feels the same way about His own children to the point that He sent His Son to secure our eternal destiny. And the Lord is with you during the difficult or impossible times. Those times feel impossible to us but are not too hard or difficult for God (Jer. 32:17). God proved that He could overcome the greatest difficulty of Man’s Rebellion at the Cross. Your embrace of Jesus’ death on the Cross is the most difficult thing you will ever do in life – even more difficult than parenting. Why? Because the Cross is about total self-surrender to God. And isn’t that the key to parenting, work, school, marriage, and all relationships? But it can only happen when you receive God’s grace like Mary did!
If there is anybody who would die for you it probably would be your mother! Many mothers risked their lives to have children. My mother almost died after having me and my wife could have died when having our first-born if not for medical intervention. Mary herself had her heart is pierced with grief over her Son (Luke 2:34-35)!
This is why mothers point us to Jesus. Though not all mothers die to bring new life, Jesus did for you and me. Will you receive his free gift of salvation today? It would be the best Mother’s Day gift you could give and receive. If you do, you will be greatly graced because the Lord is with YOU!
 Taken from Steve Jones e-mail, May 7, 2012.
 Quote from Dennis Wiedrick.
 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Vol. 1 (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 172.
 “The Jewish betrothal was public and had vows that constituted virtual marriage and needed only that the bridegroom should come at the set time, take his bride, celebrate and live with her.” R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1951), 60.
 Gordon MacDonald, The Resilient Life (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2004), 54-56.
 MacDonald, 57.
 Wiersbe, 173.
 Darrel Bock, The NIV Application Commentary on Luke (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 59.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London: John Westminster Knox Press, 2004), 10.