1 Corinthians 4:15 — Not Many Fathers and Mothers

MaryAnn Ward - Spiritual Fathers and Mothers

Are spiritual fathers and mothers found only within the pages of history books? I don’t think so, but they are few and far between. What does spiritual parenting look like today?

Never has the opportunity to teach and learn become so accessible. Untold numbers of teachers upload millions of videos, podcasts, and blogs to the internet daily. Thousands of these even show us how to be great fathers and mothers. If ever Paul’s words of 1 Corinthians 4:15 were true, perhaps we find their fulfillment today.

For even if you were to have ten thousand teachers [to guide you] in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers [who led you to Christ and assumed responsibility for you], for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the good news [of salvation].
1 Corinthians 4:15

Paul trained under the greatest teachers of the first century. Yet, one touch from Jesus removed him from the accelerated path of knowledge and the upper religious elite, setting him toward a better way — the way of The Father.

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The Father

Jesus prime focus was to demonstrate the Father’s heart to those who would listen and pay attention. We instinctively know that fathers and mothers form the foundation to not just solid homes but faith communities as well.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
John 14:8-9

Jesus lived with His spiritual children for three years. These disciples saw how He “did” life, how He interacted with difficult people, and how He responded under pressure. He modeled a value system that contradicted the teaching of others. But more than anything, He demonstrated an inseparable unity with The Father — a unity He prayed we too would experience.

“…Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
John 17:21

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Fathers and Mothers

Perhaps no other word evokes more personal shame than the word “mother.” Like many other mothers and fathers, I have carried the weight of my shortcomings. Yet a couple years ago, the Lord whispered the word “matriarch” over me. He bypassed my failures as “mother,” giving me a variant without negative connotations. This affirmation sent me on a quest to discover afresh the context of mothering and fathering.

Fathers and mothers “do life” with their children. They submit to a high level of vulnerability and transparency, teaching through personal successes and failures. Teachers instruct through knowledge and information, but fathers and mothers model through intimate relationship. They pass the baton of faith to successive generations, bringing exponential increase to their efforts.

The early church didn’t just worship together. They worked together, ate together, traveled together, and served the community together. What a stark contrast to how most of us live.

God creates these divine connections, bringing strategic people into our lives at opportune times.

  • Have spiritual fathers and mothers mentored you through intimate relationship?
  • How did they walk their role out?
  • What valuable lessons did you learn?
  • Are there aspects of their godly example that you imitate?
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The Fruit of Fathers and Mothers

No other human, apart from Jesus, influenced generations of churches as much as Paul. Why? Because of his excellent teaching and debating style? No! Rather, his greatest measure of influence came by “fathering” people in the churches he established. Through intimate relationship, he modeled a faith lifestyle, language, and value system.

The generational influence of godly fathers and mothers cannot be denied. I see God again calling forth and raising up a new stream of spiritual mothers and fathers. Some of them, still in their youth, are successfully fostering others in the faith. Just as Jesus and Paul modeled the heart of our Heavenly Father, these dedicated disciples are answering God’s call and filling the gap.

God promises,

I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.”
Isaiah 44:3-4

May there be no fatherless or motherless orphans among us. May this be a time when every Christian experiences life with a spiritual father and mother, growing strong in a solid faith-family.

MaryAnn Ward, Blog, Image, Generations

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Instruction from the Perfect Teacher

Instruction from the Perfect Teacher

If you could designate anyone as the perfect teacher, who would you choose? We could all probably name a few qualified instructors who have benefited us.

Today, advertisements bombard the internet and social media from people anxious to take our money in return for the latest, greatest training in whatever interests us. They attempt to promote personal success stories as credentials. Who or what qualifies someone to teach or instruct another?

Recently, individuals in our small home group shared their experiences of being taught as children. Some received the iron-hand of instruction — a do it my way or else method. Others felt the freedom of being entrusted to discover their own way through challenging assignments. Still others learned tasks bit-by-bit through loads of encouragement. All felt a certain level of limitation surrounding the processes of learning and growing.

God is not negligent at teaching those who follow Him.

I hear the Lord saying, I will stay close to you, instructing and guiding you along the pathway for your life. I will advise you along the way and lead you forth with my eyes as your guide. So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before. Don’t make me tug you and pull you along. Just come with me!”
Psalm 32:8-9 TPT

Perfect Teacher

Within these verses we find multiple ways a perfect teacher instructs. Let’s break it up a bit.

  • I will stay close to you
  • Instructing and guiding you
  • I will advise you along the way
  • And lead you forth with my eyes as your guide.

The best instruction and training occur within this type of intimate relationship. To learn lessons well, we need someone who sticks by us through the process, “instructing, guiding, and advising” us. It implies doing life together. The psalm uses the Hebrew word for teaching which means “to flow as water, to lay, to point out, or teach” the correct “course of life, mode of action, or road to walk.”

The psalm points to a walking together with our teacher and learning by word and example.

Jesus Christ

The New Testament uses the Greek word didaskalos for teacher fifty-eight times. Forty-one of those times, translated also as Master or Instructor, refers to Jesus. Throughout the Gospels, we witness Him walking in intimate relationship with His disciples. He did not restrict His teaching to a chosen few, however, but rather taught everyone freely.

“By the time Jesus came ashore, a massive crowd was waiting. At the sight of them, his heart was filled with compassion, because they seemed like wandering sheep who had no shepherd. So he taught them many wonderful things.”
Mark 6:34

Mark illustrates Jesus teaching to the masses out of a heart filled with compassion. The Message Translation of the Bible puts it this way, “At the sight of them, his heart broke … He went right to work teaching them.”

Multitudes of people around us lack the core instruction needed to function in a healthy, production way. Without a solid spiritual foundation, they find it impossible to thrive. I imagine Jesus’ heart again breaks as He looks down the streets of our cities. If He was present, I believe He would do as He once did and get to work teaching them.

The need for Spirit-filled, anointed teaching remains. Who will fill the gap?

Receive to Give

The disciples didn’t instantly become model students. They often made Jesus’ task of teaching more difficult than necessary. I do, too. Psalm 32 adds,

“So don’t make it difficult; don’t be stubborn when I take you where you’ve not been before. Don’t make me tug you and pull you along. Just come with me!”
Psalm 32:9

The disciples often turned intimate teaching opportunities into arguments over who was the greatest among them. Even Jesus, the Perfect Teacher, requires His students to possess a willingness to learn. The same applies to us.

God loves each of us enough not to leave us lacking, struggling, and unable to cope with life’s ups and downs. He patiently comes beside us, inviting us to “just come with me!” But His ways feel strange and uncomfortable. They stand in complete contradiction to our ways. Then we, like they, resist His instruction.

But before we are qualified to teach others, we must first learn from Jesus, the Perfect Teacher. That requires submitting to His mindset and following His ways.

Students Teach

Jesus’ students eventually caught on, coming into alignment with His instruction. They soon proved to be the greatest transformational success story this world has known. The early disciples carried on Jesus’ teaching with the same passion and compassion He displayed.

Jesus instructed them,

“Now you must go into all the nations and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins so that they will turn to me …”
Luke 24:47 TPT

Yet, their teaching was often rejected.

Jesus’ students continued to teach in spite of opposition. They proved that the message of the gospel, rather than a perfect sales pitch, eloquent storytelling, or charisma, “is the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). And indeed, because they learned well from the Master, they instructed others equally well. Though accused of turning the world “upside down,” their efforts, in reality, turned it more right side up.

May we be encouraged by their example and the unfailing promise of God to continue to teach us. Whether our learning journey has been short or long, difficult or easy, may we draw close to the Father allowing Him to “guide (us) along the pathway for (our lives) … advising (us) along the way and leading (us) … with (His) eyes.”

Then may we, too, become those who teach others through truth-filled words, living examples, and the compassion of Christ. Eternity will bear witness of the impact of following the leading of our Perfect Teacher.

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Learning, Growing, Teaching, Repeat

Learning, Growing, Teaching, Repeat

Though many of us feel incapable of teaching, life is a perpetual cycle of learning, growing, and teaching, repeated through generations. We see the pattern played out in virtually every aspect of our lives. In our homes, workplaces, educational centres, and sports arenas to name a few. In fact, every facet of understanding demands, at various levels, a willingness to learn, grow, and teach.

Most of us tend to shy away from formal teaching roles. However, we all have developed skills and obtained knowledge that others could greatly benefit from.

The sponge-like capacity for learning dominates the behavior of all children. Somehow as we grow older, we lose the inquisitiveness of childhood. If we become complacent, our knowledge base actually diminishes.

Recently someone said, “If you say you know when you don’t know, you will never know.” The statement exposes the unwillingness to learn will keep us from knowing what we desperately need to understand. Learning is the first step in all developmental processes.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”
Psalm 32:8

Learning

The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice.
Brian Herbert

Because God is the Creator of all things, He knows how everything works and functions. Wisdom leads us to look to Him to guide and direct our learning process. I’m not just talking about spiritual things. One God idea proves of more worth than all human wisdom.

A few months ago, I began to hold business meeting with God. I can’t tell you how many “God ideas” He has inspired! Though previously I constantly prayed and surrendered the aspects of my business, welcoming Him into these weekly meetings has transformed it in indispensable ways.

Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths.”
Psalm 25:4

I believe God waits in anticipation for us to turn to Him with a hunger to learn. He desires to teach us how to parent our children, how to create artistic designs, how to produce or repair mechanical things, how to overcome obstacles in relationships or workplaces, and how to establish healthy life patterns.

Nothing is “hard” for God! He has the answer for the most difficult problems we face. Whatever we are attempting to learn, God already possesses the knowledge and understanding for us. The choice to learn, He leaves with us.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
Psalm 86:11

Growing

Every expert started as a novice.

Often, learning includes a multitude of skills and abilities stacked, like building blocks, one upon the other. The process often takes many years of experience, including successes and failures.

I chalk up far more mistakes than successes. I have also learned a great deal from my mistakes. Failing at something is often as helpful as succeeding!

A significant portion of training assists others bypass our mistakes. It builds bridges so others don’t have to fall into the same river we almost drowned in.

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Philippians 4:9

This verse clearly illustrates the learning process: learning, receiving, hearing, and putting into practice. When we willingly stay humble and teachable, we open the doors to learn, receive, hear, and watch others to grow and develop even in areas which are personal weaknesses or deficiencies.

Nothing substitutes for practice. Practice! Then practice! And practice again! Anything we desire to develop our skill in will require practice. Growth will spring from our practice ground.

Teaching

Let’s not stop here! One more step completes the cycle — teaching.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
Colossians 3:16

Oh course, God refers directly to teaching biblical truths. However, these principles apply to every aspect of life.

Only a smidgen of teaching is performed by “experts.” Everyone possesses knowledge and skill in any one of a number of areas. We have responsibility, before God and others, to share that knowledge.

Let us each consider for moment:

  • what skill am I developing
  • how could I share that skill with others
  • who might appreciate knowing this skill

Like music flowing from the heart, sharing our knowledge can and will become a joyous activity — Spirit-led songs flowing into the hearts of others

Repeat

“The best learning I had came from teaching.”
Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie Ten Boom recognized that as we pour ourselves out into the lives of others, we learn even more. We receive encouragement and inspiration to delve in deeper, improving our skills at a greater level.

The ultimate goal in everything we do is to draw others into a deeper relationship with God. The greatest learning, growing, and teaching comes from walking with others in their life journey. This side-by-side cycle of growth and development, both personal and corporate, offers ample opportunity to share faith.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
John 14:26

As the Holy Spirit teaches us, we teach others. Others will automatically learn from us as we learn from God. This incredible cycle of learning, growing, and teaching imparts a life-giving community of mutual benefit for everyone.

Let’s applaud where we are already successfully sharing skills. May we also seek God for knew ways to build bridges of understanding. May our greatest joy be in partnering with the Holy Spirit, leading people through ever-increasing circles of learning, growing, and teaching.

Bless you!

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Normal? What Does It Mean to be a Normal Christian?

Normal

Normal in one sense would identify every part of my life; yet in another way, normal could never label who I have been or now am. What does it mean to be a normal Christian?

What defines “normal“?

 “According with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle
occurring naturally

Who Defines Normal

If normal means imitating Christ, we need to examine His normal? What occurred naturally to Jesus? These traits then are to mark our definition of living “normally”.

“…the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees his Father doing,
because whatever the Father does the Son also does….”
John 5:19

Father and Son

“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues,
proclaiming the good news of the kingdom
and healing every disease and sickness….”
Matthew 9:35

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed…”
Luke 5:16

“…Having loved his own who were in the world,
he loved them to the end…”
John 13:1

Friendship

“Then Jesus went up a hill and called to himself the men he wanted.
They came to him,
and he chose twelve …
“I have chosen you to be with me,” he told them.
“I will also send you out to preach,
and you will have authority to drive out demons…”
Mark 3:13-19

Jesus the Example

Like the “true” north, this then is our “true normal”! Jesus was a living picture of how we also may live:

in such close communion with God that He saw
what the Father was doing and teamed together with Him
to do the same;
teaching at every opportunity,
sharing the good news of salvation,
healing every disease and sickness;
one on One communion in prayer;
loving friends and enemies completely and continually;
living in community with others,
passing fully the mantle and anointing to others.Prayer

Normal is a Decision

This is not my normal yet, but it is the life I am reaching for. These are the distinguishing marks of the gift of life we now possess, because He dwells in us.

When I might doubt it is possible, I can read about the lives of believers who walked with Him for those three short years following the example of Jesus. They stepped into opportunities to follow this pattern with confidence and boldness, even if imperfectly!

Down through the ages of history, multitude of others set their hearts, minds, finances, and abilities to the same goal. They influenced nations and transformed cultures, redirecting the course of church history – affecting and effecting people and communities on every continent through faith in Jesus Christ.

It is still the heart of the Father to see the world transformed. He is looking for NORMAL men, women and children who will believe for such a way of life. When we do, we too will be astonished with the difference Christ’s normal makes!

Hand in Hand

There is no “normal” apart from Christ; it requires a relationship of daily walking hand in hand doing as He did. Normal living disconnected from Jesus is abnormal for any who choose to follow Him. Challenging? Yes! Reachable? Absolutely!

“… whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing,
and they will do even greater things than these,
because I am going to the Father…”
John 14:12

How else will Christ be seen in me  and God be glorified? Normal is never boring or predictable! Come! Let’s see where “normal” takes us.

Final Thoughts

What marks your walk as a Christian? I encourage you to allow this gift of life to generate every part of who you are!

Further Reading:

Meeting God in the Ordinary – From Common to Holy

Hebrews 11:1 “Now Faith Is”