Pleasing Him, Bearing Fruit, and
Growing in Knowledge
Aahhh...Valentine's Day...a day set aside to express your love to another person through gifts, cards, flowers, and chocolate. Or, as those of us who have been married a long time refer to it as ‘Thursday’.
There is a pressure on Valentine's Day to have the perfect dinner with the perfect date and give the perfect gift. The problem is that perfection isn't obtainable. The more we strive for it, the more we will be left wanting. Valentine's Day is the ideal time to talk to your teen moms about God's great love for them and how different it is from the 'fairy tale/romantic comedy love' they think they want. The sacrificial, all-consuming love our hearts are yearning for is found God alone.
Apart from God, our love would be about what we can get and how it makes me feel. It would be shallow, empty, and unsatisfying. The love God has shown us by sending his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins is mindboggling and entirely initiated by Him because He IS love (1 John 4:16). We have done nothing to deserve his love; we can never be lovely or good enough to earn favor with God.
Please consider – as unpopular as this idea may be - it's essential to help your teen moms understand that God’s best for them may not include being married. Marriage shouldn't be idolized as the only way to find contentment and joy in life; true contentment and joy are found in Christ alone. Being married to a person who shares your faith in Jesus Christ and desires to put God first brings glory to God the Father. Your shared mission to be a light in the darkness does much to further God's kingdom. But binding yourself to someone who is not walking in the same direction and doesn't want to honor God is like strapping a ball and chain to your ankle. You can move forward, but the effort is significant, and the progress is slow.
Ephesians 2:4-5 states, "BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by GRACE you have been saved." For those of us who have put our faith and trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ, our highest aim is to love like him and glorify him. Because God has lavished his love on us, we want to lay down our wants, expectations, and selfish desires to honor him and benefit others.
Showing and speaking words of love can sweetly fill our hearts and minds, but it is temporary happiness. Sharing God's unconditional and abundant love shown to us through Jesus Christ brings lasting satisfaction and joy today and for eternity.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34
While reading through the Bible, are you tempted to skip to the end of the page when you come upon a genealogy with names you can’t pronounce that covers most of the page? I am. There have been times when I’ve tried to read names aloud that I say, “That guy” or “him” instead of slowing down and sounding it out. I’m not proud of this, nor am I encouraging others to do it; I’m simply sharing what I have done in the past.
In spite of my desire to skip over genealogies, I truly believe “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I believe God included these genealogies in his word for our good and his glory. They remind us that he uses ordinary, flawed, and, yes, sinful people in his bigger story to bring about his perfect plan. It was no surprise to God that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba (i.e., the wife of Uriah) are included in Jesus’s lineage. (Matthew 1). The fact that women are mentioned at all is remarkable, but 2 of them were from outside the nation of Israel.
None of our family trees are perfect. If they were, we wouldn’t need a Savior. But each person within a family has to make a personal decision regarding their faith in Jesus Christ. My parents’ faith doesn’t guarantee me a place in heaven; nor does my faith cover my children. When God draws us to himself, he does so individually. He may use a person within a family to point others to Jesus and, Lord willing, save them as well, but there’s no guarantee. Each person has to see their sin in light of God’s holiness, recognize their inability to earn favor with God and repay the debt of their sin, believe that Jesus sacrificed himself as a means of atoning for their sins, and ask him to be Lord and Savior of their life. It’s not a group activity; it’s between you and God.
As we serve teen moms and their children, we’re tempted to say we are “breaking generational cycles” but that’s not true. Jesus is the only generational-cycle breaker. He may use us as a tool in his greater work but he is the only one that makes lasting changes in a person’s life. Our call is to point a teen mom to Jesus and equip her for the future. Whether or not she accept Christ as her personal Savior isn’t up to us. It’s between her and God. And whether her children go on to become teen parents themselves isn’t up to us. It’s between them and God. We cannot dictate the choices these individuals are going to make. We can proclaim the truth of God’s word, share the good news of Jesus, and pray that God will do a saving work in their lives. If a mom, who accepted Jesus as her Savior, graduated from TMC with a full-time job and a plan for the future, tells us in 16-18 years her child is a teen parent, does that mean she wasn’t a success? By No Means!!! Her children have choices to make for themselves. Even seemingly perfect two-parent families have children who make choices we wished they hadn’t. If a generational cycle is going to break, it’s because Jesus interceded. There’s nothing you nor I can do to guarantee it. We aren’t God. We aren’t called to be saviors. We are called to be faithful to the work he has given us to do and lift high the name of Jesus. The future for each teen mom and her children are in God’s hands. Let’s trust him to do the work only he can do.
Throughout the New Testament, we read of Jesus’s disciples “preaching the gospel” throughout the land. They shared the truth about Jesus and what he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection with anyone and everyone who would listen. The message and proclamation of the gospel are just as important and powerful today as it was then.
For those of us who had the privilege of growing up in a Bible-believing church, we may have heard “the gospel” spoken of hundreds of times. Many of us have shared our testimonies of how God rescued us from sin and set us on a new path – His path - but have we chosen to remind ourselves daily of the significant price Jesus paid for our sins? Do we look at our responses to feeling hurt, rejected, disrespected, unloved (etc.) through the lens of what Jesus endured on the cross? Do we remember and believe that how being “in him” means we are loved, accepted, chosen, redeemed, justified, a saint, and a child of God? Because of Jesus, we have a new identity! We are no longer slaves of sin but have been set free by his perfect sacrifice.
Over the past several years, I have had the privilege of being in the company of women who gracefully, but with biblical truth, speak into areas of my life where I am elevating my rights, feelings, or choices to the point where they become “a stuck spot.” I get stuck when I focus on myself or how someone has hurt me and didn’t bring those to Jesus and lay them at the foot of the cross.
A stuck spot revealed itself to me when my daughter didn’t appear excited to see me after being gone for several days. I expected a little enthusiasm and cheering. What I got was one-word answers to my questions and the brush off because she was feeling “angsty.” As I felt my disappointment move toward frustration and anger, I stopped my thinking and started to pray. I confessed to Jesus my hurt and unmet expectations. I acknowledged I wanted my daughter to meet the need I had to feel loved. The truth is as much as I love my daughter and I know (deep down) she loves me, it’s not her job to meet my felt needs. Only Jesus can meet all my needs and do it perfectly. He is the better Lover of my Soul and Provider. He also understands what it feels like to be rejected by those he loved and were closest to him. He experienced that with his disciples and, specifically, with Peter when he denied him three times. We have a Savior who understands our hurts and wants to heal them.
So as I continue to practice preaching the gospel to myself, I remember:
If this is not part of your daily life, let me encourage you to listen closely for the Spirit’s prompting and lean into where he is pointing out a “stuck spot” in your life. He wants you to be free from those things that are keeping you from growing and walking closer to Jesus. Surround yourself with people who are willing to point you to Jesus, speak truth to you when you believe a lie, and BE the type of woman who will do that for someone else.
A quick Google search of “defining success” provides some interesting insight into how the world defines success. Happiness is a commonly used word as is self-satisfaction and wealth. In business having goals and targets help measure a company’s productivity but what do we do if our business is people?
Teen Mother Choices (TMC) has been serving teen moms for nearly 30 years which in-and-of-itself is an accomplishment. Over that amount of time any number of ministries could have come and gone, but TMC remains. Is it because of our brilliant business strategy? No. Is it because we are passionate about what we do? It helps, but it is not the reason. Is it because we have served hundreds and hundreds of teen moms? No. Jesus is the only reason TMC is still serving teen moms after all these years. He gave Christa a vision of what the church could and should be doing for teen moms and helped her build the foundation on God’s word. And as Jesus did with his disciples, TMC is committed to pouring into the lives of a smaller group of individuals to support, encourage, and point them to Jesus. Being in a relationship with one another is God’s heart for us. He modeled that throughout scripture and sent Jesus to provide a means of restoring our relationship to him. God does not call us to save every teen mom; that is his job. Our job is to share the truth about who he is, the life-saving work Jesus did on the cross, and bring glory to him through our words and actions.
To pour into someone the way we believe we should, TMC limits the number of participants to seven women at a time. From an outsider’s perspective only serving seven teen moms at a time is not enough. They see how big the need is and believe they are up to the challenge of helping more. Several have tried only to find themselves burnt out and the teen moms dissatisfied. The beautiful thing about having a smaller group of participants is we get to know these women well. They are loved. They are seen. They are valued. They receive the benefit of a mentor who walks alongside them through setting and achieving their goals and all of life’s ups and downs.
We celebrate every achievement our teen moms reach whether it be completing her education, obtaining full-time employment, or paying off her debts. But no celebration is more exciting than a woman who recognizes her need for Jesus, repents and believes in him, and chooses to live her life under his authority. Even the heavens celebrate these decisions. Luke 15:10 reminds us: “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” There is no promise to us that every teen mom who is involved with TMC will give her life to Jesus, but each one will have heard him proclaimed faithfully and unapologetically. Introducing teen moms to the truth about who God, the hope they can find in Jesus, and the certainty of an eternity with him is TMC’s definition of success.
Kristin served as Teen Mother Choices first Program Director in the 1990’s. In 2012, Kristin joined TMCI as our first Training Coach. In 2016, Kristin became TMCI’s Training Director.