Friday, April 25, 2014

Has Someone You Love Turned Her Back on God?

by Jill Jackson

Perhaps the most painful wounds are the ones inflicted when a loved one walks away from the faith. Has your heart been broken because someone in your Christian family turned his back on God? Have you laid awake, heavily burdened by the realization that someone you love has in essence looked God in the face and said, "The pleasures of this life are worth more to me than you"? Have you felt the gravity of eternal consequences that await one who made this choice and shuddered for her? Have you felt the utter heartbreak that accompanies the feeling of watching someone willingly walk away from the road that leads to life? Have you felt the despair of finality when individuals such as this have passed from this life and sealed their eternity? I have such wounds, and I imagine you probably do too.

I once watched a brother in Christ, who shared my burden over certain wayward souls, become overcome with grief. He had pleaded for these individuals to turn back to the Lord, but his plea fell on deaf ears. His love so genuine, his sorrow so great, that a crowded room couldn't even suppress his pain. He could hardly speak. His heartache over his lack of success was so raw, and his tears were many. The most heart-breaking part of that moment was that these wayward souls had no appreciation for the depth of love that was felt for them. They chose to view my friend (and all others who sought to help them), as their enemy, because he opposed their sinful ways. In reality, they had no greater friend than that man who wept for their souls.

When a loved one no longer loves what's right, it hurts and brings stress to our lives. Christianity requires investing time and energy into people, but the reality is, not all investments are going to yield the desired return. Christians can lose their love for the Lord and gain a love for the world (1 John 2:15). Christians can become dull of hearing and fail to grow (Hebrews 5:11-14). Christians can completely drift away from the faith (Hebrews 2:1-4).

When my heart is heavy because I can't make someone living wrong live right, I turn to God's word for comfort. What comforts me the most is knowing I am not the only one to deal with such sorrows. Long before I knew such heartache, Samuel experienced it. Samuel told Saul to fear God and serve him faithfully. He told Saul he would pray for him and instruct him in the good and right way. He warned Saul if he lived wickedly he would be swept away. He was a true friend who cared deeply about Saul’s soul. King Saul should have treasured such a friendship, but there came a time when he quit valuing Samuel's words.

When his men became restless and fearful, Saul chose to go against God's way and offered the burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel. He failed to follow all of God's commands, and his decision to choose wrong—when what was right had been clearly expressed—was discouraging to Samuel. King Saul's disobedience cost him his kingdom and forever altered his friendship with Samuel. Once Saul began to seek after his own desires instead of God's, Samuel understood their priorities were no longer the same. Repeated confrontation with Saul's sinful choices was spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing to Samuel. He was burdened by Saul's negative changes and cried to the Lord all night long (1 Samuel 15:11).

Because Samuel always had Saul's spiritual interest in mind, he was never afraid to show him the error of his way. We, too, have an obligation, born of love, to look out for our Christian family and to try to steer them in the right direction when needed (Galatians 6:1). We need to pray for these individuals (1 John 5:16). We need to plead for them to repent, understanding that the longer one lives in a sinful state, the more comfortable he becomes with being removed from God and his spiritual family. Time is of the essence! One who has taken a deliberate step off the road to heaven has put her eternity in jeopardy (2 Peter 2:20-21). Our goal is to reach the wayward while their heart is yet tender.

Sadly, there are some who cannot be reached because their hearts have become hardened (Ephesians 4:18). They have rejected God and his ways. They live in sin and love its pleasures. They are unconcerned about their Christian family and the eternal consequences that await. Repentance carries no appeal. Such is the sin that leads to death (1 John 5:16).

When dealing with a wayward soul such as this, we must follow the example of Samuel. Once Saul’s choices were no longer pleasing to God, Samuel separated from him and saw him no more (1 Samuel 15:35). There can be situations in which one is so overcome with grief that priorities and obligations can become compromised. In these circumstances distance becomes a necessity.

But distance is not limited to a physical sense. Even without frequently seeing Saul, Samuel’s grief was still a weight on his heart. Lengthy sorrow can cause one to appear dissatisfied with God’s providence and gift of free will. The Lord had to give Samuel a nudge and asked, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel” (1 Samuel 16:1)? Physical separation wasn’t enough to cap Samuel’s sorrow and get him back to the work at hand. He needed emotional distance.

Emotional distance requires accepting that we’ve done all we could reasonably do to restore the lost soul. It’s reaching a point of confident peace that God is fair and just (Ezekiel 18:25-32). Trusting this, we develop the ability to ponder a situation without being debilitated emotionally or hindered in our service to God. It requires a lot of strength to walk away and let someone sleep in the bed they’ve made. But perhaps doing so will help the one astray return to the fold (Luke 15). The lack of relationships once held dear can cause one to consider the state of his life and may result in positive changes.

Sometimes positive changes seem hopeless. Being a friend to the wayward is emotionally challenging, but we must never allow ourselves to be placed in a position where such situations become spiritually challenging. We have a duty to serve the Lord and shouldn't allow burdens like these to hinder the good works we can and should do. We must remember how Christ emphasized to his disciples that there would be people who would not receive them or listen to their words. We must follow his instructions to shake the dust from our feet and move on (Matthew 10:14). Hope in the knowledge that God’s word is powerful. Trust that he is able to do more than we could ask or imagine. And above all, have complete confidence in the fact that he is fair and just.

Recommended Reading

Jackson, Wayne. Should Weak Christians Be Disfellowshipped?

Jackson, Wayne. The Controversy Regarding Christian Fellowship.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Can Women Fulfill the Great Commission?

by Betty Jackson

Are you busy taking care of children, aged parents, budgeting, house care, etc.?  Perhaps the thought hangs over you, “I am not doing anything to reach the lost. I don’t have the time (or energy).” Guilt may nag at your heart as you consider the Lord's command to teach the lost (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20). 

In some communities, a minister’s wife may have fewer opportunities to meet non-Christians who are truly interested in learning the gospel. Piled on top of these scenarios are the sermons we hear concerning our obligations to teach the gospel. Perhaps guilt gives way to deeper discouragement.  Adding to discouragement are some brethren who may suggest that everyone should go into a foreign mission field or be classified as a “pewsitter.” (There must be senders for there to be “goers.”) 

When Cain’s jealousy warped into hate for his brother, God said to him, “...why has your countenance fallen? If you do well will not your countenance be lifted up?” (Genesis 4:6-7 NASB). Cain was angry and depressed. He could have fixed his frame of mind by changing his attitude, as well as his behavior. Our attitudes can be wrong, even towards ourselves. If we have the right perspective on living for God as Christian women, guilt and a discouraged countenance will fade. Stages of life have different opportunities and responsibilities.

How can a woman spread the gospel while tied down to young children or an aged parent? Foremost, we must realize that these are God-given obligations, not something that deters us from the Lord’s work. This is the Lord’s work! (1 Timothy 5:8) Jesus charged the Pharisees for neglecting to honour their parents (Mark 7:8-13).

As you deal with the tedious tasks of caring for children or aged parents, spiritual encouragement is a vital part of their care. Training your children in the way of the Lord will pay wonderful dividends as they grow in age and knowledge (Proverbs 22:6). The example of godly teaching your children is a light to others. Your well-trained children today will be the leaders in the church of tomorrow.

Remember that Jesus included “teaching them [Christians] to observe all things that he commanded.”  Aged Christian parents who are in the throes of suffering may need reminded that the Lord loves them. Surely your mind will turn to the “why” of human suffering. Conversation with them about the love of God, the suffering Savior and heaven will help them stay faithful during this most difficult time. The way you treat your aged parents is a beacon for good that others will admire, including those who are outside the body of Christ. 

Spreading the gospel is a serious obligation. Yet, not everyone is qualified by life’s circumstances to “go.” However there are ways we can support the work of the church in fulfilling the Great Commission. Being good stewards of our resources so that we can give as we have been prospered is important to the Lord’s cause. Financially supporting teaching works such as Apologetics Press and Christian Courier are other ways we can spread the gospel. Most missionaries in foreign fields need financial aide. The Philippian church was praised for its support of Paul, and credited with his apostolic work (Philippians 4:17).

Practically speaking, other methods of spreading the gospel include mailing tracts and teaching by correspondence courses (e.g. World Bible School). The friendly greeting of visitors who attend a worship service is part of that effort as well. You may not be part of the teaching program for those people, but surely it matters if they feel warmly accepted when they visit. Make it your “job” to greet visitors. If you are involved in teaching children’s and ladies’ Bible classes you are obeying our Commander in Chief!

Hospitality is crucial to planting the seeds of the gospel. Friendly visits around a dinner table may be the one thing that generates a listening ear to the Lord’s teaching. Note that supporting members of your congregation by hospitality is a part of keeping the saved saved! Include your children in visitation of the elderly (just keep them well-behaved and don’t stay too long!).

You may be able to take your children with you to the church building to help spruce up a bulletin board or classroom. A presentable and cheerful worship place is also a part of spreading the gospel. Though not directly a teaching program, a well-kept building demonstrates that the people who meet there care about a building dedicated for praising God, concern for his work, and those who visit. Older women may be unable to do much of the physical labor, but there may be ways to help younger women by babysitting or preparing food.

Making sure that your husband and family members are in their Sunday best for worship is another way to show respect for assembly to praise God. It takes some effort to launder and iron clothes (Yes, iron!). How can a slovenly person make a good impact upon visitors? The way we dress for worship is two-fold. Our clothing does not honor God by baring bosoms and short or tight clothes (Do you ever check the way your clothing fits from the back?) The immodest fashion of the day should not dictate Christian attire. The Scriptures ought to determine the way we present ourselves (Romans 12:1-2). Some women would truly agree with the need for modesty, but apparently do not know what modesty is! Likewise, slouchy and soiled clothing will not impress visitors with the importance of worship. This doesn’t mean our clothing should be expensive or flamboyant.

 While we do not practice the Old Testament Law, is there not a lesson in the garments of the priests under the Law of Moses? There were commandments for dressing with modesty and in garments specific for directing worship (Exodus 28). Note this comment from brother Campbell: “Worship is not a trivial affair. It is a sacred, serious, from-the-heart activity. The attitude that we show toward worship and during worship, is a matter of tremendous importance. ...  The very idea of coming together to worship the One that is ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty’ (Revelation 4:8) ought to cause us to think within ourselves that this is a special, yea, mighty special event. Dress for worship is certainly worthy of more thought and attention than dressing to attend a baseball game or throwing on clothes to go buy some paint.” (See Recommended Reading for source.)

There are communities that are so secular and so busy with every kind of activity imaginable that they do not give a moment’s thought to eternity. However, their awareness of your fidelity in attending services and being a good neighbor may open a door someday in a time of difficulty. We cannot minimize the importance of benevolence and kindness to those we meet.

Pray for the lost generically and specifically. We all know people who are not Christians, whether they are presently open to studying the Bible or not. Show kindness personally or with cards as you have opportunities. Kindness and expressions of concern to those who are weak in faith are important to helping people get to heaven.

You may never go to a foreign mission field personally, however you can “go” without leaving your community. Be encouraged by the things you are doing, instead of being discouraged by those works you cannot do personally. The work of the church involves all of us working together for the spiritual health of each member of the congregation and the spreading of the gospel near and far.

Recommended Reading

Campbell, Roger. My Savior Info. Dressing For Worship.
Jackson, Jared. Are You An Evangelist?
Jackson, Jason. Questions About Missions.
Jackson, Wayne. Dignity in Worship Leadership.
Jackson, Wayne. The Value of Human Suffering.
Lyons, Eric. Human Suffering.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Does God Desire A Positive Self-Esteem?

 by Jill Jackson

Many women struggle with low self-esteem. This may be a problem for those women because their mental picture is cultivated from personal experiences and interactions with others. Therefore, if experiences and interactions don’t provide "proof" that they’re lovable, valuable, and acceptable, then their feelings of self sit in a low, dark place. And in that low, dark place an inner voice whispers destructive words even more cutting than negative remarks of others.

Not having healthy self-esteem creates a ripple effect of problems. Relationships often struggle. Those who suffer with low self-worth can become “needy” due to a lack of confidence or engage in “prove you love me” antics to reaffirm their worth. They may withdraw for fear of rejection. They can fear failure to the point of not even trying to excel in something  because they’re convinced they can’t do it. Thus, they may never reach their potential. Those who suffer from low self-esteem frequently have an unbalanced focus on all the negatives in life which can lead to a depressed existence.

Though there may be many competing voices, (i.e. the media, friends, spouses)the one we should hear the loudest is the Lord’s. God wants us to have a positive self-worth. Consider with me the formula for a positive self-esteem found within God’s word.

First, we should feel positive about ourselves because we were created in God's image. Genesis 1:27 reads, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Of all the things God Almighty created, we (i.e. humans) are the only things created in his image. We are the only created beings with the capacity to think, reason, glorify God, and one day spend eternity with him. On that basis, we should feel positive, recognizing we are special to him.

Second, we should feel positive about ourselves because God loves us so much that he sent his Son to die for us. John said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). There is no greater love than that which the Father has for us. There is nothing that should make one feel more valuable than knowing God willingly sent his Son to die on our behalf—as undeserving sinners (cf. Romans 5:8).

Third, we should feel positive about ourselves because the Bible teaches that we are to love ourselves. Scripture instructs us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). God clearly desires that we have a healthy appreciation for ourselves. This passage does not suggest that we be filled with pride, thinking more highly of ourselves than we should, or that we love ourselves to the point that we focus on our strengths and ignore our shortcomings. What is suggested is that we deal kindly with ourselves as we would our neighbors. Appreciate the good qualities within, have patience with personal shortcomings, desire and strive to grow and do better, yet recognize the reality of imperfection. Some focus on perfection to the point that they are burdened with mistakes or failures. Certainly we should never be nonchalant when it comes to sin or weaknesses, but mistakes and failures can often be turned into opportunities to become better (Philippians 3:13-14). Love yourself. Be balanced in your feelings toward self by focusing on improving as opposed to the unrealistic goal of perfection.

Fourth, we should feel positive about ourselves because we can be valuable assets to the church. We can serve others on behalf of Christ. We were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10). The beauty of the church is that everyone is important and can make a contribution. Some are natural evangelists and can turn any conversation into a spiritual teaching opportunity. Some are excellent at sending encouraging notes. Some are truly gifted at noticing visitors, making them feel at ease and welcome in a crowd of strangers. Some love teaching our young children’s Bible classes. Whatever age, whatever stage in life, there is a job any willing person can do for the cause of Christ. No act of service in the name of Christ is insignificant (Matthew10:42). The Lord values all contributions made from a heart full of love on his behalf.

Finally, we should feel positive about ourselves because God looks on the heart. The Lord told Samuel he “sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Though the world may feed the message that our worth is based upon our looks, the Lord says the opposite. His focus in on the heart, the inner beauty that is cultivated by a love for him. There is nothing more valuable or beautiful to the Lord than seeing a servant’s heart (John13:34, Galatians 6:2).

When it comes to building a positive self-esteem and seeing ourselves as God does, we must STARVE the negativity and FEED the positivity. Starve the mind of the views of others and the media, which are unrealistic expectations. Feed on a steady diet of the biblical principles that nurture healthy self esteem. We are special beings created in God’s image. He loved us so much he sent his son for us. He wants us to love ourselves. We can do good works for God. God sees your heart—the beautiful person you are.

Recommended Reading
Jackson, Wayne.The Bible and Self-Esteem.
Jackson, Wayne.Three Views of Self.

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