Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What I Learned From My Mother...

by Betty Jackson

My mother, Irene Redden, obeyed the gospel a few months after the birth of our first-born, Joy. My childhood was not in an idyllic home. Some may look back at the good ole’ days, as portrayed on old shows such as Father Knows Best. But trouble abounds when the gospel is not present. Yet, my parents loved me and taught values that prepared me for gospel obedience when it came to my young ears.

My mother’s work ethic was honest and earnest. She did not allow slothful work, or dishonesty in her children. She taught me that any task worth doing, was worth doing well, including ironing and washing dishes.

Forgiveness was another characteristic of my mother. Have you ever disobeyed your mother, or cast an eye of disrespect? Motherly love covers a multitude of sins! She loved her children with the passion of a mother bear. 

She taught me that marriage was forever. In spite of her personal struggles in her early years as a wife, she “stuck it out.” Eventually, my father obeyed the gospel. Her example as a godly woman showed him there was a right way to live.

When Joy was born I was still a babe in Christ, with so much to learn. Yet those virtues learned from my mother were core to my mothering. Now as a mature woman, I realize more than ever their value, for this is the teaching of our Lord. In the parable of the sower, our Master Teacher said the good soil was “the honest and good heart” (Lk. 8:15). This is the only kind of heart that will hold onto God’s word and be productive in his kingdom. 

What did the Lord mean by the word “heart”? It is the soul, the conscience, the character and the will. The conscience is that innate moral quality that makes mankind different from beasts. Everyone knows that some things are right, some are wrong. But the conscience must be educated to know what is right or wrong (cf. Prov. 14:12; 16:25; 21:2).  

Parents must realize the seriousness of shepherding the hearts of their progeny. Failure to to provide the necessities of life is considered worse than the infidel by the Lord (1 Timothy 5:8). Parental responsibilities include spiritual leadership. A mother and father must lead by example to be effective molders of their offspring. Children are astute in spotting phoniness. Unless we are truly honest and good servants of God, we will be fettered in training our children.

How can honest and good hearts be created in our children? The fact that all human beings develop a conscience is an advantage. Gradually, a child will experience a conscience either “accusing or excusing” him (Rom. 2:15). Repetition is the mother of learning. This is true of educating the consciences of our youth. One teachable moment cannot accomplish the end product of an honest heart. But all those moments, hours and years together can. 

We can only summarize a few suggestions in a short article. But there are some key elements to producing honest and good hearts in our children.

First, for the wellbeing of the heart of any child, unconditional love is paramount. The nurturing process prepares the very young heart to trust his parents. Trustworthy parents are equipped to bring their children to belief in God.

Second, a child must learn to obey. Eventually a child should become aware that it is God’s will that he obeys his parents (Eph. 6:1-2). Your own respectful obedience of God’s word is key. Discipline must not be haphazard, for a child “let go” may develop a seared and self-centered heart (cf. 1 Tim. 4:2). Discipline must be age appropriate, respectful, and careful. Emotional (verbal) and physical abuse can destroy inclinations towards honesty. An abused child will likely become skilled at manipulation (deceit) for his own protection.

Third, truthfulness is crucial. A parent, whose word cannot be trusted, will have a difficult time teaching a child much of anything spiritual. Some seem to habitually lie so as not to look bad. Children pick up on this and will emulate.

Fourth, children must learn to tell the truth. The toddler doesn’t understand what lying really is at first. But verbal instruction in the beginning, to punishment when he understands, will underscore the importance of being honest. 

Fifth, forgiveness, with prayer, should always characterize the home. We must not expect perfection in our children. If we do, we are expecting what we ourselves cannot do. Be willing to ask for forgiveness from your child when you have erred toward him. And be ever ready to hold and hug a penitent child. 

Parenting is a precious opportunity to bless the world with wonderful Christians. But it doesn’t just happen.


Today is my mother's birthday. She loved flowers. A special day we shared was a view of a meadow bathed with California poppies sprinkled with blue lupines. 
She died four years ago. I miss her. But those last days were hard for her. Heaven is best. Our last moments of prayer together are still precious. She was a great encourager. Perhaps I will one day finish a project she asked me to write.

Recommended Reading

Jackson, Jason. Parents, Obey Your Father.
Jackson, Jason. Will Our Children Trust In The Lord?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What's Your Motive For Serving God?

by Jill Jackson

Christ said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). In an ideal world, those in the Lord’s body would be people who are drawn to worship the Creator because they love Him and want to please Him. If all people loved God with all their hearts and souls, then all who wear the name of Christ would obey His commands without reluctance or hesitation. In an ideal world, all Christians would serve God because they treasure the relationship they share with the Father, value the gift of life they have received through Christ, and cling to the hope of heaven.

But sadly, the reality is people are motivated to “serve” God for a lot of reasons, many of which are the wrong reasons. People can attend every worship service yet be spiritually empty. Many “serve” God for a lot of reasons, yet have no genuine love for Him or intention of obeying His commands. Presence of body in the house of God truly doesn’t equate presence of heart.

Some people “serve” God because they recognize the alternative. They’re not without belief. They believe there’s a Creator of the world (Genesis 1:1, Hebrews 3:4). They recognize there is an eternal life to come. They know they’ll be judged for their actions (2 Corinthians 5:10). And they fear eternal punishment, so they serve God. Avoiding eternity in hell is the motive behind their service instead of, as the Psalmist said, a delight to do His will because God’s law is within the heart (Psalm 40:8).

Some people “serve” God because of family associations. They have generations of Christians in their family, and they merely follow suit. They’ve always gone to church. Perhaps they can’t imagine not going to church and feel they benefit from it to some degree, but the driving force behind going is simply a routine. The church environment affects them in the church building, but after exiting through the doors they fail to stand out from the world (Romans 12:2). Church is what they do, but it’s not necessarily who they are. Habit is the motive behind their service instead of, as Paul said, one who is walking “in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” (Colossians 1:10).

Some people “serve” God because of obligation. Some people have family who do in fact have a deep devotion to God. Because of their love for their family, and perhaps the blessings they receive from those familial relationships, they walk in line so as not to upset the apple cart. Serving God is not motivated from a pureness in heart, but from a selfishness of what could be lost if they don’t keep their family happy (1 Peter 1:22).

Some “serve” God because attending worship services is their means of relieving their guilt for their transgressions—many of which they’ll plan ahead of time. “Guilt-goers” make little effort to live a righteous life. Sermons don’t penetrate the heart. But showing up and feeling sorry for whatever at that moment, wipes the slate clean in their mind, despite the fact there’s no intent to change. Showing up for worship services is not the Lord’s Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Assembling with the saints is not equal to repentance. When John the baptist preached in the wilderness of Judea he said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Repentance requires more than a fleeting thought of sorrow. It requires a genuine change of heart that reflects willful change following—to bear fruit or actions that demonstrate a recognition of wrong and a desire to change one’s life in such a way to live for God and not self.

Presence of body truly doesn’t equate presence of heart. Christ said love for God should engage our emotions, intellect and dominate our lives (Deuteronomy 6:4). The next time you walk through the doors of your congregation and take a seat on the pew, check your motives for being in the house of God. Are you serving Him for the wrong reasons? When it comes to serving God, the only motive we should have within our hearts, is to please the Father. We should be compelled to live according to His purpose and laws because He loved us like no other could—because that love compelled Him to send his Son for us. Because in the blood of His precious Son, we have life (1 John 1:7).

Recommended Reading

Jackson, Jason. Psalm 139 — A Magnificent Portrait of God.
Jackson, Wayne. Why Humanity Should Serve God.

Note: Purchased photo: please honor copyright laws. Copyright: <a href=''> / 123RF Stock Photo</a>