Tag Archives: family

Slaves to Stress

IMG_3180Body, soul and spirit—we are all three, and each affects the others.

Did you know that 75-90% of doctor visits take place for stress-related ailments—headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, upset stomach, sleeping problems? These stress-related issues chronically affect 43% of adults, costing billions of dollars a year to the workplace, causing hazards to others. The tendency is to self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex.

These issues affect Christians as well as non-Christians. The real cause of stress often has spiritual roots. It may affect people who have gone to church all their lives and are busy in the Lord’s work. Why? Because they have unresolved issues they can’t resolve simply by reading a good book, going to church or Bible study, memorizing scripture, as good as these things are.

Stress often comes because we have learned lies about ourselves from life experiences and from the father of lies, to render us useless, to harm us and even kill us. Often, we have little idea how sin corrupts everything. The enemy, more clever than we, has kept us from seeing the truth.

The Bible warns us that sin has power in this world. Lies about life can destroy us. The enemy keeps these lies below our consciousness to wound and harm us for decades without our knowing the lies are there. We experience continual defeat, and defeat causes stress.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” Jesus said. Paul also said this when he wrote, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

For this, we need not just to “get information” but get the help of the Holy Spirit to discern our situation and to speak truth to us through applied scripture. When the truth of scripture shines on the lies of the enemy and of life that have governed and limited us, the enemy retreats, and we gain freedom. The source of our stress is removed, and we regain physical and emotional health as well as spiritual health.

Psychology alone, which depends upon humanistic theories, does not suffice for this spiritual work of renewal and setting free. But it can take place through the help of men and women gifted and trained in biblical counseling.

Biblical counseling is not just another form of psychology, nor is it simply limited to spiritual issues. Rather, it is a means of applying the truth of the Bible to all of life—spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. A biblical counselor enables a person to identify the source of his problem—the lie that is keeping him in bondage—and to shine the light of the Word upon it. The light of truth always dispels the works of darkness.

Biblical counseling is a new and growing avenue of grace and redemption, setting people free and renewing minds for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. It is winning people to Christ and setting men, women and children free to become the people God meant them to be.

We thank God for this new avenue of grace and redemption that has become available at India Bible College & Seminary. Pray that God will call more men and women into this unique ministry, and that millions of people in India and beyond will receive its benefits.

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Gender Justice in light of the Bible

Gender Justice ScaleA major worldwide issue today is gender justice—ending inequalities between men and women in the family, workplace and larger community. Christian approaches to this critical problem can help to reveal the character of the gospel to the rest of the world.

Female subjugation is a worldwide tragedy. More women, aged 15-44, die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Millions of women and girls suffer sex slavery. A woman dies in childbirth every minute. Women suffer from illiteracy, medical discrimination and many other things more than men. Sons are valued more than daughters. In India and elsewhere, this is a millennia-old calamity.

This calamity results from the fall. To understand what true gender justice is, we must return to what God originally intended when He created the first man and woman. We find that in Genesis 2:18. Many English translations say something like this: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Historically, even in the church, we have considered the woman as an assistant to the man, a “helpmeet.” But the original Hebrew, ezer, does not allow this weak interpretation. This word, rich in meaning, actually means more like “comrade,” or “ally,” a “mirror image” or “complement,” one who supplies something the man lacks and can never do alone.

In the Old Testament, ezer is used of God 16 of the 21 times it appears, as helper to His people. It is used twice of Eve. In other words, just as God supplied vital help to His chosen people, the woman also performs a vital, God-ordained role without which something important never gets done. The woman performs an essential, equal, but different, role in partnership with the man.

In this plan, the man is the “head” of the woman (like the head of one’s body). “Headship” does not mean “hierarchy,” any more than God the Father is superior to the Son in His essence. Even in the church, this basic truth is imperfectly understood.

From these biblical principles, male domination subverts God’s original plan and prevents a man from being a man. Male domination is part of the curse that befalls humanity after the fall (Genesis 3:16). Feminism also subverts God’s original plan because it reacts or rebels naturally against male domination, but fails to recover God’s intended role for women as ezer.

We are all fallen beings and none of us, even as Christians, ever perfectly follows God’s original plan in our marriages and other relationships with the opposite sex. We have lost who we truly are.

However, we who have entered Christ’s kingdom by His grace have His Holy Spirit through Whom we may recover what we lost through the fall. When we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit in our marriages, in our church fellowships and in the marketplace, we begin to recover those truths Adam and Eve knew before they lost fellowship with God.

When we do this, many outside the Kingdom will begin to grasp the practical implications of the gospel and want it for themselves. Pray that as men and women of His Kingdom, we will learn these lessons well for His glory and the advancement of His Kingdom. India needs this. So do we all.

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The First Mission Field

2017-03-slum-school-children-prayerOur children are our first mission field.

We live in a turbulent world inhabited by troubled youth and children, alienated from their families and society. Apart from a dramatic intervention by God, we face a troubled future whenever such troubled youth grow up, become parents themselves and take their places in seats of government, business, education, the arts, media and communication. How we raise our children today, influences our society for generations to come.

These things do not “just happen.” Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul identified a major cause for an alienated generation when he wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Too many parents stimulate rebellious spirits in their children when they resort to harsh discipline or fail to discipline them at all. Such extremes never work. What is needed is right discipline.

The key to right discipline is for parents to first discipline themselves, to submit themselves to their heavenly Father. Parents submitted to God know their children are not their personal possessions to treat as they please, but gifts of God. Parents are not to use children for their own purposes and ambitions, but to patiently help them to develop the unique personalities God gave each of them.

Like us, our children are born in sin. We depend upon God’s mercy and grace in our own lives, and we must treat our own children’s shortcomings with mercy and grace. Discipline is necessary, but to humiliate a child or inflict physical, verbal or emotional abuse have no place in a Christian home.

Paul tells us to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This means parents must learn to sacrifice their own interests to bring their children into emotional and spiritual maturity by instruction and example. Fathers and mothers must spend less time at the office or other activities to accomplish this God-given mission. Their own children are always their first priority.

Trying to force religion down their children’s throats or coerce a “decision for Christ” is never right. Going to church, Sunday school and youth group are good, but even better, children should see in their parents consistent character, integrity, and kindness that win their respect and motivate them to become like their parents.

They should see in their parents a worldview and lifestyle that sets them apart from parents of neighbors and friends. They should understand from their parents that this difference comes because of God’s gospel of grace in their lives.

Children should hear regularly from their parents how God has changed their lives, answered their prayers, and been faithful. Children should see in their parents the joy of the Lord, and know their parents pray for them every day.

Children should see and hear their parents read their Bibles and pray for those in need. They should hear their parents apply the scriptures to their lives, work and family. They should see their parents take a vital interest in those who still live in darkness without the gospel.

Yes, our children and grandchildren are our first mission field. If we have done our job right, our children will more likely become God’s ambassadors to their own children and a needy world around them.

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Grace to the Graceless

2016-10-graceOur effective fulfilling the Great Commission sometimes depends upon how we honor the most dishonorable people of our lives with God’s grace. This may include parents who mistreated, neglected and abused us.

To a degree, we all experience dysfunction. All parents are sinners. Yet some of us have or had parents who gave us little more than misery and torment. Just the thought of them revolts us. God commands us to honor our parents, but how do we honor them?

You cannot truly obey this command until you first know God and the great work He has already done for you through Jesus Christ — deep in your heart, not just in your head. This requires a supernatural act, the earnest of the Holy Spirit, assuring you of deep gospel truths in deep ways, as they apply to your unique situation.

Those truths include God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justifying and glorifying of you before creation (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-5). You may have terrifying or awful parents, but long before God created Adam and Eve, He chose to pull you from this muck and make you His own. Not even the cruelest parents can pluck you from His hand.

Vietnamese people have a proverb that well illustrates this fantastic truth: “The lotus grows in mud, but it doesn’t smell of mud.” You are that lotus. Discover who you really are in Him, and He will give you the grace to honor wretched parents even as He has chosen to honor you.

Remember that God is a “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 65:8). He can use everything for the good of those who love Him and are called of Him (Romans 8:28). Take a small step of faith toward Him, see Him act, then take another step. Be honest with God about your feelings. As a man, He was “despised and rejected . . . a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” (Isaiah 53:3) so He understands your situation perfectly. He wants to help you do what you can’t do yourself.

Remember that honor is primarily an action, not a feeling. It is an offer of God’s grace to graceless people. It does not mean trusting them or tolerating further abuse or rewarding their evildoing. Thank God He is big enough he can even use such nasty people to bring you into the world and adopt you into His royal family!

Practically speaking, how can we honor dishonorable parents? Here are some suggestions:

  • Become willing to forgive them and release emotional baggage. Only the Holy Spirit can help you do this. With Him all things are possible (Mark 10:22). Read Lewis Smedes’ Forgive and Forget—a helpful book.
  • When possible, call and listen to them, and say nothing when they say hurtful things.
  • When possible, do acts of kindness for them.
  • Accept them where they are. Don’t expect them to match your expectations.
  • Note any good things they may have done and express gratitude for them.
  • Don’t criticize your parents before other family members.
  • Create safe boundaries to prevent manipulation.
  • Teach your children to love their grandparents.
  • Pray for parents who mistreated you.
  • Let your relationship with Christ shine through. Who knows? God’s grace in your life, shown to them, may eventually bring them to Christ. It happens.

Sometimes the hardest people to win for Christ come from under our own roof. Let God use this acid test to train you to reach around the world in His name.

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When Our Children Don’t Succeed

All of us who have children want them to succeed in life. We become overjoyed when they do, and we proudly tell others of their accomplishments. Their success reflects upon us. In a very real sense, we regard their success as our success.

What if they don’t succeed? What if their accomplishments are few, or worse, what if they fail and become burdens to our family and to society? Whose fault is it? Most parents tend to blame themselves. They spend endless hours asking themselves where they went wrong and where they failed God, not always able to arrive at solid conclusions.

May I offer a word of comfort to such parents: God the Father is the most perfect of parents, but all of His children (you and me) are abject failures in His sight. Is it possible that God the Father does not judge us as parents on whether our children succeed in life but on the way we live out His love and grace toward them? None of us will ever have a perfect family this side of heaven. So what is God looking for?

Christian family counselor Emmerson Eggerichs suggests a worthy biblical model for a good parent in the father of the prodigal son and his ungrateful older brother. In their own ways, both sons are miserable failures.

In this parable, Jesus clearly wants us to imitate the father’s grace toward his sinful sons. Throughout this parable, the father demonstrates remarkable patience in the face of outrageous behaviors and attitudes. As we study this parable, we become amazed that the father does not disown both of them for their insulting and ungrateful ways.

The father in Jesus’ parable represents God Himself. This means that to become successful parents, we must learn to first love God even more than we love our children. When we learn to love God first, we soon become overwhelmed by His grace. When we see the powerful grace of God working in our own sinful lives, we begin to take a different attitude toward our children and their failures. We begin to see them from God’s perspective.

Rather than see (and even resent) our wayward children as imperfect reflections of ourselves, we begin to think of them in the way that God regards us. Rather than judging or even rejecting our children, we begin to show them the same grace of God that He has displayed toward us. Like the prodigal son, some of our wayward children may return “home,” humble and repentant and ready to serve God and their fellow man.

Even if our children do not return, we will have the peace of knowing we succeeded in demonstrating the grace of God toward them.

Let us all learn to become overwhelmed by the grace of God. Let that growing experience of His grace make us the best parents. It will also help us to submit to our husbands, give ourselves to our wives, and do things that encourage rather than discourage our children. It will also make our gospel message more credible to a world filled with failure.

God’s grace helps us to accept others’ failures when we see how God receives us in spite of our failures.

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God is the Owner

“Stewardship is another term for fundraising.”

How many times have you heard or thought that? This common misconception permeates our culture, even in the church, but it is heresy of the worst sort.

“Stewardship” comes from the Greek word, oikenomous, from which we derive our words, “economy” and “economics.” Originally, it referred to someone who managed a household. He did not own the household, but held it in trust for the owner. As Christians, our owner is God. We are to maintain and manage our “household” on His terms, not ours.

Our “household” contains all that makes up who we are and have, and the environment in which He places us, all of which He owns. We are not the owners but the managers of our abilities, gifts, talents, money, time—and our salvation.

Stewardship is another word for ministry, and ministry is another word for service. Both “ministry” and “service” come from the same Hebrew and Greek words. Stewards are servants used by others for their purposes. True Christians are “on call” by God for His purposes, not our own. His purposes always involve us and the redemption of the lost, of renewal and restoration, and re-creation.

Servants obey the orders of their master, but we serve a Master who has already proven His service to us. We do not serve a tyrant but One who has already served us beyond the call of duty. When we were sinners, Christ died for us. He took the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:7) when He put aside His glory and came from glory as one of us.

As Christians, to become a “steward” is another way of saying, “Have this attitude in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” This servant attitude includes such qualities as encouragement, consolation of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and compassion, a spirit of unity, oneness of purpose, humility of spirit, looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).

Paul responded to Jesus’ servanthood by saying, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

In other words, stewardship means more than just how we use our money (although it includes that). It is a way of life. It involves our whole beings in relationship to Jesus Christ and others in the light of how He has served us, as individuals and as the church. It is using our lives and experiences to serve His purposes for this world and for the New Heaven and New Earth.

Stewardship means learning to see where we are now and where we would have been apart from His foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying and glorifying us through Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Stewardship is our response to the staggering realization that out of His pure mercy and grace alone, we are part of His royal family.

There are no small people in God’s royal family. If you are part of His family, whatever your gifts and life experiences, you have a strategic place as God’s steward. Someone has said, “[A city] can manage quite well for a long time without a mayor, but we can’t manage many days without garbage collectors.”

Whether you are a mayor, a garbage collector, or something else, others are depending upon your service and ministry right now. Don’t let them—or Him—down.

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Jesus Loves the Children

Jesus Christ came into the world as a helpless child. That says everything about the importance of children to God. During His ministry, Jesus attracted children, and He enjoyed their company. He exploded with indignation when His disciples treated children as pests and drove them away.

IGO Boy 2015 BChildren especially have the right to hear and see Jesus in their own parents. It is understandable how non-Christian parents would ignore this. But do we believers, including pastors, evangelists and church leaders, inadvertently quench the Holy Spirit in our children and withhold them from vital relationships with Christ

Parents have high expectations for their children, but do our noble expectations match gifts and personalities God has given them? Do we frustrate our children’s walk with Christ by creating doubts in their minds about whom God made them to be?

Do our own lives reflect childlike humility that Jesus praises? A child instinctively feels the crush of parental pride even if they have no words for it. Children know we aren’t perfect. Do we willingly admit when we are wrong? Do we model humble and repentant attitudes so they more easily reflect the same before their heavenly Father?

If you want to test your humility, ask your children, especially your older ones, about your mistakes in raising them. Let them speak without intimidation or interruption. Be sure to ask forgiveness of them and of God. It will bring healing to all.

Do your children often see you pray, read your Bible and apply what you have read? Do they hear you pray for great things? Do you speak to your children of your faith, including your struggles? Your children may not understand all your faith struggles, but do you try to communicate in ways that will encourage them when they inevitably ask hard questions?

Do you understand the Bible so well that you regularly teach your children the great doctrines with simplicity and accuracy? Children have strong spiritual instincts, and they absorb great truths if taught on their level. Some of our best prayer warriors are young children.

If you teach a child just 15 minutes a day in the things of the Lord, you will give them the equivalent of half a Master of Divinity degree by the time they graduate from high school. You will also give them valuable lessons of life and faith that can never be measured in time.

As believers in Christ, we do well to stand for the rights of children forced to work, sell their bodies and sacrifice their educations and futures for adults who view them as commodities or extensions of themselves. Standing for children’s rights is the way of Jesus, and it also opens receptive young lives to the Good News.

While we defend their rights, let us not hinder our own children’s walks with God. God will heal us when we repent of our failures in raising them. In so doing, we will speak of children’s rights with greater authority and bear more fruit.

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