Saturday, 30 August 2014

Preventing Divorce

     While our God is unquestionably a God of love (1 John 4:8), there are actually some things the Bible says he hates – among which is the termination of lawful marriages (Malachi 2:16). It goes without saying that God’s people must never teach or practice anything that would condone, endorse, promote, or encourage that which God hates. But what positive steps can be taken to prevent divorce?
     Divorce is prevented when spouses fulfill their God-given responsibilities toward each other. If every married couple respected God’s marriage law and followed God’s instruction manual, divorce would be non-existent. “Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband” (1 Cor. 7:3 NKJV). Husbands must love and honor their wives and be Christ-like leaders in the home (Eph. 5:23-33; 1 Pet. 3:7). Wives are to submit to, respect, and love their husbands (Eph. 5:22-33; Titus 2:4-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). Imagine how many marital problems would be resolved if every spouse was more patient, kind, humble, selfless, and trusting (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
     Divorce is prevented when children are taught, by example and instruction, to respect the institution of marriage and to view it as a permanent union. The influence of television, the movie industry, and our worldly society must be superseded by the good examples of Christian couples, the faithful instruction of Bible class teachers, and the healthy environment provided by Christian parents.

    Divorce is prevented when we encourage our singles to be faithful Christians and to marry faithful Christians. Granted, marrying a professing Christian will not automatically ensure a successful marriage, but when both partners share the same faith and the same commitment to a divinely-governed marriage, the odds are stacked considerably in their favor.

    Divorce is prevented when Christians study their Bibles diligently to understand the Lord’s will concerning marriage. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the will of God (Hos. 4:6). When discussing controversial issues like divorce and remarriage, it’s an easy cop-out to say, “Well, I haven’t really studied it enough.” While this may be a valid excuse for an immature Christian, there comes a time when a child of God must study this subject to the point he or she knows what the Bible teaches. It affects too many lives to be complacent and content with ignorance.

    Divorce is prevented when church leaders have enough conviction, courage, and concern to take a firm stand and publicly teach and defend the truth on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Jesus and Paul did not remain silent on this issue, even though it was as controversial in the first century as it is today. Teachers of God’s word will be held accountable both for what they teach and for what they neglect to teach (Acts 20:26-27; 1 Tim. 4:16; James 3:1).

    Divorce is prevented when Christians refuse to compromise with the world (Rom. 12:1-2). The devil succeeds when couples divorce and remarry contrary to God’s will, when unscriptural marriages are tolerated in congregations, when the word of God is ignored or twisted to accommodate sinful unions, and when brethren are led to believe this issue is unimportant. By exhibiting lax attitudes toward God’s marriage and moral laws, the church succumbs to the destructive influence of the world.

    Divorce is prevented when Christians are united on what the Bible teaches concerning this matter. Accepting a wide variety of interpretations and applications does anything but prevent divorce. If the “agree to disagree” mentality is allowed to prevail, unlawful marriages will continue multiplying in the church, generating more conflict and putting more souls at risk. Divided scholarship must never be used to justify disunity among brethren.

    In our attempts to prevent divorce – compassion, patience, and kindness must always be shown (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Confronting sin must never be done in a mean-spirited way, neither should our love for sinners induce us to tolerate or condone sin. We must speak the truth in love and restore the erring in a spirit of gentleness (Eph. 4:15; Gal. 6:1), while being careful not to forget our primary aims of obeying the Lord and saving souls.

–Kevin L. Moore

Originally appearing in The Exhorter (April-June 2000) and republished in The Summit Chronicle 6:1 (January 2008): 6. 

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Friday, 22 August 2014

Counting the Cost of Being a Missionary (Part 2 of 2)

     Ironically, the longer one stays on the mission field, the more difficult it becomes to leave. Instead of “doing his time” and “getting it out of his system,” the missionary may very well find that the burden which brought him to the mission field in the first place has only grown stronger and is keeping him there. Being aware of a need is one thing, but to actually see it with one’s own eyes is another. It will change a person’s life forever. Any thoughts of leaving make the missionary uneasy and heavy-hearted. And if he stays long enough, he may find that he cannot leave. Is this a price I’m willing to pay?
     Now that some may be questioning whether the price is too great, let’s consider the alternative. What if you never become a missionary? What price is to be paid then? While being a missionary is unquestionably hard, I sincerely believe that not being a missionary is even harder. Keeping the gospel to yourself is like trying to hold a live coal in your hands. Admittedly some have become so callused that it doesn’t bother them very much, if at all. However, if you have any appreciation for what the Lord has done for you and are the least bit concerned about the lost and dying world, how easy is it to sit idly by and do nothing? “O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace . . . . But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (Jeremiah 4:19; 20:9b NKJV).
     On the other side of counting the cost are the dividends of your investment. I honestly feel sorry for those who allow their fears and doubts to hold them back and never get to experience the extraordinary missionary life. I have met few missionaries who have regrets about what they have chosen to do. Surely one can stay home and avoid all the apprehension, anxiety, homesickness, frustration, culture shock, et al., but consider how very much will be forfeited.
     Missionary work offers unique challenges that are hard to find in other professions, and consequently tremendous spiritual, mental, and emotional growth is inevitable. It has been said that the strongest trees grow in the wind, and the apostle Paul was almost certainly the caliber of man he was because of his missionary experiences (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18). It doesn’t take a spiritual giant to become a missionary, but it is nearly impossible to remain spiritually dwarfed on the mission field. This honorable, worthwhile, and rewarding vocation is anything but dull, monotonous, or boring. It is challenging, character-building, and life-changing.
     On the mission field the Bible seems to come to life in a more vivid way than in other environments. I have met several people in the course of my missionary work who have reminded me of characters I’ve read about in the Bible. It is so amazing to encounter a modern-day Cornelius or Lydia or Timothy and to see the word of God transform their lives before your very eyes. Working with people for whom the gospel is new, fresh, and exciting has great rewards. There are no preconceived misconceptions about the church of Christ. Non-essential cultural baggage is more easily stripped away as the Bible is studied and applied afresh. Fundamentals are not taken for granted. Ethnic integration, a real family atmosphere among brethren, and even the inevitable problems are all reminiscent of the early days of Christianity.
     Although “sacrifice” is viewed by many as a dirty word and as something to be avoided if at all possible, it tends to be blown way out of proportion. We live in a society that stresses comfort, security, convenience, luxury, and the accumulation of material things. People want to be happy and feel good, but they don’t want to give, to be inconvenienced, or to make sacrifices. That’s why so many end up miserable and discontent. Yet sacrifice is an integral part of being a Christian (Romans 12:1), and this is not because the Lord wants us to lose out on anything advantageous – to the contrary!
     Those who tend to emphasize the sacrificial aspect of missionary work are usually the ones who have never done it. But often what may initially look like a sacrifice or a hardship turns out to be a doorway into a life of tremendous blessings (cf. Mark 10:30; Luke 9:24). While God is not primarily interested in our comfort and convenience, he is interested in blessing people through us, and consequently blessing us in the process. As a missionary I in no way feel slighted or deprived. I actually feel bad for those who have not had the same opportunities and experiences that I have been privileged to have. Any so-called sacrifices fade into insignificance when compared to things like close friendships around the world, souls won to Christ and headed for heaven, established and growing churches, new cultures, exotic foods, breath-taking scenery, and a multitude of priceless memories. To experience the Lord working in your life and in the lives of those around you puts the concept of “sacrifice” into a whole new perspective. You never have to be afraid of God or of what he will do if you unreservedly put your life into his hands.
     To be a missionary or not to be a missionary, that is the question. There is a price to be paid either way. Wanting to make a difference in this world is a noble pursuit, but how much greater is the aim of making a difference in eternity. With the Lord’s help, the potential impact you can make, along with all others who are willing to take up the challenge, is unfathomable. “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).
--Kevin L. Moore

*Adapted from my book, The Single Missionary [2002] 77-85.

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Saturday, 16 August 2014

Counting the Cost of Being a Missionary (Part 1 of 2)

      Jesus taught that in order to be his disciple one must first “count the cost,” and if the potential disciple is not willing to make a full commitment to the end, he shouldn’t even start (Luke 14:26-35 NKJV). I believe the same principle also applies to prospective missionaries. If you venture into the mission field unprepared and unaware of what you’re getting into (i.e. not having counted the cost), you’re in for quite a shock. And if you do not possess the necessary determination, adaptability, and fortitude to stick it out and persevere, you will have wasted a lot of time, money, self-esteem, peace of mind, and dignity. Better to not even go at all than to unnecessarily renege on a solemn commitment.
     It is very important to have realistic expectations. Be sensibly aware that the missionary life is not always exciting, adventurous, satisfying, or even visibly productive. It seems glamorous to just about everybody except those on the mission field. It involves a lot of hard work, apprehension, frustration, and disappointment. Some will put the missionary up on a pedestal and laud his feeble efforts, making him feel uncomfortable and unworthy. Others, unaware of what it’s really like, will question his use of time and money and criticize his lack of results. Some will view him with disdain because he has forsaken loved ones to preach to foreigners when there are needs at home to be met. Certain ones will act uneasy around him because, in their view, he is not a “regular Christian” but a hard-to-relate-to peculiarity, and conversations will tend to be awkward and one-sided. Once you step into those missionary shoes, your life will never be the same.
     For those who are accustomed to having a parent, teacher, or boss setting their schedule and standing over them with a list of chores, assignments or duties which are expected to be completed by a predetermined deadline, a rude awakening awaits on the mission field. The missionary is responsible for organizing and implementing his own schedule. If he is not a self-starter and a self-motivator, he runs the risk of becoming lazy, disorganized, and ineffective. But if he is being supported to do the Lord’s work, he has a solemn obligation, both to God and to his supporters, to exercise good stewardship of his time and resources (1 Corinthians 9:16-17). Most conscientious missionaries tend to go to the opposite (workaholic) extreme, but if you feel that inefficiency may be a problem for you, start working to overcome it right now!
     While it is possible to be content in any situation in life (Philippians 4:11), this is not to say that a missionary will ever be fully satisfied. As long as he is on the mission field, there will be degrees of longing for family, friends, brethren, places, foods, events, and the cultural norms of home. And once he has adapted to his new environment and established new relationships, if he returns to his former homeland he will experience the same feelings in reverse. It is almost like a permanent state of homesickness, and few missionaries are ever completely satisfied on this side of eternity (cf. Philippians 1:8; 2:26; 2 Corinthians 11:28).
--Kevin L. Moore

*Adapted from my book, The Single Missionary [2002] 77-85.

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