Saturday, October 10, 2015

Church Kid...It's Time We Had A Talk

Editor's Note:  This article was written by my wife, Sis. Elaine Hood, from the perspective of a generational Christian as well as a tenured Sunday School Teacher, Children's Church Instructor and Youth Leader.  The points here outlined are articulated, and perhaps far better, by someone who has the experience of growing up in the Church from birth as well as being the child of a preacher.  While the target audience for this article is those who have been raised in the Church, especially young people, the lessons herein are applicable to all Christians.  

By: Elaine Hood

I was privileged to grow up in church and it's a blessing I don’t take lightly.  It afforded me some benefits many of those who come into truth later don’t have.  But along with the blessings came some hindrances that often go overlooked.  There were things everyone assumed I knew and experiences we all thought I had that, in reality, I was lacking.  In working with young people through the years I have concluded that I was not alone.  There are a lot of things we very intentionally teach new converts that we assume our church kids are picking up as they go along.  There are also some experiences new converts will have simply because everything is so new to them that our church kids end up bypassing.  Please allow me to share a few of the things I had to learn the “hard way”, and maybe in doing so it will help a young person somewhere  build a more solid foundation.

1.  You are not born loving Jesus.  Just because your first sentence was “I wu Dedu” (AKA:  I love Jesus) doesn’t mean you really do.  You have to fall in love with Him just like the new convert.  There really is a place that you love Him.  It’s a feeling, an emotion, something very real.  So many times we grow up saying, “I love you, Jesus” and we fail to realize that loving Jesus is as real as loving the man/woman we plan to marry.  It’s an exhilarating, totally amazing feeling – and you need to reach that place in your relationship with Him.  And for the record, having the Holy Ghost doesn’t guarantee loving Him…if you repented and got baptized in Jesus name then you were eligible for the Holy Ghost – you didn’t have to love Him.  Ask the Lord to help you fall in love with Him…because being in love will make everything else about living for God infinitely easier and more enjoyable.

2.  Just because you grew up knowing there is one God and His name is Jesus does not mean you don’t need a revelation of the oneness.  It’s more than just making up your mind, “I believe there is one God and nobody will change that.”  It’s a definite time when it all clicks, the scriptures become abundantly and unquestionably clear, and you begin to see all the little ways the Word of God confirms that there is only one God.  When it happens you are going to get excited about it and be just as amazed as the new convert.  You are going to come to church shouting and dancing about it.  You are going to want to tell the whole world. You need this experience, because it will become an anchor point in your faith.

3.  Our holiness standards are not just to make the annoying kid next to you in algebra ask why you don’t cut your hair 14 times before the end of the school year.  You need to understand both the protection outward holiness provides and the scriptures behind it.  When you understand those two things you will find it much easier to abide by the things God has asked of us.

4.  You are NOT immune to backsliding.  Every time you hear a sermon on dedicating your life to God, go dedicate your life to God.  Trust me, when you hit the end of your rope and think you can’t make it through another day, all those altar calls with tears pouring down your face telling God you will give Him your all kick in to help you tie the knot in the rope and hang on. Incidentally, this doesn’t stop when you become an adult – we never get done reminding ourselves and God that we are totally committed to Him.

5.  Just because you have had the Holy Ghost for 6 years doesn’t mean you will never have the experience of running to an altar knowing that if you die before you pray back through you are going to hell.  Don’t hesitate to go.  We’ve all been there and we will all be there again. And if you will forgive a short rabbit trail, just automatically go to the altar EVERY SERVICE.  Then nobody wonders why you went to the altar when you are struggling, and you won’t have an internal debate about whether or not to go.

6.  Prayer is not something you automatically know how to do.  I know this sounds horrible, but you really need to eavesdrop on some prayers.  I don’t mean stick your ear by a closed door and snoop, but go to the prayer room and listen to some old, seasoned saints as they touch God.

7.  Knowing the basic doctrine doesn’t mean you know the scriptural basis for that doctrine.  Many of us have sat through a million Bible studies.  I grew up sitting on couches in strangers’ houses quietly listening as my parents taught home Bible Studies.  Pastors and Sunday School teachers taught me lesson after lesson.  So I was stunned at 16, after 5 years of teaching Sunday School, to discover I had no idea which scriptures to use to explain the plan of salvation.  Oh, I knew Acts 2:38 and I could explain Matthew 28:19, but get me past the basics and I was lost.  And of course I made this grand discovery when a friend asked me why I believed the Holy Ghost came with the evidence of tongues and why it was all necessary.  God was merciful.  About the time I started to stutter she had to get off the phone and I got a brief reprieve to grab a couple study books and a Bible and get answers.  I spent the next couple months learning how to teach the plan of salvation.  A suggestion for the wise: learn it before you unexpectedly need to teach it.  It’s vital both for your own salvation and for you to help others find truth.

8.  Ask questions…when a new convert comes in they ask questions and more questions.  Yes, some things you should know from growing up in church, but also realize that there are probably many things you have “heard” but they didn’t register because you weren’t ready or hungry for that knowledge yet.  So ask what you want to know.  We don’t think you’re dumb or backslidden or that you have zoned out for the last 13 years. We had to ask when we were ready too.

Growing up in church is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t provide any shortcuts in living for God.  The same things still have to be learned, and ultimately, the same basic experiences have to happen for someone to build a solid spiritual foundation regardless of if they were raised in church or came in from a life of drugs, alcohol and illicit living.  The ground at the foot of the cross truly is level and we all have a lot to learn about how to live for God.  So let’s join hands with our church families and help each other reach Heaven.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hymspirational Moment #6


Verse 1
Take time to be holy, speak oft with the Lord, 
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God's children; help those who are weak, 
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek. 

Verse 2
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on,
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be,
Thy friends in they conduct His likeness shall see.

Verse 3
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy guide,
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow thy Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.

Verse 4
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul, 
Each tho't and each motive, beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.

Holiness.  So misunderstood.  For some it is declared as a list of rules to be obeyed while, for others, it is a state imputed requiring nothing of the recipient.  Biblically speaking, holiness is the state of being separated unto God.  The holy life is a life which ceases to be its own and finds contentment in sacrificing self-will on the altar of confidence.  It is a state of being which includes a change of actions, attitudes and motives as a reaction of appreciation for the dispensation of grace.

Take time to be holy.  It is not a casual pursuit.  As the world rushes on, a Christian must slow down and find good fellowship in the hovering presence of the Holy Spirit.  An individual must purpose daily to put to death the selfish desires which guide the carnal man and, in their place, exalt the will of God.  That investment of time begins with prayer.  Speak often to the Lord in a secret place with Jesus alone.  Through out time of devotional prayer and conversation with Christ we will begin to reflect His nature as a product of our nearness.  Without prayer, true holiness is an impossibility.

From the prayer closet we must pass by the study desk.  The Word of God must become of more importance than our daily bread.  Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  Faith produces action which is sustained by confidence.  All of it is rooted in the Word.  How can we trust in that which we do not know?  And how can we know the Word without spending time digging through its sacred pages earnestly seeking the great spiritual treasure buried within?

Whether in the prayer closet, the study or in the world beyond our front door, the one pursuing holiness must be a follower of Christ.  The Spirit must be allowed to lead.  No matter what happens in life, be it great sorrow or joy, follow the Lord and do not attempt to run ahead of Him.  In doing so others shall see the likeness of Christ in you and be drawn to your Heavenly Father.

Make friends of God's children and help those who are week.  Maintaining a lifestyle committed to holiness is far easier in the company of like-minded Believers.  Isolation breeds foul spirits, discouragement and a skewed perspective.  Because of the loneliness a Christian might feel as a result of their decision to follow Christ, fellowship with fellow Christians is a necessity.  Furthermore, by helping those that are week, sick, shut-in and otherwise destitute the nature of Christ is reflected.  True religion, according to Apostle James, includes visiting widows and orphans in their affliction.

In the end, we will be prepared to walk into eternity as servants of God.  And, as faithful servants of the Lamb, we shall receive the great inheritance of eternal sonship along side the Almighty Father.  Take time to be holy and, in eternity, you will find that it was time very well spent.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

One Year of The Bruised Reed Blog

This blog began because of the encouragement of a few individuals.  Throughout the past year, God has used it in ways that I never would have imagined.  The Bruised Reed Blog is being read by 5,491 users in 951 cities in 90 nations around the world.  The purpose remains the same:  Reaching the world with messages of truth learned in the school of brokenness.   

I would like to thank a few special people who have been instrumental in pushing this blog forward:  Sister Maxine Locklear of Menard, Texas who has consistently encouraged me to write, Pastor Ron Townsley of Princeton, Illinois who told me, "If you ever throw anything you write away, make sure I'm your trash can", Missionary Tim Joiner of Belize, Central America who has rained more praise on my writing ability than I ever deserved, Pastor Kevin Archer of Hollywood, Florida who has reminded me of the need for Apostolic writers in our time and, last but not least, my wife Elaine who, as a scholar in her own right, is my most trusted editor and, as the love of my life, my most ardent supporter.

To all of you who continue to read and share the content of this website, thank you for being a part of what the Lord is doing through The Bruised Reed Blog.  I look forward to what the next year holds in store!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

God Uses Consequences

"When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother's womb.” And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her—please.” But the Lord said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again." - Numbers 12:10-15 (ESV)

Aaron and Miriam, two individuals who had been called of God along side Moses to bring about the deliverance of the Hebrews and guide them in the wilderness, were now walking in the footsteps of rebels.  They were offended because of the interracial marriage of Moses and, emboldened with pride and contentiousness, rose up in opposition of the Prophet of God.  As a result, God called all three of them into His presence and there pronounced judgment against the offending parties.

For whatever reason, God caused leprosy to strike Miriam because of her rebellion while not so afflicting Aaron.  Why one was punished so severely while the other was not is not given to us to know but, trusting in the righteousness of God, we can only assume that there was a greater level of culpability in Miriam's case.  When they saw that her skin was turned as white as snow Aaron and Moses both cried out to the Lord to heal her immediately that the leprosy would not be allowed to continue.

The Lord's reply was, in essence, "If her father had only spit in her face she'd be unclean seven days.  She's unclean.  Put her out of the camp for seven days just like all the other lepers."  In other words, "Moses and Aaron you've got to realize that there are consequences for actions.  Please don't ask me to suspend the consequence.  There is a lesson to be learned here and Miriam and my people must learn it."  It may appear that God was being heartless but, in fact, He was attempting to be merciful.  Just perhaps those who would witness that the Almighty God was unwilling to spare even His called and chosen leaders from the consequences of their sinful behavior would be sufficient to persuade others to maintain moral rectitude.  Not only that, but it would teach Miriam a personal lesson in the consequences of sin.

In reading the passage in Numbers 12 I was reminded of an elder Sister who once testified about the return of her wayward son to Christ.  When her son decided to stop following Christ and, instead, follow a life of gross sin and rebellion, she began praying for him daily that God would protect and save him.  The son went on in sin with no sign of returning to God.  One night the Sister prayed again saying, "Lord, please protect and save my son."  The Lord answered her, "I CAN PROTECT HIM OR SAVE HIM BUT I CAN'T DO BOTH."

Soon the mother realized what the Lord was saying.  It was not that it was impossible for the Lord to both protect and save but, rather, that the hand of Divine protection shielding the son as a result of the mother's prayers was a hindrance to the means by which salvation might be brought about.  The mother stopped praying for protection and, instead, began to plead, "Lord, I trust you with my son.  Do whatever you must that he might be saved."  Not long thereafter, the son's life was turned upside down.  In time, he ran back to God and was reconciled.  He continued to faithfully follow Christ thereafter much to the joy of his mother.

The moral of the story is simple:  You must trust God enough to allow those you love to face the consequences of their actions.  It's not right to always bail your loved ones out of their consequences.  In fact, in doing so, you might be hindering their ability to reconcile to God.  Parents never want to see their children suffer but some children turn into rebellious adults because they were never allowed to fall in their childhood.  Young people need to know that there are consequences for sin in particular and consequences in life in general.  How will they learn if we constantly shield them from the results of their own bad actions?

Hebrews 12:6-11 gives us the mind of God in regard to the subject at hand.

"For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it."

Consequences are the natural instrument created by God to teach mankind so that we may share in His holiness.  When we attempt to suspend the natural "cause and effect" mechanism we are actively fighting against the means by which the Almighty would try to correct the erring.  There must come a point when we trust the Lord enough to allow Him to work through the avenue of consequences.

This is not applicable to others only.  How often do we try to circumvent the consequences of our own actions because we would rather not endure them?  What lessons are we learning when we refuse to receive the chastisement of consequences?  How strongly are we pushing against the attempts by our Father to share His holiness with us when we reject discipline?  Can we not understand that, just as a natural father uses consequences in discipline of his children, our Heavenly Father so corrects His children?

God uses consequences.  We should not shelter children and young people from them.  They must learn that life is hard and actions have reactions.  We should not shelter ourselves from consequences.  Through enduring the hardship of correction which is painful for a season we will receive the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  Consequences are training for life and one who is habitually "skipping class" will soon find himself in a self-destructive pattern of living.

Saint of God, perhaps it is time to take your hand off your loved ones and stop praying for God to protect them from the consequences of their actions.  It just might be that you are being a hindrance and praying in a manner discordant to the will of God.  Furthermore, in your own life, accept responsibility for your actions and do not seek to escape consequences.  It is part of growing.  It is part of maturity.  God uses consequences.  It is His will.