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End Times: Family and Ministry
“Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.” (Proverbs 23:22.)
What does despising or not despising our parents have to do with End Times?
Actually it foretells our very own “Revelation,” End Time experience and whether it will end well or turn out to be a very personal, overwhelming traumatic event. Therefore it is something we should take seriously and carefully consider.
“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” (Exodus 20:12)
Jesus described End Times in John 16 as a birthing process when He compared it to a woman in travail. He explained that, like labor pains, there will be periods of intense pain interrupted by brief times of rest as events unfold. So End Times could also symbolize our final journey, a type of birth canal or the spiritual road we will travel on our way to inherit the land and eternal life.
This End Time process will itself one day come to a complete end. So we must be careful not to get stuck in this channel of End Time events by getting caught up in the mystery of it all, making it an end in itself, but must “occupy ’til He comes” or keep going until we actually inherit the land and experience eternity with Christ.
The example of birthing illustrates a specific process which requires a lot of hard work and pain before the end result is seen. In this case it is the purification of the true Church that will be taking place on this journey through this End Time scenario. The Holy Spirit will be preparing the Bride of Christ to meet Him when He returns, through the power of the Word of God, as He works through the personal experiences of His people.
But if I am a real Christian and already have assurance of eternal life, why does anything more need to be done?
Real Christians do have the assurance of eternal life. However, we are reminded by the Scriptures that our relationship with Christ must be held up to the Word of God in order to be purified daily and “even more so as we see the day approaching.”
It is the Word of God that tests the genuineness of our Christian profession.
We are admonished to examine ourselves in this way to be certain that our election is sure and not merely based on our own presumptions instead of the Word and preeminence of God. Jesus warned His followers that in the end many will claim Him as Lord, but will have deceived themselves and not really know Him at all (Matthew 7).
While it is true that the law cannot save us and our salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, it is also true that not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. (Romans 2:13)
Followers of Christ are identified by their fruit not merely their good works. (A list of fruit of the Spirit can be found in Galatians, Chapter 5.)
When this genuine spiritual fruit of the heart exists, it will produce the types of works that are in harmony with the Word of God. Since Christ is our justification, these types of works justify the doers of the law because they serve as evidence that Christ has already justified them, lives in them, is specifically leading them, and that their works are a result of their relationship with the Living Word (Jesus Christ) through the written Word and Spirit of God.
On the other hand self-determined “good works” can be performed by anyone, including those who are indifferent to or even at war with God, as a means to appear to be religious, to acquire some sort of selfish advantage, to promote a personal agenda, or to conjure up a good feeling about oneself.
In other words, by feeding on the Word of God, the genuine children of God through the Spirit of God that resides in His Word will, by His grace, be empowered to do the works He has specifically called them to do. The power of the Spirit of God working in them will make it possible for them to go against their own natural, selfish inclinations in order to be in harmony with God and His specific will.
Worldlings (those who belong to the world and not to God) will not see the value of being in harmony with God and His Word and will come up with a multitude of excuses why they are unable to fulfill their responsibility to God and His Word, as that specifically defines their relationship with their family and the priority of their ministry.
Revolt against responsibility is a growing concern in the corporate world as well as in the family and church. It seems everyone wants to play, but no one wants to do what needs to be done in the specific manner required by God to insure quality, harmony, and success.
Our Creator designed relationships to be built on a cycle of love and gratitude. Even our relationship with Him is grounded in this cycle. We love Him because He first loved us.
Because I genuinely love my children, I deny myself at times in order to care for their needs: spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional regardless of how many other commitments I may have added to my schedule.
Because my personal relationship with God is preeminent in my life, He has also led me to understand that my family is my next primary focus in life; not my business, social connections, or even my membership in a church.
While the Church is ordained to provide teaching and fellowship in the Word of God and plays an important part in my Christian experience, the Church has not been given the authority to dictate my priorities. Only God Himself can do that.
So, if I run out of time and must eliminate something, it will not be my commitment to personally feed on God’s Word and maintain my personal relationship with Him or my commitment to care for my family.
When my child cries out to me, I will not tell him, “Just cry yourself to sleep, I have good works to do, places to go, and people to see.” Instead, I will take him in my arms and sing to him and give him some warm milk to comfort him.
When my baby’s messy diaper is burning his skin and needs to be changed, I will not tell him, “I’m on the phone right now, you can just wait.” No, I hurry to remove the diaper, wash, powder, and wrap him in a warm blanket, making him all clean and cozy again.
Likewise, as I get older, I trust that the children I have lovingly cared for will gratefully accept the responsibility of caring for me one day and not say, “Sorry, I’m just too busy to care about any of your spiritual, physical, mental, or emotional needs. You’re on your own.”
Today we see many of the elderly uprooted, maneuvered out of the family when they are considered no longer useful, and expected to start from scratch creating a new life alone, to live in senior communities or are confined to nursing homes prematurely instead of being allowed to continue functioning in their own family as they are able, finding love, warmth, and care within their own God-given environment.
In this way many who call themselves “Christians” withhold what is due to their parents, not aware that they are actually stealing the acts of love, gratitude, and recompense their parents are entitled to under the loving laws of God, not realizing that without this love toward their parents, their religion is really in vain.
They have forgotten God’s promise that no thief shall inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10).
In rare cases some adult children truly are unable to care for their parents and the elderly can eventually require more care than we are equipped to provide. Only God can reveal the condition of our hearts and true extent of our ability to fulfill our responsibilities.
Nevertheless, I am writing this article because very few people today are able to accurately identify their real priorities and the most valuable things in life. Many have sold their eternal life for ungodly relationships, social connections, a bigger house, another car, electronic toys, vacations to Timbucktoo, season tickets to the game, new golf clubs, upgraded wardrobe, tummy tucks, and Lulu’s new line of cosmetics, instead of buying a modest home with an in-law apartment and lovingly providing their parent(s) with an atmosphere that nurtures life in spirit, body, mind, and emotions.
Like the alcoholic who creates an argument with his wife so he has an excuse to go out and get drunk, arguments with parents can be just an attempt to justify neglect and disguise the real motive behind estrangement, which is really the desire to avoid the responsibility of loving and caring for those who have first loved and cared for us.
Grandparents should be considered an extension of the family even when they live independently from their children and grandchildren. When one grandparent dies and leaves the other alone in the world, when one is left alone as a result of divorce, or grandparents are no longer able to safely function on their own, their involvement in the family can still be maintained for as long as possible when their children incorporate them into their own home and lovingly provide the care they need.
Nothing we do in obedience to God is ever a one way street. As we bless others, we are blessed. Immeasurable spiritual wealth can be inherited by adult children and grandchildren when grandparents are available to help nurture them or by providing children with the opportunity to learn to develop their own inherent natural affection by taking part in caring for the elderly as they age.
When the world begins to experience the intense pains of End Times, where will my mother and my father be? Where will I be: spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally?
Will I be traveling through the birth canal to meet Christ or will I be terrified, trying to hide in a cave somewhere to find protection from the wrath of God that is going to be poured out upon the earth?
It all depends on my priorities and whether the Word and Spirit of God have led me to realize what is most important in life.
When Jesus warned His disciples about End Times, He told them that it would be a time when people would be without natural affection and children would rise up to persecute and betray their parents.
So Jesus’ brother, James, wrote a reminder to the Church about the importance of meeting this need.
He said: “If any man among you seems to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:26-27).
How we treat the fatherless and widows reveals just how genuine our religion really is.
The priorities of Jesus’ ministry and ours are to preach the Gospel and heal the sick. But there is one more priority that is included in that description.
If we want to claim a religion that is pure and genuine, we must not forget the fatherless and widows in their affliction.
Caring for the needs of others, whether spiritual or physical, must first of all be personally provided to those in our own sphere as God brings these needs to our attention. Not every work God calls us to must be carried out through the hierarchy of some organization or church, since true believers are the Church.
History as well as the Bible records how the fatherless and widows were cared for in the past.
An excellent example of this can be found in the autobiography of George Müller, an evangelist, missionary, and director of several orphan homes in Bristol, England during the 1800s. He established 117 schools which offered free Christian education to over 120,000 children during his lifetime, many of them orphans, in addition to meeting their spiritual, physical, mental and emotional needs.
George Müller never asked one person for money (or anything else) to support the work he did, but all of the needs of the thousands of children he cared for was a direct result of prayer and His dedication to the Word of God.
In the early Church, the office of Bishop exemplified humble responsibility in the truest sense. Today references to the position of Bishop can often call up images of pompous religious authority in flowing robes. But in the original Greek language the office of Bishop, Timothy is speaking of, was one of humble hands-on service and provides a picture of one who has his sleeves rolled up, attentively caring for the lowly physical needs of the flock as well as the spiritual needs.
The word, “Bishop,” also refers to being a visitor for the purpose of inspecting or looking into the affairs of others in order to discover if any help was needed, especially in the case of the poor and sick. This help could involve spiritual encouragement as well as hands-on physical health care.
In the USA and elsewhere today, that care could also include counsel regarding safe health care options, as well as providing living accommodations in a Christian environment for those who have been persecuted and rejected by their families or require more intensive care than the family can provide.
Deacons are also called by God as servants, intercessors, and ministers to His people. According to this passage in the original Greek, it is the responsibility of Deacons to prepare and serve food in addition to physically nurturing the sick. The office of Bishop, as well as the office of Deacon had to be similarly qualified with outstanding character for this most important responsibility. (See details in 1 Timothy: 3-7).
As we can see, meeting the needs of the fatherless and widows involved more than providing a casserole in an oven proof dish. Believers were admonished to be actively involved in the details of the lives of fellow Christians who found themselves at a disadvantage in society. This love and nurturing was intended to continue within the family. But when this was not possible, the priority of the Church was to provide attentive love and care of the elderly in spirit, body, mind, and emotions in the Name of Christ.
In the Book of Acts, Chapter 6, we see how the early Church labored over the task of calling Bishops, Deacons, and Elders. A situation had developed where the widows were being neglected. Realizing the importance of this responsibility, the disciples prayed for the Spirit of God to help them determine who was sufficiently qualified by the Holy Spirit to handle this most important position.
God revealed to the disciples that Stephen was His choice. Highly esteemed in the eyes of God, Stephen proved His love for Jesus Christ and the people of God by devoting himself to the responsibility of lovingly caring for the needs of the widows.
Stephen eventually became the first martyr; stoned to death in Jerusalem about the year 33 A.D. for demonstrating to the world through his preaching of the Word of God that he had, indeed, come to understand the most important things in life.
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