Publication: Pastoral Letter, January 2008
Dear Friend in Christ:
I recently attended a memorial service for a woman who had been a teacher for many years.One of those who brought the eulogy was a woman who had become a vital Christian and a very successful performer. Her remarks concerned the teacher, who had been a spiritual mother to her.
The speaker, who had become a mature and radiant person, stated that she owed it all to her teacher and her spiritual mother. She told how she herself had come from humble beginnings with little or no encouragement. She had often thought of quitting but she would call her mentor, who listened and then helped her to see things differently. Finally she made it, and was able to be a conqueror. But she said it wouldn’t stop there; she also would mentor others. She got it!
As I listened, I not only thought how fortunate she was, but how unfortunate so many others are – those who grow up with no one to really care for them. And I thought how fortunate I am to have had such faithful parents and spiritual mentors.
This experience reminded me of my life’s goal to mentor others. It means so much to me and our spiritual family that our theme for the upcoming CSM Gatlinburg Conference will be “My Glorious Brothers,” based on the book of the same name by Howard Fast and also on Hebrews 2:10.The conference will be April 23-25 at the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I hope that you will attend and bring your spiritual or natural sons and daughters. The conference will feature outstanding teachers who have demonstrated the theme in their own lives.
THERE IS A CAUSE
Throughout recent decades, secular society has separated one generation from another. We have a new label for each successive generation:“baby boomers,” “gen-xers,” “millennials,” and so on. The inference is that each new generation of children is vastly different from any other, and that parents cannot relate. Meanwhile some “experts” become surrogate parents, or worse, peers become the most powerful influence.
The real needs of children have not changed, though times have. Children still need love, teaching, training, protection and provision from their wiser and more experienced fathers and mothers.Unfortunately, many parents abdicate. And so it is with would be – and could be – spiritual parents .Since the days of Adam, this has been God’s call to us: to bear enduring spiritual fruit and teach our offspring to observe everything that God, our Father, has taught us.
Of course the Great Commission, given by our Lord, is crystal clear, and continues to show us His heart. In addition to studying those verses in Matthew 28 and Mark 16, I have also recently taken a fresh look at Hebrews chapters one and two.
The writer’s description of Jesus is overwhelming. Here are some of the titles ascribed to Him: Son of God, Heir, Creator, Brightness of God’s Glory, Image of God’s Person, Upholder of All Things, Purger of Our Sins, Superior to Angels, Lover of Righteousness, Apostle of Our Confession, Anointed One, High Priest, Ruler On the Throne, Eternal One, and the One Who Speaks to Us.
We should listen!
It is interesting to me that our Father was so intent on our hearing and obeying, that after sending numerous prophets, He sent His Son. His Son made the Father’s will as clear as possible. He did so by Himself, bringing sons to glory, and commanding us to do so. The repetition of the process which He modeled is essential to revealing His Kingdom.
The second chapter begins with the word, “therefore.”This refers to all that was said in chapter one and how vital it is for us to respond. The next phrase is, “We must give earnest heed to the things that we have heard lest we drift away.”Note that the writer says, “earnest,” not casual.
You can judge for yourself if the Church has drifted away from the purpose of bringing sons to glory. In my view it has. This chapter continues by reminding us of what happened to angels who drifted away and then adds, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?”
The simple answer is that if we drift, we will not escape the results. Failure to hear the Lord not only brings into question our salvation, but failure to pass it on to the future generations will certainly bring destruction to them. One only has to look at the results in those cases where Kingdom life and values have been neglected.
Germany’s and Russia’s neglect of the Gospel are cases in point. Atheistic leaders stepped into the void left by the Church and brought great destruction to millions. Those same forces are now at work here in the United States and abroad.
If the Father of the Lord Jesus thought it so vital to save us from ourselves, should not today’s fathers and mothers take seriously the cause of passing on salvation and mentoring to the next generation? We should say what Eli told Samuel to say, “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.”
The importance of our mission to the future is demonstrated by the extreme measures that Jesus took to accomplish His mission. Chapter two of Hebrews tells us that He became lower than the angels and suffered a torturous death on our behalf. Philippians 2:5-8 goes into greater detail: Though Jesus was equal to the Father in His Divine nature, He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form and likeness of man and becoming a bond servant. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross.
The measures that Jesus took to accomplish His mission are incomprehensible to us. But they fully demonstrate that He considered His mission worth the terrible cost. He held back nothing to obtain our sonship. The greater served the lesser; the powerful served the weak; the richer served the poorer; the righteous served the wicked. Whatever it took, He gave it to make us victorious over ourselves and our adversary.
There are great costs to us as well in order to bring our sons and daughters, natural and spiritual, to a place of victorious living. We cannot merely pursue our own interest and still accomplish that priority. Success in the next generation will likely call for extreme measures and great sacrifice.
I recently read Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ book, My Grandfather’s Son. In his book, Justice Thomas writes of the sacrifices and discipline that his grandfather gave, in order to produce a successful grandson. Thomas rose from poverty and discrimination to become a Supreme Court Justice, though his own father had abandoned him. His grandfather brought a son to glory.
I am a fan of great coaches. In every case, they used difficult, if not extreme measures to produce champions. I have often given thanks for my own high school football coach who made his teams go through tough practices in order to produce champions. In any field of endeavor, it takes sacrifice to produce glory. The glory of our nation was purchased by the blood of soldiers.
God’s purpose does not stop with our personal redemption. He not only wants to bring us to glory, but wants us to bring many sons and daughters to glory as well. We are stewards of His purpose and grace. His love for us, as sons and daughters, is meant to make us fathers and mothers who take the parental mission seriously. We are more than members of His Church; we are His family.
God the Father revealed Himself as a Son and gave us the right to become sons and daughters (see Luke 3:22, John 1:12).His intent for His children is mirrored in our desire for our own natural and spiritual children – or should be. His Kingdom is revealed through His family – and ours (see Matthew 6:9-13).
God’s ultimate purpose revealed in Jesus Christ and how He related to His disciples. Jesus treated them as spiritual sons. Though He had no natural children, He brought many sons to glory. The glory he had, He gave to them (see John 17:22).He gave them all that the Father had given Him (John 17:1-10). Jesus is the complete model of stewardship. He passed it on_all of it. He loved, taught, trained, corrected, provided, and ultimately died for them.
If we only preach to people, we will fail to pass on what we have received .It is in a trusted relationship that the bridge over which truth travels will be built. That will require our effort and focus.
Many years ago, my wife and I and our three children were in a restaurant enjoying a meal. Our youngest son was just three weeks old. A couple next to us were also eating. When they concluded, the woman said to us, “I wish our children behaved like yours.” We appreciated the compliment. After they left, I said to my wife, Carolyn, “It doesn’t come by wishing, does it?” She smiled and said, “No, it does not.”
NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL PARENTING
This letter is not really about natural parenting, but it is to point out the parallel between natural and spiritual parenting, and to encourage the latter. There is no tougher task than doing the necessary things to ensure a child’s success. And spiritual parenting – mentoring – is no easier.
Our youngest son and his wife recently adopted a beautiful newborn girl. They got to enjoy those first things that go with having a child, including, of course, the first changing of the diaper. It was an introduction to the “joys of parenting.”There will be many more. Our daughter and her husband recently had a new baby. They have two natural born and five adopted children. They are good parents. Their children range from infant to eighteen. And, our eldest son and his wife are experiencing the joys of seeing their daughter graduate from high school and receiving a scholarship for college.
As time goes on the challenges change. Diaper changing is among the easiest of challenges. Training, education, discipline are more difficult. But it is worth it. So it is with bringing spiritual sons and daughters to glory. We have to know the difference in how to treat an infant and a young adult. Ultimately, we are raising an adult capable of repeating the process .Perhaps it will take more that one generation to know if we did a good job. Wisdom is revealed in children and grandchildren(see Matthew 11:19).
So where are we in bringing sons and daughters to glory? How do we measure up to the first believers? Do we really understand the mission? Where are our spiritual children? Can we counter the drift of our culture?
These are questions that must be asked on personal basis. We cannot rely upon some institutions to do our mission for us. It should be obvious that changes must be made_the stakes are too high. I pray that you too will bring sons and daughters to glory. Don’t be afraid or too busy to take earnest heed to the One who has spoken to us.
I pray that you and yours have a blessed New Year. Please continue to keep us in your prayers and in your giving this month and throughout 2008. We depend upon God and the faithful support of friends such as yourself to move forward in our mission; we are in a season of great challenges and opportunities…and many urgent needs. Visit our website at www.csmpublishing.org for more information and resources, especially our News and Discussion Forum. Thank you for your friendship!
Scripture Reference: Matthew, Mark, Philippians, Matthew