A Mom’s Potential: What Will I Do With My Mind? – Part 2

Last month we began a series on a mother’s potential for influencing her family. I shared with you how I receive e-mails from moms who are discouraged and also from those who are encouraged in their daily lives and walks with the Lord Jesus. My heart is to help those who are struggling and to give them hope for change. Because much of this revolves around the battle for what we will do with our minds, I am going to spend another Mom’s Corner addressing this issue.

For many years when I was depressed, discouraged, or unhappy, I thought that I was a helpless victim of my feelings. I would pray and ask God to free me from my negative thoughts, but the pattern continued until the Lord Jesus, in His mercy and grace, began to show me truths from His Word that applied to my problem. Prayer was very important in my quest for conquering the negativism. That was to continue and be ever increasing. “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). However, I also was instructed in Scripture as to what I needed to do to gain victory over my unhappiness, and that was to obey the Lord—a choice I was to make.

Let me share with you the verses the Lord showed me that helped me understand this. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). The Holy Spirit residing in me gives me the “will” to do what is right. I wouldn’t even care about doing what I should do without the Spirit putting that desire in my heart. Beyond the “will,” the desire to do what God wants me to do, He also enables the actual doing of it; He works in me to do His good pleasure—to accomplish it.

Notice, though, that there is one piece that fits between the “willing” and the “doing” and that would be the “yielding” or choosing to be obedient. I won’t quote again all three verses from Romans 6 that mention yielding because you can read those in the August Mom’s Corner. I will use only one of them to refresh our memories. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). Here is the amazing truth that the Lord Jesus showed me in the midst of my continual yielding to the negative thoughts. As long as I yield myself to obey sin—for me it was the wrong thoughts—God didn’t help me to do what is righteous. He allowed me to keep walking in my sin and negative thoughts. He kept putting that will within my heart for what was right, but His enabling to “do” had to wait for me to yield to obedience.

In practical examples from my life, this is how it looked. When the children were fussing with each other, when the house was a mess, and when I was tired, if I began to focus on myself and how discouraged I felt, then I was yielding to sin. At that point, God didn’t fill my heart with happiness, joy, and peace. While I don’t like to feel unhappy and defeated, the reality was that I was content with it because I continued to choose it. I was walking in disobedience while maintaining the expectation that God would somehow remove the negative thoughts from my mind and replace them with love, contentment, and patience.

Remember the Israelites of old? God could have made them a perfect nation with perfect people. Instead, He made them His people, gave them the ability to choose obedience or sin, and asked obedience from them. Despite all that He did for them and despite all that He gave to them as direction, they still often chose disobedience. He didn’t “zap” them into obedience just as He doesn’t “zap” me into obedience. He waited for the Israelites to obey, and He waits for me to obey.

If this yielding to obedience weren’t a part of my walk with the Lord Jesus, He would never need to tell me in His Word anything righteous to do. I would already be doing it. However, His Word is filled with “do this” and “don’t do that.” He is placing within my heart the “will” to do what is right. I must choose to yield. I must decide to be obedient.

For example, consider these verses: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Do I naturally feel joyful or like glorying in a trial or tribulation? Most certainly, I don’t. In these verses I am told that this is an obedient yielding I am to make, and I am even told the outcome—the reason I would make this choice. If I automatically reacted to these difficulties with joy and glory, then there would be no reason for Scripture to tell me to do so. To yield to righteousness, I take those negative, “poor me” thoughts captive and bring them into the obedience of Christ. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

For me the starting place for this yielding to righteousness and taking my thoughts captive begins with gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Romans 4:20). “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Will I focus my thoughts on gratitude to God for what He has done for me and given to me, or will I allow my mind to dwell on what I don’t like or am unhappy about? That choice of what I yield to is left up to me.

If I yield to obedience, then comes the enabling to do it. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

I have walked both paths—the path of yielding to obedience and the path of yielding to sin—particularly in what I do with my mind. I can still face those decisions, even on a daily basis. I can tell you from my experience that though the path of obedience can be very, very difficult when the feelings are negative, the obedience leads to freedom from unhappy, sad, and “poor me” thoughts. Yielding to the sin of continuing in those wrong thoughts simply spirals us further into them and away from the joy and peace we desire.

May I encourage each of us to move from allowing our negative feelings to drive our thoughts. This yielding to righteousness will be a continual process. When we yield our minds to righteousness, the fruit of the Spirit is manifested in our lives not only for us to enjoy, but for our families as well. Our children are watching us. They are learning from our reactions and responses to the daily pressures we face. What will they glean from us? Can we say with Paul, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9)?

Do Your Children Have Beautiful Feet? – Part 3

Last month when the Maxwell men were ministering at the homeless shelter, I spoke with a man in his late twenties. He shared how he was struggling with both chemical and alcohol addictions. That is very sad, but what he said next was even sadder. He told me that it was one of his parents who first gave him a beer and harmful illegal drugs. Last week I heard a similar story from another man. I can recall a childhood friend whose parents gave him beer so he could safely drink at home. He may have been safe, but these parents all have something in common. They have given their children appetites for what leads to destruction.

The example we set for our children and how we train them should be taken very seriously because we will all stand before God some day to give an accounting. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Praise God that most Christian families I know are attempting to lead their families away from sin instead of giving them an appetite for it. However, not sinning in not enough. We need to be living and serving as the Lord Jesus has commanded us.

In the parable of the talents, the man who hid his talent in the ground was not commended for having lost nothing but instead was sternly rebuked because he gained nothing. “His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed” (Matthew 25:26).

In the last two articles in this series, we have discussed the Lord’s command for us to actively share our faith with others. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). By reading Acts, we see that the Apostles were sharing their faith, and we must do so, too. This month we will discuss some practical things that might be done in learning how to share Jesus.

Salvation is a work of God, and it is not a work of the flesh. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). It isn’t about tricks and gimmicks, but the power of the Holy Spirit in converting souls. Religion may bring about some degree of outward conformity, but Jesus Christ changes people from the inside out. Therefore, we must be saved and in fellowship with the Lord if we desire to be used of Him in reaching the lost.

We need to bathe the Lord’s command to “go and preach” in prayer and ask the Lord to begin a work in our lives so that we can obey. Since converting souls is a spiritual matter, then prayer is foundational. Do we believe God is the One Who saves? Then we must be in prayer seeking His power in our lives to develop a deep love for the lost, a concern for their lives, direction in how to prepare and share, discernment in whom the Lord wants us to witness to and that their hearts would be receptive. May He give us boldness and a broken heart for the lost, and may He lead us each step of the way.

Some men have told me that their walk with the Lord is only one of “going through the motions.” If that is the case, I would encourage you to forget about sharing Jesus with others, and focus on your need for a real relationship with the Lord right away. Whether you are unsaved or carnal, I would plead with you not to rest until you have resolved it. Only then will the Holy Spirit be able to lead you as you witness.

Consider beginning to be evangelistic by giving out gospel tracts. On Friday, I stopped by a business to pick up something we ordered. Right next to the loading dock was a picnic table ringed with employees on break. I paused by the group on my way into the building and gave each a “million dollar bill” gospel tract and a few “Are You Good Enough to Go to Heaven?” tracts. They all gladly received them. Later as they filed past me while I was waiting inside, several of them thanked me again. They genuinely appreciated what I had given them.

I don’t leave tracts lying around public places because that can be seen as littering. However, when we are on the lookout, we will see people who are glad to read a tract that is given to them. I often watch for people who appear to be waiting. I remember once spotting a car of “tough guys” waiting outside the grocery store. I walked up and said, “You guys look like you have time to read something.” On occasion, I might add, “I think you will find this most interesting,” or “It’s just a gospel tract.” I can’t recall a person being rude or hateful, and hardly ever is the tract refused.

One thing that is important when choosing tracts is that they are interesting. That is why the “million dollar bill” works very well as a conversation starter or something easy to get in their hands. We tell them it isn’t real, but they might enjoy having one, and most want one because it catches their interest. I know some families include tracts when paying bills. I think that is a good practice as long as the business isn’t paying for the postage. It wouldn’t be right to send a tract if the tract ended up costing the company additional postage to receive it. May we be an offense to no one. “Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed” (2 Corinthians 6:3).

Finding good tracts can take quite a bit of time, so be on the lookout, or possibly ask others which ones they like. Tracts to use must be interesting and have a solid biblical foundation. The more motivated a person is, the more he will read. We like to have an assortment of tracts available so the Holy Spirit can lead us in which tract should be given. We have put up a Web page that lists tracts we have used that might help you get started. Seek the Lord’s direction every step of the way. If you sense a person is interested, then give him something that has more of a message. If not, then give a tract that may catch his interest so he wants to read more.

People expect churches to be the ones giving out tracts and sharing Christ, and they suspect their motives. They often feel a church only wants members and money, so they are suspicious. If you are sharing Christ as an individual or “just as a family,” a person is more likely to be open to what you have to say.

Consider having some contact information on the tract should the recipient want to know more. We had a rubber stamp made that has our www.familiesforJesus.com website on it. This way they can e-mail us if they want to dialog further about spiritual issues, but our address and phone number is kept private. Renting a low-volume website is so inexpensive these days that each family could likely do that as well. At that website, more details about salvation could be posted. However, I would encourage you not to put your family’s telephone number, e-mail, or street address on the site. Use a contact form such as you will find on Titus2.com; otherwise, you will receive a lot of spam.

A side note is that you might find a family website is a great learning opportunity. There are a host of beginner books that will teach you all you need to know about developing a website. It can give great purpose for your children to have a project such as this, and they will learn skills in the process. However, be on guard that any Internet use is monitored and 100 percent accountable.

We have also liked carrying our Soul Winner’s New Testaments when we are out, which have notes by the late Clift Brannon. There are notes at appropriate verses that are chained together so someone can look them up on their own, read the verse, and then read Mr. Brannon’s comments. Most of my family tries to have a Soul Winner’s New Testament with them all the time because we have had many opportunities to give a New Testament to a person who has desired more information. We started offering the Soul Winner’s New Testaments on Titus2.com at our cost because we had such trouble finding inexpensive New Testaments to give away.

Make it a true discipleship opportunity as your family learns to witness. Buy one book at a time on witnessing, and go through it together as a family. We found R. A. Torrey’s book called Personal Work to be of great insight and encouragement for us. Unfortunately, that book is out of print, but you might find one on the Internet or in used bookstores. Mr. Torrey has a much smaller book that is still in print called How to Witness to Anyone. Previously I mentioned LivingWaters.com. This group targets the more mainstream Christian of today, but it might be helpful in your quest to learn to be a soul winner.

We have a whiteboard in our dining room where we write Scripture verses that we want to memorize. After we ask the Lord to bless our food, we recite the verse(s) on the board. It is a great way to learn Scripture. Currently, we have most of Exodus 20:3-17 up so the family can memorize the Ten Commandments and use them when witnessing. As you have personal and family devotions, look for verses that you want to memorize for sharing Christ, then learn them at meal times.

We try to have a once-a-month family prayer time for the unsaved that we know. It is a wonderful time of crying out to the Lord for those who are headed for hell. I’m thinking of one young man we met at the fair last month who was proud of going to hell. Only the Holy Spirit can bring about conviction and the realization of a man’s need of a Savior. In his youth, this boy sees himself as immortal, but in joining the Marines, he may soon find himself vulnerable. Only prayer will have an impact on him at this point.

As your children observe you sharing Christ with others, it will build in them a similar boldness and desire to share also. Discussions around the dinner table and prior to evening devotions can be highly profitable for everyone as the family hears who shared Christ with another person and what was said. My family is always greatly encouraged to hear stories of what has happened in my witnessing or to share their own.

Every trip out of the home becomes a new adventure as you seek to share Jesus with others. Remember to keep in mind that this isn’t an exercise like one lifts weights. It is serious business, and souls are at stake. Our hearts have to be deeply concerned for people who are going to spend eternity in hell. Then as we witness there is no personal gain in it for us. We are doing it for the other person’s benefit and in obedience to our Lord.

There is so much more to the Great Commission than just obedience. There is blessing and fulfillment as well. The world’s entertainment and resulting fun is just a poor imitation for joy in the Holy Spirit. There is no greater joy than seeing lives transformed by the power of God. I can’t think of anything the world offers that can compete with that.

May we give our families appetites for the power of God in action, and we won’t be disappointed—not now or when we stand before our Lord giving an account of how we have spent our lives and discipled our children. Do your children have beautiful feet? “. . . How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things” (Romans 10:15).