Lonely? Be Encouraged! – Part 2

I received a couple of e-mails with some questions after last month’s Dad’s Corner on loneliness. This month we will expand that article by addressing those questions.

The first e-mail asked the following: “Although we have many friends and acquaintances, we feel lonely for likeminded families with whom we can relate. Currently, we are looking for a home church. (We live in Houston so if you know of any great churches in the area please let us know!) We have no church family with whom to meet and fellowship, and we do feel discouraged! It does seem to me that the Bible does emphasize that we do have a God-given need to fellowship with others. In fact, one of the first things God did in the Garden of Eden was point out that ‘it is not good for man to be alone,’ and He created Eve.”

The verse that is being referred to is Genesis 2:18, “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”This verse is frequently cited as justification for getting married or, in this case, to find like-minded fellowship. There is no doubt that God created “man”with the desire to be with others, especially someone of like-heart, and that is good. Adam said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,”because she was the perfect match for Adam.

However, there is something very noteworthy in Genesis 2:18. Adam didn’t tell God that he needed a companion. God was the One to look at Adam, evaluate his life and the job He had for Adam to do. Then God was the One to say, “It is not good for the man (Adam) to be alone.”Finally God was the One to provide a help meet. Adam was content in the Lord. He didn’t say, “Lord, I’m not satisfied with just You. You aren’t meeting all my needs.”The Lord was the Initiator and Provider of Adam’s help meet.

Our Lord wants us to be most effectively used for Him, and He will provide for all our needs (although not necessarily wants). “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8). I encourage those struggling with feelings of loneliness to decide to trust that God will give you what He feels you need to be effective as you serve Him.

I believe Genesis teaches us that God’s hierarchy of fellowship is to be first with the Lord, then with our spouses, then with our families, and then with others. In the Garden, God was fellowshipping with Adam, then He gave him Eve, and then children. There was nothing hindering God from creating, Adam and Eve, and Teri and Steve. He could have begun with a whole city in the Garden having created them all at once. They could have had wonderful fellowship with each other from the beginning including the perfect church that we all dream about. However, that wasn’t what God chose for the beginning of His creation.

I have observed couples that elevate fellowship to a high place that I don’t believe God ever intended it to be. There is much time spent fellowshipping, but then little time is spent ministering and sharing Christ. I would suggest that a family that is feeling very lonely be sure they are busy in the Lord ministering and serving Him. It is likely that the level of busyness such service will bring to the family will keep them from a focus on their loneliness. They will find fulfillment in their service that compensates for the lack of fellowship. Is it possible that fellowshipping becomes another form of entertainment when God desires that we are ministering to others and serving Him?

Since the Corner reader had no like-minded Christians to fellowship with, then they could have some lost friends over for dinner. After the meal, they could go into the living room and visit for a while and then have Bible time with them. (This all assumes the family is having daily family Bible time. If they aren’t, that is the first place to start, fellowshipping with their Lord Jesus.)

Our family loves having unchurched people over for a meal. We often will make this choice over fellowship with like-minded believers because our first calling is to minister and to serve, and it sure beats feelings of loneliness because of not having like-minded fellowship nearby. Expect that good fellowship will seldom happen and get busy in the meantime.

Another e-mail reads: “I felt as if I could have written in with the same issues. We have NO like-minded families in our church. My children and I desire to have fellowship with godly Christian families that we may be encouraged when times are tough and that we may be a blessing to them as well. Why are we commanded in Scripture not to forsake the assembling of the saints together? I believe that Christians need each other for sharpening, encouraging, helping, and praying for one another. But what do you do when there doesn’t seem to be anyone in your fellowship that is on the same page with you concerning family issues? Our church promotes youth group, and there aren’t other homeschool families with which we can fellowship. The youth are as the Dad’s Corner described, and the children’s department is much the same. We have so much to learn about building a godly family, and yet I don’t see that being taught in our church, and I desire to learn. I love the people and the leaders, but my heart cries out to the Lord for Biblical teaching in this area and for the fellowship of others who live out a godly family life. Yes, the Lord is enough fellowship, but might He still use believers to encourage, sharpen, and help us?”

The verse being referred to is Hebrews 10:25, but I will quote both 24 and 25. “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Verse 25 is encouraging that believers would not forsake or stop worshipping together. Many who are struggling with their churches, and feel the need to protect their families from the influences encountered there, are frustrated enough to stop attending corporate worship. This verse would speak clearly to that situation and instruct us to continue with corporate worship. The question to ask the Lord is whether He is leading this family to worship elsewhere.

If the Lord has put certain convictions on your heart and affirmed them from His Word, He may well be leading you to another place of worship where you will be built up and encouraged. I can’t answer that, but the Lord will.

For the Lord to tell us not to stop worshipping with others (in Hebrews 10:25) means that He has a place for us to worship. It is possible that some families can be quick to leave a church for the wrong reasons, and there are others that stay in the wrong church and try to change the church to conform to what they think it should be. I don’t believe either is good. If backbiting and gossiping about leadership to other members is going on, it is sin and not the way to change a church.

About eight years ago the Lord directed us to leave a church that we had been part of for the previous eight years. It was a difficult decision and what made it worse was we didn’t know of another church that was more conservative than the one we left. We cried out to the Lord asking where He would have us go. The answer surprised Teri and me. We felt the Lord telling us to move our Saturday afternoon (bimonthly) nursing home church service of over ten years to every Sunday morning. I called the activity director and explained what we wanted to do. She said, “Just this week the administrator asked me to find someone who would conduct a worship service for the residents every Sunday morning. Would you really be willing to do that?”Over eight years later, we are still worshipping in a nursing home dining room. We love it. The residents love their church, and they love us. In addition, we certainly have no problems with youth groups.

I’m not saying God has this for everyone, but I do believe that God has a place where He wants everyone to worship because of the teaching found in Hebrews 10:25. The nursing home has been the perfect place for us to minister and serve as we worship. My boys have regular opportunities to develop their preaching skills, and all of us can love, bless, and encourage those who are the cast-offs of our society. James would say that a nursing home church is an example of pure religion. “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 1:27).

I can’t help but wonder whether or not those who are starved for fellowship are fellowshipping first with the Lord and then with their spouses and their children. Are they actively loving and serving others in doing good? May each examine himself before the Lord. He will provide who and what we need when we have the need.

Bringing Up Children Who Will Love the Lord – Part 2

Last month we began looking at what we as mothers could do in our daily lives and schedules to help our children love the Lord Jesus with all of their hearts and to grow to be adults who will be lovers of God more than lovers of pleasure. The following note contains all the details of the question.

“My greatest desire for my child is that he will love the Lord with all of his heart. He is generally well behaved and obedient, but I have recently realized that I need to do a better job of stirring up godly appetites in his heart. I want to teach him to be a lover of God more than a lover of pleasure.

“There are two areas where I see my own need to improve: One is that I don’t think I have scheduled in enough work and responsibility for him. The other is that I am not a diligent person. I am too quick to settle for less effort, both on my part and on his. I haven’t been purposely doing this, but now that I realize it, I am so sorry for it! I want to change, and I am claiming God’s promise that I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.

“I am going to re-read my Managers of Their Homes book, and rewrite our schedule. Once I have done this, I plan to start joining the weekly accountability threads.

“Meanwhile, I would love any advice you have. I know that teaching our children to love God above all is a heart issue. However, I believe that our hearts are affected by the way we spend our time. I believe that our schedule has a VERY strong impact on our hearts. What do you put on your schedules that has actually brought fruit in your children’s lives, taught them to love the Lord, and to have a servant’s heart?

“We have silent Bible reading, as well as a time for reading the Bible together, and for memory work. He uses a Bible study book as part of his homeschool work. We also have a reading time right before bed. For the most part, we use books with a godly focus, such as the Moody Family Series, Rod and Staff stories, etc. What more can I do to give him godly teachings and to help him apply these teachings to his life?”WhiterThanSnow

We started with the basic premise that our actions speak louder than our words. What we desire to be evident in our children’s lives must start in our own hearts through the attitudes and actions of our lives. As we move into how to promote loving Jesus in our children’s lives through what we have them do, WhiterThanSnow has already input the basics into her son’s schedule—personal Bible time, family Bible time, and Scripture memory.

Look again with me at Deuteronomy 6:5-7: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”This process of teaching our children the Word of God is to be purposeful, and it should be accomplished diligently. I think if we want to have this outcome, a plan will be helpful.

In our family, as soon as our children can read, we want to teach them to have personal time in the Word every day. Here is a whole Mom’s Corner article that I wrote on the subject of helping children have daily Bible time: Children’s Personal Bible Time. In addition, family Bible time is vitally important as well. During family Bible time, we as parents have the opportunity of teaching not only the factual information contained in Scripture but, even more importantly, how Scripture applies to our daily lives. As a matter of fact, I believe that our family Bible time has been the single most instrumental factor in helping develop a love for the Lord Jesus Christ and a disdain for the pleasures of this world (see Steve’s “Feed CDs for more information on family Bible time). Finally, Scripture memory allows a child to have the Word available in his mind for use at any moment of the day.

Another step we can take as we fulfill Deuteronomy 6:5-7 is to make sure we share Scripture with our children through out the day. I discovered that this takes time, a commitment, and a personal knowledge of applicable Scripture. In looking back, I regret that I didn’t do this more with my children as they were growing up.

Sharing Scripture might be done in the context of disciplining a child who isn’t saying or doing what he should be saying or doing. A tool that helped me in using Scripture when I disciplined was Doorposts’ “If-Then. This inexpensive chart not only helped me be consistent with the discipline of my children, but it also directed me in using Scripture in these situations. It was very important to us to encourage our children that our love for the Lord Jesus Christ is demonstrated by our obedience to His Word. For us that meant using Scripture when we disciplined and talking with the child about obedience to the Lord Jesus. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

When a child is ungrateful, we can encourage him with this verse: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). When he is bickering with a sibling, we discuss this idea: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:10). If he is angry, we go over this admonition: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). I believe you have the idea through these examples.

Please let me give you a word of caution, though, as you use the Word in your children’s lives. Especially when you are using it to correct a child, to point out error in his life, or to give him a biblical direction—be sure your attitude is one of love, gentleness, and patience. If there is anger or frustration in your heart, it will be evident to your child and undermine the good you would like to achieve. “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20).

Using the Word in daily life can also be implemented as we personally encounter situations through our home-life activities. When we greet our children in the morning, we can say, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24). If a child gets hurt, we can quote, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Then we want to make sure that we stop and pray out loud for our child so that he is hearing and learning a dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ to care for his needs. As we observe a beautiful flower in the garden, we say, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) and offer praise to the Lord: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalms 34:1).

In addition, we will use the Word for giving direction in a child’s life. When he comes to us because someone has treated him unfairly, we can show him the sufferings of Christ. “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23). We can help him with his response to an offender: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head” (Romans 12:19-20).

In our quest to bring up children who will be drawn to being a lover of God more than a lover of pleasures, we will start with a foundation of the Word of God in their lives. This is accomplished through time in the Word, Scripture memory, and the application of verses that are pertinent to our children’s lives and the situations that come up throughout the day. “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors” (Psalms 119:24). May we be mothers who love the Word and teach our children to do so as well. “And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved” (Psalms 119:47).