Successful Single Parenting

Successful Single Parenting
When raising your children is your responsibility, and yours alone, the difficulties and struggles may seem overwhelming.  Widows and widowers suddenly find themselves being mothers and fathers through no choice of their own.  They never dreamed it would happen to them.  They must care for their children while still grieving the loss of a mate who can’t return to help them.
Other men and women become single parents when their partner leaves and refuses to share the responsibility for their children.  They are left feeling abandoned and heartbroken.  There is also perhaps the saddest group of single parents – those who live across town from former spouses who have been abusive or are heavy users of drugs or alcohol.
There is hope, however.  God is a Father to the fatherless and a husband to the husbandless.  Men, the Word of God promises that He will be your sufficiency and your portion.  You have not been abandoned either.  Even although the Lord is there for us and we have the support of our friends and family, there will always be obstacles that need to be overcome as a single parent.  Being aware of these and learning the skills to overcome them, will make the journey as a single parent not only easier, but even enjoyable.
Emotional baggage
There are few tasks that require more courage and strength than single parenting.  It’s not just a matter of responsibility.  Challenging tasks become far more difficult when we are weighed down by heavy emotional baggage.  This added weight can prevent you from being an effective parent because all of your energy is being consumed by your past struggles.  Some ‘baggage items’ that might be weighing you down are: self-pity, depression, guilt, fear, economic devastation, anger, envy, exhaustion, loneliness and frustration. 
Most single parents are afflicted with many, or most, of these problems.  There are unfortunately no shortcuts to overcoming such painful obstacles.  Each area must be encountered, explored and left behind.  You no doubt want to raise healthy, well-adjusted children but this can only be done when you are able to focus on them and not yourself.  Your children are the most precious gifts God has given you and they need you now more than ever before.  By dealing with your baggage and reaching out to them, your own healing will be speeded up. Surround yourself with friends you can talk to, make sure you are eating healthily and exercising regularly, study God’s Word regularly and don’t stop going to church.  Seek help in the areas where you are struggling, spend time with a counsellor you trust.  It is crucial that you deal with your emotional pain so that you can be there for your children when they need you.
A house divided
The single-parent home is still a family and there is no reason in the world for a single-parent home to produce children destined for emotional illness or personal mediocrity.  You can raise healthy, happy children no matter what has happened in the past.
Parents often ask what the greatest gift is that they can give their children.  Gary Richmond, author of ‘Successful Single Parenting’ says that the greatest gift is to show respect to your former mate.  If there is any way in the world the two of you can work together co-operatively in the raising of your children – find it and do it.
Research clearly shows that for some reason children feel responsible for divorces.  There are ways you can make it easier for them to cope in this difficult time:
1. Never demean your partner in front of the children.  Try to say positive things about their other parent because your child loves and cares for them very much, even although that parent may have hurt you.  Children are often torn between their parents and don’t say how they really feel for fear of hurting one or the other. 
2.  Let your children know where they can reach you and the other parent (if possible) at all times.
3.  Allow your ex-partner to call your children often and don’t complain when it is time for them to visit their other parent.  This only makes children feel guilty for wanting to spend time with their mom or dad.
4.  Don’t give in to the temptation to avoid discipline.  It is natural to think that your children won’t want to be with you if you correct them for doing something wrong. But nothing could be further from the truth.  They won’t respect you if you don’t discipline them.
5.  Never use your children as a ‘news-service’ to find out what the ex-spouse is doing.  Your children are not spies and should never be treated as such.
6.  Try and keep the same rules in the two households, where possible.  Bed times and other restrictions should be the same.  Maintaining consistency helps children deal with the change much easier.
Getting the job done
Trying to fill the role that your ex-partner used to fill, is one of the most difficult aspects of single parenting.  Things such as mowing the lawn or simple DIY tasks around the home (for moms) or tasks like cooking and cleaning (for dads).
The first thing you need to remember is that you simply cannot do everything well.  If you try, you will spread yourself so thin that even the things you’re best at will have mediocre results.  Do the best you can and don’t worry about not being perfect.
Secondly, look for substitutes who will handle tasks that your partner used to perform – employ a gardener or a cook for instance.  Don’t try to do everything yourself.
Never enough by the end of the month
As a single-parent family you cannot maintain the same standard of living you once enjoyed as a complete family.  You need to remember this from the outset.  Although it will take some adjustment, you must fight the urge to make more debt to simply keep up your past lifestyle.  Do not be manipulated by your children or feel guilty if they can’t have everything that they used to.  Buying them ‘stuff’ is not going to make them feel any better about the loss of their parent.
No-one knows your situation better than God.  If you are faithful with your money, He will provide for you. Single-parent mothers are particularly vulnerable to the threat that they are not going to make it financially. It is very easy when you are stuck on the side of the road with a flat tyre, to think that having a man in your life again would make everything easier.  The truth is that at this critical time in your life the One you should be depending on is the Lord.
Don’t try and work out your problems with your own schemes and solutions.  Pray about every unique situation and ask for God’s wisdom with your finances.  It won’t be easy, but putting God first and spending wisely will ensure your financial success in the future.
Wounded lambs
Your children are going to be hurt by the loss of their other parent; this is unavoidable.  But they can rise above their hurts and wounds dramatically if given the right environment to do so.
Your job is not to heal your children.  Only God can do that.  But you can provide them with tools to cope with life. First you need to know what they are up against.  They are wounded lambs and they have been hurt in many areas simultaneously. If you can identify their sources of pain you can start to help them.  In the end, if dealt with correctly, their wounds can become their greatest source of strength.
Sources of pain:
1.  Divorce will leave your child with the inner feeling that their world is uncertain and unpredictable.
2. Divorce robs children of their fondest hope, namely ‘And they lived happily ever after’. The devastation of this dream can lead to a series of disappointments.
3.  Divorce is a process and not an event, so there will be a steady chain of painful events your children will need to deal with.
4.  When parents are suffering and dealing with their own pain, they often neglect the children’s needs and this leaves them feeling unloved and abandoned.
These painful experiences can have devastating consequences.  The children may have emotional or physical problems; they can start acting rebelliously and they could act out in anger in various ways.  Later on in life their own marriages may be affected if their wounds aren’t dealt with effectively.
In ‘Successful Single Parenting’ Gary Richmond gives detailed advice on how to help your children deal with their pain, depending on how old they are.  All children in a divorce situation (and this is also true for children coping with the death of a parent) experience fear, confusion and anger.  These emotions are expressed predominantly at specific ages:  Children from birth to age 5 are dominated by fear; children ages 6 through 12 feel confused and chaotic; children and young adults ages 13 to 25 or older are dominated by anger.  This is helpful for parents to know because then you can care for your children by touching them according to their specific needs.
All is not lost
Good parenting makes all the difference in the world.  The adjusted children of responsible single parents are proving to do very well, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.  Just take it one day and one step at a time. 
I leave you with the final words of Gary Richmond:
“Although you may ask all the right questions and memorise all the right answers, there is no magic formula for successful single parenting.  And most assuredly, nothing can really help you deal with single parenthood’s demands, hurts, obstacles and challenges unless you choose to be obedient to God’s Word. 
With all my heart, I appeal to you to wholeheartedly commit your past, your present and your future to the nail-scarred hands of the One who created you, died for you and lives to intercede for you.  Without Him, you can do nothing.  With Him all things are possible!”

This article is based on the book, ‘Successful Single Parenting’ by Gary Richmond.  Published by Harvest House, Focus on the Family.


The Battle for the Mind in the Media

The Battle for the Mind in the Media
 
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour…”  Ephesians 4:25
 
While claiming to be neutral, newspaper journalists and TV presenters often report the news from an anti-Christian point of view.  At one time, especially in the 19th century, most leading newspapers were Christian.  However, there has been a major shift in the news media on what is covered and how it is covered.
 
Pro-Abortion Journalism
After one interview with a journalist from The Argus concerning our work in Sudan, I asked: “Why is it that The Argus continually publishes Pro-Abortion articles, and ignores Pro-Life events such as the Life Chains and the National Day of Repentance?” 
 
The answer was astounding: “Well, we’re pro-choice.” “Yes, I understand that, but surely it is your intention to report events and present the facts, without fear or favour, from both sides?”
 
She smiled, shrugged her shoulders and grinned broadly: “Well, I’m pro-choice.  Every journalist that I know is pro-choice.  And, well, I guess we’re just biased!”   That was a remarkably honest statement, but there is no doubt that most of the print media in South Africa is pro-abortion. 
 
Spiking the Spiritual
Although at one time, particularly in the early part of the 19th century, journalism emphasised God’s Sovereignty and man’s responsibility, most modern journalists choose to spike the Spiritual.  At one time newspaper articles pointed out that kings who disobeyed God were exposed and deposed.  Those who engaged in duels were without true honour because they sought esteem amongst men more than following God’s commands.  Lightning storms were seen to demonstrate Spiritual lessons. Lack of repentance was shown to have murderous consequences. 
 
Publishing God’s Obituary
However, as non-Christian journalists came to dominate newspapers, they redefined reality by excluding the Spiritual realm.  In the 1960’s many editors actually tried to publish God’s obituary declaring: “God is dead!”
 
Redefining Reality
Typically, newspaper stories present random events in a chance universe.  Journalists who believe in evolution tend to evidence the Humanistic worldview that we came from nothing, we’re going nowhere and life is meaningless.  Instead of seeing patterns in events, journalists with a materialistic worldview simply see random effects of time plus chance.  Governments rise and fall, corruption stories are published, people are murdered, cars crash, natural disasters occur, some people abuse children.  However, there’s no explanation.  No patterns exposed.  No lessons to learn.
 
Behind the News Headlines
The fact that most murderers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time will not be emphasised.  The fact that most vehicle accidents are alcohol related is apparently irrelevant.  The Islamic doctrine of Jihad, and its role in over 90% of the wars and terrorist campaigns in the world today, will not even be referred to.  The Marxist ideology of dictators and mass murderers such as Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe will scarcely receive a mention. 
 
The Unmentionable Facts
Apparently personal beliefs are unimportant in the mind of many modern journalists.  The fact that AIDS was originally called GRIDS (Gay Related Immunisation Deficiency Syndrome) and that a vastly disproportionate percentage of homosexuals contract AIDS, is ignored.
 
Most humanist reporters who believe in a materialistic worldview, refuse to consider the possibility that AIDS could be a judgment of God and a warning to promiscuous and adulterous individuals who violate God’s commands.  If such a possibility is even referred to, it would be in the context of ridiculing the idea that the terror of AIDS provides us with an opportunity for repentance.
 
A Challenge for Life Changing Repentance
Few journalists today will consider the perspective of the Lord Jesus when reporting on man-made or natural disasters.  “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:2-5
 
Spiritual Realities
Christian journalism would recognise the reality of the Spiritual realm.  Firstly God is Sovereign, so no events happen by chance.  History is His story.  Nations rise and fall in response to how they respond to God’s Word and Law.  Obedience to God’s Word has produced the most productive, prosperous and free nations in History.  Disobedience to the Law of God has had disastrous consequences. 
 
There is evil in this world.  Satan and his legions of fallen angels, demons, are active in the world.  Although we may not always perceive it, we are involved in a great Spiritual World War between God and His angels, and the devil and his demons. 
 
Mankind is fallen Creation.  Man is created by God, but our human nature is sinful.  Because we are created by God there is some good, even in the worst of us.  Because we are fallen there is bad, even in the best of us.  Suffering and evil are the result of man’s rebellion against God since the Fall.  “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.” Gal 6:7
 
God is ultimate reality.  Our basis for knowledge is God’s revelations.  We can know what is right and what is wrong from the Word of God.  The purpose of our existence is to glorify God and to worship Him forever.
 
The destructive tendencies of sin within each one of our hearts is very real.  Without the Grace of God and the Redemption brought about by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we would all be doomed. 
 
God really does answer prayer.  Not by making us feel better psychologically, but by actually transforming earthly situations, although not always in the way we expect. 
 
By seeking to exclude Spiritual realities from the front page, Secular newspaper editors are ignoring fundamental reality.
 
Biblical Examples of Balanced Reporting
We can find good examples of complete news coverage in the Bible.  The report on the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus takes into account both the physical events and the Spiritual dimensions.  The battles and conflicts against the Philistines in Judges reports factually the interaction of Spiritual and material forces. 
 
The conquest of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites not only includes military and sociological details, but is clearly shown to be God’s Judgment upon wicked and immoral people, even as His mercy, guidance and protection is bestowed upon the Hebrews.
 
1 & 2 Kings and Chronicles not only report on the various national leaders and their achievements, but expose their failures and evaluate them in the light of how faithful they were to God’s Law or not.
 
The Gospels and Acts include firsthand, eyewitness reports of miraculous healings, deliverances, and all the drama and intrigue of the plot by the religious leaders to arrest Christ, the treachery of Judas’s betrayal of Christ, the political double-dealing and cowardice of Pontius Pilate, the brutal tortures and execution of Christ, and His triumphal Resurrection from the grave. 
 
The ancient Bible book of Job reports a series of sensational disaster stories – a family wiped out, their house destroyed by a tornado, herds stolen, physical affliction, mental turmoil and marital dissention, not as random events in a chance universe, but as part of a drama involving Heaven, hell and earth.  The report on Job’s tribulation begins with the conflict between God and satan.  The drama on earth is seen in the light of a dialogue in Heaven. 
 
Of course, earthly reporters do not have access to what is going on in Heaven at this time.  The inspired Biblical reporters were privileged to have God reveal facts that we could not discover on our own.  However, we do have the Bible to enable us to understand earthly events in the light of Spiritual realities.
 
For any journalist wanting to present a compelling report which is accurate, interesting, relevant and insightful, the Scriptures provide many case studies.
 
Distinguishing Between News and Views
We need to recognise the fact that in every news story we are not only receiving information, but we are being influenced.  The news media includes more views than news.  The particular worldview of any journalist will come through.  Underlying every article we read is the worldview. 
 
To evaluate any journalist’s worldview we should ask:
1. What are his fundamental beliefs about life?
2. What is he using to interpret the facts?
3. What are the practical implications of his worldview?
4. How consistent is his worldview?
5. What implications would it have for me personally?
6. What would it mean for the world in general?
 
The Humanist Agenda
Much journalism today promotes the Humanistic agenda –  man is a product of evolutionary chance and  this theory must be taught as a fact of science at school; education must be controlled by the state and  must be Secular, and free of moral absolutes; sex education must be compulsory in schools and pornography should be allowed as “free speech”;  abortion is a “woman’s right”; homosexuality is an acceptable “alternative lifestyle” criminals are “victims of society” requiring treatment and rehabilitation, rather than punishment.
 
The Curse of Socialism
Despite the devastation and destruction wreaked by socialism throughout the last century, it is incredible how many journalists believe in the unworkable economics of socialism.  Socialism destroys incentive, initiative, income and industry.  Yet it still seems to be the favourite form of economics promoted in all too many newspapers.
 
Superficial and Sensational
Superficial, sensational and immoral material predominates in the modern entertainment industry.  It is producing an increasingly superficial, selfish, mindless and immoral society.  However, it is just this kind of entertainment that receives most of the attention and accolades in the average Secular newspaper.  Those like Mel Gibson who try to produce an accurate and realistic film on the life of Christ, receive abuse and scorn.
 
Antinomian Ethics
Most journalists reject the Law of God and instead vigorously promote situation ethics, amorality, existentialism, hedonism, pornography, homosexuality, sex education and abortion.
 
Aborting God
Evolution is an attempt to abort God retroactively.  Evolution destroys all meaning, purpose, direction, justice and hope in life.  Yet evolution is the favourite theory of origins promoted in most Secular publications today.
 
Secular Humanism is attempting to kill God by eradicating Him from the classroom and the minds of the next generation.  Many in the news media are seeking to assist in this.  By eliminating the Bible as the basis for all knowledge, humanists are removing the very foundation of truth.  They are prohibiting the only objective standard by which reality can be evaluated.
 
Learn to Discern
We need to be careful and critical in what we read.  We need to be selective in what news sources we trust.  We need to read and listen with discernment, evaluating everything in the light of the Scriptures.  Subscribe to trustworthy Christian newsletters and magazines, listen to faithful Christian radio stations and visit reliable Christian websites.
 
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Josh 24:50
 
Dr. Peter Hammond is the author of Biblical Principles for Africa. www.frontline.org.za


Soul winning in Iraq

By Peter Hammond
John Michael is just one of many South Africans working in Iraq. Previously he served in 44 Parachute Brigade as a Pathfinder and was Wing Commander of the Bushman Reconnaissance wing at Omega with 31 Battalion in 1983. He has been assisting in security for those who are restoring basic services for the communities of Iraq, as part of the reconstruction and development of this war devastated nation.  While seeking to save lives and uplift the community in Iraq, he has endured numerous bombardments from mortar and rocket indirect fire and survived ambushes with IED (Improvised Explosive Devices), RPG and small arms fire in the day-to-day nature of his work.  John Michael is a dedicated Christian and he has seen his work in Iraq as an opportunity for Christian witness. Both amongst the local community, foreign soldiers and expatriate workers serving there, where he has engaged in friendship evangelism.  “Overt evangelism is strictly prohibited. However,  open discussions and opportunities to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope you have” 1 Pet 3:15 is a natural way to share one’s faith. Being a royal priesthood and a peculiar people of God definitely creates positive curiosity.
“What really helps in Iraq is the very strict discipline of the USA-led Coalition forces. The consumption of alcohol, pornography and any form of intimate relationships between unmarried members is prohibited. The Rules of Engagement are incredibly strict as is the ethical standard of conduct, which is exemplary in every way.  Ultimately holiness before the Lord is the only avenue for true success and the US assists tremendously in the conduct and discipline of all their members, despite all the controversy around Operation Iraqi Freedom. This is what the Middle Eastern Iraqi people see and experience – especially the incredible love which the American soldiers openly express to the children of Iraq.  Many come to Jesus merely on the testimony of what is taking place in Iraq on a day-to-day basis, by what is seen and experienced.”

A contrast of faiths
John Michael writes: “With all the negative and extremely disturbing violent news coming out of the Middle East, there is good news.  Where there is conflict, there needs to be sober examination of our own faith as we are put to the test.  Our purpose and meaning to life must be scrutinised.
“What is overwhelmingly obvious is that those who promote freedom and respect towards others, are expressing their own personal faith in the God of the Bible.  However, when confronting a religious system that lives for, and thrives on, violent conflict in Jihad with suicidal martyrdom seen as the only assurance of salvation, the question remains – what is the purpose of living?  The hope for a peaceful and blessed life is really limited when such an extremely violent death is sought after. This raises some really disturbing questions about such a religious system, which has so little respect for humanity and life in general.”

Living a life of Grace
John Michael, writing from the Biblical site known as Ur of the Chaldeans (Iraq), reports that it is tremendously inspiring to be working in this land where Abraham was called, where Daniel and Esther served, and to witness the clash of civilisations – the clear contrast between the healing Gospel of the love of Christ and the destructive message of Jihad and hate. 
He mentions the testimony of General Georges Sada, a former Air Force fighter pilot, who once served as a senior military advisor to Saddam Hussein.  Sada is one of thousands of Iraqis who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In 1991, General Sada was ordered by Qusay Hussein (Saddam Hussein’s son) to execute British and American prisoners of war.  This he refused to do.  That courageous stand led to his dismissal from the military, although, by God’s Grace, not to his execution.

Thousands coming to Jesus
General Sada reports that he knows of many thousands of Iraqis who have openly confessed Jesus Christ as Lord since the country was liberated by the Americans.  General Sada has publicly thanked the American people for liberating his country and said that all peace-loving people should “kneel and thank the mothers and fathers who have sacrificed their sons and daughters for the sake of freedom in Iraq.” 
 He asked for patience as Iraq’s fledgling democracy builds foundations and finds its way.  He has also repeatedly said that there is far more good news in Iraq today than has been reported by the news media.
Record numbers of Iraqis are turning to Christ.  Even Saddam Hussein’s throne room, in his main palace in Baghdad, has been turned into an Evangelical church. “Once Saddam used that room to order thousands of people to be executed, but now the Name of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, is praised there instead.”
One mission involved in Iraq reports that in the year before the war, in 2003, there were only 3,000 known Evangelical Christians in Iraq and only six Evangelical churches.  Today there are more than 24,000 Iraqi believers and 25 churches in Baghdad alone. Hundreds of new churches have been established in the other areas of Iraq, particularly in the north, in Kurdistan.
Missionaries working in Iraq point out that the Kurds of today are the descendants of the ancient Medes, such as Darius under whom Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. The ancient city of Nineveh, where Jonah was led to preach, was in what is today Northern Iraq. John Michael asks us to mobilise your church, home cell and prayer fellowship to intercede for the Christians in Iraq and to pray for the fulfilment of the Great Commission in that troubled land.  He ends his letter: “Jesus truly is Lord.  It is God’s perfect love which drives out all fear.”

Dr Peter hammond is a missionary who has pioneered evangelistic missions throughout Africa. For further information on the persecuted church and missionary initiatives in the Middle East visit: www.frontline.org.za.  To encourage John Michael write to him : c/o Frontline Fellowship. For more info call  021 689 4480 or admin@frontline.org.za


To Judge or Not to Judge

To Judge or Not to Judge
 
Some Christians believe it is wrong to judge, criticise or assess the beliefs and lifestyles of fellow believers, preferring to leave judgment to God. Others believe it is their duty to condemn anything that does not agree with their own point of view.
What does the Bible say on this issue?
 
In this age of ‘human rights’ and ‘free thinking’, many Christian believers prefer to ‘put things on hold’ rather than risk offending others. Their desire is not to judge, but to love.
 
Others are so convinced their own assessment of doctrine and acceptable Christian lifestyle is correct, they fiercely condemn anyone who feels differently on issues that are often not even essential Biblical doctrine.
 
The problem may lie in our understanding and definition of the word ‘judge’. One aspect of this word means ‘to judge in a legal aspect – to consider a case, make a qualified judgment and pass sentence’. Another aspect of this word means ‘to assess something and comment on its reliability or otherwise’.
 
The Bible does not allow believers to judge one another in the legal aspect. The Lord alone has the power and knowledge to judge whether or not someone is truly a believer and to pass the appropriate sentence on their life. Thus the Bible calls on us not to make value judgements concerning people in their sincere attempts to serve the Lord. “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” Rom 14:4
 
The Bible, however, strongly encourages believers to make assessments of the lives, ministries and doctrines of those with whom they come in contact. It is essential that believers walk in true holiness of life because they affect and influence others. A bad apple always influences the basket of apples negatively. We have a duty to protect ourselves, our children, our fellowships and our friends from that which is not acceptable to God.
 
God does not expect us to be ‘brain dead’ and blindly follow whatever people say. We are expected to read His supernaturally inspired Word and assess everything by the Truths and principles contained in its pages.
 
Sadly, fewer Christians are reading God’s Word daily and many have absolutely no idea what the Bible teaches. What a difference it would make if believers everywhere took seriously the challenge of Jesus. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matt 4:4
 
1. Believers are to assess lifestyles of professing believers.
Jesus said we are to judge a tree by its fruit. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…” Matt 7:15-20. They “profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” Titus 1:16
 
The Lord instructs believers not only to assess their lifestyles, but to take action and disassociate themselves with those whose profession is found to be faulty because they do serious damage to the children of God. “Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth.”  2 Tim 3:6,7
 
We have a serious responsibility to other Christians to warn them in love when they are treading on thin ice spiritually. ”If good people turn bad and don’t listen to My warning, they will die. If you did not warn them of the consequences, then they will die in their sins. Their previous good deeds won’t help them, and I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs. But if you warn them and they repent, they will live, and you will have saved your own life, too.” Ezek 3:20-21
 
“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” Phil 3:17-19
 
2. Believers are to assess ministries before participating in them.
Not everyone who professes Jesus as Lord and ministers in His Name has His approval. The ‘fruit test’ applies to everyone. A professing apple tree bearing bananas is definitely not a genuine apple tree.
 
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the Will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name, cast out demons in Your Name, and done many wonders in Your Name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matt 7:21-23
 
Believers are encouraged to ‘watch the fruit’ – and not only the words and works –
in order to make a true assessment of the quality of a ministry. There is a world of difference between a ‘critical review’ of a ministry and a negative ‘critical judgment’.
 
3. Believers are to assess doctrines before accepting their validity.
The Bible is the source of God’s Truth and the only yardstick by which to measure doctrine and lifestyle. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Tim 3:16
 
The Lord Jesus Christ fully accepted this truth when He declared: “Thy WORD is Truth” John 17:8. Another time He declared that the people discussing an issue with Him were confused because they did not know the Scriptures. “Jesus answered and said to them, ’You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.’” Matt 22:29
 
Believers are to ‘contend earnestly’ for true doctrine. We are not encouraged to ‘put teaching on hold’ if it is not Biblical. “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting
you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 1:3
 
Believing what God says about Himself and the world He created is vital. What we believe and teach affects others. “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
1 Tim 4:16
 
We have to speak up when necessary. “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” 1 Tim 1:4
 
Doctrinal error is serious and requires serious action. “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him.” 2 John 1:9,10
 
Christians are not to judge one another, passing sentence and viciously criticising those who do not agree with them. They are, however, commanded to closely guard the Truth of God’s Word and speak up where necessary. The eternal destines of men, women and children are at stake.
 
We are our Brother’s Keeper – but never his Judge. “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the Truth.” 2 Tim 2:25
 
“Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge—by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith.” 1 Tim 6:19-21


The Schullers

The Schullers
 
Fact file for Robert A Schuller:
– Pastor of Crystal Cathedral Ministries in California
– 54 years old
– Married to Donna for 24 years with 4 adult children
– He has been in ministry since 1976
– Has authored 13 books
– He has many favourite Scriptures and multiple mentors in life
– Loves to read and has about 5 different books on his bedside table covering topics such as  
   history, psychology, governance and leadership.
 
Fact file for Donna Schuller:
– Her first job was giftwrapping clothes at a boutique
– Loves to be outdoors and enjoys walking on the beach and playing golf
– She is inspired by many people, mostly ordinary men and women who, through faith in God,
   overcome life’s obstacles with joy
– Is involved in various projects and has worked with prison ministries, women’s clinics and  
   youth groups.
– She too loves reading and can’t resist an historical novel.
 
Robert you’re an author, preacher, pastor and father. How do you fulfil all these demanding roles?
I could not fulfil any of these roles if I wasn’t being filled by God first. If we are empty, we will have nothing to give away! I also could not do what God has called me to do without a great team. The value of any institution is its staff. Without support from competent members, I would never get everything done! I also believe its important to make space in one’s diary for quiet time. This is the time I spend alone and with Donna. We like to relax and take at least one day a week to spend together golfing, talking walking on the beach. Because we are ‘empty nesters’, we often travel and enjoy quality time with our children – when they grace us with their presence!
 
In 2006 you succeeded your father as senior pastor of the ministry. Was this a daunting decision?
Definitely! It was and still is very challenging. No ministry is free from struggle. We have a responsibility to people and the Kingdom. We also have to operate prudently by keeping a close eye on budgets and the costs of spreading the Great Commission.
Part of my mission has also been to take the ministry into a new era. My father was a pioneer and visionary. When he started the  church, the automobile had just been launched. So, accordingly he started the church on the premises of a drive-in. When television arrived (albeit in black and white), my dad started our TV ministry – seeing it as a way to engage the popular culture of that time.
With the internet boom, we have seen  people, relationships, church and life as we know it, changed to some extent.  My goal is to see Crystal Cathedral Ministries reaching new people all around the globe through technology and new media.
 
You recently wrote a book called ‘Walking in Your Own Shoes’.  Did you write this from experience?
Absolutely! We all have a unique destiny carved out for us by God. Each person on this planet is here for a reason – God doesn’t make mistakes. He created you for great things. Some of us discover early on what we are meant to do, while others need help recognising their talents and specific gifts. This book was written to encourage and motivate people to walk the path God has given them without fear of failure. With Christ for you, who can be against you!
 
You broadcast the ‘Hour of Power’  TV show to over 20 million people worldwide. Why is this  part of your ministry so impactful?
There are many people who will never set foot in a church for various reasons, even though some of them are looking for God. TV provides a safe space for them to see what goes on in a church (via a broadcast) and to hear the Word in a non-threatening environment. TV is also able to reach millions more people through the click of a button.  We get hundreds of testimonies from people all over the world telling us how they have come to know Jesus through our TV show, or been inspired to live fuller lives for God. We have even had people join our church from first viewing us on TV. With our vision for growing the ministry over the internet, we anticipate the impact to overshadow what ‘Hour of Power’ is currently achieving. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He never changes, but the way we present the message should be relevant to the cultural context. I encourage pastors and leaders to embrace technology and change rather than shy away from it. 
 
Your show often features prominent guests and Christian leaders. How do you choose who to profile?
This is not an easy task! We sift through hundreds of recommendations, requests and possibilities, carefully selecting and praying over them. Eventually we choose 32 for the year and trust God with our decision. Because television is such a powerful medium, one has to be careful about who you place on this platform. Being an ambassador of Christ in the media is a weighty responsibility. Especially if you are a teacher of the Word. I never take this privilege lightly and ensure my guests do not either.
 
The messages you preach are known to be positive and inspiring. Is there a reason you focus on these types of sermons?
When Christ comes into your life, He fills you with light, love and untold joy. It is only natural then to want to share this joy and tell of all the Lord has done. We are constantly surrounded by bad news. One only has to pick up the Sunday paper to get a dose of pessimism. People need messages of hope, faith and encouragement. Paul called us to edify and exhort one another –  I would be failing in my role as a pastor if I did not do the same.
 
Some people who do not understand your ministry have criticised it for putting out ‘shallow’ messages and not dealing with topics such as sin or hell. What are your thoughts on this?
I’m sure many of these critics have never been to my church or sat under our ministry. If they have, they would know that we preach a balanced message covering various topics including sin and hell. Just this last Sunday I spoke on sin and how we are to deal with it. Where I differ from many other preachers about teaching on sin is that (within the context of society today) I speak more on the sins of omission (what you don’t do – such as caring for the poor) rather than the sins of commission (what you do wrong – such as stealing from your neighbour). People know the 10 Commandments, but this is just the beginning!
 
What encouragement do you have for believers worldwide who are worried about perilous economic and political conditions?
“Do not fear for the Lord your God is with you. He shall never leave nor forsake you!” Josh 1:69; Heb 3:11.  Too many people project their fears and failings on to Jesus. They walk around without truly knowing who God is and what He has done for them. We serve a victorious King! Trust in the Lord; He will make your paths straight.
 
Donna is it difficult to share your husband with thousands of people every week?
Absolutely not! Robert has always had his priorities in order. I’ve never felt like the church comes between us or our family. Robert knows how to delegate; he is a team player and empowers the people around him to get on with what they need to do. Unlike many pastors, he doesn’t micromanage – which gives us freedom to enjoy our time together and protect ourselves from spiritual burn-out. I have always  felt very safe in our relationship and that has enabled both of us to keep serving God in spite of life’s challenges. 
 
As you have grown older and wiser, what life lessons have you learnt?
The biggest thing I have learnt so far in life is to trust God, to let Him be Lord in your life and to make time to appreciate all that He has given you. Since turning 50 two years ago, I have learnt not to sweat the small stuff. Prioritising is key for a successful, happy life. Many of the things that we as women worry about, are so unnecessary. We need to find our identity and value in Christ and what He has done for us on the Cross. I have definitely matured mentally and emotionally and feel like I am in a place in my walk with God where I am fulfilled and able to share what God has done for me with many other women who are still looking for Him.
 
Are you involved in the ministry at all?
Yes. I love working with my husband and sharing my skills and talents with the Body of Christ. We have all been given gifts from God that we must share with others as we are all necessary in the Kingdom of God. Over the years I have been involved with several projects within our church and outside of our ministry. I love connecting people, projects and causes and use my work as a platform to interact with many non-believers (who are most surprised when they meet ‘a pastor’s wife’ in real life!). I often find myself involved in various organisations and charities at any given time.
I am quite an out-doorsy person, (my friends describe me as hyperactive!) so you won’t find me at the church desk most days, though I often go into the office to write notes of encouragement to the many wonderful people who partner with us and approach our ministry for prayer. I am passionate about people and caring for God’s sheep and one of my favourite things to do is greet people at the door before and after church on a Sunday. As leaders, we have to be real with others and lay ourselves down for God’s plans.
 
What is your advice to women battling to juggle the demands of work/church/family/faith and busy husbands?
Figure out what is important to you, protect your time with God and with your family. Treasure your friends and life’s special moments and do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow brings its own concerns (as Jesus said).
You have to be in good standing with God before anything else will be right in your life. Becoming a Christian and following Jesus does not guarantee you a trouble-free life, but it promises eternal happiness. If there are things or people holding you back and dragging you down in your walk with God or just in general, recognise this and take the necessary steps to change. If you don’t like your job, change it! I have met many people (especially women) who are unhappy in their current employment, but are too scared to change jobs because they don’t believe they are skilled to do anything else. This is a lie!
God has given you everything you need to be blessed and to be a blessing. He has given you His wisdom, His power, His Spirit and His life. Find your passion in life and follow it. Don’t let fear hold you back. God loves you and He wants the best for you always! Also, I would like to encourage moms and dads to take time now to enjoy your children. Time flies and before you know it, your babies are out of their strollers and starting university! Surround yourself with positive people and messages of hope. Life is hard enough as it is, so don’t let negativity bog you down. Read God’s Word and find out what He has to say to you.