Zerubbabel Focus: Living Links
Having been encouraged by the Zerubbabel fellowship to apply biblical principles in their own home, Linda and John Jarrell have reached out to the families God has put in their path to pass on the vital truths which have meant so much to them. In this article, Linda recounts how the total ministry of Zerubbabel has truly been a "Living Link" in the restoration of lives.
Hebrews 10:24 gives us the challenge "Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Such is the basis of godly fellowship-the encouragement and exhortation of the brethren. However, as Norman Grubb points out in the May 9 devotion of Summit Living:
"We at once recognize the dangers and difficulties of such reciprocal challenging…we can be certain that no one is in a position to challenge another on something in their lives or attitudes who is not equally ready to receive a challenge themselves…. It is truly costly to be faithful to a brother."
Our fellowship in Knoxville has experienced great opportunities for faith in the past six months, with each of the three core families here encountering God’s refining fire. I’m amazed to look back and see how God wove each spiritual event together to dramatically impact not only individual per-sons, but the body as a whole, so that we might all learn from each other’s mistakes and victories. The result has been the evolution of a sort of extended family from the fellowship that was birthed nearly two years ago after John and I moved to Knoxville.
For starters, the McNeils had gone through the excruciating process of separating themselves from an adult child who was known to be in sin. Because their child was a Christian, yet unrepentant and willfully rebellious, her parents took a bold stand of faith, declaring to their child that she was no longer welcome in their home (see 1 Cor 5:11), nor would they have contact with her as long as her disobedience continued. Their clear word of faith was that she would be broken over her sin, truly repentant and open to His agenda for her life.
As the 1996 Christmas season approached, both David and Darlene became discouraged with no visible proof of change in their daughter’s life. They began to back off from their firm stand, and started phoning their daughter, only to discover that her life had continued in a downward spiral.
At the same time Darlene herself had been confronted with several areas of unbelief in her own life-overeating, compulsive spending and rage. Persuaded that she needed help to conquer Satan’s misuse in these areas, Darlene counseled with Fowler Cooper and mapped out a plan of recovery that included accountability with the local fellowship and professional intervention.
Somehow, though, Darlene lost sight of her own powerlessness to change her life, becoming overwhelmed at the road before her. She believed Satan’s lie of "you’ll never be any different, that’s just the way you are." Then he added "that fellowship is the problem-they don’t accept you as you are." She couldn’t imagine herself walking out a day without getting snared in one of the areas she had already identified were out of control.
Feeling overwhelmed and hopeless she decided to take matters into her own hands rather than to trust God and others with her life. She took her young son and fled to Atlanta, abandoning her husband and other grown daughter with the intention of reconciling with the estranged daughter, despite her previous stand of faith. She broke all con-tact with her group here, and we didn’t know when we’d see or hear from her again.
Shortly after Darlene’s departure, Sanda Cooper came over from Boone to lend a hand to Laura Hawley after the birth of her fifth child. Sanda noticed that my husband John seemed to be very involved and energetic when it came to his work or the church building committee, but detached and disinterested when it came to family or fellowship matters.
As our local fellowship discussed our concern with him, he came to see that he was pouring himself into the areas of his life where he felt the safest-his profession as an environmental and civil engineer. Because he felt inadequate to address the seemingly overwhelming difficulties some of us were experiencing in our daily lives, he would busy himself in activities where he felt accomplished. John was able to see that his unbelief had sealed him off from his family and our fellowship, and that he could trust Christ as him to be effective in this area, too.
In many ways I could really understand why John would want to retreat when it came to family matters. For the past year we’d been intensely involved with one of our teenage children, who had made sin choices, with devastating consequences that dramatically impacted our entire family. We found ourselves facing every Christian parent’s worst nightmare-watching our child entangled in Satan’s snare, yet resisting all efforts to offer him God’s lifesaving rescue.
In the days and weeks to follow I learned the profound difference between admission of sin and repentance of sin, and God’s requirement of the latter for healing and restoration. This experience brought home the painful realization that only the sinner can choose to accept God’s gift of forgiveness-always available and accessible if only received.
I began to sense that God was calling me to take a stand of faith where my son was concerned, just as he had done with the McNeil’s and their daughter. I had encouraged them to hold the line with their daughter and now it seemed God was requiring the same from me. I felt like I didn’t want to lose him, yet I could see I already had. at I was only beginning to see was how my tolerance of this child’s sin was damaging the other children in our home. At the April business meeting I realized that by faith I had done all I could do for this child and must now trust God totally with him.
I knew things could not continue as they were, but couldn’t seem to muster the strength to do it. I went to my room to pray, laying on the floor sobbing and pleading in prayer, "If there be any other way, Lord…." I went back to our extended fellowship and presented every worry and hesitation, addressing every fear. In doing so I was able to see that to cut him loose was the most loving thing I could do-allow him to fully experience the consequences of his choices and stop trying to soften their blows.
When told he could not return home as long as his behavior remained unchanged, he opted to run away, going to his birth father’s home in Seattle. I seized the opportunity to become involved again in my other children’s lives, and restore my house-hold to sanity without my son’s disruptive presence.
The revelation came to me that this cutting off was also a precious gift from God. How better could I demonstrate repentance to the other children who had been so negatively impacted. They were not only supportive of my decision to disallow their sibling in our home, but relieved and appreciative that I took such a strong stand in defense of them.
As for the lost child, I’ve asked God to change his heart and trust one day he’ll be a truly repentant, mighty young man for Christ. Like in the story of the prodigal son, I watch the horizon and wait for his return with anticipation, and in the mean time busy myself with new found fervor for sharing the truth of Christ in you with those around me.
I found myself spending more and more time with Dan and Laura Hawley, excited about what God was doing in their lives. Sometimes we would have a conference call with Fowler Cooper, taking advantage of his skills as a counselor. During one of those calls Dan broke down and wept over the picture God was giving him of himself an irresponsible and immature father who had been unable to see commitments through to completion. Because he was not taking the role of spiritual leadership in his household his children were beginning to model those same behaviors after him. He was also missing opportunities for sharing Christ with others in his day to day life.
He’d thought of himself as a good-guy and a jokester. But the input he was getting from those around him was that he was a wishy-washy fence sitter. Dan knew God was calling him to step up to the mark or suffer the consequences. With a quick scan of his life he knew he couldn’t walk it out any differently. But he was convicted that, if given the opportunity, Christ could. He was reminded that only by faith and trust in Jesus Christ living his life,could he be the perfect husband, father, friend or employee. Making that leap of faith began to make a difference in Dan’s life.
His wife, Laura, had said she always wanted Dan to step up to the plate spiritually, but when he began to do so, she found herself responding with resentment and anger. God was showing her that she had thrived on Dan’s irresponsibility and immaturity. She got mileage out of Satan’s misuse of him, believing that his falling short justified her own irresponsibility. She thought as long as he was stagnant she wouldn’t have to be accountable either. God freed her with the good news that she didn’t need excuses. She began to see herself as already "whole, complete and lacking nothing" (James 1:4). By trusting in Christ’s sufficiency, He would rise to the occasion as mother and wife through her.
Through all the growing pains of the previous months, our fellowship had a deepening sense that through our own dealings with God and ensuing faith responses, Darlene’s return was imminent. We would have something of substance to say to her about her rebellion when she did finally respond to His calling, because we had identified and dealt with the same in our own lives. We joined in a word of faith and eagerly awaited not only her return to the home, but a willingness to talk with us and openness to God’s way in her life.
We’d heard through her family members that her pursuit of her own way had left her not only homeless, jobless and ill, but increasingly resentful of our confrontation prior to her departure. In the physical realm our word of faith seemed impossible, but we held onto God’s promise that "everything is possible for him who believes" (Mark 9:23).
In late April, Darlene did return home to her family, severely ill with her diabetes. At first she was not interested with any reconciliation with our fellowship. She was just weary from running, broke, and needing a place to live. We prayed for opportunities to make a connection with her and God was faithful.
In June, Dan reached out to Darlene with a sincere request for forgiveness. He explained how God had shown him how his behavior in the past had contributed to the problems between David and Darlene. Dan had encouraged David to see Darlene independently, participating in conversations tearing her down, rather than prompting David to see her as either Christ going on or misused by Satan-not just "Darlene." Darlene saw a vastly changed person in Dan, and immediately knew that it was because Jesus Christ was living his life.
The Spirit seemed to be encouraging Darlene toward reconciliation, but she found herself still resistant. Then came an issue of The Intercessor magazine in the mail. She scanned through it, noting pictures of familiar faces, reading the articles by Page Prewitt and Laura Hawley, and recalling the peace she had known while a part of our extended family.
Unaware of any softening in Darlene, I sensed an urgency in reaching out to her, so I sent a note inviting both David and Darlene to a cookout I was hosting in honor of friends, who were visiting for the weekend. I hoped that by gathering a group of people who had meant some thing to Darlene in the past, she would feel safe to participate. Much to our group’s surprise, both David and Darlene accepted the invitation. Fowler, who had been instrumental in dealing with the family, dropped every-thing at his home in Boone and drove over to Knoxville to be part of the reconciliation. We welcomed Darlene back into the fold as if she were the prodigal. She responded with sincere amends and by recalling to us where Satan had taken her on his pursuit of freedom those many months of her absence. We talked and shared until 5:00 the next morning!
It has been clear to me that each of us, with our individual responses to the sin and rebellion revealed in our lives during those previous months, played a significant part in Darlene’s return. By cleaning up our own lives, then believing God to move in her and change her wants, we had something to offer Darlene when she finally did reach out for help. We could relate to and understand without judging how Satan’s misuse of a person devastates everyone in their path; we know that only through faith in Christ who lives our lives can the havoc and destruction be cleaned up.
It’s been exciting to see how God has woven each individual person’s journeys together to comprise a total fellowship picture of growth and faith adventures. We can now take our experiences and reach not only each other but others. This must have been what Paul had in mind when he penned Philippians 2:2, "Make my joy completed by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 13 No 4
- What is this Human Self of Ours?
- Editor’s Note
- Moments with Meryl
- A Look at a Book
- Body, Soul & Spirit
- 1997 Irish Conference Report
- Zerubbabel Focus: Living Links
- Excerpt from Who Am I?
- Summer Camp: Moving Forward
- Z-Youth at Camp
- From Fear to Feedom
- Questions & Answers
- Tape Talk
- Area Fellowship News: Wisconsin Fellowship
- Excerpt from Who Am I?
- The Mailbox
- To Think About…
- To Think About…
- Words to Live By…