The following is a portion of a long email that Pastor Bob & Gail Jackson received on April 18, 2004 from Jerry Jackson. We are making it available because we thought it might be interesting for folks to read a little of what goes on in the life of a missionary. These are some of the things that never make it to the prayer letter.
Dear Dad & Mom,
Today has been a strange day for us. Becky needed to do laundry, so we started up the generator around 10:00. It is now 7:30 and it is still running! Just about the time Becky was getting done with the laundry, it was getting dark outside.
Before I start on anything else, I want to tell you about our trip home on Tuesday. I was concerned about bringing the Hilux [the Jackson’s 4x4 Toyota pickup] home due to the 15-inch tires. It seems to drag on everything it can, which holds up the truck, or stops it completely. I had wanted to start home pretty early, but was help up at the workshop when I went to pick up the truck. I think that it was about 4:45 when we finally were able to leave town. That made me even more concerned about the trip home, because it had been pretty muddy when we had come into town that morning. Well, we started out just fine. We got out to where the worst part of the road begins, and that is where we got stuck. We started down the hill, and I stopped to look the road over to see which way would be the best for me to go down. I did this because the ruts were deep enough to catch the diff [differential] , if I didn’t choose correctly. It had apparently been dry most of the day, so there was one spot that looked really dry, and I went that way. As I came down the hill and around the corner, I saw that there was a large hole in front of me, and I would have to get over into the ruts to avoid the holes.
Well, somehow I never got over and went face first into this huge hole in the road. We went in and stuck. I tried to back out of it, but there was just no way that that was going to happen. A few young guys started to help push the truck, but it was firmly stuck in the ground. Finally, someone showed up with a spade, and they began to dig out under the front diff. That would probably have worked out fine if it hadn’t started raining right then. It just poured for about 30 minutes, and most of these guys stayed right there to help dig us out. They finally borrowed a rope from a passing PMV [Public Motor Vehicle - a private vehicle used as public transportation], and tried to get us out with that. Nothing seemed to work. Then, they looked at the back of the truck and saw that the back end was buried in the mud from working to get the front end out of the hole. So, we were pretty much stuck, without any possibility of getting out before the morning. We got stuck at about 5:45 [pm], and at about 9:45 [pm] they told me that there just wasn't anything else they could do until morning. I didn’t know what we were going to do, until one guy offered to let us stay at his house. He is a FFC [an interdenominational, charismatic group] pastor at Hairo, and was walking home from where the PMV had dropped him off when he came across us. He worked as hard as anyone else to get us out, and was good to let us know what was happening with the work being done. We were a ways from Hairo, so we
would have to walk in the dark from where the pickup was buried. I was hoping that something would happen to prevent us from having to spend the night somewhere besides our own home, and that is when the Lufa ambulance came by. Everyone ran over to ask if they would help to pull us out, since they already had a rope, or if they could drive us up to Hairo. Well, they just wouldn’t hear of either option. They said that they were low on fuel and just couldn’t afford to pull us out, and all their other vehicles were broken down (whatever that had to do with it). So, they just pulled off and left us sitting there. It was at least 3 kilometres to get to Hairo, but we really didn’t have any choice. We had help with the Boys, until Jason got scared or something, and I had to carry him the rest of the way, on my shoulders (my neck still hurts from that). Most everything we just had to leave with the truck. This FFC (Faith Fellowship Church) pastor, whose name is Martin Jonah, along with a LGC (Local Government Council) member appointed two young guys to watch the
truck for us during the night, so that nothing would be taken. I put as much stuff as I could into our white box [a large, locking plywood box that was always used with this truck] , and we took the diaper bag and Becky’s bilum [woven string bag] with us.We borrowed a kerosene lantern for K2 (approximately 70 cents) and started off. It was overcast that night, so we had no moon to help us walk, and since it had rained, the road was very slippery and muddy. It was after 11:00 when we finally arrived at Martin’s house. He lives at the Hairo FFC station, in one of the missionary homes there. So, it was a nice house we stayed in, with indoor toilet and running water. We sat down and talked with his wife and five daughters for a little bit, and then they took us back to where we would sleep. Martin and his wife let us stay in their room, and they laid a double [foam rubber] mattress on the floor for the Boys to sleep on. There were pillows for us and blankets. Becky froze all night long, and I couldn’t get comfortable, so neither one of us slept much. The Boys were worn out from the walk, so they slept pretty good. I got up at 7:00 the next morning, and Martin and I walked back to the pickup. I thought that I was going to die before I got the where it was stuck, and I had sweat dripping off my face, even though it was a cool morning. I did make it though finally. I climbed up on the back of the Hill and sat on the white box while they worked to free up both the front and back diff. They worked for over an hour to get everything dug out like they needed to. While they were working to dig us out, the Lufa ambulance came by on their way to town. The driver wouldn’t even look over my way, which is probably just as well, since I wasn't very happy with him. But, just as the ambulance got even with our truck, they got stuck!! I almost busted out laughing when that happened. I wanted to tell them that the Lord was judging them for not helping us the night before, but I just kept my mouth shut. No one that was helping to dig us out went over to help them, although they were saying all sorts of things to them in tok ples (the local tribal language). They worked for about 15 minutes and then were able to get on through. They hadn’t been gone too long when I was told that we could try to get the pickup out. There were folks pulling on the rope in front as well as pushing from the back, so we were able to get out of that hole on the first try. I was thrilled about that.
But, as soon as we got out of the hole, we had to change the front passenger side tire, which had gone flat during the night. My big concern was for the weld job that they had done on the frame. I was afraid that the stress of being in that hole, as well as the effort to get out would be too much for the plating. I checked it out while the tire was being changed, and it was just fine. It didn’t look any different than it had when I picked it up at the workshop. I was really relieved about that.
I had to pay these guys for helping me out, which I was happy to do considering all the work they put into it. The only trouble was that I didn’t have any money with me, to speak of. I think that everything Becky and I had was less than K20 (approximately $7), which would be near enough. But, before we left the house that morning, Martin had mentioned that we would have to pay these guys, and did I have the cash for that. I told him what I had, and he agreed that it wouldn’t be enough. He then offered to loan me K60 (approximately $21) that he had so that we could take care of these guys. I agreed to that since I knew that we had at least that much in our little bucket at the house. Well, I gave them everything we had, plus what Martin loaned me. They were thrilled with that, and everyone was so happy. I ran back up to Hairo this morning to take the money back to Martin, as he needed it for his two daughters who go to school in town. They are out on holiday, but return to school on Monday. Almost as soon as I had given the money to everyone, the FFC missionary pulled up. He had come down to help pull me out. He doesn’t live at Hairo full-time, but goes back and forth between Hairo, Gouno, and some place beyond the end of the road. It just so happens that he had just come back from furlough a couple of weeks ago, and had been staying there while he waited for the roads to dry out and he could get further down the road. They were already in bed by the time we got up to the station [the night before], but he was not happy with Martin for not letting him know that we were there, so that we could have stayed with them. As soon as he heard that Becky and the Boys were there, he went over and brought them over to his house, where Becky was able to wash out the Boys’ clothes and hang them up.
When he got the whole story about our situation, he took off to come pull me out. So, we went back to his house, where Becky and his wife were talking. They are both in their mid-to-late 50’s, and were very nice to us. We sat and talked with them for a long time, and even ate lunch with them, while we waited for the Boys’ clothes to dry…
We were able to leave Hairo at about 1:30, and were finally able to make our way home. We got back home a
little over an hour later, since I was taking it very slowly, not wanting a repeat performance. I filled up the generator and started it, filled up the Hilux with diesel, got all our church things in the truck, came in and gave the Boys a haircut, shaved and took a bath myself, and left for church just a little after 5:00. I was pretty happy that we were able to get all that done in such a short time. Of course, Becky was busy at the same time ironing clothes, bathing the Boys and herself and getting everything and everyone ready for church. Not to
mention that she also got supper on in her Aircore pans (I do not know what we would do without them).
I already wrote an email and told you about church last night, but I didn't mention that we got stuck on the way home! I don’t go all the way down to the school anymore, because they need a little bridge thingy, and what they have there isn’t wide enough for either truck. So, we park halfway down the school driveway, under a tree. Well, last night, I pulled out into the driveway, going back up after service, and I dropped into this huge hole. I knew there was a hole there, but I didn’t realize that it was that big. We worked for a good thirty minutes to get it out of that hole and on the road again. Becky and I just kept looking at each other, not saying anything. I told her that at least we could walk to our house, if we couldn’t get the Hilux out! Well, we finally got it out and had no other troubles on the way home. I tell you, I was so exhausted when I got home that I never knew that it rained all night long!
Like I said, I had to go back to Hairo today, to repay the money I had borrowed. I had just gotten up to the junction (about 2 kilometres from our house) on my way there, when the diffs got stuck on the ground between the ruts. I was not very happy about that. There were about four guys walking along the road who pushed me through that spot, and I just plowed my way for another 20 yards to get through that area. I ended
up giving those guys a ride to Hairo as a result of there help, but I figured that would help me out, if I got stuck again. I wondered what would happen on the way home, but I had no trouble at all…
October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the night that Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Whittenburg. This act is seen as the spark that ignited the fires of the Reformation, during which many people left the Catholic church to become a part of the Lutheran, Anglican (Episcopal), Presbyterian, and Reformed churches. Most people see the Reformation as a great event wherein “the church” was turned back to the truth. But, is that really what was going on?
First, was Luther’s plan to detach himself from the Catholic church, or did he have other ideas? The official title of his 95 theses was “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” It was written in Latin, rather than German, because it was a call for debate about how the use and sale of indulgences should be carried out. It was not until these 95 theses were translated into German and dispersed across the countryside that an uproar came about among the common people. Once the uproar started, there was no turning back. Luther didn’t foresee or plan a break from the Catholic church, but once it started, he was the natural choice to head this group of disgruntled Germans who became the Lutheran church.
Did Luther have a plan to eradicate all the false teaching of the Catholic church? When writing about baptism, he said, “For to baptize in Greek is to dip, and baptizing is immersion. Being moved by this reason, I would have those who are to be baptized to be altogether dipped in water, as the word doth express, and as the mystery doth signify (The Works of Martin Luther, Wittem. Edition, vol. 2, p. 79).” So, did Luther require all his followers, who had been baptized by sprinkling as infants, to submit themselves to the obviously Scriptural pattern of immersion in water? No. In fact, Lutherans never have used immersion as a mode of baptism, and today they commonly sprinkle infants.
Luther had no plans for wholesale change; he merely wanted to tweak a few items with which he had trouble. As you consider Lutheran doctrine, you can see that Luther was really trying to stay as close to Catholicism without actually teaching Catholic doctrine. You can see this with both the doctrines of the church (invisible, universal church as opposed to a visible, universal church) and communion (consubstantiation as opposed to transubstantiation). In both of these instances, Luther tried to remain as close to what he had grown up with in the Catholic church, regardless of the teaching of Scripture.
Luther never got away from the sacraments. Lutherans today believe in the following sacraments: baptism, eucharist (communion), penance, holy orders, matrimony, and anointing of the sick. According to wikipedia.com, these sacraments are substantive in that they produce forgiveness and everlasting life: “They [Lutherans] teach that God earnestly offers to all who receive the sacrament forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation.” For all the praise that people heap upon Luther for his realization that “the just shall live by faith,” he never got to the point where that faith was in Christ alone, totally separate from the sacraments. This is not the Gospel that the Bible teaches (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), nor will anyone find eternal life by following these sacraments (John 14:6).
So, if we look history straight in the face, we must realize that the Protestant Reformation was nothing more than a reworking of the corrupt and unscriptural doctrine and practices of the Catholic church. While I do hope that there were some who came to Christ by faith during this era, it is almost in spite of the work of the reformers, as they talked of faith out of one side of their mouths, yet continued to teach sacramental practices out of the other side of their mouths.
Fast forward 500 years. What would be our expectation of the churches of the Reformation? Would they stand for truth and against error? Or would they slide back into the error they were a part of before the Reformation began?
I was interested, but not totally surprised, to read an article about the celebration of this auspicious anniversary on the Vatican’s website (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/lutheran-fed-docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_2013_dal-conflitto-alla-comunione_en.html#The_first_ecumenical_commemoration_) According to this article, the Catholic and Lutheran denominations will celebrate the commemoration of the Reformation together. This is the first time that this commemoration will be officially celebrated together since Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door all those years ago.
Does this mean that the Catholic church has changed its doctrine and practice so much that it is now in tune with the Lutheran church? Or, could it be that the Lutheran church has been so close to Catholicism all these years, that they have decided that it doesn’t make any difference anymore? Many would praise this ecumenical spirit, and say that the “body of Christ” should rejoice that such peace and harmony could exist between these two denominations. After all, aren’t we supposed to work toward unity within the “body of Christ”?
Looking at what is going on in these days of ecumenical fervour, we have to wonder if it was worth it. If, after 500 years of “protesting” the errors of the Roman Catholic church, the Lutherans would just walk back into fellowship with the Pope, then we must ask ourselves what was the point? The only thing that was achieved was a period of disunity. Now there is nothing but a laying aside of any truth that might have been held for the purposes of peace and love.
How should we look at the Reformation? Should we praise it as a wonderful time in “church” history? Again, if we are honest with history, we will see the Reformation as a time of trying to purify something that was already rotten. Rotten milk cannot be unspoilt. In the same way, there is no way to take doctrinal error and heresy and make something sound in doctrine and practice. So, the Reformation was not a great time for true believers, but merely a confusion for the lost. It was a way to keep lost people lost, bound by tradition, either old or new. It had just enough Bible to sound good but held on to just enough heresy to be damning to a lost soul.
This is really the legacy of the Reformation: the confusion of the lost. I hear people lamenting the fact that they do not know which “church” teaches the truth, and wondering if they aren’t all the same. It is not God who has brought about this confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). It is the devil who will do his best to confuse the lost soul, so as to keep every lost soul away from faith in Christ. The devil does not care if an individual attends a “Christian” church, and talks about believing in Jesus, as long as he is confused enough to never place his full faith in the finished work of Christ. He will produce his own “preachers” to talk about Jesus and lead people, like a pied piper, straight into hell (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Thank God that the truth was never lost to the world, as is taught by many of the reformers. There were faithful churches already in existence before the Reformation began! These churches never identified with Rome, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, or any of the other reformers. They relied totally upon the authority of Scripture, believing that salvation was through Christ alone (Romans 10:1-4), by repentance and faith alone (Acts 20:21), and that there could be assurance of that salvation (1 John 5:13). They did not hold to any sort of sacrament, for the purpose of finding forgiveness and eternal life. Instead, they clung to Jesus!
I am glad to say that these pure churches are still in existence today! We call them “Baptist” today (though, not all churches that carry the name “Baptist” are a pure church), although they have been known by many different names down through the centuries. They still teach the same truth that salvation is in Christ alone, through repentance and faith alone, and call all believers to come out of the world so that they might live a life that is separated unto God! That is much better than reformation, for that is the transformation that God brings into the heart and life of every true believer!
The Reformation isn’t anything to brag about since all the protesting churches are now gladly returning to their mother church. Instead, our eyes should be placed on our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and His Word, neither of which will ever change (Hebrews 13:8; Matthew 24:35)!
We are living in times much like the days of the Judges when everyone did that which is right in his own eyes. If any God-called preacher should touch on anyone’s particular habit, they are given to understand that the preacher is preaching nothing but “preference,” because “life just isn't black and white, with clear-cut choices and boundaries, and we just have to do the best we can to choose one of the ‘gray areas!’”
A “gray area” is defined as “an undefined situation or subject that does not seem to conform to known categories or rules (dictionary.com)."
“Gray areas” cover so many topics today, and it seems that there are more areas that are claimed to be gray than there were just a few years ago. There are “gray areas” in the realm of personal habits, like smoking or drinking. There “gray areas” in the realm of personal tastes, such as music, entertainment, and dress. There are “gray areas” in the realm of personal acceptance, such as our lifestyle, sexual orientation, or trans-status.
Why is it that there are so many “gray areas” today? Have our problems and circumstances so changed in the past 4-5 decades that the absolutes of the past no longer fit the problems of today? Have we come to such a place of enlightenment that the conclusions of the past can now be cast off for the confusion of the present?
Here is something else to consider: Did God not realize that there would be so many “gray areas?” Did He fail to include in His Word the answers we need for today? In other words, is the Bible really relevant to the problems of today, or does God not really care what we do?
The Brilliance of God
To fully understand the issue, we have to begin with God Himself. 1 John 1:5 says this: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” When we begin to study the character of God, we find that in God is no darkness. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. What is a “gray area,” but some place where there is a lack of light? If God is light, then there are no “gray areas” with Him! God is light because He is not a sinner. In fact, He is of purer eyes than to behold the wickedness of man. He is so pure that Paul tells us that no man can approach Him. 1 Timothy 6:16 says that God is “...dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto…"
Of course, the fact that man is incapable of approaching God because of the brilliance of His light makes the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ so essential! Without Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, we would have no hope to overcome our own enmity with God so that we might have real fellowship with God. We cannot thank God enough for sending Christ to die in our place.
We have to understand that there is no darkness in God. We also have to understand that there is no variableness with God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17).” When we say that there is no variableness with God, we are saying that He is not fickle, or given to change His mind from one direction to another. This means that if God has set His mind that one thing is right or wrong, that decision does not change because men's minds have changed. The changes in our society and culture have no effect upon God. What was black and white 2,000 years ago is still black and white today, even if everyone around us tells us otherwise. When we say that there is no shadow of turning in God, we are saying that God has no shading which changes with the view of the onlooker. Having a close relationship with God does not mean that He allows us to get away with things that He would condemn in someone else. He is always the same, without one “gray area!”
It is clear that the character of God is brilliant, not allowing for any sort of “gray area.” But, God has not left the choices of our lives up to us to handle to the best of our ability. God has given to us His brilliant communication (His Word) to give illumination to every decision we face in life. From a young child in Sunday School, we are taught to recite Psalm 119:105, which states, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Just as God Himself is light, so the very words He has given to us are light, so that we might follow after Him in the light, and not walk in darkness! The only reason a particular situation or decision looks gray to us is that we have not properly illuminated that decision or situation with the light of God's Word!
God does not believe in “gray areas!” There is either light or darkness. God gave to us His Word so that we would not have to walk in darkness, but follow Him in the light!
The Blundering Choices of Man
Why then does everyone seem to talk about “gray areas” today? Very simply put, because man naturally chooses darkness, and has no desire for the light. Man can also be a hypocrite, and try to make you believe he is a very spiritual person by claiming his actions and choices of darkness are only “gray areas!” Jesus told Nicodemus that men love darkness rather than light (John 3:19), and refuse to come to the light of God's character and communication because they do not want the “gray areas” they have carved out for themselves to be exposed to be darkness (John 3:20)! No one chooses darkness by accident but makes that choice out of love for darkness. This is just as true for the believer as it is for the unbeliever.
But, what is the source or reasoning behind these so-called “gray areas?” I believe that there are three main sources that contribute to the claim of some attitude or action being a “gray area.”
First, there is the source of disarray. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints (1 Corinthians 14:33).” Mankind likes to confuse the issue, making it seem as if there is no “right” decision. This confusion is not from God, and should not be blamed on our Lord!
Second, there is the source of doubt. We know the account of Satan in the Garden of Eden. He twisted Eve around his little finger by casting doubt on the Word of God. Satan is not above opening the conversation with the Word of God, but he quickly makes the Word of God of no consequence to the decision to be made. The Bible in the hands of Satan merely becomes a pretext for spreading doubt.
Third, there is the source of distance from God. If we do not walk in the light with the Lord (1 John 1:6-7), we will be walking in darkness. We may try to call our lifestyle choices “gray areas,” but it is really nothing more than a sign that we are not walking as close to the Lord as we ought!
The Balance of the Light
When we tie all of these things together, we begin to understand that there is only light and darkness. There are NO “gray areas!” There have been some who call it a “cop out” when we state that there are no “gray areas,” but we do not have to explain ourselves to others. We must explain all our choices, actions, and attitudes to the very God that is light and has no variableness. That is a much greater concern to the believer who has a real heart for God.
When we realize that there are no “gray areas,” we must come to the understanding that anything which is not of the light must be of darkness. Paul asked, “what communion hath light with darkness (1 Corinthians 6:14)?” The two simply do not go together.
The only way by which to come up with a gray colour is to attempt to mix light and darkness. Yet, God clearly leads us to the conclusion that there can be no mixture of light and darkness.
It is clear that God expects His children to walk in the light, which means that we cannot entertain anything that would be considered “gray.” We must separate ourselves from anything that is not light, no matter what “shading” people might put upon that attitude or activity.
When we realize that there are no “gray areas,” we must also come to the understanding that when we follow the light, we will find the blessing of God! There will be the blessing of fellowship with God. When we walk in the light as our heavenly Father is in the light, we can enjoy fellowship with Him. To be able to freely fellowship with our Creator and Saviour is a wonderful blessing that we ought never take for granted!
There is also the blessing of fellowship with God's people. Many people cannot stand to be around God's people, but that is usually because they are not walking in the light, and they do not want their deeds to be exposed as darkness. But, when we walk in the light, we have the ability and the desire to walk with like-minded believers. Others may call us "legalistic" or "hypocritical," but we enjoy one another’s company because we have the same desire to walk in the light with the Father.
There is also the blessing of forgiveness from God. We cannot expect continual forgiveness from God while we willfully dabble in all the “gray areas” that are really nothing more than darkness. This smacks of rebellion rather than repentance, and the Father will not be moved to forgive that for which we have no remorse.
Not only that but where there is a lack of forgiveness in the life of a believer, there will be the need for the chastening of God. The chastening of God is really for the purpose of teaching His children to walk in the light, and not in darkness (Hebrews 12:10-11).
A simple reading of the Scripture makes it very clear that there are no such things as “gray areas.” In reality, the claim of a “gray area” is nothing more than an excuse to do that which we want to do.
But, how can we tell if an attitude or activity is of the light or of darkness? There are six points that will help in any decision about a “gray area.”
1. Recognize that the Bible has the answer! Psalm 119:105
2. Make sure that our affections and motivations are spiritual rather than carnal! Colossians 3:1-2
3. Ask ourselves whether or not our proposed attitude or activity would be acceptable to the Lord! Ephesians 5:10
4. Ask ourselves whether or not this attitude or activity would align us or associate us with those who walk in darkness. Ephesians 5:11
5. Ask ourselves whether or not this attitude or activity would hinder anyone’s salvation or spiritual growth. Romans 14:21
6. If there is any doubt, don't! Romans 14:23
We cannot afford to play with our relationship with God! We must allow God and His Word to set boundaries for our lives, even if everyone else in the world calls our boundaries a “gray area!”