Ken Johnson - Marriage and the Ministry - Buttonwillow I - 2004

Matthew 19, there are certain chapters that I consider that the theme that they cover is just complete. One of the reasons that I enjoy this chapter - it is a hard chapter - is that it includes marriage and it includes the ministry. For myself I call it the M and M chapter, Marriage and the Ministry. M and Ms are designed to be sweet, and that is the way God planned and designed from the beginning. Marriage and the Ministry were to be sweet. But both of these subjects in this chapter start out sort of bumpy. They came to Jesus and they asked Him about a man putting away his wife. In verse 4 Jesus answered and said, "Have ye not read how it was in the beginning?" Then He told about a man leaving his family, and the woman, and they became one, it was not to be divided. They weren't satisfied with that answer and they said, "Yes, but. Yes, but Moses, why did Moses let them divorce?" And Jesus said, "Moses, because of the hardness of your heart allowed this." Jesus in both times said that in the beginning it wasn't like that. Both times He went back to the beginning.  He gave them an answer, and they said, "Yes, but."  Over in Australia and New Zealand there are lots of sheep, millions of sheep, and those people know what sheep are. We heard in convention that you can tell a goat, because a goat butts. Yes, but! If we have that nature, if we have the nature of a lamb, as we have already heard, we're submissive, and we follow the Shepherd. But if we have that other nature, "Yes, I know it's that way, but;" there's too much fighting. It wasn't that way from the beginning.  

We've heard so much from the first two days of convention about our hearts being soft. Jesus said that was the problem, hard hearts. Perhaps we can say that that is the reason so often things don't work the way they are supposed to, because of hard hearts. We read about them wandering in the wilderness, it was because of their hard hearts. If we have a soft heart, it is easier for us to accept what God wants for us, and to do what He wants for us. When I was reading about these people this time, and they were going back and forth to Jesus, this verse came to my mind in Ecclesiastes 7:29, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” When Jesus explained in more details regarding the responsibility of marriage, even the disciples said, "If it's that hard, we shouldn't get married." And Jesus said, "There are those that don't get married." There are those that don't get married because they give their life for the ministry, for the Kingdom. We'll just leave that there for now what they were saying, and this about the marriage. For some it was difficult, it was almost impossible. And yet we know it works. I've always been grateful for good examples, because they take away excuses. So many times people have an excuse. But they know of a person that's doing it, so they don't have an excuse. That was marriage.  

Now we go to the ministry. This starts in verse 16. A man came to Jesus and he called Him a good Master, and he wanted to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus told him about the commandments. The man said, "Well, I've done all that." And Jesus said to him, "Well, if you want to do the most, give what you have to the poor, sell it and come follow Me." It says that he went away sad because he had great possessions. In other words, he had a good testimony and he was free. He was free for the ministry, and Jesus opened another door for him. But it was too difficult for him. He thought it was pretty hard. I like what Peter said in verse 27. “Then answered Peter and said unto Him, 'Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee. What shall we have therefore?'” So for one man it was difficult and it was possible, but here was Peter. And he says, "Behold, we have done it." Then he went on and asked Jesus about the recompense, and we'll get to that later. About those who left all, left a home, left parents, and they got a hundred fold more. Regarding both of these themes, marriage and the ministry, it's very, very workable.  

In the very middle of this chapter, and that's why I think it's one of the most beautiful chapters we have. In the middle of the chapter, there is a little child. In verse 13, “Then were there brought to Him little children that He should put His hands on them and pray, and His disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, 'Suffer little children and forbid them not to come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.'” I just like this, that in the middle of the conversation, there was the marriage part, and some thought it was pretty hard, but it would work. There was the ministry, and it was pretty hard, but that is the way it should be. And yet in the middle of both of these, a little child. And for me the secret for making, whether it be the marriage or the ministry or whatever vocation we have, it is the spirit of a little child.  Going back to the marriage, I know this is going to sound hard. Different people have told about problems. We heard yesterday about the couple who had been together for how many years? They faithfully trusted each other all those years. Fifty some years. But whether it is in the ministry or the marriage, there are five words that I like, and I believe apply, and they are a little bit hard. NO OPTION. MAKE IT WORK. No option. Make it work. Actually Lorne did it in three words this morning, "STICK TO IT." I would like to share a little bit with you about that. Really there are options. We all have options. There is a little subject if you would like to do this sometime, a study of 110 verses. In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” He was saying that there is no law, certain things that I can do if I want. There is no law about it, but I don't want these things to have power over me. Then there is another verse, 110 verses away, in chapter 10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth.” Those two verses are almost the same. Paul was saying that there is no law about this or about that, but some things that are expedient that can edify me, and have power over me.  Between those two verses there are options. We have options. Lets go back to chapter 7. There is the option of whether we marry or we don't. In that chapter there is one verse that to me, I feel condenses it all. 1 Corinthians 7:17, “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk.” So we have options. Young people have options regarding who they marry. We workers have the option of marrying or not marrying. Then there are people, very useful people that are not in the ministry, nor are they married. Yet they are very, very useful.  I would like to share with you about a young woman, she is not young any more, a girl or woman in Guatemala. She has never been on any workers' list. Her heart is in the work, but she wouldn't have health to be there continually. But often, and this happens once in a while in our staff, because we are so few, and sicknesses often, when a sister worker is alone, then they think about Dorita. And Dorita has always had some kind of a job that she can leave that job for a few weeks and then go back to it. She has always had that kind of a job. And over the years, that's her option in life. She is very useful, but you will never see her name on a workers' list. Sometimes we ourselves don't even know. We get a letter and we hear that Dorita has been with Doris, or with someone else. We didn't even know it. But she lives there. What we want to do is that once we have decided where we are in life, what we're supposed to be, then we want to make it work.  

When we were studying Spanish, it was a three months course before I went into the work, there was a young man that came and gave us a pep talk. He had been through it all, and he gave us a pep talk. One thing he said is that when you are learning a language like that, you are going to come up to a point when you think you will not learn one more word, like you have come up to a wall. You study and you study and nothing opens. But he said if you stick with it, stay with it, the wall will fall down. And I got to that very point. I'm glad that I heard that. Sometimes another wall pops up afterward, but just stick to it and you'll get through. There are so many times in life when we don't feel like that. We do have options.  In Nicaragua there is a certain route that we go on just about weekly.  There is a lawyer and he has a big sign up about his business, Marriages and Divorces. He'll take money for either one. Marriages and Divorces. So people have their options, right? They say we have that option. But the way God planned it, we have to make it work. We stick to it. Of any people on earth we have more help than any one else. Just stick to it and make it work. A little by-word that I like is KEEP IT TOGETHER. It's worthwhile. Keep it together, it's worthwhile. There is a marriage vow that has been used over the years, it says, "For better or for worse." But really it is for good. It works. We can have that thought in our mind, It works. And it is the same for the ministry, and it is the same for anything that we stand for as God's children.
 
Regarding this little child in the middle of this chapter, I'd like to try to simplify things as much as possible, and give you some practical recipes about how to make it work. I'd like to go to the ABCs. The first ABC is Always Be Christ-like. Always Be Christ-like. That covers a lot.  I'm not going to go into too much detail with this because almost everything else that we share is all under that, of being like Christ, and we heard that yesterday, we want to be like Him. When I think about being Christ-like, I just think of having so much of something that we hear of. I don't think there is a meeting that has gone by where we haven't heard the word kind or kindness. Being Christ-like is being kind one to another. Ray (Hoffman) was giving us his testimony after breakfast the other morning. The first person he met that was professing, even though the looks were so different, the first thing that impressed him was that he was a kind man. Kindness. If we just be kind to one another.  Another word that I like regarding being Christ-like is the word noble.  So many times we are not very noble toward each other. We're base. We heard about being base. But if we are Christians, if we're Christ-like we are going to be noble. There is going to be respect. So, always be Christ-like. 

Once in Belize there was a man who had meetings in his home. Twice he asked, "What do you think about the orthodox Christians?" "Well," I told him, "The way you put the question it is very easy to answer. Christians love, and Christians forgive, and Christians understand, and Christians cooperate. There is really no question, if we're Christians." So that is why the first ABC is Always be Christ-like. If we have that spirit of Christ it will help in any situation. This does not only apply to marriage or only to the ministry. The older ones that are here or in rest homes, and there are children at school, and people who work, no matter where we are, always be Christ-like.
 
The next one is Always be Child-like. Always be childlike. Not childish, but childlike. Some of the qualities that I really appreciate in children is that they are innocent, they are not malicious. They may get in trouble when they play amongst themselves, but they are not malicious.  Another thing I like about children is that they are willing to learn. So often we have in our mind, that person doesn't give in. We're bopping heads. But wouldn't it be nice if we could learn from each other. Instead of criticizing someone because they are different, maybe there are some qualities that would help us. There is a place in Honduras where there are lots of children and they like to be in the Gospel meeting, and there are adults, and there is a number of the adults that can't read. A lot of the children can't read either, but they are going to school. And we come to the part of the meeting when we are handing out our little Gospel hymn books, and we'll hand one to an adult that can't read and they will say, "No, can't read." But you if you hold it out to a little child, and they can't read either, but they will eagerly take one of those thin little Gospel hymn books. I like that spirit. Wouldn't it be nice if we could always learn? There was one little girl, I asked if she could read. Hymn books were limited so I held one out to her and on the front of it, it says, "Hymns." I said to her, "If you can tell me what that says, I'll give it to you." She looks and she looks, and finally she says, "Little book."  "Librito." We gave it to her. She made a try. Wouldn't it be nice if we had that spirit always through life.

As a little child, we want to learn.  Little children, like we were saying, they might get into little spats and everything, but they usually get over it pretty fast, because they are not malicious. They are sincere. And if we can have that spirit.  We should go back to being Christ-like, always be Christ-like. Christ is a Rock. If we are on the Rock, it's a good foundation. If we're not on the Rock, things go to the rocks. Too often we hear about certain relations, they're on the rocks. It's perhaps because the heart was a little bit hard. They didn't have a Christ-like spirit. 

Always Be Caring. Caring of each other. Perhaps along with being caring we could say, Always Be Careful. Be careful. Every one of us have a spirit, every one of us have a will, everyone of us have a bad part, a human. Be careful of one another, be cautious, the way we deal with each other. These stories that I am telling you are true. I like to tell stories that have been lessons to me. This happened to me a few years ago when I was going to a market. There the ladies carry things on their heads, all their burdens on their heads. There was this lady and she had a deep clay vessel. I would say there were 6 or 7 gallons of hot corn meal in it. It was up in the high lands, a few thousand feet up, and they like hot drinks. It was used to make hot drinks, and it was rapped up with a piece of cloth to keep it hot. As I was going by she asked, "Sir, could you help me take this off my head?" So I stopped, and between the 2 of us we gently took it off her head and put it down so she could get a better grip on it. Just before we got it to the ground, we dropped it just a little bit too hard. It was clay. She looked at me, and I looked at her, then we began to notice a little wet spot coming out of the cloth.  The wet spot got bigger and bigger. We had broken the clay pot. I felt sorry for her. She was just a maid. She was taking it to the owner inside, and she wouldn't be paid more that 50 cents a day. I felt sorry for her and I went in and we made a deal. I paid for the clay pot, and 6 or 7 gallons of hot corn meal. When we came out there was a huge yellow spot on the sidewalk that was legally mine. I had paid for it, but I let someone else keep that and do whatever they wanted to with that. But ever since, that has been a lesson to me. That pot was clay, and we weren't careful enough with it and it broke. Aren't we made of clay? We're all made of clay.
 
When we were little children, we would get into little spats and things, and sometimes when we couldn't really hit each other, or throw stones, we had our little saying, we all know it, right? Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me. But that's not true. Words do hurt. And those are the things that break the clay pot. That's when we have to be careful with one another. The Lord made our tongue with three stops: we can bite it, hold your lips with it inside, or put your hand over it. Three stops and yet it still gets out. Little children sometimes have another help. This happened in Australia after we had given that home work about Mary had a little lamb, we were sitting around in the evening with a mother and some children and we were talking about the poem. One of the boys said, "I heard one in school. Mary had a little lamb," and right there was Mum's hand. I think she knew what was coming next. So he had help when he needed help. But when you get older you don't have the help of Mother's hand. So wouldn't it be nice if we were considerate, and care about, and cautious.

Caring. Always be caring. Always be cautious. Always be careful. All ABC's.  Another is Ask Before Criticizing. So when we are so good at criticizing others, because they're not like ourselves, because we're seeing something from our tiny point of view, and there we are. Criticizing someone else. If we could just ask, and try to understand. As we have said before, the word understand is just standing under. Understanding is standing under another person's situation, so if we ask, and get a little picture of what their problem is, then we would not be so quick in criticizing. Often we are so exacting, so exacting with others, and yet we are so loose with ourselves. We want everyone else to tow the line.  I'd like to share with you this story of a man who sold cheese in the countryside in Guatemala. He sold cheese in little pound packets, and he came to this lady's house and she buys a pound of cheese, and he sees that the lady has some fresh beans there. He asked to buy a pound of beans. So she goes back into the kitchen and she brings out the pound of beans. So the man thinks, " I'm going to check and see if she gave me the right amount." So he puts them on the scale and checks it. It was a little less than a pound. So next time he is out there selling his cheese, he goes by that house, and he says, "Lady, that pound of beans that you sold me wasn't complete." She says, "That's strange. Back in my kitchen I have a balance. On one side I put the pound of cheese that you sold me, and on the other side I put the beans." We are so exacting of others. We want everyone else to be right there. But we ourselves are a little bit slack.  That's our human nature. Ask before criticizing. Always be courteous.  That's being kind one with another, preferring one another. That's what Paul said. 

Always Be Correctable. If we could just be willing for correction in our lives. And that is being like a little child. Once again we're back to that ABC, Always be childlike. Children, I know it hurts them for the moment, but they are correctable. If we are just willing to see our mistakes, see ourselves as others see us, as God sees us, and be corrected. Regarding criticizing and seeing faults in others, there is a recipe that I like. Make big things small, and small things big.  Sometimes we make big mistakes. I make big mistakes sometimes. And those who have dealt with me have been so patient, and so compassionate, and so kind that it wasn't such a big thing. So if we see somebody who has made a big mistake, one of the rules I try to follow is, if we find someone who is doing something wrong, don't just rush in and criticize them, and try to help them, or try to tell them. Wait a while. Wait until it is a little in the past. If we just had that consideration. There are little things. Little things that people do for us. We can show our appreciation, and make little things big, and the big sized things little. Always be compassionate. ABC. This comes with understanding a person, perhaps they have reasons for their struggle or whatever battle they have, be compassionate. 

I had a companion that came from a very rough background. Drugs and alcohol, but he was in the work. I was with him for two years. I'll never forget when Ed was there and met him and he was off the wall. I had never heard that expression, but it fit. I just stood with him, and that's the way he would be, sometimes the things he would say. I'm not criticizing him because I realized where he came from. He would often do things and say things that were not correct. And yet, sometimes in the room, I guess it was from flashbacks from the drugs and all, he had such horrible, horrible headaches. I've seen him just writhing in the bed, just trying to get away from the headaches. When I would see him like that, the only way I could feel was compassion. So then it wasn't so hard to take some of these other things, because you saw how much he was criticized. He gave a lot. He's not in the work now, but he gave his best. If we could just see the struggle of other people, it would help us to be more compassionate. Always be compassionate.
 
And then sometimes there are some things that come up, little spats, little arguments, and we get a little bit cold with each other, and then we have to sit down at the negotiating table, and we have to talk things over. And when he sits down and he knows he has to win her, it's good to bring something to the table like flowers, and Always Bring Carnations.  And there is another thing, Always Bring Chocolates. So he brings carnations, he brings chocolates. Then there's her part, she should bring something to the table, too. Always Bring Coffee. Her ABC is always bring coffee. Still better, always bring cappuccino. So there they are, there's the two of them, they're sharing the chocolates, they're admiring the carnations, they're drinking the coffee. How is that saying? A little explained, a little understood. The problem disappears and all is looking good. And it all adds up to another ABC, All Becomes Calm. 

There is another ABC, and I know it's important. Always Be Communicative.  Communicate. We are surprised sometimes when tension comes up, when something is bothering, you don't really need to talk about the problem, just talk. It seems that when you talk, things disappear, if we communicate with one another. Talk things over.

The other day someone was wondering about the vitamins that some were taking, and there were the ABC's. There are vitamins ABC. One is called Vitamin B2, Bending and Blending. When we take that vitamin we have to take it daily. When we take that vitamin daily, bending and blending, we'll not be stuck with "my point of view," or "the way I do things," it helps. It helps things work. So the things we've been sharing here, it belongs to the marriage, it belongs to the ministry. It belongs to the work place. It belongs at school. It belongs to any one who is out there. They are simple little things, if we could just put them in order. 

Now regarding these two things in this chapter, two institutions, the ministry and marriage, I just like the way the two of them work together.  Often we receive letters, we receive letters from different people. I receive a letter and I look at it and I realize that it is from one of the friends. But in looking through the letter I read the details, and she writes something about "our Gospel meetings." I look back and yes, it is one of the friends, but it says "our" Gospel meetings. I like that.  It's not the workers' Gospel meeting. Not the servants' Gospel meeting.  It's OUR Gospel meeting. It all works together.

Regarding the ministry and how it all works, we were telling you the other day about our staff in Central America, and someone asked me the other day, "Are you recruiting?" I said, "No. I'm not recruiting." At one time we were 26, and now we're down to 16. That's sort of recruiting, isn't it? Over the years I have seen that if people were recruited, they're not with us now.  People are sort of pressured a little bit, "we need you," "if you could just come." My mother had a recipe. We heard yesterday about a recipe for making bread. My mother had a recipe about the ministry. It really wasn't her recipe, it was Jesus' recipe. I struggled with the decision about going into the work for years. I had my plans and had things sort of lined up, and I struggled with it and struggled with it, but then there finally came the time that I could see the need, when I was in those countries where there were no friends, no workers working there. Finally I offered for the work. I wrote a letter to my mother, and I told her and my dad, and she wrote back and she says, "We've been praying for that for years." But she never told me. The recipe that she was following was the recipe that Jesus gave us, in Matthew 9, towards the end of the chapter. He talked about the harvest being great and the laborers few. "Therefore, pray ye to the Lord of the harvest, that He would send laborers into the harvest." So that's the recipe. We're not out there recruiting. But we can pray to God. God sees hearts, and God sees needs, and He's the one who is going to move hearts. If I was in the work because of my mother, she died in 1987. I can truly say that I feel that I am in the work because of God, and God is there. He's always there. Therefore, in the work or somewhere else, it won't work if it's not of God. But if it is God calling, if it is a condition that is from God, it's going to work. When Jesus answered Peter, Peter says, "We have left all." What will we have?  And Jesus said, "Those that have forsaken house or brethren, sisters, father, mother, they'll have a hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
 
This last time when I was in Australia, the first home I was in Adelaide, the couple had a daughter that was in Mongolia. She is in Mongolia. And that night she called. She wanted to talk to her parents and they let me greet her, and the thought came to my mind that my first home in Australia is the home that she left. She left and she'll be having a hundred fold more. I left one, and her home was one of my hundred fold. About another month later I was in another home, and the boy had just left the week before. To me it was so special to be in that home, I could just feel, I knew what his parents were feeling. They had all these little stories about his last days at home, how he had to go out and buy his new clothes, and how he was resisting this and resisting that. All these little stories about leaving home. And his home that he left was my home. It's just beautiful how it all works together. So could we just remember, there's no options. Make it work. 

Perhaps I should finish with this. What happens when people take other options? I have a sister that did that, and her life is a bit mixed up.  She asked me - I knew she was going to ask me when I was in her home the other day - she said, "What about us? What about our situation?" I had been thinking about it, and I had five words, and these are very important, they are important for every one of us, "Keep yourself within miracle reach." Keep yourself within miracle reach. If we're close, God can work a miracle. Whether it be in a situation outside, but the miracle that He would really like to work is in here, in our heart. That we be willing for anything. So even that is an ABC. Always Be Close. These are just a few things that I feel are practical and they'll help us. If we could just put some of these things to work in our lives, we wouldn't have to worry about other options. We could just enjoy to the fullest what we have chosen for our life.