Dysfunctional Backgrounds

July 23, 2018

 

If I have come to Jesus, is there a way out of a dysfunctional background?  Or do I have to live with all the havoc my family created in my life?

I want to be sure I understand what you are asking. Are you asking whether dysfunction in your family’s past or in your ancestry has to affect you and your family today? In that case, the answer is that Jesus has defeated sin and its hold over everyone who comes to him. That is a simple answer, but in practical life, your responses and your habits had their beginnings in the things you grew up with. Those things have to change if they are still present. That is where the church can help. Believers help each other learn and grow. Small groups or mentors can help believers see where their interactions or behaviors can be hurting them. Change happens intentionally, when, through prayer and thought, one deliberately changes behavior. Often more than behaviors have to change. Other changes include establishing strong boundaries over what you will and won’t allow from others, how you will spend your time, where you will live and visit, conversations you will and won’t have, and so on. It may be helpful to have a Christian counselor (there are some fees, usually affordable), or a mentor (friendship based, no fee). Larger churches are often able to provide these services. You might also read “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend, which is available in Christian bookstores or online.

Don’t give up hope. Geneology doesn’t have to determine our present or our future. Many of the greatest servants of God in the bible had dubious pasts themselves, or came from dysfunctional families. In fact, you don’t have to look very far to find dysfunction in any family.   But Jesus and His Holy Spirit are stronger than any hurt, habit or history.

 

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Prayer for Someone who Needs to Forgive

May 7, 2018

“Dear Lord, _____needs help to forgive.  She wants to do what you taught us to do, to be like you and to follow you. Please give her the grace to be able to leave it all with you. Help her have the ability to relinquish all her rights in this situation to you, who is able to be both just and merciful to those who have hurt and wronged her. Help her relinquish herself to you, also, knowing you will work in her life for good, and that because she believes you and loves you, everything will work out for good for her. (Romans 8:28) Help her keep that attitude of surrender to you, and whenever she remembers the hurts and wrongs, she will give them back to you. Help her know you are completely trustworthy as a keeper of her heart.
We ask these things in the precious name of Jesus, knowing whatever we ask in that name will be answered. Amen.”

If We are Saved by Grace, Why Should We “Uphold the Law”.

March 9, 2018

I was recently asked to explain Romans 3:31, which says:  “Do we then nullify the law by this faith?  Not at all!  Rather, we uphold the law.”   In other words, if we are saved by faith, what does upholding the law mean?

First of all, there are two parts of the law. There is the old covenant which was given for a time to the Jewish people. It was fulfilled once for all by Jesus’ death on the cross. This is explained most fully in the book of Hebrews. We Christians live under the new covenant of grace. Jesus explained it at the last supper. The new covenant is the covenant of His Blood, shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins. However we also have a law, as well, the law of love. Jesus explained it as “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind and your whole strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” When Paul tells us we aren’t saved by obedience to that law, but by our faith in Jesus, and he also explains he isn’t telling us to ignore the law of love because we are saved by faith. In fact, we can only keep this law of love through the help and grace of Jesus. That is what he means by “we uphold the law”. Even though we can only imperfectly obey God, we are to continue to obey because we love Him. Our imperfection is made perfect through the merits of Jesus.

I’ve Decided the Kind of God I Can Believe in.

January 25, 2018

We are all indoctrinated in the culture we are born into. Generally speaking, those born into Western culture, and that includes all of Europe, the Americas, North and South, and Australia/New Zealand are indoctrinated in humanism. That culture asserts that mankind is the measure of all things. Man will search and determine what is believable to him. Man determines the kind of god he will believe in–and it will be a god who is moral from the man’s point of view. Right and wrong will be determined by man depending on his circumstances, so right and wrong will be what is right or wrong for him, not necessarily for everyone. Who is valuable and who is not is determined by the majority. What is lawful and unlawful is determined either by a majority or by the powerful. And so on.

Traditional Christianity says that Jesus Christ is the center of all things. Jesus Christ really lived on earth, as fully God and fully man, although He is eternal. His biographies are available, and were written by the men of his generation, mostly by eyewitnesses or those who lived with the eyewitnesses. Jesus did things, recorded by eyewitnesses that have never been done by humans, including raising the dead and being raised from the dead. The miracles give him the credentials of God in human form. He taught about God, the state of mankind, how man is made right with God, what God intends for mankind, and what God will ultimately do. What we believe is what Jesus said, not what we think.

There are other worldviews too: Islam, Buddhist, Hindu and others. But these are the two we see predominate in the west.  Humanism and Christianity.

 

How to Get Past My Bad Moods

January 22, 2018

 

A long time ago I read in the bible to “Bring every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). That was a new concept to me, for I always believed our thoughts were things that just ran in and out of our minds, not something we were to control. And so I would dwell on pessimistic, grumpy thoughts on days when I felt grumpy. But I don’t have to do that. I can change the way I think. I can choose how I think. I learned from Philippians 4:8: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” I have since heard this verse called the “mental health verse.” It certainly can turn around a grumpy day!

Some days I feel grumpy because I don’t feel well. Even then, I have to go to Jesus in prayer and talk to him about how I feel and ask his help. Then I thank him for all the good things in my life, and I usually feel my mood lift even if physically I still don’t feel great. I have to let my physical and emotional feelings take a back seat to the thoughts which can lift me to a higher place. Its not easy, but talking to Jesus helps.

 

Will I see my pets in heaven?

January 9, 2018

This question really tugs at my heart for I have lost dogs I loved very much. God doesn’t tell us exactly what happens to our beloved pets, but there is a hint of it in the scripture. In Romans 8:19-22, it talks of a time when all creation will experience its redemption from the effects of sin upon the world. All creation includes our pets. We do know this—God loves his creation and saw it as good. If he loves the animals he made, he hurts when they suffer and die. None of that was His intent.

While I don’t know exactly what God is going to do, I trust Him, because I trust His character. He who came down here and died to redeem us and all His creation, can be trusted with the fate of our pets. And that is how I prayed each time one of my dogs died. I personally believe I’ll see them again. And I’m in good company. C.S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther all essentially believed that God would bring back to Himself in the restoration, His creation, and our pets are part of that restoration.

I hope this helps. What we do not know exactly, we have to trust based on God’s character. We know God is good, and He never leaves any thing unfinished.

Why is my Prayer Not Being Answered?

December 7, 2017

When we ask Jesus for something, he always answers in one of three ways, Yes, Wait, or No. Whenever he says “no”, it is always, always because he desires to give us something better. When we become old, we can look back over our lives, at the twists and turns, and see how faithful Jesus has been in giving blessings–even though the outcome in many cases was something we never would have dreamed on our own. The jobs where we were laid off eventually ended in a totally different career path that proved very satisfying. The painful breakup was later followed up with meeting the spouse who proved to be totally “right”. Some painful situations such as death of a loved one, disability or the death of a dream brought us much closer to Jesus, and made us tenderhearted, compassionate people.

Sometimes Jesus is just saying “wait”. But the wait takes far longer than we ever dreamed. Some women wait 15 or 20 years for a spouse, but then are happily married. Some wait forever for children–and then find they have greater patience and capacity to give than they had when younger.

I can’t understand why Jesus has answered some of my prayers the way he has, and I’m sure you feel the same way. But can you begin to understand that all his work and his ways come out of perfect love for you. No matter what it takes or how long it takes, He wants to give you only the very best, because he loves you so much. I have an adopted daughter. It took five years of ups and downs and disappointments before we got a child. She asked me, once when she was older, why it took so long. Immediately I sensed the answer. “God was waiting for you to be born, because he meant us for each other.” If we had been given a child right away, it would have been a different child–not this one.

 

How to Build People’s Faith in a Hostile World

December 7, 2017

I think Billy and Franklin Graham would agree that the first and most important step is that God’s people repent and pray. The level of honest prayer is probably at an all time low. People are running to and fro and satisfying themselves with short, superficial prayers. II Chronicles 7:14 says “If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I think we all have much to repent. We may be so worldly we have forgotten the biggest sin of all is forgetting God and depending on our own wisdom and following our own ways. We compromise with the world all over the place, and we must repent of that.

We need to be witnesses. This secular world is so cold-hearted and callous, we wonder what we can possibly say that would change anything, but Jesus never asked us to count our successes–just to witness. And witness is both words and deeds. If our deeds do not match our words, we can expect to be called phonies.

We can keep on fighting the “culture wars” and perhaps we must, but we won’t get very far until people’s hearts change. And that is the work of the Holy Spirit, with our witness being something the Spirit graciously uses. So, prayer, living totally for Jesus ourselves, and being witnesses in word and deed is our calling. Success in changed hearts and lives is the work of the Holy Spirit.

I know, people like me who are doers, have a hard time letting God be God. I want to go out there and shake people till they wake up–argue with logic and change their minds and all that, but I can’t be anyone’s Holy Spirit.

I’m Trying So Hard, but Jesus seems so Far Away

December 7, 2017

Sometimes, we almost try too hard. We forget the message of grace which Jesus brought is so much more about what He does than what we do.

You said you have believed that Jesus is the son of God who died for your sins, and you have asked him to forgive your sins and to be your Savior. When you pray a prayer like that, the words don’t really matter–what matters is you recognize that you have been going your own way and not God’s way. You ask him to forgive everything you’ve done to displease him, and you have told him you want him in your life.

The wonderful news is: Jesus wants to be in your life even more than you want it. He forgives anyone who asks–and he forgives over and over when they mess up. He comes to live in your life forever (Matt 28:20). He will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb 13:5). So ask him if there is something He wants you to change in your life. Confess any known sin, and then just relax in Him. Tell him you want him, tell him you love him, and ask him to make you like himself. As you think of him beside you, send him all your loving thoughts, and think about how good he is, you can begin to trust him. He is already working in your life to make you more like himself. He is in this relationship with you for all eternity. He isn’t going anywhere.

Get to know Jesus better. Read the gospels till they become familiar to you. Absorb the goodness of Jesus. Appreciate all he did, said and taught. Then read the epistles for wise advice on how to live for Jesus. And talk to Jesus all the time. Just talk like you would talk to someone who is on your side and wants to help you.  You will learn to trust Him.

 

My Thoughts are Keeping Me in a Bad Place

December 5, 2017

I’m so glad to see that you know Jesus as your Savior. That is so wonderful. Jesus lives in your life and He will be with you forever (Matt 28:20) He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Heb 13:5) He is near as your breath, and you can talk to him about anything 24/7. The thoughts in your mind can come from a number of places. They can come from the Holy Spirit as inspiration. They can come from your own life–your world, your physical state, and so on. These are just normal thoughts. They can be suggested by other people–maybe or maybe not true or reliable. They can also come from the enemy (Satan and his demons) as temptation or oppression.

The wonderful thing is you can take these thoughts to Jesus and talk to him about them. You can, after talking to Jesus, decide to keep or perhaps act on the thoughts, or banish them. I saw a great tee shirt the other day. It said “Don’t Believe Everything You Feel”. That is so true. Sometimes Satan oppresses us with negative thoughts about ourselves–thoughts of failure, anger, hatred, self destruction, and so on. We don’t have to believe those feelings–they aren’t based on truth. They are propaganda from our enemy. Sometimes we keep feeling drawn to something we know is bad for us, or bad for someone else. We don’t have to do this thing. In fact, we should quit thinking about it. With Jesus help, we can banish the thought.

What you want to do is fill your mind with Jesus’ thoughts. Read the gospels until they become very familiar to you. Read the epistles for good, positive advice for Jesus’ followers. Just like you don’t want your room trashed because you never take out the garbage, clean up your mind too–every day. Trash the wrong, negative, angry, depressing thoughts, and fill up on the good ones.  Jesus own words, and good ideas.