Archive for July, 2017

Mothers and Daughters

July 31, 2017

I have raised 2 daughters and 2 sons. It is difficult to raise both. I do think mothers and daughters have particular tensions, partly because the bond is so close, trying to achieve independence is tougher. When a daughter needs and wants to be independent, but is very close to her mother, she almost has to start a fight to give herself the courage to pull away. Otherwise the fear of loss is too great.

My girls gave me a lot of trouble when they were teens. One was very emotional, and in her disagreements would shout and slam doors. My husband had to fix the door frame more than once. The other one was devious and would sneak and lie. All I could do was pray greatly, share all I could about what was good and right and godly, set limits with consequences and follow through. I shared my own faith and was honest about my own struggles. One continued to go to church with me twice a week clear through college. The other, not so much. Ironically, the one who went to church with me and with whom I shared the most is now the one who has no Christian fellowship at all, and is not very close with our family. The other, has grown closer to me over the years, and is a devout follower of Jesus. Was it me, in either case?

I struggled with my own guilt for years, until I realized I was giving myself too much power and too much credit. God is very much in control of all our lives, including our children’s lives. Our children are also very much in control of their decisions from the teen years forward. We can teach but we can’t control. I think if we are obedient to Jesus, as parents, doing all we know He has asked of us, and if we are faithful to pray for our children, it will work out in the end. Proverbs says: “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) It also helps me to remember the “When he is old” part. Even though I have not seen one of my girls living for Jesus as an adult, He is not through yet. There’s more to the plans Jesus has for her.

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Forgiving Yourself

July 31, 2017

What if I know I can seek forgiveness from Jesus, know He has promised to forgive me, but I just can’t forgive myself?

Jesus took our sins, once and for all, and paid the price for them when He died on the cross for us. His death was full payment. I John 1:9 says: When we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He is just to forgive us, because we owe no more debt from our sins. He is faithful, because we can trust Him to keep every promise. He not only forgives, He cleanses us from every trace of the sin, and begins a work in us of making us more and more like He is: full of love, peace and abundant life.

When we can’t let go of our sin, we are listening to Satan who wants to use our past to pull us down. If Satan can’t have us because we belong to Jesus, then he will work as hard as he can to make us useless as a witness. Maybe he can’t tempt us to deliberately sin again, but he can make us feel so unworthy, depressed and hopeless we are of no earthly use in helping others. That is a victory for him. When you are tempted to look again at confessed sin, go right to Jesus and ask him to help you remember He has forgiven and cleansed you of that sin. Then resist Satan. The bible says “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

We aren’t qualified to judge anyone–including ourselves. We don’t know enough. We certainly aren’t qualified to grade ourselves–we don’t even know ourselves enough. We are only qualified to trust Jesus and obey him. Now if Jesus is asking you to go apologize to someone you hurt when you sinned, by all means do that. If Jesus is asking you to make restitution for something that was damaged when you sinned, be sure to obey him. But if you are just dragging yourself through your sin over and over, go to Jesus and ask Him to give you strength to resist Satan’s thoughts.

Should I Believe the Bible?

July 30, 2017

People have asked me this question in various ways recently, wondering if it was just “made up” by some humans.  I used to wonder the same thing, because there was so much in the bible I didn’t understand. How could I believe things I didn’t understand? As the years went by and I kept on reading the bible, I came up with another way of looking at it.

I do understand, at least pretty well, the gospels and epistles. The gospels are eyewitness accounts and are pretty straightforward. The people who wrote them had nothing to gain by lying. These were people who had no power or prestige–in fact, their faith often exposed them to ridicule at least and death at most. They wrote what they knew, because they were in awe over what they had seen and experienced.

The epistles were mostly understandable. They were also written by the earliest believers who had first generation experience. Not everything is understandable, but I think its believable. After all, is the trinity understandable? No. Is it believable? Well, Jesus talked about it. Do I believe Him?

I kept on having problems with the Old Testament, mostly thinking it was outdated by the New Testament. But after reading the New Testament over and over, I noticed Jesus kept referring to it. Why would he keep talking about it if it were unimportant or untrue? Then I found a bible where the words of Jesus were not only in red, but in the margin contained all the references to the Old Testament Jesus was making. I got a list of the Old Testament books and patiently checked off the ones in the margin. Jesus quoted from every one of them except, I think, the Song of Solomon. If Jesus accepted the Jewish Scripture collection (He had the same one we do) then how could I say it wasn’t true–even if I found a lot in it I didn’t understand.

So, I came to a conclusion. When I read scripture, if I act on what I do understand, I can trust that someday I will understand the rest. I don’t understand higher math either, but I accept that it is true because so many highly intelligent people are using it.

 

Does God Hate Atheists

July 8, 2017

 

The bible says God loves the World (John 3:16) and that includes everyone who does not believe in Him. God wants to have a relationship with everyone ” He is not willing that any should perish but that all should repent.” (2 Peter 3:9)
Not all do come to God, and if someone persists in running from God, eventually they will separate themselves permanently. But that is not God’s doing. Its more like a divorce that only one party wanted.

Sin is vile, ugly and hateful. God hates sin and we should too. This may seem overly simple, but one way I think of it is this: I once had a dog who loved to roll in nasty stuff–manure, dead things–the nastier the better. Then she wanted to come in the house. The stuff she rolled in made me want to throw up, and she absolutely couldn’t come into my house. I did love her though, and did the job of cleaning her up–then she could come in. But if she ran away from me and wouldn’t allow me to clean her up–she would not be coming in the house. God loved us while we were still sinners, and Jesus died to clean us up. All who come and let Jesus into their lives will be in God’s house.

Atheism is not something to take lightly. It is a decision to reject God. It is like the dog who will never come when called. Someone who isn’t sure about God needs to be seeking truth.

 

Who is Christ?

July 8, 2017

“Christ” is Jesus title. Christ comes from the Greek word “Christos”, which means “anointed one”. It is the equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah”. The name Jesus was His name given to him by Mary and Joseph at the direction of the angel Gabriel who announced his coming birth. The angel said Jesus would be the son of God. Jesus came to earth to be King and Deliverer.
Jesus is fully man and fully God–a mystery we cannot fully understand with our limited human minds. But this mystery of God is the greatest gift of all.

When you repented of going your own way and asked Jesus to come into your life as your Savior from sin, you also received many magnificent gifts. You received forgiveness of your sins, and you also received the King of kings as your constant companion, living in your life, working out his purposes for you. You need no longer feel that problems beyond your power to solve are hopeless because Jesus, who is all powerful, is there to work on your behalf.

You will want to learn more about Jesus. The best place to start is to read the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the bible. You will learn more about who Jesus is, what He has done, and his promises for you.

A Little Help for Depression

July 8, 2017

People who are depressed become inwardly focused.  The tapes that play over and over in their heads absorb all their attention, and leave them too emotionally exhausted  for anything social or creative.  The tide must be turned before the negative thinking can be changed, because as it is, there is no energy to change it.  But one tiny step in the right direction can be the nudge that begins to turn the great ship of the mind around.

The tiny step–one day at a time–is this:  Do one kind thing each day.  In the beginning, it may be very tiny.  Smile at someone.  Hold a door open.  Speak a kind word.  Each thing positive.  After awhile, the desire to change and grow promotes something a little more complicated, a little more personal.  The kind thing may be doing a chore for someone who can’t, sending a card or text, choosing a special gift that would be particularly meaningful.

A break is made in the negativity–even if only for a moment.  Positive actions create positive emotion that reinforces positive thought.  One day at a time.  One kind thought,  one positive emotion, one good deed.

Thoughts Matter

July 6, 2017

In the bible it tells us to bring every thought into captivity.  What does that mean?  Jesus also said our actions, good and evil are preceded by thoughts.  I always thought this meant don’t plan evil things, don’t plot revenge, and the like.

Later on in my life I learned thoughts mean a whole lot more.  How we reflect on the realities of our lives, the “spin”, so to speak, that we put on things that happen, the meaning we attach to things that are said or done, make a difference in us.  Our thoughts create our emotions.  If we think we are being attacked in some way we feel emotions of fear and/or anger.  If we think we are doing well we feel emotions of peace.  If we have pleasant encounters we feel emotions of love and happiness.  And so on.

Emotions have an effect on us.  Emotions, particularly strong ones, change our biochemistry.  We know fear and anger raise our level of stress hormones affecting our blood pressure and our hearts.  Grief and loss lower our immune system response.  But longer term emotions, buried emotions and the like apparently do things to our chemistry too.  Whole new fields of study are emerging in medicine involving the mind-body connection. Clearly, thoughts have consequences.

How can I change my thoughts?  They seem to come in without invitation, and they romp and play in my mind on their own.   I have to learn to be aware of what I am thinking.  If I, as a follower of Jesus, want to make love my greatest aim, then I must re-frame my thoughts to be loving towards people, and full of faith, trust and thanksgiving toward God.  This is something I can do in prayer as I examine what I have been thinking, and intentionally renew my thoughts.

Miserable and Thankful

July 6, 2017

It was really hard doing the necessary garden work in July.  I was hot, sweating, nauseous and tired.  I really felt like grumbling all the way through it.  Then I remembered something I saw about first world problems and third world problems.  This was definitely not a problem!  Getting food is a problem–not weeding the vegetable garden which only supplements our groceries.  We actually have a garden.  Lots of people in drought stricken places can’t grow anything.  We own our garden–and the land it sits on, and the house next to it.  We have our own home and a piece of land to call our own.  How many people can say that?  Owning a home entails responsibilities, but this is small compared to not having a home, or maybe not having shelter at all.

I decided to be thankful, and while I was at it, I found myself looking back on my life at God’s faithfulness to me over the many years I’ve lived.  Sure there have been hard times.  There have been times when we did not know where our next month’s rent was coming from, times when illness struck fear, times when a beloved one died, and other times of loss.  But God always saw us through.  God is faithful, and thinking thoughts of thanksgiving changed my whole attitude and my whole day.  I wiped my face, the job was finished, and my thoughts redeemed the hot, sweaty, miserable time.

Guilt

July 6, 2017

We all have it–guilt I mean.  What to do about it?

There’s reasonable guilt and false guilt.   Reasonable guilt means we did something wrong and we know exactly what it is.  We can also have guilt for a bad attitude.  Again, we know what it is, and we know what we should do about it–like forgive someone, have compassion on someone, quite being hateful, etc.

False guilt is when we aren’t sure why we feel guilty–we just do.  It might be a relationship that failed or an endeavor that ended badly.  We can’t let go.  We keep thinking we maybe could have done better, we might have missed something.  False guilt usually involves something we really had no control over, not something we did or didn’t do and we know what that is.  False guilt involves giving ourselves more power than we actually had, and then blaming ourselves because things didn’t turn out the way we thought they should.  A sad example is survivors guilt.  Surviving after someone else committed suicide, surviving after someone else in the same accident or incident did not survive, and so on.  It is ultimately blaming ourselves for not being in control, where it was never possible.

What to do about guilt?  Really, the what to do part is the same regardless of the type of guilt.  Go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to show you who you must apologize to and to whom you must make amends.  Do that.  Then let go and give it to the Lord.  He will redeem the situation eventually.  We can’t see or know how He will do that, but we trust He will.  When Jesus died, He paid the price to redeem all the sin and all the consequences of life in a sinful world.  By redemption, He turns everything–the good, the bad and the ugly into something beautiful, eventually.  We have to let go of our part from this moment on.  We can’t change what is past, we can only live the best we can from this day forward.  With God’s help we will.