Tackling Tough Questions…it is Tuesday!

thWelcome to our Tuesday discussion.  Today we will try to answer some of your tough questions.  We know that if one person voices their question and concerns, there are many more who have the same questions, but just don’t ask.

We thought this blog is the perfect place to answer them for everyone.

Questions:  How do you really get rid of doubt?

A few days ago I felt paralyzed with self-doubt about a big commitment I had made. After begging God to zap me with confidence, and then realizing it wasn’t going to happen, I asked Him to show me what made me feel so insecure and uncertain.

Immediately I remembered Gideon, a man who was called by God yet paralyzed by feelings of inadequacy. From reading his story in Judges 6, I knew Gideon overcame his doubts and fears by focusing on what God thought about him — instead of what he thought about himself.

But first he processed his doubts with God in a very honest way. Recent conflicts and defeats caused Gideon to doubt God’s presence and promises. When an angel of the Lord told him to go defeat the Midianites, Gideon asked, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest … and I am the least in my family.” (Judg. 6:15)

His perception of himself made him feel inadequate. Damaged emotions and insecurities from our past have a powerful influence over how we see ourselves today.

I knew it was time for me to get honest with God, too. I needed more than a quick fix. I needed to figure out what triggered my self-doubts and led me into such a horrible place of uncertainty.

I remembered how a conflict with a friend this week made me doubt I should even be in ministry. After all, self-doubt whispered, if I can’t maintain healthy relationships at all times in all areas, how can I help others?

I also received feedback on a project this week. One harsh criticism overshadowed several positive comments and consumed my focus. And, I had been comparing my abilities to others working on a project with me. Self-doubt convinced me I wasn’t as gifted as they were.

Conflict, criticism and comparison had sent me into the shadows of doubt.

What about you? When conflict arises at work or at home, do you ever assume it disqualifies you from other ministries or callings? Does criticism ever paralyze you from believing you can do certain things? Or, has comparison ever convinced you that someone else can do it (whatever “it” is) better than you?

It’s not a quick fix but a powerful process of naming our doubts, identifying what triggers them and then learning to rely on God’s power to lead us into a place of living confidently in the security of His promises.

The next time you start feeling insecure, ask God what triggered your doubts. Then process the trigger point through God’s perspective. Ask Him to show you lies you’re believing and truths to replace them. Then let Him change your thought process by focusing on His thoughts towards you instead of your thoughts about yourself. For instance:

• When doubt tells you that you can’t do something because it’s too hard, remember God says you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).

• When doubt tells you you’re not good enough, focus on the truth that God says you’re fearfully and wonderfully made; all of His works are wonderful and you are one of them (Psalm 139:14).

One thing I know for sure, Jesus wants you to live with a confident heart! Some days it will be about what He’s calling you to do but — even more than that — it will be about what He wants to do in you as you learn to completely depend on Him!

Tackling Tough Questions…

th-2Welcome to our Tuesday discussion.  Today we will try to answer some of your tough questions.  We know that if one person voices their question and concerns, there are many more who have the same questions, but just don’t ask.

We thought this blog is the perfect place to answer them for everyone.

 

How many times have you tried to assist a friend who desperately needs help, only to find yourself becoming overwhelmed by her problems?

As one friend explains about another, “I know she is crying out for someone to listen to her.  She needs help with her children and with problems concerning her husband. However, I always end up feeling exhausted at the end of our time together.  When she calls I spend hours on the phone with her.  How do I help her without depleting my time and energy?”

It’s a valid yet delicate question.  How do we, as Christian women, reach out to others, desiring to show them God’s love in a way that respects their needs, our lives, and God’s will without becoming overwhelmed and burned out?  As nurturer’s we want to take hurting women under our wing and make everything better for them.  However, we soon find that we are inundated with their time-consuming problems.  Like the story above, their problems are complex and ongoing.  Many women not only experience problems with children or spouses (or ex-husbands), but may also be dealing with depression, anxiety, or a chronic physical illness.  Their lives are full of turmoil and confusion and it can overwhelm them, as well as us.

Most women I know truly want to share their time, resources, and support with other women who need these things.  Women understand others because so many of us have been there:  times we wouldn’t have survived except for the presence of a friend in our life to support us and comfort us emotionally, spiritually, or physically.

Ultimately, we must find a way to integrate our Christian beliefs and desires with the reality of the situation.  It’s crucial to grasp the concept that we – as much as we may want to – cannot save anyone from herself or the reality of her situation.  That responsibility lies with God and our friend.

We can assist but our friendship or investment of time requires a blend of compassion and boundaries.  We are taught to give of our time and talents.  This can lead to confusion as we become involved in someone’s life and their needs require more and more time.  As my friend found, the more support she gave to he friend, the more support she seemed to need.

In her case, she spent so much time with her that my friend’s husband began to complain because she kept leaving during dinner or jumping up to get the phone (which she would then be on for at least an hour).  Her children were constantly getting to bed later than their usual time because she wasn’t available to help her husband finish the kids’ homework and baths.

When our helping others begins to affect our spouse, children and ourselves, it then becomes time to take a close, hard look at how we are managing the relationship.

Do your friend’s needs take priority over your family’s needs?

Do you jump to the rescue every time she calls?

Do you feel compelled to solve every problem for her?

Are you consistently neglecting your responsibilities at home?

If you answered “yes” to even one of these questions you may need to reassess your involvement in the situation.

It’s very important that your friend take responsibility for herself and her life.  Are you putting more effort into helping her than she is in helping herself?  Does she consider your life, the efforts you are making on her behalf, and asking if there is any way she can help you?  The point isn’t that she must give back to you.  The point is that she respects you and your boundaries.  If that is not present you may need to ask yourself some questions such as, “Why is she not as committed to solving her problem as I am?  Why am I putting more effort into this than she is?”  My friend thought it was her friend that was “the problem.”  Actually, it was my friend’s problem for not establishing clear boundaries with hers.

It’s important for all of us to take responsibility for our lives and our issues.  We don’t need to stay “stuck.”  We can make the decision to make the necessary changes.  We may need to ask for help or assistance but ultimately it is up to us.  This is what was going on with the two women in the opening story:  One would call with the latest crisis and my friend would jump to respond, not taking into account how it all affected her and her family.

My Friend decided to use boundaries in her life to get it back under control.  She decided to screen her calls and call her friend back when it was convenient for her.  Ann also established time limits on the calls by telling her that she could only talk for 10 minutes because she had to help her husband get the kids ready for bed (which she did).

After re-evaluating the pattern of frantic phone calls and continuous emergencies my friend came to the conclusion that her friend probably needed more support than she could give her.  She suggested to her that she call her for some counseling.  She did so and eventually went to a support group that was equipped to give ongoing support.  My friend still remained a friend and they still speak on the phone, but the burden no longer was on her for her friend’s healing.

This is why we need boundaries in our lives:  to understand just what our responsibility is– and what it is not.  The previous illustration has just shown what the consequences could be if we overstep our boundaries.  Not only do we not help the situation—as we truly desired to—but we may prevent someone from growing in the ways that they need to.

Hope this answers your question!  Whew it was long, sorry for that.

Mary

Tackling Tough Questions…

thWelcome to our Tuesday discussion.  Today we will try to answer some of your tough questions.  We know that if one person voices their question and concerns, there are many more who have the same questions, but just don’t ask.

We thought this blog is the perfect place to answer them for everyone.

 

 

 

Question:  How do you set boundaries with a difficult person in your life?

Great question!

It seems like there should be a verse that reads: To everyone God has appointed at least one difficult person.

The truth is that we all have relationships that drive us to distraction, and one key challenge is figuring out how to set Christian boundaries.

Should I let him soak up all my time or is it okay to say, ‘no’?  

Should I rescue her again or let her experience the consequences of her actions? 

Do I let it go or say the tough things? 

What do I do?

The good news is that while it is hard to set boundaries, you can learn to do it. Jesus set boundaries, and you can, too!

Love is not always giving people what they want.   We see this in Jesus’ life, which is why He often had to set boundaries. He drove sellers out of the temple, rebuked the Pharisees’ hypocrisy and left the disciples to spend alone time with God.

So how do you determine the best way to love that tough person?  Try running your  decision through the following principles.  They will help you love well.

Ten Keys in Setting Boundaries:

1.  Seek God’s will – Listen to God, not others.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. Proverbs 29:25

2.  Love their soul.

Love is not taking the easy way out by being “nice.”  Nice is an American concept and love is the biblical goal.

3.  Love sincerely.

Love is the key ingredient in every relationship. When you love someone, everything you do is for them and nothing you do or say comes from a vengeful or punishing perspective.

4.  Have supportive relationships. 

Surround yourself with godly friends who will encourage and support you in doing the right thing.

5.  Take responsibility for your own actions

Rarely is the problem the fault of only one person. If you own your part of the problem, the other person will be more likely to accept your boundaries.

6.  Invite them to change.

The first step in confronting someone should never be a limit, but always an invitation to change.

7.  Warn them.

If you just set limits out of the blue, this person may feel ambushed and become angry with you. A warning, on the other hand, gives them a choice.

8. Be patient.

A warning, if not accompanied with patience, is an ultimatum.

Patience means providing the ingredients for growth while allowing that person time to respond.

9.  Follow through with consequences.

Remember that consequences have nothing to do with anger, revenge, or punishment. They are there to protect you and to help this person deal with the reality of their actions.

10. Practice continual forgiveness.

Don’t give negative attitudes a chance to grow – practice forgiveness day by day.

We all have difficult people in our lives, yet God calls us to love them well.  To do this, make all your decisions based on what will best promote the other person’s spiritual and eternal good.  Setting Christian boundaries is the loving thing to do.

Hope this helps and answers your question!

Tackling Tough Questions…

question-markWelcome to our Tuesday discussion.  Today we will try to answer some of your tough questions.  We know that if one person voices their question and concerns, there are many more who have the same questions, but just don’t ask.

We thought this blog is the perfect place to answer them for everyone.

Question: How Can We Know if Something is Sin?

Many sins are spelled out plainly in the Bible. For example, the Ten Commandments give us a clear picture of God’s laws. They offer basic rules of behavior for spiritual and moral living. Many other verses in the Bible present direct examples of sin:

Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. (NIV)

Galatians 5:19-21

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

What Do I Do When the Bible is Not Clear?

Usually when we’re in doubt over sin, our first tendency is to ask if something is bad or wrong. I’d like to suggest thinking in the opposite direction. Instead, when you’re trying to determine if something is sin, ask yourself these questions based on Scripture:

Is this a good thing for me and others? Is this beneficial? Will it draw me closer to God? Will it strengthen my faith and my witness? (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

The next great question to ask yourself is this…will this glorify God. Will God bless this thing and use it for his purposes? Will this be pleasing and honoring to God? (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 1 Corinthians 10:31)

You can also ask how will this thing affect my family and friends. Although we may have freedom in Christ in an area, we are never to let our freedom cause a weaker brother to stumble. (Romans 14:21; Romans 15:1) In addition, since the Bible teaches us to submit to those in authority over us (parents, a spouse, a teacher), we can ask, do my parents have a problem with this thing? Am I willing to submit this to those in leadership over me?

Finally, in all things, we are to let our conscience before God convict us of what is right and wrong on matters that are not clear in the Bible. We can ask do I have freedom in Christ and a clear conscience before the Lord to do whatever is in question. Are my own desires submitted to the Lord’s will? (Colossians 3:17; Romans 14:23)

Tackling Tough Questions…

thWelcome to our Tuesday discussion.  Today we will try to answer some of your tough questions.  We know that if one person voices their question and concerns, there are many more who have the same questions, but just don’t ask.

We thought this blog is the perfect place to answer them for everyone.

Question:  Why do we pray if God is in control and He knows the outcome?

Great question!  I have been working on this one for a while now…and here we go!  If you would like to add anything to this, please feel free to leave a comment.

My prayer…I hope this helps you!

Christians know that God is all-powerful, all-knowing and loving (even if we find all of that hard to experience). Jesus urged his disciples to trust God as a loving Father, and taught them to pray, asking God for daily sustenance, forgiveness and the ability to forgive others, and even for our daily food.

But if God already knows what we need and is in charge, why do we need to pray at all?

We long for connection

We want to talk with someone who loves us, about what concerns us.  Consider Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane in Luke 22:39-46 and his prayer for his followers in John 17. Jesus came before God to express his deep agony and to pray for the disciples, even though He already knew He would be led to the Cross.

I see prayer not so much as a grocery list of wants or a way to change God’s mind, but rather as a way to regain perspective in my relationship with God. Like Jesus, we pray to deepen our relationship with God. We pray to remind ourselves of our place of humility, to remind ourselves that God is God, and we are not. To submit myself to God in prayer changes me. I believe that God loves me enough to want to transform me into all that God created me to be, but I must cooperate in that transformation. Every time I pray, I cooperate just a little bit more.

We’re invited and commanded to pray

The invitation is real and the command is for our benefit. Trust-filled dependence on God leads to our asking for what we need.

In Matthew 6, Jesus points out that God is control; knowing this is true encourages faith, not anxiety and worry. We are not to presume on God’s automatic care, but rather to come in trusting dependence to ask for what we need. In the very next chapter, Matthew 7:7-11 tells us to ask, seek and knock, and closes with these lovely words: ‘If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’ Since God is a Spirit and we cannot see Him, perhaps our interactive prayer communication encourages our faith and develops intimacy and dependence. In our materialistic world, it is so easy to let God provide everything we need and then assume that it ‘just happened’ or that we did it ourselves. In asking we acknowledge our dependence.

We want to align with God’s will

In many life situations, we don’t know God’s will until we pray. (See Phil 2:12-13.) We want to be in line with God’s will, and prayer is not so much about changing God’s mind as it is to bring ourselves into alignment with God’s heart.  I no longer pray to try to change God’s mind, to influence or persuade God to do what I want done. I name and lift my problems and concerns to God (and try to let them go, too!) and I ask God’s deep presence in each of these situations — problems, people and so on. Then, I try to trust.

It’s okay to keep asking…

As we align with God’s will, it’s okay to keep calling out to God on behalf of others and ourselves. In fact, it’s more than okay: God expects us to. In Isaiah 43, God speaks comfortingly to Israel in their time of trial, exile, and need, promising deliverance and salvation, but he adds: Yet you have not called on me, Jacob, you have not wearied yourselves for me, Israel  (Isaiah 43:22).

We of the twenty-first century are so like the people in Isaiah’s time, we want God to care for us and meet our every need, without ‘wearying ourselves’ to praise Him, to walk in intimate dependence and to pour out our hearts to him for others as well as for our own needs. We are ‘too busy’ to pray (or too tired), yet Jesus modeled a lifestyle of prayerful dependence, fellowship and intercession.

The God who is ‘in control’ asks us to ask!

If you have anything to add…please do!

Tackling Tough Questions…

imgresWelcome to our Tuesday discussion.  Today we will try to answer some of your tough questions.  We know that if one person voices their question and concerns, there are many more who have the same questions, but just don’t ask.

We thought this blog is the perfect place to answer them for everyone.

Question:  Should I use a Bible Study to help my quiet times?

That is a great question!  Thanks for asking.

I am going to answer Yes and No.

Yes:  Having anything to enhance your time with the Lord is a good thing!  If it is getting you in the Word and you are spending quality time with God…go for it!

No:  I have to add that the BEST and un-bias way to study is just you and God.  Remember, people share their opinions in their books…so you get some of that.

images

But if you just don’t know how to begin to study just the Word of God, then pick a study you think you will enjoy and work it!

It is all good!

Get into a study alone and also egroups or another group study.  It is another great way to learn and grow too!

Get connected!

Tackling Tough Questions…

imagesWelcome to our Tuesday discussion.  Today we will try to answer some of your tough questions.  We know that if one person voices their question and concerns, there are many more who have the same questions, but just don’t ask.

We thought this blog is the perfect place to answer them for everyone.

Question:  How can we start a family devotion?

Family devotions are a great way for families to come together and learn about the Bible together. They should be interesting and fun for everyone in the family.

You want to have family devotions because you know that devotions are a way to keep your family connected and learn Bible truths together, but what about time constraints and busy schedules? What if they just bore your kids and lose their original intent? Listed below are some ways of making the most of your time together and keeping the whole family ready to come back for more!

Tip #1: Do not make devotions boring. Make them lively and inviting. If the weather is nice, get out of the house. Have devotions in different places in the house, and not the same place every time.

Tip #2: Do not make your devotions too long. Rambling on and on is not an effective way to keep your kid’s attention. Get to the point.

Tip #3: Use object lessons for devotions. Having things that your family can feel and hold will really liven things up. For instance, if you are doing a devotion on Noah and the Flood, use stuffed animals, fill a Tupperware bowl with water and have a small boat to float on it. Use your imagination!

Tip #4: Be knowledgeable about the devotion. The devotion will be more enticing if you flow with your words. Stumbling and checking back to references can become frustrating to those listening to you. Give yourself time to prepare the devotion ahead of time.

Tip #5: Make devotions at a routine time. Whether you have daily or weekly devotions, it is a good idea to make them at the same time. This way family members will know when to expect them and clear their calendars for that special time. Making devotions at erratic times will cause friction in the family when not everyone can attend. Avoid that!

Tip #6: Get the family involved in devotions. Let the kids pick out a topic they are interested in or have everyone place topics in a paper bag and draw one out for the next devotion. If kids have a say in what they are learning, they will be more apt to pay attention and participate.

Tip #7: Incorporate real life lessons. While reading from the Bible about a particular event and the lesson it provides, show your family how you have applied this lesson to your life. Go around the room and offer anyone who has had any related experiences to share with the family. Make the devotion real.

Tip #8: Be respectful of the different age groups. When planning a devotion, use different levels of discussion questions and activities to suit each family member. You will still be learning the same lesson, but on an age-appropriate scale.

Tip #9: Switch things up and let different family members lead the devotions. It is a good idea for the parents to lead the devotions a few times, so the kids can get familiar with how things run. But, giving other family members a chance to lead the devotion will make them more excited about what they are learning.

Tip #10: Not all devotions have to be totally serious. Adding humor and laughter to the devotion will make better memories for the family. But do make sure the Bible truth has gotten across to everyone and that they understand the underlying seriousness of learning God’s Word.

Best of all…have a blast! Devotions are a great way for families to bond closer to each other, while getting closer to God.