Q & A with Pastor Mark Haines

A place for heartfelt, honest answers to your questions from a caring pastor

Tag Archives: God’s grace

How Can the Gospel Be Good News to Gays?

It would be very easy for some to dismiss any answer to this question that I might present.  However, this link will take you an answer generated by a man who is fighting and winning this battle.  Check it out.  How Can the Gospel Be Good News to Gays?.

Let his conclusion challenge you to a deeper faith and confidence in Jesus.  He declares,

There is a huge amount to say on this issue, but the main point is this: the moment you think following Jesus will be a poor deal for someone, you call Jesus a liar. Discipleship is not always easy. Leaving anything cherished behind is profoundly hard. But Jesus is always worth it.”

What do you need to leave behind to follow Jesus more closely?  No matter how hard it may seem to be, remember this, “Jesus is always worth it.”

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The Amazing Truth about God’s Address

Where can we go to find God?  What’s his address?

'Broken Egg' photo (c) 2008, Tal Atlas - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/God is much closer than you might think.

The high and lofty one who lives in eternity,
    the Holy One, says this:
“I live in the high and holy place
    with those whose spirits are contrite and humble.
I restore the crushed spirit of the humble
    and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts. (Isaiah 57:15)

Because he is not limited by time and space Read more of this post

How should I pray for my needs?

When I pray for myself what can I ask God to do?  Can I ask him to make me rich?  Famous?  Healthy, wealthy and wise?  How should I pray for my needs?

You’ve asked a good question.  Most people, whether they claim to follow Jesus or not, are likely to pray for whatever they think will make them comfortable and secure.  However, we often are mistaken about what will give us these things.  Beyond that, being comfortable and secure may not be what is best for us.

Smokey Mountain Storm BrewingIf you are a committed follower of Jesus, your prayers about your needs will reflect a different set of values.  You will not ask God for an escape from trouble.  You will seek his help in finding the blessings hidden in trials, the wisdom of discerning God’s guidance and the wonders of  the community of other Christians.

You should pray to find the blessings in your difficulties.  Whether it’s the pain and humiliation of falling on snow-covered steps or the discouragement of a prolonged illness, trials come to make your faith in God stronger.  They provide you with an opportunity to grow in grace.

You should pray for wisdom and the ability to discern God’s guidance.  There will be times in your life when you need to make decisions and you will not know what to do.  In those times, ask God to help you find his way, to do what Jesus would do with the love Jesus would have.

You should pray that God will help you share the wonders of Christian community.  You need other believers and they need you.  Together you can weather the storms of  life and grow through them.  Together you can find God’s direction and help each other follow his leading.

What one thing in your life have you hesitated to pray about?  If you shift your values to seek the blessings in trials, God’s wisdom and the wonder of community, will it be easier for you to present this need to God?  Why or why not?

If this post has been helpful to you, you may appreciate the following:
Can I really pray for my needs?
How do I know if I am praying effectively?
How to know when Jesus gives direction

How can I honor my parents when one or both of them is abusive?

This is a complicated question.  It refers to the fifth commandment from Exodus 20.  “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.”  (Exodus 20:12)

Before going further, let’s determine what it means to honor your parents.  It means to “care for” them.  It means to “show respect” to them.  I think we should remember that the Ten Commandments were addressed to the adults of Israel.  God was commanding them to respect and care for their parents.  But that still raises the question of how an abused child can show respect and care for his/her abusive parents.

Abused children who are not yet adults are in a vulnerable situation.  Since, they cannot protect themselves those who work with them must be vigilant to follow-up on any signs of abuse, whether physical, sexual or verbal.

Adult children from abusive families are in different circumstances.  They can take steps to protect themselves and at the same time learn to honor their parents.  Here are a few suggestions for these adult children.

  • Seek professional counseling to deal with the deep wounds and scars of abuse.
  • Work hard to set boundaries with your parents.  If they begin to act or speak abusively, simply say, “I will not be treated like that anymore.  Stop or I will leave.”
  • Leave or stay away from parents who insist on continuing to abuse you.
  • Ask God for the grace to forgive your parents.  Bearing a grudge against them will only worsen the damage to your heart and soul.  I heard a speaker once say that refusing to forgive is like picking a live coal out of a fire to throw at your offender.  The only one who is hurt is you.
  • Do what you can, even from a distance, to care for your parents as they grow older.

Honoring an abusive parent is impossible without the Lord’s help.  He will provide that help through counselors, support groups and good Christian friends.  He will give you the inner strength to forgive and to care for the ones who hurt you.  Make prayer you constant companion as you work through these issues

How can I teach my kids to respect God?

One day a man came to Jesus and asked him to declare which of Moses’ commandments is the greatest.  Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  (Matthew 22:35-40)  Since he did not say “respect God” but “love God” I think that’s the most important thing to teach our children.  However, the process of teaching both love and respect have many things in common.

In the Christian family, more is caught than taught, so:

  1. Make sure you love and respect God. If you do not love and respect God, then it will be hard for your children to love and respect him.
  2. Make sure you love and respect your children’s other parent. If you are part of a blended family formed by divorce and remarriage this will be difficult.  Nevertheless, God can give you the grace to speak well of the other parent.  He will also help you to treat him/her with respect.
  3. Make sure you love and respect your children. When (not if) you make a mistake, admit it and apologize to your child.  Encourage them and cheer for them.
  4. Make sure you pray for your children often. Ask God to reveal himself to them.  Pray that they will love Jesus because of his awesome glory, grace and love.
  5. Make sure you explain what loving and respectful behavior does and why. We all need to know how to act and why we should act that way.  Talk about what it means to love and respect the Lord.
Hinton Family Reunion

Train up a child...

My parents and my wife’s parents taught us to love and respect God in this way.  It is the way we have raised our three daughters.  It’s worked well in our family.  Do your best to live without regrets as you raise your children.  Trust God to take care of the rest.

What are the benefits of reading the Bible?

There are four benefits that come to my mind.

  1. When people invest time in understanding God’s Word, his Spirit melts their hearts with conviction.
  2. When people invest time in understanding God’s Word, his Spirit fills their hearts with the joy of salvation.
  3. When people invest time in understanding God’s Word, his Spirit fuses their hearts in confession.
  4. When people invest time in understanding God’s Word, his Spirit unites their hearts in commitment.

The bottom line answer to your question is simple and straightforward.  Reading and understanding the Bible has the power to change your life.

The people of Israel invested hours for days on end in order to understand God’s Word (Nehemiah 7:73-9:38). Can you imagine how hungry to hear from God they must have been? Have you ever been that hungry for the Bible? Maybe when you first started following Jesus or when you were in deep trouble, but, what about now? How hungry are to hear from God today? That is a question I’ve been asking myself lately.

Are you willing to stay up later or get up sooner in order to read the Bible regularly? Will your hunger for God’s Word drive you to sacrifice sleep? Will you sacrifice some meals to read and study God’s love letter to you? Are you willing to say No to an extra job or overtime so you can invest more time in understanding the Bible?

If you invest time to read and understand the Bible, God can transform your life. Are you willing to risk it? Are you ready to allow God the freedom to renovate your priorities?

Why did Jesus die?

Why would the King of Heaven become the Suffering Servant? Why did he die on the cross?

Jesus Christ sacrificed heaven and finally his life on the cross because he wants an intimate, endless relationship with you and me. But why did Jesus make such a great sacrifice?

For Me He died, For Me He Lives

Jesus’ sacrifice pardoned our guilt.

We all … have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).

Whenever we choose to do what we want instead of doing what God commands, we are guilty of sin. Guilt ultimately results in judgement but Jesus took our place. Our guilt is pardoned because of his sacrifice.

He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus life, death and return to life purchased our freedom.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:34-36).

The Bible is clear about the attitudes and actions of sin. The most devastating thing of all – sin is addictive. Living as we want is an obsession. Once a person starts to sin it becomes his or her master and only the sacrifice of Jesus can set him or her free.

Jesus’ sacrifice makes us a purified people.

Our guilt is not pardoned and our freedom is not purchased so we can go on as before. God’s purpose in becoming one of us and dying for us was to change us. God’s goal is to make you and me like Jesus. However, “we cannot change by ourselves” and “we cannot change without ourselves” (D. Thompson with G. Eikhoff, Holiness for Hurting People, Wesleyan Publishing House).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

All that Jesus did for us gives a purpose for living.

Jesus’ sacrifice for us proves that we have worth. Our lives can have purpose and meaning. We are not the sum total of a series of accidents spread over billions of years.

If you ever wonder what you’re worth, look at the Cross. God established you’re value for all eternity when he chose to die for you. If you ever wonder why you’re here, look at the Empty Tomb. It’s proof that God plans for you to carry on the work Jesus began.

[We] were dead in [our] … sins, in which [we] used to live when [we] followed the ways of this world … gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like [every one else], we were by nature [guilty and subject to God’s punishment]. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you [and I] have been saved … through faith…. And this … is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Our purpose for living must be to do the good God created us to do in Jesus’ name.

What does it mean to fear the Lord?

A vacation made for memories“Wait until your father comes home” can stir up feelings similar to “the fear of the Lord.”  I only remember my mother telling me to wait for my dad once.  I had been defiantly disobedient.  She retrieved the yardstick to administer a little education to my seat of learning. It broke and I laughed.  She resorted to using her hand.  A blood vessel broke in her palm and I laughed again.  I spent the next hour standing in a corner waiting and fearing my father’s return.  Both the fear of my father’s return when I had been disobedient and the fear of the Lord have taught me how to live better.

Fear can range from uneasiness to dread to panic.  This can be an appropriate response to God’s presence.  When the Israelites heard the Lord speak at Sinai, when they saw the burning mountain, they trembled and asked Moses to act as a message bearer.  Moses said, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” (Exodus 20:20)  The Lord intended for his people to seek him, to know and to obey him in reverent awe.  He wanted to motivate them to obedience.

So the phrase “fear of the Lord” tacked on a sense of respect, submission and  obedience. The ancient writers declared that the fear of the Lord was beneficial for his people.

  • “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.  To him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10)
  • ” The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.” (Proverbs 10:27)
  • “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:27)
  • “The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. (Proverbs 19:23)
  • “Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)

By the way, there were times when my father had been away on business that I couldn’t wait for him to return.  He often brought a gift with him for my sister and me.  It was his way of showing us love and of rewarding us for obeying mom while he was gone.  That’s what it means to fear the Lord.  It’s a matter of surrendering to his will and receiving his blessings.

What blessings have you received from practicing the fear of the Lord?

Do Christians need to repent?

Yes, I think Christians need to repent often.  Your relationship with God is like every other relationship you have.  As time passes, you will make mistakes.  You will discover bad attitudes and actions.  The right response is to apologize and to turn from them to the Lord.  Can you imagine a marriage where one spouse never apologizes to the other and never changes?  How long do you thing the love would last?  If you cling to your mistakes and sins, they will strangle your relationship with God.

Looking good is not enoughHere are a two more reasons for repenting regularly.

Judgement is coming.  It is unavoidable.  The judgment may not be as obvious as we tend to think.  And judgment will not happen as soon as some would like, but justice will come.  It’s better to have repented than to receive what you deserve.

Repenting will keep you honest and humble.  Simply keeping a list of rules makes it too easy to become a proud hypocrite.  Man made rules of behavior keep you from seeing God’s true will.  They can choke out your love for God and others.

Jesus calls us to a lifestyle of repentance.  He urges us to keep on turning back to God.  Do you repent on a consistent basis?  When was the last time you repented?  What did God ask you to turn away from?  Was it easy or hard?

The Relationship between Faith and Prayer

Good words from Larry Wilson — The Relationship between Faith and Prayer.

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