Dear Esther :: January 18, 2016

Dear Esther,

I really enjoy reading your column. I feel like I can relate to and use all the advice you give other people. I am a born-again Christian. (At least I think I am.) I have always considered myself a Christian. I was raised that way and have honestly never doubted my faith. I feel like some of my back story is needed.

I am 26 years old. Growing up I had a mother addicted to pain medicine. Most of my childhood I knew she had an addiction problem. My father is a truck driver and was always on the road and most of the responsibilities of caring for myself and my brother fell on me. She was always looking for pain pills and often made my brother and me lie to doctors for her.

I was driving her around at 14 because she was so drugged up. Walking behind her in stores taking things that she tried to steal out of her purse. And always yelling at her to wake-up while driving. Well she passed away from an overdose when I was 15. I found her while we were home alone. You would think that because of what I saw that I would never have touched pain pills but sadly, that is not the case.

I became a mother at 16 to a beautiful little boy. Later, I had a daughter when I was 19. She was born with spina bifida. She has a trach and is on a ventilator. Whenever she cried she would stop breathing. I had to save her life multiple times a day for years. I have had some very hard years with her but she is six now and doing great. But during that time I tried a pain pill and it made me feel amazing. Like I could do anything and be super mom.

I have struggled with my addiction for years. Even through my previous pregnancy. My youngest daughter is seven months old now. While giving birth to her I hemorrhaged really badly and lost a lot of blood and became extremely anemic. So bad that I had to go back to the hospital and get two blood transfusions. During that time I had started to get off of pain pills. I went two months without pills!

My doctor told me that they found a tumor on my chest x-ray. This was just a couple of months ago. My pain started getting worse. They found that I had tumors all throughout my body. Clusters of lymph nodes everywhere and I started becoming symptomatic. It got so bad I couldn’t move. Body aches night sweats and chills day and night. I couldn’t get out of bed.

My doctor prescribed pain meds. At first I didn’t want to take them but it quickly became evident that I couldn’t take care of my children without them. So I started taking them as prescribed but still, I have become dependent on them again. I have been diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I just had my first chemo treatment last week. I have 12 more weeks to go for this round of treatment.

I am trying not to abuse the medicine they give me but I am finding that impossible. Because of my addiction the normal dose a person takes does nothing for me, and I find myself taking more and more; and running out too soon and calling my old contacts for pills to last me to my next refill. I am so scared of withdrawing.

My body is so dependent on them now. I want to be drug free. It’s so hard to be right now, though. And I feel that maybe God is using this time in my life to bring me closer to Him. I feel as though I have always been a lukewarm Christian. I don’t want to be lukewarm but I find it so hard to focus on him and read my Bible like I am supposed to. I get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

I know I am going to need to stop taking the pills soon, and I want to. So badly! I don’t want to be dependent on pills to feel normal which is what I have to do now. I want a better relationship with God. All of this has really put a strain on my marriage. We aren’t intimate anymore. It’s like we are roommates. My husband is so stressed and overwhelmed, too.

He works very hard for us and comes home to a messy house because I either can’t do much or don’t feel like doing anything. I want to be better. A better Christian, wife, mother and person. I have so many more struggles, too. My husband has an alcohol problem and just recently stopped drinking again.

But I know he will drink again. He is a believer also but believes in speaking in tongues and “prophets” like Jesse Duplantis. Jesse Duplantis told my husband’s parents when he was younger that he was a prophet… I don’t believe in any of that.

Am I wrong? Or is he? His parents believe in all of that and he can’t ever defend it to me. We get into arguments over that all the time. He always says how can he be the spiritual head of the house if I don’t believe him, if I believe my dad over him. I have tried showing him Scriptures supporting my side but he just gets defensive and shuts down because he thinks his parents are right and I am wrong.

I don’t even know how to go about that. And because of this I feel like we don’t have a bond in faith. We don’t go to church because we can’t agree on a church to go to. I feel like going to church would help us so much. He does not read his Bible or do or say anything about God at all. And I don’t nearly as much as I should. I read rapture ready. That’s it.

I just don’t know where to start and feel like my life is such a mess. I am not living a life that is pleasing to God. And I desperately want to. What do the Scriptures really say about speaking in tongues and prophets? I am so sorry this is all a jumbled mess. I hope you can understand what I am trying to say. I am in despair and worry about my salvation. And I know my children need more from me spiritually, too.

We have gone to Awana and church and my son and I talk about God but not nearly enough. My daughter is cognitively behind and doesn’t really understand but I have tried talking with her about it. I just know God is not a big enough part of my life. And I don’t know how to change that or where to start. And how do I get on the same page with my husband?

We can’t talk about God at all or it becomes a fight. So I have just stopped trying. I desperately need your help. I know I am missing some things but I just can’t get it all out in words. How do I read my Bible? Where do I start? I am so tired. I have cancer. And a pain pill addiction. And a daughter that is medically fragile and paralyzed from the waist down that requires so much of my time.

And a nine year old son that is growing up without the proper guidance in the Lord. And seeing his mother and stepfather fight when his stepfather is drunk. And a seven month old daughter. And a lukewarm relationship with God. I am a mess. Please help me.

div

Dear Haley,

Your life is so complex and filled with intricate details that would leave anyone spinning. Your lot in life has been anything but smooth sailing. The situation with your late mother had to be very difficult; you were forced to play the role of a parent when you needed the love and care of a parent. Clearly she was a very tortured soul and lost her life in the process. (You are stronger than you may think.)

No doubt, where you are now in your life is the perfect time to get closer to the Lord. He is there for you. He loves you so very much and will never abandon you. He understands your addiction to the pain pills and everything else you are dealing with. He can pull you up out of despair. When life is filled with so many challenges, that is often when we can have a breakthrough and get very serious about our faith.

If you move forward one step at a time, things will not feel so overwhelming. Your health situation is so acute and takes so much out of you. And caring for your children with their own extraordinary circumstances is very tough, too.

Is there a point in your day when you can spend some time alone with the Lord? You stated that you don’t want to be a lukewarm Christian; it would be a good idea if you would rededicate your life to Him right now. It sounds like that is what you really want to do. Haley, you stated you thinkyou are born-again; let’s make sure you are.

A person does not become a Christian through natural birth but by a spiritual rebirth from above; a conscious decision must be made by each individual. It is not a complicated process but it must be sincere. Simply speak from your heart, ask the Lord to forgive you of your sins and genuinely repent. Here is a short prayer to guide you if you need a little boost:

Heavenly Father, I accept your Son, Jesus Christ, as my Lord and Savior. I believe in His death, burial and resurrection. I realize I have made many mistakes in my life. I have been confused and deceived by the lies, of this world. Please forgive me. I ask you to come into my life, regenerate me and fill me with your Holy Spirit so I can be born-again and saved by your grace. I want this to be a new beginning and have a close, personal relationship with you. I want to learn more about you through prayer and careful Bible study. Help me to truly repent and live my life in a way that is pleasing to you. Please write my name into the Book of Life. I pray this in the name of Jesus the Christ, the Messiah of Israel and of the world. Amen.

Haley, when we sincerely give our lives to the Lord, the Holy Spirit will come and dwell within us. He is the great Comforter. He will guide us and be with us every moment of the day and night. What seems impossible to us is not impossible for God. Life can get better despite your very trying circumstances.

“For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

As far as getting involved in a church, that could be good, but your own personal relationship with the Lord is what matters. The time you personally spend with the Lord is key to your spiritual growth. A lot of people attend church services but don’t have a true relationship with the Lord; it is more of an outward effort. But if you can find a good Bible teaching church, that could be a great support for you as you start this new phase of your life.

Perhaps your husband might not mind if you go with the children if he does not want to go to a church that you would feel comfortable in. (He might even come along at some point.) But easy does it; take one step at a time. Right now you need to get through the chemotherapy and recover from that. Sometimes staying home is very necessary to regain one’s strength.

I would not recommend going to a type of church that Jesse Duplantis would recommend. You mention in your letter that your husband does not read the Bible. Then he cannot know that what Jesse Duplantis teaches is not in keeping with the Scriptures. (And as long as there is any type of substance abuse in the marriage life will be strained.)

Jesse Duplantis publically said in August 1988 that he was transported by a chariot to heaven and he saw and talked one-on-one with: Jesus Christ, King David, apostle Paul, Abraham, etc. That is just one of his false teachings. The comments he states are such complete heresy, and are contrary to God’s Word. See the link below for more information. [1]

At this time I would not get into a battle with your husband about his drinking or his faith; the focus should be on your own relationship with the Lord and dealing with your own health issues and taking care of your children. You already have too much to handle without getting into arguments with your husband about his beliefs and his behavior. It is too much.

You cannot change his mind. In time, through your example and through your prayers there is hope for him and he might realize some things that he refuses understand to now. And keep in mind, his parents indoctrinated him with what he believes and it will take serious Bible study on his part and your prayers to get him to understand that he has been mislead (although not deliberately).

His parents sound like they do not know the Bible either. Far too many people depend on the teachings of men rather than the teachings of God. A terrible mistake. But I see it happening every day. Part of it is due to laziness and much of the problem is church leaders have never taught their flock how to study the Bible. That is why there are so many cults and false teachers that thrive.

Some of the problem also goes back to many church leaders that have never been properly trained in Bible study. It is common knowledge that most seminaries teach from commentaries written by men and the Bible take second place. At the end of this response I will have a Bible study guideline posted for you.

The important thing when beginning to read and study the Bible is to ask the Lord to guide you and to give you wisdom. Begin with one chapter in the New Testament and one chapter in the Old Testament. For example: Read a couple of chapters in Matthew, and also read a couple of chapters from Genesis. And read them again, then move on chapter by chapter, book by book.

God promises all true believers that the Holy Spirit will teach them:

“As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 John 2:27).

Now let’s get back to taking care of yourself during this very challenging time. If there is anyone in your family or a trusted friend who can come and help with the children so you can rest, that would be so great. No one can go through what you are and do it alone. Please don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself. Just do what you can each day. Life will not always seem so chaotic.

As far as your dependency on the pain pills, that is something I cannot advise you about. But as I said before, with God all things are possible. Sometimes with one small step at a time changes can happen. The withdrawal you speak of is something you will have to go through at some point, and perhaps a good physician could help make the process much less severe.

Although you are in the midst of serious issues, this could be a real turning point in your life. In God’s strength you can get to a place of serenity, but it will take some time and patience on your part. Try not to think too far ahead, as Scripture teaches:

“Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:24).

If you take each day and do the best you can with that day, and get very serious about your walk with the Lord, things will get better for you. You will feel much more connected to the Lord. When you pray, pour your heart out to the Him. He is there for you.

When you get through the worst of this, you will look back and see how much you have grown and you will have a very powerful testimony. Think of this time as God shaping and molding you into a new creation:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” ( 2 Corinthians 5: 17).

And all your suffering, Haley, is part of your growth; you know that Christ Himself suffered greatly for us so we could be free of sin and ultimately live in eternity with Him, if we choose Him as Lord and Savior. He is there to carry your though these trying days.

“And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

As you are faithful to the Lord, He will work things out for you one step at a time. Life seems impossible at the moment but we serve a mighty God who can work miracles. Give your all to Him and His glory will shine upon you.

Pray throughout the day and stay close to Him. And be sure to read my Bible study guide below. When you feel too weak physically to do anything, rest as much as possible and mediate on Jesus’ name; your heart be filled with His abiding love.

As far as you 9 year old son, please get him some Christian workbooks. At Christianbook.com they sell homeschooling workbooks for all age groups. The Ace Pace brand workbooks are really fun and filled with Scripture. That is what I would recommend. They have all school subjects that always include biblical principles; they also have a Bible study series.

They are great even if a child is not homeschooled. This would be a wonderful way to instill some godly principles into your son (and older daughter) and they will enjoy the workbooks. And they are not expensive; you can also purchase for little money the answer key books to match each workbook.

Please keep in touch with me and let me know how things are coming along for you. No matter what happens Haley, remember that this life is so fleeting, although sometimes it seems like the trials and tribulations will never end. But they will. And as far as your marriage is concerned; be as kind as you can to your husband even though you are frustrated with him and your entire situation.

God has a way of working things out. Your husband is sincerely confused, and also overwhelmed with everything that is going on in your lives. Be patient with him and keep praying for peace in the home. He needs you and even a loving smile can go a long way. Tell him you appreciate all he does for the family. He needs that. Focus on his positive attributes.

Haley, rejoice in knowing the Lord has a very special place for you in heaven and all your suffering in this life will reap great rewards in your eternal home with Him. Stay the course and always remember that this life is not your true home. What you are going through now will be long forgotten one day, and the life God promises for all believers will be free of these heart wrenching earthly trials and tribulations.

Jesus warned us that in this life we would have trials and tribulations but to be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world. By being truly born-again and giving your life to Him, you are victorious in Him, regardless of your outward circumstances. That is a tough concept for us to really understand with our finite minds, but it is true.

“These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

In God’s love,

Esther

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:15-18).

Endnotes
[1] http://so4j.com/jesse-duplantis-false-teacher#sthash.jwxiXwyO.dpuf)

 

Growing in the Lord, Bible Study Tips

“Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

The key to knowing and understanding Scripture is studying as much as possible every day relying on the Holy Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 2:10; 1 John 2:27) and Jesus (1 Corinthians 2:16) to teach us. Studying commentaries, listening to teachings and sermons can be very beneficial. A Spirit led-believer does so with great care, and makes it a common practice.

Yet we do not rely on the teachings of men to know and understand Scripture. We study what others say and write to see if our understanding is correct. And when we see that our understanding differs greatly from the majority of commentators and Bible teachers, we must go back and study the Bible even more.

After we have done that and we are thoroughly convinced that our understanding is correct and the majority understanding is wrong—so be it. There are times when the majority is wrong and the minority is right. The perfect example is Martin Luther.

As a Roman Catholic priest he concluded that salvation is by grace through faith alone apart from the Catholic Church. He was the minority and the Catholic Church was the majority yet he was right and the Catholic Church was wrong.

Let the holy infallible, inherent Word of God be our daily bread, and on occasion, may we take just a few nibbles here and there from the works of men.

If we simply say, “I have a difference of opinion on some biblical topics” without undertaking a very serious in-depth Bible study and carefully revisiting the Scriptures in question, we can hinder our spiritual growth and our understanding of the Word of God. And if we are in a position of leadership many people could be led astray.

The truth is in the Word of God. The Word of God is in the Bible. The Word of God does not leave room for speculation and guessing games that contradict its content. Selective analysis derived from passages to create desired interpretations is essentially rewriting the true meaning of the Scriptures. To say, “I believe a particular teaching” is not the same as saying, “This is what Scripture clearly teaches.” To simply “believe” or assume something to be true does not make it so.

As believers, we must be careful not to become part of the growing apostasy or contribute to the false teachings that are prevalent.

Daily Bible study is very important and necessary in order to grow as a believer (Deuteronomy 17:19; Revelation 3:1). It is a good idea to designate a special place at home for Bible study. Be willing to invest in some good study materials: Bibles, Bible dictionaries.

Always go to Scripture to check the validity of information offered in any books or commentaries and focus first and foremost on the Word of God. If you have a computer nearby, you may want to use some of the following resources during your study time:

http://www.blueletterbible.org – An excellent resource for online Bible study.

http://asv1901.com/ – A full online presentation of the excellent and reliable 1901 American Standard Version of the Bible or the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

http://www.biblegateway.com/ – An exceptional site for looking up Scripture, all popular Bible versions are included as well as passage translations in a number of foreign languages.

http://www.e-sword.net/ – A fast and effective way to study the Bible online.

http://www.bible-history.com/ – Bible Maps, Study Tools, Archeology, Ancient Documents and much more.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/concordances/strongs-exhaustive-concordance/ – Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Online.

When I don’t use a computer to assist with my Bible studies, I like to use the items listed below when I need to look up something:

The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible – James Strong LL.D., S.T.D., S.T.D. Fully Revised and Corrected by John R. Kohlenberger III and James A. Swanson.

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament – Joseph Thayer.

Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon – Francis Brown.

An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon – Liddell and Scott.

Exegetical Fallacies – D.A. Carson.

A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature – Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich and Danker.

Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains- Louw and Nida.

Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary 2003 Edition.

Lexical Semantics of the Greek New Testament – Louw and Nida.

Semantics of New Testament Greek – J.P. Louw.

I use the 1901 American Standard (ASV), the New American Standard (NASB), the King James Version (KJV) and the New King James Version (NKJV). Be sure to cross-reference each of these translations doing careful word studies. The ASV and NASB are the most accurate and reliable. The list above will give anyone access to material to do in-depth research on Scripture.

Many good audio Bibles are available today. It is good to read the Scriptures out loud, speaking along with the narrator saying the verses together.

I like to listen to Scripture when I am driving. It is also a good to listen to at home while doing chores or making dinner. Listening to Scripture helps keep our hearts and minds focused on the Lord, giving us a strong foundation for knowing and sharing the Word of God.

Repeating Scripture out loud as we read our Bibles is very helpful in grasping the meanings of the passages.

We should always pray before studying the Bible that the Holy Spirit will lead us and guide us. Have reference tools available as noted above (Bibles, a good variety of Bible dictionaries, concordances) to look up pertinent information regarding some of the points made under, “A Summary on How to Do a Bible Study” which I have listed below.

A basic hermeneutical principle that everyone must adhere to with no variation when studying Scripture is this: Take everything literally unless the Scriptures say it is symbolic, or unless it is physically impossible for it to be literal or be fulfilled in a literal manner, with the exception of miracles.

An example to show how this principle works can be found in Revelation twelve:

“And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth” (Revelation 12:3-4a).

There is not and there will never be a literal dragon with seven heads and ten horns. If there were such a creature it could not sweep a third of the stars in space and cast them down to earth. Therefore, the dragon and the stars are symbolic. In verse 9 it says the devil—who is called a “great dragon,” and his angels were cast down to earth. We can determine from this that the devil is the dragon and the angels are the stars.

We also know from Daniel 8:9-11 that the “little horn” (Antichrist) casts some of the stars of heaven down to earth. These stars are fallen angels that followed the devil in his rebellion. We see from Daniel and Revelation that the devil and the Antichrist together cast down angels to earth. We know the “little horn” is the Antichrist because in verse 11 of Daniel 8 he claims to be equal to the “prince of the host” (Jesus Christ). In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 we see the Antichrist will claim to be “God.”

In chapter nine of Revelation there are two separate groups of demonic creatures mentioned verses 9:1 and verses 11:16-19. These demonic creatures are real and not symbolic. It is not impossible for there to be creatures as depicted in these passages. They do not do things that are physically impossible for a creature to do.

A Summary on How to Do a Bible Study:

1. Determine who the message is being given to and why.

2. Determine if the message is to be understood as being literal or symbolic. As cited above, take everything literally unless the Scriptures say it is symbolic, or unless it is physically impossible for it to be literal or be fulfilled in a literal manner, with the exception of miracles.

3. Determine the context (what is the subject).

4. Determine the dispensation and if the message is for us today.

5. Find as many passages dealing with the subject as you can.

6. Put together the message of all the passages to determine what is being said.

7. Give clear statements far more importance than unclear statements.

8. Base the message of an unclear statement on a clear one.

Endnotes
[1] See more at: http://so4j.com/jesse-duplantis-false-teacher#sthash.jwxiXwyO.dpuf)