It's been a year since I graduated from college, and I've already had two jobs that were not right for me. How do I find out which career path is right for me and where God wants me to be?
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What you are experiencing is by no means unusual; you have lots of company among recent graduates. And I wouldn't be so sure this past year has been such a failure—it sounds like you have been learning about certain kinds of work and potential careers.
Perhaps you can go back to the school you graduated from to see if they offer any help for graduates in your situation. I also recommend that you have a number of frank, thoughtful conversations with your family members and closest friends, as well as your pastor. Allow them to lovingly try to identify for you the kind of gifts and abilities, aptitudes, and attitudes they see in you. They might teach you some things about yourself that you did not know or consider thoroughly enough. Christian bookstores usually have a number of books devoted to this subject on their shelves as well.
When you ask "Where does God want me to be?" you ask a question that is important but not easily answered in a word or two. God providentially governs our lives by opening and closing doors in ways we may not even be aware of. But what he does ask of us is that we dedicate each day to his service and glory, that we resolve to rejoice in his saving love for us in Christ, continue to grow spiritually through the gospel, and renew our desire to love him and our neighbor.
Then let us serve and labor to the best of our ability—even when it is really a chore or less than what we once dreamed about. Faithfulness and dependability never go out of style. What or who we are is top priority; what we do for a living is not top priority. In time, let us trust God to allow us to find a level of contentment if not joy as we live out our lives as his servants and servants of each other.
My husband and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum where Santa Claus is concerned. I want to allow our children to believe in Santa. My husband does not.
He sees this tradition as a lie and says we are knowingly deceiving our children.
I view it as another part of the fun and magic of the Christmas season. I am confident that we can instill the knowledge of the true meaning of Christmas in our children, and not allow Santa to take away from celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Is there a WELS position on the tradition of Santa Claus Is it considered adiaphora, or a sin (lie) to allow our children to believe in the existence of this fictional character?
In some ways the custom of Santa Claus is similar to that of the Tooth Fairy. Both can be childhood games that we play with our children. It is true that Santa Claus could interfere with the spiritual life of children, if parents allow it. If they teach their children to be good in order to receive gifts at Christmas, it can give the impression that they should be good for the wrong reason.
This is not to say that it is a sin to speak of Santa Claus during the Christmas season. Yet it does point out how this custom could confuse children and blind them to the scriptural message of Christmas, especially if parents are not careful in how they present it.
You ask about how to include both Santa Claus and Christ into Christmas. Perhaps one way to incorporate both in the Christmas season yet separate Santa Claus from Christmas is to associate Santa Claus with Saint Nicholas Day, December 6th. In some cultures it is customary to hang up stockings and fill them with small gifts the night before. This would help to separate Santa Claus from Christmas Day and yet still allow some of the traditional elements of a jolly old man in a red suit to be incorporated into the Christmas season in a simple and low-key manner. That way Christmas Day can be reserved for what it is, the celebration of the Savior's birth. I know of a family that used this approach. Perhaps it is something that would work in your family.
I know the Bible says that we are not to be a slave to our debtors and to owe no man anything. What exactly does that mean?
The Bible verse you are thinking about and which some have used to say that any and all indebtedness is wrong is Romans 13:8: "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law."
We do not believe that this passage is prohibiting any and all forms of indebtedness because of the immediate and wider context of the words in the Bible. Look at the preceding verse. What has Paul been dealing with in this passage? He has been dealing our responsibility to give what we owe to ruling authorities. "Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." It is wrong for us to default or dishonestly avoid true obligations. If anyone has a proper expectation of us—if we owe them—then we should pay it.
The wider context of Scripture does not endorse the concept of all indebtedness being sinful. Those under the Mosaic covenant had borrowing and lending governed, but not prohibited. See Exodus 22:25-27 and Deuteronomy 15:7-8 as sample verses.
"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." (Proverbs 22:7). These words remind us that being in debt may not be sinful, but it is an important issue and calls for wisdom.
Why does it matter if I go to church?
Baseball fans go to baseball games. Football fans go to football games. People belong to health clubs. People join churches. Why?
Fans attend games because they love the game. Being among a loud and boisterous home crowd conveys the excitement and fervor of the moment better than watching the game on television at home alone. Even gathered among a few friends at home is better than just watching the Super Bowl alone.
The whole purpose of Weight Watchers is to meet every week to offer one another encouragement in the fight against the bulge. Rejoicing with those who have made progress and comforting those who have had set backs, is a prime reason for membership.
An individual can read the Bible alone, speak to the Lord in prayer alone, and sing praises to God alone. But the excitement of praising God with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is so much better even with a few friends. Being with fellow believers to celebrate the victory our God has won for us over sin, death, and the devil is such an encouragement to us as we live our lives here on earth.
We as believers join a church because we as Christians are not meant for isolation. The devil comes looking to tempt us when we are alone. He knows it is easier to get us to despair, to worry, and to be discouraged when we are alone. The encouragement of fellow believers is a prime reason for having a church to call home.
One may feel at times that they don't need the encouragement of others. The role God is playing in their life is good and they are happy. But another one of our roles as a believer is to serve one another in love. Our presence as part of a church is an encouragement to fellow believers. We can share how God is working in our lives, how we are comforted knowing he is in control of the world, how we have peace because we are forgiven for all we have done, and how we are sure of eternal life in heaven.
A piece of coal taken out of the fireplace and left to burn alone will soon grow cold. But those pieces of coal left together will burn bright and hot because of the coals around them. "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
How do you address a person who is looking for signs as to whether a particular decision they should make is correct or not? How do you know if God wants you to do something or not do something?
Most of us wish that God would tell us specifically what to do and when to do it—where to live, where to work, whom to date or marry, etc. God rarely gives that kind of direct information. But he has not left us without tools to seek, know, and follow his will. Here are Bible truths or principles that we may use in seeking to know God's will—and distinguishing that from the desires of Satan.
- Be and remain grounded in the Bible in order to know what God commands and what he forbids, what kinds of things he desires and what kinds of things he does not desire. Make Bible study a lifestyle. Satan actively seeks to divert us from God's will, and being grounded in God's revealed word is always the primary antidote to that.
- Continuously examine motives and resolve to do what is truly loving and will bring glory to God and what is loving and helpful to other people. Much of the trouble we get ourselves into stems from doing or wanting things that are self-serving or wrongly motivated.
- Trust divine providence and allow God to deal with circumstances and actions of others that are beyond your control. This often requires patience as well as the willingness to be content when things turn out in ways that initially disappoint us.
- Continue to do what you have been doing—praying for divine wisdom, insight, patience, and a purifying of motives. God is concerned about our Christian character and spiritual growth. When these gifts are being cultivated, we may trust him to guide us into his will in more specific matters (Romans 12:2).
- Seek the advice and input of trustworthy Christian friends and spiritual leaders. They know you and they may be in a good position to offer insights reflecting Bible priorities and godly motives.
- When you are doing or have done all these things, then make a decision and confidently face the future knowing you have honestly done your best to show love for God and for others. If things at first don't appear to work out, that need not mean you acted against God's will. He may have chosen to take you through hard times to increase your Christian character. Commend yourself day by day into your Lord's care, grow in the grace and knowledge of your Savior, and know that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).
Finally, you ask what can be said to an active "sign seeker" who apparently expects God to provide signs as guidance to us while we wrestle with decisions. I suggest that the following counsel be shared:
- Remember that God has not given us promises that he will provide signs; we do not want to be presumptuous in demanding or expecting what he has not promised.
- Sign seeking is infamous for its subjectivism and self-centered interpretation of supposed signs. People too often imagine or interpret signs according to their own emotions and desires.
- Better to allow God, in his love and according to his revealed promises, to guide us providentially as we remain in his revealed word and will for us. That is safe territory.
What does the Bible say about a Christian's involvement in competition? Is it something inherently evil and to be avoided, or is it something neutral that can be used to glorify God?
Competition in our world and society is unavoidable and, in some respects, an integral part of business and industry, education, and athletic aspects of culture. You ask if competition is inherently evil or whether it may be seen as morally neutral and potentially useful for Christians.
The Bible addresses the issue of motive or attitude often, but does not directly speak about competition as a moral or ethical issue in and of itself. I see no Biblical evidence that would lead me to conclude competition itself is sinful. I believe the wisest and safest route is to focus on the importance of attitude that can turn indifferent things into sin. Besides, in one sense we are actively involved in competitive activities as good soldiers of Jesus since we are in a warfare against the devil, the unbelieving portion of the world, and our sinful natures. That is fierce competition and comes with the gift of rebirth and saving faith.
Bible readers have pointed to Paul's use of competitive athletic analogies (running the race, winning the prize, or fighting the good fight) as a Biblical endorsement of competition. See 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 or 2 Timothy 4:7. Using these images, however, doesn't necessarily mean he endorsed the contests in his culture as God-pleasing. We don't want to make the passages bear more weight than they should.
Rather than seeing competition as inherently good or intrinsically evil, I prefer to stress the need and value to make distinctions in attitudes and purposes in things that are competitive by nature.
There is no doubt that competion can be and often becomes something unhealthy, unloving, and contrary to the second table of the law, loving one's neighbor as oneself. But competition may be seen as good or healthy in some ways, offering antidotes to sinful mankind including believers who retain their sinful natures. For example:
- it may lead to producing goods and services more economically and efficiently;
- it can curb laziness and even greed (by preventing monopolies);
- it can stimulate growth and increased personal accomplishments, encouraging excellence;
- it can improve the performance of all participants and work against chronic under-achievement.
Our task, then, remains the privilege of stressing motives and attitudes in a world that offers unavoidable competition. Often mentioned examples of healthy attitudes are these:
- the reward we ultimately compete for is the approval of God;
- our attitude during any competition is to be characterized by humility;
- the way we compete matters more than the outcome of the competition;
- winning by violating God’s moral or ethical principles is not acceptable;
- the outcome of competition should be service to something bigger than ourselves;
- the object of competition should not be to glorify ourselves.
How are we to honor a father who acts dishonorably?
When God tells us to honor our parents and others who are called to serve as his representatives in our lives (like teachers, pastors, and governing civil authorities), he does not do so because of their godly character or conduct, but because of their God-established positions in our lives. Recall how young David continued to honor his predecessor, King Saul, as long as Saul was God's anointed king and despite Saul being a wretched human being and, in fact, a persecutor of David (for example, 1 Samuel chapters 24 and 26). We may also recall how Jesus submitted to and obeyed his earthly parents even though he was their Lord and God (Luke 2:49-51). He was fulfilling God's law and honoring them for their position, not because they were more godly or wiser than he was.
When a choice has to be made between honoring or obeying parents or other authorities and honoring or obeying God, then "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). That is the principle that guides us whenever earthly authorities depart from their proper role and fail to serve as God wants them to serve. Despite acknowledging Saul's kingship, David distanced himself from Saul in many ways. Despite honoring and obeying his earthly parents, Jesus sometimes reminded them of his priorities and refused to consent to their wish when it interfered with his primary call to obey the Heavenly Father (see John 2:4, Matthew 12:46-50, or Mark 3:21, Mark 3:31-35).
In applying these principles in your situation with a parent who apparently is far from God and alienated from his family members, you may still acknowledge that God provided him as a parent and entrusted him with an honorable position. This honoring does not always mean obeying or appreciating the person as a person. Here you will be guided by other principles of Scripture including those of being adequate parents to your children and protecting them from evil influences. You will also seek opportunities to testify to the unbelieving parent concerning the seriousness of his sin and the greatness of the work of his Savior Jesus Christ -- so, as uncomfortable and distasteful as it may be, you may seek to maintain some relationship with him despite keeping some distance at the same time.
To chart a specific course of action in all this requires more intimate knowledge of you, your father, the family, and the situation. I urge you to sit down with your pastor or another trusted Christian counselor to discuss options and form a strategy.
Should a Christian play computer games that involve curses and hexes? Is this demonic warfare and does it desensitize players to true evil in the world? Or is it no different than what you might see on TV shows or in the movies?
I am not familiar with this computer game (or any others actually), but I am aware that many of them use terminology that is drawn from the occult and demonic activity. While I may not appreciate the kind of fantasy world being constructed here when so many others could have been chosen, I cannot say they are sinful in and of themselves. Classic fantasy stories like the Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis) and Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien), written by Christians and enjoyed by Christians, also use the imagery of curses or hexes and there is no evidence that reasonably mature believers confuse fantasy with reality or are seduced into the occult.
That does not mean that your husband's use of the computer games, as you describe it, is without sin, however. But more likely this is a sin against the principles of stewardship, time management in particular. I cannot defend wasting 4 to 5 hours a day on such stuff, for children or for adults, and say this is a God-pleasing use of the gift of time. There are so many opportunities to be doing other things that will better serve the gospel, my neighbor, and my family than to fritter it away in this manner. If someone else misuses time watching TV or doing something else with limited value or good for anyone, that does not excuse his waste of his time.
I suggest that you, perhaps your whole family, seek counseling and specifically advice on how better to use the time, talents, and resources God has given you to the glory of God and improvement of other people. I suggest that you sit down with your pastor to discuss these things.
We read in several places in Scripture that people fasted forty days and nights. Does "fasting" mean complete abstinence from food or was there a minimal amount each day that was allowed a person by the "laws of fasting" (if there were such a thing)? Forty days without eating anything seems to be almost a physical impossibility, doesn't it? What was the underlying reason for fasting? Clear the mind? Preparation? Other?
There are no rules for fasting in the Bible. The only prescribed fast was on the Day of Atonement, and even this does not use the word "fast," but "deny himself" (Leviticus 23:29). The examples in the Bible that describe the fast are mostly absolute fasts.
Deuteronomy 9:9, 18 "...forty days and forty nights; (Moses) ate no bread and drank no water."
Ezra 10:6 "(Ezra) ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn...."
Esther 4:16 "Go, gather together all the Jews...and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day."
Acts 9:9 "For three days (Paul) was blind, and did not eat or drink anything."
Acts 27:33 "'For the last fourteen days,' he said, 'you...have gone without food—you haven't eaten anything.'"
Examples of partial fasts (abstinence from certain foods only):
I Kings chapter 17
Daniel 10:3 "(Daniel) ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over."
The main purposes were to focus on spiritual things and to express repentance.
Is it ever okay for a Christian to sue or counter-sue to recover actual losses, e.g., damage done to a home by a contractor? I know if that person is also a Christian, we would be obligated to try to settle this through some kind of Christian mediation, but what if I know nothing about this person's religious beliefs or lack thereof?
1 Corinthians 6:1-6 addresses the issue of conflicts within the church. Believers are discouraged from turning to secular courts to resolve their differences. A number of reasons for this are given, for example, secular judges are not qualified to judge by biblical standards and Christian values, and lawsuits among Christians reflect negatively on the church in the community. Rather, Matthew 18:15-18 is the route to be taken.
But you are asking about using the legal system as a citizen among citizens beyond the realm of the family of believers. The Bible does not say a Christian can never go to court, so we consider this a matter of Christian freedom that is subject to love and orderliness. The Apostle Paul appealed more than once to the legal system, exercising his right to defend himself under Roman law (Acts 16:37–40; 18:12–17; 22:22–29; 25:10–22). In Romans 13 Paul taught that God had established legal authorities for the purpose of upholding justice, punishing wrongdoers, and protecting the innocent. So we conclude that legal action may be appropriate in certain matters and urge that each case be weighed on its own merits with attention to the specific situation.
We are also aware of suitable warnings and encouragements provided in passages like Matthew 5:38–42 and Matthew 6:14-15. It is of crucial importance to weigh motives and distinguish between forgiving an adversary and in love holding him accountable and seeking justice at the same time. It is always in place to ask certain kinds of questions, for example: Am I seeking justice and protecting legal rights rather than seeking revenge or acting with hatred? Am I being honest rather than making any unworthy claims? Will my course of action reflect negatively on the church or harm the cause of Christ?
But in answer to your question, "Is ever okay for a Christian to sue or counter-sue for damages," our answer is, "Yes, it is sometimes okay and may have its place in a Christian's life."
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