Category Archives: Just One Minute

The Nazareth Manifesto

2017-08

One Sabbath Day, early in Jesus’ ministry, He visited His hometown of Nazareth and stood before the town’s synagogue filled with old friends and neighbors. That day, He read these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1-2).

These words, sometimes called “the Nazareth Manifesto,” are Jesus’ announcement to His friends and neighbors—and to us—what His coming and calling are all about.

A manifesto proclaims the aims and policies of a political party or candidate. Often, the manifesto consists of many words, all meant to win favor from the people.

In contrast, the Nazareth Manifesto’s words are few, and Jesus comes, not to stir a mass movement of public favor that sweeps Him into power, but to announce the irresistible will and authority of God to accomplish all He has just read. By this authority, He lays out what will surely come to pass to fulfill a prophecy from hundreds of years before.

He reaches out to four different kinds of people: the poor, captives, the blind and the oppressed. He does not define these terms because they include every manner of poverty, captivity, blindness and oppression that results from separation from God.

The “favorable year of the Lord” refers to the Year of Jubilee when once every 50 years, slaves received their freedom, debts were canceled, ancestral property was returned to the original owners. It is a proclamation of a new order.

The Nazareth Manifesto is a ringing declaration of Jesus’ power and ability to do it all.

Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto is the model for the salvation we proclaim and practice before the world. We must not water it down but proclaim it in full, and like Jesus, do great works because He told us, “Greater things than I have done, you will do.”

Not everyone will accept Jesus’ Manifesto. His own hometown rejected Him, and for a time, even members of His own earthly family thought He was crazy. He faced great opposition especially from those who did not see themselves as poor, captives, blind or oppressed.

Jesus’ Nazareth Manifesto was not a political message or even a religious message, but a relational one. It required personal trust in Him alone to bring about the results He promised. It roused anger and opposition from the proud and those used to power because it proclaimed a sweeping away of the status quo.

Two thousand years have passed, but His aims have not changed. He still proclaims release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed. He has delegated to us the task of preaching the gospel to the poor. One day, when He returns, we will see the fullness of the Year of Jubilee. The Nazareth Manifesto continues to arouse opposition from the status quo while it steadily wins new followers of Jesus Christ.

In 2000 years, the Nazareth Manifesto has already seen much accomplishment, but much more is yet to come! Let us make sure that we have made Jesus’ Manifesto our own!

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God’s Sovereignty, Human Responsibility

creation-of-adamHolistic healing—the harmonious relationship of body, soul and spirit— comes when we learn to live our lives governed by the grace of God. How do we know we are governed by the grace of God? I submit to you a simple test. Ask yourself this question: When were you saved?

Now—what is the very first thing that comes into your mind when you read this question? The answer to this question—the only biblical answer—is, “At the cross, by the eternal plan of God the Father before He created the world.” (Read the details in Romans and Ephesians.)

There is a delicate balance between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. To the degree we tip that balance to the human side, we err. God takes the initiative. We love Him because He first loved us. Even the process of conviction comes from the Holy Spirit. If we associate the moment of our salvation mainly with the day we knelt at our bedside, walked down an aisle, prayed the sinner’s prayer or any other thing, to that degree we make our salvation a thing of our own doing more than God’s grace.

To the extent we tip that balance, we become less able to hear the Holy Spirit, and we become more vulnerable to the lies of the world, the flesh and the devil. We become more prone to the stress of believing lies rather than truth, of living at a lower level than God intended for us.

If we are honest with ourselves, none of us fully accepts the grace of God in our hearts, even if we believe it in our minds. Our habits of thinking and doing are still deeply rooted in fallen natures which want to do everything in our own strength. We are more ungodly in our thinking than we imagine.

Instead of kicking ourselves for our failures, we must daily remind ourselves that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” Learning to live by God’s grace is a lifelong process. Knowing God saved us at the cross through His Son should better help us to accept ourselves because HE accepts us and aids us in transforming our awed lives and characters. This is a difficult, but necessary step toward holistic healing.

Psychology tells us that to accept ourselves, we must look into our past to heal ourselves. But God, the Great Physician, accepts us at a deeper level, and He did it before we were born. To experience full healing, we come to know ourselves best when we first learn to know God’s grace. This is when true healing takes place.

Our failure to live by God’s grace explains the poor health of so many churches and our culture. When the church does not live out the full healing power of grace, we cannot live as salt and light, and we cannot change the culture around us. All of this makes the church appear powerless, unable to bring the Great Physician to a hurting world.

Paul preached the finished work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). His emphasis upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ helped to spread the gospel across the Roman Empire. Let us pray for an unprecedented Great Awakening to the truth of God’s holiness and God’s grace and see the gospel once again spread like wild fire throughout the unreached world!

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Slaves to Stress

IMG_3180Body, soul and spirit—we are all three, and each affects the others.

Did you know that 75-90% of doctor visits take place for stress-related ailments—headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety, upset stomach, sleeping problems? These stress-related issues chronically affect 43% of adults, costing billions of dollars a year to the workplace, causing hazards to others. The tendency is to self-medicate with alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex.

These issues affect Christians as well as non-Christians. The real cause of stress often has spiritual roots. It may affect people who have gone to church all their lives and are busy in the Lord’s work. Why? Because they have unresolved issues they can’t resolve simply by reading a good book, going to church or Bible study, memorizing scripture, as good as these things are.

Stress often comes because we have learned lies about ourselves from life experiences and from the father of lies, to render us useless, to harm us and even kill us. Often, we have little idea how sin corrupts everything. The enemy, more clever than we, has kept us from seeing the truth.

The Bible warns us that sin has power in this world. Lies about life can destroy us. The enemy keeps these lies below our consciousness to wound and harm us for decades without our knowing the lies are there. We experience continual defeat, and defeat causes stress.

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” Jesus said. Paul also said this when he wrote, “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

For this, we need not just to “get information” but get the help of the Holy Spirit to discern our situation and to speak truth to us through applied scripture. When the truth of scripture shines on the lies of the enemy and of life that have governed and limited us, the enemy retreats, and we gain freedom. The source of our stress is removed, and we regain physical and emotional health as well as spiritual health.

Psychology alone, which depends upon humanistic theories, does not suffice for this spiritual work of renewal and setting free. But it can take place through the help of men and women gifted and trained in biblical counseling.

Biblical counseling is not just another form of psychology, nor is it simply limited to spiritual issues. Rather, it is a means of applying the truth of the Bible to all of life—spiritual, emotional, mental, physical. A biblical counselor enables a person to identify the source of his problem—the lie that is keeping him in bondage—and to shine the light of the Word upon it. The light of truth always dispels the works of darkness.

Biblical counseling is a new and growing avenue of grace and redemption, setting people free and renewing minds for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. It is winning people to Christ and setting men, women and children free to become the people God meant them to be.

We thank God for this new avenue of grace and redemption that has become available at India Bible College & Seminary. Pray that God will call more men and women into this unique ministry, and that millions of people in India and beyond will receive its benefits.

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Gender Justice in light of the Bible

Gender Justice ScaleA major worldwide issue today is gender justice—ending inequalities between men and women in the family, workplace and larger community. Christian approaches to this critical problem can help to reveal the character of the gospel to the rest of the world.

Female subjugation is a worldwide tragedy. More women, aged 15-44, die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Millions of women and girls suffer sex slavery. A woman dies in childbirth every minute. Women suffer from illiteracy, medical discrimination and many other things more than men. Sons are valued more than daughters. In India and elsewhere, this is a millennia-old calamity.

This calamity results from the fall. To understand what true gender justice is, we must return to what God originally intended when He created the first man and woman. We find that in Genesis 2:18. Many English translations say something like this: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

Historically, even in the church, we have considered the woman as an assistant to the man, a “helpmeet.” But the original Hebrew, ezer, does not allow this weak interpretation. This word, rich in meaning, actually means more like “comrade,” or “ally,” a “mirror image” or “complement,” one who supplies something the man lacks and can never do alone.

In the Old Testament, ezer is used of God 16 of the 21 times it appears, as helper to His people. It is used twice of Eve. In other words, just as God supplied vital help to His chosen people, the woman also performs a vital, God-ordained role without which something important never gets done. The woman performs an essential, equal, but different, role in partnership with the man.

In this plan, the man is the “head” of the woman (like the head of one’s body). “Headship” does not mean “hierarchy,” any more than God the Father is superior to the Son in His essence. Even in the church, this basic truth is imperfectly understood.

From these biblical principles, male domination subverts God’s original plan and prevents a man from being a man. Male domination is part of the curse that befalls humanity after the fall (Genesis 3:16). Feminism also subverts God’s original plan because it reacts or rebels naturally against male domination, but fails to recover God’s intended role for women as ezer.

We are all fallen beings and none of us, even as Christians, ever perfectly follows God’s original plan in our marriages and other relationships with the opposite sex. We have lost who we truly are.

However, we who have entered Christ’s kingdom by His grace have His Holy Spirit through Whom we may recover what we lost through the fall. When we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit in our marriages, in our church fellowships and in the marketplace, we begin to recover those truths Adam and Eve knew before they lost fellowship with God.

When we do this, many outside the Kingdom will begin to grasp the practical implications of the gospel and want it for themselves. Pray that as men and women of His Kingdom, we will learn these lessons well for His glory and the advancement of His Kingdom. India needs this. So do we all.

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God Gave First

2017-04-He-GaveWe owe God everything. Everything we have comes from God.

He owns all we see, taste, hear, touch and smell. Our thoughts, talents and acts come from faculties He gives us. The things we make for ourselves come from the things He makes. Our jobs come to us because of the natural resources He provides. We depend upon God for our children, grandchildren, the flowers in our garden, and every other blessing in life.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,” the Psalmist says. All of it. Stewardship means to manage all of God’s blessings in God’s way, for God’s glory. As we do so, we are blessed in ways beyond our imagination, both in this world and the world to come. We are all stewards of God’s gifts. The question is—are we good stewards or bad stewards?

Stewardship is based upon our relationship of trust in the character of God. Every time we act as if it is all ours, we insult the character of God. We tell him our nite minds know better how to bless ourselves than He can bless us with His in nite power and might.

True stewardship has no relation with the attitude that says, “I did it myself,” or “I have a right…” Instead, we thank God for everything and in everything. Stewardship is never a legalistic matter, but relational. God cares nothing about the quantity we give so much as the quality of our relationship with Him. Do we trust Him to do what He says He will do?

Jesus demonstrates this with the poor woman who put only two coins into the offering. She gave everything she had, Jesus tells us. She gave recklessly, not knowing where she would find her next meal. But Jesus saw her faith, and we can be sure that after He praised her faith, He helped her to better her poverty-stricken condition.

Good stewardship brings God’s blessing. God never asks us to sacrifice anything without first making a sacrifice Himself, and He did that perfectly on the cross through His Son. He has proven Himself trustworthy. Good stewardship means to trust God to do what He promises—through all we are and have.

Whether we are grudging or free in our stewardship reflects how we view God and His sacrifice to reconcile us to Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. The more we see ourselves as sinners in need of God’s grace, the more we will want to express our gratitude to Him and make His interests our own. The less we see ourselves as sinners, the less our gratitude and any desire to thank God through our stewardship.

God’s invitation to trust Him with all we are and have is an invitation to discover Him in His fullness, to experience His glory as we give Him glory. When we refuse to offer Him back what He has given to us, we declare that we are gods.

This Easter, let us thank God for His great sacrifice through His Son which gives us our salvation in this life and the next. Let us make His interests our own, which means making sure we do our part to declare the Good News to all who still do not know Him.

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The First Mission Field

2017-03-slum-school-children-prayerOur children are our first mission field.

We live in a turbulent world inhabited by troubled youth and children, alienated from their families and society. Apart from a dramatic intervention by God, we face a troubled future whenever such troubled youth grow up, become parents themselves and take their places in seats of government, business, education, the arts, media and communication. How we raise our children today, influences our society for generations to come.

These things do not “just happen.” Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul identified a major cause for an alienated generation when he wrote, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Too many parents stimulate rebellious spirits in their children when they resort to harsh discipline or fail to discipline them at all. Such extremes never work. What is needed is right discipline.

The key to right discipline is for parents to first discipline themselves, to submit themselves to their heavenly Father. Parents submitted to God know their children are not their personal possessions to treat as they please, but gifts of God. Parents are not to use children for their own purposes and ambitions, but to patiently help them to develop the unique personalities God gave each of them.

Like us, our children are born in sin. We depend upon God’s mercy and grace in our own lives, and we must treat our own children’s shortcomings with mercy and grace. Discipline is necessary, but to humiliate a child or inflict physical, verbal or emotional abuse have no place in a Christian home.

Paul tells us to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This means parents must learn to sacrifice their own interests to bring their children into emotional and spiritual maturity by instruction and example. Fathers and mothers must spend less time at the office or other activities to accomplish this God-given mission. Their own children are always their first priority.

Trying to force religion down their children’s throats or coerce a “decision for Christ” is never right. Going to church, Sunday school and youth group are good, but even better, children should see in their parents consistent character, integrity, and kindness that win their respect and motivate them to become like their parents.

They should see in their parents a worldview and lifestyle that sets them apart from parents of neighbors and friends. They should understand from their parents that this difference comes because of God’s gospel of grace in their lives.

Children should hear regularly from their parents how God has changed their lives, answered their prayers, and been faithful. Children should see in their parents the joy of the Lord, and know their parents pray for them every day.

Children should see and hear their parents read their Bibles and pray for those in need. They should hear their parents apply the scriptures to their lives, work and family. They should see their parents take a vital interest in those who still live in darkness without the gospel.

Yes, our children and grandchildren are our first mission field. If we have done our job right, our children will more likely become God’s ambassadors to their own children and a needy world around them.

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Christ in You!

christ-in-youWe live in dangerous times. We are like sailors tossed about on the sea, fearing the waves will tear the ship in two. How easy for us to become alarmed and discouraged, to despair that God has abandoned us.

We all need hope in our times. Hope greater than wishful thinking, knowledge based upon fact. Hope based upon the Word of God, upon His character that never fails. Hope as an assurance, a conviction, freedom from all doubt that God will “come through.”

The apostle Paul lived in perilous times. Yet he lived with great hope that certainly was not based upon his circumstances. Consider his frequent sufferings from stoning, floggings, shipwreck, imprisonment, betrayal, hunger, thirst, a “thorn in the flesh.” He lived under a tyrannical emperor who murdered his own mother and threw Christians to the lions. Paul’s own beloved Jewish people despised his message.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory”—this was Paul’s hope in the midst of great trials. For him, this was not only a theological concept, but a living reality, a personal experience.

What did he experience? In Colossians 1, he speaks of Christ, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Christ, who created all things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, all thrones and dominions, rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.

Christ, who is before all things. Christ, in whom all things hold together. Christ, the head of the body, the church. Christ, the beginning, the firstborn from the dead. Christ, the preeminent one. Christ, in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Christ, who reconciled to Himself all things on earth and in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.

All of this was more than a concept to Paul, but also an experience. How does one describe such an experience?

How could Neil Armstrong fully describe the moment he became the first man in history to walk on the moon? How does a bride describe the moment when the ring of her beloved slips over her finger? How do a father and mother fully describe holding their first-born child for the first time?

What these people know differs from that of bystanders. These personal experiences cannot be described. Only experience brings full understanding.

“Christ! In! You!” What Paul’s words embody, and what Paul experienced, dwarfs all other human experiences. Those without Christ know nothing of it, and often, too many believers know little of it because they have fooled themselves (or have been fooled by Satan) to expect little from God. This should lead each of us to ask, how much do we expect of God?

Paul makes clear that his experience of Christ in him is to become the experience of all believers, not just a select few religious people. Paul invites us “to comprehend with all the saints [you and me] what is the breadth and the length and height and depth, to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge . . . to be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

In whatever prison we find ourselves—and we all know them—let us each accept Christ’s invitation to know Paul’s experience for ourselves in our uncertain times. Then we will become more motivated to offer that Good News to others.

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The Accessible King

2016-12-through-jesusQueen Elizabeth has reigned for almost 65 years. We all know her face, but if any of us sought to enter her private quarters at Buckingham Palace without proper credentials, we would be arrested and jailed. No one enters the presence of royalty without the right credentials.

God is King of the universe. None of us can enter God’s presence without the right credentials either. Without right credentials, access to God is impossible. Then what are those credentials?

Paul tells us, “Through Him [Jesus Christ] we have access…to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).

This is the message of Christmas—we have access to the King through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ makes the King our Father as well. It all began in a manger, was accomplished on the cross and confirmed in His resurrection.

By giving us access to God, He made the King personal. If we received a personal phone call from Queen Elizabeth, inviting us to dinner, we would never forget it. What Jesus Christ provides for us surpasses anything Queen Elizabeth can offer. This access is available, not just to special people, but to all who trust Jesus Christ, whatever our backgrounds and stations in life.

Through Jesus Christ, God the King becomes both a Friend and a Father, but He is not like any other. Just as we would never treat the Queen with casual familiarity, so we would never take God for granted, but honor Him for who He is.

We live in a world increasingly out of control. Our hearts fail from fear. We may suffer with frail bodies. We may struggle with deep problems in our families and marriages. We are subject to accidents and other mishaps. We may find our minds slipping away from us. We may wrestle with drives and desires that get the best of us. We all bear loads beyond our ability to bear alone. Our lives are full of unrest and worry. Even as believers, certain things drive us to despair.

Only the King can help us. We need to know we can access Him at any time, and that He wants to dwell with us and us with Him. We need to know He welcomes us, that He will hear us and take us seriously. We need to know we are not just faces in a crowd.

We need to know He will regard us as members of His family whatever our failings. We need to know we make a difference to Him. When we have taken time to seek Him, we need to know that He is always waiting for us.

We cannot know our purpose in life or successfully face life and death apart from our access to the King. We would never gain access to Him apart from His taking the initiative to provide us the right credentials. He has willed that His Son, Jesus Christ, come into the world and become our access to Him.

Thank the King He has made it possible for us to approach His throne with confidence and boldness through Jesus Christ. Millions of people are waiting to hear this message. In the coming year, let us join together to make Him known.

May you and your loved ones have a blessed Christmas and New Year.

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Walk in God’s Light

2016-11-in-the-lightThe light of God is like a great feast of endless delight for all who accept His invitation to partake of it. With His light, we know we are headed in the right direction. He sent His light into the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, in whom there is no darkness at all.

Those who gladly receive the Light that is Jesus Christ will experience transformation. We receive a changed nature and become part of His new humanity. We receive a more childlike nature, more inclined to trust the word and the person of Jesus Christ in opposition to the prevailing culture. We more readily delight in the truth of God.

Our eyes will open to things we never saw before, and which others, who do not have the Light, cannot see. We will more readily speak the truth. We will more readily see the true mind and character of God and desire that above all else. We will more readily live a life of fruitfulness, joy and peace.

This does not mean we can or will attain sinless perfection in this earthly life, but we will have greater ability to understand ourselves and our world from God’s viewpoint. We will put less trust in human wisdom. We will better understand that human wisdom will disappoint us in some way because human understanding always falls short of God’s perfect Light.

Every follower of Christ has the Holy Spirit who provides the potential to experience all the light of Christ. Because of sinful habits we have developed since birth, we may still allow emotions, social or business pressures, cultural norms and other things to sway us—things that seem logical and even good to us, but do not take into account the full truth God makes available to us.

David was a man after God’s own heart, and yet he allowed Bathsheba’s beauty to capture him more than the Light of God. He suffered dire consequences for his acts, and brought untold suffering upon himself and others that continued even after he repented. In many ways, Judas and Peter perceived the Light better than any of us, yet they betrayed and cursed the Light for short-sighted reasons. If they failed, we are also subject to failure.

Jesus invites and warns us at the same time when He says, “While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.” We have the Light now, but if we ignore the Light, we will not always have Him. If we continually look to our own light, darkness will overtake us, and he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.

The Light of God is found in the Word of God through the Spirit of God. We must learn to let His Word speak to us in our daily lives, let it challenge our ideas, let it take precedence over cultural norms and trendy presumptions. Learning to follow the light is difficult for people like us with sinful tendencies to wander.

Let us remember that in the end, it is not we who possess the Light, but the Light Who possesses us. This is the ultimate message of the Good News, and let us make sure that others see signs of the Light in us.

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Grace to the Graceless

2016-10-graceOur effective fulfilling the Great Commission sometimes depends upon how we honor the most dishonorable people of our lives with God’s grace. This may include parents who mistreated, neglected and abused us.

To a degree, we all experience dysfunction. All parents are sinners. Yet some of us have or had parents who gave us little more than misery and torment. Just the thought of them revolts us. God commands us to honor our parents, but how do we honor them?

You cannot truly obey this command until you first know God and the great work He has already done for you through Jesus Christ — deep in your heart, not just in your head. This requires a supernatural act, the earnest of the Holy Spirit, assuring you of deep gospel truths in deep ways, as they apply to your unique situation.

Those truths include God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justifying and glorifying of you before creation (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-5). You may have terrifying or awful parents, but long before God created Adam and Eve, He chose to pull you from this muck and make you His own. Not even the cruelest parents can pluck you from His hand.

Vietnamese people have a proverb that well illustrates this fantastic truth: “The lotus grows in mud, but it doesn’t smell of mud.” You are that lotus. Discover who you really are in Him, and He will give you the grace to honor wretched parents even as He has chosen to honor you.

Remember that God is a “Father to the fatherless” (Psalm 65:8). He can use everything for the good of those who love Him and are called of Him (Romans 8:28). Take a small step of faith toward Him, see Him act, then take another step. Be honest with God about your feelings. As a man, He was “despised and rejected . . . a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” (Isaiah 53:3) so He understands your situation perfectly. He wants to help you do what you can’t do yourself.

Remember that honor is primarily an action, not a feeling. It is an offer of God’s grace to graceless people. It does not mean trusting them or tolerating further abuse or rewarding their evildoing. Thank God He is big enough he can even use such nasty people to bring you into the world and adopt you into His royal family!

Practically speaking, how can we honor dishonorable parents? Here are some suggestions:

  • Become willing to forgive them and release emotional baggage. Only the Holy Spirit can help you do this. With Him all things are possible (Mark 10:22). Read Lewis Smedes’ Forgive and Forget—a helpful book.
  • When possible, call and listen to them, and say nothing when they say hurtful things.
  • When possible, do acts of kindness for them.
  • Accept them where they are. Don’t expect them to match your expectations.
  • Note any good things they may have done and express gratitude for them.
  • Don’t criticize your parents before other family members.
  • Create safe boundaries to prevent manipulation.
  • Teach your children to love their grandparents.
  • Pray for parents who mistreated you.
  • Let your relationship with Christ shine through. Who knows? God’s grace in your life, shown to them, may eventually bring them to Christ. It happens.

Sometimes the hardest people to win for Christ come from under our own roof. Let God use this acid test to train you to reach around the world in His name.

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