Q: When people are near death, what can I say or do to help them? I am not a pastor, so I don't want to do anything wrong. What can I say if they have never known Jesus?
A: Situations like this are hard because we often put so much stock into what we say and do when we share Christ with others. In reality, it's the Holy Spirit that does the work of conversion. Many times during someone's suffering, we primarily need to be there for them. They likely won't (or can't) respond to someone who is just preaching at them. They need our presence and our love. This however, doesn't mean that you can't bring up God. What I do is ask questions: Are you spiritual? Did you grow up in church? What is your relationship with God like?
This is natural way to transition the conversation to God. If they are open, you can share a verse, offer to pray for them, or even tell your story of how you came to Christ. You don't have to be a pastor to minister to others. As believers, we are all called to be a holy priesthood: "You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."—1 Peter 2:5
Integrate grace and truth in your approach. Apply grace by showing love, presence, and being respectful. Hold to truth by sharing Christ, but allow the Spirit to do the work. It is Jesus, our High Priest, who does the saving, we are simply his hands and feet. —TA
A: No. I don’t believe anyone will be judged beyond what they can comprehend. I believe that scripture teaches that we are responsible for responding to what we know. According to Romans 2:14-15:
"Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right."
According to Paul, the writer of Romans, people who don't have the written word of God will be judged according to what they know. How do people know there is a God? The creation and their conscience. The creation speaks to the evidence of a creator. People also have a conscience that tells them right from wrong.
So what if someone cannot comprehend this? What if they can't understand scripture, the creation, and don't know right from wrong? I don't believe they qualify for the judgment and are exempt. This does get tricky, because it's hard to draw an exact line of where that exemption lies. People of many different theological stripes disagree on this issue. For me, it comes down to the fact that I believe God to be merciful, loving, and gracious. He wouldn't unfairly punish someone who is not even able to understand or take responsibility for their actions. —T.A.
Q: I try very hard to stay away from porn and masturbation but I did it again. I feel really guilty and feel that God will abandon me. Any guidance?
Most men, and also women, struggle with lust. Because of the internet, access to pornography is everywhere. Many people who want to stop feel incredible guilt and remorse after viewing pornography. While I think repentance is a good thing, we are called to move into God's grace and empowerment as result, rather than wallowing in shame. Many people get caught in a cycle of defeat where they give into the behavior, feel bad, then repeat the behavior to feel better again. The cycle continues.
When people come to me to work on their addiction to pornography, I try to help them go deeper. What is the reason they are giving into the behavior? What makes them jump on the carousel in the first place? First, many use it as way to de-stress. Pornography is a powerful distraction and the chemicals that flood the brain during an orgasm are intense. I typically help these clients find other ways to relieve stress so they don't have to resort to porn as their outlet.
Secondly, many people who are addicted to porn have issues with intimacy. They are really desiring a close connection with another person. An image on a screen gives the illusion of that connection but falls far short. I encourage people in this situation to start dating real people and start putting themselves out there. This helps dispel the fantasies they are used to indulging in. I have found that pornography addiction is a behavior that someone has to mature out of, something that happens as they gain a more realistic perception of sex itself.
Guilt and shame alone will not take you to the freedom you desire. It's time to go deeper. One book I suggest is Feels Like Redemption by Seth Taylor. I also did a podcast episode on this subject called Shame and Sexual Addiction. Finally, the enemy will always tempt and even trip you up, just don't allow him to keep kicking you while you're down. Christ is calling you forward. —T.A.
Q: If you show love, kindness, and care, to someone but they are indifferent to you, should you just leave them alone? Should a person voice to the other their sadness over the relationship?
A: It's hard to continually show kindness when it's not received well. Your intentions are good. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). So your loving feelings don't need to stop, but you don't have to allow them to ignore, be rude, or even sin against you.
This might be a situation where the use of boundaries would be wise. Being honest while expressing your limits invites the other person to take responsibility for their attitude and respond appropriately. So let them know how you feel, but detach when necessary so you aren’t being taken advantage of. I wrote another article on How to Set Boundaries that might be of help. —T.A.
Q: I have been seeing a counselor for months now on a weekly basis but I don't think it's a good fit. Should I bring it up? How can I find a good counselor?
A: If you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, you have every right to bring it up or to find another provider. I tell my own clients that if they don't feel like things are progressing, to let me know. I also don't get offended if I'm not the right fit for everyone. We all have different personalities and backgrounds so we won't be comfortable with just anyone.
If you are looking for a Christian counselor, you can find a Board Certified Christian Counselor near you using the AACC Christian Care Network. I have also done a podcast episode on How to Find a Christian Counselor that discusses various factors to look for. —T.A.
Q: I have OCD with really bad thoughts. I find myself condemned, guilty, and depressed. Will God forgive me?
A: God looks at the heart and at our intentions. Obviously, these are not thoughts you want to have, and God sees that. Asking for forgiveness is something we should all ask for when we pray. However, you aren’t losing your salvation every time you have these thoughts. In Romans 8:33-34, the Apostle Paul states: "Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us." If you are united with Christ, there is no condemnation, not even from yourself. This is a great passage to meditate on:
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a mental illness that many people, including Christians, struggle with. I believe that God only judges us for sins (actions) that we do rebelliously with a high hand. We all have distorted and even very strange thoughts that we can’t control. I believe God fully understands our limitations. We have broken bodies and broken minds that are the result of a fallen creation. The Bible calls these infirmities—they aren’t sins, but physical and mental conditions.
Find a Christian counselor who specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a counseling approach that can help you manage your thoughts and moods. Here is a book you can also check out that might be helpful.—T.A.
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This information is given with the understanding that the author is not rendering medical or legal advice. This is provided for educational purposes only. Names and identifying information have been omitted.