Ask Father Paul

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Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible

Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations.  Here are a few that I have received in my ministry over the years and via email for this column.

Dear Father Paul:  Everyone in my family, including aunts, uncles and cousins is very superstitious.  I think superstitions are stupid, but they all insist that things like a rabbit’s foot, walking under a ladder, having a black cat run in front of you or breaking a mirror can bring either good or bad luck.  The whole family goes to church. Does the Bible say anything about superstitions?   — Troy

Dear Troy:  Most superstitions, of which there are hundreds, are centuries old. Some are even thousands of years old. A very few, like saying “God Bless You” when someone sneezes,  actually have a religious origin. For example, early Christians thought that a demon could enter your body through your mouth when you sneezed, thus, the quick “God Bless You” to scare the demon away. Most superstitions, however, have their origins in pagan practices and religions. Over time superstitions have become ingrained in our culture and are seen by many people as harmless and quaint ... even fun. Superstitions range from the seemingly benign, such as the ones you mention, to  occult practices such as astrology, black magic, voodoo and sorcery.

I think that the bottom line for God is that he teaches in his word, the Bible, that he, and he alone, is the source of all things that happen and that do not happen. Simply put, the Bible teaches that things do not happen by “chance,”  or because of some magic words, actions or objects ... and that, in fact, nothing happens outside of God’s sovereign control.  Acts 4:27-28, Ephesians 1:9-10, Isaiah 46:11 and Daniel 4:35 all confirm this fact which is a central tenant of the Christian faith. I think God sees us believing that anything that happens apart from him as idolatry. Some Bible verses that may be of interest here are: Deuteronomy 4:19 and II Kings 21:6 (concerning the evil King Manasseh), who engaged in some of the occult superstitious practices I mentioned earlier.

No Troy, God’s word is very clear how we should live our lives and get our direction ... not from man made objects, magic observances and rituals, but from the one true and holy God who alone guides everything that happens on planet earth.  For these reasons superstitions really have no place in the life of a Christian.

Dear Father Paul: How can I tell whether I have really and truly forgiven a person who has hurt me? -— Margaret.

Dear Margaret: There are probably lots of ways you can tell for sure, but here are three.

First ... do you keep playing the offense (the hurtful words or actions) over and over in your mind like a recording ... wishing you’d have said this or said that ... especially at night when you are trying to go to sleep?

 Second ... can you ... and do you regularly pray for and bless the person(s) who hurt you?  Do you mean it from the heart?

And third ... have you sat down face-to-face with the person and asked for their forgiveness for your un-forgiveness?

 If the answer is an honest, solid and firm “yes” to all three questions, then the strong chances are you have indeed forgiven. But if the answer is “no” you have probably not yet forgiven ... at least not fully and completely.

 And here’s the thing. Until you do forgive, you just may be wasting your time praying even something as-simple-as the “Lord’s Prayer”....”Father forgive me my trespasses as  I forgive  those who trespass against me.”  According to the Bible, our prayers are not answered when we harbor un-forgiveness. See Mark 11:25 on this subject. I also strongly urge you to read Jesus’ Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35.

 Do you have a question?  Email it to me at paulmassey@earthlink.net and I will try to answer you in the paper.

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Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia.  Church of the Holy Cross is a Spirit-filled, Sacramental Congregation where Jesus Is Lord.  You are cordially invited to worship with us this coming Sunday.  More information, directions and pod-casts of Father Paul’s Sunday messages are at

www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com

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