Posted 3 hours ago

There’s this guy I liked since last year but I moved on because he started dating a girl and she became my friend. Long story short we’re BFF and help each other spiritually& I just trust him w/so much about God&he said I help him so much w/God and he has helped me alot too his gf is in another school and hes been spending a lot of time with me He went to tutoring with me and I didnt ask him its hard to talk about anything for I dont want people to think Im taking him from his gf but I like him.

[An answer I recently gave to a private question:]

Hi Anon,

You’re in a love triangle. And, while love triangles might seem like a dramatic plot device in romantic movies—in real life they’re a big, painful mess.

So there’s a few ways this one could play out for you, but none of them involve you winning. You’re already in a lose, lose, lose situation. The question you have to ask now is, how do you want to lose?

You could lose the guy and keep the friend

You might decide that your friendship with this girl is worth keeping. But to protect it, you’re going to have to give up the emotional connection you’ve formed with her boyfriend. So tell him you need space and refuse to spend any more intimate time with him. …The only problem is that this will be hard to maintain.

You could get the guy and lose the friend

You might decide that this guy is so wonderful, you’ll give up your friendship with his girlfriend to be with himand ask him to do the same. The ironic problem however is that, if he does, he’s not actually that wonderful. Because a guy who would do that to her will also eventually do it to you.

This guy lacks self-control, or else he wouldn’t let himself get close to you while still dating her. You shouldn’t want to be with a guy who will cheat emotionally (as this guy has already done). And you definitely shouldn’t want to be with a guy who will leave his present girlfriend for a new girl (as he’ll have to do to be with you). A guy who does that doesn’t see things in terms of you vs. her—He sees them in terms of him vs. all women. So keep that in mind.

You could lose the guy and lose the friend

You might decide that the whole thing is a mess. There are other guys, other friends and other brothers and sisters who can help you grow in your faith that don’t come with so many emotional strings attached. So as much as it might hurt, you may want to just completely cut ties and move on.

Notice that I didn’t say you can get the guy and keep the friend. That’s just not a realistic option in this situation.

So those are your options. If I were you, I’d cut ties and move on. Not only is it the cleanest solution, it also removes you from interfering in their relationship anymore, which is the right thing to do. 

But like I said, it’s a choice you have to make.

By the way, you should probably avoid forming intimate spiritual bonds with a guy until you’re in a committed relationship with him. I’ve never heard of a situation where that occurred and nobody got hurt. Intimacy should go with commitment, both physically and emotionally.

Anyway, I hope it works out. That’s a rotten situation to find yourself in.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 day ago

I got the temp job at Compassion!

Thanks for all the prayers, everyone. God is good.

Posted 1 day ago

Job 21 - Escape clause

Bid Idea:

  • Job replies to Zophar again.
  • He tells his friends that, if they want to comfort him, they should just listen to him, “After I have spoken, mock on.
  • Job says that evil men sometimes do avoid suffering in this life, “They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.
  • He says that we sometimes never see evil men face their judgment in this life, “Let [God] repay the wicked, so that they themselves will experience it!
  • Job says that everyone dies no matter how well they live, “Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both.
  • He says that his friends should just look around to see that he’s right, “Have you never questioned those who travel? Have you paid no regard to their accounts?
  • Job closes by calling his friends’ liars, “How can you console me with your nonsense?

Jesus:

Posted 2 days ago

About to go to my interview for a temp editing job at Compassion International

Prayers are appreciated! Thanks. :)

Posted 3 days ago
Hey James! Recently, I've been getting pretty depressed and down about the world, and reading the news doesn't help this struggle. But I feel an obligation to be informed about the world and things that are going on, so I can pray and form opinions and things like that. I'm not sure how to balance these things, though. Reading about the things of this world saddens me, but I don't want to be ignorant. Do you have any advice for me? Thanks!!
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Man, do I hear you.

It’s awesome that you want to be informed. Too few people actually pay attention to what’s happening, where it’s happening and to whom it’s happening. But you’re right—without knowing these things, we can’t form educated opinions about why it’s happening or pray knowledgeably for those who need it. So way to be for keeping your eyes open.

Unfortunately, you’re also right that paying attention often means exposing yourself to a lot of uncertainty and heartbreak. So news hounds like us need to be careful not to be overwhelmed by the darkness of this world.

Here is how I’ve learned to deal with it:

Know your limit

Keep in mind that being informed doesn’t mean being an expert. Don’t feel obligated to read in depth about every news story, unless you’re particularly interested. The details will just weigh you down. And most of the time, the headline and first paragraph of any article will tell you everything you need to know anyway.

Also, remember to think critically instead of reacting emotionally. What do you believe about things like the civil rights, the role of the government and the ethics of conflict? Knowing where you stand on these issues before you read will help you keep current events in perspective—and help you avoid forming opinions based on fear or anger.

When I start to read anxiously and react emotionally, that’s when I know I’ve reached my news limit.

Know your antidote

When you feel overwhelmed, pray. Keep in mind that God is in loving control of everything, and He will use even bad things for good—even if we can’t see how He does it. Also, remember that we are to hold this world loosely. We don’t belong here. And God will set everything right someday.

Then, focus on something positive—something light-hearted to offset the heaviness you’re feeling. For me, this usually means watching a cartoon or listening to a funny podcast. But do whatever helps you to relax and have run, and don’t feel guilty for taking a break. Your self-care is worth it.

So I limit my exposure, I watch my attitude, I keep my eyes on God and I take breaks as needed.

One last point: Stay away from TV News. Networks rely on drama for ratings, so they emotionally hype everything. They rely on details to feed the 24-hour news cycle, so they saturate you with whatever is happening. And they rely on superficiality to match their visual format, so they avoid thinking critically about anything. TV News is poison for your mind—just get your news online.

Like I said, it’s great that you’re paying attention to current events. Just remember to also pay attention to how these events affect you and then do whatever’s needed to take care of yourself.

Great question.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 4 days ago

Job 20 - Arrows for the Wicked

Big Idea:

  • Zophar speaks up for a second time.
  • He wants to defend himself, “I hear a rebuke that dishonors me.
  • Zophar says that wicked people are happy for a short time, but then they are cast down, “Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens… he will perish forever, like his own dung.”
  • He compares wickedness to sweet-tasting poison, “He will spit out the riches he swallowed.
  • Zophar closes by saying that a wicked man will meet justice in the end, “God will vent his burning anger against him. …bronze-tipped arrow pierces him.”

Jesus:

Posted 6 days ago
My little sister, who is on the autism spectrum, has moved out of home but can't look after herself, doesn't clean, doesn't pick up after herself, doesn't wash her clothes, brush her teeth or even clean her self properly, dropped out of high school, has a low paid job, has just informed me she's pregnant to a lazy, over weight, drug smoking, drinking male who wants nothing to do with it. How can I support my sister while making her take responsibility?
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

This is a rough situation. I don’t know what it’s like to have a family member on the autism spectrum, but I do know how much it hurts to see someone you care about make self-destructive decisions.

So I can’t give you a direct answer, but I might be able to help you make some sense of what you’re dealing with…

In their book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend talk about the Biblical difference between “burdens” and “loads” in Galatians 6.

In Galatians 6:2, Paul tells us:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Cloud and Townsend write that “burden means ’excess burdens,’ or burdens that are so heavy they weigh us down. …Times of crisis or tragedy.” Sometimes situations in life are overwhelming, and we need the help of trusted loved ones if we’re going to make it through.

But in Galatians 6:5, Paul goes on to say:

Each one should carry their own load.

Cloud and Townsend explain that “load means ‘cargo,’ or ‘the burden of daily toil.’ …We are expected to deal with our own feelings, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us, even though it takes effort.” Life is demanding, and each of us should take responsibility for ourselves and our lives as much as we can.

So I think you need to ask yourself: Is your sister’s autism a burden or a load?

I know that for some, autism can be crippling. They aren’t capable of making good decisions for themselves and shouldn’t be expected to. So, rather than struggling with irresponsibility, your sister may just be struggling with expectations that are too much for her. And if that’s the case, you and your family should consider bringing her home to provide her with loving limits and consistent support.

In other words, help her carry her burden.

On the other hand, some people with autism are very high-functioning. With some medication and therapy, they are able to make their own decisions and manage their own lives. So maybe your sister isn’t struggling with autism so much as making poor personal choices. If that’s the case, you and your family should give her loving guidance, but your shouldn’t spare her the consequences of her decisions. She needs to learn from them.

In other words, let her carry her own load.

Of course, all this depends on the specifics of your sister’s situation, so it’s a call you’ll have to make. But hopefully I’ve given you a helpful framework for moving forward.

Praying for you and your family.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago

2 Kings 4 Revisited - Legacy

Big Idea:

  • The widow of a prophet who died and left behind debt asks Elisha for help. All she has is some olive oil, and the creditors are coming to take her sons as slaves.
  • Elisha tells her to collect jars from her neighbors, then pour oil into all the jars. As she poured, the oil multiplied and there was enough to fill all the jars. Elisha tells her to sell the new jars of oil and pay her husband’s debts.
  • Elisha befriends a childless Shunammite couple and they prepare a room on their roof for him to stay in whenever he visits. To repay them, Elisha assures them that they will have a son.
  • The woman asks Elisha not to get her hopes up. But later, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son.
  • One day the boy gets a terrible headache. He sits on his mother’s lap for hours, and then dies. They lay him on the bed in Elisha’s room.
  • The woman journeys to Elisha, falls at his feet and says, “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?
  • Elisha gives his staff to his servant and tells him to run back to the woman’s house and lay the staff across the boy’s body. The servant returns, saying that the staff made no difference.
  • Elisha arrives at the house, closes the door and stretches himself over the boy “mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands,” and the boy grows warm.
  • Elisha paces and then does it again. The boy sneezes seven times and wakes up.
  • The woman is grateful.
  • Elisha goes to a company of prophets in Gilgal. There is a famine and the prophets are searching for ingredients to make a stew. One finds gourds, but as everyone eats the stew, they realize the gourds are poisonous. “There is death in the pot!” they yell.
  • Elisha asks for some flour. He adds it to the stew, and everyone eats again. “And there was nothing harmful in the pot.”
  • A man brings Elisha an offering of 20 loaves of bread. Elisha tells his servant to “give it to the people.”
  • The servant is incredulous because the bread is not enough for 100 people. But Elisha sys, “This is what the Lord says: They will eat and have some left over.
  • The bread multiplies as they share it and there is so much some is left over.

Jesus:

  • God multiplies oil for the widow and provides multiplying bread for Elisha to share, foreshadowing Jesus feeding the 5,000.
  • Elisha purifying the stew with flour symbolizes the way Jesus purifies us with his blood.
  • God raises the Shunammite’s dead son back to life, foreshadowing Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Note:

  • I love how Elisha’s ministry mirrors Elijah’s.

[I didn’t like my original drawing for this chapter, so I redid it. -James]

Posted 1 week ago
We are foreigners and strangers on earth looking for a country of our own, a better country—a heavenly one. God has prepared a city for us.
Hebrews 11:13-16, paraphrased
Posted 1 week ago
Hello! How would you explain the reasons we choose abstinence and not to have sex before marriage? I'm having a difficult time explaining it to friends at uni, which makes me realise I'm just going along with it without thinking about it for myself!
Anonymous asked

Hey Anon,

This is a great question for a couple of reasons. It’s good that you want to think for yourself and not just go along with what others are doing (good or bad). And it’s good that you want to base your decisions on reasoned convictions rather than on arbitrary rules.

Even among Christians, people tend to have different motives for choosing to save sex for marriage — so I’ll just tell you what mine were.

Practicality

You’ve probably already heard the scare tactics, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here: Sex can give you STD’s, and sex can get you pregnant.

I wasn’t personally concerned about STD’s, because the girls I dated were as inexperienced as I was. But the possibility of pregnancy — that’s a scare tactic that worked on me.

Like everyone else, I heard in health class that pregnancy can happen when you’re sexually active. But over time I really saw what that can mean to a person’s life:

  • One couple I knew got pregnant and, in their panic, had an abortion. They were both emotionally wrecked by their decision for a long time afterward. 
  • Another girl I knew chose to have her baby and gave it up for adoption. But she and her family were also emotional wrecks. 
  • A different girl had her baby and chose to raise it by herself. But she’s been struggling financially ever since. 
  • And another couple actually got married when they found out they were pregnant. But the dad had to drop out of school to support the family, and they’ve also struggled financially.

I’ve never heard of anyone who had their baby and regretted it. Babies are a blessing no matter what. But all of the people I just mentioned told me that they regretted the timing and wish they had been more careful or waited.

Pregnancy isn’t just an empty scare tactic; it’s a real possibility — even if you think you’re being careful. And it’s smart to avoid that possibility until you’re ready to be a parent.

So when my friends urged me to save sex for marriage, I chose to learn from their experiences.

Relationship

Another big reason I chose to wait until marriage is that I understood what sex is for. Things typically work better for you when you use them as they are designed to be used. And sex is designed for marriage.

Sex is a natural desire, it’s a pleasurable experience and it’s a choice we make as individuals. But that isn’t all sex is.

Sex is also how husbands and wives bond in marriage. It’s powerful. And it’s dangerous when used incorrectly.

Studies have even found that the most sexually satisfied people are those who experience sex in the context of “love and commitment” (aka marriage). And I can tell you as someone who waited, sex is pretty great when you’ve only known it with your spouse. 

I wanted my relationship with my wife to be as unfettered as it could possibly be, so I waited. And I’m glad I did.

Integrity

The last reason I waited for sex should be as profound as it is simple: The Bible tells me to. I can’t honestly call myself a Christian without committing to follow Jesus. He saved me, so He is the Lord of my life.

That means I don’t do what my friends, the media and society tells me I should. And I don’t even do what my will, my desires and my emotions tell me I should. I do what the Bible tells me I should.

The good thing is that the Bible’s instructions aren’t just arbitrary—they’re based on God’s unchanging character. He calls us to be faithful to our spouses, because He is faithful to us.

It’s not about following a rule because it’s a rule. It’s about following Jesus because I trust Him.

All this being said, if you’ve already had sex, all is not lost. Your marriage isn’t doomed, and your relationship with God isn’t shot. Jesus forgives us, and He restores us. But if you could avoid the heartbreak of having to overcome a big mistake, why wouldn’t you?

So those were my reasons for saving sex for marriage: 

  • I wasn’t willing to risk pregnancy before I was ready to be a parent. 
  • I wanted sex to be something special I only share with my wife. 
  • And I wanted to follow the God I trust.

Not everyone understood my choice to wait, and not everyone agreed with my reasons. But most at least respected it. And I didn’t need their approval to make my own choices anyway.

I hope that at least gives you a starting point. Thanks for the question.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago

I got a second interview for a temp job at Compassion International!

Prayers appreciated.

God is good.

Posted 1 week ago

Job 19 - My Redeemer Lives

Big Idea:

  • Job replies to Bildad.
  • He asks why his friends so relentlessly accuse him, “If it is true that I have gone astray, my error remains my concern alone.
  • Job says that his suffering is God’s doing, “He tears me down on every side till I am gone.
  • He says that his friends and family have abandoned him, “Those I love have turned against me.
  • Job asks his friends to pity him, “Why do you pursue me as God does?
  • He says that he hopes his words will be preserved—That God will ultimately vindicate him, “I know that my redeemer lives.
  • Job closes by warning his friends not to be prideful, “You will know that there is judgment.

Jesus:

Posted 1 week ago

I got some bad news yesterday.

My boss, Jesse, stopped me as I was preparing to leave the office at the end of the day. “Can we talk before you go?”

We went to a private room and sat down. “I have bad news,” he told me. “I’m sorry, but I’ve been told I have to lay you off.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. On my list of worst-case scenarios, this was certainly near the top. But at the same time, it was sort of an answer to prayer.

My Prayer

I guess I can finally make it public: Until yesterday, I worked for Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines at Focus on the Family.

But for several months I’d felt misgivings about working at Focus. There were philosophical, environmental and practical considerations that made me doubt whether I really belonged there, and I was taking the situation to God for His direction.

I have long disagreed with Focus’ political involvement. If Focus had just stuck to its stated mission of “helping families thrive”, it would have enjoyed a positive reputation and access to a broad potential audience. But instead, Focus became a figurehead in “the Culture War,” and it alienated a huge portion of its potential audience, particularly young people. That, along with cutting their teen magazines Brio and Breakaway, cost Focus its credibility with an entire generation—a generation it needs to engage if its going to have any sustainability in the future. CEO Jim Daly has since admitted that Christians have lost the culture war, but such admissions are simply too little too late.

There is also the ever-present threat of arbitrary layoffs which creates a toxic atmosphere and low moral across the board. Those in leadership say they invite feedback from their employees but publicly shoot down anyone who dares to give it. And Daly even yelled at the entire staff for “complaining” during a recent monthly chapel service—in front of guests. (I’m not joking.)

And of course, there were the practical considerations. My position didn’t present any significant opportunity for promotion or career expansion. So if Ashley and I were ever going to have a house and kids, I would have to find a better job—and a more secure one.

Despite all this, I wasn’t willing to give up on Focus just yet.

I had grown up listening to Adventures in Odyssey and reading Clubhouse and Breakaway magazines, and I had even attended the Focus Leadership Institute after college. I knew the potential Focus had to be a positive influence on our society, and I hoped with all my heart it would abandon the culture war and return completely to its mission of strengthening marriages and equipping parents.

I also loved my team in the office. The editors and designers at Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. are some of the finest and most professional people with whom I could hope to spend my days, and I was proud that our small staff managed to consistently create quality material to help children grow in their faith. My work was meaningful, and I knew that was no small thing.

And finally, I was invested in bringing teen magazines back to Focus. Last year I wrote a proposal urging Focus to relaunch a teen ministry, and it actually got to Daly’s desk. Financial considerations put it on the back-burner, but a friend with some influence was planning to help me push for it again in the fall. At one time, the teen magazines had blessed kids going through a difficult season of life, and everyone at Focus agrees it was a mistake to cut them. So it was worth it to me to stick around and try to bring them back.

With all these things on my mind, I had been going to God in prayer every day for months. Do I leave? Do I stay? What do you want me to do, God?

I’ve been told I have to lay you off.” …Guess I had my answer.

My Hope

I was late getting to the car where Ashley was waiting to pick me up. 

Jesse explained that he hadn’t known about the decision to let me go until that morning, and he had spent all day fighting it. He said Focus would pay me to the end of the month and give me a severance package. …He almost seemed more broken up about my layoff than I did.

After I told Ashley the bad news and we drove home, I held her and we prayed. Then we talked, and I tried to get a grip on what I was feeling. It seemed like I was experiencing all five stages of grief at the same time. But one thing stood out in my mind: I wanted to honor God in this situation.

This isn’t my first time being unemployed. I was job searching for nine months when I returned from the mission field in 2011. Though I was faithful to responsibly send out my resume, I wasn’t as faithful as I should have been in trusting God to provide. Instead, I had struggled deeply with despair and depression. And looking back, I decided that if I ever found myself in that position again, things would be different.

One thing about the layoff culture at Focus was that it gave me the opportunity to see how different people handle it. And I consciously tried to learn from them …just in case.

One example that didn’t come from Focus was Micah from tumblr. He had blogged about being laid off some months before, and I had been impressed by his peace and positivity on the subject. He recounted to his readers how his supervisor had been surprised by his calm response, and he gave all the credit for that to his trust in God’s provision. I took note of that, and I remembered it when Jesse gave me my own bad news.

“Thanks for taking it so well,” Jesse had said. I gave him a hug. So far so good.

The other example came from Focus. About a year ago, my friend Leon was let go. But like Micah, he was calm about it. He also had an evident peace and positivity brought on by his trust in God. And what really caught my attention about Leon was that he had this peace throughout months of unemployment. He believed that God would provide for his family, and he lived like it. I took note of that as well.

So on my first day of re-unemployment, this is my hope: That I can honor God in this season by calmly, peacefully and positively trusting Him to provide. Instead of fearing the job market or our financial situation, I will fear the God who has brought me through this and other troubles before. He controls the storm, and He controls my life. I will trust Him no matter what.

So if you pray for me, pray for a job. But also pray for that.

My Blessing

Trusting God won’t be easy, but it is much easier with Ashley.

I’m a worrier. Even when I was employed, I worried constantly. I worried. A lot. About everythingAnd I can feel that temptation toward anxiety now. I have no appetite. My mouth is constantly dry. And it took me forever to fall asleep last night. …of course, it’s still the first day.

Ashley is the complete opposite. Her ability to trust God to provide continues to astound me. Even in the wake of our bad news last night, she was unconcerned about our financial situation. She just wanted to know that I would be OK.

Part of why getting laid off was a worst-case scenario for me is that Ashley and I are newlyweds. We’re still in our first year of marriage, and I feel the weight of my responsibility to take care of her.

But she reminds me that I never really provided for her in the first place—God did. He will continue to provide whether I’m working or not. We can and should trust Him. She feels secure and confident, and for that I am grateful.

I am also grateful for her example of trust. I’m grateful for her support and her positivity. And I’m grateful for her love—and the love God shows me through her.

God has brought us through through car wrecks, family drama and immigration nightmares. He will bring us through this.

So I’m slowly wrapping my mind around what has happened: God answered my prayer for direction. He presented me with a chance to grow in my faith. And He blessed me with a partner to walk through this with me.

I messaged Micah for some insight last night. He encouraged me to take initiative in pursuing work but to also give my situation to God in constant prayer. So that’s my mission statement for this season: Trust God and seek His plan for our future.

For all I know, this might just be how God leads me to a much better job opportunity. Within 12 hours, I had applied to five new jobs, and I already have a phone interview tomorrow for a temp position at Compassion International. 

So please pray for us. Pray for me to find a new job. Pray for God to continue to provide for our needs. And pray for us to honor Him by peacefully trusting Him throughout this season. I love you guys.

God is good.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago
Praying for you
wentworthandtilney asked

Dear Wentworth and Tilney,

I haven’t posted about why yet, but I so needed to hear this today.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. They mean so much to me.

God bless!

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright