Posted 1 day ago

Heads Up, Newlyweds-to-be:

Don’t over-commit in your first year.

This fall Ashley and I have been busy. And coordinating two schedules is more difficult than it looks.

  • Ashley works Monday-Thursday and Saturday.
  • I work Monday-Friday.
  • We co-lead a high school small group on Wednesday nights.
  • We attend a married couples’ small group on Thursday nights.
  • We go to church and have dinner with my family on Saturday nights.
  • And we help lead the youth meeting at church on Sunday nights.

For a couple months, we were able to make it work. But as we were getting ready to go to the youth meeting last Sunday, Ashley was on the verge of tears. We hadn’t spent any real quality time together in days.

So we talked and decided we were spreading ourselves too thin—especially as we go through this season of transition. So we’ve re-evaluated our schedule, and we’ve decided that we can no longer help lead youth on Sunday nights.

Sundays are the only day of the week where we’re both off work, and we needed to protect that shared time together.

It wasn’t an easy decision to make. We like investing in the kids and interacting with the other leaders at church. And we felt like flakes quitting halfway through the semester. But a change had to happen, and it was the right change to make.

We kinda learned this lesson the hard way.

So, as you start your life out together, guard your time jealously. There are only so many hours in a week, and the time you spend together—even if it seems like you aren’t doing anything important—is very important.

Posted 2 days ago

Hi James! Right now I’m dealing with homosexuality and pornography which is an absolute nightmare to me because I personally believe against both things and hate it. The worst part of it all is that I feel I have no one to go to. My family is conservative on both issues culturally and religiously and I feel they would judge me. These sins are also really taboo in church and I’m just so afraid to tell my pastor or youth pastor. I really just feel as if I don’t have anyone to help me through this sin I’ve been struggling with for months. It gets hard sometimes not having a mentor I can actually trust in, friends who are where I’m at spiritually, or a family that can empathize and help me. Do you have any advice for my situation?

[A recent privately answered question]

Hi Anon,

Thank you so much for your vulnerability. It takes courage to be honest with yourself and it takes courage to ask for help. You’ve done both, and I’m really proud of you.

Reject Shame

You aren’t alone in how you feel. Every Christian struggles against temptation in one way or another. For you it’s homosexuality and pornography. For me it’s pornography and worry. For everyone it’s something. And even the Apostle Paul dealt with it:

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
— Romans 7:15

So don’t let anyone make you feel lesser, disqualified or excluded because of the temptations you face. What matters isn’t what you are tempted by, but how you respond to that temptation.

And so long as you are striving to fight your temptations and surrender your life to God’s leading—as you are—you are exactly where you need to be.

Seek Community

You’re right to seek help. Support from other Christians is so important. It’s why Jesus sent out His missionaries in pairs, and it’s why the early church prioritized meeting together.

The greatest strides I’ve made in overcoming my own temptations have been the direct result of positive Christian influences. People cared about me, came alongside me and encouraged me. They helped me reject the enemy’s lies by reminding me of God’s truth. They showed me love to chase away my shame and fear. And they pointed me to Jesus so I could truly grow in Him.

And I wish that could be the experience of everyone in Christian community. As Abigail Van Buren said: 

“The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”

Despite how it seems, there are Christians out there who want to love and encourage someone like you, they just need to know who you are. So find one or two older guys you respect and ask them to meet you for coffee to talk about these things.

…I know I would love it if a younger guy came to me like that.

Make any needed changes

I’m so sorry you don’t feel safe going to your family or church for the support you need. They are supposed be our primary sources for help in life, but sadly that’s not always the case.

You might still want to give them a chance, because sometimes people can surprise you. But If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to someone, don’t. And if you can’t see anyone you do feel safe opening up to, go out and find them.

Check out a new church. Visit a new campus Bible study. Meet up with some cool tumblr Christians that live close to you. Community takes effort, and sometimes the greatest effort is in just finding it.

And don’t feel bad about leaving your current church or spending some time away from your family. Toxic relationships should be kept at arm’s length if not cut off altogether. If your search for Christian fellowship offends someone, that’s on them not you.

They’ve had their opportunity to be there for you and haven’t been, so feel free to find people who will.

I hope that helps. Praying for you, Man.


Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 3 days ago

Job 27 - Job stands firm

Big Idea:

  • Job continues talking to his friends.
  • He refuses to pretend his friends and right, “till I die, I will not deny my integrity.
  • Job then says he hopes God will reject his enemies, “Does God listen to their cry?
  • He says he will correct his friends’ statements about God, “I will teach you about the power of God.
  • Job then says that evil men will meet justice, even if they prosper at first, “He lies down wealthy, but will do so no more.

Jesus:

  • Job refuses to compromise his integrity, even though his friends suggest doing so will bring relief from his suffering.
  • Jesus refused to compromise his integrity, even though satan suggested doing so would bring relief from His suffering.
Posted 3 days ago
What do you think it means to be a disciple of Jesus?
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

I love this question.

A disciple is someone who follows a teacher in order to learn from him, live like him and become like him. So being a disciple of Jesus means following Jesus that way.

Learning from Him

Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.
John 18:37

Jesus taught people through parables. He taught them through sermons. He taught them through prophecies. And He taught them by confronting false teachers.

He also taught them through the scriptures. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that He is the fulfillment of “the law and the prophets.” And on the road to Emmaus, He showed his friends how all of the Old Testament is about Himself.

As disciples of Jesus today, we learn from Him by studying our Bibles together.

Living like Him

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 13:35

Jesus gave us an example to live by. He served people. He befriended people. He forgave people. He even sacrificed for people. And most of all, He loved people.

And Jesus also told us what motivated these actions. When asked for the greatest commandment, He replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind … [and] Love your neighbor as yourself.”

As disciples of Jesus today, we live like Him by loving God and loving those around us.

Becoming like Him

Remain in me, as I also remain in you.
John 15:4

A disciple of Jesus doesn’t have to work to become like Him.

When Jesus went to the cross, He took our sin from us and made it die with Him. And in its place, He gives us His own righteousness. The perfect, eternal life of Jesus is now ours.

Then, Jesus also sends us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit lives in usguides us, and develops Jesus’ qualities in us—things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

We have all this by grace when we put our faith in Jesus. We don’t earn it. It’s is a gift from God. And it’s one we get to share with others.

As disciples of Jesus today, we become like Him by putting our faith in Him.

So a disciple of Jesus is someone who studies scripture, loves others and puts his faith in Jesus. …In other words, a disciple of Jesus is a Christian.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 5 days ago
Do not be afraid.

The God who loves you

Appearing in various forms 365 times, this is the most frequently given commandment from God in the Bible.

Posted 5 days ago

Job 26 - The Outer Fringes

Big Idea:

  • Job interrupts Bildad.
  • He criticizes his friends’ advice with sarcasm, “What great insight you have displayed!
  • Job then points out that God knows things about creation, the sky and the sea that they don’t know, “And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?

Jesus:

  • In verse 13, Job says, “His hand pierced the gliding serpent.”
  • Someday, God will cast out satan, the serpent, in a final victory over evil.

Note:

  • When Job references Rahab in verse 12, he is most likely referring to Egypt (as in Isaiah), not the Rahab of Jericho we find in Joshua.
Posted 6 days ago
Hi James! I would like to ask you what exactly is prosperity gospel? Is it all about finances, well-being and others, or is it something more. Like I heard people say "God wants you to have money, to be happy, and healthy", but I think there are also hidden message that revolve in the same area and I might me unaware of them because they are not so explicit and simply formed. Could you share your thoughts on this topic and how can we protect ourselves? Thanks
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Always follow the example of the Bereans:

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11

If the Bereans even tested Paul’s words against scripture, we should be testing everyone’s. And that includes the words of the prosperity gospel.

I can’t tell you what the prosperity gospel is all about, because I stop listening when I hear things that are clearly contrary to scripture—and I hear them right away in the prosperity gospel. But I’ll tell you what makes me stop listening.

Caring about the things of this world

The prosperity gospel preaches health, wealth and happiness. The gospel of the Bible, however does not.

Health, wealth and happiness are good things, and we should be thankful if God gives them to us. But they are not our goal, and they should not be the focus of our walks with God.

Blaming the victim

If God wants you to be healthy, wealthy and happy and you’re not, who’s fault is that? It can’t be God’s, so it must be yours. Maybe you don’t have enough faith. Maybe there’s a secret sin in your life. Maybe you just haven’t “named it and claimed it” like you’re supposed to.

This is the troubling implication of the prosperity gospel. It suggests that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Sometimes it’s merely implied, sometimes it’s explicitly said.

But it’s not Biblical.

There isn’t a direct correlation between our circumstances and our walks with God. What matters is how we follow God in the midst of our circumstances—whatever they are.

Trying to control God

The prosperity gospel has more in common with paganism than with Christianity. Paganism is all about manipulating the spirit world to get what we want from it. And the prosperity gospel is all about manipulating God to get what we want from Him.

The Bible, however, is all about surrendering to God to get what He wants for us.

Any belief system that lets us feel like we are in control is attempting to pull us out of God’s control. Don’t let it happen—God knows what we need better than we do.

The True Gospel

Remember what Paul said:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

The Bible doesn’t teach us to pursue health, wealth and happiness. It teaches us to pursue Jesus—no matter where that takes us.

The good news is that it will ultimately give us something even better:

True prosperity is only found in the gospel of Jesus.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago

Job 25 - How?

Big Idea:

  • Bildad speaks for a third time.
  • He starts by acknowledging God’s holiness, “Dominion and awe belong to God.
  • Bildad then says that it’s impossible for any of us to be right with God, “How then can a mortal be righteous before God?
  • He says that if creation is fallen, man is especially fallen, “a human being, who is only a worm!

Jesus:

Posted 1 week ago
My bf and I are Christians and we recently talked about lust. He admitted that he struggles with lusting after other women. He said that he doesn't like it and he tries to move his thoughts on without lingering on sexual thoughts. It really bothers me and I am not sure if I should stay with him. He said every guy struggles with this, it is normal. What are your thought? Is he in a place where he should not be in a love relationship? Is lusting after women a sign of potential future infidelity
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

I have good news! This is not an issue. It just feels like an issue because of a common misunderstanding. 

The truth is, being tempted to lust is not the same as actually lusting.

Temptation is normal. Even Jesus dealt with it. And most guys struggle regularly with the temptation to lust. Our world constantly invites men to objectify women, to linger on their bodies and to look up explicit material online. It’s a drag, but it’s the reality we live in.

What should matter to you is how your boyfriend responds to these temptations.

If your boyfriend is actively giving in to the temptation to lust, there is a problem. This would mean he is choosing to linger on women’s bodies, he is seeking out explicit material online and he is making no effort to do otherwise. If this is the case, then you should protect yourself and end the relationship. Guys like that are toxic.

On the other hand, if your boyfriend is struggling against these temptations, there isn’t a problem at all. This would mean he is acknowledging his temptations, he is choosing to reject them and he is making efforts to avoid them. If this is the case (and it sounds like it is), you should stay with him and encourage him. You’ve found a good guy.

So don’t confuse giving in to temptation with struggling against it. One is a sign of future infidelity—the other is a sign of surrender to Jesus.

Hope that clears things up a little.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago

Job 24 - Slow justice

Big Idea:

  • Job continues.
  • He wonders why judgment is so slow for people who cheat their neighbors and steal from the poor, “The wounds of the wounded cry out for help. But God charges no one with wrongdoing.
  • Job says that murderers, adulterers and others operate in the dark because they know they might get away with it, “He thinks, ‘No eye will see me’.”
  • He then says that God’s judgment eventually catches up with evil people, “He may let them rest in a feeling of security, but His eyes are on their ways.
  • Job closes by asking, “Who can prove me false?

Jesus:

  • Job observes that people seem to get away with doing evil in secret but God will still judge them.
  • Jesus later echos this idea when He says, “There is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
Posted 1 week ago
I'm 18 and I won't exactly call myself a Christian but I am a believer in God and that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ died on the cross for us. Lately I feel as if I'm missing out on something in the world. I'm a virgin, a college student and I just want to explore and do new things. A tattoo/piercing to me is self expression, having sex with whoever I want to seems like the freedom to explore my sexuality. But at the same time I know it's 'wrong' and temptation. How do I overcome that?
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

I really appreciate the honesty in this question.

Are you a Christian?

This is important. Not only will your answer resolve the issue you’re facing now, it will affect your whole life into eternity.

If you are not a Christian, you have no obligation to follow Jesus. You haven’t surrendered your life to Him, so you’re free to make your own decisions.

But if you are a Christian, if you have been saved by grace through faith, then your life needs to reflect that. Your decisions should be guided by your trust in Him.

What are you missing out on from the world?

The Bible recognizes that sin is pleasurable for a season. So you will be missing out on something by following Jesus.

Expressing yourself, exploring your sexuality and being your own boss feels good. Doing what you feel feels good. …And being a Christian means giving that up.

But have you ever read the book of Ecclesiastes? In it, King Solomon uses his vast resources to test everything the world has to offer.

“I said to myself, ‘Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.’ …I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.”

Ecclesiastes 2:1,10

And here’s what Solomon learned from his experiment:

“Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 2:11

All the good feelings this world offers us will eventually fade. But Jesus calls us to something better.

What are you missing out on from Jesus?

The Bible promises that we gain more than we lose by following Jesus. He doesn’t just offer us fleeting feelings—He offers us a full life, one that lasts.

…It just doesn’t always feel like it. But Jesus reminds us:

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Matthew 7:9-11

God doesn’t hold out on us, and His instructions for us aren’t arbitrary. He is like a good dad guiding his kids toward what is best—even when it doesn’t feel like it to them.

And our Father offers us more than good feelings. He offers us salvation. He offers us peace. He offers us joy. He offers us freedom. He offers us hope. He offers us love. And more than anything, he offers us Himself.

I would rather follow the God of the universe who loves me than pursue any small pleasure the world has to offer.

As Jim Elliot, a missionary killed in Ecuador, wrote:

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

I hope that helps.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago

Job 23 - As Gold

Big Idea:

  • Job responds to Eliphaz a third time.
  • He says he wishes he could make his case directly to God, “I would find out what He would answer me.
  • Job feels that he would be vindicated if he could just get God’s attention, “When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
  • But he also confesses that he doesn’t understand why God has allowed him to suffer in the first place, “That is why I am terrified before Him.

Jesus:

Posted 2 weeks ago
Hey James. I have a question about love languages. My love language is words of affirmation, and one of the things within that category that means the world to me in that category is when my spouse writes me letters. This is something he hasn't done in months and months and months.. and it is really hurting me. I have attempted to ask him about it and to remind him how much it means to me, but he gets very defensive each time I bring it up and tells me that I'm not grateful for the things he
Anonymous asked

does do. This isn’t true at all, and I do tell him often about how thankful I am for the ways he provides for us and such. Im feeling very discouraged about this, and I’m also feeling conflicted. I almost feel selfish for wanting the letters, because I read once that love is not give and take, it’s just ‘give’. So I feel like by asking, I’m taking and not just being content in giving. I don’t know where the line is. I want to be selfless like Christ, but I also know it’s important to communicate one’s needs to your spouse. I’m just very confused. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to approach my husband about this anymore. He’s angry and won’t even acknowledge me.

Hi Anon,

I’m sorry things are so rough in your marriage right now.

But it doesn’t make sense for your husband to become defensive and angry and refuse to acknowledge you if all you’ve done is remind him that you like letters. I think there’s probably more going on.

And until you figure out what that is, my advice can only be based on speculation. So here are a few things you should ask yourself. (Just take them with a grain of salt.)

Are you nagging?

A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm.
Proverbs 27:15

A wife who nags becomes a constant, critical buzzing in her husband’s ear. And if he doesn’t set limits to stop it, her nagging will wear him down until he either blows up or shuts her out completely.

I’ve witnessed this happen with a few couples, and the wife never realizes she’s doing it. In her mind she has been perfectly reasonable.

So see if you may be laying it on thicker than you think you are.

Are you using his love language?

In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.
Matthew 7:12

You said, “I do tell him often about how thankful I am for ways he provides.” But Words of Affirmation is your love language. What’s his?

If you’re not using your husband’s love language, he may not actually feel your love. And that could cause him to shut down. It isn’t right—it’s just human nature.

So see if you’re missing something—not as a way of manipulating letters out of him, but as a way of “just giving” like you said.

Do you have a mentor couple who could discuss this with you?

Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?
Job 12:12

Nobody enters marriage as an expert, and we all have to deal with blind spots and learning curves. But someone who’s been there before can be a great source of guidance for overcoming conflict and growing as a couple.

If your husband is willing, set up a meeting with a trusted older couple from your church and talk this out. They may be able to point out something simple you’re missing. Or they may bring to light something your husband isn’t telling you (which may be the case).

The point is, they will help you to communicate and process. And more than anything, that’s what needs to happen here.

I hope that gives you a starting point. And I hope things get better soon.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 2 weeks ago

Job 22 - Eliphaz the Accuser

Big Idea:

  • Eliphaz speaks for a third time.
  • He asks why God would care that Job is wise or righteous, “Can a man be of benefit to God?
  • Eliphaz accuses Job of stealing from the poor and neglecting the needy, “Are not your sins endless?
  • He then compares Job to evil people who think they can hide from God, “You say, ‘What does God know?’
  • Eliphaz closes by urging Job to repent, “If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored.

Jesus:

Posted 2 weeks ago
Thank you for sharing what you are facing (about the job I mean). It is really comforting to hear how God works on other peoples' heart, while they face a period of trial or hardship, so please continue to reveal what you feel comfortable revealing because you never know who is the one God chooses to receive something through these messages
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

This message means a lot.

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve struggled with despair, but I’ve also been blessed with hope. I am weak, but God is in control and He loves me.

So I have faith that He will lead Ashley and me to exactly where He wants us to be. I just want to stay faithful to Him until that time comes.

Job searching is surprisingly time-consuming, so I haven’t been blogging as much as usual. But I’ll try to make more of an effort to share this journey with you all here.

And thank you so much for the encouragement. God is good.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James