Posted 16 hours ago

Ashley got her Green Card!

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us on this journey.

God is good.

Posted 1 week ago
Hi James! First off, I wanted to say your artwork is wonderful! Keep up the amazing work! Now to my question.. Besides a cousin on one part of my family, I am the oldest. My family always jokes about me getting married and such. I can't help but fuel with panic when they kid around. I know I shouldn't, but I still do. I'm not engaged, or have a serious relationship and have hardly dated. Any ideas or thoughts to clear the panic? Thank you so much for listening!
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Thanks for your kind words!

I’m sorry your family has been insensitive. And the way you feel about it makes perfect sense. But I do have a few ideas for you to consider:

There’s nothing wrong with you.

In a lot of ways, young people today have been dealt a bad hand. And it’s had an effect on our love lives:

  • Many of us come from broken homes and are legitimately scared by the examples of marriage we’ve seen.

  • College is more expected and more expensive than it has ever been, which makes other huge commitments—like marriage—less accessible.

  • Millennials in particular are still alarmingly unemployed and underemployed, and that makes it nearly impossible to pursue any next step in life—like marriage.

On top of these social and economic factors, Christian singles have also been scared away from dating. We’ve been told that dating is emotionally dangerous, because breakups hurt. We’ve been told that dating is sexually dangerous, because temptation is real. And we’ve been told to hold out for a “the one”, because marriage is sacred. The result is that many are so scared of “doing it wrong”, they aren’t pursuing romantic relationships at all.

All this just means that your singleness probably has a lot more to do with your generational context than it does with you personally.

The good news is that marriage is still possible, and I know several couples who have married despite these obstacles. Our generation as a whole is just getting there slower than previous generations have.

Your family probably means well.

I’m sure your family doesn’t mean to panic you with their jokes.

  • It may be that they aren’t fully aware of the obstacles our generation faces, so they’re baffled by our delayed marriages.

  • It may be that they don’t know how to interact naturally with younger people, so they tease as an indirect way of showing affection.

  • And it may be that they do know how marriage can change lives for the better, and they just want to see you happy.

Whatever’s going on, they’re probably trying to encourage you—They’re just being really clumsy about it.

You have every right to set boundaries.

The best thing for you to do is to respectfully communicate your feelings to your family.

Explain that dating is a lot more difficult now than it was when they were young, and you feel pretty insecure about it. Then tell them you would appreciate it if they stopped making jokes.

My guess is that, once they know their joking bothers you, they’ll stop. But they won’t know to stop until you talk to them. And they may even become a source of encouragement to you once they understand the situation.

But there’s also the chance they won’t stop. They may say you’re being over-sensitive and tease you even more.

If that’s the case, just get up and leave whenever they do. Eventually, they’ll have to decide whether they want to keep making jokes or actually have a relationship with you.

You can’t control other people’s behavior. But you can control whether or not you put up with it. And you’re under no obligation to protect others from the consequences of their bad behavior.

Your heart is a gift given to you by God, and protecting it is good stewardship. So if the people around you are hurting your heart, you have every right to leave.

I hope that helps.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

By the way, I’d recommend you read Boundaries by by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. It’s got some great things to say about protecting yourself from negative behavior.

Posted 1 week ago

The interview went great! Thanks for all the prayers.

We were in and out before our scheduled time. It’s actually a little unsettling that it went so smoothly—definitely not what we’ve come to expect. But now we get to relax for a couple years.

God is good.

Posted 1 week ago

This morning Ashley and I are being interviewed by the government so we can prove we’re really married and get her a green card.

It should be the last step in her immigration for a long while.

Please pray it goes well!

Posted 2 weeks ago

Personal Update

Hello Bible people,

I won’t be posting sketches or answering questions this week, because I am in Portland for a work trip.

It’s my first ever writers’ conference. Yesterday I sat on a panel, today I taught a workshop, and I’ve been meeting one-on-one with authors in between. It was intimidating at first, but I’ve learned a lot and I think I’ve been helpful.

The worst part is that this is the longest Ashley and I have been apart since we’ve been married. I don’t like not being with her. It feels like I’m only half here.

But I’ll be home again on Thursday night. And in the meantime, I hope to find time to explore the land of the hipsters at least a little.

I know you’re the praying types, so please pray for Ashley while she’s alone in a foreign country—just that God protects her and takes care of her like He always does. And please pray that I will represent Him well here and come home safely.

Feel free to keep sending questions. I will reply to them eventually.

Love you guys.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 2 weeks ago

Job 16 - An Intercessor Friend

Big Idea:

  • Job responds to Eliphaz a second time.
  • He tells his friends that if they were in his place, he would encourage them instead of accusing them, “You are miserable comforters, all of you!
  • Job says that talking isn’t helping, so he turns his attention to God, “You have devastated my entire household.
  • He says that though he is mourning, he still hasn’t done wrong, “My prayer is pure.
  • He also says he has an advocate in Heaven pleading with God on his behalf, “My intercessor is my friend.
  • Job says he only has a few years of life left.

Jesus:

  • When Job says he has a witness in heaven, an advocate on high, an intercessor and a friend who pleads with God on his behalf, he is most likely acknowledging that God is his last hope for vindication.
  • But Job is more right than he knows. Jesus is our advocate and our intercessor before God.
Posted 3 weeks ago
So there's this girl. I met her earlier this year, and up until this point, we haven't really gotten to know each too well. Most of that has to do w/ the fact that I was pursuing another girl at the time, so I pushed this particular situation into the back of my mind. Long story short, things didn't work out w/ the other girl, so now I find myself thinking about THIS girl again. I just don't know how to go about this since we don't know each other THAT well, and I don't wanna seem creepy.
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Christians tend to over-think dating. But the truth is that it’s really simple. There’s dating. There’s pursuing a relationship …and there’s filling in a blank.

The big mistake a lot of guys make is that they try to figure out whether they want a relationship with a girl before even asking her out. But you won’t know her well enough to make that call until you ask her out. So don’t get ahead of yourself.

Dating

The best way to avoid being creepy is to be honest. If you’re interested in a girl, just tell her so.

Say: “You seem cool, and I would love to know you better. Would you like to get coffee with me tomorrow?” No pressure. No strings attached. No ulterior motives.

If she says yes, you go to coffee. (YOU pay for it.) You ask her about herself. You tell her about yourself. You get to know each other better.

That’s all a coffee date is: Getting to know each other.

If you’re still interested in each other after coffee, ask her out again. If you decide you aren’t as interested as you thought you were, don’t.

Pursuing a relationship

Once you’ve spent enough time together to actually know each other, you’re ready to make a decision about pursuing something more.

But again, it’s all about being honest. Tell her how you feel.

Say: “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, and I really care about you. I’d like to pursue a romantic relationship with you if you’ll let me. Will you be my girlfriend?”

Will it awkward? Yes. But it will also be clear. And that’s more important.

If she says yes, you pursue a relationship with her. You date each other exclusively. You ask each other harder questions. You invest in a possible future together.

If you decide you definitely want to spend the rest of your life with this girl, ask her to marry you. If you decide you don’t, be honest and break up with her.

(Seriously, don’t be one of these guys who string girls along indefinitely. If you ask a girl to date you exclusively, you owe it to her to either commit or cut ties eventually.)

Filling in a blank

Of course, I’m generalizing. Your circumstances and timing may vary a bit. But my central point is this: You have to be honest.

That’s why I’m a little concerned about why you’re approaching this new girl now. It sounds like your Plan A didn’t work out so you’re moving on to Plan B—and that’s not cool.

You should only pursue someone because you value her for the person she is, not because she’s the best available option when you have a vacancy. No girl wants to be your consolation prize.

So ask yourself. Do you really like this girl? Or do you just dislike being single? Give it some thought before you make any move toward inserting yourself in this girl’s life.

Not trying to be hard on you, dude. Just trying to help you avoid being the jerk I sometimes was when I was dating.

Hope it helps.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 3 weeks ago

Job 15 - Emphatic Eliphaz

Big Idea:

  • Eliphaz speaks up for a second time.
  • He accuses Job of being both foolish and sinful, “Your sin prompts your mouth.
  • Eliphaz tells Job to stop questioning God, “Do you listen in on God’s council?
  • He says that, if even angels are imperfect, men must be especially corrupt, “What are mortals … that they could be righteous?
  • Again, Eliphaz insists that an evil person will suffer justly, “because he shakes his fist at God.
  • He concludes by indirectly comparing Job to an evil man, “like a vine stripped of its unripe grapes.

Jesus:

Posted 3 weeks ago
I am having trouble with something, maybe you can help. I was thinking about sin.We sin. We ask for forgiveness. He forgives. After that, we go back. It is like a cycle. Yes indeed, for your salvation, you only need to believe in His death and His resurrection. But where does the sin part go? Why are we asked to do that, and don't to that? The only reason I can think of is the relationship, because sin put's a wall between us and God and we risk in living a shallow life.But is this all? Thanks
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

I’ve often wondered why God doesn’t just throw a switch in our brains to make us stop sinning once we’re saved. Wouldn’t that would be a lot easier?

But I think you nailed it: It’s about relationship. Ironically, God allows sin to remain an issue for us for the sake of our relationship with Him.

Relationship is a process.

A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh
Matthew 19:5

Last November Ashley and I said our vows and got married. At that moment, we were “united.” A mere 10 months later, I’m already a better husband than I was on our wedding day. I’ve learned about Ashley. I’ve learned about myself. And I’ve learned about how we best live and work together. We’re “becoming one flesh.” We aren’t any more married now than we were when we said our vows, but we’re growing closer and stronger in our marriage.

Our relationship with Jesus is similar. The moment Jesus took control of my life, I was saved. Many years later, I’m a better Christian than I was when I first found faith. I’ve learned more about Him. I’ve learned about myself. And I’ve learned about how to serve and represent Him better. He is sanctifying me, making me more like Himself. I’m not any more saved than I was when I first found faith, but I’ve grown closer and stronger in my relationship with Him.

Salvation is central to our relationship with Jesus. It’s the marriage vow that unites us with Him. But sanctification is the process of strengthening that relationship with Jesus. It’s the years of marriage that follow the vow and grow us closer to Him.

Process helps us grow.

We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Romans 5:3-4

Even in just 10 months of marriage, I’ve messed up. I’ve missed chances to serve Ashley. I’ve stressed her out. And I’ve hurt her feelings. It’s a drag, but it happens in every marriage. And in those instances, I’ve had to ask Ashley’s forgiveness, listen to understand her feelings and make adjustments for the future. But surprisingly, working through the hard stuff has brought us closer than any of the good stuff—because it’s forced us to grow.

Again, our relationship with Jesus is similar. When I mess up and sin, I ask His forgiveness, I listen to His guidance and I make adjustments for the future. There have been times, especially when I was struggling with addiction, when I wondered why it had to be such a process. Why didn’t God just flip a switch for me? But now that I’m free from addiction, I can see that working through the hard stuff with Jesus brought me so much closer to Him than flipping a switch ever could—because it forced me to grow in my relationship with Him.

I remember reading Stephen E. Ambrose’s book “Band of Brothers” about a group of soldiers in WWII. I was amazed by the intimacy and trust in their friendships. And I remember thinking, I’ve shared good times with great friends, but I’ve never known and trusted anyone in peace the way these soldiers knew and trusted each other in war.

Overcoming hardships strengthens relationships. It’s true for soldiers facing the dangers of battle together. It’s true for spouses working through the struggles of marriage together. And it’s true for Chrsitians as Jesus overcomes our sin to makes us more like Him.

I hope that answers your question.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 3 weeks ago

Job 14 - A Tree’s Hope

Big Idea:

  • Job waxes philosophical as he prays.
  • He wonders why God pays attention to us when our lives are so short, “…few days and full of trouble… do You fix Your eyes on them?
  • Job says that a tree has hope in life, because its stump can live on after the tree is cut. But when a person dies they are gone, “At least there is hope for a tree.
  • He asks God to renew him like a tree, “Call and I will answer you… cover my sin.
  • But then Job goes back to feeling abandoned by God, “You destroy a person’s hope.

Jesus:

Posted 3 weeks ago

The Anatomy of My Porn Recovery

jamesjourneys:

[A follow-up to my post, The Anatomy of My Porn Addiction]

I used to be a really anxious kid. Even in elementary school, I struggled with insomnia and sat awake at night wondering if I was going to be OK and if there would be a place for me out there in the world. But as I entered my teens, this anxiety seemed to fade.

Then, a couple years ago, it came back in full force. My obsessive tendencies seemed to worsen, and I even experienced a couple mild panic attacks. What had changed?

As I looked back, I noticed that my anxiety was indirectly correlated to my porn use. It seemed to have dissipated in my teen years, because that was when I started looking at porn. And the further I got from porn now, the more my anxiety returned.

That was when I realized that I had always been an anxious person, I had just been self-medicating by distracting myself with pornography. And now that porn was out of the way, my anxiety was returning.

In my previous post, I wrote about how porn offered me the lie of an escape into a fantasy world I could control. Writing that helped me to wrap my mind around how to recognize my triggers and stay away from them.

But I’ve also reflected on it since then, and I’ve realized that the lie of my porn addiction—and my anxiety—had its root in a perfectly legitimate desire:

I wanted wholeness within and harmony without.

If I could find a healthy way to feel OK with myself and right with the world around me, not only would I know how to stay away from porn, I would also know what to run toward instead

And I knew exactly where to look.

Read More

Posted 3 weeks ago

Job 13 - Yet Will I hope in Him

Big Idea:

  • Job continues his response to his friends.
  • He tells them that they have misrepresented God in their counsel to him, “Will you speak wickedly on God’s behalf?
  • Then he decides to turn to God for help, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.
  • Job prays that God will end his suffering and hear him out, “Why do you hide your face?

Jesus:

Posted 3 weeks ago
1.What advice would you give to a couple soon to be married?2. I saw a post of yours that you had asked several men on giving some advice regarding marriage, and made a book. How did you came up with the idea? Were people willing to do this? I think it is such a brilliant idea!Maybe someday you will share some passages from it ;) Or share it like you made "Mans Manual".
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Fun questions!

Advice

I’ve been married for less than a year, but I’ve learned a few things already…

  • Get pre-marriage counseling if you’re able to. It will help you start out on the same page.
  • Talk about your expectations ahead of time—chores, schedule, etc.—and agree on what’s reasonable and what isn’t.
  • Talk about your long-term hopes—ministry, travel, etc.—and make a plan to accomplish them.
  • Read Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. Seriously.
  • Adjust your thinking from my home/life/money to our home/life/money.
  • If you’re new to sex, it might take some getting used to. Be patient with yourselves.
  • Get into the habit of showing and expressing love to each other throughout the day—notes, hugs, texts, etc.
  • Find a routine. This will help you survive day-to-day life.
  • Go on date nights. This will help you survive your routine.
  • Serve in church together. (This will require you to also go to church together.) It will be a bonding experience and will strengthen your sense of shared purpose.
  • Join a married couples’ small group or Bible study. Comparing notes with friends in a similar season of life will be a huge help.
  • Read the Bible together. Ashley and I do this before bed every night.
  • Pray together every day.
  • Document your first year together. It will be fun to look back on when things are good, and important to look back on when things get hard.

Husband’s Manual

The Husband’s Manual I put together was an extension of the Man’s Manual my dad gave me as a teen.

For my 15th birthday, my dad asked his friends and brothers to write letters to me with advice on what it means to be a man and how to live successfully. He then put the letters together in a book. It was a huge source of encouragement and guidance for me as I entered a time of transition and uncertainty.

Getting married is also a time of transition, so I thought I’d seek out some similar encouragement and guidance about living successfully as a husband. So I requested letters from a couple dozen men I know and respect.

Fewer than half of the men I asked to write me actually did, but the ones who did were really helpful. I collected their letters into a book like the original one my dad gave me, a sort of Part II. I might share it someday—like I did with the Man’s Manual—but a couple of the letters were pretty personal, so I’ll likely hold off for a while.

I don’t know where my dad got the idea for a book of letters to guide in transition, but it’s a tradition I plan to continue for my own kids.

Thanks for writing!

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 4 weeks ago

Job 12 - It’s up to God

Big Idea:

  • Job responds to his friends’ advice.
  • He tells them they are wise, but so is he, “Who does not know all these things?
  • Job says that he has become a laughingstock to this friends and enemies, “Those who are at ease have contempt for misfortune.
  • Job points out that God is in control of nature, “In his hand is the life of every creature.
  • He then concludes that God is also in control of our lives, “To Him belong strength and insight.

Jesus:

  • Job acknowledges that God “leads rulers away stripped.Jesus told us that the “first will be last.
  • Job acknowledges that God “brings utter darkness into light.Jesus told us that “though seeing, they do not see.
  • Job acknowledges that God “reveals the deep things of darkness.” Jesus told us that “there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
Posted 4 weeks ago
Do you think that anxiety is a sin? I have a pretty severe anxiety disorder and I worry constantly. The bible says over and over not to worry and to trust God but sometimes I feel that I'm not trusting him enough when I worry. I feel guilty for participating in communion at church, as if I'm living in sin for being anxious all the time. Is it something that I should feel guilty about?
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

I’ve been hesitant to respond to your question, because worry is something I struggle with too. A lot. (Just ask my wife.) 

I’ve even written about it a few times on my personal blog:

Because it’s still a weakness for me, I don’t feel like I have a lot of wisdom to offer—beyond what I wrote in those links anyway.

But there is one thought I want to share with you:

It’s not a sin to be sick.

If you have a clinically diagnosed anxiety disorder, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Your worry isn’t the result of a lack of faith, it’s the result of confused emotions and/or a chemical imbalance—and that’s not your fault.

Even Paul faced a similar difficulty. In 2 Corinthians, he wrote about a “thorn” in his flesh. He never specified what that thorn was, but it may have been an emotional struggle or a physical sickness …like an anxiety disorder.

Yet, in response to Paul’s requests for God to take the thorn away, God simply told him: 

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

God wouldn’t willingly allow something sinful to remain in Paul’s life—or in yours. So you have no need to feel guilty about your disorder, and you shouldn’t feel any hesitancy about participating in communion.

I hope that helps. Let’s pray for each other that our trust in God will grow.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James