Posted 1 week ago

Ashley got her interview date for permanent residency!

It’s about a month from now—much sooner than we expected! Prayers are very much appreciated. :)

Posted 1 week ago

Job 11 - Zophar, No Good

Big Idea:

  • Zophar echoes his friends’ advice to Job.
  • He says he wishes God would answer Job to put him in his place, “Will no one rebuke you?”
  • Zophar says that God hasn’t wronged Job, “God has even forgotten some of your sin.
  • He reminds Job that he doesn’t know everything, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? …They are higher than the heavens above…and wider than the sea
  • Zophar implies that God is taking action against the evil in Job’s life, “When He sees evil, does he not take note?
  • Then he tells Job that God will forgive if Job repents, “Life will be brighter than noonday.
  • To paraphrase: Zophar tells Job, “You’re out of line for complaining. Just repent for whatever you did to make God punish you.”

Jesus:

Posted 1 week ago
James what are you feelings about the Gaza/Israel situation? On one hand I understand that Israel had to defend itself against terrorists but what about the innocents in Palestine getting caught in the crossfire?
Anonymous asked

PS. And what is the Biblical/Christian view? Do we support Israel no matter what?

Hi Anon,

This is a great question.

But before I answer, let me say that Christians can disagree on this topic and still be Christians. It’s not an essential belief of the faith, so it’s not something we need to divide over.

But since you asked for my opinion, I’ll tell you honestly.

A short history of Israel and Palestine

In AD 70, Rome attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. This forced the Jewish people to scatter across the globe in what is known as “The Diaspora.”

Over the centuries, many other nations fought for control of the Promised Land. The Crusades are the best-known example, but most recently it was controlled by a “British Mandate”.

Meanwhile, the Jewish people established themselves in other countries—especially in Europe. And though they assimilated well into these other cultures, they also preserved their Jewish heritage and religion.

But following the anti-Semitic horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, the world decided the Jewish people needed their own country again. So, in May of 1948 the United Nations set up the new political state of Israel.

The only problem was that the land wasn’t exactly empty. Palestinian people were already settled there. And they had lived there for generations with homes, families, farms and businesses.

In order for the new Israeli state to be established, the Palestinian people had to be forced out. And that’s exactly what happened. Israel and the UN removed the Palestinians from their homes and forced them into refugee camps and settlements in Gaza.

Ever since then, the Palestinians have been fighting back, the Israelis have been defending themselves …and both sides have committed horrible atrocities against each other.

(Check out what Biblical Scholar N.T. Wright has to say about it here) 

Why Some Christians Support Israel

So that’s the context of the situation. But the more important question you ask is about how Christians should respond. Do we support Israel no matter what?

A lot of Christians would say yes, and their reasons tend to fall into three categories:

  • Some believe Israel is politically important, because it is the only democracy in the Middle East (and therefore the United States’ best ally there).

  • Some believe Israel is historically important, because it has a role to play in the End Times.

  • And some believe Israel is spiritually important, because the Israelites are the Biblical People of God.

The Bible never tells us that Christians should support democracy. In fact, it doesn’t give us a lot of political direction one way or the other. So Christians can support Israel for being a democracy if they want to, they just can’t argue that their reasons for doing so are Biblical.

The Bible has more to say about the End Times, and people like to dissect and debate the prophesies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and Revelation …but I try to avoid these discussions.

For one thing, the details of the End Times are not an issue of essential doctrine, so it’s not worth getting into arguments over. Yet some Christians become obsessed with this topic to the point that they neglect our true calling.

For another thing, no one is ever going to figure out the End Times before they happen anyway. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus will come back for us, God will finally defeat evil, creation will be renewed ….and no one will see it coming. Beyond that, the Bible is pretty vague. So any speculation about details—like whether or not Israel will play a role—are pretty meaningless to me.

God’s People

This leaves the spiritual reason some Christians support Israel: The Israelites are the Biblical People of God. And while I have a lot more respect for this argument, I don’t necessarily agree with it.

Because the Bible has always defined God’s people as people of faith.

This definition applies in the Old Testament. Some people who weren’t biologically Jewish were included with God’s People because they had faith—people like Rahab and Ruth. Other people who were biologically Jewish were excluded because they didn’t have faith—people like King Saul and King Ahab. And God’s Old Covenant with the Israelites even defined His relationship with them in terms of their faithfulness.

This definition also applies in the New Testament. Any Gentiles who had faith were welcomed as God’s people. And Jesus taught that any Jewish people who rejected Him would also be rejected by God. Paul even wrote that the People of God weren’t necessarily Abraham’s biological descendants, but the descendants of God’s promise to Abraham—a promise that was fulfilled in Jesus.

So the People of God have always been those people who have put their faith in God through Jesus. It’s not about race or nationality, it’s about faith.

This means the current nation of Israel isn’t necessarily the People of God, and we Christians have no Biblical obligation to support it or its government.

I Support Peace

Back to Israel and Palestine—At this point, both sides have legitimate reasons to be upset. The Israelis have now lived in the land for a couple generations and consider it to be their home. And the Palestinians have been displaced by the Israelis for a couple generations and still want justice.

But both groups have reacted to this tension with increasing violence. There have been so many raids, kidnappings, bombings and civilian deaths over the past six decades that neither side can be considered blameless against the other. And the best efforts of outside governments—which caused this whole mess in the first place—haven’t been able to end the warfare.

At the moment, Hamas, a Palestinian authority/terrorist group, has been firing missiles into Israel, and Israel has been firing missiles back. It’s not the first time it has happened, and it probably won’t be the last.

But that’s what we get when governments try to fix the world by force.

No matter what, I can only support peace. So as long as both sides insist on using indiscriminate violence against each other, neither will have my support - but both sides will have my prayers for protection.

As I said at the beginning, Christians can disagree on this topic. So I’m not interested in debating it with anyone who disagrees with me. You asked for my opinion, and I gave it. Feel free to take it or leave it.

But I hope it was helpful.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 1 week ago

Someday we will stop hurting each other.

Someday we will feel safe.

Someday we will no longer be broken.

Someday His beauty will reign.

Someday our fears will flee before us.

Someday we will love well.

Father, teach me hold on for someday.

Savior, come back for us now.

Posted 1 week ago
I am coming soon!
Posted 1 week ago

Job 10 -  “I loathe my life”

Bid Idea:

  • Job turns his attention to God in prayer.
  • He says he has nothing to lose by complaining to God, “Tell me what charges You have against me.”
  • Job reminds God that he is God’s loved creation, “You gave me life and showed me kindness.
  • He says that, if he is guilty, he’s hopeless. And if he is innocent, he’s too crushed to live on anyway, “Your forces come against me wave upon wave.
  • Job closes by wishing he was dead, “If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!

Jesus:

Posted 2 weeks ago
So I have a boyfriend, he's the first one. I'm asking him to delete his ex girlfriends on facebook. He doesn't want to because he tells me he is good friends with them. He's hoping I'd understand. I want to ask for your opinion. Good day!
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Every relationship deals with conflict. Sometimes you’ll be wrong, and sometimes the other person will be wrong. In this care, you’re both wrong.

But you’re new at this, so it’s ok. ;)

Deleting an ex on facebook isn’t a big deal; He’s wrong to want to keep tabs on old flames. And keeping an ex on facebook isn’t a big deal; You’re wrong to be possessive.

But the more important question to ask here is, “Why does it matter?

Why is he unwilling to make a change for your sake? Why would he resist making you feel more secure in your relationship with him?

And why are you so concerned about something as trivial as a facebook friend list? Why is your trust dependent on being obliged by him?

Your conflict isn’t really about his being friends with ex’s on Facebook — It’s about trusting and serving each other. 

So you should probably have a conversation about that. I hope it goes well.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 2 weeks ago

Job 9 - Job asks for Jesus

Big Idea:

  • Job responds to Bildad’s advice and accusations.
  • He says he knows it’s useless to argue with God, “His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
  • Job says he couldn’t even make his case to God, “I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.
  • He then asserts that bad things do happen to good people, “He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.
  • Job tells his friends that they aren’t listening to him, “I know you will not hold me innocent.
  • And he longs for an advocate between him and God, “He is not a mere mortal… if only there were someone to mediate… to bring us together… to remove God’s rod from me… then I would speak up without fear.

Jesus:

Posted 2 weeks ago
Ok. About tithe. Why do you give to so many places, and all is included in the one-tenth, and not give one-tenth to church, and if God put's on your heart to give to x, y, z, you call it "offering". It sounds like it is more comfortable and requires less sacrifice to put everything you give in the "I divide my tithe" than say "I give one tenth to the church(from where I receive teaching,which has to pay bills etc) and I also do offerings". I hope you understand what I am saying. Thank you!
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

Ok. About your question. It comes across as a veiled accusation.

But I don’t think that was your intent, so I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and suggest a few things for you to consider:

Make sure you’re being biblical

You’re forced to back up your question with “it sounds like…” rather than “scripture says…” because the point you’re trying to make isn’t actually from the Bible. 

As I said in my original post, the New Testament doesn’t specifically prescribe how we are to give, only that we are to give somehow.

That is exactly what Ashley and I do. And a substantial amount of what we give does go to our church.

Please don’t imply that something is spiritual unless you can actually back it up with scripture.

Make sure you’re not being judgmental

You’re right that we’re supposed to give sacrificially. Jesus commended a widow for giving “out of her poverty”.

But don’t forget that the reason Jesus had to make this point in the first place is that the widow’s giving was so little compared with others’. Sacrificial giving will always be relative to each person’s situation.

And we are never in a position to judge of what is comfortable or sacrificial for others.

Our situationsince you addressed itis that the government extorted several grand from us so Ashley could enter this country from Canada. It then legally prevented Ashley from working for half a year after that. And at the same time, we had to pay for a move and a wedding. So for the past six months, we’ve been forced to supplement the modest paycheck I get from working at a non-profit by dipping into our savings.

And in all that time, our giving never wavered. In fact, we gave more than we could technically afford on several occasions. It hasn’t been comfortable.

Please don’t presume to know another person’s situation.

Make sure you’re not being self-righteous

The Pharisees had a habit of taking a legitimate scripture, projecting their opinions onto it, turning it into a basis for spiritual comparison and rebuking others for not living up to it.

And, I hate to break it to you, but that’s essentially what you’ve done with your question.

It’s fine to have personal convictions that go beyond biblical requirements. So if you want to give a full tenth to your church and give to others in addition to that, that’s awesome. Go for it.

But the moment you questions someone else’s faithfulness because their legitimate application of scripture is somehow different from your own, you’ve crossed a big line.

Please don’t act like your personal convictions are somehow authoritative.

I don’t mean to come down hard on you, Anon. But it’s important you understand the problem with questions like this.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 2 weeks ago

Job 8 - Babbling Bildad

Big Idea:

  • Job’s friend Bildad decides it’s his turn to offer some unsolicited advice…
  • He tells Job to stop claiming innocence, “Does God pervert justice?” He even goes so far as to say that Job’s kids must have deserved what happened to them!
  • Bildad also tells Job that God will restore him if he repents, “plead with the Almighty.
  • Then he says that our ancestor’s lives show us that those without God wither and fade like papyrus, implying that Job has been Godless, “What they trust in is fragile.
  • Finally, Bildad tells Job that God wouldn’t let him suffer for nothing, “God does not reject one who is blameless.”

Jesus:

Posted 3 weeks ago
Hi James. I'm very introverted and having trouble sorting out my sense of "community." I'm married and in a small group that we love so I have accountability and fellowship, but outside those times I'd much order to hang at home than with friends. I know that we were designed for community but I just don't feel like I need this time. It stresses me out and I'm relieved to leave. I'm wondering if this is my personality and is okay or if the enemy is using that thought to isolate me. Thanks!
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

I can relate. I’m also a natural introvert and would much rather spend my free time alone.

So I can tell you from experience that you’re right to be careful about it. An inclination to introversion can be powerful. If we’re not careful, we can allow it to isolate us and prevent us from serving others.

But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case for you.

For one thing, you’re married. You’ve already invited someone into your life in a big way. In fact, you’ve turned the community you have with your spouse into part of your identity. So you’re not isolated.

For another thing, you’re in a small group. You’ve voluntarily opened yourself up to accountability and fellowship. That’s a huge step for an introvert, but you did it! So you’re not being controlled by your feelings.

You’re seeking balance in life and not letting your feelings control you, and that’s awesome. As long as you keep doing that, I think you can just let your personality be what it is.

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

Posted 3 weeks ago

Job 7 - Pain and prayer

Big Idea:

  • Job switches from responding to Eliphaz to praying to God.
  • He says life is futile and miserable, “Mortals have hard service on earth.
  • He says life is short and meaningless, “My life is but a breath.
  • Job says this is why he is complaining, “Let me alone… I despise my life.
  • What is mankind that you make so much of them?’ Job prays. “What have I done to you?…Why do you not pardon my offenses and forgive my sins?

Jesus:

Posted 3 weeks ago
Hi James! I was wondering what your opinion is on Christians watching shows/movies that are "inappropriate". For example, shows with graphic nudity, explicit language, and vulgar jokes? I understand that a person should be careful what he or she exposes himself or herself to so people should use their discretion, but overall is it "bad" for followers of Christ to watch such profanity?
Anonymous asked

Hi Anon,

As with most things requiring discernment, it depends.

I’m more lenient than a lot of Christians I’ve known. Many take a hard line and won’t expose themselves to anything with sex, violence, strong language or ideas contrary to our faith. And when my dad became a Christian in the 70’s, someone even tried to tell him “rock music” was sinful.

But it’s important to remember that there’s a difference between what we expose ourselves to and what we allow to influence us — just like there’s a difference between legalism and discernment.

So here are the questions I ask myself when it comes to my media choices:

Will this influence me in a negative way?

This requires you to know yourself pretty well. Wherever you are weak, that’s where you draw the line.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 6:12

This will look different for each individual. Some of us can see a little violence without being phased, but a person with an anger problem needs to be careful. Some can see a little nudity without being affected, but someone getting over a porn addiction needs to steer clear.

And being fine today doesn’t mean you’ll be fine tomorrow. Stay aware of how your sensitivities change over time. I’ve stopped watching certain shows that I liked at first, because I realized they were starting to wear on me. We’ve got to stay vigilant.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
— Proverbs 4:23

So play it safe. It’s better to risk your pop culture savvy than to risk your heart.

Will this influence others in a negative way?

As Christians, we need to look out for each other.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak.
1 Corinthians 8:9

Serve the sensitivities of your Christian brothers and sisters. If your roommate is trying to break a swearing habit, don’t watch a show with strong language when he’s around. And if your friend came to Christianity out of Wicca, don’t invite her to watch a movie featuring “magic”.

And never judge your friends for their vulnerabilities. Our personal standards don’t make any of us better than anyone else, but we’re all better when we help each other keep those standards.

Nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.
Romans 14:13-14

This is why I don’t promote every single show or movie I watch — I don’t want someone to walk into a personally compromising situation on my recommendation. We need to be aware and compassionate with our shared media choices.

Am I missing something?

Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for obsessing over details while missing the big picture. Make sure you don’t do the same with your media choices.

Christians’ standards can be a little backward sometimes. We’ll skip Moulin Rouge for its sexual content, even though its overall themes are unconditional love and the importance of faithfulness. Meanwhile, we’ll watch The Lion King for its clean content, even though its overall themes are treachery and revenge.*

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

These qualities tend to play out most strongly — and most subtlety — in the broader themes of the stories we follow, not necessarily in their details. Make sure you examine things from all angles.

So those are the questions I ask when I’m in need of discernment, and they tend to work for me. And they should work for you too, even if you answer them differently than I would.

…And if you do, that’s OK. ;)

Peace, love and Jesus,
-James

*My examples are old because I am old. :P

Posted 3 weeks ago

Job 6 - Some “Friend”

Big Idea:

  • Job responds to Eliphaz’s advice and accusations.
  • No wonder my words have been impetuous,” Job says. “God’s Terrors are marshaled against me.
  • Job says that if God would grant his request and let him die, at least he would die knowing he “had not denied the words of the Holy One.”
  • He says he no longer has any ability or reason to hope.
  • Then Job tells Eliphaz that his words are not the words of a friend, “You too have proved to be of no help.
  • He challenges Eliphaz’ accusation, “Show me where I have been wrong.
  • Would I lie to your face?” Job tells Eliphaz. “Relent, do not be unjust; reconsider, for my integrity is at stake.
  • To paraphrase: Job tells Eliphaz, “I’ve done nothing wrong to suffer like this. And you’re a terrible friend for suggesting that I did.”

Jesus:

Posted 3 weeks ago

leeyounger:

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