Question: Just Found Out My Crush Has …

Anonymous asked:

(Warning: Slightly graphic content)

Brother, I just found out that the woman I want to date was sexually abused & thus had a skewed image of sex. In college she was promiscuous & had an abortion. Also, as a result of her life style she got hsv (herpes) and hpv, two std’s that are incurable. This was 6 years ago, she now vibrantly follows King JC. My dilemma is that given this information, I lost the value that I once had towards her & makes me question if I am ready for this. If married, I would likely contract it/them. Thoughts?

My dear friend,

This is a really difficult situation in which I have no clear answer.

On one hand, you want to be a good guy and base your feelings on this woman’s inner-beauty — and for this, I highly commend you.  You are looking past her past, as every good man does, and you are interested in a woman who is pursuing God.  You are trying to display all the right grace for her history, her abuse, her choices, her former life.  All good steps.

However, you’re also physically looking out for yourself and I don’t think anyone would blame you if you decided to consider your options.

I want to be very clear in how we’re separating both sides of this question.  No woman’s history can ever define who she is as a dignified human being.  She is worthy of respect simply because she exists and even if she only existed.  So if you have lost “value” for her, that’s on you to repent and fix.  I’m not saying that a dude can instantly have grace for all kinds of craziness (so don’t beat yourself up about that) — but every woman regardless of what happened before is still capable of the same love, laughter, and ambition as we all are.  There is no past that is too big for God’s grace to cover.

So really the only complication we’re viewing is a physical hazard, and we must take this very seriously.  Someone might say, “If you really loved her, then STDs wouldn’t be a dealbreaker!”  Which is true in itself. It would be ugly to say that she is any less than a human being for that.

What I don’t want is that you base your decision off any kind of misguided neo-feminism, charity, pity, or guilt. The lady doesn’t want that, either.

I want to offer the sensitive, nuanced, balanced perspective.  So can we be real too?  Can we for a moment say what’s really on your mind?

If I had contracted any kind of condition in which I could potentially harm the lives of others, particularly from a former self-destructive lifestyle — I would do everything it takes to protect every new person I met.  This also means that certain decisions for me would be limited because I must face up to the reality of my situation.  It would mean that if I had an STD, then my sexual life would be over from that point on: and while I could still date, it would be most reasonable that I consider my season of sexual “fun” to be done.

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Church Things We Say: “Man-Centered Theology”


Whenever someone in church says “man-centered,” I’m pretty sure I know what this means: that the whole spiritual walk needs to be uber-focused on the face-melting glory of God or else we’re totally sugarcoating the wrathful explosive fury of our precious doctrine.

There’s this urgency we need to go back to our roots like Acts 2 and keep it straight Table-Flipping Jesus and there’s no room for feel-good therapeutic advice here, because that would be selfishly consumeristic and you-centered.  “God is for Himself and not for you, you know.”

I think I understand all that.  Man-centered bad, God-centered good.

I’m just wondering if even God sees it this way.  I’m wondering if He makes this sharp distinction between His glory and your problems: because I seem to remember God wore a coat of flesh and became one of us and got right in the middle of our mess.  The Gospel seems to be saying that it was His Glory to take on our shame and He was exalted by humbling Himself among us.

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Question: Wrong For Christians To Drink Alcohol?

Anonymous asked:

Hi, sorry if this is a ridiculous question but, is it wrong to drink? I’ve been a christian since born, and I’ve been drinking for more than half of my life. I thought it was ok since everyone in my family did, even some church leaders goes to drink with me once in a while, but then I came across gal 5:19-23 and… I feel so wrong. I mean it’s not like I ever get drunk I know my limits but just… 😐 thank you.

My friend, it is not wrong to drink alcohol.  Galatians 5:19-23 was not written for that, either.  It mentions “drunkenness,” but Apostle Paul wasn’t sitting there thinking, “I’m totally going to poop on those dang college kids.”

But please allow me the grace to pick our brains on this.  Feel free to skip around.

1) I’m sure you’ve already heard that “Drinking is okay, but drunkenness is bad.”  This is biblically true. Drinking in itself is not wrong, nor is it some spiritual parameter to measure your own faith-grade.

I just think most people don’t know how to drink-in-moderation.  Even if you were the smartest guy in the world, the entire lifestyle wrapped around drinking is “Let’s get wasted.”  Those sort of environments, while not necessarily wrong, can easily lead to unpredictable situations where some drunk dude shoots you or you’re puking blood in your friend’s laundry hamper (both of which I’ve seen happen).  I don’t mean to fear-monger or something, but I’ve seen drinking go wrong in so many different ways that did NOT have to do with drunkenness, but rather the atmosphere it created.

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Quote: No Other

“No other story or religion dares to suggest that God became flesh and walked among us, in the sense that he felt suffering himself. No other religion or philosophy suggests a God who cares so personally and deeply that He would cry out like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane: ‘This is not what I want. Can you take it away from me?’ Well that’s a prayer for somebody who’s trying to get through a tough time. And so we have a God presented in the Bible who understands us, who went through what we’re going through, and when we say ‘I can’t get through this,’ he understands that, and he can give personal and immediate help.”

— Max Lucado

Remember The Uninitiated.

In Sunday services, it can be easy to assume everyone is on board with the Bible, with God, with the music, with their faith — but even the most smiley, firm-handshaking, eloquently-praying, every-Sunday churchgoer could be drowning in a sea of doubt and questions. All the assumptions are only making it worse.

We often design our sermons and services with the faithful believer in mind. “Have you shared Jesus with anyone this week? Have you kept accountability? Have you confessed your sin and asked for forgiveness? Are you serving genuinely with your whole heart?”

These are important things: but the uninitiated won’t really care about them. I’m talking about that guy in the back row with arms crossed and foot tapping. That single mother with four kids who doesn’t think God sees her. The high schooler who’s ready to cut until it’s over. They’re unconcerned with Christian technique and instead: waiting to hear about a Savior.

While some of us are “convicted” by these terms, others will have no context for them and will only feel more distance. Some are just barely hanging on to believe God is real at all, and others still are resistant to anything remotely religious. And we forget about them.

I think knowing the vocabulary is even a disadvantage: because we get jaded to the same verbiage every Sunday. We can get self-righteous with all the insider buzz words because we check that list like a pro — but we can hardly admit we feel further from God every week.

I hope our churches are designed for both the strong and the weak, for the faithful and the curious, for the prodigal and the wanderer, for the robust and the rebel. I hope we use a language that invites everyone without compromising doctrine. I hope we define our terms like sin and wrath and Spirit every single Sunday, because even the veterans need a light on their basement of faith.

We could meet each other at ground level with the grace that Jesus offers. This is a harder way, with no lazy shortcuts and shorthand, but with gritty raw honesty: the same that Jesus had. To desperately strive for the ideal every week will only remind us how much we’ve failed, but to remind each other of Christ tells us there’s a hope beyond our striving.

It’s only Jesus who meets us exactly where we are. He assumes you don’t have it all together: and he offers grace for that very reason. The church is called to do likewise, as a safe haven for saints and a hospital for sinners. I pray we make room for both.

— J

Question: “I’m Not Ready To Serve God”

Anonymous asked: (Edited)

My church likes to do mission trips with the teens ministry … Ive had such struggles with faith, and depression lately, I don’t know how I can go and tell others about how good God is when, because of my stupid lack of faith, I haven’t seen Him in my life in a really long time … I need help.

Hey my dear friend.  I totally understand you on this one and I only got love for you.  I’ve probably heard similar statements millions of times, so let’s break this down.

Essentially what you’re saying is: “I’m not ready to serve God because I’m not ready to serve God.”

Besides the fact that this is a circular logic fail — do you know who else feels this way?

Pretty much everyone.

And it is a lie straight from the devil’s mouth.

If we all waited until we felt “qualified” to serve God, then we’d all be benched on the sidelines until we meet Jesus in our underwear.

So we’re not falling for that.

The truth is: No one is ever ready to serve God, and that’s exactly the point.  God qualifies those He calls before we ever do a single thing.  No job history, no application, no references, no experience — just our availability to say, “Here am I, send me.”

The entire Bible is a catalog of unqualified people who were chosen by God, because God is often in the habit of working through broken beat-up busted-down vessels for His Glory.  He’s always doing things like that.  As if to say, “This right here is a God-thing, and it cannot be no other thing.”  Check out 1 Samuel 16:7 or Deuteronomy 7:7-9.  Essentially God says, “I didn’t pick you because you’re awesome.  It’s because I’m awesome.”

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Question: So About Church Discipline

Anonymous asked:

What is your understanding from Scripture of how church discipline should be done and what it should be done for? I have reason to believe that someone at my church has been disciplined falsely, and honestly, it is tearing me apart emotionally as I do not know either side of the story fully, nor can I ever expect to. I want to do the right thing.

Most ministry leadership bases their “church discipline” on Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5.  Basically, there are terms given for a firm approach on sin and possible excommunication from the church.

But my question is: Why are these the only guidelines for church discipline?  It feels like these passages are often twisted to force people out that are disagreeable or who take “too long” to beat sin.  There are just as many passages to restore a brother and show grace for failure.

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Question: How To Start A Bible Study

 Anonymous asked:

I want to start a bible study group, but I don’t know how to go about doing it. I have this urge from God to step out of my comfort zone. Please help!

Hey, you’re awesome.  That is very, very awesome.  I love you for doing what you’re doing, and God has your back on this.

Please don’t see the following as a formula, but just a few jolts to get you started at a good place.

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Question: Reconnecting After Betrayal

 Anonymous asked (edited for length):

I’ve been helping a former friend who had contacted me recently, but I feel really conflicted and on guard all the time because she broke my trust a long time ago … When I finally came around to forgiving her, God told me in a prayer that night, “I was the kind of person she needed.” She reached out to me in an email & confessed to me her problems. I realize that she is making an effort to change her life around, but at times, I feel like it’s too much for me to handle. You’ve mentioned before that we’re a lot to deal with. I know I’m a lot to deal with too & I know this hesitation with helping her is me being afraid of getting hurt by her again. I sincerely want her to grow, but I am often hindered by the fear of being betrayed.

Hey dear friend: I really applaud you for your kindness and I can tell you sincerely want to help your friend.  If you’re going to follow through, I’ll suggest some guidelines here that might draw some safe boundaries while also maximizing how you can help.

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Quote: Love Them

“Love people. Work hard. Think hard thoughts. The hardest thoughts. The ones that make you question things. The ones that make your head ache and your heart burn. The ones that make you angry, the ones you’ve been afraid of, the ones others will hate you for thinking. And when you find something good and true, don’t you dare hide it. Don’t you dare. Love people, love them! Go give things to people! Go listen to them! Go hold the door open for them! Love. People. Before they put bullets through their heads, before they start wars. Show them love. Show them the face of God.”

— Lauren Sheppard

Don’t Allow Enablers

If someone eggs you on in your anger or validates your self-pity: please extract yourself out of there. Find someone else. I’ve made this mistake too many times, when I should’ve heard from a friend who rebuked me towards grace and forgiveness and the hard truth about myself. No one should ever purposefully move you into more bitterness nor affirm your prideful isolation. I’ve seen guys who were puffed up this way over time and they’re hardly tolerable now.

Most people will tell you what you want to hear not because they’re bad people, but because they want to recruit you in their circle of approval and self-wallowing. This means they will tickle your ego: and you’ll be tempted to go back there.

They need grace too, so be courteous and nod along and love them just as much as the next guy. But please don’t fall for yes-men. Find the people who are willing to see through you, the ones who are willing to love you until it hurts.

— J

Quote: Congregation

“Congregation is composed of people, who, upon entering a church, leave behind what people on the street name or call them. A church can never be reduced to a place where goods and services are exchanged. It must never be a place where a person is labeled. It can never be a place where gossip is perpetuated. Before anything else, it is a place where a person is named and greeted, whether implicitly or explicitly, in Jesus’s name. A place where dignity is conferred.”

— Eugene Peterson

You Are Not The Main Character

Imagine the freedom of knowing you’re NOT the main character of your own story.

Long after you yelled at that guy in traffic or sent murder-waves at the lady who cut in line, those people continue to live their lives.  As we reflect on their horrible behavior and our own upright decency, those people are also reflecting on their bills, their anxiety, their children, their hopes and dreams and insecurities, just like you.  While I’m looking out a window commending my own sensibility, they’re also trying to make good and do their best with the little they have.

When you can only think about your own struggle, we end up imprisoned in a tower of hostility where we defend our treasure-trove of self-referencing ego.  It’s living inside your own head, cut off from the world, which is exactly why people kill each other thinking they need to protect their own selfish narratives.

You might have seen some movies where the main character acts like a jerk and crushes people who are in the way, but then later “makes up for it” by deep contemplation next to a lake — but you know, that guy is still a jerk.  He is not suddenly cool just because he is self-aware.  Sometimes self-awareness is really just self-absorbed, and that can only breed a franchise of destruction.

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To Love Without Idolizing A Relationship — A Mega-Post on Dating & Very Bad Advice

Anonymous asked:

How do you love someone without idolizing the relationship? I have a tendency to idolize my past relationships, and I’m so afraid of messing up again this time. It makes me almost want to not be with anyone because I know my heart will always default to idolatry. How do other people function and enjoy God’s blessings without turning them into idols? I know I should operate out of love, not fear, but fear is driving my decisions now. I’m so afraid of the past repeating itself and I don’t trust me

My very dear wonderful friend: I had the very same exact issue, and in many ways, I’m still inclined to idolize relationships as my entire source of approval, attention, value, and validation.  I have a tendency to get “addicted” to things and to squeeze the life out of them, and it’s a lifelong struggle.  I’m sure many others here will also tell you they feel the same way.  You’re not alone on this one.

Your instinct to say “I don’t trust me” is actually right on.  I commend you for this, because there are way too many cocky people who just do what they want and call it “freedom.”  There are too many dumb philosophies that say “Follow your heart” and “Go be yourself” and “Do what you feel” without any context for reality, and people get crushed.  So you’re not far from the truth — our hearts are certainly prone to wander.

Yet God also does NOT want you to live in fear of “possible idolatry.”  Then you can just as quickly begin to idolize anti-idolatry, and that will crush you too.  My friend: you can’t beat yourself up about this.

If you’re worried about messing it up all the time, you will end up trying to control your flesh with your flesh, which simply leads to other problems.  It’s just sin-replacement, which you already know is not working.  By trying so hard not to mess it up, you’ll simply mess it up somewhere else.  We easily overthink ourselves into unlikely death-trap scenarios, which never actually frees us from idolatry.  We are officially done with that fear.

So here are some suggestions for you.  Please feel free to skip around.

Continue reading “To Love Without Idolizing A Relationship — A Mega-Post on Dating & Very Bad Advice”

Quote: Improv

“Now there are very few rules about improvisation, but one of the things I was taught early on is that you are not the most important person in the scene. Everybody else is. And if they are the most important people in the scene, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them. But the good news is you’re in the scene too. So hopefully to them you’re the most important person, and they will serve you. No one is leading, you’re all following the follower, serving the servant. You cannot win improv … And like improv, you cannot win your life.

— Stephen Colbert

Life, Pain, Lessons, Questions, Mystery

I don’t believe that pain always has a lesson. Sometimes pain is just pain. Sometimes it just hurts. Mostly we won’t know why until we see the face of God: and even then, I’m not sure there will be a neat bowtie to the whole thing.

Until then, I don’t want to moralize my pain. I refuse to connect the dots at someone who is aching in the lowest bottom of their soul. I will not pretty-up grief with retrospective hindsight or poetic reflection. I will not diminish someone’s tragedy into an allegory. I cannot take a human wound and flip it into a cute outline for my logical sensibilities.

Pain sucks. It’s dirty. It’s not fit for books and movies. It doesn’t always resolve. It’s not romantic. It doesn’t need an answer or a fix-it-all, and that drives me crazy: but nearly every answer has always come up short and trite and impractical. I just know that pain is a terrible teacher who we try to force answers from, but maybe we’re demanding something that pain can’t give.

I want to let pain be as it is, because it’s what makes us human. It’s to be experienced, not always explained. And I’m trying to be okay with that. I’m trying to live with the wounds. I want to let life unfold, to not escape or avoid or deny: but to let the deepest hurt become part of me, a part of our human story.

— J