Thoughts and a prayer about “thoughts and prayers”



I hear you.

You’re tired of empty words in a world filled with them.

You’re tired of bankrupt sentiment being used to selfishly curate an image in a world where what you sympathize with is a form of social currency.

And after every tragedy you see a flurry of a section of humanity rush to write “thoughts and prayers” about whatever terrible thing just happened in whatever current media outlets they use to reflect the image of them they want the world to see.

It seems trite.

Even worse than trite, really.

“If you were praying, why did this happen in the first place?  The world needs more than just your thoughts and prayers, it needs your actions and maybe if you had acted before instead of prayed then this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

That certainly doesn’t sum up the complexity of the reaction towards the phrase “thoughts and prayers” but I have regularly seen this kind of sentiment in the common avenues of my life.  I even sometimes share similar sentiments about that phrase and prayers without the accompaniment of action.

This echoes many of the admonitions given to followers of Jesus in Scripture.  John in his first letter tells us to not love with “words or speech” but with actions and in truth.  James tells us merely telling someone to go in peace and be warm and well fed does no good if you don’t do something about it from your material possessions.  Jesus has plenty to say about praying in public for show.  Prayer and action are connected to each other and there are certainly people who throw these phrases that don’t get their meaning or don’t care, which is why we have warnings from Scripture.

I get concerned, however, that everyone who uses the phrase will be lumped into this group.  I also get concerned that agreement on some reaction to the phrase will communicate that prayer isn’t effective, powerful, and completely appropriate.  Can we discuss adding nuance to our reaction to the phrase “thoughts and prayers” without throwing it out completely because of the misuse by some?  Let me share some thoughts in hopes to convince some of you, even those who aren’t Christian, that there is benefit in our societal intercourse for use of this phrase.

1.  This is pretty important: The “thoughts” portion of “thoughts and prayers” was added to the common vernacular as a kind concession to communicate to non-believers or practitioners of other religions that they weren’t being excluded.  I’ve had plenty of people tell me personally they don’t want my prayers because they don’t believe in what I believe but they will accept good will or “positive vibes”.  The “thoughts” addition to the phrase “I’ll pray for you”  is intended to be inclusive of the beliefs of another person.  I don’t think we should be hasty to remove inclusive phrases.

2.  Saying you are thinking and praying for someone says “I see you  and I see that you are suffering or need help.”  In a world that goes to a lot of lengths to delegitimize suffering, this is a phrase that communicates that the person saying it agrees something is wrong or needs attention.  To act on something it first has to be recognized as a problem.

3.  When a Christian says they are praying for you that Christian believes they not only are acting, but acting in a dramatic way.  It may not be the only action that needs to be taken but prayer is a big action all in itself.  While you who read this may not believe, know that I believe I am taking this matter to the highest being in the universe to ask both “What gives?” and “Will you do something?”  Regardless of your belief, that person praying for you communicates that they think you are important enough that the creator of the universe should consider personal involvement.

4.  We pray because we see the results of prayer in our lives.  I can’t tell you how often I pray for something and it happens.  It doesn’t always happen like I envisioned but something always seems to happen.  At this point I’m not crossing my fingers or throwing a coin in a wishing well – I’ve seen amazing things happen in the most difficult of circumstances.  It would be foolish of me to ignore that God answers prayers based on the evidence of my life.

5.  We pray because God loves to act on our wishesScripture is filled with this important concept we often ignore: God likes to include man in decision making despite our shortcomings.  God empowers humans and chooses, from the beginning, to facilitate his global kingdom/family through wiling participation and the choices of humanity.  Based on that, prayer is a responsibility.

But then, why did the bad thing happen in the first place and why didn’t God stop it?

6.  When I say “thoughts and prayers”, I am reflecting on the power God entrusted to humans through free will.  God places a great deal of weight on our free will and is dedicated to humans correcting human mistakes.  Free will is deeply connected to our ability to love and be loved.  Disposing of it limits love.  Our free will, however, often leads to actions that are selfish when one of those is abused in our desire to participate in it.  Then, God lets us reap what we sow.  Prayer recalibrates our free will decisions by tacit acknowledgment that our methodology was bad or we were/still are ignorant of what needs to be done in order to have a loving, fair society and our role in it.  Prayer is a cross point for our free will and God’s sovereignty.

7.  Therefore, when I say “thoughts and prayers”, I am telling you that I am reorienting.  I am pausing to reflect.  So, where is the action?  Well, the start of the action is to share sympathy and comfort.  However, since prayer generally includes a humble acknowledgement that our understanding is limited, a Christian needs to pause to let God expand their understanding.  Part of this is a direct call from Jesus not to just love those that love us or look like us but to love strangers and enemies.  When I proceed forward, therefore, I need to do it in a way that is loving on multiple levels.  This is no mere kindness, what drives out darkness is light, so if I am to follow the advice of God about how to be effective in changing things I must combat evil with love.  Prayer is an attempt not only to align with a possibly complicated mulit-faceted response, it is an attempt to enact change in my behavior to do my part to ensure what happened will never happen again.

8.  So, thoughts and prayers also is meant to communicate that proceeding requires nuance.  It may get to the point where I feel so limited in my information that I must decide to give up control and let others closer to the incident decide.  This is often where people rush to provide “facts” to one another and are outraged that action isn’t happening faster but my experience is that this social media world repeatedly proves that the situations are more complicated than they are being displayed and that there are people on every side who are trying to commoditize my rage and compassion for their own personal gain.  It’s not a desire – I need supernatural guidance to understand what is going on in order to make a good choice because it is so hard to trust information sources.  Going to God, who knows all, gives me a sounding board who knows all and a personal instructor in the Spirit to guide me into truth.

9.  Being in the throne room of God reminds me of what is truly important which in turn leads to thoughtful action.  The start of my understanding of why humanity is loveable in its differences, the revelation of the brokenness inside me that affects others originating from things I’ve done and things done to me, the understanding of beauty, the connection to contentment, the overflow of love to forgive – all of these start in prayer for me.  Going away from talking to God, I get lost in the sea of brokenness.  Prayer is reading the last page of the book and realizing there is a happy ending after all.  I taste eternity in the presence of the being that was and is and is to come.  It teaches me what I do now matters and how to engage that by letting go of things that do not matter to which I cling.  What holds me back from acting is usually brokenness. Being in the presence of God exposes, then melts those chains away so that I am free to act.  In the presence of God I feel whole and wholeness is the safest place from which to act.

10.  There are a lot of people who utter these words who really ARE acting after they say them.  The real truth is this: my experience with “church people” is overwhelmingly that they are generous and acting on their faith.  They just do it quietly.  They are opening up to relationships, giving money, giving time, and constantly pushing themselves to do more because they are loved by a God who is giving.  Seriously, my mom hand writes letters to kids in India, my wife buys bags that are more expensive so that poor women around the world who make them are given a fair wage, friends serve meals regularly to homeless people, a friend swam Lake Michigan to raise awareness of the lack of safe drinking water in many countries, others friends try to give hope to people incarcerated, and on and on and on.  They are engaging the world around them.  And let me also tell you the norm is that they don’t expect people to share their faith to receive this outreach.

My prayer in the end is that this furthers a conversation.  I am not attempting to silence questions with this blog.  As hard as it can be, it’s healthy to entertain the sincere question “Do you actually mean that sentiment?”  I am to be a minister of reconciliation to God with humanity and I need to refine whether reconciliation is actually happening or not.   However, I do hope this prayer and these thoughts give you comfort next time you see those words “thoughts and prayers”.   We occasionally need to call each other to act further, but, there is power alone in thoughts and prayers from a engaged believer in Jesus Christ.  Let’s not discard that.


How do we know what we can do physically with our girlfriend/boyfriend?

If you have this question, welcome to a veritable flash mob of people my friend!  A huge portion of the questions asked this year related in one way or another to this question, such as “If I have oral sex, am I still a virgin?” or “How far is too far?”

The focus of this question has some good undertones.  It shows that you care about how what you do physically in a relationship impacts your relationship with God!  If you look deeper, however, you may find that the reason you ask this isn’t too great.  It may be because you see Christianity as a legal document instead of a living, breathing relationship with God.  The purpose of your asking may not be centered on drawing closer to Him but instead focused on what you can get for yourself without getting into trouble.  Think of the weirdness of the question when putting it into real world terms.  Imagine your bf/gf came to you and said “Hey, I was secretly thinking about how much I wanted to kiss a person I saw across the room but I didn’t do anything but talk to them.  I mean, we talked about how much we wanted to kiss each other, but we didn’t do it.  So, where’s the line with them?”

Try asking this question instead of the “how far is too far” question: “What can I do with my girlfriend/boyfriend that will draw us both closer to God?”  Can you see how changing the question you are asking to this takes God from being a distant observer waiting to smack you and frown at you when you break your agreement with him into an active role in which he, you, and your bf/gf are doing something awesome together?  Also, ask the question of why you are dating in the first place.  Check this previous Go-to question/answer to see if you have a healthy, Godly mindset for dating in the first place: .  Now to answer the question.

Sex has a purpose.  Its purpose, like that of all created things, is to reflect aspects of our spiritual relationship with God in a physical way.  Sex is a “knowing” of the other person in an intimate way.  Through this act in which we participate in unison we experience joy and oneness with the person we partner with.

God’s instructions are that it is only to take place in marriage.  The word for breaking this is usually “fornication” and can be found in 1 Cor. 6:9-10.  Sex isn’t something we are always advised to do, even when we are married.  Its use determines whether it is positive or negative.

From all of this, if we look at the purpose of life and see it is to become the bride of Christ, it tells us that Jesus longs to have a passionate connection to us.  It tells us that he wants us to save certain things only for him and not to passionately embrace things of this world.  God often uses the imagery of people who run off and worship other things than him as adulterers (in Jeremiah most effectively).  Hosea shows that God is willing to take us back into marriage with him despite our infidelity.

So, part of the problem with the “where’s the line” question is that the concept and purpose of sex goes deeper than just mechanically what you are doing.  Sex is more than just a physical concept.  It is mental, emotional, and spiritual too.  They are completely interwoven.  In light of this, where the line is for sex includes all of those other elements too in just as important of a way.  Jesus had a way of pointing out the deepness of spiritual principles that people had abandoned the heart and purpose of to reduce it simply to what you physically do.  Examples of other things that are similar can be found in Matthew 5:21-30.

A good way of explaining how to put this into practice that I’ve seen is that when you do something physical with your gf/bf, are you initiating the act of sex?  Are you starting it?  You’ll know because certain things will be aroused in you.  If your sexual organs are pulsating then your mind and your body are in agreement that sex is starting.  If you keep trying to say that by legality in faith you aren’t going too far but your body is telling you the next steps and pushing you to do them then you are probably in the beginning stages of sex.  It’s going to be pretty hard to stop yourself and stopping yourself isn’t fun.  Then begins the justification game where you just do a little bit more and a little bit more each time you get together.  It seems to me that in light of the idea behind sex in the first place (described in the paragraphs above) is being violated.

Intercourse is often the line people consider to be too far.  The Bible is somewhat quiet on a mechanical definition of sex (only because asking these questions in the first place is foreign to its mindset which shows we are not fully understanding scriptures message when we ask it) but it should be pointed out that oral sex and fondling are positively mentioned in Song of Solomon for a married couple (and only mentioned positively with married couples in Scripture) and, originally, Jewish culture didn’t allow the reading of that book until the age of 30.  Those things may not be intercourse by modern definition but it seems to me from that fact that they are outside the mind of God for us and we should limit even the physical acts we are thinking doing until we have wisdom to deal with them.

The heart of this problem lies with the deception the serpent used in the beginning in Genesis.  The serpent tells us like he told Adam and Even God doesn’t want you to have this delicious thing because he doesn’t want you to know or experience certain things for his own selfish reasons.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God wants you to have something he created to be used well because it can be tremendously wonderful in your life.  It’s misuse – and I know this personally – is devastating.  Is there anything out there that messes people up more than sex?  How many people in your life have been absolutely wrecked by the misuse of sex (whether they did it or someone affected them by their own misuse)?

I know a lot of you out there have probably already had sex.  Please hear this if you are in that place.  First, there is no one who is individually pure – not one (Romans 3:23).  If you have had pre-marital sex, you are not broken greater than you can be healed in Christ.  (Ephs. 4:22-24)  His righteousness is what we rely on, not our own.  That connection to Christ is what purifies us (1 John 1:7-8).  The power of breaking sexual cycles of sin is not in beating yourself up about how impure you are and trying to live by a perfect regiment to stop it (Col. 2:23), it is overcome by living and walking with the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25).   This is not something you do alone.  You do it with others.  (Gal. 6:2 & Ephs. 4)  (Check out this previous Go-to for more on all of this:  If  this is you and you need to your burdens carried, I’m here!  Contact me and I will help you.

Love in Christ,


How to break up?

(This is part 2 of a relationship blog based on questions asked by senior weekers at MWBC 2012.  I highly suggest you go here ( and read this first if you haven’t done so already.)

Breaking up brings up sticky spiritual issues.  We know from Ephs. (quoted in blog 1), John 17, and multiple other places in Scripture that our purpose here on earth (which is God’s masterful eternal purpose) is to become one in Christ.  Ephesians 4 goes on to say that we Christians are knitted together in Christ into one body.  The word used there for “knitted” in Greek implies a construction like muscles, sinews, and other connective tissue that holds us together.  I’m not a doctor but it seems to me that removing somebody’s connective tissue is bad for them.  We know this unspokenly, don’t we?  I mean, that is why breaking up is so awful usually – because we weren’t built to do it.

That’s not to say that it’s wrong to do it.  Sometimes it’s very necessary.  However, it presents a problem for Christians dating each other in that those people are usually in the same church.  The purpose of the church is to edify, build up, and build together.  If you’ve just broken up with someone (or been broken up with), you’re probably thinking of doing the exact opposite.

You said it, Neil.

Sadly, I haven’t seen much difference in the way Christians handle relational break ups from the world.  It’s something we don’t really talk about.  So, let’s talk about how we can break up well when the need arises and do so in a way that still accomplishes God’s eternal purposes.  Here are some tips.  (Note: When I am talking about breaking up, I am talking solely of non-marital romantic relationships.  Marriage is a much different spiritual animal and many of the things I bring up are not applicable.)

1.  Date With Purpose

It goes without saying that the best thing to avoid a nasty break up is preventing getting with people whom you will have to break up with.  Part 1 of the blog deals with that so make sure you read that in order to get the God perspective on dating and marriage.  Relationships and love are powerful things.  If you are going to date, first understand who you are in God, second understand why he brought you to earth, and third date/marry to further those purposes.  I know it seems like a crazy heavy burden, but the heart of Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to not be yoked together with unbelievers undergirds this.  Relationships between Christians & non-Christians cannot fulfill the points above long term.  The person you date may become a Christian, but if you didn’t date them for eternal purposes in the first place, you may find yourselves breaking up when the clarifying power of God comes into that person’s life and they realize there are things they must do to fully realize God fully in their life.  Jesus goes out of his way to say that people who love him will leave father, mother, and others for him.  It would be wise to heed his words.

2.  When you start dating someone, commit to helping each other be ok afterwards if you do break up.

This will help you date with seriousness (and have people date you with seriousness in return!) and show that you care about God’s eternal purposes.  It usually takes the length of the original relationship for a break up to heal.

3.  Have a plan of how your relationship will work after you break up.

Saying “Let’s just be friends” is not a plan.  Tell them how you will be friends.  Will you see each other at events?  How will you talk when there?  More importantly, if you are Christians, tell them how things will work in spiritual settings such as your church.  Allow feedback and listen.

In a break up, a wise song once said you gotta be cruel to be kind.  I don’t completely buy that, but usually there needs to be separation.  One of the worst things you can do is yank someone around by being cutesy, flirty, or too conversant with them afterwards.  They need space.  So start with less, but talk about and give future times to talk about how that may change in the future.

If you think because of the relationship that you shouldn’t be friends, state that – but do so with love and give your reasons why.  Make sure you reasons are God focused (like “You are abusive towards me.  God doesn’t like that and relationships don’t work like that.  When you have a handle on that someday, we may be able to be friends.)

4.  Involve a neutral faithful friend

Have a Christian brother(s)/sister(s) who is neutral (and preferably older and more mature) be at future meetings to talk about things or be a go to in case there are troubles.  The person who is broken up with will almost always have clarifying questions they will want to ask after the shock has worn off.  They may get really low.  Bringing a friend in from the beginning gives that broken up person someone to talk to in general and to set up times to talk with you in person.  It is exceedingly easy to get caught up in a Facebook or texting war.  These help no one.  It is just venting.  Having a plan like this gives a proper outlet.

5.  Be truthful and appeal to Christ when possible.

Be very real about why you are breaking up.  If you are the bad guy in the scenario: say so.  If you want to date other people: say so.  If you aren’t feeling it: say so.  There is always an appeal by the person who is getting broken up with to broken trust or your ethical/moral reasons.  They want to know if you are justified.  They want you to believe it is a mistake.  It might be!  However, he said/she said conversations or justifications are usually a waste of time because they focus on your or the other persons wisdom.  If you are breaking up, do it because of God’s wisdom.  If the person is treating you bad, tell them it is God’s wisdom in how he designed relationships (shown to us through Christ) that they do not continue.  If they say you’ve been treating them bad (or are treating them bad by breaking up), that is just further proof that you shouldn’t be together until you know God better.  If you aren’t feeling it with them, you aren’t being good to them like Christ would have in a relationship if you stay in it.  (You should wait on breaking up for that because sometimes you just have seasons of lesser feelings.  To help clarify if this fits you, compare your dating relationship to a race run towards Christ.  Is that person next to you, ahead of you, or behind you?  Now wait a substantial amount of time and observe again.  You were meant to run along side of each other.  If you aren’t running together talk to the other person.  We are usually called to marry people who are side by side, more or less, for our life.)  In this case, make sure the person knows that the issue is not that they are unworthy.

No matter what, tell them the things you are thankful for of having them in your life, in particular in relation to Christ.

Make sure you don’t just use Jesus as a cover to protect you from being the bad guy or girl.  Saying things like “God doesn’t want me with you” and not being able to say why you believe that is a cop out and makes Jesus the blame for your selfish decision.  It also makes the other person feel that God blindsided them.  It would be wise to talk to a fellow neutral Christian (who is hopefully more mature in Christ and wiser) and run your reasoning by them.

6.  If you are the person getting broken up with, be like Christ.

Being like Christ means emptying yourself out.  It is the pursuit of sacrifice.  If someone you love loves another, start by fighting for them.  However, in the end, love them enough to honor their decisions.  God does that for us.

Also respect that God uses pain to push us towards beautiful purposes he has for us in the future.  I know through some tough, heart rending break ups that God had a better plan for me all along.  I thank God that he let those people leave me no matter how hard it was.

Don’t be too sad.  In the end of it all, we who have put Him on will all be one in Christ in eternity.  That person that broke up with you will only be gone for the short time this earth still spins.  Then, they will be joined to you for eternity in the most intimate, beautiful way possible.

Love to all!


How do I date someone without blowing their or my face off?

(Ok, so … this wasn’t actually a question given to me on paper in our Love is a Battlefield class at Senior Week MWBC 2012.  BUT we still talked about this a ton!  I appreciate people with intact faces.  I actually started this post to talk about something that no one ever seems to talk about – how do you break up with someone in a good way?  However, I realized I needed to talk about why we date in the first place a little bit before we do that so I wrote this one.  Part 2 will handle the break up business. After that we are going to handle another actual question: How far is too far?)

Pat Benetar said it best: “Love is a battlefield.”  Truth, Pat.  Is there anything than can destroy your life easier than a broken relationship?!?  We all know this.  We all know people (or are that “people”) who were ripped into tiny little pieces by this thing we nonchalantly call “dating”.  We’ve held their hair back while they vomited grief on our shoes.  It was an ugly, ugly sight.  It is no secret that people are extraordinarily bad to each other in dating and breaking up these days.  Yet some sort of magical fairy dust comes over us that makes us forget this and without regard for how or why we do it and jump into relationships with a goofy smile all the while following the same default rules that have been wrecking us and our friends.  We all know what the definition of insanity is right*?

You are a wonderful thing created by God.  Your love is powerful! Consequently, if you’re just swinging it around in a relationship way all willy nilly like, you are going to smash up some people.  And, most likely, you are going to be smashed at some point too if you don’t recognize the awesome power of it all.  Friends, we are handling the stuff that holds the very universe together – the stuff that is at the center of the whole point of it all!  Calmly set down the all powerful raw material of the universe for a moment. Ea-sy. Ea-a-a–a-s-s-sy.  Whew!  That was a close one. Let’s talk about dating and how love – true love – manifests itself in it so we will be able to do this dating thing without getting our face shot off or shooting some other poor persons face off in the process of figuring it out.

Something to say about how people go about dating these days, Admiral Ackbar?


God is love.  He is the manifestation of it.  He IS it.  So when we love, we release God upon another person!  The Bible is essentially focused on love and, in particular, one big love story: Jesus is preparing and sanctifying a bride for himself. Someday, at the end of it all, our mutual love for each other will reach fulfillment in a great wedding.  Ever wonder what eternity is like? Think it’s like harps and sitting bored on a cloud?  Imagine instead what the bible imagines: the perfect forever honeymoon with the person you love the most.  No pressing job or school or chores – just you in crazy love with each other laughing, playing cards, holding hands, and walking the beach. We were created in two genders (where one gender came out of the other – they are the same, yet different) to play this future out in the present.  Our romances and the desires that are placed inside of us to find one true love are there because we are made in God’s image so we therefore feel the same longing for a bride or husband to participate in endless love that Jesus himself feels.  We act out in shadow the reality of the eternal life to come in our romances.

The purpose of us in our world is told to us many times, although we seem to fail to grasp it.  It has much in common with romance if you imagine the eternity above.  Paul says it very well here in Ephesians as well as other places:


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In lovehe[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.


The purpose of it all?  All things in heaven and earth are to be brought into unity under Christ.  Oneness with each other and with Him. Now in part, but at the end of it all in whole.  Everything we do – the purpose for everything – falls under this directive. So it makes sense that if we are going to date we need to do it in a way that brings it in line with this.  Why wouldn’t we want to? How good is that image above?

We were made to pursue romance but we start out all too often focusing on the wrong things.  Our thinking goes, “I’m a good guy or girl.  Why won’t God give me someone awesome to be good with?” or “Hey, I just want to have a good time.  I want to get love because it feels good but I don’t care what happens to others in the process.  I deserve or need this love no matter what the cost.” or “I’m just going to jump into this thing because I like how the person looks or makes me feel and hope that it will turn out good and Godly in the process.”  How about starting with “God, you are freaking awesome.  I am in love with your Son.  I love being part of his bride. Will you please make me closer to you in some way?”  Then, perhaps, God provides someone to do that with.  How great will that relationship be?!?  Regardless, if God does not give you an earthly relationship, your spiritual pursuit will bring you closer to God which will bring you all sorts of good things.

If your relationship with someone doesn’t exist for you to experience God more or know him more, you are missing the point.  Through love you will experience some of God because when you both love each other you will be bringing God to the other, so great things can happen no matter what your understanding is.  However, as I said before, eventually it will become about selfishness and selfishness by nature is about pushing people apart.  This is how those nasty relationships start where you love and hate the person you are with.  You love them because of the good Godly stuff.  You can’t stand to be with them (or they push you away) through selfishness.  Then, what do you do?  Every option sucks. **


So, brass tacks – how to date without blowing your or other around you face(s) off? Here are some simple things to ask yourself to see if you are on the right track.

  1. Do I truly understand what the purpose of my life is and why I live it?
  2. Does the relationship I desire to get into reflect the crazy romantic love of Jesus pursuing the church?
  3. Does this person I want to date understand the source of love?
  4. Will dating this person show me Christ and grow me and them closer to Him?
  5. Could I break up with this person and still have a Christian oneness with them?
  6. Am I dating this person to further oneness with Christ or because I need to feel loved to be ok, to medicate a soul wound that I have, to make up for a bad relationship with someone else, or I simply want to have a little fun no matter what the cost?

I’m not advocating not dating.  I’m advocating doing it in a way that won’t destroy you or others and that will always keep you moving forward in the sweeping epic of you and the churches life in/as Jesus.  There is certainly a time where you may want to date a person a little bit just to see if you can answer some of the questions above.  However, when the time comes for entering a relationship, if you don’t have good answers for those above questions, you are setting yourself for repeated relationship face punches.  These are not answers that can easily be changed during the course of a relationship either.  There is a desire in us to love someone to fix them. Love does that, but change is best done through a connection directly with Jesus and working it out with Him – not through another person. (Your love is just a reminder or overflowing of God)  If they aren’t in the right spot on those questions, the issue they have is with God directly.  You are a third party in the matter and, because of that, no matter how they treat you, the issue won’t go away until God and they reconcile.
Ok .. you can slowly pick up love again.  Careful … careful … 🙂

So, if the purpose of God is to bring all things into oneness, how can breaking up work in that? I’ll handle that question in part 2 next week! Check it.

Love to all!



* The oft quoted modern definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.

** There are those who participate in a love that values the same things God does without ever claiming God.  Some of these ride Godly principles(after all, who measures a relationship by how good a liar their partner is or how selfish?) to a decent marriage that stays together and experience good things.  For those people, however, what is ultimately gained from this love?  This love has been used for their enjoyment (in either giving or receiving because both are pleasurable) to pass the moments of a meaningless life.  They’ve missed what it was pointing to all along.  They’ve felt the goodness of God without giving him credit for it.  That is not noble.  That is stealing and it is foolish.  They could have led that partner into a love that would have lasted forever if they simply gave credit where credit was do.  Instead, it was as if their parents gave them lunch money and they in turn gave it away and took all the credit for the enjoyment of giving it away, patting themselves on the back, while at the same time acting as if they made the money in the first place.  Their pride, the definition of self love, led that other person and themselves into an eternity of separation from them and all that is good.

Is it wrong to be jealous when your boyfriend/husband hangs out with other girls?


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What Scripture Says

The root work in Greek for the word “jealous” is “Zelos” which is the same word often translated into “zeal”.  The Hebrew word “qin’ah” can be translated the same way.  The underlying translation has to do with “heat” as in getting red in the face because of strong emotion.  Jealousy at its core is a passionate response!

Is it wrong?  Let’s dive into that.  To do that let’s first clear up the difference between envy and jealousy because they often get mixed up.  You first need to figure out where you are jealous, envious, or both!

Envy is a response to feelings about something you desire,don’t have, and don’t necessarily have a claim to.  Envy involves two people: you and the rival: the person who has what you want or wish didn’t have something (or both).  The focus of envy is the rival.

Jealousy is a response to something you are entitled to have and don’t in some measure.  Jealousy involves three people: you, the beloved, and the rival.  The focus of jealousy is the relationship you and the beloved have.  You can be jealous and envious at the same time, which often confuses the issue!

Envy is always wrong but, on the other hand, scripture tells us that jealousy isn’t always bad.  In fact, God himself is described as jealous or zealous many times!  (Exodus 20, Jeremiah, etc …)  It CAN be bad, though.  Paul says “love is not jealous” in 1 Cor. 13 and James talks about it being at the center of all sorts of evil!  The question of whether the jealousy you have is bad or good comes down your motivations behind the “red-in-the-face” response and what you do with it after.  If the jealousy you are involved with is legitimately centered on God’s values, it is more than allowable; it mirrors God’s own actions!  If the jealousy is not God focused, against someone, or used to someone’s detriment, it is wrong.  Any portion of envy associated with it is wrong as well.

How This Looks In Action

When you have “getting red in the face” emotion about something you are justly allowed, is that emotion to build that person up in love toward God or is it about tearing someone down?  Is that emotion centered on the passionate loving desire to protect a wonderful gift God has given or is it about making sure you get yours?

If someone has happiness in their life in general or gets a specific blessing that you want, you could be jealous of them.  Just as God has the right to bless you regardless of your spiritual condition, God has the right to bless anyone else as he sees fit.  In this case you are having an emotional response to something you are allowed by God and is good (God blessing you is a good thing), however, you are jealous “against” that person, wanting your blessing before them or whatever.  That is a negative jealousy.  In this case you are wishing someone to not have the same rights you have.  Love is not like that.

If someone is spending time with your significant other, you could feel jealousy (an initial passionate response) against that person.  Often those jealousies are accompanied by envy because the other person is beautiful/handsome or cool or have something that you don’t feel you have.  Jealousy in this case has not been controlled and made God centered.  Envy has twisted it.  As in all of these love passages, this is not about the initial reaction you have to an event.  It is about how you handle yourself after the initial reaction.

On the other hand, you could have a passionate red-faced emotional reaction that is not against another person but instead the desire to have what you deserve.   It’s pretty natural for you to be jealous of the time your mate/significant other spends somewhere else.  After all, you love that person!  That person has made a commitment to you!  You think they are pretty cool and love having them around.  That desire is good!  It shows you like them.  That is positive jealousy or zeal.  When that turns into you be terminally unhappy when they are not around for a moment or becomes based on your insecurity or is something you use as a prison for them – it has become a negative jealousy.  You are using it against that person.  Then it is no longer about how awesome you think the person is and the desire to have that awesomeness around – it is instead about you not feeling sad or you being greedy.

In marriage, a special commitment is made to love the other person (as Christ has a romance with the church and visa versa).  In dating, those commitments aren’t as strong, but usually there is some set rules for what is allowed to be given to other and what isn’t (like dating exclusively, etc …).  These dating commitments should always be in line with preparing you for the God definition of marriage.  If the person you are married to/dating is showing inordinate attention to someone, it is ok for your jealousy to be aroused in a good way.  It is entirely possible that fallen people are being tempted into traps.  It happens every day.  We must always remember we have an enemy who knows our weaknesses and knows how to bring us good things in the wrong way (sin is almost always based on good things that have been twisted).  In this case, you care about the sanctity of God’s own gift of marriage or of a promise given (in dating).  This is almost always initially positive!  You feel fierce love for this person.  You want them to feel it back for you.  It would be weird if you didn’t want their attention on you.  And there are certain things that they are only allowed to give you.  In this case, you aren’t jealous against someone, you are jealous for them to do the right thing.  If this happens you should talk with your mate/significant other.  You should also examine yourself to see if there is any envy or self worth issue that may drive you to take this to a negative light.  Prayer together is important here.

These emotions can easily be manipulated to appear as good when they are bad or visa versa.  This is why a community of believers connected to God is so important!  There is wisdom there from age and the Spirit to help you discern what is happening.  In the case of long term negative jealousy you will almost certainly need good people to talk to with your significant other to figure it out.  You can almost always know it is negative jealousy when a person refuses to bring it to a good group of people to help discern it.  That means they know the roots of it are selfish or don’t look good and they don’t want that exposed to criticism.  That negative jealousy can easily become a lover soothing you with lies telling you that you are just for being angry or envious or desiring bad things to happen to other people.

Love and peace to all!


p.s. (Here is a good, short, bible focused article on good and bad jealousy – )

(Also try )

Question: Does the guilt of not waiting to have sex until marriage ever go away?


* This blog is dedicated to answer real camper questions from Senior Week 2012 at Midwest Bible Camp*

Guilt is a nasty thing.  It sits on your shoulder and watches all you do judging every action, following up every good moment with a “yes, but remember when you did this … “.  Guilt can be a haunting thing for us and it can easily take over our life having us forever living a life of reaction to it!

Sexual guilt is often the worst.  Paul says in Corinthians that the person who sins sexually has terrible problems because all other sin is outward but the sexual sin affects the inward body.  I think what he means by that is that when we sin in other ways, a measure of repentance can come just by undoing what was done or by paying restitution.  However, the sexual sin is you harming yourself.  You have less ability to fix yourself when you are injured.  I think we’ve all seen many people who have destroyed themselves sexually that have moved past the ability to help themselves out of it.  They are trapped in a continually weakened state, unable to pull themselves away from it.

When I was in Australia, I took a friend interested in Jesus to a big Christian festival in town.  At one of the venues, several thousand people had assembled to watch strong men for Jesus.  Yes, I know, it sounds funny! These guys would do stuff like rip telephone books in half and then quote scripture after it.  It was all a pretty amazing time until the lead strong man stopped to talk to the crowd.  I thought he was going to share a testimony but he didn’t.  He actually stopped to share a version of a story that I had heard many times on the other side of the earth and had probably given myself a time or two.  He talked about sexual purity.

His message was similar to one I had heard that started with imagining each of us had a paper heart.  You imagine that each person you have sexual relations with gets a ripped off piece of the heart.  At the end, you imagine that you find your wife or husband and have to give them the mangled piece of paper.  That was what was left of your heart.  He finished wit this message: If you give yourself away sexually you give away a part of yourself permanently that can never be returned or fixed.

As I sat listening to this, I thought of this person next to me with great pain.  She had never known Christ.  She had had sex with people before, which was the cultural norm in Australia.  I realized that he was telling this girl that she could never be whole.  She would always be second class.  She would always be a part of a person.  I also realized that he was telling people who had been sexually molested as children or adults that they would also never be whole.  And as I sat there and thought about Jesus and his message and I thought about how I had propagated this story myself, it made me very sad to think about how I had answered the question posed at the beginning of this blog.  My answer had been: it doesn’t.  The guilt stays with you until you die.  A lot of Christianity’s answer to this question, in fact, has been the same.

We were wrong.

What the Scriptures Say

God knows the power of sexual guilt in your life.  Make no mistake.  God’s purpose in the here and now is not just trying to patch together the mangled pieces of you so that you can hobble through life until he comes.  Ephesians 4, among many places blows that idea away!  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self,created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

First, Paul says you CAN put off your old self.  Better yet, you have a new self!  And not just any new self.  It is one that has the righteousness and holiness of God.  The old is utterly gone in Christ.  Paul shouts out in 2nd Corinthians that if you are in Christ, you are a new creation!  The old is gone, the new is come!  In fact, Paul, the Christian killer who could easily be the most convinced that he was forever broken, goes on later to say that he doesn’t even think about the things behind, he only thinks about what’s ahead.  And Jesus says in John that he’s come so that we can have life and have it abundantly – not “I’ve come so that I can give as much life to you as possible in your broken frame and help you limp to heaven”  We don’t serve a God who can’t do full restoration.  What a limited scope we have of the utter newness God can bring to us!

What’s more, God isn’t just content to give us a new self.  He also wants us cleansed of guilt.  Hebrews 9 & 10 powerfully demonstrate this.  The writer of Hebrews tells us that God didn’t really like the sacrifice of animals.  The reason?  Because those sacrifices were annual reminders of sin!  God not only makes us a new creation through Jesus but part of the reason for Jesus is specifically for the removal of guilt.  Hebrews 9 tells us that the animal sacrifices cleansed things only outwardly.  The better sacrifice of Jesus “cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death”.  He then goes on to say that we get to enter God’s presence, not as grovelers, but “drawing near to God with a sincere heart and a full assurance that faith brings, to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

Can guilt go away?  Yes.  Scripture says yes.  God says yes.  In fact, he wants us guilt free.  He doesn’t like us feeling guilty.  So, how does that actually work?

Getting rid of guilt

There are two secrets about guilt that help it propagate.  The first secret is that people often mistake “conviction” or “Godly sorrow” with guilt.  What’s the difference?  The first, the kind that God’s want, is seeing that you are not acting like God, realizing you love God, and changing.  Conviction or godly sorrow is only meant to go on for a short time – until you call out to Jesus and start the changing process.  Guilt extends beyond the time you’ve started changing.  A lot of people think that God wants you to feel forever guilty and that it is a powerful motivator to do right.  Conviction and Godly sorrow are.  Guilt is not a powerful motivator in ways I’ll explain next!

The second secret is that guilt is based on understanding your relationship with God as law.  Guilt is about the broken rules.  It’s about not being perfect.  It’s about how much you can sacrifice.  And that makes guilt all about glorifying yourself.  You think – “I can atone for this myself.  I don’t need or want God to have to do this.  I’ll make up for it.” or “I’ll carry the burden of guilt around forever to show that I’m actually sorry.”  Galatians, Colossians, and Romans lay all of this out pretty well.  That’s why guilt isn’t a powerful motivator.  It teaches you to rely on yourself.  Or it teaches you that it is good to feel like things are permanently broken.  It tells you that their is a holiness to feeling guilt.  It robs the power of Christ’s sacrifice, taking down the rules he nailed to the cross (as said in Colossians) and trying to piece them back together again so that you can follow them right or holding the pieces in your hands forever mourning the loss.  You’ll never be able to live perfectly enough in response to your guilt to make it go away.  In fact, the end of that Hebrews 9 quote about Jesus being a more perfect sacrifice that could actually remove guilt ends with “so that we may serve the living God!”.  Notice how he says “living”.  Guilt has you serving things dead and long past – always focused on what’s behind – sapping your life away.

Now we are to the point where we can understand how it goes away.

My wife and I had two different paths in dating before we met.  She avoided nearly all sexual actions.  I, on the other hand, didn’t.  I did not have sexual intercourse before marriage, but I did have sexual sin.  That sin mired me in guilt.  When I realized Kara was the girl I was to marry, I became convicted of my sexual sin.  It gutted me.  I thought I had ruined everything.  I called Kara and confessed in tears what I had done with other women before her.  I thought she would break up with me.  Instead, she calmly responded, “Todd, no one is pure.  Not even me.  Even though I haven’t done the things you have done, I was still impure.  God is my only purity.”  This was the first time I really understood grace.

That love fixed me.  I don’t like that I did the things I did but, her words (using the words of God) took away my guilt and allowed me to have a relationship with her that wasn’t focused on me always feeling like a worse person (which will drive relationships apart for sure in a million different ways).  So, for me, it did go away!  I look back and think about the awfulness of the things I once did, but I don’t wallow in guilt, I rejoice in the saving power of Jesus.  In fact, most days I don’t even remember the specifics on the things I did – i’m too focused on what God has in front of me.

Guilt returns to me in a few ways and it can to you too.  First, it comes back when I enter into sexual sin again.  If you continue in sexual sin without getting help, you will feel continually guilty.  Things you did before will come to the forefront of your mind.  You can’t fix yourself.  You need God.  A community was necessary for me to extricate from sexual sin.  Second, if my faith is weak, if I’m thinking mostly about myself, thoughts like this come back to me.  You protect yourself from guilt by staying in God’s presence (as in Hebrews) and always moving forward in Him.  Third, prolonged sexual activity changes your brain chemistry (we are hardwired by sex to be attracted to our marriage partners) and tries to connect the sex act (which releases yummy dopamines into our brains) with all kinds of things so it can feel the good feelings again.  These connections tend to last until they are dealt with.  Sometimes you will find out of nowhere that a certain smell or image brings back a sexual connection you thought long gone.  This leads to it being often said that you remember every sex act forever because of this.  Yes – kind of.  But the deal is mostly that it comes to the forefront of you brain because of all the connections you made to it with things.  You can “rewire” your brain if you are putting your sexual thoughts and activity into your marriage partner.  Eventually the sexual connections from before will weaken (because they are not as good as getting the dopamine the brain wants) being replaced by strong ones to your spouse.  That is why it is important to think about the correct things during marital sex or be in the moment.  If you are unmarried and with sexual guilt, you need strong faith, strong purpose, a strong prayer life, and strong camaraderie to remove the power of the sexual connections.


In light of what has already been said: guilt is more than a feeling that just pops up.  Guilt is an attack by the enemy.  He uses this weapon masterfully.  He forges a bullet painted with our deeds past and fires it at us to destroy us.  He then paints God as the perpetrator and author of guilt.

God, however, has defeated the enemy’s weapon in Christ!  The old is gone, the new has come!

Peace to all,


“For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more” Hebrews 8:12

Question: How can I respect a parent who is not worthy of respect?

Let look at some scripture, what makes this hard to do, and then go to the practicality of how this works.  Please comment further questions or make points below that I haven’t made.  We’d love to hear from people in this situation how they manage!

What Scripture Teaches

The 1st key word used most of the time in scripture is “Honor”.  It is commanded multiple times in pivotal spiritual situations.  Honoring your father and mother is the fifth commandment.  This commandment is mentioned by Jesus (Matthew 15, 19; Mark 10) and Paul talks about it several times (like in Romans 1 and Ephs. 6) as something we are still to do.  Honoring and obeying are tied together.

So, we know we are supposed to do this.  But there’s a rub, isn’t there?  What if your parents suck?  And I mean, not just in a “There not my kind of cool” sort of way.  What if they care nothing for God, are stubbornly wrong, care nothing for you, are absent, or are abusive?  This is made even more difficult when you realize that their is not statute of limitations on this command as spoke of by Paul or Jesus.  Honoring isn’t something we are just commanded to do until adulthood – we are to do it as long as our parents live.

How This Works Practically

This honoring stuff seems very difficult because it seems God is forcing us to be forever connected with people that we didn’t choose to be connected with in the first place.  It seems unfair and actually seems contrary to what he wants us to do here on earth.  What if your parent doesn’t want you to go to church?  Should you obey your parent if they are abusing you?  Why would God ask you to be in that situation?

The difficulty, though, can be overcome if you look a little deeper into what is actually being taught.  Let me throw out a few things at you that may help.

1) First, the Hebrew word used for “Honor” is “Kabad”.  Kabad has its root meaning in “weight” or “heaviness”.  So, the idea God is laying out here in the command “Honor your father and mother in the Lord” is that you should feel a weight or heaviness to do what your parents want or ask you to do.  You should not have the idea that “Hey, I’m an independent person.  I don’t care what wisdom others try to bring into my life.”  Your parents, for the most part, try to share wisdom with you to keep you from pain.  They are forever ahead of you in life like a pilot of a different airplane reporting back weather conditions of patches of life sky you are going to fly through yourself some day.  Accepting humility is huge for life going well for you, so if you consider your parents requests with a special weight placed on them (like advice from a particularly cherished friend or knowledgeable scholar), you are putting yourself in a place to learn.

As a teen, you are attempting to become an adult, so you will eventually want to test what your parents have to say to see if it’s true.  That is natural.  Parents should understand this.  However, the way you test it can be full of humility and Christ-likeness or pride and selfcenteredness.

2)  Ephesians 6 gives us insight into where we are supposed to obey our parents.  Paul says “Obey your parents in the Lord“.  God is not asking you for blind obedience.  If your parents are asking you to do something outside of God’s will, declining is not just permissible, it is demanded.  Jesus makes this clear himself in Matthew 10 when he says that people who love their parents over God are not worthy of him and this his message is a sword that will often divide people from their parents.  Jesus demonstrates this in action when his mother comes to take control of him because she thinks he is out of his mind in Luke 8.  Jesus says something that is pretty harsh to the mother who dealt with a pregnancy out of wedlock for his sake.  He says the whoever obeys God’s will is his mother and brothers.  In this, Jesus denied his mothers command to come home with her.  Of course, you must keep in mind that Jesus was culturally considered a man and in his thirties when he did this.

You can easily abuse these conditions, right?  You see the danger hopefully in your selfishness leading you to try to coat it with some Godly frosting so you can get your way?   You must be very careful to seek to feel the “weight” of honoring your parents before you attempt doing this.  First, what they may be asking you to do is spiritual, even if it’s not what you want to do spiritually at the time or what you don’t think is beneficial for you to do.  In this case, you plead your case to your parents, with proof from Scripture and prayer and defer to your parents (especially until the cultural age of 18 where adulthood is conferred in the country) unless you are dead sure God is leading you by the Holy Spirit to do something against their wishes.  If you are thinking that you are dead sure, you should pray, get counsel, read Scripture, and create space for God to speak to you.  Get counsel from the church or respected Christians to speak to your parents.  If that doesn’t work, you may have to proceed.

We are not talking about things like “I want to go to this concert because I think it’s spiritually beneficial for me and for my friends to get the benefit of my faith but my parents don’t want me to go.”  We are not talking about individuality.  There is plenty of time to do these things after you culturally become an adult at 18.  We are talking about lifestyle things that are bigger such as becoming a Christian or be attached to a church or some kind of ministry God is calling you toward.  If you want to do those individual things, ask your parents what acts and attributes you need to show them consistently to get them to allow you to do these things you feel led to do.  If they are not open to conversation (as often happens) pray that they are.  In fact, for non-Christian parents who are not abusive who will not listen this is your invitation by God to pray for them powerfully.  And, one of the verses on love in 1 Cor. 13 is inconveniently that love doesn’t demand that it get it’s way (13:5).

Last point.  If your parents are abusive, tell someone and seek help.  Tell a respected Christian man or woman.

3) There is a promise attached to this command.  The promise is that “it will go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth”, as spoken by Paul.  This is a bit conceptual because the original promise for obedience to this command dealt with the Jews in the Old Covenant.  However, Paul implies there are things to be gained now from it.  Certainly, as well, both Paul and Jesus mention this command attached with us materially taking care of our parents as we have been blessed.  Consider that practical aspect.

It going well on earth is a particular favorite of God.  His purpose on earth is to bring everything into oneness with His son.  Every time someone goes away from that oneness it sets into motion a pain that is transferred from one person to another until it is met with love.  Your parents demeanor may be appropriate.  It may not be.  In the case it isn’t, they are passing on or creating a pain that will either be perpetuated by you in pulling away from them or halted by you by meeting it with love.

You have been specifically placed where you are in time around specific people (Acts 17).  Your parents are designed to minister to you, but you, who have the ageless Holy Spirit of God filled with all wisdom (if you are Christian) have also been placed to bring God to them in return.  It is certainly a goal of God’s for him to use you to teach his glory to your parents and visa versa.  The oneness you live up to, despite differences, will produce overflows of love in your life.  This requires patience and determination to accept the “weight” of your responsibility to love them.

Love to all,


Hello world!

This blog is dedicated to the questions that were submitted to be answered in the “Love is a Battlefield” relationships in Senior Week 2012 at Midwest Bible Camp.  The goal of this blog is to leave answers up and ready to be read and re-read in order to accomplish spiritual maturity in our lives.  It is also a place where a forum of MWBC people can continually pass on advice to campers new and old.  As campers become adults, they will also be able to share wisdom they have, have learned, and continue to ask deeper questions – all to benefit future campers and glorify God!