Category Archives: Making choices

How Do You Feel About All the Infringements on Your Privacy?

I love the internet bringing the world to my doorstep, but I really don’t like it invading my bedroom, do you? Am I the only person who notices my computer coming on in the middle of the night or who finds it unsettling to have Siri interrupt my conversations? Do you, like me, get frustrated with all the breaches in security and privacy on the net? My Facebook account was hacked recently …or at least someone was able to set up a fake account using my photos and information to solicit for other connections (to hack as well). I’m beginning to feel a little like the King of Syria from the story in 2 Kings 6, where he thought some enemy was spying on him and reporting everything he whispered in his bedroom to the King of Israel.

In my case, if it’s just the American government spying on all of us, then I don’t actually feel like it’s an “enemy,” but whatever happened to the sanctity of home? I’ve been slowly trying to make the emotional adjustment to the realization that everything I ever say or write is recorded, and I try to imagine that I’m relatively safe since I’m trying my best to live a moral, law-abiding life. But, what if America’s government begins persecuting Christians? In at least 68 countries around the world, the governments restrict, persecute, or at least don’t protect the religious freedom of Christians. If America changes radically enough, then I will be in big trouble, because my faith in Christ and love for God are woven into the woof and warp of everything I say and write. The day may come when I will become a lawbreaker because I worship God!

While pondering this issue the other day and feeling a little distressed, I began meditating on Luke 12 (which I’ve written out below) and found myself greatly encouraged and comforted, so I wanted to share what I read with you. If you feel alarmed because everything you write and every call you make is being recorded somewhere here on earth, take heart! It’s always been recorded in heaven anyway, along with every thought!

Our job is to be pure and faithful followers of Christ. If the world sees what’s going on, so much the better! If we are persecuted for our faith, that shouldn’t surprise us. If lifting up the name of Jesus and testifying to the goodness of God gets us killed, then that’s a price worth paying, because some silent observer may be drawn to God through what we share. Be faithful! “Thou, God, seest me.”

He began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.

“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12:1-12).

Abiding in the Vine Isn’t Always Easy

We have a lovely fireplace entwined by philodendron vines in the corner of our bedroom. This is both a luxury and a safety measure, since our propane heater has an electric starter, so whenever we lose our electricity, we also lose our heat (which happens occasionally during blizzards, ice storms, and electrical storms). Philodendrons are among the world’s most hardy plants, and so I was saddened to see that one of the vines was beginning to wilt badly. I realized (too late) that, although the vines had survived our blazing fireplace, one of the vines couldn’t take the heat emanating from our water baseboard heater. Too much direct heat from a secondary source was killing it.

I identify with that hardy but fragile vine! God calls us to abide in Him, but sometimes it’s almost impossible to abide the heat from a secondary source. I also hope my life isn’t blasting heat in a way that damages other tender vines!

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.  I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned…If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:4-6,10).

Rise Up, My Love (272): How to Help Someone Who Strays

Song of Solomon 8:6 “Jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire…” For any of you reading this, I expose my own sins and errors—not so that you will condemn me (God chastened me severely!)—but so that you might avoid my mistakes. The right response to having my conscience violated would have been to totally sever my connections with this young man, because he was not living in submission to God.

Although your heart (like mine) may desire to see all men come to repentance and be restored to fellowship in the spirit of Galatians 6:1, if you find that a friend is starting to violate your boundaries, drop the friendship immediately! Let God be God in their life. You cannot “rescue” such a person, and you will fail if you try. Dropping a friendship is the strongest statement you can make, and it is also the most helpful thing you can do—believe it or not! It is especially helpful if you are able to do it in love, clearly articulating your grief and reasoning, because that conveys to the friend, “I care about you, but if you want our relationship to be restored, you must restore your relationship with God first, and you must learn to respect my boundaries and needs.”

This does not include married “friends.” Once you’re married, you have become half of a unit and giving up on your relationship will damage rather than help your spouse (and yourself, as painful as remaining in an unhappy marriage is). “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:9).

However, do not let someone drown you. Jesus is the lifeguard, and he is on duty! If someone you love dearly is entangled in a web of sin, cry out to God for help in unceasing, intercessory prayer, but do not compromise yourself in an effort to untangle that person. As Bob Jones (president of my alma mater) used to say to us in chapel, “It’s never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.” But, what can you do? Look again at Galatians 6:1. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

Notice that this is a group—not an individual—effort. What is the appropriate way to deal with a friend who is falling away from Christ and has offended you? Read Matthew 18:15-17. #1. Confront him personally, as friend to friend. If that doesn’t work, #2. Go with several friends and confront him. If that doesn’t work, #3. Treat him like an unbeliever. Ephesians 5:11 warns, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Even Paul gave up on professing Christians who were living in disobedience (see I Timothy 1:20).

Don’t be afraid to “let go and let God” take over. He is able. Have you entrusted yourself to him? You can entrust others to him also, even if they are rejecting him! It’s funny how we learn things for ourselves and then struggle in understanding how to apply the same principles in our relationship with those we love! I have seen a number of parents live godly, separated lives themselves but struggle when it threatens to separate them from their children. Is God less able to care for their children than he is able to care for them? Many do not have the faith to actually break fellowship with a rebellious adult son or daughter, choosing a compromising friendship over standing with God against open sin.

This is not love and actually aids Satan in his destructive plans. We need to understand that there are few things in this world as the powerful as the separation from, and the disapproval of, those we love. Frankly, I have never known of such an unhappy, compromising alliance to have a happy ending, although God is very merciful, so it has doubtless happened. God’s call is for us to take an unswerving stand with him against those who rebel against him.

It takes tremendous faith and courage, but God will honor those who honor him, and I can tell you one true story where the parents stood with God and it turned out right. I have dear friends who had three wonderful sons. The middle son, during his late teens, fell in love with a somewhat older woman and decided to marry her even though she was an unbeliever and divorced. For the sake of the story, I will call him Will. The parents and two brothers reasoned with Will through the Scriptures and prayed with many tears, but all their pleading fell on deaf ears, and he was more determined than ever to go through with his plans.

When the family saw that Will simply could not be persuaded, they sat down as a family and told him that although they would always love him, they could not fellowship with him as long as he was intent on pursuing a marriage with this unbelieving divorcee because they felt he was resisting God’s will according to the standard of “be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14), and “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32), leaving them no option but to “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

The next months seemed like years to that dear family, especially the mom. They loved Will deeply and anguished…perhaps more than he did…over the separation. I don’t know what happened, or why, but I do know that eventually Will gave up his girlfriend, and now—twenty-five years later—he’s married to a sweet Christian woman who is a joy to the whole family. I’m certain that Will is happy today because God worked in response to the faithful love and fervent prayers of his family, but I also think that somewhere along the way Will realized that his God and his family meant more to him than his girlfriend, and he decided that separation from them was more painful than losing his girlfriend’s affection. Our closest companions will always have the greatest influence. Be sure to always be there for your family…but always stand with God for good!

But What if You’re Unhappily Married?

This past week, I’ve been thinking about the fact that life, marriage and dealing with our sexuality is a perennial challenge for all of us, whether we’re straight or gay, and I remembered this little devotional from Timothy Campbell’s pull-no-punches book, Everywhere You Go There’s a Zacchaeus Up a Tree. To  me, it hits the nail on the head! I hope it encourages you too:

“Shocking News for Unhappily Marrieds”

“I’ve been unable to find anything in traditional wedding vows or in the Bible that allows for the breakup of a marriage because either party is unhappy… Selfishness has no place in a marriage. Self-denial does…

“The Bible takes a high view of marriage, comparing it to the mystical union between Christ and all believers. Husbands and wives can experience the love bond our Lord has with every person of faith, a love that is enduring, forgiving, sacrificial, giving, and expressed often. This kind of love is ever seeking the happiness of others in the family, not its own happiness.

“In worshiping God with our families and laboring to provide for them, we reach the end of our search. What we’ve been looking for isn’t in breaking from family responsibilities to pursue some romantic dream with another person, but in selflessly carrying out our obligations to those we’ve pledged to love.

“In the path of duty, we stumble onto happiness.” Roger Campbell

“Envision a quick make-up after every shake up.” Roger Campbell

Love “beareth all things, believeth all things,
hopeth all things, endureth all things
” (
I Corinthians 13:7).

For more information on this really wise and witty book, check out my review:


Longing for Intimacy: Four Promises for Same-Sex-Attracted Christians

The following article is so good that I obtained the author’s permission to reprint it here. (Thank you, Christopher!) More than 2 dozen of my blog followers self identify as homosexuals or experience same sex attraction (SSA), and I have dearly loved friends both my age and in the younger generation who struggle with SSA too. I hope this transparent, uplifting article will be a comfort to you in your own journey and/or if you have loved ones who are grappling with gender issues. Although I’m duplicating the entire article below, there is a link to the original at the end if you’d like to connect with Chris or learn more about his ministry.

Article by Christopher Asmus, Pastor, St. Paul, Minnesota

I am a husband, a father, and a pastor. And for as long as I can remember, I have experienced same-sex attractions (SSA). Although I have always been physically and romantically attracted to women, I also have never been without deep emotional and sexual attractions to men.

Many in our culture would like to label people like me “bisexual,” but I believe Jesus has spoken a better word.

“I Feel, Therefore . . . ”

The overarching sexual ethic of our day is “I feel, therefore I am.” We see this clearly in the ongoing conversations around “gender identity.” Proponents of nonbinary “gender categories” suggest that if someone feels contrary to their biological sex, they belong in the category that correlates best with their feelings. In the same way, many in our culture would have people like me think that if you feel homosexual desires, then you are homosexual.

We commonly hear statements like, “You can’t choose whom you love; just be true to yourself.” Or, “Stop hiding your feelings and embrace who you really are.” Such statements mean your sexual desires actually define you. Your desires determine your definition. Your sexual attractions are who you really are at the core of your being.

The Bible, however, does not teach, “I feel, therefore I am,” but rather, “I feel, therefore I need.” As a result of the fall, our hearts are out of order and dark (Romans 1:21). Instead of loving light and hating darkness, we love darkness and hate light (John 3:19). And as we fall more in love with darkness, we sin and choose the way of death (James 1:14–15; Proverbs 14:12).

In short, being human in a fallen world means being attracted to things that are contrary to human flourishing in God, things that oppose God’s good plan for us and lead to death. I feel these attractions to sin, and therefore I need a Savior.

As I have daily battled against same-sex attraction, four particular promises have been bullets of grace in my fight for joy.

Freedom from the Punishment of SSA

Christians struggling with SSA often feel especially ashamed and embarrassed by these attractions. We sense the perversion of our contorted wants and desires, and as a result, we often feel too dirty to be in community with others, or to be in communion with God.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Christian, God will never use your SSA against you. Because Christ drank the full cup of God’s wrath on your behalf (Romans 5:8–9; 1 Peter 3:18), you will never experience even a moment of judgment from God over your homosexual desires, or over anything else.

Freedom from the Power of SSA

Often Christians experiencing SSA feel hopeless and helpless to its power. As attractions intensify, temptations deepen, and fantasies — like a mirage of cold water in a desert — look more and more appealing, the desire for a same-sex relationship can be so potent that it seems nearly impossible to overcome.

Christian, because of the accomplished work of Christ on the cross, your same-sex attractions do not have any dominion over you (Romans 6:14); Christ has dominion over you (Romans 6:22; Ephesians 6:6). Because you were crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), you are no longer enslaved by your attractions, but fully free to reject them and render them powerless in your life (Romans 6:6–7).

Even in your moments of greatest temptation, consider yourself dead to SSA and alive to God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:11).

Freedom from the Pleasure of SSA

The most foundational lie SSA tells us is that a homosexual experience will be more pleasurable and more satisfying than what you are experiencing here and now. But God promises that Christ himself is infinitely more pleasurable and satisfying than anything this world has to offer (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 107:9), especially the sad counterfeit savior of a same-sex experience.

Christian, don’t believe the lies SSA tells. Our homosexual attractions may stem from good desires for intimacy and love, but sin has contorted them in a deadly direction. As a carnival mirror reshapes reality and convinces the eye that things appear different than they really are, so sin reshapes our wants and desires, and convinces the heart that lies are actually true. Don’t believe the funny mirror of SSA.

Your God-given longings for deep, intimate satisfaction can be fulfilled only in the person of Jesus Christ (John 6:35; Psalm 22:26).

Freedom from the Presence of SSA

Maybe the hardest thing for Christians experiencing SSA is the fact that the feelings don’t go away overnight, or over months, or, for many, even over a lifetime. While God has given us powerful weapons to fight sin with — such as prayer and fasting — we still must live in our fallen bodies with our wicked wants and desires as our ever-present reality. But these wants and desires have an expiration date.

Believer, your body, including its attractions and longings for sin, will one day be finally and fully redeemed (Romans 8:23). When that redemption happens, in a flash, you will never have a misplaced attraction again, because all your desires for intimacy and love will be completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

If you’re a Christian struggling with same-sex attractions, know that you are not defined by your sin. Your identity is not determined by your temptations. “Embrace who you really are” by embracing Jesus Christ and your new life found in him (2 Corinthians 5:17). “Be true to yourself” by clinging to Truth himself (John 14:6) and enjoying the freedoms Christ purchased for you with his blood.

Would You Like to be Able to Avoid the Greener Grass Syndrome?

I don’t believe any marriage between two human beings can be made “affair-proof” any more than any product is 100% waterproof or unbreakable. Do you?

For instance, I have a nephew who heard that his mother’s diamond ring was “unbreakable,” and so he was surprised (and distraught) when he hit it with a hammer and broke it. Humans are frail, fragile creatures capable of great love…and great failure. Only God is perfect and unfailing in his faithfulness. Still, I think this book is an excellent resource for couples, not only those who have failed to keep their marriage vows, but also for those whose love is (at present) strong and steady.

The author, Nancy Anderson, had an affair early in their marriage, although she and her husband walked the painful path through confession, forgiveness, restoration…and have now been married forty years. That makes her more and less qualified to give advice, but before you stop reading based on her character being suspect, let me share what her father had to say when he heard that she was planning to file for a divorce: “No, you’re not!…Happiness has nothing to do with it…You’re acting like a selfish child, and we won’t support you in this separation. The only way we’d ever support you is if you’d exhausted all possible ways to save your marriage.”

Hard words from a girl’s father, but isn’t that exactly what we should all say in such a situation? I thought the book was worthwhile just for the example of how God will intervene when godly parents stand on biblical principles rather than caving in to their kids’ wishes.

The book explains the difference between saying you’re sorry and asking for forgiveness, the importance of earning trust, and the power of “planting hedges” of protection around your marriage that are rooted in Christ. I’m going to share the six “hedges,” but only to inspire you to read the book, not so you think you know everything and therefore don’t need to study further!

Anderson uses the mnemonic device, HEDGES:
*Hearing: listening and speaking with patience and understanding
*Encouraging: helping each other
*Dating: keeping it fresh and fun
*Guarding: agreeing on your boundaries—and enforcing them
*Educating: becoming an expert on your mate
*Satisfying: meeting each other’s needs

Nancy shares a plethora of ideas about how to build safety and health into your marriage…ideas I liked so well that I’ve been implementing some of the ones that were new to me! Also, she includes excellent teaching on “Affair Repair” and how to recover when there’s been a major breach in the relationship.

Whether you’re trying to figure out what went wrong or would like to build a stronger, sweeter, more satisfying marriage, I highly recommend this book. What a great way to start out the new year!

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
(Romans 12:9)

You Must Strengthen Your Core!

Here is a meditation and some beautiful photos that my friend Charylene Powers shared with me, with a spiritual analogy that the Lord gave her during her morning prayer time recently. As the end of 2017 approaches and we consider where we’ve been and where we’d like to go next year, perhaps this will encourage us.

From the side of the therapy pool my Back Splash instructor looks down at me with compassion and understanding in her eyes and says, “You MUST strengthen your core.”  It is a bone chilling January morning. As I back out of my driveway, the snow crunches under the weight of my car tires. I’m leaving for the MVP therapy pool in the darkness of early morning. My back pain has pretty much put a halt to life as I have known it. Immersing myself in the warmth of the therapy pool every morning is about all I can do.  One morning a week, I am attending a Back Splash class offered at MVP. There are usually ten ladies in attendance; all of us with muscle and joint problems. Our instructor directs us to the deep end of the pool, which prevents us from touching the bottom of the pool.  She continues to instruct us saying, “place the swim noodle under your arms and hang straight down, straight as a pencil, back straight, legs together. Look straight ahead; your head is the eraser.” These instructions sound easy enough. However, as I try to follow her directions, my legs float off to the right. I struggle in the water trying to control my body, and I attempt the pencil formation once again. This time my legs float off to the left….and this is when I hear, “You MUST strengthen your core!”   After weeks of daily trips to MVP and attending my Back Splash class, faithfully practicing all the exercises that I am being taught, I am finally able to hold a perfect pencil formation as my instructor counts off the seconds.  Spring is approaching, I am back on my bike….riding down the bike path, enjoying a strengthened core and the freedom that brings.   I have another core: My spiritual core. How do I strengthen my spiritual core? The same way that I strengthen my physical core. Daily, I must practice the spiritual disciplines that keep me on the path that God has asked me to walk. “Not turning aside to the right or to the left.”  In Celebration of Discipline, R.J. Foster tells us “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”  ……hence as I practice spiritual disciplines, it is God who strengthens my spiritual core.   As I read and mediate on God’s Word, the Psalmist tells me, “His Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path.” The path God has chosen for me. “The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This is my powerful promise from God.  Prayer is how I communicate with God. I hear His “gentle whisper” and feel His “Divine nudging.” In Luke one of the disciples asks, “Lord teach us to pray.” The Lord will teach me to pray as He taught His disciples. When I do not know what to pray the Holy Spirit directs my thoughts. The more I pray the more, I long to pray and “praying without ceasing” becomes a reality in my life not just a desire.   Fasting has been a part of the Christian tradition for centuries. It is a discipline that Christ talks about in Matthew… “when you fast.” Why am I not pursuing this discipline like I do the other disciplines? Probably because I think it sounds like too much work and sacrifice. Maybe this is the discipline that would bring me closer to God ….. The key to my success in strengthening my physical core has been my daily trips to our health club and practicing all the exercises my caring instructor has given me….hence leading to the healing of my body and the freedom that brings.

The key to my success in strengthening my spiritual core is the same: Daily coming to my heavenly instructor and embracing the spiritual disciplines that He is teaching me….hence leading to the healing of my soul and the freedom that brings.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice
behind you saying ‘this is the way; walk in it’.”
(Isaiah 30:21).