17 Aug 2023
Yes, that’s the question I invite you to ponder, sisters and brothers. I’m not asking if you believe in God or if you pray and go to church together. My question aims at your heart: is Christ central in your marriage, or is he a friendly neighbor? Do you push Jesus aside, expecting your spouse to meet all your needs, give you an identity, complete you?
Well, friend, if you do, you’re not alone. In my sixteen years of journeying with wives who’ve faced their husbands’ sexual infidelity, I consistently heard three humbling realizations come out of their hearts:
- I knew I depended on my husband too much, but I had no idea how I made him (and our marriage) an idol.
- I’ve been a Christian for so long, yet the pain of this situation has revealed that my relationship with Jesus isn’t as deep as I thought.
- Facing my husband’s sin is devastating, yet God is using this trial to draw me into a closeness with Jesus and a depth of faith that I didn’t know was possible.
When Jesus isn’t in his rightful place, marriages (and all relationships!) will struggle. No person can fill his shoes as our eternal bridegroom, friend, heart-healer, and so much more; Christ alone is our loving Creator, Lord, and Savior.
Three Views of Marriage
I’ve heard three prominent views of marriage over the years from Christians. For all of them, Christ and two believing spouses are in the mix; the difference lies in the place each one occupies. Look at the chart below and see if one seems to describe your marriage or serious dating relationship.
No spouse would choose the pain of sexual betrayal; it was never God’s intent for you. However, from the ashes of devastated trust, I’ve watched wives receive the Lord’s healing and transforming discipleship through this pain. Christ invites and shepherds wives (and husbands, too) to allow their disappointment in marriage to lead them to re-place Jesus as their priority relational focus, putting him back where he should be, in the very center.
The Three Legged-Stool Marriage welcomes Jesus as the third leg holding up the marriage. The problem is that he’s understood to be one of three equal partners: wife, husband, and Jesus. But the Bible says Jesus is to have supremacy—the first place (Col. 1:18)—in all things, including your marriage.
Over time, a new kind of spiritual and relational intimacy grows as two spouses prioritize loving and trusting Jesus as their source of life, security, meaning, and unfailing love.
The Spouse-Centered Marriage displaces Jesus as central in the relationship and demands that your spouse provide what can only be found in Jesus: unfailing love, identity, and value. Marriage is a gift, but it was never intended to displace the Giver of that gift. When God says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3–5), he means it!
As common as these two views are among believers, God has something better for you: a Christ-Centered Marriage. Over time, a new kind of spiritual and relational intimacy grows as two spouses prioritize loving and trusting Jesus as their source of life, security, meaning, and unfailing love.
Repenting of Spouse Idolatry by Re-Placing Jesus
“Re-placing Jesus” refers to at least two steps of obedience. First, a humble acknowledgement that, somewhere along the way, other people or things have displaced Jesus as Lord over your heart and marriage. The Scriptures clearly point to the beauty of marriage and the gift of shared, committed love over a lifetime. Though sin pollutes and erodes marital intimacy, friendship, and mutual enjoyment, God gave marriage as a gift for his people and ultimately as a signpost to his eternal, selfless, steadfast love for us (see Isa. 54:5, 62:5; Eph. 5:31-32; Rev. 19:7, 21:9–11).
A Christ-centered marriage will exhibit two spouses as needy saints who continue to sin yet look to the gospel for help.
Second, God calls you to proactively, consistently cultivate your relationship with Jesus and receive discipleship about how he created marriage to work. After all, all things were created by, through, and for him (Col. 1:16), including your marriage. Reach out to mature Christians and ask for prayer and encouragement. Look for singles and married people who honor Christ in their lives and couples who don’t present as having it all together. A Christ-centered marriage will exhibit two spouses as needy saints who continue to sin yet look to the gospel for help. Ask how they weather the hard times, how they’ve kept Christ as their priority, and what they do to grow as lovers of Jesus together as a couple.
Your view of marriage may not be what God wants it to be right now, yet Jesus never runs away—not even when we displace him with gifts. Friend, are you married? Look to Christ! Are you dating someone special? Look to Christ! Cry out to him as your only worthy Lord and the only source of unfailing, unwavering love.
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1:8–9)
Directions have existed since creation. Why? Because contrary to what modern culture attempts to assert, everything has a unique design and purpose and can only truly function if it does what it’s designed to do. When God created sea creatures, he established directions: fill the sea and reproduce. Fish must function in this design, or they would fail to exist. If all the fish relocated to trees or stopped laying eggs, guess what? There would be no fish! God’s design, purpose, and direction for sexuality, too, has existed since creation. Sex matters to God, so it understandably matters to parents who fear the Lord. But what do you do with God’s directions for sex when, on your daughter’s 18th birthday, she leaves home to live with her boyfriend? Or when your married son, the father of three of your grandchildren, feels compelled that his only hope for happiness is to begin hormone treatment to transition and become a female?
Life Comes with Directions
Just as fish need directions, so too do children, parents, and all people to live godly lives (2 Tim. 3:16). Parents, even if your adult child is rejecting biblical direction, that direction is still good and necessary. Compromising your conviction to biblical truth is not the answer; the goal must be to learn to steward biblical teaching as if it is a champion’s graceful garland and pendant. A trophy’s value is rooted in the fact that it must be earned. To receive the trophy, an athlete must meet an unwavering standard; otherwise, the prize would mean nothing. Let the same be said of your teaching. Don’t compromise the truth. Don’t waver for the sake of presenting teaching your child will accept; to do so is to strip its value. Instead, pray that God would bring victory in your child’s heart, that he or she would come and receive your direction as only a Spirit-changed and empowered champion can: one who is willing to run to achieve the goal and, in doing so, reap the reward.
There’s Still Hope When Your Child Ignores Direction
We all know the stereotypical story where the dad on the road trip refuses to use the map or ask for directions. Normally, those stories end with him getting so lost he finally caves in and pulls out the map or asks a local for help. Now apply this story to your wayward child. The profoundly hopeful lesson parents need to cling to is that getting lost can be a great way to realize you need directions! It could be that your child’s very lost-ness is what the Lord will use to show him how much he needs help.
I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. (2 Corinthians 7:9)
Praise God for this verse! Parents, I cannot imagine what it’s like to watch the child you conceived and raised dig their own grave of sin. But I can, with confidence, urge you to look to the light even from that dark place. Joy and sorrow can co-exist. You can endure by clinging to the fact that as deep, ongoing, or lasting as sin may be, the hope of repentance is still possible. The darker the night, the more clearly light shines.
Don’t Become the Missing Directions
My mom is the definition of frugal, and I say that with the greatest admiration. Her ability to use Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist to make every Christmas better than the last is astounding to me. However, one occasional problem with a pre-owned gift is the missing directions. We can figure out how to use most every directionless gift, but there’s always that one we can’t figure out that forces us to resort to YouTube tutorials.
The profoundly hopeful lesson parents need to cling to is that getting lost can be a great way to realize you need directions.
The reality is that everyone, at one point or another, is looking for directions to life. Like my family at Christmas, everyone who cannot find direction from one source goes to another. Sometimes we look to ourselves, and at other times we look to peers, politics, bosses, or our favorite social influencers. Parents, if you allow bitterness, resentment, or anger to drive you to remove yourselves from your sexually struggling child’s life, your child will still spend the rest of her life searching for direction—she just won’t come to you for it.
But what if you’re already the one your child won’t come to? There are many things that could be said, but find hope in Paul’s vision of discipleship:
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Cor. 3:6–9)
Remember that God is, ultimately, the one who pursues your child, and you are not his only means of that pursuit. Trust in the glorious truth that God saves a people—a body—a church. God’s pursuit of your child is not bound to a specific bubble of influence. God is using the full interwoven tapestry of his chosen people, spread throughout the world, as a part of his outreach to the lost, including your lost child.
Is It Easy to Get Direction from You?
Maybe you know a guy like my dad—he likes to be the one to get the mail out of the mailbox. I guess he finds joy in the habit of it. As a family, we try to respect that, but the problem with this habit is where the mail ends up. The family calls it “dad’s basket.” It should just be called a mess. For any chance of easily receiving a letter without having to wrestle through “dad’s basket,” you must greet him at the door to look through the mail before it lands in the dreaded basket.
God is using the full interwoven tapestry of his chosen people, spread throughout the world, as a part of his outreach to the lost, including your lost child.
Parents, where does your child have to go to find direction from you? Will they have to wrestle through a mess, or will they know that all they need to do is greet you at the door to receive what they need with love and joy?
[B]ut in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
As parents who love the Lord, your adult children are blessed to have your influence in their lives. Continue loving them. Pray for patience to entrust them to the Lord in their wandering, even as you prepare to offer godly direction with gentleness and respect. Remember where your hope rests—in this uncertainty, there is certainty that your Savior, who shared in your suffering, promises to sustain you into shared glory forever with him. Therefore, there is always a place for hope in your struggling heart.
03 Aug 2023
Beloved, I wonder if you can relate. I remember praying, “Father, my transgressions are ever before me. I do the very thing I hate. Why do you call me ‘son’ despite this wretched body?” I felt hopeless, cursed, and unloved. I heard the gospel’s truth, but, as sexual sins poisoned me, my sinful heart persisted in lying about my identity.
Remember Truth: Our Identity in Christ
For me and for you, believer, the foremost remedy is remembering who we are in Christ. Please turn with me to Romans 8:12–17. I pray you may see the truth today.
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The Apostle Paul begins verse 12 by drawing a conclusion (“so then”) from verses 9–11, which talk about union with Christ. In union with Christ, life is enabled by the Spirit even though our mortal bodies are bound to die in sin. This is why Paul says believers are “debtors” in verse 12—without Christ, death is the only thing at work in us. But with Christ, we are given the gift of eternal life because he paid the ultimate price on our behalf. Thus, in a deep sense, we have a tremendous debt before the Lord in light of our deserved death, the due penalty of the law of sin.
We are set free from sin and able to persevere in this broken world because the Lord is with us. Through him, we can look at our brokenness and have hope.
Remembering the truth of who we are in Christ—because of his perfect life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection—changes how we live every day and leads us in perseverance against sin.
Remember Faith: Our Adoption in Christ
Death means complete separation from God (v. 13). The only way to avoid death is to abandon the flesh. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” But how can any of us accomplish this? Truly, we cannot! That is why Paul grounds our actions in this foundation: “by the Spirit.” In faith, we need to remember two things from this verse.
- First, believers can’t be only passive about their faith in Jesus. A movement needs to take place. Because of the cross, believers are enabled—or, perhaps, conditioned—to mortify sin. If you belong to Jesus, there will always be something in your heart telling you to fight against fleshly evil. You are simply no longer driven by sin but life in Christ. Coming to faith in Jesus is necessarily connected with actively fighting sin: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).
- Second, we don’t have the strength to fight the good fight on our own. We come short of being able to do anything about these deeds of the flesh—pornography, abusive traumas, torn families, and never-ending, painful days of suffering. We are utterly incapable of fixing it—it’s too much. This is why Paul exhorts us to put to death the deeds of the body “by the Spirit of God” (v. 14, my emphasis). We are set free from sin and able to persevere in this broken world because the Lord is with us. Through him, we can look at our brokenness and have hope. Though our sins are red like scarlet, we can proclaim “they shall be as white as snow” (Isa. 1:18). If you ever needed evidence about God, beloved, here it is. Your fight against sin is the very evidence of the Spirit of God moving in and through your life. He claims you as his possession, giving you belonging and status. God’s Word calls you his sons and daughters, a people led by his Spirit (Rom. 8:14). The world and the flesh have no claim over you, only the Spirit.
Verse 15 expands on this new identity in Christ. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Paul writes from the context of the Roman Empire, where the adoptee is removed from their previous state and placed within a new family. Old debts are transferred, a new life begins, and the head of the household owns the adoptee, with all accompanying liability. This child is born again into a new hope, receiving a unique name that grants privileges, responsibilities, and a belonging. Thus, adoption perfectly explains what it means to have newness and fullness of life through the relationship a believer is brought into with Jesus Christ.
This is how God embraced his people throughout history, like a father who takes an illegitimate child into his family.
Yes, it’s out of adoption that we call God “Abba, Father.” This expression of warmth and confidence that God is our heavenly Father carries a filial tenderness and reverence made possible by the Spirit, without whom such a declaration would be pretentious and false.
And this is how God embraced his people throughout history, like a father who takes an illegitimate child into his family. That’s the reality and beauty of adoption. Children of God now have full access to and relationship with him.
Remember Hope: Our Longing in Christ
But the Christian life is hard as we wait for Jesus to return. You’ve probably felt the weight of suffering prolonged, maybe for many seasons—your prayers feeling empty and silent. We are in pain while longing for the final day when our faith will be made sight.
Nevertheless, this longing is one critical way in which we experience redemption being applied in our lives. We are already the adopted children of God. However, there is a deep-seated ‘not yet-ness’ about this reality. We rejoice as God’s people. And yet, having received the Spirit of adoption, we groan inwardly, waiting eagerly for the resurrection of our bodies upon Christ’s return (Rom. 8:18–25).
The promise is that when he appears, we shall be like him, and he will transform these bodies of humiliation into glory. “But our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul says, “and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Phil. 3:20–21).”
This expresses the heart of our present and future condition and is an essential element for understanding the Christian life. The law alone is not enough. If we only had the law, it’d be challenging to understand the agony of the Christian life because those with the Spirit experience profound incompleteness. And it is within that context that we cry, “Abba Father.” Paul is not talking about an upbeat cry. The language for “cry” in Greek is typically used in times of immense pressure and opposition, portraying a violent atmosphere rather than a peaceful one. This cry springs from an anguish that leaves us fragmented, where the fullness of God-given privileges comes face to face with our brokenness and prompts us to cry, out of all unsettling weaknesses and earthly difficulties, ‘Abba, Father.’
Be comforted, hurting believer: the fact that you’re calling out to the Lord in your desperate longing reveals that you belong to him.
And we are not alone, for the Spirit is with us in our cry. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (v. 16). Our spirit and God’s Spirit express their mutual witness in crying, “Abba, Father.” It’s impossible to express this unless the Spirit is working in our lives. Be comforted, hurting believer: the fact that you’re calling out to the Lord in your desperate longing reveals that you belong to him. Beloved, I hope you see “what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).
Remember Love: Our Sanctification in Christ
Verse 17 defines the destination of God’s adopted children. Glory awaits us in the guarantee of eternal life! The adoptee is an heir of God and co-heir with Christ through the inheritance given by the Lord—this inheritance is our union and communion with Christ as his portion (in suffering and glory) is shared with us (John 17:5, 24). It’s not as if we contribute to redemption. No. Christ alone bore the cross and rose from the dead to reconcile the world to himself. But it’s about the call to obediently “walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8b) because “the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6b). This looks like partaking in the sufferings of Christ, filling up what is lacking in his afflictions (Col. 1:24), and yearning for future glory.
Oh, beloved, I pray you may see the Father’s love in all this. What else is there? Yes, “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13). Because “God so loved the world,” millennia can pass but the gospel shall remain (John 3:16a).
And when breathless, suffocated by the lies of sexual brokenness, come as you are, oh, child of God, and cry “Abba! Father!”
Therefore, remember the call of Christ: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34b). And when breathless, suffocated by the lies of sexual brokenness, come as you are, oh, child of God, and cry “Abba! Father!” Fix your gaze upon Christ who promised, “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22, my emphasis). Isn’t it worth waiting for such joy, my friend? Eternal life with Christ. Join me for one more day, just one more day at a time.
This morning, I again read the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11. And as always, I wanted to shout, “David! Get off that roof and cry to God to rescue you from temptation! Don’t let curiosity lead you down a road you ultimately don’t want to travel!” What unfolds in the remainder of 2 Samuel is a sad, sobering, cautionary tale of how curiosity can entice weak people toward foolishness and destruction.
David wasn’t the first person in the Bible to see, take, sin, and attempt to cover it up. Adam and Eve did the same, as did Achan. Read his words and see if you can identify choices you’ve made:
Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” (Joshua 7:19–21)
Achan saw, wanted, took, and tried to hide the evidence. His curiosity and desire sparked temptation, leading to sin, leading to death (James 1:14–16).
Unchecked hearts, hidden motivations, and enticing opportunities so easily lead to the next curious step that may stir desires, unbelief, and sin.
David saw Bathsheba and was curious enough to inquire about her, take her from her home, and (probably) coerce her to have sex with him. Nathan’s parable of a selfish and manipulative man taking a vulnerable ewe lamb implies that this encounter was not consensual. David’s abuse of power—his initiative toward adultery, deception, and sinful scheming that led to murder—started where? In his heart, of course, as he “was walking on the roof of the king’s house,” and “saw from the roof a woman bathing” (2 Sam. 11:2).
Curiosity and Sin: Seeing, Wondering, Wanting, Taking, Hiding
I’ve had my share of seeing and wondering about things that watered my desires to know more, leading to temptation and sinful choices. It can start as simply as a random idea coming to mind and then typing those words in a search bar online. I’ve heard of others who, like Achan, David, and me, allowed unwise curiosity to open the door to temptation’s seduction. In many cases, this leads to entanglement in sin.
- What’s my ex doing now? I’ll just take a quick scan of her social media.
- Anything good in the fridge?
- What’s on that website anyway?!
- I wonder what an LGBTQ+-friendly bar really is? I’ll look it up online.
- What’s the big deal with a quick text? I just want to say hello.
- That new start up is hot. . . my buddy has tripled his investment in three months. How much could I invest if I pulled it out of savings?
- That influencer doesn’t mention Jesus much, but she’s so popular! Maybe I’ll take a listen to see for myself.
- What would that feel like? I’ll just do it for a quick minute. . . that won’t hurt!
Often, curiosity about something or someone starts innocently. We don’t intend to get into an affair, or an addiction, or tangled up in a messy relationship or business dealing. But we see or think something, and—without stopping to check our hearts’ motivation or consider where that ‘innocent’ click, text, or encounter might lead—we pursue and take.
Curiosity is not evil. We must, however, learn how to steward it toward that which honors God and grows love for him in our hearts.
Achan saw a beautiful cloak, David saw a beautiful woman, and I’ve seen advertisements for movies, books, podcasts, ministry conferences, and photos and posts of what other ministry leaders are up to. Unchecked hearts, hidden motivations, and enticing opportunities so easily lead to the next curious step that may stir desires, unbelief, and sin.
Curiosity and Holiness: Beholding Christ
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Curiosity and the ability to imagine and desire are amazing gifts our Creator has entrusted to us. Consider the sermon, book, podcast interview, or Bible study that further opened your understanding of an aspect of the Christian life, character of God, or beauty of the gospel. Or the question you asked (or received) that led to a conversation which grew a relationship into greater intimacy centered on Jesus. Curiosity about creation—learning about the natural sciences, enjoying music, art, and literature—helps us delight in the great God who made all these things. Curiosity is not evil. We must, however, learn how to steward it toward that which honors God and grows love for him in our hearts.
Consider the five questions below for personal growth and talk to a friend in Christ this week about how to avoid unhelpful curiosity as you cultivate wise wondering.
- How are you tempted toward sin when feeling bored, angry, distressed, or happy?
- What sights, sounds, and sensations tempt you to look away from Christ?
- What circumstances trigger temptation for you to spin the truth, deceive, and manipulate the facts?
- What did you learn from God the last time you saw, took, and hid?
- Do you have one to two people in your life who help you seek, love, and enjoy Jesus? If not, why not? Pray and ask him to provide what you need to establish relationships with spiritual journey companions.
Friends, I doubt that Achan or David realized, when they saw a beautiful part of God’s creation, that their curiosity and desires would lead to the devastation—for generations—that came from them sinfully taking it. Their Escape was near, ready to receive their cries for help and rescue them from sin! Our Savior is near to us today, as well. He promises to not only provide wonderfully satisfying gifts for our Christ-fueled curiosity, but also to rescue us when temptations are hovering behind the doors we curiously prod when our eyes are distracted from him.
20 Jul 2023
“She’s hot; she’s not.”
“I hate his shoes.”
“She has a pretty face, but she’s too tall.”
“I don’t like his hobbies.”
Have you ever looked through a dating app and had these kinds of conversations with a friend? Have you had these thoughts as the glow of your phone illuminates your face late at night? Have you begun to feel like dating apps are controlling you?
According to a 2018 survey, among a sample of 500 Christian singles, 44% were actively using two to five different dating apps simultaneously. Pew Research Center found that three in ten Americans have tried online dating. Among Christian singles, that number soars to 80%!
Consider Your Heart
In Galatians 6:6–10, Paul introduces the concept of reaping and sowing. In agricultural terms, sowing is the planting and careful cultivation of seeds, whereas reaping is the harvesting of the produce from those seeds. In human terms, this can be understood as those things that are borne out of our manner of life. It’s the sense that, over time, our small, daily choices, behaviors, and thoughts grow into a harvest. Paul also mentions the idea that there are ways to sow into the flesh, reaping corruption, and ways to sow into the Spirit, reaping eternal life.
Dating apps can be a means for bringing about Christ-centered marriages. But what are you sowing in your heart with your use of dating apps? All things are God’s servants (Eph. 1:22). How should faithful Christian singles consider this popular means of meeting and intentionally dating?
Six Heart Diagnostics
- Stewardship or Distraction?
How has your engagement with dating apps impacted your time? With many single Christians engaging across multiple platforms, the time it takes to engage should be considered. To be sure, for singles seeking to marry, it may be wise to give your time to pursue dating as an intentional investment. But it’s worth asking—how much time are you investing? Is this something you’ve prayerfully considered, or have you been slinking into a three-hour nightly routine of browsing apps alone?
- Consuming or Serving?
In The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, psychologist Barry Schwartz argues that the explosion of choice in our modern world has created more anxiety and paralysis, not greater wellbeing. The growth of online dating has ushered in seemingly endless eligible men or women for you to consider. This can quickly be problematic. Has your engagement on dating apps caused you to become a consumer of others rather than a servant of others? Are you becoming so choosy that you can’t see the hidden beauty and character of the men or women with whom you interact? Have the abundant options on dating apps given you a sense of ever reaching for perfection in a mate, yet never quite finding it? Are you training your mind to make snap judgements based on appearance alone?
- Contentment or Insecurity?
How has engaging dating apps impacted your heart’s contentment in your current state? Is the number of matches, likes, and messages causing you to steep in insecurity? Do you feel grateful for how God made you, or are you increasingly insecure as you seek to get to know people on dating apps? Do you leave apps feeling angry, frustrated, alone, anxious?
- Isolation or Community?
Is anyone journeying with you as you are looking to date, or are you going it alone? Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out from all sound judgment.” Don’t engage with dating apps alone! You need the benefit of wisdom from others who know you and who will help guide you. Dating is an emotional and potentially tumultuous process; you need trusted friends and mentors. Your local church is meant to be a wealth of support and encouragement as you seek to be faithful in all things—even dating apps.
- Pride or Humility?
Man judges by outward appearance, but the Lord judges the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). While outward appearance is indeed a factor in romantic love, how heavily are you weighing it in your dating journey? Are you prizing the things the Lord prizes, such as the hidden character of a gentle and quiet spirit, or are you driven mostly by outward appearance?
- Integrity or Self-Centeredness?
One of the biggest challenges in the dating app world is having to speak honestly about your interest or lack of interest in someone you’ve met. Ghosting (never responding again to someone you no longer wish to get to know) is a common practice, but it communicates great disrespect for other image-bearers. Have you adopted a worldly mindset about how to treat others when you’re dating? Have you regarded anyone according to the flesh? (2 Cor. 5:16.) Can you say you’ve treated others with kindness and regarded them as more important than yourself? (Phil 2:5–7).
If these diagnostic questions have you feeling like your heart is off track, I want to encourage you. St. Augustine of Hippo famously said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Dating and romance have a way of uncovering the deep longings of our hearts. If you’ve misplaced those longings and sought to secure them in dating, relationships, and people, it’s God’s tender mercy that turns you away from that empty path.
If you’ve been isolated, consider how you might invite one or two others into your dating journey. Pray that the Lord would use dating to help you draw near to him and walk by faith. Consider a break from dating apps altogether if they’ve led you to pursue unholy relationships or unwise choices. Bring your deepest desires before your loving Lord. He knows what you need. He is the answer to your heart’s deepest longings. He is your ever-present, compassionate Savior, and he wants to walk with you today and forever.
This article was written by Harvest USA Parents and Family Ministry recipient Kim Taylor.
My story is typical of most parents who’ve faced the heartbreak of discovering their child struggles with same-sex attraction. We were happily oblivious to the darkness just under the surface that would change our lives forever. From the moment I found out in 2007—when our son had just turned 17—until I found help at Harvest USA in 2020, there wasn’t a day when I didn’t cry. I cried for my son, my broken heart, and all the loss—the loss of a future marriage for my son, grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, and simply being a “normal” family.
Suffering in Isolation
I would’ve told you I was trusting in the Lord, but the evidence showed otherwise. I would’ve said God was enough for me and our situation, but I wasn’t living like it. My faith was weak, but I was self-deceived in this area. I had a lot of learning and unlearning to do. Little did I know that this journey would not just be about my son but about God bringing me into a strong faith and conforming me into Jesus’s image. I desperately wanted help but was too ashamed to seek it. I told no one about our son because I feared the condemnation and judgment I would’ve once given to someone in my situation. So, I suffered in isolation, with no hope in my heart.
I bought the world’s lie—hook, line, and sinker—that this was just how things would always be. Hopelessness drove me deeper into my despair, and the cycle of unbelief continued. I knew God could help, but would he?
Little did I know that this journey would not just be about my son but about God bringing me into a strong faith and conforming me into Jesus’s image.
In 2018, when our son sent us a letter stating that he and his partner were married, I could no longer handle my devastation alone. I began to look for help online, and by the grace and direction of the Lord, I found Harvest. I could barely wait to start the first session and had to stop myself from completing the entire curriculum in one day. I can’t tell you what the possibility of hope dangling in front of my heart did for me.
Openness, Healing, and Waiting
By now, the hope wasn’t that my son would turn away from living in alignment with LGBTQ+ values so much as it was hope that I could be free from the feeling of total despair I’d adopted. In the first session, I got to share openly for the first time without fear of judgment! I cried my way through every session.
As the meetings progressed, I was encouraged to share with someone outside the group about our son. This took tremendous courage and strength from the Lord, but I did it! I shared my burden with my ladies’ Bible Fellowship class. They came around me and prayed with me, and I sobbed like I hadn’t in years. I got a surprise that day: I discovered that healing began when I quit hiding. And I got a group of ladies who now pray regularly for my son. I had robbed myself and him of this blessing for many years because of fear, shame, and pride.
I got a surprise that day: I discovered that healing began when I quit hiding. And I got a group of ladies who now pray regularly for my son.
I’d like to tell you that, after 15 years, my son is now a disciple of Christ, but he is not. The surprising thing is that I am! Although I was saved as a little girl, my faith had never been challenged to this degree. I’m now walking by faith, believing against hope that my son will repent before the Lord. I’m no longer in that pit of pride and despair that mired me down for so many years. Now I’m anxiously, even excitedly, waiting on what the Lord is doing and is going to do in my son’s life.
Hope in the God Who Works
Though I see no evidence that God is working in my son, he is working in me. In Romans 8, Paul considers that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (v. 18). Don’t you long for “the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (v. 21)? This is the hope in which we were saved (vs. 24)! And this hope for believers is a solid guarantee, sealed by the blood of Jesus.
God says that hoping for things we can see is not hope. We are to wait patiently for the consummation of God’s plans. In this, we trust our children to him. His timing is different from ours. By God’s grace, running and finishing our race well involves placing 100% of our faith in the God of the universe to move as he will in our children’s lives, believing that he is constantly working (John 5:17).
To hurting and broken-hearted parents: Jesus came not only to save you, but to heal you and give you victory over despair. I’m living proof that you don’t need to live one more day in hopelessness. I want other hurting parents to find what I’ve discovered: Our faithful, almighty God will work in us and our children according to his will. We are called to pray and leave them in his capable hands, whatever the result. I remember the day I fully surrendered my son to the Lord. I went into the bathroom and lifted my hands, imagining my son being in them. I held him up and told the Lord to do whatever he needed to bring my son to repentance.
To hurting and broken-hearted parents: Jesus came not only to save you, but to heal you and give you victory over despair. I’m living proof that you don’t need to live one more day in hopelessness.
Am I still heartbroken? Yes. But now I thank God for the heavy burden he has placed on my heart. For, though it hurts so deeply and still moves me to weep, without it I would not remember to fall on his mercy continually.
Having spent many needless years in gut-wrenching hopelessness, let me encourage you with the life-changing hope that faith will give you. Hold to the promises, providence, presence, and power of the almighty Creator of the universe. Find some passages of hope from God’s Word; write them down and carry them with you to read and meditate on. Trust in the work your heavenly Father is doing. Allow my favorite hope-verse to encourage you: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13, my emphasis).
I’ve been representing Harvest USA at many national Christian conferences over the last two years. We get a lot of traffic at our exhibit tables, and once people find out what we do, most of them tell me about their child, grandchild, or friend who has come out as gay or transgender. Almost everyone I meet has been personally touched by the LGBTQ+ wave sweeping our country. And the overwhelming majority of people identifying as LGBTQ+ are young. What is happening to our millennial, Gen Z, and alpha generations?
In the latest Gallup poll for 2022, only 2.7% of baby boomers and 3.3% of Gen Xers identified as LGBTQ+ versus 11.2% of millennials and 19.7% of Gen Z. Along with that, while there was only a slight increase in the total percentage of Americans identifying as LGBTQ+ from 2012–2020, that number showed a marked uptick from 2020 to 2021. How do we make sense of this data? While there are many factors involved, here are just a few things to consider.
COVID Lockdowns and TikTok
Regardless of what you think about COVID lockdowns, we can’t deny the social impact of forced isolation. Kids were taken out of school and put in front of screens. Not only were many of these children receiving consistent LGBTQ+ indoctrination in their virtual classrooms, but they were also getting heavy doses of it on social media. By April 2020, just as the lockdowns began, TikTok surpassed 2 billion downloads worldwide.
Consider what happens when our youth are cut off from the real world and plugged into an attractive, addictive virtual world algorithmically curated to show only one perspective?
Social media platforms specialize in creating echo chambers, with sophisticated algorithms designed to keep our attention as long as possible. The more we click on one type of video or post, the more we’ll see that type of content. Even if we click on just one pro-LGBTQ+ post, we’ll start seeing more of them. The more we click, the more dominated our feed becomes. Consider what happens when our youth are cut off from the real world and plugged into an attractive, addictive virtual world algorithmically curated to show only one perspective?
Hidden Experiences or New Interpretations?
Many will argue that the dramatic increase in people identifying as LGBTQ+ stems mainly from growing social acceptance. They’ll say the numbers have always been this high, but only recently have people felt safe to be public about it. While that may be true for some, it doesn’t account for the large statistical differences between generations. Now that there is social acceptance, you’d expect just as many boomers as Gen Zers identifying as LGBTQ+.
Instead, we’re witnessing a social contagion to which young people are particularly susceptible. Adolescence is a scary, confusing time for everyone. Our bodies and minds are going through countless changes which we struggle to know how to interpret. But now doctors, teachers, therapists, scientists, and politicians are giving new answers for these age-old questions. Consider that 66% of Gen Zers identifying at LGBTQ+ identify as bisexual. Why has bisexuality become so prevalent? Boys and especially girls will often go through seasons during adolescence when they might develop new feelings for a friend of the same sex. Historically, those feelings wouldn’t have materialized into anything more than a fleeting quasi-crush, leading to little (if any) questioning of their sexuality. But today, their radars have been trained and conditioned to see even the slightest attraction toward the same sex as incontrovertible evidence that they are indeed bisexual.
The questions used to be, “How do I live as a man? How do I live as a woman?” But now the question every child is being forced to consider is, “Am I a boy or a girl?”
The same is true for gender identity questions. All boys and girls will ask questions about what it means to be a boy or a girl: What activities should I like? What feelings are masculine or feminine? Fallen humanity has always struggled to live as the men and women God calls us to be. But, by and large, these questions were limited to our roles, not our ontology. The questions used to be, “How do I live as a man? How do I live as a woman?” But now the question every child is being forced to consider is, “Am I a boy or a girl?”
The Battle for a Better Story
I recently spoke at a retreat for a few hundred Christian college students from a variety of secular campuses. I was sobered by the extent to which worldly categories have infiltrated this generation. The deck has been stacked against them. They’ve been fed language, narratives, and parameters that prohibit any biblical categorization for who we are and how we are to live. Truly, Gen Z needs an entire deconstruction of their sexual worldview for a biblical framework to make any sense.
This deconstruction won’t start with logical arguments and statistics; they’ve been captured not by data, but by a story. A story of liberation, meaning, justice, and beauty has captivated their hearts and they’ve found their identity within it. A competing narrative strikes at the core of who they understand themselves to be. This will feel extremely scary; all their defenses will be on high alert against these threats to their identity.
Many who currently find their value, meaning, and identity in an LGBTQ+ label will, in God’s good timing, find Christ alone to be their all-in-all.
But this is where Christians have every reason for unshakable hope and confidence: we have a better story to tell. The gospel is the only narrative that accounts for everything we experience in this life and promises transcendent, everlasting hope and purpose. And we have the best Story-Teller in the universe! If you’re a Christian, it’s because you were told the story of the gospel by the Holy Spirit. Yes, you audibly heard it through a human voice. But spiritually, your ears were opened, and your heart brought to life by the voice of God himself. Jesus, our great Shepherd, calls his sheep by name, and his sheep know his voice (John 10:27).
Jesus died for Gen Z and alpha generation sheep. Many who currently find their value, meaning, and identity in an LGBTQ+ label will, in God’s good timing, find Christ alone to be their all-in-all. Who is sufficient for these things? “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). May we fervently pray for the hearts and minds of our youth as we point them to the solid hope of God’s better story.
15 Jun 2023
This post is a contribution from guest author John Perritt, Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries.
I remember a specific day from my childhood all too well. I was in sixth grade. The school day had ended, and a friend invited me over to his house. We were in his brother’s bedroom and my friend got down on his knees to reach under the dresser. My eleven-year-old self had no clue what was about to happen to my heart and mind as I was exposed to a pornographic magazine.
At that point in my life, I really didn’t know what sex was. What my eyes saw that day wasn’t sex, but a perversion of it. I’m now approximately three decades removed from that incident, but I can recall the exact image to this day. It’s seared in my mind. Like a scar, it seems it’s going to be with me until I go home to be with the Lord.
By God’s grace, that image deeply upset me. It was enticing but repulsive. Amid my ignorance and naiveté, I knew something wasn’t right about what I was viewing. Part of what I remember about that moment was the feeling I had—not arousal, but something more akin to sickness. A feeling that made me want to go home immediately. That image hurt me.
The Weight of Pornography
There’s a weightiness to pornography that, I think, gets at a creational good from the Lord. God created man and woman as sexual beings (Gen. 1:26–28). As Christians, we know that sexual desires are to be expressed specifically between members of the opposite sex in the context of marriage. This gift from the Lord carries weight because he’s given us precise instructions for stewarding it. The specificity of the gift points to its weightiness.
There’s another aspect of this weightiness. I never told my parents about when I saw pornography. I don’t even know if I spoke about it with the friend who showed me the image. I took that image to bed with me that night. I carried it with me in the hallways of my school. I’m sure it poisoned the way I looked at the opposite sex. The initial sickness I felt became a weight I carried around, a weight I didn’t allow others to help me carry.
What are your children carrying around with them? What secrets are they keeping from you? How have these images heaped burdens upon their shoulders?
To be sure, the Lord was helping me carry that weight, but I wasn’t reaching out to the community the Lord had given me. I was too young to know what I should do with that weight. I’m confident I was a Christian at the time, but I didn’t talk to the Lord about this. I didn’t know what accountability was—so I carried that weight with me.
There’s weightiness from the good things of the Lord because they point us to his glory, his immensity and omnipotence. At the same time, there’s weightiness from the evils of a broken world, too, which become burdens we carry around.
As you read this article, you know what I’m talking about. Right now, you’re carrying some burden. It may be a specific sin you’re wrestling with or your marriage, divorce, or singleness. It may be the burden of parenting or barrenness, an illness or chronic pain. The fall birthed endless burdens that plague us.
Our Children’s Burdens
What about our children? Single or not, we’ve all been given children because of the body of Christ—we have spiritual sons and daughters. And those sons and daughters are carrying burdens right now. How many of their burdens are related to pornography?
Some are saying that most teens spend approximately nine hours a day on screens. Even though they’re in classes and have after-school activities, they manage to find hours upon hours to look at a screen. What do they see?
In those nine hours, they’re looking at thousands of images. No doubt, some of them are pornographic. Others may fall in the category of ‘soft porn’ or implicit sexual images: bodies may be fully clothed, but the images are sexual in nature. To state the obvious, this still stirs up lust, and God’s Word doesn’t take that lightly. These images leave deep impressions upon our children.
What are your children carrying around with them? What secrets are they keeping from you? How have these images heaped burdens upon their shoulders?
Christ, the Burden-Carrier
This entire article may be burdensome to you. While I want this to be a sobering look at the world our children are growing up in, I also want to give you some hope. Remember our Savior’s words:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28–30)
Jesus not only carried our burdens on the cross and triumphed over them in the resurrection, but he also bore them throughout his perfect life. He is the one human in history who endured temptation without sin (Heb. 4:15–16). He knows our weaknesses. He remembers that we are dust (Ps. 103:14), and he will not break a bruised reed nor quench a faintly burning wick (Isa. 42:3). We can come boldly to our Lord and point our children to him in hope.
Talk to your children. Today. Push things aside and ask your children about the burdens they’re carrying.
So, first, take those burdens to the Lord. Voice them to him and know that he hears you and loves to talk to his children. Also know that he loves your children more than you do.
Second, talk to your children. Today. Push things aside and ask your children about the burdens they’re carrying. Even if they don’t open up, let them know you’re in their life to help carry their burdens; they don’t have to carry them alone. Remind them that their heavenly Father is carrying them as well. Remind them he’s always listening, and he always understands.
We can approach our children with compassion, pointing them to Christ and praying for them to know the peace of laying their burdens at the foot of the cross.
John Perritt, DMin, serves as the Director of Resources for Reformed Youth Ministries (www.rym.org) and has served in student ministry for over twenty years. He is the host of “The Local Youth Worker” podcast. John is the author of several books, including “Insecure” and “Social Media Pressure: Finding Peace Alongside Jesus.” He and his wife, Ashleigh, have five children and live in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
08 Jun 2023
Name: Jim Barr
Hometown: I was born in Pennsylvania, raised in Massachusetts, but spent more than 35 years in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia where my wife and I raised our family. We’re now empty nesters living in Lafayette Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia not too far from the Harvest USA office.
Position at Harvest USA: Director of Ministry Partnerships and Stewardship.
Description of work at Harvest USA: Some people would call my job fundraising, but I describe it as friend-raising. One important aspect of my work is to update and encourage those who support our ministry—both individuals and churches. Their prayers and financial support are crucial to our work, and I want them to know how people are finding help and hope, how marriages are being restored, and how churches are being strengthened because of their partnership. Additionally, I seek opportunities to meet with people, particularly pastors, to share about Harvest USA and the gospel-based resources we’ve developed.
I want to expand the awareness of Harvest USA across the United States and into other nations so that more men, women, and families discover how the love and mercy of Christ can provide them the healing and hope they’re desperately seeking.
Fundamentally, though, this is more than a job. You see, my life and marriage were wonderfully changed by the ministry, and I want to expand the awareness of Harvest USA across the United States and into other nations so that more men, women, and families discover how the love and mercy of Christ can provide them the healing and hope they’re desperately seeking.
What is your favorite Scripture? That’s like asking me which of my seven children is my favorite—can’t do it! But I have always been intrigued by how Eugene Peterson translated John 1:14 in his paraphrased Bible called “The Message.” He put it this way: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” I think he captured the reality that God actually became a man and knows our joys and sorrows intimately.
How did you get to Harvest USA? Even though my wife and I had been a part of three churches who have supported Harvest USA, it was when we moved to Philadelphia in 2019 that I visited the Harvest USA offices looking for help with my own struggle with pornography. After years of shame and hiding, I found true and lasting freedom through their biblical support group and discipleship program. The change was so profound that I immediately volunteered to mentor another group of men and was able to provide counsel and accountability for others at my church. Then, when Harvest USA contacted me about working here, I saw an opportunity to use my past professional experience—and my personal testimony—to advance the work of Harvest USA and continue to help others.
After years of shame and hiding, I found true and lasting freedom through (Harvest USA’s) biblical support group and discipleship program.
What is your favorite thing about living in metro-Philadelphia? The city is often called “America’s Garden Capital,” so along with the world-renowned museums, the Liberty Bell, and the iconic statue of Rocky Balboa, we’ve enjoyed visiting some historic estates that have beautiful grounds and gardens. The 1,800-acre Wissahickon Valley Park with its dozens of hiking trails, beautiful stone bridges, and even an historic covered bridge is our go-to destination for getting back to nature.
Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself? When our seven children were young, Sunday mornings had to be streamlined to get everyone dressed, fed, and out the door in time for church. It became a tradition that I made a big pancake breakfast for everyone almost every week, which included lots of different toppings and yummy variations. At some point one of my kids determined that I usually made 50 to 60 pancakes each week—and at some point (according to their calculations), I had made more than 40,000 pancakes over the 20-plus years that we had children in our home! Even I was surprised by that!
25 May 2023
This month, Harvest USA Director of Women’s Ministry Caitlin McCaffrey highlights two resources for women. Sexual Faithfulness: Gospel-Infused, Practical Discipleship for Women is available as a free digital download, and Sexual Sanity for Women: Healing from Sexual and Relational Brokenness is now on sale!
We pray these resources are a blessing to you and your church.