Thursday, August 27, 2015

To Do or Not to Do? Ten Tests

America's mores have changed rapidly, even in the church. My missionary grandma never wore slacks, never wore makeup, and never cut her hair. I too am a minister, and I do all three. Growing up in Alaska in the fifties and sixties, I would never think of wearing slacks to church. Now I do.

Activities I was taught were not appropriate for Christians and still tend to avoid (going to movies, dancing, drinking alcoholic beverages, listening to rock music, wearing revealing clothes, shopping on Sundays, to name a few) are now openly accepted and practiced.

As a minister, I am often asked whether a Christian is allowed to do this or that. I've noticed that these questions usually come when the person is contemplating doing something they think may be questionable but is not mentioned specifically in the Bible.

How can Christians set appropriate Biblical standards?

Galatians 5:13 says that Christians are called to live in freedom but also cautions us not to use that freedom to satisfy our sinful desires. Instead, we are challenged to serve one another in love.

In other words, true Christian freedom is not seeing how much we can get by with and still be a Christian. Instead, we need to ask how our actions will enable us and influence others to bring glory to God.

Here are ten tests I use to help me determine if an action or activity is right or wrong for me:

1. The Scriptural Test: Is it expressly forbidden in the Word of God? (Exodus 20:1-17). If so, I do not do it--ever!

2. The Personal Test: Will it make me a better or worse Christian? (Romans 14:22, 23; James 4:17).

3. The Practical Test: Will doing it bring desirable or undesirable results? (1 Corinthians 6:12).

4. The Social test: Will doing it influence others to be better or worse Christians? ( 1 Corinthians 8:9, 13; 10:32).

5. The Universal Test: What if everyone did it? (1 Corinthians 10:31).

6. The Stewardship Test: Will it cause a waste of the talents, abilities, and time God has invested in me? (Matthew 25:14-30).

7. The Missionary Test: Will doing it help or hinder the progress of the kingdom of God on earth? (Philippians 1:27).

8. The Character Test: Will doing it make me stronger or weaker morally? (Hebrews 12:1).

9. The Family Test: Will doing it bring credit or dishonor to my family or my church family? (Colossians 3:17).

10. The Publicity Test: Would I be willing for my friends to know about it? (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

I have made it my motto to live with eternity's values in view. So, my practice is that when I'm in doubt about the answer to any of these questions, I don't do it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Without America

One morning in 2009, I woke up with the first stanza of this poem on my mind. I quickly wrote it down, and the rest soon followed. 

Perhaps today as the nightly news is filled with the haggling of potential presidential candidates, it's time to remind ourselves again of what America has stood for through the years.
by AnnaLee Conti
On river banks no "alabaster cities gleam"
Because on barren shores no Pilgrim Fathers' dream
Resulted in great sweat and toil
To coax food and shelter from the soil
To establish a fledgling colony,
An experiment in democracy.
No Declaration of Independence
That certain rights are granted us by Providence;
No freedom of worship, speech, or press
In our Constitution were addressed;
No struggle for equality;
No wars to tear down tyranny.
No "shining city upon a hill,"
No vision to the world to spill
That man his own dreams can fulfill
For better or worse, for good or ill;
The world without America's ideal
Would certainly have a much darker feel.
Without a Statue of Liberty
To welcome those in poverty,
Without our inventions in technology
And medical aid to the world's society,
The earth without America's grace
Would be a less hospitable place.
Yet we've somehow lost our way,
And now the news reports each day
The rampant greed and shocking strife
And a less gentle way of life,
Of which I want to have no part,
And that surely saddens my heart.
The only solution I know that is real
Is to return to God with a great zeal.
To repent of all our self-centered ways,
And seek His guidance all of our days.
For then He will hear in heaven, and
He'll forgive and heal our beloved land.
© AnnaLee Conti, 2009 
- See more at:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Peace in the Midst of Storm

Among my collection of nautical things, I have a small picture of Warner Sallman's painting, Christ Our Pilot, mounted on a miniature ship's pilot wheel, of Jesus standing behind a young man who is piloting a ship. With one hand on the young man's shoulder, Jesus is pointing out the direction with His other hand.

Warner Sallman's "Christ Our Pilot"
The picture reminds me of my favorite hymn while growing up on the sometimes treacherous waterways of Alaska's "Inside Passage," where my uncle operated a mission boat:

Jesus, Savior, pilot me,
Over life's tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal;
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus Savior, pilot me.
--Edward Hopper

This story that Robert Louis Stevenson delighted in telling of a ship tossed in a storm reminds me of my uncle skillfully piloting his mission boat past reefs and submerged mountain peaks rising from the sea floor: 

The sea was rough, and the rocky coast perilous. Danger was real, and the seamen expected the worst. One frantic sailor, who was laboring below the waterline, could contain himself no longer. He rushed to the wheelhouse, closed the door behind him, and stood frozen with fright, watching the captain wrestle with the wheel that controlled the huge ship.

With skill of mind and strength of hand the captain guided the vessel through the threatening rocks into open water. Then the captain turned slightly, looked at the frightened sailor, and smiled.

The youth returned below deck. "The danger is over," he assured the crew.

"How do you know?" they asked.

"I have seen the face of the captain, and he smiled at me," he said.

Just as I trusted my uncle, I know I can trust Jesus to pilot me safely when the storms of life cause me to reel and stagger. I know that if I can but catch a glimpse of Jesus my Captain's face, all will be well. He can calm my storms with His whispered, "Peace, be still!" What a blessing to be able to trust Him to bring me safely into harbor!

What storm are you facing today? Jesus wants to give you His peace in the midst of your storm. Just turn the wheel of your life over to Him, and He will guide your vessel through the rocks and reefs, the wind and waves that threaten. Let Him plot your course. He knows the way because He has navigated it before us and has charted the way in His Word.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Empty Bins

My grandparents, Charles and Florence Personeus, who went to Alaska as pioneer missionaries in 1917, were greatly influenced by accounts of the faith ministry of George Mueller (1805-1898), an evangelist and director of a large orphanage in England (see previous posts). When Mueller's orphanage had a need, he did not ask people for aid but took it directly to God in prayer.

Charles & Florence Personeus
Married April 5, 1916
A little more than a year after the newly married Personeuses arrived in Alaska, a deadly flu epidemic struck Juneau. Schools were closed, all public meetings were cancelled, and quarantine signs were placed on the door of every house where someone was sick. Many people died.

When the epidemic finally ended, many children were left without a mother or father, so the Personeuses started a children's home.
The Personeuses had little money to support the children's home, but they trusted God to supply the needs for rent of a big house, coal for heat, and food and clothing for the children.

Soon, they had many mouths to feed. Twice a week, Mrs. Personeus had to bake 18 loaves of bread. That required a lot of flour, which they kept in a large bin.

One morning, Mrs. Personeus prepared to bake bread, only to  discover that the flour bin was empty. When she told her husband, he took out his wallet and showed her it was empty too.

Then, Mr. Personeus discovered that the coal bin was nearly empty too. In Alaska, that was serious. The temperature outside often went way below freezing during the long winters months. Even in the summer, it was too cool to go without heat in the house.

Remembering how George Mueller had led his orphans in prayer when they needed food for breakfast and the Lord had supplied, Mr. Personeus asked his wife, "Can you sing the Doxology over these empty bins?"

"I can," she answered.

They gathered the children together and explained, "We don't have any flour for bread or coal for heat."

The children's eyes opened wide. A few of the little ones even began to cry.

"Don't cry or be afraid," Mr Personeus said. "Remember, God is our Heavenly Father. He knows what we need. He will take care of us. We're going to sing the Doxology and praise God for the supply of all our needs."

They trooped to the flour bin, joined hands, and began to sing, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow...." They sang the Doxology again around the coal bin. The children left for school, and the Personeuses went about their duties for the day, trusting God to supply their needs.

Mid-morning, Mrs. Personeus heard a knock at the door. A man she didn't know stood there carrying a huge sack of flour. "Thought you might be able to use this," he said as he carried the sack into the kitchen. Then, he brought in a second sack of flour.

"Oh, thank you!" Mrs. Personeus said. "It's just what we need!"

A little while later, another knock sounded at the door. "I have a load of coal for you," said the man.

"But we didn't order any coal today," Mrs. Personeus told him.

"I know, but this coal is for you, and it's all paid for." And he proceeded to fill up the coal bin.

The Personeuses never did learn who had provided the flour and coal that day, but what a time of praise and thanksgiving they had after school when they all gathered around full bins and again sang, "Praise God from whom all blessings flow..."!

Has God ever supplied a need of yours in answer to prayer? I'd would love to hear about it.

(More stories of the Personeuses' 65 years in Alaska are recorded in my book, Frontiers of Faith, available at and