#1 Be A Missionary

#1 Be A Missionary

Understand that hurt and judged people easily anticipate condemnation.

 The gay community has historically been approached as a community that “needs the truth told to them”, rather than a people to be loved, reached, and cared for.  It’s important to shift our perceived role in an LGBT person’s life from “truth teller” to “relational missionary”. Theology is important, but if I lead with theology (what I believe about sex and sexuality) then the person is likely to feel judged and assume I have one agenda in their lives – to make them feel conviction.  The truth is, I have no power (nor am I called) to make anyone turn from any sin.  The only agenda I want to have is to show someone the goodness and abundant life that comes from walking with Jesus. 

The Clear & Confusing Nashville Statement

The Clear & Confusing Nashville Statement

.....This is what the church has been saying for a long time – and it hasn’t produced the fruit of Christian people being safe, empathic, disciple makers of the LGBT community.  Where is the part that shows me how to (or at least gets me started) loving gay people that are interested in Jesus? How do I walk with the transgender person that was raised in church, loves Jesus, and feels that the only viable way forward for her is to transition her body to match what she feels inside? How do I encourage the man that feels called to celibacy, experiences exclusive same sex attraction and feels the church to be a relational desert rather than an oasis?

A Reason For Gay Pride Parades

"Does the gay community really need to have a parade? Why do they have to be so 'in your face' about their sexuality?"

I've been asked these questions several times and since most of the time when I talk about a gay pride parade, many people I know have a visceral or condescending reaction (scoffing, chuckling, or eye rolling), I want to help shed some light on why a gay pride parade feels necessary, maybe even essential, to the LGBT community. 

I certainly don't know every reason someone might celebrate this way, but I do know the feeling I had when I went to my first pride parade when I was 18.  I felt that I belonged somewhere; I felt I wasn't alone with this experience of being attracted to the same sex....and I was relieved.

I grew up hearing about "fags and queers"....and then I realized that that was me.  I identified as gay when I was about 12 and came out at 17.  During that time, the only feelings that accompanied being attracted to the same sex were shame and confusion which either caused denial or isolation.  I heard no positive messages, nor did I hear any redeeming ones. As someone who did not choose to feel this way and couldn't seem to shake it, I felt I had two options: live in the shame that was overwhelming me, or turn the tables, rise up, and embrace what many hated and shamed me for.

So holding my boyfriend's hand as I marched down the streets of Columbus, OH., I felt empowered for one of the first times in my life.  I felt good. I liked me.  And I could see where I belonged in a larger community of people.  I finally had a voice. 

 

The LGBT community is a minority group.  Historically, they've been ignored, turned away from, pushed away, and pushed down.  Generation after generation of the majority have not only been satisfied that they've remained in their corner of the city (out of sight, out of mind), but they've actively kept them there.  We can't continually push a group of people to the margins and not expect them to eventually respond in anger.  We also can't expect them to not do something about it. Decade after decade many straight people have said (either actively or passively), "I don't care if you are being consumed with shame or pushed aside" and have refused to come alongside, to pray with, to support, or even to listen.

And because shame is toxic to the soul, mantras like, "Just be who you are" and "Out and proud" have been born.  I was determined to be out and proud, not because I felt pride for being gay, but because I wasn't going to let one more straight, majority opinion determine if I liked myself or not.  So I took away their power to shame me by taking pride in the very thing I was rejected for.

This seems to be what happens with many (or maybe all) minority groups.  Whether you are in the minority because of your sexuality, race, disability, gender, religion, etc., there comes a time when you have to say, "I've had enough - If I don't push back, I'll die in this shame".  At that point in my life, being out and proud was the best I could do; to be anything less would mean being eaten alive. 

I am a white able-bodied man from a middle class family in the Midwest; without the experience of a minority sexuality, I may have never known what it was like to be shoved to the side.  And I probably would have never had the slightest inkling when I was the one doing the shoving.  This has enlarged my ability to be empathic and I can't imagine being a pastor without it. 

I get that most straight people are annoyed at the thought of the gay pride parade.  I understand that some of my Christian brothers and sisters see this event as a time where gay people "shove their lifestyle's in our faces" and "revel in their sin".  I get it and I understand it, but I don't agree with it. Because I've been the gay man at the pride parade and celebrating my sexuality and seeing others like me was like coming up for air in a world that kept trying it's best to drown me.

 I'm not asking you celebrate with them, I'm asking you to empathize with them. 

Until I met Jesus, I had no other way to deal with my shame or to even understand my identity. Because he allows me to be imperfect, glory in my weakness, and because he removes my shame, I no longer feel compelled to take back power, stand up for my rights, jockey for position, or convince myself I'm valuable.  I get to just be....a man, a son,  with a fallen sexuality walking with Jesus.

So I'm not writing to advocate for gay pride, I'm writing to say I understand why. For many, it's a means of survival.  I know some will roll their eyes as soon as they read that, which means they've likely never been the targets of repeated marginalization.   And I would contend that if we hadn't turned our backs on an entire community of people, there may not have been such a determined need for the grandeur of a pride parade.  We can't lament the ills and trajectory of the culture and then divorce ourselves from being part of the cause and the remedy.  It's at least worth considering.  I'm not placing the sole blame on one group of people or another, but I am encouraging repentance for us all so that God's kingdom would come and impact the individual riddled with shame and the society that needs a savior. 

 

To my gay friends....

Music for this post: “This Love” by Housefires I’ve often sat and wondered what I would say to some of you now that my life has taken a markedly different direction. I know some of you probably wondered what happened to the guy you used to go out and party with. All of a sudden, I went from clubbing, dating, and drinking, to none of that. Even more than that, I gave up everything I knew, left town, and started studying the Bible. Pretty dramatic I suppose. I know it probably didn’t make sense looking at it on the outside. I know some of you had thought that I had caved to the pressure of straight society, that I would be back, and eventually just accept the fact that I was gay. And that was understandable to many of you. I was 19 after all and there probably isn’t a gay person alive who hasn’t had to deeply wrestle with the reality of their sexuality, their identity, and how they will live in light of it – something they didn’t choose but feel they must choose to accept.

So I wanted to explain what happened. Some of you were intensely hurt by my decision; others were mad and a few easily rolled their eyes and brushed me off. I likely would have had the same reaction had our roles been reversed. I remember speaking with one of you in particular. - “So, what are you? - Straight I suppose?”

- “No. I’m not sure what I am honestly. But I want to follow Jesus”.

I had become pretty disillusioned with gay culture. I had also become pretty disillusioned with me.

It wasn’t because I was gay. Admitting I was gay was actually pretty freeing. No more double life. No more trying to please people. It was actually the man I was becoming that didn’t seem to fit anymore. I didn’t like that a casual night out often turned into heavy drinking and hooking up. And at first I thought it was just me. But many of you were doing the same thing. And even more concerning, those that were 10, 20, and even 30 years older than us, were doing the same thing as well. And I don’t know how you felt, but I felt dirty. Used. It was devaluing of myself and other people. And I felt trapped. Trapped in a cycle of doing the very thing I kept vowing to never do again.

And so I prayed to God in desperation. Not to be straight, but to be free. I wanted to be free of the enslaving cycle that I saw so many of us in. And God answered that very prayer by giving me peace that reached to the depths of my soul.

My heart found rest in one Lover, rather than chasing after many others.

Even more, He didn’t condemn or criticize me. I felt valued, not used and clean rather than dirty. And I knew in that moment that God was much different than we had believed Him to be. He was completely different than the pride parade protesters that shouted in condemnation and the Christians that some of us had the “pleasure” of meeting. This God was real and His love was intense.

So it’s been 10 years. An entire decade has gone by and I’m still following this Jesus. You’re probably surprised. Well me even more so! But when I think about why I follow him, there are so many reasons. And not one has to do with being straight. As you and I both predicted, God did not wave His hand and erase my sexuality, or my past, or my hurt. But He did engage all of those on different levels – and still does.

So why do I continue to follow him?...

I like being His.

He gave me a new identity and one that had nothing to do with my sexuality. He called me son. There’s still something strong that happens in my heart when I sense Him speak that to me.

“You’re mine. You’re home. You belong with me and to me.”

I don’t think I’ll ever get over it or get tired of hearing it. I belong with Him. I was made for Him. And I’m continually uncovering more of what that means each day.

I like being authentic

And I don’t mean to imply that you are not. What I do mean is that living as His son has opened up the door for me to experience and live as He created me to without the smothering dictates of rigid gender roles in Midwestern America or the inflexible, dogmatic stereotype of the gay man. God never invited me to be more “butch”; rather he invited me to experience Him and consequently a more authentic version of myself, which required me asking Him who He actually created me to be. We often told people we were more than a sexuality or sexual orientation, and we were right. But I saw very few gay people actually live like that and I was certainly no exception. Most everything I did revolved around this part of my sexuality; it was the filter I saw most of life through. And God helped me to throw off what everyone was saying I should be and get in touch with who I really am.

I like being loved

His love is altogether different. It’s unconditional and perfect, holy and unending. It’s something my lovers, partners, friends, parents, and even my wife couldn’t and can’t give. The best part is that I can’t be separated from it; it’s unmerited, unearned. I can’t stop it because I didn’t make it happen. And it’s easy to rest in that type of love. I’m not the center of the universe, but sometimes I feel that His eyes are directly on me. He doesn’t show favoritism, but I often feel like his favorite. And it’s not because He gives me what I want or does things my way and in my time. But He has a way of touching the core of who I am, in a place of my soul I didn’t previously know existed. And now I’m ruined of settling for only human love.

I like being known

It’s the cry of my heart and the cry of yours. He knows what makes me come alive. He knows what has broken me in the past and he knows how to mend it. I’m not a mystery to Him in any way. When I become acutely aware of the dark parts of my soul, I can rest knowing that He knew this long ago and it doesn’t jeopardize our relationship even a little. There’s not a human being on the planet that can promise that.

I like having peace

His peace is different. It’s not dependent on people and circumstances. In a raping, warring, molesting world that is often the opposite of peaceful, I am promised peace at the soul level. John 14:27 "I am leaving you with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid.”

 

I like loving people

And I don’t mean feeling strong feelings for people. That’s easy. I mean actually loving people – even my enemies. I realized that much of my life had been spent either using people, or at best conditionally loving them. That’s what happens when people are in need of love – as we all are apart from Christ. Out of their poverty of love, people are forced to use others. You can’t give away what you don’t have. My partners were amazing men but I tried to make them my source. That was wrong, and selfish, and I used them. Sure I felt strong feelings for them and at the time I would have declared, “I love you!” But there was no hint of sacrifice or selflessness – 2 bedrocks of truly loving someone else. I was an empty well going to other empty wells for water. And then I met THE Well. And I haven’t thirsted since.

I like worshipping

But not just by raising my hands or singing a song. I love the thought of my life not being lived for me; living beyond myself for a higher purpose that even I don’t fully understand yet or grasp the fullness of. It’s deeply compelling and you and I were made for it. I used to think God must be some egotistical being that creates people and then forces them to worship Him. And then I realized how incredibly freeing it is to worship Him alone and that by worshipping Him, the other things my heart was enslaved to lost their grip.

So I wanted to tell you what I found and about Who found me. Because as much as I know this stirs people up and angers some, I feel selfish keeping it to myself.

Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

I didn’t find a dogmatic belief system to be adhered to, but rather a person to follow that led (and is leading) me into greater joy.

I’m asking that you would consider what I’m saying and stop letting your negative experiences with Christians in the past keep you from the very thing you were created for. Sure I’ve met numerous Christians who are hypocritical, or don’t get it, or don’t care to get it. But I’ve met MANY who were real, authentic, imperfect, and loving.

Consider His invitation. Answer His call.

Music for this post: “This Love” by Housefires

Seeing Beyond Gay Marriage

So I hate the title of this blog. But due to my lack of creativity, there it is. I have had many conversations about gay marriage with many on all sides, even those that are torn between supporting and fighting against it. Is there any middle ground? Because I think that’s where I am currently…….

I know, you’re probably surprised and maybe even disappointed or enraged. Before you shout “heretic!”, write me off, discredit the ministry, or do a number of other things that Christians should stop doing, let me explain.

 

The more I get involved in this ministry, hear the hearts of gay people, hear the hearts of Christians, and critically think about how to give my theology of love some legs to walk it out, I’m convinced that gay marriage isn’t the issue. Sure, it’s important and for gay people even more so. As a gay man, that’s what I was most concerned about. Would I have a spouse, a future, and be treated as equal? So can you blame those that are LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) for making this a big deal? It makes perfect sense.

 

What I don’t understand is why Christians make gay marriage the pinnacle of their fight against “the world and culture”.

 

If Americans, Republicans, or Christians (NOT synonymous terms by the way! J ) happen to stop gays and lesbians from getting married legally, have we really “won” anything? I guess if our goal is to make this country superficially moral with Christian values being displayed, and to go back to our comfortable American lives where people don’t challenge what we’ve always held to be true then yes, that would be a “win”. But I don’t think that is the goal and never should be the goal. The goal is for people to meet Jesus – truly, passionately, intimately, and personally – and to become obedient, from the heart, to follow His best for all of our lives.

 

I’m convinced that if marriage laws weren’t being overturned, gay people would continue to be out of sight, out of mind for many people. I have ZERO desire to stop gay marriage and go back to sweeping gay people under the rug in our culture AND our churches.

 

However, I have an intense desire to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Stopping gay marriage will NEVER make a true disciple, it can hardly make a convert. So pouring my energy into stopping something that is probably going to happen anyway, and is happening, seems futile and misdirected. At worst, it continues to widen the divide between the LGBT community and Christians. I’m not called to fight a public policy against a pagan (unbelieving) government. I’m only called to pray for my government and live my life reflecting God’s character, love, and image to a world that doesn’t know Him. I’m only called to, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). I want to make disciples, not go back to “the way things used to be”. The “way things used to be” often means, comfortable, powerless churches who don’t know their God and his heart for the lost. I want more than that. Thank God we’re being offered a chance to rise up and truly show the intense love of God to people who haven’t known it. So thank God for gay marriage. It’s finally waking people up to the fact that these people exist, & they need Jesus.

 

But won’t gay marriage ruin the moral fabric of our culture?

  • I think it’s already ruined and has been for some time. It’s just that this issue has shocked Christian culture back into reality because it’s something that we’re not used to. I don’t want to live in a country that is held together by “moral fabric”. I want to be part of one that is held together by Christ and every word he spoke. The unraveling of culture is not happening because of gay people; it’s happening because fallen people, both gay and straight, have turned away from God and are choosing to live their lives apart from Him.

But won’t gay marriage invite the wrath of God on our nation?

  • There’s no way that 2-3% of the population (the estimated percentage of gay people) can single handedly cause God to set His face against an entire nation. If the wrath of God is coming, it’s going to come because of the intense idolatry of most ALL of the American people including its immense greed, overwhelming pride, tremendous drunkenness (both spiritual and natural), its profound laziness, and sickening gluttony that doesn’t just occur in the world but in the churches as well.
  • If 2-3% of the population can cause such a huge upheaval in culture, it is not an indictment on the world but on the church. 120 disciples of the early church turned the world upside down and infected a pagan culture with God’s radical love. If our culture goes down the tubes it’s a clear reflection that God’s people have lost site of who He is and who they are themselves. Are we really saying the church is so weak that those that have the very life-giving Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and promised to give us power and boldness is not enough to counteract a Godless culture and a vocal minority? One light will ALWAYS be greater than all the darkness in the world…..always.

 

I sincerely believe that the greatest problem in our country and our world is not that evil exists but that the Church doesn’t know their God. I’m not waiting on God to conquer His enemies and defeat evil; He’s already done that. Much would turn around if God’s people would surrender to Him, start to seek Him, and be transformed by Him into the likeness of Christ.

 

So do I think God approves of gay marriage? I don’t. I just see it honestly as a secondary issue to a bigger root problem. As usual, God is probably not interested in fixing the branch issue, but rather the root issue.

 I think gay marriage is a distraction for all sides to be honest. It's a distraction for the church because gay people are messing with our idol of comfort and we think they're the problem.  It's a distraction for gay people because they think that if they get a spouse and equal rights, they'll be completely content and that the church is keeping them from that.  What they really need is not a spouse, but the Living God and His presence in their lives.  I'm interested to see what will happen when the LGBT community no longer needs to fight for their right to marry.  My guess is that their lovers will fail to satisfy under the weight of trying to be their savior, and just as I was, they'll be in prime position to see that God is the only Lover who can meet the deep longings of the soul.  And He'll receive them with gladness and offer them grace as He loves to do.  More prodigals coming home; more sheep finding their Shepherd.  I can't wait....

So I’m torn on gay marriage. I think it’s a huge departure from God’s design and an inaccurate reflection of Christ and his Church. But on the other hand, I can foresee God using it wonderfully (as He does all things if we submit them to Him), much to the chagrin of many evangelicals and much to the delight of those that truly want to see the LGBT community reached for Christ.

For Parents of Gay Teens (Part 1)

http://youtu.be/0Ys4D9xRB2M

Ty, founder of Walls Down Ministry, sits with his parents as they describe what it was like when he came out of the closet as a teenager. His parents share their honest, initial reactions to the news and how God helped them to respond in a way that honored Jesus Christ and respected their son. Note: This video's purpose is to help parents of gay teens and give them hope that they are not alone or abnormal through the wide range of emotions often felt in situations like this. This is not a "how to make your son/daughter straight". Rather it is to help the entire family communicate, have peace, and love one another in spite of differing opinions. We hope this encourages families toward Christ regardless of the circumstances or outcome of your situation.

For Parents of Gay Teens (Part 2)

http://youtu.be/drONJ__YSOw

Ty, founder of Walls Down Ministry, sits with his parents as they describe what it was like when he came out of the closet as a teenager. His parents share their honest, initial reactions to the news and how God helped them to respond in a way that honored Jesus Christ and respected their son. Note: This video's purpose is to help parents of gay teens and give them hope that they are not alone or abnormal through the wide range of emotions often felt in situations like this. This is not a "how to make your son/daughter straight". Rather it is to help the entire family communicate, have peace, and love one another in spite of differing opinions. We hope this encourages families toward Christ regardless of the circumstances or outcome of your situation.

Does the Gospel Change Gay People?

http://youtu.be/-Be0eVggGhc

We often times think that the Gospel doesn't have anything to offer gay people. If they can't become straight, they can't have a fulfilling life, right? The Bible would say something much different! Life isn't found in relationships, people, or marriage....it's found in Jesus Christ. True, abundant life comes from having a heart reconciled back to God and living in relationship to him, not in having straight attractions.

On the Closing of Exodus International

       A number of people have asked what I think about the recent announcement of Exodus International to close its doors.  For those of you who are not familiar with the ministry of Exodus, it is a 38 year old ministry dedicated to the often forgotten about population of those who experience same-sex attraction.  Many have viewed this as a defeat for Christianity in this area and a number have expressed, quite explicitly, how disappointed and angry they are that Exodus has “given up”.  Some have even assumed that the leaders at this ministry have caved in to cultural pressure and have joined the gay movement.  There is no lack of opinion on this issue and the church has ranged from being confused to crying “heresy!”

         I should preface with the acknowledgment that I do not know Alan Chambers, the president of Exodus, personally.  I don’t claim to speak for him or the ministry or to know his heart or every facet of his belief system. So I’ll give you my opinion, which is just that - an opinion.  Having been on both sides of the issue certainly gives me insight, but it doesn’t make me right on all things homosexual.  So before we get worked up over this issue (again) and assume the end is near, let me give you my perspective and some things that are in my heart regarding the end of this longstanding ministry.

         When I left the gay lifestyle in 2005, Exodus was an incredible resource for me.  Although the church I started to attend was incredibly loving and accepting of my past and current struggles, it is probably impossible for one church to take away the internal conflict I faced daily regarding my newfound faith and persistent same-sex attraction (SSA).  Exodus showed me I was not the only person that wanted to live in line with Christian sexuality despite the reality of SSA.  Although I vaguely remember some claiming to be “100% straight”, I remember vividly the men and women who wanted to build a life beyond their sexuality and attractions. I remember the feeling of community and belonging among this group of people that can only be likened to the feeling I had when I entered the gay community.  When the thing you feel is wrong with you is suddenly the normal experience, a powerful shift takes place from shame to acceptance of yourself.  It’s powerful and life-giving. The ministry of Exodus and the resources they promoted, in my experience, really helped me to understand my own sexuality, how it develops and is still developing.  To say everyone is harmed by Exodus would not be true.  However, to say that no one has been harmed by the ministry of Exodus and its affiliates would not be true either. 

         The crux of this issue seems to be the fact that Exodus has, in the past, promoted that change is possible.  This was translated by many (and I think sometimes promoted by Exodus) that change meant going from exclusively homosexual to exclusively heterosexual attractions.  And I think it is this claim that has caused so much harm.  I’m not saying this could never be someone’s experience, however it seems this isn’t the case for many and it has not been mine either. When someone comes to Christ and we promise something He never promised, we set God up to look like He’s not real, doesn’t care, and/or isn’t faithful.  In reality, God is intensely real, cares more than we could imagine, and is more faithful than the sunrise. Those struggling with SSA or a gay identity are left in confusion and internalize shame simply because they can’t get rid of feelings they never asked for in the first place. 

           So Alan Chambers has issued an apology to the gay community for the harm this organization has done and the promises it was never authorized to promise.  Please read his apology HERE.  It is one of the most heartfelt apologies I have ever read.  His honesty is intense and his courage is astounding and admirable.  To say “I’m sorry for my wrong against you” without any qualifier to save face takes more humility than most people have.  An “I’m sorry, but....” is not an apology. An “I’m sorry, however....” means you are not really sorry and are still concerned with being right.  Chambers only offered an “I’m sorry for how I hurt you”.  I think we could all take a lesson from this.  I know it challenges me to the core and if I were in his position, I don’t think I would have the character to do as he did.  And for that, I respect and admire him as a brother and Christ follower. If we ever want to effectively love the gay community and have a voice in their lives, I think an apology is and was incredibly necessary.

In an interview, Alan was asked what was to become of Exodus.  He responded,

“Twelve years ago I said I hoped someday we’d shut down Exodus because the Church was doing its job. Today, we want to shut down Exodus so the Church can do its job. The whole world has gone stark-raving mad over this one ministry, and this one issue, and it's too much for one organization to own, and it's too much for one man or one group of leaders to own. It's time for the Church at large to own it. It's not too big an issue for the Church to deal with. For years Exodus has been this resource for the Church—and I'm glad we have, because it saved my life. But we've also been the scapegoat. We've been the people and organization the Church sent people to because they didn't want the mess in their office. It's time for the church to realize, this is your issue. This is something you need to own and deal with, these people need you. So we're all too glad to give it back to the churches, where it should have been in the first place.”

The entirety of that interview/article can be found HERE

       Exodus was a place where people who dealt with this issue could come as they are, be honest about their struggle, and get prayer and support among other imperfect people who had the same goal: Christ-likeness.  The need for Exodus was produced because the church could not (or would not) offer this very basic element for those with SSA.  Instead of lamenting the past and pointing fingers, let’s repent.  Let’s apologize to those that have been wronged and resolve to love like Christ.  Let’s resolve to be a place where hurting people can know they are welcomed regardless of whether their wounds are self-inflicted or inflicted by others. I think one of the best things for me was that people in my church didn’t shove me towards a gay support group or an ex-gay community – they invited me in to a Christian community and made room at the table for a young man who needed Jesus just as much as they did. 

         So although I’m sad that Exodus has decided to close its doors, I’m very much excited for the potential and opportunity this has made for the church as a whole to rise to the occasion and move far past the largely ineffective ministry it has done previously for those with issues in sexuality and gender.  The world and the gay community are expecting the church to retaliate with more hate and less Christ-likeness. Let’s offer love without an agenda or qualifiers.  Let’s surprise them and offer an invitation to know our Savior instead. 

        As for Alan Chambers and the ministry of Exodus, we really need to realize how incredibly tough being in this position has been and continues to be.  He has continually been in the crossfire between people on both sides demanding he conform to their ideology and blasting him when he refuses to.  I don’t know everything about him, but if I had to make a list of people whose shoes I do not want to walk in, Alan Chambers would be in the top 5.  But if I had to make another list of people whose character I admire, respect, and see Christ-likeness in, Alan Chambers would be in that list also.  So let’s pray for him and give him the grace we would want ourselves.   

 

Here are a few links that were included above

http://exodusinternational.org/2013/06/exodus-intl-president-to-the-gay-community-were-sorry/

http://www.qideas.org/blog/alan-chambers.aspx

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/859828/events/2170680/videos/21999952

^^This is a link to Alan Chambers’ opening session at this year’s Exodus Freedom Conference. 

Resisting Desires or Stuffing Them?

Resisting desires or stuffing them? As one who has continually dealt with the issue of same sex attraction, I have had to learn the fine balance of dealing rightly with the desires that bubble up from within.  There is always a lot of talk about “denying who you are” and “being true to yourself”.  I’ve wrestled with these things pretty extensively and have been forced to navigate through the murky, muddy waters that can often be confusing.  I’ve also found that this is not uncommon to many believers – have you ever had thoughts and desires spring up and wish they would just go away; you’ve felt shame for even thinking about them and even more shame because you might actually act on them if given the opportunity? I’m guessing if you’re human, you have.  [And if you haven’t, keep reading anyway! Maybe this will help some poor soul you encounter sometime ;-) ]

For many, resisting same-sex desires may sound a lot like pretending they don’t exist and stuffing them away.  It may sound like trying to push them out of your awareness.  However, if any of you have ever tried to push any strong desire out of your mind, you’ll likely agree that the desire only comes back very quickly and with much more force.  No?  This is like standing at the edge of the ocean and trying to push the waves back with your hands. Pretty frustrating from my experience!

But I believe there is a huge difference and a fine line between resisting these desires and trying to stuff them away.  The difference is in your fundamental belief about the character of God.  If you believe God is evaluating every thought and the moment you have a dirty one He is shocked, appalled, disgusted, disappointed and enraged, you will likely get worn out trying to “be good” for God.  When the desire comes back with twice as much force you will feel twice as much shame.  Pushing back the waves of an ocean with your hands is hard!

But if you believe that the moment you have that dirty thought that God is for you and is inviting you to Him, it makes all the difference.  In the midst of the dirty thought, lustful motive, or intense desire God is making an appeal for you to “come unto me….”. This changes everything.  If you believe that even in the mess God is not disgusted or surprised but He actually, truly loves you just as much as when your mind is free and clear, then the guilt and shame, I have found, dissolve.  I could hang on to these (guilt and shame) of course, but why? Why do that when the righteous judge sees me as clean and delights in who I am despite what I think and feel? I believe what God would say to those of us who are trying to push back the waves with our feeble hands is, “Child…..Rest.”

When I hear those words, I’m suddenly free to take my hands off the waves and out of the water and lift them high.  In the midst of desire I’m saying, “God you are bigger than all of this that I am standing in and you love me infinitely more.” I start to forget about the waves, although I may be aware that they are there.  A particularly strong wave may come and make me stumble or maybe even knock me off my feet for a moment.  But I get back up, lift my head, dig my feet in, and rest in the knowledge of His overarching sovereignty, unlimited grace, and perfect strength in the midst of weakness.  I know that the stumble didn’t change His love for me.

What I love about God is that when I have sinful desires and thoughts, He invites me to talk to Him.  I admit them to Him.  “God, you see what is going on inside my head. It sounds good and calls my name. But that is no longer Lord of my life.  YOU are Lord.  And God I thank You that my faith in Your character at this moment is pleasing to You.  And as I submit my thoughts and life to You, you make me free and keep me free.”

There’s no need to stuff desires.  There’s no life in that when you do.  There’s life in knowing that the perfect God of the Universe is not put off by my inclination toward depravity and rather delights when I choose instead to put on the character of His son and faith in His Word.  The real reason I resist those desires is not so that I obey the rules and get a gold star on my chart.  I resist those desires because I don’t want anything to be a barrier to the intimacy I have found in simply knowing Him.

So waves may have knocked me down in the past, and if I had my guess, I’m sure there will be more waves to come.  But the waves aren’t the issue, neither are they the most powerful thing in my life.  Although He certainly has the power to calm the waves or eliminate them altogether, this is not necessary for me to stand and praise Him.  I can keep trying to push them back in my own strength or I can dive into the wave and let it sweep me away.  I’ve decided instead to stand, resist, and focus on the One that is giving me the strength to do so.

Music for this post:

Rita Springer - All I Need  

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Not a gay thing......a human one

Having left the gay lifestyle over 8 years ago, I often look back and am amazed at how God has continuously worked miracle after miracle in my life.  He has shown Himself incredibly faithful over and over again and it makes me excited to see what else God has in store. When I first started to tell my testimony, I was nervous, hesitant, and afraid of what people might think or how they might react. It was a very different feeling from being “out and proud”. How could I have been so bold and carefree as a gay man yet so unsure of myself as a new Christian? As I told my story, I assumed no one would really be able to relate to it. Maybe, by chance, God had orchestrated a divine appointment and someone struggling with homosexuality would be in the audience.  Well, it would be worth it, I reasoned, even if there was only one.  If I could provide hope to another person, it was worth me putting myself out there, dirty laundry and all. After all, God went after me, right? He left the 99 for the 1 – He does that often. It’s kind of His thing.

Sometimes no one, to my knowledge, was struggling with this issue. At least they never came up to me afterward and exclaimed they dealt with same-sex attraction too! Did I really expect that to happen? Pretty naïve I guess. Sometimes that did happen, but rarely. Maybe God was just showing that He could do anything with anyone He chose.  Maybe it was an example that God was willing to do the impossible if people only gave Him the opportunity. Nothing is too hard for Him, right? Or maybe God just wanted to show a church culture that often disregarded Him that He was still alive and well. Or, maybe still, God knew that people were often bored with “church as usual” and, in order to keep people awake, a young man with an often unheard of testimony on a controversial issue involving sex was sure to keep people’s attention. I don’t know. The possibilities are endless, I guess.

Whatever the reason, I was giving my testimony – for the hundredth time – and realized that most of my issues really had nothing to do with homosexuality, or even sex for that matter. Although there were few struggling with homosexuality (to my knowledge), there were a multitude who were broken and in broken relationships.  Many came up to me after I shared my story and expressed how grateful they were that I was open and honest about my life. Although they had never dealt with being gay, they admitted to feeling hopeless, lost, confused, lonely, tired, and frustrated in human relationships.  Seeing me “get real” with God gave them hope that soon, mourning would give way to joy and faithfulness would lead to breakthrough.

I was often astounded (and sometimes a little confused) at how people would draw a link between my story and theirs and how they were encouraged despite us having nothing in common.

“Your story really helped me today”, someone would say.

“Oh, are you gay?”

“No, it just helped me with an issue in my marriage.”

Wait, what? My story was about me being gay. Wasn’t he listening? I always thought straight people never listened to me. This proved it. Actually, the more I gave my testimony, the more I realized that most everyone could relate to what I was saying. Weren’t we all in the same miserable boat of continuous sin and repetitive failure until Christ came? Aren’t there a number of things that people choose to stay “in the closet” about (I couldn’t resist) for fear of judgment? Don’t we all struggle to make Jesus Lord over every area of our lives? And do we not all resist the Perfect Love that gently nudges, draws, pokes, prods, and sometimes shoves us toward change so that we can be even freer? I find this is common, all too common in fact. These weren’t gay issues – they were fallen human ones.

Actually, most of my issues really involved me not loving my neighbor as myself. And to be fair, I didn’t love me or my neighbor.  So God set me on a path, not to be straight but to follow Him.  My goal wasn’t heterosexuality. My goal was, and is, Jesus. The more I love Him, the more I love me and those around me. The clearer I see who I am in His love, the clearer I see His love for you. I could go on, I’m sure.

I guess my point in all this is that sin is, well, sin. It can be ever increasing and all-pervading in our lives.  But God’s love is that way too and where sin abounds, grace abounds more.  The common denominator for all of us is that sin has wrecked and shattered us and no amount of self-righteous glue is going to put us back together. Brokenness comes in many forms, but Jesus is the great Mender.  We’re more alike than we think, I guess.

Some music for this post: Watermark - "Mended"