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  

Image

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"

 

Leaving My Gay Life

http://youtu.be/0SRJSBzs1qc

This is a short testimony of why the founder of Walls Down left his gay life to follow Christ.