Friday, July 10, 2015
Stumbling Toward Freedom from Homosexuality from Pure Passion on Vimeo.
So, I guess it's all settled. The United States Supreme Court "decided" gay marriage; the president rainbowed the White House and several desperate-for-dollars denominations cast aside the discipline of truth for the comfort of cant-we-all-just-get-along theology.
Marry who you want.
Do anything you want.
Believe anything you want.
It's all about you.
Except it's not.
Somewhere along the line, a lot of people have decided that it's not about you at all, it's about them, and until you align with them, life is going to be unpleasant, ever more so as we "progress." It's out with the outliers time. Or, shall we say, selective outliers. If you're a true believer in what the Bible says -- some would say a neanderthal -- you're an outlier. But if you are enlightened by the enveloping darkness of our cultural evolution, you're a hero.
It's not settled at all.
The reality is that people with core beliefs based on Biblical truth will go forth -- some boldly, some not -- and live their lives as best they can in a world more than ever definitely not home. And, those who have not allowed Biblical truth to impede them thus far will continue on, reveling in their self-truths, looking for the next thing to define, grouping allies for the new cause, shaming anyone whose truth cannot be shaped to match their own. Those who had no clue what this was really all about will just do whatever popular thing tips the scales or whatever looks cool at the moment, like putting rainbows on their profile photos or ridiculing cake-bakers for actually having beliefs. The era of "don't judge" is extremely judgmental.
In fact, its more unsettling than ever.
The wishy-washy church -- that would be the biggest part of it -- may breather a deep sigh of relief that it is now more off-the-hook than ever. It will probably never be called on to explain why it remained so silent and non-responsive to those who struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction during the time when the struggle was at least somewhat recognized as real. We basically told them to go find themselves and many are more lost than ever. All those uncomfortable questions can just go away now and we can pretend our pews are not resting places for the brokenhearted who internalize and do their best to keep their secrets as they struggle on.
The church can go from tone deaf to totally deaf and wash its hands of the failure to confront in the early stages what will be one of the most defining -- there's that word again -- moments in our nation's history. That's not to say it is not right for some denominations, including the Southern Baptists, to declare they will remain defiant in the face of the Supreme Court ruling. Bully for them. That's the right stand. The problem is, stands are often too little too late.
Resolutions rarely resolve anything.
I'm not going to argue the cop-out capitulation of the SCOTUS decision or even the malignancy of the gay rights movement or the milquetoast fine-line walking of so many Christians who have been so fractiously careful to say nothing of credibility for so long that now there is no united credible voice to lift. There are plenty of others to debate all of these things. In a sense, many Christians are now looking at it as something that has happened and with which we must now figure out how to live. Oops. We missed the mark on this one, right? Or, as Throne-Hopeful Hillary Clinton might say, "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
From a Christian perspective, it makes a big difference. Basically, our country -- well, our Court -- decided to eradicate a sin by making it contractual. If it's legal, it can't be a bad thing. Right? To be fair, it's regarded as a sin only by people who actually know what sin is, so, taking that into consideration, we see a great division between the love-wins crowd and the sin-wins crowd. Frankly, it's hard to stomach a love-wins celebrated with such hatefulness. Just ask Sweet Cakes.
Mercy . . . what's a Christian to do? Like the world, we descend into divisiveness. Some water down and others hunker down.
Lost in the side-debate as to whether the gay rainbow has one less color than the one God placed in the sky, is what shall we do about that unwelcome color of grey: the same-sex struggler? He never really fit anywhere before and he's the true outlier now.
What shall we do with the men and women who still struggle against unwanted same-sex attraction? They're not gay and they know it. They would no more marry someone of the same sex than they would marry a paint bucket. (Which may someday be legal?). But, the church, after all these years of bright shining light on the subject, is still ill-equipped to answer questions, provide support and hope and help them walk toward the freedom for which they long. Add to that deficiency on the part of the church the very real threat that such counseling on the part of a church could bring forth public ridicule, claims of backwardness and ignorance, and even the judgment of the gay community that you are driving this poor struggler into depression and perhaps suicide because you will not set him free to be what God intended. Indeed, such counseling is considered by many to be hate.
Except, of course, He did not intend you to be that way and you cannot be free in it. Only He can set you free and more and more He is finding little help from the church. The instrument is rusted.
The gay community ridicules the same-sex struggler. They're the drivers of the rainbow bus and you either get aboard or it will run you down. The church should be the ones who pull the wandering and confused same-sex strugglers who are just trying to find the right road to walk on out of the way of the barreling bus. We should not be working side-by-side with gay activists to throw the struggler underneath it.
I know. It's not your job. Never has been, right? For years the church comforted itself by keeping an Exodus Ministries contact card in the card file so on the outside chance that a member of the church was brave enough to come forth for help they could refer him or her on. Good deed done. And thousands did find help there until Exodus, with Alan Chambers perched proudly behind the wheel, drove straight into a ditch and then hitched a ride on the rainbow bus themselves, leaving true strugglers on the side of the road like pitched-out hitchhikers.
Christians allowed themselves to become comfortably marginalized in the battle and are now comfortably settling in to the role as official reactors. Instead of preventing things, we just vent.
So . . . here's the point. You are surrounded by more people than you know who struggle with same-sex attraction. More than ever, they are challenged to wonder what is wrong with them and are pushed to accept those thoughts and feelings as God-given intent. They need your help. They need your willingness to listen. And they need to know that you know the difference between a nearly-naked pride activist parading down a street demanding your attention . . . and a confused searching Christian brother or sister who will never demand your attention, but so badly needs it, hoping you will help them stick with truth over convenience.
God apparently decided enough-was-enough for Exodus and took it out. But, if you are a struggler, or know one, there are alternative ministries who chose the better course of strengthening their Biblical beliefs rather than modifying them to fit more finely onto the rainbow bandwagon, as Exodus has done.
Desert Stream Ministries and The Restored Hope Network are among those who still stand by those who have the courage to swim against the cultural current.
Neither President Obama nor the Supreme Court or the LGBT-and-so-on community can redefine what God has first defined. There's still just one true Word on the subject.
Don't pride yourself on taking a personal stand against something that doesn't really bother you anyway. Reach out to those who are in the greatest peril: the strugglers. They're not really welcome anywhere now that all the tents have been pitched.
If love is truly to win, it needs truly to be love. Somehow we have to cut through the clutter of those who are celebrating a victory and those who are declaring the end of the world and see those in the muddy middle who are plodding along in a daily battle, more uncertain than ever as to whether any allies remain.
Let this not be the moment where we took a collective shrug.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Culture is becoming more and more chaotic, particularly in relation to gender identity. If you're confused about where society is headed, you're in good company. The good news is, truth does not change.
Who Told You You Were Naked?
The Counterfeit Compassion of Culture
"Who Told You You Were Naked?" is for men and women who seek freedom through Christ from the bondage of sexual sin.
Thirsting for lasting freedom? Searching for truth? Crying out for uncompromised compassion? Yearning to move beyond shame and guilt? Ready for restoration?
Sexual sin -- whether it manifests itself as homosexuality, sexual addiction, pornography, lust, idolatry, or adultery -- wreaks havoc. It can destroy the broken one and devastate the lives of family members and friends close enough to feel the impact of the personal implosion.
Our 21st Century enlightenment leads us down a very dark path. In the interest of compassion, we re-define marriage, re-manufacture the military, re-shape education to focus on sexual identity, re-define the family, and refrain from sharing the truth. Christians are like the cowardly lion whose courage vanishes in the presence of a louder voice. As a result, Christians who struggle with sexuality either go into hiding or into the arms of the counterfeit compassionate culture. People who are not Christians, but are looking for answers to sexual problems, see the church as irrelevant, not as a place to find hope and restoration.
While Christians debate whether it is too painful to be truthful or too compromising to be compassionate, culture doles out anesthetics and everyone goes numb or plays dumb. As a result, culture assumes the mantle of compassion and Christians seem loveless and fearful, judgmental and condemning.
"Who Told You You Were Naked?" reminds us that God restores and rebuilds based on His never-changing truth rather than by surrendering His people to the whims of ever-changing cultural chaos.
In the midst of all this chaos, there is truth, if we can find the courage to share it and the compassion to voice it. "Who Told You You Were Naked?" not only does that, but it shows the reader how he can as well. It will make a difference in the lives of men and women who want to be free from the bondage of whatever sexual struggle has enveloped them.
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Sunday, May 18, 2014
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.” -- Job 1:21
No one really and completely succeeds at life. We navigate as well as we can, avoiding as many obstacles as possible, negotiating unwelcome twists and turns, hoping not to end up shattered on the jagged rocks at the eventual shoreline. At some point the journey ends and we are what we have become, in part because of what we have overcome.
Inevitably, as Christians, we are restored. As much as possible in this life; completely in the next.
My role through the here-unfolding restoration process is to sincerely seek it; God's role to graciously give it. My role to accept it; His to affect it. My choice to choose it; His to do it. My role to desire it; His to design it. His unmerited grace; my unending gratefulness.
I know that sounds simple, but it can be confusing. Sometimes we put a great deal of effort into self-restoration, as if we can plow through our closets and drawers and then stand in front of a mirror for thirty minutes and apply all the right cover-ups to be convincing. We wink and strike a convincing pose and switch off the flattering light to turn and face . . . realistic life. Other times we turn the restoration over to someone else, an individual who seems to have it all together or a group that claims they can put it all together for you in 10 not-so-easy-almost-brutal-tough-love steps. Unfortunately, they may judge you more by your practiced poses of self-protection than by your plaintive woes of self-rejection. Depending on how they view you -- from behind masks of rigid self-righteousness or through hearts of tender brokenness -- they do a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, determining whether you are yet broken enough for their repair work to begin. As bad as you know you are, your acceptance of your badness may not look quite good enough for their goodness. Bless you later?
Bless their hearts. It's hard enough for people to deal with their own sins. Do we really have to do the hard work regarding the sins of others? Yes, and with long-suffering to boot. The problem is, most of us are not open about our sinful nature, so when it raises its ugly head, our gracious neighbors find themselves face-to-face with a threatening Cobra and do what comes natural: run for cover.
There's nothing much worse than for those who really know you to find out something really bad about you that they really did not know.
What we need is a bit of interim nakedness between the womb and the tomb. Post-discovery transparency is a great thing and certainly helps protect against continued falling, but coming clean beneath the bright lights of exposure can seem a bit late in the relationship-preservation game.
A few years ago ,when I was trying so hard to prove to everyone that I was "all better now," I focused so much energy on looking like things were all right that I had little energy left over to make sure they truly were. That's a surefire plan for relapse. Simply put, if being right for the sake of the ones around us was enough, we would never end up so wrong to begin with. Anyone who has a weakness for an addictive sin has an acquired immunity to those who rightly warn of impending self-destruction. Our yellow-brick road is just a little more yellow and becomes so bright it seems the only path available. Suddenly we're glowing road-kill.
How many times do we as Christians have to say to ourselves and others that God sees all, hears all, knows all before we believe all . . . that? Why do we relegate Him to being a God of retrospection? He has no need of hindsight.
Truth is . . . we're still naked as far as God is concerned. All those earthly shopping binges to wrap ourselves in the latest robes of life -- whether they be righteousness or wretchedness -- are for naught, if we don't come before Him, in a non-literal sense, disrobed. We might fool each other with the latest cover-the-fall fashions, but we'll never fool God.
At some point, most people who struggle with sexual or relational brokenness, reach a point where they desperately want to be transformed. Maybe the person they were intended to be has faded so far into the past they don't know even where to start looking. Maybe they have been so derided by people who have long since decided this dog won't hunt when it comes to true change that they have no one to turn to. Maybe they have fooled themselves too many times and spent every penny on tickets on the repentance merry-go-round and they just can't drag themselves into that again without some assurance that the ride might have a different outcome. Maybe, just maybe, they reach a point where it's all "You, God."
Of course we want things to be right with those we hurt and those we love and those we respect. Of course we want those who turned away to turn around. Of course we want trust to replace disgust and our present sorrow to be gone tomorrow. Of course we want to count our losses, lick our wounds and come out healed. We want. Remember though, wanting is what got us into this mess to begin with, and, if we want restoration, but it does not come because we're expecting it from people who are not ready or able to give it, we can trigger new wants, born of rejection, a sworn enemy of transformation.
Before you start detailing the plans for all that restoration, remember, it's all "You, God." And He's ready, willing and able. Not only that, but God knows what transformation and restoration really look like. If it was up to me, everything I lost because of my years of bowing to sin would come back, just as shiny and new as it was before I tarnished it. As they say, however . . . perhaps "God has a better plan."
My struggle was a lengthy one and I received a lot of advice through the years, some from people who hadn't a clue what I was going through and some from people who had a clue because they'd been through it themselves. One piece of advice they often had in common: "You just need to get your life right with God."
And the smugness in me might roll my eyes and declare that advice to be the epitome of dismissive triteness. When all else fails . . . honey . . . "get right with God."
Or at least it is if you decide that before all others you're going to get right with the Awesome God who created you . . . knows you . . . loves you . . . wants you . . . forgives you . . . and will welcome you now and forever if you will only "get right" with Him. What's trite about that?
In the sense of eternity, everything is interim to Him. No matter what you did today, you're still the naked child in your mother's womb and you are already the one who will depart naked. He sees dust-to-dust all at one time, and that's a breadth of knowledge that can certainly see you through the whole journey if you will just . . . "get right with God."
No matter what you fill your life with -- from sin-driven debauchery to servant-driven self-denial -- there will be lonely times and uncertain times and longing times and hurtin' times. We look for places to go and spaces to fill and things to do that will make life more real. For some, life seems just a home-bound journey and for others of us, it works out more like a tumble through a brier-patch. He sees the beginning and the end, the slip, tumble and the struggle to stand.
And He loves you.
(For more insight into sexual and relational brokenness, order Surviving Sexual Brokenness: What Grace Can Do, through Amazon.com, where all of my books are available.)