Keeping Sin in Perspective

This post by Matt Moore was timely in the wake of Kim Burrell’s statements earlier this week. Matt shares his thoughts on feeling that homosexuality was somehow different than any other sin, and how that mindset can undermine the potential for growth in one’s relationship to Jesus:

http://www.moorematt.org/not-an-anomaly/

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This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

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The title of this post is a bit misleading – it actually should read more along the lines of “This is why we cannot have meaningful relationships and conversations.”

Earlier this week, singer Kim Burrell in a video, predicted that homosexuality and those “who play with it in God’s house will die in 2017.” She also spoke about “the perverted homosexual spirit” in her sermon. (She has since stated that her comments were taken out of the context of her message, and that she holds no hatred for gays or lesbians.) The comments made in her original video came to the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who cancelled Kim Burrell’s upcoming scheduled appearance on her show.

And I don’t blame her (DeGeneres) for taking that step.

Once again, someone who is a follower of Christ was found to take homosexuality out of the greater context of Scripture and twist it into a something unrecognizable. Predicting the death of anyone in this or any other year is beyond the pay grade of any disciple of Jesus.

I believe that there are several reasons behind this type of thinking:

  1. Bad teaching.
  2. Resentment
  3. A Lack of Discussion Regarding Sexuality in the Church

Let’s take a closer look at these…

1. Bad Teaching

At this point in the history of the church, there really is no excuse for this. There are more resources available than there have ever been. (You can find a list of some of them under the “Resources” tab of this blog.) For Kim Burrell to have said these things, it seems that she has spent little time in understanding how homosexuality is addressed in Scripture, and how God works in the lives of those who have experienced same-sex attractions, or any other sin for that matter.

Singer and songwriter Keith Green once said, “This generation of Christians is responsible for this generation of souls on the earth!” We have a responsibility to learn about the issues our culture is concerned with today in order to reach the souls of those around us with the Gospel.

2. Resentment

Sometimes it seems as though Christians speak out recklessly in regards to homosexuality in particular because of a resentment of the wider cultural acceptance of those who identify as gay or lesbian. It is as if lashing out with words you would never hear applied to any other sin is done in a terribly misguided effort to take back ground in some way.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I’m thankful that people are able to be more open about their same-sex attractions in our culture – I don’t want to go back to where we were. It is good for people to be able to walk down the street without being afraid of getting beat up. It’s good for people to be able to go about their days at work or running errands on eating meals with friends without harassment. It was not a good thing to treat homosexuality as a cultural taboo.

Christians always walk in two worlds – we live here on earth as citizens of another Kingdom. It makes no sense to waste time railing against our status as expatriates. This world is not our home, and we have the privilege of showing those around us what it is like to live a life of freedom and love in Christ. When others see His love in us, they will want to join in the call to know and glorify God.

3. A Lack of Discussion Regarding Sexuality in the Church

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5-6

Kim Burrell lost her opportunity to meet Ellen DeGeneres, to appear on her show, and to have any kind of conversation or build any kind of relationship with her because she chose to pick out homosexuality as a sin deserving some kind of special punishment from God. Her theology was wrong, and it will take some time and effort to ever have that kind of opportunity come her way again (if ever.)

Without discussions about sexuality – whether about homosexuality or heterosexuality – within the church, room is created for bad teaching and resentment to build, instead of wisdom and contentment in Christ. Too often people are afraid to bring up the subject in a Sunday School class or Bible study, and their conversations end up being seasoned with flamethrowers instead of salt.

Salt is known to be one of the basic human tastes. (The others are sweet, bitter, sour and savory.) According to Wikipedia:

“As taste senses both harmful and beneficial things, all basic tastes are classified as either aversive or appetitive, depending upon the effect the things they sense have on our bodies. Sweetness helps to identify energy-rich foods, while bitterness serves as a warning sign of poisons.

According to Lindemann, both salt and sour taste mechanisms detect, in different ways, the presence of sodium chloride (salt) in the mouth, however, acids are also detected and perceived as sour.

The detection of salt is important to many organisms, but specifically mammals, as it serves a critical role in ion and water homeostasis in the body. Because of this, salt elicits a pleasant taste in most humans.

Sour and salt tastes can be pleasant in small quantities, but in larger quantities become more and more unpleasant to taste.”*

I’ve made the mistake of adding too much salt in recipes, and the results were inedible. When we fail to use wisdom and discernment in our conversations, we make relationships with people who don’t know Jesus unpalatable. (Now, of course, we know that some people may find the message of the Gospel hard to digest – but that is not what is happening in this example with Kim Burrell.) We need to spend time learning within our fellowship groups how to address questions surrounding sexuality in a Biblically sound and compassionate way. I believe that Kim’s words would have been different if she had spoken to other mature Christians first.

Here are some suggestions:

Invest some time in learning more about what the Lord has to say about our sexuality in general, as well as about homosexuality. (Again some excellent resources are listed on the Resources tab of this blog.)

Spend some time listening to those who have experienced same-sex attractions. Ask questions just to gain insight into the perspective of other people.

Find other Christians who are interested in learning more about how to reach out to people around them who are involved in the LGBT community, and talk about your concerns and questions. Invite someone to come speak to your small group on the topic, and ask your church staff for more teaching to be made available so you can ask your questions within the Body of Christ.

There are ways to speak about sexuality without alienating people – and those conversations are best when they are earned. We need to be involved in serving everyone around us, and being ready to give thoughtful (not bland), graceful answers when opportunities do arise. Here is one example that I thought was very good – you may recall that there was an article raising a controversy about Chip and Joanna Gaines late last year, where it was noted that they attend a church in which the pastor has addressed homosexuality as a sin. Just this week, Chip has posted the following response on his blog…it is well worth taking your time to read:

https://magnoliamarket.com/chips-new-years-revelation/

Instead of decrying the state of being attacked and misunderstood, Chip Gaines has asked us all to raise the level of the conversation. He asks us to be considerate of one another and give one another breathing room. It is possible to lovingly disagree and work alongside each other in a community. Let us look for opportunities to do that in this new year.

 

 

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taste#Basic_tastes

Another Short But Deep Read

Over the past few months I’ve come across some excellent resources that I wish would have been available when I was growing up.  The quality of writing has been on the rise, matching up to the great need of helping the church to grow into it’s calling to walk alongside those who experience same-sex attraction.  I am excited to see how the Lord will use these things to help followers of Christ in the days to come.

Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: How and Why Christians Should Have Gay Friends

by Brad Hambrick

I came across a recommendation for this book recently and added it to my Kindle. I was able to read it in it’s entirety during a long car ride, highlighting passages on almost every page.

The inscription on the first page was striking:

This book is dedicated to those who have felt that their experience of same-sex attraction has left them isolated within or from the Body of Christ.

May this book help the church better embody the gospel we proclaim and be the family of God.

~ Brad Hambrick

I’ve never read a book that was so directly dedicated to me, or to people like me (outside of Scripture, of course!) It took me aback for a moment – to think that the author even noticed that experiencing this temptation can be an isolating experience, often leaving a person feeling detached from the conversations going on in a church group, or even cut off from the gospel – the good news of salvation and redemption itself. To see that the goal of this book was to help end and mend this isolation through the maturation of the church was touching.

As I then read through the recommendations, I came across a familiar name – John Freeman, President of Harvest USA:

Finally, a practical book that helps us engage people as Jesus would! Brad Hambrick captures the heart of what is means to invite into dialogue and relationship people who you might otherwise see as so unlike you that you may not know how to begin a substantive conversation. Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk teaches the lost art of how to talk with people, draw them out, get to know their story and, therefore, know their heart…all of which makes fertile soil for the gospel to take root and flourish!

That is a fine summary of what this book can help one accomplish. I’ve probably mentioned this on this blog before, but the number one question I receive from people after hearing my story is, “How can I talk to my gay / lesbian friend / family member without offending or hurting them in some way?” People really want to show that they care, and they want to love others well, which in and of itself is a world away from the mainstream of the culture I grew up in.   So there is already a great need for a book like this, and Brad Hambrick does indeed do a wonderful job of giving practical help.

It is a short work – only 100 pages, divided into six chapters which build on one another, so it’s worth reading from beginning to end. The last chapter was the most awkwardly worded, which the author acknowledged as it was a compressed fictional conversation, but you could catch the application of what was shared in the previous five chapters enough to justify reading it through.

Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: How and Why Christians Should Have Gay Friends would be an excellent follow up to Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach* for a small group wanting to learn more about bridging the divide between those who experience same-sex attraction and the church at large.

*See the Resources tab for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Single and Secure

http://www.moorematt.org/a-healthy-independence/

Another insightful post by Matt Moore, this time on living as a single follower of Christ.  It reminded me of several times when the Lord made His love for me and His understanding of me as an individual known as I was living as a single person.  (He’s done the same after I’ve been married, actually, in different ways…)  God will always meet us where we are, and investing in our relationship with Him always pays off.

 

Signs of Hope in the Midst of Grief

P1180179_2This past weekend we have witnessed horrible events that still hang heavy on my heart and mind.

On Friday evening, after singing at her concert, Christina Grimmie was shot and killed while signing autographs for her fans. Her brother tackled the shooter, who then turned the gun on himself, taking his own life.

Then, the news early Sunday morning shared the loss of 20 people at a gay bar in Orlando, with tens more injured. By that afternoon, the death toll had risen to 50, and I’ve heard since that 53 lives were lost.

Stunning, again, such loss – these were people with promise, going about their lives peacefully. They had no reason to think that this would be their last time heading out the door, seeing their families and friends, or hearing their last song.

As soon as I learned of these incidents, I prayed for their friends and families. Yet the sorrow has lingered longer than the headlines. I have a friend who lives near Orlando who might have been in that club, but thankfully was not. Just yesterday I learned that my aunt went to church with Christiana Grimmie in NJ, and shared that their pastor spoke of her loss on Sunday morning.

One thing that I have noticed that brings me some hope in the midst of this is the reaction from the Christians around me. Online, the first news I had of the story was from the post-gay community, who are united in grief and in prayer. At Sunday School the first prayer request that morning was for those involved in the shooting in Orlando. Ugly words have been rare, and there has been much less hesitation to reach out in love.

I pray that this is a sign of maturity – long past due – in the church as a whole. I encourage anyone who knows someone in the LGBT community to voice your sadness, and ask those around them how they are feeling / what they are thinking about what happened.

After the shooting that took place at a prayer service Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC on June 17th, 2015, (where a shooter sat with the church members for an hour before standing up to kill nine people) I remember the next time that I went to church, for the first time, I wondered what would I do if someone came into the sanctuary with a weapon. Would I be hit instantly, or would I be able to duck under cover? What about my husband, what would I do if he was injured? Would I be able to help anyone?

No one should have to think about these kinds of questions going to church, or to school, or a movie theater, a mall, or a gay bar.

There have been a variety of reasons behind these mass shootings in the US – mental illness, racism, extremist Islamic terrorism, etc. In every case, bringing a gun into a peaceful assembly of people is an act of cowardice. It will not advance any cause, or resolve any problem.

I have seen a (very) few people decrying prayer as a response to these incidents. At first I was taken back by this, after all – how can prayer hurt? There is in our culture the belief that prayer is mere sentiment; a well-wishing, fleeting thought aimed vaguely at the sky. And for some, sadly, that is all it is – a notion of the mind, dissipating into thin air. But for those who know the Lord personally, prayer is communication with the Creator of the Universe, a direct connection with a supernatural, holy, and awesome being who bends low to listen to us. There is an underestimation of the power of prayer, and the impact this conversation can have on the individual praying.

But if that disapproval of prayer is actually a disappointment, a frustration with those who pray and turn away unchanged, or not motivated to put their prayers into helpful action, then I can understand, and even agree.

One way that I’ve found useful in turning my prayers for an end to these mass shootings & for peace into practical action is supporting the work of Americans for Responsible Solutions (http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org/).

You may remember that on January 8th of 2011, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while at a public gathering with constituents. Six people were killed and nineteen injured in that incident (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle_Giffords). Since that time, Gabrielle and her husband Mark Kelly have started Americans for Responsible Solutions to address the complicated matters surrounding gun violence in this country. Both Mark and Gabrielle are gun owners, and do not advocate overturning the Second Amendment of the Constitution. The legislative actions they do support address a variety of issues surrounding gun violence in a variety of ways, and I believe that they are common sense ways we can agree on that will help. Please consider looking into their proposals and supporting this work.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-21

A Good Word from Across the Sea

We all know that just about anything spoken in English sounds better when spoken with a British accent.  Especially when it’s a good word from a brother in Christ.  Actually quite a few good words.

Living Out is an outreach listed on the resources tab, and I’ve appreciated the work that they are doing across the sea.  Here is a talk worth listening to:

You Are Not Your Sexuality

Where Good Things Run Wild

Years ago I was on a hiking trip with three other friends (I’ll use their initials to protect their identities, although I don’t think that they would mind me sharing this story), T, S, and V. While T, S and I all were experienced hikers, V was new to this activity. She had quizzed us before the trip with all kinds of questions – what boots to buy, what kind of pack, water bottle, and hiking pole to use, what kind of training she should do to prepare for the trails, how to handle any emergencies, etc.

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Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho

We were enjoying an 11+ mile day hike on a gorgeous sunny day, and came to a curve that hugged a canyon wall. It was very steep & sheer uphill and downhill of the trail – at some points you could reach your left arm out and touch the side of the mountain. T was in front and I could see across the canyon that there was a mountain goat on the trail ahead of her. I wasn’t worried about the goat attacking her, but I could see that it was using the trail because there wasn’t footing, even for the goat, any other way, and as we came around the curve behind her, T and the goat were in a stand-off, (at a safe distance, I might add!)

T and I conferred, and went with the option to politely move forward, avoiding eye contact, until the goat found a place where it could step to the side of the trail and allow us to move on past it. There were a few times when the goat seemed to consider mowing all four of us off the mountain, but fortunately it huffed and changed its mind and moved back. Finally it came to an area with a few trees and a boulder on our left, and it hopped right up, it’s hooves at our eye level. T, myself and S hot-footed it past, offering our quiet “thank you’s” and “sorry’s.”

Then I turned around to see V, the tallest of our group, walking in slow motion very stiffly past the goat. The goat was getting impatient and voiced a rather displeased huff, which made me quite nervous.

“V – hurry up!” I said in a hoarse whisper.

With her teeth clenched like a ventriloquist, V replied, “You said not to run in front of the wild animals!”

Sigh, I had said that, and V was following instructions to the letter.

“The omnivores, V, not the herbivores…it’s OK to walk quickly this time…it’s waiting for us to go by.”

She sped up, just a bit, and all turned out well.

Our National Park Service was established in 1916, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”[1] This continent was full of wild country years ago, and as we’ve “paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” in the name of progress, we’ve needed to set aside and protect unpopulated places. These parks allow room for wild things to run free, and these areas have rules and regulations to keep everyone safe.


In God’s wildness lies the hope of the world – the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.

~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 317


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Anini Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Jim Burnett was a National Park Ranger for 30 years. He wrote a book entitled, Hey Ranger! True Tales of Humor & Misadventure from America’s National Parks.  The following is taken from his introductory chapter:

For many current-day visitors to national parks the “great outdoors” is an alien environment, and most of what they know about dealing with the natural world comes from a TV program or magazine article. The expression, “I know just enough to be dangerous” applies in a big way to some people who decide to try a canoe trip, climb a mountain, spend a night in a campground, or even just take a short hike on a nature trail.

I’ve also concluded that a few park visitors take their goal to “get away from it all” a little too seriously and simply leave their brains at home when they go on vacation. As a result, they end up doing things that they would never dream of attempting in their native habitat, whether that happens to be a big city, suburbia, or a small town. Sometimes this situation is compounded when people try to cram too much fun into too little time, resulting in a trip that might more accurately be called, “wreck-reation” than recreation.

If it wasn’t for guidelines and laws, some people might try to use the parks as their own personal hunting safari range, or mow down rare and beautiful plants and animals with four wheelers, or toss trash into clear mountain streams – things they wouldn’t dream of doing to their neighbor’s property in their own home towns.

I am so thankful for our National Park system, and our country’s Wilderness Areas[2], and for those who work in these places to keep people and the environment safe. Most of the vacations I’ve taken in my adult life have been trips to hike, bike, and kayak through these parks. On my hikes I’ve come across moose, fox, bear, antelope, badger, prairie dogs, trout, turtle, raccoon, otter, pine martin, woodpecker, trumpeter swans, eagles, hawks, cranes, marmot, pika, elk, deer, buffalo, loon, and heard the cry of wolves. There have been fields of wildflowers filling green valleys so lush you’d think it was Eden, and waterfalls that shine like silver over smoothed out stone. Cooling breezes and warming sunlight fill the day, and countless stars sparkle as I’ve settled down to rest at night.


Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. Here grow the wallflower and the violet. The squirrel will come and sit upon your knee, the logcock will wake you in the morning. Sleep in forgetfulness of all ill. Of all the upness accessible to mortals, there is no upness comparable to the mountains.

~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 235


 

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Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Getting out past the “front country” nature trails and information kiosks into the woods for days has been a great blessing. To know that this rugged, uncultivated land is there – to look around for miles and only see things that God has put in place – to be pulled by the desire to see what’s coming around the next bend – to have enough space for all of this to exist is such a gift.


No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening – still all is Beauty!

~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), page 208


 

Last week I came across this quote for the first time, and it’s haunted me (in a good way) since:

 The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.
~ G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

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Custer State Park, South Dakota

We often think of the rules when it comes to Christianity – and sometimes it can seem that is all that Christians are focused on. But to do that is to miss the forest for the trees. Or perhaps, in continuing with the idea of wilderness, we can look at it another way…

A park ranger was once asked by a man leading his family in one of the great western National Parks, “What would you do if you only had 15 minutes to see this place?”

“See that bench over there?” he replied, “I would sit on it and cry.”

The vast majority of visitors to National Parks never venture 1 or 2 miles away from their car. Their experience is going to be vastly different than that of someone backpacking into the wilderness, living in the woods while carrying all their supplies. So too, I believe, are the experiences of those who dabble in having faith in Christ, getting their toes wet from time to time, rather than plunging in with their whole lives.

It’s not the rules of Christianity that hold us back, but rather we often hold ourselves back from the wild goodness that is allowed to run free under His wing. So, for the Christian, here are a few questions to consider…

Are you enjoying the good things running wild in your own life with Christ? Are you following rules and setting order for rules and for order’s sake, or are you digging deeper and walking further down the trail in your faith? Are there times you’ve carved out to spend with Jesus and allow Him to speak to you through His Word, or quiet you with His love, like a pika in it’s den? (Zeph. 3:17) Are you expressing gratitude for all that you’ve been blessed with, like wildflowers in a meadow, whose pedals follow the sun across the sky? Are there moments when worship spontaneously bursts out of you like a waterfall through a crack in the rock?

If not, maybe getting out into a bit of the wild itself might help draw you into a deeper communion with the Creator of all that is good and wild, beautiful and pure, noble and true.


Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.

~ John Muir Our National Parks , 1901, page 56


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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Secondly, examine your life to see if you are you creating an environment for others to enjoy. Is your life, your home, your friendship giving room for good things to run wild? Is your house &/or are your conversations a haven, a refuge? Are you walled off with tall fences and concrete roofs, or open to the starlight? What are you shaping with your life? Are you inviting chaos with your choices, leaving destruction, ruts, and trash in your wake, or are opening wide landscapes of peace?  Is your life drawing people in, wondering what could be around the next corner?


Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.
~ John Muir The Yosemite (1912), page 256


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Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Consider these questions with Jesus, and ask Him how you might move forward to give room for good things to run wild in and through your life.

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, my God,

for in You I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

apart from You I have no good thing.”

I say of the holy people who are in the land,

“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, You alone are my portion and my cup;

You make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

my body also will rest secure,

because You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

nor will You let your faithful one see decay.

You will show me the path of life;

in Your presence is fullness of joy;

in Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

(NIV/Amplified)

 

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

[1] The Organic Act of 1916 created the National Park Service “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

[2] There are 759 Wildernesses and 109,754,604 acres in the US.