Month: February 2015

Awesome

The term “awesome” gets thrown around often in my life.  I have been known to tell people of an awesome new show I am watching, or brag about something that my kid has done that was just awesome, or in regards to a spectacular play made in the sporting arena.  I have even eaten some awesome food.  Over the years I have gotten in the habit of using the word so often, and in reference to so many things, that it has become essentially meaningless.

About a week ago my son let me know that the word awesome was not allowed in one of the classes of the school he attends.  I have to admit, I was shocked to find this out.  Why would such a word be banned in class?  I can understand curse words.  I can understand words that could have racist meanings or origins.  I can even understand words with a toilet humor attached to them.  The word “awesome”, though, seems to be a strange word to ban.

In an attempt to wrap my brain around why such a word would be on a banned list I asked my son if he had been told why the word shouldn’t be used, and he said something that I have to admit rocked me.

‘Dad, we should only stand in awe of God and who He is.  Awesome is a word that should be reserved for God.’

I have to admit that I had never thought of things in this way, but the more I think about it, the more I understand it to be true.  God is awesome.

In Scripture we find the word awesome used 33 times in the Old Testament, and One time in the New Testament.  Each usage is pointing to God in some way or another. I have no desire to seem legalistic, or to assign sin to the use of this word to anything other than God, but talking to my son has opened my eyes to how I should be using this word.  As an act of worship, I will only use this word in response to God.  There is nothing on Earth that compares to Him.

God alone is awesome

Be Careful Little Eyes

Unless you live under a rock, you know that there is a movie coming out this weekend that is a pretty big deal.

It is a movie which sensationalizes sex outside of marriage.

This movie (and the book it is based on) has been given the term “Mommy Porn” and it is a title that seems to fit.  It is not the first movie of its kind, nor will it be the last.  the difference in this movie is the outpouring of support and the massive audiences that are already hyperventilating at the chance to watch it.  There is no question that this movie will be a massive box office success, and will rake in millions of dollars.

Although this movie will push nearly every boundary possible in terms of popular, mass marketed, theater films, it is simply a natural outflowing of where the movie industry has been heading for years.  Sadly, this will be only a single stop in the long road which will lead to the removal of all big screen taboos, and I expect a world in a few short years where anything goes on the big screen.

That this movie is targeted to woman (along with an upcoming sequel to a movie about a male stripper) is a huge sign that things are going to take a drastic turn quickly in terms of what is allowed in film.  Until recently, in terms of on screen sex, woman have been the voice of reason and restraint.  A world dominated by unsaved men would have had on screen porn years ago, but the female sensitivity in this area has restrained that.  In a world where woman and men are both beginning to share the same unrestrained sexual dysfunction, the voice of reason no longer exists.  I, for one, am not excited to see where this train takes us…

As the temptation to see this upcoming movie (or any movie of its kind) increases, please remember the simple advice of a popular children’s Sunday School song.  Although this song* is written for small children, the advice is no less valid for adults.  Don’t allow it’s simplicity to cause you to miss its message.

Note:  I have no idea who Cedarmont is, or what their theological stance is on any position, if they have one.  This is simply a link to a song sung by children.

Taking the Gospel to Gay Friends

When I wrote my blog at the beginning of December regarding my previous sin of homosexuality, and my many year’s long cover-up, I did so in order to begin a process of healing and honesty between myself, and those I am close to.  For years I had been less than truthful, and I wanted that to change.  I knew that this would be an emotional rollercoaster for me, so by putting it in writing I could work though the emotions and tell my story, while still getting it out to the people who I had not told the truth to.  I had stood before several churches in order to give my testimony (including as I was being voted for as a deacon of my church) and had not told the full truth.  I had also been through an interview process at a church where I held back on my story.  I believed (and still do) that a public lie, required a public truth.

I could never have imagined what would happen with my story.  The day before my post, my total readership was just a handful, and by sharing it on Facebook I could share my story with everyone I knew, and move on.  I thought some people might talk about it, but outside of my very small bubble, nobody would really care.  If anything I might be able to minister more effectively in my local church context, but nothing beyond that.  God had other plans.

My story has spread far wider than I could have possibly imagined.  People all around the world have read my story and many have contacted me to offer prayer and encouragement.  Others though have come from a different position.  One of pain.

They have contacted me because they are hurting due to a previous sin in their lives, and are looking for direction, or simply someone to finally talk to about their hidden sin.  Others have a family member, or friend, who has come out as gay and are wanting advice on how to reach that person, and a few others have contacted me just to let me know they hate me for one reason or another.

I have been touched by people’s trust of me, and their willingness to show their deepest secrets to me.  It is an honor to pray with someone who is desperately seeking the Face of God.  I never could have imagined being used by God in this way, but it is an honor for God to use me in order to help others hurting from a pain I know all too well.  I am always willing to talk, or listen, or weep alongside those who need it.

Most of these questions are deeply personal, and require a one to one response.  There is one, though, that has shown up many times, which I have found many in the church struggle with.  It is the question of how to share the Gospel with their homosexual friend/son/daughter/cousin/parent etc.

Although I understand why this question is asked, I believe it is a fundamentally flawed question.  The people searching for the answer do so out of love for a loved one (or even for those whom they do not know, yet love), but they are missing a proper understanding on what is going on.

What if we instead asked, “How should I reach a liar with the Gospel?”  Or “My friend is a Gossip and I want to get the Gospel to her.  How would I do that?”

These scenarios are silly, but they are the same as the question of the homosexual.  It comes down to a fundamental understanding that all sin is sin.  That all sinners stand equal before the Throne of God, and that the only way to have a restored relationship with God is through the Gospel message.

The way you reach the homosexual does not change simply because the manifestation of sin in their life looks different.

With all of that being said, here are a few tips I have picked up over the years that may be helpful in these situations.

First, see past the self-labeled identity of ‘homosexual’.  See this person as a friend, family member, coworker, or whatever relationship they are to you.  See them for their hopes and dreams.  Seem them for their kindness and pain.  See them for all that they are, and do not let what they do in the bedroom become the box in which you place them.

Second, be open to listening to them as a friend.  Be the ear that they can talk to.  So many people in the community have been deeply hurt in their encounters with “Christians”.  For them, they have no idea if you really are like Fred Phelps or not.  Show them through your willingness to talk, and listen, that you are not like those who are setting out to harm.  Letting them see through your love for them that there should be no fear that you carry a “God hates fags” poster board in your trunk.

Although you may not be able to relate to the one facet of their life, you might be surprised to find out that you can relate deeply on many other issues and struggles.

Next, remember that few have been argued out of homosexuality.  Even if they could, that is not your goal.  You are to point them to Christ.  You are to share the Gospel with them.  As they saying goes, introduce them to Christ, not heterosexuality.  Healing only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Once the discussion turns to homosexuality (which it usually will) there is no need to try to become the expert on the subject.  If you know the answer, and can say it with love and grace, give the answer.  If you do not know the answer, tell them so and offer to get the answer (then actually get it).  Perhaps offer to do a Bible study together where the two of you study and see what God has to say.  Don’t just focus on studying one sin, though, study John (or another book) together.  Dig in and let the Word of God lead the conversation.

Mostly, though, simply show love and grace in your conversation, and life.  Treat them like you would want to be treated.  Be a reflection of the love of God on your friend’s life, and be patient.  Christ’s love was so unconditional that it was revolutionary.  He dined with people, and spoke with people, and touched people, which no religious leaders at the time would even draw close to.    Show that kind of love.

The key lies in the question.  When asking how to reach one with the Gospel, we need to remember that it is all about the Gospel.  Whatever sin is in a person’s life, it is secondary to the Gospel message.  If a man came into the emergency following a nasty car crash, and was bleeding profusely, yelling about whose fault the crash was, would the dr. stop and argue about the crash?  Of course not.  The crash is a secondary issue to the life of the person.  Once the life has been saved, the secondary issues can be looked at.  This is in no way different.  Whatever the sin in a person’s life is, it is secondary to the eternal value of the soul of the person.  We first give attention to the soul, and if the soul is healed, only then do we begin to worry about the flesh.

Social Media: The Anti-Gospel?

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Social media is an amazing gift, and I for one take full advantage of it.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I am one that can be found commenting on Facebook far more than the average person.  I enjoy the conversations, and the chance to connect with people I would not normally connect with.  Instead of making my friendships shallower, as some claim, Facebook has expanded my friendships and added a depth that may not have already existed.  I have also made friends with people from my church and neighborhood that I might not have made before, and even have friends around the country and world with people I have never met face to face.  These are people who I love, and would warmly welcome into my home if they ever passed through Kansas City.

There is one portion of social media, though, that greatly greaves my heart.  Sadly, it is also something that I see every single day.  Something that I think does a disservice to the Gospel message, and the Kingdom of God

Each day, as I log onto my account, I see multiple examples of harsh, mean spirited posts directed at others.  Most of the time these are directed at groupings of non-believers, or other Christians which hold views much different than the original poster.  Many times these posts could be filed in the realm of political ideology, but I have seen a vast array of subjects being used in this way, from parenting, to social issues, to theological issues.

As I read these posts, I do not necessarily disagree with the poster.  Many times in fact, the people I see on my friends list I agree with 100%, and if we met over lunch we would discuss the topic in detail, while giving high fives and performing chest bumps.  I love my brothers and sisters in Christ, and am excited to see them passionate about important things.  Many times, I also believe that theologically they are on the right side of the understanding.

The portion that bothers me, though, is that Facebook is not having coffee with friends.  Facebook is not sharing information during a small group.  Facebook is open, and public, and the entire world can see.

When I see a post praying for God to come quickly and purge the Liberal scum from the earth, I know that not only conservatives are reading this.

When I read that evil queers are taking over the world, there is a good chance that homosexuals are reading it.

When I see a post that declares that anyone who agrees with Obama is an idiot, I think of what the person who voted for Obama is thinking.

These types of posts fill my news feed on a daily bases, and many times come from sweet, loving, Godly people.  People I know would never walk up to a gay couple and tell them that they hope they are purged and sent to Hell soon.  People who are great friends with members of a different political party.

These posts, and the attitude that is behind them, is doing more than just creating Facebook arguments.  It is having the opposite impact on the world, than the impact we are supposed to have.  It is harming the churches Gospel witness and building barriers in people’s lives, between them and the Gospel.

A False Gospel

This barrier is first being placed by the fact that to all observable evidence to the non-believer, the Gospel we preach is not a Gospel of love and grace, but instead we are preaching a gospel against sin.  These posts work as a vehicle to try to pile shame upon those who we feel are not living correctly.  Many times non-Christians who we feel are not living under the direction of the Holy Spirit and Biblical teaching.  Although we would never say this, we are working to Christianize non-believers, all while ignoring their eternal soul.  When the conversation does blow-up and anger is already invading the conversation we might lay out a Gospel backhand for good measure.  Maybe.

Like Pharisees of old, we are trying to make sure that the outside of others is glistening while, while the inside still contains the bones of a dead man.

A Further Offense

The second barrier that is placed by these types of posts, is that we are building up an extra offense to the Gospel message before it is ever proclaimed.  Mean spirited, attacking posts, simply put anger in the hearts of the unbeliever towards the Gospel message.  I have run across many, many homosexuals through my life who can quote Deuteronomy 21:18-21, or 22:13-21 all while never having heard the Gospel.

Buy attacking, with great maliciousness their particular sin, we have only created a group who is further removed from the Gospel because they are creating a defense for their sin, before ever hearing what the solution to sin is.  They see Christians as people who are in attack mode, with their eyes square on their target.

We have helped them close their eyes and hearts to the Gospel, before we ever got around to sharing it (assuming that we ever make it that far).  We have also decreased the odds of anyone else being able to share with them as well.

Seasoned Grace

We know from 1 Peter 3:15 that we as Christians must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you”, but for most non-believers, they see no hope.  In fact, the only difference they see between us and them, is a set of rules and regulations.

While being the social media, Biblical instruction manuals to the world we are in fact, inadvertently, preaching a false Gospel.  One of works.

We need to move away from mean-spirited comments and posts, and to be quite honest, maybe take a break from some of the controversial posts that cause fighting on the pages of social media.  When we do feel the need (or are lead) to post on a volatile subject such as abortion, or homosexuality, or politics we need to do so from a position of calm, not allowing our emotions to get involved.  We need to temper our comments with love, and grace, just as we would talk to someone from that camp face to face.

We need to let our speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, not a huge heaping spoonful of salt with a dash of grace.

Social media is an amazing gift, and one that we ought to enjoy.  The connections that can be made through it, and the contacts that can be kept, is on a level never seen before in history.  As a tool, if used well, we can spread the love of Christ and His Gospel in a way previous generations could only dream about.

Let us stop using this tool to drive people away from the cross.  Let us not use it to create an image of the church, and Gospel message that is contrary to the truth.  Let us not use it to attack sinners of a different flavor from the safety of our computers.

Instead, let us redeem this tool for the Glory of God and His purposes.

J. W. Willard