Thursday, January 25, 2007

Today, I leave for Denison, Texas. I will be sharing tomorrow morning with the students at Texoma Christian School. Some of these students were among the Lord's faithful who followed BJ through his journey in the hospital. This is an evangelical school which means one does not need to be a believer to attend. There are Hindu's, Muslims and others who have never given their hearts to Christ, who will be present. Pray for these who are "lost," the ones who don't know Him. Please pray that the Lord will raise up many to take BJ's place in missions.

A question was raised yesterday (in the comment section) that I want to speak to. Perhaps it is only an issue of context, but I want to be sure there is understanding.

As believers, we use the word "lost" to refer to those who have never given their hearts to Christ. They may believe in Him (as Satan does), but they have not surrendered their lives to Him or His Lordship. This word is used in many places in the Old and New Testaments.

Luke 15 is one of the primary places of focus for today. Here, Jesus is using stories which represent a point He is trying to make. In doing so, He refers to the "lost" as those who are not a part of His fold.

One can ask, didn't you have to be a part of the fold in the first place to get "lost?"

This is a fair question, but when you read the Bible as a whole, it is understood and implied that when Adam and Eve fell, man was separated from God at that point. The text shows us that. The New Testament refers to it in 1 Cor. 15:22 where it says, "For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."

Adam's sin has separated all men and women from God. Christ was sent to restore that relationship. He was the One referred to as the sacrificial lamb. He is also referred to as the Good Shepherd.

So in Luke 15 when Jesus talks using stories, this is understood as background.

In Luke 15:4 where He says, "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?"

The picture we get is not about repetitively becoming lost and refound. If you read on, you see that the shepherd calls all his friends together to celebrate the one who was lost, and now is found.

The story means that those of us who have never given our hearts to Christ are lost. When we come to this understanding, and the Holy Spirit moves in our hearts to help us recognize this, and we ask Jesus to be our Savior, then we see the completion of this picture...we once were lost, and now we're found.

Some churches have tried to remove the element of the Holy Spirit moving on us, from the equation. John 6:44 says, "No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him."

This verse reveals that we come to Jesus, after the Father has moved (through the Holy Spirit according to other Scripture) in our lives to draw us to Him. This cannot be orchestrated by words we are made to say when we reach a certain age. The time the Father draws us is different for each of us.

We cannot say we were baptized at birth and therefore saved. There is no Scriptural background for this. Neither can we send all of our children through specific classes at the conclusion of which they read or recite specific words and are therefore saved. The Father draws us, not the orchestrations of men.

Back in Luke 15:11-31, we have the Parable of the Lost Son. This story shows us a picture of how when we are young, we make bad decisions. We get greedy or self-centered and want everything right now. We try to orchestrate getting all we can when we want it.

The Lord created us with a free will. Because of this, we can choose to follow our own path...just as the prodigal son did. Motivated by how dire his circumstances became after taking things into his own hands, he realized how wrong (or lost) he was.

He came to his senses. The Father draws many of us to Him through difficult circumstances in our own lives or that which we witness in the lives of others. When the prodigal son returned home, his father was watching and waiting for him. He had a great feast on behalf of a son who was "lost" but now was "found." As a matter of fact, the passage ends in those very words..."[he] was dead and is alive, he was lost and is found." v31

The Word says that the angels in heaven rejoice tremendously over lost souls that come to Christ. Jesus gave us that picture in His own words in Luke 15.

Once we have given our heart to Christ, the Word teaches that the Father then sees us as perfect. He does so, because He sees us through the lens of His perfect Son Jesus, whose blood washed away (or paid the price of) our sin.

2 Cor.1:21-22 says, "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ, He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Once we have given our heart to Christ, it doesn't mean we will stop struggling, but we are forgiven (we are found). We receive His Holy Spirit at our conversion as a deposit to prove that the Father has set His seal of ownership on our lives.

It is secure. Then we must seek to follow hard after Him.

Some get this at a very early age (like BJ), others don't get it until much later in life. Regardless, when the Father draws you, it is your time to surrender to the Lordship and authority of Jesus Christ in your life.

Simply ask Him to be your Savior and Lord, and confess your sin to Him. His word says in 1 Timothy 2:5, "for there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

You can be His and free, today.

brent

11 Comments:

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Cousin Lyn said...

Brent, I would like to reply to what you wrote on yesterday’s blog. I want to thank you for touching on a topic that seems so difficult for fellow Christians to discuss with love and compassion. Christians vary greatly in their beliefs about homosexuality. That’s okay; we each have varied experiences, understandings, and convictions. We are each at a different place along the journey. Our differences can be a great strength for the Body of Christ.

What’s not okay -- what is hurtful and destructive to the Body and to our witness – is treating each other with contempt. Too often “discussions” deteriorate into shouting matches. We seek to be heard rather than to listen, to teach rather than to learn, to be right rather than to grow, to be right rather than to be compassionate.

As a Christian and a lesbian, I have struggled greatly with this issue. It is not just an issue to me; it is real life. Three words I would use to describe growing up gay are isolated, lonely, and shame. We hear derogatory gay jokes, stereotypes of lesbians, and comments that gays are unnatural, depraved or mentally ill. I didn’t feel like any of those things, but I was afraid what others would think of me if they knew the truth about me. Therefore, I stayed silent about this part of myself. The clear message I received growing up was that there was something wrong with me because I’m gay, and I should be ashamed of who I am.

Not until I was a young adult did I risk confiding to another human being that I am gay. But, during my adolescence and teenage years, there was One I felt safe to share my feelings and fears with – God, my Deliverer, Friend, and Savior. I accepted Christ as my Savior as young child. I knew at an early age that God loves me unconditionally and that my dignity and worth come not from what I do, but from the fact that I am made in the image of God.

At times, I agonized, I cried, I screamed. I searched my soul, and I sought the Lord. My isolation and fear drove me closer to God. What a blessing! Being born gay and into a Christian family, I was forced to examine my beliefs, my innermost thoughts, the scriptures, God’s counsel. Today, I can say I am thankful I was born gay because it forced me to go deep. And it has undoubtedly made me more compassionate and more accepting of others.

Brent, before I close, I would like to address a phrase you used yesterday and to share with you my perspective. You wrote, “I passed judgment on them over their chosen lifestyle.” First, in case there are those who believe people choose to be gay, I would like to say that I did not make a decision to be gay. It is just a part of who I am. Being gay is what is natural for me. I can choose whether or not to act on my sexual identity, but my sexual identity is determined by biology, not by choice. As a friend of mine recently said, “Choose to be scorned, discriminated against, and possibly physically attacked? No one would choose to be gay.”

Secondly, for me, the word “lifestyle” is a loaded word when used in this context. When people speak of the gay lifestyle, I think it carries connotations of promiscuous sex and physical relationships lacking ethical standards. My lifestyle (and that of most of my gay friends) is quite similar to the lifestyle of my straight friends and neighbors. I am in a loving monogamous relationship. I get up and drive to work each weekday, do yard work on the weekend, worship at church on Sunday, and struggle not to let the urgent crowd out the important. Some would call it a boring lifestyle. I think it is not inaccurate to call it rather conventional.

I would welcome further dialogue on this topic. My only request: we take off our steel-toed shoes and talk in our stocking feet.

Love,
Lyn

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Pray for BJ said...

Lyn,

I will respond, but am preparing to leave town. It may be Monday before I can.

brent

 
At 3:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God Bless,
Greenfield, Indiana

 
At 7:01 PM, Blogger SeniorAnn said...

Lyn-

What a loving, compassionate description of the experience of Christian lesbians. Thank you for your courage to share and invite a discussion. Too many of us grew up afraid of being different, afraid of being hurt, afraid of being banished. It was easier to avoid, ignore or "tolerate" the negative than lose our families, friends and faith communities. The only solace was the deep unconditional love of Christ.

Without knowing strong Christian lesbians and gay men, it is easy for one to be positional and think of homosexuality as a choice ("just choose again") or a lifestyle (do we ever refer to a heterosexual lifestyle?) because it is not someone in our family circle of friends or faith community.

For a real discussion, Christian lesbians and gay men need to show up and be visible in our families and the Christian community.

Thank you for being an inspiration. You are a beautiful child of God, perfect in your love.

 
At 9:44 PM, Blogger Whit said...

People are born with tendencies to alcoholism, but when those people give to the tendencies and become alcohlics, we would not accept that as ok for them beause they couldn't help it because they were born an alcoholic.

I think that homosexuality is such a taboo subject that we have elevated it to a different category of sin. However, that does not make it so. It is still a choice that is made- to sin or to resist the temptation. Where a pre-disposition to struggle with being gay may be in the genes, Romans 1:25-27 makes it clear that it is a sin:

"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exhnaged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also, the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."

We live in a fallen world and face the consequences of Adam and Eve's choice on a daily basis. It is hard to stand up to temptation- we all fight different things, homosexuality is just another one of those things. It is no different than a person who struggles to fight tendencies towards alcohol, drugs, gluttony and other things.

I may not have struggled with homosexuality, but i know what it is like to fight for purity and fail. I know what it is like to be so deep into my sin that i can see no way of getting out. But God is our Deliverer. He is our strength. He is made strong in our weaknesses.

I do not pretend to understand what it would be like to battle homosexual desires and what that would mean in our world and in the Christian community. As Christians, we are too quick to hand out Scarlet letters.

However, the Bible is still very clear on the issue of same-sex relationships and it would be wrong for me to ignore what it says.

Love,
Whitney

 
At 11:50 PM, Blogger Cousin Lyn said...

Whitney,

Thank you for engaging in the conversation! I am glad to hear from you. I don't have much time to reply now, but I will post a more thorough reply over the weekend.

We all have our struggles. I am certainly not unique in that respect. Thank you for being courageous enough to share about yours. Our struggles may be about different things, but I pray we, as a body of believers and as neighbors, will allow our struggles to unite us rather than to divide us.

For now let me just say (in regard to your final sentence) that I agree the Bible is our light, and we should not ignore what it says. But I have to disagree with your statement that "the Bible is still very clear on the issue of same-sex relationships." In fact, Jesus himself said nothing about same-sex relationships (nothing recorded in the Bible anyway), and I think the few verses that talk about them are not all that clear to us today.

More later. I love you. Thanks for writing.

Lyn

 
At 1:24 AM, Anonymous Sharon said...

This may be a somewhat unconventional perspective on this issue and seem like a cop out to some people, but here goes anyway. I struggled for years with why I felt what I felt, was I gay, straight, bi-sexual, none of the above. There are days I still get confused on the issue. At this point, I consider myself ambivalent more than anything. What I do know is that I lived the greater part of my life feeling like an outcast, and fearful of who and what I was. Would my family love me or hate me depending on the answer that I found. Would God love me or hate me? Would I be judged by man, or God? What was the right interpretation.

Early in my struggle with self identity, my deeply religious brother told me that I was welcome in his house but that he had the right to preach to me every time I came over in order to save my soul. One of the toughest decisions I made in my life was to say, I love you dearly, but I can't agree to those terms. Pray for me all you want, since I'll take anyone's prayers at any point in time. But, I did not want our relationship to be about whose view was right or wrong. I wanted it to be about us...not our differences in Biblical interpretation.

Life is hard, too hard sometimes. Our beliefs will always be a part of us, but I don't want to use my beliefs to beat anyone up or have them beat me up because of theirs. If my brother believes that the Bible says I am bound for hell, then I need to respect that view as much as I want him to repect my view. In the long run, what have we accomplished if as Christians we fight, argue and drive each other crazy over our differences. Seems a bit contrary to the message of love. So I stressed to my brother how much I loved him and wanted to be a part of his and his family's life. And I cried, a lot for a while. It took time, but we found that path of mutual acceptance. And as a result of us both getting beyond who was right and who was wrong, we found that we could just love each other and leave the who was right and wrong question with God, where it belonged. We have a great relationship now and we both have learned more about love because of our differences. By the way, when I visit my brother, I go to his church and am welcomed with open arms.

I'm still as prone as anyone to go into the judgement mode, and not just on this issue. But I try to catch myself, back up and remember that it is not about who is right or wrong. It's about humans trying to figure out how to live among each other, allow varying beliefs and still treat each other with dignity and compassion.

By the way, I'm also one of the people who could care less whether the tree made a noise when it fell in the woods and no one was in the woods. And discussions on: I am therefore I exist or do I exist and therefore I am, hurt my head, so that could explain my philosophy or lack thereof.

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger Linda Ronne said...

I feel I need to comment on this topic, and pray that it is received with the love that is intended, and refer to scripture.

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image, and likeness of God He created him, male and female He created them.”

We see in Genesis 6 verses 5 – 7 that God was sorry that He had created “man” because of their wickedness and the thoughts of “his” heart were only evil. So the earth was flooded.

We see again in Genesis the downfall and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, because of unnatural sexual desires.

Psalm 139:13-16 “For You formed my inward parts, You wove me in my mothers womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance, And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”

If God knew us before He created us, and we are created in His image, both man and woman, then we (women) are created to unite with man, not with woman. If He created us in His own image then He did NOT create us with any biological flaws. He does not make mistakes therefore He does NOT create us gay, it is a choice. We were and are created to be in monogamous relationship with the opposite sex.


Jesus did in fact address the issue in the New Testament.
In Matthew 19 we see that He answers a question posed by the Pharisees about divorce and the reply that Jesus gave is.
Verse 4. “He replied, ‘Have you never read that He Who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5. And said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be united firmly (joined inseparably) to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’”

Jesus did not say that woman would leave her father and mother and be joined with another woman or that a man should leave his father and mother and be joined with another man. God created man to be with woman, and woman to be with man.

Now if Jesus did not specifically refer to a homosexual act does that mean that everything that was written in the Old Testament is void?
The Word tells us in John 1 verses 1 & 2 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, 2, He was in the beginning with God.

Jesus is the Word, the Word is Jesus, so therefore everything that is written between the pages of Genesis and Revelations is truth, and it is our plan for life. His Word is to be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

Jesus instructed us to hate the sin and not the sinner. No matter how we try to dress it up, or down, how we try to disguise it, sin is sin, and we all fall short of the glory of God because of, and through our sin.

Jesus accepts us as we are, where we are at the point of salvation, that does not mean that, that is where we are to stay. Through the Holy Spirit’s guidance and conviction we change, into the men and women that He desires us to be, to bring Him glory and honor in all that we do and say.

We are to be a reflection of Jesus. I’m sorry but Jesus was never, and will never be depicted as homosexual.

I pray the truth of His Word would be magnified to you.

In His Love
Linda

 
At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Carol said...

Lyn,
You might consider checking www.livehope.org as a resource for Christians in homosexual relationships. It is an awesome organization, and full of folks who are struggling with their sexuality and what it means in the context of Christianity.

 
At 11:12 PM, Blogger Cousin Lyn said...

Whitney,

Whether you accept this or not, I feel I need to say that neither have I ignored the Bible. In fact, along my journey, I have searched and studied the Scriptures with respect to my sexual orientation.

I would like to address the Bible verse you quoted in your message. Because I believe in the Bible and its truth for our lives, it has been important to me to seek what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. I am not a Bible scholar, but I do read the Bible to draw closer to God and to seek the Lord’s will for my life.

When I was young and struggling with the awareness of my sexuality, I searched the Scriptures. My understanding of the scripture verses most often used to condemn homosexuality was quite similar to your understanding as described in your earlier message. I took the verses at face value that acting on homosexual attraction is sinful. I thought that in order to be a faithful Christian I would have to remain celibate.

As I studied these scripture verses in more detail, I learned about the context in which they were written. The context lends insight into the meaning of the verses. In Romans, Paul is writing about the fallen nature of all humankind – Gentiles and Jews. Throughout the verses in Romans 1, Paul moves in a logical progression as he talks about people who:

1. Refused to worship God and give him thanks. (v. 21)
2. Began worshipping idols. (v. 23)
3. Turned their backs on the truth about God and were more interested in earthly pursuits than spiritual pursuits. (v. 25)
4. Gave up their natural (i.e., innate) passion for the opposite sex in their unrestrained search for pleasure. (v. 26-27)
5. Lived lives full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, fighting, deception, malicious behavior, gossip, backstabbing, insolence, and pride. (v. 29-30)

From what I have read, the sexual behavior Paul is addressing here is associated with idol worship, probably temple prostitution. Paul is writing about the behavior of people who, as a part of their pagan religious rituals and/or as a way of experiencing a new set of physical pleasures, disregarded their natural sexual orientation and engaged in promiscuous sex with anyone available. Thus, I do not believe these verses in Romans address the situation of two people inherently of same-sex orientation living in a committed, loving relationship.

Some will say I am just rationalizing and justifying my sin. I cannot control what others think. But I can honestly say I have approached God with a humble heart, sincerely seeking His will for my life. I certainly have areas that I need to work on. I do not believe that God has told me my sexual orientation is one of them.

I hope this at least gives you some insight into where I am coming from.

Love,
Lyn

 
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