Throwback Thursday: How Not To Subdue Pink Elephants

Originally posted November 1, 2017:

Pink Elephant

Funny how growing in the Lord and getting Biblical teaching changes the way one views things. A little over twenty years ago I left my position as correspondence counselor for an ex-gay ministry, largely because of my personal circumstances. Sure, a few things about the ministry bothered me a bit, but for the most part I believed in what they did. I accepted no criticism of them from any quarter.

To be clear, I still believe homosexuality violates God’s intent for sexuality. Those who engage in it, even if their engagement never extends beyond fantasy, stand guilty of sin. Furthermore I still believe homosexuality can, like every other sin, be forgiven and forsaken through the blood of Jesus Christ.

 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~~1 Corinthians 6:11 (ESV)

Over the passage of twenty years, however, I’ve come to question the wisdom of building an entire ministry around one specific sin rather than around the Lord. When people meet together, and especially when they live together in a residential program, should we really be surprised when they fall back into the very sin that they’re seeking to escape?

A friend once counseled me, when I was single and struggling with desires for marriage, that simply telling myself not to think about marriage would invariably backfire. “It’s like trying not to think about pink elephants,” she said. “The harder you try not to think about pink elephants, the more you think about them.” She was right. Try not to think about pink elephants, and see what happens.

The answer to controlling my fantasies wasn’t in thinking about how sinful my fantasies were. Nor was it in gathering with other single women and talking about the struggles to control our desires for marriage. We thought praying together and asking the Lord for psychological insight into the root causes for our desires would eventually free us from our bondage to romantic fantasies.

We ignored a simple principle from Scripture.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.~~Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV)

Walking by the Spirit means nothing other than filling our minds with God’s Word and ordering our lives in conformity with His teaching. It does require discipline, yes, and admittedly self-denial causes emotional pain. But the more we delight in the Lord, the less we want things that offend Him. Walking by the Spirit isn’t easy,  but it is certainly simple.

The Bible never advises us to surround ourselves with people who struggle with the same sin we do. Instead, it encourages us to look to Christ with a commitment to glorify Him.  In so doing, we really do experience victory over whatever pink elephants we battle.

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So She’s Almost Admitted It — What Do We Do Now?

Rainbow and CrossA week ago, Beth Moore made a comment during her TBN program, Staying Afloat on the Fellow Ship — Part 4, that subtly offers a clue that she leans toward the idea of homosexual attractions being morally neutral unless they result in sexual activity. I don’t choose to put the actual video in this article (lest it distract you from my main point), but you can watch it here, beginning at the 15.27 mark.

Elizabeth Prata wrote an excellent analysis of the clip in her essay yesterday, which I will also feature on this week’s Saturday Sampler.  Elizabeth decoded Moore’s handy Social Justice buzz words to help clarify that Moore indeed Continue reading

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But What You And I Type On Twitter Can Be Devastating

Psalm 19V14_02

Someone on Twitter made unkind comments about my physical appearance this past weekend. Of course his remarks hurt a bit. I’ve felt more self-conscious when I’m around people, wondering if how I look offends them as much as it evidently offended the author of those unpleasant tweets.

But for the most part, I understood that the person just wanted to get a rise out of me. He had insulted a number of other Christians on Twitter that day, apparently threatening violence against a few of them. Obviously,  he was merely a stupid kid desperately trying to get attention. Several people reported him. I believe Twitter suspended his account.

His cracks about my appearance didn’t trouble me nearly as much as the juvenile way that people  (including Christians) interact online lately. They troubled me because I’ve been tempted to make personal remarks about certain false teachers that I’ve blogged about or have challenged on Twitter. You’d think that of all people, I’d be the last one to make fun of how someone looks, but the taunts I received Saturday forced me to Continue reading

Seeking Our Comfort Or God’s Glory?

Branch

Why do we ask God to deliver us from our besetting sins? Do we envision freedom from those bondages as a means of being happier or more successful? Will deliverance advance our positions in church or allow us to enjoy happier marriages? Will we be more comfortable if the Lord takes away a sin problem that seems to dominate us?

I began seriously praying about my anger issues during my first engagement. I reasoned, quite correctly, that I would damage a marriage if I didn’t learn to control my temper. That engagement ended, but the Lord soon brought John into my life. Again I begged Him to take away my anger so that I could be a good wife. So that I wouldn’t cause John to have a stroke. So that God would bless me. So that I would be happy.

So that I would be happy.

Isn’t that usually our motivation for asking our Father to deal with our sin? (I’m writing to myself now.) If we’re honest, we’ll admit that nine times out of ten, we indeed pray for our own repentance because we know we’ll feel better without that sin.

But what does Scripture say?

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. ~~James 4:3 (ESV)

Golly, we say, we didn’t think that asking our Father to take away a sinful pattern had anything to do with selflessness! After all, doesn’t God want us to repent? Doesn’t He call us to holiness?

As a matter of fact, the Lord indeed calls His people to be holy. He cannot tolerate sin, so He wants those who call themselves His children to renounce their sins and live in holiness. Our personal holiness does, as a by-product, benefit us, often bring us tremendous joy. Certainly, we can praise God for the blessings that frequently accompany our repentance and obedience.

Those blessings mustn’t distract us from the ultimate purpose of personal holiness, however. God liberates us from sin for His sake, not ours.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. ~~1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV)

The Lord frees us from our besetting sins so that we might bring honor and glory to Him. As profoundly as we might benefit from His grace and mercy, He extends His grace and mercy to bring glory to Himself. He gives us the privilege of bringing Him honor and glory through our deliverance from sin.

I’m not sure that most of us think about His honor and glory when we pray to overcome whatever sin hampers us. And I wonder if our neglect of His honor and glory could be a reason (maybe even a big reason) that He allows us to have such prolonged battles with sin. I could be wrong on this point, but I believe I am correct in asserting that His glory is the only real reason for us to seek freedom from sin.

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Your Attempts To Love Examined Through Scripture ~~ Part 1

1 Co 13In the movie Forest Gump, Forest makes only a couple references to his intellectual disability. When Jenny questions his ability to have a serious relationship with her, he angrily retorts, “I may be a stupid man, Jenny,  but I know what love is!”

Critics of discernment ministry often accuse discernment bloggers of being unloving. Sometimes, sadly, they correctly call us out. And when we fail to operate out of genuine love, we definitely need our brothers and sisters to correct us. In fact, if they really love us, they certainly will be faithful to show us our sin and to call us to repentance. Christian love never allows someone to remain in sin and/or doctrinal error.

To demonstrate my point, let’s walk through the Bible’s most celebrated passage on love, and compare the attributes it lists against Continue reading

Butterflies Might Be Pretty, But They Flutter By Quite Quickly

Untitled-1The early years of my relationship with John overflowed with euphoria. I can remember sitting at my computer and feeling thrilled when an instant message from him popped up on my screen. The first time I visited, we couldn’t keep our eyes off each other.

The day after our wedding, we sang, “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” to each other. We were giddy! People told me that the butterflies would eventually subside. Intellectually, I knew they were right,  but my emotions told me a much different story. I simply couldn’t imagine looking at John without feeling butterflies.

I’m not sure when the butterflies flew away. One day I just realized that they had given way to a much more satisfying love. This new love satisfies me even more, for Continue reading

Praising God For Breaking My Heart

John DrawingYesterday I read several chapters in Proverbs, carefully noticing all the verses on the sinfulness of anger and being a quarrelsome wife. I know all too well how weak I am in both areas. So I thought I approached them with humility, acknowledging my failures to honor the Lord by controlling my temper and respecting John.

Yeah,  well.  The wheelchair vendor put John in his new chair a few hours after I read those Scriptures. The new chair has multiple problems — far too many to enumerate here — that seriously impact John’s health. We’re talking life-threatening issues.

To make matters worse, his current wheelchair Continue reading