Equal Grace For Homosexual And Heterosexual Attractions

Rainbow HeartWorking for an ex-gay ministry in the 80s and 90s, I believed my superiors (as well as my peers) that homosexual orientation was morally neutral. Homosexual desires became sinful, we taught, only when acted upon. After all, we reasoned, heterosexual attractions don’t carry  sinful connotations.

Concurrent with my time in that ministry, one of the women in leadership took it upon herself to counsel me in regard to my desire for marriage and my constant romantic attractions to guys in our ministry who hadn’t yet experienced victory over their homosexuality. My attractions, she indicated, were sinful because those men simply weren’t available to me.

Despite her obvious double standard, I completely agree that romantic and/or sexual attractions are absolutely not morally neutral. As a married woman, for example, I have no right being attracted to anyone other than my husband. I may be heterosexual, but I have a responsibility to actively reject even the most fleeting thought about other men. A seemingly innocent thought, encouraged by the knowledge that I have a heterosexual orientation, constitutes adultery, according to Jesus.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~~Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)

If it’s sin for me to entertain attractions to men other than John, why would same sex attractions be morally neutral? Do Christians who struggle with homosexuality have a special exemption from the principle laid out in Matthew 5:27-30 is supposedly morally neutral?

Look, after nearly 30 years of having close friends who battled same sex attractions, I’m not callous to their frustrations. Many of them genuinely hurt, hating their desires because those desires dishonor the Lord. My similar battles as a single woman continually falling for men I couldn’t have give me sympathy for them. Please realize that I honestly understand that their road isn’t easy or fun.

At the same time, we do them a great disservice by pretending that the Lord accepts their desires as morally neutral. Rather than leaving them with the false assurance that the Lord coddles them, we can assure them that He offers forgiveness and the power to walk  in repentance. He extends the same grace to them that He extends to us.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Why I Don’t Skip Church On Mother’s Day

Rose PaintingMother’s Day is one of the most emotionally difficult days for a variety of women. Christian women in particular have a rough time sitting through sermons on the virtues of motherhood when they struggle with infertility, when they’ve lost a child, or when they have a strained relationship with their mother.

This past weekend, some well-known evangelical teachers encouraged hurting women to stay home from church on Mother’s Day. I appreciate their sensitivity to women who have trouble with the holiday, but I question whether or not their counsel really reflects a Christlike attitude.

One friend of mine miscarried just a few days before Mother’s Day one year. Another friend lost her mom to a terminal illness the day before Mother’s Day a few years back. Although both ladies courageously attended church after their losses, other friends of mine simply found the thought of enduring a Mother’s Day service unbearable.

In one respect, I understand the desire to avoid church on Mother’s Day. Despite the wonderful fact that our current pastor doesn’t break from expositing Luke’s gospel to deliver a sermon extolling motherhood, I realize well-meaning people will wish me Happy Mother’s Day and tell me I’m a spiritual mother (to whom, they never quite say). With both my mom and my mother-in-law now dead, the whole day is just awkward.

I also identity with women who find Mother’s Day painful as I remember avoiding weddings early in my battle with singleness (I didn’t marry John until I was almost 49). For a couple years in my mid-twenties, I’d explain to my girlfriends that attending their weddings would just be too crushing for me.

Usually my girlfriends accepted my decision without complaint. Finally, however, one had the guts to confront me with my selfishness. She wept with me over my romantic disappointment, but now she very much wanted me to rejoice with her. The man who had broken my heart would also be there, she admitted, but having me there meant a lot to her.

I went. I saw the man who had broken my heart,  but then I actually enjoyed myself! More importantly, I showed my girlfriend love by putting her needs before my own. In subsequent years I asked other friends to forgive me for selfishly refusing to attend their weddings.

I don’t deny that attending church on Mother’s Day causes some women immense emotional pain. I sat with the girlfriend who miscarried only days earlier, and could physically feel her heartache. I’ve sympathized with infertile friends who chose to stay home rather than watch a baby dedication and hear a Mother’s Day sermon.

But as gently as possible, I encourage women who have difficulty with Mother’s Day to set aside their own sorrow in order to rejoice with their sisters in church. Yes, it means laying down your life for your friends. It means imitating Jesus.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: April 1 — April 7

Spring 2018 SamplerWhat do you call home? Sometimes (too often, actually) I tell folks that God made me for Boston. John Ellis, in his blog A Day in His Court, writes Rooted: A Christian’s Place to challenge that temporal perspective. But his rejoinder isn’t exactly what you probably think it is.

Starting with an account of John Hooper’s martyrdom under Bloody Mary, Clint Archer discusses Exquisite Tenderness – Being Christlike in the Crucible of Suffering for The Cripplegate, The main body of his post draws from Christ’s attitude during His crucifixion. It’s an uncomfortable post to read, but we certainly need its message as we face the growing threat of persecution in our own century.

In How to Cheat Death, Leslie A of  Growing 4 Life questions the power of a healthy diet. She sees a much more effective way of cheating death.

I remember the frustration of being single, and thus I feel concern for my unmarried sisters in Christ. Lisa Robinson, who blogs at Thinking and Living Theological Thoughts Out Loud, writes On kingdom seeking and stuff: a personal reflection to encourage other single women through the wonderful blessing God is working in her life.

Using Titus 2 as a  template, Amanda Walker shows us Six Habits Younger Women Need Older Women To Teach Them in Biblical Woman. Ladies, all of us can benefit from the reminders Amanda provides.

Although I don’t think I’ll close The Outspoken TULIP’s Facebook page quite yet, Stephen McAlpine’s When Facebook Falls Out of Like With Your Blog gives me something to ponder.  I understand that the growing censorship against Christians and conservatives in social media is minimal compared to the persecution Christians face in other parts of the world, but I believe we should be aware that we have limited time in which to proclaim the Gospel online. Let’s not waste it!

Also in this week’s The Cripplegate, Eric Davis writes Is the Bible Enough for Us? – Sufficiency as part of his series on God’s Word. My regular readers know how strongly I believe that the Bible provides absolutely everything we need to live in accordance with God’s will, so you’ll not be surprised by my recommendation of this post. Davis makes the case for the sufficiency of Scripture much better than I ever have.

Michael Coughlan’s thought-provoking piece, Sad Facts About Racism, adds needed perspective to the difficult conversation we’re having in our nation currently. He regularly contributes posts to Things Above Us.

If you struggle to distinguish between discernment ministry and “discernment ministry,” please read How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, Part 1 and How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, Part 2 by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time. Whether you aspire to write a discernment blog or you need help determining which blogs to trust, Elizabeth’s two essays can help you develop a good criteria for vetting discernment ministries.

At first, Stephen McAlpine’s title,  The Sex Pistols, The Bible and China, put me off. But as we think about the probability of persecution reaching American shores, this article offers encouragement and hope that the suppression of religious liberties might actually serve to further the Gospel!

I certainly have an abundance of links in this edition of Saturday Sampler, but I must include That’s Not How This Works by SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God. The practice she addresses reminds me of Thomas Jefferson, who reportedly took scissors to the parts of the Bible he didn’t like.

Finally, Jeff Robinson writes Jonathan Edwards and Why I am a Cessationist for Founders Ministries to help us evaluate the work of the Holy Spirit in revivals. He imports thoughts from Jonathan Edwards, who preached during the Great Awakening in the 18th Century.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday Sampler: March 4 – March 10

Rose Sampler 02Biblical Christianity no longer enjoys widespread acceptance, so we can often feel embarrassed about our faith. In response to this problem, Josh Buice of Delivered By Grace writes I Am Not Ashamed of the Gospel. Why do those words sound so familiar to me?

Although Joe Carter’s article, Why Teenagers Are Becoming ‘Trans-Curious’, in The Gospel Coalition Blog didn’t surprise me, his discovery may not occur to each of you. Or perhaps it may. At any rate, it highlights the problems with embracing the LBGTQ narrative.

I appreciate Tom at excatholic4christ for writing Paradigm Shift: How Gospel outreach to Catholics became “anti-Catholic bigotry” to chronicle the changed relationship between Catholics and evangelicals over the last 60 years. He raises some interesting points that we really ought to consider.

Short but insightful, Michelle Lesley parodies the beloved children’s hymn by writing Jesus Loves Me: The “Contending for the Faith” Version. Check it out on her Discipleship for Christian Women blog, especially if you enjoy clever writing as much as I do.

In an article for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Katie McCoy uses a careful study of Hebrew words to answer the question, Did Old Testament Law Force a Woman to Marry Her Rapist? The answer surprised me, and it also reinforced the incredible value of studying God’s Word.

Writing for the Canadian Edition of The Gospel Coalition Blog, Heather Peacock suggests 8 Ways to Welcome People with Disabilities into Your Church. I only wish she had said more about adults with disabilities, but her list is an excellent start.

We all go through tough times, so How to Rejoice When Life is Hard by Pastor Colin Smith of Unlocking the Bible brings us back to an eternal perspective on suffering. In doing so, he necessarily shows us that having an eternal perspective actually enables us to rejoice in our trials. I hope I haven’t given away too much of his post! Read it to see how he fits it all together.

Elizabeth Prata of The End Time has a brilliant essay called Don’t leave the Baby in the manger or the Man of the cross that mustn’t be ignored! If we truly want to know Jesus, we have to embrace all of Him.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Why Jesus Won’t Be Your Valentine Tomorrow

Tulip Sampler 01Out of curiosity, I spent some time Sunday afternoon researching Ann Voskamp, a popular evangelical teacher, writer and speaker whom we can safely categorize  as a false teacher. Michelle Lesley lists several articles evaluating Voskamp that support my allegation. The two most prominent factors in distinguishing her as a false teacher are her tendencies toward panentheanism (God is in everything) and her erotic descriptions of her relationship with God.

The second factor begs the question: Should Christian women see the Lord in sexual, or even romantic, terms? During my single years, female leaders in my church certainly encouraged me to do so. I learned from my multiple failed efforts to view Jesus as my Husband that the type of cosmic romance that teachers like Ann Voskamp promotes does extensive emotional and spiritual damage to women.

The problems with the “Jesus is my Boyfriend/Lover/Husband” approach to Christianity could keep me blogging for several weeks. Indeed, I would like to write about some of its harmful effects later this week. Because Ann Voskamp and Beth Moore perpetuate this blasphemous notion, we need to understand why it goes against sound Biblical teaching.

This teaching not only damages women by encouraging a self-centered understanding of God, but it drags us into enormous self-condemnation when we can’t sustain romantic feelings toward Him. Many times as a single woman (I didn’t marry until I was almost 49), I tried to imagine Jesus as my Husband, only to be frustrated with myself when I felt unsatisfied with Him.

My apparent deficit in appreciating Him romantically led me to feel spiritually inferior. I wondered why I still longed for a husband who could physically touch me when I knew full well that only Jesus  could love me perfectly. Evidently, I had skewed priorities. I felt intense shame, wrongly believing that He should be enough for me.

The teaching that Jesus fulfills our romantic and/or sexual desires, however, seriously perverts Scripture’s teaching on how believers should express intimacy with Jesus.  Loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength has more to do with obedience to Him than with having  Him satisfy my romantic desires. The same principle applies to all Christians. Look at His own description of our love relationship with Him:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ~~John 15:9-10 (ESV)

I do, very much, believe that the Lord blesses Christians with an intimate knowledge of Him. We talk to Him in prayer, pouring out our hearts with confidence that He cares about our deepest concerns. In turn, He speaks to us through His Word, disclosing Who He is and what He desires. Sisters, that’s intimacy!

Ann Voskamp’s “intimacy” with Jesus has a particularly disturbing component that I want to discuss Thursday (I have a Valentines Day date with John tomorrow). I hope today’s essay laid a foundation that we can build on at that time. Please guard against seeing the Lord in a role that He simply doesn’t have. Instead, rejoice in your correct relationship with Him.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

How Not To Subdue Pink Elephants

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.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Marriages: Happy And Others

MistyWeddingJoyYesterday, John and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. After his cancer and heart attack five years ago, we appreciate every year that the Lord gives us together.

Even before John and I went through that trial, we savored our marriage more than most couples do. Since both of us grew up with severe physical disabilities, we struggled with the probability that marriage wouldn’t happen for either of us. I distinctly recall my emotional pain as a single woman who wanted nothing more than to marry a godly man, and my many psychological contortions to accept singleness as God’s will for me. So when Pastor Mike wheeled me down the aisle toward John a month before my 49th birthday, my heart flooded with gratitude. I cherished this marriage that had seemed so impossible for so many years.

When the cancer diagnoses came, followed by the heart attack (which delayed surgery for six weeks), I honestly thought the Lord was taking John away from me. Frankly, I believed that surgery would kill my precious husband.  I returned home from the hospital after the surgery saying incredulously, “I’m still married!”

I understand that not all marriages are as happy as mine. Maybe a few of you read this post and pray desperately that I won’t tell you to cherish your marriage. You wish I knew about the physical and/or emotional abuse you suffer. You read this article just before going to bed alone, knowing your husband’s sleeping with someone else tonight. You worry that your children will hear yet another argument. Or you’d like an argument because the silence between you has become unbearable.

You’re right in accusing me of not understanding how you feel. And yet you’re wrong. Until I met John, I knew loneliness. I once sat through a particularly romantic wedding, directly across the aisle from a man who rejected me. I watched him dance with one of my closest friends at the reception. And, slumped over in a wheelchair that didn’t properly support my spine, I felt like a used Kleenix.

As I rejoice in the wonderful marriage that God has given me and John, please keep in mind that I don’t mean to throw my happiness in the faces of sisters who have unhappy marriages or no marriages at all.

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
    is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
    and like vinegar on soda. ~~Proverbs 25:20  (ESV)

But remember that I attended that romantic wedding in order to rejoice with a happy couple who stood in front of a packed church praising the Lord for bringing them together. In my sorrow, I could still share in their joy because I knew what God had done in their lives. As I weep with those of you who weep, I hope God will give you  grace to rejoice with me and John.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin