One of the most controversial topics in our culture, and in the church, is the issue of homosexuality. I have found lately that many Christians don’t even want to talk about issues like this because of the possible backlash by their family, friends and peers.
Recently I taught on this issue for about 25 minutes. You can find that talk HERE.
Rachel Gilson, I believe, does a good job of speaking biblical truth in a loving and gracious manner. In her book, “Born Again This Way”, Rachel explains in fascinating detail how she was immersed in a gay lifestyle and the changes that occurred because of her coming to know God and the truths in his Word.
In case you were wondering, I strongly recommend this book to you and anyone who wants to learn more regarding what the bible teaches about same-sex attraction.
Here are a few quotes from the book that stand out to me.
The hilarious theft of Mere Christianity
Not long after, I was in the room of an acquaintance. She was grabbing some item, and as I waited for her in her entryway, I spotted her bookshelf. It featured a small volume called Mere Christianity. The author’s name, C.S. Lewis, rang a faint bell, but I hadn’t been raised on The Chronicles of Narnia so I couldn’t place it. Nevertheless, I desperately wanted to read the book. So I stole it.
What is truth?
In this sense, I was obeying before I understood. To my mind, God’s prohibition on same-sex relationships made no sense. My heart fully embraced the “love is love” narrative-the logical move from “God is love” to “People fall in love” seemed to validate all consensual romantic adult relationships. Weren’t they all potential expressions of this higher reality? This seemed elegant and obvious. I wasn’t craving murder or theft, but love, intimacy, and companionship! I didn’t understand; but would I trust him? Would I take as truth my word or God’s?
Sometimes we wonder why we can’t have something we strongly desire (I thought this quote about the garden of Eden was wonderfully insightful!)
So instead of giving those first humans a law that seemed obvious, God chose one that seemed odd. He told them that they could not eat of one particular tree in their richly appointed garden. Think about that: the law was not to eat a fruit. It sounds almost ridiculous-after all, even vegans eat fruit! How could there be anything immoral in it when it didn’t even require an animal to die? What is the motivation to obey a law that seems nonsensical? It can only be deep trust in the one who asks.
(Now we have to ask how this applies to our views regarding sexuality)
Does it make me weird that I have strong contradictory desires?
How could I be caught between such contradictory desires? On the face of it they should have been mutually exclusive of each other. Yet maybe you too know how it feels to be torn between two camps. Your pull towards something forbidden feels as strong as a super-magnet. But it doesn’t extinguish your opposite pull toward Jesus, your real desire to honor him. You feel that you could be ripped down the middle. While the experience is alarming, God’s word assures us that it’s a challenge which is normal for the Christians.
Our desires are not a reliable compass
Perhaps you’ve heard a modern version of this blame shift. Our culture says that all sexual expression and desire is good and right, as long as there is consent. If you feel it, do it! So we conclude, “I feel these desires sincerely. I didn’t ask for them, therefore they must be from God. God doesn’t make mistakes.” This is just a different way of shifting the burden to God. Saying that those desires are from God simply because they exist is a confusion between God’s perfect will-what he desires actively for humanity-and God’s permissive will: that which he allows given the circumstances of redemptive history. He is clear throughout Scripture that our desires are not a compass for goodness because they are broken. He is the compass for goodness, and he tells us plainly what pleases him and what will result in our thriving.
Sometimes those who claim to love God give us really bad advice about sexuality
Our desires whisper lies in our ears. They gather steam from our culture and shout over any objections. For those of us who experience same-sex attraction, the danger is very real. Every piece of our culture is going out of its way to affirm that impulse that exists unchosen in us. Everywhere we turn, someone is telling us that freedom is found in obeying these desires. Sometimes the voice comes from those we trust most in this world: those who claim to love God.
Leaving sin can be agonizing
For those of us with same-sex attraction, denying those desires will feel like death, because it is. When I left Anna, it was agony every day for months. Yet it as completely worth it, just as Jesus had promised that we would gain our lives only by losing them.
Same-sex attracted people have a powerful ministry to offer the church
That grew eventually, like a pearl that takes years of irritation to form, into a realization that same-sex attracted Christians have unique and powerful ministries-that is, we serve the church and the world through our example of obedience. How so? Because we witness powerfully to the beauty of Jesus over romance. Because we embody the necessity of relying on him alone to choose holiness. And because we prophetically call the church to honor God and neighbor by neither taking away from nor adding to God’s word on sexuality.
What would it take to live a life of celibacy?
To choose celibacy, Jesus must be really precious to you. What a chance to testify that he is! What an opportunity to call into question the narrative of salvation-by romance, and to point to what all love dimly reflects. And not just with your words, but, like an Old Testament prophet, with your life. You only give up something awesome for something even better. I could only give up the pleasures of a girlfriend-even someday a wife-for the more pleasurable embrace of Christ.
The power of the beauty of Christ
Without the beauty of Jesus, we won’t leave the safety of our LGBT family.
Turning romance into an idol
I am persuaded that most people in the church have a vision of marriage as the consummation of romance, inseparable from it. This is why so many of us tend to end our marriages when the romance sputters. Too many decisions to marry are not calculated with everything in mind, because romance is present and strong. It reminds me of Jesus’s words in Luke 14:28: “Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
One of the greatest deceptions of the modern West is the idea that you are not truly happy-or even truly alive-until you’ve found your soulmate.
Church must be a safe place to talk about these issues
I’m convinced that for both of us, being able to identify our attractions without shame early on has helped us to process them later in a healthy way in Christ. By contrast, many people who grow up in the church did not find it to be a safe place in which to discuss same-sex attraction, let alone to admit to experiencing it.
Should you call yourself a “gay Christian”?
And what then about the language question? Should you call yourself a “gay Christian”? Or should you use language like “same-sex attracted”?
I worry that calling oneself a gay or queer Christian creates too much opportunity for this part of our lives to shape our identities in ways that are unhelpful-to perhaps close us off from things God may want to do, or allow types of compromise with attraction. It’s all too easy to slide from recognizing something as true about myself to seeing it as the truth about myself. I want us to be sober and watchful in our language choices.
Let’s be kind and gracious to one another
But above all, I want us to be charitable to ourselves and toward each other. The stories of what God is doing may surprise, delight, or alarm us. Let’s listen to each other rather than shutting one another down. Let’s admonish one another in love, rather than firing shots at each other on social media. Let’s warn each other of sin, and point each other to the confounding grace of our Savior, rather than condemning one another as heretics or Pharisees without so much as a trial.
Our mission as a church is to make disciples who make disciples. Our vision is the way in which we go about living out our mission. With that said, our vision as a church is “Deeply Rooted in Six Counties.” We want to be a church that is growing deeper in our relationship with God, with people in the church, and those in the six counties all around us. We asked Pastor and author, Jeff Vanderstelt, to do some teaching about how we can grow more deeply in the glorious truths of the gospel. Jeff is the Teaching Pastor at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington. He is asked on a regular basis to write and speak about the gospel and how it applies to everyday life. Recently, Jeff wrote the excellent book, Gospel Fluency. Below is the video of the teaching that Jeff did for us.
HERE are some discussion questions that you or your Life Group could use to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the gospel.
HERE is an interview I did with Jayne, Jeff’s wife, many years ago.
Our vision as a church is “Deeply Rooted in Six Counties.” We want to be a church that is growing deeper in our relationship with God, with people in the church, and those in the six counties all around us. With that said, we have asked Pastor and author, Jeff Vanderstelt, to do some teaching about how we can grow more deeply in the glorious truths of the gospel. Jeff is the Teaching Pastor at Doxa Church in Bellevue, Washington. He is asked on a regular basis to write and speak about the gospel and how it applies to everyday life. Recently, Jeff wrote the excellent book, Gospel Fluency. On Sunday, May 17th, 6:00 PM, from the safety and comfort of your own home, you can join us for this unique opportunity.
The teaching can be found at: http://www.newlifeefree.org
Covid-19 has made it challenging to gather as a church family. Partly, in response to the isolation we are facing, I decided to do “Ask Pastor Michael.” I am asking people in my church to email me any questions they have about the Word of God. Then on Sunday nights at 6:00 pm I am streaming my answer on Facebook. One of the first questions I received was, why does God allow suffering? Of course I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and questions.
I knew after reading the first couple pages that I was going to like this book. I don’t just like it, I love it. Rachel Jankovic speaks directly, boldly, and challenges many of the unbiblical messages that are being taught these days about what it means to be a woman. Here is how Rachel starts her book:
Perhaps I should open this book with a warning. If you are looking for a book that will gently pet your bangs and soothe your worried brow, telling you how beautiful you are, this is not it. I will not stick only to the feel-good themes and ways to boost your self-confidence, telling you that you (no matter what you are doing at the moment) are enough. I will not give you a big pep talk about how to fight for you, and there is no chapter on morning affirmations. This book is not here to help you in your quest for self-love. I want something much, much better for you, because I want something true for you.
The goal of this book is to encourage and equip believing women to see their identity in Christ as the most essential part of them, and to see all the ways that will work its way out in their lives, manifesting itself as strength, dignity, and clarity of purpose.
Have you found yourself saying or reading things like this?
“I was born that way.”
“God wants me to be happy.”
“Follow your heart.”
Instead of merely getting upset that someone is challenging the way that you think (or talk), be open to the idea that God, through the power of his Word, wants to fill your mind with biblical truth and wisdom.
Moms, this is a great book for you to read, think about, and pray over. But it is also a great book to talk about with your daughters. Our daughters are in a world that desires to fill their minds with false concepts about what it means to be a woman.
HERE is where you can purchase this book (and a study guide), and I strongly recommend you do so.
If you want to get a better sense of the worldly wisdom that Rachel is fighting against spend a few moments watching the videos below.
“The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.” -Charles Spurgeon
I recently purchased the “Sermon Notebook” by matthiasmedia. After reviewing it for a bit I can definitely recommend it as a wonderful resource. Of course, being a pastor, there were a few things I wanted to change or tweak. We (New Life Church) will begin having copies of these notes available at the Welcome Desk in the church foyer.
WEEKLY SERMON NOTES
- Find out what the passage is ahead of time and spend some time reading it during the week. Write down any questions that you might have about the text.
- Date: _________________________
- Passage: ______________________
- Topic/sermon title: _______________________
- What is the general outline of this sermon?
- How does this sermon point me to Jesus?
- In one sentence, what is the main idea of this sermon?
- What is God saying to me through this sermon?
- What will my response be to what God is saying to me?
- Look back over your sermon notes once during the week. Pray and ask God to use his Word to spiritually transform you into the image of his Son.
I began a six week sermon series on the book of Hosea this past Sunday. I will be sharing thoughts on the book of Hosea with six different blog posts. Here is Part 1: The Covenant Love of God.
1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea, the son of Beeri, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel. 2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.” 3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son.
4 And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.”
6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, j“Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”
8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People,2 for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”
10 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And sin the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” 11 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.
- Author: Hosea (perhaps had a scribe help him)
- Date: Approximately 750 BC
- State of affairs for Israel at the time of Hosea:
- Hosea ministered about 200 years after the division of Israel. The divide took place approximately 930 BC and it was a division between north and south Israel. The ten northern tribes made up Israel or sometimes called Ephraim. The two southern tribes were Judah and Benjamin and they formed the nation of Judah.
- Hosea’s ministry took place when the northern kingdom of Israel was once again prospering and doing very well economically. The problem was that they were far from God. The people were focused on their money, their comforts, and they became very immoral. Does it sound like another country that you know of?
- In order to understand the book of Hosea it is important to understand that Israel was in a covenant relationship with God. In Exodus 19:5 we read this, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.”
We are in grave danger of forgetting that we are part of a divine love story
There is a danger that we face today. We can study and jump from bible study to bible study and actually forget that our Christian faith is all about a love story. God has gone to great lengths to be in a personal, intimate relationship with us. He wants much more than for us to be learning about him, he wants us to grow when it comes to experiencing and loving him.
Did God really tell Hosea, a prophet, to marry an immoral woman?
In verse 2 God makes it really clear, Hosea is to marry a whore to be his wife. It is meant to be shocking! It is meant to make us sit up and wonder ‘what in the world is going on?’ There is no doubt that Gomer was a sexually immoral woman before she married Hosea. She might have even served as a temple prostitute in a local cult religion. So the answer is, yes, God did command his prophet, Hosea, to marry an immoral woman.
What was the point of telling Hosea to marry Gomer?
Hosea 1:2 gives us the reason God tells Hosea to marry Gomer. “…for the land commits whoredom by forsaking the Lord.” God is using the marriage between Hosea and Gomer to reveal that Israel had committed spiritual adultery against him. God’s people were being unfaithful regarding their covenant relationship with God. What do we learn from this?
1- God is revealing that there are consequences for our sin. This is not a popular teaching in our enlightened, progressive culture today. Hosea and Gomer have three children and they are given very strange names (Jezreel=judgment, Lo-Ruhamah=no mercy and Lo-Ammi=not my people). What God is doing through the naming of these three children is telling the nation of Israel, telling you and me, that to continue in sin will bring pain and suffering. God was warning his people but they would not repent. 30 years after these three children were born God raised up the violent nation of Assyria to bring absolute devastation to the people of Israel.
2- Certainly we learn that God’s heart is absolutely broken over the fact that his people pursue other lovers. Think for a moment how you would feel if your spouse was continually unfaithful to you?
3- We also learn that God’s love knows no boundaries. Hosea in many ways reminds me of the story of the prodigal son in the gospels. The younger son has left his father and lives a blatantly rebellious, immoral life. Yet at the end of the story we find that the father is running towards his son because his great grace and love. This gives us sinners great hope to know that we are loved like this. Plus, it motivates us to love people like Gomer in our everyday life. We love the misfits and sinners in our culture because we too have received God’s amazing grace.
We are Gomer
We might be tempted to shake our head at Gomer and secretly wonder how she could be so immoral. If that is as far as we get when it comes to thinking about Gomer we have missed the point of the story. In this story Hosea represents Jesus and Gomer represents the church (you and me). Go ahead and say it, ‘I am Gomer’. I know it is true in my life. In a million different ways I pursue other priorities, passions, and make God second in my life. Spiritual adultery is something we are all guilty of. Spiritual adultery is not just something we do or an act that we commit. First and foremost spiritual adultery happens when we love something, or someone, more than we love Christ.
- What are you passionate about?
- What do you talk about?
- What do you think about the most?
- What are you known for by the people that know you best?
- What worries you or makes you anxious?
The answers to these questions may go a long way revealing false loves (idols) in our life.
A better love is available to us
This chapter ends with good news. In verse 11 we read this, “And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head. And they shall go up from the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.”
Hosea is prophesying that there will be ‘one head’ in the future. This is a reference to the fact that Jesus Christ will one day, approximately 750 years later, arrive on earth. Jesus, our Messiah, was prophesied of old and one of his many names was Immanuel (God is with us). Jesus is the fulfillment of these two verses, and Jesus is the one to whom you and I can have a deep, intimate, loving relationship.
*The video and sermon outline came from Irving Bible Church. The sermon(s) I preach are mine!