Thinking Out Loud

May 6, 2016

When You’re Overly Concerned About What Others Think

Filed under: Christianity, writing — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:18 am

John Wesley quotation

When going through old blog posts here, I sometimes find a graphic that I decide to re-use on Twitter. That was the case yesterday when later in the morning I posted the above quotation from John Wesley. It had been used here on the blog just the one time before.

And then I noticed something I hadn’t seen before, which was the source of the image printed in the bottom right corner.

For several minutes I stared at the screen trying to decide if I should immediately delete it. Thoughts of:

  • Am I appearing to endorse something?
  • Would people think I am part of a particular cause?
  • Do I want people to interpret the quotation in that context?
  • Is it not easier to crop the image and remove the credit?

were countered by thoughts of:

  • If you’re borrowing the graphic you should really give proper credit.
  • The statement, “Jesus Loves Gays” is not untrue.
  • How did you miss the rainbow and the attribution two years ago?

So four hours of agonizing over this later, I checked out the actual Facebook page. The content there is written by someone (or several) who see their gay-ness as completely compatible with their Christ-following. This isn’t a new development. We’ve written enough before about ministries such as the Gay Christian Network and New Direction to know that opinions on this subject cover a wide spectrum. (To see all the coverage here on this issue, check out the first 3 pages or so at this link.)

But what matters most for our discussion today is that I was concerned about my image than I was about the quotation. Would I lose Twitter followers? Start rumors? Be pigeon-holed into a certain category?

…Oh, so now you want clarification where I stand? If you’ve ever heard me speak on this, you’ve heard me speak of The Good, The Better and The Best. Basically, God has a best and once you are convinced of that, you realize that anything else falls short of that. Several blog posts touch on this, but I’ve never really written one which presents this succinctly…

Alas, here I am now trying to defend myself. What follows is a general letter I wrote five years ago following the suicide of one (or several, I can no longer remember) gay teen. It’s already appeared here twice before today. I think this is a clear picture of where I’m coming from, though it’s not as clear as many would like.

Oh, and by the way, I left the Tweet in place.

Dear __________,

Somehow I found your blog today. I’m from a different part of the world, and a different generation, but I want you to know that there is no mistaking your pain, and I could feel that pain in your writing and I care very deeply for you.

High School can be a terrible environment. People commit verbal and physical abuse easily, and even the kid with the greatest degree of conformity can unwittingly become the target of the week. The bullies act out on their own insecurities, perhaps even insecurities as to their own sexual identity, though you don’t dare suggest that out loud.

Your life is a story that’s being written page-by-page, day-by-day. Only you get to choose the ending. I know you’re going through a period of depression, but your story doesn’t have to have a tragic ending. It doesn’t have to go the way you think it does. Your story can have an ending where you conquer, where you rise above the circumstances and perhaps even get to change some of the circumstances. You can write new chapters where things move in a different direction, where you can look back and say, ‘It didn’t get better overnight, but here’s a scene that was the beginning of where it got better.’

You should also know there are now alternative high schools where people are more accepting of your present sexual orientation. You might want to seriously look into that. Your parents would have probably helped you with college and university costs, they just need to be convinced that in your case you need that help sooner. But you might be able to find something closer to home if you live in a larger city. There are many ways to get that high school diploma.

I said present sexual orientation, not because I want to get into that discussion, but because you’re still fairly young, and like I said, there are always new chapters being written. On the one hand, I recognize that you know your feelings better than anyone, so the people who say, ‘This is just a phase he’s going through,’ aren’t being honest about how things are. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t want you to believe the lie that says, ‘This is who I am.’ Your sexual identity isn’t 100% of who you are, what you can accomplish and the person you can become. If you write on a piece of paper, ‘I am gay;’ write it in pencil, not in pen. You might actually some day need the eraser. I say that not because I’m doubting the reality of who you are now, but simply because, as a young teen, you are still a work in progress.

I should probably end by telling you that part of the reason I’m taking the time to write this is because I believe in a God that loves all people and therefore doesn’t hate anyone. I’ve seen other blogs written by young teens who are gay but have a deep faith, and are trying to follow Jesus in every aspect of their life. They pray, they read the Bible, and they try to find ways to serve others in Christ’s name. They are making a difference in their world. I have no doubt about that, but of course, also being gay, they remain a bit of a mystery to some of my Christian friends. I think God’s capable of sorting that, and I invite you to reach out to him in prayer, because I believe that He alone is the only source capable of helping you through the pain. I believe if you take one step toward him, he will come running to you.

Paul.


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December 2, 2014

Book Review: Compassion Without Compromise

Compassion Without CompromiseIn many ways, the most epic achievement a book can offer is living up to the rather grand premise of a challenging title. Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth (Baker Books) takes on this challenge and provides a thorough examination of the present climate in the Church and the broader culture with very different approaches in each of the ten chapters.

I tried to read this book imagining its impact on people with whom I have conversations on this topic, people who find themselves immersed in this issue because of relationships with sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, neighbors, co-workers, or fellow-students; as well as a few people who are either gay themselves (both out, outed or closeted) or dealing with curiosity or confusion.

Probably some of them would say the book leans more on the side of conviction and less on the side of compassion. I’m not sure that is avoidable, given the context of the larger Christian publishing environment. What I do see however is that the heart of the authors’ intent comes through at various points and there is a solid attempt at trying to be compassionate without discounting what they see as Biblical absolutes.

Still, there are people for whom I would recommend this, even as they find they find themselves in the middle of a situation where they, or someone they know is dealing with either overt homosexuality or quiet same sex attraction. Adam Barr and Ron Citlau approach this book in their role as pastors who have counseled many people on this subject, and Ron brings the added empathy of someone who, by his own admission, was much involved in the gay sex scene before his life changed 17 years ago.

There were a couple of sections toward the end of the book I felt the authors handled very well. One was a dismissal of the argument that many of the laws in Leviticus no longer apply today, so why should we hang on to one single aspect of sexuality, when we are quick to ignore prohibitions against, for example, wearing clothing of mixed fibers? The authors point out four specific Old Testament commandments concerning sex that are repeated in the New Testament. That chapter is must reading, especially if you have a friend who keeps raising this particular objection.

The other section I liked, though it will frustrate some readers, was a Q & Q chapter — I’ve named it that because there were no answers, hence not Q & A — listing all of the various scenarios currently encountered as a result of the rapidly changing culture. (Though about ten common sample questions are dealt with.) I found this catalog of thorny issues and hot potatoes, most of which are not so hypothetical, to be useful in understanding the challenges Christians now face. But I also wished that chapter had appeared at the beginning of the book, and had in fact been the basis of what followed. To get that far in and realize how many practical situations need to be wrestled with was to feel that in its short 140 or so pages, the book had only begun to deal with the larger topic.

Yes, we can have compassion without compromising convictions, but doing so involves a softening our attitude and also earning the right to be heard, while maintaining respect for God’s best.


Read an excerpt from Compassion Without Compromise at Christianity 201


Compassion Without Compromise was provided to Thinking Out Loud by the blog review program of Baker Books.

 

July 16, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Abraham Isaac Jacob postage stamps

Summertime and the linkin’ is easy…Our biggest collection ever with 40 bullets!

How Cats Ended Up With Nine Lives

While not curating the internet, Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud and C201.

Rapture Survivor Card

June 8, 2013

David and Jonathan Weren’t Gay

In the Bible we see a number of special friendship relationships between men. Jesus and John the Apostle are frequently mentioned, but probably even more so is the friendship between David and Jonathan.  J. Lee Grady addressed this a few days ago. I was going to run this as a link in a weekend link list, but there were a few things that would have appeared in that list that really need to be seen by a larger audience than normally would click through. Still, if you want to read this at source, click through to Lee’s Charisma blog, Fire in My Bones where this appeared as How I Know David and Jonathan Weren’t Gay. Also, before some of you get itchy to make a comment, please remember this is about Bible interpretation more than it is about a particular social issue. Also if you want a comment to be seen by the author, click through to the source blog.

Some “theologians” today are perverting Bible stories to promote their agenda. We can’t let them hijack the gospel.

A few weeks ago when I addressed the topic of homosexuality, a reader posted a comment on our forum suggesting that the biblical King David and his friend Jonathan were gay lovers. After a few other readers questioned this interpretation, another reader repeated the claim. “The Bible is clear that David and Jonathan were physical, sexual, gay male homosexual lovers,” this person wrote authoritatively—without citing a chapter and verse.

Most evangelical Christians would drop their jaws in bewilderment if confronted with such an odd theory. Even people with minimal knowledge of the Old Testament know that (1) David was married to Jonathan’s sister, Michal—and he had a few other wives, and (2) David’s biggest blunder was his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba—a woman he saw bathing on a rooftop. God was not happy about David’s lust or with his decision to have Bathsheba’s husband killed so he could hide his sin.

It is illogical to read homosexuality into the story of David and Jonathan because neither Jewish nor early Christian tradition ever endorses sex outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage. If you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you will never see a depiction of a gay relationship, ever. Nor will you see homosexuality affirmed. You cannot get around the fact that the Bible says gay sex is flat-out wrong.

But that doesn’t mean people won’t try to change the meaning of Scripture. “Theologians” from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds have written books claiming that various Bible characters were gay. They have suggested that Ruth and Naomi were lesbian lovers; that the Roman centurion in Matthew 8 had a gay relationship with his servant; and that the disciple John had a homoerotic relationship with Jesus.

Gay-affirming theologians also have pounced on the story of David and Jonathan. They point to David’s words in 2 Samuel 1:26 when he eulogized Jonathan and Saul: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women” (NASB).

So how do we interpret this verse? We need to keep these points in mind:

1. Old Testament morality has not changed. Our culture today is redefining sexuality. We’ve made killing babies a right, we celebrate fornication and we’re on a mad dash to legitimize gay marriage. But with all the bending, twisting and legal redefining, we cannot change what was written in the Bible thousands of years ago. It’s silly to make the Bible imply something it never said. And it’s laughable to suggest that David, the author of many of the psalms—and the biblical figure who best represents a true worshipper of the one true God—would be recast as being in a gay relationship.

Conservative Jews in our country agree. The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the nation’s largest body of Orthodox Jews, recently reaffirmed their commitment to Old Testament morality. The RCA recently stated, “The Torah and Jewish tradition, in the clearest of terms, prohibit the practice of homosexuality. Same-sex unions are against both the letter and the spirit of Jewish law, which sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.” Jewish priests in the time of David and Jonathan held the same view.

2. David and Jonathan had a model friendship. Scripture says Jonathan loved David “as himself” (1 Sam. 18:3). Jonathan’s love was selfless and heroic. Even though he was in line to be the next king of Israel, he recognized David would step into that role—and Jonathan not only celebrated his friend as the rightful king but also protected him from his father’s spear-throwing tantrums.

Jonathan’s love was not lust. It was the ultimate in sacrifice. He laid down his rights so his friend could be promoted. He opposed his father’s self-willed ambition and instead affirmed that David should be the true king. Jonathan showed us all how to be a true friend. David’s comment that his friend’s love was “more wonderful than the love of women” was not sexual; he was praising Jonathan’s loyalty and brotherly devotion.

3. We should encourage healthy male friendships instead of sexualizing them. In our fatherless culture, men are starved for affirmation and encouragement. God wired men to need close friends, but few of us are willing to build those kinds of relationships because of insecurity, inferiority or pride. Many guys are lonely, isolated and afraid to admit they need help. Some may even struggle with sexual confusion, yet they could find healing through a combination of the Holy Spirit’s power and healthy male bonding. The church today should do everything possible to encourage male friendships.

It is incredibly perverse—not to mention blasphemous—to suggest that anything sexual was going on between David and Jonathan. Yet I suspect that leaders in the gay-affirming church movement will continue to come up with more bizarre examples of Scripture-twisting in order to promote their agenda. We can’t allow them to hijack the purity of the gospel.


J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.

May 14, 2013

Rob Bell Defending His Position on Gay Christians

Filed under: issues — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:52 am

I am indebted to Trevin Wax for making me aware of today’s featured video. If you want to go deeper, be sure to read his analysis on what you see here.

Maybe you’re just tired of this topic. I get that. And the video runs 21 minutes and doesn’t mince words. But I think this is significant on a number of grounds.

First of all, Rob explains himself very well here, if only because the program hosts don’t allow him any escape. On the other hand, he’s not exactly on the ropes, either; he knows what he believes on this topic, and articulates it better here than I’ve seen elsewhere.

Second, Andrew Wilson clearly disagrees, but he so well models what Christian disagreement should look like. Trevin said, “Kudos to Andrew Wilson for maintaining his composure as he gently presses Rob not only to be clear on his position, but also to reveal the grounding for the position. Too often, discussions on this issue are so focused on the tip of the iceberg that the foundational, grounding elements of the argument are assumed and never made explicit.”

Third — and this at the core of where you lean on this issue — is the whole issue as to which of the Levitical prohibitions apply today and which do not. Wilson asks, “Is it a question of hermeneutics, or is it a question of exegesis?”  (That sound you hear is hundreds of readers clicking away as this distinction may be confusing to many, including one blog host. Reader thoughts on how to clarify this for the average reader are welcomed.) Trevin Wax noted, “Rob answers by appealing to the way the world is in order to make his case. He believes the church must affirm the world as it is.

Fourth, there are the amazing wrap up moments where Wilson says he would not call Bell “liberal,” and where Bell affirms the brotherhood of those who disagree with him, or him with them.

June 30, 2012

Weekend Link List

Normally there are links here on Wednesday, when the week is half over; today there are links here on June 30th, when the year is half over. Profound, huh? So have you stuck to all those resolutions from January 1st?

  • Dr. Grant Mullen‘s appearances on the Drew Marshall Show always draw a lot of phone calls.  Last week’s — all 49 minutes — is now available on Drew’s site.
  • And over at SkyeBox, more episodes of The Phil Vischer podcast are available. Had a blast last night listening to # 4 — the interview with Eric Metaxas — all 49 minutes. (Or 53.)
  • Justin Davis gets transparent about how lack of intimacy, or worse, false intimacy can lead to behaviors which can destroy a marriage.
  • More than 60 New York City churches that were facing eviction from meeting in NYC schools caught a break this week, but the city is fully expected to appeal the decision.
  • Several dozen Mormons will resign en masse today (30th) in protest over LDS church doctrines and policies; but those who leave pay immense social and business consequences.
  • Click over to C201 for a dose of apologetics: Ravi Zacharias on good versus evil; and a reading of C. S. Lewis on free will that you might want to listen to twice.
  • I discovered another lost worship song — from two decades ago — this week. Enjoy “To Be Like You” from Calvary Chapel Downey with Pam Fadness.
  • Also of worship interest: Gospel-driven worship can become obligatory when in fact, songs can be used to drive various points and aspects of both God’s nature and Christian experience. Bob Kauflin reposts some great advice.
  • Earlier this month Tim Stevens listed five reasons why you shouldn’t do church online, but show up in person. But then he had four reasons why churches should provide online services.
  • Yes, I know I list lots of links on this topic, but there is much discussion going on and many people affected. This blog  is called Coming Out Christian: Conversations about being gay and Christian in America.
  • Local-Boy-Makes-Good Department: A Canadian, Lawrence Wilkes is currently the interim pastor at the famed — and troubled — Crystal Cathedral. [HT: Bene]
  • A two-day rally is planned for Sept 28 and 29 in Philadelphia under the banner, America For Jesus 2012. Organizers have been part of previous events in Washington.
  • Temptation Department:Author Steven James reflected on the storylines of his recent suspense novels and came up with a non-fiction title, Flirting With The Forbidden which features 15 first-person narratives from scripture.

March 9, 2011

Wednesday Link List

I think we’ll start with a shout out to all the people who gave up social networking and blogs for lent. In which case, why are you reading this?

  • We kick off with a few quotations from an interview U2’s Bono did with a Johannesburg radio station last month, along with a link to an audio file of the entire program.
  • The Rob Bell release date for Love Wins has been moved up by two weeks to March 15th, less than a week away!  Mars Hill Bible Church in Granville, Michigan has made no official comment, but on Sunday, parishioners were told that church staff are supportive and excited about the book’s release.
  • However, Jon Rising suggests that there’s a whole other controversial book releasing at HarperOne — the same day — and traces links to advance reviews of Miroslav Volf’s simply titled Allah: A Christian Response.   The publisher blurb helps define the book’s hot spots.
  • A young Christian woman tells her Christian father that she is gay. We’ve all heard stories like this, but what does that actually look like?  How does that play out exactly? John Shore takes what is, to many of us a very abstract concept, and spells out what that really looks like in many families in his fictional Smith Family Chronicles; episode one and episode two already complete with more to follow.
  • A couple of strong stories at Christian Week (three actually, and we’ll give each one its own bullet!). First a piece on how urban poverty is not a downtown thing anymore but is hitting the suburbs featuring the director of the Yonge Street Mission.  (In fact, urban downtown areas are reconsolidating into a very upscale vibe.)
  • Next, a piece about the relationship between the church and political debates sparked by Billy Graham’s statement that he regrets the times he waded in on political issues.
  • Last in our CW hat trick — and I don’t expect my U.S. readers to get the full impact of this, but here this is huge — Crossroads, Canada’s largest Christian television ministry gave InterVarsity Christian Fellowship five of its Circle Square Ranch summer camps.  No strings attached.  An outright gift from one ministry to another.  They become part of the ministry of IVCF as of the first of April.
  • I find it interesting that many of today’s younger preachers are the subject of condemnation by older ones because the younger ones don’t do expository (verse by verse) preaching.  But Andy Stanley really rose to the occasion in this series on Acts titled Big Church.
  • Okay, it’s not that Facebook is solely responsible for one in five divorces as originally reported in 2009; but it is definitely accelerating the process.
  • Spent about 40 minutes on Sunday night enjoying a mini-concert by an artist who is quite established here in Canada who needs to be shared with the rest of the world.  Check out Greg Sczebel’s website.
  • Got baggage?  Know someone who’s got baggage?  Check out this short video at GodTube.  Also at GodTube here’s a music clip from Christy Nockels from the new album Passion: Waiting Here For You.
  • Looking for some good news online?  Here’s a site with a difference: My Miracle invites readers to post stories of God’s intervention in their lives.  Maybe your story.
  • Got a question for The Pope?  He hits the Italian TV airwaves on Good Friday for a little bit of Q & A in a pre-recorded program.
  • Several months ago, this blog ran a piece on modesty for girls.  Now here’s a modesty test for your preteen or early teen daughter from Dannah Gresh’s Secret Keeper Girl website.
  • If you’re reading this Wednesday morning or afternoon you can still catch our contest from Monday to win a copy of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.
  • Here’s another one from Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like featuring all your favorite types of church songleaders.
  • And speaking of same; here’s CT’s list of the Top 27 All Time Favorite… Hymns?  That’s right, all scientifically calculated using books which contain them that nobody actually uses anymore.  This could be the very last such list.  (Click the image to see the chart clearer as a .pdf)
  • Our cartoon this week recognizes that today is the first day of Lent, which every good Evangelical knows is the _____  ____s before ________.  (Betcha we caught a few off-guard.) Bad Sheep is the product of Jay Cookingham who blogs at Soulfari, You can also click the image below to check out Lambo and Chop’s merchandise.

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