New Hope Video Stories

Here are three video stories of Hope from the First Stone Ministries‘ staff.  The first one is from Laura Leigh Stanlake who was interviewed for Dennis Jernigan’s Sing Over Me documentary. They did not use it in the documentary, but released Laura’s story as a bonus feature.  The second video here is also Laura Leigh giving her testimony at the 2013 National Restored Hope Network Conference in Oklahoma City.  Laura Leigh is the Director of Women’s Ministries at First Stone Ministries in Oklahoma City.

The third video is from me, Stephen Black sharing briefly for the new PFOX video testimonies project on their new web site. There is freedom from homosexuality for those who really desire.  Yes, a changed life happens through the transformational work of the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.  There are many who have left homosexuality behind for good.  I am so grateful for this changed life!

 

There are many more stories of people who have come out of homosexuality:

Will the Church Show Justice and Mercy to the Same-Sex Attracted?

A Clarion Call for Genuine Salvation and Biblical Hope; Not Compromise!

___________________________________________________________________________

Church Leaders, Please Truly Love the Same-Sex Attracted Person

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8.

God commands us to love one another, yet only through the divine influence of the Holy Spirit living in us and moving us to love as the Lord Jesus Christ loves are we able to fulfill that command and walk out love.  The Holy Spirit creates this kind of love within God’s diligent surrendered repentant people, enabling them to walk out true love without denying true justice.  Only in His love can we avoid the great compromise of our age.

church_and_gay2God is looking all over the Earth to find a people whose hearts are completely His to pour out His love and mercy. (2 Chron. 16:9)  As God pours out His love and mercy on people whose hearts are completely His, this love manifests in Spirit-filled believers who, by striving to embrace a lifestyle without compromise for themselves, are then free to love others fully, yet without compromising the holy justice our Lord requires.  As His divine influence works in us, we are able to walk out a Heaven-birthed love that reflects the real grace of God.  Lest we forget, God gives His grace to the humble (James 4:6), not to the proud or compromising.  His grace, and therefore His power, is given to those who put their faith in Christ alone. (Eph. 2:8-9).

How do we walk humbly? The Lord showed us how in the example of His own life as he truly and justly and consistently loved people with His great mercy.  It is proven that only this long-suffering love, lived out through discipleship care and inner-healing ministry can bring real transformation for people seeking to be free from homosexuality.  A distorted and compromising love being embraced by many Church leaders across America will not bring freedom. Some leaders may believe it is kind and loving to empower the idea of “gay Christians” or to proclaim “same-sex attracted” or “gay” as legitimate titles, labels and identities, but they are separating justice and mercy from love.  This is tragic.  Encouraging people to embrace a distorted image is not loving and is certainly not just.  It is actually unloving, spiritually wounding, and could eventually be eternally harmful to souls.  (Rom. 1:18-28, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, Gal. 5:19-21, Eph. 5:5-6, 2 Thess. 2:10-12).

 

Same-Sex Attraction:  Temptation, Lust or an Identity?

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape (freedom), that you may be able to bear it.”  1 Corinthians 10:13

The mercies of God in His extravagant grace are deposited into the humble heart.  God gives a way of escape to those tempted; however, He resists the proud. (1 Peter 5:5-10)   Many today in the Church, rather than wrestle with the issue of same-sex temptation and same-sex lust, argue instead that same-sex attraction must be recognized as a legitimate identity. There is no biblical basis for this surrender.

“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”  2 Cor. 10:3-5.

gay gag flagA loving and just leader will help a person overcome lust by teaching them to take every thought captive.  A discerning and spiritual father will teach spiritual warfare to a same-sex attracted person so he or she can walk in freedom over tormenting temptations.  A Christ-led leader will not embrace temptation as an identity, misleading people in slavery to further sin and lust.  No one in the Body of Christ should have to live a life overwhelmed by attractions that keep lust operating in the soul.  Love empowers the soul to overcome temptation; anything less is evil. Unfortunately, instead of teaching the truth—that same-sex attraction is a condition of the soul as a result of fallen humanity and is typically a result of a distorted and painful history which needs Godly care—many today promote the idea that same-sex attraction is a legitimate identity. This is wrong.

There is a great need for ministry, love and understanding for the homosexual and the person who is attracted to their same-sex. Most same-sex attracted people, with the longing-hearts of broken-souls, become consumed by lust as they deal with a wounded history, trying to repair a broken image.  This attraction and its fulfillment through lust can never be the identity of anyone who is completely surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Still, many well-meaning Church leaders promote the idea that being “gay” or a “gay Christian”, or being attracted to one’s same-sex is a legitimate ‘orientation’ and/or an identity based on modern psychology and their own appetites.[1]  This promotes a false-self in fallen humanity as something to be acknowledged as a personality or as a part of the identity. This deceptive teaching promotes distortion in the Church and leads many astray with a false compassion.  Coining new and comforting terms, such as “mixed orientation marriages” and other forms of sexual “orientation” only further strengthen the strongholds in souls.

Gay-activists have browbeaten the Church with words like homophobic, bigoted, intolerant, unloving and unkind, making anyone who desires to be uncompromising in Biblical orthodoxy subject to scrutiny and a demonic pressure to be swayed into a man-pleasing spirit.  After-all, what sincere Christian is willing to wear the unloving labels cast on them by gay activists?  No one!  Reactionary leaders introduce deception, subtly legitimizing same-sex attractions and lust under the ever-growing cheap-grace teachings.  Well-meaning compassionate people are being seduced by false teachings about grace and mercy, thus promoting a distortion of Christianity—the ‘kind-license’ to sin—which actually makes an allowance for sins of the heart and mind to remain. We should show great compassion to all sexual sinners in the Church, but these cheap-grace teachers align themselves with demons to turn the grace of God into lasciviousness. Some of them even joke outrageously about lasciviousness and mock grace.[2]   “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness (lasciviousness) and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4

 

The Grace of God is Transformational

Flee from sexual lust and fornication for every other sin is committed outside the body, but sexual immorality is a sin against your soul, your identity and body. 1 Cor. 6:18.

spiritual-transformationThe Apostle Paul used the word “flee” for a reason.  Sexual sin is very dangerous and very damaging to the soul and humans should flee as fast as humanly possible.   Teaching acceptance of gay Christianity is equally dangerous.  Gay-Christian advocates teach lies; they are blind and deceptive guides keeping the souls of many in bondage to same-sex lust.[1]  And from these teachers we should flee.   Jesus’ way is to submit the soul through faith to His amazing sacrifice on the cross, resulting in righteousness. (Rom. 10:10).  A true faith in God embraces inward holiness of thoughts.  His divine call for salvation is to a new lifestyle of turning (repenting) to Him for the joy of a deep intimate relationship with Christ as Creator.  This requires us to die to all self-promotion of the fallen Adamic nature of the flesh (orientations) and its desires, which includes same-sex attraction, homosexuality and all forms of sexual sin and brokenness.  The grace of God is transformational.[3] He always makes a way of escape from temptation for those who are completely His.  This is a very good test to see if in fact you are truly born again: do you desire to live purely in your thought life every day? Do you desire transformation?

 

We Are Created in the Image of God—Imago Dei!

As I have oft-written, we are created in the image of God—Imago Dei! Using a “sexual orientation” for a person’s identity—such as “same-sex attracted” or “homosexual”—indicates viability for behavior outside of God’s original intent for human sexuality.  I have never agreed with the notion that “sexual orientation”—our sexual direction or desires—is equivalent to how we are sexually created to be. Using terms like “sexual orientation” and “mixed orientation marriages” communicates a distorted truth based solely on human attractions and feelings, not on God’s creation and intent. Modern psychology has provided these terms. The only intent for human sexuality or orientation is from God.  That is “heterosexuality,” a term also given to us by modern psychology. What we call heterosexuality, God calls holy relating between one man and one woman in a covenant marriage relationship with the potential to create life in His image through human sexual intercourse.  God calls this relationship holy—two becoming one—a holy relationship that can be only between one man and one woman. We are never more like God in His creativity as humans than when we are in concert with God in creating life.

One cannot create life through homosexuality. We are most like God in His creation when as ‘heterosexual’ married couples, we produce children, also created in God’s image (Imago Dei). All other “orientations” are, at the very least, distorted emotional wounds from psychological (soulish) problems with accompanying desires.  Modern psychology, at its very worst, gives us “sexual orientation” as a way to legitimize sinful behavior.  Under this diabolical plot, the “orientation” message can culminate with the potential for mutilation of the body as we see in gender-reassignment surgery. This evil is very deceptive and tormenting for people.

imago_dei_1Humans are created male and female. Heterosexuality is an innate created biological fact and therefore cannot change. It is simple biology 101, and an orientation idea given to us by modern psychology does not change the truth that we are created human beings, male and female at every level (Imago Dei).  Being human and under the curse of original sin, however, we are able to have distorted attractions and very sinful behaviors.  Humanity is fallen and, as fallen human beings, the orientation we have is a “sinful orientation,” not a “sexual orientation.”  Very simply, homosexual behavior and other“sexual orientations”outside of God’s divine intent for human sexuality are sinful. However, there is hope!

Jesus Christ came into the world to save us from all our distorted thinking. He gave us the Word of God, so our minds could be renewed by His Spirit and so transformation can occur to the surrendered soul.[3] The Holy Spirit abides in those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  Isn’t it good news to know we do not have to be defined by modern psychology or our feelings, attractions, appetites or lust?  We are defined by the Creator, Who created us in His image, to be like Him in a holy identity as man and woman; and we are created as His children.  Yes! In fact, one can “change” from a ‘homosexual’ existence and live a holy and healthy life created in the image of God as ‘heterosexual’ men and women.  Imago Dei!

 

Realigning with the Words of Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures

The Church is in need of a great revival.  A revival to give justice and mercy to the same-sex-attracted person and all sexual sinners. A revival where souls are truly transformed! We must base our message upon the sound words of the Lord Jesus Christ in giving a genuine message of salvation, a gospel message that conforms the soul to godliness.  The new ideas of outreach coming from Church leaders are heartbreaking.  They use the methodology of the world, through cute slogans and clever sayings to convince same-sex-attracted people they are invited and welcomed, offering no help in redemption, thus allowing the Church to become an unholy place without change.  They proclaim a message of grace where repentance is not ‘really’ necessary, where you merely pray a prayer and have your ticket punched for Heaven.  This is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ.reading-bible-blue

“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.  1 Tim. 6:3-5.

Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’” – Jesus also said, “from the beginning it has always been this way.” (See Matthew 19:1-10).

There is a better way, expressed through the very words of Christ in Matthew’s gospel account, and on The Sermon on the Mount. His words are very clear about confronting the motivations of the heart, especially in regard to sexual attraction and lust.  The clarion call from our Savior is to present the beautiful truths of the Gospel for a genuine salvation and a Biblical hope that brings transformation in these last days.  His grace is transformative, not leaving people with an out-of-control lust for their identity. If we compromise these truths, we do an injustice to the very people we say we want to help. Don’t fall into the psychological trap of placing the labels of fallen humanity onto people concerning their sexuality. It is not mercy, justice or love!

We should at least embrace an intercession of sincere love with great sorrow and tears as the Apostle Paul told the church in Rome.  Read his words: “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow, weeping and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymenaccording to the flesh…”  Yet the Apostle Paul’s love—so profound—is willing to be accursed from Christ; willing to go to hell so others would be saved!  Most in the Church are not weeping and praying, never mind being willing to be accursed from Christ on behalf of another’s potential for salvation. Rather, they are too afraid to call out how destructive homosexuality is to our society.

A clarion call and warning from the Lord concerning this day is found in Jeremiah 6:14-15 – “The Shepherds (Church leaders) have healed the hurt (deep wounding) of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they had committed abominations (homosexuality)? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush (blush or show shame over abominations or sexual sins). Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,’ says the LORD.  Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

church decisionBeware of believing that the old ways of preaching the Gospel are not relevant. You may find yourself as a false shepherd, not really calling for holy repentance and a sincere healing of your own soul or the soul of the person who struggles with same-sex attraction or homosexuality.  The Lord requires that we do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him in bringing souls sincerely to Christ in complete abandonment.  “No greater love than this, for a man to lay down his own life for his friends.” John 15:13.  In this, is true justice, love, mercy and a humble walk.

written by Stephen Black, Executive Director — First Stone Ministries, Oklahoma City, OK

 

[1] Adam Hamilton, Alan Chambers, Tony Jones, Wesley Hill, Justin Lee, Matthew Vines, Andrew Marin, Brian  McLaren, Tony & Peggy Campolo, Mel White, Rob Bell, Jay Bakker, Ray Boltz, Gene Robinson and many others.

[2] Clark Whitten, Chairman of the Board of Exodus International’s teaching on ‘Grace’ at the National Exodus Freedom Conference, July 15, 2008. (EXODUS08-D)

[3] Transformation of Persons with Same-Sex Attraction: Becoming Who We Are

A Thorough and Scholarly Video Presentation of The Bible and Homosexual Practice — by Dr. Robert Gagnon

There are very few men who are as thorough and scholarly on the subject of the Bible and homosexuality.  Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of the New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is one such scholar.  Based upon Dr. Gagnon’s fantastic work,  The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics, an excellent video presentation is presented here to give clear answers from the Bible texts and Bible hermeneutics.  This presentation also gives a clear historical background in context that is very helpful.  This video series is very clear that the Bible teaches a prohibition against homosexual behavior, to argue otherwise is disingenuous.  There is also a clear warning that should be listened to from the Bible for those who embrace homosexual behavior and those who teach an acceptance of homosexuality. Do you really want a thorough understanding?  Do you really want to know the truth?  Please review the following videos for a scholarly and thorough teaching on the subject of homosexuality and the Bible.  This video series is an excellent resource for the student of God’s word, the theologian or for anyone desiring to gain understanding in this day when many are embracing homosexuality.  Please watch this entire +3 1/2 hours of video with your Bible in hand and ready to take notes!

Part 1 of 7

Robert Gagnon: The Bible & Homosexual Practice – The Old Testament – Genesis 1 & 2 from Jim Garlow on Vimeo.

Part 2 of 7

Robert Gagnon: The Bible & Homosexual Practice – The Old Testament – Sodom from Jim Garlow on Vimeo.

Part 3 of 7

Robert Gagnon: The Bible & Homosexual Practice – The Old Testament – The Levitical Prohibition from Jim Garlow on Vimeo.

Part 4 of 7

Robert Gagnon: The Bible & Homosexual Practice – The Old Testament – David & Jonathan from Jim Garlow on Vimeo.

Part 5 of 7

Robert Gagnon: The Bible & Homosexual Practice – The Witness of Jesus from Jim Garlow on Vimeo.

Part 6 of 7

Robert Gagnon: The Bible & Homosexual Practice – The Witness of Paul from Jim Garlow on Vimeo.

Part 7 of 7

Robert Gagnon: The Bible & Homosexual Practice – The Hermeneutical Relevance of the Bible from Jim Garlow on Vimeo.

Coram Deo

Coram Deo is Latin, translated as a phrase – “in the presence of God” from Christian Church theology which communicates the idea of Christians living in the presence of, under the authority of, and to the honor and glory of God at all times!

Coram Deo is living in a cognitive state of being before the face of God Almighty. To live Coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, always for the glory of God. To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are before the gaze of Almighty God. God is omnipresent. Therefore, there is no place that we can escape His penetrating gaze, HE SEES! Coram Deo is to be live in a state of awareness of the presence of God, so acutely aware of His sovereignty, we enjoy the terrible awesomeness and FEAR God to encounter HIS fountain of life so as to be overwhelmed by HIS LOVE, because He is so forgiving and so merciful. Only those who are truly born of the Holy Spirit can understand this awesomeness! God is terrible, fearful, awesome and FULL of AWE… God is NOT tame, He is NOT safe, but HE IS oh so very good, so holy, so merciful and so loving. Without understanding the holy severity and the incredible kindness of God, we cannot grow in maturity.

 

The fear of God is NOT mere reverential trust, just ask those who have actually received a glimpse of God; peer into the Holy Scriptures and READ about those who have encountered God in His glory. They fall in awe-ness, in terrible fear – TREMBLING before the Almighty. May God transform my life, and those who read this to fear God, and live in Coram Deo!  CORAM DEO  — God sees you all the time and everything you do, and you will give account to HIM.

“For The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from His sight (God sees all), but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Jesus Christ – The Word of God – will be our judge).  Hebrews 4:12 & 13.

For we know him who said,”Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again,”The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Hebrews 10:30 & 31

“Let us therefore, receiving a kingdom that is firm and stable and cannot be shaken, offer to God pleasing service and acceptable worship, with modesty and pious care and godly fear and in trembling awe;  for our God [is indeed] a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28 & 29

throne_of_God

 FOR JESUS’ SAKE AND FOR HIS GLORY!

Reaching — O U T — at OKC Gay Pride Parade

–Note: Stephen Black, Executive Director of First Stone Ministries, attended the Oklahoma City Gay Pride Celebration June 26, 2011 raising a few eyebrows and provoking a few questions.

This is Stephen’s report.

“Why on Earth would you be out at the gay pride celebration Stephen? You have no business being at a gay pride parade!”   At first, it may seem reasonable to rebuke a minister of the Gospel and the director of an “ex-gay” ministry for attending a gay pride event. As an ex-gay myself, it sounds reasonable even to me that I had “no business being at a gay pride parade.” After all, I am Biblically charged to resist even the appearance of evil. The thought was that I might myself be tempted or, at the least, that my appearance there might lead some to believe I have compromised my personal and biblical beliefs, thus compromising the work of ministry and diminishing the effectiveness of those ministering alongside me at First Stone. I assure anyone who questions my presence there that I was under authority, surrounded by powerful accountability and had the necessary boundaries in place to keep me safe enough. Through preparation and prayer, we embraced this opportunity to serve people with the love of God, and plant seeds of truth to make a difference in the eternal kingdom of God.


Why was I there?

Those who know me well know that I didn’t want to be at a gay pride celebration. I grieve when I see the craziness in all its fractured variety. . . to put it mildly. Jeremiah Herrian of Forgotten Ministries and Jeff Jackson, 40th Street Baptist Church’s interim pastor, asked me to join them in an outreach ministry. God had placed in and on their hearts to make a difference for the Gospel’s sake by being kind to the pride participants by providing free food and water, contrasting the unkindness the local church often demonstrates towards people who declare themselves gay. 40th Street Baptist Church committed itself to overcome evil by doing good. By making themselves available to pray and witness to people, church members believed the Lord would open doors. Being present to see the Lord work truly blessed and challenged me. My heart needed to know and experience HIS love in a much deeper and profound way for the lost, and I was sincerely overwhelmed by the love of God,  yes, at a Gay Pride Parade.

Before the parade began, Stephen Black was able to teach the Christian volunteers how to minister to the homosexual with compassion and truth. Here, Stephen grills hot-dogs to give away to those at the parade.

 

How did the blessings unfold?

Jeff and Jeremiah’s plan was to be present at the celebration and parade, and to give out barbequed hotdogs and ice cold water along with all the fixin’s, chips, candy, watermelon and cantaloupe. Jeff asked First Stone staff and volunteers to come on Sunday morning to talk about the do’s and don’ts of ministering; and to share from our experience what truly is effective. It was a wonderful opportunity to teach “Homosexuality 101” and present to people the love of God. Forgotten Ministries’ bus includes a pop-out stage and sound system. Jeremiah brought a huge grill and we began cooking. We set up tents, and Jeff’s volunteers graciously provided food and water to anyone who wanted it. A colorful tract attached to the bottles of water expressed the genuine love of God for all people. We went from tent to tent, tail-gate to tail-gate to invite people to receive free food and water. “What’s the catch?” several asked us. Our response? “No catch, we just a want you to know God loves you.” NW 39th St. was lined with thousands of people stretching over a mile long. By being courageous enough to answer God’s call, the 15 workers in our outreach tent were able to talk to hundreds of people.

 

God Even Uses the God Hates Fags spirit.

The crowd pressed in on the GHF Preacher, it was a circus like atmosphere.

The gay pride event attracted thousands, including the “God Hates Fags” (GHF) people. While these demonstrators were not from Westboro — the original GHF people – they were very close in spirit and boldness, quickly turning their presence at the event into a circus show. “Disgusting sinners! Sodomites! You are corrupting the Earth, destroying families and you are all going to hell unless you repent,” screamed the GHF preacher through his megaphone, surrounded by GHF members carrying signs condemning the gay community. “God’s wrath is upon you!” He screamed repeatedly, proclaiming the law of God in a seemingly endless rant that merely infuriated the crowd. The police stood by in concerned amusement. Whatever message the GHF may have thought they were communicating was ineffective, as the gay community heard nothing but hateful judgment, something all-too-familiar to them. Grieved to the point of feeling ill – and not because of the 100 degree heat — I was also convicted at my own internal judgments at the brokenness I witnessed all around me. In a tent next to ours, a leather-clad transsexual with whips and chains was beating another lesbian friend for “fun.” All around me I could see and hear the damaged ones “celebrating” their pride. It was a very bizarre scene, and I found myself dealing with my own judgment. The sin of the people was obvious, to be sure, but it caused me less pain than to see the Church as represented by the rants of the GHF preacher and the condescending judgment of the four other quiet, yet very conspicuous sign-holding condemning Pentecostals with the Leviticus 18:22 signs, reading “ABOMINATION!” My Pentecostal brethren were very conservative in their white shirts, ties and long jean skirts, contrasted in the unbearable heat by the flamboyant and scantily-dressed partiers, melding together into a very bizarre picture. The display of self-righteousness was over the top. Unable to contain myself as the heart-break of the Lord consumed me, I confronted the GHF Preacher, only to find his resolve strong and his ears deaf. First Stone Intern Chris Johnson, quietly weeping and praying, offered the GHF preacher a bottle of water, as I turned my attention to the squad of four with their signs of condemnation, including an older gentleman who was pastor of a local church. I spoke to him about how to effectively reach out to the lost, but my bottom line question was this: “Can we reach a condemned people by standing in self-righteous judgment holding signs condemning them even more?”

The GHF Preacher continued on all day.


He hesitated and I sensed that the question seemed to make sense to him. I gave him my card and told him if he really wanted to make a difference by ministering to the gay community he could contact me and we would talk. The GHF preacher, on the other hand, would hear nothing. I could only pray that his eyes would be opened and his self-righteous hatred would be minimized.

As we continued to minister from our tent, a lady stopped and asked, “Are you all like those Christians?” Because if you are, I don’t want anything from you! My father committed suicide last year because of people like these hateful, so called Christians!” The pain in her words pierced me and I was struck with more broken-heartedness. I told the woman who we are and what we were about. I apologized for the Church. I cried and told her how sorry I was for her loss. She let me pray with her and I hugged her. She told me that we restored some hope in her life, that maybe there are real Christians.  Even in this quiet moment of ministry, I was overwhelmed by the GHF preacher’s continued ranting. Predictably, the lesbians and gays mocked him, mooned him and returned his screams.  At this point, the Spirit of God came upon me! Positioning myself in the middle of the street, I started screaming at the entire block, pleading for everyone’s attention. For just a second it was almost silent. Even the GHF preaching stopped, and I took advantage of the pause to proclaim at the top of my lungs: “We are real Christians and we are NOT like this!” “God loves you! GOD LOVES YOU!” I screamed at the top of my lungs as I began to cry. “JESUS DIED FOR YOU! AND WE LOVE YOU TOO! We are here to give you FREE food and ice cold water just because we love you and God loves you!”  Yes . . . they heard me. The crowd erupted in to screams of gratefulness and applause! By the end of the day, we had given out 800 hotdogs and hundreds of bottles of water. Was our effort to show God’s love effective? Yes, it was, as demonstrated by the response of a small group of lesbians: “We don’t necessarily agree with you leaving homosexuality, but we think you are really cool; can we hug you?”  “Of course,” I exclaimed, giving them all a big hug. Their response, in the midst of a chaotic day, broke my heart. I hugged many broken people that day and prayed with a couple more. God was able to turn the GHF preaching into a wonderful opportunity for us to make a difference, a difference that would have been impossible if we had drawn our shutters and waited for the day to pass into history.  Pastor Jeff Jackson used the loudspeaker to ask the entire community to forgive the Church of Oklahoma City. His humble request was met with screams, cheers and clapping. Several of us were able to pray with more people and witness a little. We did not confront the sin of homosexuality, leaving that task to the Holy Spirit. That same Holy Spirit that first confronted me with my need for Jesus over ALL my sins, later confronted my homosexuality. There is a right way to witness and there is clearly a wrong way. Hopefully, my critics will understand now why I was at the OKC Gay Pride Celebration on June 26, 2011. I will never be the same!

“Preach the Gospel all day long and if necessary use words.” St. Augustine

And yes, we must communicate in words the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Whole Gospel for Gays by Andy Comiskey

Introduction ~by Stephen Black

A perfect title by Andy Comiskey with Desert Stream Ministries: “The Whole Gospel for Gays,” for God forbid that anyone would give anything less to someone, gay or otherwise, than the WHOLE Gospel.  When we sincerely care about people and knowing the holiness of God, His severity and His mercy, true believers are compelled to give the WHOLE Gospel. I am incredibly grateful that I received THE WHOLE GOSPEL in 1983 that transformed my life by those who were not afraid to give me the whole counsel of God’s word.  It was a message of hope (and still is) that called for my immediate repentance to surrender my life to Christ. I am sincerely grateful to men like Andy Comiskey and Robert Gagnon who are willing to tell the truth.  Love is holy and transforming, not merely a human orientation that allows for people to remain in their brokenness.

Unfortunately there are those who think themselves wiser than the word of God. The Apostle Paul reminded the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians about his own revelation of Jesus Christ that compelled the Apostle by the love of God to preach the truth, knowing the severity and the mercy of God; that he would be held accountable to God for his message. (Romans 5, Romans 11:16-24, Galatians 1:6-10)  I am also compel to preach the whole Gospel with the bright light of eternity break forth on the horizon. The longer I live this life, the closer I am to eternity; each of us grow closer day by day; therefore we must preach the whole Gospel to everyone! When shall we give an account to the Creator concerning our life, our very existence?  It could be tomorrow.

I have become increasingly concerned and alarmed by the emergent movement of a social gospel that removes repentance from the WHOLE Gospel message. Yet repentance is absolutely necessary in a saving faith. The fruit of a sincere faith in Christ and His perfect substitutionary atonement, His death on the cross and resurrection will always produce a repentant life. Yet the “new social emergent gospel” presents the nicer, kinder, more palatable Jesus, the social club of gatherers, rather than true devoted followers, disciples, true believers in Jesus Christ.  The whole Gospel requires believers to live a disciplined life of self-denial.

Unfortunately there is a “new message” of simple belief in historical facts with no repentance, however there is nothing new about it.  It is simply an old lie from the very beginning. There is a reason Christians are to be called “believers”.  Christians are actually mandated to believe God, believe HIM, believe the Holy Scriptures as inspired, infallible and the inerrant Truth.  It is a belief that is synonymous with obedience to Christ and HIS words. However there are those who have crept in to malign at different levels, they attack fundamental truths, especially about what God’s word teaches concerning morality and human sexuality.  I am very grateful for Andy Comiskey and Robert Gagnon for addressing this issue head on, especially the “Love Is An Orientation” crowd, although they are sincere with human compassion, yet they are marching to the muddying-up of the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Presenting the Whole Gospel for Gays is biblical mercy, compassion and biblical love!   Please read the following wonderful article by my friend Andy Comiskey.

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The Whole Gospel for Gays ~by Andy Comiskey

Part 1 of 4

What is the good news for the homosexual in the American Church today? In our efforts to reach the lost, have we have lost the liberating power of the Gospel?

I do not mean a simple triumphalism in which saying ‘yes’ to Christ means instant reorientation. I mean the power of Christ Crucified to assume the weight of wounding, sin and shame that resides at the heart of every gay man or lesbian, and the power of Christ Resurrected to restore the integrity of His child’s image-bearing humanity. Over time. In fear and trembling. From glory to glory.

To be sure, that power can only be described as strength in weakness: God’s weakness on the cross, our weakness in surrender to His vulnerability. But it is the truest expression of power and wisdom: Paul describes the cross as the weakness of God that surpasses human strength, the foolishness of God that surpasses our wisdom. (1 Cor. 1:24, 25)

My closest friends and I who have submitted our homosexuality to Christ can attest to the simple message of the cross: die and you will live. The cross demands a death—the surrender of our identities–in order for a new life to be raised up. We have found that yielding our gay agenda has been the threshold for the boldest and most creative expressions of restoration we have yet experienced.

Strangely, the power of the cross to break the husk of the ‘gay self’ and to reclaim the treasure of one’s true humanity is rarely if ever heard in the American Church today. What we do hear is a banal message of compassion which rightly upholds the dignity of the struggler but fails to tell of their need for radical restoration. Like all people.

In an effort to repair decades of insensitivity toward those inclined to their gender, this new, cool Gospel is limited to anemic pronouncements of God’s love divorced from the truth of Scripture and the Christian tradition. In practice, God is rendered passive, unable to offer real transformation to the sexually broken.

What a gutless Gospel, a message devoid of the cross and thus of Jesus Christ altogether. In the forthcoming weeks, I will highlight examples of this ‘watering’ down of the Gospel in order to reach gays. I will include critiques of writings by Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest church in Kansas City (and the largest Methodist church in the USA), Andrew Marin and his book ‘Love is an Orientation’, as well as other churchmen who represent the ‘love means never having to admit you are a sinner’ approach to homosexuals.

What matters to me is how I go about disagreeing with these colleagues in Christ. Each of them is a human being deeply loved by Christ and called according to His service. I would like to exhibit toward them what Richard Mouw defines as ‘convicted civility’—clarifying one’s convictions in a spirit of respect and humility toward those who believe differently.

That means countering one plank of Hamilton’s or Marin’s system of beliefs as expressed in their writings; it is not a character assassination (vilifying their motives or their humanity).

To me, ‘humanity’ is precisely what is at stake in this whole question of the Gospel we present to gays. Do we see them through the eyes of their Creator and Redeemer, or through the social construct they have created?

That makes all the difference. We can suffer long with homosexuals while we walk together the long road from Egypt to the Father’s house. But we must not blunt or soften Christ’s call to walk that road. We run the risk of losing precisely what Christ died for—the reclaiming of our true humanity from the grip of sin and deception.

Such a loss of vision has deeper implications. Losing sight of how God defines our humanity and its reclamation means that we have also lost our grip on the whole Gospel. That was precisely Paul’s concern for the Corinthians; in justifying sexual immorality, they ran the risk of losing Christ Crucified and Resurrected. So Paul declared to them once more the whole Gospel, and its implications for their humanity, sexual and otherwise.

We are in similar trouble today. The American Church has so perfected its ‘seeker-friendly’ rap that it has lost the language of repentance—the call and will to die—in order to live for the only One worthy of our devotion. Instead we swath our spirituality in the language of pop psychology and gauge our well-being by whether or not we feel good.

Kierkegaard said it best in regards to the Church of his day: ‘It is all love and love…because God is Love and Love—nothing at all about rigorousness must be heard; it must all be the free language and nature of love…God’s love easily becomes a fabulous and childish conception, the figure of Christ too mild and sickly sweet for it to be true that Christ was and is an offense…’

The cross is offensive. It calls us to die to what seems like ‘life’ to us, in order to call us into a life of love that is defined by Him. Maybe Christ has another agenda: not our feeling good but our genuine good, based on His eternal purposes for our humanity.

He wants to save us! Our God has the power to save lives! That is the message not being heard by gays in the Church today. What they hear is that God will help preserve one’s good ‘gay’ life. What a lie. What a cowardly church!

How grateful I am for the amazing men and women who told me the whole truth: they embraced me while they mirrored gently the truth of my sin. That hurt, but it resonated with the ‘sin-sickness’ already destroying me. Their whole Gospel broke the ground for mercy to mature in me.

My first son recently married an amazing woman, next year my second son weds an equally fine bride. I am currently reaping what God sowed in me when he called me to stop pursuing men sexually and to fall down before Himself. What I lost is nothing in contrast to the life He has given me. And through me, to an amazing wife and a host of sons and daughters.

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12: 24.

Part 2 of 4

Demoralizing the Gospel: My Take on Adam Hamilton’s ‘When Christians Get it Wrong’

Morality is a bad word these days. It connotes finger-pointing fundamentalists who lurk in church corners, ready to skewer the disobedient. After all, morality involves ascribing good or evil to particular actions.

That can be a bitter pill for sexual sinners to swallow. The New Testament regards sexual activity outside of marriage as grounds for jeopardizing one’s entrance into God’s Kingdom.

Christian morality does not stop there; it understands that the way of life and action of Jesus Christ is the highest expression of morality. Jesus Himself said in the Sermon on the Mount that He came to fulfill the moral law, that unless His followers were more righteous than the most scrupulous moralists, they would not make it to heaven. (Matt. 5:17-20)

But wasn’t Jesus’ morality summed up in one word: love? Aren’t moral judgments at odds with the God-man who took up the case of the immoral, who claimed that the prostitutes would enter heaven before the Pharisees? (Matt. 21:31)

The answer is simple. Holy love is transformational; God inspires the sinner to fulfill the moral law by persuading him/her that His love is better than one’s old life. Jesus manifested that love in the vast amounts of energy He spent drawing the immoral to Himself. He offered Himself as the target for their turning; in His very being, He fulfilled the Law and the deep longing of wayward hearts.

Robert Gagnon says it best in his masterpiece The Bible and Homosexual Practice: ‘Jesus balanced the Father’s ethical demands with God’s self-sacrificing outreach to transform sinners… His ministry proves that the Church can practice radical love without sacrificing God’s demand for righteous conduct.’

Why then do powerful, decent and otherwise loving men like Adam Hamilton demoralize the Gospel, as he does in his book When Christians Get It Wrong? The pastor of the largest evangelical church in Kansas City, and the largest Methodist Church in the USA, guts the Gospel of its truth by insisting that Jesus simply loves ‘His gay children’; He requires of them no repentance, and thus no transformation unto righteousness.

Hamilton preaches a love designed for a generation that is particularly allergic to any notion that homosexuality is sin. He dedicated his book to ‘John’, a twenty-something heterosexual so influenced by a gay-affirming culture that he defines himself significantly by his defense of homosexual practice. Hamilton quotes John as saying: ‘I fully support those who chose [homosexuality] as their lifestyle…it has become something that is accepted…I don’t see anything wrong with it.’

Neither does Hamilton, if his chapter on homosexuality is an accurate indication. To support his demoralized love, Hamilton mimics the rationale employed by mainline Protestant denominations of the last 40 years to support homosexual practice. Love conquers all, including the Bible’s sexual morality.

(To be fair, Hamilton stops short of blessing same-sex unions. To be true, however, he lays the groundwork for doing just that by removing any biblical objection to homosexual practice. He rightfully prophesies that in 10 years the evangelical world will be as divided as the Protestant denominations in regards to homosexuality, a divide widened by Hamilton’s own demoralized Gospel.)

More specifically, Hamilton claims that Jesus puts people over rules and that Scripture offers us many examples of ‘progressive revelation’. Citing outdated dietary and ceremonial laws, as well as changing ethical ones, like women’s ordination and outlawing slavery, Hamilton challenges the notion that the Scripture has anything binding to say about homosexuality.

Agreed, many Old Testament laws concerning ritual and diet lose force in the New, and God’s image in both women and the enslaved has been progressively liberated from cultural ties that have bound them, ties that the Apostle Paul was slow to disrupt in lieu of other priorities.

But Scripture from start to finish upholds God’s image in humanity as the duality of male and female, a fullness manifest from Genesis One’s Adam and Eve to Christ the Bridegroom returning for His bride at the end of Revelation.

The truth of Scripture and Church tradition points only to marital union as blessed; any other sexual configuration is a violation of God’s will for humanity. Gagnon again: ‘The scriptural witness for heterosexual monogamy and against same-sex practice is strong, pervasive, absolute, and counter-cultural.’

Where Hamilton and I agree is that Jesus’ love applies pointedly to those with same-sex attraction. Where we disagree mightily is in demoralizing that love in order to make the truth of the Gospel acceptable to them and their ‘John-like’ friends.

I want ‘John’ and his friends, whether inclined toward the same or opposite gender, to know the transformational truth of love: how Jesus sets people free from violating themselves and others through sexual immorality. I would cite John 4—Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman–as one such biblical, transformational model.

Paradoxically, that very passage from which we derived the essence of ‘Living Waters’, our main healing course, is the same one Hamilton cites as his approach to gays!

In the passage, Hamilton sees only a loving encounter between a shameful woman and Christ, who poses no challenge to her immorality whatsoever. I see the stern and splendid and altogether compassionate advance of God’s Kingdom; grace and truth converge in Christ as He extends ‘living water’ to the Samaritan then exposes the folly of her multiple partnerships. In truth, it is only after Jesus reveals her immoral state that she proclaims Him as Lord.

Holy love transforms; worldly love caters to the consumer, and allows him or her to conform spirituality to whatever (s)he wants it to be. ‘John’ may prefer Hamilton’s demoralized love, but it cannot transform him; demoralized love fails to call one to anything higher than his own self-interests.

The US Catholic Catechism for Adults says it best: “Love alone, set adrift from moral direction, can easily descend into sentimentality that puts us at the mercy of our feelings… In our permissive culture, love is sometimes so romanticized that it is separated from sacrifice. Because of this, tough moral choices cannot be faced. The absence of sacrificial love dooms the possibility of an authentic moral life.’ And I would add, an authentic Christian life.

One more agreement with Hamilton: he is absolutely right in claiming that young adults today will tend to use a negative view of homosexuality as one reason why they reject orthodox Christianity. But rather than conform the message of the Gospel to the cultural flow, let us go against the current and offer them transformation, something worth dying for.

Christine is a good friend of mine, a pre-Christian seeking the truth. We speak of Jesus often; she said to me yesterday that she would never oppose gay marriage because people should be able to do what they want.

I looked her straight in the eyes and told her the whole painful, shameful, marvelous story of how God loved me so much that He called me to repent of my homosexual identity and practice then follow Him on an adventure of healing in order to discover who He really is and who I really am as a beautiful, broken part of God’s heterosexual creation. (Whew!)

‘Surrender to His love, Christine, that’s all He asks. He accepts our weakness, our fears, and our questions, but He refuses to give us duo passports. You either follow Jesus and serve God’s Kingdom, or you are under the mastery of the Kingdom of this world.’ For the first time in one of our conversations, her eyes widened and filled with tears. She heard the whole message.

Adam Hamilton, you are a good man. Just stick to the whole Gospel. In demoralizing it in When Christians Get it Wrong, you get it wrong and sadly extend your error to a generation that deserves better.

Part 3 of 4

The Gospel Abridged: A review of Andrew Marin’s ‘Love is an Orientation’

This is the third article I have written in a four-part effort to present a whole gospel to gays, and to point out a couple of trends that distort that gospel. One such lop-sided approach is described in ‘Love is an Orientation’ by Andrew Marin.

The book interested me for several reasons. First, it is published by IVP, a solidly evangelical press that happens to be my publisher. Second, ‘Love is an Orientation’ has been very popular among progressive evangelical pastors. Some asked my opinion on it; I write this review to respond to their request.

The book’s theme corresponds with what I observe to be the lopsided approach of many churches to gays: embrace them with a broad message of ‘love’ but provide no clear track for their restoration once inside the church.

The deficit? Evangelism with no discipleship—new life without the cost, a personal resurrection requiring no crucifixion. On such uneven ground, some evangelical churches I know have begun to shift the boundary lines of truth concerning (homo)sexuality. Unwittingly, Marin’s book may encourage that shift, especially with Christians seeking to resolve the tension they feel between gay loved ones and their ‘old ideas’ of sexual morality.

Andrew Marin is a young evangelical who has sought to build a bridge between Christians and the GLBT (gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender) community. His love for that community is more apparent than his love of truth, which skews the good news he offers them. Embrace his heart for the lost while walking carefully: the bridge he builds to unite the church with the gay community is missing some significant planks.

Too bad. His heart at times shines through the pages. He is an evangelist with a background in sociology. His expressed purpose is to ‘elevate the conversation’ with the gay community by ‘humbly learning and listening’ to them.

All good. No evangelical I relate to would deny that a heavy-handed approach to a community that exists in reaction to (its perception of) the church won’t work. Marin wisely suggests that sensitive and patient relating is key to making Him known.

The question is: how do we become the new body that Jesus employs to replace the gay identity and community? Making that transition is tough for all concerned, especially for a gay person baptized and confirmed as a member of a queer nation. How do we lovingly help him or her shed the gay self for the truth?

That has been our challenge from day one at Desert Stream–providing a bridge for the men and women of West Hollywood to the Vineyard Westside. Though the church was just a few miles away, for many it seemed like a bridge too far.

Andrew Marin falters at helping the church become the new community. Instead he focuses on how to keep the conversation going with gay neighbors, yet remains cryptic about crucial points in that dialogue.

I became aware of Andrew a few years back when we were both slated to share on ministry to gays at a conference for urban youth. I wanted to find out where he was coming from, as his course description was vague. He wouldn’t tell me.

That lack of clarity pervades his book, which could be subtitled: ‘If gays ask, don’t tell.’ Marin advises Christians to stay away from pointed conversation with gays about sexuality and ethics as many will use such dialogue to write Christians off.

So Marin remains mysterious in his sexual morality; his book is confusing as to how he understands the transformation Jesus and His body bring to gays.

Gays seeking Jesus face some pretty big decisions about identity, community, etc. Marin advises that instead of sharing our views we simply ‘let it all be in the Lord’s hands and plans as He sees it to be good.’(p.113) Not helpful for the 18-year-old Bible college student about to jump ship and move in with a more ‘realized’ gay man, or the young woman bonding sexually with a fellow athlete, herself a proud member of the GLBT community. (We as a ministry have had to address both cases.)

In light of 30-years of beholding the increase of gay options for at-risk youth (never mind the intervention I have had to do with my own kids for related issues!), I asked myself: Can we do better than a Zen-like surrender of our loved ones to the apparently unknown God?

I say unknown, not because Marin does not manifest the deeply personal love Jesus imparts to His followers; he simply refuses to comment on whether or not Jesus cares about sexual immorality and/or the indignities it engenders on all involved.

How else can he say: ‘If a GLBT person has indicated that it is OK to be gay, the Christian community has to deeply trust and rely on the knowledge that we can never know the end to God’s best journey for someone else’s life.’ (pp. 110, 111)

That may involve turning from homosexuality; it may involve turning toward it. Marin’s gospel will not disclose. In his kingdom, the only solid line one dare not cross is to act as if one knows the way, sexually-speaking, and can help another to find it.

In line with his ‘who knows?’ approach to sexual decision-making, Marin shortchanges the scriptural references to homosexuality. His chapter on the topic does all a disservice. He misinterprets scripture to support his penchant for the GLBT community. He may win their hearts but seriously distorts the meaning of the texts.

Marin frames the 5 obvious references in Scripture that prohibit homosexual behavior as open doors for dialogue with the gay community. He does this by interpreting them in light of his call to build bridges, while stripping the texts of much if any ethical weight in regards to their clear prohibition of gay behavior.

The main sin he warns us of is our homophobia; clear the way, so that gays can ‘choose for God’, says Marin. He is silent as to whether these verses can or should have any authority in deterring those who have chosen Him from repenting of what Paul considers grounds for dismissal from God’s Kingdom.

Dr. Robert Gagnon said it well: ‘The Christian faith cannot be held hostage in its full proclamation of the Gospel because some interest group finds offensive part of that message.’ (For more on Gagnon’s take on Marin’s scriptural errors, click here)

The GLBT community is being held hostage by lies that only the truthful love of Jesus and His community can break. Marin genuinely cares for them; his book manifests that care.

My problem, however, is that he limits that love by so pandering to the GLBT community (in Marin’s own words: ‘I have never met a more loving community…’ Really!?) that he obscures the bridge between them and the church.

Marin the evangelist must meet Marin the pastor who actually walks out the process of integration with gays who surrender their lives to Christ there. He would have to answer the hard questions of morality and self-definition for former members of the GLBT tribe, as well as the joys of inclusion and the possibility of exclusion.

If Marin ever wants to hear real life horror stories of how difficult it is to integrate a group of politicized gay men and women into the local church, just give me a call. Docile seekers roar when they discover you have no intention to bless their same-sex unions.

Marin glorifies the gay kingdom; he romances the GLBT community by amplifying its ‘we-them’ defense—gay is glorious, compassionate and dimensional, straight is flat and provincial. Unwittingly, he perpetuates the divide between ‘gay and straight’.

That is a shame. Jesus and Paul would insist on both groups finding common ground in one body through the cross. Marin overlooks a real key in reaching the gay community: Christians reaching beneath the surface of their ‘straight’ selves, discovering the damage done then repenting unto the Crucified.

If we lived honestly (and many churches do) in this day of fractured families, multiple heterosexual partnerships, Internet porn, the ravages of abuse, and growing numbers of people with same-sex attraction, we would not throw stones at a particular community. We would make ample room next to us for whoever cries for mercy.

What Marin does is challenge us to make a bridge between the GLBT community and ours. I hear that challenge. His witness of love inspires me to take it.

Yet in a day when the world and the worldly church is only too quick to confirm young teens as gay, ordain gays as bishops, and bless homosexual ‘marriage’ as a triumph of justice, we evangelicals cannot afford to be cryptic like Marin about God’s clear message of grace and truth for same-sex strugglers. His bridge is too weak to undergird the pilgrims he invites into the community of faith. I thus cannot recommend this book.

Despite the deficiencies of Marin’s gospel, the man conveys a passionate, provocative heart for people who will perish without the love of Christ’s body. May God continue to grow him and all of us in truthful love.

‘If our Gospel be hidden, it is hid toward those who are perishing.’ (2 Cor 4:3)

Part 4 of 4

Towards a Whole Gospel for Gays: The Mercy that Disciplines

‘This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.’ (Phil. 1:9-11)

The other day, a good friend of mine attended a ministry fair at a large seeker-sensitive church in Kansas City. (He was representing an annual gathering for men seeking to overcome sexual addiction.) When one of the church elders saw that his mission statement included the words ‘biblical sexuality’, the elder asked him to pack up and exit the church on the grounds that such language would be offensive to gays.

Our challenge as churchmen is to abound in love for gays in an age only too eager to grant them what they demand, not what they need. Worldly love lacks both discernment and discipline; no-where is this more apparent than in the church’s witness to gay today.

Let us begin with what gays need. The answer transcends any cultural era and must be kept front and center. In spite of foolish reactions to those who still dare to think biblical morality is relevant to gays, we can never forget that the church has tended to smack same-sex strugglers with her truth, rather than to employ it as a guide to the holy love one needs.

We who have lived with the shame of same-sex attraction need love badly. One cannot readily grasp the accusatory power of the enemy toward us, and the self-hatred that ensues. In the darkness of the unexpressed, same-sex attraction leeches life; it sidetracks the pilgrim onto a compulsive quest for love in the mirror image of oneself.

Here the shaming power of others, especially Christians, can contribute to the ‘gay self’ and community. 33-years-ago as a just born Christian, girlish and arrogant in self-defense, I recall the scrutiny of a pastor whose eyes and words bore through my defense only to shame me further. His discernment over my sorry state was not married to mercy but judgment. I recalled in his glare the shame I endured from accusations over my queer state throughout my teen years.

I never returned to that church. It was worldly, no more an answer to my cry for help than bullies on the playground. Jesus said it best: ‘You have let go of the commands of God and are holding onto the traditions of men.’ (Mark 7:8)

I was reminded of this recently when a pastor leading a men’s support group noted how uncomfortable the ‘normal’ men were when a man joined who confessed to same-sex attraction and addiction. The men shamed him with disconcerting glances at each other, and an unwillingness to look the newcomer in the eyes. These guys could give grace only according to what they knew; the ‘otherness’ of their brother tempted them to wall him off as an exotic sinner in need of a grace they did not possess in their normal idolatry.

It became a holy juncture; the pastor deftly navigated the courageous brother’s disclosure until the others recognized his need was more like theirs than not. They needed mercy, one to another, as unexpressed conflicts came into the light. Worldly judgments burned off like embankments of fog. Same-sex affection and advocacy granted every member what each needed. And it freed the same-sex struggler to need men as friends, not lovers. Love heals.

I do not trivialize the depth of same-sex attraction. I live with it. 34 years later, I am still perplexed by profound needs that can surface in me, and tempt me to worship the old gods and their demands. But I know the God of Almighty Mercy; He has persuaded me through His people that His loving kindness is better than life in Egypt. That truth is the anchor of my soul, its foundation. Neither shame nor self-hatred nor unsatisfied yearnings can separate me from the Love that abounds.

This is my boast, my hope, that the body of Christ can offer the fullness of love that dares to discipline the same-sex struggler. I needed that discipline. As a young man without restraint in his sexuality, narcissistic and impulsive, I needed discipline. I thank God for the loving friends who spoke the truth that eluded my immature conscience.

I would bristle at their challenges to my fleshly actions and attitudes but took the knocks. Why? My counselors were sinners who included me in what became our quest for purity. Jesus loved us. We loved each other in truth. We embraced the Jesus of Rev. 3:19 who said: ‘Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.’

Such merciful discipline is the only antidote to the gay self and its demands upon the world and the church. Those demands are best summarized by the young angry man who upon returning home from University declared to his pastor: ‘The only problem with homosexuality is the one you have with it…’

In the last thirty years, gay insistence for unqualified acceptance has grown from a whisper to a howl. And the church has surrendered her truth to those demands. In essence, we have capitulated to the deception that gays make up a distinctive ethnic group. Here one is assumed to be natively ‘gay’, morally neutral, deserving all the rights and privileges due to members of an oppressed minority. The challenge of ‘biblical sexuality’ is framed as further oppression.

Instead of the love that discerns and disciplines, the church today embodies the weak love of a parent that gives the spoiled child another cookie to stop him from squalling. How else do you explain:

Evangelical pastors who refuse to declare their position on homosexuality on the ground that ‘God is not about positions but dialogue’? (I have heard this more times than I can count now…)

Evangelical pastors who refuse to allow congregants to testify of healing from homosexuality because it would be offensive to gays and their loved ones?

Evangelical pastors who refuse to take a stand on ‘gay marriage’ because they don’t want to give the impression that they are ‘anti-gay’? (Note the progression: the gay person wants something that is not even remotely his to claim; if we disagree, we are ‘anti’ his humanity. Why is upholding marriage anti-anyone? In truth, it is good for all, including the gay community, whose greed it restrains.)

Evangelical pastors who refuse to use the language of ‘biblical sexuality’ for fear of offending gays? A conservative national organization geared to justice related to sexuality recently banned such language from its mission statement in order to not offend the gay community.

Jesus said it best: ‘You have let go of the commands of God, and are holding onto the traditions of men.’ (Mark 7:8)

Paul’s warning to those deceived at Colossae should warn us as well: ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.’ (Col. 2: 8)

30 years ago, the main tradition of the church toward same-sex strugglers would have been fear and shame; today her tradition is a form of secular justice derived from the gay self and its community. Its thesis? ‘I, a gay man or lesbian, am intrinsically homosexual, and the only just thing you can do is confirm me in my gay self and its relationships. If you don’t, you contribute to my suffering …’

To accept that tradition, the church must forego her theological and anthropological traditions, which include: humans are made in God’s image as male and female, which points to virtuous heterosexual relating as the primary goal for every human being.

Barriers to such a virtuous duality abound, most involving perverse expressions of heterosexuality. Sin has skewed all of our self-offerings; those who attest to same-sex attraction bear witness of sin’s disorder in a way that can be understood alongside lust, fear of sex, or inordinate desire of any kind.

That same-sex attraction would become the basis for a self and a community which demands every right accorded to heterosexuals is an arbitrary construct that has no basis in a biblical understanding of human beings. The gay self and its community are alien to the witness of creation, to Scripture, and to historic church tradition.

From a genuinely Christian perspective, there is no such thing as a gay or lesbian person per se, only those bearers of God’s image who also bear certain wounds, needs, and longings, and who may sadly have been duped by a secular belief system that has confined them to a dead-end identity.

When that identity is conceived in same-sex unions, it gives birth to death, pure and simple. Robert Gagnon said it best: ‘Same-sex intercourse constitutes an inexcusable rebellion against the intentional design of the created order.’ His words are intended to discipline the unrestrained; they thus function as an arm of God’s severe mercy: ‘There can be no transformation while homosexuals live in a world of unreality, including false notions about Scripture’s view of homosexuality.’

We the church must resist the tradition of the gay self and its community. Otherwise we mute the truth – indeed the foundational truths that underlie the historic church – that could be their freedom. I encourage you to reclaim the reality that all are sexually broken and all are in need of the grace that abounds

It is up to us, the church, to ensure the clarity of our theological and anthropological traditions. They provide the track on which we can guide beautiful, broken ones toward a grace-filled transformation of life.

When God’s image in humanity is broken , we cry out for mercy. But when we the church concede the definition of that image to falsehood, there is no mercy. What is broken is framed as whole, perversion becomes a destiny, and redemption affronts one’s personal ‘right’. No truth that disciplines, no mercy that transforms.

We as the church can do better. Let me give you a fresh example. Last month, a team of 8 participated in our second annual Living Waters Training in Bahrain. Mid week at our host’s church service, we led 200 beautifully broken expressions of God’s image from Asia, Africa and the Arab world to the ‘living water’. The team shared their testimonies, a spectrum of sin and brokenness that included homosexual and heterosexual adultery, sexual addictions and abuse of all kinds, as well as more subtle crimes of the heart like self-hatred, rejection of one’s own gender, and religious arrogance.

The team included husband and wife, father and daughter, and father and son. Beyond the breach in our families and in our dignity, we shared the beauty of God’s grace and its transforming power in all of our lives.

When it came time to repent before the cross, most of the church came forward. The waters of mercy rose in that place like a flood. Mercy primed weary hearts that sobbed out years of shame and sorrow.

Jesus came to save sinful people like us. Let us not forsake the truth of that sin and brokenness for anyone’s agenda. The mercy is too good, its power to transform too real to squander by placating deceived ones. Extending the mercy that disciplines is our good news, the whole Gospel that Jesus has entrusted to us.

‘Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord Your God disciplines you.’ (Deut. 8:5)

‘For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.’ (Luke 19:10)

RECONCILIATION

A Must See Heart-Rending Life Story

During the Exodus International Freedom Conference, I and the other delegates received an unexpected blessing.  We were invited by Movie Director Chad Ahrendt to screen his new film, RECONCILIATION. I’d seen the trailer and knew a bit about the story line, so I admit to some pre-conceptions.  “It will most-likely be a nice story, but I doubt it will be a real tear-jerker or pack an emotional punch as others reported,” I thought, and . . .  “it probably won’t convey a real Christian message; it will most-likely compromise in some way.”

WOW, was I ever so blessedly wrong! RECONCILIATION is not only very tastefully done; it is believable, realistic and definitely packs that emotional punch, and not at all contrived.  Based upon a very real and gut-wrenching life story, this movie confronts complicated life issues in an honest way without any sugar-coating.

Just the opening scenes dismissed any doubts on quality. I was concerned that it wouldn’t be well-done.  Many low-budget films sacrifice story-telling and film artistry. Again . . .  I was so wrong.  RECONCILIATION is excellent. The actors are professional, believable; the editing and artistry of the film top-notch.  Writer-Director Chad Ahrendt crafted an amazing heart-rending movie.  In meeting with Chad, I could see that his personal passion is reflected in his artistic expression.  This movie affirms his depth, conviction and vision. I’ve seen a lot of movies in my time; this one is definitely on the top of my movie list, EVER!

RECONCILIATION provoked a lot of questions for me.  Why does this movie so bless me?  Will it bless others as deeply?   Why do I feel so strongly about this movie in particular? Are my strong feelings only because I can SO relate to this movie in SO many ways? Is it because I lived as a gay identified man for eight years? Is it the acknowledgment in the film of the struggles I have lived over the past 28 years within the Church and in ministry? Is it because I know what it is like to hate my father and then to be reconciled to him? Is it the raw emotional impact of the movie’s closing scenes, so similar to scenes I lived out with my own father?

The answer to all of these questions is “yes.”

Some who know me might just say, “well that’s Stephen, he’s so emotional.”  And, it’s true. I am.  However, it would take a hard-hearted soul indeed to not be moved by this movie.  People in audiences vary greatly in everyday emotional expression, but all were clearly moved to tears at this screening. Was it because these viewers were delegates to the Exodus International Freedom Conference?   Perhaps that plays a part because they can so relate. But I think it goes well beyond that.  People love it when reconciliation takes place and the truth is presented in a real life story.  It gives us all hope as we view whatever brokenness lies around us, and that reconciliation is possible.

My tears began to flow in the middle of the movie and were present through the final credits.  My heart leaped for joy when the truth was presented to the Dad-Jeff McDowell, (played by Jack Maxwell).  The presentation of truth is so freeing . . . and I was finally able to let my guard down and embrace this beautiful movie. This movie affected me so deeply because it is obviously truthful to real life. It confronted my own need to love more deeply and in truthful compassion. It demonstrates deep LOVE and FORGIVENESS.  The power of grace is presented and treasured. My tears flowed as I relived my relationship with my own dad though this message of hope and great kindness. The Son-Grant Taylor, (played by Eric Nenninger) demonstrates accurately the battle that many Christians have in dealing with a loved one in homosexuality; yet the Son-Grant prevails with dignity, love and forgiveness.

RECONCILIATION reveals how very kind and long-suffering God IS with every last one of us. So many gay men and women have been deeply wounded by the Church; God desires reconciliation.  Here we see it and it gives us hope.

The movie is honest and realistic, revealing varying views on the issue of homosexuality. Thank God it rises above the temptation to be politically correct and commits itself to just be about real life and the struggle we all face to overcome grief and hatred.  It respects the real “issues” of hurt from both perspectives, gay and Christian.

I highly recommend this movie to everyone I know, gay, straight, Christian or uncertain. This is a must-watch movie for everyone that has been touched by the issue of a gay lifestyle.  Whether you have a loved one involved in  homosexuality, or you are someone trying to reconcile your own homosexuality/same-sex attractions and Christianity, this movie will speak to you in your journey.   Every Christian should see it to help us deal with the issues with which our fellow brothers and sisters struggle in the Church and those who struggle outside the Church.

A film about the issue of homosexuality and the impact it has on families must, to be real, express the raw emotions of misunderstanding and pain.  That realistic expression makes this movie a bit intense for children.  The film does not avoid the impact of living in a fallen world. However, this movie is not just for those who struggle with same-sex attractions or those with surrounding relationships.  It is for anyone who desires forgiveness and to love more deeply.  It is for those who hope for better relating in any broken relationship.

Chad Ahrendt created an excellent and impacting movie; one he will never regret.  As a courageous telling of the truth and a willingness to look beyond what many deny, this movie has the potential to be a sneaker-blockbuster. Some may mock it, as they did Mel Gibson’s the Passion of The Christ movie.  Remember, many mocked the Billy Graham Association, saying The Hiding Place was lame. However, both movies are timeless and continue to express powerful truths.  Both movies are watched over and over and are becoming multi-generational.  RECONCILIATION will join these two as one of my favorite Christian movies. Why?  Because RECONCILIATION is truly redemptive.  Yes, it is the story of reconciling a father to his son, but it speaks to the inner need of all us, the desire to be reconciled.  I loved this movie and I will definitely see it again on the big screen, with friends and tissues.

Please join with me in supporting the message of RECONCILIATION and help bring it to the Big Screen in your community.

Watch the Trailer:

RECONCILIATION trailer from Chad Ahrendt on Vimeo.

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