Busting Some Myths About LGBT People

This is the second installment of my thinking relating to how I believe Christians should think about and interact with the LGBT community. Yesterday’s post laid out the foundational concepts I use to think through and process this issue. Today is going to focus more specifically on breaking down myths and stereotypes some Christians have about LGBT people. For many LGBT people reading this it is going to seem archaic and possibly silly to hear a pastor talking about these things, so I appreciate your patience. I’m trying to start from Ground Zero and build up from there.

Response to Yesterday’s Post
Thank you to everyone who read and commented yesterday. The response was, frankly, overwhelming. I’m thankful you take the time to read what I write and benefit from it.

One friend posted this video in the comments section of my Facebook page. The video itself introduces us to various members of the Body of Christ who also identify as LGBT. I thought Huff Post’s title of the section was wonderful – “LGBT Christians aren’t an ‘issue,’ they are ‘the Church’.” That sums up what I was trying to say yesterday in much fewer words. 🙂

Overcoming Prejudice
I argued yesterday that prejudice is the driving force behind many Christian’s beliefs, attitudes and actions towards the LGBT community. Prejudice is when one group of people with certain defining characteristics elicits a fear response in another group, usually the group in power. The group in power then seeks to dominate and control the first group in order to feel safe. Prejudice allows fear to masquerade as wisdom and control to be mistaken for love.

Fear clouds our judgement and makes us act irrationally. My hope in this post is to dial down any anxiety you may have about LGBT Christians and expose some myths the Christian community has about some people. I’m certainly not the best person to do this, but hey, its my blog. 🙂

Truth Telling
1) LGBT Christians are not “an issue,” they are “the Church.”
The Body of Christ encompasses a large number of people from all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences. Part of the beauty of the Gospel is that, in Christ, God reconciled humanity to Himself. God’s family is large and diverse – we need to remember that. The Glory of the Church is the ability to take people from all walks of life, love them and teach them to obey all Christ commanded. In the midst of that we see God at work, changing and transforming hopeless sinners into the beautiful Bride of Christ. Where we are when we start our journey with Jesus is largely irrelevant for we are all called to press on in faith-filled obedience.

2) It is totally possible to love Jesus and be LGBT.
Being gay and being Christian are not mutually exclusive. I’ve had the privilege to know a few members of the Body who self identify as LGBT or with those tendencies and they love Jesus whole heartedly. Of the people I’ve interacted with, all of them share the view that actively pursuing a homosexual lifestyle is a sin, so they talk about being LGBT using the word “struggle.” Since I share that view, I will probably use the word “struggle” from time to time, but I also acknowledge that some LGBT Christians don’t feel any struggle with their sexuality and are at peace with where they are.

3) LGBT people are not better or worse parents than heterosexual people.
There is a myth perpetuated in some Christian circles that gay or lesbian parents are unfit to raise children due to their issues. I disagree that being an LGBT person is something that disqualifies you as a good parent – there might be other issues that do, but being LGBT isn’t one of them. While I don’t personally know or interact with LGBT couples that have children, I imagine that they are as loving, kind, gentle and stern as any other parents. I believe they are concerned with raising their kids right and that they will succeed and fail in that as well as heterosexual parents.

Bad parenting is bad parenting, no matter who you are. And good parenting is good parenting, wether it comes from a lesbian, gay, straight or transgendered person. Prejudice is what makes us think a gay or lesbian couple can’t raise a child because we believe they are so deeply flawed in their moral, ethical and spiritual faculties that they cannot possibly function in society, let alone raise a well adjusted child. Well, some do. And others don’t. Just like the rest of us.

4) Homosexuality is not a communicable disease.
Some people don’t want to be around LGBT people because they are afraid that being gay will “rub off.” This is especially true of straight parents who have never interacted with LGBT people. These parents don’t want their children to be taught or tutored by LGBT people because they don’t want their children to grow up to be gay. (This is one of those instances where fear looks like wisdom.)

Do you worry about your child’s teacher being fat because you don’t want your kid to grow up to be fat? Do you worry about your child’s teacher being divorced because you don’t want your child to grow up and be divorced? If not, and you are worried about an LGBT person teaching your child, then you have just discovered prejudice in your heart and it is time to repent.

5) LGBT people are not predators.
LGBT is not pedophile. LGBT people have the same revulsion to predation as you and I do. We have two unrelated adults in our Sunday School classrooms at all times to ensure that our kids are safe from pedophiles, not gays.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but I think it covers several main concerns I’ve heard voiced within the Christian communities I’m a part of.

As always, thank you for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Ben

Luke 1:5-38 Sermon Notes

I’m preaching through the Gospel of Luke this year. For anyone who wants to follow along with our study, I will be posting my sermon notes and the link to each message. Thanks for joining us in our study of Luke!

Sermon Outline for Jan. 11, 2015

1. Text: Luke 1:5-38

2. Context/Theology:
Where are we in redemptive history?
* Just coming out of the 400 years of silence.
* The last words of the Old Testament were, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse,” Mal. 4:5,6
* Now God is bringing that promise to fulfillment.

What do we need to know to understand this passage?
* This is Zechariah’s once in a lifetime chance to enter the Holy Place and offer incense – symbolizing the prayers of the people. Just behind the altar, on the other side of the curtain, is the Holy of Holies – God’s Throne.
* Then the angel Gabriel shows up. According to Church history, Gabriel is one of the three arch angels along with Michael and Lucifer. Gabriel has shown up one time before, when he gave revelation to Daniel about the end of the age.
* Gabriel tells Zechariah that he will have a son and is to name him John. John is to be a Nazarite (see Numbers 6) someone set apart for special service to God.
* Gabriel causes Zechariah to be mute because of his unbelief. Zechariah was a descendant of Abraham, a man remembered for his faith and belief that God could give him a son in his old age.

Are there any words or phrases that carry special significance?
* Gabriel says that John will “go before the Lord in the power and spirit of Elijah.”
* As far as we know, John performed no miracles. That fascinates me because he was supposed to operate in “the spirit and power of Elijah.” Elijah doesn’t get much air time in the Scriptures, just a few chapters really, but those few chapters are overflowing with the miraculous: withholding rain for three years, the flour and oil that never ran out, raising the widow’s son, the confrontation with the prophets of Baal, supernatural sustenance by the brook, encountering the manifest presence of God and so on. All of that points to the power of Elijah’s ministry, but one event points to his spirit – raising up a young man named Elisha to take his place and succeed him as prophet.
* The spirit of Elijah is the Fathering Spirit – the desire to see our sons and daughters surpass us. The spirit of Elijah is wanting our children to inherit a double portion, for our ceiling to become their floor. It is the desire to see our children equipped for every good work, spared from our mistakes and secure in their identities. Fascinating that just before God reveals Himself as Father to Israel, He raised up a messenger to go before Him to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the disobedient children to the wisdom of their righteous fathers.” First the physical restoration of fatherhood, then the spiritual revelation of God the Father.

3. Worship:
How does this text reveal God’s true character and destroy lies we’ve believed?
* He is the God who hears and answers our prayer, even the ones we don’t pray any more. (Luke 1:13)
– Sometimes we think God doesn’t hear us, that is untrue. God always hears us with a sympathetic ear.
– God’s timing is often different than ours. Zechariah and Elizabeth both wanted to have kids – God wanted that too. They thought their dream had died with old age, but God was waiting to fulfill their desire at the perfect moment.
– Whenever you get a “no” from God it is because a better “YES!” is coming. Your prayers are “gaining interest” and your character is being strengthened to stand up under His blessing.

* He is the God who looks with kindness on His people and moves to take away their shame and disgrace. (Luke 1:25)
– In that day and age, for a woman not to have children was shameful. The thinking of the day was that there was something wrong with the woman – hidden sin, faulty character, or something like that. Elizabeth probably felt like a third-class citizen, since women were already looked down upon.
– God sees this and vindicates her, because that is the kind of God He is. Not only does she bear a son, it is a miracle birth – everyone who previously looked down on her now wonders, “If a miracle brought his birth, what will this child become?” (Luke 1:66)
– Staying faithful, tender hearted and not defending yourself in the face of accusation or disappointment is called “meekness” in the Bible. God loves to vindicate and elevate the meek in the presence of their accusers.
– God is not up in Heaven with a wooden spoon, ready to whack us when we do something wrong. God is with us, feeling our hurts and sharing our burdens. God is the One who has come to set us free, not put us into bondage through guilt and shame.

* God is a good Father.
– Jesus primarily revealed God as “Father,” a concept that is still hard to receive for those of us whose dads were harsh, distant or unloving.
– So, in order to give people the best possible chance to receive Jesus’s ministry, God set a super holy, super anointed prophet to restore tenderness and right relationship in families.
– Love and devotion between the generations was a necessary prerequisite for the Lord’s appearing.
– God doesn’t just want us to relate to Him spiritually, He wants to heal our home life too.

How can we thank, praise and worship God from this text?
* God is the God who always hears us.
* God is the God who answers.
* God is the God who bears our burdens.
* God is the God who sets us free and raises us up at just the right time.
* God is a Good Father. He loves us, He likes us, and He delights in us.
* God is in a good mood.

4. Praxis:
How does this revelation of God’s character call us to live differently?
* We keep praying, trusting that God hears us. We may not get the answer when we want it, but God will answer.
* If God doesn’t seem to be answering, it is because a better answer is coming. This may require us to change the way we think or reexamine what it is we think we need.
* How the generations relate to one another is super important – FAMILY IS REVIVAL.

Are there any resources to help?
* The best book I know of for relational skills and communication is “Keep Your Love On,” by Danny Silk.
* If your marriage is in a difficult place right now, in addition to KYLO, we have found “Love and Respect,” by Emerson Eggerichs to be helpful.

How can I put this into practice tomorrow?
* Take an index card, put the date on it and write out your heart’s desire. Put that card somewhere you will see it every day. Pray for it as often as you see it or think about it. Don’t let off of that one thing until you get an answer.
* Get and read (or reread) “Keep Your Love On.”
* Find a mentor and/or a mentee. We need both in our lives. Ask someone you like or respect to mentor you. Pray about who you could offer to mentor. If “mentoring” in problematic language for you, who can you “do life” with? These relationships are not one-way streets by any means.

5. Ministry:
* What prayers have you given up praying? God wants to resurrect hope in your heart for those things. God always hears us. Your better YES is coming.
* Many of us carry hurts from our dads that need to be addressed in order for us to relate to God as Father in a helpful way. This doesn’t mean your dad was wicked! In fact, hurts from nice dads are sometimes the hardest to work through — they were so great in so many ways and it STILL wasn’t enough. If you haven’t already, take some time to dialogue with Holy Spirit and see if there is any history preventing you from embracing God as the Father who loves you, likes you and delights in you.

Resource for Wimber Material

Hi everyone, short post today.

I just found this wonderful website that has a lot of original John Wimber material. The website is wimber.org. You can buy a lot of his teachings for fairly cheap, and there are also some free articles written by John, his wife Carol, and his daughter-in-law Christy.

I wanted to share this article, written by Carol Wimber, about the early days of the Vineyard. I love the fact that the Vineyard came out of the Quaker church. I also love her description of “communion” time in the Quaker services, we might have to try that out some night at VCC.

I also love her reminder that we worship because God is worthy, not to try and “make” something happen. God is worthy of our whole-hearted worship even if nothing miraculous happens. It is enough to come before the Uncreated One and worship, even if we are the only one in the room.

It is easy for me to get excited about revival and thousands upon thousands singing together. But what really needs to capture my hearts is the revelation that I carry around the Presence of the Invisible God all day, every day. I live before an audience of One. Nothing compares to pouring out my life in worship, praise, adoration and thanksgiving to the One who loves me completely.

Papa, thank you for the wisdom of John and Carol Wimber. I ask for the grace to be whole consumed with worshipping you and loving others as an overflow of the love You have for me. Amen.

Compelled By Love: Introduction, Part 1

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I’ve been wanting to read this book for some time now. I love Heidi Baker and how she lives life. And the title of her book, “Compelled by LOVE” reaches out and grabs my heart. I am so excited to read this!

My plan is to examine small chunks of the book and reflect on them. So far I’ve read the Introduction and Chapter One and they have rocked me. There is so much good stuff here. Hopefully you will enjoy reading this series as much as I enjoy writing it.

Compelled By Love: Introduction, Part One. Written by Heidi Baker

One-third of our lives is spent traveling around the world speaking to groups and churches and calling the bride of Christ to come in. The other two-thirds of our lives, we live in Mozambique among the poor and needy, the hungry and thirsty, and those who are desperate and starving for love and attention. So we have come to understand that people who live in the Western world do not have what we have in Mozambique. Believe it or not, our lives are much easier than yours.

You see, where I live, the poor know they are poor; they know they are sick and hurting; and so they come and give their lives to Jesus by the hundreds every week around the country. But in your nation, your poor do not know they are poor, and your sick do not know they are sick unless they are dying of a disease and no one can help them. They look confident, and they appear as if they are together. But maybe they are not. So your job is a lot harder than ours…

I know people who are very wealthy, but they are poor in spirit. And I know people who are very poor who aren’t poor in spirit. It doesn’t matter what you have or don’t have; what matters is the attitude of your heart. The poor are not arrogant. The poor are needy — are you?

Are you needy? Are you thirsty? Are you hungry? Are you desperate for Jesus? Are you someone who feels as if you may just die unless God shows up? Or do you have a mind-set like many in the Western world — having a middle class kind of heart? Are you someone who thinks, “Yeah, whatever. God will either do it or He won’t, so it doesn’t matter?”

We can’t live in whatever. We have to see the kingdom of God break out in our cities, in our nations, in our lives…

That is possibly the most loving smack in the face I’ve ever had. “Are you needy? Are you thirsty? Are you desperate for Jesus… or do you have a middle class kind of heart?” When I read those words yesterday I burst into tears. Seriously. I had to put the book down and pray.

I know the kind of ache she is describing here. I know that kind of longing and desperation. I feel it more days than not and it colors the way I look at the world. I had a self-sufficient, middle class kind of heart for a long time. In some ways I still do. But I’ve prayed for at least three years now for God to wake me up, make me hungry, make me dependent and make me discontent with “status quo Christianity.” It seems He has answered those prayers.

I feel foolish pretty much all the time when I speak in front of the congregation I serve. I cry, I exhort, I go off script and can never seem to articulate things the way I want to. Maybe that is why I like Heidi so much – you should check out one of her teachings on youtube sometime, it will bless you even if it is initially uncomfortable to watch/listen to. But what else can I do? I’m trying to live and teach way of living and loving that I’ve never seen modeled before in real life; all I have are the Scriptures and the stories of passionate men and women who have gone before.

I don’t really mind looking silly. I don’t really mind sacrificing my reputation in order to be faithful to say and do what Jesus wants me to do. Sure, I wish I could look respectable while also being obedient (maybe I can some day), but I’d rather bear stigma for zeal than be accepted because I refused to rock the boat.

I can’t live in “whatever” any more. I know some people believe that God’s Sovereignty demands such a response. I believe it was God’s Sovereignty that provided us with free will and the means of spiritual violence through fasting and prayer. Humanity was created to take the Kingdom into the wild, to transform the untouched wilderness and make it like the Garden. That is what we are doing when we heal for the sick, raise the dead, drive out demons and cleanse lepers – we are setting up God’s government in the wild places of the spirit. We are creating an environment where God and man can dwell together in peace.

How amazing would it be to be part of a community compelled by love to take the Gospel of peace to the people around us? How glorious would it be to see an entire city put the Sermon on the Mount into practice? Believe it or not, there are numerous stories of God’s manifest Presence resting in certain regions and over certain cities with the result of total life transformation for those involved. Take the Moravians, who worshipped night and day for 110 years and even sold themselves into slavery in order the take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. I believe it was John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, when he saw the zeal and dedication of the Moravian movement who declared “When will this Christianity fill the earth!”

If that can happen among German peasants in the 1700’s why couldn’t it happen among middle class Iowans in the 2000’s? I believe it can. I believe that God is searching the earth, looking for friends willing to listen to Him, looking to share the burdens of His heart, looking for a place to rest with His people. I think He has several of those places already, but I also think He desires more.

I am captivated by this kind of Christianity. It seems that this is what is modeled in the Scriptures. Lord, give us the grace we need to carry on. We let go of everything else in order to lay hold of all that you offer. Amen.

Thanks for reading friends.