Friday, February 26, 2010

Is a Committed, Monogamous, Homosexual Relationship Sinful?

Before I actually answer that question, I offer a transitional thought for my handful of regular readers tying the previous series of posts on fear with the series that follows. The reference to "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," was done intentionally to introduce the idea of holiness. Once we make the important point about the completeness of God's forgiveness freeing us from all fear of judgment, a logical next discussion is on sin in the believer's life.

Consider these questions:

  • If all our sins are so completely covered that we do not fear any judgment from God, what should we feel and do about our failures of sin?

  • Are there degrees of response to sin such that some sins are never overcome, and therefore, we must live with them believing that God ultimately forgives all?

  • Do Christians live in sin before God and simply apply the truth of the grace of God, trusting in His forgiveness, as if He winks at our state?

  • What is the dividing line between sinning to the point of being reprobate and struggling with sin as evidenced by falling into it...even falling often...yet being forgiven?

  • How does the struggle against sin figure into our corporate commitment to piety or holiness?

  • What is sanctification?

Now, on to the question in the title.

The answer is...yes. Homosexuality is sin, and bringing the truth of love as commitment to the situation does not alter the sinfulness of the behavior. If you are one who started reading thinking, perhaps hoping, that I would say the answer is no offering scriptural support, I may have just angered you or simply confirmed I am another narrow, bigoted, Christian right-winger. Well, without labeling me, please accept I do not condemn homosexuals.

If I you are a supporter of homosexual marriage or just of individual freedom and have read this far, however, I would ask you to hang with me through the next several posts on the topic simply in the interest of hearing the ideas of others.

I grew up with homosexual feelings. I knew at age seven something was different with me from most of the kids at school. At puberty, I had a name for it, I was queer. "Gay" was not in vogue as yet in the deep South. I became a Christian in 1970; i was a sophomore in high school. When my prayers of, "Please, Dear God, take this away from my soul," seemed to go unanswered, I intentionally left Christianity to enter the homosexual sub-culture. The year was 1975; I was nineteen and a sophomore in college.

I quit college to travel the country and lived within the sub-culture four and half years in the cities of San Francisco, New York City, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Key West. Off and on, I visited a lady friend in rural Georgia. There, the in-the-closet local community of homosexuals were all church go-ers. Anyway, I am not unfamiliar with the issues faced by homosexual men or women both in and out of the church. Often over those years, when I had roommates they were lesbian, including my friend in rural Georgia.

In 1979, I recommitted my life to Christ and within a year met the woman whom I married, and we celebrate twenty-nine years together this March. We have five grown children, all believers, and three grand-children. I intend to offer my thoughts on the answers to the questions above by dealing with the issue of homosexuality from personal experience.

I hope you will join me down this path in the Wild Wood.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Final Thoughts on Fear, Part 5

"Fire and brimstone" preaching brings mixed reactions from Christians and is the butt of jokes, derision, even animosity among those who are outside the light of Christ. Thanks, Postmodern Redneck, for bringing the information that Edward's demeanor in delivery was not fire and brimstone style. That effectively raises the question of, on what level was this pivotal historical moment in the history of American Christianity the work of the Holy Spirit. A rich moment of human and Holy Spirit interaction that calls for some reflection, perhaps, but not a moment on my mind this morning.

Putting the last four posts together today I examine "fear" as a composite topic:
--deep fears within me out of the reach of my conscious mind
--fear as evidence against the fruit of the spirit, which I face consciously
--fear as the root of holy living, as in the fear of the Lord described in Proverbs

Reverse the order of the list, and therein lies a sound way to overcome fears that are against the will of Lord and outside the truth of the Kingdom of God.

Commenter Craig V. is spiritually insightful to raise the issue of encountering the "perfect love which casts out fear" for consideration. 1 John 4:18 reads, "There is no fear in love ; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love."

1. The only conclusion I can draw is that to be moved, even by fear, into submission to God answers all other fears. "Fear" of God, total reverence and respect for Him calling one to do whatever in obedience to Him equates in New Covenant theology, which we all understand at least intellectually, with submission to the Grace of God and thus NOT be in fear of His judgment. His plan of grace replaces all my wrong-doing under the covering of Christ's atonement. My every erased. If that is true-- It absolutely is! --then all reasoning and emotional feelings need to embrace the truth that my conscience is freed from fear of punishment by the Ultimate Judge. With a freed conscience, I am equipped to move into one being perfected in love.

2. Seeking the pure love of God experience in my life, I need not spend much time groveling before any conscious fear that tempts me. Fears of which I am conscious are precise evidence I am not experiencing the Presence of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, evidence I am not trusting the Lord. Submission to the Spirit of Christ which is always as close as my own heart within me, means the fear must flee. If it does not, then I am trusting something other than Christ. That is good information. It tells me the exact spiritual construct with which I contend. So, I consciously bring to light my fears and confront them through confession to others while trusting that the way of Christ is both freedom and the path Christ described as, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Isn't it interesting that within the Body of Christ, intended by God to be a place of spiritual sustenance and building up for the believer, is often the place where we hide our strongest conscious fears.

Fear of judgment by others.

Christians are so prone to judge one another unrighteously.

3. The deep fears, which may occur in the subconscious will be effectively dealt with across the span of our lives as we consciously do what God has faithfully provided as both instruction and substantive equipping. That is, we simply trust God will finish the work He has begun unto the utter reaches of ourselves, the places we cannot touch. If we effectively rest in the Presence of Jesus within the heart, find the path of trust which is the fulfilling place of perfect love and respond by a walk in obedience to resist the temptations of fear; then we are in faith standing on the Solid Rock, and we are pleasing to God.

Rejoice, my fellow citizens of Heaven! Nothing, absolutely nothing, in the Wild Wood is greater than the One who reigns over the Kingdom in which we now have our citizenship!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Confessions on Fear, Part 4

"Holy" living is a topic one easily finds in Christian literature, past and present. It is an obvious topic in both Old and New Testaments. Addressing our "deep" self, the sub-conscious or our character as seen in our old natures is a process with only one end-goal, to effect a greater holiness before the Lord.

I recently looked up the famed sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards in 1741, the period of the Great Awakening, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." I found this quoted from the diary of Mr. Stephen Williams:

went over to Enfd, where we met Dear Mr E- (Jonathan Edwards) of N. H. - who preachd a most awakening Sermon from those words Deut - 32.35 - and before ye Sermon - was done there was a great moaning - & crying out throughout ye whole House - what shall I do to be Savd - oh I am going to Hell - oh what shall I do for a christ &c &c - so yt ye minister - was obligd to desist - shreiks & crys - were piercing & Amazing - - after Some time of waiting - the congregation were still So yt a prayr was made by Mr W - & after that we descendd from the pulpitt and discoursd - with the people - Some in one place & Some in another - and Amazing & Astonishing - ye powr - God was Seen*

The sermon had an immediate and noticeable effect upon the congregation, and further, has left its mark upon the history of American Christian culture since. Both the sermon and presented theology turns on this doctrinal statement made early in the sermon as a thesis:

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."**

The question develops then, is fear of hell an effective motivator for conversions (Edward's intent), as well as in the thought development I have worked toward in this series of seeking a deeper walk?

(And yep, Craig, I am working toward a discussion of perfect love casts out fear.)

*Stephen Williams, Diary, Storrs Library, Longmeadow, Mass., typescript, vol. 3, pp. 375–76

**Edwards, Jonathan. "Sinnners in the Hands of an Angry God"

Confessions Explored, Part 3

The first installment of this current series identified some deep fears that may plague some of the brethren. Fears that often go unshared openly among us, or I think it highly plausible, even remain unidentified in the heart of a person. Do I, deep within my soul, hold a fear of not having lived life, of having been deprived somehow? Am I motivated in anyway by a deep-seated doubt that I'm actually not redeemed? Maybe, but I don't think so.

Can any of us who claim Christ perhaps not recognize a thought or feeling consciously experienced as the evidence such fear is there?

The second piece was intended to express failings which are obvious to me and sometimes others in my character, the everyday self with whom others and myself live. In Part 2, I attempted to articulate an honest appraisal of that which is identifiable and clearly not of God in my life.

This raises two sets of questions:

1. Are there within us as believers very human feelings of fear that are actually driving our thinking processes, our perceptions, and within which are rooted our reactions to circumstances and toward other people? I ponder, that if such fear is there, ought we be able somehow to bring it under the Lordship of Christ, and thereby from such fear gain freedom in the truth of Jesus?

2. How do we move our character as a human from where it is toward a richer experience of maturity in the Spirit of Christ, which is clearly a state of obedience, trust and resulting holy behavior? Is this something God alone sovereignly does, or do we bear some responsiblity here?

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts, as I traverse this path in the Wild Wood.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Continuing Confessions, Part 2

I sometimes have doubt. Not about God, about me. That is the honest thing to say. When I wrote the previous post, I wrote in first person about fears I guess occur among those in American Christianity. I actually don't think about death too much. I do think about growing older, which approaches thinking about death I suppose. I do try to keep my cholesterol down! Leave the meat off the sandwich, but place a reasonable amount of cheese, please. Pepper jack.

I have determined doubts are totally a function of identifying with my old nature instead of the Risen Christ, alive in me by an act of grace on His part. My natural man is given to anxiety. There were once days and now occasional moments when anxiety over my Christian experience or even just having the money to accomplish something in particular is pushing into my heart. I am not concerned about this. I recognize it as part of the territory of being a fallen creature saved by grace and brought into new life in the spirit.

The struggle in Romans 7, eh? There are the times in my life--still--when I feel like the old me instead of the new me. Act like it, too, if I'm not diligent to submit myself to God even more fully in those moments. Plainly stated, there are times when I feel mean-spirited, down-cast, anxious, impatient, discourteous, a seeker of pleasure, wanting my own way, willing to lash out, and have done so if I've become angry enough to cast self-control aside willingly.

Of course, there are degrees to all of this and many folks would compare me to others or themselves and say that doesn't sound like the David I know. Well, we know comparsions among ourselves are not wise. These who would think I am not like I have described above don't know my thoughts or the jerks my heart goes through. I am all too aware that Jesus said something to the effect that there is no difference between an action and a desire. He was speaking of lust, I know. From my life experience, the principle really applies to all of our desires. If I embrace a feeling, identify with it, call it me and watch it bounce around in my heart, imagining logical actions that would feel satisfying to my old nature to live out, is there any difference? Isn't the desire to be sarcastic to someone I judge to be stupid the same as doing so? That judging someone to be insipid or insidious or whatever is a fairly large log in my eye.

Or so it is in the Wild Wood.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Confession: Part 1 of a new blog series that doesn't really have a name.

What if I do not have my name written in the Lamb’s book of life? Only God knows, of course, as Jesus delivers both the statement, “Well done good and faithful servant; enter into My rest,” and its opposite when He says, “Depart from Me. I never knew you.”

“OMG….NO!!!” I shout as I receive the blunt word.

He need not even speak, “Yes.” There will be no reconsideration once the words are out of His mouth. There doesn’t need to be. He knows my faith wasn't faith at all. He speaks His judgment; it was so of me and now revealed. Thus I am sent into an eternal future.

Fears gripping my gospel hostage are of death and of life.

The gospel I tell myself exists allows me to be coddled by an assurrance my sin can be no other way, and God loves me in my sin. Of course, grace alone saves, and it does so covering all of sin. Yet this self-made gospel skirts the issue of a transformation unto holiness by focusing on positive and beautiful platitudes. I mold the gospel into something like a living room prepared for a Better Homes and Gardens cover photograph: immaculate in the beautiful composition of textures, colors and interesting focus pieces, but in which I do not actually live.

I am afraid of dying, and instead of realizing in the fullness of Christ in my heart that He dispels all fear of the body’s passing, I pursue worldly dreams of fulfillment so that the moment of death comes without regrets of I have not “lived” life.

I am afraid of dying impoverished.

I am afraid of dying ashamed of my accomplishments.

I am afraid of dying and never having connected honestly and deeply with others.

I am a afraid of emotional pain and avoid it, but ironically once I am on death’s door there is no changing all the bad decisions of self-comfort with which I chose to live.

Where is the faith in Jesus which fills all in all so that the world is nothing but an alien land through which I pass with my only reason to be as giving heavenly succor to others?

Which shifts me, obviously, to the decisions I make in life.

I am afraid of living…

Because I am afraid of loving.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Praise God from Whom All Blessings Come

New Grandbaby Selah...our first granddaughter! Praise God for this act of His--Life!