Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Field Trip

Headed out at 5:00 AM to Washington DC. My traveling companions are 62 thirteen year-olds and some colleagues. We will be gone until late Friday night, then it is off to the beach for a week with our family.

Timing of a next post is a mystery to you and me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Overcoming Sin, Part 4 (correctly counted this time!)

I have had some difficulty knowing where to take this series of posts next. I write and delete; I start and save the paragraph only to return and realize this is not what needs to be said at the moment. My trouble is I cannot always sort out the words which are bringing illumination to spiritual truth separated from an inclination to preach my opinions. For those who have been checking for the next installment, I appreciate your patience with me.

Homosexuality is just one of many, many ways humans seek fulfillment in sin. Our fallen nature is completely blinded to the Truth, Beauty and Holiness of God. We humans are totally committed to rebellion against Him. Even the person who has intellectually accepted the Cross, emotionally committed to God and experienced the born-again paradigm, there still remains the process of walking out salvation with fear and trembling, which implies the struggle with the fallen nature is part of walking in the Truth of Jesus.

In this culture, the concept of sin as something which must be addressed and corrected is lost. Folks enter therapy to overcome psychological neurosis or visit the gym while on a regimen of supplements and whole foods with parallel ambition—improve the quality of the life "I" am living. Among those who reject the Cross of Christ, a myriad of counterfeits exist to enable the rationalization that each human is destined to become the master of his or her fate. None of these will admit the effects of the Fall written on the soul.

I suspect, many Christians believe the overcoming of sin is a key component of becoming a fulfilled and content human being, yet they flounder in submission to hidden sins, or worse, walk in a blinding self-righteousness of empty works.

Humans develop spirituality as a practice seeking a reordered outlook, and the term spirituality has come to include a great buffet of spiritisms including salvation by extra-terrestrials. From yoga to Yeti, we stretch our physical experiences and our imaginations in constant seeking of the undoing of our status-quo lives. Most telling of our lack of understanding is how glibly many human pursuits are labeled a “spiritual” experience. I have found that most use of the term spirit is really a reference to something known in the soul which has proved profoundly moving to the one speaking in an aesthetic sense (in philosophy that pertaining to, involving, or concerned with pure emotion and sensation as opposed to pure intellectuality).

In search of this profound emotional occurrence, many live life pushing the parameters of the extreme: extreme sports that defy death, cruises on billion dollar ships or playing million dollar poker games, the "perfect" sexual satisfaction, the singular moment of being declared the best in show... the list goes on and on. All to lift the soul into the face of the sudden rush, that overwhelming moment which can define one's life as unique--and which happens to bring the attached outcomes of wealth, notoriety, or just an ability to say at the water cooler, “Yeah, I’ve done that, too.”

I entered a completely different sexuality, at the time a wholly forbidden state. I did so, recognizing the extreme nature of my decision. I faced the obstacles of violating the precepts of God, incurring much social rejection and family angst, even risking physical attack by the aggressively violent homophobe in a pursuit I determined I could not deny (over the course of my years in the homosexual community, one friend was severely beaten and two were murdered because of being homosexual).

The reason I would take such risk? It was “me.”

Overcoming sin is not simply deciding, "I want to stop behaving in a sinful manner." Though certainly, that is going to be a mental conclusion we adopt in our search for God. Overcoming sin is a renewal of the heart and mind away from alignment with all human identity mechanisms of this earthly life and into an identity which literally flows from His being. To ascribe belief in Him without finding the flow of spirit-life is not enough to keep any of us from seeking life in the things of this world.

This path in the Wild Wood is the one marked by Him and leads into His light. It is a spiritual plane for our soul to embrace which lifts the whole of our being into a holy state of union with Him, even as our bodies continue on in the Wood.

Friday, March 12, 2010

What is Sin? Part 3

Sin. It's both a noun and a verb: "It is a sin to..." and "I sinned when..."

To raise the issue of overcoming sin requires we define what a sin is, else how can we be sure we are dealing with sin? And what about actions people claim God commanded that are out and out vile? Are the murders and rapes committed by those who claim no God any different from the lies and manipulations of those who hold God is the reason they act?

Whose definition of sin shall we use?

How do we dertermine culpability?

What action do we take against perpetrators?

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

When I began to wrap my heart around the above words as absolute Truth, the groundwork was laid to release me from drives within me that I identified as my homosexuality. I was able to finally realize there was nothing special about my behavior nor that made me worse than anyone else. More importantly, I was able--just able--to believe I was not significantly different.

So what is sin?

In the big picture, literally from the dawn of time until now, sin is what ails the world.

All the wrongs anyone cares to mention and all the ones we don't want to mention or face,

every act of discord between two,

every incidence of familial strife,

all exploitive acts of avarice,

the violence of the one or the gang,

each collective societal rape and plunder by a people group of the nearest other group

and the all-out wars of nations allied against nations,

every last insult,

and each expletive thought against God,

all are rooted in humanity's ingrained, natural inclination to be selfish.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Twenty-Nine Years Ago, Today...

the Eternal Father gave me the most wonderful gift, the wife with whom I share life.
I love you today once times 10, 592 days (counting leap years); and the love compounded each day, my lovely lady!
If our Father would be so gracious, I will gladly spend another twenty-nine...or more!...years with you.
My life is far more than rich with you in it!

Happy Anniversary, Sweet Frei.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Overcoming Sin, Part 2

I received the call in the midst of the overwhelming response my testimony generated after being published in a Christian magazine with world-wide distribution. In the months following "Once Gay Always Gay?" which detailed the lives of three people who had converted to Christ from the homosexual experience, I received over 600 letters asking for help and several phone calls. The call mentioned above invited me to speak at a breakfast being held in honor of graduating high school seniors within a church about an hour from my home town. I found the invitation unusual but decided that the nature of my sin did not negate the reality that the freshman year of college can be a minefield of regrettable, even potentially explosive decisions for any young adult. I would encourage them to hold fast to their faith in the midst of temptation.

How utterly naive I was! The only person who smiled was the youth leader who had contacted me. Following breakfast, I took the lectern and while my delivery probably revealed my discomfort adding to the awkwardness of the encounter, the body language of my audience was nothing short of stiff chagrin.

Since that article, I have been much less open regarding my experience with homosexuality. First and foremost, our children would start entering the local public high school in two years following the article; my wife and I decided they need not have to deal with defense of their father in that setting. (They are all now adults and have given their permission for me to share.)

Second, I have discovered the topic is difficult for some groups to handle openly when it is presented in first person terms. An abstract discussion in third person over the politics, social ramifications or spiritual aspects located in a Sunday school classroom is sterile. A live human being exposes everyone to an encounter with fears or sometimes loathsome emotional responses.

My own fear as a young Christian kept me from ever, ever talking about what I felt with anyone. I came close on two occasions to speaking about the feelings with a youth pastor but could not manage the risk of rejection. I dealt with the feelings by attempting suppression of them while pretending to everyone I was straight and dating as socially expected. Alone, I prayed, "Deliver me!" However, my prayer was spiritually immature and in hindsight, dishonest.

This series is about the journey of overcoming a life-dominating sin. Sin that is one's very being. This is the first lesson I learned in that battle. God doesn't take away anyone's desire for sin.

Once I recommitted my life to Christ and sought spiritual understanding of my own soul as a young man walking away from the homosexual life, I remembered those early prayers for deliverance. I began to understand: God doesn't take anyone's "flesh" away. By flesh, we often mean our sin nature. It is important to realize, I think, when dealing with the issue of original sin and the nature within us which is set against God, using the term flesh as a euphemism for our sin nature may mask from our spiritual insight the truth of sin as inherently tied to our physical bodies. We accept the body, our biological abode, as somehow spiritually neutral, while it's that sinister, ethereal flesh that gets in so much trouble. (More on this later.)

Asking God to take away our sin nature sounds like a good, pious prayer. However, it is utterly useless and self-serving. We experience no active faith in God, if He acts to remove from us our love of self. (He would literally have to take away our bodies to answer this prayer, which is a bit impractical.) He will not answer this prayer as we suppose He should, because the answer we seek removes from us any responsibility for our own actions. He provided for our condition when He sacrificed His own Son. If we have no flesh or sin nature which is our other choice in place of Him, then to choose Him is no choice, and therefore, no love can be known.

To know love as He defines love is among His goals for us, no?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Overcoming Sin: Qualifying Premises

In the last post, I made what many would consider a politically incorrect statement; and likely in the view of some, by claiming committed, homosexual unions are sinful I entered into an openly inflammatory statement which ought to be characterized as "hate" speech. The last post is intended as the opening of a discussion on sin in the lives of believers or those who would consider themselves disciples of Jesus Christ. Today, I qualify the context of the statement further, as well as, the thoughts that follow in the larger discussion of dealing with sin as Christians.

My position on homosexuality is just that, a position. I offer that position based on an interpretation of Scripture--an interpretation not fully accepted even within all groups labeled "Christian." Further, I do not offer my opinions here as statements on the development or practice of the larger culture. I am not an advocate of a secular/sacred divide within the lives of believers. I do, however, accept that the Scriptures are not a mandate whatsoever for anyone who chooses to live outside the boundaries established therein.

I think Paul speaks clearly to that issue in 1 Corinthians 5:12 & 13a in which he says, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges."

I have no desire to hate anyone, nor do I. I do not single out homosexuality as a sin greater than any other or as requiring a separate response from the members of the Body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11, Paul lists homosexuality* among many sinful behaviors including fornication which is then followed by an inclusive statement of all believers who have lived within the listed sins, as being sanctified and justified in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if you are reading and do not claim Christ as Lord, I speak no condemnation for your choices of belief or practice. I believe you will eventually face God as judge with all humanity. He will bring to that meeting His perfect love and law in its fullness.

If you are reading and claim Christ but accept homosexual marriage as different from homosexual promiscuity or prostitution, I do not expect you will find much in my words to endorse or by which be encouraged.

The following set of posts is about overcoming sin and is addressed to those who are interested in developing the spiritual understanding, both individually and corporately, which undergirds overcoming the rebellion in the heart...in our hearts. I offer only that which I have learned from God about standing apart from something dark in my heart. I am but one voice, and others need to be heard on the topic of overcoming, as well.

*The word in the Greek which reads "homosexual" is a disputed term in its applicable meaning among those who contend that same-gender unions are acceptable Christian behavior. I do not enter the debate about the word at this time. I accept the word as used in the Scripture to mean all same-gender sexual relations. With this premise, the translated word in question as used in 1 Cor. 6 construes--both hermeneutically and in the spirit of the whole of Biblical revelation--all homosexuality as sinful behavior before a Holy God.