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July 2016

The hidden impact of your behaviour at church

You don’t know the impact you might have on someone’s life.  That’s an incredible thought, both good and bad.  What you do, what you say, how you react can all impact others and their walk with God.

When I first became a Christian I was blessed to be in a church where I was welcomed and loved.  It was difficult for me because I felt different, I dressed different and I felt like an outsider.  My first group experience at the ladies prayer group was terrifying for me, I thought I would be left on the periphery and that I wouldn’t fit in.  However what happened was amazing, as I gave my testimony to one lady her respect and almost nonchalant acceptance of my previous lifestyle made me feel so welcome.  As I struggled through my first faltering steps of moving from the gay lifestyle to finding my Christian identity I had people to support me every step of the way, even to the extent that they would study the Bible and the relevant verses on homosexuality to help me understand them, they listened and watched various debates on homosexuality with me as I trawled my way through the internet and acted as a sounding board for all my questions and my insecurities.

Because this church group embraced all that I was and showed no prejudice against me I felt in a “safe place”, I could be open about my concerns, about temptations that came and I grew with them in my faith, I was not on my own.  I’m not sure to this day that they recognise the impact that they have had on my journey, but I do know without them I couldn’t have achieved all I have and I wouldn’t be nearly so strong in my faith.

I reckon what I’m saying here is that whoever comes to your church, whatever their struggle, showing love and being prepared to walk part of their journey hand in hand with them speaks more than waving the Bible at them or quoting verses. Just a kind word, a smile or a hello could make a massive impact on that person, you may never know that you have helped them, but does that really matter?  God knows 🙂

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Check out Christopher Yuan’s website

I first came across Christopher Yuan’s website a couple of years ago a few months before I became a Christian.  I think his FAQ section is one of the best I’ve seen, he explains things so well and I know that his site really spoke to me during my period of “wrestling with God.”

One of the questions he showcases is “Are Gays Doomed?”  I just love how he illustrates that regardless of sexual orientation we are all called to surrender certain aspects of our lives and take a new identity in Christ.  Simply put but with a powerful impact, love and truth combining to help us to understand our call to obedience.

Take a look at his website www.christopheryuan.com

After I leave, savage wolves will come in among you

Tick tock – time is ticking and the return of Jesus to the world becomes closer with every passing day. I mourn all those who will fail to enter the Kingdom of Heaven because they do not believe in God, those who have turned their back on his teaching and fail to embrace all that God offers and those sucked in by false teaching.

I was genuinely saddened and heart broken today when I came across an American website that encouraged Christians to post a video affirming their support for gay Christians. Within their video they are called to say “I’m a Christian, and I do not believe that being gay is a sin,” Really??  Is that what people with Same Sex Attraction want to see, some well meaning Christian affirming their choices with little or no substance apart from the fact they want to be “welcoming” to the gay community?

Why do I feel saddened? Because when you are wrestling with your faith and your sexuality the last thing you need is platitudes from well meaning well wishers.  What you need is substance, hard hitting facts, a biblical debate and truth tempered with love (even the type of truth that makes you feel uncomfortable for a while).  Why do I feel heartbroken? Because many people who visit that website may not be saved because of the messages they watch, they may be led astray by a distorted truth and that is truly heartbreaking when as Christians we are called to be fishers of men, to spread the great news of God’s love to all and to let all know how they can claim God’s forgiveness.

I can only implore all who read this to be aware of God’s message in Acts, whether you are struggling with same sex attraction and your faith or whether you are a Christian seeking to support others in that position:

Acts 20: 28-31 – Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

There is only one way to salvation and Jesus reminds of us this in Matthew.. let’s focus on our obedience to God, showing love to all but let’s ensure the love we show is the right type of love, given for the right reasons.

Matthew 19:17 –  ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments

Methodist Church ‘revisiting’ gay marriage stance

I was reading this article earlier today and tried to maintain an open mind to what was said.  Having attended one of the consultation meetings in my area I can only agree with the comment below:

The report noted concern from within the church that voting for same-sex marriage would “damage its prophetic and counter-cultural role by giving into changes in society”.

The overwhelming view of the people I shared a table with was against change and these were people of all walks of life who I had never met before (apart from the one lady I attended the meeting with)

A couple of quotes within the article stand out for me:

  1.  Revd Graham Carter told the Methodist Conference that there is a “clear mandate” to “revisit” the church’s definition of marriage via a ‘re-examination’ of theology. He said the move could create an opportunity to “reconcile the church” with same-sex marriage proponents who had chosen to leave.
  2. “The current situation”, he said, “leaves many same-sex couples within the church, and most same-sex couples outside the church, and their families and friends, continuing to feel alienated, unloved and unaccepted”.

Are we too keen to please everyone?  Are we seeking to become a reflection of our politically correct society, we can’t do this for fear of upsetting that community, we must do that or we will upset this community etc?

I believe that as Christians we have to draw a line in the sand.  We are called to speak the truth.  We are called to love and to me the greatest love shown to me is when someone tells me the truth.  It’s like when I was told how I could walk with Jesus, how I could receive his unending grace and his gift of eternal life, that’s a gift worth changing for. How much better to be told about that great gift than to be told I can walk down the aisle and marry my same sex partner.  A fleeting enjoyment and satisfaction of my human desires versus new life, a relationship with God and eternity in heaven.  If same sex attracted couples feel alienated by the church then YES we have to try and address that by making them welcome, loving unconditionally and not judging but most importantly we must not try and appease any sector of society by watering down the word of God.

Be in control, read the Bible in context

Proverbs 7:1-3 My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.  Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

I’ve just started reading “Girls with Swords” by Lisa Bevere.  Now in this book she talks about the word of God being our sword, but how she has a vision of many of us using broken or incomplete swords, unable to fight effectively against the enemy because we do not have full, working swords.

This got me to thinking about the Word and how we have to use it in context and explore the whole of God’s word, not just pick out bits to suit.  We wouldn’t read any other book and just pick up the odd sentence here or there, we would read from start to finish to get the whole story.  Likewise if we wanted to evaluate and understand the content of a book we wouldn’t rely on listening to other people’s summaries, we would want to read it ourselves.

My message here is “be in control”, read the Bible in context, read more than just the popular passages of scripture to start to formulate a full understanding of it’s meaning for your life.

When I was first battling with faith and my same sex attraction, trying to justify it as acceptable to God, I saw how easy it was to skim the important messages, miss out the bits that made me go “ouch” or challenged my obedience to God.  Not a good idea!  It was once I gained a better understanding of God’s word and sought his counsel that I understood his calling on my life and as I immerse myself in his word I continue to feel the benefit of having a growing understanding of God’s plans as I live my life for him.

 

Satisfied in Christ – a recommended read

When I was first searching for the Lord I looked far and wide for websites with resources that would help me as I struggled with same sex attraction and my faith.  Since starting this Blog I have discovered “Satisfied in Christ” and recommend it as a great resource.  Take a look at their website: satisfiedinchrist.com

Think about the deceit and lies Satan uses to separate us from God’s love

Reading what Bible scholars say is really insightful but also it often opens up the text in new or different ways, their interpretation perhaps challenging conventional thinking or leading people to see some biblical teaching as irrelevant today.  So here’s the thing.  I am not a Bible scholar and I believe that God intended me to be able to pick up the Bible and understand exactly what he is saying.  Some may think me naïve but I genuinely believe that God spoke through all those who physically wrote the Bible, he fed their words and it is all “God-breathed”.  These were ordinary (but highly blessed!) people writing God’s words for other ordinary people to read and understand.

So where am I going with this? I suppose what I am saying is that for me I make my decisions based on how I interpret the Bible and not what others tell me.  Whilst I may read commentaries my decisions are made through a combination of what I read and how I interpret it and the guidance of the Holy Spirit when I pray over the Word.  It is so important to me that I don’t get caught up in the teaching of so called “experts” in any field but allow God to speak to my heart.

I’m also saying that for me the Bible is the truth and I believe all that it says.  I believe we have to be careful about unbelief, indeed Hebrews 3 holds a warning against unbelief:

So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, “Their hearts are always going astray and they have not known my ways.” So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.” See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God

Do you believe God’s word? Is your interpretation of God’s word based on your own understanding or what others have told you?  Have you turned from any aspect of his word in disbelief, have you hardened your heart to his voice?  Are you living out your Christian life in full obedience or are there areas in which you are harbouring disobedience?

All this can be used in the context of any sinful behaviour but for those of us with same sex attraction I believe that examining this passage in Hebrews is important in the light of the number of references to homosexuality being a sin.  Have we hardened our hearts, have we really listened to God, have we gone astray from God’s perfect plan for our lives, have we been deceived?

The next verse says: But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness”

That is exactly what I desire to do as part of my Blog.  Let’s encourage each other to become tuned in to God’s voice and his desires for our lives, let’s encourage one another to think about the deceit and lies that Satan will use to separate us from God’s love and let’s work to support and encourage each other as we continue to explore our faith and obedience to God and what that really means for our walk with Jesus.

God wants you back…

I kind of class myself as a “Prodigal”.  Someone who grew up in church but who then left of my own accord to pursue my own happiness elsewhere.  One dictionary definition I found for Prodigal said “wasteful, recklessly extravagant”.  And that is exactly how I see myself, I was wasteful of the life and the opportunities God had given me at an early age and I was recklessly extravagant in indulging my own desires.  For me it wasn’t about the pursuit of money and wealth as it was in the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) but about the pursuit of my own fleshly desires.  So my mindset was that I had discovered gay sex and although I knew I was turning my back on God I desired that more than anything, more than I desired a relationship with God at that time.  Yet here I am now, fast forward a number of years, and I can see that at times I was reckless but more than that I recognise the waste because God still loved me through all that I just didn’t let him love me, it was me who put the barrier up not him.

What I love about the story of the Prodigal son is verse 20 – “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him”

You know God doesn’t wait until we are spot on with him before he welcomes us back, he just aches for us to realise it’s him we’ve missed and that we show an intention to rekindle a relationship with him.  It took me 6 months of being a regular at church again before I actually asked God into my life.  God welcomed me in church every day, he was with me throughout that 6 months helping me, supporting me and most importantly loving me.  We don’t have to be perfect to come back to God, just willing to say sorry and move forwards, trust me God is working on the rest.

Check out Janet Boyne’s website

I read Janet’s book a few months ago.  While I didn’t relate totally to all her background there were a lot of things in there that rang true for me.  However the one thing that resounds is that God never gives up on us and is just waiting for us to turn to him, no matter the sin, no matter how long we have been engaging in that sin, God is waiting with open arms to forgive us and welcome us home. AMEN

Janet now runs a ministry in the States after being called out a Homosexual lifestyle, a brief outline of her testimony can be found here

 

Cultivating good relationships doesn’t mean anything goes

Be the Light

Whatever our own personal feelings we are called to be “salt and light”.  In the debate over homosexuality in the church this is surely the most important thing, to allow our light to shine, the love that we have because of our salvation through Christ to be the overriding driver in every conversation and interaction with each other.

There is nothing worse than reading hateful posts on Facebook and Twitter posted by “Christians” who condemn homosexual behaviour and who do not want to allow the LGBT communities into their churches.  We must meet each other in a place of love, mutual respect and a belief that ultimately we cultivate our own personal relationship with God, no one else can do this for us, and let’s face it the truth is that it is God and God alone who we will all answer to.

Romans 14 speaks about our need to “cultivate good relationships” with each other and I feel that this is the first step to ensure our churches are open and inclusive communities where all feel welcome.  But please don’t confuse that openness and desire to be inclusive with a view that anything goes.  Galatians 6:1 reminds us of our responsibility – Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently

We know that there is only one way to eternal life, so we must do everything we can to encourage people from all walks of life to come to church which then helps them to build up a personal relationship with God.  It is during this time of relationship building that we will find opportunities to discuss faith, biblical teaching and beliefs and that is when we must speak God’s truth most lovingly and gently and you know what, God will do the rest!

John 14:6 – Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Paul’s letter to the English…

Letter to the Church in England

Lately I have been reading many of the letters to the emerging church in the New Testament and it struck me what would a letter to the “English Church” look like today?  Regardless of denominational differences I believe the letter would be pertinent to us all, we have strayed a long way from our Christian roots in this country and I think it fair to say a degree of secularism has crept into the life of the church.

And yes this is a blog about homosexuality and Christianity so it would be right to assume that I personally feel this would be covered in the letter as it was directly in Romans, 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians as well as indirectly through the addressing of immoral practices in a number of other letters. I believe we would be called to obedience and repentance.

But my focus here is more on some other points made in these letters, points which I feel are important to bear in mind when hearing the liberal view on homosexuality and Christianity that is around in many churches, points that will remind us to be guarded and wary of false teaching in the last days.

I have noticed that many advocates for “homosexuality not being a sin” give eloquent explanations of the Bible and what it says about same sex attraction, there are those who argue persuasively that their view is correct and Bible scholars who put a very believable spin on God’s word one way or another.  Let’s face it we have all read many, many, different interpretations of the same verse by different scholars, preachers, lay preachers and even bloggers because as humans we all tend to interpret things to suit our own arguments and we can be very good at spinning a tale.

So what am I saying here?  I’m saying we all need to be guarded when reading different interpretations and seek wisdom and discernment.  As the Bible says in 2 Peter 2, in the last days we are to beware of false teachers, we know that there will be stumbling blocks, can we be sure that what we are reading doesn’t fall into that category?

So back to the letter, I picked out just 4 verses from many that I would like to see in this letter which all kind of say to me, open your minds, open your hearts, do not be deceived, set your mind on things above, on things that are holy, pure and right.

  • Colossians 2:4 – I say this, no one will delude you with persuasive arguments
  • Ephesians 4: 17-18 – So this I say and affirm together with the Lord that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart
  • Romans 16:18 – For such men are slaves not of our Lord Jesus Christ but of their own appetites and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting
  • Philippians 3:19 – Whose God is destruction, whose God is their appetite and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things

When praying over this post God put one more scripture in front of me Matthew 7:21 which I feel compelled to share:

Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter

A lot to think about, personally I would love to get a chance to read that letter one day!

We follow God, not a church

Looking through some posts on facebook last night I noted one from a lady who was responding to the United Reformed Church’s decision to allow gay marriage – she responded that she was now changing churches because of this, she would join the URC because that would allow her to marry (if she wants to in the future).

I had just been reading a post on John 10 and I felt God responding to this in verses 11 to 13.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep

We follow God, not a church.  Our relationship is with God and God alone and we need to be careful that through following a church and their particular interpretation of the Bible we are not putting our spiritual lives into the hands of the “hired hand”.  It is God alone who will judge, God alone who saves us and God alone who protects us from the enemy.

The preceding verse says – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Let us be on guard against the enemy who comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Let us put our trust and our faith solely in God, he is the way to eternal life, not the church.

There is also a message here for chuch leaders. How can you make your chuches a welcoming space for all?  In doing so you will be giving people of all walks of life opportunities to meet with God and build their own relationships. Please don’t feel that the only way to make your church accessible to the LGBT community is to offer same sex marriages.  Let’s think outside of the box, all are welcome to worship, how can you embrace and welcome newcomers to your congregations?

 

 

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