Category Archives: Insights

Did Your Child Just Come Out to You?

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Coming Out

In this, the second part of my mini-series on ‘coming out’ for young people of Christian parents, I want to share with you the wisdom of Susan Cottrell, of ‘Freedhearts‘.

In this piece, Susan gives sound advice to Christian parents whose child has just ‘come out’.

You think it might never happen to you? Well, how would you know? Because if your child is an LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) person, they might not feel able to tell you, because they know your views on the subject!

I would recommend all Christian parents read this article – not only ‘just in case’ your child does ‘come out’, but also to give you a better understanding of how Christian parents of LGBTQ+ young people can continue to affirm and support their child once they ‘come out’ despite what they think ‘the Bible says’.

Click the graphic below to go to the article:

This is a real issue affecting real people, and we need to examine this, as a Church, in a Chrstlike manner.

I know a Godly couple whose daughter recently ‘came out’ and which caused much soul-searching in their congregation…and those people in that church have essentially been forced – by their circumstances – to learn how to continue in their acceptance of that precious young life. And, so far, they have done very well…they knew that child from a baby and nothing has changed, except that now they know something that God has known about all along.

So, I recommend you read the article – it will stand you in good stead should you need it!

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Traditional Christian Parents Reveal Changed Views on LGBT

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Coming Out

Like many other people close to the Father Heart of God, some years ago I ‘came out’ as a strong affirmer of LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people and their relationships. I’m writing this mini-series in order to help people whose children are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and to give you what I believe is a Christian perspective on the subject.

When the child of an Evangelical Christian ‘comes out’ as an LGBTQ+ person, all kinds of things could happen, from total acceptance right up to total rejection, and all shades in between. Personally, I don’t understand how a parent can ever reject their child, but tragically there are those who do. And the result of this rejection, for the LGBTQ+ child, can result in ruined lives – I won’t go into detail here but sometimes we are talking homelessness, suicide, severe emotional trauma – you get the idea. And that’s just with the parents – the person coming out has other social links too that could also bring suffering: church; school; friends; colleagues. It’s not easy by any means.

But today we’re looking at parents. In this short video from Facebook page ‘Christians Talk’, various Christian parents describe how they came to terms with their child’s sexuality, from the point of view of people who formerly had believed that LGBTQ+ was ‘wrong’. Also in this video are Rob and Susan Cottrell, whose work I have featured before in my blog, and will feature again over the course of this mini-series.

There we go. Meditate on that and hear what the Spirit is saying to you!

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Five Signs You’re Trapped In Legalism

My blogging friend Mike Douglas comes out with some excellent stuff on his blog. And this post is no exception. At the risk of giving a spoiler, Mike uses at the end of his piece the three most important words that Jesus ever uttered – “It is finished!” Jesus has done it all for you. All you have to do is to enjoy the freedom.

The essay is linked to here, but I will also reproduce below what Mike wrote. This is wholesome stuff and it is my prayer that it brings you into ever-increasing freedom:


“A response from one of my readers got me thinking… He wanted to know why some Christians could be so harsh in their views and be so willing to judge others faith and salvation when they don’t agree with them.

Here was my answer to him:

‘How do you explain the far Christian right? In a word, fear.

For some believers, they think salvation or acceptance by God involves saying the right things, voting the right way, supporting the right things etc. If they don’t, they live in fear of being judged and sent to hell. Being ‘right’ is all important.

Therefore, if you or I were to disagree with them, we are not saved and cannot be one of them. Because we are wrong and being right is everything.

And, sadly, they also feel that since they are absolutely right, any disagreement is persecution for their beliefs.

Rather than being angry with such people, it makes me very sad. Rather than living in the glorious love, acceptance and presence of a loving Father, such folks opt for ‘never to be sure’ striving to make them good enough for God. I don’t want that.

Thanks for writing. Reject the legalistic nonsense. It’s all about Jesus!’

What is legalism?

In short, legalism is adding anything to the gospel. Legalism takes the words “Follow me” and adds rules, clauses, and rituals. It’s WRONG, and, over time, you believe its lies. The ultimate lie being Jesus wasn’t enough. Legalism shifts the end goal from Jesus to something else.

Here are 5 signs you might be trapped in legalism.

  1. You believe God loves you. But you don’t believe He LIKES you.

Right now, what God look like? Is he smiling? Frustrated? For much of my adult life, I pictured God with a slow, disapproving, puzzled head shake. Don’t get me wrong. I believed God loved me. But I didn’t believe he LIKED me. But He only loved me in the global sense that He loved everybody.

And we all know loving someone and liking them are two different things. When you like someone, you enjoy their presence. You welcome their company. You ask them over to watch the game or go to the movies.

And here’s what legalism does. If you don’t believe God likes you, you won’t draw near to Him. Legalism never allows you full access to God’s presence. At some point, the “I’m not good enough” or “God isn’t pleased with me” voices will speak to your heart, forcing you to retreat.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, God is pleased with you. And, when you suck at life, that doesn’t change. You can blame Jesus for this.

  1. You have never been sure about your salvation.

I can’t tell you how often I have asked Christians and others, “On a scale of 1-100, how sure are you that you will go to Heaven when you die?’ I have got many answers covering the full range of possible answers. But the least common answer is 100.

Here’s the rub. There are only two possible correct answers: 0 or 100. How we get to Heaven and the only way we get to heaven is putting our faith in Jesus. Either we have [100] or we haven’t [0].

Isn’t it awesome we can all answer 100! But so few of us do. We have doubts. Despite what the Bible tells us. We have doubts because we think we must measure up, there must be more we must do, or we think we might blow it. That’s legalism.

I have asked many Christians and others where they would go tonight if they died. Most aren’t sure. They might even tell you they’re sure, but if you asked their heart, you would receive a different answer. Do you believe in Jesus? In what He has done for you? Then your answer is 100. Learn to rest in what Jesus has done, not what you did.

  1. You compare yourself to other Christians.

Legalism rarely celebrates others’ successes. It says only the best get in. With legalism, Jesus isn’t the standard. The standard is the Christian beside you. If your life looks better than Jim or Jill, you’re good.

When you make God’s approval a competition with other Christians, you secretly hope people fail. Rather than walking with people through struggles, you give yourself a silent fist pump. Instead of celebrating with people who accomplish great things, you silently hope they fall.

And it leads to an exhausting life, one where you ride an emotional roller coaster because you’re worth and acceptance are tied to other people.

  1. You believe outsiders must behave before they belong.

This is the core of legalism. There’s a standard outsiders must meet before being accepted. Legalism says you worked hard to get to this point. You’ve been in the church game for a long time, and until others get to your level, they’re on the outside looking in.

If you don’t allow people in, whether it’s in your worship, your home, or your life, you’re making a declaration over them Jesus never made. You’re declaring some sins are worse than others, and certain behaviors are too ugly or distasteful for God. Praise God that’s a lie!

  1. You believe in joy and peace, but you’ve never experienced them.

Legalism lets you see God, but it does not experience His grace, joy, and peace. The church today is filled with people who are deeply spiritual, but distant from God.

If your spiritual activities aren’t producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, you’re likely on the road to spiritual legalism. When you’re in God’s presence, you WILL bear the Spirit’s fruit (Galatians 5:22).

Is your heart increasing in joy and peace or cynicism and unrest? Does God appear more like a grumpy old man or a life-giving Father?

God knows you can’t live up to His standard. We sin every day. He doesn’t condemn you. He’s FOR you. Embrace the simplicity that Jesus did it all. Rest in the security of your salvation. Jesus has accomplished everything. It is finished! Nothing to add!”


This is excellent stuff. If I might add just a couple of observations: firstly, I mentioned above that ‘It is finished!”. When Mike says in his piece that for the legalist ‘Being ‘right’ is all-important’, I would agree entirely.

And one of the reasons why they feel so threatened by Grace, and those living under it, is that it threatens their ‘rightness’ and their carefully-constructed legal paradigms. One small puff of the wind of the Spirit and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

When your security is in your Rules for who’s included and who isn’t, your security is not in the Finished Work of Christ. “It is finished!”

Secondly, and I find this really sad, but you will have met evangelists who say to their victims, ‘If you died tonight, do you know where you would be going?’ And Mike clearly demonstrates in his blog post that even once someone joins the Church, they still don’t know for sure, if they’re under legalism. Because they still don’t know if they ‘measure up’.

How sad is that? Jesus has done it all. All that is necessary for our acceptance with God, Jesus has done. God has given us everything we need for godliness (2Pet 1:3) However you believe that happens, just get hold of it.

Once again, let me write it: Jesus said, “It is finished!”

Wow!

 

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Faith and Law

One of the recurring themes in the New Testament is that the Law justifies no-one (Rom 3:20, Gal 2:16, Gal 3:11), but that instead we are justified through faith. And yet nobody would like to be known as a person who speaks against God’s Law, because the Law is said to be ‘holy…righteous and good’ (Rom 7:12). Clearly, then, there is a kind of tension between the two ideas.

Paul Ellis expands on these concepts in this excellent piece from his blog, ‘Escape to Reality’. This essay is well worth reading; I can’t recommend it highly enough. Click the graphic below to go to the post:

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On Proof-Texting

I’ve always found ‘proof-texting’ to be disrespectful both to the Bible itself and also to the person to whom that proof-texting is being done.

There is a world of difference between showing occurrences in the Bible of phenomena or ideas (which is what I do with my Scripture references), and ripping verses out of context (both local and taking account of the whole Scripture) in order to prove a point.

For a while now, I have wanted to write a piece on proof-texting. But my friend Tim Chastain, author of the blog ‘Jesus Without Baggage’ has gone and beaten me to it 🙂 Good on yer, Tim!

Without more ado, here’s the link to his excellent piece which says all I ever wanted to say, and more!

Click the graphic below to go to the page:

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Kirk Leavens on the ‘Nashville Statement’

In a superb response to the notorious and insensitive ‘Nashville Statement‘, released upon a hurting world by out-of-touch-with-reality Evangelical leaders at the end of August this year, other Christians – “…some of the queer, trans, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, gender-queer, asexual, straight, single, married image-bearing Christians at House for All Sinners & Saints (Denver, Co)” – wrote the ‘Denver Statement’; a point-by-point rebuttal of the Nashville Statement.

The Denver Statement was posted on the Patheos blog – and it is quite simply a breath of fresh air.

One of the replies to the blog post particularly caught my eye, from Kirk Leavens, a man of wisdom and compassion whose contributions to the Patheos blog are always well worth reading. Here is the quote; I think you will like it:

“The Nashville Statement on human sexuality is the latest attempt by the Religious Right to position male-female complementarianism, patriarchy and gender stereotypes as the Biblical norm for today, thousands of years from the culture in which male dominance and female subservience was the norm. One of the main problems with the belief that the Bible gives us a clear picture of “one man, one woman,” is…that it does not. The truth is conservatives must carefully pick and choose their verses to support their thesis, conveniently overlooking the much more numerous passages that portray the ugly side of complementarianism and submission.

“Contrary to most evangelical thinking, while the NT gives us excellent advice on loving our enemies and our neighbors as ourselves, the Bible, as a whole is a mixed bag on the issue of “Biblical Marriage.” With Biblical marriages involving polygamy, concubines, maid servants, spoils of war, sisters-in-law, rape victims, etc., conservatives must do a lot of cherry picking to come up with a definitive view of marriage.

“I am sure most of this is coming from the hard right of evangelicalism, the Southern Baptist fringe that grew into the dominant voice in conservative evangelicalism in the 80s and 90s during the takeover of SBC [Southern Baptist Convention]. What most evangelicals don’t know is that during this time period the moderates along with female teachers at Baptist universities were all forced out by the fundamentalist wing of the SBC. Evangelicalism has never recovered.

“This shift among the majority voice in Evangelicalism does not just condemn “homosexuality,” but would push a strong, hyper-Calvinism as the only “truly biblical” understanding of atonement, would severely limit divergent views such as Arminianism and Pentecostalism and has forced out moderates and postconservatives from teaching at their seminaries, as well as severely limiting women from teaching or using their spiritual gifts. This is not a group of people open to the work of the Holy Spirit. They are fundamentalists, period.

“The tragedy of the Nashville Statement is that it closes the door to dialogue about human sexuality, and attempts to rigidly compartmentalize gender stereotypes, ignoring the realities of gender and sexuality. It also closes the door to further understanding and reform amongst evangelicals. The door has been shut on careful consideration of the Biblical passages themselves, preferring a inerrant, literal hermeneutic that does not take into consideration a great many things: culturally bound materials, story as opposed to historical facts, and a general inability to differentiate Kingdom principals from cultural mores.

“In all of this we are to be schooled on marriage by a group of people whose heterosexual marriages end in divorce 50% of the time, differing little from the culture they pride themselves as being superior to. It has sadly become all too apparent that fundamentalists favor law over Grace, continuing over a century of vigorously defending indefensible attitudes towards race, women, violence and sexual minorities. This needs to stop.”

And I couldn’t agree more with what he said. Quite often you hear the phrase, ‘What is the world coming to’, and I often think the same thing about Christianity. It’s high time people professing Jesus as Lord began to confront the really serious issues of our time instead of wanting to install video cameras in other people’s bedrooms! Seriously, these people seem to think that the number-one big problem of our time is that some people have a ‘different’ sexuality. It’s not poverty, not North Korea’s nuclear program, not Donald Trump’s divisive presidency, not global warming; no, it’s what people do in the privacy of their own homes that is the number-one issue.

How twisted is that?

Anyway, enough of my ranting 😉 I’d like to also point my readers to Kirk’s complete article in which he expands on the points he makes in the quotation I have given above. Although you will recognise some of the paragraphs from above, there are some new and interesting points that he makes as well. Here’s the link.

Finally, a word of explanation. My blog purports to be, on the whole, me doing what I see the Father doing; me saying what I believe the Father is saying. That’s what my header is all about and it’s the mission statement, if you like, for my blog. In these times, I see the Father doing a great work amongst and through the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning and Intersex ‘community’. These people are going to play a major part in the next Revival; indeed, they are already doing so.

To quote Rabbi Gamaliel, in Acts 5:38-39, “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Yep. Please consider this post prayerfully and hear what the Voice of the Spirit is saying to you 🙂

 

 

 

 

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The Sands of Mars

In the past, I have written on the subject of ‘Faith and the Suspension of Disbelief‘. The ability to accept and enjoy fantasy stories also confers on us the ability to believe more easily the stories we read about Jesus in the Bible, and the testimonies we hear from people who have encountered God in a special way.

We have another ability as humans, too. It’s the sense of Awe and Wonder. God is amazingly awesome and supremely wonderful – in that He’s full of Wonder. If we think about Him and His love for any amount of time, we find ourselves standing in awe and wonder at how amazing He is.

I want to share a picture with you that I find absolutely remarkable. Similarly to pictures in the post I made recently about various astronomical ideas, this photo too evokes in me a strong sense of awe and wonder.

This is a photo taken on the surface of Mars, by the Mars exploration rover ‘Opportunity‘. (You can see the original image and full commentary here).

Think about what that means for a moment. This photograph was taken on the surface of another planet. The camera was made on Earth and sent to Mars on an unbelievably clever piece of machinery, taking a good couple of years to get there. Then using more amazing technology, the camera was landed on Mars on a really clever little robot* which is even now, as I write this, driving around the surface of that alien planet just like something out of Star Trek, taking pictures like this one.

In this age where everything seems taken for granted, and incredibly awesome things are used for evil purposes – like how text messaging and Facebook are used to hurt others – I still find it incredible that people can be blasé about an image like this. This is incredible wonder and awe, right here in front of us. It’s another part of God’s Creation, where no human has yet set foot, but which we can explore by proxy by sending an incredible robotic probe hundreds of millions of miles to go and have a look round on our behalf. And God has given we humans the desire, the drive, the ability and the skills to make this happen. God is said to have made humans in His image. How well does this fabulous photo show us that indeed we are capable of such amazing feats; surely we are indeed made in the image of God!

Now is that not something incredible?


I realise that my title for this piece is also the title of a classic science fiction book by my late hero, the writer and futurist Sir Arthur C. Clarke. I just thought it evocative, so I used it, although I remembered shortly afterwards that Clarke had already coined the phrase. I like to create good titles for my blog pieces; it just so happened that this one had already been invented. Sorry, Sir Arthur, but also thanks…


*The Opportunity explorer has been working on the surface of Mars for longer than thirteen years, having been designed to function for only 90 days. For more information on this remarkable little robot, visit the Wikipedia page about it.

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Going Barefoot…

This is a gorgeous analogy by Stephen Morris. I will let it speak for itself:

“I love going barefoot. Everywhere. For me, there is no greater freedom than living life without the constraints of shoes. I may get some weird looks from people, but that is expected for people who live shoe-free.

“Going barefoot is an outward symbol of what is on the inside. I see shoes as religious performance. Feet in shoes tend to get hot, sweaty, and sometimes stinky. But you don’t really know how sweaty or stinky or hot your feet get until you remove the shoes.

“Same thing with religion. You really don’t know how imprisoned or stifled you are in your religion until you step out of it. When you are barefoot, your feet breathe a sigh of relief, because you brought them back to their natural state.

“When you’re in the wild, in the untamed world of grace, your heart and spirit finally breathe because you are now where you were always meant to be. That is why I go barefoot.”

– Stephen Morris, shared with his kind permission

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Cycle of Grace/Cycle of Law

My regular readers will be familiar with my strong emphasis on Grace. Grace is the undeserved, unearned favour of God; not that we don’t deserve it because of stuff we’ve done, but undeserved because we have not earned it – and indeed we don’t need to earn it! It’s entirely because of God’s Love, generosity, favour and just because He likes us that He showers – lavishes! – His Presence, His Love and His favour on us.

And this leads to freedom. The freedom of knowing that there’s nothing we need to do – indeed nothing we can do – to ‘make’ God love us any more than He does already. He already accepts us and loves us completely.

In this article, Mike Douglas explains how the ‘Cycle of Grace’ is the exact opposits of the ‘Cycle of Law’, and how it takes a mental attitude shift in order to enact this in our lives. I have heard that sort of ‘changing of the mind’ as being called ‘Repentance’; this is indeed what it is.

Click this link or the image below to go to the article:

 

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Pick Your Battles!

Previously, I have written on the subject of why I debate on the Christian forums, and also why sometimes it’s best to disengage for a while.

Today, I want to make that a ‘trilogy’ and give you (and me) permission to not engage in nonproductive arguments!

You know, in 1Pet 3:15, it says, “Always be prepared to give a defence to everyone who asks you to explain the hope you have, but do this with gentleness and respect”

And I think sometimes that many of us, myself included, take this as meaning that we are not allowed to pick our battles. Sometimes we need to say, ‘This is not a battle I should be fighting’, and this Scripture should not prevent us from saying just that.

We often think that unless we have an answer ready – and usually a shallow, trite answer will do – that we are somehow not obeying this ‘commandment’. And so we engage with every single demand that those who believe different things throw at us.

Well, let me tell you that actually that verse is not a commandment at all. St. Peter, or whoever it actually was that wrote that letter (there is apparently some doubt), was not in a position to give out commandments. Neither was St. Paul, for that matter. Neither of them was God. Anything in the Epistles that looks like a commandment, then, is nothing of the sort; they are more suggestions or guidelines or maybe just simple practical advice. Otherwise we’d all have to ‘take a little wine’ (1Tim 5:23) every time our tummy is unwell! Of course, guidelines in the hands of Legalists always turn into Rules, but I digress even more…

So, then, please remember this: you do not have to engage *every* naysayer, fake-questioner (those who ask ‘questions’ that are simply formulated to set you up), those who would question your salvation. You do not have to try to prove people wrong, prove yourself right, or indeed prove anything. Be sensitive to the Spirit of God within you; if you feel She is saying, Yes, speak a word in due season here, then do so. If you don’t get that prompt, do not engage. There are more important things to do than engaging in fruitless dialogue (or often it’s just two monologues going on).

Feel free to block people who annoy you. Civilized debate is one thing; nasty people is something else. This is not cowardice; this is sanity! I have decided that from now on I am going to block people freely – not those who disagree with me, for decent debate is great – but those who are destructive, energy-sapping and soul-destroying. To engage with these people is folly.

Don’t give dogs what is sacred (Mt 7:6), and that includes your time!

“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go”.

– C. JoyBell C

 

 

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