A Christian’s Take on Gay Marriage and Why it Really Does Matter

My dad. Looking back he did a lot of the messy work in regards to raising a sassy, overbearing, dramatic daughter. That might be (and hopefully is) an overkill, but I was never easy to raise. Tantrums quickly escalated into violent charades, each of which ended with sitting down on the couch and discussing it over. Of course, you can rightfully assume that my dad didn’t just turn a blind eye. He loved me and would therefore tenderly instruct me on where I went wrong, how my behavior was inexcusable and how he was telling me all of this because he loves me. On the flip side, he would be charged with emotional neglect had he never addressed deep issues in my character and excused such behavior by chalking it up to love.

God is also a Father. And a father instructs. Thankfully, I do not have to go down some detrimental pathway before God soon intercedes and with that soft fatherly voice whispers “You’re in the wrong and drifting away. Humble yourself and come back to me.” That sounds like love, doesn’t it? And that sounds even more like a good fatherly figure. I think I made my point.

If God is a perfect father, two things are then certain…he loves his children unconditionally and he also instructs them when they drift away. In regards to the gay movement and the recent Supreme Court ruling, Christians have nailed the unconditional love part. But that unconditional love has turned into passivity and looking the other way. “Acceptance” has become a buzzword in this regard. Such behavior reveals both a misconception of love and God. Love is not passive and love is never, ever, ever blind. Love sees sin for sin and addresses it with unconditional love. What would Jesus do? Just remember that God is a father after all, and we, as Christians, are reflections of Him on earth.

Finally, the gay movement is detrimental to Christianity not only because it undermines marriage, but because it threatens the power of the church. If the church accepts everything, it will stand for nothing. By distorting the nature of love, evil succeeds in misrepresenting God as passive, while permanently muting the church’s voice. The church cannot shine if it is hiding, it cannot change history if it is silent in hopes of loving everyone through meek acceptance. At the end of the day, Satan’s greatest tactic is to make you passive by your very own biblical convictions.

Its time to remember that love instructs and a Father teaches.

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In Pursuit of God–A Prayer

I decided to publish this prayer I wrote which captures my heart; I believe many of you will relate to it as well. This has been my cry these past few months–namely, to kindle an authentic relationship with Christ that is devoid of religion and fear. For if we could just know His heart as it truly is, than everything will take care of itself. May God reveal himself deeper to you in these next few days.

God,

Let me never lose the wonder that each person, however forgotten and lonely, is known and adored by you. Allow me to recognize such people as your children and see you in them. Give me the compassion to stop for the one and understand that my testimony is built on actions and relationships and not mere words. Ignite my heart with a passion for your raw presence. God, I give you my dreams, my hopes, my fears, my very life and ask that in return, you simply set my heart on fire. Romance my soul. Woe me with your love. I can’t force myself to be completely abandoned to you, but I can give you everything I have and let you wreck my life with your great love. I won’t be content until I have completely found you. I am desperate for your presence and you are my last resort. Anchor my life within the veil so that I may co-labor with you in bringing an open heaven here on earth. Remove the masks of religion and fear that I may see you as you truly are—completely in love with me, genuinely adoring me, and truthfully championing my success. Reveal to me your heart in its rawest state, free of my recreations and society’s moldings. Captivate my heart once more and bring me back to my first love.

I Want to Evangelize in my Pajamas

Christians are bombarded with suggestions on how to effectively evangelize to others. Some walk around with scripture verses tucked in their pockets, distributing them in a variety of public locations. Others hand out track records or religiously ask every cashier they encounter whether they have accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. But if you are anything like me, I’m not satisfied. Although some feel called to serve in just this manner, I tend to think that something is lacking and that God has called us to something even greater and more genuine. Plain and simple, there has to be something more.

 
Over the years, I have felt God revealing to me a personal “blueprint,” providing a loose guideline for how I am to minster to others, and I feel impassioned with the hope of slowly embodying just this. My personal desire is that my life will be so radically transformed by Christ and that His love will overshadow me that there will be a noticeable difference, causing others to wonder at the change. The evangelism starts from within with everything else formulating from the overflow of the heart. If we are truly to be the dwelling place of God here on earth, it makes sense to think that we should embrace our role as vessels and temples in which God can speak through us. It is not so much about what words we can form with our own mouths, but what God can reveal about Himself through us.

 
This mindset further supports the notion that Christianity is entirely relational. In fact, the entire gospel finds its basis in relationships—Christ coming to dwell among us and bring us into perfect unity with Him, our spiritual walk designed to strengthen our relationship with God and the biblical emphasis on unity within the church. And because of this relational emphasis, we are not called to minster to the mass, but rather the one. In other words, God called us to love the person right in front of us. He didn’t teach us to hurdle over the individual in hopes of reaching the crowd, but rather to stop for the person right beside us. Ministry has never been about numbers, but individuals. And when we truly invest in those who we encounter while we are scrubbing a juice stain off the kitchen counter or panting while running on the treadmill at the gym, we will understand that we are ministering through our actions and that our behavior will speak in lieu of our words.

 
Months ago, a pastor (from here on out I will call him Peter) at my church incorporated a personal story into his lesson that follows along these same lines. For many years, Peter was in the habit of jogging with a couple of men from his neighborhood, all of whom happened to not be Christians. Peter jogged with them regularly for years and it was not until recently, while they were stretching against the bleachers, that the other men asked him why he is always filled with joy, peace and grace. But because they knew him on a personal basis first, they were so much more open to the Gospel than would have been the case in other situations. Peter did not need to quote John 3:16 or preach the gospel while they sprinted down Midtown Road. He just simply internalized Scripture so well that he didn’t complain over the economy, stare bleakly into the future or cuss at vehicles that would not stop for a split second to let them jog by…and they noticed.

 
Furthermore, Paul highlights this idea when writing to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians chapter 12. Right off the bat, Paul mentions his incomprehensible experience in which he is brought into the third heaven, but immediately states that “that experience is something worth boasting about, but I am not going to do it” (verse 5). He then declares in the very next verse that his reasoning for not detailing this experience is because he does not “want anyone to think more highly of [him] than what they can actually see in [his] life.” Paul, who could get any cashier to gape at the wonders of his story and then draw connections to Christ, instead desires nothing more than to minister through his actions. He wants his life to radiate the truth found in God’s message. The title for this blog post, “I Want to Evangelize in my Pajamas,” means (in a much less sophisticated sense) just what Paul stated. It doesn’t have to be complicated…it can be as simple as living day-to-day, transformed by the renewing power of Christ, and trusting God to put people into our lives who will observe the difference.

When We Surrender to God, He Blesses Us Abundantly

Just recently, I witnessed many of the situations I assumed to fall neatly into place suddenly take a path entirely of their own, leaving me no other opinion than to quickly reconstruct my expectations. I anticipated a whole slew of other things to go off track, but it never crossed my mind that I would have to set my own ideas aside on a much regular basis. I thrive on making lists, checking things off and ensuring that everything happens according to schedule and when things repeatedly differ from the plan, I often struggle to be a happy camper. However, just the other day I heard a quote that reminded me that in my need to ensure that everything is accomplished in accordance to the best of my abilities, I also need to step back, give the reigns to God and confirm that what I am exerting so much effort into is indeed His will and not my own. Although there are different versions of this same quote, the one I heard was “God gives the greatest blessings to those who leave the choice up to Him.”

As I mentioned above, I definitely classify myself as a list person and often construct plans, presenting them to God with a sort of mentality that says something of the degree of “This is exactly what I want, but please fulfill it only if it is in your will.” This type of mindset is by no means negative in and of itself as God loves when we come to Him with our hopes and dreams. However in my case, I feel God greatly encouraging me to completely surrender. I have been consciously changing my mindset so that I would instead willingly give God complete permission to map my destiny in whatever manner He sees fit. I can’t know what direction He has destined for me to travel, but I can know that my answer will always be yes and amen.

In order to position myself in a place where I can genuinely say yes in all circumstances, I have literally written out all of my wants, desires, hopes, dreams, weakness, and shortcomings and then prayed aloud that I would find the strength to fully surrender them to God. I have given Him my dream of someday getting married and having a family, my love for writing, my fear of being used and abandoned. So many times while I speak these prayers, I have to pause and gather the strength before I can muster up the courage to surrender these elemental parts of myself. Yet I can honestly attest that when I have surrendered everything to Him, I have experienced a greater amount of peace when things go in the opposite direction. Instead of becoming hurt, confused or even angry, I gain a clear sense of understanding that He has a much bigger picture than I could ever obtain. That He knows so much more than I could ever hope to. That He can cherish my hopes and fears much better than I ever could.

Romans 12:1, which states “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present yourself as a living sacrifice…,” directly relates to the notion of surrendering. When looked up in the dictionary, sacrifice legitimately means “the surrender of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher claim.” Anytime we are sacrificing something prized, there is the obvious assumption that we are originally going to challenge such a notion. We naturally want to keep our prized belongings instead of giving them away. Yet in order to become this living sacrifice, we must surrender everything we have. This is why in Matthew 19:21 Jesus tells the wealthy man to “Sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Anytime we are called to become a disciple of Christ, there must be a major element of surrender. We must hand over our prized possessions, whether they are materialistic goods, dreams or passions. Yet the beautiful thing is that when we hand over these things to God, we are not losing them; we are simply giving them to someone who can treasure them even more purely and wholly than ourselves.

God Destined Us To Work With Him

That slew of days when I can’t seem to pull it together so easily throws me into a state of discouragement. Haven’t I overcome that years ago? What I am doing struggling with this now? We have all heard about or met believers who have been miraculously set free, having certain strongholds instantly broken because of His intense intervention. So many times I cry out that I might be free in much the same way, that there is no other option, that I tried so many other solutions only to find myself saying that I can’t take this much longer.

One of the most beautiful ideas I re-learned came from Beth Moore, who quoted that famous Bible passage that can sometimes give us hope while simultaneously cause us to scratch our heads when relating it to our own lives. Romans 8:28 declares “For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance to His purpose.” In one of Beth’s video teachings, she reminded how so often we forget the work part of this promise. All things working together means that the good takes WORK. And I and everyone else who is honest can attest that this is indeed true.

However, it is so incredible to think that as believers, we are therefore destined to co-labor with God; not alone, but in union with our Creator. Just as Christ took up our cross, so too are we instructed to take up our own crosses and follow. We are yoked together with God as we continue to seek the absolute revelation of His love. He gives us the strength to overcome; He gives us the power to do all things. Due to misconceptions, so many times we miss those gentle yet resolute reminders that He is ready to go off to battle with us by His side. The analogy of the armor of God is no accident. We need armor because we were destined for the frontlines. Co-laboring involves action and it involves work.

Over and over again, I want to push my weaknesses under the rug or throw them to God and see what He can do. Yes, God can still come in and transform these areas on the spot, but I very much believe that I have been simply focusing on giving my shortcomings to Him without remembering what He has given to me—power, strength and hope. When we realize what God has given us, we will better understand that we were never intended to sit back. We need His strength and power for a reason…to work with Him for the good of all things, my weakness included.

I Want a Love that Will Never Give Up

          A few weeks back, I was at the gym working up a storm as I was experimenting with a new workout routine. As I headed into the locker room to take a quick breather before I progressed to the thigh machines, I ran into one of girls who was associated with the volleyball team on which I was bullied. She was never what I would term a bully, but neither did she stand up for me or show any signs of disapproval. The moment my mind made recognition, I could feel my stomach drop to the floor and I was absolutely mortified upon being aware of my sweaty messy bun in comparison to her slick ponytail. Too embarrassed, I retraced my tracks out of the locker room and began on that back and forth mind debate as to whether or not I should simply go out of my way to say hi.
          As I was adjusting the weights on one of the machines, my iPod started to play “One Thing Remains” by Jesus Culture. (I inserted the song at the bottom of this post). Probably the most well-known verse in the entire song is the phrase “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.” Immediately, my attitude completely shifted and although I did not see that girl again, I did learn this: If Jesus’ love is a love that never gives up on us and if His love is the standard in which I desire to live my life, then my prayer should be that I too will possess a love that doesn’t give up on others. By no means does this mean that we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of those who tear us down, but it does mean that we can look at others and, even though they might not be there yet, trust and hope that they might someday become everything that God has intended. In many ways, this is completely unnatural, as so many times I want to give up on those who have especially hurt me. But as I learned, I have to be sure that somehow God is working in their lives just as He is working in mine and be confident that just like me they are not a finished masterpiece.
          1 Corinthians 13:7 says “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I get goosebumps thinking about the possibilities that could arise if I truly equipped myself with the pure love of God. I could believe that they will not be stuck where they are right now and instead flourish and see old chains broken. I could hope for others instead of giving up on them because I pretend I see the end. If we truly embrace God’s love in regards to our own lives, I can’t help but think that we will be so surprised at the ending.

 

I Felt God Telling Me to Delete Facebook…So I Did

          For quite a while, I was feeling convicted that it might be time to take a hiatus from Facebook, but my reasoning was quite different from most as it had nothing to do with time consumption or addiction. It instead had everything to do with my happiness, insecurities and inclination to compare myself with others. In fact, Facebook was just another tool that I used to compile “evidence” supporting my inferiority. There were also many aspects of this social media site that began to weigh on me, causing me to wonder if it is really healthy and in some instances morally right.
          As of the past few months, I realized that as soon as I logged onto Facebook my mood immediately began to spiral downhill. The reaction seemed to be rote. Even before I finished typing in my password, feelings of inadequacy were already taking root. When logged on, I would use other’s profile pictures to contrast my appearance or the number of people who wished them a virtual happy birthday to analyze my own social life. And still I could not stop. It was not uncommon for me to purposefully go onto the profile pages of those who I knew were prettier than me simply to have some basis for tearing myself down. In many ways, Facebook served as a prime outlet to satisfy my need for comparison and allowed me to feed thoughts of inferiority.
          Of course these problem only seem to escalate when there is the power to ‘like’ another’s status or picture. Regardless of whether anyone admits it, it is awkward when you see your posts receiving so few likes while others are raking up the fame. In many ways this is scary. Why does your happiness have to be based on how many people ‘approve’ of what you are doing? Why, as soon as you have a wonderful experience or wake up with your hair needing minimal attention is it assumed that the action is only complete after it is posted on Facebook and others are informed? For me, I wanted to be so sure of who I am as a person that I can have a good hair day and not feel pressured to have others boost my security by simply clicking a button on a computer screen.
          Although I only deactivated my account and am considering returning to Facebook at some point in the future, I realized how shallow my security was and the need for me to concentrate on finding my foundation in something not so fleeting. As a Christian I need to ensure that I am not filling my self-confidence or finding my self-esteem in anything aside from Christ. My strong emotional reactions symbolize an area I have yet to surrender, allowing Him to come and help heal my hurting wounds. Even if I perceived myself as gorgeous or earned like after like on my updated profile picture, I refuse for that to fuel my self-perception. I don’t want a bandaid…I want to be genuinely set free.
          I want to end by simply saying that this decision to remove my Facebook account was the result of two steps. First, I needed to identify that Facebook was a temptation in my life. I then needed to decide that I was going to do something about it. My desire to shift my security away from social media and onto Christ entailed effort on my own part. I could not simply wait for God to bring complete restoration while I was shooting myself in the foot at the same time. I truly believe that when we give up our idols, when we give up our weaknesses, when we give up our temptations, God has much greater room to work inside of us and draw more of us closer to him.
P.S. My heart goes out to every person who can relate and feels scarred in one way or another with thoughts of inferiority. You are in my prayers.

Through Service God Set Me Free

In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and He answered by setting me free. (Psalm 118:5)

           A few weeks ago, I attended a high school graduation party where, because most went to the local public school, I knew very few on the guest list. By no means do I intend to broadly generalize public schoolers, but I was so shocked by the abundance of profanity, specifically the f-word over so much as forgetting to grab a plastic fork on the way out the door or hitting the ball into the net during our very novice volleyball game. But what saddened me the most was the shallowness. So many times, I heard references to “the guy I used to hook up with” or the “ex before that ex.”
 
          If I am to be as honest as I can, I will say that I often struggle with the desire to fit in, not necessarily in the form of being a member of the “in group” (although I sometimes vainly desire just that), but to have a strong nucleus of friends where I can say I belong. I would have never anticipated how emotionally daunting feeling left out can be, as I struggle to make friends and find my niche in a social world that houses the root of my insecurities. What is more, I still grapple with understanding where the line falls between willing putting yourself in darkness so that God’s light may be seen and fleeing from temptation upon its first perception. Where is the balance between drawing our swords in intercession and dropping everything to run from all forms of evil? 
 
          Although this marks my current quest to better discern God’s will in certain situations, the thought that struck me while I was greedily spooning fresh pineapple on my plate was how God’s love is the basis of His law. All of His commands were designed so that my soul could prosper. So that I could thrive and not merely survive. Although this sounds so basic and obvious, so many times I felt like I was following Him, only to have my entire life fall into complete disarray. I would tag along a little reluctantly, knowing that my Christianity would make me so different when all I wanted to do was blend in and not be in the minority.  
 
          However, I am overcome thinking about how God’s law gives me depth and pulls me out of the shallowness of the world and into something greater than I could ever imagine. The Bible is filled with such verses as John 17:15-18 saying “They are not of this world, just as I am not,” but never before did its reality hit. Because of His commandments and my own struggle to abandon my selfish desires and follow Him, I can value people fully because God leads us into perfect love that does not de-value or use someone. I can give my heart to one person because God allows us to embrace purity. His commandments are truly for my best interest. They set me free and do not enslave me. As one person once declared, “Being a servant to God is liberating.” I am so thankful that I serve a God whose commands do not imprison me, but rather break the shackles and swing the prison doors wide open. 

C.S. Lewis’s “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” Encompasses True Christianity

 

Anyone who has read C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, remembers the compelling scene where Eustace, the self-centered, thoroughly annoying and childish cousin of the Pevensie children, is turned into a dragon. Upon first evaluating this despairing state, he attempts to rip off the dragon skin only to find another layer immediately reemerge. He continues this series of failed attempts until the text describes that he realized he was “desperate.” And right when Eustace’s pride fails him the most and he has no other option than to fall onto his knees in desperation does Aslan appear. As Aslan tears the dragon scales off permanently, Eustace notices the physical pain to be much more excruciating, but the results lasting. Eustace’s human form is regained once more.

          Although Lewis weaves precious Christian gems throughout every page of his stories, I can’t think of a single one that better encompasses the heart of Christianity. One of my favorite aspects involves the details concerning Eustace’s transformation. For one, Eustace is turned into one of the most terrifying creatures out there. I can think of numerous stories off the top of my head where the enemy is nothing short from a fierce, fire-breathing dragon. Also dragons posses the hardest scales. Think about The Hobbit, where the only way to defeat the dragon is to pierce him in the one location where he is scaleless. My point is that in life we often encounter our own, real-life dragons. They are those people who are hard-skinned and when they walk into the room, everything becomes suddenly silent because everyone knows that if the slightest wrong word is uttered that person is going to unleash the fire that has been burning on the tip of their tongue. Eustace became our very own worst enemy. And yet, here is the part that gets me every time. Underneath that dragon skin was a boy…was man, the very likeness of God. Underneath all that hideous dragon flesh was the image of God, always there, but waiting to be unveiled.
          Doesn’t that give you goose bumps? The likeness of God is hidden within even the most difficult of all people–and me! This truth makes me want to rip every single dragon scale off my soul so that the God Himself can be seen under all my sinful junk. Somewhere beneath all my weaknesses, all my struggles, all my insecurities is the reflection of my Creator.
          Eustace’s desperation also shines with genuine godly applications. I remember Heidi Baker, a missionary in Mozambique (http://www.irisglobal.org), declare that she sees a much greater opportunity for miracles and salvation overseas because these individuals are legitimately desperate. They have no idea where their next meal is coming from and they don’t deal with many of the frivolous “necessities” that help boost our selfish ego. I know in regards to my personal life, it is in times of desperation when I feel the closest to God. There is no “back up.” I have to surrender if I want those ugly parts of my life to be transformed into something beautiful.
          Something tells me that Aslan was always longing to transform Eustace into his intended likeness but was forced to hide behind stage until Eustace gave the curtain call. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” It is these reminders that makes me find hope in times when I would just rather give up. God is only a call away and when he is at work in my life his healing is permanent. Those dragon scales won’t come back again!