Same sex attraction and the forgiveness of sins

Yesterday, the PCA general assembly passed the following resolution:

Overture 15: “Men who describe themselves as homosexual, even those who describe themselves as homosexual and claim to practice celibacy by refraining from homosexual conduct, are disqualified from holding office in the Presbyterian Church in America.”

I know that this is a risky blog, but it had been mulling in my mind for many weeks. I waited to see what the PCA would do with it

Of course, we know that it is directed towards Greg Johnson. And I have read his book “Still Time to Care.” There was nothing in that book at all that was outside of the traditions and teachings of Christianity. I don’t know anything about REVOICE. All I know is how things are worded. I’ve read the book. I’ve read the overture. And it is deadly to the faith. I beg the PCA to reconsider while the candlestick is still there.

Notice the overture. It does not say, “Those who practice homosexuality.” Nor does it say, “Those who claim that homosexuality is not sinful.” In both cases, I would have agreed. Those who live unrepentantly in any sin should not serve in the ministry.

But it doesn’t say that.

I do not pretend to know the discussions going on in the PCA. All I know about the debate is that I read Pastor Johnson’s book. He is exclusively same sex attracted. He confesses that it is part of his “sinful nature with which he has to struggle his whole life long.” He has never acted on his desires.

He has also never been attracted to a woman.

If it is a question of terminology – that instead of just confession a lifelong spiritual struggle, he used the term “homosexuality”, then they got the terminology wrong. Most that I know of use the term “gay”. But it is just a word. It seems like disqualifying a man from ministry over a word is a little harsh.

The problem seems to be that the man confessed his struggle with sin.

So here is why I am sad. The PCA has just declared that THIS particular struggle with sin, even though it is never acted on, disqualifies a man from the ministry.

And at the same time, every Sunday, many of these same churches recite the creed together. “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”

Perhaps at this point, they should, for the sake of consistency, add an addendum. “I believe in the forgiveness of sins except for same sex attraction.”

Which other sins will be excluded from the creed?

In Augustine’s day, there was a debate with a certain sect in the church who taught that those who denied Christ to escape persecution could never be forgiven and restored to fellowship.

The church strongly disagreed. This is why “I believe in the forgiveness of sins” was added to the creed.

The reason that this is a sad day is that a cardinal, basic tenet of Christianity was denied – hopefully unwittingly – in the relentless pursuit of “culture war” victory.

They won the battle in the culture war, but lost the battle for the faith doing so.

The only thing left for Christians is to continue to keep silent about their struggles, never ask for help, never confess sin or our struggle with our sinful nature, and remain alone and isolated in the kingdom of God.

But the result will be that everyone will remain silent, especially if they wish to pastor the church. Perhaps THEIR sinful nature will be next on the chopping block.

It makes me sad that this is where the PCA chose to go.

The Heidelberg Catechism states:

56. What dost thou believe concerning the “forgiveness of sins”?

That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long; but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may nevermore come into condemnation.

The church is to be known as a place for sinners. Jesus was called a “friend of sinners”.

We cannot be a “hospital for sinners” if we say, “Except for you.”

Either the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin or it does not. To deny the blood of Christ to one particular kind of sin is deadly to the church.

I pray that the PCA will reconsider their stance on this.

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Silence, Prayer and Pastoral Visits

One of my favorite authors is Fredrik Backman. His brilliant novel Beartown is set far north of the Arctic Circle in the fictional village of Beartown. I can only read a little at a time because it moves me so deeply.

In one section, he describes the effect of the intense cold on the method of building. I won’t quote the section word for word, but he writes that water can creep into the cracks and empty spaces of the bricks and the timber. And then when it freezes it expands and tears the structure apart.

Silence, he says, is like that. You keep it inside and it creeps into the cracks and chinks and then it expands and expands until it tears you apart. I felt that. I had to put the book down a while. And I started thinking.

The things that affect us the most are those things that we would never, ever share with anyone. We bury them down deep and promise ourselves to never, ever speak of them.

Hold that thought for a moment.

In the early church, there was a custom set up where members of the congregation could talk to the pastor and get help with whatever was troubling them, or to get counsel in their battle against sin. This developed into the confessional booth and the sacrament of confession and penance. (Long story).

In the 16th century, the Reformers did away with the abuses of the confessional and the false assurances of penance and rightly preached Christ alone received by faith alone.

But then they were asked about what a member of the congregation would do if they were bowed down by sin and needed to confess and get help?

And so began the custom of pastoral visitations. These have a long history in the Reformed churches, especially in the Dutch Reformed traditions.

Many years ago, I did a “pastoral visitation” with an elderly Dutch couple. They were a delightful couple and they encouraged my heart many times.

When I showed up at the house, it was spotless. They were dressed up properly. They sat at the edge of their chairs. It was almost like they weren’t themselves.

When I visit someone as a pastor, I just want to talk and see how they are. I don’t need to set up a formal visit to do that. I just try to connect.

But the Pastor’s Visit has a long, long tradition.

I tried to ask them about their lives, if anything was concerning them, if there were anything I could pray for – really anything to get them to open up. And I received short, one word answers. So I tried another strategy.

I closed in prayer.

They immediately relaxed, she got up and got cookies and coffee. And then we had our real talk.

I thought about that, and I thought about the silent spaces that grow until they tear us apart.

And that, of course, led me to our view of prayer.

I wonder how many view prayer the same way that this couple viewed the visit from the Domine? (The Dutch term for the pastor?)

Sweep the house. Get dressed. Answer properly. Don’t cause a fuss.

And the silences grow. Eventually it tears us apart.

To be fair, it is the fault of the pastors, for the most part. Pastors demand that the house be swept and cleaned, that they be dressed properly and their kids be lined up appropriately and that they don’t cause a fuss.

In my life before ordination, I can count on one hand how many times I tried to talk to a pastor about what was really going on in my life.

The first few times, the pastor responded with rage and contempt and asked how I dared criticize.

When I talked to another pastor a few years later, my struggle was dismissed and announced publicly at our next meeting.

So I get it. But it isn’t right.

And then we start thinking that God is like our pastor. We sweep our souls clean, stuff the embarrassing stuff into the oven or the dryer, sit properly, make sure we use the thees and the thous, recite the right words, and breathe a sigh of relief when prayer time is done.

We learned about God from our pastor, and didn’t even know it.

But what would happen if we actually told God what was really going on?

What if we left the dirty clothes and the dirty dishes and the cobwebs all over the place and just told him about it?

“Sometimes I scream inside my head and I don’t think that I will ever stop.”

“Sometimes I wonder how many sleeping pills to take to just finally get some rest.”

“Sometimes I cut myself just to see if I can still feel anything because pain is better than the screaming silence.”

“Sometimes I wonder if God looks at me with contempt whenever he sees me just like my father did.”

“Sometimes I feel far too dirty and used up to stand before God and if I could just do a better imitation of the corner of the room maybe he won’t notice.”

“I choke back my tears because if I let go and just start weeping I don’t think I will ever, ever stop.”

“Sometimes I’m so lonely even in the middle of a crowded room that I want to shout to the universe, “Sir! I exist!!” but I’m afraid that no one would hear me.”

“Sometimes I feel so cold inside I wonder if God ever loved me or if it were even possible.”

“I’ve been same-sex attracted my whole life and don’t know if the pain will ever stop.”

“Once I was so desperate that I got an abortion and never told a soul.”

Can you imagine saying these things to your pastor? Why not?

Pastor, if someone in your congregation said something like this to you, what would you do?

Is not this the help that people actually need?

In fact, God pleads with us to talk to him just like this. He doesn’t want us to hide away our pain and silent screams like a Dutch homemaker hides her dirty dishes and laundry. He doesn’t want us to sweep up before He is invited in.

Because he knows that we can’t sweep up. The wound is deadly and there is no cure apart from Christ. We can’t hide it away and when we try to hide it away it expands and expands until we break apart.

But if we tell Him about it – with words, with honest words, with true words – we will find that he already knows it and has just been waiting for us to admit it.

“Call upon me in the day of trouble” he says.

“Cast your cares upon him, for he cares for you”, he says.

And I know and fully understand why so many of you would never, ever tell a soul about the silent screaming. And I understand why the very, very last person you would want to know about the nightmares and loneliness would be your pastor.

We don’t have the best track record, do we? And for that, I am so, so sorry. I pray that the day will come when Jesus will make us more like him, and more worthy of the name “shepherd”.

We the pastors have given you the impression that you have to make yourself properly fit to be worthy of welcome in the kingdom of God. And every time we do that, we deny our savior, reject the cross, and teach another way of salvation: my own ability to sweep my floor and clean up my mess.

I can’t do it, which is what the gospel is about. And I pray that they day will come when God will raise up true gospel preachers and make us more like Jesus.

But until that day, please remember this. God is big enough for your tears.

God is big enough for your silent screams and desperate darkness and cold heart.

What he wants is for you to tell him about it – not swept and clean and made presentable – but with the dirt and the snot and the ugly crying and broken dishes –

But it doesn’t magically disappear, for we are all still in a world that is under the curse of death.

But the day will come when those tears will be wiped away, when our house will be cleansed – but not by us. And we won’t have to hide in the corners anymore. We will be welcomed, clean, dressed, and sitting at the head table as the guest of honor at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Won’t that be a fabulous day?

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9 things (June 11, 2022)

Marriage is a covenant, which means that it can be broken. Vows were taken. We vowed to love, cherish, cleave to, forsake all others, honor…when those vows are continually broken without repentance, divorce might be in order. The innocent party is free to make her (his) own decision without further control and abuse from outside parties.

I’ve been listening to Time for Three lately. A truly wonderful group. “Joy” makes my heart happy.

If a covenant by definition cannot be broken, then Adam would not have died and the death of Jesus would not have been necessary. The broken covenant is the tapestry on which the story of redemption is painted.

In 1 Peter 3:1, the apostle is giving practical advice to husbands and wives in the context of the spread of the gospel to Jews and Greeks alike. When you have thousands of converts a day, questions like “Do I get a divorce from my pagan husband?” abound. To apply that counsel to abusive or harsh husbands in the 21st century is like going to a chiropractor for a brain tumor. We need wisdom, people.

Life with fibromyalgia: “Oh! That one is new! I wonder if I have contracted a deadly disease or if it is just a fibro-flare?”

Those of you on Twitter who make it a practice to revile and mock women – you will someday stand before God with all of your Tweets open and you will have to explain to the Lion of Judah why you did not fear to speak about His co-heirs like you have.

If the salt has lost its saltiness, what will you salt it with? When the church sounds just like Fox News, is it distinguishable as the Bride of Christ anymore?

The sad part to me is that we as the church have forgotten how to think. We’ve become soundbites and caricatures of ourselves. Anyone who forces us to think through our positions is considered an enemy to be destroyed.

When the great commission is framed as a “culture war”, then it must be won by the weapons of the flesh by any means necessary. Disagreements cannot be tolerated. Enemies must be destroyed. Lying, harshness, reviling and slander are all necessary for the greater good. This has nothing to do with Christ.

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taking up space

Have you ever been tormented by the thought that you take up too much space? Have you ever thought that no one wants to hear from you, that your body is offensive, that your breathe too loud?

Trauma often has that effect. If you could only make yourself invisible, maybe they will stop hurting you.

So you turn your voice down; you cover up all of your body parts. You slouch down. Don’t make eye-contact. Hide in the corner. Curl up in a ball.

And you wish that you didn’t take up so much space.

In my translation, this Psalm is given the heading, “God’s Perfect Knowledge of Man.”

My heading would be “The Psalm for those who think they take up too much space”

Read it.

Psalm 139:1–24 (NKJV)

1      O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2      You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3      You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4      For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
5      You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6      Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.

7      Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8      If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9      If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10      Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11      If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12      Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

13      For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14      I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15      My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16      Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

17      How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18      If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

19      Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!
Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men.
20      For they speak against You wickedly;
Your enemies take Your name in vain.
21      Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
22      I hate them with perfect hatred;
I count them my enemies.

23      Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24      And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

Stand up straight. Look me in the eye. Speak loud enough to be heard. Because you matter. Your space matters, because God made it.

In fact, we find out that after the Holy Spirit is poured out, your space is sacred space. Your body is the Holy of Holies of the Lord God who dwells in you. Jesus ascended into heaven and poured out his spirit on his sons and daughters, his old men and maidens. All of his people. Even you.

You matter. You can speak. Never apologize for taking up space. God loves you and the space you inhabit and he dwells there with you.

Read the Psalm again. And then again. Hide it in your heart.

Those who hate your space hate the God who made that space and placed you in it to be his Holy Temple. Now read verse 22 again. Take your space.

1 Corinthians 3:16–17 (NASB 2020)
16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys the temple of God, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

Take your space. Don’t hear those who seek to destroy. They are warring against you.

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with a heavy heart

My heart is heavy today. I feel so helpless.

Wickedness is everywhere. Those with power use that power to ridicule, abuse and silence the sheep. And they get away with it over and over again.

The most unspeakable atrocities are inflicted on the weak in our very churches by the very people who are supposed to encourage, strengthen and lift up.

And when ones speaks out, they are ridiculed, cut off, outcast.

The wealthy and powerful ministers, leaders, husbands and pastors use that power to feed themselves and trample the sheep. They crush the spirit of their wives and children and believe that they do God service.

And the sheep are forced to silence out of fear. If the powerful wicked inflict such terror when they are at ease and dwelling safely, what will they do when their power is threatened by the truth.

It is terrifying, and my heart is heavy. And it is very, very personal.

And everyone says, “It isn’t that bad. People are basically good.”

No, they aren’t. Their only thoughts are only evil continually, unless the Lord intervene.

“Good people with guns protect the weak.” No, they don’t.

“Strong patriarchs protect wives and daughters.” Please. When did they do that? I must have missed it. Never have they ever, ever. Read your bibles again about the “strong patriarchs.” Which ones protected their wives and daughters again?

“The church needs more manly men” – please. I’ve seen what that kind does. I’ll pass.

The quokka throws its babies at predators in order to protect themselves. The powerful ones do the same thing with their sheep, their wives, their children. Sacrifice the weak. The ministry must be upheld!

My heart is very heavy, as I’ve said.

Some days, the imprecatory Psalms resonate deeply.

This one, in particular, is a great comfort to my soul.

Psalm 12:1–8 (NIV)

      1 Help, LORD, for no one is faithful anymore;
          those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
       2 Everyone lies to their neighbor;
          they flatter with their lips
          but harbor deception in their hearts.

      3 May the LORD silence all flattering lips
          and every boastful tongue—
       4 those who say,
          “By our tongues we will prevail;
          our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

      5 “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
          I will now arise,” says the LORD.
          “I will protect them from those who malign them.”
       6 And the words of the LORD are flawless,
          like silver purified in a crucible,
          like gold refined seven times.

      7 You, LORD, will keep the needy safe
          and will protect us forever from the wicked,
       8 who freely strut about
          when what is vile is honored by the human race.

Nothing destroys the heart faster than a “man of God” who uses the name of Christ to plunder the poor and delight in their groaning.

Nothing destroys the church faster than wicked tongues that speak blessing on Sunday morning and destroy and curse behind closed doors.

But the Lord sees. He knows. He WILL protect us from the wicked, whoever they are.

Whatever “ministries” they have built. Whatever flatteries they receive. Whatever “successes” they have had. God sees. He judges. He knows the heart.

When a heart is heavy, it can rest here.

Please, dear Lord, spare us from the manly men. Deliver us from the wolves who dress and act like sheep. Deliver us from the wolves who don’t bother with the ovine clothing, but devour anyway without the mask because the world doesn’t care and the shepherds are cowards. Please deliver us from the celebrity evangelists who bite and devour. Deliver us from evil men with evil motives and black hearts.

Give us instead men and women who look and act like Jesus.

Philippians 2:5–11 (NKJV)

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

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9 things (May 23)

1. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.” And yet, so many organizations that go by the name “church” continually ignore, cover up, and deny the fruits, embracing the wolf. I think it is time to name these organizations for what they are. If “the least of these” are not safe inside your walls, you are not a church, no matter how your PR firm spins it.

2. When one is cast out of a wolf-embracing organization, or has fled for their own safety, they have not left the church. They simply saw the fruits and realized that what they were in was not a church.

3. The SBC hasn’t been a church for a long, long time. Ever, really. An organization founded for the purpose of keeping slaves under control might say some good things from time to time, but so does the devil. You can’t tell a church by what is plastered on their website or printed in their bulletins. You will know them by their fruits.

4. I pray that the people of God who are still in bondage in the SBC will be able to flee and find safety.

5. I also pray that we all would see the warning signs before the candlestick is removed. If our “ministry” is more concerned about culture than the gospel; if our “ministry” is more concerned about keeping women in their place; if our “ministry” is based on money, power, numbers, and privilege; NOW is the time to repent and return to our former love.

6. Is anyone else extremely disturbed that so-called Christian leaders are denouncing winsomeness and kindness because of the “hostility” of the culture?? There are so many problems with this I don’t even know what to say. The outright exchange of the ethics taught by Jesus (and all of scripture) for the ethics of Fox News should shake us to the core. But it does expose the god that so many serve.

7. Placing one’s trust in strength or riches will always lead to oppression and robbery (Psalm 62). You will know them by their fruits. If there is oppression or robbery, there is no Biblical faith.

8. We are all sinners. If a church is doing its job, we will be made uncomfortable by our sins and urged to find cleansing and healing in Christ. But if your person, your dignity, your body, your worth and your voice are not safeguarded and protected, then you are not in a church.

9. Everyone is continually being catechized. It is the nature of being human. If you are being catechized by porn, you will not have a healthy view of relationships and sexuality. If you are being catechized by the media (whether right or left wing) you will make decisions based on fear. If you are being catechized by right wing nationalism, you will not understand Christianity and will find yourself worshiping another god. We become like the idols we serve (Psalm 115).

Read the Psalms.

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9 things (May 13)

Lots of celebrity pastors express concern (condemnation) for so many ex-evangelicals who are “deconstructing.” Pause. New subject. Josh Duggar’s pastor, a leading evangelical voice for a leading evangelical family, is begging the judge to allow Josh to return to his children. Let that sink in a little. There might be a connection.

For 40 years now, since the “moral majority” became a thing, the leading voices in evangelicalism have united for “traditional family values”. The result is that Anna Duggar does not believe that she has biblical grounds for divorce and that her children need a father like Josh. This makes me brutally sad. Perhaps Christians should unite over good exegesis, mercy for the oppressed, and being a voice for the voiceless.

Every time I think about writing something, I wonder if there is even a point. Then I remember that the battle isn’t against flesh and blood, but against demonic spirits in high places. So I breathe. Look to Christ. And say what has to be said, even if no one listens.

The most influential religion in America is no longer “moral therapeutic deism”, in my opinion. It has given way to Trumpism and “Christian” nationalism. These are the ugly stepchildren of Dominionism, the moral majority, and revivalism. This false religion, incidentally, grows from the same soil that bred Josh Duggar, just as the Bible said it would. But it has nothing to do with Christianity.

To Anna Duggar: You can do better.

The Bible says that we are “complete in Christ” (Col. 2:10). If this is the inerrant word of God, then it is true. If it is true, then your salvation does not depend upon your emotions, your mood, your works, your doubts, your fears, your anxieties, your questions. Flee to Christ. In Him, you have everything that you need for life and salvation.

Really. Everything. Please turn off the celebrity preachers telling you otherwise (Yes, I’m looking at John Piper). You have everything. This is the root of all joy, all love, all peace – and when you have love and joy and peace, everything else follows from there. In other words, you have life from Christ, for he paid it all.

We should normalize marking ourselves safe from celebrity preachers. There is money to be made and power to be wielded by convincing people that Christ is not enough. When Jesus is known, the religious experts of every age lose their power. This is the heart of persecution.

Go and listen to the preachers that say, “He must increase. I must decrease”. There are a few of them out there. They generally have tiny churches and wear clothes from Target and Penney’s, but they are at peace. They would also love to show you how to have peace with God.

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9 things (May 6)

1. Does anyone remember Beetle Bailey (the comic strip). I’m thinking specifically about the drawing of Beetle after Sarge gets done with him, crumpled into a heap on the floor. Anyway, some days that is exactly what fibromyalgia feels like. Today, for example.

2. When I was younger, memorization was never a problem. When I was about 8, I was playing a piece by Beethoven for a recital and I had the music out and ready. I was so nervous I forgot to take the music off the top of the piano, but I didn’t realize it until I was finished. Memory was so easy for me that my sight reading ability suffered tremendously. But now I’m old. Memory is harder now.

3. But I’m still doing it! I started plowing my way through Mendelssohn’s “Songs without Words” and loving every minute of it. It just takes me longer than it used to. The puzzles of great music are endlessly fascinating and bring peace and calm.

4. I wonder if we are thinking about holiness all wrong. We always think of it as basically synonymous with righteousness. But what if holiness is more related to being clean, clothed, beautiful, accepted, and welcomed in God’s presence? What if the Song of Songs was a book about holiness and its beauty? Of course, that involves righteousness, but it is so much grander, isn’t it?

5. The question I dread whenever I leave the house is this one: “So, what are you up to today? Any plans for the weekend?” When did they start doing this? Why should I tell a stranger my plans? Are they just a government or church spy making sure I’m complying with acceptable social mores? When did they add all of this pressure to every shopping trip?

6. Here’s a fact of dubious interest. If there is a movie that is considered “iconic” or “culture defining”, chances are quite high that I haven’t seen it.

7. Yesterday, the couple behind me at the line at the grocery store were looking at the gigantic display of M&M candies. I overheard the woman say, “No. No. I don’t do outside the box with M&Ms.” I felt that deeply. The same with potato chips, oreos, and Ice Cream. OK. Food. All food. Why does everything have to be extreme?

8. Related to number 7, the best coffee is the one that can be ordered with the fewest syllables. “I’ll have a coffee, please.” Few things were more satisfying than sitting at a Denny’s in the 90s with coffee and a cigarette.

9. One can be concerned about the consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade and believe that abortion is murder at the same time. Perhaps we should talk to each other instead of hurling anathemas.

That’s all for today. Carry on. Let this moment pass and don’t let worry cloud your hearts and minds.

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Pro-life

Today I saw this:

“The reason people want abortion is because they do not want to submit to God’s moral commands.”

I need to speak about this, for I find it shameful and not Christian at all.

But first, I need to repeat something over and over and over and over.

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

That being said, lets talk about shame.

Millions of people in this country believe that outlawing abortion will be a blow for women’s rights. I’ve heard those arguments my whole life. I used to brush them off as the arguments of stupid, immoral people who just wanted to do what they wanted to do.

And then I met people. Life is rarely as black and white as we wish it to be. We would love to have our own agency removed and just have someone older and wiser telling us what to do.

But we aren’t in a musical, are we? (So now I need to repeat something:

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.)

Lets move on.

We might argue with our opponents for being wrong on this issue, but it isn’t because they are stupid. We might actually learn something about human nature and something about God if we will stop shouting and actually listen to people.

Why do so many connect abortion rights with women’s dignity? (and yes, I believe they are on the WRONG track – but it isn’t because they are stupid.)

We could ask the question “Why is abortion a thing? What makes a woman so desperate that she will take the life of her own baby?”

And when we seek to honestly answer that question, we may be on the right track to actually be able to put a stop to abortions no matter what the legislatures and courts decide. But waiting for others to pass a law is the easy way out, isn’t it?

We believers don’t actually derive our power from Supreme Courts or any law-makers. We have tremendous power, but it isn’t like any other power in the world. We have the power to be salt and light, if only we had the courage to be. Our power is in taking the lowest place, not learning how to enforce laws.

Why is abortion a thing? NOT because of Roe v. Wade. It was a thing before then, and millions of Americans supported abortion rights – and NOT because they were stupid or any more rebellious than anyone else. They had all sorts of reasons, but I think the real reason is the reality of shame.

It has to do with shame.

I know that this is hard, but try to imagine yourself as a young woman growing up in a typical conservative Christian family.

You were being prepared to submit to your husband. You were being prepared to be a chaste virgin to serve at the feet of the husband God would have for you.

You were NOT encouraged to use any gifts that God gave you, unless they fit into submission to your husband. You were not encouraged to go to school. You were told to keep your body covered at all times or grown men would lust after you, because that is how they were made.

(For documentation on all of this, one only needs to look at Bill Gothard’s manual after manual after manual of “training material.”)

If your uncle leered at you or groped you, you were told that “that is just how men are. We learn to deal with it.”

If you were assaulted, you were asked what you were wearing, what you did to lead him on. Perhaps you were even publicly shamed in front of the church for being a harlot, a crushed rose that no one would want.

In other words, you were created in the image of God with gifts and honor and dignity, but you were repeatedly shamed, dishonored, unheard, and shunned.

“Run along dear. This is men’s work.”

“Not today, honey. Let the men do their work.”

“You get your period because God cursed women after the fall.”

“You don’t need a job, let the men-folk take care of you.”

“You don’t need to buy a house. You don’t need a credit line. You don’t need a bank account.”

And, yes, every one of these things was a “thing” in my lifetime. In most states, a woman couldn’t get a bank account, a credit line, a house, a car, without a man’s signature.

All of what she saw and was taught in church contradicted what she knew in her heart. That she was an image-bearer of God, with dignity and worth and deserving of honor and respect.

And when there is a conflict between how we were created and how we are now, the gap is called “shame”. A longing for Eden. A longing to again belong and use gifts and be honored as a woman.

Because an animal wasn’t suitable to be a fitting helper for Adam, God created a woman – to fit him as in front of his face. To stand upright, look him in the eye, work alongside him, have dominion alongside him, and cultivate the earth along side him.

But you were sidelined by your church and trained for a life of servitude, to be kept barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen.

“Now run along, dear, and fetch my drink.”

Shame is intolerable. It is like water, in that it won’t stay where it is put but it will always burst forth one way or another.

So a boy comes along. He is handsome. He looks at you and treats you like an equal. He makes you feel valued, like you have never felt before. He makes you feel safe and makes you feel like it is OK for you to take up space. He makes you feel like a person, which you have never felt before. And one thing leads to another, and now you find that you are pregnant. Maybe he was sincere. Maybe he was a rake. The effect was the same.

Because you are a sinner; and because you have never been taught how to address your shame. You have only been told how to behave. You didn’t have any of the tools to protect yourself, because you were never taught wisdom. You were only taught shame. (See Proverbs 2-3)

Now what do you do?

Tell your father?

Tell your pastor?

You remember when they made your friend stand up before the whole church and “confess” the sin of fornication.

You remember how your other friend was raped by a deacon and forced to confront him and forgive him but instead she left town and never came back.

Do you remember how the church took up a collection and got a lawyer for the pastor who had been beating his wife and children?

How they shamed the 14 year old for wearing a tank-top, but looked the other way when the deacon’s computer was full of child porn?

You remember how your father told you that if you ever got into trouble he would disown you and have nothing more to do with you.

You remember how they talked about women who were “loose”.

So what do you do?

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

The reason that Roe v Wade was the wrong decision was that it did nothing to take away shame.

The reason that I am so afraid of it being overturned is that it will do nothing to take away shame. It will only increase the power of the bullies, the hateful, the rapists and pornographers – especially the ones in positions of power in the church. I fear this to be true because I see the character of those who were elected because of the fear of abortion. Thugs, charlatans, conmen, and thieves.

I hear how everyone talks over on Twitter and fear for the future. What are we going to do?

Stand them up in front of the church again?

Call them the stinky rose that no one wants?

Make sure that they are outcasts, constantly reminded that they aren’t really as clean as the others? Make sure that everyone knows that they are “fallen”?

I heard years ago about a young man who was sexually assaulted as a child. The young women were warned away from him. “He will always be broken” they were told.

So now, back in the mind of the young woman. Suppose the “fornication” wasn’t consensual. Suppose it was your youth pastor. Suppose it was a frat boy in an alley.

What will you do?

Report it? Remember what happened when your friend was raped and she was kicked out of school her senior year for violating her purity oath?

Remember how you had to sign a non-disclosure oath and never talk about it?

Remember when your mother and your father didn’t even believe you?

And suppose you got pregnant from that rape.

Do you report it to the police, knowing that the rapist will get custody of the child?

Do you put his name on the birth certificate and be forced to deal with him your whole life?

Did you know that most states allow a rapist to sue for custody?

I assure you that every single scenario here is true. It happens over and over and over. It has been well-documented with more evidence and more unimpeachable testimony than any court would require in any other situation. It has been documented again and again by all of those who have been or are currently being run out of the establishments for being “feminists. Liberals. Socialists.” Only because they dared to speak the truth.

But we don’t want to “ruin a man’s life” over “20 minutes of action, do we?”

We don’t have a problem with ruining HER life, after all, if she weren’t a sinner, she wouldn’t be in trouble now, would she?

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

But it goes a lot deeper than the “single issue voters” want it to be. Knowing that something is morally reprehensible, and knowing how to stop it are two different things. Is our calling as the church to enforce law? Or is it to proclaim the gospel? We keep getting sidetracked.

The law was given by God himself from Mt. Sinai and enforced with thunder and lighting and fire. The ground opened up at one point and dragged whole families down to hell. The threats and the curses were real.

But that wasn’t the gospel. And that never dealt with the problem of shame. The law on stone could beat someone to death, but it couldn’t bring life. It still can’t. All it can do is increase shame, which increases guilt, which increases sin.

So, if you recognize yourself in this scenario, let me give you the gospel.

Your shame is real, and I am so, so sorry for all of those who sought to control you by heaping more shame on you. Jesus didn’t come to heap shame.

He was stripped naked on the cross in front of the world and hung there to die. He took all of our shame upon himself, so that he might unite himself to you.

And he did this because he wanted YOU. He wants to embrace you and give you life. He wants to wash away all of your sin and misery, and wants to restore you to how He created you to be. With dignity, with honor, with beauty.

And because of his work, you ARE beautiful. If you have gotten pregnant, you are still beautiful and your baby is beautiful. You aren’t ruined, you aren’t second best, you aren’t spoiled. You are His daughter, and he is making you beautiful, without spot and without blemish. You are welcomed at His table and if the organization that calls itself a church doesn’t welcome you to theirs, then they don’t know Him. Flee from there into the arms of the One who loves you and gave himself for you.

For everyone else, who are you to judge another man’s servant? It is so much deeper than “they just don’t want to submit”. We have more work to do that goes deeper than picket lines, protest lines, and single issue voting.

Maybe if you think about this a little bit, you will see what Jesus meant when he said to the woman caught in the act, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.”

I am pro-life, and believe that abortion is morally wrong. I believe that Roe v. Wade was the wrong decision.

And that is true. But it isn’t the gospel. The gospel is something far, far more powerful. The gospel goes to the heart and causes men and women to bend the knee, not because they are afraid, but that they have been overwhelmed by the power of love.

That’s a different thing.

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How to be thankful

How does one be “thankful”. Why does God tell us to be thankful?

What happens if we aren’t thankful enough. Does God punish us?

Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Ps. 106:1)

I think the problem is that our default position is to think of “thanksgiving” somewhat like a kid being forced to write notes to a distant aunt.

“Dear auntie. Thank you for the bunny pajamas. They are cool. Love Sam.”

But this is not what the Bible means by thanksgiving.

Look at it instead this way – in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve everything they could possibly imagine or want. They were rich beyond compare. And they fell for Satan’s lie: “There is one thing God didn’t give you. He is stingy and mean. He won’t take care of you. He isn’t good.”

This is the default position of the human race now: “God isn’t good. He hasn’t done enough. He is a stingy taskmaster demanding sacrifices from us and if we are good enough we might be able to wring a blessing from his tight-fisted hand.”

I might suggest that this is even the way that we view thanksgiving – as if it is a service that you have to render to a harsh god to avoid punishment.

God doesn’t need our thank-you cards and our rote prayers.

Instead, he came to do away with the curse and draw us into fellowship – Jesus is the groom and we are the bride; he has given us everything we can possibly imagine and treasures that we can’t even fathom wait for us in heaven.

But greater than all of it is that the day will come when we will see him face to face and we will have no more sin and shame and alienation and we will be open and intimate and face to face with God Himself.

Thanksgiving is living with that reality in front of our eyes. It isn’t a job we do. It is a life we live – poorly, most of the time. But that doesn’t change God’s goodness or his love for us.

Imagine a long engagement:

5 “I arose to open to my beloved; And my hands dripped with myrrh, And my fingers with liquid myrrh, On the handles of the bolt.
  6 “I opened to my beloved, But my beloved had turned away and had gone! My heart went out to him as he spoke. I searched for him, but I did not find him; I called him, but he did not answer me.
  (Cant. 5:5-6)

He is gone, and you can’t find him! How your soul longs for his touch and your mouth longs for his kisses! But he is gone.

“Gone away from me. Gone away from me. Life is long, my love is gone away from me” (Ray Lamontagne)

And then he returns. He takes you up in his arms and embraces you. You shout and sing for joy. Your soul is so full it is bursting!

Do you want to know what thanksgiving is? Read the Song of Songs. It is falling into the embrace of the One who loves you and gave himself for you.

So it isn’t like writing an obligatory thank you card to a rather clueless aunt. It is a joyful embrace of love!

This changes everything, doesn’t it?

Today, we are the separated lovers longing for the fulfillment of everything, longing for the marriage supper.

This is what we sigh for and wait for. Thanksgiving is living life waiting for the embrace of your groom, your lover, your friend.

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