Ministering to the Gay Community

This article was published in 1998 at TRC (The Relevant Christian Magazine). That was before I started writing for TRC, so I read it for the first time yesterday when the publisher shared it on Facebook. Please read this with an open mind and heart, and feel free to reblog and share it. As followers of Jesus Christ we must ask ourselves, Did Jesus come for all humanity or just for those we believe are worth saving? If the church is to be the Church that Christ called it to be, it will need to learn many of the same lessons that God has taught families impacted by homosexuality. In 1998 when I heard the words “Mom, I Am Gay” come out of my son’s mouth they were anything but welcome. I desperately wanted to rewind the tape and put them back. I reasoned that if the words could go back our lives would not have to change forever. I asked God a thousand questions, like: How can this happen? How can you sentence my son to death, if he didn’t choose these attractions? Who in the church can help me sort this all out? Where can I go for help? Who will understand what I am going through? After the barrage of questions without answers flooded my mind, the protective maternal side kicked in accompanied by an assortment of what-ifs. Perhaps someone would try to physically hurt my son (a not so gay friendly society in 1998). Maybe my parents and/or his father would reject him if they found out. Would people begin to see my son through the lens of his attractions instead of who God made him to be? I didn’t want any of the what-ifs to play out, but I feared they would. Deeply embedded in the Christian community, I watched and waited for responses from Christians when the topic of homosexuality came up. The subject took on a different and more personal meaning than it had in the past. What I witnessed were the crude jokes being made about homosexuals and words that dripped with judgement and disdain. I secretly thanked God for helping me stay silent about my son’s homosexuality. I could clearly see that the Church was not a safe community when it came to this issue. The ache of my heart would not be comforted there. After five long years of hiding, God brought my secret out of the dark. I discovered that I could never be free by concealing my pain. God wanted to fully heal me and that can only be done out in the open when exposed to His light. Satan had hoped to keep my pain hidden and unhealed. Read the rest here. BlogSL2-smallest

I Will Glorify Your Name Forevermore

Ps86-12-PrayingHands-40--AMP

The Lord’s Compassion

Psalm 86:11-17

Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.

For great is Your mercy toward me,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, the proud have risen against me,
And a mob of violent men have sought my life,
And have not set You before them.

But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious,
Long-suffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

Oh, turn to me, and have mercy on me!
Give Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your maidservant.

Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Devotional

Sometimes it is difficult to get our hearts around the truth that no matter what our circumstances may be, God is worthy of our praise. No matter what we may be going through, whether good or bad, prospering or experiencing adversity, there is great comfort in knowing that God is the same, unchanging and ever present. He is a loving, kind, helpful, giving, and forgiving God. He uses everything that comes into our lives to shape us to look, sound, and act more like Jesus. He truly works all things for our good and His glory. That is called compassion.

Compassion is recognizing the suffering of others and then taking action to help. Because God is sovereign, He knows all things. He knows of our storms and victories, our hurts and fears, and He searches our hearts and knows exactly where we are in our faith journey. He is willing to help us in and through our times of suffering. However, for us to fully comprehend His great compassion, there are some things we must remember.

We must be teachable (v. 11). There is something to be learned through every trial we face. God wants us to look to Him, listen to Him, and live in such a way that honors Him.

We must praise Him for His compassion (v. 13). We recognize where He has brought us from and what He is doing in our lives. This results in worship.

We must share our hearts with Him (vv. 14,17). We are to be transparent, because He loves us and cares about what we are experiencing.

We must depend on Him (vv. 15-16) and ask God to see us through our trials. When we confess our trust in and dependence on Him for help and comfort, He provides us with the strength we need.

—Dr. Lee Sheppard, Mabel White Baptist Church, Macon GA

© Copyright 2013. God’s Wisdom for Today: My Daily Scripture Devotional , by Thomas Nelson

BlogSL2-smallest

Praying Palms Down

Ps4-1-HandsOpen-40--AMP

Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
—Psalm 4:1

Today I’d like to talk about prayer—specific prayer, that is. The kind of prayer about painful or stressful situations that brings us to our knees. We pray and we pray, and then we pray even more … waiting for an answer from God.

As we pray, we often lift up our hands up in a symbolic gesture as we give our problem to the Lord. I know what I’m talking about because I used to do this very thing.

One day, however, I had a realization that has completely changed my prayer life. It occurred to me that when I pray with my palms facing up—toward the ceiling (or sky)—I can quickly and easily close my fingers into a fist and mentally and emotionally take back that situation or trouble.

I have a tendency to do that, you know, take back something I’ve been praying about and have supposedly handed over to the Lord, just because I might be able to somehow take care of it myself.

Does this sound anything like you?

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.  —Psalm 17:6

Ps17-6-PalmsDown-50--AMP

Since I am a very visual person, I thought about praying for specific things palms down, with hands facing the floor so that I could drop my prayer request at Jesus’ feet. To me, giving up that situation palms down tells me that once I’ve let go of it that way, it’s gone. There’s no chance for me to pull it back.

I’m not saying that everything I pray for in this way gets answered exactly as I would like, but what it does is enable me to allow God to do His work—not only in the particular situation for which I prayed but also on and through me. Sometimes I get in God’s way too much and don’t give Him enough room.

When I pray in this manner, I feel a real peace come over me. The kind of peace that lets me know that I don’t have to worry about the problem, because:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?
—Luke 12:25

and

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
—Philippians 4:6

Beloved, this is my prayer for all of us: that we will always remember to pray palms down.

BlogSL2-smallest

Raining Blessings

This is another devotional from Streams in the DesertIt made my eyes leak. 

Gen41-52-Daffodils

God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.
—Genesis 41:52

A poet stands by the window watching a summer shower. It is a fierce downpour, beating and pounding the earth. But the poet, in his mind’s eye, sees more than a rain shower falling. He sees a myriad of lovely flowers raining down, soon breaking forth from the freshly watered earth, and filling it with their matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:

It isn’t raining again to me —it’s raining daffodils;
In every dripping drop I see wildflowers upon the hills.
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town;
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining roses down.

Perhaps you are undergoing some trial as God’s child, and you are saying to Him, “O God, it is raining very hard on me tonight, and this test seems beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are pouring in, washing away and utterly defeating my chosen plans. My trembling heart is grieved and is cowering at the intensity of my suffering. Surely the rains of affliction are beating down upon my soul.”

Dear friend, you are completely mistaken. God is not raining rain on you—He is raining blessings. If you will only believe your Father’s Word, you will realize that springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers. And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your stormless and suffering-free life.

You can see the rain, but can you also see the flowers? You are suffering through these tests, but know that God sees sweet flowers of faith springing up in your life beneath these very trials. You try to escape the pain, yet God sees tender compassion for other sufferers finding birth in your soul. Your heart winces at the pain of heavy grief, but God sees the sorrow deepening and enriching your life.

No, my friend, it is not raining afflictions on you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Holy Spirit. And they are bringing to your life spiritual enrichment that all the prosperity and ease of this world could ever produce in your innermost being.  —J.M.M

Songs across the Storm

A harp stood in the calm, still air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;

A traveler bowed with loads of care
Struggled from morning till the dusk of evening glooms
To strum sweet sounds from the songless strings;

The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord,
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes;

And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform,
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes

While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm.

BlogSL2-smallest

Godliness + Contentment

1Tim6-6-25--AMP

Godliness + Contentment

By Patricia Knight

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

We could list the aspects of our lives that have changed due to the invasion of adversity, but that exercise would not change our circumstances. Instead of stressing the negative, why not accentuate the positive? List the gains rather than the losses. Reflect on the people you’ve met, the introspection you’ve gained, the spiritual strength and dependency that has grown, the patience learned, and the ability to mature in your faith.

If we are able to combine our faith with personal well-being, then improvement or enrichment will result. We have learned the secret for peace of mind. Following God, no matter what occurs in our lives, believing that whatever He chooses is best for us, and telling others about God’s goodness and grace, will all contribute toward our personal and spiritual riches.

1Thes5-18-HandSilhouetteSunset-35--AMPAs difficult as it may seem, we can develop a greater dependency upon our Lord even during afflictions. Therefore, we can go forward to accomplish whatever God asks us to do for Him, not in spite of pain, but because of it. We are commanded to “give thanks in all circumstances”(1 Thessalonians 5:18). The thankfulness we express is not an appreciation for leading a restricted, hurtful life, but rather it is a means of recognizing and showing gratitude for God’s sovereign leadership in our lives. Whatever He plans for us is perfect in its design and timing. 

Learning patience and perseverance produces a stronger faith. We learn those attributes by practicing them. Our hardship gives us reason to develop positive and useful emotional tools—those with which we can reach out to others in their time of need.  Christian maturity will follow.

When God has something to teach us, He may set us aside in order to instruct us in life’s lessons. The experience we gain will be invaluable in serving a loving, faithful God and others.

“Godliness + contentment = great gain”
is a method of expressing the verse as a formula for life.
It defines a spiritual goal for us—
one that God honors.

BlogSL2-smallest

The Role of Digital and Social Media in Evangelism

First published at Cataclysm Missions International (CMI) on June 16, 2015  

By Anna Popescu

Please visit CMI to see how you can become part of a team
to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world!

The Role of Digital and Social Media in Evangelism

Sow-Reap-Disciple

From November 19-21, 2013, Clyde Tabor was part of the Lausanne Global Consultation on the Gospel and Media. During this time, they were challenged to think about social media and the way the different media outlets could be used as evangelism.

From our time together, it was very clear that digital and social media have an increasingly important role to play in evangelism. That role varies across three continuous stages: SOW, REAP, DISCIPLE. At any given moment, there are hundreds of millions of people globally at each state with respect to their Christian faith—from a lack of interest in Christianity to a mature believer growing deeper in their faith.

  1. SOW– In this stage (that might be also referred to as pre-evangelism), individuals are not actively seeking Jesus. At this stage, digital and social media have a role to play in influencing the perception of Christianity and creating an environment that fosters openness and curiosity to engage.
  2. REAP– For our purposes, the REAP stage extends from when an individual reaches a place where they are beginning to seek answers, through to a decision to follow Christ. Digital and social media provide a unique and safe environment for people to struggle and question, often more in more vulnerable ways because of the perceived anonymity and safety of technology. 
  3. DISCIPLE– After an individual becomes a believer, the lifelong journey truly begins. Digital and social media have a role to play in connecting the individual to a local church, in providing resources and connections to deepen in the faith, and can provide encouragement and tools to share Christ with others, thus completing a circle, looping back to SOW.

Read the rest here to see how you can be a part of global cybermissions.

BlogSL2-smallest

God’s Presence in Pain

PainsAbsence-PainsPotency

Scripture reminds us that God’s presence does not equal
pain’s absence.
However, because of God’s presence,
pain’s potency
is limited.
Difficult times may certainly lead to dark days,
but dark days need not mean defeat.
Ask God to give you strength to call on Him,
even in the darkest moments of life.

Begin this day crying out to the Lord.
Wait expectantly for His answer and trust His presence.
—Paul Purvis, 
First Baptist Church Temple Terrace
Temple Terrace, FL

BlogSL2-smallest

Seven Compelling Evidences Confirm the Bible is True

Seven Compelling Evidences Confirm the Bible is True

by Mike Matthews

Originally published as “Seven Compelling Evidences—That the Bible Is True,”
in Answers, April–June 2011

With all the knowledge and resources readily available today, God’s children have no excuse for not being prepared to “Give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

First and foremost, we can know what the Bible says about itself (“internal evidences”), and then we can learn the most compelling corroborating evidences that confirm its claims (“external evidences”).

1. God’s Character

2. Claims of Divine Authorship

3. Unity of the Bible

4. Fulfilled Prophecy

5. Scientific Accuracy

6. Archaeological Finds

7. Life-Changing Power

Read the rest here.

BlogSL2-smallest

Being Thankful for What We Do NOT Have

1Thes-5-16-18-MetalFenceFlowers-50--AMP

Rejoice always;
praying without ceasing;
in everything give thanks;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.
—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of thankfulness. Often when I thank God for all the blessings in my life, I have also thanked Him for what He has not given me or allowed in my life. Have you ever prayed like this?

Okaaay, I can hear most of you saying. The rest are thinking, wait … what? are you serious?

Yes, I am very serious. I thank God for things I don’t have, that He has not allowed in my life. I’m not just talking about more serious illnesses than those I live with every day or cataclysmic events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. I’m referring to things like more money, maybe more (and more stylish) clothes or a bigger house. How about straight hair instead of the naturally curly mop I was born with? Or writing talent so spectacular that publishers come after me instead of the other way around?

It seems to me that the more we want, well… the more we want, like some vicious cycle. Contentment with what we have now is admittedly difficult because human nature always yearns for more. And yet, I’m wondering if allowing ourselves to feel this kind of contentment will result in that inner peace that is so illusive.

And isn’t that something to be utterly thankful for?

Jude1-2-PeaceMercyLove-50

Peace, mercy and love be yours in abundance. —Jude 1:2

Peace. Mercy. Love. These are what can be ours in abundance. And from personal experience, reminding myself that I have these things usually leads to my feeling happy and contented with what I have in the here and now.

Beloved, how about you? Have you learned to be thankful for certain things you do not have?

BlogSL2-smallest

7 Thoughts for More Effective Prayer

 This is a wonderful blog post about prayer by Ron Edmondson.

7 Thoughts for
More Effective Prayer
from a Stressed Out Leader
Named Hezekiah

By Ron Edmondson – March 21, 2015

Hezekiah ruled over Judah and was a good and faithful king.

Hezekiah often became the target of warring nations. The king of Assyria, which was a much more powerful nation, made plans to overthrow Hezekiah’s kingdom. Throughout the stressful time in leadership, Hezekiah consistently used the same battle plan.

He went before the Lord in prayer – and – he followed the Lord’s commands.

Hezekiah relied on prayer to rule his life. This king knew how to pray and he prayed in a way that got results.

At one point, the Assyrian king launched a huge smear campaign against Hezekiah with his own people. It scared Hezekiah’s people.

Hezekiah heard about the threat and went before the Lord. God assured Hezekiah everything would be okay, but the Assyrians wouldn’t let up their verbal assaults. They kept taunting the kingdom of Hezekiah, throwing threats towards Hezekiah. Finally, they sent a letter by messenger to Hezekiah, which basically said, “The Assyrians are tough and they are coming for you next.”

It was a credible, realistic threat. In a practical sense, Hezekiah had reason to be afraid.

What do you do when you are backed into a corner as a leader and you’re about to face something bigger than your ability to handle?

Read the rest here.

BlogSL2-smallest