Let It Shine, Let It Shine, Let It Shine!

IMG_0150During the Christmas season, I absolutely love to look at my lighted Christmas tree from a spiritual perspective, especially during my morning devotional time. In my thinking, each light represents believers and the dark background of the tree represents our spiritually dark world (and those of the world). Each light sheds light in one small area of the tree, dispelling darkness. Sometimes a light is out and cannot dispel darkness in its area of influence. Then it’s time to investigate to see if it is burnt out or there is just a lose connection that can be easily fixed?

As I look at my tree and ponder these things, I remember that Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). And Jesus also said of His followers, “You are the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14a). Both statements are true. If we are true followers of Jesus Christ, our lives will shine with “the Light of life”.

While we ourselves are not the light, we are holders of the light. Reflecting Him to the world is the believer’s God-given duty, so it’s imperative that we keep our light shining. Let’s not put our light under a basket (Matt 5:15-16) as a result of neglecting our relationship with God or allowing some wrong-doing (sin) in our lives to dim our light or block it out all together. We are to keep it on the lamp-stand so it gives light to those in our area of influence.

We live in a spiritually dark world. Paul describes the condition of mankind without Christ this way: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21). The state of unbelievers is the same as it has always been. Darkness plagues those without Christ because they live with a sense of frustration and futility as they attempt to please fleshly appetites that are never satisfied. When the Light of life shines in an area of influence, people see themselves as they really are: sinners in need of a Savior. When His hope penetrates the heart, darkness is chased away. Receiving Him as Savior means that sins are forgiven and the death sentence (separation from God for all eternity) is lifted. The Light of life does another very important thing in the life of a true believer. It illuminates the right path for our life so that we need not give in to temptation, including same-sex attraction temptations. By faith, the true believer chooses to walk in the light, obeying God’s commandments and seeking to live by His principles (Eph. 5:8-10), no longer walking in darkness. If a “so-called believer” still walks in darkness, living a lifestyle of sin, such as one Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 6:9-10; it’s important for us to shine our light on our interactions with them, proving to them that they are still walking in darkness.   We allow Christ to shine forth when we speak about biblical truth but also when we model His ways. Some who have the Light of life shine on their life of darkness will see Jesus and want Him for themselves and thus find real hope (Rom. 15:13)!  We never know who that will be.

In closing, may each of us take time to consider this: Is my light shining bright for Jesus? Not just during the holiday season, but all year, may His light shine in us and through us. Don’t be negligent in protecting your relationship with Christ (through lack of prayer and reading His Word). And, don’t allow sin to take root in your life. Both of these actions, brothers and sisters, will dim your light or put it out all together. It’s a great honor to reflect Jesus to the world. Someone in your sphere of influence needs your “light” to guide him or her toward the true Light of the world. This is God’s will for you. So let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

For God, who said, “light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6.

 

The Goal of Change

The issue of “change” is as complex as every other question concerning homosexuality.  Many say that one cannot “change” their sexuality (sexual attractions); so therefore, “change” is pointless to consider.  And furthermore, they say, it is harmful to try and change their sexuality.  There are others who insist that presenting the idea of “change” to a gay or lesbian suggests that one is trying to push heterosexuality and therefore, suggesting that heterosexuality is superior to homosexuality.  The third camp, on the other side of this argument, says that since some have changed, anyone and everyone can “change”.  Are you in one of these three camps?  All three of these are really misconceptions about change.  The thinking behind these statements is not correct.

We must define change… biblical change.  The people that surround this debate, for the most part, misunderstand the idea of “change”.  Here in lies the problem:  both sides falsely assume that “change” means a person being restored to full-heterosexuality.  This was my thinking for a time.  This means that a person never struggles with or is tempted by same-sex attractions again, and they eventually get married.  Both sides state that if these things do not occur then the person is not “changed”.

Well, this assumption fails on so many levels and keeps many people from experiencing the abundant life that God offers us through Jesus Christ (John 10:10b).

I have read or heard the testimonies of “ex-gay” men and women who were born again, but did not think they were experiencing biblical change because they were still experiencing and/or struggling with same-sex attractions.  Some were convinced they will never experience “change” and even concluded it was because God was punishing them… and at times they thought He even hated them.  Some of the thoughts they would entertain were the following:  If He really loved me, He would take these feelings away.  Why doesn’t He make me straight like my friends?  Why couldn’t I struggle with the lust for the opposite-sex, instead of the same-sex?

Here’s the problem.   When we make the goal of “change” heterosexuality and/or marriage, our thinking is faulty.  The end result of one’s journey out of homosexuality is not marriage, nor is it to become “straight thinking”.  Think about it.  Is it really biblical to trade one lust for another?  All lust is bad.

So, if this isn’t the goal of change, what should it beWell, all true believers in Jesus Christ experience change.  This change is not about making all believers heterosexual, is it?  No, the true change is about being made new in the image of Christ.  (2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 5:1)

Think with me for a minute.  Believers often quote Romans 8:28… “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”then we stop.  But our question should be, what is the good that God promises to bring about in our lives?  The answer:  Christ-likeness.  The next verse declares,  “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren”  (Romans 8:29).  God predestined, or marked out before, that we (believers) be conformed to the image of His Son.  That’s the goal of change.  God not only saves us; He also begins to transform us into the His image.

How is this accomplished in you and me, all sinners saved by grace?  It begins at salvation with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and it continues to be achieved through three things:  our proper relationship to God, our response to the Word of God, and the suffering that attends the life of every child of God.  And for the one coming out of homosexuality, suffering or trial may be dealing with same-sex attractions, not allowing them to derail your new life in Christ, while God continues His work in your life to make you more like Jesus.  “Change” happens for everyone, but how much or how little, depends on the person.  Many who make these three things a priority in their lives, are able to leave their same-sex attractions behind,, 100%, and marry.  Others are able to deal with their attractions, and not succumb to them, and either get married or live a life of celibacy.  It’s about changing how one lives their life.

Yes, marriage is a wonderful thing; and I hope many people who deal with same-sex attractions can experience it (with the opposite sex).  But marriage does not make you a “man” or “woman”.  We, the church of Jesus Christ, must take this expectation and burden off of our brothers and sisters who deal with same-sex attractions-especially those who truly have no desire to date, or marry the opposite sex.

The “change” process involves cleansing one’s heart of the past (we all had one, not just the homosexual), and seeing and doing things God’s way (1John 1:8-10, 1Cor. 6:11).  We must view life as God views it.  True “change” involves embracing the Father’s unconditional love; and loving Him right back, by taking hold of His promises and claiming them as our own (Rom. 5:5, 8; John 14:21).  It’s about walking in the truth of God’s Word by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18), and living life from God’s perspective, focused on Him and His perfect will for our lives!

If you can only get one thing from this post, may it be the following:  For the born again believer coming out of homosexuality, the goal for change is not heterosexuality and/or marriage.  It is to be made more and more into the image of Jesus.  Every true Christian undergoes this transformation process (sanctification).  The Christian faith is about making disciples who live in their identity as God’s child, and who walk in His power and for His glory.  It’s about people who have been captured by God’s incredible love and abounding grace, desiring above all else to live for Him.  And may we all be “confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it…”  (Phil 1:6).  So be it!

Next time, I’ll share how having the proper goal for change played out in my life and how it helped me deal with the same-sex attractions that did not go away as soon as I was born again.  To God be the glory!

 

Evangelize… Don’t Moralize! Part 2

The unbelieving homosexual, no matter what they believe about homosexuality, is a sinner and needs Jesus! In my case, after I was lead to tell my new Christian friend, Jill, I had been leading a lesbian lifestyle for many years, let’s remember how she spoke the truth in love. She responded by telling me that it’s wrong because the Bible says it is. And she balanced it out with “but God love’s you and I love you… that is something you need to take to God.” It was a word fitly spoken (Pro. 15:2; 15:23b). Had she been in my face that it is an abomination… or had she begun to espouse her beliefs that it is unnatural, harmful, and destructive to civilization, all of which may be true, it would not have gone well with me. All those answers are to a certain degree subjective. They can be and will be dismissed as just your opinion. Because Jill didn’t do that, and she humbly and lovingly pointed me to the Lord and His truth; no defensiveness surfaced on my part, and I didn’t feel or sense any condemnation.

The important truth we want to remember here is that homosexuality is wrong is because God, who gave us our sexual capacities, simply said so in His Word! When we present the case in that light, we remove our personal opinions and experiences from the argument, thus bringing the person face to face with God Himself and the truth of His Word. This was my situation. Jill knew I believed in God, but I was not born again and she sensed I was opening up to spiritual things. She looked for an opportunity to be a minister of reconciliation, sharing the gospel of peace with me. That opportunity came the next day!

So, if God gives you an opportunity to minister to a person struggling with homosexuality, keep it simple and focused, praying for an open door to share the gospel. Be patient and let the Holy Spirit work, but don’t moralize by overemphasizing the sinfulness of homosexuality. In the New Testament, homosexual behavior is not singled out as more sinful than adultery, fornication, idolatry, blaspheme, greed, hatred, or any other specific sins. Paul consistently placed homosexual behavior right alongside a variety of other sins (see Rom 1:29-31; 1Cor 6:9-10; 1Tim 1:9-10). Neither should we single it out as the worst of sins. One reason they didn’t single it out was because homosexual sex was as common in the Roman world as it is becoming in ours. That has not been the case with us until recently, so we have tended to overreact to homosexuality more than to other sins. And, some have thought that Paul identified homosexual sin as more sinful in the first chapter of Romans, but I agree with most good Bible teachers, that that is not the case. In verses 26-32, Paul is using homosexual behavior to illustrate the inevitable moral insanity and sexual perversity that follows when people, nations, cultures, and civilizations reject the true and living God. We’re seeing the fruit of turning away from God and doing our own thing in our country, are we not? All unrighteousness is sin!

Once I was born again, then I dealt with the homosexual issue. I thought, ok, I’m a sinner… I’m saved… but is homosexuality really sin? With the indwelling Holy Spirit and the Word of God I was convicted that it was a sinful lifestyle. If I had a problem with that, I would have had to wrestle with God about it. I’m a firm believer that conviction over specific sins is better left to the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t clean us up and then save us. He saves us and then begins His “open heart surgery”… changing us from the inside out. Remember, specific sins are fruit of the root problem: all men and women sinners, who are dead in our trespasses and sins. The only remedy is the salvation that comes through personal faith in Jesus Christ.

In closing, it’s time to get back to the important question. How did I come out of homosexuality? First I received the gospel message, became a new creation in Christ, truly born again, a sinner saved by grace! Praise the Lord! And, very soon after I was born again, I agreed with God that according to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. I could not and would not lead that lifestyle any longer. Is that it, you ask? No, there were some struggles to overcome. But I was so grateful for my salvation. I loved Jesus much more than the homosexual lifestyle. I allowed Him to be the Lord of my life, and by His amazing grace He opened up His storehouse of blessings that canceled the past, equipped me to deal the struggles of coming out of homosexuality and secured my future! Again, I say, praise the Lord. Stay tuned… more to come!

Prayer thought: Precious Lord, give us the heart of a minister of reconciliation and the opportunity to share the gospel of peace to a hurting world!

Related source:  (Speaking the Truth) In Love  (standupforthetruth.com)


Fear of God (cont.)

As I mentioned in the previous post, we are commanded to fear God. (You may want to read it for better understanding, as I am not going to repeat everything.)  The Biblical meaning of fearing God, as a Christian, is to revere and respect God, to have an overwhelming sense of awe of God and His greatness.  When we consider who God is and what great things He has done, we stand in awe of Him.  Certainly, if He created the universe with a word, He can help us in our change process to be men and women of God.  With God, all things are possible.  If we comprehend but a little of who He is and what He has done and what He will do, especially for us personally, our natural response should be to fear God.  Fearing God enriches our lives and keeps us from sinning.  And I believe fearing God and loving God go together.  

The fear of God and the love of God draw us near to Him.  As we spend time with Him, study His Word and apply it to our lives, we become more and more like Him.  We grow to love as He loves and to hate what He hates.  What does He love? Well, for one, His Word! And what does He hate?  Sin!  “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Pro. 8:13).  Therefore, a Christian should not be living a life of habitual sin.  Through my ministry, I often hear of those who identify as homosexual, but also identify themselves as Christian!  How can this be?  If you, reader, are such a person, “do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).  You say you love God?  Jesus tells us in John 14, if we love Him we will keep His commandments.

As Christians, I really believe our motivation to do God’s will and make changes that are very difficult and deep-seeded, our main motivation must be the fear of God.  For example, when we understand His greatness, certainly we can believe He will heal us from same-sex attractions and a homosexual identity we have acquired, even though it will take some time.  When we respect Him as God, our Father who knows best, we can and will persevere.

If you say you are a Christian, and you can live a lifestyle of habitual sin or continually fall in and out of sin, (and this doesn’t bother you!) it’s my opinion that you certainly don’t fear God.  And I wonder if you really love God above all things, even yourself.  If you don’t really fear or love God so as to turn from sinful behavior, then my question to you is are you really a Christian.  This I know to be true; God knows your heart.

Perhaps you are reading this and you know flat out, you are not a Christian.  You have not been born again; and you have heard the gospel but continue to reject it in its entirety (perhaps you believe in God but don’t believe sin is really an issue to keep you out of heaven; or you don’t belief God’s Word when it says homosexuality or any other sinful lifestyle is sin), here is a verse I’d like you to consider.  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  (Hebrew 10:31)  And Jesus said “…Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!”  (Luke 12:5)  This is a fear of God I’m glad I don’t have to worry about it.  What about you? 

Before I conclude this post, let’s look at fearing God from one other person’s perspective.  Solomon with all his wisdom found this life without God to be vanity of vanities… emptiness.  As he pondered this life before the grave, his conclusion was “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  Humans are spiritual and moral beings who find their fulfillment in God’s teachings that lead to a loving relationship with Him, our all in all!  Ask yourself, do you want it all?  Boy, I sure do! 

I believe and have experienced in my own life, the Bible is true… all of it.  When it says fearing God can keep you from sin, there’s no debate.  Submit to God; allow Him to work in your life.  You must take the steps to depart from evil and sin, separate yourself unto God and He will enable you!  He did it in my life.  He can do it in yours.  Christians definitely can and should live a holy life, free from bondage to sin.  Fear Him! Love Him! Live for Him!!!!!!!

Fear of God

Happy New Year!!!  Yes, I know, it’s almost March!  I’ve been slow getting back to posting what’s on my heart.  For the past several months, I have had this important spiritual topic on my mind.  I’ve spent much time in my Bible looking at what God has to say about this topic.  When I hear about those who say they have given their heart to Jesus and been born again, but are struggling to come out of homosexuality… or just don’t want to come out and be changed, I believe a major reason they are not motivated to do so is because they do not “fear God”.  I’m talking about the person who is a Christian, but still lives in bondage to habitual sin, like homosexuality.  (But it could be any habitual sin!) 

 Is an understanding of fearing God really that important?  There are more than 120 direct references to “fearing God” in the Old and New Testaments.  Now any Bible study student knows that a topic that is frequently addressed in God’s Word is important!  It’s definitely something our Father wants us to know and understand and apply to our lives.  Also, throughout the Scriptures, we can evaluate Biblical characters by their “fear of God”.  When they are walking in obedience, you can assume that the fear of the Lord is present.  When they fail in their walk, the fear of God is absent.  How can I be so sure?  Because of those 120+ verses that you, too, can check out as a good Berean!

 What is a good biblical definition of the fear of the Lord?  A word study shows it is the sort of reverence and respect of God that results in obedience to His Word  (Psalm 111:10).  By contrast, the sinner or wicked have no fear of God (Psalm 36:1).  Fearing God enriches our lives and keeps us from sin.  One of the best examples in the Bible of a man who feared God is Job.  He was blameless, upright, feared God and turned away from evil (Job 1).  Notice the connection between fearing God and turning from evil.

Fear of God is important in the life of a believer… it is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10) needed to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  I believe our motivation to change and be who God wants us to be is a two-sided coinGod’s love is the first side (and we talk about this quite a bit) and fearing God is the flip side.  Why then don’t we often talk about fearing God?  Why don’t we hear more teaching on fearing God?  Why aren’t more books written on the topic of fearing God?  Or maybe I’m just missing all these talks, messages and books!

If you or someone you know is a Christian but continues to struggle with habitual sin, like homosexuality, the question must to be asked, do you fear God?  Take some time to study what the Bible has to say about “fearing God”.  Allow the Holy Spirit an opportunity to teach you concerning the importance of “fearing God”.  In a few weeks, we can get back together when I post Part 2.  You can start your study with the verse below.  This is a topic God wants us to understand and apply to our lives and be able to help others understand so they can apply it to their lives!  Ok, time to enjoy this important search through the Scriptures!

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil.”  Proverbs 3:7  (Proverbs 8:13; 16:16)

The Things I Learned

Recently I was reading Philippians 4, when the following verse I have read many times, really stood out:  “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.”  (Philippians 4: 10, NAS, emphasis mine.) 

I thought, wow, Paul found it important to share with the Philippians the things he had personally learned and received from the Lord.  He shared with them by his words and actions; and he tells them to continually practice those things.  As I thought on this, in the quietness of my own heart, God said, “Ruth, that’s the purpose of your book, Love Flowed Down…It Was For Me.”  After thinking on it for awhile, I  responded,  “You’re right, Lord, it is.”  The book testifies of those things I learned from God through His Word and received by faith, which helped me come out of bondage to the homosexual lifestyle and be truly changed.   The things I learned and put into practice were wisdom from God.  When wisdom entered my heart, I learned to discern the fear of the LORD, righteousness,  justice, and every good course.  The knowledge I gained was pleasant to my soul.  All facets of this wisdom delivered me from the way of evil.  (Read Proverbs 2: 5-12a NAS)  Blessed indeed is the person who finds wisdom and gains understanding.  All the paths of God’s wisdom are peace.  (Proverbs 3: 13, 17 NAS)  So, I, too,  can assure you, when you do these things, the God of peace will be with you every step of the way.  I am not unique!  Thousands of others have come out of homosexuality through Jesus Christ.  It’s not always easy, but if you trust God and lean not on your own understanding and acknowledge Him in all your ways, He will be your strength through the process.  (Proverbs 3: 5-6)

 From listening to people share their hearts, I know strugglers think they can’t change.  Many Christians don’t know how to speak the truth in love, or at least, they think they don’t know how.  In Love Flowed Down… I share my testimony and the things I learned through the change process that can help both these groups.  Both groups have many questions that are answered in the book.  (Dear Christian, it is hugely important for those seeking to come out of homosexuality to find fellowship with believers or chances are they will not be successful!)  But here’s something I did not expect.  In receiving feedback from those who have read the book, the 2 most frequent comments are, “God ministered to me about such and such, which has nothing to do with homosexuality” and “the things you learned would help people come out of bondage to any sinful lifestyles”. So, whomever you are reading this post, as the apostle Paul exhorted the Philippians to practice these things, I exhort you to get the book so you can gain understanding of the lifestyle and practice the things I learned and/or use them to help others. 

Use this link: http://www.bridgeofhopeministry.com/resources.htm.    It will take you to the resource page of the Bridge of Hope Ministry website, where you can purchase the book at Amazon.com, by clicking on the link provided.  Or, there is now another option, as God has put it on my heart to do something new.  Make the book available through the ministry website at a special rate with free shipping.  So, check it out, will you? 

May God use Bridge of Hope Ministry (BOHM) and my testimony book to bring Him the praise, glory and honor that He deserves.  Truly, our God is an awesome God!  Through the life of Jesus in us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be who God created us to be.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

My Heart

Greetings, dear blogger, to Bridge of Hope Ministry’s blog.  If you are new to this blog, please do check out the “about” link and the past posts.  If you have been here before, welcome back!  This post will be a time out from the logical progression of the past posts, and more about just sharing my heart.  So, get ready for some open and honest “ramblings” of MY heart concerning the need for Christians and for churches to better minister to those struggling with same-sex attractions/feelings and those seeking change.

  • I continually hope and pray others will find Jesus and His very personal love for them.
  • I so desire for others to find, in Jesus, the same hope and healing from the bondage of homosexuality that I have found.  I’m not unique; it is available for anyone willing to do things God’s way!
  • I have such a burden for people to understand there is hope for those struggling with same-sex desires and THEY CAN MINISTER in this area.
  • Through various ministry opportunities I continue to find a huge need for ministry in this area.
  • I’m burdened by the media’s “marketing” of homosexuality as a wonderful alternative lifestyle.
  • I’m grieved that so many in the church are affected by this “marketing” of evil, a tactic straight from the devil.
  • I feel such compassion for the broken-hearted spouse, parent or friend of a homosexual, who shares their tears and heart with me.
  • I feel frustrated when it takes more than a 5 minute answer from me to help a person who has questions about how to minister in this area… and I can only try to leave them with the hope of help and the encouragement to read my book as a good place to start or check out other resources on my ministry website.
  • I feel frustration that more churches aren’t seeing the need for ministry to equip those who desire to minister to those they know and love who are gay.
  • How blessed I was recently when a pastor told me they are going to have everyone in their church read my book, Love Flowed Down… It Was For Me!  I was blessed not because they were going to read my book, but because he saw the need for equipping all those in his church.  Praise the Lord!
  • I am grieved everytime I read or hear of another church or denomination accepting homosexuality as a God-given alternative lifestyle and defending this decsion by twisting or ignoring or explaining away God’s Word, keeping many in bondage to this lifestyle.
  • I’m grieved as I think of those who will die in bondage to homosexuality; never having real faith in Jesus… knowing the condemnation and, yes, judgment they will face.
  • I am also hopeful that many will be changed because I know my God (and I hope, your God) is compassionate and longsuffering; seeking to do everything He can to draw people to Himself.
  • I pray Christians will understand.  The strugglers did not choose the very real same-sex attractions and feelings that do not immediately go away even if they are born again.  These developed.  So,  the struggler eventually chooses to live the lifestyle.  Knowledge and understanding of this issue is very important and it is not found in the Bible.   
  • I pray many will find real peace and hope for their lives, just as I have, because I can truly say, “My hope comes from Him” (Psalm 62:5).    
  • I pray continually that churches will be a place of speaking the truth in love AND of equipping the saints for ministry in this area.
  • I hope churches understand, fellowship with other Christians is HUGELY important for strugglers seeking change and healing. 
  • It is my extreme hope that it is the heart of every true Christian bible-teaching church and every believer sitting in those churches to minister in this area.  Click on this link for a short video that I have posted previously; but it is a great example of the heart I’m talking about from a pastor whose church has a ministry for the homosexual seeking change.   http://vimeo.com/5280229   

Well, enough of my ramblings.  I think you get the picture where my heart is at, whatever that’s worth to you.  What’s God speaking to your heart!  I do thank you for visiting and I pray you’ll come back again!  Please note, you can subscribe to RSS news feed.  Blessings to all!