Love and Discipline

This past holiday weekend at The Fellowship we continued our Family Ties series. We have spent time over the last few weeks talking about what marriage is and really looks like, the difference between a contract and a covenant and other issues that are family related. This past Sunday, we talked about Love and Discipline. Check it out. We’ll wrap up the series this coming Sunday as we focus on the high value of family. Don’t miss it! See you there.

Love and Discipline from The Fellowship on Vimeo.

From Ozzie and Harriet to Ozzy Osbourne

Can you imagine falling asleep in your easy chair 35-40 years ago watching a family sitcom featuring mom, dad and two kids and waking up today watching what we call a family? Times have changed and the family is under attack from all sides. In this new series, Family Ties, we will look at God’s blueprint for family success. We kicked things off with Generation Next, how to raise kids who can not only survive, but thrive in today’s culture. Here’s a hint: It all starts with the parents.
Check out yesterday’s message out of Deuteronomy 6 to find out more…

Generation Next from The Fellowship on Vimeo.

Continuing the Discussion…

I wanted to make this study available to you after our discussion this morning at The Fellowship.  

Homosexuality: Questions and Answers

Study By: Sue Bohlin

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Probe’s Sue Bohlin, who has ministered to people with unwanted homosexuality for over a decade, offers a compassionate understanding of the contributing factors to a homosexual orientation without sacrificing the biblical position that acting on such feelings is sin.


Q. Some people say homosexuality is natural and moral; others say it is unnatural and immoral. How do we know?

A. Our standard can only be what God says. In Romans 1 we read,

God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion (Rom 1:26-27).

So even though homosexual desires feel natural, they are actually unnatural, because God says they are. He also calls all sexual involvement outside of marriage immoral. (There are 44 references to fornication—sexual immorality—in the Bible.) Therefore, any form of homosexual activity, whether a one-night stand or a long-term monogamous relationship, is by definition immoral—just as any abuse of heterosexuality outside of marriage is immoral.

Q. Is homosexuality an orientation God intended for some people, or is it a perversion of normal sexuality?

A. If God had intended homosexuality to be a viable sexual alternative for some people, He would not have condemned it as an abomination. It is never mentioned in Scripture in anything but negative terms, and nowhere does the Bible even hint at approving or giving instruction for homosexual relationships. Some theologians have argued that David and Jonathan’s relationship was a homosexual one, but this claim has no basis in Scripture. David and Jonathan’s deep friendship was not sexual; it was one of godly emotional intimacy that truly glorified the Lord.

Homosexuality is a manifestation of the sin nature that all people share. At the fall of man (Gen 3), God’s perfect creation was spoiled, and the taint of sin affected us physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually—and sexually. Homosexuality is a perversion of heterosexuality, which is God’s plan for His creation. The Lord Jesus said,

In the beginning the Creator made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh (Matt 19:4, 5).

Homosexual activity and pre-marital or extra-marital heterosexual activity are all sinful attempts to find sexual and emotional expression in ways God never intended. God’s desire for the person caught in the trap of homosexuality is the same as for every other person caught in the trap of the sin nature; that we submit every area of our lives to Him and be transformed from the inside out by the renewing of our minds and the purifying of our hearts.

Q. What causes a homosexual orientation?

A. This is a complex issue, and it is unfair to give simplistic answers or explanations. Some people start out as heterosexuals, but they rebel against God with such passionate self-indulgence that they end up embracing the gay lifestyle as another form of sexual expression. As one entertainer put it, “I’m not going to go through life with one arm tied behind my back!”

But the majority of those who experience same-sex attraction sense they are “different” from very early in life, and at some point they are encouraged to identify this difference as being gay. These people may experience “pre-conditions” that dispose them toward homosexuality, such as a sensitive and gentle temperament in boys, which is not recognized as acceptably masculine in our culture. Another may be poor eye-hand coordination that prevents a boy from doing well at sports, which is a sure way to invite shame and taunting from other boys (and, most unfortunately, from some of their own fathers and family members). Family relationships are usually very important in the development of homosexuality; the vast majority of those who struggle with same-sex attraction experienced a hurtful relationship with the same-sex parent in childhood. The presence of abuse is a recurring theme in the early lives of many homosexual strugglers. In one study, 91% of lesbian women reported childhood and adolescent abuse, 2/3 of them victims of sexual abuse.{1} There is a huge difference, however, between predispositions that affects gender identity, and the choices we make in how we handle a predisposition. Because we are made in the image of God, we can choose how we respond to the various factors that may contribute to a homosexual orientation.

Q. Wouldn’t the presence of pre-conditions let homosexuals “off the hook,” so to speak?

A. Preconditions make it easier to sin in a particular area. They do not excuse the sin. We can draw a parallel with alcoholism. Alcoholics often experience a genetic or environmental pre-condition, which makes it easier for them to fall into the sin of drunkenness. Is it a sin to want a drink? No. It’s a sin to drink to excess.

All of us experience various predispositions that make it easier for us to fall into certain sins. For example, highly intelligent people find it easier to fall into the sin of intellectual pride. People who were physically abused as children may fall into the sins of rage and violence more easily than others.

Current popular thinking says that our behavior is determined by our environment or our genes, or both. But the Bible gives us the dignity and responsibility missing from that mechanistic view of life. God has invested us with free will—the ability to make real, significant choices. We can choose our responses to the influences on our lives, or we can choose to let them control us.

Someone with a predisposition for homosexuality may fall into the sin of the homosexual behavior much more easily than a person without it. But each of us alone is responsible for giving ourselves permission to cross over from temptation into sin.

Q. What’s the difference between homosexual temptation and sin?

A. Unasked-for, uncultivated sexual desires for a person of the same sex constitute temptation, not sin. Since the Lord Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are (Heb. 4:15),” He fully knows the intensity and nature of the temptations we face. But He never gave in to them.

The line between sexual temptation and sexual sin is the same for both heterosexuals and homosexuals. It is the point at which our conscious will gets involved. Sin begins with the internal acts of lusting and creating sexual fantasies. Lust is indulging one’s sexual desires by deliberately choosing to feed sexual attraction—you might say it is the sinful opposite of meditation. Sexual fantasies are conscious acts of the imagination. It is creating mental pornographic home movies. Just as the Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount, all sexual sin starts in the mind long before it gets to the point of physical expression.

Many homosexuals claim, “I never asked for these feelings. I did not choose them,” and this may be true. That is why it is significant to note that the Bible specifically condemns homosexual practices, but not undeveloped homosexual feelings (temptation). There is a difference between having sexual feelings and letting them grow into lust. When Martin Luther was talking about impure thoughts, he said, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”

Q. Isn’t it true that “Once gay, always gay?”

A. It is certainly true that most homosexuals never become heterosexual—some because they don’t want to, but most others because their efforts to change were unsuccessful. It takes spiritual submission and much emotional work to repent of sexual sin and achieve a healthy self-concept that glorifies God.

But for the person caught in the trap of homosexual desires who wants sexual and emotional wholeness, there is hope in Christ. In addressing the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul lists an assortment of deep sins, including homosexual offenses. He says,

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 6:11).

This means there were former homosexuals in the church at Corinth! The Lord’s loving redemption includes eventual freedom for all sin that is yielded to Him. Some (rare) people experience no homosexual temptations ever again. But for most others who are able to achieve change, homosexual desires are gradually reduced from a major problem to a minor nuisance that no longer dominates their lives. The probability of heterosexual desires returning or emerging depends on a person’s sexual history.

But the potential for heterosexuality is present in everyone because God put it there.

See the article “Can Homosexuals Change?” at bible.org/article/can-homosexuals-change.

Q. If homosexuality is such an abomination to God, why doesn’t it disappear when someone becomes a Christian?

A. When we are born again, we bring with us all of our emotional needs and all of our old ways of relating. Homosexuality is a relational problem of meeting emotional needs the wrong way; it is not an isolated problem of mere sexual preference. With the power of the indwelling Spirit, a Christian can cooperate with God to change this unacceptable part of life. Some people—a very few—are miraculously delivered from homosexual struggles. But for the majority, real change is slow. As in dealing with any besetting sin, it is a process, not an event. Sin’s power over us is broken at the moment we are born again, but learning to depend on the Holy Spirit to say no to sin and yes to godliness takes time. 2 Cor. 3:18 says, “We…are being transformed into His likeness from glory to glory.” Transformation (this side of eternity!) is a process that takes a while. Life in a fallen world is a painful struggle. It is not a pleasant thing to have two oppositional natures at war within us!

Homosexuality is not one problem; it is symptomatic of other, deeper problems involving emotional needs and an unhealthy self-concept. Salvation is only the beginning of emotional health. It allows us to experience human intimacy as God intended us to, finding healing for our damaged emotions. It isn’t that faith in Christ isn’t enough; faith in Christ is thebeginning.

Q. Does the fact that I had an early homosexual experience mean I’m gay?

A. Sex is strictly meant for adults. The Song of Solomon says three times, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.” This is a warning not to raise sexual feelings until the time is right. Early sexual experience can be painful or pleasurable, but either way, it constitutes child abuse. It traumatizes a child or teen. This loss of innocence does need to be addressed and perhaps even grieved through, but doesn’t mean you’re gay.

Sexual experimentation is something many children and teens do as a part of growing up. You may have enjoyed the feelings you experienced, but that is because God created our bodies to respond to pleasure. It probably made you feel confused and ashamed, which is an appropriate response to an inappropriate behavior. Don’t let anyone tell you it means you’re gay: it means you’re human.

Even apart from the sexual aspect, though, our culture has come to view close friendships with a certain amount of suspicion. If you enjoy emotional intimacy with a friend of the same sex, especially if it is accompanied by the presence of sexual feelings that emerge in adolescence, you can find yourself very confused. But it doesn’t mean you’re gay.

It is a tragic myth that once a person has a homosexual experience, or even thinks about one, that he or she is gay for life.

Q. Are homosexuals condemned to hell?

A. Homosexuality is not a “heaven or hell” issue. The only determining factor is whether a person has been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.

In 1 Cor. 6, Paul says that homosexual offenders and a whole list of other sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God. But then he reminds the Corinthians that they have been washed, sanctified, and justified in Jesus’ name. Paul makes a distinction between unchristian behavior and Christian behavior. He’s saying, “You’re not pagans anymore, you are a holy people belonging to King Jesus. Now act like it!”

If homosexuality doesn’t send anyone to hell, then can the believer indulge in homosexual behavior, safe in his or her eternal security? As Paul said, “May it never be!” If someone is truly a child of God, he or she cannot continue sinful behavior that offends and grieves the Father without suffering the consequences. God disciplines those He loves. This means that ultimately, no believer gets away with continued, unrepented sin. The discipline may not come immediately, but it will come.

Q. How do I respond when someone in my life tells me he or she is gay?

A. Take your cue from the Lord Jesus. He didn’t avoid sinners; He ministered grace and compassion to them—without ever compromising His commitment to holiness. Start by cultivating a humble heart, especially concerning the temptation to react with judgmental condescension. As Billy Graham said, “Never take credit for not falling into a temptation that never tempted you in the first place.”

Seek to understand your gay friends’ feelings. Are they comfortable with their gayness, or bewildered and resentful of it? Understanding people doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them—but it is the best way to minister grace and love in a difficult time. Accept the fact that, to this person, these feelings are normal. You can’t change their minds or their feelings. Too often, parents will send their gay child to a counselor and say, “Fix him.” It just doesn’t work that way.

As a Christian, you are a light shining in a dark place. Be a friend with a tender heart and a winsome spirit; the biggest problem of homosexuals is not their sexuality, but their need for Jesus Christ. At the same time, pre-decide what your boundaries will be about what behavior you just cannot condone in your presence. One college student I know excuses herself from a group when the affection becomes physical; she just gets up and leaves. It is all right to be uncomfortable around blatant sin; you do not have to subject yourself—and the Holy Spirit within you—to what grieves Him. Consider how you would be a friend to people who are living promiscuous heterosexual lives. Like the Lord, we need to value and esteem the person without condoning the sin.

Note

1. Anne Paulk, Restoring Sexual Identity (Eugene OR: Harvest House, 2003), p. 246.

For further reading:

• Bergner, Mario. Setting Love in Order: Hope and Healing for the Homosexual. Baker, 1995.
• Paulk, Anne. Restoring Sexual Identity. Eugene OR: Harvest House, 2003.
• Dallas, Joe. Desires in Conflict. Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1991. (Particularly good!)
• Konrad, Jeff. You Don’t Have to Be Gay. Pacific Publishing, 1987. (This is directed at young men. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.)
• Satinover, Jeffrey. Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth. Baker, 1996.
• Schmidt, Thomas E. Straight & Narrow? : Compassion & Clarity in the Homosexuality Debate. Intervarsity Press, 1995.
• Worthen, Anita and Bob Davies. Someone I Love is Gay: How Family and Friends Can Respond. Intervarsity Press, 1996.
• Exodus Books has the best selection of homosexuality-related material: exodusbooks.org/Books/
• The website of Living Hope Ministries, an outreach in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Of particular interest are the online testimonies and especially an excellent message board for strugglers, overcomers and those who seek to encourage and uplift. www.livehope.org
• Also see Exodus International’s website, which has a large selection of articles and testimonies:www.exodusinternational.org/

 
Matt

Jesus was an Equal Opportunity Lover.

Our series The Real Jesus continues at The Fellowship!

If you and I were to come into contact with the real Jesus, we would never be the same. John 4:8 tells us,”Whoever does not love does not know God.” We’ve been learning over the last few weeks what it really means to love like Jesus. Check it out! And see you this Sunday. Worship is at 10:45 am. – Matt

What Does it Mean to Be “Clean”?

My wife Becky and I recently wrapped up what is called The 24-Day Challenge. During that time, I couldn’t have coffee. If you know me, that’s like not putting gas in the tank of my car.
Well, ok. Not that bad. But it sure felt like it. It took a lot of discipline and commitment to eat right, take the supplements and other items necessary to cleanse the body and get us going on the right track.

Lately, you may have become familiar with a new term out there: Eating Clean. Basically, it means avoiding processed foods, sodas, etc. Eating clean means eating what they call “whole”, or “natural” foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates. It also means staying away from foods that include man-made sugar, hydrogenated, trans-fat, preservatives, white bread, etc. An easy way to remember it is this: “if man made it, don’t eat it.”

I got to thinking, we live in a culture today that teaches: if man says it, you can believe it. It’s harder to put our faith in a God we can’t always see. But the point really goes deeper than that. What if we were as disciplined in our daily lives to live “clean” for Him—our Lord and Savior. In other words, what if we really committed to live our lives with such deep devotion and love for the God that made us, we simply found ourselves living “clean”?

If anyone knows what is truly best for us, it’s our Creator.

As we go into the weekend, whether eating out or maybe meeting for coffee with friends, let’s take those moments to think about what living “clean” might mean for each of us in our own personal lives.

Serving Alongside,

Matt

Are You Sowing What You’d Like to Reap?

This past Sunday at The Fellowship we continued our series Taking Responsibility for Your Life. This week we focused on “The Responsibility Principle.” Watch it here!

We talked about the fact that basically we sow what we reap, and if we leverage that principle to the positive, good things will happen. We learned that sowing new seeds doesn’t necessarily take away what was sown prior. God forgives, yes, but consequences of past decisions don’t just go away. The good news is, if we allow the Holy Spirit to guide what we sow, we will reap good things.

Join us this Sunday as we continue Taking Responsibility for Your Life. We’d love to see you there. Worship begins at 10:45 a.m. with LIFEgroups and Children’s activities beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Serving Alongside,
Matt

Don’t Blame Me!

Have you ever met a happy irresponsible person? This week at The Fellowship we started a new series called Taking Responsibility for Your Life. This past Sunday we talked about “Blame Games”. We took a look at what it really means to be responsible and learned a bit more about what responsibility isn’t. Watch it here!

If you weren’t able to join us, I also gave some homework:

1. Listen to your blame.

The conversations you even have with yourself. The justifications that lead to irresponsibility. Ask the question: Am I taking responsibility for my life…really? Listen for the blame. For others, for yourself. Irresponsibility means someone else has to come along and shoulder the responsibility. If I refuse to take care of myself, the reality is someone else will have to take care of me and clean up after me. Someone will ultimately have to be responsible for me and carry my load.

2. What’s my slice of the pie?

Wherever there is relational conflict ask yourself: What is my responsibility in this equation?

Remember, God created us to be responsible. And when we own our responsibility we tend to be more fulfilled and happy.

Try it out this week and, on Sunday, let me know how it went. Worship begins at 10:45 am. See you there!

Serving Alongside,
Matt

Lessons Learned from a Texas Ranger.

Saw this article awhile back. Thought there were some good lessons to be learned. Life is a learning process…
Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton was seen drinking in a Dallas area bar Monday evening, according to reports dominating the local news this morning. Teammate Ian Kinsler came to the pub to persuade Hamilton to return to his home. The Rangers said they are aware of a “situation,” but have not commented further. This was Hamilton’s second alcohol-related relapse in three years.
Drug and alcohol abuse led to his suspension by baseball for the 2003-05 seasons. Hamilton has credited his conversion to Christianity as the reason for his sobriety and resulting success on the field. He is a four-time All Star and was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2010.
Skeptics will undoubtedly cite Hamilton’s recent relapse as evidence that faith is inadequate or irrelevant to life’s greatest challenges. Here’s my question: where would he be without his relationship with Jesus? According to Hamilton, he’d not only be out of baseball–he might be dead. After he relapsed in 2009, he formed an accountability teamthat became a model for other athletes. Now God wants to redeem this week’s setback for good as well.
What can we learn from Hamilton’s relapse?
Lesson #1:
Any of us can fall. Hebrews 12 speaks of “the sin that so easily entangles” (v. 1)–Puritans called this our “besetting sin.” Most of us struggle with a particular temptation that is more difficult for us to resist than other sins. Yours may not be mine, but mine may not be yours. I am not tempted by alcohol, but Josh Hamilton is likely not susceptible to some of the temptations I face.
Lesson #2:
We must remain vigilant. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus urged his disciples to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). His command could be paraphrased, “Continually stay alert to temptation and pray the moment it appears lest you fall into it.”
Satan knows and employs those temptations we cannot defeat in our strength, so the moment you face his attack, admit that you need your Father’s help. Erasmus, the 16th century scholar, encouraged us to develop the habit of turning every temptation into prayer. Nothing vexes the enemy more, he said, than when his evil strategies are used for good.
Lesson #3:
We should pray for Josh Hamilton. Oswald Chambers was right: “Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to fault finding.” I’m praying for the Hamilton family this morning, asking God to redeem this setback for his glory and their good. And I will “watch and pray” today, lest I fall into my besetting sins as well.
Will you join me?

–Jim Denison is a cultural apologist, building a bridge between faith and culture by engaging contemporary issues with biblical truth. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture in February 2009.

Serving Alongside,
Matt

The One Thing We Can’t Talk About…

Here’s a great word on sharing about the one thing that matters. Saw this and wanted to share it with you…

The One Thing We Can’t Talk About
His name was Ed and he liked to talk.

The administrator down the hall was one of those guys. He had a story for every situation. He’d been everywhere. He’d done everything. Ed had driven trucks for 12 years. He ran a pool hall for six years. He served as a hunting outfitter for four years and had been in
his current job for 21 years. When I did the math, he was well north of 80 years old — but I never challenged him on it. No need to ruin a good story.

One day I was having coffee with him and I mentioned that my Life Group at church was talking through some interesting discoveries, that the cosmos and the world around us suddenly weren’t so small. He put up a hand to my face. “Not gonna go there,” he said sternly. “Can’t be talking about that stuff.”

Here’s a man that talk about just about anything and anyone, but he simply was afraid to walk down the path that a simple conversation about God might take him.

This scene is often replicated in today’s society in one way or another. We can talk about our kids, our grand kids, our parents and our weird Uncle Al, but we can’t talk about the Father. We can talk about history, places we’ve been been and plans for the weekend, but we can’t talk about eternity. We can talk about what we think about politics, the workplace and the community, but we can’t talk about the King.

Today’s Christians are in a quandary. We know the divine imperative to live out our faith and we understand that living out our faith involves talking about our faith. Hiding who we are goes against our calling. So, just what are we supposed to do?

Many of us try to walk the middle ground by dropping non caustic code words like “higher power” and “faith.” We display cozy spiritual things on our desks like rainbows and angels. But they fall short because they don’t do a thing to help improve the human condition of those around us. Eventually, we have to talk about it.

Even though Ed didn’t to talk about it then, eventually he did.
You can’t keep a good story to yourself.

Serving Alongside,
Matt