Sunday, November 29, 2015

This Is The Day...Again

Today I will be bringing my "news" to the entire congregation during the church service. After a introduction that I hope will be uneventful, I will be interviewed by the pastor. It may go something like what is below. The interview questions are in red.       

     So, Jeff… Why Now…. I mean, you’ve been dealing with this part of your life for such a long time…. It had to have crossed your mind to just continue keeping it to yourself….  I mean after all, this part of your life isn’t a recent part of your story…   

From a personal standpoint, I am tired of the secrets and evasive conversations over my marital status. I would like to be able to explain to people my situation. I would like to show them where I have been and how I have dealt with this life I have been given.
I want people in our church to be able to discuss this or any other life struggle, temptation or sin that they are dealing with without fear of rejection and knowing that they have the support of their brothers and sister in Christ.
We need a church where no one feels alone in their spiritual battles. As brethren in the Body, we need to come alongside each other and support each other in love and grace and with prayer and the Word. There are many among us that need healing of some sort. Once that happens, the Body becomes more effective.
I am setting the tone here for a higher level of conversation, to encourage all of you to talk about whatever it is you struggle with to each other or maybe even a setting like this. If I can talk to you about this subject, then surely you will be encouraged to open up yourself about whatever it is. Let us get to know you as Jesus knows you. Do not fear. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed. Most importantly, do not say, "well that makes me uncomfortable." Jesus did not call us to be comfortable. He called us to love one another. John 13:35      

  Your story has to be kind of a surprise to people here…. I’ve been thinking a lot about what today would look like the past couple of weeks…. who would be here.. how everyone would take this news…. and the way I see it… there are four audiences in the crowd today…. and I’m curious what you would say to each one of these groups….       


     Those who would say, “I don’t know anyone personally with this struggle” and why in heck are we talking about it in church????

First, you do know someone. Me.

Second, we talk about this today in the hope of bringing transparency to this and other issues within the church. We are all sinners saved by grace, and we all still face daily trials, tempatations and difficult life situations. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could help each other bear life's burdens, pray about them together and bring resolution and healing as needed? The Body of Christ needs to be healthy to be effective. We will be at our most effective when we know each other the way that Jesus knows us individually. That can be a bit scary, but it can also ultimately bring peace and contentment and joy.
I would say that you most likely do know someone with same sex attractions; it's just that they have never shared that fact with you for any number of reasons. The biggest reason is a fear of rejection and loss of love and relationship. The truth is that we are your sons and daughters and sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles and even in some cases, your mothers and fathers.
We are in your Church. We love Jesus. We need your acceptance and love like everyone else.

  The group that has family members who are either active… or have been active with this lifestyle….  Should they go to family gatherings, weddings…. 

For myself, I would say that I would not go to a gay wedding. I would not want to endorse this activity. You could argue that this would be a way to stay in the lives of these people so you could subtly remind them, especially if they claim to be Christian, that they have an obligation to Jesus first, that their chief identity is and should be in Him. However, I think the chances of changing anyone's mind at that point will be difficult. Just keep in mind that life has a way of changing people's outlook about things. Prayer for those people that need to wake up and smell the coffee can be effective over time. At some point in their lives it might be possible to bring them back to where they once were. Never underestimate God's desire or power to reclaim His own. It's why I am sitting here today.
As to family gatherings, bring it on. Invite them to Christmas and Thanksgiving and whatever else you are doing. Invite them to church. They need to see why we love Jesus and we need to be Jesus to them, bringing both His grace and His truth to the table. Disagreements do not have to be acrimonious. And who might make someone think twice. As I said, we must never underestimate God's desire and power to reclaim what is His.

                                                                            Introducing the Book Messy Grace - Page 148,149
                                                                       John 1 – Grace and Truth  
                                                                                John 1:14, 17

             The group…. Who this is their testimony….  They struggle with SSA themselves….

If you are a Christian that is struggling with same sex attraction, it is necessary for you to remain as pure as possible. You have two options that will keep you in good spiritual health if done correctly and with the power of God's Holy Spirit.
                                                                         Two options…

    First, there is Celibacy. Some would say this is a difficult path, and it can be that, at least early on in your fight. You will know if you can do it and whether it is a simpler path to your goal of remaining pure. It has been said by some that celibacy is a gift. It is strongly implied by both Jesus and the apostle, Paul. (Matthew 19:11ff and I Corinthians 7)
My initial reaction to this gift was that it's like getting socks and a toothbrush for Christmas, but you know what? We all need socks and toothbrushes. Secondly, I would suggest to you that it is a gift given by God like any other gift, whether that be teaching, preaching, leadership, administration, musical ability or whatever else you could name. If this is the case, then you want to make the most of your gift and use it to glorify Him. You want it to be the best. You want to present it to Him for His glorification as your sacrifice....that living sacrifice that Paul talks about in Romans 12. And it is not presented to God to gain favor or to earn salvation. It is presented out of love and respect for the things He has done for us in our lives.
It also needs to be noted here that, it is expected, it is required for those of us not married to remain in this pure state, whether you are a same sex attracted person or something else.
Sexual behavior of any sort is ONLY for a man and an woman in the confines of a marriage relationship. It's the way God designed it. Anything else is sin.

      Marriage the way God intended it…

Caleb Kaltenbach, in his book, "Messy Grace" calls this "redemption of marriage"; redeeming same sex attraction through heterosexual marriage. He talks about a married couple he knows in the book. The husband was someone that experienced same sex attraction, but he went ahead and married his best female friend anyway. Even though the husband continued to experience same sex attractions, he loved the woman and was eventually able to create a family. It worked well for both of them. Even though he still continues to have these feelings, it is a happy marriage with children.
Obviously, this never happened to me. I am not averse to the idea and if God wants it to happen I will not stand in the way of it. I am 58 years old though and at this point, I do not see the point. I have become accustomed to being alone, doing what I want, when I want to. Marriage might put the dent into that. Then again, maybe that's what needs to happen. 

                                                                       What does this mean for our church?

It means that we open up our hearts and minds and souls to each other. It means that we learn to love each other as Jesus intended. It means that when one part of the Body is struggling or even sick, the other parts help. We do not let body parts die because they make us uncomfortable or embarrassed or angry.
It means that we accept people for who they are, even if they are different from us. It does not mean that we accept of affirm their behavior whatever it might be. We share truth as gracefully as possible while working in the tension between the two which is love. We must become Jesus to the world and to each other.      

   When do you feel you were no longer defined by your past mistakes… desires.. actions… but you were defined by HIS work and not your own?

Defined? Everyday when I wake up, I wake up knowing I am a bit different from most men. But my sexual desires do not define me. It is one small aspect of the whole Jeff Brady. I am actually a pretty complex individual adopted and sanctified by Jesus. Saved by his grace through faith.
Jesus Christ is my identity. He set me free. He makes me what I am; a good worker, a good Sunday school teacher. a good writer and a good friend to those that have the patience. I am nothing without Him, but with Him, I am so many useful things. When put in those terms, sex takes a backseat. It's just not as important to me at this point in my life.

    So… speak to the Nature verses Nurture conversations…… and for those not familiar with those terms… the question has been debated with whether people are made this way from birth or developed this way by life circumstances.

So are we born this way or does same sex attraction happen as the result of environment? For me, it does not matter. Let me tell you why.

    For years I thought this was my thorn in the flesh, given to me by God to keep me from becoming conceited. Paul had his own thorn which God steadfastly refused to remove (see II Corinthians 12:7-10) for similar reasons. I say this, because my biggest sin in this life has been pride, self righteousness, judgmentalism. I still do battle with it. You would think a thorn like mine would shut me up, but it has not. And let me say here and now that if I have angered or hurt anyone here, I repent of it. I am truly sorry.
   I have also considered that my issue among many others is the result of the initial fall of humanity from God's grace. We are after all a broken race in need of salvation regardless of what our sin predilections might be.
    Some have suggested it's a genetic issue or even an in vitro issue, something that happens in the womb to the brain of an unborn child.
   There is also the notion of a spiritual genetics. That we are all broken in spiritual ways and some even more so than other.

   But none of this really matters because it's the wrong question. The cause is really irrelevant. Behavior, at least in the short term, is irrelevant. The focus needs to be on spirituality. When someone falls in love with Jesus, suddenly things become possible that were not possible before. When Jesus becomes the reason for life rather than whatever else it may be, changes happen. When your identity is in Him, everything else takes a backseat.
Getting there can take time, especially with someone steeped in unbelief or a life of behavior contrary to God's will, but it can happen. Preach the gospel. Show the world Christ and let Him take the harvest.
For years I blamed God for my situation. I held inside me a bitterness toward Him that only began to pass when I realized that no one is perfect. We all sin. We all need a savior. God has mercy and grace for all that believe. I could not forgive myself, I could not forgive God for something He had nothing to do with and therefore I could not love others. What's more, because of the nature of the desires I had, there were only a very few people I could talk to and some of them were not Christian.
I do not want to see anyone get into that kind of a trap. It is about as far from a joyful, victorious life as one can get.
Brethren, we have to bring down the walls. We have to help each other and we have to reach out to the world, to people different from ourselves. And Yes, that could get messy, but Jesus is calling us to that, to let the sinners into His church. It's a matter of obedience. We have to do it.

                                                                this question demands we focus on the problem and in so doing we tend to stay there… why not focus on the solution… the answer…. The Savior… Christ…. He is where all things should point… not the issue, this issue or any issue for that matter        

      So what’s next - Opening of our hearts and minds. Learning to love in ways we have not loved and living in ways we have not lived. Fearing only God and nothing else. Brushing discomfort aside.
     Hopefully Ministry and Relationship and a harvest for Christ

   Living Colossians 3 - Dressing Like Jesus


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