Posts Tagged With: acceptance

What the World (and the Church) [So Desperately] Needs Now…

puppy-fawn_thumbI’ll just say this: If you were ever going to listen to one Jesus in HD PODCAST, please, please, please listen to this one.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it might take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

If it is a blessing to you, please “Share” the link to the podcast with all of your friends.

HAPPY LISTENING!!!

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Why, Oh Why, Have We Done This to You???

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a compelling, truthful, tell-it-like-it-is, brutally honest video worth?

As a guy who has been in church leadership for over 40 years, trust me when I say how sincerely sorry I am that so many have done so much damage to so many of you. We were wrong. Dead wrong. And for that I humbly apologize.

This video says it so much better than I ever could precisely why the Safe Haven was born.

PLEASE share this link with all of your friends. The message of this video needs to be heard far and wide!

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The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home

safehavenI had an epiphany last week. Though I must admit the circumstances are kind of embarrassing.

Embarrassing only because my brilliant burst of insight came as I was speaking at The Safe Haven. (Kind of like when years ago I asked my senior pastor why he was listening to a tape of one of his own messages. To which he replied, “I’m getting blessed.”)

Well, believe it or not, as I was in the midst of listening to myself even as I was giving the message, I got blessed. I received an epiphany.

We were explaining exactly what Jesus meant when He said in the Sermon on the Mount, 

But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! (Matthew 5:20 NLT)

Strong words that demand an explanation. (In case you’re curious, you can listen to the entire explanation by clicking on this PODCAST LINK.)

Naturally, Jesus presupposed that His listeners knew all too well what He meant by “the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees,” while we might not.

So, as I love to do (as you well-know if you ever listen to the podcast), I let Jesus explain His own reference in His own words. Turns out, He told a trilogy of stories in order to leave absolutely no ambiguity about who and what these “teachers of religious law and the Pharisees” were and are. (Cuz truth be told, Pharisees are not limited to the Jewish tradition of Jesus’ day; we have plenty of modern-day Pharisees haunting the hallowed halls of our churches in our day. But I digress.)

The third of this trio of stories that Jesus told — directed squarely at the Pharisees each — is the most familiar of the three. We typically refer to this story — inaccurately so — as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. But it’s not a story about the prodigal son at all. Oh sure, the prodigal son (the younger son, the one who represents so many of us in this tale of two sons) is featured quite prominently in the story. But the younger son is not the focus of the portrait that Jesus so eloquently paints. The younger son is the frame of the portrait; the focus of the portrait is the older son — the son who represents the “teachers of religious law and the Pharisees.” I know this because if you read the opening verses of Luke 15, wherein this story appears, you see quite clearly that Jesus told these stories to the Pharisees about the Pharisees.

Long story short, the younger son squanders his still-living father’s estate as he defiantly descends into the netherworld of lascivious living, heaping scorn and sorrow upon his family in the process.

The dad in the story never gives up on his son, even as it seems the son has forsaken his family forever. Dad’s out on the front porch, scanning the horizon in the hopes that one day, maybe, perhaps, his son will come home.

And come home he does.

Broken, repentant, sorrowful — his son just wants to come home.

homeAnd dad (the God-like-figure in the story) welcomes him home with open arms, a bear hug, a lavish display of gifts, and nary a word of rebuke. He pulls out all the stops and commences to throw his now-returned son one wingding of a party.

Which is where the rendering of this story usually stops, #MissingTheWholePoint!

Dad’s acceptance of the younger son causes the older son — the Pharisee-like-figure in the story, as in the people to whom Jesus told this story — to blow a gasket. He judges the younger son. He condemns the younger son. He compares his righteousness — his self-righteousness — to the younger son’s sinfulness. 

And that’s the point of the story.

And that’s the same point Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount.

The “righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law” was a self-righteousness, a self-righteousness that Jesus abhors.

You see, fact of the matter is, repentant people just want to come home. God will ALWAYS welcome them home. 

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

But many so-called “Christians” will.

Which goes to the heart of the story, and the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.

While self-righteous, Pharisee-like, judgmental church-goers live to wag an accusing finger at and spout out verses to those of us who are acutely aware of our imperfections, thereby making us feel so worthless, so beaten down, so spiritually exasperated, so religiously-wounded, so unaccepted and unacceptable…

…God constantly scans the horizon ALWAYS at the ready to give us the warm and sustained embrace of His acceptance, and a heartfelt “Welcome home,” to each of us who just want to come home.

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

Which leads me to my epiphany: That’s exactly why we started The Safe Haven. 

The Safe Haven is an older-son, Pharisee-free zone where anyone can come at any time. People just like us who are acutely aware of our imperfections, who are broken and repentant, who just want to come home. Home to God. Home to His loving embrace. Home to His never-condemning, always-welcoming, unconditional acceptance. 

A place where people can come home no matter how distant they have traveled, how far they have fallen, or how epically they think they have failed. A family of the flawed. A place where anybody can come home anytime, from anywhere — NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

People ask me weekly, what is this Safe Haven thing you’ve started. And now, thanks to my mid-sermon epiphany, I finally know how to answer them.

The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home.

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When the “T” in LGBT Hits Our Own Homes

“How do I as a parent begin to explain to my teenagers that their older cousin whom they’ve looked up to all their lives has decided that he may have been born a boy, but he feels more like a girl? That he is now taking female hormones, beginning to dress as a female, and is looking at legally changing his name from that of a guy to a girl? That he is now living with his lesbian girlfriend? I am at such a loss here. I didn’t see this coming AT ALL. So many questions… How do I still love my nephew, but not approve of his choices? Do we have holiday dinners as usual? Do I choose as a parent that he isn’t a good influence on my kids and therefore can no longer have them around each other? I am so lost here.”

anguish1

It’s not just campers at Christian camps who ask questions; adults ask them too, daily. Questions that come to me via email, snail mail, and social media of all sorts. Questions that they would ask God if given the opportunity and with the assurance that He would give them an honest answer.

As I’ve made clear, repeatedly and emphatically, I am not God. I hesitate to speak for God. To the best of my ability, I can only attempt to offer an answer from the Word of God. And I do so with fear and trembling in my passionate pursuit of respecting the Truth and getting the answer right.

Now, having offered all of those disclaimers, I’ll give it a shot, answering these questions exactly as I would as if we were at camp together.

Believe it or not, you have just been handed a golden opportunity to share a teachable moment with your children. As teenagers, they are old enough to be told the unvarnished truth about their cousin, and about your personal struggles with his lifestyle choices. Your struggles mentally and emotionally are what they are, and are perfectly legitimate. It’s OK for them to see you struggle.

As you let them into your soul, they will see as never before in real time, right before their eyes, how you as a committed Christ-follower, as a parent, as an uncle or aunt, are attempting to respond biblically to this new information about your nephew.

Without in any way minimizing your shock, pain, and confusion, let me ask you to consider a couple of questions as you try to process all of this new information. (Trust me, I am processing this right along with you. So if my thoughts seem to be developing as I write this, they are!) 

  • Would you be asking the same questions — about holidays, contact with their cousins, etc. — if your nephew was heterosexual and living with his girlfriend? Or living at home but sleeping with his girlfriend? Or was into Internet porn?
  • What if instead of something sexual, you discovered that he has cheated on tests at school? Or gossips? Or abuses alcohol? Or uses illegal drugs? Or has been caught telling lies? Or is disrespectful to his parents? Or acts or talks proudly or arrogantly? Or has anger-management issues? Or uses profanity? Or was married and subsequently divorced? 

What I am getting at is this: Is the fact that his behavior falls in the category homosexuality or lesbianism the thing that drives your discomfort, and generates these questions? 

I find it intriguing that God explicitly states,

There are six things the Lord hates—no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family (Proverbs 6:16-19).

I cite this passage to suggest that if we are consistent, then we would be asking all of your same questions about any family member (or friend) involved in any of the issues that God explicitly states that He hates — including the telling of lies, or having proud-looking eyes!

Point is, we all do things that God hates. This being the case, how should we be treated with regard to holiday meals or contact with teenage family members?

“Consistency, thou art a rare jewel.” Thus my question, asked in all sincerity, is this: How do we respond with consistency when we are talking about LGBT issues?

I will not presume to tell you what to do. I can only tell you what I would do. 

I, too, have a nephew whom I love and respect. If he were to confide to me some lifestyle choices with which I personally disagree, it would make absolutely no difference in how I treated him, or how I would respond to him. 

Because you know what? It’s not up to me to agree or disagree with his or anyone else’s lifestyle. Who am I to sit in judgment of another’s lifestyle choices? (And in the interests of full disclosure, truth be told, I, too, have made some choices with which I disagree! No one, including me — especially me — can claim a monopoly on perfection.)

Did not Jesus say to us, “Do not judge others”? Yes, He did — Matthew 7:1. Did not Jesus say to us, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (the her being a woman caught in the act of adultery)? Yes, He did — John 8:7.

There is one (and only one) exception to my it-would-make-absolutely-no-difference statement: If anyone in my life, be it family or friend, was a clear and present danger to my family, that would be a game-changer. By clear and present danger I mean this: It’s one thing for someone to use illegal drugs; it’s quite another to entice my children into using drugs. It’s one thing to be sexually active outside of marriage; it’s quite another thing to display predatory sexual behavior toward my children. It’s one thing to have anger-management issues; it’s quite another thing to threaten bodily harm to my children.

See the difference?

Back on point, my nephew is not accountable to me for his choices. How he chooses to live his life is between him and God. My love for him is unconditional. I cannot think of anything that would change that. His lifestyle is, quite frankly, none of my business. 

So were I to receive the exact same bombshell revelation that you just received, I would be surprised, shocked, taken aback. But at the end of the day, in terms of my relationship with and love for my nephew, it would change nothing.

That’s where I currently sit on this issue (emphasis upon the word “currently”). But as I continue to process this, I would LOVE to hear from you. Tell me what you think (respectfully, please). We can certainly agree or disagree and remain friends. These are not easy questions. There are no easy answers. I am open to hearing your take on this subject.

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