All posts by libraryfree4all

Holy Sexuality and the Gospel – book review

Dr. Yuan tackles the issue of same sex attraction not from the standpoint of behavior, but from the standpoint of being holy. What I love about it is he hits at the heart of the gospel. We need nothing short of a complete overhaul – all of us. His writing is full of solid theology, encouragement, and admonishment for believers.

It would be most effective used by a Biblically knowledgeable leader with the included 8-week study guide.

The book has many passages with powerful words of encouragement. There are words not just for those who experience same sex attraction, but also for:

  • parents grieving over rebellious children
  • married people who struggle with being satisfied in their marriage
  • people who are single in an environment that almost idolizes marriage
  • those of us who wish the process of sanctification weren’t so difficult

In short, Dr. Juan has words for all Christians. The final chapters give outstanding advice about how to reach out to people in the gay community.

On the other hand, it’s quite academic. Dr. Juan often uses vocabulary and references concepts that are probably only familiar to serious Bible students. The study guide does an excellent job of guiding the reader through the language and concepts, but there are still difficult portions.

Four stars for being an encouraging, foundation-affirming read.

FAVORITE QUOTES

On clarity:
In our culture of confusion, ambiguity is no longer an option. Instead of affirming what’s generally normal, common or usual, we must look precisely at what’s biblical…What we need is a completely new paradigm to represent God’s sexual ethic: Holy Sexuality.

On struggling with sanctification:
We have so sanitized what it means to follow Jesus. We want Instagram Jesus – a nice me-centered app that is really not about following Jesus but about following my friends and getting more to follow me. Following Jesus should cost us everything; if it doesn’t, we’re following the wrong Jesus.

On language:
Don’t say “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” – just do it.

I was provided an advance copy of this book for my honest review. #PRHpartner
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Justice and Mercy

I recently served on a jury. The defendant in the case never claimed she didn’t commit the crime. Her defense was that she had a good reason to do it. She said she was afraid if she didn’t do the criminal act, she would be hurt or killed, or her daughter would be hurt or killed. The defense is called “duress,” and the defense attorney spent a lot of time building the case that the accused had good reason to believe she was in danger.

But after six days of testimony, when the jury convened to render a verdict, we weren’t making our decision based on whether we believed she would be hurt. Our decision wasn’t based on whether she truly believed she would be hurt. We had to make our decision based on a legal definition that was given to us. Under the law, the defense of duress requires that a person be in immediate danger of death or severe harm. The threat had to potentially happen right now. And when the jury read the definition, we knew we could not render a verdict of not guilty. The defendant had many chances over the course of several days to get herself to safety and get help. The verdict was guilty.

Afterward, we asked the defense attorney why she used the defense of duress, knowing there was no support for it. She said her advice to her client had been to plead guilty and go straight to sentencing (the judge was doing the sentencing in this case, not the jury). But the client refused to plead not guilty and wanted to take it to trial. The duress defense was a best try at an unwinnable defense. The defendant was given twenty years in prison – the maximum punishment.

As I thought about things, my mind went to the heavenly court that will one day convene. The Bible describes Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days in radiant white clothing, taking His seat on a flaming throne. Thousands upon thousands attend Him. The court is seated, and the books are opened (Daniel 9:7-14).

Every one of us will stand before that court one day. We will give an accounting for every word we have spoken and every deed we have done.

If you’re like me, you have two thoughts skitter one right after the other when you think of this. The first thought is deep fear, and the second is justification of myself. “I’m not a bad person.”

And I’m not a bad person, but the first thought is the one that will lead me to wisdom. Judgement will not be based on how good I have been as a person. Judgement will not be based on how I feel about how I’ve lived my life. It will be based upon how I have measured up to the perfect law of God.

Throughout scripture – old and new testaments, there is reference to the perfect law of God. Psalm 19 says “the law of the Lord is perfect; it restores the soul.” Psalm 119 is all about the perfect law of God. James, in the New Testament, says that the person who looks at the perfect law, which leads to liberty, and doesn’t forget it, but does it, that person will be blessed. Jesus says at the end of his mountain sermon that he did not come to get rid of the law, but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17), and he tells us to be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect.

Perfect. That is the standard we will be measured against. And every one of us has fallen short of perfect (Romans 3:23).

1 John 2:1 refers to Jesus as our advocate with the Father. Advocate is a legal term, like a lawyer. And Jesus’ legal counsel to us is this: plead guilty.

On the day we stand before the Ancient of Days to have every word and deed in our life measured against the perfect law of God, plead guilty. If we choose not to plead guilty, then we will certainly be found guilty, just like the client in the trial. Judgement will not go well for us because justice demands punishment when the law has been broken. But thankfully God is not only just, he is also full of mercy, and Jesus offers us a defense that is much better than duress. He offers us Himself.

The justice and mercy of God come together in the person of Jesus, the Christ. Jesus, who fulfilled the perfect law of God in every word and deed, nevertheless received the punishment of the law breakers. That is what qualifies him to be our defense on our day of accountability. He is our only defense on that day. My prayer is that all who read this will come to accept that defense for themselves. We will all be rendered guilty, but those who plead the defense of Jesus will not go to the sentencing stage because that has already been done for them.

Those of us who have received this teaching, we are called to seek justice and love mercy, just like our God (Micah 6:8). Jesus said the same thing in a different way: love God with all your heart (justice), and love your neighbor as yourself (mercy).

I think the song, I Trust in Jesus by Third Day says it wonderfully.

Battling Failure to Achieve Success

Have you ever felt embarrassed when you’re completely alone? I have. The memory of some goofy comment or thoughtless action comes to mind, and the heat rises in my face and body. I may even turn my head in reaction to the sensation, although there’s nothing to turn away from. If it happens at night, and invades my sleep, I can feel like an insect pinned on a board at the mercy of waves of embarrassment at best, and shame at worst.

I have techniques for handling this:

Discern Where the Battle Lies

Some of our self-criticism is true, and some of it is not. It’s vital to distinguish between the two. We will exhaust ourselves if we simply shadowbox with the voices in our heads, so I refuse to shadowbox and I take my struggle to God. One go-to prayer I ask is from the end of Psalm 19:
But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

I recognize that I am incapable of discerning the true intention of my heart without outside help. The Word of God is capable of judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Is there something I have not obeyed from God’s Word? Is there an attitude I have held or expressed in violation of God’s command to love? Did I not speak truth when the situation called for it, or did I not show compassion and mercy? Am I withholding forgiveness? I bring the details to God in prayer and ask Him to show me if/how I have sinned.

Choose the Appropriate Approach

God convicts us of sin in order to purify us and bring us into closer relationship with Him. Satan accuses us of sin or magnifies our mistakes in order to weaken us and keep us feeling defensive or useless. If God shows me nothing that I have done in violation of His Word, then I know I have been listening to a voice in my head that is not His, and I need to counter it with God’s words. A quick search for “encouragement from God’s Word” gives plenty of good verses to counter fear, loneliness, weakness, purposelessness, unworthiness, unloveliness, etc. But knowing it for yourself is powerful. Prepare for these moments by memorizing scripture, and you will be blown away by how God uses it to guide and comfort you.
If I am guilty, then I need to confess and make amends quickly.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:9)

Confession begins with God because He is the one we have sinned against. He has commanded us to love one another as He has loved us. If we are unloving to one another, we are disobedient to Him. Confess to God, forgive all who have sinned against you, and then apologize to anyone you have wronged. If it is necessary, make amends as Zaccheus did (Luke 19). This is hard-core obedience, but the faster you obey, the quicker you will be free from the anchor of guilt.

Once you have confessed and made amends, you truly are free. If guilty thoughts continue to hound you, counter them with God’s Words.

Remember What the Battle is About

We are selfish creatures, and our tendency is to think our life is a personal battle. Sometimes the accusatory voices in my head come from other people – either they really said something accusing me, or I imagine that’s what they think. But the Word of God says this:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:12-13)

The people we battle in our heads are not our enemies. The enemy is the one who is trying to separate us from the love of God. That enemy does not want us to live in the freedom from sin and guilt that God offers through Jesus Christ. That enemy is a liar, and accuses or flatters as it suits him.

God has chosen to forgive, through Jesus Christ. God calls us worthy because Jesus has given us worth as His sons and daughters. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us because He loves us, and nothing can separate us from that love.

Measure of Success

Our success in this life will be determined by how well we have stayed locked into the love of God. God’s love is an unselfish love, and it will produce unselfish love in us. As we use the Word of God and prayer to do battle against the accusations and criticisms in our minds, we will become people who are able to offer encouragement to others. And that is how our failures become successes.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:4-6)

Focusing on the Right Question

Picture this: someone is gathering belongings for her vacation, busily packing a swim suit, towels, sunscreen, boogie board, rubber flip flops. When she’s all prepared, she joins her fellow vacationers, only to find out they’re setting out on a snow skiing trip.

Whoops. Seems like someone forgot to ask an important question.

If you don’t know where you’re going, then how can you prepare yourself for the journey?

Where do you believe you’re going with this one life you’ve been given? We all have an answer to that question. If you’re not sure what your answer is, then look at your actions, because we always act based on what we believe.

What drives your thoughts, financial plans and schedule each day? Whatever you’re spending your effort “packing” indicates where you think you’re going. Isn’t it important to be sure you’re spending your time packing the right stuff?

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. Noone comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14). Those of us who believe that statement spend our time checking with Him to pack the appropriate things for our journey.

Here’s a list of a few items in my bag:

Confession – I have had to give up the idea that my view of the world is 100% correct and name the ways I have been getting it wrong. That means I have to cast away pride, because if I’m packing pride, confession won’t fit.

Repentance – I need to correct my behavior and attitudes to match up with what God says is true. Spending time reading God’s Word and with other believers will help keep me honest with this, if I let them (again, no room for pride).

Forgiveness – When I confess and repent, God is faithful to forgive me (1 John 1:9), and He expects me to share with others what He has given to me. I have to remove revenge to make room for forgiveness, and I have needed help from other people and wise counselors to learn how it fits. In the process, I have had to repack confession and repentance, and try again with forgiveness. The church word for this process is sanctification, and it’s really pretty annoying. I just want to get it right and keep it that way. But, then, forgiveness can be shared with myself, too.

Thanksgiving – This is the most versatile item. The Bible says it like this: “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5). It’s appropriate in all circumstances. It’s the little black dress for life. Thanksgiving can look like singing, dancing, prayer, enjoyment with other people, quiet moments alone – it can take almost any form and be practiced any time. The more thanksgiving I pack, the more space seems to be freed up for my other items. It’s like the TARDIS that way.

If I spend my time and energy packing these items, I will be equipped for where I’m going, because I’m going to be with my Father in Heaven.

Won’t you join me?

Love Thy Body – book review

“Every social practice is the expression of fundamental assumptions about what it means to be human.”* Nancy Pearcy’s Love Thy Body walks readers through the various worldviews that underly many of today’s hot-button issues: abortion, euthanasia, issues of sexuality, gender and familial relationships. She exposes a common theme of disregard for, or even hated of, the physical body.

By contrast, the Christian worldview declares “body and soul together form an integrated unity,” and that “what God has created has intrinsic value and dignity.” These values inform human rights.

Pearcy’s writing is compassionate, yet unflinching in its honesty. I had the pleasure of meeting her the day I bought the book, and she spoke of how she studies her students (she is a Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University) in order to know how to teach them best. I feel that same desire to connect with her audience is in her writing. She often reminds the readers that the issues she is covering impact real people with real struggles and real pain. She includes many personal examples.

This is a very meaty book full of valuable notes and a study guide. Pearcy’s research is thorough and current, and I found practical applications of the ideas she covers on almost a daily basis. She repeatedly calls on the Church to be the active force of loving truth in a society that needs to learn what love truly is.

*quotes from Love Thy Body

Good Grief

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Therefore, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. – John 11:5-6

Jesus didn’t rush to heal Lazarus. He waited. He waited so long that Lazarus died. He did it because he loved Lazarus and his sisters.

There are notes in the margin of my Bible that show a shift in perspective that I’ve had about this scripture. My earlier note says “our difficulties are to his glory, perhaps that’s a form of his love.” I was expressing my faith that, on some level, God works all things out for the good of those who love him.

That is true, and as we try to take hold of this truth in faith, we learn the discipline of setting our minds on the hope we have in Christ, and the good that God has in store for us when all things are complete and redeemed.

But God wants us to experience more. It seems, in my experience, that a significant trauma in our life primes us to receive what God wants to give. When we get to the end of our own understanding and strength, when something we relied on for security or self-identity is removed, that’s exactly the point at which God does the work only He can do.

God presents Himself to the “poor in spirit” in a way I find impossible to adequately describe. His comfort is sustaining. Jesus was a man of suffering and pain, so he truly understands.

He gives us significance in this life – not just because we will one day be redeemed, but because our struggles and sorrows are seen by him now. The work he wants to do with us in the Kingdom of God begins now.

I learned these things after going through significant loss of my own. Martha, Mary and Lazarus learned it after having their lives, as they had known them, stripped from them. And, through Jesus, our lives were restored with new purpose.

The original note is crossed out and new words are written around it: “Their faith would be unshakable after this loss.”
I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good besides You. Psalm 16:2

GOD, Don’t You Even Care?

As the disciples rowed Jesus on the lake, an enormous storm erupted around them, threatening to capsize the boat. Jesus, having spent every ounce of energy he had, was sleeping despite the chaos. He is awakened to the frightened cries: “Don’t you even care that we’re about to die?”

The day of the storm, Jesus had just spent hours and hours teaching huge crowds of people. This was not necessarily a receptive crowd. There were a lot of argumentative and hostile people among them. Ever have a day like that?

And he spent more time explaining things to his disciples. Patience. That’s what’s needed when the folks who live with you, who should be the ones to understand you best, still need tons of explanations. He cared enough to take the time.

This went on all day. It was evening before Jesus asked them to row him across the lake. Sleep probably felt like a mere moment before the accusatory cries came. Don’t you even care?

Our answer to that question makes all the difference. We’re dying down here. Does God care, or not? If you find you’re often overwhelmed, perhaps you know how you’re answering that question, even if you would never let the words escape your lips. So, let us take a moment to strengthen ourselves, and remember the character of our God.

Compassionate – Psalm 103:13-14

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust.

He’s never going to ask more from us than we can give. He isn’t asking us to save ourselves, or even almost save ourselves. In His compassion, He has taken care of our every need through Jesus, the Christ.

Gracious – John 1:16

Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness.

We’re not saved by works, but He gives us plenty to do. The abilities and opportunities we have to work, serve, help, play – all of it – comes from our gracious God. Eyes that can read, ears that can hear, minds that understand, other people to share it with. God’s graciousness is in evidence everywhere because He cares for us.

Patient – 2 Peter 3:8-9

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Patience is an ironic thing. Sometimes, people get yelled at for being patient. God has that happen to Him a lot. But often, maybe even always, the thing we’re yelling at Him about is more evidence of His love for us.

Love – Ephesians 2:4-5

Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

We are His absolute treasure. He always planned to draw us near to Him, into His family through Jesus. It was His pleasure to do that on our behalf.

He loves you. He has sacrificed deeply to prove it. Storms will come, and they will be scary. But one thing you can rest your mind about: God does, indeed care.