Common Grace and Gracious Comfort

This evening I was driving home and, as usual, I had NPR on. But at this hour they were playing a concert with Dorvak. The simple elegance and beauty of the violin, cello, and bass played with such vigor and harmony compelled me to listen. I rolled down the window – such a beautiful night – and allowed the breeze to flitter in as I drove. I pulled into the driveway still hearing the simple concerto and was overwhelmed with the desire to hear more. So, I drove away needing to hear this music seemingly touched with the voice of the Almighty.

I drove back through town allowing the music to flow over and over me its presence engulfing my very being over and over the notes flew, the world disappeared, washed away by this common grace. This music overwhelmed me flowing into my soul, and through it, the very peace of God. 

The sky was growing ever dimmer as the sun set lazily over the horizon. The lights of cars passing by before only perfunctory now illumed the road as they drove. And suddenly, as if out of nothing, the grasses began to glow as the fireflies glistened in the night. Their light flickered along the highway giving light to the darkening ground. Then splat! and a brief glow and then darkness as one of them hit my windshield. My thoughts of peace and serenity were interrupted by the realization that we are in a fallen world so prone to death. Our lives, flicker in the night only for a moment as the darkness once again overwhelms our light. Our life is but a vapor, our time on earth is short – and it was God who made it so.

Squish! another firefly’s life cut short by the onrush of my automobile. The light from its body grew dim and the darkness prevailed once again, but though it was small and it shone only briefly I couldn’t help but notice it. It’s radiance so clearly seen against the darkness surrounding its light was not overwhelmed and was even made more perceptible by it. Our world is darkening, but it is in this darkness that the Light of Christ will shine brighter than ever as the radiance of Truth pierces the darkness bringing many to Himself.

Once again the sound akin to that of a raindrop rung out and a light glimmered and faded. In this moment my perception changed. I was looking not simply at the surroundings, but feeling as though I were the car conquering the little firefly. The headlamp’s lights dominating its area of influence and the car simply slaughtered everything that got in its way. How foreign the world’s system is from Christianity. It is not the greatest that shall be great, but the least. It is not he first that shall be first, but the last. We do not abide by the survival of the fittest, rather we are to humble ourselves and serve the least of these. This is the power of the Christian witness that shines into the dark systems of the world and though we be stronger, faster, smarter we do not trample over the weak, but pick them up and take them with us to the Celestial City where we shall all be made anew. 

“”You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” [Mat 5:14-16 ESV]

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Stay With Me

I find it strange the way I can so deeply identify with a song. There’s something almost mystical about hearing the words written by someone you don’t know and likely will never know and it strikes deep at your soul. Such is the nature of the song, “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith. A buddy of mine sent me the YouTube link to the song earlier this week and I listened – mostly just to get it out of the way, I thought it was a joke at first. Each word struck my soul like a gong with a resonation that can only be found in that of a shared experience.

The lyrics are simple:
Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man
These nights never seem to go to plan
I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?
Chorus
Oh, won’t you stay with me?
‘Cause you’re all I need
This ain’t love it’s clear to see
But darling, stay with me

Why am I so emotional?
No it’s not a good look, gain some self-control
And deep down I know this never works
But you can lay with me so it doesn’t hurt

Chorus repeats three times.

This song is full of frustration, pain, longing which is apparent in the music video accompanying the song. The video starts out with Sam picking up his things as the camera pans over a bed with a man in it. We aren’t left to assume the details as the song indicates Sam’s not being good at one night stands, but that he needs love because he’s just a man – these words spoken as he’s walking down the road from his lover’s apartment. The chorus rings out, “….Won’t you stay with me?”

It’s not hard to see the writer’s desire to have companionship. I suppose that this is something that every man desires, but for those men who experience same-sex attractions there’s more than meets the eye. The need for companionship is often never met or is met for a season until that source is exhausted. Those who enter into same-sex homoerotic relationships are even less likely to have their needs met.

Let’s delve right in, shall we? The basic nature of homosexual attractions is a need to fill a gap in the person that they feel they are and the person that they are (i.e. to feel like a men among men). As I’ve stated before this is temporarily facilitated by homoerotic interactions or fantasies that provide a means of feeling close to and a part of another man. But once the feelings of attraction subside (largely due to the removal of the element of the mystery of “otherness”) the source is exhausted and another one needs to be sought. This is the life of many in the gay community (despite popular opinion) going from one encounter to another seeking to fill a basic human need for belonging.

So, how is what is in the song a shared experience? If you’ve read my blogs you’ll know that I’ve remained celibate through my life and haven’t ever had this one-night-stand experience. But I have experienced the longing for companionship that is expressed in this song. I have experienced on several occasions thinking that I’ve met the perfect person who is going to be my life-long companion later only to realize that this wasn’t the case. I know what it means to desire to be with someone so much and know that that desire isn’t returned. The maddening part of it all is that much of this desire to be near is never expressed or worse I assume that the other person doesn’t desire to be near, but in reality it’s simply something they never expressed. There have been times when I, too, have inwardly cried, “Stay with me!”

“Well, Aaron, why don’t you find yourself someone who’ll stay with you? I’m sure you could find a man who would love you and you could get married… yada yada” Says the ill-informed person. It’s one of those commonly repeated, seemingly helpful things that one hears whether directly or indirectly. But in reality, it’s damming. What this “helpful” person is doing is telling me to attempt to find water in a dried up well.

What if this person were to actually do more than shove the problem off on someone else? What if this person were to encourage me to find companionship among men and to find love and affection from other men without sexualizing the interaction? What if this person were to grab me up and hold me until I felt like I belonged? What if this person did something that helped?

That’s some of my reflections on this song.

Blessings in Christ,

Aaron

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Otherness

Facebook is an awesome tool and great way to communicate, but tonight it’s provided me with a reminder of being “different.” I scrolled through a friends’ friends list attempting to locate a mutual friend and as I scrolled I found one picture after another with a boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, even whole families as profile pictures. And then there’s me.

There are days when I really just don’t know if I belong on this planet. I live caught between two worlds, both of which are denied me for one reason or another. I’m enrolled in college, I have a direct path to a seminary that will take a year off my M.Div for credits earned at my undergrad, I know what I want to do; my professional life is directed and I foresee success in that endeavor. But when I look at my relational future, it’s like looking out from the masthead of a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – nothing but ocean all around as far as the eye can see.

In my life I’ve been blessed with some really great female friends. These women have been my rocks when I simply didn’t know what to do. I’ve felt very close to these women and bonded with them in a way that I have never done with any of my male friends. I’m very comfortable with women in ways that most men simply can’t be. I’m not attempting to evaluate their attractiveness the size of their breasts or whatever I’m simply being there and enjoying their company. I reckon my relationships with women to be like that of what straight guys experience with other men.

With men it’s different. My “different” mind finds itself attempting to evaluate how attractive or unattractive the men I’m around are. There are times when I’m around attractive men that I struggle vigorously simply to be present, i.e. my mind focused on what they’re talking about or the activity. So I remind myself that they’re my brother in Christ and they’re a precious child of the Most High God as I am to bring myself back to reality, back to the sense that I’m not different I am one of these men.

My struggle then is how do I reach the place where I can simply enjoy a man’s – even an attractive man’s – company as I do with my female friends? Selah

This is the life for folks like me. Even as I write about this I can remember having a conversation about this with one of my SSA friends and our seeming “otherness.” But my struggles aren’t altogether alien. While I find myself struggling to find healthy companionship with men, my brothers in Christ find themselves facing the same struggles with women. I suppose the dividing line between my struggles and theirs is that my brothers in Christ will eventually find one of these women they’re attracted to and marry, raise a family and grow old together, I will not.

As I sit here and write my mind goes back to the years of lies that I told myself and the lies that I believed. I sit here with tears filling my eyes as I mourn the wasted years of torment wishing that I could just be like the rest of the guys, praying that God would somehow “fix” me. I can still feel the anger that I held against an unjust God who demanded that I be fixed, but would never fix me. I replay the moment on the second floor of that horrible church crying and telling God how much I hated Him. I remember the months of just hoping that someday I would be able to find a man who would be mine and we would settle down together and I remember the evidence piling up that this was simply a fantasy and a broken cistern.

Here in my chair, these thoughts swirling around me like a torrent of melancholy, there is still yet light. The light is fleeting at times and much clouded by doubt, fear, and anger, but it remains. This light is the hope of the future. Yes, my past remains as a dark cloud behind me, but it is not that to which I look. I look to God and have faith in that which is not seen, knowing that He is able to supply all my needs according to His riches in Glory in greater measure than I could ask or think. I store up treasures in Heaven for myself as I stand in this world that is not my home lacking. What the enemy of my soul has taken from me is being stored in Heaven where nothing can destroy it. My hope is in a world far from these worlds to which I do not belong. My hope is in the Lord. And whether or not it is my privilege to experience this provision in this life, I will receive all in the next and it is therefore my duty to ensure that I have done all I can to help those in need as I am, that they might not lose hope and that they might find rest in God.

God has, in His wisdom, determined that this be the path through which I walk. The reality of this is not fatalistic, but reassuring. It is my reliance upon a sovereign God that causes me to be able to make the next step and journey onward to the task to which He has called me. It is with the strength of knowing that He declares the beginning from the end that I step towards that end knowing that God does not regard the lives of His servants as cheap and has a plan for my joy and His glory. It is when I am in the shadow of death that I rely on the rod of a Sovereign God to guide me through the darkness to His everlasting light.

Grace and peace be with you.

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Gracious Joy

Ah the joys of having completed my classes for this semester. I am enjoying beyond measure my time at Asbury. My first semester here has given me the opportunity to meet some really awesome men of God that have focused my direction in life. I’m excited to see what God has in store.

By the Providence of God and His Providence alone, I’ve been made male class chaplain for my class at Asbury. I pray that God uses me for His eternal glory to the advancement of His kingdom. In the next few weeks and months I will be working with my pastor and my old counselor to build a support group for those who experience unwanted same-sex attractions. I’ve begun writing a church constitution that I will hone over the next few years while at Asbury University and Seminary.

The life of one who is a full-time student and full-time employee is chaotic at times, but it is by the power of God that I persevere and even thrive! But, this chaos, of necessity, has precluded my writing as often as I’d like. It is with joy that I sit now at my desk and compose this entry.

This time at Asbury has been, to me, the answer to long standing prayers to the Father. God has been so kind in His answer to my prayers – going beyond that which I had hoped for. In His providence He has provided me a system of support as I journey through my struggles with my sexuality, given me an opportunity to minister to those at Asbury, and blessed me with a pastor who supports my endeavors to further the Kingdom of Heaven. And in appointments and visits to come I foresee the abundance of God’s gracious provision multiplying beyond my imagining.

How can a wretched man like me be blessed with such abundance? I could give you reason after reason why I should never have even gotten this far. But it is not mine to answer back to God with my list of reasons; rather it is with thanksgiving that I receive the blessing of God. Grace upon grace is lavished on me and my only response is amazement, joy, thankfulness, and praise.

But this is how God works. He uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise and the weak things to shame the strong, that no one might glory in His presence, but that they’d run to the Father with nothing, asking merely to be a slave, that He might show His glory in extravagant celebration as they’re received as sons and daughters of God. The God who is clothed with light has no need or want for your filthy rags. He desires humble submission. As we work for God, it is we who must work, but Grace within us. For we work because God is at work within us conforming us to the image of His son that He might be the firstborn of many brethren.

So I extol the greatness of my gracious provider that has blessed me with more than I could ask or think – this by His sovereign grace alone.

While there is so much more I could write, but I will save it for another day. May the Grace of God grow within you all and His joy envelop your hearts and souls to His glory.

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What I Wanna Do When I Grow Up


Jonathan House

Mission Statement:

Bringing healing to the same-sex attracted community through Christ-centered community.

Vision Statement:

Through the use of healthy community centered on Christ, bring healing and hope for those unhappy in the homosexual lifestyle in a judgment-free, empowering environment.

Jonathan House’s Healing Community:

  • Apartments similar to student housing
    • Licensed Professional counselors for each building and mentors for each floor.
      • Counselors will be on staff and will not charge for services, this will be included in the cost of residency.
      • Counselors and mentors will be the primary agents of healing for residents and will be critical to healing.
    • Prayer Chapels for personal reflection and prayer available 24/7.
      • With roommates, jobs, small groups, etc. time spent alone in one’s “Prayer Closet” would be at a premium. This time would be facilitated by small prayer chapels equipped with worship music, bibles, commentaries, etc.
    • Troubled situation rescue for teens in abusive or overly-legalistic homes.
      • Offered as a means of healing to the parents and a means of escape for the teens.
    • Quarantine period in separate housing for newcomers until they’ve shown a true desire to heal.
      • While there’s always a risk of sexual intercourse between residents, those committed to healing will learn to understand and embrace the needs underlying SSA, those who aren’t won’t. Those who continuously exhibit an unwillingness to join the efforts of the community will be asked to leave.
    • Alcohol prohibited in residency halls and residents are asked not to drink. Smoking, while not forbidden is not permitted in dorms simply due to potential damage and quit smoking programs will be available.
      • Alcohol can damage one’s judgment and isn’t conducive to healing as wounds are glossed over with alcohol. While no moral judgment is made regarding the substance, it’s not beneficial to residents – especially those coming to the community for substance abuse issues.
    • Roommates would be OSA individuals seeking healing from other issues (e.g. mild drug addiction [the facility would not be equipped to deal with Heroin or other hard drugs], pornography abuse, love addiction, co-dependency, etc.).
      • Residents will be able to help someone else with their struggles and see that we all experience wounds in our lives. OSA roommates who are struggling with other issues provide a unique type of individual – a broken one. There’s no pride, there’s no haughtiness because life has torn it from them in one way or another and they need healing just as much as the men they’ll be rooming with. It helps SSA men have fellowship and really get to know men at their lowest point. It allows the individual struggling with substance abuse or other compulsive behaviors pour into the life of another human being and the SSA individual to do the same. It’s the cornerstone of the community.

  • Healing Community Life:
    • Chapel as integral part of residency with sound doctrine full of God’s glory and Sovereign Unconditional grace.
      • Attendance would not be required. This is not a pray-away-the-gay camp, it is a place for personal healing and while we’d like Christ to be part of that healing we’re not going to force Him on anyone. But those who join chapel services will be taught about the glory of God and will be shown the unconditionally of God’s sovereign grace.
    • Small groups modeled after the 12-step program.
      • Very effective tools. These groups will bridge buildings and groups together. Men will meet to share their struggles for the week and experience hope in the fellowship of one another. They’ll know that they’re not the only ones who struggle in the same way.
    • Gym and other physical activities provided on site.
      • Exercise is good for the body and soul and there will be opportunity for residents to enjoy it.
    • Arts encouraged for those who wish to develop their talents.
      • The objective of residency isn’t to change who people are, but rather allow them to be who God made them to be. If that’s a great artist, tailor, or designer then we shouldn’t discourage that. Many SSA men were ostracized by the male community for their tendency toward the artistic residents will find a place of acceptance and healing.
    • Hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
      • Residents will be able to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation together.
    • Sports teams to provide a means of healing wounds suffered for insufficiency in sporting activities.
      • Many SSA men have been made to feel as other when in sports environments. Teams made up of mentors and residents will provide an opportunity for healing.
    • Specialty groups for those needing holding therapy or other forms of tactile therapy.
      • Men, especially men with high same-sex needs, need holding and physical bonding. Facilitating this in a healthy environment will meet the needs SSA men have.
    • A community built around time, touch, and talk.
      • A community of men built on the principle that we all have worth and we’re all part of this thing. Spending time with one another talking and touching (healthily) bonds residents and allows for healing.

  • Outside Community Effort:
    • Local employers would be solicited to provide employment for those relocating to community.
      • This isn’t a boarding school or a vacation home; it’s a place for people to relocate for a while to reap the benefits of the community. Those who wish to have jobs will have it, to the best of the residential community’s ability, facilitated.
    • Education for pastors of residents and their congregations on what SSA is and isn’t.
      • “Get that thar demon otta that thar queer!” No more.
    • Establish a network of churches with strong mentorship/small group programs available.
      • Church communities need to know, it takes a whole community to make a healthy human being.
    • Continued support through Skype, Email, and other forms of electronic communication.
      • Residents will eventually move on, but the support doesn’t end. Every day is another day in the healing journey and it’s up to the residential staff to facilitate that continued growth.
    • Referral program for those who do not wish to continue the healing journey and wish to pursue a homosexual lifestyle. These would be “Faith-Based” organizations to at least keep them in touch with Christ in some way.
      • While this is only used as a last resort for those who have shown that they’re unwilling to or unable to due to serious, repeated, offence continue to reside in the community a referral program will be established to allow those residents to find the help they need to go the direction they’d like to go.
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Big Bang… :)

Well I suppose I’ll be called a heretic for this, but I’m going to have to say that Nebular Theory really makes sense and could be the means by which God created the universe.

Does this diminish our perception of God’s omnipotence? I don’t think so. Could He have created the universe in one instant causing astronomical entities to “appear” millions if not billions of years old? Certainly. But holding to this unverifiable and seemingly ridiculous conception of the universe as being a mere 10000 years old is lunacy and does not reflect an emphasis on finding Truth, rather it reflects one’s attempt to make the “truth” bend to their personal traditions. 

The Copernican model of the Solar System was so widely contested by the church of Rome and even the Magisterial Reformers not because of any particular scientific error that was being espoused by this model, but because the language of “the sun rising and setting” seemed to necessitate a geocentric model. The issue wasn’t science, it was a perhaps more important topic, that of the inerrancy of Scripture. While we now accept the terms “sunrise” and “sunset” as “common sense” (that which is commonly observed by the senses, what is immediately validateable by the 5 senses, i.e. it appears to our eyes that the sun literally rises.) terms, but accepting such terms does not deny the scientific fact nor the inerrancy of Scripture. 

Much like we do with Revelation and its common sense expressions that are used. I doubt any of us would really hazard to posit that Jesus has a literal sword coming out of His mouth — The Son of the Living God is not a circus clown. So too is it, I believe, with the Genesis 1 account of Creation — common sense terms being used by the writer to describe an event that happened. God in His wisdom spoke to the inspired writers of the Bible in terms that were accessible to them. For God to explain the formation of stars with the protostellar disks and the Chandrasekhar limit would be tantamount to our attempting to describe to those same people what coding in C++ is. 

Provide me with reasonable and verifiable scientific theory that supports a 10000 year old universe and I’ll accept it, but until then Genesis 1 is a glorious, inspired and inerrant (in its original manuscripts — though I believe we have a preserved copy of those manuscripts) expression of praise and Theological principle of putting God at the center of the formation of His world that He may do as He pleases with His creation and enact His plans which He had lain before the worlds began; but it is not a literal expression of the means by which the universe was formed.

You might ask then, what about the formation of life? Did God use means? I think certainly. Is evolutionary theory the answer? From what I’ve seen of Evolutionary theory it has about the same chance of being right as a single-celled organism forming from random DNA sequences created by the random assembling of random proteins that were assembled by the random sequencing of random atoms. So, 1 in a kabiliquaddrilion.

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Suffering for the glory of Gospel of Christ – Peter Cameron Scott

Peter Cameron Scott, who founded the Africa Inland Mission was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1867, but grew up in Philadelphia. He had been so tormented, before his surrender to the call of God, by the Bible verse “You are not your own, you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit which are God’s.” that he tried to erase it from his Bible

He attempted to pursue a career in music and when on his way to try out for a chorus God spoke to him saying, Would you see a life of self-glory and applause or will you dedicate your life to My service. Peter promptly enrolled in the Missionary Training College and set his sights on Africa.

Upon his arrival in Africa, he contracted malaria and had to take the boat back home. After he got well he went to Africa, this time with his brother John. He was delighted to be with his brother ministering and to not be alone, until John contracted the fever and died. Peter, all by himself, digs his brother’s grave, covers him, and stands alone.

He makes up his mind to continue the mission, until he gets sick again and has to go back home. As he recovers he goes to Westminster Abbey and happens upon the tomb of David Livingstone. Upon his grave he read these words: “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold. Them also, I must bring.” This reignites the missionary flame in Scott who returns to Africa and founds the Africa Inland Mission which is a very strong and stable mission 130 years later.

 

This struck me in two ways.

  1. The almost vicious nature of God’s Divine Providence, allowing even his most hungry and active servants to dwell in such agony of the heart. The man lost his brother while trying to reach the lost in an unforgiving continent. Almost reminds me of Job and God’s allowing Job to suffer to settle a bet with Satan. But oh! the care God takes of His servants and the rewards He lavishes on them for their suffering. Peter Cameron Scott desired to reach Africa and went through many trials to even begin ministering there. And the harvest of that seed of missions and suffering is a mission that survived him 130 years later.
  2. The fact that there are sheep that are not of this fold. It reminds me of Paul at Corinth in Acts 18 when God tells him that there are many of His people in this pagan city, the same city in which the Jews had resisted him and later would bring him before the tribunal. God has lost sheep all around me and He has decreed that they are to be found and I must get them. I must be as a city set upon a hill that cannot be hid, I must proclaim the Gospel in everything I do and in every word I say that the sheep would hear the voice of the Shepherd and come to Him.

“Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” – Jhn 10:25-29 ESV

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