Follower of Christ

A couple disclaimers for this post:

  1.  I refer to homosexuality in my video and in this blog as sin, not because I believe this, but because it is mirroring the context of those who believe it is a sin.  The goal of this post is not to argue this view’s merits, but to focus on how the Bible describes how we should respond to sin….specifically in reference to the noted meme.
  2. While I say in my video that I am a Christian, I actually refer to myself as being a Follower of Christ.  Unfortunately, the label “Christian” has been hijacked by a loud and hurtful segment of the American religious community that is often hard for me to recognize.  You may see it differently, but I hold more firmly to Jesus than the dogma that is portrayed often in my culture.

This is the final installment for this meme I came across that was posted by a family member.  It is my most direct response to it.  Again, this involves my interpretation of scripture that is also backed up by many studied theologians.  I will ask, if your only response to this is to insist I am not a Christian or other choice words, that is not a productive conversation and therefore I would ask that you refrain (just as I will refrain from finding reasons why YOU are not a Christian).  However, if you’d like to share your interpretations of the specific scriptures involved in this, I’m all ears.

Before I get into the theological aspects of this post, I want to emphasize that memes such as this create very dangerous scenarios for LGBTQ+ people.  In today’s aggressive and even hateful rhetoric, people are actually empowered to physically harm LGBT people because of messages like this.  Also, young people struggling with the realization of their sexuality can very easily lose all hope and go as far as take their own lives.  Words have power, which is a Biblical truth, and I encourage everyone (but especially Christians) to let their words/memes be “always full of grace”.  (Taken from Colossians)

First of all, many of my previous highlights regarding how many Christians today view things through a different filter today is related to Lordship Salvation.  This branch of religion adds our requirements to salvation, sanctification, and emphasizes works over everything.  Proponents of Lordship Salvation define it this way, “The doctrine of lordship salvation teaches that submitting to Christ as Lord goes hand-in-hand with trusting in Christ as Savior. Lordship salvation is the opposite of what is sometimes called easy-believism or the teaching that salvation comes through an acknowledgement of a certain set of facts.” Quote link.  Opponents say this, “As defined by its own advocates, Lordship Salvation could more properly be called “Commitment Salvation,” “Surrender Salvation,” or “Submission Salvation” since in actuality the debate is not over the Lordship of Christ, but the response of a person to the gospel and the conditions which must be met for salvation.” Quote link

To me, and to summarize – Lordship Salvation is the unsupportable and unbiblical belief that the PERFORMANCE of good works, the PROMISE of good works, or the EVIDENCE of good works MUST accompany faith in Christ in order to establish, or provide evidence, that such faith has resulted in eternal life.  While the Bible definitely outlines parameters to assist us in being disciples of Christ, it does not say that any of these man-made conditions are necessary for salvation. However, many Protestant Evangelical churches, ministries, and pastors (especially in America) teach that concept as foundational today.  Which is super ironic to me, because many of these same believers of these “truths” claim Catholics are not Christians because they are too focused on man-made efforts. In any case, I believe this approach and belief system was behind the creation of this meme.  Further, I’d like to acknowledge that if you Google “Lordship Salvation believer’s favorite scriptures to condemn”, 100% of the noted scriptures will be listed (and not just for gays, but for ANYONE they determine have not met the additional criteria of works to be truly saved).

So, enough of my thoughts on this (though I think it is important to understand), let’s see what the scriptures indicate.  Remember, they were referenced specifically to prove that I cannot be a Christian because I am gay.

1 Cor 6:9-11

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

First of all, I am MUCH MORE condemned for being an adulterer if I took this at face value, for Jesus Himself said, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” Matthew 19:9. I would argue that, because of these red letter words, at least 50% of the Evangelical Church would be in hell with me!  But again, the context of this meme is about BEING GAY, so I suppose they wanted me to ignore the adultery part and focus on the “who practice homosexuality” part.  I won’t get into the etymology of the word “homosexuality” in the script for today, but note this is a more recent translation and heavily disputed.

I surmise that the person who created the meme as well as the one who shared it believe that people who commit serious sins (especially those filthy homos!), or whose lives have a pattern of serious sin, won’t go to heaven. They probably also believe that “true believers” won’t commit these sins, or at least that they won’t have a pattern of any of these sins in their lives – hence the “can’t be a Christian” tag for us gays.

However, this is NOT what this scripture is saying!  This passage means that people who are not in Christ (that is, who have never trusted in Christ as Savior, aka “the unrighteous”) will not get into heaven. They are condemned because they have never believed in Jesus, not because they have committed these sins. Christ paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future, including the ones listed in this passage.  Remember when we accepted Christ He put HIS righteousness over us?  We are no longer unrighteous because of the free gift Jesus gave to us.

2 Cor 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Many Christians (but especially those who follow – even unknowingly – Lordship Salvation) believe this means that whoever has believed in Christ as Savior will have an instantaneous change, that their mind will instantly be focused only on holy topics, their will will be subdued and directly to God’s, and their affections will be completely changed from love of sin and self to that of love of holiness and God.  Because of that, sin cannot truly continue – or especially pervasive and ongoing sin – because if it does, they can’t really have accepted Christ or have been saved.

But we all just have to be honest and look in our mirrors to understand that was not the case in any of our lives or our walk with Christ.  The affections of a saved person are not automatically changed from a love of sin and self to a love of holiness and God. Changing our way of thinking to line up with God’s way of thinking takes our cooperation, as Romans 12:2 makes so clear:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 5:17 means that whoever has received eternal life through faith in Christ has been regenerated, resulting in the creation of a new human who is a sinless, incorruptible child of God.  This new human is a result of the second birth, a spiritual birth, which all who possess eternal life have undergone. The flesh nature, which is neither good, nor righteous, does not go away when we are born again. That results in a conflict between the flesh and the spirit, which will continue until we die, or are raptured.   We are instructed to walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:4), to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24), and to walk in the spirit (Galatians 5:16 and 25) so that we can manifest the fruits of the spirit (which are good things) and not the works of the flesh (which are evil).  This scripture has nothing to do with salvation, but a promise that we will not be forsaken and we hold a new position as a child of God that was given to us despite our position in sin.

Gal 5:24

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

To really get the context of this scripture, I am expanding it to include Gal 5:19-23

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Again, this scripture was used to prove that I am not a Christian because I am gay.  Does this show that people who commit these sins will not get into heaven?

No. This passage teaches that these works of the flesh will be manifested in the lives of Christians if they choose to not walk in the Spirit.  Not walking in the spirit is one thing, but it doesn’t mean one has not accepted Christ nor does it cancel salvation, which was a gift to begin with.  The people referred to as “they” in this passage are unbelievers. They will not inherit the kingdom of God (go to heaven), because they have not believed in Jesus as Savior.  People who are not Christians cannot walk in the Spirit, because they have never received the Spirit.

Further, also in Galatians, Paul rebukes the Jewish Christians for demanding that Gentile Christian men be circumcised to truly be a follower of Christ. 

Claiming the Promise puts it this way:

Paul refuted the troublemakers by referring the gentile converts to Christianity to God’s early promise in Genesis. God promised Abraham and Sarah that they would have heirs and be the ancestors of a multitude of nations (Genesis 15:4-5; 17:4, 15-16). Those descendants were Gentiles as well as Jews. Paul referred to that early promise in order to prove from scripture that it is not God’s law but God’s promise that defines God’s relationship (covenant) with humankind. The law didn’t come until long after Abraham and Sarah had received the promise and believed (Galatians 3:17-18). Though Gentiles were never under the Jewish law, they clearly were part of God’s covenant. They did not need to be circumcised or to follow other Jewish practices.

“Those of us who are lesbian and gay Christians,” some of us observe, “are the Gentiles of modern Christianity who are being asked wrongly to renounce their/our sexual identity and live under the law of heterosexuality in order to be included in God’s covenant.  That demand is a gospel that is not really a gospel at all.”  Link to Quote, Pg. 11

1 John 3:7-10

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.

So again, the premise of the meme being that I can’t be a Christian because I am gay, I surmise these scriptures were used to point out that because I continue to sin (live as a lesbian each day), I am not practicing righteousness and am instead sinning.  Therefore, I am not of God.  Is that what this scripture is saying?

No. When we love God, we will love those born of God. Loving God and loving others is not automatic in the life of a believer. If it were, we would not be exhorted to love God with our whole heart and to love one another.  But more importantly, we need to take the entire context of 1 John into account.  Go backwards and look at 1 John 2:1. There John is writing that children of God can and do still sin. Paul in the book of Romans 7:14-25, tells us that indwelling sin remains within us. Our sin nature is dead, but indwelling sin is still active.  The key to it all is understanding our identity in Christ; we have been declared righteous, however we will still sin after we have been saved. As we grow in Christ, we will learn to hate sin more and more, just as God hates sin.

Many still believe that we can lose our salvation or that because we still sin, we must not be a child of God. Remember who is declaring us justified – God Himself.  And the Bible is clear that we are not justified by works.  As such, our failure at works also do not disqualify us. So, the Bible is clear we sin as children of God, and we’d be more clear ourselves if we were more honest. Jesus has covered ALL of our sins; our will and self-effort cannot save us or keep us saved. Finding my identity in Christ has provided me freedom from bondage, and it was given to me as a gift from Christ Himself.

Rom 6:1-7

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

This is a complex area, especially since many Bible translations (including the older versions of the NIV) create the “sin nature” argument instead of sticking to “flesh”.  These verses are often used to condemn groups of people that are viewed as sinful, thus labeling them “Not Christian”.  See Andrew Farley’s article here for expanded details

Look also at Romans 7:21 that puts the above verses into full context; our flesh so wants to contribute to our holiness. That is the flesh of self-effort or trying to will ourselves into a state of righteousness. That cheapens what Christ did on the cross! Saying that only some of our sins were forgiven (the ones leading up to our asking God to forgive our sins), would mean Christ only died for some of our sins. If He died for only some of our sins, then the cross isn’t finished, and He would need to go back on it each day to die for more sins and future sins. This is not to call out those of us who sin (which, hello, is all of us Christians) to expose us as fake, or any other focus – but to remind us that we are crucified with Christ and we need to stop acting like we used to when we tried to offset this with our own actions.  Or even worse, deny we are sinning while condemning others who sin.

1 Tim 1:8-10

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine

Again, based on the meme, I am to understand that – because I am sexually immoral – I can’t be a Christian.  But what is Paul really saying to Timothy with these verses?  Paul White says this:

Now Paul wants to make sure that no one thinks that he is against the law, so he says that it is good, “if a man use it lawfully” (verse 8). Wait a minute! If there is a lawful way to use the law, then there must be an unlawful way to use the law. Paul says, “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane…” (verse 9). In light of this instruction, why is the law so frequently used against Christians? When a saint fails, we often hear the same condemnatory remarks used, citing the Law of God, as we do against the sinner. Instead, we should edify the believer, reminding them of who they are in Christ. Only the grace of God is going to teach them how to live righteous in this present world (Titus 2:11, 12).

In other words, the Apostle Paul was saying the law is for the list of sinners.  We are not under the law, we are under grace.  Paul White goes on to say, “Saint, receive no condemnation today. Let the love of God and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son silence the voice of condemnation in your spirit. God’s Law is just, holy and good and it shows people their sins. You are clean in Jesus, so see His grace and favor, and walk therein.”  Link to article.

Conclusion

The Bible does not give us a litmus test to check if someone else is or is not a Christian.  As I’ve shared in previous posts, the fruits of the spirit can and are manifested in non-Christians as well – even Satan displayed them per the Bible!  Jesus said others would know we follow Him by the love we show.  I think the Apostle Paul’s answer would be fairly straightforward: a Christian is someone who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ”, he writes in Romans 8:9. Then, two verses later: “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” So if someone has the Spirit, they will be raised, and if someone does not have the Spirit, then they don’t belong to Christ. That sounds about as close to a definition of what makes a Christian as we’re likely to find. And for what it’s worth, I think the story of Cornelius indicates that Peter and the other Jerusalem apostles would agree (Acts 10:47; 11:17-18).

The problem is, then, how can we tell who has the Holy Spirit?  Admittedly, this doesn’t give us a cut-and-dried test we can apply to others. It is, after all, not always easy to be sure who has the Spirit and who doesn’t, but that may not be such a bad thing. If God had wanted us to know for certain whether a particular church leader, or presidential candidate, or an LGBT person was a Christian, he’d have given us a secret password which only true believers could say. But he didn’t.  So maybe we’re supposed to have assurance of our own salvation, but leave the final answers about the salvation of others with God.  And, I contend, that it is MORE IMPORTANT to love……Christians, non-Christians, sinners, even our enemies.

Reverend Dr. Kari Tolppanen put it this way:

With respect to the debate about gay marriage, people in opposite camps have shown very little real love for each other.  It is sad to see how few Christians have shown any desire to see the issue from the perspective of homosexuals.  They do not want to explore the subject or to know any gay people (GMR or show love and compassion to family members they do know).  The only thing that homosexuals hear from the mouths of these people is condemnation and disapproval.  These Christians are today’s Pharisees who cling to their view of the Bible’s teaching, but forget what is most important in the law: mercy, justice and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23).  They tie up heavy loads and put them on homosexuals’ shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them (Matt. 23:4).  They believe they know what is best for homosexuals even though they may not know any homosexual people personally.  I constantly hear stories about how cruel some Christians are towards homosexuals.  Some parents abandon their gay children and many churches kick out gay people.  No wonder many homosexuals have a very hostile attitude towards Christians and regard them as the worst kind of Pharisees. Link to article.

If you believe LGBT cannot be Christians, that is your right.  Even if you’ve read this blog, seen my other blogs, and stick to that view, that is your right.  But memes such as these are not loving.  They do not share “good news” as the gospel does, but it closes the door to relationships.  Where there is judgment, there is no love.  And, I encourage you to ask yourself, is it more important to condemn others than to love them and have a relationship with them?  Is your way better than the steps Jesus took with the sinners around Him?  Do you honestly believe that, unless someone is perfect in your moral measurement, they can’t be Christian?

I contend we are called to love.  Love our neighbors, love our enemies, and love is to have a relationship with them where they are.  And I will NEVER say someone is not a Christian because I cannot tell with any surety that they have the Holy Spirit in them.

But to those who DO know me, I would hope that you see the love I share.  I cling very heavily to the Holy Spirit to assist me in this, because I am the one being told my sincere faith is not true and I am not changed.  I rest in Christ and I know without fear that I am His, no matter that others would rather spend their time insisting I am going to hell.

Peace.

The Fruits

Recently, I saw a meme on Facebook and, as part of the LGBT community, it hurt me.  I posted two installments explaining my view of the Gospel, and now I want to address another Christian concept that blurs the truth of how many of us view each other in Christ.  I feel this is another area that is important to understand before I specifically address the meme.

Many of these thoughts and explanations were derived from the book, Religion vs Jesus Do vs Done by Preston Greene, though I also recommend checking out books by Andrew Farley.

Too often, we Christians go through motions to help us decide if another person is a Christian or not.  We look for “proof” that they are saved, and if we don’t see it, we decide they really CAN’T be a Christian.  This concept gets a little murky when “life” gets in the way.  For example, one might say “no one who breaks the law can be a Christian”, but when you point out that speeding is breaking the law, the explanation is often further refined to mean “when you break IMPORTANT laws”.  We also often hear the phrase, “to be a REAL Christian, your life needs to produce fruit”, or “the fruits of your life will show if you’re a Christian.”  Today, we will talk about fruit and its place in our salvation.

The Fruit of the Spirit is detailed in Galatians 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Many religious people look for these as proof that a person is a Christian.  If they believe the fruit is not present, they often decide the person is not REALLY a Christian!  They might also go to Matthew 7:15-20 and John 15:6 and take it a step further – not only are you not a Christian, but YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!  (I suppose that’s one and the same, but you get my drift.)  If they aren’t producing these fruits, then they must be going to hell.   I am here today to share, I believe these views are wrong.

Preston Greene in his book asks some questions before breaking down the scripture in Matthew and John.  These views are based on the Christian belief of salvation through Jesus as being saved.

1. Can an unsaved person show love?

2. Can an unsaved person show joy?

3. Can an unsaved person show longsuffering towards humanity (through charity)?

4. Can unsaved people promote peace (Gandhi)?

If you are honest, the obvious answer is yes to all the questions. Let’s take this a step further, shall we?

1. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses show these fruits? (If you didn’t know, they don’t believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and think you have to earn salvation).

2. How about Mormons? Do they show fruits of the Spirit?

3. Do peace loving Muslims show any of these fruits?

The truth of this is ALL of the above show the fruit of the spirit as listed in Galatians.  It’s hard to deny it even if you’re trying to insist that showing fruit is the true measurement of proving salvation in Christ.  If this were not true, why would Matthew 7:15 warn against “wolves in sheep’s clothing”?  1 Cor 11:13-14 tells us that anyone can act like they’re a Christian by displaying this fruit, heck, even Satan appeared to be an angel of light!  The fact remains that these attributes can be manifested by people who are not Christians.

But what about Christians?  Is there something in the Bible that shows that Christians always show these fruits once they receive Christ?  In truth, they show the exact opposite.  Preston Greene said it this way (emphasis mine),

“The church at Corinth was carnal, but were babes in Christ (1 Cor 3:1-3). They were a saved church; sanctified (1:2). However, they were sinning all over the place. Some of their sins were envying, strife, and divisions (3:3). A believer has relations with his stepmother (1 Cor 5:5), there were lawsuits among the believers (1 Cor 6:7) there was fornication (1 Cor 7:2), there was drunkenness at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:21). How many fruits of the Spirit were they showing? Not many, but they were saved.

With reason and scripture we can conclude that fruits of the Spirit are not evidence of salvation. If the unsaved can do them without the Holy Spirit and saved people can all but ignore them, why do the religious insist it is mandatory that they should be exhibited? Because that’s what the “religious” do. Their mantra of “do” for salvation exceeds Jesus’s “done”.”

But what about Matthew 7:15-20 and John 15:6?  Let’s break it down.

Matthew 7:15-20

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”

Preston Greene responds with this:

From a first look at this passage, it appears that if one does not produce fruit, he or she is going to hell. First, this passage is about false prophets (verse 15), not the born-again believer. Verse 16 reads, “You will know them (false prophets) by their fruits.” Well, this is not referring to fruits of the Spirit, as Satan presents himself as an angel of light. Notice verse 18: “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit”. Do you sin? Then guess what, you are not a good tree. The only good tree is Jesus. Jesus said, “Why callest me thou good? There is none good but God” (Luke 18:19). Then we get to verse 20, which reads, “Wherefore by their fruits you will know them.” Well, if false apostles transform themselves into apostles of Christ and Satan presents himself as an angel of light, what does “fruit” mean? The answer is in Luke, which talks about the SAME thing.

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart HIS MOUTH SPEAKETH. (Luke 6:43-45)

This is what fruit means in this passage. It is doctrine and what that doctrine produces (fruit). There are only two ways to see false prophets. One, if they prophesy something and it does not come to pass then they are not from God (Duet 18:22). The second area is “what is coming out of their mouths”. If you study your Bible and learn, you can tell someone is false by the words they speak. Bad doctrine, or false doctrine, will not produce for the kingdom. For example, what type of fruit were the Pharisees producing? What does Scripture teach us?

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt 23:15).

Their fruit was to proclaim salvation by the works of the law to their disciples, to root their disciples in that doctrine that they became more a child of hell then their teachers! This was the “fruit” of the Pharisees (ClearGospel.org). As a result, we need to abide in Jesus (correct doctrine) to produce fruit (converts) for the kingdom.

John 15:6

“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

Preston Greene responds:

Jesus said to believe (trust) in Him for salvation. IF you have done this, you have abided in Jesus to do what was needed to have everlasting life. Remember, Jesus promised not to cast you out; He will never lose you and nothing will pluck you out of His hand (John 6:39 and John 10:28). Jesus CANNOT contradict Himself. Second, Jesus is talking to believers (disciples). Look what he says starting in verse 3.

John 15:3-5

“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

You can read Preston’s book explaining the reference to fire, but note the MEANING of the fruit as noted in his book (emphasis mine):

Jesus uses this as an “idiom” or metaphor. IF one does not abide in him, he or she is “useless”. Useless branches are tossed away. This does not mean saved people can go to hell. That would contradict so many passages of scripture. Jesus is just saying that if you don’t abide in him (to bear fruit), then you are as useless as a branch bearing no fruit and will be set aside. In other words “God won’t use you”. Can a believer produce no fruit and go to heaven? YES. The Bible is clear. Salvation is by grace through faith in the gospel of Jesus. In 1 Cor 3:11-15 we read how we, as born again believers, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where our works will be tested for reward. Some will have all their works burnt up, but they themselves will be saved. If they had “borne fruit”, that fruit would not have been burnt up, but rewarded. We conclude with verse 8, which tells us the context of the passage. Salvation is NOT in view here. Discipleship is in view here: “so shall ye be my disciples”. Salvation and discipleship— always keep them separate.

For salvation, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30). For discipleship (service) Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me”. Discipleship is NOT easy with a light burden. They are talking about two different things. The religious confuse salvation and discipleship; please don’t make the same mistake. Salvation is FREE. Discipleship is costly, BUT will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you abide in Him, you can bear much fruit! Are you in the doctrine of Jesus or the doctrine of the Pharisees (religion)?

In summary, we cannot know man’s heart and it is very dangerous to declare that someone is not a Christian based on your view of their works, or fruits. Their salvation has nothing to do with their works, as their salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Please don’t confuse salvation with discipleship.

Peace!

The Gospel – Part 2

This is the second part of my “review” of the Gospel.  Since the Gospel is so important, there will be more info provided before I get into the “meat” of this topic related to the meme.

Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

So, Jesus took care of all the work to remove our sin and provide us a means to enter heaven.  The only thing we need to do is accept His actions (sacrifice) and acknowledge His death and resurrection that conquered death (or sin).

It seems very clear to me that the only reason we are righteous, holy, or can enter into heaven is because we believe and trust that the death and resurrection of Jesus saves us.  Nothing we have done or will do can accomplish this amazing feat.

Galatians 2:16 says, “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

John 3:16 says, “for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

You’ll notice that these scriptures do not add anything to the list to require justification.  In fact, it clearly says that works, or actions we attempt to offer to God, do not justify us.  So we cannot act holy, we cannot be a better Christian or even a better person by doing ANYTHING as it relates to our righteousness and holiness.  That also means that things that we do on earth do not negate the blood of Christ, because we have nothing to do with the process in the first place.

Grace is a FREE GIFT that Jesus gave us even though we didn’t deserve it.  If I gave you a gift for your birthday and then handed you a list of things you must do to DESERVE that gift, you’d think I was crazy.  Jesus did not give us a list of things we must do to be saved, and it is crazy when we add conditions to people to “prove” they are saved when their salvation is 100% a gift provided for each of us.  It can be argued that when we humans insist that we must take part in our salvation and add criteria (works or actions) to REALLY be saved, we haven’t really and truly accepted the Grace (free gift) of Jesus, but instead rely on our own efforts for salvation.

Romans 11:6 says, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

To be saved, we must trust in Jesus and repent.  Here I’ve taken the wording directly from the article linked below:

WHAT SAVING REPENTANCE IS NOT:

1. Saving repentance is not being sorry for your sins.

2. Saving repentance is not turning from your sins or reforming your life.

3. Saving repentance is not the willingness to turn your life over to God so that He can direct your path.

Saving repentance has absolutely nothing to do with regretting your sins or resolving to turn from them. God is willing to save you just the way you are. The Bible says:

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

WHAT SAVING REPENTANCE IS:

Saving repentance is to stop trusting in gaining eternal life through religion, religious rituals, or obedience to God’s laws.  The word “repent” comes from the Greek word which means “to change one’s mind.” Those who believe that eternal life can be earned through good works are commanded in Scripture to change their mind or “repent.” They are told to stop trusting in their works, and come to God on the basis of grace through faith alone.

When we’ve trusted in Jesus and repented from our own effort, we receive real assurance that we are saved – we are Christians!  We know when we die, we will go to heaven.

John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Again, this scripture does not go on to say “and go to church, and refrain from using foul language, separate from sinners, etc.”  Because, that would mean our efforts really control our salvation and that is absolutely not the Gospel.

Additionally, if any of us sin after receiving the free gift from Jesus (and if we are honest, we realize we all continue to sin), we are still secure in Christ.  The blood of Christ finished ALL sin; past, present, and future.

Hebrews 10:10-12, 14 says, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Before I end this, I want to emphasize that I am NOT saying, nor do I believe, this means we can continue to sin and run around doing anything we want.  There are real and painful consequences to our sin on the earth.  Relationship can be broken, lives can be lost, we can absolutely fill our lives with pain, and we will not be very good ambassadors for our Lord.  God wants more from us, and His Holy Spirit that is in us will help us to grow in Him to become more like Him.  But even as we sin, because of the free gift of Grace, nothing can separate us from God.  That is the Truth.

I welcome any comments on this and will base subsequent posts/vlogs based on this foundation. The article I used to help explain the Biblical Truth of Grace can be accessed here.

The Gospel – Part 1

This is the first part of my “review” of the Gospel; the vlog was a bit long so cut it down some.  Even still, this vlog is longer than I’d like – I promise I will work on that!  Since the Gospel is so important, there will be more info provided before I get into the “meat” of this topic.

Recently, I saw this meme on Facebook and, as part of the LGBT community, it hurt me.  But more than that, knowing it was from a family member who has known me most of my life and (I thought) had seen the fruits of my relationship with Jesus, being “told” I was not a Christian broke my heart.  I wish I could say that I didn’t turn that hurt into anger, but I rode that rollercoaster as well.  But in the days following seeing that meme, other aspects of the message it portrayed bothered me as well.  And today I want to share with you some thoughts, not to defend my position in Christ so much as to defend the Gospel…..and to encourage you as you traverse your faith with the present climate too often presented to LGBTQAI+ today.

Before I get started, I also want to emphasize that these are my beliefs based on my years of reading the Word and having a relationship with Christ.  As such, I will not demand or insist that MY views are right, though I hold that very strongly.  In that vein, I pray that others who hold different views act accordingly and do not insist on their own way, which should be avoided as per 1 Cor 13.  My beliefs, which are constantly being refined by the Holy Spirit, are to guide my life……not yours.  Your beliefs are to guide your life, not mine – though I don’t mind sharing thoughts and speaking with others who have different views.  Also, at the end of this post is a link to a document that I referenced for this post and I encourage you to check it out.

This segment is to first establish what THE GOSPEL means to me, and to share my understanding of its definition based on the Bible.  It is foundational for establishing our position in Christ and no discussion can really move on until you, my readers, know the foundation I am coming from.

The Gospel means “good news”; it allows us to have a loving, meaningful relationship with God.  It also assures us that ALL who believe in the saving work of Jesus will spend eternity with Him in heaven.  The Bible is clear that we all have sinned and therefore are not qualified to enter into heaven.

Romans 3:23 says “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Ephesians 2:5 says, “…..we were dead in our trespasses….”

Because of our sin, we were separated from God because He cannot abide sin – sin created an unbreakable barrier for each of us.  I don’t dispute this at all – our sin definitely put us in a place where we could not enter into a meaningful relationship with God and certainly caused us to not be able to go to heaven.  For thousands of years, people tried to address the sin in their lives by trying to be better; they tried to follow the Ten Commandments, went to church (or temple), tried to love their neighbors, prayed, got baptized……even today our lists are long in our own attempts to become holy.  But the fact is, 100% of our own efforts do not get the job done.

Isaiah 64:6 says, “….all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment”

Our efforts don’t do much – it is like mopping the floor with a muddy rag.  Our efforts may be absolutely sincere, but they have never worked and never will.  Our efforts will never erase the sin in our lives or break the barrier that keeps us from God.

That’s where Jesus came in, as described in the good news of the Gospel. 

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

It is only because of the death and resurrection of Jesus that the barrier created by our sin has been broken.  He alone provided a means for us to have a relationship with God and the ability to enter heaven (or be saved).  This is a hugely important concept, because it gives credit where credit is due.  And because of this action, all sin (past, present, and future) was placed onto Christ.  All the guilt and punishment caused by our sins were imputed on Christ and he bore all of it in our place.

Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jesus literally was punished for our sin (past, present, and future); the wrath of God was poured out on Christ as He hung on the cross and finally died.

Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Matthew 27:46 says, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus’ death paid for our sin COMPLETELY.  God’s justice was completely satisfied, removing sin’s stain once and for all.

Isaiah 53:10-11 says, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.  Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”

John 19:30 says, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

The phrase “It is finished” was actually an expression used in Rome in the time of Christ when a debt had been paid in full.  When Jesus shouted this just before He died, He was indicating that He had made a perfect, complete and final payment for sin.

Here is the link to the article I referenced in this post.

My Voice For Pride

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June is Gay (or LGBT) Pride Month.  Many of you know that, but I didn’t want to assume…..so there you go.  Many people, I’d venture to guess, think of men dressed as women dancing of floats or scantily dressed men dancing around poles, or dykes on bikes rolling down the road when they hear “pride” or “Pride Parade”.  Those images can be very accurate for many pride parades, and I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with any of them…..but to me “pride” is much more significant than “just” these images.

I also believe many, especially in the heterosexual world, wonder why we need pride anything.  I mean, some very nice friends of mine post quotes to say things like “why can’t we just have human pride and hang out and get along?”  Some even say, “why aren’t there straight pride months or events?”  Both are great questions.  Look, I don’t have all the answers, but as a lesbian I can share my perspective and heart if you care to continue reading.

First, it’s important to note that June was selected for LGBT Pride month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that occurred in 1969.  And, incidentally, not all Gay Pride parades or events happen in June, but I digress.  LGBT didn’t always feel as open or safe as many do today, and in fact many were persecuted and violently discriminated against in years past. Many, especially in the “T” world (transgender), are still in a very insecure and dangerous space in our society today.  So, it’s important to note that Pride is an attempt to shine the light of said discrimination and tries to turn the views towards LGBT toward positivity, aiming for reduction of violence against LGBT, creates a call for dignity, equality, and attempts to celebrate their existence instead of hiding in shame.  I don’t expect many who are not LGBT to understand this, so I will try to explain.

Many of you may remember when you hit puberty and the awkwardness of the hormones taking over your body, which was changing in ways you’d never experienced before.  Consider also realizing for the first time you were very different from the other kids of your gender and that only made you feel more confused.  You probably didn’t freak out and think you were broken.  I did.

Many of you probably didn’t look at someone of your own gender and feel your heart skip a beat and then become horrified that someone noticed, and then immediately inwardly berated yourself for being this ugly, sinful thing.  I did.

Many of you probably didn’t spend almost every night crying out to God from the age of 13 to 35, begging to be fixed.  Because I didn’t “choose this lifestyle”, and in fact invested everything I had in me to change what I am.  Everything.  And I lived in self-hatred and fear that someday, someone would see the lie I lived as I acted like a heterosexual.

Many of you probably didn’t work with your whole heart to love a person society said you should, while hating yourself for being a fake and a phony.  You probably did not feel the added guilt of receiving the love from that person who was an innocent in all of this.  I did.

Many of you didn’t have to decide what “sin” to live – being honest about your sexuality or continuing to lie to everyone in your life.  I did.

Many of you, when you finally stopped running from the truth and met the love of your life, didn’t need to hide it for five years because you’d lose your job, lose many of your friends, lose some of your family, lose your church.  I did.

Many of you haven’t lost a job due to the person you love. LOVE.  I did.

Many of you who wanted nothing more to be monogamous, committed, and live forever with the love of you life in a legal relationship recognized by your country…..but  were instead told you were an abomination and that it was against the law.  I was.

Many of you who have tried to get a driver’s license with your legally married name and were told you could not because your marriage license was not accepted in that state.  I was.

Most of you will not wake up each day and wonder if someone will get in your face – or even attack you – for loving someone.  LOVING SOMEONE.  I do.

Most of you will not be called names or be accused of pedophilia just for holding your spouse’s hand.  I have been.

Many of you do not have to demand basic human rights such as the right to work, the right to see your loved one in the hospital, or the right to have your spouse on your insurance.  I have had to.

Most of you don’t have to be told it’s okay to love your spouse, or that it’s okay to worship in church, or that it’s okay to have kids and raise them in love.  I have.

Most of you don’t have to be assured that no one in this country will speak of death camps, or arrest, or insist violent groups will not be able to attack you for just walking down the street.  At times, I am assured of those things.

Most of you won’t be accused of having an agenda by just being open about LOVE.  I am.

So Pride, to me, is wanting to say “yes, I am a lesbian” today in the hopes that someday the topic won’t even come up.  I do not say it to shove it in your face, to recruit you, to gain special rights, to reject religion, to break the law, to promote sin, to insist you live like me, or anything else.  I celebrate pride to say, I am here, and I am just another human (yes, even an American) who just wants to live.  To marry my wife.  To call my Dad on Father’s Day.  To have friends over for dinner.  To get a flat tire and call AAA.  To go to work and wish I won the lottery instead.  To get the flu and act like a baby.  And in it all, I don’t want to be “Gina the Lesbian”, but just “Gina”.  And until that day arrives, I will gather and say “being Gina is not an abomination.  No.  I am me.  You are you.  And we are all better than this.”

This is my Pride.  This is my life.  Peace.

Humanness…..and Judgment

Life is……complicated.  Too often I (and perhaps we) are very quick to decide how things are based on limited knowledge or even limited scenarios.  Sometimes scenarios help us to avoid things in the future, but sometimes they could create prejudices or even judgments in our hearts.

Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about.

I was raised to trust authority, to believe they may not always be right, but more often than not, those in authority knew the best and wanted to do the best for me.  About 15 years ago, I was driving in my super sexy Dodge Grand Caravan with my then husband and Kenny, who was about 6 years old.  We were driving through an intersection, had the green light, when suddenly a truck that had a red light to our right entered the intersection to turn right and ultimately t-boned us.  Thankfully, no one was injured by the damage to my sexy mini-van was bad.  We pulled over, I called the police, while the older couple in the truck remained in their vehicles.  They did not ask if we were alright, the woman/passenger in fact continued to read her newspaper as if nothing had happened.  As our son was on the side that was hit, his father became very upset at the lack of concern on their part, though I encouraged him to wait for the police and see what happens.

The police came, took our story, and then spoke to the male driver of the truck.  We still had not interacted with the other driver.  The policeman came back to me (I was the driver) and told me the other driver was a retired police officer, his account matched mine, and therefore recommended no police report be filed as “then the other driver would not have to be fined”.  I trusted the police officer, and despite the lack of concern shown by the other driver, trusted his account and word due to the fact he was also a police officer albeit retired.

Big mistake.  When all was said and done, the other drive told his insurance I ran the red light and it was 100% my fault.  I, of course, told my insurance what really happened.  Since we had no witnesses and no police report, we were each charged as 50% responsible.  The truth, however, was that he was 100% responsible.  He lied to his insurance, he lied to the police officer implying he would not dispute what happened (though he DID tell the truth to him about the events), and he changed my view of SOME police officers – more on that later.

Flash forward to last year; Deana was driving to work in downtown Atlanta and an off duty police officer driving to work decided, in his personal car, that he needed two lanes to turn into his work’s parking lot.  From the left lane, with no signal, he turned right and didn’t bother to look to see if he was clear to do so.  He wasn’t – Deana was driving to the right and just behind him and he ended up turning into her left door just inches from where she sat.  This happened right in front of the police station, so when she called someone walked out almost immediately.  Very quickly in, both the off duty officer and the officer taking the report tried to convince Deana that no police report was necessary – “I agree with what happened, it was totally my fault.” Off Duty told Deana.  “I have already called my insurance company and they will take care of this.”  His co-worker backed him up, stating he would get a ticket or points on his record if a report was filed and that there really was no need for a report.  Knowing my history, Deana called me to get my opinion, and I told her to absolutely get a report because “you never know who you’re dealing with.  Just because the guy is a police officer doesn’t mean he’s trustworthy.  Humans are humans and some humans are not honest.”  So, she insisted on a report and one was filed.

It was GOOD that the report was filed, because Off Duty never called his insurance.  Our insurance, since it was not Deana’s fault, didn’t really get involved and just said “contact the driver’s insurance.”  That insurance company didn’t dispute Deana’s claims per se, but they refused to proceed without speaking to their client.  They left him over 10 messages, but he never returned their calls.  Finally, after about a month of this, we tried to call the department he said he worked for in the police unit.  That too was a lie.  I finally got hold of someone who was kind enough in the police department who looked up where Off Duty worked and sent me to his supervisor; I left a message there and explained how this employee of the City of Atlanta was not being honorable.  In the mean time, Deana had to pay for a copy of the police report, send it to his insurance, and pretty much brow beat them to fix our car.  I am not sure which path was the fix – his boss or Deana’s Latina attitude – but we finally got the car fixed and they accepted it was 100% his fault.  But bottom line, if we had “just trusted his word” we probably would have been screwed.

So, first of all, some police officers are dishonest.  They are human and bring forward weakness and selfishness and bad decisions and perhaps even lack honor. We ALL have those attributes at times, so I have realized just because they have a badge and gun does not mean they’re above board across the board.  Fortunately for me, these two situations did not involve guns or violence.

But……..

Just like with everything else in life, these two police officers do not represent all officers.  And even though many of us SAY things like that, there is this reality that we are impacted by negative experiences more so than positive ones.  At least, that’s what I seem to see in our society.  So, when so many police shootings against blacks or aggressiveness or whatever else, my first reaction in my heart was “there is another bad cop…..so many lack honor”.  And when I put that through MY experience filter, it makes sense.  I mean, TWO TIMES I dealt with dishonorable men and that made me feel that there might be more in the force than I realized.  Pretty soon, without me realizing it, my heart was really processing it like this:  “All cops are dishonorable, and only a few truly can be trusted.”……even though I said and I thought I believed “most police are honorable”.

The increase of fear and division and violence and rhetoric in our daily lives the past year has made me so………I lack the word.  It is like I wanted to sit in a small room like a bunker and wait it out with no windows for a decade and see what might be left.  Then the shootings on police started and I was sickened.  I was in shock and cried out to God, asking why violence was so prevalent in this world – why we thought murder would make things better.  I considered some comments a friend of mine made – an officer and an honorable one – and I had no place to go but prayer.  I wanted to run, but instead the very filter I didn’t know existed was exposed.  I was ALSO a human, and I was judging.

All to say, there’s nothing wrong for “being smart”.  If you are in an accident, get a police report.  Always.  People are people.  If you have been abused, avoid the situation in the future if possible.  If you are a majority, be a force for the minority.  If you’re white in a community that has institutional racism – by citizens or officers, be vocal.  If you are straight and you witness someone in the LGBTQ community being harassed, be vocal.  If individual officers violate the law, hold them accountable.  If citizens in the community violate the law, hold them accountable.  If you are oppressed and treated differently, don’t give up, stay vocal, but avoid allowing your anger to become violent (and hear me, the shooters of police are NOT associated with Black Lives Matter just as the bad cops don’t represent the rest).  But let’s ALL take stock of our filters – let’s admit we probably all have them and possibly don’t even realize they exist, and determine to try not to apply them broadly.  Let each individual be measured on their own actions and not the actions of a few (or their skin color…..or their religion…….).  Let’s not lump all – black, white, or purple – into behaviors that are not fair.  And, if someone does that to you or you realize you have a filter that has been doing that……don’t become violent.  Don’t let hatred dwell in your heart.  Acknowledge it, change it, and move on.

Peace and thanks for reading.

Silence Hurts

This is a post I made on Facebook today, and I am sharing here as well.

Warning: This is a hurtful video that I do not support, but link to substantiates my statements here, and this is a somewhat politicized post. I apologize for both, but silence does not stop the hate that is put out there. I will not be silent.

Note:  The link to Pastor Steve L. Anderson’s comments has been deleted from YouTube for violating their policy on hate speech.  I am very glad for that, because it was definitely filled with hate.

Yesterday, a few comments I read and interacted with said that Christians cannot or do not hate. That there is not an agenda against homosexuals and that this was not a hate crime, but a Muslim Terrorist Attack. I personally have not heard the investigators on the Orlando mass murder state they have determined if this was a terrorist attack or a hate crime, so I cannot argue one way or another. But, this Pastor is sure it was not a hate crime against gays. He is sure the murderer was Muslim and a terrorist. But beyond that, this man who has taken the sacred place of preaching the Word of God said the murders in Orlando brought some good news – “50 sodomite pedophiles are now dead”. This man says this in the name of MY GOD. I stopped watching the video at that point, because finding good in what happened alone is egregious, hateful, and shameful.

Friends who are Christians, if you truly believe murder is something that brings “good news”, you grieve me.

Friends who are Christians, if you truly believe there is not at least a minority of Christians who hate me for no other reason but the fact I am a lesbian, and use the Word of God to justify that hate, you grieve me. This man hates me and wants me dead, or at least would be happy if I were killed, only because I am gay.

Friends who are Christians, if you can on one hand admit that you have sin in your life or at times make or have made immoral decisions, but have been saved by the Grace of Jesus Christ, and on the other hand can ALSO believe that someone else’s “moral failings” such as being homosexual opens up risk or created a situation where it makes sense that innocent people were murdered (aka, well they were at a gay bar, so if they were not gay/not in that place, they would not have been killed), you grieve me. ALL have sin and fall short of the glory of God, but any boasting I can make is because of my Lord, Jesus Christ. He does not want me murdered for any failings in my life, because He already died for them.

Friends who are Christians, if you are not upset that a man, for WHATEVER REASON, walked into a public place and murdered 50 people and injured over 50 more…….if you don’t even have a brief moment of sadness for the lives lost and all the families that lost a son, a daughter, a brother, a whatever…….you grieve me.

Friends who are Christians, if your argument is “well, MOST Christians don’t feel the same as this Pastor” and stop there, you grieve me. If you don’t stand up against this hate, you allow it to continue.

Friends who are Christians, if your FIRST thought was to worry about gun control, blame all Muslims, point to Obama as if this was his fault, you grieve me.

Friends who are Americans of any faith, our fellow Americans were murdered today. Lives were stolen and those who were killed, to my knowledge, did not break any laws to justify their death. They were not given the opportunity to be convicted of any crimes, they were deemed guilty without any review, and were sentenced to death. That is not the Aemrican way where we are innocent until proven guilty without a reasonable doubt. Those lives that were ended tragically deserve more than a quick sweep away due to the fact that they were homosexuals.

Finally, I try not to live as a victim, but the fact remains that I am condemned, ridiculed, tormented, and judged more often than you know. Sometimes it is in my FB feed through posts made by YOU. Sometimes, it is in internet posts that I come across. Sometimes it is from friends in PM. Sometimes it is from strangers in person in public places. I try to take the high road often and give others room for their own beliefs and their rights as Americans to free speech. But I will NOT, ever, accept that hate doesn’t exist. I will not sit back and say overt and articulated hate in the name of Jesus Christ is right. We are better than that. I am better than that. This hate is real, and it does nothing for us as a faith community nor as a nation.

I will be praying for Pastor Steven. And I will be praying for those who have been killed. And I will be praying for my family.

Loyalty

I have been in my “reconstruction” place as I navigate so many emotions and changes and memories, and what nots.  As I’ve slowly come back to “the swing of things”, I have noticed that life and struggles and emotions of others have continued without me.  I don’t mean that in “they went on without me”, I mean it in the sense of “wow, some hard stuff has been going on with people I love.”  So today, I’d like to ruminate on one of those issues.

Everyone wants and perhaps even expects loyalty from those who are in their lives.  Family, friends, even co-workers; the expectation is that they will have your back.  I know in my own walk I try to be loyal, but I am sure there are times when my definition of loyalty has not aligned with the definition of someone else.  But, I think we can all agree that there is a tacit understanding that you should be able to trust, at a certain level, people that exist in your daily life.  That expectation is much bigger for those closest to us, especially the one we love and plan to spend the rest of our life with.  And, I guess that is the basis of this post.

Being LGBT, Deana and I often deal with people who do not accept our relationship – I’ve written about this topic a few times on this blog.  There are several classes of people in this area; those that support us to our faces, but cannot be “out” to allow others to see their support, those who are very direct with their opinions but still hang with us in group settings, those who were direct with their opinions and have chosen to not be our friends, and those who are direct with their opinions and refuse to accept or allow themselves to be around the one we love.  It is the last group I will address today – this group is especially tricky when it involves family.

I have a small but powerful number of older people in my family who do not accept my marriage to Deana.  To cut to the chase, they love me and have sort of accepted the fact I am a lesbian, but they refuse to accept Deana and in fact will not accept her in their homes.  If there is a family gathering and they can control the guest list, she would not be invited.  If there is a family gathering and they cannot control the guest list, they will either not attend if Deana is there or avoid her like the plague.  For my part, this is a tough situation, because I LOVE these family members and I want to be able to fellowship with them, I want to interact with them, and I want to be loved by them.  AND I want them to love Deana.  It is TOUGH and anyone in this sort of situation I have huge sympathy for because it isn’t pleasant.

But here is the deal – I have chosen Deana.  I love her with all my heart.  I have pledged my life to her, in sickness and in health, and we have married each other (aka “become one”). She is so important to me, I have been legally and spiritually linked to her.  I esteem her so much that I live with her, I dream with her, I plan with her, and I will grow old with her.  She is my WIFE.  The Bible says that we leave our parents and cleave to the one we marry.  And I will add, whether or not you agree with same-sex marriage or accept the spiritual or even the legal link involved, I have raised Deana to a level that in all acceptable circles (especially if this was a heterosexual relationship), she is the #1 person in my life.  NUMBER ONE!

So, if I am in a situation where I am invited to a family gathering and Deana is not invited, that is an affront not only to Deana, but to ME!  We have become ONE, and yet a piece of me has been relegated to not even be esteemed enough to be invited, no matter what pretense is offered as a reason for the exclusion.  Because of that, I do not entertain the idea of going without her, because doing so adds credence to the fact that our relationship is somehow shameful.  That are relationship is deficient.  That our relationship is inferior.  And that is not fair.  Further, I love Deana so much that I would NEVER, EVER choose ANYONE over Deana, because my loyalty is to her first.  I have been invited to Christmas gatherings that I have not attended because Deana was not invited.  And believe me, that was hard, it was painful, but it was right.  Because, Deana is my family, and to leave her behind would be leaving a piece of me behind and it would be a dagger to her heart.  I would be just as guilty as my family that have overtly rejected her if I went along and played in that game.  I would reject her as well by going.

That’s not to say that visiting said family is wrong.  I love my family and I also respect their choices.  Deana understands that too and gives me room to have them in my life, and understands the importance of their place in my life and the need to interact with them.  I absolutely enjoy spending time with them, loving on them, and being with them.  But, unfortunately, there is a true line that has been drawn that I will not cross, and clearly articulated to my family members that if they do not include my wife (a piece of me) to family gatherings, I will not attend.  I absolutely respect their stance, but there is cost to them if they keep it.  Because, as much as I want to be loyal to my family, being loyal to my wife trumps that.  And I believe it should be that way.

There is a piece of me that resents this is even an issue, because 100% of the exclusion stances are related to our sexuality.  I resent that other people can be jerks and treat said family horribly, but they are welcome because they are straight.  But even in admitting that, I will always stick to being loyal to my wife first.  I pray for others who find themselves in this situation, and I truly pray that they make the right decision when dealing with it.  I have seen too many relationships torn apart because loyalty gets sideways.  And I understand the pain and struggle when you’re caught in the middle.  But try to remember, LOVE should not make you choose.  But if you have to choose, choose the one you will grow old with.  At least, that’s the way I have chosen to lead my life.  And know this, I also believe that SOMEDAY, through the Grace of God, there will be restoration to this situation.  Maybe I will write more on that later!  🙂

Ode to my Mother

As you already know, my mother passes away on May 16th.  That transition brought her out of suffering and into the arms of Jesus – I believe that with all my heart.  And yet, I find that this process on MY side of the peace is a bit harder.  I am way more retrospective, I am sad, and of course very thankful that I was able to say what I needed to say before she went onto Glory.

Having said that, I must share without hesitation a truth about my mom, one that I have known for over 20 years, which something I didn’t hold in such regard until recently.  She was someone with tons of flaws (aren’t we all?), but in one area she was always consistent and that was in the area of unconditional love.  She never turned away a person from her home, she never added criteria to extend love to people, and she was someone who found good in everyone.  And, she saved my life.

In my mid-twenties I came to realize that no amount of prayer was going to change the fact I was attracted to women.  By this point I had been married around 5 years and Kirstie was about 3.  I had spent agonizing hours crying out to God to heal me, to change me, and nothing had happened.  I went to seminars at my church to “build my faith”, I attended women’s conferences to become more “A woman of God”, I constantly asked for prayer coverage and I certainly laid this before the Lord in all transparency and supplication.  I even saw a special “spiritual” person who was famous for their ministry of cleansing the “sins of the fathers” so that it would not carry forward into our own lives.  And yet, I felt as though I was so steeped in some sort of sin or lacked faith or was not important enough because of some failure in my life for God to heal me.

And I wanted to die.  I honestly thought being on the earth was damaging those around me the most, especially my daughter.  I felt I was doomed to hell anyway, so what would the final straw of suicide matter?

So I ran away from my life, not sure I could go through with suicide, but determined to rid the filth that my very existence from the presence of those I loved the most.  Because, at that time all I wanted was to be love by God, be whole for Him (aka, be straight), and I knew I was failing.  So I ran from my life and somehow ended up at my mom’s house.  Without saying much, other than some story about dealing with “marital issues”, my mom knew something was hugely wrong.  And she didn’t pry.  She didn’t corner me.  She just loved me.  She made me coffee.  She cooked for me.  She sat and talked to me as she smoked her Marlboro 100’s and showed me the stray cats that ended up staying with her and her roommate.  Even as I existed with these pieces of comfort, I was not peaceful – I still struggled and determined in my mind that I had to do something drastic, and all roads lacked any sort of hope.

Then one day, I remember sitting on the curb outside her house, contemplating just walking until I could not walk one step further………and she came out and sat next to me.  She didn’t say a word, she just sat there.  She smiled, I think she even touched me.  But she didn’t speak.  And before I could realize what I was doing, I said to her “Mom, I think I am gay.  No, I don’t think it, I know it.  I am gay.”

It felt good to get it out, to say the words, because at that moment what I was looking for was to have someone outside of myself validate the fact that I was this horrible, shameful thing that needed to disappear.  I needed that one push to get me from this stagnant uncertainty of despair and get me to action.

I remember Mom not reacting.  Her fact didn’t change.  She looked at me and said, “Okay.”  I waited, I am not sure how long, and then she said, “You are Gina.  When you were just a small baby, you hated dresses with ruffles and frills.  You would cry until I changed you.  You were so different from your sister in that way, you wanted plain and functional dresses to wear.  So I dressed you differently.  You always loves playing outside and were so athletic, you still are, and you even taught yourself to ride a bike without anyone’s help.  You have always stood up for the underdog, even if the bully was twice as big as you were – remember that time that boy punched you in the mouth when you were protecting your brother? –  and you always like to sit and talk to Grandma and other people who are older than you are.  Not many young people like that.  You are a wonderful mother and a wonderful daughter and I am so proud of you.  I can understand that you might think it is bad that you’re gay, that it changes you somehow.  But I don’t think that is the case.  You are Gina.  You are my daughter.  You are so many things that are wonderful.  Nothing you can say will change any of those things.  I love you.  I will always love you.”

I remember staring out to the street, replaying those words through my head for several minutes, trying to calibrate what had just happened.  I was a bit mad at first, thinking even in my expectation of her reaction, I was way off base.  But as the words replayed over and over, I understood what my mom was trying to say.  That it was okay.  That I was okay.  That maybe I was not an abomination.  That even if I was gay, I was still something that could be loved.  That should be loved.  That there were pieces of me that brought value to the world, that not everything was measured against my sexuality.  That she wasn’t going anywhere, even after I told her the horrible truth, and that in itself made me thunderstruck.

I honestly don’t remember what I said back to her.  The days after that moment are somewhat of a blur to me.  My life was still kind of a mess and it still took me almost 10 years to tell others I was gay and 15 for me to come out and accept it truly for myself.  But in that moment, for the first time since I was about 13, I stopped hating myself.  I stopped wanting to end or damage myself.  I stopped feeling as though God hated me.  I still prayed that He would heal me, but I didn’t picture His angry face and pointed fist directed at me.  And it all started with my mom, who I knew LOVED ME, period.  I am so thankful that she gave me life, twice, and taught me in not only word but in deed how to love unconditionally.  I am sorry that it took me so long to share this memory with others, though I am glad she knew what a huge impact it has had on my life.  I love you, Mom.