How to treat a Homosexual with Respect

Currently I am reading “Love is an Orientation” by Andrew Martin.  The book is written by a straight Christian who ministers within a gay and lesbian community in Chicago Illinois.  It is interesting because Andrew committed his life to learning about homosexuals and shares many of those lessons in his book so that we can minister to them in a better way.  Yesterday I read something that made me think about the power of respect.  And it answered a question that I had been asking recently, “is it possible to disagree with the sin which the gays and lesbians take part in, but also show them respect at the same time”?  The answer to that question is yes, and one of the ways to do so is quite surprising.

Martin writes about an interview he was having with a leader in the lesbian community.  After asking how Christians could show more love and respect to homosexuals, she told him to stop using the word “homosexual” when referring to them.  Now some of you may have learned this a long time ago but I never thought about it before.  She explained that homosexuality was a “Biblical term” that they never used for one another.  From that day on the author always referred to them as gays and lesbians instead of homosexuals.  And was shocked by the gratitude that he received from them!  The simple act of using a term which is more readily accepted did wonders relationships with the gay and lesbian community.

Think about that for a minute.  One act of respect made a deep impact upon these people as he ministered to them.  This reminds us again about the power of respect.  Sometimes we (I) think that our only choice when interacting with people is to be judgmental (it has to be my way!) or have no rules at all (I won’t ever make you feel uncomfortable!).  But there is a better way that does share God’s truth in His perfect time, but also makes showing respect and dignity a huge focus.  And this doesn’t have to involve completely changing the way we view relationships.  It can be something as simple as changing a word we use.

So join me in a little experiment.  The next time you have the urge to become judgmental, closed minded, or disrespectful to a person take the initiative to offer them an act of respect first.  You might be amazed at what that act will do.

Because of Who He is,

John Wilburn

The Gospel from Genesis to the Cross

As Easter Sunday approaches I have been thinking a lot about the Gospel.  Specifically how that there are two very clear parts to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, guilt and Grace.  By using the word Guilt I am saying that on our own strength we cannot save ourselves.  This is seen in the lives of Bible Characters as their experiencing a problem that they cannot fix.  The direct judgment of God is also involved.   But the Gospel also includes Grace, which is God delivering us from our judgment and giving blessing instead, or delivering individuals from their problems.

The amazing thing is that the entire Bible is filled with this Gospel of Guilt (man trying to be Holy but failing) and Grace (God giving mercy).  This is illustrated well by a very long blog post written by a man named Rod Smith  where he gives an abbreviated story of the entire Bible ( I took his synopsis of what happened from Genesis to Christ’s death and resurrection in preparation of preaching through the entire Old Testament (in survey form of course) next Sunday.  I took the liberty of marking in dark the portions that refer to man’s failure (Guilt) and red the mercy of God (Grace).  While all of these passages don’t refer directly to Christ, they do show the Love of God for us, and foreshadow the coming of Jesus.  It is five pages long, but is a reminder that the Gospel is a huge part of God’s plan for us in the Old Testament, as well as the New.

One day, a serpent tricked Eve. He lied to her and told her that she would be like God if she ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Eve ate some fruit and persuaded Adam to eat some. Then they realized that they had done an evil thing by disobeying God. When they heard God approaching, they were ashamed and afraid. They tried to hide from God but eventually they had to confess that they had sinned.

God placed a curse on the serpent and made it crawl on its belly in the dust. God increased Eve’s pain in childbirth. God caused weeds and thorns to grow so Adam would have to work hard to grow food. God made them leave the garden so they couldn’t eat the fruit in the garden anymore.

But God made a promise that someday one of Eve’s descendants would crush the power of sin.  (Genesis 3)

After Adam and Eve left the garden, they had two sons, Cain and Abel. When they grew up, Abel raised sheep and cattle while Cain grew plants. One day, Cain and Abel brought offerings to God. God was pleased with Abel’s offering because Abel’s heart was right but Cain’s offering did not please God.   Cain gave in to anger and jealousy, and he killed his brother. Then God placed a curse on Cain so the earth would not grow crops for him.  (Genesis 4)

Adam and Eve had another son, Seth, and other children. Their children married and had more children. People began to fill the earth. But they became very sinful. People became so wicked that God decided to destroy all of the evil people with a great flood.

God told Noah to build a large boat called an ark to save his family and the animals from the flood. When they were safely inside, God sent forty days of rain. Water covered all the earth, even the tallest mountaintops. But God kept Noah safe in the ark.  After the flood, Noah built an altar and thanked God. God promised that there would never be another great flood. He put a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise. God also commanded that anyone who committed murder should be executed.

After the flood, the children of Noah began to fill the earth again. But they disobeyed God and worshipped idols. They built the tower of Babel out of their pride. God confused their languages so they were divided.

God chose one man, Abraham, to start a nation that would worship Him.

God promised Abraham that he would be the father of more people than the stars in the sky and that they would possess the land of Canaan. Abraham didn’t have even one child and he didn’t own any land but he believed God and that was credited to him as righteousness.

Abraham had a son, Ishmael, by Sarah’s maid, Hagar. Ishmael is the father of the Arabs. But Ishmael was not the son that God promised.

Abraham and Sarah waited more than fifteen years for the birth of their promised son, Isaac.

Jacob had a favorite son, Joseph. The other brothers were jealous of Joseph. One day, they sold him as a slave to some men on their way to Egypt.

Joseph served faithfully as a slave and was put in charge of his master’s household. When the master’s wife enticed him to sin, Joseph refused. So she falsely accused him of wrongdoing and had him thrown into prison.

One day, Joseph was called to interpret a dream for Pharaoh. The dream predicted a seven year long famine. Joseph told Pharaoh how to store up food for it. Joseph was then promoted from prisoner to the second ruler in all of Egypt, next only to Pharaoh.

During the 430 years that the Israelites were in Egypt, they became slaves to the Egyptians. Moses was born to Israelite slaves but he was raised as a son of Pharaoh. When Moses was forty years old, he tried to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Instead, he had to run for his life into the desert.  (Exodus)

When Moses was eighty years old, God spoke to him from a burning bush and instructed him to go back to Egypt and lead the Israelites out. At first, Moses thought that he was going to fail again but he followed God’s leading. When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave, God sent ten plagues. The last plague killed every firstborn child and animal in all of Egypt. But none of the Israelites were killed.

God led the Israelites into the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. But He led them back into Egypt to the edge of the Red Sea. When they were trapped by Pharaoh’s army, the Israelites were afraid and cried out against Moses

But Moses had learned to trust God. God opened a way for them through the Red Sea.

God led the Israelites through the desert to Mt. Sinai. He provided manna from Heaven to eat and a stream of water from a rock. At Mt. Sinai, He gave them the Ten Commandments and many other commands. God had them build the Tabernacle as a place to worship Him.

God gave the Israelites instructions on worship and on offerings and sacrifices for sins. The greatest commands that God gave were, “Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength,” and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All of the other commands are based on these two.

After a year at Mt. Sinai, God led the Israelites to the Promised Land, but they didn’t trust God to help them conquer the land. They rebelled against God’s leading so God made them wander in the desert for forty years until all of the unbelieving adults had died.

But many times the Israelites grumbled against God and Moses. One time, they grumbled because there was no water. God told Moses to speak to a rock and it would pour out water. Out of anger, Moses struck the rock and took credit for providing water. Because he did not honor God in this, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Another time when the Israelites grumbled, God sent poisonous snakes among the people and many people died. The people admitted that they had sinned and asked God to remove the snakes. Instead, God told Moses to make a brass serpent and mount it on a pole. When someone was bitten, he would not die if he looked at the brass serpent that Moses had lifted up.

When the Israelites reached the Jordan River, Moses reminded them of all the things the Lord had done for them. He explained the covenant that God had made with them at Mt. Sinai. He described the blessings they would receive if they obeyed God and the curses if they disobeyed. Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo and saw the Promised Land before he died.

After forty years in the desert, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. God commanded them to completely destroy all of the people who lived there to cleanse the land of sin and idolatry. When they followed God’s plan, the walls of Jericho fell down before them.

But when they devised their own plan, they were defeated at Ai.

Achan had sinned by keeping some of the treasure from Jericho. The Israelites destroyed Achan, his family and all his possessions. Then they followed God’s plan and conquered Ai.

God helped the Israelites conquer the rest of the Promised Land. He made the sun and the moon stand still for a full day so the Israelites had enough daylight to destroy the Amorite armies. God fought for the Israelites when they destroyed the rest of the Canaanite armies.

For three hundred years, the Israelites were led by judges such as Deborah, Gideon and Samson. When neighboring nations attacked the Israelites, they would cry to God for help. Then God would raise up a judge to lead them. God would help them defeat their enemies.

After a while, they would forget what God had done and go back to worshipping idols. Then God would raise up another nation to attack them until they turned back to God for help. This cycle repeated for thirteen judges.

The last judge was Samuel. The Israelites asked Samuel to let them have a king like the other nations. God chose Saul as the first king, but he didn’t obey God.

So God chose David as king because David had a heart that followed God.

David’s son, Solomon, became king after him. God gave Solomon great wisdom and he wrote many PROVERBS. He wrote SONG OF SOLOMON as a tribute to his new wife. He also wrote ECCLESIASTES to say that all of his wisdom and riches were meaningless compared with knowing and obeying God. Solomon built a beautiful temple in Jerusalem to worship God.

But he also built temples to the gods of his foreign wives. Therefore, God took the ten northern tribes of Israel away from Solomon’s son and made them a separate kingdom.

The northern tribes of Israel had bad kings who led the people to worship idols. One time, the prophet Elijah challenged the Baal worshipers to a test to see whom to worship, God or Baal. The Baal worshipers prayed all day and even cut themselves but nothing happened. Then Elijah prayed and God sent fire from heaven to burn up the offering on Elijah’s altar to God.

God sent JONAH to Ninevah to warn the Assyrians that God would destroy their city because of all the evil things they did. They listened to Jonah, repented and asked God to forgive them, which He did.

However, God sent prophets such as HOSEA, JOEL, AMOS and MICAH to warn the northern tribes to turn back to Him, but they did not listen. So, God sent the Assyrians to conquer Israel and take them away to foreign lands. However, Ninevah fell back into wickedness and it was eventually destroyed, just as prophesied by NAHUM.

The southern tribe of Judah had some good kings who led the Jews to worship God. But they had many bad kings who led them to worship idols. God sent prophets such as ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, HABAKKUK and ZEPHANIAH to warn them to turn away from idols, but the people didn’t listen. Finally, God sent the Babylonians to conquer Judah and take most of the people to Babylon. They cried out their LAMENTATIONS.

God was still with the Jews in Babylon. He raised up EZEKIEL to tell them that God was still in control even though Jerusalem would be destroyed and they would live in Babylon for a long time. He raised up DANIEL, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego to places of leadership in Babylon.

God kept them safe, even in the lion’s den and fiery furnace. God also raised up ESTHER to be queen at a time to deliver the Jews from their enemies.

After 70 years, God allowed many of the Jews to return to the Promised Land. EZRA, the priest, led them to rebuild the temple. NEHEMIAH led them to rebuild the city walls. God sent prophets HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH and MALACHI to encourage them. (After the Jews returned from Babylon, they never worshiped idols again. They finally learned their lesson.)

Between the Old and New Testaments

For four hundred years, there were no prophets or messages from God. The Jews were conquered by the Greeks, then by the Romans. They were ruled by foreign kings.

But God never forgot his promise to David that one of his descendents would rule over the nation. God had not forgotten his promise to Adam and Eve that one of their descendants would crush the power of sin.

In a humble stable a little baby was born to a poor couple named Mary and Joseph who were both descendants of David. The baby was named Jesus which means “God saves.” Angels foretold that he would be born the Son of God. Angels announced that he was born a Savior, Christ the Lord.

When Jesus was about thirty years old, he was baptized by John and began his public ministry. He called disciples and began to teach them. He chose twelve disciples to be apostles.

For three years, they traveled around the Promised Land. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons. He walked on water and even the wind and the waves obeyed him. He taught people about true and genuine righteousness, worship, prayer and service. His life is an example of humility, purity, friendliness, mercy and grace. Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Many people followed Jesus and listened to every word. But the religious leaders hated him because he did not follow their man-made traditions. They arrested Jesus but the only charge against him was that he claimed to be the Son of God. The religious leaders turned the hearts of the people against Jesus. He was nailed to a cross until he died and he was buried.

Early on Sunday morning, Jesus arose from the dead just as he had promised his disciples. For forty days, he appeared to them at different times and places. He told them to go into all of the world and spread the good news that he had conquered sin and death. Then Jesus ascended into Heaven. (He is now with God the Father and intercedes for mankind.

His death was the perfect sacrifice for every sin, from Adam and Eve to the end of time. His shed blood established a new covenant of salvation by grace, not works. His death and resurrection opened up the door to Heaven and eternal life for everyone who trusts in him).

Can Judgmentalism be Loving?

All this talk about judgmentalism being bad can make a person over-react and avoid anything that could possibly be seen as judgmental.  As I said in my post on Grace and Judgmentalism there are situations where being judgmental is necessary.  Actually that is a bad word because today the idea of becoming judgmental makes people think about being closed-minded, disrespectful, and controlling.  And of course they think about this for good reason, because in a number of cases that’s exactly what judgmentalism has become!

So I will use the word confrontation instead of being judgmental.  Other than just sounding better, it is actually closer to what I view as the original meaning of judging.  In it’s simplest form this refers to pointing out a weakness, sin, or other characteristic that can harm someone.  Originally it is done in a spirit of humility and love.  It is when we add the anger, emotion, and a closed-minded philosophy that the word begins to mean something else entirely.

Jesus Himself illustrates confrontation for us in John chapters three and four.  I use these chapters because it shows the relationship that our Lord had with the unsaved in a very clear way.  Of course most of us know that John three shares a conversation that Jesus had with the Nicodemus, and the John four dealt with the woman at the well.

In both of these stories we see Jesus showing love and acceptance to the unsaved person (particularly the woman at the well).  Nicodemus although he had failed to clearly understand that Jesus was actually the Son of God instead of just another teacher, received love from the Lord.  He could have responded harshly to this ignorance from a religious leader who should have known better.  But instead Christ shared with Nicodemus his need to be born again (John 3:3).

The story of the woman at the well shows this love in an even greater way.  Jesus while waiting for His disciples is approached by a woman who He asked for a drink of water.  By doing this Jesus was breaking through three different cultural barriers at the same time!  First of all He as a Jew was speaking to Samaritan which never happened.  And He also spoke to a woman, which in those days was strange because men and women didn’t  converse with each other much.  Then finally He took the initiative to speak with this woman who lived her life in shame (which is why she cam to the well at such a strange time).

We do see love here, but what about confrontation?  Jesus was actually judgmental (confrontational) when dealing with both of these individuals.  He rebuked Nicodemus for not realizing what He meant by being born again (John 3:10) and pointed out the woman’s having five husbands as well as living with another man (John 4:16-18).

Now look at those confrontations of Jesus.  He isn’t angry or hostile towards them.  In fact you can sense a great deal of sarcasm in His rebuke of Nicodemus.  But while these judgments were in love they still made an impact.  The woman after being confronted by Jesus suddenly wants to change the subject and start talking about a controversial issue of where people worship (John 4:19-20).  And I am sure that His rebuke of Nicodemus led to conviction.

For me this is the original meaning of the word judgmental.  We don’t overlook sin or act like it isn’t there.  Any sin or weakness is directly confronted, but in a spirit of Love.  Yes there are times when we need to be judgmental, but it is important that we start practicing that discipline in its original form.

Because of Who He is,

John Wilburn

Can Grace be Judgmental?

We have already looked at how judgmentalism is seen in legalism, normal Christian relationships, and the emerging Church.  But there is one other form of Judgmentalism that has been left out, and that’s what I call Grace Judgmentalism.

Now for some people the words Grace and Judgmentalism just don’t fit.  After all, Grace focuses on the liberty that we have in Jesus Christ because of His death on the cross.  The price that was paid there gives us a freedom from rules, laws, or stipulations.  I personally feel that there is still a responsibility in Grace.  Not to save ourselves, but to abide and walk in a close relationship with Christ.  However the idea of Grace is one of freedom.

Judgmentalism brings to mind people forcing others to believe what they hold to be true.  Which is the exact opposite of the Grace view’s celebration of freedom.  But beneath that love of freedom and liberty a judgmental spirit can be seen sometimes.
Those who embrace this view of growth make Love one of their main characteristics.  In fact the words Grace and Love can be used to completely describe what they believe.  In my mind this is a very beautiful thing.  Who wouldn’t want to live a life that was focused on being Gracious and Loving?

And most times those Believers live up to their two-word philosophy of life.  But interestingly there are times when they seem to reject both of those words.  Circumstances where they are neither Gracious, or Loving.  These Grace following Believers have no mercy for legalists.  Now many people will point to Jesus Chris’s attack upon the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 23:13-22) and use this to prove that legalists don’t deserve to be treated with Love.  Do keep in mind that Jesus had offered his Salvation countless times to the Phariseees and Sadducees before this.  He had endured countless questions and answered each one in an attitude of humility.

Believe it or no I do feel that there situations where judgmentalism (I use the word confrontation) are needed.  But in most cases like Christ’s this confrontation takes place when the person refuses to repent of their pride and sin.  But even that confrontation can be done in a spirit of  Love in most cases.

Now of course the attack of legalism is only in response to the animosity from those who follow legalism (rules are the most important thing).  In most cases the Grace Followers don’t fire the first shot, but are merely trying to defend themselves.  I don’t think that there is anything unbiblical about pointing out the sin and attempts for control that come from these individuals.  But it must be done IN LOVE!

It is possible to point out the selfishness of that legalist in a spirit of humility.  And then instead of arguing with them, simply walk away and allow the Holy Spirit to change the person (it’s His job anyways).  Yes its important when discussing being judgmental those who make rules the foundation of their life.  But it is necessary to in humility (and believe me I only do this after judging myself) pointing out the judgmental attitudes in the lives of others as well.  We aren’t perfect people, but lets make an honest effort to show love towards all people.  Even those who may not deserve it, because we certainly didn’t deserve God’s Love.

Because of Who He is,

John Wilburn

Confessions of a Gutless Coward (Me)

This post is probably going to be kind of hard to read, because it is hard for me to write.  I would honestly rather continue writing about how we can love one and build up one another in Christ.  But God won’t let me do that tonight.  Instead I have to write about what a gutless coward I am.  Now I know that in Christ I am a child of God so this isn’t self-pity.  But at the same time I am aware that many times I in my flesh act more like a scared little boy than God’s child.

Allow me to explain why I am a gutless coward.  The Lord has called me to minister in the wonderful city of Melbourne Australia.  Specifically He is leading me to work with the young adults and youth of Melbourne.  In most ways I am actually doing a pretty good job with that.  Four to five days a week are spent doing something (basketball, prayer meeting, games) with young adults from the local Church I attend.  But there is a big part of that ministry I have ignored.

See the Lord has also called me to the unsaved young people of Melbourne.  For at least a month and a half now I have felt God burdening me to become involved in volunteer work with the youth of my community.  There are a countless number of opportunities to become a part of their lives.  Even spending time at a local skate park would give me a chance to develop relationships.

As if challenging me to do this wasn’t enough, God also has shown me how to get involved in volunteer ministries.  There is a place in the area that helped me get involved in a ministry that helps those who were affected by bushfires (Kinglake) a year ago.  They actually know me there, all I have to do is walk in and ask them if there are any youth opportunities in the area.  About eleven minutes from my house is a skate park that dozens of teens come to every afternoon around 4:00.  I know exactly where that place is, you know why?  Because I drive by it almost every day!

But I have never actually walked over to where those teens are skating.  And I don’t walk in the door of that community services centre.  Not because I am a worthless person with no talent whatsoever, but because I allow Satan to fill my heart with fear.  See in reality although I call myself a gutless coward the real problem is listening to the fear in my heart instead of God’s voice.
We all have situations where we become a gutless coward.  Where we refuse to do something that is clearly the Will of God for our lives because it is scary, messy, uncomfortable, or hard.  And in most cases we hide that part of ourselves from everyone else.

There is a reason I am putting this confession on my blog and facebook for people to read (then naming it something that people will probably click on and read).  It is the exact opposite of what I usually do with those gutless coward situations.  Our first thought is to cover that part of our lives up and make sure nobody ever sees it.  But why?  I mean, everybody pretty much knows we aren’t perfect anyways right?

So let me ask you as my friends to do two things.  First of all pray that I have the courage to actually ask about youth volunteer opportunities.  If there aren’t any there that’s okay, the point is that I face that fear and deal with it.  And also that eventually I can find a way to connect with those skaters (without trying to skate and breaking my neck, I am thirty-four after all).

The second thing is actually more important.  Be willing to reveal the gutless coward part of your life with other people.  Obviously you don’t have to put it on facebook, simply have a conversation with a loved one or friend about your fears.  There honestly isn’t any reason that we have to deal with those fears on our own.  So join me dear friend and  lets band together as an army of gutless cowards who overcome those fears through the power of God.

Because of Who He Is,

John Wilburn

Crying Into Carrot Cake for My Birthday

As I sit at my kitchen table on the morning of my thirty-fourth birthday my mind goes back to what had happened last year on March 12, 2009. Birthdays have always been an opportunity for me to sort of evaluate my life. It’s a chance to see what I have done well in the last year, and possibly things that I could have done better. Usually this is a pretty healthy exercise that allows me to focus on learning from my past mistakes, but last year it became a source of discouragement.

I was finishing the last six months of my first term on service on the field of Australia (lasting two and a half years). So this was a chance to not only evaluate and meditate on the past year, but also what the Lord was able to do through me during my first two years in Australia. As with many missionaries during their first term there wasn’t a lot to be encouraged about.

Part of the problem was actually my fault. As a new missionary coming onto the field I was very excited about doing the Lord’s work in Melbourne, Australia. This excitement led me to an expectancy that He would give me many wonderful ministry opportunities. During the plane ride from Los-Angeles I day dreamed about what God would be able to do through me in Melbourne.

Two years later I had not accomplished those lofty dreams. Most of my ministry involved relationship development and some behind the scenes work at Churches, as well as some work with teens. Today I can see that relationship development was a huge part of ministry, particularly in Melbourne.  But by March 2009 part of me was discouraged because of those unaccomplished goals. That discouragement, and some frustration as well, came to a head on my birthday last year.

Two coworkers who were pastors of local Churches took me out for lunch in honor of my becoming thirty-three. As we drank cappuccino’s the pastor of the Church I was currently attending began asking me if I was truly happy there. Honestly I was happy at that church, but at the same time there weren’t many ministry opportunities for me to become involved in. The congregation was blessed with many leaders and men who could step in and help with ministry.  So the answer to that question was yes I enjoyed being there, but a part of me wanted more chances to minister.

Knowing that a part of me wanted to have more opportunities to become involved in, my pastor encouraged me to pray about joining a new church plant.  It was about a year and a half old, and led by the other missionary who took me out to lunch. As we continued talking about the possibility of my changing ministries the frustration inside began to come out. Partly because I hadn’t voiced those frustrations, and also leaving for another ministry was frightening.   It must have been a strange sight to see me eating a gigantic piece of carrot cake with tears in my eyes.

My conversation with them helped immensely because they recounted experiences of frustration in their own first term of service. It felt good to at least know that I wasn’t crazy, and this discouragement was just a normal part of missionary development! About a month later I became involved in the new church plant full time. It was hard leaving the first church I attended full time in Australia, but I also knew it was God’s Will. Now a year later I can see God taking those seeds planted in the first two years and causing them to grow. Tonight I will not be celebrating my birthday with two coworkers (although I love them very dearly) but fifteen young adults from two different Baptist Churches. Eleven of us are going out for a birthday dinner, and then four others will meet all of us at my house for movies, video games, and other kinds of fun.

The Lord has given me many glorious opportunities since I cried into that piece of carrot cake. But looking back on last years birthday I can see that it was the Lord’s will for me to simply wait on His timing. And that if we patiently wait upon Him in faith, God will bless us.

Because of Who He is,

John Wilburn