Can a Christian be “Gay”? Sexual identity, Foucault and the Bible

Recently, on Twitter, and in various conversations, I have been asked if “gay Christian” specifically and if “gay” in general are appropriate biblical categories. Though I have written about this in, Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted, it is a conversation that has really important issues at play. Sexual identity and the words we use are not just descriptors of one’s desires and experiences but are philosophical claims on reality. One is rooted in the social constructionism of Michael Foucault and the other is rooted in the Bible. Words matter and Christians need to use the ones that most align to biblical reality.

Michael Foucault is a primary sage of the sexual chaos around sexual identity that now exists. In his, History of Sexuality, Foucault writes:
Sexuality must not be thought of as a kind of natural given which power tries to hold in check, or as an obscure domain which knowledge tries gradually to uncover. It is the name that can be given to a historical construct: not a furtive reality that is difficult to grasp, but a great surface network in which the stimulation of bodies, the intensification of pleasures, the incitement to discourse, the formation of special know ledges, the strengthening of controls and resistances, are linked to one another, in accordance with a few major strategies of knowledge and power.

Here, Foucault introduces Social Constructionism into the conversation of sexuality. Sexual identity is not an objective reality but an individual and social construct that is named by individuals, and centers of power. Foucault places sexual restraints into the category of repression by powerful forces of culture and religion. Thus, freedom is the naming of self. For Foucault, we can be whoever we desire to be and ‘truth’ and the ‘common good’ are illusions. This is the world we live in.

When someone says that he is “gay”, this person is embracing a post-modern view of identity. Here I am not speaking of one’s attractions which very well might be real. Instead, I mean by embracing this linguistic reality, one is saying that each person or society has the power to identify the truth of their sexual selves. For the individual this might do little harm, but for the church the cost is immeasurable.

In the biblical account, the only way to understand sexual identity is through the lens of the Imago Dei and the divine blessing that comes from it:
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”” Genesis‬ ‭1:27-28‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
Male and female is a divine edict that flows from the very reality of God. From it comes the creation ordinance: be fruitful and multiply. The Church and Christians does a disservice to those they serve when they mix the categories of Scriptures with post-modern philosophy. From the biblical perspective, categories like gay, straight, trans, bisexual do not exist as categories of identity. They do not point to reality; instead they are the words of a creature taking the place of God. As soon as these are the categories of conversation, you have left the realism of the Bible and entered into the miry chaos of post modernity.

Words have power. By entering and accepting the unbiblical categories of the current, cultural moment, the church has given up the ground of biblical authority. Identity is primum momenti; identity is the primary ground of lordship. If Jesus is your Lord, then you are a man, a woman with a divine calling. He redeems all of us including our sexuality identity.

Herman Bavinck rightly grounds sexual identity in the realism of the Bible,
God is the Creator of the human being, and simultaneously also the Inaugurator of sex and of sexual difference. This difference did not result from sin; it existed from the very beginning, it has its basis in creation, it is a revelation of God’s will and sovereignty, and is therefore wise and good. Therefore, no one may misconstrue or despise this sexual difference, either within one’s own identity or in that of another person. It has been willed by God. The authority of the father, the love of the mother, and the obedience of the child form in their unity the threefold cord that binds together and sustains all relationships within human society. Within the psychological life of every integrated personality this triple cord forms the motif and melody.

Here, one’s sexual identity is objectively decreed by God. And the psychology of this identity and the family born of it is the foundation of society and the reality every person must reckon with.

There is much that could be said about how we ought to talk about our impulses and inclinations, as well as how singleness plays into the Christian view of reality but words have power. Let us use our words with care.

Membership and Reaching the LGBTQIA Community

In recent years, churches seeking to adapt to a rapidly changing culture and expansive view on sexual ethics have sought novel ways to engage the LGBTQIA community. Some churches are still adhering to an orthodox sexual ethic while finding ways of embracing gay individuals and couples. One such way is through membership framed in “missional hospitality”. The reasoning for such churches to engage in missional evangelism is relevance, engagement and relationship. Such hospitality fosters relationship and is based in inclusion with a “long view” on discipleship. And since, historically, church relationships are embodied in membership, biblical hospitality would, “make a place at the table”, for those whose otherwise would not be there. Here, membership is primarily about relationship, evangelism and eventually discipleship. Pulling from another relational reality for an example, it is a little bit like missionary dating. We are not “equally yoked” yet but my love will make the difference. For both, relationship allows for inclusion and demonstrations of Christian love while not embracing an unbiblical worldview. The laudable goal is discipleship and transformation. If it works, we can stand, declare, love and make disciples all in the same breath. 

Hospitality is a profoundly Christian category found throughout the Scriptures. Deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition (birthed out of Genesis 18), it is one of the marks of a true Christian community (Matt 25:31-46; Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:8-9; Titus 1:8). Hospitality was such a mark of Jesus that he was called a friend of sinners for his hospitality (Matt 11:19). Christian hospitality according to the, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, “Identifies Jesus with the ‘least of these’ and links hospitality towards human beings with love for Jesus”.  Christian hospitality is loving the stranger and those we know with the same love we have for Christ. It is love in action. We show hospitality with a meal, an open home, financial help or an listening ear. Hospitality is a tangible means to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and to love the other. Authors like Rosaria Butterfield have encouraged the church that it is through hospitality—the authentic opening of home and relationship—that non-Christians can encounter the living Christ. I know from my own journey, I am a Christian today in large part because of open homes and unmerited friendships. I found Jesus there.

Hospitality is a biblical command for the Christian church to follow and is the means of evangelism in a disconnected age. As an evangelist and someone who is more prone to say yes to relationship, I have been considering whether missional hospitality gives the church a framework for membership as it is understood in the reformed tradition? 

As I have considered this question what I have found is that membership is a totally different biblical category than hospitality. While membership is an earthen but valuable sign of salvation that has specific demands on those who are members, hospitality is best thought of as the work of love the believer has towards other believers and outsiders alike. Hospitality might reveal the living Christ but it cannot take away the demands that “Jesus as Lord” puts on his disciples.For the sake of the gospel, we cannot confuse the two. 

According to article 28 of the Belgic confession, membership is defined by:

  1. Salvation 
  2. Worshiping regularly in the local congregation 
  3. Submitting to and being disciples under biblical authority through local leadership
  4. Serving 

When we think about giving membership, the goal isn’t to be hospitable to one another but to endorse with a visible sign the spiritual reality of salvation. The high goal of membership is a member’s assurance and a church’s confidence that a local church’s elders sees the fruits of salvation in a particular person. 

This is the goal of the Belgic Confessions’ obligations on a member of a local church. And in each obligation we clearly see that hospitality can help someone come under the yoke of Christ but it cannot replace the decision each person can make.

According to the Belgic Confession, there must be salvation. This isn’t just reciting some words and believing the right things, but it is the hidden reality of the heart that has decided that Jesus is Lord. He is the master in all areas of life and though one might have a long way to go to maturity, he or she has as the aim Christlikeness. Salvation is Christ’s work but in the biblical record and reformed tradition, it is coupled with a public profession. Obvious sins that are entrenched are explored graciously and if there is agreement that it is sin, and there is a holy energy to get free, a person is gladly welcomed into the community of redeemed and being redeemed sinners. But unrepentant sin that is entrenched has always been a sign that salvation has not taken root.  Here, hospitality is extended but membership withheld. A gay couple who is civically married is entrenched in cultural sin. Active homosexual activity is a sin of grave concern. Both are matters of first importance. They are issues of salvation.  The question for a church accepting a gay couple into membership is does this couple agree about this biblical conclusion and will the church along with the couple go on the journey of discipleship so that obedience might be worked into their lives? If not, the profession is hollow and the church is encouraging disobedience with its silence.

Second, according The the Belgic Confession, membership is a commitment to gather regularly together. This has more to do with discipleship than attendance. It is the commitment of a member to publicly practice the disciplines of the church to become more like Christ in every area of life. Interestingly, in every church that has engaged the practice of missional hospitality that I have engaged, sexual ethics are of little or or concern as an issue of discipleship.  For a church to be faithful, it must be clear on its sexual ethics as asserted in the Bible. It must call the whole church to fidelity no matter the cost. Doesn’t “missional hospitality” that gives membership away and reduces the importance of sexual ethics secretly malform its members, same-sex attracted and heterosexual alike? The goal of membership is radical discipleship. I am not sure how lowering the bar of Christian living helps in this most important endeavor.

Third, the Belgic Confession says there must be ever growing obedience. In the words of the Belgic Confession, members must “bend[] their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ.” An orthodox view of sexuality sees ongoing, unrepentant, sexual sin as something that can disqualify you from eternal life and Christ’s kingdom (1 Cor 6:9-11). A married gay couple following Christ brings complications and costs that will be severe. Is the cost of discipleship being laid out and is church and member alike ready for this journey of the cross? Or is the church declaring, “peace, peace, when there is no peace.” If so, in an attempt to be hospitable, such a church becomes an enemy of the cross.

Fourth, the Belgic Confession calls members to serve the church and the community with the grace and hope of the gospel through the gifts given by the Spirit. Here, in a church who opens membership because of missional hospitality, utter confusion reigns. Where sin has been minimized, hospitality and discipleship confused, and the aim of membership not clear, how can a church be a force for gospel good? Sure, it will be able to be kind and do some social good, but its primary mission of making disciples who become like Jesus is totally lost.

Being fed by Jesus or healed by him does not save those who receive such kindness. Christian hospitality can bring a recipient to the door of salvation but each person must decide  to follow Christ. We walk into salvation by becoming disciples. Of course salvation is a free gift of grace but it is grace into eternal life now.

Anything that is alive has certain attributes and as long as it receives the attention and nutrients it needs and nothing harmful intervenes, the life will naturally grow into a mature life—a seed becomes a bloomed plant, an egg becomes a hen, etc… This is the way God has designed life. It is also the biblical vision for the Christian life. A man or woman who is born from above (John 3:3) begins as an “infant in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). This new life will grow and mature through the process of discipleship until a Christian lives his or her life as Christ lived his (1 John 2:6). This is the natural development of the Christian. Such growth into maturity is not for the super-Christian. It ought to be as natural as a flower seed growing into a fully bloomed plant. When membership is reduced and discipleship side-stepped in the name of hospitality, people will not grow. Salvation itself is at stake.

Anyone who loves Jesus wants to reach the community around them. Hospitality is a great way to do this but we also must not sugarcoat what becoming a Christian means. It means putting to death (Col 3) everything that stands in the way of Jesus being Lord of our lives. This includes liars, thieves, sorcerers, adulterers, envy and yes homosexual sex. Let’s be hospitable but let’s not lose the gospel in the process.

An Open Letter from Bob Bouwer, Charlie Contreras and Ron Citlau

Dear friends,

Christian community in a broken world with sinful people–ourselves first to admit our sinfulness–is hard! Even among close friends finding the right way to do church is rife with cliffs and chasms. We have learned this first hand.

A few weeks ago Charlie Contreras and Bob Bob Bouwer (& Scott Treadway) representing the Gospel Alliance met with representatives of Room for All and did the hard work of Christian community seeking a way forward for the RCA over issues of the authority of Scriptures and sexuality. It was a hard but good meeting. From that meeting a statement of agreement was worked on and agreed to by both organizations. Ron Citlau read the statement when it became public and wrote a critique of it. Though there was limited communication between the three of us before Ron’s critique, there was not adequate time given to process the original statement or the critique among the three of us. We have been friends a long time and there were hurt feelings, misunderstanding and unneeded wounding. But there is grace and mercy. We have had good conversations, become better friends, and grown deeper in the Lord. We wanted you to know that. We also wanted to share with you learnings and clarifications so our mistakes might serve you in your journey of following Christ:

  1. In Christ, any conflict can be worked through if there is humility on all sides. We experienced this. We saw Matthew 18 work it’s good work.
  2. We all needed to ask for mercy and forgiveness.
  3. Proverbs 15:22 declares, “without counsel plans fail but with many advisors they succeed.” The original joint statement needed more editing before it went public because it doesn’t reflect our views on sexuality and redemption or The Gospel Alliance.
  4. The critique blog post should have been given to GA’s leadership team with time to respond before being published for a chance of doing this all privately and fixing the original joint statement.
  5. All of this hard work needed to be done face-to-face.
  6. We, and the Gospel Alliance, joyfully stand with the traditional Christian view of marriage and redemption. Marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman for life; and Christ redeems sexual sinners. This has never changed for us or GA and won’t, God willing.
  7. Relationships matter. We must not just seek to be right we must treat each other rightly as our master commands. We are more committed to this than ever (Matthew 22:37-40).

Conflicts like this have much to teach us and to grow us if we are willing to learn. We want to grow and learn! We will keep talking, repenting and loving. We deeply care for each other, the local church and our denomination. We will continue standing and fighting for the good. We hope you will join us.

In Brotherly Love,

Bob, Charlie and Ron

No Love For Michael Curry

Michael Curry gave a powerful sermon at Prince Harry’s wedding on Saturday. A few days later, former chaplain to the queen, Gavin Ashenden, wrote this reflection. I posted Ashenden’s reflection because of its depth and Christian beauty. Lots of my Christian friends on fb were critical of Ashenden and in essence said, “Give Curry a break. He was preaching to the world at a wedding…. And love is a good thing.”

I think the larger issue with Curry representing Christ isn’t necessarily what he said but didn’t say. He was preaching to the world. The question is did he preach Christ?

Instead of Christ, he preached love. But what does he mean by it? Curry says, “Oh there’s power, power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love.” In a world filled with all kinds of “love”, we need to define love. He does not and just says any ole love will do. We are left to wonder if the word love means anything definite at all. Sure, he alludes to love but never states the radical, exclusive Christian message: Christ is love and he died to redeem, save and restore you. It’s not any love that does this (in you or the world) but Christ’s. This is the exclusive and radical message of Jesus. Curry didn’t share that message.

Well, you might say he alluded to it. Not really. Curry declares: “He didn’t die for anything he could get out of it. Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate for dying. He didn’t… he wasn’t getting anything out of it. He gave up his life, he sacrificed his life, for the good of others, for the good of the other, for the wellbeing of the world… for us.” Really? Here is his chance to share the gospel of the kingdom but he tells us that Jesus is some kind of lump-of-coal sacrifice that just wanted to do some good in the world—doesn’t want to offend I assume. This is more eastern mysticism than anything Christian. It was for joy that he died. It was to get a bride. He was intentional and passionately focused. That’s the gospel of love.

No talk of sin, the broken soul, or Christ’s ability to forgive and restore. This is what Christ does. Instead, Curry talks of neighborhoods, governments and child hunger. All important issues but are they central to love? Christian love that is?  The way of the cruciform Christ is this: first he transforms individuals and they go in his love bringing his kingdom. Here is the issue: Curry is saying any kind of love can get this done. Just go do it. We will have to see if such advice works. Sounds more like Oprah than the resurrected God.

Finally, just to stir the pot, listen to these words from preacher: “When love is the way, there’s plenty good room – plenty good room – for all of God’s children.” What do you think he is referring to? Of course we could give it a biblical explanation–God so loved the world…–but Curry, I would bet my right ankle is not thinking of John 3:16 to make his point. This is his truly ‘radical’ assertion of the day and it isn’t Christian. He wants ethics thrown out the window and identity politics be the new national religion. This is the coded language of the “radical left”. Love now means accepting anything–behavior, views and whatever pronoun one decides they are at the moment–and if you stand in the way of “love” then what an awful person you must be.

The way of Jesus, as presented in the scriptures and history, is radically different. Jesus will party with anyone and brings his goodness. But to receive his life they will have to die. To self and yes to ego. This bloody road is the only road to love. And from there comes resurrection life.

Instead, Curry preached the politics of the left. And since this was a Christian marriage, one would hope Christ’s message could at least been presented.

The world is clapping and thankful that now religion endorses their malformed love. But make no mistake, real love was no where to be seen.

Why I think you should join the Gospel Alliance

We are not forming this alliance for any other reason than this. We are tired of waiting. Our lives our short and our ministries even shorter. We want to be a part of something that matters. We also know from our many relationships and friendships that this is the heart of most in our denomination, so we take our stand.
Read the entire essay here: click here

Trump, Clinton, Christian Lament and the 2016 Election


_89592907_compositeI am perplexed. Baffled. Confused. Throughout my life I have voted on both sides of the aisle. I love the United States and I love our political process. Usually this time of the year brings excitement for me as I watch this great country decide its next leader. There is no excitement this year. This year is probably the most important election of our lifetimes and one of the most disheartening moments in American political history. I honestly have no idea who I will vote for. And I think that I am part of a group of millions of Christian voters who find themselves stuck in the middle of a catastrophe in the making.

The Right Kind of Person

On one side is Secretary Hillary Clinton. To her credit, she is smart, serious, capable and probably one of the most qualified candidates for the office of the President ever to run. Her convention was beautiful, patriotic and inspiring. Her views on American diplomacy is consistent with both Republicans and Democrats for at least a generation. And the Democratic party seems serious about helping the, ‘least of these.’ It seems she is taking this very seriously and has the temperament and character to be President.  She is the right kind of person. But in my opinion she has two serious flaws. The first is that she moves her political views around as her party changes views. Because it is expedient to do so, she has embraced the Sanders reality of international trade and a very (almost socialist) progressive view of taxation. These views are fine to have if one truly believes them (as Sanders does) but she does not hold them deeply. She holds them because she had to have them to win the Democratic nomination. What else will she change her mind on for the sake of expediency?

Her second serious flaw is her views on social issues like abortion and traditional marriage. For all the talk the Democrats are giving on caring for children, they are the party that is spearheading the legal protection of killing millions of unborn children. It is no longer, “rare but legal” but now, “I will do whatever I damn well please with my body for the sake of convenience.” When one leader was speaking of abortion and the right to choose during the Democratic convention, there were cheers for abortions. I was left heartbroken. How can I say yes to a candidate that embraces such a callous view of human life?  If that were not enough, the Democratic party is seeking to marginalize the religious right and its voice on marriage, gender and sexuality. It seeking to paint an orthodox view on these matters as bigoted and akin to the racism of the old, deep south. I thought the Democratic party was the party of tolerance and inclusion. This no longer seems to be the case. Secretary Clinton might be qualified but the America she is seeking to build breaks my heart.

The Right Kind of Policies

On the other side is Donald Trump. To his credit, he is a successful businessman. He has amazing kids, and by all accounts works hard and never gives up. Those close to him say he is motivated by patriotism and I have no reason to doubt them. But he has such deep character flaws, I am not even sure how to express them. He is narcissistic, offensive, a bigot, a misogynist, plays to the worse of our nature and seems to have no sense that he is running to lead the greatest and most powerful country on the earth. He has only been a conservative for about the last 12 months and who knows if we can believe him. His convention was filled with all white folks and was something out a end-of-the-world, sci-fi movie. Do we really want this man to have the nuclear codes? Do we really want him deciding the future of our children? Do we really want him being our representative around the world? His reckless hubris scares me.

That being said, he promises to nominate conservative judges, reform the tax code, and carry the conservative political mantle.  His pick of Mike Pence as his running mate is a nod to conservatives that he is serious about being an advocate for a conservative world view. Trump has many of the right policies (though I do find his immigration proposals totally unbiblical and un-American). I have no doubt that Trump will unseat the political establishment and bring about lasting change. Though I am not sure if that is a good or a bad thing. To be honest, the system is very broken and maybe Trump can fix it.

A Two-Party System

And here is the other reality that must be faced; we live in a two-party system where voting for a third-party candidate is in a very real sense throwing your vote away. Much more could be said about this but by adding a third and fourth candidate into the midst, and if they get any level of support, will have the effect of helping one of the major candidates. 1992 is a perfect example of where this happened. Ross Perot got somewhere around 19% of the popular vote, did not win one state’s electoral votes and was a factor in the Republicans losing the White House that year. We are a two-party system and to vote means voting for one of the two candidates that can actually win. This means voting for either Clinton or Trump.

We Need Wisdom

I find myself filled with lament. Can we not have someone who is not just the right kind of person but also the one who has the right ideas.  I am very sad for my country right now.

This year Christians will need the wisdom of Solomon. We want a leader with personal character and mature temperament AND we want a leader that holds to our values. This year we cannot have both. This year we will have to choose one or the other. God have mercy on us all.



City Church, The Gospel & the regrets of one pastor

church-peopleI had lunch with Fred Harrell a few days ago. Fred is the lead pastor of City Church.  Last year, City Church–an RCA congregation–took a significant step towards becoming an open and affirming community (read story here).  This sent shockwaves through our denomination. City Church is a flag ship church in our denomination, partnering with one of our seminaries and helping to plant churches around the United States. Up until this moment, I had always been a big fan of what they were doing. In response to their move of becoming welcoming and affirming, a large group of RCA pastors, including myself, wrote a public letter to City Church. This too sent shock waves around our denomination. I provided the leadership to bring the letter together and gather the signatures.  Though I still strongly disagree with what City Church did, I made a significant, sinful misstep that I personally asked Fred for forgiveness.

In the process of writing our response to City Church, I sent a draft to Fred to let him know what we planned on doing. Fred asked for a phone meeting to process this through relationship. I declined his offer. This was sin on my part. In retrospect, I should have entered into relationship with Fred and then decided on a next step. I told Fred, at our lunch, that I am sorry that I did not do this and asked for his forgiveness. He gladly gave it.

All that being said, this is what I am learning as I enter into my fifth decade of life:

  1. As Christians we are called to love one another. This is a command of Jesus. I have decided that he actually means it. It is not enough to be right; we must be kind. Personally, I have decided that when I must say the hard thing I must do everything in my power to do it lovingly in relationship.  I am always tempered in my response when I am responding to a friend I love. I believe this is a good thing. Also to be a person of love demands that I actually listen to others. To see things from their perspective. I think the church would be much kinder if we intentionally entered into this kind of relationship with one another especially with those who are different than us. I am trying hard to live this way.
  2. If I am right on issues of sexuality, I should be able to be a calm, non-anxious presence among those with whom I disagree. Many times, I have been motivated by fear. Fear makes me defensive. What I am learning is that if God is my father, I can be present in love, share my opinions graciously and not worry about outcomes. I am deciding, as much as I can, to live this way.
  3. I might be wrong on issues of sexuality and gender. Now, I do not believe I am wrong. Actually, I am the most conservative that I have ever been in my life. I am happily complementarian, pro-traditional marriage, and deeply reformed. These are not just intellectual positions for me but these realities have profoundly shaped my life as a follower of Jesus. And as I read the Scriptures and have experienced God in my life, I know these things to be true. But usually when you are wrong, you do not know it. This one idea–that I might be wrong–moves me into a place of humility. It keeps me open and curious.  it causes me to keep searching for the truth wherever it may lead. It keeps my pronouncements modest. It allows me to be a conversational partner and not a dictator. Personally, this seems to fit better with how Jesus has asked me to live.
  4. I personally don’t want to be at war with those with whom I disagree. In the next few years, the RCA is going to see many churches leave the denomination over gay marriage and gay ordination. This splitting can be done with guns drawn and bullets flying or it can be done in lament and love. I choose lament and love.


I am thankful for Fred. I disagree with him on this and other issues. But I am thankful that he was willing to be in relationship with me even when I didn’t want to be in relationship with him.  Thank you Fred for teaching me how to be a better follower of Jesus.



My Thoughts on the RCA Special Council on Human Sexuality

IMG_3198-crop_0Last week I joined 70 other RCA leaders from across the country and our denomination to seek a way forward even as many disagree, fundamentally, on the topic of same-sex relationships and the ordination for gay men and women. You can read the result of that gathering, here.

What I wanted to share was what I experienced and some of my conclusions based upon our gathering.

First, I have some dear friends who are on the opposite side of this conversation around same-sex activity and ordination. I disagree with them openly and strongly, and I love them dearly. I think highly of them. I am glad that I know them. One of the things that I have learned is that the conversation around same-sex relationships and ordination is not just an issue but about real people–people who love God and want to follow him. And my progressive friends are serious about their faith (even though I believe they are seriously wrong on this central gospel issue). I never want to forget this; they are seeking to be faithful. I personally think that if we lowered our biblical rhetoric and entered into relationships with those we disagree with, we might do more good than what we could accomplish through arguing. I am not saying we should not stand for what is right, but I am saying that when Jesus said love your enemies, he probably meant it.

Secondly, We are at a lamentable divide. Words like inclusion, gospel, salvation, marriage, purity and covenantal responsibility mean different things to traditionalists like me than they do to my progressive friends. I am not sure there is a way to stay together and be biblically faithful when our understanding of Christianity is so different. Many folks were earnest in such an attempt last week but I simply am not sure that it is possible. I am still willing to try because our covenant relationship called the RCA is not something to toss aside but I am just not sure. Departure for some seems inevitable.

Third, the recommendations that are going to General Synod from this council is good, serious work. It is the effort of men and women seeking to do the impossible: find a way forward on an issue in which so many strongly disagree . I am sad that I hear many of my friends lambast the work of this council. The real decision is up to General Synod, 2016 and the classes that make up our denomination. Take this and do gospel good but don’t disparage the good work of those who put a lot of effort to produce what is being presented.

Fourth, I love Tom Devries. He is a good man and an amazing leader. We need to pray for him. He too has an impossible job. I respect him more and more as I see him in action.

Finally, I am so thankful for Jesus. There is no one like him. He has been so good to me in my sexual brokenness. I have been transformed by his love! I believe with all my heart that he is the hope of the world for the LGBT community. So, I keep standing, proclaiming and living Jesus. I pray that you will do the same.



Should we seek the presence of God and what happens if we find it?

Presence+of+the+LordIf you have been around Calvary at all, you know that I often say something like this, “what we need, what we should yearn for is the presence of God in our lives. We ought to make finding the Lord’s presence a top priority because if the Lord shows up, everything changes”. This statement is born out of my own journey and experience.  It is when I have been in the presence of God that my life has dramatically changed.

Recently, I received this email question from a wonderful leader at Calvary about the language I use and asking for clarification.

Hi Pastor Ron,

I wanted to raise my hand in service today and ask a question 🙂 …can you elaborate on what you mean by “when God shows up”? I (we) might be looking for Him to show up in the wrong places.  At first I was viewing this statement in a literal sense; trusting and waiting for God to show up to settle the chaos in our lives. Now I’m wondering if you’re meaning a deeper/non tangible, level.

So, what do I mean when I say that we need God to show up? What is the presence of the Lord and why should we seek it? So this is my aim in this blog post: first, I want to prove that we need to make seeking the Lord a priority; secondly, I want to show the good that can come from it; and third, I want to show you what are the signs that God is drawing near you.  My aim is one:  to show how the presence of the Lord in your life changes everything.

You Are Commanded To Seek The Lord

There is no doubt that the bible wants us to seek his presence:

         Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! (1 Ch 16:11)
You have said, “Seek my face.”  My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” (Ps 27:8)
But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Dt 4:29)
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (La 3:25)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Mt 6:33).
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:9–13)
So, based on these various biblical examples, I think you will agree with me that seeking the Lord is a priority.  I want to draw one logical conclusion from the scriptures above before I move on: these Scriptures above are to the people of God; this means that it must possible to be a follower of God and not live in the presence of God as described in these texts. This is an important point because these texts are not speaking about salvation. It is true that we are saved through the presence of the Lord but it is quite possible to be saved but not in the presence of the Lord in the way described above. The reason I want to point this out is because I want you to know two things:
  1. there is to be seeking as a Christian; salvation is not the end; it is just the beginning of a seeking-kind-of-life.
  2. there is a quality of life available to you that is eternal in quality.  But God doesn’t just give it to you. You must seek it.
Why Seeking The Lord is A Great Idea
I looked at the scriptures above and pulled the numerous reasons why the bible commends seeking the Lord. Consider these:
-If you want strength, seek his presence.
– If you want intimacy, seek his presence–“Seek my face” is a command to be in intimate communion with God.
-If you want to know the goodness of God, the Bible tells us to seek his face.
– If you need life change or circumstance change, seek his face–The kingdom of God that Jesus calls us to seek is the manifest (made real) reality of God among us.  The Kingdom of God is the goodness of God made real for his people (one just needs to read the gospel and read what happens wherever Jesus went–the lame walk, the blind see, the hungry are fed–this is the Kingdom of God.
So, seeking the Lord is a command and is the pathway to much good. One would be hard pressed to find something more good for a Christian than seeking the presence of God through Christ in one’s life.
But there is a final question, how do we know that the Lord has drawn near to us?
The Signs that God Has Drawn Near Us.
Ok, we know that the presence of God is something we are commanded to seek, and there is good in the seeking but how do we know that He is near us?  Below are some of the biblical and historical signs of the presence of God in your life (For more, consider reading Martin Lloyd’s book on Revivals):
  • A sense of your own sinfulness, God’s holiness, a desire for repentance and an experience Christ’s sweet mercy.  In John 16, Jesus says he will send the Spirit who will convict us of our sin and point us to Jesus (glorify him). This is not just a one time event at conversion but a way of life–a cruciform life. When God draws near, you realize that your most righteous deeds are, “as filthy rags” and you can do nothing to clean up the mess of your life. Then in the same breath you come to realize that Jesus alone is your hope and righteousness. It is not just an abstract understanding of atonement but an experience of it in one’s life. When this is happening, God is drawing near.
  • There will be power and you will have supernatural results in your life. Wherever the presence of God breaks through, supernatural things happen–healings, fear of the Lord, insight, amazing results, and the list could go on and on. The overwhelming testimony of Scriptures is that when God shows up things change.  People change; circumstances change; eternities change; things change! So, if amazing things are happening in your midst, God has drawn near.
  • Transformation. If your inner life begins to be transformed, if you begin to take on the character of Jesus’ life in your life, then God has drawn near.  The most profound mark of God’s nearness as it relates to our character is being a people of love. When you are more loving–a servant over a consumer–God has drawn near.
  • A season of dryness and trial. When Jesus was filled with God’s presence (the Holy Spirit) that very presence took him into the wilderness for a season of testing and trial…  It is where the enemy spoke. It was a season of weakness. Though Christ is unique and his victory secure, our times of trials and troubles are specifically allowed and designed by the Spirit so that we can grow and mature…  This is why Paul says we can rejoice in our trials in Romans 5 because the end of such suffering is our hope and joy. When trials are happening, God has drawn near.
  • Worship. When you want to make your life about his fame then God has drawn near. When you want to lay down your life so that His cause will be forwarded then God has drawn near.  Worship is the clearest sign of God’s nearness; it is the only response of the people of God when he draws near. If you ache to worship, then God has drawn near.

One final, important point: the presence of God is Not primarily a feeling. I think this is where we get confused. We are looking for some kind of emotional experience. Now, this might happen (it sometimes happened in the Bible) but this is really secondary to the signs I marked above.  Some people have emotional experiences and none of the above is evidenced…  This means whatever happened to them was not the presence of God drawing near. Other people have no emotional experience but these fruits of God’s presence are present…. This means that God has drawn near.

Conclusion With A Prayer

The presence of God is to be sought; there is good in it and the signs that God is near are obvious.

I hope this helps.

I guess I will close simply with a prayer. It is my prayer that we would seek the Lord. More than anything I want us to experience the life that comes from him alone.

This should be our aim, vocation and one desire as followers of Jesus. The good news in the midst of The Good News is that if we seek the Lord, he will reveal himself to us; then, everything will change.