Freedom to love

After what I wrote in my last blog post about Vicki Beeching, I think i need to provide some context for it. Over the last several months, God has been working on me about the attitude I hold towards people – in particular, LGBT people. This wasn’t a place I had any intention of going since I, like many people I know in the church, generally don’t know too many of them.

The question was, if Jesus was physically on earth, what would His reaction be to someone who was gay? Would he avoid them, walk on the other side of the road, fear them? No, He would probably found eating with them, in their houses, and still probably be called “a friend of sinners.” What if the person in question was a christian that had struggled all their life with same-sex attraction, and were known in the church? We seem to be comfortable that as long as they hide who they are and present an “everything’s fine” facade, then we’re ok. But if they find that not being honest with themselves is killing them, and they decide to tell people what’s going on inside, then our reaction seems to be one of judgement, dismay or fear. I do not believe Jesus would act in such a way.

I don’t say this to minimize the existence of sin or the effect of sin. In every form, it drives us away from our heavenly Father, and is the outworking of the enemy’s desire to destroy God’s creation and God’s children. It is so bad, that the final remedy for sin was Jesus taking it all on himself so that we might live. That is the good news! When we read the gospels, we can see that Jesus knew exactly what He was about, and where things were going. He accepted the cup prepared for Him so that we might live. It was the only way. In doing this, Jesus removed the ultimate obstacle to us running with Him and finishing the race.

We also see that when Jesus interacted with people, he was gentle, kind and drew them to himself, The bible says of Him, “a bruised reed He will not break.” Jesus loved and still loves people. The only people Jesus criticized were the teachers of the law, who had an excellent knowledge of scripture, but used it as a hammer to further their own agendas or control people.

When we understand that God loves us and is drawing us to himself, we become free to run to him and receive all He has for us. As we grow closer to Him, He changes and transforms us, all our problems, issues and sins get washed away in the water of His love – not ignored, but dealt with in the way He chooses to deal with them.

Every one of us is complex, and some of the issues in our lives cannot be solved by a quick prayer. They may take our entire lives to deal with, and maybe not even be dealt with by the time we die. The path He walks us on is complex, and we can experience many ups and downs, but because God knows what He is doing, He is not dismayed by setbacks. In fact, what may seem like a setback maybe the thing that God uses to work out greater healing in our lives. The last thing He needs is for someone to come along and drive a wedge between us and Him

In my last post I deliberately chose not to focus on the sin aspect of things, not because I wanted to ignore it, but because I wanted to focus on our reactions to people. Dealing with sin and its effects on our lives is exactly what the Father’s salvation is all about. I was writing about my attitude towards people, even about people who struggle with things that I do not. Jesus does not call me to judge, He calls me to love people. For some reason, at this time, He wants to increase that capability in me. He’s showing me that He wants my posture towards people to be more like that of Jesus and less like that of the accuser. I can do that because I know God is more aware of sin and its effects than I am, and that He is the one who knows how to rescue and deliver. Secure in that knowledge, I become free to love. I would hope that as people come to know me and understand that I really care about them, I might get the opportunity to be used by God to bring some measure of healing into their lives.

I recently read an excellent book called “Generous Spaciousness: Responding to Gay Christians within the Church”, by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter, the executive director of New Direction. In the introduction of her book, she writes,

 At the risk of being misunderstood or called heretics, we want to engage, listen, and be the presence of Christ with those who hold differing perspectives. We want to hang out with all the folks that make church leaders nervous (and frankly want to be the kind of people who make church leaders nervous) – because we know that is who Jesus was and what Jesus did. We do this in part because there is more common ground than might be initially apparent. And I think there could be more understanding and respect.

 

She also says,

“I work toward the day when a follower of Jesus who experiences same-gender attraction can be honest and open about that reality and receive support and encouragement in living a life that is pleasing to God, And I feel particularly called to do that within the conservative church.”

 

This is why I wrote what I did about Vicky Beeching. She had the courage to be open and honest about who she is – not hide it and pretend everything is rosy’ This is called integrity.

Wendy said that early on, she had a vision that New Direction could be a “bridge” between the gay community and the church. We need more bridges so people can cross over.

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Coming out to authenticity

It’s 4:55am on Saturday, one of my only days to sleep in … and I’m awake! So what do I do? Like many, I decide to punish myself and make sure I won’t go back to sleep … I start reading Facebook. But then a few minutes later, I am aware of the presence of God … and I’m crying. Tears of joy, love, happiness, anger and frustration. As I was Facebook surfing, I started to read about Vicky Beeching. For those who don’t know her, she is a wonderful song writer, worship leader and child of God who loves Him with all her heart. If you listen to her music, you will feel the heart of the Lord and her love for Him.

Last week, she came out, and let people know she was gay. As I read the articles and the interviews I became more aware of the presence of God, and for an hour, I read and wept.

I cried because I recognized her love for God, and knew it was God who had brought her to this place. I cried because of the struggle she described – that all though her life she had feelings of same-sex attraction, and how she had wrestled every possible way with it – pushing it down, denying it, repenting of it, being delivered from it, trying to accept it, trying to deny it – a life-long roller coaster of up and down, guilt, joy, fear … everything! I cried for joy as I felt God’s love for her, as He led her to the place of being open, honest and transparent with herself … and with Him who already knows everything about her.

Through her wrestling, she came to the place of acceptance of who she is. She understood that God did not have a clipboard with a doctrinal scorecard on it waiting to see if she passed or failed. I saw that all through her journey, He was and is there for her. He has brought her to the place where she can see, love and accept all that she is. She is in Christ Jesus, and there is no condemnation for her. She has been to places inside her soul that few of us go… let alone embrace or tell others about. She has chosen authenticity over not wanting to know, acceptance over rejection, and love instead of fear. As I read her story and felt her heart … she became a hero – a model of authenticity that inspires me.

I also cried as I read the objections, the haters, those that dismissed her as “gone off the deep end”. I cried because many are so fearful of being wrong, that they will attack others to convince themselves that they are right. I get it that there are unanswered questions. That’s ok – questions and wrestling are good, and I have many questions also. I’m sure that Vicky herself has asked those same questions over the years. The difference is that she has walked it out and has come to a greater understanding of who she is and the immensity of God’s love for her. That is an amazing place to be!

Where you lead, I will follow

Each of us have things in our lives that we struggle with, not necessarily the same issues she has, but other things. At the end of the day, she is walking out her faith with fear and trembling. Are we? Do we dare to look into the places in our heart where things are hidden? Will we cry out to God and say, “Lord, I love you so much. Show me where I need to go … I will follow where you lead?”

These last few months the Lord has been taking me on a journey into my own soul, and I have discovered things I could barely admit to myself, never mind share with others. It started when God began to show me I have a destiny, a purpose for which I was created. He showed me that the only way I could discover that destiny was to ask Him to show it to me, and then follow wherever He leads. I can barely comprehend the places he’s showing me. Many times, I have cried out to the Lord and asked Him to stop me if this is not from Him. Each time, I receive reassurance that I’m ok .. just keep going. People give me words or pictures from the Lord – not knowing what I am dealing with, and each time, it’s “steady as she goes.”

Last year, I discovered Arthur Burk’s teachings on the “redemptive gifts” … and it has changed my life. For the first time I understood that I really am fearfully and wonderfully made … exactly the way He intended me to be. I said to Him, “You mean, I’m supposed to feel this way?” As I dig deeper, I discover things that He has given me that are treasures beyond all the riches the world could ever offer. God’s heart is more wonderful, passionate, loving and all-encompassing that I could ever imagine, and He has given me the gift of a very tiny, infinitesimal piece of His heart … and I am totally wrecked. I am so far from perfect, but that He has chosen to show me the smallest part of how much He loves people is changing my life. There is no stinginess, or lack, or conditionality or tentativeness to His love. It is extravagant, overflowing and when you see it, you are ruined for anything less.

I used to be scared of people that were “not like us”. I used to be comfortable in my safe little Christian nest where all is secure and protected. God is taking me to places and people who I would have avoided in the past – just because I didn’t understand them … nor want to. Now, He is connecting me to LGBT people – people who are wonderful, loving, understanding, passionate and full of life. Unfortunately, the enemy of our souls has deceived us, and we (the church) have become the obstacle to them knowing the Father’s love. We have no idea what they feel or go through because we do not walk in their shoes. It one thing to pontificate on the rightness of a position when you have no affinity with it. It’s quite another to see the pain in someone’s heart who has been rejected by their family, friends, society and the church – the one place where they should be safe to experience God’s unconditional love.

My heart is both full and broken. I weep for joy at His love, and in sorrow for the pain and hurt. As the Lord takes me to those deeper places, all I can do is admire, respect and love those who have the courage to go where they have never gone before.

Once we start that journey, we are compelled to finish it – no matter where it might lead, and no matter what people may think. God is my first love, and in fear and trembling, by His grace, I will follow where He leads. We may not agree with the path someone chooses, but I know that God is overjoyed when someone chooses to follow him, no matter the cost.

To read more about Vicki Beeching, Check out the links page at vickybeeching.com

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Set free to fly – part 2: fly into His arms

About a week after I wrote my last post, Overcoming that which holds us back, The Lord gave me a vision which completely illustrated what I had written:

Under an overcast sky I saw a woman standing in a field. She was exposed to the elements and was full of despair. Everywhere she looked there was desolation. She was alone and completely crushed by the burdens she carried. It looked as if she had been abused and tormented, and had been abandoned in this place of despair. The weight of guilt and condemnation was upon her – a terrible weight that had come from herself, the world, the church, the enemy – a burden for which there was no hope, no salvation. Maybe death would bring relief?

And then she saw Father God standing at the edge of the field, near the horizon. Even from this distance, she could see His arms wide open, His face full of love and compassion, and she heard His voice calling … “Run to me!”. She began to run towards him – faster and faster. As she got closer, she saw that He was dressed in royal robes which had many folds and layers. She ran and she ran until she reached the robes, and still running, she went through the layers until she felt His strong arms enfold her.

In that embrace, she cried and sobbed for what seemed like eternity, and He never once loosened his grip or let her go. For the first time in her life, she felt despair and condemnation leaving her, and after a time, she became calm in His arms. She felt love and compassion surround her. There was no guilt, no condemnation – only the liquid love of the Father covering her, freeing her, releasing her. As she rested, she realized that not once did the Father talk about any of the issues she had faced. She just knew that she was home and that all those things that had bound and tormented her were falling away.

She could have stayed in His embrace forever, but she felt the Father saying, “Turn around”. She turned, still in His arms until she could see the place from where she had come. It looked the same, but now she was safe, and it held no power over her. It was still a dark place, but she heard The Lord say, “Speak to it – command it to go”. As she obeyed and spoke to the darkness, she saw it begin to crumble and evaporate. The chains were just lies – made of mist, with no power to hold her. She now stood in that place of victory, not because she had figured out how to deal with those things, but because running into the all encompassing, all forgiving arms of the Father had set her free.

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Set free to fly – part 1: Overcoming that which holds us back

Many of us have struggled for years trying to overcome things – sins or habits in our lives – even things connected to our core identity, but Jesus said, “I have overcome the world”, and “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”. That overcoming is complete and absolute. Nothing else is required. Those things that seem, quite literally, impossible to overcome, are the very things that God wants to heal by his transforming presence. Even parts of the church do not get this, and so people get loaded down with guilt, or self-help suggestions, or rejection, or condemnation.

When we are at the point where we know we can’t change ourselves, and our next thought is, “if God doesn’t do something, I might as well die”, we will find that the only one who is not condemning us is our loving Heavenly Father. He’ll look at us with a smile and say, “It’s ok. I’ve known who you are since before I created you. I know your struggles and fears, and I will never leave you or forsake you. I will never stop loving you and all I have is yours. Draw near to me. You don’t need to clean yourself up. You just need to run into my arms and know the love I have for you.”

This, actually, is true repentance. We turn from looking at all those things that are sins, failures or snares, and we turn to our heavenly Daddy … and run into His loving embrace. When we do that and lose ourselves in Him, we’ll find that all the stuff we were worried about has dropped off. Then, all we can see will be Him, and all those problems will be beyond our vision. When we fly that high, nothing will be able to stick to us.

Putting this another way, overcoming the flesh and the devil is about acknowledging we cannot change ourselves at all, and realizing that God completely loves us anyway. When we see that he doesn’t condemn us for what we do or who we are, we are free to run into his arms and receive his amazing love, knowing that he fully accepts and loves us.

This isn’t cheap grace or a license to sin, it is recognition that when Jesus said, “It is finished”, He meant that it really was finished. Sin has been atoned for by the blood of Jesus. It is complete and cannot be added to. To think that God is disappointed with us, or worse – has turned his back towards us, means that we have failed to recognize that from His perspective, He sees us all at once – past, present and future. If you have heard His voice saying, “I love you”, then it is not time dependent. His love will never change. If we fail to recognize this, then we will always be trying to do something to fix ourselves … and it will never be enough.

He does call each of us to repent – or to turn around. I believe this means that as we turn to Him and draw deeper into His embrace, we’ll find that those things we could never overcome have been drowned in His ocean of love. Our vision will be completely saturated with his presence and the struggles will be like a forgotten memory.

Next time … a picture of how God heals the wounds to our souls.

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You don’t need to drink the river!

It’s a truism that during the time of acceleration, things accelerate. For me, this last year has been that time of acceleration. I’ve felt my spirit expanding with wave after wave of revelation: the courts, who I am in Christ, spirit and soul, becoming sons of God … so many things.

But life rolls on and since January, I’ve had to shift priorities to accommodate increasing needs from my extended family, and from my job. These are not intrusions, robbing me of my time with God. They are, in fact, integral elements of the life He’s given me – and I thank Him for them.

Years ago, a very wise person told me that they couldn’t keep up with all the conferences that everyone was going to at our church, but that God had told her not to worry – if she needed to be at one, God would get her there. I realized that chasing things to make sure we are not missing anything is really a sign that we don’t know the all encompassing love of our Father. Maybe we think He might say to us, “well, if you’d only been there to hear that speaker …”

This, of course, is a lie of the enemy. If we are surrendered to Him, He has promised to lead us and direct our paths. When we are not harbouring any personal agendas, but just seeking His face, I don’t believe we can miss his plan for us. The enemy’s lie is there to cause us to lose trust in our God and rely on our own strength.

So as I was becoming busier with the demands of life, I found I couldn’t keep up with all the things God was revealing. I felt that if I couldn’t read everything on my Facebook groups, I was missing out. I love the FreedomARC blog, but I couldn’t keep up with everything Mike posted. The latest podcasts drifted by like words in the wind, and I had little time to write.

A few days ago, God gave me a funny little picture of a wide river, with me at one end, trying to stretch my mouth around it. He said, “You know you can’t drink the whole river?” It was such a funny picture that I almost fell out of my seat, laughing. He also showed me that the parts of the river I get to drink are the parts that He wants me to have. No pressure to perform, no guilt in missing anything, just joy and love in His presence.

Today, I had another picture along these lines. I was at the edge of a river and I saw ripples going out from each of us and from all the things God is doing – like pebbles dropped in the water. As my ripple went out, it encountered the other ripples. Sometimes, they passed right through each other. Other times, something different would happen and a new pattern would emerge. God was telling me that I didn’t get to choose the things that He had planned for me, and only He knew which things would change me. All I have to do is rest in Him and trust what He is doing.

Robin

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Under His command

I love how The Lord speaks to us. For me, quite often it’s through dreams. A few days ago, I had a dream where I was doing some kind of undercover work. I had just completed a job and was reporting to the person in charge. I then realized that I didn’t really work for this person but I needed to ask for some payment. I also sensed that if I asked for the wrong thing, I would be killed. So I said to the person, “I need some money for this”. He said, “what do you want?” I paused, knowing that I had to say the right thing, and then I said, “ten”. As soon as I said it, the expression on the man’s face changed, like he suddenly realized I was one of them. I didn’t know what “ten” meant – was it 10 million, or 10 percent?

I then found myself in a large military compound and was taken to a table where a very unassuming woman was seated. She was talking about various things and it somehow came out that she was the supreme commander of all military forces everywhere. She was completely unlike any earthly commander you could think of. She then spoke to me about something she wanted me to do. End of dream.

I had no idea what this dream was about until this morning, when I met my friend Marsha on the train. We were sharing various things, and as soon as I mentioned the dream, the Lord started giving both of us revelation.

I realized that in the dream, the test about asking for the right payment was a test of my heart, and I had passed the test by saying “ten”. Marsha told me to look up was ten means: perfection of divine order, or total completion. I think there is more depth to this that The Lord has yet to show me.

I then saw that the woman represented God, or God’s power cloaked in humility – hidden where the natural man couldn’t see it.

I believe the Lord was showing me the nature of the battle we are in. The kingdom of God is advancing and taking the ground from the enemy. To be a part of this, our hearts have to be right and in alignment with the Lord’s purposes and way of doing things. What He is doing is perfect, and we receive our reward from Him. The power of the Lord is always cloaked in humility and does not draw attention to itself, but it is all powerful, complete, perfect, and nothing else is needed. We do not get to decide the strategy or the particular assignments, but we get to participate when we walk in Him and in His ways.

I think the reason I had the dream was that I had been listening to the lies of the enemy – lies that said I was not ready, or missing something, and that God can’t use me. I know many people are under pressure right now, but this is only a sign of the desperation of the enemy – he is trying to distract us from what God is doing. The enemy’s days are numbered and we need to take hold of the truth that we are under the Lord’s command, following Him and doing things His way. The Lord is releasing revelation to the body about who we are in Him. We are sons and daughters of God and He is now drawing us into that revelation.

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Taking a detour

“Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Pet 5:8

One of the things that tends to throw me for a loop is being off my routine. Our trip to India was amazing (you can read the blog here), and we had a great time experiencing its sights and sounds. While it was a vacation, the main purpose was to take my father’s ashes to India and place them in the Sutlej river, as had been done for generations in our family. As the eldest son of my father, if I went to India, I would be expected to play a key role in the Sikh ceremonies surrounding this event. (It is worth noting that while I was in Israel last year, God prepared me and showed me that dad had accepted the Lord and was with Him in eternity).

Because of this, I was somewhat apprehensive about going, but the Lord gave me some words through trusted friends that I was supposed to go and honour my father, and not to worry since He is with me. Also, I know that the thing that keeps us in bondage more than anything is believing the lies of the enemy, who does not want us to know that we are new creations in Christ, sons of God, seated in heavenly places, and not just a resuscitation of our former selves.

So having this assurance and experience of walking in His presence, I went to India knowing that I go as an ambassador of the Kingdom. On the trip, we visited Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist temples, and each time, I knew that the Lord was with me. As we visited each place, I prayed in tongues and God showed me that the people I met in those places were as lost as anyone else, and that He loved them with His everlasting love.

Throughout the trip, I was aware and had my guard up. Visiting the various temples was fine, and even the role I had to play in the memorial service was ok, since I was aware of what I was doing and also of what I was NOT doing. I was aware of His presence wherever I went … except for one place.

Time to relax

After the memorial service was over, my uncle had insisted that we all go the next morning to have a wonderful massage at a place a few blocks away. I wasn’t going to go, but they needed 8 people to get the special rate, so I gave in. None of us had any idea what this massage was like, and we assumed it would be similar to ones we get here in Canada. Not so! This was an Indian massage which I later found out was an Ayurvedic four-handed massage. As soon as they started, I thought to myself, “this is not good”, but I went along with it. There was clearly some spiritual “stuff” attached to this massage and I had willingly participated in it. I got slimed.

For the next two weeks, I was confused, not hearing from God, dealing with lustful thoughts and other things. I couldn’t get back on track. The words playing in my mind were, “I have been caught and can’t get out. The enemy has control of me and I need to find a way to break his hold. I am stuck and can’t move on until Jesus releases me. My destiny is on hold.”  The effect of this thinking was that I felt far from God. All I felt was: struggle, condemnation, unable to pray, unable to hear from God.

Believing the lie again

A few days after we got back to Canada, I was yet again asking God to release me from this when suddenly, I was aware of how I was praying. I was praying like I was here and God was somewhere “out there”. I felt a nudge telling me to refocus, since God is in me and around me and closer than my skin. As soon as I did that, I saw that I had been believing lies.  I didn’t know what the lies were until this point, because the enemy doesn’t tell us what they are. He tricks us into behaving in ways consistent with the lies, usually by reminding us of how we felt when lies were all we had.

The first lie was that I was not a new creation in Christ. The second lie was that I have to wait for God to do something before I can move on or hear from God. The truth is that my ability to hear from God is undiminished. It’s just that I have had someone yelling in my spiritual ear and I was listening to it. The reality is that I am still a son of God and nothing can separate me from the love of God.

Distance and delay

This is exactly what John Brown has said – the two chief lies are distance and delay. By believing these lies, I had trapped myself. I could not hear because I was listening to someone else. I had forgotten that satan is a liar and the father of lies, and that his words are very subtle and sound like the truth. The reality is that I still sit in heavenly places and that my life is hidden in Him. If God has hidden me, then there is no way the enemy can find me. The only thing he can do is lie to my flesh and hope I believe it. He doesn’t do this by trying to convince me of the lie, he does it by reminding me of how it felt when I lived that way (i.e. guilt, condemnation, struggle, rising, falling), and telling me that because my soul feels it, it must be true. In reality, I am already a new creation. I don’t need a fix from God or to get re-saved. I need to stop believing the lie, and pickup where I left off.

Later, I asked God how come I got caught in the lie again. He showed me a picture of being so filled with the Spirit that my own internal spiritual pressure was more than enough counteract anything the enemy was trying to do. Galatians 5:16 says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”. If we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are like a meteorological high-pressure system: high pressure always flows to low pressure – we can change the atmosphere. The reverse is also true – when we are not full of the Spirit, we can be affected by things around us – we become the low pressure area where things can flow to us. I saw this in India, many people who went to the temples were looking for something to receive. I’m sure they got something.

There were other things that happened shortly after this revelation; God told some dear friends exactly what I needed to hear and arranged things so I could get some ministry a few days later. One of their insights was that God had allowed these things to happen so he could deal with some unresolved root issues all at once. He is so good!

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