My Response to a Straight Pride Meme

“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

Church, if you are concerned about gay pride you should be leading the way in humility, not by declaring straight pride, but by beating your breast and saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Then invite the gay community to come join you in your humble repentance, because you serve a God who is so abundantly gracious and welcomes ALL who cast themselves upon his mercy and grace.

I am so very thankful that the gospel of God didn’t tell me that I had to have my sexuality all figured out and buttoned down before I could come to him and find grace…that his grace was and IS still sufficient for even me. That he was willing to welcome the worst of these sinners and work with me right where I was at. He hasn’t made me straight, but he has given me his righteousness nonetheless, and his grace empowers me to steward my sexuality in a way that brings him glory.

To be clear, I believe homosexual behavior is wrong, but I don’t believe that straightness or straight pride is the answer, Christ is!

Straightness isn’t a pre-requisite to the gospel for gay people. Gay people don’t have to become straight to find salvation in Christ. Gay people, just like straight people, need to come to know who Christ is and what he has done for them, admit their sinfulness and need for salvation, cast themselves upon the mercy and grace of God, and then follow him and learn what surrendering their sexuality to the Lordship of Christ looks like for them, JUST LIKE STRAIGHT PEOPLE DO. The message isn’t different for gay people, it’s the same!

If your response to gay pride is straight pride, be careful, because ALL pride is sinful. The call is not to straightness, the call is to Christ, and to pursue sexual purity despite whatever broken sexuality we find within ourselves today.

Responding to the Question “Is Homosexuality a Sin?”

Is homosexuality a sin? Our instinct is to see this as only a theological question rather than a pastoral question. We often make easy and bold statements about the sinfulness of homosexuality without taking much time to think about the actual person in the congregation who may be struggling, and how to speak about this topic in both truthful AND helpful ways.

The person who asks if homosexuality is a sin might not simply be asking a theological question, he or she might be asking for help. Before we jump in with what seems like an obvious right answer, it is loving to take time to discern the personal details of the situation we are being asked to speak into. Preston Sprinkle, founder of The Center for Faith, Sexuality and Gender, says he responds to this question, “Is homosexuality a sin?” with two questions of his own, “What do you mean by homosexuality?” and “which person are you talking about?” I think this is a great first response to this question because it’s a response that is seeking to discern, to understand, and to bring love into the conversation in a tangible way. We love by seeking to know a person’s heart more fully before we give answers. And how they answer these questions will equip us to be able to speak the truth in the most helpful way possible.

It takes intentionality to keep in mind, as we seek to defend truth, that we aren’t just trying to be right, we are trying to help people. When we get too wrapped up in the culture and truth wars around us, we can easily forget that the truth isn’t a weapon meant to defeat, it’s a surgeon’s scalpel meant to be used with carefulness and meant ultimately to help and heal the people whom God loves and wonderfully knit together in his own image. These questions that Preston uses, as well as other questions like it, invite people into a conversation that allows them to share the heart behind their question and communicates to them that we want to understand the person and the story behind the question, “Is homosexuality a sin?” The relational bridge you will build by asking these kinds of questions will be what helps carry the weight of the heaviness and implications of the truths that are often painful and hard to hear. These kinds of questions are how we speak truth IN LOVE.

Be aware that questions like, “Is homosexuality a sin?” can sometimes be the question that is asked because it’s safer than asking all the other intensely personal and painful questions that surround it. Questions like,

“Does God hate me?”

“Does my desire, even when I don’t act upon it, make me an abomination to God?”

“How does God view me and my same-sex attraction?”

“How will YOU view me and my same-sex attraction?”

“Is this a safe place/relationship in which to explore what the Bible says about homosexuality and will you reject me if I don’t just take your word for it?”

“I need help sorting through which parts of my sexuality are sinful and which parts aren’t, can you do that with me in a careful way?”

“If I use the ‘wrong’ words to describe my sexuality and how I experience it, will you make assumptions about me and my motives?”

“Someone I love is struggling and this question doesn’t feel so clear cut to me anymore- am I allowed to say and wrestle with that openly?”

“My son/daughter has embraced homosexual behavior and I am angry and confused and embarrassed- Does God hate them? Are they going to hell? Do I have to tell them that? Was this my fault?”

“I want to have a faithful, loving, same-sex monogamous marriage, is that okay with God?”

Do you see how all these questions could be what lies behind “Is homosexuality a sin?” People don’t ask this question in a vacuum. They usually ask this question for specific reasons that affect their lives, they ask this question because there are more questions behind the question; questions that might be too painful and too scary to ask without a gentle unassuming invitation into a conversation.

It’s not that our core beliefs about homosexual behavior changes depending on the situation, but the way we present that information, the information we choose to emphasize, and the timing of when we choose to present that information might change significantly depending on why someone is asking the question and where they are coming from. But we won’t know that, unless we are slow to speak, slow to give an answer, and develop our ability to ask good questions, and listen well BEFORE jumping in with our theology. This is one way we can learn to take the “in love” part, of speaking truth, seriously and intentionally. Our goal is not just to speak truth in a vacuum, it’s to win them.

Am I Straight Enough For You?

Why haven’t you made me straight yet God?

What more do you want from me?

I have followed you with my sexuality as best as I know how…is that enough?

I look straight enough to most people. Am I straight enough for you God? Ha, who are we kidding… we both know I’m not straight… but I love you and I wish I were…

Do you love me?… Can you love a NOT STRAIGHT person? If your church can’t even agree to love them, if your church can’t accept them…can’t accept me…how can I know, for sure… that YOU do? How can I know… really know, that you love me when your church struggles to love people like me…at least I’m pretty sure they would if I were really honest with them? Maybe I should be more honest…or maybe I should just stop talking about it altogether…I don’t know.

I’m so scared still…I’m so scared of your church…and what they might say and do if I were really…really honest with them…I can’t think about that too long…

What about you God? It’s you who matter most…Do you love me? Can I know that you do even when I struggle? Can I rest…can I just rest in your grace? I’m so tired…is your burden really light? Is your yoke really easy? What does that even mean? Am I really allowed to rest…to fully rest…even in my non-straightness…?

You know… I love my family. I love them. I love my husband. I love my kids. I love this straight life you have given me…It hasn’t always been easy, we have had a lot to work through, we still struggle sometimes…but is it enough that I love them, that I will be faithful to them…gladly. Its not even a hard choice. Is that enough? Does it make me straight enough for you?

I know your gospel….I know it. I know you say your grace is sufficient…even for me? Even though I can’t become straight?….Why haven’t you made me straight yet? I know you will one day… What does sexuality even look like in heaven? Whatever it looks like, I’m looking forward to heaven…I want to see you. To have you cup my face in your hands, to have you look me in my eyes and say, “I love you Melissa.” To hear you say that I am okay…that I’m home and you are pleased with me…that I belong there… with you…with your people.…Oh Jesus! I want that day. I long for it. I long for my brokenness to never again make me doubt your love…

God…am I straight enough for you?

A Better Kingdom

Just a few more thoughts on the following passage and then I will move on 😊

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness”

This is a good thing. Think about the implications of a God who delighted in wickedness…that’s not the kind of God we want and I am grateful to serve a God who both confronts and offers freedom from the wickedness we find in ourselves.

“Evil may not dwell with you”

God is building and will finally establish a kingdom in which there is no sin. Right now, we live in a world where evil does dwell…it’s brought pain, sickness, death, rape, abuse, broken relationships, holocausts, genocide, and wars, just to name a few things- and many of the worst of these evils, at their core, are what we find in all of us, pride, selfishness, self-idolatry, lust for power and pleasure and control. If God winked at sin, even the “small” sins within us that we don’t find so bad, and let it dwell with him and be in his kingdom that he is building, then what we have now here on earth would be our final hope.

“The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;”

The very nature of the sin in us, will always buck against God, His authority, His sufficiency, and His good design. The boast in us; the part of us that says, I want my way, I am good enough, God can’t say that, God isn’t good, God isn’t enough, look at the kingdom that I built, look at the identity I have, celebrate me, celebrate us, we can rule ourselves and bring about our own utopia in our own image, we know what will make us happy and whole, we know more than God…. these are all boasts that can’t stand before God. Here are some more boasts that might hit closer to home for some of us…look at the church I built, look at the ministry I have, look at the “high calling” of leadership I have, look at our superior philosophy of ministry, we are better than those Charismatics, Anglicans, Arminians, megachurch people over there, our church is the only one who gets it truly right, look at the kingdom we are building here at _______________________ (insert your churches name, your seminary, your denomination, your theological distinctives, your political distinctives, your group, your tribe). These are other sorts of boasts that God intends to be rid of as well. In God’s kingdom, unity amongst his people will be perfected, because what we will boast in is Jesus and Jesus alone; our King. So rid yourself of your boast that isn’t in Christ alone, because it cannot stand before God’s eyes.

You hate all evildoers

God hates all evildoers. We should come away from this passage realizing that the sin in us is serious. That God hates it. I don’t want to soften this fact. When you read this, it should make you pause. Some have been taught that God’s love means he winks at sin, this passage is meant to make you stop and contend with a God who uses very strong language for how he feels about sin.

However, this passage makes even those of us who understand that God takes sin seriously, uncomfortable, because it doesn’t just say, “God’s hates sin,” it says, “God hates the sinner.” I don’t have any brilliant explanations for this and how this fits into passages that clearly states God love for sinners, but as I was wrestling with this verse I continually kept being reminded that just below this statement of God’s hate, God saw fit to speak of his abundant steadfast love. My conclusion at this point is this; God is complex and multifaceted. He hates and he loves; and his love and hate do not work against each other and are not separated from each other.

Our God is not to be compartmentalized or cornered into a box; “you either have to love sinners or hate sinners, you can’t have it both ways!” And yet we as complex humans who have been sinned against greatly by those we love can understand the complexity of emotions that can course through our veins for those individuals- anger and grief, love and hate, desire for reconciliation and closeness and desire to run away and separate ourselves from those who have hurt us. I am not comparing the quality or morality of our love or hatred with God’s, I am only trying to help us understand that if we, finite and created human beings have capacity for complex, multidimensional, and often seemingly contradictory emotion and disposition, how much greater capacity does our infinite God have for complexity of emotion and disposition towards his created beings.

Furthermore, we cannot compartmentalize the different parts of God as if they do not interact with one another. We do this a lot in our systematic theologies. (I am not against systematizing theology; we only need to be aware of its weaknesses and acknowledge them where we see them.) When we systematize God, the unintended affect is that we depersonalize him by chopping him up into little bits of unconnected information. God is holy. God is love. God is wrathful. God is just. God is unchangeable. But God is not all these things separately, he is all these things together. He is a person, complex, nuanced, and relational and not to be chopped up into bits of information to simply study and analyze.

Instead of revealing himself through a systematic theology (which is how he could have done it), he reveals himself and his plans through stories, prayers, poems, songs, saying, letters, records of how he has interacted with specific humans being and nations throughout the course of history, and then ultimately through Jesus.

My point is this, Psalm 5 is given to us, and it reveals both God’s hate and his love and it is significant that God puts these two together. We cannot look at these two characteristics of God separately or pit them against each other as if God is a bi-polar schizophrenic.  We must see them together, we must see how his hatred for sin is a function of his love and how his love requires him to hate sin and to ultimately reject, and in effect, hate the sinner who insist on their sin remaining, and who insists on their own kingdom over-against the kingdom of love and righteousness that God is building.

You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the blood-thirsty and deceitful man.

God tells us the truth. The Devil is a liar (John 8:44). The first temptation by the devil was worked through a lie and deception. The very sin nature in us was planted by a lie about God and his good intentions towards us. Lies cannot live in God’s kingdom, lies about God and about people bring about injustice and in God’s kingdom there will be perfect justice. Injustice that is allowed to remain inevitably brings about bloodshed and violence. Lies, deceit, and bloodshed go together, and God is building a kingdom of truth, unity, justice, and peace because he loves. Those who insist on following the lies of Satan cannot be a part of God’s kingdom and will be destroyed along with the kingdom of lies that Satan has and is building in this world.

I have wrestled a long time with how to end this post. I think I will simply leave you with God’s call to his people who had chosen to live in their wickedness instead of following God’s better way for them.

He says through the prophet Ezekiel,

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ez. 33:11)

And again,

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?

For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so, turn, and live.”

(Ezekiel 18:23,32)

God in his love desires that we turn from our sin, to Him, and the kingdom He is building. So, I invite you to turn, find forgiveness and freedom from the sin that enslaves you and the kingdom of darkness that Satan is building, and be transferred into the kingdom of Jesus, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13,14).

Through Love (Psalm 5:7a)

3O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
    in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
    will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple

In verse 3-6 we saw David identifying with the wicked man. He was someone who needed to bring a sacrifice before the Lord because God does not delight in wickedness. He comes before God with a sacrifice because he understands his sin. But then, in verse 7, we see David does make a contrast. This contrast is not one of his own righteousness vs. the unrighteousness of the wicked, which is how I usually hear a Psalm like this interpreted, but rather he is contrasting the position he finds himself in vs. the position that the evildoer should be in.

In verses 4-5 David mentions several times how the evildoer is kept from being with God and dwelling with him, “evil may not dwell with you.The boastful shall not stand before your eyes.” But now jump down to verse 7 and David says, “But I…will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple…” an evildoer dwelling with God! Somehow David, a sinful man IS entering God’s house! He is contrasting the position he should be in; estrangement from God- with the position he is actually in now; freedom and ability to enter God’s house and presence. What allows David, a wicked man to enter the house of God? He answers this question in verse 7 “Through the abundance of your steadfast love.”

Once again, I will point out. David doesn’t come to God in his own righteousness, he doesn’t come to God by contrasting his own righteousness with that of the wicked man and upon the grounds of his own goodness claims he is allowed to enter the presence of God. He knows that the basis of his coming to God is God’s mercy and love upon him. It is an abundant love…He knows he needs a lot of it…And a steadfast love. A love that remains constant despite David’s ups and downs in life. And David had many ups and downs.

To sum up, David comes to God, identifying his sin, bringing a sacrifice, and reveling in the great abundant, steadfast love that God has towards sinners like him. God accepted David because he is a God of love and mercy who desires that the wicked turn from their sin and come to him- and that is what David did.

We the wicked, the ones who cannot dwell with God, find ourselves in a strange place…the presence of a Father who loves us?

Hebrews 10 says,

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Ephesians 2 says,

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

I John 4 says,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God loves. The very hatred God has for sin that we see in Psalm 5 comes out of his love for humanity. When you look around you and see the results that sin has had on our world, both in the damage its done to our fellow humans and the estrangement its caused between man and God, it would be difficult to come to the conclusion that love would let sin and evil remain. Rather, love works towards a kingdom in which sin cannot dwell and that is the ends towards which God is working. Even in his hatred for sin, we see God’s love working and motivating him to come and take that sin upon himself, we see him conquering sin and the death that it brings. We see him working towards the redemption of the cursed creation and the reconciliation of all things to himself. All of this because God loves.

In my own struggle against sin and the wickedness I find in my own heart, there has been nothing so powerful in my fight, as the thought of God’s love for me. God’s love assures me my sin has been taken and conquered by Jesus’ death. God’s love assures me my fight has been won for me. God’s love welcomes me into his presence with confidence not shame, and these are the wonderful truths that turn my heart again and again from my sin and towards my Father who draws and welcomes me, through the abundance of his steadfast love, into his house, his presence, his kingdom.

I invite you too…through the abundance of God’s steadfast love, so powerfully given and displayed to us through Jesus, to turn from your sin to this God who loves you.

We, the Wicked (Psalm 5:3-6)

Oh Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;

In the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

In verses 1 and 2 David asks God to hear his distress. He clearly is full of emotion and he asks God to hear his emotion and consider him in his pain.

He continues his prayer by sharing with God his intention to persevere daily in coming to him.

“In the morning” is not so much a statement of when one must cry out to God or have a time of devotions, as much as it is a way of communicating that David will not give up, his cries will not be short lived, God will regularly, daily, be hearing from him. David would continue to walk in and demonstrate his faith even amidst doubt by his daily perseverance in his crying out his God.

In addition to daily prayer, David also mentions a daily sacrifice followed by a watching.

    “in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch”

 So, God, daily will hear David’s voice, will witness David’s sacrifice and David will wait and watch to see what happens. Why is David watching? To see God’s response to his cry, to see God’s response to his sacrifice. Our God is not far off. Our God responds to those who cry to him…David knew that, so he watched…expectantly.

David goes on but at this point he seems to switch direction abruptly. He writes,

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.”

For us this seems, like I said, a confusing switch in topic- it was to me anyway, and I had to sit with it for a long time. But I kept going back to the word “FOR” because this showed me David was connecting these thoughts of God’s response to the wicked with his prior thoughts about daily sacrifice. He is answering the question of why he daily cried out to the Lord and prepared a daily sacrifice.

-Because God doesn’t delight in wickedness.

-Evil may not dwell with God

-The boastful will not last in his presence

-God hates all evildoers

-He destroys those who speak lies

-He abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man

For all of these reasons, David came to God daily and prepared a sacrifice.

David prepared a sacrifice because the people he describes in verses 4-6 are not just a description of all the evil people out there they are also a description of David himself.

I think our gut reaction, especially those of us in the church, tend to read verses like this and say… “this is describing all of them out there, not me…” But David knew he was one of them out there. Take a moment to think about David…David used his position of power to go collect and sleep with a woman he saw and wanted, and then when he got her pregnant he lied about and hid his sin, and when he realized he wasn’t going to be able to deceive her husband, he used his power to get him killed. In addition to this, David was prohibited by God from building the temple because he was a man who had shed much blood (I Chronicles 22:8). David also, in pride and self-sufficiency took a census of Israel and Israel paid the costly price in the form many lives lost, for his sin. So, let’s see here…that covers, pride and boasting, it covers lies and deceit, and it covers murder and blood-thirst.

David knew he was not better than his description of the evil and wicked man.

David prepared a sacrifice to God because he knew his sin and he knew sin required sacrifice. This sacrifice would have been the burnt offering which was offered twice daily- once in the morning and once in the evening. This daily sacrifice points to the Lamb who was slain for us, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

“The New Testament views all the old covenant sacrifices as types of the death of Christ. The different sacrifices bring out different aspects of the significance of his death. Lambs sacrificed every morning and evening were the most typical victim, so Jesus is called ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). Indeed, he died at the time of the evening sacrifice.” (1)

Today, we, the liars, the deceitful, the bloodthirsty, the evildoers, the wicked, come before God daily not in our own self-righteousness, not through convincing ourselves that David isn’t talking about us in this difficult to read passage, but through the once for all sacrifice of Jesus for us on the cross through which the Father draws us near to himself and invites us into his presence.

At first look this passage can make us want to run from this God who hates the evil-doer. It’s a strong statement…one I continue to wrestle with and will, Lord willing write about in greater depth later. But for now, I want to encourage you that I believe these kinds of passages are not meant to make us run from God, they are meant to show us a God of incredible mercy, a God who has made a way for the sinner to be made sons and daughters. A God who ate with sinners, who befriended sinners, who talked with sinners, who touched them, healed them, cried with them, and died for them. This is the same God of Psalm 5, so see your sin for what it is, and then draw near through the sacrifice of the Lamb as David did.


(1) Wenham, G. J. (1981). Numbers: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 4, p. 220). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Asking God to Listen (Psalm 5:1-2)

Psalm 5:1-2

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
    consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
    my King and my God,
    for to you do I pray.

David is asking God to hear him, to REALLY hear him.

He asks God to, give ear, consider, give attention to…to what? My words. My groaning. The sound of my cry.

David is asking God to pay attention to his distress…to hear his words as he describes his distress and not to just hear his words but to hear the emotion with which he speaks, to hear his groaning, to hear the sounds he makes in between his words as they are interrupted by his own inability to stop crying.

Why does David ask God to hear him? Doesn’t he have good enough theology to know that God is everywhere and hears everything? I’m sure he did. And yet all through the Psalms we see David asking again and again for God to hear him. Why?

One possibility is that while David intellectually knew that God could hear him, he may not have FELT like God was listening to him, and his asking for God to listen is simply a very human response to the feeling that God was absent. And this is why I love the Psalms. Through David’s cry God gives us both permission and a pattern. He gives us permission to cry out to him in honesty about how we feel. About our doubts that he is hearing us or seeing our situation. But then he gives us a pattern to follow. A pattern of coming to him in the midst of that doubt and expressing our need for him to listen, to consider, and to pay attention to us in our distress. Our very asking is not just a confession of doubt but a step of faith that can cut though the doubt and remind us that God does indeed hear us.

As a mom I can usually discern the sound of my kids cry before I even see them or see specifically what they are crying about. I can tell an angry cry from a hurt cry…and I can tell a cry that has both sad and mad in it and I can tell them apart from a cry that is pretending to be distressed as part of their play. I can also usually tell each kids cry apart from the other. Our Father is an amazing parent. His ability to hear and discern our cries, his compassion for the pain behind our groaning, his understanding of our weaknesses and fears and doubts and insecurities are infinitely greater than a mom’s ability to understand the cry of her children. If you are hurting, if you are doubting, if you are confused, insecure, anxious, angry, guilty…cry out to the one who made you- cry out to your parent, your Father. Cry out in humility knowing you desperately need your father to hear you, forgive you, heal you, make you secure, give you clarity, fill you with his love, and make you a person that is guarded by his perfect peace. Cry out in faith despite your doubt, knowing that He DOES hear you who come to him in humility and who cast yourself upon his good will and loving-kindness.

I find it incredibly interesting that David, after asking God to hear him, gives God a reason why he should hear him…his reason…”For, to YOU do I pray” (emphasis added by me). It’s easy to skip over this but its profound and full of meaning and that meaning comes out when you listen to the reasons he didn’t give, and who he didn’t address. David didn’t say, “hear me because I come to you in such great faith,” “hear me because I have done x,y,or z.” He says, hear me because I’m talking to YOU and YOU are my King and my God. David is pointing out that he isn’t asking another god, he isn’t asking another earthly king, he isn’t asking his best friend, he isn’t depending upon his own strength or his own kingly authority, He is simply coming to his God and King and asking HIM to hear- because he knows this King of Kings, this God of god’s, is THE one who can help him and who will do so based upon His own divine authority and faithfulness.

Relationships and Affection

Relationships are the stuff of life. From the very beginning we were made to engage in them. God made us relational beings and meaningful relationships are life-giving, wonderful gifts from God. Ironically, at the same time, relationships are also one of the most common and intense contexts for sin and pain and learning how to develop and maintain meaningful, godly, healthy relationships is a life-long journey for all of us.

I have had to, with great intention, learn how to develop healthy friendships and maintain balance in them. As a child and young(er) adult, friendships were my functional god; I worshiped people, I craved their approval, their affection and love, and their care. I didn’t know how to relate with friends without making it my goal to get as much love and affection from them as I possibly could. I always felt empty and ironically, as a result, I could rarely truly enjoy my friendships- the enjoyment was mixed with anxiety that I would not get enough filling, and that I would feel empty once again.

I used to think this struggle made me super weird and part of that was that my struggle developed into and included the aspect of same-sex attraction as I grew older, and I was certain that made my struggle a category of its own.

However, as I have grown and become open about my sin, I have learned I am not alone in my struggle with relationships. I have learned many struggle, just in different ways and in different contexts. I have learned the heart of my relational struggle is not unique to those with same-sex attraction. I learned that while SSA is part of my relational struggles it’s not the root or even the main cause of my relational struggles- those would be pride, selfishness, idolatry, lust, and the fear of man (not an exhaustive list). I realized that everyone experiences and commits these sins, and these sins always affect our relationships on some level.

So, relationship struggles are both common and unique. Common in that they touch everyone, and many of them can be boiled down to a handful of sins that we all struggle with. Unique in that we each have a story, a context, a past, and a personality through which sin is inserted into and plays itself out in our relationships in countless different ways.

So today I want to talk about a few guiding principles that have helped me in my journey towards having relationships and affections that are more and more holy and more and more aligned with God’s design for relationships.

There is so much that could be and has been written about this topic but I want to share with you the unlikely place that I have found great help in this area and it’s in the greetings of Paul to people he dearly loved and had great zeal and affection for.

Take a moment to read through these passages.

Romans 1:7-15

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

I Corinthians 1:1-9

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge

even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Philippians 1:1-11

Paul and Timothy, servantsof Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseersand deacons:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Colossians 1:1-4

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

To the saints and faithful brothersin Christ at Colossae:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father;

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints,

I Thessalonians 1:1-4

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantlymentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothersloved by God, that he has chosen you,

II Timothy 1:1-7

 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord;

I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

A few observations.

First, Paul felt and expressed unashamed, deep, genuine affection and desire for his brothers and sisters in Christ.

He says,

  • I long to see you
  • without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers,
  • I give thanks to my God always for you
  • It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart,
  • For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
  • As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy.
  • But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

In these passage we see clearly Paul’s emotion-filled desire, longing, and eagerness for the saints and there are so many more like these that I haven’t even touched. But when I read these passage, language of strong feeling and desire often sound dangerous to me; like something I cannot allow myself to do, or feel. For me, desire has often meant obsession with filling my personal needs. I know well the feeling of strong desire that naturally, if left to their own devices would stray from a holy context; and so, when Paul so unashamedly uses this language of, desire, love and affection towards and for the saints, I need to know… “what does this holy desire look like? What’s it made of? How can I desire the fellowship of the saints in a holy, God worshipping and God honoring way without crossing lines? not just obvious, social, physical, or sexual lines, but lines in my heart that have more to do with God-worship vs idolatry than anything or anyone else?”

To answer these questions I went back to look at the substance of Paul’s desire and affection and I found two things that stood out to me. (I am sure there is more here that could be brought out of these texts, but these are the two that God gripped my heart with and so I share them here now.)

  1. Paul developed a genuine gratitude to God, for God’s work in the lives of those Paul was in relationship with. Paul intentionally rejoiced in God’s choosing of the saints and in their growing faith. Paul intentionally rejoiced in God’s sanctifying work in them.
  • To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints
  • I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed
  • I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge
  •  I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ
  • We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you,

When Paul related to and spoke to other believers, he made it his practice to express gratitude TO God for his work in their lives. For me, the principle applies simply- The foundation of our affection for others is not primarily in what we like about a person or what they can do for us, rather it is in a deep acknowledgement and gratitude for what God has done and is doing in that person’s life.

This shifted so much for me. This turns people worship into God worship. This shifts my focus from my expression of affection being mainly self-serving to a shared affection for God and for each other in Christ.

2. Paul’s expressions of affection were connected to the goal of mutual, spiritual, encouragement and strengthening in Christ.

  • For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
  • for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
  • I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith.

The substance and goal of affection, and fellowship, and love, and desire for one another is the building up of the body of Christ to maturity, and Paul’s expressions of affection were always wrapped up in this goal somehow.

Neither of these observations, are earth shattering or new. But for me, as I sought to develop friendships, and as I experienced affection and desire in my friendships, these principles served as a guide and a place to plant my affections and desires. They became the soil in which these affections could be planted and grow in a godly way and towards godly ends.

In sum,

Paul wanted the saints to understand his desire and affection for them, but we also see that his desire and affection has such great and weighty substance to it. It was not flimsy or cheap, selfish, prideful or shallow. He wanted to build relationships that were based on the gospel and things eternal. He wanted to build relationships that had a foundation in humble mutual encouragement of each other’s faith and in ministering together in and outside of the church.

This, I think, is the heart of what it means to have healthy relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, relationships include many things, including light-hearted joking, fun, and they often naturally happen over mutual interests and commonalities. I am not trying to over-spiritualize friendship or relationship. There can be great enjoyment of another person, their personality, their intellect, their body (in the context of marriage); none of this is wrong or less than. On the contrary it is all part of the gift from God called relationships. But what I have found, is that if we make these things the heart and foundation of our relationships, they will struggle to remain pure, holy, strong, selfless, and glorifying to God. They will struggle not to end in sin, division, idolatry, or possibly even abuse.

When hearts are knit together in a healthy holy way, they will be knit together to Christ’s, as they are filled with gratitude and mutual desire for His work in our lives, and His work in His church. Our desires in and for relationships must be shaped, informed, guided, and kept holy by intentionally keeping our hearts focus on these purposes for our relationships and affections.


We in the church tend to speak of repentance as a moment, one decision point, one clear turning point that we make in our lives – at least that is how I have heard it emphasized. I do not think we are wrong to speak of it that way. Many people can point to a specific moment of repentance when they first came to see their sin as sin and chose to turn from it to forgiveness in Jesus. In Acts 2:27-39 Peter, after preaching at Pentecost tells the people who have been convicted to REPENT!

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

We see Jesus also preaching this same way, telling people to “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

So, we can see in Scripture this concept of repentance being a decision we are called to make. However, there is more to be understood about repentance that I believe can help us in how we view and seek for repentance in our own lives and how we minister to other who need repentance and change in their life.

For today I just want to offer three points that I pray will help you think through this important topic.

  1. Repentance is more than a one-time decision it is also a process that includes the practice of confession.

Once a person comes to salvation we soon realize that our repentance is not over but rather has just begun- we enter into a lifestyle of repentance and confession.

I see repentance and confession as slightly different things:

We repent when God reveals to us a sin we had not previously been aware of, or a sin we HAVE been at least partially aware of but have not yet -in whole or in part – turned from. When God brings us to both the realization and the contriteness of heart over our sin, we then respond with moments of repentance and a purposing in our hearts to stop or put off sinning.

Repentance is then followed by weekly, daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute confession of our sin which is part of how we start that process of actually turning from the sin we have repented from.

For me this has been a helpful distinction to think through and a framework with which to understand how turning from sin actually works and how we know we have truly repented even when it feels like our sin is still sticking with us.

John teaches us how this works in I John 1:5-2:6

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.  And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,  but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (ESV)

I love this passage because it so clearly shows us the process of the Christian life and the messiness of it. We see in this passage both the expectation of pursuing holiness and the fact that it is a process that includes continual realization and acknowledgement of sin, followed by confession- and in this process Jesus covers all the sin and imperfections along this pathway of repentance and confession.

I wrote out my story a few years ago and I want to share a portion of it with you that might help you understand why understanding the process part of repentance was so key for me.

Just to give you some context, I had spent two years at one Bible school during which I had taken the step to confess my struggles to the leadership. What followed was a mix of good and bad, but I truly believe that everyone there had good intentions for me. When I left that Bible school it didn’t take me long to fall flat on my face again. After a year of being out of Bible school I entered another, different, Bible school and in this excerpt I am explaining why I decided to not tell anyone about my SSA at that point.

I made the decision to not tell anyone about my SSA this time around. I don’t know if that was the right decision I just didn’t trust that it would do much good. I felt the shame brought to me would be too overwhelming and I would be paralyzed to focus on anything but the shame. Shame clouds everything for me, it paralyzes me to even be able to speak at times. I saw that happening at the previous institution I had been a part of. It clouded my whole time there. I did have to eventually deal with my shame but dealing with it before a God who I knew loved me, cared for me, knew me, and took that shame upon himself had a different effect than being summoned to an office and expected to lay my soul bare at the prodding of someone who didn’t ever really care to know me as a whole person or develop a real relationship with me. I also felt that I was at the constant threat of being sent home in shame if I did not repent. That threat was never verbalized directly to me, but it was verbalized before the school as a whole, multiple times throughout the year, “if you confess you stay, if you get caught you go home.” I also just felt like more Bible verses would be thrown at me at the exclusion of actually talking to me and having a conversation about my SSA and how to understand it beyond the obvious, “it’s sin. Stop!” I wanted the freedom to really look inside.”

As I re-read this portion of my story and reflected on it, I would sum up part of my reasoning for not sharing my struggle and finding help for it in this way: “I didn’t trust that I would be allowed the process of repentance.” I knew that if I shared my sin, I would have to quickly stuff away most of what was there, say that I had repented and was now good; no more same sex attraction, lust totally taken care of, no more confusion or wayward desires, and above all absolutely no more actual attraction towards my existing friends! I had a lot of fear of being isolated and never being given an actual chance of working through, understanding, and truly learning how to put off any real attractions that came up in my life. I felt that what would be expected of me was going to be a repentance that automatically took me from point A to point B overnight, and that that was the test of true repentance. That’s what I assumed, based on how I had heard repentance taught. That’s what true repentance must look like and if that didn’t fit that mold you must not really be repentant and therefore you must not really be following Jesus, and if you aren’t following Jesus, you don’t belong here with us and are not welcome here.

As I continued writing my story I wrote about the process that God so graciously and patiently took me through those next two years of Bible school and in this next section I speak of how my changing and deepening view of repentance was part of how I came to finding true change and how I stepped into this life-long process of repentance, confession, and change.

I also shifted in my view of repentance. I began to realize that repentance was both a command but also impossible without God’s work. I did more of seeking God and asking for him to work real repentance in my heart, rather than simply trying really hard to want what I knew I was supposed to want and stop wanting what I didn’t want to want. It literally was a… “I want to want what you want but it’s not what I naturally want!”

This brought me to my knees like nothing had before. I was no longer just trying hard to un-choose something I had no memory of choosing or measuring the genuineness of my repentance by my ability to change my heart or attractions. This was not an excuse to inactivity, this was freedom to exercise the practical side of repentance. Part of the practical side of my repentance was refusing to deny, ignore or just stuff my SSA when it very painful to face, but it was the process of bringing it into the light, of picking it apart, of trying to get to the root sins that manifested as SSA….

I started verbalizing to God what I felt; exactly how I felt it-holding nothing back. When I was lonely for the arms of a women, I just told him. I confessed it, I told him I was sorry for desiring these things, I did my best to give the desire to him, to tell him of my loneliness and to find comfort in God and in his grace.”

I hope you can see the connection here between having a robust and complete understanding of repentance as a process and the freedom it brings to rest in the inexhaustible grace of God, while at the same time working hard to search out, understand, confess our sins with honesty and a true understand of them, seek to kill our sin by the power of the Spirit, and find meaningful practical ways to make no provision for the flesh but rather put on true love for our neighbor and friends. All of this takes time, all of this is a process and God’s grace both fuels, guides, and covers it all.

2. Repentance begins, continues, and ends with God and his work.

When does repentance start? We usually think of repentance as starting at the moment we realize and turn from our sin, but repentance begins when God starts his work in us often years before we actually turn from our sin and often completely unbeknownst to us at the time. When we turn around and look back and tell our stories, we can often see the hand of God slowly softening and convicting our hearts.

Once God brings a heart to turn from their sin to Jesus he continues this process throughout our whole Christians life. Its part of how he keeps us, and he promises to do this in us because we are now His precious children and He will not lose any of his own. And not only will God continue this work in us throughout our life but he will one day bring it to completion.

Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

I John 3:1-3

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

I Thessalonians 5:14-25

14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

25 Brothers, pray for us.

3. God leads us to repentance by the promise of grace and relationship in his Kingdom.

God calls us to repentance by the offer of grace. So often in our minds we connect the call to repentance with the threat of wrath and hell- or if you are a believer the call to repentance looks like, “repent so God will not be disappointed or displeased with you anymore.”

I want to make it clear, I do believe in hell, I do believe that if we do not repent of our sins and find salvation in Jesus we will rightly go to hell. I am not suggesting that we take hell and wrath out of the gospel or out of our conversations. So please don’t hear me saying those things.

However, so often we reduce the call to repentance as a call to escape hell and wrath. And it is an anemic call. If you go back up and read the passages in Acts and Matthew where Peter and Jesus are both calling people to repentance, neither of them seeks to threaten people into repentance through the teaching of wrath and hell.

Peter says, repent and calls them to it with the promise of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls people to repent…not because his wrath is at hand…but because the kingdom is at hand! Come repent because there is something BETTER than your sin and building  YOUR OWN kingdom. The Kingdom of GOD is at hand! Come be a part of it!

Calvin, in describing the preaching of Jesus and John the Baptist says, “do they not both deduce repentance comes as a consequence of the offer of grace and promised salvation?”

When Jesus DOES speak of his wrath to come in Matthew 11, he does it in the context of speaking to or about those who have decisively rejected his call to himself and the kingdom. However, he rarely if ever when calling people to repentance, uses his wrath as the main motivation for that call, instead he uses himself and relationship with the Father as the main motivation- he uses grace and mercy. I hope you see the nuance in this because I really think its an important one to wrestle with.

My hope in sharing my thoughts is not just to be critical, my hope is simply that we take some time to evaluate our own teaching surrounding the topic of repentance and simply make sure it a robust, complete, teaching. My prayer is that we seek to understand where the people we are ministering to are at in this process of repentance and seek to discern what God is doing in their lives, and join him in it. This takes time, and discernment, and patience, and a purposeful refusal to rush the process of sanctification because we are uncomfortable with a person’s particular sin and struggles.

The call to repentance is an irresistible call to those whom God is working repentance in. It is an irresistible call to the Kingdom of Christ, to relationship with him, to life abundant, to meaning, to joy, to freedom, to a home and meaningful relationships found in the church, to a God full of mercy and compassion and grace.

So, let’s call people! Let’s call people to repentance out of their sin, and into a kingdom and relationship in which there is “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore.” (ps. 16:11).

Boast! James 1:9-11

James 1:9-11

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

James continues to give his readers encouragement and instruction in their suffering. We have seen the joy that we can, and will have in trial. We have seen the warning concerning doubt in suffering and have been reminded about the wisdom of God.

James now encourages and challenges the believers with truth about the temporal nature of our lives and riches here on earth and turns our focus to the eternal work that God has done in us.

James speaks to two different kinds of people; the lowly and the rich. He tells each of them to do the same thing; to BOAST – but in different directions; the lowly in his EXALTATION and the rich in his HUMILIATION.

What is James getting at here? What does he mean by telling the lowly to boast in their exaltation and the rich to boast in their humiliation? Doesn’t Scripture tell us that we are only supposed to boast in Christ?

as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I Cor. 1:31

I think the answer is found in asking another question.

WHO has exalted the lowly, and WHO has humiliated the rich?

Answer: God.

I find it interesting that James doesn’t use the word “poor” here in contrast to the rich but he uses the word “lowly” which makes me think James isn’t just talking about material riches or poverty (although I think he is making a point about those things as well). He is getting at something deeper.

As believers, and James is speaking to believers, God reaches down and takes us where we are at, lowly or proud, poor or rich; poor and proud, rich and proud, rich and depressed, poor and happy, rich and happy, poor and depressed; wherever we find ourselves, and appropriately brings our hearts and spirits to a place that can and does understand and trust the gospel.

God takes the lowly, the poor, the depressed, the self-hating, and he shows them the gospel, and the gospel gives them an identity, an adoption, and an inheritance that lifts them out of their lowliness (whether material or in spirit), and gives them worth in Christ and promises them spiritual wealth this side of heaven and spiritual and material wealth in eternity. This is how God exalts the lowly and the lowly can boast in how God has exalted their position in Christ.

James also tells the rich to boast, but not in their exaltation rather in their humiliation. James here contrasts the rich with the lowly which I think warrants the interpretation that James isn’t just speaking about those with material wealth, he is speaking about those who think they can make it in this life and the next depending on their own resources, intellect, money, wit, fame, or power- riches of many kinds. The concept is one of self-dependence, pride, and an inflated view of ones own worth, (whether financial or any other way) apart from God. So… lest you think, “I’m not rich… this verse is not about me,” think again, it might be.

Physical riches are relative. I don’t consider myself a rich person, and most people who live in the United States would NOT come to my house or look at my bank account balance and say, “wow she is rich.” At the same time there are MANY around the world who WOULD walk into my house and be blown away by the riches and comforts they see, and there are many around the world who could live for years, in their country, with what I have in my bank account. So my point is, riches are relative and you don’t have to consider yourself rich in order to find your heart wrapped up in your earthly possessions, pursuits, life goals, intellect, or experiences. If you are self-dependent and trusting in your own resources (whatever those resources are), you fall into the “rich” category no matter how big or small your account or house.

So when God saves the rich (or the rich at heart/rich in spirit/ self-dependent in spirit) he takes their inflated and proud view of their riches and self-dependence and he makes them see their utter worthlessness apart from Christ. He humiliates the rich and self-dependent so that they can see the gospel and know their desperate need for a Savior. So… the rich are to BOAST in their humiliation because it has led to their salvation in Christ.

To sum up, the testimony of the rich is that they needed Christ… and the testimony of the lowly, is that they too needed Christ. And God has brought both of their hearts to where they needed to be in order to show them the glory of Christ and the glory of the gospel so that they could each BOAST in what God has done for them.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

What James says next confirms this idea that both the lowly and the rich need the same thing. James gives a singular reason that the lowly and the rich are to boast in what God has done in their lives: What’s the reason? “because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.”

Both the lowly and the rich need Christ because both, will pass away like the grass. James is turning our attention to the temporary nature of our lives here on earth and calling both the rich and the lowly to boast in the eternal work that God has done, whether a lifting up or a merciful humbling (and for most people both), because our lives here on earth are temporary.

The lowly need not wallow in self-pity, the rich need not perish in their arrogance because the state of both: the state of having nothing in this world and the state of having everything in this world is temporary because this world, this life, our lives in this world are temporary…like the grass.

The Temporal and Eternal in the Context of Suffering

Just for a second here I want to take a step back and look at these two verses in the context of suffering. We can’t forget these verses are sandwhiched in the middle of James speaking about trial and suffering. Two verses down (vs. 12) James is going to speak again directly about suffering and point us directly to eternal rewards for our persevering through trial.

So how does this passage help a believer going through suffering and trial?

James is emphasizing the temporal nature of our earthly lives. No doubt many of these scattered believers had lost their material and temporal riches and James is skillfully bringing their attention back to the riches they have in their salvation. He is saying, “look at what God has done, look at how he has saved you, exalted you from a lowly position, humbled you from your self-exalted position and brought you into life eternal….boast in that!”

We boast in what we value and we boast in what we are sure of, and in the midst of suffering, and change, and trial, the thing we as believers are the most sure of and should bring our full attention to, is what God has done for us in Christ. Our salvation (who is Christ) is our solid rock in changing times, that is our hope in painful suffering…that is our boast; Christ.

Back to Verse 11

James continues with his analogy illustrating the temporary nature of our lives and this time he directly compares it to the rich man fading away in the midst of his pursuits.

Verse 11 :

For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.\

In verses 9 and 10 James speaks to both the lowly and the rich and says both will pass away. Now he turns his gaze more directly to the rich man and his pursuits. James doesn’t rebuke the rich man for being rich, he simply, once again points to the temporary nature of earthly PURSUITS for riches. This has more of an emphasis on the direction of the heart rather than a counting of ones possession to see if one might be considered “rich.”

Again, the question isn’t, “am I rich?” or “should I feel guilty for my possessions?” or “should I quit my job so I don’t get richer?” the question is, “is my heart wrapped up in pursuits of temporary riches and am I dependent upon those pursuits and riches for my life, my salvation, my comfort, my meaning, my purpose, my joy?” Or…. do I understand that whatever earthly comfort I have will fade away along with my own life here on earth and do I then, out of that belief, place my heart and its dependence solidly upon the Lord and the eternal riches that HE offers.

I think we might tend to see this passage as simply a rebuke to the rich for being rich!

I think this passage can and does serve as a rebuke for those wrapped up in earthly temporary pursuits. But I think this passage is more than a rebuke but also serves as a comfort and reminder for those brothers and sisters whose riches may have been stripped from them for the sake of Christ.

Imagine if you were a rich believer in the days of the early church and you were being persecuted and scattered, and in all that persecution your riches, and maybe even your livelihood, were stripped from you. To that person, this passage is no rebuke, but a gentle comforting reminder to focus on and boast in the eternal things God has done in them, as well as a reminder that all they had worked for materially was going to fade away in the end anyways (So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.) They have really lost nothing, and have gained everything! What a comforting reminder that would be!

So whatever boat you find yourself in today, lowly or rich or somewhere in between, BOAST in CHRIST! Boast in how he has humiliated you. Boast in how he has exalted you. If you are a child of the King, he has done BOTH for you!

Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so! Psalm 107

I want to end with Psalm 107

In Psalm 107 the author describes different kinds of people coming from different places whom God has gathered together from all direction- from the east, west, north and south- to be his people.

The author opens the Psalm with a command for those who have been redeemed to declare their story of redemption. To BOAST! To boast in what God has done for them.

The writer tells 4 of their stories. He tell how God brought them from places of lowly despair, of haughty rebellion, of foolish ignorance, of pursuing business and riches, and brought each of them to the same place- crying to Lord in their trouble. And for each of them God does the same thing, he delivers them from their distress, because of his steadfast love; He redeems them.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

10 Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
14 He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.[
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters[
c] were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry dwell,
and they establish a city to live in;
37 they sow fields and plant vineyards
and get a fruitful yield.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad,
and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.