Over the past few days, Victoria Osteen’s sermonette has been dancing around in my head. I went to bed thinking about the many ways that humans have tried to mold and shape Jesus into the perfectly coiffed, demure, solemn faced pushover portrayed in the 16×20 frames in the Christian bookstore. Different religions have rendered him powerless; nothing more than a figurehead. Gay Christianity and other religious cults have edited and maligned His words to normalize sin and legitimize their disregard of scriptural truths. Common to many people groups is the belief that God just wants us to be happy. Instead of a daily dose of God’s word and the TRUTH that would set them free, they book a reservation on the crazy train and continue down the wide, easy path denoted by Matthew 7:13. It is a path far from Jesus and a road that leads to destruction.
I was one of those Christians, angry at God for the direction my life was headed. I was in debt, angry with my boss, unsuccessful in ministry and just downright unhappy. One day I had a meltdown with God on Interstate 4 in Orlando.
“Why are you against me? Why is this stuff happening to me? Why do you hate me so much? Why is my life in turmoil right now? I am doing all the right things. Why is everything so hard right now? GOD! Throw me a bone!”
God’s response was very simple and very clear. “Why would I spare you trials in this life? I didn’t spare my own son.” There was a pause in my prayer, the tears began to flow and my heart changed.
It was a tough pill to swallow. After all, “Didn’t God want me to be happy?” His response went head to head with the pity party I was throwing for myself. A few minutes later, the Holy Spirit calmed me down and God did some corrective surgery on my twisted beliefs. I had been one of those people who mistakenly believed that after I became a Christian, God’s main priority was to give me a happy, worry free life. In that tear filled, angst ridden car ride, I realized that God wasn’t mad at me and he wasn’t rebuking me. He was realigning the thoughts and beliefs that didn’t line up with scripture. God was teaching me mercy and grace; a much different lesson than what I had bought into.
What stuck in my craw about Mrs. Osteen’s speech was that the concept that God just wants us to be happy. Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane contradicts her sentiment. Matthew 26:36 “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, ‘Sit here while I go and pray over there.’ 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, ‘My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.’ 39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.’ “
“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful”. Nothing about Jesus’ journey from Gethsemane to Golgotha could ever be described as ‘happy’. It was a predetermined, purpose driven, God ordained journey into hell. For anyone not familiar with the life of Jesus, God called Him to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Jesus(Innocent man)+ Alone + Crucifixion + Gruesome death = Redemption of Man
Happiness was never a factor in the equation. God was more concerned with Jesus’ obedience. If God’s main concern was our happiness, then Jesus would have been spared the torment of the cross. The preservation of His happiness would have left you and I at the mercy of our sins.
In my life, what made me happy for so many years was living a gay life. Living a gay life is contradictory to a life surrendered to the principles of scripture. So often people share the smarmy platitude, “Follow your heart.” Jesus has this to say of the human heart. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man,” Mark 7:21-23.
God paints the masterpiece of our lives in hues of discomfort, pain and trials. Just ask Moses, Jonah and David. The things that made them happy often led them away from God’s plan for their lives. How in the world could that ever make God happy? How in the world could shifting the focus off God and onto ourselves be pleasing to God? I am reminded of Jesus’s words. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him,” John 14:23. Keeping God’s word is what makes God happy. Jesus also reminds us, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ “
Getting what makes us happy emotionally is often contrary to what is best for us spiritually. When I worship God, when I thank Jesus for dying for my sins and even when I obey God’s word, I am doing not doing it for myself. I am doing it all to bring glory and honor to God. If I call myself a Christian, I must live as Jesus Christ does. Jesus said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me,” John 6:38.
Several years ago, God showed me the perfect picture of ministry, through a very specific dream. The entire dream took place in a grass field, traversed by chain link fences, behind a school. The only other characters in the dream were three, distinct German Shepherds.
The first German Shepherd had been beaten within an inch of his life. Bruised and bloodied, he managed to crawl to me and collapsed into a heap in my lap. He was done fighting. He was ready to surrender.
The second German Shepherd was wounded, but some healing had occurred. He was curious, wanted to come over, but he stayed about 20 feet away behind a partial section of fence. Occasionally, he would dart around the fence and over to me, but he would never come close enough for me to reach him. This second dog was barking and anxious the entire time.
A third German Shepherd was just visible beyond the last row of fences. I am not sure if he was wounded as well, but his behavior demonstrated that there was a high level of caution. He never approached, never barked, never moved, until he ran away, disappearing out of sight. I felt like the Holy Spirit was showing me a few descriptive representations of the people I would meet in ministry.
There will be people that resemble the first dog; bruised and beaten by the world and tired of fighting. These are the people ready to surrender to Jesus.
There will people that represented the second dog; people who had been hurt repeatedly, by both saints and sinners, and are wary of people. They still need people, but their scars lead them to believe otherwise. They are reluctant to trust anyone with their heart; desperate to hope again. Like the second dog, they pop in and out of your life unpredictably. Each time they get close they are guarded and highly verbal. The “barking” keeps everyone at bay. It’s a verbal “smoke screen”; a wall of self-protection around their heart. They are simultaneously afraid and angry, yet hopeful.
The third dog represents a greater majority of people. They are only comfortable watching from afar. Physical and emotional distance are their mode of operation. They rarely get close enough or comfortable enough to let anyone to see their wounds. They watch from a safe distance and eventually vanish from the landscape of your life.
Over the past few weeks a couple of these “dogs” have shown up around the Big Fish Ministry house. We were awakened at 344 am one morning, by frantic knocking at the front door a few weeks back. A guy I had talked with a few days prior had been beaten up pretty severely by his drunk boyfriend. We cried, prayed and talked until around 5 am. Two days later, he showed up in tears again, needing ministry. The Holy Spirit led me to wash his feet and anoint them with oil. We talked and prayed and chatted about his next few steps. I really felt he was ready to surrender to God. Then as quick as he showed up, he vanished. I’m realizing that this guy is a bit of a user, but I’m trying to maintain a minister’s heart. He only shows up as a last resort when he needs something. I am fearful for him. If his last encounter with the enemy didn’t serve as a wakeup call, I’m not sure what will. He was guarded and protective the entire time; willing to share his physical wounds, but ever protective of his emotional wounds.
Conversely, another guy I met with recently showed up and immediately began to share openly. A lunch meeting ran from 1 pm to 6:05 pm. The Holy Spirit was all over our conversation as we shared triumphs and defeats, but most of all, the power Jesus had demonstrated in our lives when we surrendered our whole heart to Him.
One of the toughest parts, yet often the most healing part of ministry is sharing the testimony of what Jesus did in my life. Every time someone enters and exits my life, I must constantly remind myself that it’s not me that people are raging against or rejecting, it’s Jesus; His sacrifice for their sin and His plan for their lives.
I don’t always love how people treat me, but I love to help people find Jesus in the midst of their turmoil. It’s never easy, but God has called me and equipped me to minister to the gay and ex-gay community, using my story of redemption. The past 16 years have been a constant series of choices to repeatedly surrender my broken, sexual desires to God. I have played the part of all three of the dogs in my dream, but my current role is as the man in the dream, prepared to minister to so many levels of brokenness.
God has called me to be a minister with a heart and a passion modeled after Isaiah 61:1 “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”
Father, I give all glory, honor and praise to You. (That’s Christian speak, for ‘God You have my whole heart’.) Father, I have given myself wholeheartedly in an open, honest and naked way to sexual partners in my former life. Thank you for helping me to lead a life, from here on out Father God, where I can present myself to You in the same way: open, honest and naked, wholeheartedly surrendered to You.
If you are reading this and you, too, are struggling with the shame and confusion of same sex attractions as I once did, make the choice today that brings you into the presence of Jesus. If homosexuality has left you hopeless, trust God with your heart, the same way you have trusted mere men with it in the past. Jesus is waiting to hear from you. As long as you have breath in your lungs it isn’t too late. No mistake is too big for God to redeem it.