Gender, Confusion, and Conversation, Part 2

confusionYOU are an image-bearer. Have you ever paused to consider this weighty theological truth?  Men and women have been given the most profound honor in all of creation: we are created to bear the image of God. We bear God’s image—who He is and how He interacts with the world—in our spirits, souls, and in our bodies as male and female. The enemy is working hard to remove God’s image from the earth by bringing about much confusion regarding gender and sexuality. As image-bearers, we have the privilege of speaking truth into this confusion. We can also take life-giving steps to bless and affirm the God-given gender identity of the children and teenagers in our spheres of influence.

Message #1: Gender is a Social Construct

In order to have life-giving conversations, it is helpful to understand a little of the world’s thinking. We interact with it every day. Overall, the world is communicating three messages. First, gender is a social construct. In other words, gender is a concept created and constructed by people. This philosophy is nothing new. It has been taught in women’s studies courses for decades, but it is now emphasized among mainstream educators and taught as early as kindergarten.

Message #2: Gender is Based on Feelings

Second, the world says that gender is based on feelings, interests, and passions and is defined by each individual. Thus, we have people who identify as “transgender.” Their thoughts, feelings, and interests are classified according to what has historically been assigned to the “other” gender, not the one associated with their physical bodies.  It’s also a perfect confluence of self-determination and post-modern thinking. There is no objective truth—my truth is my truth, and your truth is your truth. Each of us creates that truth on our own, including the truth about our own gender. As a result, there are now 57 genders to choose from on Facebook in the United States.

Disconnected

Much of our culture is working with the misguided idea that gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual attraction are all independent parts of a person’s makeup. These different areas of a person’s life are all considered to be completely separate from one another. They are based on feelings and completely changeable from day to day. This means that every day, people are choosing whether they feel feminine or masculine. They are deciding how much cultural femininity or masculinity they want to express through clothes, hairstyle, etc. They are selecting how much of their physical female-ness or male-ness they want to exhibit, and whether they sense attraction to men or women.

Message #3: Gender Doesn’t Matter

Third, the world says gender ultimately doesn’t matter. In the end, men and women are interchangeable. There is no difference between the two. The ultimate goal of this line of thinking is androgyny, a world where humans are indistinguishable from one another. Distinction is removed, and the two meld into one. Thus, we have people identifying as “gender fluid” or “queer,” believing that they don’t belong to either gender.

The Truth of God’s Design

The truth, in contrast, is that gender is created by God, gender is defined by God, and distinction between men and women-and unity within marriage-are an intentional act of God.  We believe that God reveals and imparts our complete identity to us at the moment of creation through our embodiment as man or woman. The creation and definition of our identity rests in God’s design, not ours. When a man and woman are united in marriage, the ultimate goal of unity with distinction is shown to the world: two become one, while still remaining two.

Navigating the Chaos

Bottom line, the world’s thinking is rooted in contradiction and chaos. The world is trying to make sense of feelings and experiences while rejecting the truth of God’s design and revelation. Our children and teenagers are encountering this contradiction and chaos daily. Now as a parent of teenagers myself, the topic of gender comes up nearly every day. I am often corrected on the particular pronouns of choice by my daughter’s friends. “Mom, that person is a ‘they’.” Another friend chooses the pronoun “he” when “his” body is definitely a she. While God imparts our gender identity at creation, we also must embrace and grow into that given identity. As parents and mature adults, we can help children and teenagers in our sphere of influence do the same.

Connect Children with Their Bodies

The following tools can help build a solid foundation of blessing and affirming their God-given gender identity. First, within the context of family, we can connect children with their bodies. We can connect children with their male-ness or female-ness. Intentionally call them “son” or “daughter” and “boy” or “girl.” Teach children about their bodies and help them see how their bodies are called good by God. Teach the correct names for body parts and how to protect their bodies from misuse and abuse. This first may require overcoming our own shame about our bodies.

Encourage children to understand how their particular body works, what it does well, what it needs more help doing. Remind boys that their body is distinctive and different from a girl’s and how to take care of all the parts of their body. Remind girls that their body is distinctive and different from a boy’s and how to care for their unique body. Most of all, make your family the place children learn about their bodies. Then when they have questions, they know they can come to moms and dads to ask those questions.

Connect Children with Biblical Gender

Second, we connect children with biblical gender, with special focus on the gender that gives them identity. That is, we help all children do masculine things and express feminine traits. We also make sure boys find connection and identity in the true masculine while helping girls find connection and identity in the true feminine. Families are the first place this type of connection is formed. However, the church family and friends also participate in this connection-building.

Affirming Boys

Help boys find connection to the true masculine. Encourage and affirm them in their strength of character, their willingness to stand up for the truth of God’s Word, and their reaching out to others in relationship. Remind them they are “men of God” and name them as “sons of God.”  Make sure to build up this connection without diminishing their capacity to express the true feminine.

For example, when a young man plays a beautiful piano piece for the offering at church, thank him afterward for the strength of his playing. When a sensitive young man in youth group expresses grief over injustice at his school, commend him for calling out the truth of the situation and his desire to protect those who are vulnerable.

Affirming Girls

Help girls find connection to the true feminine. Encourage and affirm their ability to be at peace in the midst of tough times, their willingness to receive the truth of God’s Word into their hearts, and their capacity to live without anxiety about relationships. Name them “daughters of God” and remind them they are “women of God.” Build the connection without diminishing their ability to express the true masculine.

For example, when a young woman comes to church dressed in an androgynous style, compliment the beauty of her spirit and the tenderness of her dealings with others. When you notice a young woman speaking up regularly in Bible Study, commend her for her willingness to receive the truth of God’s Word in her heart. In all these situations, we build up people’s connection to their gender identity, while still allowing them to express characteristics of the other as they grow into full image-bearers.

Connect Children with Distinctions

Third, we encourage and affirm distinctions that arise from the differences between men and women. Take notice and talk about the different ways men and women think, feel, and behave because of their embodiments as male and female. Be aware of our cultural biases here, however. It can be helpful for children to find connection to things that fall into a cultural norm to encourage a sense of belonging, but we must avoid extremism. Toys, activities, clothes, hairstyles, and interests don’t inherently have gender, even though our culture often associates these things with a particular gender. Girls can like sports, and boys can like music without it meaning anything about their gender or sexual identity. Still, girls will do sports differently than boys; boys will do music differently than girls.

Continuing the Conversation

These tools can provide an environment that affirms children in identity and reduces the risk of confusion. They are, unfortunately, not a guarantee. As parents, we strive to fill our children’s hearts with the truth of God. We help them learn to nurture that truth, protecting it from interference from the world until it can bear fruit. We connect to a church body that helps continue this process, helping us teach and train our children in the truth of God’s Word. However, at some point, we all have to let our children move out from under our protection to protect and nurture the truth themselves. As our children mature, they are ultimately responsible for their own relationship with God and their own understanding of God’s Word. We continue to have ongoing, life-giving conversations with our children even after this point. We encourage a biblical understanding of gender and identity, directing them always to God’s design for their lives.

Our world is slipping further and further into gender and sexual confusion. It is now even more important that we have a grasp on what the world is thinking and understand God’s design for us as men and women. Within our families and churches, we must bless and affirm biblical gender and have ongoing, life-giving conversations about gender and sexuality. We need to have discussions about what it means to be God’s image-bearers in the world. These conversations will equip us and our children to have life-giving conversations with those in our communities. Our children are image-bearers of God. Let us as parents and the Body of Christ strive to impart this understanding into their hearts. May fully live as God has designed them, each one.

This article is the second in a three-part series. Part 1 covers biblical gender; Part 2 addresses gender confusion and ways to have life-giving conversations within families and churches. Part 3 covers how to have life-giving conversations with friends and individuals in your communities.

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Gender, Confusion, and Conversation, Part 1

biblical genderMy first memories of being taught about gender and gender roles are from early elementary school. It was the 1970’s, and Marlo Thomas and friends had released a record album and TV special, Free to Be You and Me. The messages of the songs and skits were designed intentionally to teach children to reach beyond the gender stereotypes of earlier decades and pursue whatever interests we felt would fit our particular personalities.

While some of the individual messages of the songs and skits contained some important truths, the overall message of the work was to encourage an unbiblical, post-modern gender neutrality. We were to understand that men and women are basically the same, and any differences we may see or experience are not to be turned into generalizations about either sex. What I learned was that a woman can do anything a man can do, and a man should be able to do anything a woman can do as well.

Defining My Womanhood

As I grew and became a teenager, this message seemed to be confirmed by my life experience. I was a girl who loved Star Wars, enjoyed math, excelled at school, preferred my Industrial Arts class over Home Economics, and generally got along with boys more than girls. There were more boys who shared my interests, and I struggled with the drama of junior high and high school girl relationships.

Even with all these traditionally male interests, however, I never questioned my own sexuality or gender identity. I was a girl who had a specific set of interests, but I was definitely a girl. (The teachings of the world had not yet reached the fevered pitch of today, where feelings and interests are taken to imply a specific gender identity.) I knew that my passions, interests, and giftings ultimately did not define my womanhood. And yet, I didn’t fully understand what did define my womanhood.

Feelings Versus God’s Design

Looking back, I can see God’s hand protecting and guiding my understanding. A biblical understanding of sex and gender does allow for each of us, man or woman, to have interests and passions in any arena. But those interests and passions, those feelings, are not what gives us our identity as a man or woman. Our identity is found only in God’s design for our lives, how God has created us to bear His image in the world.

Biblical Gender

In order to continue this conversation, we must first agree on some definitions. We use the term sex to describe the physical distinctions between our male and female bodies. We use the term gender to describe the categories of behavior and being—masculine and feminine . God is spirit and does not have a body; therefore, God is not male or female.  However, we do see God exhibit gender; we see God exhibit both masculine and feminine qualities.

Based on what we have seen in Scripture, we define what is truly masculine as the power to act. God demonstrates the true masculine in many ways, including the ordering of chaos in creation (Genesis 1:1-10) and the initiating of relationship with us through Jesus (Romans 5:6-8). Furthermore, we define what is truly feminine as the capacity to be. God reveals to us the true feminine in multiple ways, including resting in peace after creating all things (Genesis 2:1-3) and comparing himself to a mother who nurtures her children (Isaiah 49:15).

Image-Bearers

Genesis recounts for us that God created all humans in His image, both male and female. Each man is a full image-bearer of God, and each woman is also a full image-bearer of God. We each bear God’s image in the deepest part of our being—our spirits. Because we each bear God’s image in our spirits, all humans—male and female—will exhibit both masculine and feminine characteristics.   In fact, in relation to God, we all behave in feminine ways, receiving the Word of truth in our hearts and minds, responding to the relationship that God initiates with us. Additionally, each of us must protect and guard the truth in our hearts so we may stand firm against deception, exercising true masculine strength.

Distinction on Purpose

Still, God’s intention for distinction within creation and especially humanity is clear.  He could have chosen to create just one type of body —an androgynous human that would be like any other human in every way. But that’s not what God did. God created two distinct and different types of persons: male and female. God created us male and female in order to reveal even more fully who God is and how God acts in relationship.

Since we believe God’s creative act is intentional, it follows that our physical bodies reflect a deeper truth about our spirits and souls. That is, knowing God’s character, the decision to make two different types of bodies implies that the male-female distinction extends into our spirits; it is not only a distinction in body. It also encompasses our souls–the connection between body and spirit; home to our emotions, thoughts and decision-making abilities.  Thus, a person with a male body—genetically XY—is fashioned with  a male spirit and soul, and a person with a female body—genetically XX—is created with  a female spirit and soul.

Body, Soul, Spirit

A male body encounters the world differently than a female body, due to physical differences. Likewise, a male soul will think, experience emotions, and make decisions differently than a female soul. Finally, a male spirit needs to be connected to masculine traits to find identity as a man, and a female spirit needs to be connected to feminine traits to find identity as a woman. We encourage males to connect to their ability to initiate relationship, move in strength, and stand for truth in order to be fully connected in body, soul, and spirit. Likewise, we encourage females to nurture beauty and be receptive and nurturing in relationship with others in order to be fully connected in body, soul, and spirit.

Fully Bearing God’s Image

In order to fully reflect the image of God, however, we make sure that these connections are not to the exclusion of the other; that is, a male is also created  to exhibit feminine traits, and a female to also exhibit masculine ones. For example, a male can and should initiate relationship and stand for truth (the true masculine) while also being receptive and nurturing to others and being able to rest (the true feminine). Likewise, a female can and should be receptive and nurturing while also showing strength, standing for truth, and protecting others.  The encouragement of one type of trait does not mean we overlook or dismiss the other.

True Woman’s Lib

For me, this understanding means that I can acknowledge the differences between men and women while also acknowledging that we each can do whatever it is God has gifted us to do. I am a woman because God has created me with a female body, soul, and spirit, and it is good to be a woman. I act in both feminine and masculine ways, but I do those things as a female. To be a woman of God is to bear God’s image into the world through my femaleness.

This is true woman’s liberation! To know that I am perfectly and fully loved as a daughter of the Most High King; to know that I can fully bear God’s image in the world; to know that God has gifted me specifically to do the work designed for me and my gifts; and to do all this through my femaleness, as a woman. May God grant us each the strength and wisdom to stand firm in the truth and lovingly share it with those around us. May we truly and fully bear God’s image in our manhood or womanhood, as God has created each one. May we truly be free to be you and me.

This article is the first in a three-part series. Part 1 covers biblical gender; Part 2 addresses gender confusion and ways to have life-giving conversations within families and churchesPart 3 covers how to have life-giving conversations with friends and individuals in your communities.

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The Undeniable Power of God

My family consisted of a mom, a dad, and two sisters. My father had set his heart and focus on providing for his family. He provided everything from a nice house to food on the table to, of course, fun toys for his children! Both Dad and I were clueless about the need for emotional connection with each other. With Dad’s time spent traveling for work, I remember distinctly when he’d return home. For two days, I would barely recognize him. How could I engage with him emotionally? My desire to connect with him, to be the apple of his eye, to make him proud of his little boy was stunted, leading to doubt and confusion.

The eight years that followed had me wrestling and searching for connection with males. Only now can I see just how ill-equipped I felt in relating to men. While I turned up empty-handed in this area of my life, I had no problem connecting with women. It’s all I could do growing up in a house full of them.

I believe this all contributed to my later torments in school. I was an easy target for ridicule as my peers teased me for my girlish behaviors, feminine sounding voice, and girly walk. At the tender age of ten, I could do nothing but fall for and, yes, even embrace these taunting lies as truths of my identity! As I did, I arrived at a new place of prescribed clarity: I must be gay!

At the age of 14, I came out as gay to my mother. We had been sitting together at night when I turned to her and unleashed my secret. Her words to me that evening sowed seeds that would later lead to changing my life forever. Her response to my secret was one offered in honesty, not judgment. She simply said to me, “Brad, nothing that comes from God will leave you confused or unsatisfied.” I couldn’t fully grasp what she meant in that moment, nor did I care to try. With my secret out, I was excited to get started on living my life as an openly gay young man.

Five years down the road, I had managed to acquire many sinful experiences, all in pursuit of happiness and love. I was ultimately looking for someone who would provide for, care for, and support me. In the end, my unhealthy relationships just exposed my emptiness and desperate need for fulfillment. The good feelings I came across would evaporate as quickly as they first appeared.

A game of tug-of-war began in my heart at the age of 20. God purposely ignited a slow-burning passion within me to have a family: a child and a beautiful wife. My gay partner could not offer this nor argue against it—men are meant to create! For the next two years, confusion set in and buried me. To speak out any of my new yearnings would directly contradict my “identity.” Drugs, promiscuity and isolation became the methods I used to interact with the world. I had attained everything I had ever wanted, yet here I was unsatisfied with a desperate need for more.

At the point when my life was the darkest, I found the light of salvation shining very brightly! The hope of Christ, however, had me pinned; mercy had come but with it, a choice. I could leave my lifestyle, move in with my parents and search for the abundant life God had promised my heart. Or, I could remain in the ruins I had created with my very own hands. After what felt like a full 24 hours of weeping, I surrendered to Jesus, and reached out to receive the hand of the Lord on April 20th, 2008.

The door of my parents’ house greeted my weary soul with a calming hush. My family rushed in and surrounded me with the unconditional support of their presence. God’s peace met me and welcomed me. I would need it for strength to commit myself to the unknown journey ahead. I realized quickly that God never intended me to fight alone, so I made the heavy-handed phone call to Outpost Ministries.

I spent three years as a participant at Outpost finding healing through:

  •  Real people who understand this issue. I couldn’t do life without community, especially without transparency, vulnerability, and others carrying the burdens of my heart (Galatians 6:2).
  •  Men standing strong with me, linking arms with me through the Holy Spirit, giving me support and encouragement through the Word of God.
  • Healthy masculine relationships. We are wounded in relationship and we are healed in relationship! The more I communicated with men and opened up, the more I felt my own masculinity being called forth. God placed a very specific group of men around me as Christian brothers. This was beyond powerful for me because I needed to know I was enjoyed and appreciated by other men.
  • Learning to rejoice in my weaknesses.

 “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

As I started to give God thanks through my trails, temptations, and afflictions, I gained the strength and power of the Lord.

  •  Listening to the voice of the Lord to obey His Word. Slowly but surely, He peeled back layers of my heart exposing pain and discomfort. My heart ached but God gave me perfect mercy and grace. God healed my heart as I heard His voice. He exposed me to my pain, allowing me to feel it. He didn’t leave me in the pain for long but used it to propel me forward with a stronger, fuller heart. It’s God’s desire to repair and restore the years the locusts have eaten.
  • Not focusing on the healing of unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) but instead on the holiness of Jesus. The goal of healing from SSA is holiness, nothing else. If one has any other goal, it will lead to a disappointing and even destructive end. But the good news is that as we are transformed into the righteousness and holiness of Jesus (Ephesians 4:24), we are healed from SSA—over time.

My friends, the transformational power of God is undeniable! He has transformed my broken heart, searching for love and hope in all the wrong places, into a heart lovesick for Him, being filled with every blessing and revelation!

I have been serving on staff at Outpost for over three years now. I started Elijah Company, our support and prayer program for parents, friends and family with loved ones struggling with SSA, and I currently serve full-time as our Chief Operations Officer.

Today, seven years after God turned my disobedience to the wisdom of the righteous (Luke 1:17), He has blessed me with an unbelievable wife for whom I would joyfully give up my life. He has given me a double portion for taking up my cross to follow Him.

Even If

“God, if this relationship is truly wrong in your eyes and you really want me to let her go, please help us get out of our relationship.”

I prayed this half-hearted prayer in June 2011, and my life has since been forever changed.  The Lord answered my prayer three weeks after I prayed it. My girlfriend’s family found out about our secret relationship, and she retreated to them.  I didn’t chase after her as I knew that the exposure of our relationship was clearly God’s answer to my quiet plea.

After the breakup, my heart was broken beyond what I thought could be repaired.  I expected God to come at me with crushing truths such as, “I told you so,” and, “You deserve this pain for disobeying my commandments.”  He would have been absolutely righteous in doing so. I had always known the truth about homosexuality, that God’s Word forbids its practice.

Instead, however, the Lord comforted me in a supernatural way.  I could feel His distinct presence holding me close as snot and tears ran down my face each day that summer.  Instead of accusations, He whispered gently to me.  “I’m so sorry.  I’m sorry that you lost someone you loved, and I’m sorry that you struggle with same-sex attractions. I love you more than you can possibly imagine, and we will get through this together.”

After several months of simply mourning the loss of my girlfriend with the comfort of my Father and my family, Jesus nudged me back to Outpost Ministries.  I had been there in the past but with a chip on my shoulder and a hardened heart.  I finally gave in and made an appointment with Nate Oyloe.  I will never forget sitting in the prayer chapel with him and pouring out my pain and brokenness.  When I was done telling my tale, Nate asked me one simple question.  I thought he’d say, “What are you willing to do to become straight?”  Instead, he gently asked me, “What are you willing to do to get back your relationship with the Lord?”  After pondering this unexpected question, my heart answered for me as my lips said, “Anything.”

My answer launched me into an intense year-and-a-half of healing. I met with Nate each week, I endured and allowed myself to be remolded by the Living Waters program, and I spent hour after hour with the Lord, reading His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit speak life into me once again.

At the beginning of my healing journey, I still wasn’t sure if I really could be healed of my same-sex attractions, and I wasn’t sure that I would follow God if I couldn’t be healed. Soon enough, however, the Lord spoke to me through the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel.  These men were about to be thrown into a fiery furnace unless they bowed down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue.  These men’s response changed my faith.  They said,

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18, NLT). 

 This was it!  God was calling me to surrender my life in this same way.  That fall I declared, “Lord I believe that you will heal me of my same-sex attractions, but even if you don’t, I will never again bow down and worship the idol of homosexuality.”

Our Lord is a jealous God.  He desires our full affections and allegiance.  “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching,” Jesus declares in John 14:23.  From the point in which I declared my allegiance to Jesus Christ, my healing really began to take place.  I would follow Jesus into any fiery furnace because my love for Him from my youth had returned.  I now loved this God-Man with everything that I had.  He has never let me down.

Once my heart was with fully committed to the Lord, I began to trust and love Him in a new way.  As I began to relearn His character through time spent with Him as well as with Outpost’s life-changing help, He slowly began to restore my identity as a woman.  He began speaking truths to me such as, “You are my daughter.”  “You are my princess.”  “I have made you a woman and have said that it is good.”  For the first time in my life, I began agreeing with God.  Romans 12:2 became reality in my life as I allowed the Lord to transform the way that I thought.

Although I am still healing and transforming, the Lord conducted speedy recovery in my gender identity and sexuality in about a year-and-a-half.  In the fall of 2012, He called me to work for Outpost Ministries, the ministry that had quite literally saved my life.  I quickly refused as I declared, “God, I will NOT fundraise!”  After being denied application after application, month after month, for what I thought were “real jobs, I finally gave in to the Lord’s calling on my life.  I began to fundraise to help others impacted by homosexuality.  Just as God provided healing for my identity and sexual healing, He also provided for me financially.  I trained for nine months under Nate Oyloe as I sought to learn the work of Outpost.

For two years, I have been meeting with women to help them overcome what, at first, seems to them like impossible situations.  Alongside this responsibility, I have also worked as Outpost’s Office Manager.  At the beginning of this year, I was offered the position of Community Fundraiser since my individual fundraising efforts had been flourishing.  I smile as I think of the irony of the situation.  A once extremely stubborn, “non-fundraising” woman now raises funds for the ministry she holds dear to her heart.  I am excited to share the good news about the healing and restoration that Jesus Christ has to offer as I envision many to financially support the miracles that happen at Outpost on a daily basis.

Confronting “Gay Christian” Theology

I have been a part of Outpost Ministries for almost 20 years. During this time I have watched the cultural landscape shift radically in regards to the issue of homosexuality. Nowadays, the “gay lifestyle” is embraced, accepted and even celebrated in all spheres of life. It is normal to see gay couples get married or engaging in sexual behaviors on prime-time television. This was not the case all that long ago. The shift came quickly and took many in the Church by surprise.

Now I am watching the landscape of the Church change in this regards as well. In the same way, the shift is coming quickly and is taking many by surprise. Most mainline denominations now more than tolerate—they ordain gay clergy, marry gay couples and encourage same-sex attracted youth to embrace their “gayness” as a gift from God and a blessing to others. What is even more shocking is now, once stalwart evangelical churches and organizations are falling prey to “gay Christian” theology—the thinking that it is okay to be a Christ-follower and embrace a gay identity. While there are different expressions of the “gay Christian” (some choose celibacy while others marry their partners), the bottom line is clear: to embrace the gay identity in any way is an affront to the image of God in men and women, and it is contrary to what God has commanded in His Word.

God’s creation is heterosexual (Genesis 1:26-27). Within God’s heterosexual creation, there are two genders: masculine and feminine. In God’s created order, there is always one and then the other. In the macro understanding of this principal, we have God who, in the masculine, initiated a love relationship with the Church, His Bride. We see the macro played out in the micro: married love between a man and a woman (Ephesians 5:31-32).

“Hetero” is different from the prefix “homo” which means “same.” There is, not two, but one. The good news for the same-sex attracted is that in God’s creation, there is no such thing as a homosexual, only heterosexuals, however broken he or she may have gotten in this world. We all have to live in the flow of the reality God has established, regardless of our feelings or attractions.

Gender is a way of categorizing characteristics. The historical meaning of gender is “things we treat differently because of their inherent differences.” Biblical gender is the compilation of characteristics that make up who God is and how He acts within relationships. It includes the distinction between God’s being and His activity.

Right away in Genesis 1:1, we see God as a gendered being—In the beginning God (being) created the heavens and the earth (activity). God continues to make distinctions as He creates: light and dark, day and night, land and sea, the heavens and the earth. God solidifies distinction within Himself—He IS and He DOES. He creates for six days (activity) and on the seventh day He rests (being). Distinction is important to God.

God continues to make distinction in Genesis 1:26-27:

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In God’s creation, unity or union does not do away with distinction. There will always be a distinction between God and man, man and creation and male and female.

Paganism always tries to do away with distinction. The goal of paganism is that all would become one; God and man, man and creation, male and female, etc. are simply “one with the universe.” We see this lack of distinction being played out in human culture’s many sordid expressions of sexuality. It seems anything goes these days! Culture wants to do away with any gender distinction or the gender binary. Dr. Peter Jones, author of The God of Sex, says that when the primary binary (God and His creation) is eliminated, all other binaries crumble.

Homosexuality has its roots in paganism. This is why the movement to promote homosexuality is so powerful. It is not just about sex, or even whom you choose to love; it has a spiritual component. When the creature is worshiped rather than the Creator, demons are present.

To take on a gay identity is to step outside of God’s created order and out of the flow of reality. It is to reject one’s sense of belonging in God’s creation. Taking on a gay identity essentially shuts down the healing process and hinders receptivity of future blessings the Lord has in His heart for the struggler. It is letting the “old man” remain and refusing to walk in righteousness and holiness.

20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:20-24).

These words may seem bold or even harsh, but now is the time for boldness and courage, Church! I believe that “gay Christian” theology (in all its varied forms) is the greatest danger to the Western Church today. It threatens the very foundation of our understanding of God, His creation and our place within His creation. It is an assault on the image of God and the distinctions He has established between Himself and creation.

Let me conclude by clarifying a couple of issues. First, one’s temptations and life-dominating issues do not determine salvation. Most of the individuals who come to Outpost are born-again believers, yet they still struggle with unwanted same-sex attractions. We are saved by God’s grace available through Jesus Christ, not by our ability to keep His Law or to avoid temptation.

Second, God loves everyone within the “gay community”. His heart is burning to see His children return to Him.  Many individuals have been wounded and rejected by the Church’s poor response to their struggle with same-sex attractions.  A compassionate, biblical understanding of homosexuality within the Church has been needed for a very long time.

With that said, the current “gay Christian” conversation and shift that is now taking place within the Church is not based on a biblical understanding of homosexuality. The Church is sorely lacking a scriptural understanding of gender and the image of God.

We must be firm in our convictions in this hour. We must dig deeply into Genesis 1:26-27 and seek the Lord for wisdom and understanding of His image. We must stand for truth, for there is much at stake. As the kings of the earth cast off restraint, let us with even more resolve humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and bow our knees to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Strengthened According to His Word

“I don’t know how to help you, but I know people who do.” With those words, my pastor gave me the telephone number for Outpost Ministries. I had approached him after about a year-and-a-half of attending the little south Minneapolis Presbyterian church near my apartment. My desire for God and a life of holiness was conflicting with my addiction to finding satisfaction in sexual encounters with men.

I was ready to acknowledge that I had a problem and needed help out of it, but I wasn’t quite ready to make the phone call. That took another nine months as my sexual addictions continued to spiral out of control. In January 2006, I finally made an appointment to meet the Youth-and-College-Age Director at Outpost Ministries, Nate Oyloe.

I told him my story just as I had my pastor: I had been addicted to pornography since I was ten. I came out when I was 16. I spent my college years in Madison, WI going to gay bars and hooking up with guys for one-night stands. After graduation, I started to see that living this way was not getting me the Mr. Right I longed for. I had seen that all the Mr. Rights were addicted just as much as I was. I saw that I needed to change. Addiction ruled my life. I didn’t want to hit rock bottom—whatever that meant. My childhood love for God was re-emerging, and I was torn.

“I’m gay and I’m not interested in changing but I’m addicted, and I want more of God. Can you help me?” Nate responded that he definitely could help.

After that initial meeting, I wept in my car as I considered my life up until that point. I felt compelled to participate in what Nate graciously offered me. So I sobbed, “God, I’m jumping into whatever this is! If you don’t catch me, I’m going to be really angry with you!” I was going to take Him at His promise that I had read in Isaiah: to the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off (Is. 56:4-5, NKJV). I felt like a eunuch and a foreigner cut off from God.

Four months into mentoring, learning about many of the reasons for my sexual struggles, succumbing to temptation yet not wanting to give up, Nate challenged me to attend a weekend inner-healing conference. During the Saturday morning session, the main speaker quoted from Luke 6:46, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I say? He linked that phrase to another: If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23, NIV). His teaching challenged me.

I was annoyed, and I raced out of the auditorium. I said quietly, “Am I one of those people who calls You ‘Lord’ but doesn’t do what You say?” I sensed the presence of God as I heard a gentle “Yes” in my spirit. Immediately, one Scripture pounded on my memory—if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20).

The language of dining captured me. At the time I was working at a boutique wine shop in Minneapolis and had spent several years studying the finer points of wine appreciation. Having God dine with me was a powerful image. I responded, “You’re the Master of the Universe; You made me. I’m like a house, God, but I’m a squatter in this body—why don’t you come make Your home with me?” After crying, confessing and feeling released from much of the anger and bitterness I had carried for so long, I returned to the conference. I felt cleansed from all those years of seeking love and strength from the bodies of other men. God became the Master of my life in a new way that day.

At my session with Nate the following week, he noted that I looked different. I felt different. “God didn’t make me to be gay,” I said, but I had no idea what that meant. I tried to explain what had happened to me over the weekend. I wept profusely as I faced leaving behind my gay identity of ten years and my same-sex attractions of almost twenty. What would I be—who would I be without homosexuality?

Surrendering to the Master did not take any of my struggles away in an instant. I failed frequently with my old friend, pornography. Each time, though, I was learning to listen to the voice of forgiveness. I had to trust that His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3-4). Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again (Proverbs 24:16, NIV).  Healing was getting up again and again after each failure and recommitting to the renewal of my mind. Same-sex attraction lost its power to name me as I repeatedly surrendered to God, the only One who has the authority to define me.

Two years into my journey of healing, Nate approached me with another challenge—to partner with him in ministry at Outpost. During this season, My Bible reading one day landed on the story of Nehemiah who was the cupbearer to the king (Neh. 1:11). A man who managed the king’s wine and food felt the call to help build the wall of desolate Jerusalem. I felt a similar pull to strengthen people in their walk with God. I jumped again and joined the staff in January 2008.

As part of my work, I learned to pray as Paul did for the Ephesians:  that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (1:17-19). Singing and praying this and other Scriptures almost daily for the last seven years has caused my love to abound more and more (Phil. 1:9), keeping my heart on His path. As I walked it out, He wrote his Law on my heart. I chose what pleased Him, and He fulfilled those promises I had read in Isaiah.

Seeing that agreement in prayer works, two years ago I began to fervently pray that I’d be able to identify with Adam’s statement: This now is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh (Gen. 2:23). I felt it was part of my inheritance as a man created in God’s image to love a woman in strength. Amazingly, God moved a woman here from Kansas City, MO to be part of Living Waters. She started attending Outpost’s daily prayer meetings, we began to talk, started to date, and then we moved on toward fulfilling the conclusion to Genesis 2: Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave unto his wife (2:24). We were married in September 2013 and are expecting our firstborn in June!

Now, just as God called Abram to leave his country and his family and he learned how to trust (Gen. 12:1), God has been confirming His call for me to keep jumping. I have prayed and sought counsel as I have considered another jump into the unknown. And so, I have resigned from my position as Vice-President of Corporate Operations to be available for the next season of God’s leading. The calling remains—teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean (Ezekiel 44:23), but the assignment—the place where the calling happens—is in transition.

I now feel very much like Jacob returning to Canaan:  I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies (Gen. 32:10). I don’t quite yet know where God is leading, but He has proven Himself to me as He has renewed my strength according to His Word. I will continue to agree with what King David said, I will run the course of Your commandments, for You shall enlarge my heart (Psalm 119:32).