Thursday

The Gay Revival


I’m going to address some very controversial topics today. If you have trouble with God moving outside your comfort zone, you may not want to read this article. I’m serious: be careful! This may push your buttons.

We’re going to talk about homosexual Christians, LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] Christians.

The Bible is clear, Old Testament and New: homosexual behavior is sinful behavior. Since we’re talking about Christians, we could go on about how there are loads of sins that we overlook in the church, while we call out certain others, but that hypocrisy is another topic for another day.

One day, years ago, I was with a small group, praying for some folks we knew that were stuck in homosexuality. It was one of those prayer gatherings where you just know that God is hearing your prayers, even as he’s helping to shape them and encourage us in them.

In the midst of that, I had a vision: tens of thousands of people in the homosexual community were encountering Jesus. It was a huge movement, and God was in their midst. They were worshiping powerfully, and God was delighting in their praise. There were signs and wonders. Many were in tears, some because of His love, some because of their sin, but it wasn’t always the sin I had my own eyes on that they were convicted of. It was a genuine revival.

I began to praise God for that revival, for the many sons and daughters that were coming back to their Father, and as I did, the vision became even more real: I was in their midst as they were worshiping God.

And then I realized: they weren’t – most of them weren’t – leaving their culture. Nearly all of them stayed in the homosexual community, and a very large number of them didn’t appear to repent of their homosexual ways.

I began to react to that: That's not right, I said in my mind. Father began to gently instruct me in this vision:

1)         When he calls people to himself, he does not call them to leave their culture. American Church Culture is not our goal. Relationship with Jesus is the goal. Hmm. OK. That’s true enough.

2)         When he finally got ahold of my life (after a longer fight than it should have been), I was not sin-free. There were several sins that he took decades to put his finger on. In fact, He said, There are some things I haven’t pointed out to you even yet. Yikes.

But it’s true. If he didn’t point out– and by pointing out, give me grace to deal with – some of my sins for decades, why should I expect him to be less patient with other sons and daughters?

3)         And son, he said so very gently: these are my children, not yours. I am their Father, you are not. I am capable of raising My own children without your getting in their way.

Since that experience, I’ve received a few reports that it’s beginning to happen, that substantial numbers of people inside the LGBT community are discovering the Lover of their Souls!

I have received credible testimony from different people in different streams that tell me about the revival that is going on among the homosexual population. (At their request, and for their safety, I will not be releasing their identities. Some people do not respond well when God moves outside their box.)

These people have been among gatherings of gay believers – we might call them church meetings or conferences – where the worship is powerful, where the Holy Spirit is present, where signs and wonders are in abundance, where Jesus is lifted up high. They have recognized God’s favor on the gatherings, and experienced His delight in them.

I have met believers who are homosexuals. Some appear to be your basic, timid churchgoers, some flaming transsexuals proclaiming the gospel to their community. Some are content with their homosexuality; some want out but don’t know how; some are proud of their status, though these seem to be the ones who’ve taken the brunt of the church’s accusations.

I’ve said all this to arrive at this conclusion: God is moving powerfully in ways that we never expected. And hold on to your hats, because he has more than this that he’s going to do.

So how shall we respond to homosexuals that call themselves Christians? That’s simple: we love them. Just like we’re called to love self-righteous people who call themselves Christians.

We surely have no right to challenge the faith of either group, and nearly always, we lack the right to challenge either their behavior or their culture. But we have the right to love them.


Let’s love one another, as Jesus commanded us, shall we? And let's trust our good Father to raise His children well. 


Responding to “Melchizedek Means You Must Tithe!”

Does Abraham's tithe to Melchizedek mean we must tithe?

When teaching on the topic of tithing, pastors generally refer to Genesis 14, where Abraham was just finishing wiping out four kings in a war to recover his captive family. Melchizedek, a priest, came out to congratulate Abe, who gave that priest 10% of the plunder. Here’s the story:

When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he called out the 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit as far as Dan. During the night Abram divided his men to attack them and he routed them, pursuing them as far as Hobah, north of Damascus. He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.

After Abram returned from defeating Kedorlaomer and the kings allied with him, the king of Sodom came out to meet him in the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King's Valley). Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.”

Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich.’” - Genesis 14:14-23 

“The tithe precedes the Law!” they declaim. “So when the Law went away, the tithe stays: You must tithe because Abraham tithed before the Law!” (And they’ll often reference Hebrews 7, where the story is mentioned in passing in support of a whole different point.)

I hate that argument: it’s 98% irrelevant to the topic. (A little bit is relevant: One guy did tithe once before the law.)

But he tithed only once. One time only, Abraham gave 10% of the spoils of one war to Melchizedek, while he gave 90% to the kings of Sodom & Gomorrah. He never tithed from any other source, either before or after that day.

So we’re supposed to make application for our lives from this story. Here are some ways we can apply Abraham’s example of tithing to Melchizedek:

* Does this mean that we should tithe on the spoils of our war? Do we get the Pentagon involved in this, or do we limit ourselves just to wars that we ourselves lead? Are we limited only to foreign wars, or does a fight with my wife count?

* Does this mean that we tithe after we kill people? If so, whom shall we kill on Sunday morning? Abe killed people who held his family captive. Who would that be today?

* Does this mean that we should tithe when a priest brings bread and wine to our workplace and blesses us (as Melchizedek did here)? In that case, I should tithe to the traveling sales reps, I suppose. They bring food to my workplace, though they’re not really priests.

* Does this mean we should tithe only one day in our lives, as Abraham did? If so, how do we choose which one day we should tithe? Should it be when we’re young and strong, or when we’re old and wise? And should it be a work day, or a weekend day? If it only happens once, we should be careful to pick the right day.

* Does this mean that we should give 90% of our income to the leaders of “Sodom & Gomorrah”? I thought we were opposed to the pornography industry or the sex trade? Or are you saying we should just pick some worldly politicians and give them our life savings? (Sure glad that happens only one day in our life!)

My point is this: it is foolishly disingenuous to say, “You must apply this one detail out of this story, but ignore all the rest of it!” That’s religious manipulation at its worst! It is completely unworthy of the People of God.

Conclusion: This story is clearly not appropriate to use as a tool to demand that people give you 10% of their income.

But don’t take this too far.

I am not trying to say, “Do not tithe!” Nor am I saying, “Don’t be generous!” as some mistakenly say.

I’m saying that the People of God are not subject to the extortion that the tithe teaching has become: “If you don’t obey this Law, you’re a lousy Christian!” Many churches today deny members opportunities to serve, or to receive ministry, unless they’ve submitted to the extortion.

Christians are not under law. We are not required to tithe.

However, note that the law of sowing and reaping is part of our lives in the New Covenant. Consider 2Corinthians 9:6: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” That's for us. That’s real.

And the need for believers to be characterized by generosity, particularly to the poor, is incontrovertible! Really, 10% is a pretty wimpy standard for people who have generosity in their soul. Giving from a free heart is completely encouraged! And we’re free to give where we want to: to missions, to local congregations, to a benevolence group, directly to needy people, or to a secular group that does worthy things. And we’re free to donate money, or time, or sweat, or influence, or anything else we have to give.

So, if people read the story of Abraham and Melchizedek and then they say, “Well that proves it. I must give 10% of my income to you every week because Abraham gave 10% to a priest one time!” then somebody is not thinking clearly. That’s just the spirit of stupid.

But if they read the story of Abraham and Melchizedek and then they say “That’s cool! I want to do that!” then more power to them! That’s a beautiful thing! 


Just don’t try to make it a law. That would be a lie. And it’s not good to lie to the people of God.

The OTHER Benefit of the New Covenant

Our history with God is a history of covenants. Covenants between God and mankind. This is how the mighty Creator King and the human species relate: through a covenant.

We do it too. We’re up-front about it with marriage covenants, and more subtle about other covenants. There is a powerful – unwritten – parenting covenant: violate that one and society takes your children away from you.

Now hold still, I’m going to talk directly about covenant for a minute. Necessarily, I will engage in willful oversimplification of some details in order to illustrate my point: the actual situation is much more complicated than this simple explanation.

A covenant is a “promise to engage in or refrain from a specified action.” Covenants are how people agree to relate to each other. Covenant is how God relates to humanity.

Noah had a covenant. Abraham had a covenant. David had a covenant. But the Big One was the Mosaic Covenant, often called The Old Covenant.

The Old Covenant was kind of a failure in before it ever got going, of course. God proposed a covenant to the people of Israel that had a lot of the elements of our New Covenant in it. Before there even were the Ten Commandments, God offered Israel a covenant where every single person is a priest, every single person can come to God for himself or herself:

“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. ‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19:6-7)

“Kingdom of priests and a holy nation”? Twice in the book of Revelation, we’re described as “kings and priests unto our God” (1:6 & 5:10). God was offering that relationship to the Israelites four thousand years ago? (Can you imagine what the world would be like if we hadn’t had the last four thousand years of legalistic bondage? But I digress.)

But the people who were offered this intimate “everybody is a priest” relationship with God reject that offer in the very next chapter.

“Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:19)

The people had rejected a “kingdom of priests” covenant, and propose a covenant that requires a priesthood, and is based on obedience. Neither the Levitical priesthood, nor an obey-the-rules covenant, was God’s idea!

And so the “everybody is a priest” covenant was put aside, and was replaced with a covenant based on the people’s obedience. Any covenant that’s based on obeying will necessarily have consequences for disobedience. Thus this is a covenant about blessings for obedience, and punishment (sometimes called “curses”) for disobeying.

Deuteronomy 28 functions as kind of a summary: You’ll be blessed when you obey, and you’ll be cursed (or punished) if you disobey. Verses 1 through 14 outline the blessings. The rest of the chapter talks about the punishment for disobeying, and it’s God that is charged with that punishment.

Frankly, that was a lousy covenant, it’s a poor substitute for God’s first proposal, but it’s a covenant! Even that poor replacement was better than no relationship at all between God and man!

We remember that the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant (which we call “The Law”) were intended to constrain the behavior of the humans in this covenant relationship. But we tend to forget that the Old Covenant constrained the behavior of BOTH parties of the Covenant: God had chosen to bind himself to the Old Covenant as well.’

So when we read in Deuteronomy 28 about “If you disobey, you’ll be punished.” Guess who the punisher has to be. Yeah, that’s God. He has bound himself to this busted-up covenant, because it’s better than no covenant – no relationship – whatsoever. Moreover, this was the only covenant that the people would agree to, so this was the covenant that he bound himself to.

And this covenant, proposed by fearful men, required that God punish (or “curse”) the people that he loves so very much, every time they disobey. (Seriously, go read Deuteronomy 29!)

Now let’s remember that there was a third party loose on the Earth, who was not a party to the covenant between God and man. Lucifer had already demonstrated his eagerness to accuse God at every opportunity (see Genesis 3:4-5). And he’s up to his old tricks here as well.

So every time the people disobeyed (and that happened so very often!) and God was required by the people’s busted-up covenant to punish them, Lucifer steps up to the microphone and declares, “Look how mean God is! Look how bloodthirsty he is! Look how angry God is!” completely ignoring the fact that God is merely complying with the conditions of the covenant that mankind offered him.

That’s a hot mess. I’ve oversimplified the story in this short article, but it’s easy to see the mess that the Old Covenant is: seriously, the only one who benefited from that debacle was Lucifer, and that’s not actually what we’re aiming for.

Now skip forward until Jesus is sitting in the Upper Room, where Jesus is offering – for the second time – a covenant of an “everybody is a priest” relationship between man and God: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 2 Corinthians 11:25.) But this time, the representatives (the twelve) accept the offer.

I still marvel at that cup, that biscuit. With that token meal, God removes us from the Old Covenant and makes us participants instead in the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:13 makes it clear: “In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.”). And this is a covenant whose sole commandment (John 13:34) is to love each other.

What an amazing relief that is: in a single moment, these guys are plucked from a covenant of “If you obey, I’ll bless you; if you disobey, I’ll punish you!” and dropped into a Covenant of Love.

The seminal New Covenant verse, John 3:16, says it beautifully: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And if that wasn’t clear enough, verse 17 clarifies that the New Covenant is not about punishment: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” What a relief that is!

All that is amazing, spectacular, and otherwise completely awesome.

But it is also only half of the story. The Old Covenant is made obsolete, and we are released from its bondage, but we were not the only ones held in bondage by it.

With the passing of the Old Covenant, God Himself is no longer constrained by the Law to provide blessings when people obey, like treats for a dog that sits when you tell him. More importantly, God is no longer constrained by the Law to bring punishment, curses, judgment on the people that he so desperately loves.

When the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant, humanity could give a great, corporate sigh of relief. We’re no longer under the law, but now we’re under grace, under love.


But the greater relief may not be ours. In the New Covenant, God is now free to love us with all that is in his heart, as he has longed to do since the day he said, “Let us make man in our own image.” (Genesis 1:26). God is now free from the Old Covenant, and he’s more excited about it than we are. 

We are free. But more important, God Himself is free! 

Church, Impropmptu

So the other evening, I invited a couple of guys over for an impromptu barbecue. And it turned into a glorious gathering of some of my favorite saints.

The four of us sat on the back porch, doing very un-churchy things, in the presence of God. 

What kind of un-churchy things? Well we were eating New York steak, fresh off the barbecue, for one. Some of us had a beer with the steak (a nice, black oatmeal stout, in fact!). And we were telling God stories: stories that makes God look good.

After we finished the steaks, a couple of us lit up our pipes, and we listened to the peaceful sound of the rain on the roof. 

And we shared story after story of God intervening in our lives and lives of others we knew. 

And we relaxed.

That was it. Nothing else. No signs and wonders. No offerings. No sermons (got close once, but we dodged it!). Didn’t even get out our Bibles. We just enjoyed God and each other.

I wanted to tell this story for a couple of reasons.

First, the evening really touched me pretty deeply. These are some of my favorite men, and I treasure their company. I just thought I’d share my joy with you.

Second, we sometimes still have the expectation that we need to be doing godly things to be in God’s presence. Bosh! The Incarnation put that one to death. God didn’t seem to be offended by good beer, good tobacco or even the occasional wide-eyed expletive in response to his amazing exploits.

There’s a third reason, and it may not make sense to everybody reading this, and that’s OK: In my world, there isn’t much that says “You’re off duty!” as much as an oatmeal stout and pipe full of Black Cavendish. And if we can’t be “off duty” in our Christian fellowship, then something is seriously wrong!

Yes, I’m suggesting that we put our religion away, far away, and build real relationships with real people in the real world. Those are the ones that will keep us strong in the long run.