Hope For The Cultural Collision & God’s Hope for Hopeless Stories
The Elephant Gospel Book continued below with
Chapters 8 & Part 3 Elephants on Parade and Chapter 9
Hope for the Cultural Collision
I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, NET).
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son (Colossians 1:13, KJV).
“When a newspaper posed the question, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response:
‘Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton.’”
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NASB)
“Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon entitled “Christian Happiness,” said that there are three reasons why any Christian who knows Christ, and knows they know Christ, can be completely content and free from worry. The three reasons are: your bad things will turn out for good; your good things can never be taken away from you; and the best things are yet to come.”
It has been called the “greatest sea disaster in history,” and the among the worst shark attacks in history. After delivering the world’s first operational atomic bomb to the island of Tinian in July of 1945, the Navy cruiser USS Indianapolis left port in Guam to sail unescorted to the Philippines. Just a few days later, however, she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine just a few minutes after midnight. The torpedoes struck near a fuel tank and a powder magazine, and the second explosion ripped the ship apart. Within minutes she had sunk.
Almost 1,200 sailors had been aboard; it is estimated that 900 made it into the water before she sank. That didn’t mean survival for everyone. Shark attacks began before the sun rose the next day, and relentlessly persisted the five days the men were in the water. By the time they were finally accidentally discovered and rescued, only 317 men were still alive. The rest had perished due to the constant shark attacks, lack of food, consumption of saltwater, and exposure.
I see the times we live in today as potentially the “greatest cultural disaster of history”—our situation could be just as devastating as the Indianapolis with its consequences and loss of life, if the course we are on is not quickly altered! Our culture as a whole is on a collision course with itself, as it struggles to be accepting of all things, yet rejects the truth and the true love of Jesus. The church today, in this analogy, could be seen as the ship. Our enemy has targeted us with the torpedoes of lies and sin, causing a disastrous conflict that ultimately threatens to sink our ship. If we allow our feelings or the culture to dictate our truth we could sink or be torn asunder by the enemy!
Church culture must not be part of the problem. We must not travel unescorted into enemy waters, and we must be aware of the sharks lurking below the surface. We, as the church, should provide a lifeboat to those who are sinking; a rescue, a refuge and a place of restoration! We carry an atomic bomb, too—the Gospel, which will destroy the enemy’s territory, his works, and his schemes, and turn the tide on the spiritual war. But we have to use the armor we’ve been given and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. We must use the cross of Christ and the blood of the Lamb as our greatest weapons, living out Revelation 12:11! If we are non-communicative with our “home base” (Christ), we may not fare better than those on the Indianapolis that fateful voyage. Our “ship” needs to be ready and vigilant. We need to be prayerful, watchful and abiding in the fullness of the Spirit.
We need to hope in truth, not denial.
We have problems in the church that need addressing. If we do not start addressing the fact that we have not generally made the true Gospel the main event in the church, it could be overtaken by the culture, and the ship of Gospel Truth could go down. Jesus, His cross, death, and resurrection need to be center stage. Culture hides the truth, and many do not want to see or know. But those who are willing can make a difference for life and hope.
Our culture is full of sin and darkness. The number of those bound by the chains of pornography, pedophilia, prostitution, sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and sexual sin in general seem to have grown exponentially. As mentioned before, regret of abortion is the most common experience of mankind in our generation.
Christians are often not known for their love or Gospel living. Some who call themselves Christians have hated and bashed those who identify as LGBT. At the other extreme are the churches that have openly advanced homosexuals as leaders in the churches. The Word of God is often not upheld, or remains unknown or misconstrued.
The list is endless. Our world, including our spiritual family, needs the love, truth, repentance, forgiveness, grace and mercy found in the real Gospel. God’s Word is the foundation we need and Christ is our mainstay. We must herald the real Gospel in the order Paul taught it—“believe , saved, obey”—through the work of Christ (wielding the real sword of the Spirit of God). In this order Christianity is the true religion of the work of God on man’s behalf. It is the true secret of hope.
Our world is depending on us living out the message of Hope. The downward spiral of sin is a way of life common in our world. Because, an anything-goes type of culture does not recognize sin for what it is and will actually approve and promote it in the name of tolerance and acceptance (Romans 1). We do well to remember what Jonathan Edwards said: “You (we) contribute nothing to your (our) salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”
Does Love Always Win?
Today a friend posted on Facebook a picture of a festive wedding cake with a pair of same-sex partners on top of the cake. She wrote: “I am an ally. No, I am not gay, bi, or trans. I just believe in the crazy notion that every single person should be able to live and love how they please without judgment against them. #CrazyNotCrazy #LoveAlwaysWins.”
Does the world love better than the church? That is my question. Sadly, it has often seemed to be my experience—yet we supposedly have the love of Christ? How do we go about changing this?
I find myself divided, pulled on both sides by the legalism in the church and the license of the “CrazyNotCrazy” culture, and I find I really do not fit on either side.
I stand with Jesus to call all of us to love like He did, particularly as He did with the woman at the well. I have been that outcast woman, and Jesus has met me there at His well. I have received His love and acceptance and eternal gifts! I want Jesus, not religion, for everyone. Our hope is in Christ and His works of grace advancing in us to live what He does through us and being privileged to be His vessels.
Save Our Ship
A young man was raised in a devoted Spirit-led Christian home and had a close loving relationship with Jesus since he was a youngster. He was serious about his faith, his love for the Lord, and his lifestyle, so he stayed a virgin throughout his high school years. When he went to college, his new roommate revealed that he was gay, happy with his lifestyle, and had no desire to live differently. Even though the young man did not state his disagreement unkindly, the roommate accused him of being hateful and judgmental. Misunderstanding won the day.
A young woman raised in a Christian home eventually developed a lukewarm relationship with Jesus. She now questions why homosexuality and bi-sexuality are considered wrong. How can loving someone else ever be wrong? She has many gay and bi acquaintances and friends who seem like great people. Other people she knows have expressed gender confusion. The more she is around these friends, the more convinced she is that none of these behaviors are wrong and that Christians are unloving and judgmental—maybe even bigots. She has been around plenty of legalistic so-called Christians that have been gay bashers. Her acquaintances and friends are more loving than these Christians. She might even consider the same-sex scene herself.
Those stories might sound familiar to you.
Younger generation Christians want “love to win,” and they celebrate the Supreme Court decision which changed the legal definition of marriage. This generation wants the church—people who say they are Christians—to love all people, including homosexuals and transgenders. In the view of these young believers, Christians need to be called out about their intolerance, judgmental attitudes, and their unlove.
They’re not entirely wrong. Wasn’t it Christ who said, “Love, as I have loved you?” (John 15:12).
It is difficult for those who haven’t known anyone with gender confusion to understand the complexities of the issue. But no matter what generation we belong to and no matter what we’ve been taught before, each of us must learn to love in truth. And many of us need to repent of unloving and unkind thoughts and words. Jesus loved the sinners and was never reticent or fearful about interacting with them. Yes, He corrected error and self-righteousness and honestly spoke about sin, but he was always full of love and grace.
We are to love homosexuals and embrace them… but not exalt them. If homosexuality is part of your story, you need to be able to share about it. But that doesn’t mean living it boldly: it means searching for the true Gospel and what it will do for you. It took many years for me to confess that same-sex experimentation is part of my story. Now as I tell you the truth of my past I hope to point you toward the guiding and cleansing, changing power of Christ.
The LGBT community is saying to the church, “If you love us, embrace us! Love not only us, but accept our belief systems.”
Our message to this community needs to be this: “We love you. God loves you, just as you are. We embrace you, we know that Jesus died for each and every one of us. We’re sinners too, and no better than you. We repent that we have acted as though we are. But we stand by our truth system, and can’t embrace yours, though we respect you as individuals. We believe all transformation is possible through the blood and power of Jesus. We all still fall prey to our temptations and forget our shackles have been loosed; and to our shame, we choose sin. Some of us are gluttons, idolaters, adulterers, addicts to porn, and victims of eating disorders. We don’t always live victoriously. But if all of us, will extend grace and mercy to one another, we can walk together through the temptations, lies, and shame, and can encounter the hope Christ came to give!”
Accept No Substitutes
True Christ-followers cannot live proudly and blatantly in sin. We must not approve sin or allow leaders to be in outright sin, extending a perverted grace mentality.
We are not to compromise the truth. We are to extend truth in love and grace and be willing to die so others can live. What the church needs to change is its emphasis on achieving victory by our works. We need Pharisaism removed and the truth, based on the blood of Christ and work of Christ, as the main message.
Loving well is essential. Better the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6). When you love someone, you speak the truth in love. We must not be complicit with sin. Genuine love confronts with the hope of restoring. Ignoring or denying sin is to put the person and community at risk. Care enough to say the hard things—and when done with love that truly desires what’s best for the other person, this actually can build relationship.
May we show others, by our lives, the message that Jesus loves them and we do too. Jesus died to save them from judgment and wrath and to bring them peace. And He asks us to love like He loves and to forgive and serve as He did. Living out the example of love and forgiveness and truth to the world brings the Gospel of peace to the world. Christ is our peace in the midst of the war.
Today’s culture, often even inside the church, seems much like the book of Judges: everybody does what seems right in their own eyes. (See Judges 17:6; 21:25.) I’ve felt the hopeless despair of sexual sins and the post-traumatic shame hidden in a false works-based bondage inside the church. I was miserable. My experiences give me a unique vantage point and perspective—from my gender confusion, abortion, and experiences as a nurse—on the hopelessness of people caught up in sin. I have also experienced the lack of grace, acceptance, and love from the conventional church. I felt like a leper, unacceptable. Sadly, I have treated others the same.
Too often leaders address the truth, but they do so in such an upsetting, caustic, unloving way that it never brings peace, help, hope, love, or answers. I have been guilty of this, too. How do we fight the good fight of faith and stand against lies and sin in a loving way? How do we bring hope and healing in the midst of these cultural wars? By living the Gospel out in love and being willing to die for the lost while they are still in their sin. By being willing to get involved and do as the Holy Spirit directs you to do even when it is uncomfortable and costs you. For me, this book is a start.
On all fronts, true disciples are under siege. We are called not to bow to sin or make a peace pact with the enemy’s ways or believe lies that will bring destruction. We are called to stand for truth, to know God’s Word, to hold fast to the sanctity of life and covenant marriage, to love our enemies, and to pray for those that persecute us. (See Matthew 5:44.) Jesus is our model and tells us to follow Him.
As followers of Christ, we need to rebuild the foundations of Gospel truth and herald the truth to all who will hear. We need
confidence in our own forgiveness based on the work of Christ
determination to share
lifestyles that are living proof that believing God is the best way to live, and
an overarching passion and love for the Lord above all else.
These are the foundations that we must have to live as Christ taught us to live. We in the church are called to open the Kingdom of heaven to others. Christ is the key, the answer. Christ Jesus is Messiah King, and when we live Christ, we become the light of the world as Christ designed.
As I worked on this chapter edit, it happened to be the weekend of the massacre in Orlando. A gunman with an assault rifle and pistol killed 49 people and injured 53 inside a gay nightclub. The incident is a travesty, an incredible tragedy. The spotlight was on crime against gays. Outrage was the response.
There were elements of hope. Susan Forbes, spokesperson for the OneBlood bloodbank, said 5,500 units were collected across the state to help the wounded. Chick-Fil-A responded by opening up on Sunday to serve Orlando. Just 3 months following the terror attack, Lead Them Home Ministries hosted nearly 200 evangelical leaders in the Orlando area at Posture Shift, a seminar designed to train pastors and ministry leaders to be more relational and more effective engaging the LGBTQ community. The brilliance of His light is seen.
We overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).
Embracing Life to Bring Hope
Living as His light is the most fulfilling life possible. We want to share this with those who do not have it. The secret is first knowing and following Christ. Then understanding, embracing, and living Christ by the fullness of His Gospel. If we cut off those who are living in sin and do not receive them as Christ would, we are living like the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day. He said, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in” (Matthew 23:13, ESV).
LORD Jesus, you are the Light of the World, and you call us to be the light of the world. We are your children of the day, children of light. Even though our culture may be on the brink of great disaster, you have set us as carriers of your light, so that whoever follows you will not walk in darkness. The all-surpassing power of the Holy Spirit, this treasure from God, indwelling those of us in Christ—convict our hearts of our own hypocrisy so that we may humbly bear witness to the culture around us of the truth of the Gospel and the hope you give to all who believe. May the message “You are loved” be displayed so deeply through us to all the hopeless—the abused, the addicted, the atheist—that they hear and see Christ in us to receive Him. May your love at the cross always win. In your name we pray, amen.
Part 3: Elephants on Parade
“Look, Mommy!” the child exclaimed. “The elephants!”
The chaos of the circus and its lights and colors and crazy costumes seemed to stand still as the majestic train of tall, stately gray giants stepped forth, one foot after another, in rhythm with the music. They swayed almost gracefully as they lumbered around the rings. Each one carried the flag of a different nation and bore its colors on its back.
You couldn’t help but stop and stare.
And with them walked their trainer, his eyes riveted upon them. Every step they took, his smile grew. A smile of pride. He knew how they had been, and it was their relationship and their time together that had changed it all. Now his work marched forward for the world to see—as much a display of the skill of their trainer as they were of the majesty and greatness of enormous pachyderms.
The circus had come to town.
The Kingdom has come to town. And we, parading heralds of the hope that our Father has placed within us, are more a display of His grace and love than we are a presentation of any goodness we think we might possess of our own merit. We are testimony to the nations of his power and love perfected in us, and our story, our testimony, is to draw the nations to Him.
For this, He has loosed our shackles. For this, He has saved us from the stampede. For this, He continues to beckon us onward in the relationship He has called us into: so we may herald His Gospel to the circus of this #crazynotcrazy world where #lovedoesntalwayswin.
God’s Hope for Hopeless Stories
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16-17, KJV).
“The Gospel of Jesus Christ is meant to be the best thing that ever happened to people and to nations. To stifle the Gospel does not just oppose God: it opposes all mankind.” —Beth Moore, Children of the Day
Those who sow tears shall reap joy. Yes, they go out weeping, carrying seed for sowing, and return singing, carrying their sheaves. (Psalm 126:5, TLB)
Revival is a renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire to live in obedience to God. It is giving up one's will to God in deep humility. --Charles Finney
Being told you are forgiven and truly experiencing forgiveness are very different things. It took hitting rock bottom for me to come to a place where I could finally receive. I lived with suicidal thoughts, but I was committed to stay alive because deep within I knew it was God’s will that I should live to testify. Satan’s goal was to destroy me. I often repeated Psalm 118:17: “I will not die, but live, and I will proclaim what the Lord has done”(NET).
I did not walk the journey alone. God provided support for me as I continued to seek healing and battle depression. For several years I spent time with three precious friends every Thursday morning, seeking God in listening prayers and in the Scripture. They helped provide confirmation and support to seek professional help outside of our area. As a result of God’s guidance, for fifteen years, I flew back and forth to Texas. Initially, I spent time in voluntary outpatient counseling, first at Meier Clinic and then at Samaritan’s Well in Richardson, Texas. But the stinging stigma of needing to receive psychiatric care and counseling caused further condemnation and another raw, painful, costly layer of shame. What kind of wife and mother was I? I was gone on a regular basis seeking help. My husband did not have his wife; my sons did not have their mother. My parents questioned my decision. My whole “support system” seemed to view me differently, or at least it felt that way to me. My sons especially were suffering along with me through my instability, through people’s perceptions of me, through comments made by others, even church people. Someone even told them, “Your mother is crazy.” I often came back with raw emotions, lacking full resolution, devastated anew as I pursued the necessary course of healing from the sexual abuse.
People didn’t know how damaging their opinions, queries, criticisms, and statements were. They often served to reinforce the enemy’s relentless mental torment in me. I wondered if perhaps I was insane, and I know that at the peak of working through the memories I did have of sexual abuse (memories of scenes that were right before and seemed right after), I fought for sanity sometimes daily.
I felt like a failure. A colossal mess of emotional turmoil.
Even though the comprehensive testing at Meier Clinic provided vindication that I was not crazy, I was struggling with depression and was emotionally volatile. I would ask for forgiveness and repent to my sons and my husband when I fell short, but that somehow hurt them, too. They saw my struggles, and my pain often transferred to them. I especially hate that I hurt my sons, but hurting people hurt people. The worst part was that it looked like my faith did not work. They saw me devoted to God’s Word but defeated in my life. My faith and my repentance did not seem to translate into any sort of real victory, and that is the greatest heartbreak to me still to this day!
But there were and are bright spots: people who shine like lighthouses and have provided anchors in the storms through their prayers, support, and encouragement—in actions and in words.
I remember the very first day of counseling, I discovered how I was locked in shame—a prison of condemnation, misery, anger, and depression. So many of my issues stemmed from the trauma of my childhood. I struggled daily, listening to worship music and praying relentlessly. The sense of God’s presence, His Word and power held me fast while some of His people were helpful supports, burning lights that drew me home to Christ when the waves were reckless and relentless.
And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10, NET).
During one visit in Texas, my husband came for a marriage counseling session. That weekend we joined my sister and her daughters to go see the new movie Bella. I had heard it was good, but not what it was about—a man, Jose, and a woman, Nina, who fall in love. Jose’s history includes the accidental death of a child and Nina is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Nina feels alone, broken, and that she has no choice except abortion; but Jose uses the wounds of his past to help her through her pregnancy. As we watched I felt nothing, and I thought, I must be healed! I didn’t realize I had emotionally disconnected.
The little girl in the movie Bella, looked so much like I had as a child it was unnerving. Even my sister leaned over to me and said, “It’s amazing how much that girl looks like you when you were little. I can’t get over it… especially since the topic…” Her voice trailed off. I stared straight ahead unmoving.
We weren’t over it yet: we were damaged. We needed this message. God was taking me to the places of pain to heal me, not to nail my emotional coffin shut. As my shock faded, the pain took hold, and for a time afterward I couldn’t function.
When my husband and I entered my counselor’s office the next morning, I was in desperate need of God’s help and grace. We were thankful for true Gospel ministered to us.
In time, we have come to realize we can be like Jose. We can open up our wounds, team up, and stand in the gap to show support to the Ninas of the world who think abortion is their only option. We can hold up the truths that can encourage them and potentially save them and their child untold hurt. We can show others that opening up and sharing our stories and testimonies can bring healing to them and to others. It offers bright, saving grace-hope.
Another time, the Lord used the novel Deadline by Randy Alcorn to bring healing. One of the main characters, a reporter, attends a post-abortive support group for men as part of his murder investigation.
As I read the section of the book discussing the feelings of men who had insisted that the abortions take place, I realized with great sadness that I had not thought much about how my husband was feeling. It was a difficult yet very helpful process as it gave insights and brought things out in the open that had been hidden away for too long.
Before the healing came a severe time of trial: I saw my husband as an enemy, the perpetrator, and I saw myself as the victim. Worse was that to anyone else, it appeared my husband was a hero for staying with me—I knew I looked like the problem. I felt under judgment and a microscope from others and condemned without a real trial or others really knowing the truth.
I even begged the Lord to release me from the marriage—to give me a divorce. Over a series of distressing events and much prayer and searching, the answer I sensed from the Lord was this: “Yes, you can do as you want, but you will miss my full purpose for your life.”
Wow—that stopped me in my tracks. I did not want to miss God’s call. So I changed my “want to” to wanting to stay married, wanting God’s will to be my will. Change was challenging. I had to stop thinking of my husband’s sins as worse than mine and stop “making him pay” for what Christ had already paid for us both! It was a milestone of revelation. Our main need was forgiveness, and Christ paid for it fully. We both felt undone; bankrupt and inconsolable. A perfect storm for the real Gospel, but we had not learned how to fully apply the real Gospel to our lives yet!
It took dying to my flesh, my pride, my reputation (what little I had left) and living in Christ’s forgiveness and grace by His Spirit. I asked my counselor to help me discuss the important parts of Deadline, with my husband, and asked them both to read the pertinent sections. My husband and I met with Mark in prayer and deep discussion for two tough days. But the honesty was healing. My husband heard my heart and I heard his. We expressed our sorrow and repented earnestly, and forgiveness began. We connected in a way we hadn’t since our very first year of marriage, decades before, when we destroyed our love and our baby! Why had it taken us so long?
God used the book to open his eyes, soften his heart, and end the denial that had kept us from truly moving forward. In the long run, it helped us come out behind our walls, denials, blame and begin to talk about the important things of the heart and know there was a way up and out. But “the long run” was very long and arduous.
My teen sexual sins and our abortion are the leprosies of our lives. Yet through the process of forgiveness and clearing our consciences through Christ, we have found the treasure of the Gospel. We can live righteously in Christ, experiencing His grace. We have not had further catastrophes, blights, or train wrecks of such enormity. Despite us, and only because of Christ, our shame is gone, our sins are forgiven, and our lives are transformed by the power of God for salvation because we believe in Christ as our Savior (Romans 1:16-17).For God so loved me, us, the world, that He sent Jesus so that whosoever would believe would not perish but have everlasting life and not be condemned! (John 3:16.) I must never forget this truth. Satan works to try to diminish this fact from being felt and lived. God is love, and He extends this in all that He does! What an incredible invitation and gift of generosity God offers to us ALL!