Monday, December 15, 2008

Desiring God

Desiring God
Meditations of A Christian Hedonist

Other than the Bible, the book that has influenced me the most by far is Desiring God by John Piper. My life is completely, very visibly different after my encounter with that book. It changed me inside, outside, my emotions, my logic, my thoughts, and my actions. I say none of this lightly. The differences before and after are extreme. To paraphrase CS Lewis, the book was good, but not safe.

Before Desiring God I believe I was a Christian, but my life was safe, comfortable, and predictable. I was not very happy, but I thought my safety and comfort would eventually bring happiness. Was I ever wrong!

One day a pastor at my church observed my unhappiness and gave me the book. I read it through once and I got the basic idea, which was to pursue your joy in God. I understood it with my mind, but my heart was disengaged; it was not important to me. A few months later John Piper, the author, spoke at a church event. That is what stopped me still in my tracks and then turned me completely around. Piper preached this sermon: God's Passion for the Supremacy of God (You can click the link to hear a recording of that exact message preached that day, but listen at your own risk.) I cried the entire time. I felt Piper being deeply emotionally affected by the beauty of God Himself. I felt his joy in God. I deeply understood why he had devoted his life to preaching God’s Word. I caught a glimpse of what motivated Christian heroes of the past to die for their faith. I knew I wanted what Piper had!

I immediately dropped everything and went back to reading Desiring God, only this time I was praying that God would cause me to “get it” in my heart, not just my mind. I determined to keep reading and reading until it got through to me. I especially focused on the Scriptures Piper quoted. I started to see that I was always pursuing my own joy in all my decisions but that in God Himself was a joy better than all others. I cried, I prayed, I longed for God, and He met me! I think I reread the chapter on money and the chapter on suffering at least 5 times each. In the end I decided to pursue wholeheartedly my joy in Him and give of my time, energy, money, and love, to the full amount God would enable me.

I started making major life decisions to maximize my joy in God eternally at the expense of earthly security and ease. I gave money. I stopped trying to impress influential people. Instead I sought out needy people, served them and befriended them, pointing them to Jesus, the One greater than all their needs!

I will never be the same; I will never turn back; I don’t want to! There is no one, there is nothing better than God!
By the way, for people who don't have the time to follow all of the theological depth in Desiring God, Piper wrote a very brief summary entitled Dangerous Duty of Delight. That smaller book says everthing Desiring God says, except it leaves out some theological arguments and counter-arguments. The inspirational passion for God is definitely left in!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Christian fellowship and gay jokes

Things have gone very well in my new church in San Diego. A few weeks ago I had a serious talk with one of the pastors and told him all about my fight with same sex attraction and he was supportive and helpful. He understands that I will probably never have enough attraction to a woman to get married, and that is fine with him. In other words, turning from homosexuality means turning to God, not necessarily turning to heterosexuality.

The people in this church have done their best to befriend me and make me feel included. I need that and I thank God for that. Today that pastor invited me over to his house for Thanksgiving dinner with his family and many other friends from the church. I had to laugh because there definitely was a gay theme to some of the joking around before dinner. Two very straight guys sat down together in a very small love seat right in front of their wives. Yes, those are the guys in the photo above. They joked about each others’ bodies and wrestled around like little kids. At that point the church worship leader walked in wearing multicolored flip flops and a tight fitting T-shirt that called attention to his well developed chest. One of the guys on the love seat stopped wrestling, looked up at the worship leader and said,

“You’re looking bi-curious today.”

I laughed a little too loud and long at that, but we were all ok with each other. Several guys in that room know about my attraction to men, and we all knew I would not be offended but that I was laughing along with them. I love it when I have friends I am so comfortable with, that I can joke even about that subject.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Emotional Dependence

In commenting on other blogs such as I often get involved in questions about “emotional dependence”. I only use that phrase in the negative sense because it says enough in 2 words so that most people know basically what I mean.

I agree that there is nothing wrong with loving a friend so much that sometimes I deeply feel the need to share in fellowship (emotionally depend on him). What I mean by unhealthy emotional dependence is when I selfishly idolize someone to an extreme. Some signs of this extreme are an obsession where I think about him constantly, a jealousy when he spends time with others, or a demand to see him often. In other words, if I treat a guy like a boyfriend, not just a friend, then I have an unhealthy emotional dependence on him.

I definitely HAVE experienced emotionally fulfilling friendships. We all need those. Ask God for more of them as you keep reaching out to others in unselfish love.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Heaven Rejoices!

"I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."- Luke 15:7

I heard from one of my friends in Maryland that JS is now a Christian! I have prayed for him for years. He was one of the teenage guys who used to hang out at Tom's house. Like Mike, he got very involved in drugs and his life spiralled downward. He has been married, divorced, in and out of rehab several times, and now at age 26 he is back at his parents' house. A few weeks ago he saw that he would die if he continued down the same path so he asked his father to pray for him. His father asked him what to pray and JS said,"I need God!" At that point he knew that God had made him a new man. God gave him faith and he really believed that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God and eternal life. JS has been free from drugs, and is now praying, studying the Bible, and sharing in fellowship with Christians. Everyone who knows him is amazed with the change and the very visible love, joy, and peace!

There is such a beauty in God's work to change a human heart. John G. Paton, missionary to Vanuatu in the 1800s, described this well:

"At the moment I put the bread and wine into those dark hands, once stained with the blood of cannibalism, now stretched out to receive and partake the emblems and seals of the Redeemer's love, I had a foretaste of the joy of glory that well nigh broke my heart to pieces. I shall never taste a deeper bliss, till I gaze on the glorified face of Jesus himself."

In the words of Charles Wesley, this is what Jesus Christ did:

Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.

Jesus has raised JS, the son of earth, and given him second birth!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A wedding and an expression of friendship.

I just returned from my friends’ wedding. Yes, this is the guy I called Justin in a previous post. It was an outdoor wedding in the backyard of the house of some friends from church. It featured the reliable San Diego sunshine and cloudless sky. Justin and his wife (I’ll call her “Megan”) are both very committed to a beautiful freedom from the slavery to money and possessions. Their material simplicity was clearly reflected in the wedding. When they shared their vows and they said “in sickness and in health”, I knew that Justin has been supportive and helpful to Megan in a recent illness. When they said “for richer or for poorer”, I knew that they have been trusting God while not knowing where they would live or where the next month’s rent would come from. God has provided beautifully in answer to their prayers. I cried joyful tears. That is real love.

At the reception afterwards in the same backyard Justin made it a point to talk to me. He wanted to express his friendship to me and then clear up a small misunderstanding that had hurt me greatly. Through a lack of communication I had been excluded from an event a few weeks earlier. I was trying to overlook the offensive action, but it had caused me much emotional pain. I was determined to wait until AFTER the wedding and honeymoon to bring it up, since I did not want to add any drama to the emotional overload that Justin and Megan were already dealing with. Well, Justin cared about me so much that he took time out from his own wedding to bring it up himself and to assure me that he did NOT want to exclude me and that I am one of his closest friends. I almost cried tears of joy again. I thank God for friends like Justin.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My friends and gay marriage in California

Pray for my good friend "Justin" and his fiancé "Megan". They are going to the courthouse tomorrow here in California to get their marriage license for their wedding, which is in a week and a half. As you probably know, tomorrow is only the 2nd day the state is issuing licenses for gay marriage, too. That means they will possibly be one heterosexual couple surrounded by a crowd of gays in the courthouse waiting for a license.

Pray that God will use them to show Christian love and understanding to the others in that situation. Ever since I have known him, Justin has been very caring and understanding toward us who deal with same sex attraction. Pray that others will see in Justin and Megan that all Christians don't fit the Phelps stereotype.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How to Change the World

This is a quote from John Piper given at One Day 2000:

"You don't have to know a lot of things for your life to make a lasting difference in the world. But you do have to know the few great things that matter, and then be willing to live for them and die for them. The people that make a durable difference in the world are not the people who have mastered many things, but who have been mastered by a few great things. If you want your life to count, if you want the ripple effect of the pebbles you drop to become waves that reach the ends of the earth and roll on for centuries and into eternity, you don't have to have a high IQ or EQ; you don't have to have to have good looks or riches; you don't have to come from a fine family or a fine school. You have to know a few great, majestic, unchanging, obvious, simple, glorious things, and be set on fire by them."

Here is a link to the audio:

There is no substitute for hearing, not just reading, John Piper. The emotional power that comes through in his spoken word has gotten through to my heart in ways that merely reading his messages have not.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Moved to San Diego

Well, my life's adventure started yet another new chapter as I moved to San Diego last week. 5 different companies scheduled me for job interviews there and my father was clearly continuing to do fine without help, so I packed up my car and drove from Florida to California.

The landscape of the desert Southwest was especially beautiful to me. I saw several century plants blooming, which I especially appreciate because an individual plant only blooms about once every 25 years. Here is a picture (not taken by me) of a century plant in bloom:

The desert is a harsh environment and it always amazes me that so many plants and animals live there. Here is another photo (not mine) of the landscape along I-8 through Arizona:

I drove a route that got close to the Mexican border several places in Texas and then California. ALL the traffic on I-8 was stopped at least 3 places in California by the U.S. Border Patrol, I guess to search for illegal immigrants. I had no problems since I had proper ID, but I was surprised they would stop all traffic to search since the road actually stayed entirely within the U.S. People have to be desperate to risk crossing the border in some of these locations. The climate is so hot and dry in those deserts and mountains, many people die every year from dehydration when they get lost and run out of water.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Trip to Florida

Recently my father was sick and I thought he needed my help with long term care, so I drove to his house in Florida from Seattle. Many mountain passes were blocked by snow in the Cascades and Rockies, so I couldn't drive directly there or even use Interstate 5, I had to take the coastal highway 101 through Oregon and California. Below is a photo taken on that highway in Oregon. Much of the trip was driving on a steep cliff like that overlooking the ocean. Beautiful!

Pacific Coast Hwy - Oregon

Here is my father's back yard. He obviously likes tropical plants.


My father has improved to the point that he does not need my help any more, so I am praying about where to go next. I may have a job opportunity in San Diego, but I really like Seattle...I'm sure God will help me decide.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Love Your Enemies

Brandon put up a post on the Afterthoughts blog about how it can be cruel when someone looks at a guy’s mannerisms or appearance and then asks if he is gay. In a comment Brandon said, "The point of this post was ... also to get across that judging people on their looks is wrong. And backing people into a corner where they either have to out themselves or lie is wrong too."

I thought others might appreciate my response. Yes, it is definitely wrong to judge others by their looks or mannerisms and then back them into a corner by asking if they are gay. I hope I never do that.

If someone mistreats me like that I want to remember that Jesus said to love and pray for our enemies. He taught us to do good to those that mistreat us instead of repaying evil for evil. Once a straight guy did that to me, only he didn’t ASK if I was gay, he TOLD ME “You’re gay!” I answered him gently and with respect, showing I cared about him. I explained that I was tempted, but God helps me resist. He and I had regular conversations over a long period of time where I kept trying to show him God’s love. We eventually became friends and he apologized for his bad behavior. Last week he actually told me that I am his closest friend!

So God may use you to change the heart of the one mistreating you. Love your enemies.

Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Let your light shine in a different way

Sometimes we fear open discussion of sexuality issues with straight guys because of past hurts. Of course, there are some straight guys who are willing to deal with these things in a friendly way.

A few weeks ago I was eating dinner with two of my friends who also struggle with same-sex attraction. We were openly discussing sexual subjects and, uh, …maybe not appearing very masculine to the waiter in the process… The waiter was an obviously straight ex-marine who had served in Iraq. He actually stayed and talked to us after we got up to leave, even asking us questions as we talked about Christianity, freedom from legalism, and a real relationship with God.

Sometimes even tough guys can be open in these situations. We just need to create a normal, trusting environment and encourage 2-way conversations.

Matthew 5:15-17 (NIV) Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Earth's best will fail, but God will not!

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

The busy tribes of flesh and blood,
With all their lives and cares,
Are carried downwards by the flood,
And lost in following years.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Like flowery fields the nations stand
Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

-Isaac Watts (1719)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Coping with Singleness

This entry is from an email I sent to a friend. I removed a few details to hide who he is, but it is essentially intact. He had expressed to me that he was facing the possibility of living the rest of his life without sex. I thought others might appreciate my response, so here it is:

You said "I am beginning to feel." I want you to know that I have been praying for exactly that for you and I am so glad to see God answering so quickly. I know what it is not to feel as I should. There was a time when I had not cried in years. For me the process of starting to feel was extremely painful, but SO worth it!

As you know, mere logic is insufficient to persuade people. You are very skilled in presenting arguments clearly and logically, but you can only convince people to change when you feel deep inside how important the truth is that you are communicating. One such moment happened for me at the restaurant when we had breakfast. I don't know if you could feel the depth of my emotion, but I remember looking you in the eye and telling you that the only way to happily live single is to look beyond this life and into eternity! I was being powerfully affected by the beauty of glorifying God eternally and expressing His love through denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus. Eternal rewards are so much better than earth's best!

It is a great blessing to hear that some of the Psalms in your Bible are stained with your coffee. I pray that soon they will be stained with your tears of joy! When you experience the depth of beauty found in God, you will gladly give your life to showing Him to others. I pray that many will turn to Jesus because they believe the truth you speak and feel the beauty you feel!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

God's Amazing Forgiveness

I know God forgave much when He forgave me! I am so glad He loves His children like that.
This hymn below says it so well:

Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have spilt His precious blood,
Trampled on the Son of God,
Filled with pangs unspeakable,
I, who yet am not in hell!

Whence to me this waste of love?
Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
Now before the throne of grace.

There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.

- Charles Wesley (1740)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

- Jesus Christ

"Money never stays with me…. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find a way into my heart. "

- John Wesley