|How To Remove Logs In Your Eyes
by Cathy Bihler
As I said in my previous letter, there is much that I am compelled to say to you. I did not cover everything in my last letter. This is a second letter and there may be more. I am praying for you as you face the issue of homosexuality and its proposed sanction in the church.
I love my church family and I do not want to see it torn apart. Nonetheless, I love God and His Truth so much that I will stand on the hilltop and shout the truth to anyone who will listen. If the pastors of our church are teaching and endorsing false concepts, I will speak out loudly against their words.
Since my last letter, I have felt the Holy Spirits strong comfort, love, and endorsement of my convictions. I have no doubts in my mind whatsoever that homosexuality is sinful. But the sinful use of sex in our world does not stop with homosexuals. There are lessons in the Bible on many kinds of sin that people commit when they misuse the great gift of sex that God has given to humanity. Sex is so inter-woven with marriage, that we really cant talk about one without also considering the other. I read somewhere that sex is one of the most glorious gifts that God has given us. However, when it is corrupted/misused it becomes one of the most ungodly/sinful acts that people commit. A most beautiful gift can become the worst curse when not used within Gods purpose. I have to agree with this observation as it matches what scripture says, my personal experience, and what I see in the world around me.
Perhaps its time for me to explain (confess) the whole story of how the Holy Spirit has convicted me and helped me see Truth on these matters. As I have shared parts of this story with you before, some of this may be redundant, but please bear with me.
My own sexual history has had sinful periods. I am ashamed to say that my husband was not the first man that I had sex with. Society was becoming pretty accepting of sex before marriage during my high school years. The "pill" had been invented and birth control was now reliable. Getting "caught" having sex by getting pregnant was no longer the risk that it used to be. People had begun living together without the benefit of marriage. I wasnt sure who exactly was having sex when I was in high school but the attitude of my peers was such that if you loved a guy, it was o.k. I know that my parents had different attitudes, but we didnt ever talk about sex at home and with hormones raging through my veins, I much preferred to listen to what the talk at school was. Besides, when you are in high school you know more than your parents do anyway! I certainly never read what the Bible said on the subject and my church youth group didnt ever talk about it. Please notice that I sought the messages that I liked, not what was necessarily best for my salvation and for my life here in this world!
Eventually, I fell in love with a nice guy in my senior year of high school. I thought I would probably marry him, so as our relationship developed, so did our sex life. My attitude had been set; it wasnt long before my behavior followed.
That relationship didnt last. Neither did the next two relationships. Unfortunately, though, my attitude did. Justification in my mind for my sexual behavior was easy enough. Sex was fun and felt good. It made me feel more in love. It kept the man as interested in me as I was in him. Isnt it interesting that throughout this period in my life I found it necessary to justify my behavior? Something was "bugging" me about having sex; I had to find a way to put such uneasy thoughts aside. I can look back now and know that it was the Holy Spirit who was "bugging" me. I pushed Him away on this issue because it interfered with my personal, pleasure-full sin and my love life. It was easy enough to do so because I didnt have God centered in my life.
When I was a senior in college, I met the man who would later be my husband and with whom I fell rapidly in love. I lived with him for two years before we were married. I continued to justify my behavior to myself by saying that I was in love with him and that I would marry him when he was ready. Fortunately, my live-in boyfriend did eventually ask me to marry him and we were married for 12 years. I was completely faithful to my husband during my marriage. I never even looked at another man.
But if I am to be completely honest with myself, I had to admit that I had become promiscuous and I had practiced fornication. Only one man at a time, mind you. Monogamous? Yes. Committed? Sure, I was committed for as long as the relationships lasted.
Let me (painfully) continue with my personal life story. My marriage got very rocky after we had children and my husband developed clinical depression. One day my husband went to the doctor and got a vasectomy. We had talked about his desire for one previously, but I was against it. I needed time to know that I didnt want any other children. I had two wonderful children but had lost one to a miscarriage. My children had been such a gift of love to me that I was not ready to close a permanent door to the possibility of more.
I was so distraught at my husbands act that I did not know what to do. A day or so later, I was alone at home in my kitchen and I was screaming out loud. I was asking the kitchen: "What on earth I should do now?" My marriage was so unhappy and stressed-out and I truly didnt know what to do. I wasnt really praying, but God chose to answer me anyway. I heard a mans voice. I heard it in my head, inside my left ear. It was as clear and as audible as any voice I have ever heard in my life. The Voice said two words: "Have compassion." At that point in time, compassion was not a word that I used in my vocabulary. I knew immediately that it was Jesus who spoke. I began arguing with the Voice, saying: "Compassion! What kind of compassion does he have for me?" There was no response. He had spoken. I knew I had been commanded to have compassion for my husband. But, I did not do it. I disobeyed and I ultimately filed for divorce a few months later.
Before actually taking the step of filing divorce papers, I met with my pastor and discussed the issue of divorce. I knew that the Bible spoke against it. I felt between a rock and a hard place. My pastor, who was also to become a good friend and a shoulder to lean on during the next few years, commented something along the line that he didnt believe God would want me to be so miserable in my marriage. To be honest, I cant remember which came first: my visit with my pastor or the Voice. At any rate, I didnt tell my pastor about the Voice and the message given me. If I had, maybe his consoling words to me would have been different. I guess I was seeking his approval for divorce and I accepted his words as approval.
My husbands depression was severe and the way he dealt with it was to "abandon" me by locking me out of his life - mostly, he went fishing or spent all of his time working on his boat and fishing gear. He wouldnt do much with the responsibilities of the house or kids. My abandonment manifested itself in anger and resentment and I voiced my anger often. I felt that I had tried everything to save my marriage, including counseling both alone and with my husband. However, while I knew God wanted me to have compassion for my husband, I was unable to do it. Again, God was not centered in my life.
I need to make it clear that there was no physical abuse in my marriage and although my husband confessed once that he was tempted to adultery, he was proud that he managed to avoid it. I believe now that this was a marriage that could have had a different outcome if I had obeyed the commandment given me. The commandment Jesus gave to me was in keeping with the Bibles teachings.
After my separation and divorce, the first thing on my mind as I began coming out of my mourning period was finding a new husband and a social life. My marriage didnt work out, but I very much wanted a married life. I would set out to find a better match.
Meeting nice, single men was not a problem. Getting a first date wasnt hard. Getting a second date was a bit tougher because the fact that I had children usually came out on the first date. Nonetheless, I found a new relationship that I invested time and love into. It felt so good to feel loved again and to feel love in my heart again. And man, those great physical sexual feelings were aroused out of a very deep sleep. Im ashamed to say that, once again, as the relationship with my boyfriend developed, so did our sex life. Sadly, that relationship didnt last. Nor did the next one. Why did I make such bad choices? What is wrong with me? Maybe I was jumping into deep water too quickly. Do you think that maybe Gods commandments are good for us to follow? Perhaps they save us from ourselves?
Finally, instead of turning to men to find happiness, I began earnestly seeking God and immersing myself in Bible study. And as I sincerely sought after Him, the Holy Spirit began His steady, persistent teaching of the Truth. Truth is paramount, even when it stings. Maybe even especially when it stings. Maybe even especially when we dont like it. As I plowed my way through the Bible in Disciple I classes, there were so many lessons on sexual sin that jumped out at me. Here are some of them:
O.K. So, Im divorced and finally truly beginning my walk with God. Why would God confront me with my prior sins? I had asked God to forgive my sins. Had He forgiven them? I think the better question to ask is: Had I repented? No. I had not even thought about my sexual sin. My sexual behavior was accepted by society. My divorce was acceptable by society. It was sad, but acceptable. Did it conform to Gods will? Of course, not. I needed to repent. I needed to understand my sin in order to turn from it. It is best for my salvation that I do so now! It is possible for me to wash away this sin in the blood of Jesus, who was willing to do that for me. But I must first repent. Before I can repent I need to understand that I had sinned. The Holy Spirit steadily presented scripture regarding all of these sexual sins in front of me until I understood. Then, I had to accept it and lay it down in front of the Lord and ask for forgiveness. The Lord, true to His promise, forgave me.
Now, what? Im told to "go and sin no more". If I love God, I must be obedient for scripture says: "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21) (Bold mine.) Scripture also says: "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (John 8:47)
Sin is sin and it separates us from God. We are called to be holy because God is holy. Adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, are not holy. Do you really think that God wants unrepentant adulterers, fornicators, or homosexuals leading His flock? I think not. The Holy Spirit took great care to confront me with my sexual sin and I am but a lay person who teaches adult Bible studies. But I am a person who has had the great pleasure of having the Holy Spirit guide and direct me as I took the steps seeking Gods Kingdom. God has been faithful in His promises to me to show me His kingdom. And the only entry is through Jesus, who has cleansed the repentant sinner. His love is greatest and best. He loved me so much that He showed me my sin and confronted me with it right here on earth, while I still had time to do something about it. If He hadnt, I would have to stand in front of God on judgment day and answer directly to Him. Then what could I say? The wages of sin is death. Period.
God, in His infinite mercy, has provided a way to forgiveness and the cleansing of our sin: Jesus Christ. We are all sinners. Some of our sin is open and public, like my divorce. Some is behind closed doors, but it doesnt mean that God doesnt see it. We must admit our sin. Pretending that sin is not sin and sanctioning it in our churches is appalling to me. I cannot believe how far from the truth the people proposing these changes for UMC have gone. I cannot believe how many people have been convinced that these changes are from God. They do not match scripture. Period. We either accept the authority of scripture or we do not. Trying to remove parts because wed rather be more politically correct in our corrupted world or trying to misapply scripture to fit our purposes is out of line with Gods will. (Peters vision has nothing to do with legitimizing homosexuality! Peters vision had to do with accepting the Gentiles as part of Gods family and not forcing Kosher-type rules on them. This vision is a further explanation of Jesus teaching about its not what we put into our bodies that defile us, but the condition of the heart. Jesus death on the cross changed the methods by which we become righteous - - we no longer have to do it with repeated sacrifices on the alter, following perfect dietary habits, and practicing circumcism. Paul speaks to these things at great length in his letters. Instead, we now repent of our sins and ask Jesus into our heart.)
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, "You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." "But we are descendants of Abraham," they said. "We have never been slaves to anyone on earth. What do you mean, set free?" Jesus replied, "I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free. Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because my message does not find a place in your hearts. I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father." . . . "For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally dont believe me! Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why dont you believe me? Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God. Since you dont, it proves you arent Gods children." (John 8:31-47) (Bold mine)
TRUTH is the answer. Jesus is the truth. The Bible is the Word. Jesus is the Word. We must accept the authority of scripture, hold to it at all costs, and teach it carefully without manipulating it for any purpose contrary to Gods will.
There is yet more that I am compelled to say. Other scriptures that have been brought carefully before me by the Holy Spirit have to do with the special responsibility of teachers and prophets. Extra responsibility for those who are given words from God to speak to others or who are entrusted to teach Gods people. Those who teach must be upright, removing every kind of sin from their lives. They are called to be holy because God is holy. Some scriptures that speak to this follow:
I think these scriptures speak for themselves. Anyone with a role as a teacher had better stay true to God. I am fully warned. God will empower me with each task he entrusts to me. The scripture from Timothy is especially convicting for me.
I leave you with one further scripture that has come to me as being important for our church and for this occasion. Revelation 3:14-22:
I speak from my heart with humility and shame. I have not admitted to my sins readily. They are shameful and I am embarrassed. Yet, I feel like Paul as he writes in his many letters. With my repentance of my sins, I can buy the gold and white garments that Jesus offers us. I am rich beyond belief of this world. I love you and the entire church population enough to be bold and step out in faith that God is leading me.
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