Some Raw Thoughts on Ministry Formerly Known as Exodus International


Last night I wrote a brief post addressing Exodus International President Alan Chambers’s apology to the LGBTQ community concerning the work of Exodus International.

Literally two minutes after I posted my blog, Exodus issued a press release stating they intended to close their doors and the leadership is establishing a new work known as Reduce Fear.

My initial reaction was simply, “Wow.” And that has been echoed across my social media feeds by people from all perspectives.

But as I watched Alan’s opening statements from the Freedom Conference last night, and I started processing exactly what was happening, I began having very conflicted emotions.

This is a little bit of public processing, but I hope it may start a dialogue about the statements made and the changes occurring. I also hope it gives those who aren’t celebrating the changes at Exodus permission to express their equally real feelings and know they are heard and validated.

Dear Exodus International Board Member Mr. Tony Moore, when you say, “We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, BUT…”
the “but” negates the ways God used Exodus positively.

Yes, there are those who have had horrific experiences in Exodus affiliated ministries. That occurs in EVERY ministry, in every church, b/c we are broken people ministering to broken people.

It’s sort of like saying, “I don’t mean to be hateful, but…” and then unleashing a torrent of vitriol toward a person or organization. Yes, you did mean to be hateful.

And yes, you did imply God’s work was negated by your apology.

There are those of us who met the Jesus of mercy, grace, forgiveness, freedom, and love in the people who ministered with Exodus, and the apologies issued in the last couple of days ring with the implication that our positive experiences were a fluke or a mistake.

Is that what you believe now? Are lives transformed but the Gospel heard through Exodus ministries simply people deceived? If we wait it out, are we going to finally accept we really are gay and God’s ok with it? Do we need to begin embracing who we really are and the “fact” God loves us where and how we are?

You’re caving to those who came to Exodus looking for one thing or were promised something that wasn’t delivered. What about those of us who came to Exodus just looking for Jesus and found Him?

Were there problems? Yes. Did some things need to change? Absolutely. But to shut down 37 years of ministry seems reactionary and short sighted.

Mr. Chambers stated that the purpose of the new work, Reduce Fear, is to “come alongside churches to become safe, welcoming, and mutually transforming communities.”

Has that not been the goal of Exodus all along? It has been since my first experience with an Exodus affiliated ministry in 2005.

Sometimes a name can carry so much baggage that a name change is most beneficial to the work being accomplished, but there is more going on here than a simple name change. There is a shift in focus, purpose, and doctrine that saddens me.

There is no hope in surrender to anything other than Christ, and last night’s announcement feels like a cultural surrender for those of us who only found freedom and love in the hard, painful, complete surrender to Christ.

Can joyous freedom and fleshly attraction not co-exist simultaneously in the human heart? Does the presence of temptation negate the Holy Spirit’s strong work in enabling us to resist those temptations?

What exactly are you saying about God, sin and homosexuality, Exodus/Reduce Fear?

The Sins of Our Youth


Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O God! Psalm 25:7

This was the daily verse that appeared in my Twitter feed this morning. Thinking on some things I knew were coming up today, I was reflecting on the past a bit, and I was in a regretful frame of mind. My knee-jerk reaction to reading it was, “‘Remember not the sins of my youth.’ That must be nice. I can’t seem to get away from them.” Not exactly a heart of thankfulness to a loving and forgiving God, but I’ll blame it on the fact that I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and being awake definitely helps my spiritual well-being.

There are times in which it would be nice to be able to forget the sins of our youth. Some choices we make really do stay with us for a lifetime, even when we want to shake them off, be free from them and literally move on. But what we must remember is that Christ, by remembering not our sins, does allow us to move on. Those choices cannot be changed, and the consequences remain, but there is freedom from the condemnation of those sins. The word remember here isn’t the opposite of “forget” but means “don’t hold it against me”. The psalmist is saying, “I’m not that person anymore, please don’t hold my past over my head anymore.” And he makes a case to God for why God should not hold his sin against him.

First, the psalmist says that God’s love is everlasting. A loving God forgives sins, never to bring them up again. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Isaiah says that in God’s love he took our sins upon His back, delivering us from a pit of destriction (Is. 38:17). Love doesn’t throw us back in the pit.

Second, the psalmist tells God that no longer holding our sin against us is for the sake of His goodness. How is forgiving our sin good for God? One way is that it enables us to join Him in His work. Now, does God really need us to do His work? No, but in His plan, He asks us to join Him in His Kingdom work. Makes sense to me; work is always easier when you’re doing it with people you love. But what the psalmist is saying is that, when our sins are forgiven and we are able to stand up from underneath their oppressive load, we can then take upon ourselves His easy load of service for the Kingdom. We can’t carry our sin and His Kingdom simultaneously. When we allow Him to take the sin, and the accompanying secrecy, shame, guilt, condemnation, it frees us up to serve Him like He has called us to serve Him.

A prime example of this is found in the life of Peter. I relate more to Peter than to any other person in Scripture, and he is a great testimony of being set free from the sins of his youth for the ultimate goodness of God. In Luke 22, Jesus tells Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus knows that Peter is about to fail Him miserably. He says, “I’m praying that you won’t. But when you do…” Have you ever had a conversation with someone like that? Has anyone had that conversation with you? “I’m warning you. I know where this is headed, and it’s going to be bad. I don’t want you to, but I know you’re going to anyway.” That’s pretty much what Jesus tells Peter.

But He adds something to the end of the statement. He adds hope and purpose to the failure. He tells Peter, “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

So why does God forget our sins but not allow us to? One reason is because we can’t use past failure to connect with and strengthen others if we act as if it never happened. God trades in our beauty for ashes, He restores the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25), and He works all things together for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28). And for Him to be able to make the worst decisions of our life beneficial, they must be exposed to the light and applied to the lives of others.

My ashes couldn’t have been traded for beauty if there hadn’t been people who had previously been sifted by Satan like wheat and then obediently strengthened this sister. Same goes for me. When I want to forget my times of sifting and “move on” with life, I remember that those times are a waste if they are not used to strengthen those behind me who are still spinning from their own sifting.

So I am thankful that God remembers not the sins of my youth. But today I am equally thankful that He makes sure I never forget them.

Myth of the Mean Girl: Living without Masks


I recently had a couple of conversations with a man about relationships between women. In one conversation he talked about his young daughter and her best friend and their love/hate relationship with one another, and in the other he mentioned the ever complex friendships between his wife and her friends. In both conversations he eventually ended his observations with a hopeless sounding statement of, “But you know, girls will be girls.”

He was talking about women hurting one another other with words and actions, about spending unhealthy amounts of time together until we blow up at one another, about betrayal and competition and unforgiveness. He’s bought into the myth of the Mean Girl. Our culture is built upon the idea that women are “Bridezillas” and “Real Housewives”, that we are “Gossip Girls” and “16 and Pregnant”, or that we are participants on “The Bachelor”, competing with one another for the attention and affection of a man. Young girls today watch tv and are taught to treat one another as competition at best and mortal enemies at worst. Girls believe this is how women are to behave, and so that is how they behave.

I used to believe the myth, too. Even in the church, all I had really seen was gossipy competition and hurt feelings, with excuses ranging from hormones to home life, but never hearing that there was another option for how women could behave.

But then I spent some time in a little town called Wake Forest (my parents kindly refer to it as the “seminary bubble”), surrounded by people who, for the most part, were genuinely pursuing Christ and desperately seeking to serve Him and be conformed to His image. There, I found a group of women who were more interested in pleasing God than pleasing one another, who were seeking Christ more than a husband, and who desired to learn from one another more than they desired to prove they were better than everyone else.

Does that mean we were without drama? Of course not! I distinctly remember one tear-filled confrontation between myself and two friends that ended in my throwing a pencil at one of them. I cried on a professor when she compared me to another student and I defiantly declared that I was NOT that person and then intentionally completed a project the way I wanted to, just to drive the point home. We had hopeless crushes on indecisive men and sometimes responded to the corresponding broken hearts with a frustrated “I told you so”. I was jealous when I friend was chosen for a position over me, and had many snarky conversations about “those girls”; the cute, and therefore shallow, ones that we were convinced were not “serious students” like us because they only came to seminary to land a husband. Sometimes, girls will be girls.

But there was a distinct difference in that time of life compared to previous times, and I have tried to carry it with me since I left that precious circle of friends. The difference is that, when we walked in the flesh and hurt one another’s feelings, we didn’t just move on with life, piling offense upon offense. We faced the moment and faced it together. We sought the wisdom of Scripture, we confessed our sins and shortcomings, we asked for forgiveness, we prayed together. Then we worked to walk together in the Spirit. We studied the Word together. We confronted weaknesses in our friends’ lives before they became strongholds of sin. We opened ourselves up to humble and transparent examination and offered the same to one another.We lived for a season without masks, and it was life changing. No one had it all together, and no one expected anyone else to have it all together. In fact, we called you out on it if you started acting like you did!

In short, we lived lives of discipleship together. We desired to be more like Christ and we expected our friends to help us along in that journey, not hold us back from our goal. The Christian walk is the only race in which every person who crosses the finish line is a “winner” and in turn, makes every other finisher that much more victorious. We are “more than conquerors” because we are not competing against our fellow runners; we’re all on the same team!

So will girls be girls? Yes, as long as we believe the lie of the world that we are competition for one another and as long as we hold one another back, pursuing goals of our flesh and our pride, devouring one another with our words and deeds. But if we will commit to humble discipleship, to encouraging one another, if we will transparently walk alongside one another and bear one another’s burdens as teammates and not enemies, then the type of girls we become will be more like Christ and not like the world.

Women don’t have to “be girls”. We can be like Jesus.

How have you fought to overcome the “myth of the mean girls”? How does your circle of friends lift one another up instead of tearing one another down? Can women walk in the Spirit together, in grace and Truth, or will girls be girls?

The Rape of Christ


We are only prepared to receive and comprehend the grace of God when we have understood His infinite holiness and our incredible sinfulness. ~James MacDonald

I have been attempting for months to help someone understand just what the big deal is about our sin, and sexual sin in particular. I was struggling to bring to light just how badly our sin breaks the heart of God, and 1 Corinthians 6:5-20 is the passage I ended up returning to several times.

This passage gives us a clear explanation of the connection found in mind, body and soul specifically; each is intricately involved in the health and welfare of the other. Sins actively committed in our body impact our souls and minds; thoughts lead to actions which lead to spiritual disconnect from the Father. Spiritual brokenness can cause mental and physical side effects like depression, anger, apathy, even physical pain.

So, according to this passage, our physical actions impact us mentally and spiritually as well. We use our bodies and train our minds to respond a certain way, leading to addictive behavior. Most people today watch enough Dr. Phil to understand the mind/body connection.

But what about the spiritual aspect of sin? How does that impact us? How does our sin impact our relationship with the Triune God? According to this passage, our sin effects Christ intimately and directly. He tells us that, at the time of salvation, we become joined in one Spirit with Christ. He is a part of us, we are a part of Him. This is why the marriage relationship is a picture of our relationship with Christ; separate beings, joined together to become one while still remaining unique beings. One of the greatest mysteries of how we as spiritual beings function.

Follow this logic for a moment; as believers, we are joined to Jesus, being one in Spirit. He is with us and a part of us, present and actively involved in all that we think, say and do. That’s a pretty convicting thought.

But Paul then immediately uses an extreme illustration to make his point; he asks who in his right mind would ask Jesus to sleep with a prostitute? The answer to that rhetorical question is, “No one!” Jesus was tempted in every way, yet without sin. Jesus doesn’t want to engage in illicit sexual activity; his one goal is to glorify His Father in Heaven in mind, body and spirit.

So, following Paul’s graphic illustration, what are we doing when, as believers, we force Jesus, with whom we are joined in one Spirit, to join us in immoral sexual behavior? We are essentially raping Jesus. We are forcing him to participate in sexual activity He wholeheartedly desires to avoid because it brings no glory to the Father in Heaven.

Some statics claim that by the end of college (or age 22) as many as 20% of all women have been at least convinced to participate in a sex act she would otherwise have avoided. Ask any woman who’s been in that situation, and she will tell you how it made her feel. Dirty. Shameful. Used. Broken. Brokenhearted.

Sometimes it’s difficult as believers to understand how our sin breaks the heart of God. In following Paul’s logic in this passage, it should be abundantly clear; to engage in immoral sexual activity is to force Jesus to engage in sexual activity against His will. Our selfish momentary pleasure is equal to the rape of Christ.

Looking at it from that point of view, how do you think our sin breaks the heart of God? How would your heart break knowing that a loved one had been raped, abused, molested? How did you feel if it’s happened to you? What steps do you take to protect yourself from being in a situation in which those things could happen? How do you teach and train the young boys and girls in your life to avoid those situations? Shouldn’t we do the same for Christ?

If we are one in Spirit with Him, shouldn’t we live our lives in such a way that we do everything within our power to keep Him from being involved in activities He desperately wants to avoid?

The Difference Between Grace and Karma


I appreciate what Bono, the lead singer of the rock group U2, has to say about grace: “It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God of the Universe might be looking for company, real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.” Bono explains that the idea of karma is central to all religions:

What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics– in physical laws– every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of our actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff…. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope that I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

The above quote, found in Joanna Weaver’s book Lazarus Awakening, may have shot it’s way into my top five all time favorite quotes.

I teach World Cultures and Geography, and in that class we spend nearly an entire quarter studying various world religions. One thing that I stress to my students is that there are various themes that are found in ALL religions, Christianity included, because there are certain questions that all of mankind asks: “Why am I here?” “Why is there evil in the world?” “How do I make sense of this life?” “What happens when I die?” What sets Christianity apart from other religions, is that other religions stop at an answer that satisfies the intellectual understanding of man.

The above example is perfect. Karma really is a concept found within every religion because it is a fundamental principle of life, written on the hearts of all people. It is easy to understand and easy to blame for both the good and the bad that occurs in this life. It is also the natural instinct of people; you do good to me, I’ll return the favor. You do bad to me, you’ve asked me to also return the favor. Karma is fleshly man at his best and worst, but it’s flesh. The cosmic balance of the Universe would be upended if something were to happen that changed Karma. I have friends who live their lives attempting to keep the balance of Karma and often proclaim their frustration with said Universe when they feel their good outweighs their bad yet bad keeps happening. “What gives, Universe?”

What gives is that Someone did enter history and upend the cosmic balance of Karma. “Grace defies reason and logic.” Karma only “works” if we are able to do more good than bad, but if we are honest with ourselves, even attempting to keep up with our own good and bad actions is more than the average person can manage. We give too much credit to our good and not enough to our bad. We only count acts of commission, not neglectful omission. Karma is something that keeps us in control; in control of our lives, our destinies. Grace takes control from us and places it firmly on the shoulders of another. And that is a concept at which self-sufficient humanity balks.

That is why I know within the depths of my heart that Grace trumps Karma. I know because it makes no sense to me. It truly defies human logic, therefore it transcends me. And any faith worth following better be a faith deeper than I can understand. Because I know me. And if all the answers can be found within myself, then I’m in trouble. Much like Bono, I have done a lot of stupid stuff, and I for one am thankful that I can look beyond the Karmic laws of the Universe to the Graceful love of the Creator of the Universe who reached into Karma and offered Grace.

Guilty Christian Complex


There is a distinct characteristic often present in the lives of women who genuinely seek to perform well for their Savior– guilt. Women are created to help and to serve, to perform well for those who love us and who we love. When we feel we aren’t meeting the impossibly high standards we impose on ourselves, we walk around with our heads lowered in self-condemning guilt.

There is a distinct difference between godly, Spirit-driven conviction for unconfessed sin and the condemning shame of guilt imposed by the enemy. When we are down or feel separated from God because there is unconfessed sin our lives, there is but one cause (a choice to abandon God’s way and go our own) and one solution (repentance). Many women are plagued for years by sin they have confessed. I have heard many women say, “I know God forgives me, but I could never forgive myself.” Within this very statement we see pride– is it really possible that we believe the God of the universe has a lower standard for the forgiveness of sin than we do?

In his post, “Are Christians Meant to Feel Guilty all the Time?”, Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung addresses the question of Christians and guilt and offers ideas for why Christians often carry a guilt complex and what can be done to break free of such a stronghold.

If you struggle with guilt concerning past sin and seek the freedom that only the Gospel provides, I strongly encourage you to read this post.

Comfortable Sins


I have been involved in an interesting conversation this week on another blog and wanted to share a couple of observsations here.

While the post was a review of Andrew Marin’s book Love is an Orientation, the comments below quickly shifted gears to sharing personal experiences concerning the relationships between conservative evangelicals and the LGBT community. Most experiences were from those in the Christian LGBT community who had experienced painful rejection and judgmental treatment from the church at large. Hurt feelings were still quite apparent as they wondered aloud how a church that tolerates gossip and greed and pornography and adultry can’t also tolerate a faithfully married gay couple who just wants to worship the same God they serve.

With the question posed like that, I wonder the same thing.

Why is it that there are so many “comfortable sins” we tolerate in the church, but have chosen to rise up in unified disgust with this one? Is it the fact that it’s the most unknown? The most feared? Is it because it’s the one sexual sin that has the fewest participants? After all, when more than half of unmarried church members admit to sexual activity in a given year and 20% of church going men admit to having had an affair at some point in their marriage, who’s going to speak out against extra-marrital sex? Who’s going to be the first to jump off the gossip train when 99.9% of us would be sad if it quit running? How can you confront someone with their greed when you are coveting what they have?

We might have a better chance of convincing the world that Jesus is worth loving if we first loved Him enough to present Him with a spotless bride. We can’t convince the world of their sin as long as we continue to hide our own.

Here was the conclusion I posted at the end of the blog:

I too have spent much time wondering about this issue of confrontation of sin in the church. Much of the problem, I believe, is that, for so long, the church has overlooked “straight” sexual sin and has suddenly decided to stand up to homosexual sin as an overwhelming deviation of the plan of God for sexuality.

The problem is not so much the response to homosexuality as it is the church’s response to sexual sin in general. I speak to this issue having been raised in a strict Southern Baptist upbringing and having struggled with my own issues concerning homosexuality.

As long as I continued to compare my sin struggles with other people, I had justification to continue in my sin. “My sexuality isn’t hurting anyone else! At least I’m not married and cheating on my husband.” or “How dare So-and-So tell me who I can and cannot love! Didn’t he get caught having and affair?” As long as we lower the standard for behavior to the level of humanity, we will always meet that standard.

As believers, however, our standard is not humanity, it’s a holy and perfect God who says we all fall short of His glory. …What we all truly do is justify our pet sins while condemning those who equally justify their own sins instead of ours. As long as we all look to one another as the standard for combating sin, we will never move. None of us. The rich man driving the Hummer will continue in his materialism, the deacon will continue to use pornography, the stay at home mom will be jealous of the working single woman and the working single woman will be bitter about her singleness, the homosexual will continue to identify himself more in his sexuality than in his role as an image bearer of God. When we compare ourselves to other sinful fallen people, we will never see the need to rise above our sinfulness.

So to get the conversation away from comparisons to other humans who live in a world with an infinite array of various shades of gray, let’s look back at the one perfect standard God set up. It is not the church that set up a black or white dichotomy of straight v. gay. There is no gray area with God. Gray areas are ways we attempt to justify our sin. Simple as that. God says we are foolish or wise, right or wrong. To commit one sin is to have committed them all in the eyes of a holy God. This isn’t to make God out to be a cosmic kill-joy bent on our destruction. He is a loving and holy God who desires us to recognize our sinfulness so we recognize a need for a Savior. Not only does He point out to us our need, He provides the needed salvation! We all fall short of His glory, not just those of us who commit sins the rest of us don’t like or understand. If God has one perfect way to do all things and we as people have found a myriad of ways to twist that one thing, then we need to see what God says about that one thing in order to be able to take a stand as a church on any issue of sexuality and gender.

First, what was God’s original purpose in marriage? Why did he create us to be in relationship with other people? What was His purpose in creating sex? It was his plan, after all… If God created it one way, why do we think we have a better way to it than the one who made it? And if you think that the Bible isn’t clear in what God says about sex, why do you even bother worshiping God at all? If we serve a God too weak to ensure that His intended Word to His people is transmitted to each generation of those who serve Him, then we serve a God too weak to deserve our worship and Paul was right; we above all men most deserve to be pitied.
It is possible to have a loving yet steadfast stance against all forms of sexual sin, but it requires us to take a hard look at how our own lives also don’t match up to God’s one perfect plan. And as fallen people, it’s always easier to look at the sins of others than to look at our own. …

The truth of the matter is that our heavenly Father desperately loves us, but He loves His own glory more. As those who claim to live our lives for His glory, we need to learn all we can about Him, his nature, his love, his holiness if we are to ever be conformed to the image of Christ. Pointing out the sins of others will never cure our own; only Jesus can do that, and thankfully, He has! It is only his redeeming work in our lives that can rid any of us of the sin which so easily entangles, whatever sin that may be.

So, what comfortable sin has you entangled? What are you going to do about it?