Lenten Prayer Points for Hope Chapel

(I recently asked Hope Chapel folk to fast during the Lenten season which runs this year from March 1 through April 9.  Below are listed several prayer points for Hope Chapel. My suggestions is that we focus on one area per week for concerted prayer during the season.  –geno)

Reasons for Hope Chapel fasting during Lent 2017:

  1. Favor. Let’s ask God for favor from professionals putting our plan together. Favor from city officials who must approve our plans. Favor from contractors who must bid on our project and, if selected, will actually do the work of demolition and reconstruction. We need favor.
  1. Gratitude. Let’s thank God for His blessing on the people of Hope Chapel who have given sacrificially to put us in a financial position to be able to pay cash for our building reconstruction. Pray that we will raise more money than we need to accomplish the task well.
  1. Leadership. Let’s ask God to bless the leadership of Scott McDonald who is serving Hope Chapel as out project manager. Scott must communicate with our decision-makers, our architectural firm, city planning officials and building contractors. Additionally, he must seek to get the most for our money, working with clear financial constraints, while facing the considerable unknowns of an older building remodel.
  1. Blessing. Let’s ask God to bless Hala Tompkins and the children’s ministry of Hope Chapel that must become mobile and remain mobile during the remodeling phase. We will initially take our Sunday morning children’s ministry across Arroyo Seco to Brentwood Elementary school. But it is likely, for a few months in the summer, that we will need to travel further afield as Brentwood Elementary will be closed off for air conditioning repairs.
  1. Repentance. Let’s repent from nagging habits that drain our spiritual lives, things like overeating, too much TV binge watching, overuse of alcohol or prescription drugs or even illegal substances, watching pornography or reading sexually-explicit novels for entertainment, gossiping, holding grudges, or secretly wishing for harm to come to an opponent…whatever may be your secret sin.
  1. Renewal. Let’s ask God to renew us in this Lenten season. Let’s ask God to renew our love for Him in worship, in prayer, in Bible study. Let’s ask God to renew us in spiritual disciplines like fasting, solitude, silence and simplicity. Let’s ask God to show us what we should give away or give up that would draw us nearer to Him. Let’s ask God to show us what to adopt or include in our lives that would open us up to His presence.
Posted in Community Life, Fasting, Prayer | Leave a comment

The Sally Gary Conference Helped Me Find Freedom

(Editor’s Note: I have permission to publish the author’s name for the blog post below, but have withheld it on purpose.  I do not want any given personality to become a central issue in this discussion.  –geno)

Geno,

I wanted to respond to this before I talked myself out of it. I think ALL feedback is relevant and important. It helps us understand each other better on some level and it is nice to see people attempting to do this. You can share this if you want to.

First of all, I appreciate you forwarding the letter from the church member. I also appreciate you keeping the individual’s identity anonymous. Indeed, I think it would be distracting.

I will not wax long or eloquent but will simply state that, for me personally, Sally’s conference was all about HEALING!! The bars to my lifelong prison were finally opened when it dawned on me, using her ministry, that I’m not living in sin merely because I have these feelings. I don’t have to live with a constant nagging shame anymore just because God hasn’t “delivered me”.

It was like a light bulb came on that weekend and I understood God made me thus and can use me fully to His purposes, just as I am. It’s up to Him whether He wants to change my sexual orientation, but in the meantime, I can and am now living a full and meaningful life in Christ. I am His bride, His Beloved. There is no sadness or hopelessness in that!

Before the weekend, I didn’t let anyone “in the church ” get close to me because of the shame that I felt and the fear that they would find out about me. I was so alone (since age 11). I’m almost 52. That’s a long time. Since then, I have met so many people and numerous relationships have begun to form.

It also freed me to go speak to my pastor about myself, and to my joy, He only affirmed me and is now looking forward to me finding my purpose there in the church and for my life. (This is Bastrop County.) Wow! Hopeless? NEVER! Hope is my favorite word!

One additional thought, the Apostle Paul asked to be delivered from his “thorn in the flesh”. God left it there. God doesn’t always take the thorn away but He never wastes it.

One more thing in response the writer of the letter… I have never been confused about my gender. I am 100% woman!

Blessings!

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God Won’t Heal Everything

(Editor’s Note: Kevin Daniel wrote the following as a response to the previous post, “Critique of Sally Gary Conference — No Hope of Healing“.  I thought it was important, so I am elevating it to blog post status.  –geno)

I have read maybe a 1/3 of the comment (blog post). I found it CLEARLY written, and thoughtfully pursued. It strikes me as a salient question, because, really, it is hovering around an issue with which many of us consider, but which few bring up in public discourse. The issue of which I speak, and of what I read in the little I read, was (essentially): the issue of does hope exist for healing of any kind, and why does God not heal everyone? Maybe that is too reductionist, and I am okay with that.

I wonder if the hope is found in the verse “In weakness is [His] strength made perfect”? That is to say, just as Sally pointed out God has not seemed to entirely remove our selfish impulses, He has still enabled us by the love of His son as deposited in our hearts by/of His Holy Spirit to walk selflessly.

The older I get the more I wonder if healing in the sense of utter removal of woundedness is something all that necessary (on this side of the grave). The same craven need for acceptance and being esteemed worthy which I never received as a child is still a need which persists today, seemingly more virulent. And yet, the desire for God and the desire to walk in ever increasing maturity at times overshadow the brokenness.

Scary as it sounds to say this but what if God is more glorified by our not having the wound removed but allowing it, yet providing the love, the joy, the peace, the patience, the kindness, the goodness, the self-control,the gentleness which that woundedness would otherwise not allow me? Being the utter heel that I am do I even deserve to bring that glory to that power of God? Sure, God could remove it and replace it like some detached mechanic (or some very invested mechanic) who removes a nail from a tire, but the focus becomes the car with the new tires, not the ability of the mechanic to have provided a fast car DESPITE the nail-embedded, flattened tire?

There exists so unfathomably great a number of genetic and contextual maladies which God never seems to heal, and it is scary to think He won’t heal everything (this side of the grave at least). But neither does He leave us alone in the brokeness. Coming back to Sally’s statement to the young man about having to live celibate, and to any person struggling with any such genetic or environmental “issue”, I think she was making the point that it is hard to tell someone “yeah, it sucks but God is better” and have that be anything other than trite dismissal of their pain and fear. In the same breath I think it is far more destructive to suggest that God will heal everything (this side of the grave).

Respectfully,

Kevin Daniel

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Critique of Sally Gary Conference — No Hope of Healing

(I received this note from a long-time participant of Hope Chapel in late December, 2016. It captures and summarizes several notes with similar critiques of the Sally Gary conference held in November.  I have permission to publish this letter, complete with the author’s name, but have withheld it on purpose so as not to draw unnecessary attention away from the letter’s content.  –geno)

Dear Geno,

Per your request, here are my thoughts after our recent conversation about the Sally Gary weekend.

I do thank you for listening to my thoughts and concerns. I did feel like you really heard my thoughts and my heart. I also thought Brett did a good job on his summary of the weekend. I did wonder why this topic and why give it so much attention now?

I attended all the events of the weekend with Sally. I was at Westover Hills Church of Christ of Christ on Friday and at all the Saturday sessions. I have not read her book.

I understand that her biggest point in the weekend was the importance of those in the church keeping the dialogue going with those who deal with same sex attraction, and listening first. I think that is great point and often missed by the church, especially when it comes to this topic. People can jump to judgments too soon and shut people out.

My struggle with the weekend was I felt that there was no real hope presented for healing or change for those who struggle with same sex attraction.

She seemed to be saying that, for those who struggle with same sex attraction, they are basically stuck with it – that will be a struggle all their lives, whether they act out on their feelings or not.

That may be true in her personal experience, and the people she’s had dialogue with, but I don’t think that’s true, from a biblical perspective and from people I’ve known who have had same sex attraction and have found more healing and help than Sally has seen. I know people at Hope who have commented publicly on their issues that have found significant help and healing. I think stories like these very much need to be added this conversation on gender.  (all italics are the author’s –geno)

There was a quote mentioned from her book, which I don’t have exactly, but the gist was that she had a hard time telling a young man he would have to live alone and celibate all his life if he was to follow Christ, because he had same sex attraction and that was his best option.

That seems incredibly depressing to me because that story conveys that there is no hope for God’s healing, or hope for godly transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit. God says, Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NKJV)

If all things have the possibility of becoming new, why doesn’t this apply to something as intimate and important and deep as our sense of gender?

We have a new, growing and maturing identity of those hidden in Christ. At one point, Paul says: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28 (NKJV) 

In one very real sense, God transcends gender and race. So it seems reasonable as those of us in Christ, that our sense of gender can be transformed as much as anything else.

In her talk on Sunday morning, Sally said something like this. “Of course God has power to do anything. God could take away my feelings. He could raise my mother who’s been dead for several years right now. God has the power to do that. I believe that.” But using that wording and situation as an example, is basically saying, that “I believe in theory that of course, God is all powerful, but in reality, it would border on being silly or preposterous to expect God to really do something like that because who has ever seen God do anything like that?” This kind of example basically ends the conversation of what God can actually do or is likely to do.

Using this extreme contrast, the unlikelihood of raising someone from the dead, and saying it’s comparable to God’s power to transform a life, is the problem with the way the weekend ended, in my view. I think Sally’s current viewpoint about healing for those with gender issues, is that God may be able, but He most likely will not act or help, so just suck it up. You’re stuck. That, to me, is a troubling and a nearly hopeless way to view same sex attraction – and is just not true from what God’s Word says about our true identity in Christ and His admonitions for us to always pray and ask.

I understand there is a continuum in the church on faith and healing and what’s possible in terms of the power of the Holy Spirit. I understand that some people in the church believe God can and does heal, and then blame people for too little faith when they don’t experience healing. Or some people may feel like they have to leave the church because they don’t experience healing. That’s wrong. But on the other hand, it’s also wrong for people with bad theology about faith to say ‘don’t pray for healing’ when Jesus does heal. There is a mystery to why some people see healing and some don’t. But it’s a mistake to not pursue healing just because you may be disappointed that healing doesn’t happen the way you think it can happen.

Again, this is where I think there was a lack of hope in Sally’s presentation and it’s mistake to leave the conversation on gender with just this viewpoint. I think there is hope in healing with God. And I think it would be helpful for Hope Chapel to hear stories and testimonies of those who have had a different experience than Sally.

I know that Sally, like all of us, is still on her journey. She seems to be at peace with God and herself where she is on that journey. But I think there is room for all of us to grow in understanding of our new identity in Christ. I appreciate Sally’s compassion and admonition for us to really listen and engage without a condemning attitude to those who struggle with gender. But I also think it does a great disservice to God’s ability to transform us to leave this conversation without the stories of others.

In summary, I think it would be good to hear from others from Hope Chapel to share how they have experienced healing in this particular issue. And really, I think we should have a series of talks on the larger issue of our identity of who we are in Christ and the power of grace. I think people who struggle with various addictions especially need more input about the power of God to transform. I think God is not focused so much on what’s wrong with us, but what’s missing and the possibilities of being transformed and renewed (Romans 12:1-2). I think we have a lot of room to grow in our understanding of our very real union with Christ and Christ in us.

Posted in Community Life, Culture Matters, Divine Healing, Homosexuality | 1 Comment

A Christmas Reading

Dearly Beloved,

I have encouraged Hope Chapel to share the Christmas story with someone before Christmas day.  Or, in lieu of the Christmas story, to share the gospel of Jesus or one’s own testimony of salvation.

Just in case you desire to bear witness to Jesus in this season, but have not found an opportunity to do so, all is not lost!

I have developed a document I have prepared for my family’s use which includes the main portions of the Christmas story and a list of characters with both speaking and non-speaking roles.  You can find the Word.docx here and the .pdf file here.

My hope is that in your family time on Christmas day you will find time to read the story as a group, passing around the task of serving as the narrator, and finding small figurines or statuettes or even paper cut-outs to serve in place of the characters in the story.

The idea is a simple one:  as the narrator approaches a speaking role someone assumes that part and reads out the words of that character.  This can be accompanied by the holding up of the symbol for that character.  A very large group of people can be included in the story with this methodology.

Feel free to conduct the reading in whatever way suits your family unit.  This will be a blessing to all and, perhaps, will morph into a cherished family tradition.

–geno

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Not Silent About Sex

(Note: Betsy Cruz, a long-time Christian leader and friend from Hope Chapel, recently published a blog entitled ‘Sex and the Christian College Student.’  I thought it was so good that I am reproducing her note on HopeMail and the link to her article.  Enjoy.  –geno)

Hello Hope Friends,

I just wanted to share a Crosswalk article that I wrote recently on a totally new-for-me topic: “Sex and the Christian College Student.” So important for young people in our world today, and sometimes it’s so hard for us to talk about it. :) This might encourage you if you work with young people or have teen/young adult kids. I so hope we can be the kind of people young adults can talk with about anything and feel safe and loved. Just wanted to share in case this helps anyone.

Betsy de Cruz

http://www.crosswalk.com/family/parenting/teens/sex-and-the-christian-college-student.html

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Where Do We Go From Here?

Several people have expressed in person as well as in writing the sentiment that it would be a shame after last weekend’s conference with Sally Gary that we would not follow up with some way to continue the conversation.

I agree.

Many of us are still in the process of reflecting on all that has been said.  At the staff level we have not yet had an opportunity to thoroughly debrief our collective experience of the conference weekend or air our own thoughts about how to proceed with a church-wide discussion about same sex attraction.  Also, our elders and board have just begun their own discussion on the matter and are praying through various points of view that have been shared thus far.

Here are a few suggestions about continuing the conversation that I have begun to mull over.  Please add yours as the Spirit gives you ideas.

  1. Host a series of congregational gatherings for folks to speak to the issue and perhaps ask questions that embody their concerns.
  2. Host a small group focused on the subject of same sex attraction where people could go deeper in a relatively ‘safe’ environment.
  3. Start a family support group focused on learning how to help people interact faithfully and gracefully with their family members who have come out or who have begun to talk about their own same sex orientation.
  4. Start a book club of sorts and begin reading and discussion one or more recommended books on the subject.  As an alternate, one or more already-established small groups could do this.
  5. Ask a brave member of our congregation who wrestles with same sex attraction to come to your small group and discuss what it has been like to be ‘out’ at Hope Chapel.

To be clear–I am committed to continuing this conversation in a grace-filled manner.  I believe that Jesus wants us to walk openly in a welcoming manner with Christ-followers who wrestle with same sex attraction while seeking to remain faithful to the Gospel.

 Hopefully, we will become evermore a place where all manner of disaffected people far from God, may draw near to Christ Jesus and find salvation.

–geno

Posted in Culture Matters, Discipleship, Homosexuality | 3 Comments

Sally Gary Book Recommendations

Dearly Beloved, below you will find several book recommendations that Sally Gary made during our conversation over this past weekend.  I have taken the liberty to add my own notes to each recommendation.  –geno

Messy Grace, by Caleb Kaltenbach.  Caleb was raised in a home where both of his birth parents experienced same sex attraction and split up when he was very young.  He was subsequently raised by his mother and her same sex partner.  His book chronicles the story of his becoming a follower of Jesus, experiencing a painful separation from his mother and then a much-later reconciliation.  I like this book because Caleb very clearly articulates a traditional view of marriage while at the same time maintaining a mercy-oriented view of the homosexual community.  I think we can learn some things from Caleb.  

Us vs. Us, by Andrew Marin (Marin Foundation).  Sally noted that the Marin Foundation has done some of the most important work on understanding the gay community in the U.S.  She included their statistic that 86% of people in the homosexual community have come out of conservative church backgrounds.  I still find that hard to believe, but she maintained it to be true.

Torn, by Justin Lee.  Justin does, in fact, have a strong evangelical background as Sally noted.  In his book Justin notes how the Body of Christ has torn itself apart in acrimonious disputes over how to approach Christ followers who experience same sex attraction.  His title also references his own feelings and the feelings of others who have experienced rejection and confusion over their own homosexual orientation.

God and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines.  Matthew also has a strong evangelical background in the Presbyterian church where his father was an elder.  Matthew is the leader of a movement of mostly young Christ followers who are urging the church to accept homosexual marriage and same sex relationships as a norm.  He marshals a cogent set of arguments for his position.  If you want to read a book that will catch you up on the position for this non-traditional view of marriage, this is the book to start with.  I should note that I disagree with Matthew’s position.

–geno

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Never Going Back

(Note: Annette Christopher read her testimony one recent Sunday at Hope Chapel before the worship team introduced the song ‘Never Going Back’.  It was a very powerful and moving moment for me and others.  She has graciously agreed to allow me to publish her words here.  –geno)

Christopher, Annette

When I first heard the song, Never Going Back, it had such a connection to my personal story that I felt I could have written the song.

In my childhood, I had to deal with complex emotional issues such as abandonment,abrasiveness and no sense of belonging to anyone or anything.

“Faithful one no matter how far I run. You lead me home. You extend your love. Patiently fathering the orphan in me, you say I’m your own.”

Although my family was once Catholic and then just culturally Catholic, by the time I was child our spiritual digression sank into a strong antiChristian sentiment.So I learned that the idea of a savior was more of a fairytale and needing one was sign of weakness. The way I moved through the world was based on fear and performance. And if you would have asked me at the time, I thought I needed nothing. I didn’t know there was more.

A very unlikely candidate to come to Christ, before I even came, I realize, now, He maneuvered situations in my life all along the way. He knew the beginning from the end.

It was always Him. He found me.

Many years ago a member of this church (Hope Chapel), and my then-coworker, literally sought me out. Like the most extreme cold call you’ve ever heard of,she tirelessly pursued me and sought a way onto my radar and showed a blind person how to see what she saw.

“Righteousness found only in your face.you see my heart, you extend your grace. Eyes open, falling in love again, you say I’m your own I never am alone.”

He found me…like a needle in a haystack.

It’s not easy to convert as an adult into a completely new and foreign thought life. Its relearning everything you’ve always known. And maybe I’ve been surprised by what this choice means at times. And maybe I don’t always like it. It’s a paradigm shift.

But one thing I’ve always known is I’m never going back. Because I know there is nothing “back” to go to. A mystical transaction occurred in my heart when I said yes to Jesus. And previous places I’ve roamed or even lived ,are no longer inhabitable.There is only forward now, even when I can’t see 2 inches in front of me. It’s not only better than the alternative, it’s the best alternative.

About 5 yrs ago, I found myself inexplicably in the hardest place I’ve ever been.Everything was upside down in my thoughts,in my life and in my day to day functioning. I was so overwhelmed with fear and despair, I didn’t think I would come out of it.

But I made up my mind. And I’m glad and grateful for that grace. I’m never going back. I now know, as I’m slowly coming out of my worst bout of refining fire to date, that all His promises are real and true.

“It was always you. You found me.”  Stuff I’ve only read or heard about turns out to be true.

“There’s nothing that I have need of. There’s nothing you haven’t done.”  This kind of restoration takes lifelong deeply rooted thought destruction and makes it a nonissue.

Where once an unsurpassable obstruction stood; He removed it and gave life to a fortified, better, newer version of me. I’m not the one who says such things. But I’ve experienced it.  So now it’s real.

“You make my soul alive. You put your love inside.”

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God Picks our Battles

(Editor’s note: I received this encouragement following this past Sunday’s sermon (June 5).  Thought I’d pass it along.  –geno)

Thank you for your exhortation Sunday! You encouraged us to listen to and obey what The Lord tells us to do in a given situation, to seek counsel, but to stand firm in what He tells you. You said that if we’re looking for a fight with a chip on our shoulder, that’s not The Lord. If we are seeking Him, He will pick our fights for us. Amen. This has been my experience. I would add this; that when we find ourselves in a fight God has picked for us (or picked us for), the sword that comes from His mouth is double-edged. It cuts at my heart, too. In the fighting He calls us to, the wounds we incur doing His will are faithful.

Posted in Community Life, Discipleship, God's Sovereignty, Nature of God | 1 Comment