Category Archives: Religion

What Is Our Authentic Self?

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

— Exodus 20:16

I was trying to come up with an LGBTQ+ Pride topic for this week’s Sunday post. I decided to write about being our “authentic self.” Isn’t that a large part of coming out? We want to be true to ourselves and to stop lying to others about who we really are. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” is the ninth commandment (the designation varies between religions) of the Ten Commandments. According to the New Testament, Jesus explains that obedience to the prohibition against false testimony from the ten commandments is a requirement for eternal life. According to Jesus, false testimony comes from the sinful desires of the heart and makes people unclean.

However, when I googled “the bible and authentic self” most articles are about how Christians should resist being their authentic selves. One piece said, “To those who are of the world, ‘be yourself’ means speak your mind, don’t hold anything back, love yourself more than anyone else, and openly reject anyone you just don’t like. The advice to ‘be yourself’ can quickly turn into an excuse to be unfriendly and overly blunt.” The problem with this is that this statement is only valid if you are a terrible person. “Love yourself more than anyone else, and openly reject anyone you just don’t like.” While that sounds like a lot of Christians I know today who reject those who aren’t like themselves, it is certainly not in the spirit of the Bible. Another article Sue Bohlin, a speaker/writer and “webmistress” for Probe Ministries, lays out precisely why so many Christians fear authenticity, “In today’s culture, coming out and admitting you’re gay is applauded as ‘being authentic.’ Claiming you are a man trapped in a woman’s body, or vice versa, is ‘being authentic.’ But refusing to accept such labels means you’re inauthentic.” The Bohlin goes on to say:

More and more Christians are throwing in the towel in their fight against unholy sexual and relational temptations, claiming to follow their “authentic self.” Even worse, a growing number of churches are doing something similar by embracing same-sex marriage. I have a question for them. If God really created them to be gay and blesses that identity today, what will happen a hundred years from today? Will there be homosexuality in heaven? There will be no sex in heaven because the only marriage will be between the Church and the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. If one’s identity is wrapped up in same-sex attractions, as it is by those claiming to be “gay Christians,” who will they be when all sexual and relational brokenness is a thing of the past, a mere memory of earthly life?

I suggest that a believer’s true and real and lasting “authentic self” is all wrapped up in not who we say we are, but who God says we are: His beloved child, redeemed and purified and made holy as He is holy. Chosen, accepted, and included a citizen of heaven and a member of God’s household. Belonging to Jesus because He bought us with His very lifeblood. Sealed with the Spirit, made brand new from the inside out.

There is a MAJOR flaw to her argument. When she says, “A believer’s true and real and lasting “authentic self” is all wrapped up in not who we say we are, but who God says we are,” is her fatal flaw. Our authentic self is who God says we are. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image.” John 1:3 says, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” God made us. He made us in his image. Therefore, if we are gay, God is also gay. God is also straight, bisexual, transgender, asexual, etc. He represents all things because he created everything; therefore, he is every part of every aspect of the spectrum of sexuality.

The most significant issue is that most Christians are closed-minded and narrowly focused on their beliefs. They pick and choose what Bible verses they want to follow and ignore those inconvenient for them. For example, they condemn LGBTQ+ people, but they do not condemn divorce of which Jesus does condemn in the Sermon on the Mount. Yet, what is most curious is that if homosexuality was so wrong (an abomination), why did Jesus never mention it, not even once? Furthermore, LGBTQ+ issues are not discussed anywhere by any of the New Testament authors. Yes, there is a verse that is often misinterpreted in Leviticus to condemn homosexuality, but if Christians follow that one verse from Leviticus, then shouldn’t they also follow all of the other prohibitions from Leviticus?

Leviticus 18:22 prohibits male same-sex intercourse, and Leviticus 20:13 prescribes the death penalty for violators. But Christians have never lived under the Old Testament law. The Old Testament contains 613 commandments for God’s people to follow. Leviticus includes rules about offerings, clean and unclean foods, diseases, bodily discharges, sexual taboos, and priestly conduct. But the New Testament teaches that Christ’s death and resurrection fulfilled the law, which is why its many rules and regulations have never applied to Christians. Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” Colossians 2:13-14 says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Hebrews 8:13 says, “In that he saith, A new covenant [New Testament/Jesus’s Teachings]*, he hath made the first old [Old Testament/Laws of Moses]*. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”

Even greater than cherry-picking verses from the Bible, many heterosexual Christians often still claim that sexuality is a choice. Because of their close-mindedness, they cannot understand that LGBTQ+ individuals are born this way. They were created by God in his image, in all the various degrees of sexuality. They are often so small-minded that they cannot imagine being born anyway other than cisgender heterosexuals. They do not want to open their minds to God’s true words because then they may have to look at themselves and see their own flaws. The only choice we have about our sexuality is whether or not we choose to be our authentic selves the way God created us.

As members of the LGBTQ+ community, so many of us for so long have been taught to be ashamed of who we are because we do not fit the predominant image and standard profile of acceptable persons. We have been taught to look at ourselves through lenses that cannot see our true beauty and essence as citizens in society, as people of God, and as children of the greater universe. When we look at ourselves, we must try as best we can to see everything there, but this is sometimes hard to do without a genuine desire to take a hard look and see what’s there, to view ourselves clearly, squarely, and freely. The beauty and goodness of what we see sometimes give way to the not so beautiful things that we see, say, and do. We must cast aside all fear in taking that honest look if we are to grow into a greater awareness of who we really are and what we can ultimately become as genuine persons of promise and value. 

*Added for clarification.

This post is a repost from June 2021. I’m reposting it today because today is Vermont Pride.

The Power of a Smile

And Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.

—1 Samuel 2:1

One smile is all it takes to improve your mood, energy, and overall health. One smile is all it takes to help someone have a better day. One smile is all it takes to make a difference in this world. One smile can make a powerful impact that ripples past our immediate surroundings.

Smiling does not just improve your personal health and well-being but also significantly impacts those around you. Your smile is literally contagious! A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology found that when participants were shown images of facial expressions of various emotions, the images of a person smiling triggered the participants naturally to mimic the facial expression and smile as well. When you smile at someone, they are likely to start smiling as well. Not only is your smile boosting your mood, but also makes a positive impact on another person.

The power of a smile should not be underestimated. A smile shares hope, affection, and peace. A smile has the power to bring light in the darkness, bring positive energy in the day, reduce stress in life, and bring greater happiness to the world. Thérèse of Lisieux said, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.” One smile is all it takes. Give it a try. Smile. Watch how suddenly you will feel its immense power and impact in elevating your mood and well-being. 

Imagine Positivity

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if thereis any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

—Philippians 4:8


It’s easy to dwell on the negative when life is hard, disappointing, or painful. However, it’s important that we be more positive. Lord knows, I’m not always the best at being positive. In fact, I’m pretty awful at being positive sometimes. However, I still try to stay positive. Thinking positively helps us through the tough times and appreciate the great moments.

In times of desperation and hurt, it’s far too easy to be pessimistic. Those without good intentions will prey on our pessimistic attitude. However, if we remain positive, it’s harder to be exploited by the evil that surrounds us in this world. If we allow our pessimism to be exploited then we will react with despair, sadness, anger, etc. then, it is harder for us to imagine good in the world.

The biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann wrote in his book The Prophetic Imagination, “We need to ask not whether is is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the royal consciousness that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought.” If we can imagine a better world, we can make a difference, but if we cannot imagine a better world, then we won’t be able to see the good in the world. It’s absolutely imperative that we look for the good in the world, even if we have to create that good ourselves.

We need to feed our minds with blessings from God and the good things we can find in our lives or situations. We are to think about what is true rather than the evil that sometimes surrounds us. We need to dwell on what is noble and right so our actions will follow our thoughts. We are to feed our minds with whatever is pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy—all the things that help us stay focused on God’s love for us.

We should focus our minds on the truth and all the good things in life. Always staying positive is a challenge, especially during the most trying times. But as we actively practice this, even in the most difficult moments, we can fight painful situations, trials, and all the difficult things we face. It’s a way to reclaim and live out our lives with love, hope, faith, and gratefulness in the full blessings and love of God.

Try to wake up each morning with positive thoughts.if you do, I think you’ll see positive changes in your life and in the life of those around you. It may be cliché, but there is power in positive thinking.

23rd Psalm

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake
Yea, though I walk through the valley
    of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me
    in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Pleasure, Sex, Guilt, and God

I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.

—Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

This may be a questionable post for some of my readers, though I think it is something most of us have struggled with at some point in our lives or still do. And I’m going to be frank in this post, so feel free to skip it if talking about sex and religion isn’t for you…

I was talking to a friend about what God thinks of watching gay porn and/or pleasuring ourselves. While I think we all desire relationships, intimacy, and connection, we still have carnal desires. The word often connotes an action or manifestation of a person’s lower nature derogatorily. Carnal is sometimes applied to any gratification of a bodily desire or pleasure but commonly implies sexual appetite with the absence of the spiritual or intellectual. It also stresses the physical as distinguished from the rational nature of a person. However, why should the word carnal have such negative connotations? 

The primary theme of 1 Corinthians concerns the actions, attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of spiritual (Gk., pneumatikois) people versus the fleshly or carnal (Gk., sarkinois) people. First Corinthians 3:1-4 says, “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?” Paul seeks to teach the Corinthians an understanding of both ways of living.

On the one hand, spiritual living does not mean that a person rejects the material world and engages in practices that make one appear more spiritual to others. Instead, the spiritual person is a mature Christian who knows that all things in life are good, pleasing, and holy if accepted with thanks. True spirituality is shown through love and service toward others rather than through ecstatic experiences.

The carnal person, then, is the opposite of the spiritual person. The carnal person may appear to be quite “spiritual” and religious, but they cannot grasp, understand, or practice the greater truths of Christianity which lead us to lay down our lives for others in love and service to them. The carnal or fleshly person is not necessarily one who gives in to the passions and lusts of the flesh but is rather one who thinks that the chills and thrills of ecstatic religion make them superior to others. God desires us to be happy because happy people will serve him better. Think of the bitter Christians who want to push their own perverted morality on everyone. Their hearts are full of hate, and they are miserable people. Instead of serving God, they are serving their own selfishness and despair.

Too often, we are made to feel guilty about our sexuality, and this goes for heterosexuals, homosexuals, and bisexuals alike. We are told that sex is dirty and wrong; it should only be done for procreation, etc. Growing up, we were given a certain message about gay people that clashed with what was often our growing understanding of our own sexuality. These hate-filled beliefs make many people question their faith and their very lives. The guilt thrust upon us can be devastating and have long-lasting, even eternal, harm to our souls. If we were nurtured instead of damned by others, we could live happy, healthy lives, but those who are bitter, hateful, and judgmental don’t want us to live happy lives. They want us to be as miserable as they are.

When I started realizing I like guys, my desire for relationship, intimacy, and connection also shattered my preconceived notions about what being gay meant. At first, I could not understand my sexuality. All the other guys I knew were talking about girls, and all I could think about was them. Even before I understood I was gay, I dreamt and fantasized about sex with other guys. To put it bluntly, I wanted to not just kiss and hold and be held by another guy; I wanted to have sex with another man. At first, I did not understand all the mechanics of it, but in a way, I did. I seemed to instinctively understand what I wanted to do sexually with a guy. It took me many years to come to terms with being gay and realize how good being gay can be.

For all the talk about love, romance, connection, union, covenant… all great things, to be sure, I want to make sure that we don’t lose track of the carnal pleasures that come with being gay. I used to feel incredibly guilty about masturbation. I hated myself after every time I did it. It did not help that it was almost always to the thought of another guy. I had been taught that two guys being together was wrong and masturbation was sinful no matter your sexuality. When I was in school, guys who jerked off were seen as losers, though I know now that even those who said and acted that way were at home playing with themselves until they reached climax. It was just that no one admitted it. And wasn’t that why we felt such shame at being called fag, faggot, gay, queer, sissy, etc.? We were taught to deny who we are for someone else’s idea of masculinity. 

My ideas of masculinity have definitely changed over the years. I have had sex with men, a few women, and some transgender men before. Obviously, sex with women was not my thing. However, with a few bad exceptions, I have always enjoyed sex with men, whether they be cisgender or transgender. Someone once told me that dating a transgender man made me straight because he was not a “real” man since he was not born with a penis. You may agree or disagree, but the trans men I dated were far more of a man than many heterosexual men I know, especially those who are homophobic and insecure in their sexuality. The truth is that life is more complex than a simple binary understanding of things, especially sexuality and gender.

First Peter 3:8-12 says:

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For

    “He who would love life
    And see good days,
    Let him refrain his tongue from evil,
    And his lips from speaking deceit.
    Let him turn away from evil and do good;
    Let him seek peace and pursue it.
    For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    And His ears are open to their prayers;
    But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

I think sex and the enjoyment of others make us happier and more accepting of ourselves if we don’t put the stigma of shame to it. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.” I believe that as long as you are not hurting anyone else or yourself, that God does not have a problem with it. When I was first coming to terms with being gay, I explored porn (I still watch it sometimes); I masturbated to that porn and to fantasies about being with other men; and eventually, I had those experiences with other men. When things went wrong in my life, I used to think God was punishing me for watching or even possessing porn, adult toys, or just being gay. However, a preacher I knew used to say that we are not punished in this life for things we do. If we are punished, it will be in the afterlife. That being said, I see nothing wrong with self-pleasure or the material we use to stimulate that self-pleasure as long as it does not hurt others. I also see nothing wrong with fulfilling our sexual desires if it does not hurt anyone else.

I no longer feel the guilt I once did and don’t regret what I did. At least I don’t regret enjoying myself. We’ve probably all been with someone we regretted being with, but for other reasons. I think it’s a natural part of life, and too many people impose their beliefs about morality on others. The only time I feel bad is when I think of the addictions some of these guys in porn have that draw them to performing in porn to finance. There are too many stories of suicide or overdose by sex workers, and it always saddens me to see such a beautiful life end like that, just as it saddens me when any life ends. There are numerous reasons people begin to do porn. For some, it’s finances; for others, it’s an addiction they want to finance. There are many other personal reasons. I knew of one pay porn star who did porn to fund his transition to being female. However, nowadays, many men do porn because they enjoy showing off, and maybe that’s vanity, but it is also not hurting anyone. 

So, I enjoy having sex with other men or watching porn and jerking off without the guilt I used to associate with it. It has made me much more emotionally and mentally stable by letting go of that guilt; honestly, I think God is good with that. If He’s not, then He is not the God I believe in. I believe in a God that wants us to be happy. Self-torture because we allow someone else to impose their morality on us is not God’s way. It is man’s way. If you feel that sex, masturbation, porn, etc. have gotten out of hand in your life, that it is harming you in some way, or has become an addiction, then find a way to let it go, but if you are not causing yourself or anyone else any harm, then I think you should be assured that God looks down on you and smiles. For God loves us, just the way we are. Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 says, “Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I?”

As gay men, we have to be more vigilant about sex: STIs like syphilis are on the rise and Monkeypox is spreading through the gay community. While PrEP can be very effecting in preventing HIV infection, it is only effective in preventing HIV infection. Just because you are on PrEP does not mean you are invulnerable. When it comes to sex: be sane, be sensible, and be safe. Have fun and enjoy yourself!

God Will Provide

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

—1 Peter 5:6-7

One of my favorite hymns begins with, “What a friend we have in Jesus/All our sins and griefs to bear/What a privilege to carry/Everything to God in prayer.” I can remember my mother playing this on the piano when I was growing up. It was her favorite to play, and it would reverberate through the house when she was playing it. I love the simple message in the song. The hymn was originally written by preacher Joseph M. Scriven as a poem in 1855 to comfort his mother, who was living in Ireland while he was in Canada. It has also provided me, and many others, with comfort over the years.

We worry too much. We are always afraid of what the future holds. Even the most level-headed of people have worries, whether they outwardly show it or not. The American actress and comedian, Gilda Radner, who died of cancer in 1989, is quoted as saying, “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”

Trusting in God plan for us is what makes the unknown, as Radner called it, “Delicious Ambiguity.” Numbers 6:24-26 God told Moses to tell the Israelites, “The Lord blesses you and keeps you; the Lord makes His face shines upon you and is gracious to you; the Lord looks upon you with favor and gives you peace.” When we have anxiety and doubt, remember Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

Amazing Grace

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord; and he said: “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was a small thing in Your sight, O God; and You have also spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the rank of a man of high degree, O Lord God.

—1 Chronicles 17:16-17

It’s been quite a while since I used a hymn as my Sunday devotional. During my high school and college years, I was the song leader at the small country church I grew up attending. Half the people at that church were like family to me, and the other half were my family. The song leader I grew up with became unable to lead the singing, so he asked me if I would it. I had taken piano lessons when I was younger, so I had a little musical ability, i.e. I could almost carry a tune. I was never a very good song leader, and I only knew about two dozen or so songs well enough to be able to lead the congregation in singing.

If you don’t know, I was raised in the church of Christ (by the way, it is customary to not capitalize “church” in the name of the denomination, though churches of Christ do not believe they are a denomination nor Protestant, but a restoration of the original church). The churches of Christ have no musical instruments, though some of the more liberal ones today do. The churches of Christ believe that if it is not in the bible, then it should not be part of the religious service. So, the inspiration for a capella singing comes from Ephesians 5:19, “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Being a song leader in a church of Christ is not the easiest task. There are no musical instruments to carry the tune. It is completely up to the song leader to do so. All I can say is, that I tried my best. I was never very good at it, and quite honestly, even after doing it for years, I was never comfortable at it. When I went away to graduate school, they found someone else to take over. I was so relieved.

I had a few favorite song: “When the Roll Is Called up Yonder,” “Send the Light,” “Shall We Gather at the River?,” “The Old Rugged Cross,” and a few others. “Amazing Grace” was always a favorite of mine. The service always began with two songs sung while seated before the main prayer. Then, we would stand for the third song just before the preacher got up to give his sermon, and I often sang “Amazing Grace” for this song. After the sermon, we would sing the invitational, a call for those who wanted to join the church and be baptized. After the invitational, we served communion. Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is served every Sunday in the church of Christ. After communion, we sang the closing song, my favorite being “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” and “Unclouded Day.” The latter begins with “O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,” and as long as I could get out the “O” in the right key, this one always went smoothly because someone else would pick it up and keep it going in tune.

Amazing Grace
By John Newton

Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
and grace my fears relieved;
how precious did that grace appear
the hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come:
’tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

“Amazing Grace” is one of the best-loved and most often sung hymns in North America. It expresses John Newton’s personal experience of conversion from sin as an act of God’s grace. At the end of his life, Newton (1725-1807) said, “There are two things I’ll never forget: that I was a great sinner, and that Jesus Christ is a greater Savior!” This hymn is Newton’s spiritual autobiography, but the truth it affirms—that we are saved by grace alone—is one that all Christians may confess with joy and gratitude. I, however, believe that it takes faith and good works. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Now, back to Newton’s story.

Newton was born into a Christian home, but his godly mother died when he was seven, and he joined his father at sea when he was eleven. His licentious and tumultuous sailing life included a flogging for attempted desertion from the Royal Navy and captivity by a slave trader in West Africa. After his escape, he himself became the captain of a slave ship. Several factors contributed to Newton’s conversion: a near-drowning in 1748, the piety of his friend Mary Catlett (whom he married in 1750), and his reading of Thomas à Kempis’s Imitation of Christ

In 1754 he gave up the slave trade and, in association with William Wilberforce, eventually became an ardent abolitionist. After becoming a tide-surveyor (customs inspector) in Liverpool, England, Newton came under the influence of George Whitefield and John and Charles Wesley and began to study for the ministry. He was ordained in the Church of England and served in Olney (1764-1780) and St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807). His legacy to the Christian church includes his hymns as well as his collaboration with William Cowper in publishing Olney Hymns (1779), to which Newton contributed 280 hymns, including “Amazing Grace.”

Newton wrote “Amazing Grace” to illustrate a sermon on New Year’s Day of 1773. It is unknown if there was any music accompanying the verses; it may have been chanted by the congregation. It debuted in print in 1779 in Newton and Cowper’s Olney Hymns. “Amazing Grace” was published in six stanzas with the heading “1 Chronicles 17:16-17, Faith’s review and expectation.” After being published, the hymn settled into relative obscurity in England.

In the United States, “Amazing Grace” became a popular song used by Baptist and Methodist preachers as part of their evangelizing, especially in the South, during the Second Great Awakening of the early 19th century. It has been associated with more than twenty melodies. In 1835, American composer William Walker set it to the tune known as “New Britain” in a shape note format; this is the version most frequently sung today.

With the message that forgiveness and redemption are possible regardless of sins committed and that the soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of God, “Amazing Grace” is one of the most recognizable songs in the English-speaking world.

You Will Know Them by Their Fruits

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

—Matthew 7:15-20

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

—2 Timothy 4:3-4

I don’t normally do a Sunday post like this, but I had a migraine yesterday and took my medicine. I was fine for a few hours and then I just could not stay awake long enough to write a Sunday post. However, I’d seen the above cartoon sometime last week, and I thought of these Bible verses that I thought would be a perfect accompaniment.

The Good Fight

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

—2 Timothy 4:7

One of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Timothy 4:7, which says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” When I pass on from this world, I would like the epitaph on my tombstone to simply be: 2 Timothy 4:7. I hope that’s a long time in coming, but I want to live this life in a way that when I “finish the race” people can say that I fought the good fight and kept the faith. Even if people don’t think it when I am gone, I hope I will leave this world believing that.

When I come up against people who disagree with my way of life, ethics, philosophy, and faith, I think of Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” I know that I have not always fit into the crowd, and quite honestly, it’s alright as long as I remain faithful to who I am and have remained on the narrow path. remained on the narrow path.

I spent many years of my life hiding who I was. I hid in the closet because that was the path of least resistance, and I was trying to be part of the crowd and fit in. However, over the years, I have learned that accepting and loving myself is far more important than being accepted and loved by everyone. The Dutch writer and theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen said, “You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.”

In Star Trek, Spock was always fond of saying the Vulcan philosophy, “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” However, minority rights would always be trampled upon if this were true. Under this philosophy, we would be forced to remain in the closet because the beliefs (which some people confuse with needs) of the many would outweigh the few. This week, I watched the Star Trek homage, The Orville, and Dolly Parton made a guest appearance. In the episode, one of the characters knows that if she does one thing to save the life of another, then a great many people will suffer. Dolly gives her some advice (and I am paraphrasing), “If you do the right thing now, the rest will sort itself out later.” 

Matthew 5:12 says, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” If we do the right thing now, no matter how unpopular or misunderstood it may be, we will receive our reward, and if we continually do the right thing, then we will have earned the epitaph, “2 Timothy 4:7.”

Be the Light

And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

—John 1:5

American author, professor, and philosopher Sam Keen wrote, “Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” Sometimes, we want to do it all. We’ve probably all heard, “If you want something done, do it yourself.” This quote is sometimes attributed to emperor Napoléon Bonaparte or dramatist Charles-Guillaume Étienne, a contemporary of Napoléon. I’ve said it myself more than once, especially after delegating a task to someone who did it subpar. But doing everything yourself is not practical. So the next best alternative is learning to trust others better and empower people. We will burn ourselves out if we try to do everything in pursuit of perfection.

We also have to allow others to shine; it is better to help them shine than to be the only beacon of light. There are times when it is necessary for us to take the credit for a job well done or even demand the recognition we deserve and let our own light shine, but there are also times when it can be much more rewarding to see others succeed because you helped them. The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote, “A candle never loses any of its light while lighting up another candle.” I like this quote, but I think it can condition behavior that ironically negates its truth. It can cause us to overextend ourselves, helping others without tending to our own needs, subsequently causing our personal “light” to dim. So, don’t give another person your light; let your light ignite them.

God expects us to be the light that will guide others. He does not expect us to give away our light but to share it. In Matthew 5:15-16, Jesus says, “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Jesus tells the parable of the lamp on the stand to encourage his followers to stand out, to be an example, and not to hide away. The message in this parable would have been challenging for the first Christians, who were cruelly persecuted. They may have hidden their faith as they did not want to be tortured, imprisoned, or killed because of it. Jesus is saying that for the Christian message to spread and develop, followers must proclaim and show their faith.

As LGBTQ+ Christians, we may often find ourselves playing down our faith because many in the LGBTQ+ community disdain religion. I understand being hurt by religion and turning away from it. I don’t like most evangelical Christians, but that is because they are often hypocrites who want to impose their narrow beliefs on everyone. These same Christians pervert the words of the Bible to suit their selfish ways. They teach many LGBTQ+ Christians to hate themselves and the LGBTQ+ community. We cannot allow self-hatred because of sexuality. Self-hatred is one of our greatest enemies within the LGBTQ+ community. We have to love ourselves before we can show our love for others. We have to accept that we are God’s children, and He loves all of us just the way He created us. After all, He created us in His image.

I have always believed it was better to spread the goodness and love that God gives us instead of trying to impose my beliefs on others. If we live by example and bring to light the instances when religious individuals turn to hate instead of love, we can be that lamp on the lampstand that sheds light on the truth that God loves all of us. As LGBTQ+ Christians (or any LGBTQ+ individual with faith in a higher good), we must shine a light on the hypocrisy prevalent in so many religious individuals today. In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus tells us:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

We have an obligation to point out the bad fruit, those who teach a false Biblical hate. Hypocrites must be exposed for their hypocrisy, and not let them destroy our faith with their false faith.

I cannot accomplish this alone, and neither can you. We need to spread the light that is our faith: our faith in God, our faith in goodness, and our faith in love. We need to help others shine so we can show the way to living the life God wants for us. We must live by example and shine our light around the room so that others can see. And finally, we need to call out the bad fruit for the harm they are doing. Too often, people become stubborn in their beliefs. They see what they are doing is wrong, but they are too hardheaded to change their ways. Others are too arrogant to realize that they are wrong. We need the be the light that can guide the way.