Prayer and Anguish


“The LORD is nigh unto them that call upon him,
To all that call upon him in truth.
He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him:
he will also hear their cry, and will save them.”
Psalm 145:18-19
(KJV)


Recently, I was concerned about a friend. Essentially, my friend was in the process of making some choices I believed were unwise.

As I pondered my friend’s choices, they weighed so heavily on my heart that I prayed to the LORD concerning this friend every day.

My soul was anguished on behalf of my friend. Every day I was on my knees. I was fretting. I was weeping. I was groaning.

How long has it been in your life since you’ve had a real encounter with God in prayer? I tell you, friend, so often I am all too consumed up in myself to give much thought to God in prayer. I am too consumed by the things on this world to focus on Jesus. All too often do I set my mind on things below, and not on things above!

But God has a better way for us. Instead of us just buzzing around relying on ourselves all the time, God wants us to come before him and place our worries in his lap. He wants us to stop for a minute, and to simply sit, be silent, and know that God, the LORD, is God. He wants to refresh our souls in his presence; he wishes to fill us with songs of deliverance.

In the end, my friend never went through with his choices. I couldn’t have been more relieved. But I have to be more careful to remember what precipitated this miracle: not my own strength, but the power of God through prayer.

I think if we be genuine with God, God will be genuine with us, and make his presence known to us.

God bless.

Dr Michael L. Brown, “Can You Be Gay and Christian?” Book Review/Summary

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Michael L. Brown, “Can You Be Gay and Christian?: Responding with Love and Truth to Questions about Homosexuality” (Charisma House Book Group: 2014); pp. xiii, 286.

I recently finished reading Dr Michael L. Brown’s latest book Can You Be Gay and Christian? This work may be described as a theological critique of arguments in favour of the new liberal pro-homosexual theological revisionism (my term), also known as “pro-gay theology”, that has arisen since the sexual revolution sparked in the later 1960s.

I first became aware of Dr Brown’s engagement with same-sex issues in faith and culture when I read his authoritative 2011 study, A Queer Thing Happened to America (Equaltime Books: 2011), which is a historical and social commentary on the causes and effects of the sexual liberation movement on American culture from the late 1960s through early 2000s.

I was quite confident from Brown’s rich and robustly researched 2011 study that his new 2014 work would be just as engaging. I was not disappointed.

Brown’s book is a challenging argument in favour of the notion that both practicing homosexuality (“being gay”) and being a committed follower of Jesus Christ and His gospel (“being Christian”) are mutually incompatible.

Brown writes skillfully and on various levels for his intended audience. On the one hand, sections of the book must necessarily engage academically with pro-gay theological revisionists. Yet Brown never neglects the pastoral element of his book. Each section is both accessible and applicable by any intelligent layman.

Brown writes with a rare mixture of compassion and candour. He does not seek to disrespect his opponents, and he always presents the opposing views fairly. He also seeks to love his homosexual, bisexual and transgender readers, and to equip his committed Christian readers to do the same.

The book oscillates between positive and negative apologetics:

Chapter 1 (‘Love Does No harm to Its Neighbour’) charactarises the main concern of pro-gay theology and theologians, namely, that affirming gay relationships is an act of Christian love, and a denial of this consistency is a denial of love. In contrast to this point, Brown seeks to argue that whereas it is true that many churches have failed to show genuine love to gays and lesbians et al, nevertheless true Christian love modeled on Jesus is, first, a love for God then, second, a love for neighbour, knowing God’s ways are always best and God has a better way if we will deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Jesus.

Chapter 2 (‘To Judge or Not to Judge?’) answers a pro-gay theological objection against traditional Christianity from judgement, namely, that we cannot judge homosexual relationships to be wrong because of Jesus’ teaching not to judge another in Matthew 7:1. However, Brown notes that, firstly, the context demands we take Jesus’ teaching as referring to unrighteous judgement, and, secondly, we must recognise that Jesus does give believers grounds to “make a right judgement” (John 7:24). If we were never allowed to judge, how could we ever condemn as wrong obviously heinous things such as rape, pedophilia, incest, and so on? So of course we are called to judge and discern, but to do so rightly.

Chapter 3 (‘Are We Using the Bible to Sanction Antihomosexual Prejudice?’) answers another one of traditional Christianity’s critics’ concerns that the Church’s traditional stance on homosexual relationships is conducive to the high rate of suicide among the homosexual community. But Dr Brown castigates this as a gross oversimplification that does not get at the real issues. Brown cites both professional studies that measure the high depressive rate among homosexuals as due to a variety of factors which are not necessarily religious at all, and also presents from the other side of the equation true stories about men and women who, having come to Christ and turned from the gay lifestyle, were completely set free and delivered from depression and despair and loneliness, even though some still grapple with same-sex attractions.

Chapter 4 (‘The Bible Is a Heterosexual Book’) responds to a pro-gay argument that observes that, given the whole Bible, the so-called “clobber-passages” (i.e., those passages which have traditionally used to condemn homosexual activity) make up a small percentage of all the verses in the whole Bible, and therefore homosexuality must not have been such of a big deal for God or the Bible anyway. In response, Brown notes that this obviously says nothing about the so-called “clobber-passages” themselves. But also, Brown notes that the Bible does in fact have a great deal to say about human sexuality and relationships in general, and that the Bible always speaks in the negative concerning any form of homosexual activity whatever, but in contrast always assumes that blessed, good relationships are heterosexual (husband/wife, father/mother, male/female) and blesses only these legitimate heterosexual relationships, namely, those which are monogamous and in the context of marriage.

Chapter 5 (‘Levitical Laws and the Meaning of To’evah (Abomination)’) responds to pro-gay arguments trying to soften the meaning of the Hebrew word toevah with reference to homosexual activity, where pro-gay theology prefers to interpret this word as referring merely to a Israelite culture-specific “taboo”. Brown responds convincingly that all professional Hebrew philologists are agreed the word means “abomination” that is universally morally prohibited for all people. Interestingly, this word is also etymologically linked to the word ta’av (to abominate, detest, hate), sealing its nature as denoting a morally abominable and unnatural thing.

Chapter 6 (‘What Did Jesus Say About Homosexuality?’) responds to a common pro-gay objection to traditional Christianity that says Jesus did not talk about homosexual behaviour, and so he must have been okay with it. On the contrary, Brown argues Jesus did not come to do away with the Law and the Prophets, but rather to fulfill them, reaffirming in even stronger terms in Matthew 19 the creation standard of monogamous, male-female lifelong covenant union in marriage found in Genesis 2. Jesus, as a first century Palestinian Jewish Rabbi, most assuredly did affirm all the Law and the Prophets had said previously concerning the moral status of homosexual behaviour, and we have no reason to think otherwise given his surrounding socio-religious context.

Chapter 7 (‘The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant’) responds to a pro-gay theological inference to Jesus’ affirmation and celebration of homosexual relationships from his healing of the centurion’s servant. Pro-gay theologians have advocated that the term in the New Testament translated commonly translated “servant” or “son” (pais) can also denote a same-sex lover. But Brown convincingly demonstrates with reference to major ancient Greek lexicographical reference work that, whereas this is one possible translation used outside the biblical sources, it is never so used in the Bible, and thus no authoritative Greek lexicographical publication has ever postulated this third translation as a possibility in the biblical texts. Brown also notes that, according to these lexicographers, the word pais refers not merely to any same-sex lover, but to a young — probably teenage — same-sex “boy-toy” owned by the older man. Were the pro-gay argument true, it would follow that Jesus not only affirmed a homosexual relationship, but a specific kind of homosexual relationship, namely, a pederastic one — a sexual relationship between an older man and a young teenage boy — which is morally absurd, not to mention “blasphemous” of the Lord.

Chapter 8 (‘Paul and Homosexuality’) responds to some common pro-gay objections to traditional Christian usage of two of Paul’s major texts in opposition to homosexual practice, namely, Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 6, which try to limit the context in which Paul condemned homosexual behaviour, particularly to that of abusive/objectifying pagan ritualistic contexts. Brown’s response to this is primarily to say that there is no evidence in the texts that Paul is restricting himself in this way, and besides, many of the sins listed in the texts (greed, depravity, mercilessness, etc.) would be sins wherever they were committed, and there is no reason to think otherwise concerning homosexual practice. Brown also responds to pro-gay arguments which try to show that we do not know what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 6 by the terms  malakoi (“receptive partner in male-male intercourse”) and arsenokoites (“men who have sex with men”), arguments which Brown shows to be unfounded from professional etymological research. Brown also points to Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 6 that those who struggle with same-sex desire that they may be justified, sanctified, washed, cleansed and changed by the power of the Spirit of God, and live in the hope of New Life in Jesus.

Chapter 9 (‘Everything Reproduces After Its Own Kind’) reports on some of the heinous and frankly heretical fruits of pro-gay theology on the scene today. Essentially, Brown demonstrates how pro-gay theology is fundamentally driven by a desire to cause the Word of God to conform to one’s sexual identity and behaviour, instead of yeilding one’s sexual identity and behaviour to be shaped by the Word and Spirit of God. It is therefore, fundamentally, a form of idolatry of the self. This is amply demonstrated with reference to several examples of the perverse interests of the pro-gay Metropolitan Community Church cult in BDSM and its mixing in pro-gay politics, and also with reference to several greatly influential and highly respected gay theologians’ fantasies which depict God, Christ and the Holy Spirit and various biblical saints as hyper-homosexualised beings who take on a  tirade of different sexual identities and engaging in erotic activity with biblical figures. For example, Brown cites one group of Jewish pro-gay revisionists who depict the fiery consumption of Aaron’s two sons Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 not as their annihilation for presumptuous offering of false and unauthorised worship before the LORD, but rather as a passionate, homosexual threesome between Yahweh, Nadab and Abihu, who gratefully receives them into a fiery, divine threesome. It is a highly disturbing yet eye-opening chapter to read to find out the true nature of revisionist, pro-gay theological heresy.

Chapter 10 (‘Balancing Grace and Truth’) ends the book with a pastoral note on how Christians ought to approach this issue as a matter of course: with wholehearted devotion to God and the truth of the Word, and with a heart full of grace and compassion to reach out for the lost. This chapter encourages all who struggle with same-sex desires to find their identity and wholeness in Jesus Christ, serving Him. The book ends in asking our homosexual friends (indeed, all of us): “Isn’t this [i.e. the true Christ and all His fullness] enough?” (p.222).

I would recommend this book to any Christian struggling through this issue of Christianity and homosexuality, especially someone who either themselves struggles with having same-sex desires and being a Christian, or has a friend who is in a  similar situation. It may also be helpful for any Christian — same-sex attracted or not — who finds themselves engaged in conversation about Christ with same-sex attracted people.

You can follow Dr Michael Brown on his web-based ministry:
1. AskDrBrown.org Website
2. AskDrBrown Facebook Page

God bless.

Brendan BURNETT (here).

My Personal Testimony: The Word, the World and the Way.

Here’s the story of my Christian journey of how I came to know Jesus and be a Christian! I hope you are encouraged by it!

I was born September 15th 1992. I wasn’t brought up in a Christian home. But then, one Spring, in Year 6, my Primary School put on a carnival where people had various rides and stalls with things on display for sale.

On one stall, there was a stand of Bibles. So I picked one up, and asked the lady, “How much is this one?” and I remember her saying, “It is a gift.”

So I took the Bible and I began to read it. I believe the first book I ever read was the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah begins with a bang! Immediately I was captivated by its central character: the LORD. He was powerful and mysterious; fearful, but good and loving. Most of all, the Temple Vision in Isaiah 6, where the LORD appears surrounded by angels was particularly amazing where God manifested his glory.

As a result of reading this I was awe-inspired by the LORD such that I believe I asked my elder brother Matthew (who was going to a Youth Group at the time which apparently I also once visited) who the LORD is supposed to be. And he told me somewhat about Jesus.

So I put two and two together and got JESUS!

Then the next year, in Year 7, the Gideons (a society of Christian business men) came to our High School year group. They came and gave us all little red books: “New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs.” So I took one and read portions of the New Testament.

Reading the New Testament confirmed my simple faith in Jesus. More than that, the Gospel of John testifies concerning JESUS, referring back to what I has read in the Isaiah 6 Temple Vision:

“These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” (John 12:41)

The only “His” or “Him” in John’s immediate context is Jesus himself! Isaiah saw *his* glory, and spoke of *him*? Isaiah saw Jesus! Jesus was not only a man. Jesus was the LORD, the God of all creation, come to dwell among us. (I learned all this without any preconceptions.) Jesus made me and crafted me to know and live for him, and be sent as his messenger.

As the LORD God says in Isaiah 6, “Whom shall I send for us?” And Isaiah replied, “Here am I: Send me.”

So then I truly trusted in Jesus and knelt to receive him. I got a new heart and new spirit. I was washed, and I was cleansed of all my sins by Jesus, the LORD God of Israel, by faith.

Now, the first thing I did when I believed was try to learn how to share my faith. It only seemed natural, after all, that the awesome God who made himself known to me wanted to be known by everyone else. One of the primary ways I did this was by watching videos of Christians sharing the hope and love of God in Jesus but being opposed to their faces by the world. They were confronting to watch! I was both terrified and inspired by the example of these courageous Christians.

One of the ways I learned to share Jesus was with “The Way of the Master” method taught by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron. Their method makes the person to whom you are witnessing condemn himself so you don’t have to! You ask a person if they’ve ever told a lie or lusted or hated somebody else and so on. Then show them that it is sin according to the Bible (e.g. Sermon on the Mount). Then you share the biblical consequences for sin: namely, death and hell. Finally, you present Jesus’s death on the cross as God’s way for people to escape God’s judgement against sin. (By and large, my evangelism still takes this general shape!)

The other thing I did was to soak in music. I remember playing “Planet Shakers” on my PlayStation full blast and just worshiping God. I also kept reading the Bible.

As I started to put my faith into action and by being different and sharing Jesus, I was also very naïve. For example, I would mix my Christianity with other things. At one point, for instance, about through Year 8, I thought NewAgey spiritualism through rocks and crystals and tarot cards and so on was all fine and good. For, surely, if God is “spirit” and these things are “spiritual” that should be fine, right?

Wrong. Remember I was still reading my Bible. What did the Bible say?

“Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Revelation 22:15)

Woah! The Bible actually teaches that things like magic lead people not to God but away from God; that is, “outside” or into hell. So not everything is acceptable before God; there are boundaries of right and wrong.

Needless to say, I completely cast that stuff from me, and turned back to the Lord, to do what he wanted me to do. It was then that I found a little church, in about Year 9, at Loftus Uniting Church. That little fellowship gave me a sound example in Christian love. From things as small as allowing me–a mere kid among the mature and the elderly–to answer sermon-questions, or being made tea at the end of service, talked to, and getting lifts home… All these were practical examples of Christian love. So I came to value Christian fellowship very much.

From about Year 10, I found a new church, Jannali Anglican Church, I think because it had a Youth group. I still go there! (You should come along to our Sunday 7:00pm Evening Service.)

Next, came other challenges. You might remember that I was sharing my faith often. So I would often run up into opposition–sometimes for the right reason, and sometimes for the wrong reason.

For example, when I shared Jesus, some of my non-Christian friends would often mock Christ and Christianity. These weren’t really bad people per se; they just weren’t interested in religion. Some of them were also influenced by Dawkins and Hitchens and so on. So I began to read Christian intellectuals, like Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig and Alister McGrath to hold on to Christ and give a more courageous witness for Jesus. In sharing my faith regularly I found value in apologetics (defending the faith) and learning about how and why Christianity has historically come to believe what it does (theology). And I remain, as ever, a learner of Christ Jesus.

One time, I was publicly mocked by many people at lunch time following an episode that morning where I rebuked one of my non-believing friends from using the name of Christ in vain. Needless to say, this embarrassed and offended him to such an extent that he decided to stir up the particularly belligerent atheists against me. I distinctly remember them putting on a show of mock-worship. They set up some kind of a wood-log as a god to fall down before and glorify–a mindless, nonexistent thing… Get the idea? They were also just very spiteful, and it was very, very hurtful. Had it not been for two older Christians I would have been very, very downcast, and perhaps given up. But what man had intended for evil God had intended for good, and God crafted this episode as a means of making me bolder to share Christ.

I am also a naturally stubborn person, and this can be shaped and expressed in various ways, both good and bad. For instance, I can be bold and resilient in the midst of opposition. But, “Love builds up, but knowledge puffs up,” says the Lord (1 Corinthians 8:1b). This saying is true. For sometimes I would act rather disdainfully towards who are admittedly truly ignorant people. Not often did I show the grace, the patience and the mercy that Jesus would show to those who doubt: “Be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 1:22). But I would often become puffed up in my superior understanding of religion, and become arrogant. God needed to sanctify me of that, and he is in many ways still sanctifying me of it.

I was also massively hypocritical. On the one hand, I would speak out in evangelism against lust, but I was full of lust. In the Bible, I would read, “Do not steal,” yet I would steal. (I committed petty theft numerous times.) I would also speak out against impurity. But I was often engaged in crass, foul joking, and still fall into that sometimes. Yet again, I knew the Bible spoke out against drunkenness. but I remember at least two instances where I got blind drunk and was vomiting everywhere… I reckon my friends remember it too, and frankly, I think it permanently soiled my witness to Christ so that, today, at the end of the day, I don’t know if any of the years I spent at High School trying to be the best Christian I could be were of any advantage to anyone at all.

Well, finally it all came to a head. I made some really bad choices in High School. One particularly shameful event (which I will not go in to here) left me quite shaken about my Christian convictions. Eventually this went on so that I came to a place where I had to choose to be a Christian or not. Maybe to try and blend Christianity and this other thing… But as I spoke to one of my faithful church ministers about this, I knew from the Bible that that was illegitimate to identify both with Christ and with my sin. (C. S. Lewis talks about the dangers of “Christ-And” thinking.) But in many areas of life, you see, I was in the habit of justifying what I liked, and making God into my own image. But I knew I couldn’t do that here. Scripture was quite clear.

Long story short, I knew that if Jesus is Lord–indeed, the LORD God–who has created heaven and earth and me for himself, who died for my sins and risen again so I could live for him, then I would never be satisfied outside of him. So I pledged myself to identify with and serve Jesus Christ as Lord forever and ever. I was baptised on Sunday the 12th of September 2010, three days before I turned 18, proclaiming openly about who I am and who Jesus is, turning away from Satan and his works. I’m very thankful for the fact that some of my non-Christian friends and family came to my baptism.

Since then, I’ve been at the university for four years, from 2011 to 2014, learning Philosophy, and History and Literature, and so on. One of my favourite things has been to participate in the Sydney University Evangelical Union where Rowan Kemp is the chaplain. I feel I might go on to study Teaching and go back into the High School system. I have also considered the Christian Ministry.

God still has a long way to go with me yet. I am still learning, shaping and being shaped by others.

If you’re a Christian in my personal acquaintance reading this: you have no idea how much I love, value and appreciate every single one of you, and how I am jealous for you and your faith, and for your keeping on in the Christian life. Don’t give up, my brother/sister. Jesus is worth it!

If you’re a non-Christian, why don’t you do what I did, and pick up the Bible. Read Isaiah, or read the Gospel according to John. The Bible is the Word of God, and in it is found the testimony about Jesus. Find Jesus. Find Life.

This is my signature verse which I strive to live by:

Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

God bless you! Thanks for reading.

A Note on Singleness and Searching

I think our worldly culture glorifies human dating and sex to such an extent that we who are single feel inadequate because we do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend. But the Apostle Paul saw things quite differently. Paul believed that we can glorify God in whatever situation He has placed us in — if we trust Him. Indeed, Paul even believed that being single is in some sense better than being married or betrothed, since the single man has more time to devote himself to the things of God. Paul should know; he was, after all, single his whole life. But he used that time to devote it to the ministry with which he had been entrusted. (See 1 Corinthians 7:25-40.)

If you’re a Christian struggling with singleness, be mindful of (at least) three things:

(1) God speaks and galaxies come into existence. Do you really think, then, that the God of heaven is unable to bring a godly man or woman into your life at the right time? God is in control, and we need to trust in his perfect timing.

(2) Be mindful of the fact that it may not be the will of God for you to have a boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband right now. When Israel rebelled in the desert, God sent her into wandering for forty years so that she could learn her own heart before entering into the Promised Land. Even Jesus waited thirty years before beginning his public ministry; in the meantime, he surely devoted all his time learning from his Father. So, God probably makes us wait so that He can prepare our hearts and shape our character for the right person at the right time: the man or woman of His own choosing after His own heart.

(3) Pray in faith, and if it is God’s will, He will do it! If you desire something, ask God, and wait on him. Pray into the will of God concerning your future wife or husband. Actually pray for him or her, that God might give you wisdom into looking for and finding a godly person to be with. But don’t pray with wrong motives. Keep God’s glory and His will the root and foundation of your whole search. Otherwise, the search might become idolatry. For you will begin seeking after the gift (i.e. the boyfriend or the girlfriend) over and above the gift-Giver — God, the LORD, who has said, “Have no other gods before me.”

Finally, remember that God loves you, and will always give you your daily bread (your needs) so that you will not become fat and forget Him. God has given you a place in his family, His own Spirit, and He has also given you your brothers and sisters in the church to lean on, share concerns with and to pray with and for. Keeping seeking God’s will, and in His timing, He who “works all things for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28) will bring about a godly result.