Today it's fashionable to get as much permanent ink on your skin as possible. Is this a healthy trend?
Page 62 of 63
I was an outcast in the 6th grade. I've told more than one person that I wouldn't go back to that time in my life for all the money in the world. That was the year my classmates got downright mean. We've all heard the old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me," but many of us know from personal experience that they can. Words can wound our spirits and create fear and isolation. Some of the 6th graders in my class knew this all too well and used it to their advantage.
One day after school, I boarded my bus and was waiting for it to take me home. There were around 20 other busloads of students waiting to do the same thing. One of my classmates leaned out his window so hundreds of kids could see and hear him. He started speaking in a mocking, effeminate manner that was clearly meant to emulate that of a "gay" person's voice. He then called out my name, waving and pointing. The message was clear, "Alan is gay." My entire bus just looked at me. Kids on the other buses did the same. They began to point and laugh. I endured more incidents like that than I care to recall.
As I transitioned to junior high and high school, I did a lot to repackage my image and worked hard to overcome anything that would hint that I might be gay. I'm not sure I did a great job, but most of my classmates finally decided they liked me. In my early adulthood, I began to seriously consider how to deal with my struggle with same-sex attraction. The world around me was shifting. The culture's beliefs and attitudes about homosexuality were changing. What had long been the position of Hollywood started rubbing off on Main Street. Eventually, after trying it I decided that Hollywood's views were based on the illusion of a contented gay life that conflicted with my deepest beliefs. I turned to the ministry I now lead, Exodus International, for support and they helped me unravel scars from the past and inspired me with hopes for the future.
It was during this time of transition that one of my classmates told me that the leader of the cruel attacks I endured in 6th grade had come out as gay himself. I did feel some empathy for him, but the fact that he was launching an all out verbal assault on me while he was struggling with the same issues was tough to reconcile. He was the most popular, accepted kid in our class and could have used his popularity to help me, a "geek," but instead shunned me and encouraged others to do the same. I guess insecure people often displace their insecurity by demonizing others.
Fast-forward more than 20 years later to now—where the social climate as well as the opportunity for rejection is still changing and evolving. We now have various social networking sites such as YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. For those of you who aren't familiar with Facebook, you have to send or receive a "friend request" in order to connect with someone. I've sent and received many from old classmates—good friends and casual acquaintances.
One day as I was perusing my list of friends, I noticed that two of my good buddies from high school had all of the sudden disappeared from my "friend" list. I wondered if it had anything to do with my "controversial" life or my "controversial" career. So I emailed them and asked. My suspicions were confirmed. Talk about hypocritical. I have 1,300 friends on Facebook (sarcastic "Woo Hoo!" to follow) many of whom by no means live moral lives, vote the way I would or even believe in God. I know several who are openly gay and others who outright reject my faith. I choose to befriend those who are diametrically opposed to the life I have chosen to live and yet I am rejected for my "bigoted" and "intolerant" views.
People of faith who choose to surrender their sexuality to Christ and who choose to live their lives in a way that is different than the culture's new normal are now the new social outcasts. It's obvious that people of faith in general are in the same category. I was just reading that California's Prop. 8 opponents are now circulating maps identifying the personal homes of individuals who financially supported Prop. 8 in order to harass their families and shame their views! Unbelievable.
Many students will risk the rejection of their peers and subject themselves to outright discrimination on April 20 to stand up for biblical truth on campuses nationwide on the Day of Truth. This annual event originated five years ago to affirm every students' constitutional right to free speech and to provide an opportunity to have an honest conversation about sexuality. These students will courageously join their voices with the more than 13,000 others who in years past have done just that. I stand with them as someone who has experienced the freedom truth brings and I am reminded that we are in good company. Jesus was a social outcast. He told us we would be too in 1 John 3:13, "Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you," and in John 15:18, "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." He considered us worth the rejection of the world. May we consider those who reject us worth the same.
Alan Chambers is the president of Exodus International, the largest worldwide Christian outreach to those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction and the author of two books: God's Grace & the Homosexual Next Door and Leaving Homosexuality. www.exodusinternational.org
Things are different in Canada. No offense to Canadians, of course. Recently I was engaged in a lively debate about the topic of homosexuality and politics with a dear Canadian friend while I was there for a speaking engagement. Obviously, Canadian law has gone much further than U.S. law when it comes to the legitimization of homosexuality. Canada's speech codes and laws on marriage are far more liberal than ours. And, from an outsider's perspective, Canadians are not as engaged in the political battle surrounding these issues as we are in the United States. In fact, many of my Canadian friends, this one included, give me a very hard time about ministering to people struggling with same-sex attraction and being active and outspoken on political and social issues that encompass homosexuality.
During lunch, my friend asked my views on "covenant friendships". I'd never heard that term, but quickly realized she was referring to sexless committed relationships between members of the same gender. I immediately called them sinful. She was shocked. So was I. Apparently, we don't share what I consider to be fairly cut and dry biblical position on this issue. So I asked her to give me a first hand account of such a relationship that she saw as healthy. She went on to share the story of a Christian lesbian who believes that homosexual behavior is sinful, but holds no hope of ever experiencing heterosexuality. The thought of living a single life was too much for her to bear and so she developed a committed non-sexual relationship with another woman. They held a commitment ceremony, bought a house together, combined their finances and are trying to live happily ever after. They live in separate bedrooms, but in every other sense of the word, they are partners. "What's wrong with that?" my friend asked. Everything.
Talk about selling God short in the "I will supply all of your needs" category. What about abstaining from all appearances of evil? How about fleeing from temptation? Two same-sex attracted women getting married and pledging their lifelong love and devotion to one another, with or without sex, is called homosexuality. How can we say anything less? There is no such thing as diet homosexuality. If I was going to go as far as these two women have I would just go all the way. It isn't only the sex that makes homosexuality sinful, it is choosing to live outside of God's best. He did not create two men or two women to meet the needs of one another in a spousal capacity. Loneliness isn't grounds for trying to meet your own needs outside of His will, sexually or otherwise.
The story of Abraham and Sarah comes to mind. God promised Abram that he would have a son and that his descendents would be as plentiful as the stars. Abraham expected that God was going to give he and Sarah an heir. By age 86, Abraham and Sarah still had no children or prospects of any. Sarah told Abraham to sleep with her maidservant, Hagar. Abraham did so and she conceived and later bore him a son that they named Ishmael. This wasn't God's plan for them or the heir He had promised and they quickly knew it. Fourteen years later, when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90, God fulfilled His promise and gave them Isaac. I don't know how much you know about world history and how Abraham and Sarah's choices affect us today, but the turmoil that exists in the Middle East - the turmoil that has always existed there - is directly linked to a war between Isaac, the heir God promised, and Ishmael, the product of Abraham and Sarah's impatience.
Our impatience with God and our inability to allow Him to work things out in our lives can lead us to sin. I see the relationship between the two women that I related above as a counterfeit to the intimacy that only God can give and bring through another person. Like Proverbs 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life." Filling the hole in our hearts with anything other than God's best will make our hearts sick. Whether we call them civil unions, domestic partnerships, same-sex marriage or covenant friendships, the truth of the matter is that these unions are less than the Creator's creative intent for His creation.
So as the Prop 8 debate in California reheats once again, I am reminded that God's plan for marriage transcends our human interpretation of fairness and affection.
Marriage is His idea. It is a reflection of Jesus, the Groom and the church - His bride.
It goes to the core of who God is and who we are in relationship to Him. Repackaging or redefining it in the political or social realm will not change the truth, but we are foolish to try.
Alan Chambers is the President of Exodus International, the largest worldwide Christian outreach to those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction. www.exodus.to
An anonymous historian or political thinker once charted the progression of the world's greatest civilizations from their birth to the zenith of their power and then to their demise. The pattern he discovered includes eight critical steps: (1) From bondage to eminent spiritual faith; (2) from spiritual faith to great courage; (3) from courage to liberty; (4) from liberty to abundance; (5) from abundance to complacency; (6) from complacency to apathy; (7) from apathy to dependence; and (8) from dependence back to bondage.
In my opinion, America is now at step seven. We are dependent on foreign oil to keep our economy from crashing, and 70 percent of that oil is coming from foreign countries that want to see America fall. America is no longer a producing nation; we have become a consuming nation.
Our jobs have been sent to foreign countries. Labels on clothing that used to read "Made in America" now read "Made in China," "Made in Korea," "Made in Vietnam," or "Made in ..." some other nation.
In addition, America is swimming in debt. The trade imbalance has put billions of American dollars in the hands of the Chinese government, and China is using our money to buy up American companies. You don't have to be an economic scientist to discern what the negative results of this trend will be.
In the area of trade, America is dependent on China's continuing to use the U.S. dollar as the currency of exchange rather than the euro. If China ever dumped the U.S. dollar, our economy would crash.
My wife, Diana, and I have traveled to Europe and the Middle East many times since the 1970s, and until two years ago the American dollar was a welcomed currency. Recently the desired form of exchange has been the euro. The dollar is losing its influence.
Not only that, but America, instead of being the superpower it once was, is in a precarious position related to other countries that are antagonistic toward us. Russia, China and Iran-an axis of evil since the early '90s-are united against America and Israel. Recently the Russians pledged to sell long-range bombers to Iran to retaliate against Israel.
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made enormous strides in 2008 toward his goal of obtaining nuclear weapons. The Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran now has 3,800 uranium enrichment centrifuges in full-time operation. Most of these centrifuges have been upgraded to modern, more effective models, and some estimates predict that Iran will have enough enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in less than one year.
In 2008 Ahmadinejad also continued to threaten Israel, calling for that nation to be utterly destroyed. When Israel was celebrating its 60th birthday, he declared: "Those who think they can revive the stinking corpse of the usurping and fake Israeli regime by throwing a birthday party are seriously mistaken. Today the reason for the Zionist regime's existence is questioned, and this regime is on its way to annihilation."
While Iran was making progress in its race for nuclear weapons in 2008, America and the international community did little to stop it. The United Nations Security Council failed to reach an agreement on economic sanctions against Iran, and the Congress of the United States also failed to impose new economic sanctions on Iran before it left for its winter recess.
Not long ago Russia invaded the neighboring nation of Georgia and stationed troops there, fully intending to control the oil flowing through it. Look on a world map-the road from Russia through Georgia leads straight to Israel.
America, it's time for us to wake up! We are in a war for our survival. But there are four ways we as a nation can stop what is happening in the Middle East without firing a shot:
- Divest our stocks from private and public pension portfolios that are attached to Iran
- Drill for oil in the United States so we are able to end our addiction to foreign oil
- Vote for the development of effective anti-missile defenses
- Develop and deploy a comprehensive effort to assist the Iranian people in liberating themselves from their country's theocratic dictatorship.
These measures could bring dramatic results that would help prevent both World War III and the continuing decline of America. But if we don't act now, we may find ourselves the victims in the next global conflict rather than the victors.
Christian artists today are using their special talents to minister in ghettos, on beaches, in shopping malls, in prisons and anywhere else people need Jesus.
These young Christians are influencing culture and taking a radical stand for Jesus.
Tim Tebow of the University of Florida is the youngest player to win college footballs Heisman Trophy. But the humble missionary kid says he is passionate about winning a more important prize.
With the release of its third film, Fireproof, this month, Sherwood Baptist Church is proving that Christians can impact culture with media.
The niece of Martin Luther King Jr. was an unlikely woman to become a pro-life activist. She had an abortion herself, but the painful experience helped her uncover the lies used by the abortion industry.
When you see something that conflicts with biblical standards, declare the truth.
As you may know, we're in both a cultural battle and a spiritual war for this generation. We see evidence of it all around us every day—young people are broken and hurting. As Christian adults, we must get in the fight.
If you look around, it's not hard to see that the people shaping the culture are the ones who do not subscribe to biblical teaching and who are often hostile to Christian values.
With the difficult challenges our youth face, and with more spiritual assaults headed their way, you may be asking yourself how you can get involved. The answer is simple: Speak out and encourage other believers to do the same.
When you see something that conflicts with biblical standards lift your voice and declare the truth, but do it in a godly, caring manner.
Recently, Caite and her youth group from The Vine Church in Spring Hill, Florida, went to the local mall to visit the lingerie store Victoria's Secret. They entered the establishment one person at a time and pleaded with the manager to remove the posters of scantily dressed models because the images were offensive to them.
The manager kicked out one teen after another until they all were gone. But when the group walked back into the store together and in unison said: "Please take these posters down. They are destroying our generation," the entire store fell silent and not one shopper budged.
The manager removed the posters.
Another youth group in Jacksonville, Florida, protested the sale of pornography in a store during the Christmas season. The students gathered at the Regency Square Mall to oppose the sale of X-rated ornaments called "pornaments," sold at Spencer's stores.
The kids sang, chanted in protest and pleaded with the manager to take the items off the shelves.
The youth pastor, Clint Wilder, said the teens protested because they were tired of seeing products that promote sex and pornography. A news report later revealed that half the company's stores pulled the items because consumers said the sale of such items was inappropriate.
Some young people may not be old enough to vote, but they're realizing they can take action to impact culture.
You too can be an important example to this generation by taking a stand when you see something in your community that disagrees with the godly principles our country was built on.
Those who speak up are heard.
But if you let people who do not share your values do the talking, they will be the ones to decide what's right and wrong. Please don't let this happen.
By now you've probably heard or read about the BattleCry for a Generation campaign, which is designed to equip and encourage churches to disciple and double the size of their youth groups over the next five years.
We have developed many resources to help Christian leaders win the spiritual battle. But if your church isn't part of the initiative, then do whatever you can to get your pastor, youth pastor and congregation involved by going to www.battlecry.com.
The Web site offers tools to help local churches protect young people in the spiritual battle being waged against them. And it includes information about how we adults can band together to turn the tide.
Resources include videos produced specifically for pastors, other leaders and teens. You will also find more testimonies by people who are taking a stand for biblical values in our culture.
Be an advocate for the young people in your church and community. Encourage them to join the fight to take back their generation for Christ!
Ron Luce founded Teen Mania in 1986. He and his wife, Katie, have seen more than 2 million youth attend events they host called Acquire the Fire, and they have sent more than 50,000 teens across the globe on mission trips. Ron and Katie live in Garden Valley, Texas, with their three children: Hannah, Charity and Cameron.