"Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
(Philippians 4:8, 9 - The Message)
It's better to be positive than to be negative.
Don't you think so?
The Gospel...the GOOD NEWS...is, and should be, nothing but a completely positive message.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds in the Christmas story, they didn't ask them, "If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?"
They simply announced the GOOD NEWS to them.
GOOD NEWS to ALL PEOPLE.
On the Day of Pentecost the diverse population of Jerusalem heard nothing but a positive message delivered in Spirit-speak by the 120 who had been in the Upper Room.
They responded to them by saying, "Do we not hear them speaking (only) the wonderful works of God in our own languages?"
Jesus said that the Gospel was proactive, consisting of two "Do's" as opposed to the ten "Don'ts" that Moses received on Mt. Sinai. In the New Covenant, "thou shalt not" is replaced with "you SHALL love the Lord your God with all your heart, and you SHALL love your neighbor as yourself."
That's all the Gospel is.
Just two things.
To make it out to be anything more than that is, in my opinion, antichrist.
It's why the cross...something made of only two simple beams, a vertical and a horizontal...is the symbol of Christianity.
Even though it's been used as an image of hate in some instances...been burned on some front lawns as an intimidation tactic by some messed up people, etc., it's still the perfect symbol for the simplicity that is in Christ.
When Jesus appeared to people, both before and after His resurrection, His first words to them were nearly always, "Fear not!"
The GOOD NEWS should always confirm that salutation.
Kind of makes you wonder how the message of Christianity turned into one that is so fear-based.
Come Fly With Me
And...speaking of fear...
I've already mentioned "The Rapture" several times in this book (don't try to look it up in a concordance because it's not in the Bible), but if you weren't raised with the awareness of it looming over every day of your life...didn't have it as a main factor in every decision you made...if you never lived with the constant dread of it possibly occurring at any minute, and the fear that it most likely would be occurring without you being a part of it because you weren't good enough...or holy enough...then you can't appreciate what it can do to a person.
Fear really messes with your mind, especially when it's ever-present. Seriously, if you weren't raised with the daily threat that He was coming "as a thief in the night", you can't imagine what it was like for those of us who were.
You never rest well when you're afraid you may be the victim of a robbery.
OK, so anyway, I knew I had same-sex attraction as early as age four...don't ask me how I knew, I just did. And most of the gay people who write to me to tell their horror stories of failed exorcisms, conversion therapies, shock treatments, ex-gay programs, and other such nonsense, tell me that they knew at or around that age, too. Amazing how so many pre-schoolers were able to choose the gay lifestyle, even before they learned how to ride a bike!
But I digress.
Point being, one main reason I never considered either the probability or the necessity of my coming out...why I never thought my orientation was ever going to be a big deal in my life...is that I was raised believing that the end of the world was imminent.
I realized early on that my psychological wiring wasn't the work of a demon...wasn't a phase...or a sickness...or a mental illness. It certainly wasn't a choice (more about that later). So I accepted the fact that it wasn't going to change, and that I was in an impossible situation because of it and because of my call to the ministry, as I've already stated.
Any gay Christian who grew up knowing at least a little bit about the Bible probably has identified at some point with Paul talking about his mysterious "thorn in the flesh" that God refused to remove from him, even though he prayed three times that He would. Well...some of us prayed three thousand, maybe three million times that our "thorn" would be removed, but ultimately we had to just settle for believing that His grace would be sufficient to help us manage it.
But the reason I could deal with my own thorny reality is that I thought the majority of my young life that I would be flying away at any minute, and then I would go to heaven where Jesus could fix me. Don't get me wrong. The Rapture was never something I looked forward to. The thought of it always scared me, and made me very sad at the prospect of it preventing me from living out my life on the earth. But at least, I thought, it would take care of the problem.
Then, over the years as my theology progressed and evolved, and I came to believe that the Bible didn't really support John Nelson Darby's (the father of 'The Rapture') teaching, I just immersed myself more and more in the ministry. I dated girls and eventually got married with the intention of finally changing myself into a heterosexual...or at least learning to act like one. I mean, how hard could it be, really? If you believe the trumpet could be sounding at any minute, you at least know your condition of trying to be something you're not is, at the very least, temporary, and therefore doable and bearable.
Anyway, back to my point about being positive.
I have no regrets now about anything in my spiritual/theological journey, including my life with The Rapture.
It was what it was.
Growing up, I heard nearly every week in church that He was coming for those "who love His appearing" (which always worried me because I didn't really love it like I thought I should).
But I do love it now.
Now that phrase means something quite different to me, and I do love His appearing every day of my life with every new revelation of Him...every epiphany...every time I go from glory to glory and find Him in every one of those incarnations.
The Daystar has risen in my heart.
It's why I believe that Jesus said "no man knows the day or the hour" of His appearing...it's because it's not a single event...it happens at different times, and it happens differently for every person.
Nowadays if and when people ask me if I don't believe in The Rapture any more, I refuse to answer that question.
Well, it's not that I refuse to answer so much as I try to re-direct the framework of the conversation.
I don't ever want to be known as someone who doesn't believe in something.
I don't want to be known for not believing in The Rapture, or for not believing in hell.
I want to to be known for what I (do) believe!
If Darby was right and there is, indeed, a Rapture...if I literally hear Gabriel blow his heavenly horn...I promise you that I'll fly away with you and the other believers to wherever they're/we're going to go for seven years before re-entering the earth's atmosphere, and I will deliver a sincere apology to all concerned for getting it so wrong.
In the meantime, here's what I've been saying for years, and anyone who has any depth of understanding at all about these things will know what I mean by it. I'm going to use some terminology here that may be completely foreign to you.
If it is, don't worry about it.
It doesn't really matter anyway.
QUESTION #4: Do you believe in The Rapture of the Church?
ANSWER #4: Yes, I believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.
If that doesn't happen,
I believe in a Mid-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.
If that doesn't happen,
I believe in a Post-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.
If that doesn't happen,
I believe that Jesus Christ will come back to the earth through the clouds in bodily form
If THAT doesn't happen,
I believe that there will eventually be a global, cosmic paradigm shift where the entire population will finally see the Christ...a time when His Spirit is poured out on all humanity, and "every eye shall see Him"!
Bottom line, it's all good.
All kidding aside, if you believe we're in the last days it's fine with me.
If you believe in The Rapture, cool.
If you're really looking forward to it, far be it from me to take away your hope.
Go ahead and believe.
All things are possible.
As I said, if there is one, I'm flying, too.
If I'm wrong about it all you can sit next to me at "the Marriage Supper of the Lamb" and say I told you so.
Just promise me you won't forget the part about the GOOD NEWS in whatever you believe.
It's very important.