Thursday, November 26, 2009

Remembering You

I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1.3)

This Grace of Giving

In 2 Corinthians 8.9 we read, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” This astounding truth surfaces after Paul lavishes praise on the Macedonian churches as examples the Corinthians should emulate. “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity,” he writes. (v2) He says, “They gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” (v3-4) Corinth is to Paul’s world what Paris is to ours—an urbane city brimming with affluent, educated people. Surely Paul knows readers they won’t kindle to being unfavorably compared to working-class, provincial believers. But his purpose for mentioning the Macedonians exceeds shaming the Corinthians into loosening their purse strings. He uses their example to remind his readers we’re all rich in ways that transcend our bank balances and net worth.

“Although Jesus was rich,” Paul explains, “He chose a life of poverty so we too could become rich.” He attributes this to grace, tying Christ’s selflessness to the Macedonians’ generosity. In verse 7, he tells the Corinthians, “Just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” In other words, all that we possess and everything we acquire—not just materially, but also spiritually—won’t yield the completeness we seek if we lack the grace to give. Paul defines “this grace of giving” as generosity born out of need. Christ sacrificed heavenly splendor and earthly life to give. The Macedonians begged Paul to accept their gifts, which they offered “out of the most severe trial” and “their extreme poverty.” Both cases exemplify amazing willingness to set aside personal needs and desires to enrich others.

Rich Generosity

Among the myriad blessings I’m grateful for today, one of the most amazing and precious to me is the grace of giving so many of you have shown to Straight-Friendly. You’ve repeatedly set aside your needs and desires to enrich the lives of all who gather here, offering wisdom, candor, encouragement, and most of all, unconditional love and acceptance in your comments. You’ve upheld this place (and me) in your prayers and voluntarily invited others to join our little faith community. Your overflowing joy has welled up in rich generosity.

Over the past year-and-a-half, I’ve been blessed to get to know many of you very well through off-line conversations. Others I know through our exchanges here. And still others I know only as email subscribers, Facebook group members, and readers I regularly see when monitoring the site traffic. But all of you have made my life extraordinarily rich. I count each one of you as dear brothers and sisters in Christ—part of a tight-knit, growing family God privileged me to join. Without your generosity, none of this would be true.

Thank God for You

“I thank my God every time I remember you,” Paul exclaims in Philippians 1.3. I can only echo his sentiment. Not a day passes that I don’t thank God for you. But beyond the joy and happiness that remembering you brings me personally, I’m also thankful for what your generosity means to so many others who come here. Without your compassion and enthusiasm, this would be a hollow endeavor. You make it a safe place warmed by God’s Spirit, His love, and His presence. The significance of this can’t be overstated, because many who find us have been so thoroughly wounded by fear and rejection, shoved into cold shadows of despair. Discovering Christians who welcome everyone equally restores their hope and renews their faith. I hear this over and over in emails from individuals, many of them young GLBT people disoriented by religious prejudice, struggling to reconcile their God-given identities with their profound longing to follow Christ. Because of you, they gain new confidence and strengthen their resolve to live lives of integrity and courage. Your grace in giving makes them rich. This springs to mind whenever you—collectively and individually—enter my thoughts. And more than anything, this is why I thank God every time I remember you.

Have a marvelous, and marvelously rich, Thanksgiving.

Postscript: Really, Really Big News!

As some of you know, this blog came about after I finished the manuscript for a book written specifically to encourage alienated gay (and straight) believers to reject rejection and resume their walk with Christ. Since completing it, though, it sat on the backburner while I turned my attention to keeping up the daily posts here.

Today I’m thoroughly delighted to announce Straight-Friendly: The Gay Believer’s Life in Christ is available for purchase at:

http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/straight-friendly-the-gay-believers-life-in-christ/7679717

Pending review of the final galleys, it will also be available on amazon.com and several other online book distributors. I’ve opted to self-publish, which means each copy is printed on demand and shipped directly to the purchaser. (It takes 3-5 days to process each order.)

I trust the book will speak to Christians currently struggling to overcome manmade faith barriers. And I hope many of you will give it a look, as well as recommend it to others. When you do, by all means, please drop me a line and tell me what you think!

7 comments:

Cuboid Master said...

Thank you, dear Tim, for your consistent outpouring of wisdom and love. Thanks to your example, I have a gay son with unshakable knowledge that God loves him, Christ Jesus is with him, and his life is consecrated. God directed me to you just when I needed you most, and for this I am eternally grateful. I purchased your book today!!! Once again, I am going to read it with an open and thoughtful heart, and then I am going to promote it in every venue I can think of, ha-ha! Thank you for permitting the Holy Spirit to work through you, my brother and friend. You honor the Lord with your commitment to truth. Please ask Walt to give you a bear hug from me. Well, I'll call and ask him myself, ha-ha. Love you, my friend!

jake - aka the comment novelist said...

3-5 days!!! I can't wait that long!!!

All kidding aside, I'm ecstatic about all this book means, not only for me, but the other readers here, and young people (or any age, really) who are going through what some of us have gone through.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sherry M Peyton said...

Oh Tim, you are such a terrific person and write so beautifully. No question about how the Spirit of God works so perfectly in you. I am just pleased as can be about the book. It is so worth reading and I am so sure you will find an audience. I hope your day yesterday was wonderful. Thanks for the blessings of your friendship.

Tim said...

Britt, Jake, Sherry, and everyone else who sent such kind words yesterday via email and Facebook:

You filled my Thanksgiving with utter joy, and I'm eternally grateful to each of you for being who you are and sharing your treasures with me. You will never know (not in this life, at least) how much it lifts and encourages me.

Last night, after our little family of "widows and orphans" cleared out and the place quieted down, I sat still for quite a while and thought about the day, the book, and how blessed I am to have so many amazing people in my life. Naturally, all of you figure prominently in that number.

And as I thought about this, I was struck by something I'd never realized before. Even if the book never made it into print, and regardless if it ever amounts to anything, it very likely will stand as my greatest blessing , simply because it proved so instrumental in introducing me to so many extraordinary, fascinating, and altogether lovely new friends.

That late evening nearly five years ago, when the compulsion to start writing seized me, my sole objective was trying to "work out my own salvation." My parents and I had reached an impossible impasse and hadn't spoken for better than a year. This was entirely my doing. I refused to call them or return their calls and spent all my time condemning them for not overcoming their prejudices to accept Walt and me. I was done with them, with the church, and with Christians as a whole. But Christ wasn't done with me.

He troubled my spirit with a stunning question: Why can't you love and accept them? Why won't you overcome your prejudices? I was so ashamed of my own disobedience I had no choice but try to sort through why I'd fallen into it. And, as I've always done, I decided to write my way through it.

Maybe this will evolve into a print-worthy article, I thought. But it quickly grew too long for that as I kept writing. I realized a book was taking shape. And when I finally got done, I came out of my burrow, told Walt it was finished, and his first words were, "You need to blog about this, just to see if it makes sense to other people and if there's any interest in this idea."

Although it made sense, neither of us understood God had a higher purpose in mind than using the blog for soft-pedaled market research. And it's just now that I'm seeing the picture more clearly.

He used the book as the catalyst for the blog, and He used the blog to complete my healing. Without a doubt, I know He guided every one of you to this place as His emissaries. Your love and support brought fresh sweetness to my soul and renewed strength to my spirit.

And while writing the book urged me to reach out to my folks and got us back on track, your witness of God's grace and acceptance validated it. Not in a million years would I have expected my parents would ever countenance the book or blog, let alone embrace and endorse it.

Yet that's what they've done--and not only they, but my entire far-flung family. Just a few days ago, a cousin said in an email, "I am so proud of you. God has His hand upon you Tim Wolfe and my prayer is that He uses you to touch other lives for His glory." I wept with joy.

Without any of you knowing it, your contribution to this miracle cannot be denied. Our great God has used each of you mightily. You have changed my life--and the lives of those closest to me. And as I considered all of this last night, all I couldn't get Ephesians 3.20 out of my mind: He "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

Thank you, thank you, thank you for allowing His power to work in and through you. Book or no book, sales or no sales, He has proven Himself on a level unlike anything I ever imagined, and I bless each of you for being sensitive to His Spirit's call and guidance on my (and others') behalf.

With all my love and gratitude,
Tim

gmc said...

Hey Tim, Congrats! on the book.

Your beautiful expression of faith in Christ from the gay perspective is encouraging. I've been wondering lately if we (as a society) need to "reabilitate" a word that has fallen into disrepute. Ironically this has made it more difficult for people with differences to find a common ground from which we can build mutual trust and understanding. That word is "Tolerance."

Tolerating things we don't understand or like used to be considered a good and necessary thing. My (incomplete) recollection and assessment of history is that tolerance became a 'bad' word when people began expecting others to immediately jump beyond tolerance to 'acceptance,' of differences.

I understand that desire, but perhaps we've removed the middle ground that allowed us to live side-by-side with people we didn't (yet) know or understand. In a desire to jump immediately to acceptance and approval of differences, we've polarized every arguement until no one is willing to occupy that uncomfortable middle zone where growth and peace becomes possible.

blessings
Grant

Tim said...

Thanks, Grant!

You're right, of course, tolerance got lost when we started mistaking it for indulgence. We must bear our brothers and sisters weaknesses--and accept them as we would ask them to accept us. But none of us should feel compelled to indulge harmful or foolish things.

That's why loving everyone as Christ did and commanded us to do is so vital. Love looks at unhealthy situations and forgives without getting entangled in their issues. As Peter wrote, it "covers over a multitude of sins." Love doesn't indulge sin, it absorbs it, allowing us to love everyone as he/she is without condition or hesitation.

It's easier said than done, though--which has much do with why we've opted for indulgence instead of tolerance.

Thanks again--and always--for your kind words and provocative comments. You bless us all.

Peace,
Tim

Davis said...

Getting in late to this, but this is very good news. Congratulations and blessings.