Book Review: Gay and God, by Mike Novotny

On those weeks that I do not preach, and therefore don’t have a sermon to post, I’ll try to post a book review or something else that will be beneficial. This week’s book is the one below:

Gay and God photo.jpg

This book was recommended to me by a friend. It’s a quick read, but one that I think will challenge many people. I certainly appreciated the book’s approach to handling a timely topic and doing so in a way that leaves you with a positive impression. Having finished the book, I did not feel a sense of woe over the direction of society. I felt excited. Novotny, through preaching the law and gospel, showed the opportunities Christians have to preach the Word. That hopeful tone is the first thing that I enjoyed about this book.

The second thing that has stuck with me was the way that he emphasized reaching people caught in the sin of homosexuality. He used the LGBT initialism to signify something else. He summarizes it this way: “LGBT. Love first. Gospel next. The Bible follows. And trust it works” (pg. 33).  I think that this approach can be used for a person caught in just about any sin. Spend time loving and understanding them. Eventually, you’ll have the opportunity to tell them the gospel. After that, when the opportunity comes, share with them what the Bible says about their sin. Then, trust the Holy Spirit who promises to work through the Word.

I’ve considered giving this book to my confirmation students to read. I may also read it with some of my teens in Bible study. I do think that the book is very accessible and beneficial. It will help you face your own sins so that you can see how great a Savior Jesus is. From that position, you can understand how sin affects another person and tell them about Christ.

To finish, here are some quotes from the book I highlighted:

“Christian people have a problem. Sometimes those of us who claim to love a passage the most love people the least. That means we don’t really love the passages at all. We loved our version of the passage, the version that allowed us to be comfortable, to be right, to be bigots” (pg. 14).

“No one will ever be more faithful to you that this God. No one will ever bring you more joy, more comfort, more friendship, more affection, more hope, more peace, more life than the God who says, ‘You’ve sinned, but I won’t let that stop my love'” (pg. 31).

“You shouldn’t publicly share your views on gay marriage. You shouldn’t try to convince gay non-Christians to start living like they are. There’s a time, after lots and lots of love and lots and lots of gospel, when you can talk to LGBT friends who claim to be Christian about biblical sexuality” (pg. 32).

“The core of a Christian’s being is Christ. This passage says it best: ‘Christ…is your life’ (Colossians 3:4). Jesus Christ is the core of my being. Nothing else. He is all I need. I can deny that desire, the one Jesus says is sin, and I still have my identity” (pg. 47).

Gay & God is available here from Time of Grace. Let me know if you read it, or have read it, and what your thoughts are.

God’s peace be with you.

“Jesus Does All Things Well” | Mark 7:31-37 | Pentecost 14 Sermon

I’m glad that I’m here to be able to tell you my story. I think that Mark did a great job explaining what happened to me, but I always like to give my own perspective. First, I really have so much appreciation for my friends. If it weren’t for them, I never would have met Jesus, and I never would have been healed. I hope that everyone has friends like I did—friends that really care, even in the face of a terrible situation like I was. I think it must have been especially bad for them before Jesus came. We communicated, but it was very basic. They would point at things, and make gestures, but I didn’t often understand. When I tried to communicate with them, it was just as bad. It was hard enough for them to communicate there was food or that we were going somewhere, much less the truths about God.

My friends first heard about Jesus from a man who lived in the same region as us. We lived, as you already heard, in the Decapolis. That’s a region just east of the Sea of Galilee that has ten cities in it. In fact, that’s just what Decapolis means, “ten cities.” Jesus had met that man and had driven a legion of demons from him into a herd of pigs. I think that man had been in a worse place than even I was. He was completely controlled by those demons before Jesus came to him. Afterward, he went throughout the Decapolis and told everyone about Christ and what he had done for him. He told my friends and when they heard Jesus was coming back to the area, they thought he could help me.

Then, Jesus was in my town. That whole day was a rush. People from other cities, from the countryside, from all parts of the town came out to where Jesus was. I don’t know if I have ever seen so many people. Of course, I had no idea what was going on. How could my friends tell me we were going to see Jesus? We didn’t have sign language or anything like what you have now. They just got me dressed, pulled me out the door, and led me through the crowds. I didn’t know where we were going, but I was used to that. I could tell me friends were excited, though, and I trusted them.

After fighting through waves of people, we could see where the crowds were coming together most densely. I saw a man talking to people, placing his hands on others, and meeting person after person in the crowd. It seemed like everyone wanted to get near him. When my friends pushed me in that direction, I figured out that was where we were going, too. It took a little bit longer, but we made it through the crowd. In front of us was a little clearing, and Jesus was going around and talking to people. His face seemed kind, and the people he met seemed so enthused.

So, he came to us. My friends must have communicated with him why they had come. Jesus looked at each of them, nodded, before he looking me in the eye. He said something to them, and started walking off, away from the crowds. We went into a small alley between two houses, and then my friends stopped leading me, and I went a little further with this strange man, Jesus. It was private there. I’m sure some people could see us if they wanted, but for that moment it was just the two of us. But, I still wasn’t sure what was going to happen. How could he have communicated what he was about to do to me? I couldn’t hear his words. And how could I have responded? I couldn’t speak.

But, he found a way. For a moment, every single one of my senses was overwhelmed by Jesus. His eyes looked directly into my eyes. I could feel him touching me—he put his fingers into my ears. He spit and touched my tongue. I could feel Jesus touching me. I could taste him in my mouth. His scent like washed over me. I knew what he was trying to tell me then. He knew I was deaf. He knew I had a speech impediment. But, it was more than that. I bet it might seem a little gross for you to think of someone spitting in your mouth, but it wasn’t that way for me. That was the way healers did things. Like a mother that licks her finger to rub a smudge from a child, many healers at my time did similar things. Saliva might seem weird to use, but I understood exactly what it meant for me. Jesus didn’t only recognize that I was deaf and unable to speak well, but he was going to heal me.

Then, he diverted his eyes. He raised them to look up toward heaven. He sighed—it was a groan like you might give out from exhaustion. I’ve learned in later years that actions like what Jesus was about to do took something out of him. It’s like what the prophet Isaiah once said, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4). He certainly did that for me. After his sigh, his lips moved. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but my friends later told me it was a single Aramaic word, “Ephphatha!—Be opened.” And it happened all at once. The dull murmur of the crowd. The voices of my friends talking in the background. Do you ever just stop and think about the quality of someone’s voice? Do you think about what they sound like? For a moment, I did.

That was a moment of pure grace for me. I didn’t deserve to be healed. Up until it was happening, I didn’t even really understand what was going on. Even afterward, it was so overwhelming to be able to hear, to be able to speak to my friends and Jesus without use my hands and rudimentary gestures. I felt like what I wanted to do was talk all the time. To sing, to shout, to talk and talk, and never stop. I wanted to listen to music, to hear the roar of waves at the seashore, to hear my friends laugh. I didn’t deserve any of this, but Jesus still did it. He still gave me my hearing and my speech. Right then, do you know what I was feeling? It’s not hard to guess. I was feeling the desire to tell everyone. I felt like the man who had the demons driven from him. When something that amazing happens, how can you not want to tell everyone?

But, Jesus surprised me. He put a finger to his lips, and told us to keep it a secret. Can you imagine that? He told a man who couldn’t speak two minutes ago, not to say that he could finally speak! But, it he made it quite clear that was what he wanted. It still got out though. I let it slip, and my friends let it slip. Even when we tried not to tell people, those who knew me couldn’t help but be amazed that I could hear and speak. In fact, as we walked back out into the crowd, everyone was amazed. The news spread around the crowd so fast. Soon, it seemed like everyone knew what had happened.

“He has done everything well!” the people said. If you ask me, it was an understatement. Could any of them heal a person like Jesus healed me? Has anyone done something like what Jesus did there? Could anyone do the things Jesus ever did? He has done all things well? What are they comparing him to? I sometimes think that must have just been at a loss for words, but they felt they had to say something. What can you say about a person whose very actions are grace, and beautiful, noble, honorable, and worthy?

The people didn’t stop there though. Somewhere they had heard these verses from the prophet Isaiah, “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6). It’s amazing to me to think that these things Jesus was doing were predicted even hundreds of years before I was born. It just fills me with so much joy. It’s part of the reason I couldn’t keep my mouth shut after I was healed.

I wish I had though. I’ll bet you know the rest of Jesus’s story. He continued to heal people. He continued to preach and teach. But, eventually it led him to Jerusalem. It let him to rigged trial before all of his political opponents—to a death sentence. It led him to the cross. When Jesus healed me, we didn’t know that was going to happen. We thought he was just a healer. We didn’t know he would die for the sins of the world. I hope that through our words, we didn’t give a false impression of why he came. He did heal me, but it wasn’t just my ears and tongue that his grace touched. It was my soul even more. He took away my sin. He gave me faith.

He has done all things well. I believe that, even if it is an understatement, even if there’s nothing to compare it with. Do you view your life that way? Do you confess that Jesus has done all things well? I haven’t always, but the way I think has changed. I faced terrible suffering and afflictions though my disability, but Jesus used those very trials to reach out to me in the exact way that I needed. You’ve heard my story so you know that’s true.

Is it that way for you? Do you see the ways that Jesus brings his grace to you that are personal and powerful? When trials come into your life, do you say, “He does everything well?” Because he does. He heals sickness. He gives you comfort in distress. He takes your fear. He makes you strong.  He forgives your sins and conquers your death. He does it all well. So that the things we face in this life don’t truly touch us. They aren’t harmful to us—to our souls.

When you face life every day, remember that Jesus has done all things well. For me especially I can remember that. Jesus healed my ears and my tongue, so later on I could hear the message of the cross and speak it to others. Can you imagine trying to get across the message of sin and grace to a person who cannot hear? Today, I know you have sign language, but at my time, what could a person do? Jesus gave that to me. He comes to you in a way that is personal and powerful, too. He may not put his fingers in your ears and mouth, but you know the ways that he is working in your life through the troubles, even in spite of the troubles. He’ll use them to show you the cross that he died on and the empty grave he rose from. That’ll be a gift of grace to you, like what did was for me. Because he does all things well. Amen.