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Book Jacket

082546076X
Trade Paperback
208 pages
May 2005
Monarch Books

Into The Promised Land: Beyond The Lesbian Struggle

by Jeanette Howard

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt

Excerpt:

WHAT IS THE PROMISED LAND?

 

Alex Davidson derives comfort in the midst of his homosexuality from his Christian hope. “Isn’t it one of the most wretched things about his condition,” he writes, “that when you look ahead, the same impossible road seems to continue indefinitely?  You’re driven to rebellion when you think of there being no point to it and to despair when you think of there being no limit to it. That’s why I find a comfort, when I feel desperate, or rebellious, or both, to remind myself of God’s promise that one day it will be finished…”

 

The Starting Point

God said to Abraham,

    “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendents after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”  Genesis 17:7f

        Centuries later, God clarified the promise of land to Moses.  In Numbers 34:1-12a he cites in detail that their homeland is to stretch from the Desert of Zin in the south to Riblah in the north.  The eastern border was to begin in Gilead, cross the River Jordan and stretch west until it reached the Mediterranean Sea. God concluded:

    “This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.” Numbers 34:12b

        God’s land allocation far exceeded that which was ever claimed by the twelve tribes in subsequent years.  Even King David, great warrior that he was, never managed to claim the nation’s full inheritance.  Such is the enormity of God’s generosity.

        The Promised Land certainly wasn’t a place to kick back and take in the sights!  True, it was a land of blessing, but it wasn’t an empty land waiting for the Hebrews to inhabit at will, every conceivable adversary one could imagine occupied the land. The Hebrews land of blessing was a land of warfare.  It didn’t matter that they had trudged through the wilderness for the best part of 40 years, without the warfare and subsequent victory their inheritance would be left unclaimed. God had gifted them the land, yes, but it required effort and faithful obedience to conquer the enemies within and receive their legacy.

 

What’s In It For Me?

        The Hebrew’s inheritance was very tangible.  Thanks to God’s clear direction, one knew the boundaries and the portion given each tribe. The lowlands offered crop growing in abundance whilst livestock grazed throughout the hill country. Indeed it was a land of plenty, the ground could be tilled, the water drunk, and the lakes and rivers fished.

        But what does the term “Promised Land” suggest for us, the 21st century Christian? If we don’t know what the promise is, how will we know if and when it is ours to receive?   If it isn’t something as physical as land then what are we to expect? And, just as importantly, what is expected of us when we get there?

Whether we admit it or not, some of the questions buzzing around in our head are “What’s in it for me? What is my reward?  If I am to embark on a life of faithful commitment to God and His ways, what will I get in return?  Will my journey and sacrifice be worth it?”

 Without a clear understanding of the New Testament equivalent of the Promised Land we will become discouraged amid life difficulties and perhaps be tempted to turn back to Egypt.

Although any of the following is possible, our reward for a faithful walk away from homosexuality is not marriage and children, rampant heterosexuality or even a powerful life of ministry.  Our reward is resting in God’s perfect plan for our life.

 

God’s Plan

        God’s plan is for each of us to be reconciled to Him through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.  Not content with mere salvation, God’s Holy Spirit wants to bring us into full redemption so that we may, as pastors of yesteryear would preach,  “possess our possessions.”

        Salvation is all of God’s work.  He did all the fighting for the Hebrews as they came out of Egypt; and Christ’s propitiation secured our freedom from eternal death. Salvation is a free gift, but sanctification and growth in grace require effort if we are to claim all of our inheritance.  It is not enough to be passive sheep waiting to be led to new pastures, we are to be trained and moulded into a fighting force ready to do the works God intends.

 

    For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

        As the word “workmanship” sounds so mundane, I prefer to use another translation of the word.  I find it more uplifting and encouraging to be known as God’s “masterpiece,” and this helps propel me toward further service in His name.

 

The Wilderness is Necessary?

Much of the sanctification process is done in the wilderness. God’s sovereign act freed the Hebrews from the bondage of Egypt.  The journey through the wilderness taught them to trust God for direction (fire and cloud), sustenance (manna and quail), and protection (from foreign armies).  The Hebrews had to learn obedience, the meaning of holiness, the benefits of perseverance, and that the God they serve is a righteous and jealous God who demands their complete worship.

The same is true for us.  The sanctification process teaches and empowers us to say “no” to our old adamic nature and “yes” to our recreation in the image of Christ.  God intends to bless us beyond all we can hope or imagine and create in us a heart filled with righteousness, peace, love, and joy.  He wants each believer to be conformed to the image of Jesus so that, one day, we will reign with him here on earth.  God rests in the plan he has for us.  Our call is to cease from fighting him and ourselves and by faith enter into that rest.

        Put simply, out of the learning to “be” in the wilderness, we are more able to “do” in the land.  As we allow Jesus full reign in our lives, we become increasingly better equipped to fulfil God’s purposes in our own life and serve him powerfully in the world.

 

Already Seated in the Heavenlies

        Our position in Christ is assigned at conversion.  We are seated in the Heavenlies with him as coheirs to an eternal inheritance. But it does not take long for a Christian to realize that our legal position, with Christ, and that position from which we operate are not necessarily the same!  We read that God has given us all things through Christ.

 

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  (Ephesians 1:3)

 

Yet how often do we appear through our thoughts and actions not to fully possess these blessings?  Daily bombardment from advertising on the television, in magazines, and on the side of the road do little to keep my mind pure and fixed on Jesus.  The proliferation of “Reality TV” fosters voyeurism on a national scale and the viewer is encouraged vicariously to engage in:

    …sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  (Galatians 5:19-21)

        The cult of celebrity can be intoxicating, and screaming headlines from the magazines at the supermarket checkout invite at least perusal if not an “impulse buy”.  One considers Internet pornography as a bastion of male sinfulness, but a recent magazine recent article tells a very different story.  The editor introduces the item as follows:

    34%.  That’s how many readers of Today’s Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn in a recent poll.  While many women wrote in to explain they’d accessed these sites to better understand what was luring their husbands time and again, it was the other e-mails - from Christian women who shared about their own Internet porn addiction-that caught our attention.

 

The article continues:

    Women desiring to find companionship often prefer cybersex and online chat rooms to porn sites that offer only pictures and graphic stories, but they eventually start surfing both.  All forms of pornography can stimulate the user, releasing chemicals in the brain that act on the body in much the same way as cocaine does.  It’s an exhilarating but unfortunately short-lived euphoria.  The loneliness returns, leaving the woman wanting more contact and more stimulation, thus creating the cycle of addiction.

 

Armed with such depressing knowledge, and knowing that we are capable of the same, could prompt despair of ever maturing in the Lord. We could lose hope of ever closing the gap between our legal position in Christ and our daily walk with Him.  However, I find it encouraging that the apostle, Paul, who penned the declaration in Ephesians 1:3 was also able to write:

    So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Romans 7:21-25a

 

        Our struggles may seem very 21st century, but they are, in essence, no different to Paul.  The solution, too, is exactly the same.

 

    Thanks be to God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!  Romans 7:25b

 

By bringing Christ into all circumstances and operating under the constraint of the Holy Spirit and with the power given through his indwelling, we are able to take power from the enemy’s hands and claim land for God’s kingdom.  If we are willing, wilderness living will mould and shape our attitude. In time, our life need not consist of pockets of holy passion weakened by intermittent apathy or rebellion, but will be trained and equipped and sold out to Jesus.

And what is the land we are to conquer?  It is our heart, mind, soul and body. To enter God’s rest requires the conquering of sin that besets and entangles us thus freeing each to minister according to God’s purpose.

Purification prepares each believer for Christ’s coming.  Scripture states that without holiness we shall not see the Lord.  In pursuing holy living and accomplishing righteous works we can live in the expectancy that when we see Jesus face to face we shall be like Him.

 

    Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.  1 John 3:2f

 

 

Today’s Behaviour Dictates Tomorrow’s Blessings

        If we are born again by the Spirit of God, I believe that we have entered into an eternal relationship with our Father and should not fear judgement and eternal separation from Him.  However, I also believe that we will be judged according to what we have done with our salvation.

According to Revelation 19:8 we will be clothed in a garment made from our own righteous behaviour. I don’t know about you, but my aim is not to struggle for eternity in some skimpy little number that barely covers my womanhood!

I desire to bring my whole self into the will of God so that it is “not I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20b).  In that way I can’t help but to act in a righteous manner to all things and all people.  Sadly, I fail with alarming frequency but it is my desire to press on towards this goal.

This is why I do not condone homosexual behaviour.  I do not believe that homosexual relationships, no matter if they are between “born again” Christians, no matter how monogamous, or self giving, or steeped in prayer, can be regarded as righteous behaviour when the Bible’s consistent moral teaching stipulates that sexual expression is to be confined within heterosexual marriage.

Unlike certain denominations, I do not believe the Bible differentiates between the behaviour of the clergy and that of the laity.  It is my belief from 1 Peter 2:9 that we, clergy and laity alike, are “a priesthood of believers” equal before God and should expect our moral lives to be judged with equal measure. We may not like the rules, but it is what we “signed up for” when we submitted our life to God.  God has not moved the goalposts and neither should we.

 

Treasures in Heaven

Some rewards are immediate and some are gradually received as we mature in Christ.  But the greatest rewards will be granted when we finally rule with Jesus on earth.  If we fail to order our own lives now, or fall short of living a life pleasing to God and do not invest the “talents” we have been given, it seems unlikely that Jesus will give us much responsibility on the new earth.  We must prove faithful in the little today so that we will be given much when we reign with Christ.

That is why in the midst of our struggles it is imperative we retain an eternal perspective on our life and our call.

        If your hope is to sit around drinking coffee and eating calorie free chocolate for eternity, I hate to disappoint, but Jesus has work for us to do as coheirs!

 

Jesus Hands Out His Reward

Jesus will reward those who have remained faithful to the call they were assigned whilst on earth.  He is not overly concerned with our achievements and success stories, but whether we loved and trusted him enough to let Christ live unhindered in and through us.

In society’s eyes we may have little to offer and in Christian circles we may be excluded from various aspects of service.  Exclusion may be on the grounds of gender as it is within certain denominations and groups, or it may be because of admitted difficulties in the area of sexuality.

Allow me to offer an illustration. Between seminars at a conference some years back, a rather distraught woman in her mid twenties approached me.  In the previous class I had been talking about the benefit of sharing with trusted church members ones lesbian struggles in order to receive support, understanding and encouragement. She explained that she was a relatively new Christian, a single mother of a two-year-old girl and had broken off the relationship with her female partner soon after conversion because she felt it didn’t tie in with her new-found-faith.  Because she was shy, the woman, we’ll call her Wendy, decided to volunteer for crèche duty.  In that way she was with her daughter and could get to know the other helpers in a safe environment. It was a ministry Wendy thoroughly enjoyed.

After a number of months, as various issues surfaced, Wendy decided she needed support and encouragement.  The pastor seemed friendly and committed to his congregation so Wendy made an appointment to see him.  Although a little taken back by her homosexual revelations, the pastor was affirming and said he would pray for her.  However, Wendy was crushed when he also forbid her from serving in the crèche and in any other ministry to children.  His reason?  He wanted to protect the children in case she “led them astray” with her deviant thoughts and desires!  Wendy was even forbidden to be in the crèche with her own daughter!

Sadly, this ignorant response, that those who experience homosexual feelings are potential child abusers, is quite common.  Is it any wonder homosexual men and women are reticent to speak?

        Fortunately, when we come to Jesus we receive justice.  Irrespective of how much or how little you have achieved either in the world or in the church, if you have been faithful, diligent and persevered with your Christian discipleship during your earthly life, Jesus will eternally reward you with a position of authority and give you responsibilities and power to continue your service.

 

Not An Easy Walk

        Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Hebrews 12:1

        What is your race?  I liken mine to the Steeplechase; an athletic track event requiring the runner to jump 35 three-foot barriers including a water jump before crossing the finishing line.  To the athlete each barrier seems designed to rob you of energy and trip you up!  The 3000 metres race tests the runner’s determination, stamina and ultimately the athlete’s finishing sprint.  Jostling, elbowing and pushing appear de rigour although teammates from the same country offer some protection from rivals during the race’s duration.

I’d like to think that the race God has marked out for me is not only an individual event, but requires an element of teamwork so that we can all complete the course.  

        Addressing ones homosexuality is no easy matter.  The journey requires leaving Egypt, travelling through the wilderness, and having the courage to enter the Promised Land.  It is a journey beset with hurdles, barriers and water jumps.  However, it is not a journey that need be travelled alone.

 

    See to it, [sisters], that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.  We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.  (Hebrews 3:12-14) (emphasis mine)

 

It is my desire that each of us completes this endurance race and comes to know God’s rest.  But, before we can enter the Promised Land and conquer the strongholds ahead, it is necessary to have the right attitude.  We need the mind of a pilgrim.

 

Taken from Into the Promised Land: Beyond the Lesbian Struggle
© 2005 by Jeanette Howard.
Published by Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.