Sunday, October 13, 2013

Free Kindle Copy of Restored Hearts!

(The following article was first published in 2011 on The Christian Post Bindings blog).

The question, “Who will weep for the homosexual?” has been ruminating in my mind and heart the last day or so.

Is my heart broken for these individuals who through their same-sex thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are longing for a relationship that satisfies?

Those with unwanted same-sex attraction are craving the beauty and pureness of God’s original intent: marriage between one man and one woman for a lifetime (Genesis 2:24-25; Mark 10:6-9; Ephesians 5: 22-33). Moses, Jesus, and Paul tie together the thread of Scripture on marriage, reiterating God’s created design for male and female who are equipped and sanctioned to come together as one flesh. 

The yearning in the heart of one who longs to follow God’s intended model, but feels s/he cannot, creates enormous emotional, psychological, and spiritual conflict.

And rightly so. As with any sinful dysfunction—whether it be greed, alcoholism, compulsive eating, stealing, shopping, or lying—it is conflict that can move the hurting individual to seek help. Pain paves the way for change. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, the apostle Paul presents one of the strongest statements concerning the truth that homosexuals can indeed change. In this passage, homosexuality is listed as one among many sins from which the Corinthian believers had been delivered. Paul says, But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. What great hope this offers those dealing with unwanted same-sex attraction.  

However, restoration is not an easy process. The inner need for acceptance, approval, and love can drive a person to seek satisfaction in any number of forms. An addiction is a person’s way of addressing a love hunger for God, temporarily anesthetizing the emotional pain that usually comes from past hurts. The addiction satisfies for a time—Satan’s way of reeling the person in—but sooner or later the addiction results in a sickening spiral down. The ensuing lack of control creates a greater need, and thus the addiction fuels itself.

For my character, Tim, in the novel RESTORED HEARTS, he seeks the male affirmation he missed from his father in eroticized relationships with other men. The Holy Spirit keeps nudging his heart, causing him to realize the deception of his behavior. He runs from Boston back to his missionary upbringing in India in hopes that he can leave his homosexual lifestyle behind once and for all. But he soon discovers he cannot.

It takes the wise discernment of the mission psychologist to help Tim unearth the roots of his sinful dysfunction and enter into a healing process which incorporates a loving relationship with Jesus Christ at the center. Dr. Hauser weeps for and with this hurting young man over his loss of paternal love and approval. As a godly father figure, he stands with him as he faces his brother’s anger and rejection. When others ignore Tim, Dr. Hauser remains by his side as he struggles, fails, and gets back up again. Like Jesus, he presents a mix of truth and grace. Conviction and compassion. He helps Tim embrace his identity in Christ as a beloved, fully forgiven, and totally accepted son of the heavenly Father (Ephesians, chapter one).  

As I developed my character Tim, I, too, wept alongside of him. His pain became my own. I grieved when his brother rejected him, when the pastor ignored him, and when the Indian girl, Esha, loved him, but was ignored by him because Tim could not respond to her affection. I saw myself in the differing reactions, and I was moved to tears.

My prayer is that I will continue to weep for the homosexual. The struggle is great and not to be minimized in any way. It is a cry for relationship with the Father. Something each of us can prayerfully identify with.

Leave a comment below, along with your email address, and enter to win a Kindle copy of Restored Hearts. Winner announced on October 31!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Read the Bible as Literature

     Great literature is all about human experience. That’s precisely what makes the Bible so compelling. It is first of all a literature book full of stories, poetry, proverbs, and parables that offers the reader a glimpse into both God’s heart and the human heart. The tension between good and evil runs as a consistent theme throughout with God’s redemption ever the central story line.
    With this understanding, I’ve longed to introduce my creative writing students to a deeper understanding of the Bible as literature. What literary tools did the writers use to convey their thoughts and feelings? My search led me to my son-in-law, a seminary professor and serious student of God’s Word. He referred me to a gem of a book titled How to Read the Bible as Literature . . . and get more out of it by Leland Ryken.      
In his helpful book, Ryken opens the door to a greater appreciation of the artistic beauty of Scripture. Employing an array of literary devices, the biblical writers take the reader on a journey of discovery. From the epic accounts of the Exodus to the visionary literature of Revelation, the reader experiences unity and coherence through the masterful use of metaphor, simile, symbol, foil, hyperbole, allusion, personification, dramatic irony, and satire, to name a few. It is precisely this dissection of the biblical writers’ use of literary tools that Ryken contends will bring more understanding to a passage.
For example, when the psalmist says “All night long I flood my bed with weeping” (Psalm 6:6), he is using hyperbole, an exaggeration, not literal fact. The writer draws upon hyperbole to express how strongly he feels about the situation. Obviously, it is impossible to literally flood one’s bed with tears. To imagine such a scenario is quite comical, yet the structure is effective in communicating the writer’s emotion.
In another instance, the psalmist uses an allusion or historical reference. In Psalm 33:6, he says, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.” The Psalmist refers to a point in history when God spoke the world into existence.
In the New Testament, the power of parable is prevalent. The gospel writers provide numerous accounts of Jesus’ masterful storytelling skills. According to Ryken, Jesus often “used obvious and heightened foils (contrasts) . . .The rich man and Lazarus, the Pharisee and publican, the generous employer and the selfish workers, the wise and foolish virgins”(141). The parables draw a line in the sand, if you will, forcing the reader or listener “to take sides for or against the characters,” Ryken contends (142).
Even the New Testament epistles (letters) make use of literary devices. Consider the aphoristic sayings of 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company corrupts good character” and Galatians 5:9: “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” Notice the paradox in 2 Corinthians 12:10b: “when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Consider the visionary literature of Revelation which transcends the ordinary. Revelation is an epic work which takes place on a cosmic stage with scenes shifting between heaven and earth. Such a technique calls for the reader to step out of the familiar and use his imagination. The use of symbols such as thunder, lion, earthquake, dragon, or harvest is prevalent and can be readily understood with the knowledge that “literary symbolism tends to be a universal language that recurs throughout literature” according to Ryken (173).
How to Read the Bible as Literature (203 pages) is divided into twelve chapters and includes an appendix of the allegorical nature of the parables, an index of persons, and an index of subjects. Each chapter provides helpful sidebars that highlight the most significant points of the chapter. Plentiful scriptural examples are included to illustrate each literary tool discussed. Wide margins are designed for note taking. Further resources at the end of each chapter are listed to enhance the reader’s understanding of specific literary devices. 
How to Read the Bible as Literature by Leland Ryken unpacks a gold mine of literary tools and how those devices, rightly examined, can lead to a richer understanding of God’s Word. A great resource for laymen and clergy alike.

SPECIAL NOTE: Sorry I'm not able to post a picture at this time. Blogger is acting up. 

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