Archive for March, 2016

My Favorite Posts on Emotions

The “My Favorite Posts” series on my blog is how I catalog posts I’ve written to help my readers find the material that is the best-fit for their interest or need. I hope this series creates a more user-friendly experience for my readers and allows this site to become a trusted resource hub for the church.

Seminar Resources:

Articles:

Blog Posts:

Book Recommendations:

Tweets of the Week 3.23.16

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

 

What People Are Saying about “Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk”?

DoAskDoTellLetsTalk“This is a book the church has desperately needed for some time. It is simply excellent. It will challenge you and guide you in navigating in a more Christlike manner the host of questions surrounding same-sex attraction and the local church.”
Danny Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“To stand on what we believe is clear in Scripture, and to be a friend, at the same time – this book is an important next step for Christian literature on same-sex attraction. It doesn’t simply guide us in wise engagement; it guides us in friendships where there is mutual enjoyment and appreciation. And Brad does this in such a way that he doesn’t cut any theological corners but makes such friendships a necessary expression of our theology.”
Ed Welch, counselor and faculty member, Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation

Whenever Jesus encountered a sexual minority, he responded with love and friendship instead of shame. Only there, in the safety of a non-condemning presence, were these image bearers able to engage their wounds, sins and regrets. In Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk, Brad Hambrick helps us see how we, too, can create safe space and belonging for our LGBTQ friends. And why would we do this? So that these friends, too, can encounter the grace and truth of Jesus. I highly recommend this book.”
Scott Sauls, senior pastor, Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville; author, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides

Let’s face it, in this area the church has at best missed an opportunity and at worst grieved God through our ignorance, fear, or condemnation of not just the sin, but the person struggling.  Brad Hambrick has written a much-needed response to the question, how does a Christian interact with love and help someone struggling with same-sex attraction? His book gives us an opportunity to try again, but this time we will be equipped with compassion, biblical helps, and hope.  If you struggle with SSA or know someone who does, this book could start a journey  toward the light of God’s truth and love that will humble the helper and encourage the struggler.”
Garrett Higbee, Author of The Uncommon Community: Biblical Soul Care for Small Groups, Board Member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition

If you are looking for a book that simply equips you to make a friend, love a neighbor, and if God and your friend are willing, see somebody you care about come to Christ, this  is it. Winsome it is.”
Sam R. Williams, Ph.D., Professor of Counseling, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Few people have the ability to pack as much content into a book as my friend, Brad Hambrick. The message and content of this book is one which the church desperately needs. All of us need to be better equipped in the area of ministering and be-friending those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Brad’s work is not only comprehensive and biblical, it comes from the heart of a pastor-counselor whose admirable humility in approaching a potentially polarizing topic shines through. This is the book I needed to read, and I trust it will become a go-to resource for you as well.”
Jonathan Holmes, author, The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship; Biblical Counseling Coalition Council Member

Finally, a practical book that helps us engage people as Jesus would! Brad Hambrick captures the heart of what it means to invite into dialogue and relationship people who you might otherwise see as so unlike you that you may not know how to begin a substantive conversation. Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk teaches the lost art of how to talk with people, draw them out, get to know their story and, therefore, know their heart . . . all of which makes fertile soil for the gospel to take root and flourish!”
John Freeman, President, Harvest USA; author, Hide or Seek, When Men Get Real with God about Sex

Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk comes forth with impeccable timing to the evangelical Christian church and modern day culture by providing a pathway for engagement in safe, healing, and equipping conversations.  This brief, yet comprehensive and biblically robust book gently confronts the “elephant in the room” while answering questions about friendship, homosexuality, gender identity, and same-sex attraction.  I highly recommend it to men, women, students, youth workers, pastors, churches, educators, and leaders as well as anyone looking for answers to this vital topic.”
Dr. Dwayne R. Bond, Lead Pastor of Wellspring Church; CEO and Founder of Proximus Group

You can get a copy of Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk from Cruciform Press at this link.

My Favorite Posts on Disordered Eating

The “My Favorite Posts” series on my blog is how I catalog posts I’ve written to help my readers find the material that is the best-fit for their interest or need. I hope this series creates a more user-friendly experience for my readers and allows this site to become a trusted resource hub for the church.

Seminar Resource:

On-Line Evaluation:

Blog Resources:

Tweets of the Week 3.16.16

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

5 Ways Not to Tell Your Wife about Your Porn Addiction

If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably wrestled with this question many times before, “How do I tell my wife?” When you couldn’t come up with a good answer, you waited. She still doesn’t know. Your attachment to porn is getting worse. When she finds out it will only hurt her more because you waited longer to be honest.

There is not a “good” way to tell your wife; if by “good” you mean she won’t feel hurt. But there are ways to tell your wife that are “bad;” meaning they exacerbate the damage of your sin by how you communicate the information. The purpose of this post is help you avoid five common mistakes in talking to your wife.

1. Silently

This is the #1 mistake. Disclosure – voluntary acknowledging your sin – communicates integrity and that you value your marriage more than your reputation. Discovery – waiting until your wife finds out – communicates selfishness and cowardice. I do not mean these two words as insults. But to prolong your pleasure at the expense of your wife’s emotional pain is the epitome of selfishness, and to delay a disclosure that would allow your marriage to be marked by honor because of fear is cowardly.

The fact that you’re reading this means you want to take this important step of selfless courage.

2. Partially

This is the #1B mistake.  If you tell the truth, but only part of the truth, you destroy more trust than you built in the initial step of disclosure. Marriages that are destroyed by pornography usually die “the death of a thousand confessions.” When you leave out important aspects of your sin, you are teaching your wife that “good news” only means “there is more to the story.” You are training her to mistrust and will be tempted to use her mistrust as reason to under-disclose in the future.

This raises many questions about the extent to which it is beneficial to detail your sin. There is more guidance on that here.

3. One-And-Done

Do not dump your burden on your wife. You know the weight of this information; don’t transfer it from your back to hers. When you disclose your pornography usage you are starting a conversation, not making a one-time statement. She will need time to assimilate this new information into her understanding of the marriage. Your struggle is part of her story, as your wife, too. Allow her to ask questions and be patient as she takes this important pre-forgiveness step (understanding the offense is vital to healthy forgiveness).

If the two of you need guidance on this consult Steps 1-3 of the False Love (for you) and True Betrayal (for her) seminars on how to give and receive a full disclosure.

4. Blame-Shifting

In your disclosure you are telling your wife what you have done and the nature of your struggle; not what you need from her or what you believe she should be doing better. If you struggled with pornography before marriage (which is the vast majority of instances), there is no logical way you can blame your wife for your current struggle. Furthermore, taking ownership for your actions is a vital part of maintaining purity. Do not undermine this aspect of recovery in your initial step towards purity.

If you struggle with thinking a better sex life would resolve your pornography struggle, please read this post.

5. Crudely

Crude language reveals that you are still treating something precious (God’s gift of sex) casually. This is the equivalent of giving your children an expensive game system for Christmas and seeing them use the console as a stepping box to steal cookies from the pantry. They are damaging a good gift to obtain a much lesser pleasure and lying-stealing in the process. Crude language reveals this kind of heart attitude towards sex. Honor for sex does not have to be prudish. Allow your disclosure and follow up conversations with your wife be a time when you begin to redeem the language with which you speak about sex.

If you are uncertain what wholesome, conversational language about sex sounds like, sections 4 and 5 of the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Intimacy seminar provide an example of a clear discussion of sex that builds excitement, allows for humor, and honors both spouses.

This post originally ran at the Covenant Eyes blog on February 23, 2016.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Adultery” post which address other facets of this subject.

Why We Should Always Teach Romans 12 with Romans 13

It is easy for us to think that the Bible was written as theological-thought-units. We often read the gospel of Mark as a series of stories instead of one big story, or Romans as a series of devotional thoughts instead of a unified letter. Sometimes this challenge results in theological error (which should not be minimized), but other times it can even result in seemingly faith-filled choices that put lives at risk.

Without using hyperbole, viewing Romans 12 without Romans 13 is an example of the latter. The end of Romans 12 is a very memorable passage on how to deal with interpersonal conflict.

Romans 12:14-21: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We read this and are challenged to be exceedingly gracious. We are hopeful that our kindness would be used by God to awaken the person who is sinning against us, and help them see the wrongness of their actions. But it often begs the question, “Is this all we can do? Does there come a point where God allows us to be more assertive in response to the abusive sin of others?” If stop with Romans 12, then it feels like the Christian response to abuse is passivity; as if self-protection is selfish or that legal protections were expressions of bitterness and revenge.

This is when it is vital to realize Paul was writing a letter and not a daily devotional. Look at what Paul’s next words were. There was only a dip of his writing quill between Romans 12:21 and Romans 13:1.

Romans 13:1-7, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

Paul’s next words after “be exceedingly gracious” were, “God has placed the civil authorities over our lives to be an expressions of his hand or protection.” So what does this mean? It means a battered wife can get a restraining order without violating Romans 12. It means it is not unforgiving or punitive for Christians to call Child Protective Services if they suspect a child is being harmed or neglected.

My concern is that most Christians are more familiar with Romans 12 when it comes to conflict, and miss the application of Romans 13 when conflict transitions from a personal offense to a legal offense. We read Romans 12 and think of harsh interpersonal conflict. We read Romans 13 and think about obeying speed limits and paying our taxes.

In order to represent God’s word well, we need to teach with balance from both Romans 12 and Romans 13.

  • Romans 12 is God’s instruction for the best way to (a) redeem the aggressive sinner and (b) protect the person being harmed. Fighting back (physically or emotionally) escalates an encounter and may confuse who is at fault. Wisely obeying Romans 12 helps curtail the intensity of an unhealthy encounter, and makes it clear who needs to change.
  • Romans 13 is God’s civil instruction to ensure that Romans 12 does not allow abuse to go unpunished, and to keep his people from being unprotected (see a similar principle in Matthew 7:1-6).

If you want to dig deeper into the balanced application of Romans 12 and 13 for chronically broken relationships, I would recommend the following books. They do not exegete these passages, but they offer a more in-depth, biblical perspective on how to respond when interpersonal conflicts move from moderate to severe.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Abusive Relationships” post which address other facets of this subject.

Tweets of the Week 3.9.16

There is great value in saying something in a memorable, concise manner. Twitter has caused us to make this a near spiritual discipline. For my own growth (as a generally verbose individual… that’s a long way of saying “wordy”) and for the benefit of others, I highlight tweets each week that deliver a big message in a few words.

What Will You Learn in Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

DoAskDoTellLetsTalkIn this second post (the first one is here), I want to introduce you to the kinds of questions addressed in my book Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk (which releases tomorrow). To help make the rest of this post clearer, I’ll start by summarizing chapter one, which among other things gives us the vocabulary we need to speak wisely and accurately about this challenging subject.

Chapter One: “Language, Stigma, and Expectations” What is the difference between experiencing same-sex attraction,  engaging in homosexual behavior, and embracing a gay identity? How do these categories help Christians speak from a conservative sexual ethic without shutting down conversation? What are the words, logic, and ways of speaking that immediately designate us “unsafe” for those who experience same-sex attraction? When two people who have a vested interest in conflicting value systems talk, what are some healthy, realistic expectations for that conversation? How can the church be a safe place for these conversations, so that there is an alternative to “coming out” as gay?

In fact, my greatest hope is that this book will help equip the church to be a place where testimonies like these can become increasingly frequent:

  • An individual who embraces a gay identity could say, “I have friends who are Christians and disagree with my chosen lifestyle but love me well. I believe they would gladly help me if I had a need.”
  • A teenager who is beginning to experience same-sex attraction could say, “I have Christian friends who understand what I’m facing and care enough to help me think through this confusing experience.”
  • Parents of a child who is experimenting with homosexual behaviors could say, “Our small group cared for us well and helped us think through how to love our son. It was surprising how safe we felt to wrestle with the questions we were facing.”
  • An individual who was considering leaving the gay lifestyle could say, “The Christians that I knew while I was openly gay were a big part of the reason I may choose to pursue what I now believe to be God’s design for sexuality.”

If these statements reflect how you think conversations about homosexuality should be happening in the church, I believe you’ll find Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk to be helpful. Let’s continue now with the chapter summaries.

Chapter Two: “Being Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” Talking about sex is awkward enough. If we believe that Romans 1 is the only road to homosexuality (namely, progressive sexual depravity), then we respond to individuals who experience same-sex attraction as if they were the equivalent of sex addicts and pedophiles. Our ignorance of the same-sex attraction experience heightens the awkwardness of these conversations and increases the likelihood that we will be unintentionally offensive. This chapter examines the common internal obstacles to being a mature, informed participant in conversations with friends or family members who experience same-sex attraction (SSA).

Chapter Three: “Getting to Know the Experience of SSA” What is it like to realize that your experience of romantic attraction is different from that of most people? What are the common markers in the journey of individuals who experience same-sex attraction, and what emotions accompany those markers? What is it like to “know” that your attractions cannot be talked about “at church” but other people’s can? How would that dynamic influence your experience of Christianity and culture in general? An appreciation for these questions is vital to being a good friend (while not necessarily agreeing with your friend’s conclusions).

Chapter Four: “Getting to Know the Person Experiencing SSA” An appreciation for chapter three does not mean you know the experience of any particular individual. Knowledge about a subject without knowledge of a person is more debate-prep than relationship. This chapter will provide good questions to ask based upon the content of chapter three, and give guidance so that when SSA comes to the forefront of conversation, we don’t reduce an individual to this one characteristic.

Chapter Five: “Winning an Argument vs. Influencing a Friend” A cliché or gotcha line never transformed anyone’s sexuality. They get applause from those who agree with you and disdain from those who don’t. They polarize. What should be our tone and emphasis when discussing biblical passages on homosexuality? How early in a relationship do I need to bring up these passages in order to be a faithful Christian? Is it profitable to discuss things like research biases in genetic findings related to homosexuality? If so, then how, when, and for what purpose? At what point does protecting a friendship for the sake of influence become moral compromise?

Chapter Six: “Navigating Difficult Conversations” Tricky interpersonal issues can arise in this area. Will you come to my wedding? Shouldn’t my parents allow me and my partner to come over for Christmas? Am I not supposed to be hurt by Christians who say things they deem to be true, but say them in attacking and demeaning ways? If I do not experience any, or very limited, opposite-sex attraction, do I have to remain celibate my entire life to be a Christian? These and other subjects are addressed through an annotated dialogue that helps the reader think through what it would be like to have conversations about what they’ve read with someone who experiences same-sex attraction.

Why Did I Write Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk?

DoAskDoTellLetsTalkIt might be more helpful, at least at first, to explain why I didn’t write Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk (which releases March 8th). I didn’t write this book because I believe homosexuality is the most important or pressing issue of our day. Actually, to the contrary, I wrote this book because it is my perception (accurate or not) that part of what complicates the subject is that only people who are very passionate about it have the courage-boldness-audacity (whatever you prefer to call it) to speak or write on it.

It’s my belief that someone needs to be part of the conversation who doesn’t feel as though history hinges on homosexuality. This is why in the opening chapter I try to be clear about my general perspective.

I do not consider homosexuality my “hill to die on” issue. I don’t believe the probability of experiencing the Third Great Awakening or whether America remains a geo-political superpower hinges on the moral-political issues surrounding homosexuality. Neither do I believe that gay rights as a cause is the logical extension of women’s suffrage or racial equality.

If your position on homosexuality is approximated in the paragraph above, you may be uncomfortable with this book. When the subject is framed in either of these ways, the answer becomes so immediately “obvious” that only an idiotic or evil person could disagree with you. Even if this is where you are, I hope you’ll keep reading.

There is a second reason I wrote this book: I was asked to—both directly and indirectly. This book was not on my radar until a friend came to me and said, “Would you be willing to write a book on how conservative Christians can have gay friends without compromising their own convictions? I think that kind of book is missing and it’s not something we handle effectively in the church. I think you have a tone in dealing with sensitive subjects that could navigate the topic well.”

My initial answer was, “Thank you for the encouragement, but I don’t think I’m passionate enough about the subject to write a book on it.” But the request was sticky and I began to listen a bit more closely to the debates in the Christian blogosphere. That is when I began to realize my non-passion for the subject might be an asset instead of a liability.

When I listened to the debates, my assessment (feel free to disagree) was that “conservatives” typically come across as if they have never cried with a friend who experiences same-sex attraction and wonders what this means, while “liberals” typically come across as if the only way for such a person to be authentic is to embrace a gay identity—that is, as if sexual attraction trumps every other aspect of personhood. I couldn’t imagine being someone who experiences same-sex attraction, would like some help thinking through that reality, but finds only these two polarized sources of guidance.

Then I began to reflect on the number of pastoral counseling conversations I’ve had with individuals who have experienced unwanted same-sex attraction. I thought about one of the primary sticking points in these conversations: the absence of authentic friendships in the context of which these individuals could 1) be fully known (honest about their struggle), and 2) be fully loved (without placing a strain on their Christian friendships), yet 3) without embracing a gay identity and joining the gay community.

Counseling can provide relief, but only community can offer hope. As I say in chapter two, “Counseling without friendship is like being stranded in the ocean and given a raft for one hour a week but asked to swim the other 167 hours.” In the absence of a church that understands, having a counselor who cares merely creates an impasse: there is hope (“God doesn’t hate me because I experience same-sex attraction”) but no clear direction (“I am still incredibly alone and the church doesn’t seem willing to help alleviate this significant part of my struggle”).

So I said yes and began the process of writing Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. My enthusiasm for the value of the project has grown. But, honestly, I don’t look forward to the controversy it may bring. Who can write 100 pages on homosexuality and not upset some people? That grieves me. Not because I am thin-skinned and anxious about people not liking me, but because in the current climate “debating the topic” usually excludes the person who is struggling.

My greatest prayer for this book is that God would use it to equip the church to build bridges of friendship in order to care well for two groups: Christians who experience unwanted same-sex attraction, and non-believers who did not find the fulfillment they hoped in embracing a gay identity. When those conversations are being had in living rooms and coffee shops, maybe it could even change the tone of conversation on social platforms and debate panels.

Regardless of whether that latter, lofty objective is achieved, I will be elated if Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk results in same-sex attraction no longer feeling like a sentence of “solitary confinement” for individuals looking for hope and direction from the church—more specifically from individual Christian friends—in the midst of their experience of same-sex attraction.