Gay Girl, Good God – Jackie Hill Perry

After hearing a lot about Jackie Hill Perry and listening to some of her spoken word poems and interviews, I decided to buy her book Gay Girl, Good God. Don’t let the title fool you though – this book does a lot more than discuss Perry’s background as a homosexual girl who became straight. This book, at its core, is about the miracle of a person who was “dead in trespasses and sins” that has been brought to life by the Savior Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1-9). This is a story of redemption and restoration. No matter who you are, what you’ve been through, what you struggle with – if you are a believer, this is your story too.

This is a story of redemption and restoration.

The beginning of the book is the story of Jackie’s past – who she was, how she was raised, what she did, what she thought about life – with relevant stories from the book of Genesis laced throughout. Perry uses a whole chapter to shed light on the fall of man and the effects of our sinful nature. From the introduction of Gay Girl, Good God, you can tell that Jackie Hill Perry knows just as well as anyone that there is no such thing as “good sin” or “bad sin”; ALL sin separates us from our Father and Creator.

Gay Girl, Good God

But don’t worry, the story has a happy ending. Jackie explains how she came to know Christ and how He rescued her from “the law of sin and death,” (Romans 8:2). She talks about the people who mentored her, the church she started going to, and the Gospel poetry she started writing. She was sure to include how she grew in her faith and how she was able to overcome temptations when they crept up. Toward the end of the book, Perry discusses our need for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and how God has “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son,” (Colossians 1:13).

You will be challenged, encouraged, and overjoyed by reading Gay Girl, Good God.

I was deeply encouraged by this book even though Perry’s story is much different from mine. I now have a better understanding of what people who identify as “gay” need from the body of believers that make up the Church. Perry gives these believers a blueprint of sorts in how to most effectively preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are living in sin. By reading this book, I now understand what it is like for someone to feel rejected and uninvited by the church and what we as the body of Christ can do about that. Through Gay Girl, Good God, Perry encouraged me to be more accepting of others and show them Jesus rather than being hard-hearted and hoping they find Him through some other avenue.

If you or someone you know has ever committed a sin (which we all are guilty of), you should read this book. Be prepared to be challenged, encouraged, and overjoyed by the testimony of Jackie Hill Perry. Her story of being a sinner brought to life in Christ is no different from any other true believer’s story. I hope that you find as much beauty in your redemption story as Perry has unashamedly acknowledged in her book Gay Girl, Good God.

You can purchase a copy of Gay Girl, Good God by clicking here.

Grace and peace,

Bethany

The Weight of Singleness Part II: Goodness, Love, and Contentment

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Goodness

We’ve all heard the saying “God is good, all the time.” Many times, it is said during a moment of celebration and triumph. It is not as often used when someone close to you is diagnosed with cancer, or when a family member loses their job. These situations make it feel like God is good MOST of the time but definitely not ALL of the time. But if that were the case, then God would not be God and He would definitely not be good. Because if God is not good all the time, He is not good any of the time. God’s goodness is a vital part of who He is. It is not only a characteristic He has vowed to live by, it is the very essence of His being. God and goodness cannot be separated. Where God goes, goodness goes and where goodness goes, God goes.

“God is good, all the time.” Over the past few years, I have become more aware of the word “all” in this phrase. All… Every millisecond of my life – past, present, and future – God has been good, is still good, and will always be good. No matter what.

When I am weak, God is good. When I am strong, God is good.

When I am lazy, God is good. When I am productive, God is good.

When I am broken, God is good. When I am whole, God is good.

When I am hungry, God is good. When I am full, God is good.

When I feel hurt and rejected, God is good. When I feel loved and cherished, God is good.

If I (somehow) get married in the next two years, God is good and if I never get married, God is still good.

No matter how I feel or where I’m at, God is still good.

Even when I think that God may not be good, God is still good.

God’s goodness is not contingent upon His love for me. If He did not love me, God would still be good… But in His goodness, God has CHOSEN to love me.

Love

During this season of singleness, I have come to recognize God’s love for me in many different ways. Through fellowship with other believers, the simplicity of quiet time in the mornings, and the way that the sun sets over my family’s pasture I see glimpses not only of God Himself but of His love for me and the rest of His creation. Oftentimes, I am so captivated by the Lord that I lose my breath and am at a loss for words.

God’s love is absolutely unimaginable. No matter how hard we try, we could never even begin to fathom the love that the Father has for us.

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:38-39, CSB).

Not a thing in this world (or the next) will make the Lord stop loving you. God’s love is like His goodness, it is a part of His divine make-up. He doesn’t go anywhere without it. Like layers of skin, God’s love and goodness hold together all that He is. Without these two parts, God would be just like the rest of us but because His love and goodness are holy by nature, He is far greater and far better than any person on this earth.

Just like goodness, love has started to obtain an inaccurate definition in today’s society. It’s actually not just one inaccurate definition, it is many inaccurate definitions. Love has been a catch-phrase of sorts rather than a meaningful word that actually carries weight for the ears that hear it. The word “love” has lost a lot of its power due to being overused and under-utilized. As humans, we can no longer grasp the significance of what the Bible means when it says “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5) or “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life,” (John 3:16). What splendor is lost in these verses when we can only think of “love” as a shallow, ambiguous term. God has proven His deep, immeasurable love for us by giving us His Son as a Savior that conquered sin and death so that we may know God and live forever in His Kingdom.

The gift of eternal life and a restored relationship with the Father gives us a greater understanding of God’s love and His goodness.

I have recently learned of another way that God has shown His love and goodness toward me: contentment.

Contentment

It’s an amazing thing to find yourself completely content in Yahweh Yireh – the God who Provides. Resting in the fact that He alone can satisfy my most anticipated desires enables me to have a deeper understanding of and longing for His Word and, ultimately, Him. When I put my trust in the God who knows what’s best for me, there is nothing I will miss out on. Philippians tells me that I don’t have to be anxious about anything because I’ve continually taken my worries to the Lord and He has given me the peace that passes understanding, (4:6). {Notice I did not say “He gives me what I pray for” but that’s for a different day.}

I used to hear the word “content” thrown around a lot to apply to certain situations in peoples’ lives. “Oh, you should be content with a 3.5 GPA!”… “You just need to be content while you are still single.”… “Once you become content with your current situation, you will get the [job, guy, house, etc.] that the Lord wants for you.” I don’t have a major problem with these too-often used phrases. I do, however, have a problem with the assumption here. The assumption is that our situations are what makes us discontent or content but, as a believer, I would have to disagree.

If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’ll ever find contentment in my singleness. I don’t want to be single. Period. I don’t like it, it hasn’t been good for me, I want out. BUT my singleness has been marked by a contentment that can be found in Christ alone. Just like the peace that passes understanding, I will find myself completely enthralled by the Lord too much to even care about my current situation.

I like to think that Paul was in this state of mind when he penned Philippians while imprisoned in Rome. He had a longing to go to the church in Philippi but his imprisonment kept him from leaving the house. After the Philippians had displayed how much they cared for Paul and his ministry, though they sent no material gift, Paul writes:

“… I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know both how to make do with little and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me,” (4:11-13).

Paul knew that only Jesus could give satisfaction during times of uncertainty. He was aware that his situation was rough but did not make excuses for losing hope in what Christ was capable of doing. Paul clung to the truth and was content while he was imprisoned. Notice I said while he was imprisoned… not in his imprisonment. Paul makes it clear that Christ is the root of contentment, not the circumstance he was in.

If we cling to Him, we will be content through and in spite of whatever circumstance we face. If we find our satisfaction in the Lord, we will never be let down. Surrender your desires to Him. He can see our future; we can’t. Jesus needs to be enough for us in ALL seasons of life.

All the Above

Through God’s love and goodness, He has gifted me with contentment. I could never be content on my own. If I did not know the love and goodness of God, I would constantly be trying to scratch and claw for the things that I want with no regard to who I was hurting or who I was becoming on my path to proverbial “success”.

But glory be to God that I no longer have to live like that. I can rest in the promises of my Lord and know that His plan for me is greater than anything I could choose for myself. My life is to be lived in pursuit of the One who gave His life to save mine. Contentment is founded and grounded in Christ alone.

Grace and peace,

Bethany

Calming the Storm – Part IV: Matthew 8:26b-27

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27

This is the last part of the series! (*tear*) I hope everyone has enjoyed this series and been challenged by it just as I have. In the next few days I will post some closing remarks and include a few different resourses that I’ve used throughout the course of the series.

If you’ve been keeping up with the series, you know that I have been using questions for each of the previous three parts of the series but we’re going to drop them for this post. Hopefully this decision will make sense as you read it…But let’s go ahead and jump into the last part. This is where everything comes together, where it all makes sense.

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Let’s do a quick recap before getting into the last part of verse 26 and verse 27.
1) Jesus had been preaching all day and wanted to cross the sea so He could preach to a different crowd. He calls the disciples onto the boat after telling them the importance of following Him. (Part I)
2) While they are at sea, there comes a storm that starts constantly swamping the boat with waves causing it to start sinking. During this time, Jesus is asleep. (Part II)
3) The disciples wake Jesus up because they need His help. He questions their lack of faith in Him. (Part III)

After Jesus is rudely woken up from His nap and then questions the disciples faith, some pretty crazy stuff happens:

Jesus stands up after exploiting the lack of faith in the disciples and shuts up a storm that is threatening the lives of the people with Him: “Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm,” (v. 26b). The guy SPEAKS to the storm and it LISTENS! I love the word “rebuked” here because it is translated to “correct” or “warn”. Only someone who has control over something is able to effectively correct or warn it. Jesus was in control of the storm from the beginning. With just three words – “Peace! Be still!” – the storm is put in its rightful place under the authority of Jesus Christ.

How amazing would this have been to witness first-hand?! You’re standing in the boat shoveling water out when Jesus stands up, says three simple words and the waves are stilled, the thunder is hushed, and the clouds are rolled away. I don’t know exactly what I would have done in that moment, but something tells me that my reaction would look something like: “I’m with that guy! I don’t care where He goes or what He does but He has authority and I’m going wherever He wants me to go and doing whatever He wants me to do.”

In verse 27 we see how the disciples react to Jesus’ authority. As Jewish men, they were very familiar with passages like Psalm 89:9 which says, “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them,” and Psalm 107:29: “He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” These were verses that the disciples had known about (and possibly memorized) from a very early age. They were aware that God was able to calm storms and settle waves and now that Jesus had demonstrated that same power in front of them, they were amazed at the possibility that Jesus could in fact be the God of the universe.

And now we come to the main point in the entire story: Jesus is God! The authority that belongs to Yahweh of the Old Testament is the same authority that belongs to Jesus the Messiah. Jesus is Creator and Ruler of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE. He is powerful, He is holy, He is perfection. He quiets the storms, He heals the lame, He raises the dead. Jesus is the God-Man who holds authority over all of nature. Jesus demonstrates this authority by correcting the actions of the storm. And He wants us to submit to His authority over our lives. He wants to bring us into the boat with Him so that He can demonstrate His power over the storms that often wreak havoc in our lives. He alone has the authority to settle them. No effort we could give will ever be enough to calm the storms. We can try our best to get the water out of the boat but as waves keep crashing in and our physical ability starts to decline, Jesus is the only one who can effectively say “Peace! Be still!” over the storms in our lives.

What a gracious God we have the opportunity to serve! Jesus continues to demonstrate His authority over the storms in my life and I pray that He is doing the same for you!

– Bet