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“Yuck”

A few weeks ago I was walking into a Family Dollar Store (yes I go in there once in a blue moon) and I walked past a young lady who was talking on her cell phone. She was a couple inches taller than I and had long braids that went down to her hips. I didn’t get a close look at her but thought nothing of it. As I walked through the store, it appeared as though she was following me. When I stopped to look at something, she walked past me while still engaged in a phone conversation. That was when I got a closer look at her and realized that she was in fact a he

My immediate thought was “yuck,” and I even said it under my breath… I saw him again and noticed that he wasn’t cross-dressed per se, he was just extremely effeminate. Well as soon as I began to walk down the aisle, Holy Spirit instantly convicted me… Yuck? To a person and soul that Jesus Christ died for? To a person who is obviously very broken and whose sin just happens to be more visible? Yuck to someone for whom God has a plan for his life and someone who God loves just as much as me. I judged this young man without even knowing his story, his deepest hurts, his darkest secrets, his inner being that has obviously been severely wounded…

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Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (NKJV)

I’ve always considered myself to be very compassionate towards others. I believe that a good part of my calling in this life is towards social justice. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love kids and that I hate seeing injustice. Something gets under my skin when I see people suffering wrongfully. However, this particular experience showed me that I still have some growing to do. Because to tell you the truth, seeing guys like him isn’t exactly out of the norm in Atlanta, GA. Spiritually speaking, there is a very strong principality of sexual sin that rests over this region and one would likely see guys like him quite often, whether it’s at the gas station, the grocery store, or any other retail store. Personally, I’ve found myself mouthing silent prayers for them when I’ve crossed their paths. But I guess this incident revealed that there is still some haughtiness and/or arrogance within me that needs to be purged out.

Leviticus 19:15-16 You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. (NKJV)

So as I drove away from the Family Dollar store, I began to ponder how many other people react to guys like him in the same way. I imagine that this young man gets judged all of the time. Sadly, too many of us who are followers of Christ Jesus react to people like him no different than the world. We should be the ones to show these individuals love and compassion. The love of Jesus Christ should flow forth from our words and actions towards everyone. After I walked into my house, I continued to think about him and how so many of believers would never be willing to be a light to him. Not to be too presumptuous, but I believe too many of us would even be afraid to be seen with someone like him. My lord… We have a LONG way to go in terms of truly emulating Jesus Christ. This young man represents a group of people who are ignored and maybe even feared by the Christian community. Have we forgotten that they are souls who need the same salvation that we were privileged to access? Father God loves these individuals too and desperately wants them reconciled back to Him. Father God wants to heal them and restore all that has been lost to them. We are the vessels that He yearns to use to show forth His love. What I should’ve said under my breath that day was “Be healed in Jesus’s name.”

Father I’m sorry for judging this young man. I pray that he will repent and be made whole, and that You will send the right vessels to minister to his soul. I pray that this young man’s heart will be healed and that his mind will be renewed. May he be a walking testimony to bring hope to others who are facing the same identity crisis. And Father God continue to change my heart that I may lose any pride that would prevent me from being a light to people like this young man. Amen.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2014

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The Redemption of Fred Phelps: From Victim to Victor

Many of us have endured various sorts of tragedies and personal traumas that date back to our childhoods. Others have suffered through prolonged adversity and negative circumstances over many years of their lives. What separates certain people from others is their response to these different situations. Many people use these situations as justification for the various behaviors and mindsets that they exhibit, as a result. Unfortunately, these individuals never really move forward and hold on to their crutch for dear life so that they don’t necessarily have to transform. Their spiritual growth is actually stunted, whether they realize it or not. In other cases, their stories end tragically due to the lifestyles they led that were influenced by the sins that were done to them in their early years. They never move from being a victim to being a victor.

Well, I’m privileged to know such a man who is not only an example of someone who is no longer a victim, but someone who is totally sold out for the cause of Jesus Christ. His name is Fred Phelps. He is a devoted husband, father, friend, disciple of Jesus Christ and mentor who continues to be a light, a peacemaker and someone who will always speak the TRUTH in any situation. I don’t know many men who possess the level of sincerity that he does. This is a man who has truly been transformed and his diligence in pursuing righteousness has rewarded him greatly. But the path he has walked is not one from which many emerge victorious.

Starting when he was a toddler, Fred was sexually abused at the hands of his father. This abuse continued, as well as many other negative circumstances that the enemy would use to destroy him. The emotional abuse and evil words spoken over him by many others began to create not only a poor self-image and insecurity, but also a perversion of his identity as a man. He would go on to live and embrace the homosexual lifestyle, and he would look to men to fill the void left in his heart by his abusive and absentee father. The enemy had seemingly succeeded in perverting his identity and attempting to thwart his ordained destiny, but God had other plans…

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Despite the direction his life had gone, Fred had always remained in the church. The hand of God was on his life and would eventually direct him to a ministry called “Living Waters.” There he would address all of the wounds that were done to his person and experience the presence of God in a way in which he never had. Because of his repentance, he began to recapture his true self and God-given identity! However, tragedy would strike again, as he was forced to cope with the murder of his sister. But God… A changed man emerged from the ashes of abuse, neglect and tragedy. He committed his WHOLE life to Christ. As a result, he would go on to minister to others who were sexually and relationally broken, and he will always be a treasure to the healing community.

The beauty of this testimony is how God always does a COMPLETE work. The Father always seeks reconciliation, if we are willing to get out of His way and allow it. Fred’s father was constantly in and out of prison and was never in Fred’s life consistently; even during the times when he was out of prison. As a result, they were estranged for seventeen years, but God intervened… He reunited them and the process of healing began. This all occurred as Fred dealt with his father wounds in the Living Waters ministry. Isn’t it amazing and even exciting how God loves to heal and reconcile His children? For the next couple of years there was forgiveness, reconciliation and the sealing of his true masculine identity. The Lord spoke to him and affirmed, “You are not what your father did to you.” Sadly, his father was terminally ill, but a week before he passed, Fred prayed over his father. Peace descended and fell upon them. God was simply confirming that the reconciliation was complete naturally and eternally. Two weeks later, the Lord instructed Fred to take on his father’s last name because he had always had his mother’s maiden name. I know this was his way to honor his father and spark a new legacy with the Phelps namesake. Look at God…

Some years later, Fred would be introduced to the woman who would become his bride. They would be blessed with two beautiful kids, and they were just recently blessed with a third child. He is living proof that the love of God can transform anyone. Along with being a living testimony and mouthpiece for those whose voices have been silenced, he is a mighty warrior who chose LIFE over death. Fred Phelps is no longer a victim; he is a VICTOR.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2014

 

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Embracing the True Self

I remember getting standing ovations in church as a young child on Easter Sundays because I would recite these speeches that were probably 3-4 times longer than the ones the other kids did. I remember winning writing contests year after year in my school and progressing very fast when I started taking piano lessons as a nine year old. A little boy with a colorful, vivid imagination who saw the world through his own set of unique, candy-coated glasses. But it wasn’t long before this artistic, creative side of me began to slowly fade into a hidden place…

I wanted to be like the other boys around me because early childhood experiences told me that I was too “different.” The enemy of my soul began to taunt me from an early age through the words and actions of others against me. I began to believe the LIE that I was a “sissy” and just for some reason didn’t quite have that “it” quality that the other little boys seemed to possess. I played video games, played with Legos and rode by BMX bike, but something was still “wrong.” Something was “off,” or so I made to believe. The pain of not being accepted by my peers was too much to bear so I had to do something about it! And so this began the formulation of my false self. This is really no different than what probably most other people experience, we just have different scripts. Our false selves are a defense mechanism to the lies we believe and the sins that are committed against us.

 

If I could go back in time, I would never have exchanged piano lessons for soccer, basketball and track and field. I would have at least stuck with the piano and even singing, but I had to play sports because that was what all of the normal boys did. I wasn’t blessed with the natural strength and physique of the other boys, but I could run fast! This became my way of being their “equal.” They couldn’t always make fun of me anymore because I was outshining them. I would get a rush whenever I would supposedly prove my “boyhood.” I would get the same rush when I would receive praise from my family for my doing well with academics, and while getting an education is obviously important, in my case it was more about ego and performance. The deep wounding that I had received in my childhood told me that achievement was synonymous with acceptance. Everything in life then became a competition to me and the enemy of my soul now had free reign to wreak havoc in my psyche.

James 3:14-16 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. (NKJV)

Fast forward into my teen years, the false self continued to play out in various forms. I had a very FRAGILE ego and was overly-driven. If I didn’t accomplish something or if someone out performed me in some way, my heart perceived this as rejection. I know many of you probably have some idea of what this is like. And so my artistic side would show up in different ways once in a great blue moon, but it still remained suppressed because of my need for acceptance and attention. My idolatry of sports had already become a major stronghold (with the help of ESPN and media hype), but I’m grateful that I grew up in a home with music ministers as parents. I still loved music, but even that became corrupted. My peers were listening to stuff like gangster rap that was littered with violence, sex and drugs, and so I had to follow suit so I could be more socially acceptable. At this time I was supposedly becoming “blacker” because I had been told so many times since I was a little boy that I acted “white.” So I quickly became influenced through BET (Black Entertainment TV), movies and what was considered to be “black culture.” This was just more of the false self being magnified. Fortunately, my mother kind of made me sing in the youth choir at church, so I didn’t completely lose my musical ability. Are you now beginning to see the COST of not embracing the true self?

Meanwhile, my true self was locked away in a prison of self-hatred. My false self ruled with an iron clad and only got worse during high school as I became a state finalist in track and field, three out of four years. Pride and ego took center stage, but soon life would start to play out against my hopes and dreams. The very things that fueled the false self seemed to have been taken almost overnight. I guess God had had enough… But I began to display many other destructive qualities as I entered college. My sense of self worth plummeted to all time lows, and I became the perfect punching bag for the enemy of my soul. The slightest word said in the wrong way could throw me into an emotional tailspin. College life was MISERABLE, for the most part. My false self eventually steered my life down a dark path and it would take years to begin repairing the damage. It’s sad how the enemy can derail us with his lies. Some never leave the path of destruction that was set up by the false self, and I thought I never would.

But God…

As I started my true journey with the Lord some years ago, the true self began to slowly emerge. His Word began to bathe me, methodically washing away the lies my heart had internalized over the years. Through the love of others, God began His surgery on me. He started to remove the cancer of self hatred and other vices that made me believe that even He hated me for all of those years. My ears began to hear His voice for the very first time as He whispered. His love began to peel away the layers to reveal the man that He imagined before time even existed. My artistic side began to bloom brightly like a field of sunflowers. My true self can begin to kill ego and reject performance, and can learn to forgive those who inflicted the deep wounds I suffered in my childhood. My true self can learn to not be so easily offended. I can choose to walk in the light, just like the brightness that hits after exiting a railroad tunnel.

I don’t like the phrase “work in progress” because I believe it gets misused. However, I will say that my true self is still emerging as I learn to get out of my own way. I’m embracing my God-given uniqueness. My true self has a marvelous destiny that awaits him. My true self is no longer afraid to take risks. Courage is being poured over my spirit man as I am beginning to recognize what it means to truly live. My true self is learning to bow down to the reality that the Heavenly Father knows me infinitely more than I know myself. I have imperfections and have to bear my cross just like the savior did. I have to be willing to embrace the narrow path the lord has laid out for me in order to find the life that I was always mean to live while on this earth. Each day that we awake, we must make the decision to keep the false self locked away until he is finally no more… My true self shall prevail. And so can yours, if you will allow it.

Philippians 3:12-14 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(NKJV)

Nathan Allen Copyright© 2013

 

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