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How To Remove Logs In Your Eyes

by Cathy Bihler

The following text was written to my pastor in the midst of my pain during a crucial time in our church’s history. I wrote him a total of three letters and this was the second one. So, here it is. I share this in humility and shame for it exposes my own sexual history. There is a very happy ending, though! I am praying that, in some way, God will use this letter containing my testimony for His purposes.

Saturday afternoon/evening (July 27, 1999)

Dear Pastor:

As I said in my previous letter, there is much that I am compelled to say to you. I did not cover everything in my last letter. This is a second letter and there may be more. I am praying for you as you face the issue of homosexuality and its proposed sanction in the church.

I love my church family and I do not want to see it torn apart. Nonetheless, I love God and His Truth so much that I will stand on the hilltop and shout the truth to anyone who will listen. If the pastors of our church are teaching and endorsing false concepts, I will speak out loudly against their words.

Since my last letter, I have felt the Holy Spirit’s strong comfort, love, and endorsement of my convictions. I have no doubts in my mind whatsoever that homosexuality is sinful. But the sinful use of sex in our world does not stop with homosexuals. There are lessons in the Bible on many kinds of sin that people commit when they misuse the great gift of sex that God has given to humanity. Sex is so inter-woven with marriage, that we really can’t talk about one without also considering the other. I read somewhere that sex is one of the most glorious gifts that God has given us. However, when it is corrupted/misused it becomes one of the most ungodly/sinful acts that people commit. A most beautiful gift can become the worst curse when not used within God’s purpose. I have to agree with this observation as it matches what scripture says, my personal experience, and what I see in the world around me.

Perhaps it’s time for me to explain (confess) the whole story of how the Holy Spirit has convicted me and helped me see Truth on these matters. As I have shared parts of this story with you before, some of this may be redundant, but please bear with me.

My own sexual history has had sinful periods. I am ashamed to say that my husband was not the first man that I had sex with. Society was becoming pretty accepting of sex before marriage during my high school years. The "pill" had been invented and birth control was now reliable. Getting "caught" having sex by getting pregnant was no longer the risk that it used to be. People had begun living together without the benefit of marriage. I wasn’t sure who exactly was having sex when I was in high school but the attitude of my peers was such that if you loved a guy, it was o.k. I know that my parents had different attitudes, but we didn’t ever talk about sex at home and with hormones raging through my veins, I much preferred to listen to what the talk at school was. Besides, when you are in high school you know more than your parents do anyway! I certainly never read what the Bible said on the subject and my church youth group didn’t ever talk about it. Please notice that I sought the messages that I liked, not what was necessarily best for my salvation and for my life here in this world!

Eventually, I fell in love with a nice guy in my senior year of high school. I thought I would probably marry him, so as our relationship developed, so did our sex life. My attitude had been set; it wasn’t long before my behavior followed.

That relationship didn’t last. Neither did the next two relationships. Unfortunately, though, my attitude did. Justification in my mind for my sexual behavior was easy enough. Sex was fun and felt good. It made me feel more in love. It kept the man as interested in me as I was in him. Isn’t it interesting that throughout this period in my life I found it necessary to justify my behavior? Something was "bugging" me about having sex; I had to find a way to put such uneasy thoughts aside. I can look back now and know that it was the Holy Spirit who was "bugging" me. I pushed Him away on this issue because it interfered with my personal, pleasure-full sin and my love life. It was easy enough to do so because I didn’t have God centered in my life.

When I was a senior in college, I met the man who would later be my husband and with whom I fell rapidly in love. I lived with him for two years before we were married. I continued to justify my behavior to myself by saying that I was in love with him and that I would marry him when he was ready. Fortunately, my live-in boyfriend did eventually ask me to marry him and we were married for 12 years. I was completely faithful to my husband during my marriage. I never even looked at another man.

But if I am to be completely honest with myself, I had to admit that I had become promiscuous and I had practiced fornication. Only one man at a time, mind you. Monogamous? Yes. Committed? Sure, I was committed for as long as the relationships lasted.

Let me (painfully) continue with my personal life story. My marriage got very rocky after we had children and my husband developed clinical depression. One day my husband went to the doctor and got a vasectomy. We had talked about his desire for one previously, but I was against it. I needed time to know that I didn’t want any other children. I had two wonderful children but had lost one to a miscarriage. My children had been such a gift of love to me that I was not ready to close a permanent door to the possibility of more.

I was so distraught at my husband’s act that I did not know what to do. A day or so later, I was alone at home in my kitchen and I was screaming out loud. I was asking the kitchen: "What on earth I should do now?" My marriage was so unhappy and stressed-out and I truly didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t really praying, but God chose to answer me anyway. I heard a man’s voice. I heard it in my head, inside my left ear. It was as clear and as audible as any voice I have ever heard in my life. The Voice said two words: "Have compassion." At that point in time, compassion was not a word that I used in my vocabulary. I knew immediately that it was Jesus who spoke. I began arguing with the Voice, saying: "Compassion! What kind of compassion does he have for me?" There was no response. He had spoken. I knew I had been commanded to have compassion for my husband. But, I did not do it. I disobeyed and I ultimately filed for divorce a few months later.

Before actually taking the step of filing divorce papers, I met with my pastor and discussed the issue of divorce. I knew that the Bible spoke against it. I felt between a rock and a hard place. My pastor, who was also to become a good friend and a shoulder to lean on during the next few years, commented something along the line that he didn’t believe God would want me to be so miserable in my marriage. To be honest, I can’t remember which came first: my visit with my pastor or the Voice. At any rate, I didn’t tell my pastor about the Voice and the message given me. If I had, maybe his consoling words to me would have been different. I guess I was seeking his approval for divorce and I accepted his words as approval.

My husband’s depression was severe and the way he dealt with it was to "abandon" me by locking me out of his life - mostly, he went fishing or spent all of his time working on his boat and fishing gear. He wouldn’t do much with the responsibilities of the house or kids. My abandonment manifested itself in anger and resentment and I voiced my anger often. I felt that I had tried everything to save my marriage, including counseling both alone and with my husband. However, while I knew God wanted me to have compassion for my husband, I was unable to do it. Again, God was not centered in my life.

I need to make it clear that there was no physical abuse in my marriage and although my husband confessed once that he was tempted to adultery, he was proud that he managed to avoid it. I believe now that this was a marriage that could have had a different outcome if I had obeyed the commandment given me. The commandment Jesus gave to me was in keeping with the Bible’s teachings.

After my separation and divorce, the first thing on my mind as I began coming out of my mourning period was finding a new husband and a social life. My marriage didn’t work out, but I very much wanted a married life. I would set out to find a better match.

Meeting nice, single men was not a problem. Getting a first date wasn’t hard. Getting a second date was a bit tougher because the fact that I had children usually came out on the first date. Nonetheless, I found a new relationship that I invested time and love into. It felt so good to feel loved again and to feel love in my heart again. And man, those great physical sexual feelings were aroused out of a very deep sleep. I’m ashamed to say that, once again, as the relationship with my boyfriend developed, so did our sex life. Sadly, that relationship didn’t last. Nor did the next one. Why did I make such bad choices? What is wrong with me? Maybe I was jumping into deep water too quickly. Do you think that maybe God’s commandments are good for us to follow? Perhaps they save us from ourselves?

Finally, instead of turning to men to find happiness, I began earnestly seeking God and immersing myself in Bible study. And as I sincerely sought after Him, the Holy Spirit began His steady, persistent teaching of the Truth. Truth is paramount, even when it stings. Maybe even especially when it stings. Maybe even especially when we don’t like it. As I plowed my way through the Bible in Disciple I classes, there were so many lessons on sexual sin that jumped out at me. Here are some of them:

  1. "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery." Luke 16:18)"But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:32) OUCH! How can I commit adultery when I am no longer married? Boy, did I fight that idea. I was still hurt and blaming the divorce on my ex-husband. Why should I be punished because my husband abandoned me? If I marry again, I commit adultery and I cause my new husband to commit adultery. I suppose that also extends to divorced women who have sex but are not married. Is that fair? Sure didn’t feel fair to me (the sinner). But the Holy Spirit insisted that I dwell on this passage. He was actually quite a nag about it.

  2. "It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person." (Mark 7:21-23; italics/bold print mine) Fornication and adultery are evil things coming from within and they defile us. Jesus put these acts right up there on the scale of evil with murder, theft, and pride. Oh, my God! I am defiled. I am guilty of both of these things.

  3. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cast it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your hole body to got into hell." (Matthew 5:27-30) Adultery (even thinking about it) will cause the judgment of God to fall upon you and you can be thrust into hell. Maybe I had better repent of my sins and ask for forgiveness. The Holy Spirit’s Truth is aimed at keeping me out of hell. Thank you, LORD!

  4. Jesus told the woman at the well (who had had five husbands and was living with a man that she was not married to) "But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24) I am grateful that God is looking for anyone who will worship in spirit and truth. "Anyone" can include me, the sinner like the woman at the well. I am so humbled and grateful that He will forgive me when I accept the truth.

  5. John 8 outlines the woman caught in adultery. To this woman who was brought to Jesus by her accusers, Jesus said: "Go and sin no more." Thank you, Lord, for your forgiveness. You have allowed me to live. I must endeavor to sin no more. The only way I can do that is to remain single and celibate. So be it. As I have stated already in public, God has given me the ability to do it. I stepped out in obedience and He was there to receive and empower me. Wow, what an awesome God!

  6. Forbidden sexual practices are outlined in Leviticus 18 and include sexual intercourse with close relatives, mothers and step-mothers, sisters, granddaughters, aunts, and neighbors’ wives. Also forbidden is homosexuality ("it is a detestable sin") and sexual intercourse with an animal. I feel so sad that God had to put these things in writing for us. Leviticus 20:13 states that the penalty for homosexual sin is death for both parties. I accept the authority of scripture and I believe that He is quite serious about this sexual sin.

  7. Mark 10:6-9 "But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no on separate." (italics/bold mine) These are Jesus’ words. O.K., the Bible does not record Jesus specifically mentioning homosexuality, but I resent any implication that He endorses it. These verses do not say: male and female; or male and male; or female and female, whatever strikes your fancy.

  8. Jesus did say: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20) (Bold mine) I think this scripture clearly tells us that Jesus stands behind the law. We’d best not imply anything else.

O.K. So, I’m divorced and finally truly beginning my walk with God. Why would God confront me with my prior sins? I had asked God to forgive my sins. Had He forgiven them? I think the better question to ask is: Had I repented? No. I had not even thought about my sexual sin. My sexual behavior was accepted by society. My divorce was acceptable by society. It was sad, but acceptable. Did it conform to God’s will? Of course, not. I needed to repent. I needed to understand my sin in order to turn from it. It is best for my salvation that I do so now! It is possible for me to wash away this sin in the blood of Jesus, who was willing to do that for me. But I must first repent. Before I can repent I need to understand that I had sinned. The Holy Spirit steadily presented scripture regarding all of these sexual sins in front of me until I understood. Then, I had to accept it and lay it down in front of the Lord and ask for forgiveness. The Lord, true to His promise, forgave me.

Now, what? I’m told to "go and sin no more". If I love God, I must be obedient for scripture says: "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21) (Bold mine.) Scripture also says: "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (John 8:47)

Sin is sin and it separates us from God. We are called to be holy because God is holy. Adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, are not holy. Do you really think that God wants unrepentant adulterers, fornicators, or homosexuals leading His flock? I think not. The Holy Spirit took great care to confront me with my sexual sin and I am but a lay person who teaches adult Bible studies. But I am a person who has had the great pleasure of having the Holy Spirit guide and direct me as I took the steps seeking God’s Kingdom. God has been faithful in His promises to me to show me His kingdom. And the only entry is through Jesus, who has cleansed the repentant sinner. His love is greatest and best. He loved me so much that He showed me my sin and confronted me with it right here on earth, while I still had time to do something about it. If He hadn’t, I would have to stand in front of God on judgment day and answer directly to Him. Then what could I say? The wages of sin is death. Period.

God, in His infinite mercy, has provided a way to forgiveness and the cleansing of our sin: Jesus Christ. We are all sinners. Some of our sin is open and public, like my divorce. Some is behind closed doors, but it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t see it. We must admit our sin. Pretending that sin is not sin and sanctioning it in our churches is appalling to me. I cannot believe how far from the truth the people proposing these changes for UMC have gone. I cannot believe how many people have been convinced that these changes are from God. They do not match scripture. Period. We either accept the authority of scripture or we do not. Trying to remove parts because we’d rather be more politically correct in our corrupted world or trying to misapply scripture to fit our purposes is out of line with God’s will. (Peter’s vision has nothing to do with legitimizing homosexuality! Peter’s vision had to do with accepting the Gentiles as part of God’s family and not forcing Kosher-type rules on them. This vision is a further explanation of Jesus’ teaching about it’s not what we put into our bodies that defile us, but the condition of the heart. Jesus’ death on the cross changed the methods by which we become righteous - - we no longer have to do it with repeated sacrifices on the alter, following perfect dietary habits, and practicing circumcism. Paul speaks to these things at great length in his letters. Instead, we now repent of our sins and ask Jesus into our heart.)

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, "You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." "But we are descendants of Abraham," they said. "We have never been slaves to anyone on earth. What do you mean, ‘set free’?" Jesus replied, "I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free. Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because my message does not find a place in your hearts. I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father." . . . "For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God. Since you don’t, it proves you aren’t God’s children." (John 8:31-47) (Bold mine)

TRUTH is the answer. Jesus is the truth. The Bible is the Word. Jesus is the Word. We must accept the authority of scripture, hold to it at all costs, and teach it carefully without manipulating it for any purpose contrary to God’s will.

There is yet more that I am compelled to say. Other scriptures that have been brought carefully before me by the Holy Spirit have to do with the special responsibility of teachers and prophets. Extra responsibility for those who are given words from God to speak to others or who are entrusted to teach God’s people. Those who teach must be upright, removing every kind of sin from their lives. They are called to be holy because God is holy. Some scriptures that speak to this follow:

1. Nehemiah 8:8,12: They read from the book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that people could understand what was being read … Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.

2. Isaiah 9:14-17: So the Lord will cut off from Israel both head and tail, both palm branch and reed in a single day; the elders and prominent men are the head, the prophets who teach lies are the tail. Those who guide this people mislead them, and those who are guided are led astray. Therefore the Lord will take no pleasure in the young men, nor will he pity the fatherless and widows, for everyone is ungodly and wicked, every mouth speaks vileness. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.

3. Jeremiah 23:1-4: "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!" declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: "Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done," declares the Lord. "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid, or terrified, nor will any be missing" declares the Lord.

4. 2 Timothy 4:1-4: In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage - with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (Bold mine.)

5. Math 18:6-7: "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the ocean. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!"

I think these scriptures speak for themselves. Anyone with a role as a teacher had better stay true to God. I am fully warned. God will empower me with each task he entrusts to me. The scripture from Timothy is especially convicting for me.

I leave you with one further scripture that has come to me as being important for our church and for this occasion. Revelation 3:14-22:

"Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen-the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation:

"I know all the things you do, that you are neither not nor cold. I wish you were one of the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy gold from me - gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. And also buy white garments so you will not be shamed by your nakedness. And buy ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference.

"Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends. I will invite everyone who is victorious to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

I speak from my heart with humility and shame. I have not admitted to my sins readily. They are shameful and I am embarrassed. Yet, I feel like Paul as he writes in his many letters. With my repentance of my sins, I can buy the gold and white garments that Jesus offers us. I am rich beyond belief of this world. I love you and the entire church population enough to be bold and step out in faith that God is leading me.

In Christ,

Cathy Bihler
March 25, 2000

Dear Reader:

So, there it is. The teaching that came to me through reading the Bible and listening to the things that the Holy Spirit laid in front of me. The result of my acceptance and obedience to these scriptures has removed the "log from my eyes." I am not free from sin; however, I am free from sexual sin. I am celibate. And I am FREE! It feels wonderful.

There is a song that I hear playing on the Christian radio station that I listen to that has the following phrase: "I’m swimming in the crystal sea." (I’d give credit to whomever I should for the song, but I don’t know - - sorry!) Well, I’m here to tell you that I am swimming in the crystal sea and the water is great. Come on in! THE WATER IS GREAT! You can confidently recommend celibacy as a "lifestyle". A life of a single, celibate person is considered right by God.

I pray that in some way reading my personal testimony will be of benefit to you and to Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who purchased me with His cleansing blood. I am your servant, Lord. Show me Your ways while I await your commands for my life.

In Christ,

Cathy Bihler
March 25, 2000

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