Open Letter: No, Mr. Cook, Being Gay Isn’t a Gift from God—But Something Much Greater Is

Mr. Tim Cook
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA  95014

You don’t know me. I’m not a CEO, a tech guy, an actor, or a politician. I’m a writer with a blog (not many of those around, eh?). But I’ve been following your work for a while. Back in the late ‘90s, I’d finally had enough blue screens of death and driver incompatibility issues from Microsoft Windows. So, when a certain Bondi blue gumdrop of a computer came out (you guys called it the iMac), I plunged in headfirst. (I’m even one of the few who loved the hockey puck mouse.)

My house looks something like an Apple Store at this point. MacBook Airs and Pros, iPads, iPods, and iPhones are pretty much members of the family. I’m even typing this on a much newer iMac.

You could say that I’m an Apple guy.

Let me just say that when Steve Jobs passed away, I wasn’t really worried about the company. I’d seen your work, and you’ve got a gift for keeping things on track. You know how to get the right people in the right place at the right time.

Recently, you did a very brave thing. You finally confessed to being gay. I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised. Your avid support for the LGBTQ community and concern for those who suffer from fear-based attacks has been a big giveaway. You could say that it was about as well kept of a secret as was your last iPad.

But still, confessing the truth is brave. We often have roadblocks of fear and potential rejection that keep us from admitting such hidden parts of our lives. Add to that the pressure of being the CEO of a company beloved by people all over the spectrum, and it’s obvious you took a tough step.

Now, I want to urge you to not stop there. Confession should only be the beginning; you also need surrender. You see, you claimed that being gay was a “gift from God.” But I have to tell you, even if it’s hard, that what you said just isn’t the truth.

I can’t say I completely blame you, especially in this country right now. We Americans have our ideas about God really mixed up, and the pull of these false ideas is seductive. The god that many Americans worship has a pretty hands-off approach, lays out infinite paths to heaven, and generally just wants us all to be happy with any decision we make. For many, this god (if he is the one who gave us the Bible) didn’t really condemn much of anything because he didn’t foresee how well we moderns would figure things out.

The problem with these notions is that a god who doesn’t know everything—past and future—is no god at all. A god who allows anything and everything cannot also be loving. And a god without standards and expectations is a god who cannot bring justice. Really, this American god is something we’ve created to feel better about the choices we make. But if we’re honest, he’s also a jumbled, powerless mess.

You say that you’re proud to be gay, and I certainly believe you. But—and here’s the hard truth—pride has a way of making us not deal with our problems. We cling tightly to the treasures that our world tells us are important: self-identity and passions mostly. Mr. Cook, you need to understand that those things put us on a broad road that leads not to victory, but destruction.

Is that harsh? Yes, it may seem so. But just as a smartphone maker sets certain parameters for how the operating system works and what the apps can and can’t do, God—the true God, not the American one—does the same. He created a world with certain standards of right and wrong, certain boundaries for what His greatest creation (that’s us) can do.

If that’s so, then why do you have the desires that you do, the ones that are so strong they seem like part of who you are? That’s because our world isn’t like it was meant to be. We’ve fallen so far from what God intended that sometimes the things He doesn’t want us to do seem good to us.

That gets us to the whole gift thing. You mentioned God’s gifts, and I want to tell you that God (not the American god but the real One) has given us a truly amazing gift. We’re fallen; we’re so mixed up we can’t tell up from down. But our Creator, Jesus, came to this earth on a special rescue mission. He took on our skin and bones and then took on our sin on the cross. He did that to yank us out of the confusion we’re in. Grace, Mr. Cook—grace is the greatest gift we’ve been given. And it’s big enough for this former atheist and for a gay CEO.

Realizing and accepting God’s grace in Jesus won’t suddenly make everything easy. You’ll still have your passions and failings, your urges and problems. But you’ll also have God’s leading to see what is right, even against the flawed views of culture.

If you need help, please visit the website LivingOut.org. You’ll find inspirational stories of brave men just like you who are fighting the battle against same-sex attraction and winning in Jesus’ name. They deny themselves (their fallen, broken selves) to take up their Jesus-changed selves.

I pray you find God’s true and greatest gift.

In Christian love,
John UpChurch

Freedom: A Poem

Freedom (Romans 6)

 

“I’m tired of hiding who I

Really am,” he says. And runs in,

Arms flailing, head down, free

Way down in his mind. They clap,

Who stand along the bars. Their

Ebullient words echo off

The cage—dampened by metal.

 

He clanks and scrapes the chain snaked

Around his ankle. “Now, I’m

Free.”

 

Still, even while he courses

Around the cage, that same Voice

That’s always called, calls still.

Sermon: Keep Your Motor Running

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.” Hebrews 12:1–2

Intro:

  • According to surveys, January is a tough month for many people: holidays over, weather, New Year’s resolutions
  • Treadmill gathers dust, diets fade away, Bible reading plans slip
  • If it’s hard to keep goals for physical things, how can we keep our motors running in our Christian life?
  • This passage gives us the tools we need to keep running the race day to day.

I. Understand Where You Are

  • First, need to understand where we are. Writer has given us an image that’s familiar even to us.
  • Great crowd/cloud of witnesses – refers to the rows upon rows spectators watching a sporting event, like clouds billowing up in the stands.
  • Who are they? Hebrews 11 those who lived on purpose through faith in the coming Savior; not just passively watching but give us proof that imperfect people can make it (not really moral examples, but examples of living from faith)
  • Scripture encourages us, but also helps us understand our true, in-our-face spiritual condition

II. Throw off What Holds Back

  • Strip off every weight, especially the sin that holds us back – back then ran in a much more “natural” way.
  • Sin makes us uncomfortable because our society teaches us not to admit our moral failure (improper relationships, misspoke). But Jesus gave a moral imperative to “sin no more.”
  • Living on purpose for Christ means calling sin what it is—sin. That is, confessing it. Daily, if need be.
  • “Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked [Cain]. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.” Genesis 4:6–7
  • “For the honor of your name, O LORD, forgive my many, many sins. Who are those who fear the LORD? He will show them the path they should choose.” Psalm 25:11–12

III. Follow the Path God Made

  • Run the race with endurance – it’s a long-distance race, not a sprint
  • Running the mile in middle school (show off, then walk and complain) vs. high school (grade depended on it, ran smart).
  • Mindset matters for runners (won’t meet a champion marathoner who complains every step), and even more so for following Jesus
  • When we get rid of hindrances, we’re running in the path God laid out for us. (Ephesians 2:10)
  • You don’t have to figure it all out. Just go with the running lane that God opens up. (Blockers in football)

IV. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

  • Keeping our eyes on Jesus on whom our faith depends – He set the example for us to follow (do God’s will, help the helpless, receive the prize)
  • Think about why you’re following Jesus each day, your motivation:
  • Your own efforts won’t sustain you.
  • Approval from others won’t keep your motor running.
  • Our faith is meant to be a day-by-day realization of God’s love for us and ours for Him—a deeper and deeper understanding of the gospel and a steady transformation. Progress in the Christian life is a road paved with passion.
  • “And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Conclusion

  • The word for witnesses in Greek is “martyr.” All followers of Jesus are called to die—die to self.
  • Jesus said following Him is like picking up a cross, a symbol of death, and going after Him each day.
  • Not easy. But He’s made a path for us, He shows us the way.
  • You can keep going. In this race, God intends for us to win as He molds us each day.
  • “I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.” Philippians 3:14

Fill ‘er Up

“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints.” Colossians 1:24-26

Right after I got married, I gave up computer software updates and PC troubleshooting for something a bit more… down to earth, you could say. I needed work in my new hometown, and since employers weren’t tracking me down and forcing jobs on me, I gravitated toward the only available option: construction. With a booming housing market at the time, finding enough to do wasn’t a problem.

But finding motivation was a problem. Going from a specialized, higher paying job in computers, where I mostly sat at my desk all day, to cleaning up cinder blocks, wrestling with insulation, and scrubbing windows—that was quite the humbling thing. Honestly, I’d never had to do any real manual labor in my life before that. (Yes, I was coddled.) The heat and pain and bloodied hands were all new to me.

The first few weeks, after a particularly arduous day of gophering around the jobsites, I’d come home and crash on the living room floor. My muscles weren’t used to the beating they took, and they made sure I knew about it.

Slowly, however, with all the wood slinging and nail pounding and putty slapping, things changed. The nights of carpet collapses became less frequent, and my hands didn’t split open nearly as often (unless you count the numerous times I stabbed myself with a chisel). In fact, I came to enjoy the process of seeing something come together, seeing a house take shape.

My spiritual growth has come in a similar fashion—just without the splinters. At first, the failures dragged me down and beat me up. The rejections when I tried to share my newfound faith stung. The transformation cut deep. But as I grew and as God worked in me, something changed. The pain still stings and the transformation still cuts (that never stops), yet I began to see the pain as an important part of the overall process. Christ is building something in me—and in His Church.

As humans, we all suffer. But as Christians, we fill up on suffering. Sounds bad, but the point is that instead of us letting the suffering go to waste, God uses it for the good of other believers (and our own). He takes the pain and makes it passion, passion that spills out as love for our brothers and sisters.

We each serve as a breathing example of the gospel played out in real life. Our pain and restoration make us a family like nothing else can.

Why Paul Wasn’t a Zombie

“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” Colossians 1:28-29

Worn out. Exhausted. Please oh please oh please be Friday. Those words probably describe many of our weeks—often by Monday afternoon. The surge of the weekday tide sucks us under and spins us around and strips away our energy by making us swim to the surface over and over again. Gasp. Bills. Gasp. Long meeting. Gasp. Kids biting each other.

What more can we give than that? What else can God expect from us than just trying to keep from drowning in the mess of life?

Paul says everything and more. Yep, you read that right. We’re supposed to slap down every last ounce of ourselves to the cause of Christ. We’re supposed to surrender every modicum of ourselves to the purpose of “proclaiming Him” with our joy-filled words and our peace-in-the-midst-of-this-hurricane-called-life actions.

Everything. Every single bit. For Him.

Feeling tired yet? I hope you don’t. You see, there’s something in here that we too often overlook. It does take energy—loads of it—to live a life of surrender. We wouldn’t expect anything less from being a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). That means using all that we are to make all that He is known to all. But even with all those alls, you won’t be using up your energy.

Look again at what Paul says here: “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.” He doesn’t say, “I did it all myself until I burned out and crashed into the dirt and hated my life and decided it was just too hard to do anything and wanted to move to Alaska forever and hide in a cave.” Instead, he tells us that the source of his oomph is Christ.

Christ didn’t save us so that we could barely keep going, dragging our way like zombies down the road of life. Instead, we’re operating with power—His. He jump-started our lives with a spirit of power (2 Timothy 1:7), cranking up the juice through the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). After all, like Paul, we’re wrestling with the tasks God’s called us to do. We aren’t supposed to do this by tapping into our own reserves. God takes these fragile clay pots that we are and supplies His power so that He gets the glory (2 Corinthians 4:7). He adds the zing, and His zing is potent.

When you try to make it all work on your own guts and grit, you’ll eventually drain down and sputter out. Instead, take Him up on His “by my Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6) thing—that is, not your own strength. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get tired or weary. You will. But you can be sure that He specializes in renewing the worn out and exhausted (Isaiah 40:30-31).

There’s a Title for That

Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of who Jesus is:

  • The Word: He pitched His tent with us and put flesh on God’s promises (John 1)
  • Son of God: He’s got the whole world in His hands (Matthew 16:16)
  • Son of Man: He knows our sorrows up close and personal (Matthew 17:12)
  • Son of David: He loved His people, even if they didn’t recognize Him (Matthew 1:1; John 1)
  • Teacher: He tells us exactly what we need, even if it’s not what we want to hear (John 3:2)
  • Prophet: He told us what would and will happen (Deuteronomy 18:15; Matthew 13:57)
  • Provider: He can make a little go a long way (Mark 6:30-44)
  • Mediator: He’s right in the middle of our struggles and pleading our case (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 9:15)
  • Suffering Servant: He got busted up for us (Isaiah 53)
  • Lamb of God: He put sin in a full-nelson and made death cry uncle (John 1:29)
  • Lion of Judah: He can take care of His enemies with just His roar (Revelation 5:5, 19:21)
  • Counselor: He’s the cure for our addictions and struggles (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Prince of Peace: He signed—in blood—the peace treaty between God and us (Isaiah 9:6)
  • Immanuel: He never gets tired of being with us (Isaiah 7:14)
  • King of Kings: He’s got the power (Revelation 17:14)
  • The Way: He ain’t got no time for wishy-washy “all roads” arguments; He’s it (John 14:6)
  • The Truth: He puts the lie in our “true for you” follies (John 14:6)
  • The Life: He resuscitates hearts that were hardened by sin (John 14:6, 20:31)
  • Good Shepherd: He patiently and lovingly tracks down His runaways (Luke 15:4; John 10:11)
  • True Vine: He nurtures us to fruitfulness (John 15:4-5; Romans 7:4)
  • Friend of Sinners: He offers grace to those stumbling around in darkness (Matthew 11:9)
  • Balm of Gilead: He binds up our wounds by the scars on His back (Jeremiah 8:22; Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24)
  • Giver of the Spirit: He sent the One who makes the journey alongside us and leads us into truth (John 14)
  • Light of the World: He sends photons to those who’ve been blinded by the god of this age (Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47; 2 Corinthians 4:4)
  • Intercessor: He never stops praying for us (Isaiah 53:12; John 17)
  • Great High Priest: He took care of all the Temple work (Hebrews 7)
  • The Bread/Water of Life: He’s our daily nutritional requirement for a spiritually balanced life (John 6; Revelation 21:6)
  • Alpha and Omega: He gets the first and last word… always (Revelation 22:13)
  • Lord of Glory: He makes angels belt out never-ending praises (Psalm 24, 103:20; James 2:1)
  • Firstborn among the Dead: He paved the path that leads to His place (Colossians 1:18)

Jesus has so many titles because He fulfills all our needs. Wherever you are in life, whatever you need, He’s got it covered. As my father-in-law sometimes says, “Jesus picked up His cross and said, ‘Hang on to Me. We’re going through.’”

My Alien Brain

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him” Colossians 1:21-22

The first migraine hit me in middle school. While wrapping up some pre-algebra problems, a fuzzy, white spot kept covering up the numbers. I’d blink and rub my eyes and try to work around it, but the spot hovered there for most of the class. Being the well-reasoned adolescent that I was, I naturally assumed what seemed logical: I was about to die of a massive stroke.

I obviously didn’t die. But when the spot finally did go away, I wished it had stayed.

Stomach-curling, fist-clenching, world-bending pain plopped down into my cranium and threw some sort of headache party. After an hour or so, I couldn’t take it anymore. I told the skeptical school nurse that I thought I had a “migration headache,” which didn’t ease her skepticism. Still, she let me go home.

Just to complete the headache humiliation, I got sick right outside the school (so that all the classes on that side of the building could watch), fell asleep as soon as I got home, and woke up with a throbbing head. Migraines don’t like to go without a fight. They kick and scream into that good night.

My own head revolted against me for several years after that. If I didn’t get enough sleep or got hit with too much stress, the spot would make a comeback. I did learn to lessen the pain sometimes by closing my eyes as soon as the fuzz sprang into view, but that didn’t always work.

Truthfully, the migraines were the least of my problems. My un-reconciled brain, the one that had no understanding of Christ, had revolted from God. Instead of fuzzy spots as warning signs, there were evil deeds, as Paul calls them. I played on others’ emotions to get my way, used girlfriends as my personal trophy case, spent hours and hours on the kinds of websites that wouldn’t make it through a work Internet filter, and generally wasted my gifts. The pain that resulted from those “spots” wasn’t just inwardly focused—it left quite the burning trail in its wake.

My alien brain knew nothing else then. It wanted nothing better. It was pretty much dead.

That’s exactly the reason Christ’s reconciling, restoring death still astounds me. This gray matter, so unresponsive to anything spiritual, came to life with God’s preceding grace. He kept hitting me and kept hitting me until I finally gave up, followed His Son, and stopped being an alien.