by Eric Elder
I shared my testimony last week at a church in Texas. It was one of the most powerful messages I think I’ve ever given. So I’d like to share it with you today with the hope that it will bring new life to you, and new life to anyone you know who is struggling with anything in their life. Jesus Christ really can do anything.
You can listen to the message at the link below, or read the transcript below that. (You can also watch the video I mention in this message called “Lana’s Hope” from the link at the end of today’s transcript.)
Here’s the link to the audio…
And here’s the transcript…
Pastor Steve: I’m so excited about having my friend Eric Elder here to give his testimony. Eric was on our staff for almost two years way back 16 and 17 years ago. He served as our Worship Leader, he served as our Associate Pastor. We’re so grateful to have him today and for you to hear his testimony. Will you do me a huge favor and let’s give him a huge Harvest welcome. Ya’ll give it up for my dear friend, Pastor Reverend Eric Elder!
Eric Elder: That’s so nice, Steve, thanks. And thanks, Benjamin, for the great worship.
I was just writing in my journal this morning about Steve and Lisa, and I just wanted to publicly say how much I love them and appreciate them. He took a risk on me all those years ago, brought me down, he and the elders at the time, Creighton and Joe and Jim, and we had a chance to live and minister and work and grow in our faith together. And for that I am truly grateful. Steve has a gift for bringing out the most intimate things on people’s hearts. Even yesterday I shared some things with him that I’ve never shared with anyone before. And that is good, and it’s healing, and I appreciate that so much.
I think Steve and Lisa do an awesome job and they do some of the best heart ministry of anyone I know. I’m glad that they’re going to be able to continue to do that in their new role at the church and, I believe, around the world. I just pray God’s blessings on you both.
And Steve, he’s not afraid of taking a risk, and so he took a risk and asked me to share my testimony today, too. My testimony really is quite simple: I was lost and now I’m found. I was blind. Now I see. And if you weren’t here to hear his great introduction before, he shared my whole testimony really in a nutshell when I heard it earlier. I was homosexual and God set me free, and I got married: wife, six kids, life abundant.
And the risk here is that when I shared this testimony years ago–I was set free in 1987–I was scared to death to share my testimony. And you know why? Because of people who hate gays. Today I stand up and I share my testimony and I am scared to death because of people who love gays. It’s a very different world than it was years ago.
So I am praying, and I am experimenting on you today, since I got this message that I was going to preach at 10 last night, to really try to say, “Lord, it’s the same testimony, but we’re in a different world, a different environment. Help me have the words to bring new life to this story so people can hear and have hope for their lives, whatever they’re struggling with.” That if you are living in a life that you don’t want to be living, there is hope and freedom. This is not about how you were born. This is not about what you inherited from your parents or your genes or anything else. But if you’re living in something that you don’t want to be living in, there is hope in Jesus Christ!
And for those of you who love gays, can I just affirm you? Never in the history of this country or in the history of the church has there been more openness and understanding and true desire to feel what gay people feel. And you might think that’s odd for me to say, but I affirm that. I love that because it is a struggle and a living hell for people who are going through sexual feelings. It just is. So I appreciate that our country, from the president on down, has this open heart to try to understand them.
Now with that, let me also say I want people to know the whole truth about the issue, too. There is more to it than just trying to love and affirm and understand. We also want to help people live the life that God has called them to live. So that’s why I share my testimony. So I want to affirm those who love homosexuals, but I also want to bring the whole truth.
And thirdly, I’m going to share a little today to try to identify with the struggle. Whatever you’re struggling with, believe me, I’ve got struggles, different areas, different topics, but we all struggle with something. Every one of you in this room, every one of you that are listening or watching this later is going through something right now. Everyone needs God every moment, every day. I am fully aware of that. And any victory that I had in the past, it’s a new season and I’ve got new things and new challenges today that I am trying to work through. So I don’t want anyone to feel condemned when I share the victory that God has given me in this area of my life. I want to identify with your struggle, too. So if I can just share some of these things with you, I’d like to.
If you have a Bible and want to open to Ephesians 4:15, I’m going to get to it in a minute.
Let me start by just affirming you in your love for people who struggle with homosexual feelings or have homosexual feelings.
Growing up in Central Illinois, I was in a town that men were admired for how well they did on the football team, the basketball team, the wrestling team, and frankly, I hated pain. God has gifted me with a sensitive heart, a sensitive spirit, and a sensitive body and I just like to avoid pain. He also has gifted me with some artistic ability to play the piano and to sing and dance and enjoy things like that.
So as a kid I was drawn to all of those things. I loved musicals, I loved plays, I loved theater, I loved painting and writing and singing and playing the piano. And that put me, in my environment, with a lot of girls. I was in dance classes with all-girl dance classes. I was in band with a majority of band members who were women. The rest of the guys were playing football, basketball, or wrestling each other on the ground and I didn’t want any part of that.
That was just my environment. And I think you’ll find for most men who struggle with homosexuality, if you either ask them or just look at their lives, they don’t have any problem relating to women. You might be surprised by that. But I have no problem relating to women. It’s men that I have trouble relating to.
And that’s what led to the trouble when I went to college. I found some men that–instead of in high school they called me gay or sissy or fag, and I wasn’t any of those things, but they called me that–and then when I went to college, there were some guys that really affirmed me and my gifts. They were like, “Wow! You sing and dance? That is awesome! Why don’t you come be in the theater?” “Oh, you love to play the piano, that is great! I think that’s awesome! Will you play a song for me?”
And all of the sudden, I was being affirmed by all of these guys. And I was like, “This is incredible!” And then they wanted more. And believe me, I fell, because I’m like, “This feels so good. I have trouble relating to other guys and here are these guys and they want to hang out with me. They think this is awesome of me, and if they want a little more, hey, I’m a young guy with hormones raging and that feels good to me, too. So why not?”
I was in several, I call them very loving relationships. They weren’t horrible, they weren’t hell on earth, they weren’t abusive. These were kind men, truly interested in me and I truly enjoyed them. I enjoyed it. I don’t look back on my time in homosexuality and go, “ugh, gag, this is horrible.” I don’t. I just think I was getting a need met, “looking for love in all the wrong places,” but I was getting a need met. And it is good and right to have good, healthy male relationships. It’s just the romanticization and sexualization that God says, “That’s crossing a line that I didn’t intend to be crossed.”
I just explain that to say, I understand how you can get into homosexuality and I understand why the Bible has so many passages that address it. God doesn’t address things that He thinks are non-issues. He addresses stuff that He thinks we’re going to be tempted in and He thinks, “This could be a problem for you, so I just want to let you know, in as clear and unequivocal words as I can, this is dangerous. This could kill you. I just want to warn you, you might feel this way, but don’t go there. It’s not going to be good for you.”
You can go through all kinds of interpretations and different ways to say it or see it, but some of the strongest words in the Bible are warnings to keep people from doing things that will destroy their lives, including homosexuality. It’s just a gracious and loving warning from a loving God that says, “I created sex for a purpose. Yes, intimacy is part of it, but I do have a bigger plan in mind for reproduction. I designed your sexual parts because I have something I want out of this, too.”
God said at the beginning, “Fill the earth. Be fruitful and multiply” (see Genesis 1:28). The first words to the first couple on earth, the opening words of the Bible. People say, “Oh, the Bible’s dry and boring.” Not to me! I mean, you’ve got Adam and Eve standing naked in the Garden of Eden, and God says the first words to them, “Go for it!” I’m not making this up! If you made a movie about that, kids would line up around the block to go see it. The Bible is exciting, vibrant, dynamic!
Why did God say, “Go for it!” to Adam and Eve? Because He loves people and He wanted the earth full of them. You can go through all the studies of population control and all that stuff, but the bottom line is, God loves people and He wants the earth full of them. He made sex so easy for your mom and dad. You don’t have to get a degree. You don’t have to go to sex-ed. Sex-ed is so you can learn how not to get pregnant. They don’t teach you how to have sex in sex-ed. You don’t need that. Two kids in the back seat of a car, they can figure it out.
I’m not making light of this! I’m just saying producing life is one of the most complex processes. We don’t even understand it at all. How does the sperm and egg come together and produce life? We’re just barely trying to do it in a test tube just by scraping off some cells and hope that we can move them together in a way to make life spring forth. It is so complicated.
I’ve been at the birth of all six of my children and that is a miracle. But I have also been at the conception of all of my children, and that is a bigger miracle! The way that the parts are designed to fit together and to flow, and I don’t want to be graphic here, but there are certain things that take place in the sexual act between a man and a woman that only take place in a sexual act between a man and a woman. And they’re designed for a purpose and a reason. And why did God make it so freaking easy?
Because He wants godly offspring, as it says in Malachi. That’s why He hates divorce, because He wants godly offspring. That’s why He hates abortion, because He wants the earth filled with people. And when we take a path that limits the life that God wants to bring forth–now I know there are all kinds of problems, people have trouble conceiving, you can go through all kinds of other things–but bottom line, God says, “I want the earth filled and populated because I love each of them just as much as I love you. And I want to see them come into existence because I love people. I love people.” Is this making sense?
So this is sort of how you can get into homosexuality. I sort of explained that. And this is why I love that people will affirm homosexuals and their relationships because they don’t want to see them hurt anymore. I don’t want to see them hurt anymore. But I want to remind you of the truth, too, and say there is a bigger purpose, and when we take that into account, all kinds of great things change.
Here’s Ephesians 4:15, and I’m reading from The Message version of the Bible. It’s slightly different, it’s a paraphrase, but it brings it to light in a nice way. In verse 15 it says:
“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth, and to tell it in love–like Christ in everything,” (Ephesians 4:15, MSG).
Sometimes you hear “speak the truth in love.” That’s where this comes from, “speak the truth in love.” In The Message version it says God wants us to know the whole truth and then to tell it in love, just like Jesus did. When Jesus talked to the women in adultery, He spoke it in love. When He talked to the woman at the well, He spoke it in love. It’s not necessarily the words we choose but the condition of our heart. And if you have a love and a heart for homosexuals, I say, “Amen and Amen,” and God may want to use you to speak the whole truth and tell it in love, just like Jesus did.
I am thankful someone spoke to me. It was a guy who’s been dead for almost 2,000 years: Paul, the apostle.
I was in a Bible study in Houston, Texas. I had grown up in the church all my life, but I was secretly involved in homosexual relationships in college. I got a job down in Houston. I went down there to work and got in this Bible study.
In the Bible study, they were asking some questions, whether we knew for sure we were going to heaven and did you believe you actually were a sinner and things like that. I thought, “I’m 90% sure I’m going to heaven. I’ve been a pretty good kid.” I didn’t tell them everything about my life, but yeah, compared to the other guys in the room, I felt pretty good!
The guy next to me said he was 100% sure. I thought, “How arrogant of you! I know you.” And if you compared me and him, I felt like maybe I had a better chance! I’m just being honest; I’m not making fun!
The next guy: 100% sure. Next guy: 100%. 100%. 100%. Back to me: 90%. They said, “Eric, the difference between 90% and 100% will change your life.”
A few months later, we were reading about “the wages of sin is death,” (see Romans 6:23) and that “everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, (see Romans 3:23). And I said, “I think that’s a little strong.” I told the guys. Who’s the arrogant one now? I’m like, “I don’t think I’ve actually ever sinned in a way that’s worthy of death. I wouldn’t get put in jail in America for most anything I’ve done.”
I could hardly think of anything that a judge would put me in jail for, let alone give me the death sentence for. Yet the Bible said, “all have sinned,” and “the wages of sin,” what we’ve earned for our sin, “is death.” And I said, “I think that’s a little strong. I don’t believe that.”
One of the guys in the Bible study, very astutely, said, “Why don’t you ask God what He thinks about how good you’ve been?”
I said, “OK.” I went home. I decided to pray, but before I did, I thought, “What if it’s true?” And I was scared, because I thought, “What if God answers and He shows me something that I really have done that might kill me?” And I said, “But God, I want to know the truth. I do. Either what You say in this Word is true and I am wrong, or what I say is true and this is wrong. They cannot both be true.” And I said, “I want to know the truth.”
Within two weeks, God answered my prayer and He brought me to a passage in Romans chapter 1 that the Apostle Paul wrote to the people in Rome almost 2,000 years ago and Paul talked about how people “exchanged the truth of God for a lie,” (see Romans 1:25) and they had relationships with other men that they shouldn’t have (see Romans 1:27), and women exchanged normal relations, natural relations with men for relations with women (see Romans 1:26).
And at the end of Romans chapter 1, it said:
“Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but they approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).
I at that time was not in a homosexual relationship, but I definitely gave my approval to those who practiced it because I understood it so well. And I was cut to the heart.
And please hear me, this is not a reason to go kill a homosexual, ever. Jesus paid that price for all of us. God takes that judgement into His hands. The interesting thing about Romans is that Paul explains it in a way that I never saw it before. He says God turns them over to their own desires and they will receive in themselves the penalty for what they do (see Romans 1:24a and 27b).
God doesn’t kill us when we sin. We kill ourselves. When you choose to overdose on heroin, or take meth till it kills you and your family, or follow an addiction to its logical conclusion, or an adulterous affair to its end, people die.
God doesn’t want anyone to die. He didn’t want me to die. He didn’t call out any troops to come look for me and kill me. He just said, “Eric, if you want this path, I’m going to turn you over to it. But if you follow it, there are natural consequences.” And you can look up all the stats on gay men and diseases, gay men and AIDS, gay men and death, depression, suicide, and your chances of having all those things happen rise exponentially as soon as you enter the gay lifestyle. It’s a fact, published by our government. These are not things in the Bible. This is just the way the world works.
I read that and I was cut to the heart. And I started seeing Adam and Eve, all the stories I heard as a kid, God said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” He wanted us to have life. And here I was engaged in a practice that, had I continued it–you can’t match the parts to produce life, you know, it will never produce life–in fact, more often it will produce death. And God said, “I don’t want that for you, Eric.”
And I said, “I don’t want that for me either. What do I do? I can’t take it back. I’ve done it. I’m sorry, but I cannot undo it.”
The next day I heard a missionary speak and he explained why Jesus came to take away our sins, to die so that we wouldn’t have to.” It was a message I had heard all my life, but when you don’t realize you’re a sinner, you don’t need a Savior.
But that day I needed a Savior. And I said, “God, that’s what I want! Jesus, you would do that for me? A man? Would lay down His life for me?” I had never felt such love in my heart.
I got on my pillow and I just cried when I was home that night and I just bawled and I said, “God, I have had control of my life for 23 years and look where I’ve gone. I don’t want control any more. I want to give it to You.” I believe every word in the Bible is true. And I have since 1987, February 9th.
I woke up the next day and I went to work like normal, I went to everything like normal, but I was a whole new creation. God took me from this path of death and He picked me up. He put me on a path of life, the opposite direction, gave me a wife, gave me a child, and another, and another, and six kids later, and we’re having abundant life!
The reason most people in America today, and surveys say why they think homosexuality is OK is because they’ve met someone who’s gay. And they can often be very likable, fun, charming, pleasant–there can also be really jerks, just like anybody. But when you meet someone who’s gay and you go, “I don’t want to cause them any more harm or pain. I love them so much.”
But can I say, sometimes love can cloud us to the whole truth, especially when it’s someone really close to us. And that’s true, you don’t want to hurt them any more. But you do want to spare them from this path of death. And if you can do anything to put them on a path of life, that’s better! So when Steve asked me if I would share my testimony, I thought, “If most people are convinced because they’ve heard a compelling story from someone who’s gay, then definitely I need to share my story more, so that you who know me, or who are getting to know me now, you can hear a compelling story, and I can change the pictures in your mind just a little bit, and say, you know what? This is life abundant! And I wouldn’t go back to that for anything.”
And I didn’t hate that! I wasn’t in the gutter. I wasn’t in the pit. I was working for a major corporation, traveling the world, making money, sleeping with guys. I was very happy.
But this over here? Off the charts! Sex with my wife, the Number One experience on planet earth I’ve ever had in my life!
Someone wrote to me, very nicely on my mailing list. I run an Internet ministry called theranch.org. I’d love for you to check it out. We send out a daily message and I write a weekly devotional. But someone read part of my testimony, a guy from England, and he wrote me a very gracious letter and he just said, “I’m gay and my partner’s gay and we just got married and I just want to write to you and say if you’ve had sex with a man then you’re gay. You just need to admit it.”
I just thought about that logic and thought, “Well, what about the 23 years with my wife? What does that make me?” Logic sort of, sometimes, just goes out the window in these arguments. But the truth of God’s Word is great.
Let me identify with your struggle, if you still struggle with “whatever,” and we all do.
I was set free that day, and I knew that it would be death to me to ever go back. It really did diminish my desires, they went way down, my homosexual desires and my need for affirmation. When I met Steve and Joe and Jim and Creighton, to hang out with guys that truly love you, that truly care about you, and have no interest whatsoever in sex with you, that’s love. Compared to the guys that I was dating who, once you said no to sex, they were gone. Men and women have the same issue, don’t they? You think they love you until you say no to sex.
But I had men in my Bible studies that loved me and cared about me, that walked with me. I had men like these that took risks on me and shared their lives with me. And I go, “Man, that feels so good. That is right.” This is the way Jonathan and David lived.
Some people think David was gay, and it’s like, what’s David mainly known for? His sin with Bathsheba, one of the most beautiful women! It just doesn’t make sense, the arguments people bring up. Yes, David and Jonathan had a wonderful relationship and yes, it was beautiful, and that’s the way it should be with other guys. But when you romanticize it, sexualize it, that’s just not what sex was designed for. That’s not the kind of intimacy God wants for you.
(To Steve) I don’t think you mentioned about Lana in this service, right?
My wife, Lana, wonderful, incredible, a God-send to me. She walked with me through all of this, all the confession to her of, I was actually in a relationship with someone else when I met Lana and had to confess to her that I had been unfaithful to her with another man. This was when we were dating, back in college.
She loved me, she hung with me, she adored me. As much as Jesus healed me, God used Lana to restore me. We went our separate ways and then I became a Christian and she became a Christian and we came back together. God had changed my heart and my mind, and she was the greatest gift God ever gave to me.
About two years ago, she found a lump in her breast. Nine months later she was gone. It’s been 15 months since she died and I miss her every day.
Let me just bring it in the context of this, though. And this is why I told Steve I was willing to talk, not eager. It’s hard. But let me just bring it in context.
As she was dying–she had Stage 4 cancer when we discovered it–there was nothing they could do. We still tried everything. I’ve prayed for healing for a number of people. I’ve seen them healed, seen them restored. But this time God said, “Not this time, Eric. This time I have something else in mind.” But as we were going through that, she mentioned about remarriage. And she wanted to encourage me that it was going to be OK if I wanted to get remarried. And I wanted nothing to do with that or that conversation.
I said, “I cannot imagine anybody else who could do what you have done for me in my life. No one would understand what we’ve walked through. No one would forgive like you’ve forgiven.” No one would have off-the-charts sex with me as often as I was willing, and she was alert and awake, after six kids.
And a few days later, in the grief of all the thinking about losing her and even trying to get my brain around what was happening, and all the questions you have about God when you’re in the midst of that, I had a thought come to me. I would never, ever get involved with another woman my whole life. But if the right man came along…
And inside my brain, I said, “What?” And I said, “Yeah, I know what God’s Word says. Yeah, I’ve preached on this for a lot of years. But you know what? I am tired of this. I don’t like seeing people close to me die. I’m hurting. I’m in pain. And there was something I remember from vaguely long ago that gave me some kind of relief and comfort.”
Isn’t that the way it is with sin and addiction? You go back to that thing. You know the Bible says, “A dog returns to its vomit,” (see Proverbs 26:11).
And I just said, “Eric, why would you even think that?” And I said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m just hurt.” And for about two weeks this question plagued me. I talked about it with Lana. I was open with her about everything. And I said, “Lana, I don’t know what to do about this, but this really bothers me that it even crossed my mind after all these years.”
And about two weeks later I woke up. I was having my quiet time. I was like, “God I just want to read.” And I happened to open my Bible to Romans chapter 1, the passage that pulled me out of that pit the first time. I just read it again and I said, “Yes, Lord, that’s right. Yes, Lord, that’s right.”
Then I went to church that morning. The pastor happened to talk about homosexuality and he said, “If the Bible says it’s not good for you, it’s just not going to go well for you.” You can slice it and dice it whatever way you want, but if God said it’s not good for you, it’s just not going to go well for you. That’s the bottom line. I was like, “Yes, Lord.”
And later that night I was talking to a friend. And he said what I was only imagining in my brain as I shared with him my struggle, what I was dealing with, because his wife had also gone through cancer. And he said, “You know, when my wife got cancer, I thought, Eric, maybe that was God releasing me from marriage and now I could go into the homosexual lifestyle.”
And I heard my own voice in his and I thought, “that is so wrong!”
Three times that day, from the Word of God, from the pastor of my church, and then from talking to a friend and just seeing what I was thinking verbalized out loud, I just said, “Whew! I’m not going there ever again. I’m done with that.” And it was gone. It was gone.
I was able to tell Lana. I was able to talk to my pastor. He helped explain, “Yeah, you’re going to want to return to stuff that brings you comfort when you go through hard things.” Believe me, I identify if you struggle with homosexual feelings, you struggle with addictions, you struggle with things. Thankfully I don’t have to go through everything to identify with everybody! But if you struggle with it, I understand. Not fully, but I do.
I want to leave you with one last image, and I’d like to show you a video clip. A film team came and filmed our family two weeks before my wife died. They asked if we would be willing to talk about our situation and try to give hope to other people facing loss in the future. They just finished it a week or two ago, putting the editing together and putting some of my music to the background.
You’ll see my six kids. You’ll see my wife. You’ll see the family that I was blessed with. And just compare that to what I had over here. And I pray that speaks as much as anything to you about the hope of God. And I pray it helps you in talking to your friends and family to share with them the whole truth, and to tell it to them in love, like Christ did, in everything.
Here’s the video: “Lana’s Hope.”
Can I just close by saying I didn’t mention homosexuality in that video once. But D.L. Moody says the best way to show that a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick next to it. And that’s a straight stick. And I’ll take that anytime over my best days in homosexuality.
If you would like to have all your dreams come true–can you believe she says this two weeks before she dies, and she still says all her dreams have come true?–if you’d like that, just put your faith in Christ today. It doesn’t always change your circumstances, but it will change your heart. It will change your eternal destiny. It will change your mind and your situations.
I just invite you to put your faith in Christ again today for anything in your life.
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