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heartless

Heartless

‘All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.’

If you remove the central feature from which something derives its nature, you distort its meaning. That ‘thing’ ceases to be what it is; it loses its heart. Look at the Gospels. Cut out Christ’s resurrection and you have a teacher/healer doomed for his radical goodness. Or the film ‘Unbroken,’ in which the screenwriters omitted the hero’s watershed conversion to Christianity. Unbroken indeed.

Now we face the prospect of marriage without male and female. Last week the Supreme Court agreed to decide by June whether all 50 states must allow gay couples to marry. Following the breathless pace at which individual states have assumed gay marriage rights (36 and counting), it seems unlikely that the very court which encouraged these changes two years ago will now backtrack.

A chief activist gushed prophetically: ‘Finally gay couples will be able to share in the joys, protections and responsibilities of marriage…’ Right?

Wrong. Marriage without male and female ceases to be marriage. Why? Because marriage is fundamentally about children. Same-gender couples cannot create them and should not parent them. (Would you want to be a child trying to secure its gender self from parents evidently unsure of their own?)

Since time began, marriage has been about creating and tending to kids. Although not all couples create them, it is still the orientation of male and female to do so. And family remains the fundamental fruit of marriage, complete with the ‘joys and responsibilities’ that the modern state seeks to protect. Why? So that couples can have tax benefits and hospital visitation rights? No, so that their commitment might stabilize sexual love and give rise to children, who in turn might secure a foundation of stable love from the man and woman who made them. Period.

Remove male and female from marriage and it ceases to be marriage. It mutates; it becomes an extension of something else. In this case, marriage becomes the selfish arm of an extremely individualized, short-sighted people who refuse to recognize that marriage must answer to a call greater than the bond of two persons. Sex like marriage must answer to children.

If the Supreme Court defines marriage as free from gender restraints, then it will take the heart out of marriage. We will pass down a cruel decree on persons who have no voice and who need protection from the state. Children deserve a higher standard that will protect their formation and dignity as male and female.

It is no irony to me that the Supreme Court agreed to decide ‘gay marriage’ just days after the anniversary of ‘Roe vs. Wade’ which legalized abortion. For over 30 years now, we have lived heartlessly, in the shadow of life without protection. Do we want life without gender clarity?

Pray for the Court’s abrupt reversal of the slide into national ‘gay marriage.’

Pray for and encourage the marriages around you.

Do everything in your power to ensure that your church becomes a safe and powerful place of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction. God desires mercy and not judgment. If we do not care for willing broken hearts before they are seduced by worldly solutions, we help create a problem. We become heartless, a boney arm of judgment.

(g)old_men

(G)old Men

‘In this you rejoice, though now for a while you have suffered grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and glorious…’ (1P 1:6, 7)

I met my two friends in downtown Portland (OR); we three warriors in our late fifties, fighting for our integrity as husbands and fathers in light of our history of same-sex attraction. Burnished by cultural opposition and everyday losses, we have found together that our sexual weaknesses, submitted to Jesus and to each other, have made us strong. Through the Cross, what threatened to defile us has divinized us.

Strange to discover that around the corner 1300 ‘gay’ Christians were gathering at the annual GSN conference to celebrate all things homosexual in Jesus’ name. No longer a contradiction in terms, ‘gay’ Christians flourish today. To do so, they must bypass the Cross by splitting off spiritual commitment from sexual identity and practice.

How else do you explain this rather bizarre musing of a former Exodus leader who recently ‘came out’ as a ‘gay’ Christian? ‘Yes, I could see myself with a man; yes, I could see myself with a woman; yes, I can see myself being celibate.’ So many options, so many gods.

In contrast, my friends were leveled by the Merciful one who met both of them in the throes of homosexual adultery. Rather than justify their behavior by invoking the ‘new normal’, these two entered the fire; they underwent the stern and splendid task of becoming like Jesus by dying to idolatry and living for Him and the commitments they made in His name.

Their wives thank them; their adult children now thank them; broken members of their churches to whom they offer healing thank them. Lined with holiness, leathered by resistance, their handsome faces are lit from within. They live grateful lives, raised daily by the glorious One. They are golden.

In a Church so worldly that it cannot articulate why ‘gay Christians’ are a contradiction, we need their witness. It is golden, the hope of future generations.
‘Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be may be refined, purified, and made spotless until the end…the wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.’ (Dan. 11:35; 12:3)

birth-pains-blog

Birth Pains

‘This child will be a stumbling block, causing some to fall and others to rise in Israel; He will be a sign that divides and reveals the hearts of many. Your heart, Mary, will be pierced as well.’ (LK 2:34, 35)

Simeon prophesies the piercings incited by the Prince of peace. Perhaps this is why the day after Christmas we celebrate the Church’s first martyr, St. Stephen; having barely mediated upon Jesus’ birth, we honor the cruel death of one who embodied Christ by forgiving his murderers as they pelted him with stones (Acts 7).

What further unites this birth and death is the angelic countenance shared by Stephen in his witness (Act 6:15) unto death and Jesus in His birth. The crib points always to the Cross, Jesus’ and our little ones, His Presence our radiant hope amid suffering endured for and through Him.

A particular suffering increasing among faithful families at Christmas is the ‘coming out’ of members who now insist upon their ‘gay’ self or marriage (or some gender-bending variant). That is often the ‘gift’ these ones offer their bewildered loved ones on holidays. A friend described the devastation wrought by a lame relative who now insists that he is a woman; he showed up for Christmas dinner in drag and disoriented all present, especially his 90-year-old grandmother. Another friend shared with me mournfully how his entire family-of-origin refused to speak to him (let alone gather with him) at Christmas due to his refusal to attend his mother’s ‘gay’ wedding. Yet another, a father of four children just discovered he is sharing his wife this Christmas with another woman, a relationship she has no intention of giving up.

I have only mercy for persons in sexual conflict, and believe that all must exercise free will in regards to what they do with those conflicts; that, however, does not make every choice good. I have mercy mixed with holy fear for persons who resolve their conflicts by asserting an identity, and exercising versions of friendship and marriage that defies the Creator and Redeemer of all.

However, my greatest ache lies for the family members who are given a brittle ‘embrace me or else’ verdict by loved ones who come under a dispensation distinct from Christian orthodoxy. These families are being asked to exchange their views on creation, redemption, and love for alien beliefs. Justice for all? ‘Coming out’ may be better described as a profoundly selfish act.

Christian love means we agree with what is honorable, and have the courage to disagree with poor decisions our loved ones make while mercifully bearing with them. Many of my friends are not even free to bear with their members, having been written off as intolerant, haters, etc. They are experiencing a new kind of stoning, a fulfillment of Jesus’ words when He said: ‘From now on, there will be five in one family divided against each other…father against son and son against father, mother against daughter…’ (LK 12:52, 53)

Jesus is willing to breaks hearts in order to heal them; He may even divide the faithful from members who are offended by Him. May we welcome His peace in our pierced hearts.

T.S. Eliot writes in the last stanza of ‘Journey of the Magi’:

Were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

fire-and-fortitude

Fire and Fortitude

‘Go forth from the quiet of contemplation and courageously bear witness to My truth.’ (Jesus to St. Catherine of Siena)

Christ’s coming at Christmas can only be received, treasured, contemplated; manifesting the Divine Child throughout the New Year requires all the courage and fortitude we possess.

Never before has His epiphany, or manifestation, been more urgent. The battle between Christ and anti-Christ in the form of gender reconstruction has broken out into the open. (I recently read an article by popular Catholic leader Richard Rohr who claimed: ‘The gender self is the false self.’ Really?) Calling all bright and shining lamps who can testify to the glories of Jesus and His Church–how His community liberated you to resume the journey to wholeness! The Spirit is summoning you to manifest the Almighty Mercy of Jesus amid the chaos at hand.

Reflecting on 2014, I can testify to the increase of darkness over God’s image in humanity, but also of the greater grace required to stand as His gleaming remnant. I refer not only to persons with same-sex attraction but all men and women burned by lust in whom Jesus has reclaimed authentic desire. Throughout a year marked by many obstacles, Jesus reminded me of Ezra’s words: ‘God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant, and giving us a firm place in His sanctuary…God has granted us new life to rebuild the house of God and to repair its ruins. He has given us a wall or protection.’ (Ezra 9: 8, 9)

New life to rebuild His house! Truly this is the season of the Church! He shines on churchmen and women who love nothing more than releasing streams of living water among the faithful through the word of their testimony and by gathering together to make a way for others to know His liberating truth.

That requires fortitude—the virtue of ‘firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of good.’ That virtue is worked in us by Jesus Himself as we say ‘yes’ to what He loves amid a thousand counterfeits. Annette and I have never been more hard-pressed on one hand; on the other, we experience the truth that ‘enduring difficulties, neither deliverance from them nor avoidance of them, constitutes the supreme moment of God’s power.’

Many difficulties, more power. Our gleaming as simple reflectors of His Mercy requires hardship. As the way narrows, we grow more desperate for Him, our limits eclipsed over and over by His superabundance. We live for Him and through Him. Our humble bush is consumed, but it is God that burns in us, He who cannot be extinguished and who through us will vindicate His glorious image upon the earth. ‘By standing firm we gain life’ (LK 21:19), and help others do the same.

‘Let’s wait and see is a dangerous saying. Who knows if we shall be around tomorrow? Surely the Savior will be there, but what about us? Life is not a light that can be enkindled again. Life is a fire given by God to burn on earth just once and never more! Dear friends, let us pay heed lest we miss the hour of this fire right here and now. O that today we would harken to His voice and harden not our hearts!’ Karl Barth

good-flesh

Christmas: Good Flesh

‘The Incarnation involves our humanity; it is our flesh He divinized. It should not be a matter of indifference to us whether or not we celebrate the intimate union of two natures in Christ on the day when the Word was born according to the flesh…Perhaps we have not grasped the heights to which our nature has been raised by the Incarnation.’ Fr. Adrian Nocent

This Christmas-time, will we allow the power of the Incarnation to penetrate our lives?

I seek this, as the marvel of God becoming flesh has eluded me a bit, its glorious impossibility dulled by the flesh/Spirit duality of my early Christian roots. I distorted St. Paul’s good demarcation between the two into a lopsided, gnostic view of the Holy Spirit as good, my bodily desires, bad ; Jesus the light who entered but somehow did not dethrone my embodied darkness.

That muted the power of how God’s humanity forever altered mine. The truth is: Christmas means that the manger of our humanity has become a palace. How? God entered in and irrevocably transformed it. By His divinity, the man Jesus raises us up to the level of the divine. The dung heap of our lives becomes welcoming fragrant ground when He dwells there.

‘Crap-detectors’ must learn how to smell the roses. For such a transition, the 12-days of Christmas may not be long enough! We must spend time at the crib, reflecting on what God won for us at His birth. ‘It really is our poor flesh and blood that lies there in the crib; it is our flesh which dies with Him and is buried with Him…Look at the cradle! In the body of this little child, in the Incarnate Son of God, your flesh in all its distress, anxiety, and temptation, indeed all your sin, is borne , forgiven and healed.’ (Bonhoeffer)

That is welcoming news for persons with same-sex attraction who are pummeled daily with the deception that the ‘gay self’ and ‘spirit’ are naturally good, even godly. How refreshing to be reminded of St. Peter’s application of the Incarnation to a Church suffering under false teachers: ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…He has given us great and precious promises so that through them you might participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption of the world caused by evil desires.’ (2P 1: 3, 4)

The Incarnation frees humanity to participate in His divine nature and so become morally beautiful in a perverse, corrosive age. Realizing such beauty takes time and effort of course. But we proceed, knowing full well that One greater lives within us and will liberate our humanity from myriad forces that would otherwise fracture and deride us. We become a united front, Glory Himself ascending in us and eclipsing all claims to dishonor upon us.

All is possible because He came and made the manger a palace.

‘He raises the needy from the dust; from the dung heap He lifts up the poor,

To seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their inheritance.’ (1S 2:8)

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