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Anger

Anger: Passion that Purifies and Plunders

‘Be angry; don’t sin.’ (Eph. 4:26)

Anger cuts both ways. It can incite one to drive idols from the Father’s house; it can drive others to fill that house with idolatry.

We each face resistance to what we perceive as worthy goals. It helps to access the passion that motivates us to go against the grain. Anger may activate us to bore a hole through the hard wood of injustice, or at least what we perceive as unjust.

Maybe that’s the catch. What begins as ‘justice’ may devolve into a self-serving effort to get what we want, our way. In other words, our concept of ‘righteous anger’ can veil a selfish effort to justify ourselves.

People who have been mistreated often point to their wounds as justification for their defensive, angry behavior. They thus cherish the wound and brandish it like a knife in order to secure certain rights. When they bypass God with their wounds and in defining these rights, they run the risk of becoming despots, little gods who now seek to control others by virtue of the real injustices done to them.

Consider a woman who has been cheated on by her husband. Incited by real injustice against her, she can arise to hold the whole family hostage with her rage.

Or a man wounded by one creepy pastor or by a system that ultimately sides with the creep and not the victim. He like the betrayed wife is right to press through fear and expose that darkness. But anger too often morphs into an infectious stranglehold of hate (in this case, against the Church) which bars him from what could cure him.

The most obvious example of misplaced anger is gay activism. Citing real ills done to some children who are gender confused and claiming that suicide is immanent for any such confused soul who is not allowed to act out homosexually or get a sex change, activists have done a masterful job at changing how an entire civilization understands sexual brokenness.

Brokenness, what brokenness? We can no longer even speak of Jesus’ loving redemption of persons who repent from what Scripture defines as a perversion of God’s will for humanity in our ‘born that way, stay that way, get out of my way’ culture.

Still, anger can be a good thing. I am angry at what unfaithful men do to women and what clergy men can visit upon the vulnerable. And I am angry that the Church has often failed to understand such relational and sexual brokenness and to provide healing. That anger motivates me to do something about it. I want to go against the grain of a complacent Church that would rather play ‘nice’ than act decisively on behalf of damaged people. If she arose as the prophet, she may well begin to remove the stains that blemish her. She could become a healing community worthy of Jesus.

God got mad, so mad He drove idolaters from the Father’s house then submitted to misery in order to end ours at Calvary. His passion is always the litmus test for whether our passion will plunder or purify. In order for anger to motivate us rightly, we must submit our wounds to the One who bears them and cleanses them from bitterness and other infections. We must forgive our captors. I must continually lay down activists at the foot of the Cross—‘Father, forgive them; they know not their self-justifying ways.’

I want to arise and see and act on behalf of persons enslaved by a host of injustices. Let us be His witnesses, inviting them to kneel before the One in whom mercy and justice meet.

envy

Envy: A Villainous Void

‘Envy is a special sort of sorrow over another’s goods.’ Aquinas

Envy is a quiet killer. Less obvious than the other seven, it lurks in insecure hearts and tempts us to abdicate what we have for another’s inheritance. Envy tempts us by skewing our vision. Through green eyes we perceive certain persons as having everything and we, not much at all. Another’s good makes us feel bad, over and over again.

Envy results from a soul that allows itself to be diminished. Undoubtedly, early influences of neglect and abuse may contribute to that diminishment. But for envy to take root, the soul must agree that (s)he is entitled to more. Another’s life becomes the life we were supposed to have. Rather than admire that life and seek to emulate it in some way, the envious soul allows itself to be diminished by it. Longing for another’s good reduces our own, and may well inspire embittered emotions toward the self and the object of one’s envy.

So envy revs up our sense of entitlement only to diminish us. The emotional fall-out is wicked. Envy wreaks havoc in churches, on the job, in families, and friendships. The entitled allow themselves to be diminished over and over, which makes them sick and causes them to infect others. James says it best: ‘Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.’ (James 3: 16)

Envy emerged out of my sexual disintegration. Awkward and insecure like most teenagers, I not only admired sexy men and women but lusted after them. I wanted their power and pleasure and did not want to do the hard work of becoming a good gift for a real person. So porn and fornication became the vehicle for my entitlement and also the source of my diminishment. I could never measure up and could never get enough. I played by envy’s standards and lost every time.

We overcome envy by getting off the rat’s wheel of skewed human perception and comparison. We can choose; we can begin the process of accepting ourselves in light of our Creator and Redeemer. We make a serious commitment to who God is and who we are in light of Him. That means embracing our inheritance and allowing others to have theirs. It means repenting of our folly in allowing others’ perceived good to diminish us. We bring that offering of sin to God and ask God to take it until we bear it no more.

Gratitude to God for what we have and what He has entrusted to others is key. Just as forgiving others keeps bitterness from re-infecting the wound, so gratitude keeps envy at bay. Thank God daily for who He has made you to be and the good He has given you. Thank Him also for the specific good He has entrusted to persons who are the objects of your envy. Gratitude is your best weapon in the fight against envy.

Is God enough for You? Has He not always been good to you? Live gratefully before God and keep the ‘green-eyed monster’ underfoot.

leanne_payne

Healing Power of Payne

‘To speak of the healing of the homosexual is to speak of the healing of all persons everywhere.’ Leanne Payne

Leanne Payne passed into glorious Life on Ash Wednesday. She left a glorious legacy of Life for DSM/LW. To describe her influence as foundational is an understatement.

As our staff memorialized her, I was amazed how each of us had experienced at least one profound, enduring healing encounter with her. In books and conferences, in Word and Spirit, she prayerfully brought Jesus, mighty and tender, into the deep aches and fractures of our humanity; she gave us language for our sexual disintegration and its restoration in Christ.

As I reflect upon her personal influence, I realize I could write a book on it. May it suffice to share some events that shaped my reliance on the Healing Presence.

Undone by ‘The Broken Image’, I first met Leanne face-to-face in Vancouver BC, 1982. I had the privilege of testifying before her last session. During the ministry time, I laid down all public composure as Jesus through Leanne instructed me to destroy strongholds of unclean thoughts. I had to learn how to fight for the integrity of my own ‘temple.’ His divine masculine will was empowering my own.

Soon after, we hosted our first conference with Leanne in West Los Angeles. There she did her first full scale ‘Renouncing Baal’ teaching in response to the hordes of young men and women from DSM who had just repented of gay practice. Bodies flew over pews as Leanne flung holy water (in a Presbyterian church at that!) and demons were expulsed. Leanne’s utterance, in a classy Southern drawl, ‘Patsy quick, get the holy water!’ remains a DSM mantra.

A couple years later, we had a full PCM in Los Angeles. As Leanne taught on ‘Restoring a Sense of Being,’ a young woman with SSA and a huge attachment wound walked quietly to the podium then respectfully asked Leanne to pray for her. Leanne stopped and quietly led us all into prayer; the result was a profound move of the Healing Presence into her depths. That morning, Jesus healed a young woman from a foundational wound; the rest of us discovered a healing key that is fundamental to our offering to this day.

I accompanied Leanne to her first PCMs in England; she had a wry form of expression that incited me. As she told a ‘healing of memories’ story that involved the surprise death of a beloved family bird (‘Tweedy’, Leanne mused, ‘was oven-baked…’), my cartoonish imagination went into overdrive and I began to laugh uncontrollably. Hundreds followed and the session ended in holy hysterics.

Annette loved Leanne’s feminine genius and felt a unique blessing from Leanne upon her own well-developed intellect. And Leanne’s mind was peerless in the way that she could assimilate different disciplines—psychology, philosophy, literature, theology, spirituality—into a coherent whole.

Similarly, she possessed a heart for the whole Church which invited us to consider the healing power of holy symbols, namely the sacraments. She highlighted the many ways that the unseen Real manifests Himself; this not only healed breaches between divided parts of the body, it also contributed to our personal wholeness. Leanne helped us to become more thoroughly Christian.

No-one leader impacted me more. She loved me well, imparting generous encouragement, gentle wisdom, and severe warnings. She guided me as I wrote Pursuing Sexual Wholeness, then I poured her input and writings into the foundations of Living Waters. Her advocacy of Living Waters opened doors for national expressions of the program throughout the world.

When Leanne spoke, Annette and I listened. She earned her right to inform our lives. And when we disagreed (as sons and daughters must do in order to become who they are), we learned to wait expectantly for the season in which we could reengage once more. We could not refuse this foundational woman! She was a part of who we were as persons and ministers. To disavow her would have been to disavow ourselves.

Leanne was a prophet. She saw how the increasingly ‘gay-friendly’ Church signaled a lack of understanding of what it means to be human and thoroughly Christian. She grieved over the darkening of the Church’s mind and fought hard to make evident the Church’s foundational truths. For this she suffered. Unwavering in her convictions, often misunderstood and dishonored, her eyes saw beyond the obvious to what mattered. Hearts that see what Leanne saw are hearts that hurt. Her suffering was not in vain, as healing poured from her into our broken lives.

I am deeply grateful for the honor accorded Leanne in her last years by Gino Vaccarro, a spiritual son unlike any other, who with team will ensure that Leanne’s legacy proceeds with MPC. I am equally grateful for Leanne’s Wheaton prayer group, led by Sile Ellison-NiChionna, who surrounded Leanne with tender care in her last years.

Perhaps that prayer group is the primary legacy we received from Leanne. As the DSM/LW staff interceded for all who love her, I recalled that above all else, we are a prayer group who together seek the face of beautiful Jesus, listen for His healing Word together, then rise to offer healing to many. Leanne taught us that inspired pastoral care is how we best convey the Church’s vision of what it means to be creatively, humbly, joyfully human. Leanne embodied that. We will miss her. And we will continue to pray, to heal, to fight and to stand for what she imparted to us.

son-stroke

Son-Stroke

‘The Spirit sent Jesus into the desert, and He was there forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended Him.’ (MK 1: 12, 13)

Lent exposes us, lays us bare. This year, Jesus prepared our Living Waters group to follow Him into the desert by gathering us for an all-day session on Valentine’s Day. Some wept as they considered the painful state of their stalled single lives or distressing marital ones.

We asked ourselves: ‘Is Jesus really enough for us?’ We talked and prayed together about the good gifts He is redeeming; we considered what it means to become authentically chaste and sacrificial offerings that confirm, not confuse, the dignity of others.

We acknowledged the crass and perverse ideas of worldly romance (‘50 Shades of Grey’, everyone?) that reach a fever pitch on Valentine’s; these idolatries drive us then deride us for falling prey once more to the myth that another can save us. Tempted again, we feel the ache and ask ourselves: ‘Are You Jesus really enough?’ He answers us with Lent, an invitation to follow Him into the desert.

He goes before us. We know in theory that He has already conquered the tempter and made ‘the burning sand a pool.’ (IS 35: 7) No matter: He asks us to go where we have not gone before, to pull away from any number of noisy distractions in order to face the One. Though we may have taken Lent seriously before, we have never faced these demons in this desert in the winter of 2015. Our world has revolved once more and we run the risk of devolving into yet another shade of gray unless we allow Him to refine us.

He does so by allowing us to face our hearts and to ask Him: ‘Jesus, are You really enough? If my single status does not change, or if my marriage does not improve, will I still trust You as the lover of my soul? Will I hold fast to Your call to stay true to You and others in my innermost thoughts, even as the onramps for adultery multiply?’

Jesus’ desert teems with wild beasts that seek to prey upon our deepest hungers, and angels who urge us to pray to the One; it is a place where our loneliness is exposed and where God alone can become our sufficiency.

pride

Pride: The Folly of Proving Ourselves

‘When we take too much credit for our lives and achievements, when we look at our lives as products of our own striving rather than gifts, we move close to the idolatry in which the creature refuses to give due to the Creator.’ Willimon

Pride is the mother of all sins. Aspiring to be gods and defiant of the One, the original pair blazed a trail east of Eden that every one of us has trod since. It’s just how we are. Quite apart from our self-esteem or lack thereof, the most affirmed and neglected of us seem doomed to the treadmill of proving ourselves. We run hard for acclaim yet bypass the One who asks that we be still and know that HE is.

Pride is noisy, so much so that the original list of deadly sins put together by desert father Evagrius involved 8, with pride as the source of all the others. Instead of ‘pride’, Gregory the Great’s 7 deadly sins listed ‘vainglory,’ which is a primary manifestation of pride–the motivation to appear greater than one actually is. More recent lists subsume vainglory into pride. These seven are noteworthy for how generative they are. Like pride begetting vainglory, each is considered ‘cardinal’ because each one gives birth to many sinful ‘offspring.’

‘Vainglorious’ describes well my foray into the ‘gay self’ and its friends. Raised by parents who valued self-esteem above all else, I could hardly say that my perversion was anchored in self-hatred. I was simply vulnerable to a world driven by vanity, in particular, driven by vain men like me looking for some kind of masculine blast that would fill the ache. It was a noisy world, full of clamoring for attention. Such attention was sensational to get and yet hard to give away. I could not hold the charge.

Intuitively, I knew I needed Jesus and that following Him meant leaving the gay life. I also knew that I did not want to leave it. Jesus was ephemeral and dudes were real; therein lay the battle. Still I responded to His call to follow Him. Pride was my main enemy. I looked down on devout Christians as clueless misfits. Pure projection: I was blind and perverse, desperately needy. I needed to be saved and Jesus graciously revealed Himself as the Savior. Still my haggard efforts at proving myself persisted, so much so that these were the first words I heard Jesus say to me: ‘Unless you humble yourself, I can do nothing with you.’ Pride—the drive to prove myself as the clever, attractive, wanted one—almost sunk this convert.

But Jesus’ love prevailed and won over my worship; focusing on His presence became more important than self-concern. That came in handy when friends in droves rejected me for questioning the validity of my ‘gay self’. Yet I could not deny the depth of my same-sex attraction. In its troubling persistence, I discovered the key to relying upon the One. Only His love could reach my depths, even and especially in light of disordered desires. I came to rejoice in my disorder as the means through which God humbled me and showed Himself sufficient.

Today I face the Pharisee’s temptation to ‘thank God that I am not like other men’ in their obvious immoralities (LK 18: 11, see vs. 9-14). I sin quietly now. But pride in my chastity and ‘family values’ is readily overcome by bouts of chronic selfishness for which I can only ‘stand at a distance, look downward, beat my chest and say: ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (v.13) Sin persists but grace abounds and frees this captive from prideful, religious delusion.

‘Lord, You establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished You have done for us.’ (IS 26:12)

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