Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Comiskey at 60 (Isaiah and otherwise…)

‘Arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and deep darkness the peoples of the earth but the Lord rises upon you and His glory appears over you’ (Isaiah 60:1, 2).

Does aging make you better or worse? Guess it depends on who you are looking at. As I turned 60 the other day, I’m more aware than ever of contradictions within me, the mix that alternately cheers and deadens.

How to live honestly yet hopefully? Stay fixed on Jesus: somehow, my ‘cross-eyed’ view apprehends glorious light and sheds it upon the soul’s contours. Shadows flee and hope rises. Almighty mercy frees me to struggle in the Light. In that Light, I can behold the weak one next to me as an equally fit candidate for grace, one destined to wriggle out of frustration and into glory (Romans 8:18-21).

Last week, I reviewed my journals from 2017 and was struck by the year’s difficulty. The gravitational pull of sin and death was evident. But more familiar than a spirit of heaviness were the upward risings that followed every rut in the path. All it took was a gentle act of the will. I offered the shame, disappointment, or fear to the Crucified, who never failed to surge like a crystal stream up the middle of a polluted ditch. I caught His wave through acts of prayerful surrender.

Of course we need reminders of new life. I recall one day last year when I couldn’t summon faith. Giving was down, I had to buy an international air ticket, and the world seemed to be spinning fast, too fast, as if careening off its axis. I called my mother, just shy of her 92-year-old birthday, and offered her my lament. Keep in mind this woman lost her husband of 60 years a decade ago and has had to choose very day to rise and shine. That gets harder every year, as friends die off; she is now the ‘last woman standing,’ the one who cheerfully presides over the memorials of departed friends. She rises on shaky legs, refuses despair and self-pity, and looks to the One who shines upon her.

She heard my lament and responded: ‘That sounds hard. But how great that you are free to launch out into the world and make a difference in people’s lives through His glorious Kingdom!’ I blushed a little and offered my burden to the Lord, who enabled me to straighten up quickly. I positioned myself afresh to reflect His rays. The Light shines in darkness, and cannot be overcome (JN 1:5).

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Gloriously Dependent

‘The incarnation has forever hallowed the flesh.’ Charles Williams (as quoted by Leanne Payne in The Healing Presence)

Today we rejoice in God assuming baby flesh—the Father and Son’s choice for the King of glory to become as small and dependent as we are. It’s weird: here I am on the crest of my 60th Christmas and I feel smaller than ever, reduced to utter dependence upon Jesus. Our spiritual life is not like our psychological journey in which we master one stage in order to proceed onto the next. In Jesus, we are continually reduced to His greater Life until we, aging fetuses all, launch into the Life for which we ache more today than yesterday.

It helps to revisit what happened on Christmas: ‘God really came down. He became an infant and placed Himself in a state of vulnerability and total dependence, which is the condition of a newborn human being. The Creator who holds the world in His hands, on whom we all depend, became a little child in need of human love’ (Dom Jean-Charles Nault). God depended on love.

That gives me hope. He gets the longing in our hearts for connection and communion, the ache for the full breast and strong chest, a yearning much deeper than survival or sexual needs: it is the ache to be enveloped and infused by the Creator. And here is the mystery of Christmas. The humble babe has never ceased to be Almighty God who declares to us today: ‘I am Jesus, and I will love you better than the best mother or father or friend or lover or spouse!’

God in humility entered into our dependency; in majesty, He offers Himself as the Source to whom we can cling. I don’t cling to people any more. But I linger longer in His Presence than before. The winds blow harder on my thinning skin. Over the last few weeks I have broken down on several occasions and just wept, His mercy priming my heart to feel the burden of those I love and to know somehow that Jesus is enough for them. Tears release my distress and draw me near the One who took on baby flesh in order to reduce me to utter dependence. Gloriously.

He upholds me for the sake of pure joy. Yesterday I dangled my grandson on one arm while throwing balls to our two labs. He loved it! His head bobbled as he tracked the dogs racing around the yard. What better than a laughing babe, rejoicing at creation for the first time? Jesus, Jacob, us. Merry Christmas.

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Binding Up the Betrayed Heart

‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me; He has sent Me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty for the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication from our God’ (IS. 61:1, 2).

I just read an essay in the New York Times with an all-too-familiar narrative: man divorces pretty good wife and kids in order to hook up with others, in this case, other men. His adventures, including ripping the clothes off a new friend, are framed as freedom. Our heightened awareness of the impact of sexual assault (‘me too’) apparently does not extend to the no less devastating assault of adultery upon families: male and female spouses who betray loved ones continually through illegal bodily offerings. Adulterers impoverish and imprison the ones who love them most in their quest for a better orgasm.

Adultery and divorce jackhammer human hearts. No spouse or child is left unshaken; the bad choices of another create a fault line that quakes like seizures over the course of many lifetimes.

Until Jesus binds up their broken hearts. I love the above-mentioned verses from Isaiah which Jesus cites (LK 4:18) when He announced His public ministry. He comes to heal the betrayed heart! His healing Presence is how He vindicates those fractured by the folly of others. How? He opens His flesh to assume our lacerations. And our shame. I believe that the shame of adultery is greater upon loved ones than upon the perpetrator; spouses and kids now live under a shadow they neither chose nor can grasp.

The betrayed ask themselves: ‘What’s wrong with me?’ Jesus takes His advantage. He draws the broken-hearted to Himself where His wisdom, His steadying hand and His peace that surpasses understanding and circumstance elicits good grief. He speaks the healing Word: ‘This is not your fault; I bind away your accuser and confirm the truth–you are wanted, you are mine, and I will never leave you nor forsake you. I close the gap in my spousal devotion to you!’

These would be mere ideas if we as members of Christ did not do our part. We are the ones who Jesus calls to be His hands and eyes and words and heart for the betrayed. As our culture reframes shameful acts as ‘freedom’, we must welcome the shamed into fellowship. We are the ones Jesus calls ‘to give greater honor to the parts of the body that lack honor’ (1 Cor. 12:24-26). Honor is slaughtered in persons betrayed by adultery and divorce. It is our job to champion the dishonored and to help them exchange another’s sin for a double portion of blessing. We can help them to realize ‘the year of God’s favor.’

We must also note that betrayers can exchange their shame for honor too. Just after reading the Times essay, I heard from a married friend who committed a string of adulteries. Broken by the impact of his sin, he repented and now makes every effort to reconcile with his wife. Having devastated her, he now encourages her healing by living the truth-in-love. Only Jesus can cancel out adultery by provoking and sustaining one’s lifelong repentance. Once an adulterer, no longer an adulterer! Jesus opens prison doors for the betrayed and betrayers.

May this Advent, a beginning unlike any other, become your ‘year of God’s favor.’

‘Instead of their shame, my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace, they will rejoice in their inheritance; so they will receive a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.’ (IS. 61: 7)

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Glorious Repentance

‘John came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All the people of Jerusalem went out to him, confessing their sins…’ (MK 1: 4, 5)

I went to Thailand the second week of Advent in order to repent. Again. Strengthened by our 40-day fast, I told everyone I met en route that I needed to start the Church year with Christians like my friend Sue who have to fight for their faith. We Americans are way too well-fed. We are fat cats, bored and listless, who can barely paw off familiar rats.

On the other hand, Thais face the triple threat of entrenched sexual immorality, Buddhism’s deadening passivity, and the ‘saving face’ culture that smiles at a multitude of sins. These sins threaten the integrity of the Thai Church; pedophiles and adulterers hide in the folds of her lousy religious garments. Tolerating serious sin can render the Church here small, ineffective, and prone to destruction.

But my friend Sue knows better. No stranger to sin herself, she is a better friend of repentance. An older relative poisoned Sue for most of her childhood through sexual abuse. She coped by hating her womanhood while seeking comfort in women and in Thai Buddhism, a quest for nothingness. Dark and darker.

Jesus sought Sue out through a host of Spirit-filled messengers. He gave her the grace to repent and to live daily in the light of His truthful love. She now lives passionately to recover human treasure from the darkness of sin in Thailand.

These treasures are among the most glorious I know. Their witness of living fully and unreservedly for Jesus shames my divided heart and invites me to die again. They reveal my petty concerns and compromises then rouse me to repentance.

The saints who compose Sue’s healing army have to fight for freedom. They pay a huge price for uncovering a host of abuses (many church-related); they must repent over and over until lifelong patterns of adultery are overcome. In the process, they shatter a decidedly un-Christian culture of shame by going boldly to the throne of grace in order to confess and conquer veins of sin that have darkened family-lines for generations. The choice becomes clear: live for Jesus or the pagan gods. Choose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15).

They are shining gems of Jesus’ redemption. Their way forward is nothing less than the Cross realized through confession and repentance to Jesus and to one another. The call must be true and direct, like the Baptist himself; anything less will not break the power of sin. Such repentance ushers in the Light that rises on these ones gloriously.

While flying over the region where Sue ministers near the Lao border, I noticed the landscape growing more brown and dry. The pockets of water became fewer. But the few that remained caught the Light with a brilliance that made me gasp. My heart leapt at the sight for it captured in full the truth of my Thai family–the Light shines in the darkness and overcomes that darkness (JN 1: 5) through a repentant people. I want to be among them. Sue’s band of prophetic healing saints helps me to repent. Again.

‘And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all humanity together shall see it.’ (IS 40: 5)

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Giving Thanks for You

Amid the din (virtual and otherwise), thank you for quieting your heart long enough to read this.

Amid a thousand requests for your service, thank you for fasting and praying with us these last 40 days, denying yourself for the salvation of others (Jude 20-23).

Amid a thousand requests for your hard-earned funds, thank you for giving to Desert Stream and helping make this one of our best financial years in a decade.

Amid the temptation to wall off sinners who resist God’s mercy, thank you for loving the unlovely generously (Matt. 18: 10-14; LK 6: 35, 36; 2 Tim 2: 23-26).

Amid the temptation to bless a loved one’s immoral choices, thank you for agreeing to disagree as you hold out for his or her best (2 Cor. 5: 16-21).

Amid the many persons who cloud the Church’s glory, thank you for loving ‘her’ by taking your place as an invaluable member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12).

Like the leper who returned to Jesus to thank Him for His healing love, thank you for cultivating gratitude and thus warding off hardness of heart (LK 17: 11-19).

Amid the temptation to detach from God due to unhealed wounds or tendencies, thank you for becoming patient and trustful in His mercy (2 Cor. 12: 7-10).

Amid the loneliness of single life, thank you for showing that His love is enough and that ‘the body is not meant for sexual immorality but for Him’ (1 Cor. 6: 13).

Amid the unmet needs in your married life, thank you for staying true to your vows and thus bearing witness of the saving love of Jesus (Matt. 19: 1-9; Eph. 5).

Amid the temptation to bury your shameful story, thank you for declaring the truth of His saving love in the specifics of your good hard life (1 P 2: 9, 10).

You are the joy of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries, ‘God’s glorious ones in whom is all our delight’ (PS 16: 3). We give thanks for you.

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