Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Jesus: A Fountain of Living Water

Day 9 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘O inexhaustible spring of Divine Mercy, pour Yourself out upon us! Your goodness knows no limits. Confirm , O Lord, the power of Your mercy over the abyss of our misery, for You have no limits to Your mercies.’ (819)

The Old Testament streams of mercy converge in the New Testament and well up into a fountain of ‘living water’. Jesus is that fountain. From Him flow rivers of Life that make the unclean pure, the weak strong, and the broken whole. Jesus embodies Mercy. He releases Mercy to sinners, manifesting the truth that ‘those who were far away from God have been brought near’ to Him (Eph. 2: 13).

One barrier for sinners in relation to a Holy God is shame. The emotion of separation and inferiority, shame reminds the soul of its sinful distance from Him. It functions like a ‘shame-coat’, repelling even good expressions of ‘living water.’

Jesus offers this ‘liquid love’ for the first time early in John’s Gospel (Chapter 4). He encounters a woman steeped in shame. Her shame was two-fold. First, she had experienced much ‘social shame’ due to her ethnicity. Samaritans were scorned in that day, especially by Jews. Originally an ethnic hybrid of Jewish and Canaanite blood, Samaritans reminded Jews of the shame they incurred by intermingling with a forbidden culture.

Jews looked down on Samaritans with squinting eyes. Such social shame is evil–it has its source in the fallen traditions of men, not in God’s heart. But it can be just as powerful. That woman would have thought Jesus had nothing but scorn for her, just as a man or woman struggling with same-sex attraction might fear the bullying of an angry peer or preacher.

But the Samaritan had a second type of shame as well, the shame we feel when we go outside of God’s will. This woman had many sexual partners in her past and one in her present. She knew that Jesus was a holy man; she knew also that she was not holy, sexually-speaking. Such shame may have tempted her or us to turn away from holy ones for fear of incurring rejection, condemnation, etc.

In John 4, Jesus turns to the Samaritan woman, and to us, in our shameful state. Each of us is a mixture of both good and bad shame. We have sinned, and we have been sinned against by those motivated by ungodly traditions of shame.

Jesus makes it clear in John 4 that the cure for both types of shame is in His ‘living water.’ Only Mercy can dissolve the ‘shame coat’ that tempts us to resist Love. He says to us all: ‘The water I give you will become in you a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ (Jn. 4: 13)

Here Jesus is prophesying two future events: the flood of Blood and Water released at Calvary, and the Holy Spirit released at His Resurrection. (Jn. 19: 34; Jn. 20: 22)

He releases to this woman a foretaste of this flood of Mercy. What matters here is how tender His Mercy is toward this shameful one, and how powerful is His Mercy to dissolve that shame and enter into her depths. Shame is no match for Almighty Mercy!

He is not content with us just knowing cerebrally about His Love; He wants us to partake of Mercy at the most deeply personal level until it springs up within us a Fountain of Life.

‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ (Jn.7: 37, 8)

‘Jesus, remind us of how You stoop down to sinners in order to raise us up. Remove the shame that bars us from Your Presence. We pray for all who still hide from You in shame; let ‘Living Water’ flow to them. Use Your servants to make known to the shamed how You draw near to them in order to set them free.’

 

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Mercy and The Truth of Sin

Day 8 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘The knowledge of my own misery allows me to know the immensity of Your mercy.’ (56)

In order for Mercy to have its perfect way in us, we must recognize the depth of our sin. Mercy applies only to those who accept the terminal diagnosis of ‘miserable sinner.’ In that way, Mercy is not a sweet and accepting disposition that some people embody more than others; Mercy is the cure for a chronic disease—for the dehumanizing things that we perpetuate.

Pope Benedict expresses it eloquently:

‘Man, in order that God’s image shine radiantly in him, must first and foremost receive the purification whereby the divine Sculptor frees him from the dross which conceals the authentic figure of His being in man…” (Called to Communion, pp. 141, 2)

In other words, no recognition of dross—the sin that distorts our image-bearing form—no purification. Where sin is not acknowledged, there can be no genuine extending and receiving of Mercy. How can He forgive what we defend as a right? Mercy demands that misbegotten rights become rubbish to be burned.

For example, ‘progressive’ Christians want to alleviate the burden of guilt young people feel about all manner of premarital sex, be it porn, masturbation, or gay/straight ‘messing around.’ Guilt becomes the problem to be solved, not the dehumanizing behaviors themselves.

Derek Bailey wanted me to feel good about being ‘gay’; he had forgotten the hard truth for every human being—‘the law is written on our hearts’, so that our consciences bear witness that something is wrong (Rom. 2:15). Absolving someone of sin by saying it’s not sin solves nothing. It merely pads one’s prison, thereby extending one’s misery.

Pascal declared: ‘Behold the fathers who take away the sins of the world!’ Our Christian world is full of them—blind guides who so fear to offend sinners that they fail to diagnose their desperate condition. In denying the truth of sin, these ones deny the dying their only cure.

Yet how deep and hungry is the miserable heart for Mercy! The fallen know they have stumbled; in order to walk again with dignity, they need the Mercy that cleanses them, and reconciles them to the One whose image (s)he bears. Mercy makes us human, at peace with the reality of who, and Whose, we really are.

‘Do not withhold Your mercy from me, O Lord; may Your love and Your truth always protect me.’ (Ps 40:10, 11)

‘Father, we ask for great clarity and discernment regarding the nature of Mercy. Please rouse us where we have adopted worldly ideas of her. We pray for the conviction of sin in our own hearts and in those we love; help us to see how sin actually distorts Your very image in us. May Mercy have access to the misery that invites Your cleansing and healing. Burn off the dross, O God, that we might represent You well. Let Mercy have her perfect way in us.’

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False Mercy

Day 7 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘The great sins of the world are superficial wounds on My Heart, but the sins of a chosen soul pierce My Heart through and through…’ (1702)

After Jesus met me with Mercy in my waterless pit of sexual immorality, I turned from sin. I knew I was wrong. Running away from Jesus and His truth did not change the truth. Mercy enabled me to stop running and face the truth—I needed Him because of my sin.

Like the angels imploring Lot to get out of Sodom, Mercy paved the way for my repentance. I moved back to the suburbs and involved myself in a small community of believers. I loved seeking and finding Jesus with them.

Yet often after our gatherings, I felt empty and alone. Self-pity tempted me: ‘no-one understands my struggle’. At the same time, my youthful sexuality was strong and stubborn. Maybe I could find a good Christian lover…

I began to explore the question, hoping for some new take on Scripture. I found it in the first ‘scholarly’ book to challenge the Bible’s traditional view of homosexuality. Written by Anglican Derek Bailey, ‘Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition’ pivoted on the reinterpretation of Sodom in Genesis 19. Bailey insisted that the operative sin of Sodom was inhospitality, not aggressive homosexual lust. He insisted that we rethink our ‘homophobia’ and go easy on gays.

Maybe the good Reverend wanted to make a way for the gay practices of friends or colleagues; maybe he was justifying his own. In spite of my yearning to believe him, I could not endure his gymnastics. So God destroyed a city because the men there weren’t exercising proper ‘angel etiquette’? Don’t insult my intelligence…

When Christian leaders alter the truth of sin, they actually block the way for sinners like me to know Mercy. Such ‘mercy’ is a misnomer and as cruel as death. It could cost souls eternal life. The cost is higher for the blind guides. They put a huge stumbling block in the way of God’s little ones, incurring a judgment described by Jesus as ‘drowning by millstone around neck.’ (Lk. 17:2).

Jesus warns us all: ‘So watch yourselves.’ (v.3) Kindness without truth is false Mercy. It appeals to our delusion that we can have Heaven and our lusts too. Wake up. Peter woke up his flock with this warning about false prophets: ‘By appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves of depravity.’ (2P2:18, 19)

No truth, no Mercy. In my early days of repentance, I knew one thing for sure. Jesus calls us to die. Mercy oils our surrender; Mercy fills the empty, lonely soul and raises him up.

‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…’ (Is. 5:20, 21)

‘Father, grant us clarity as to what pleases You and what does not. Thank you for the clear witness of Scripture and the Church. Help us to discern ‘blind guides’; most importantly, help us to discern our own tendency to conform the truth to our lusts. We especially pray for Christians caught in lies of their own design. Set them free before it is too late. Let the truth set us free for Mercy.’

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Mercy and Judgment

Day 6 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘Do not fear anything, I am with you. These matters are in My hands and I will bring them to fruition according to My mercy, for nothing can oppose My will.’ (573)

God was merciful to me in my ‘waterless pit’; He drew me out of the hell of homosexuality through Heavenly Mercy. Without mercy, I would have died young, never to have known or created real life.

Mercy matters; without it, sin and death prevail. We eat poisoned fruit and suffer either an immediate or a slow and agonizing death.

The two young men with whom I first ventured into the gay world both suffered terrible deaths from AIDS. Unable to stave off the smallest of infections, their bodies bore witness to the moral boundaries we had broken in sexual immorality.

I cannot claim virtue as the reason I survived, any more than they died because they were worse sinners than me. Mercy spared me from the judgment of an early death. Period.

The unrepentant are already under the judgment of sin and death. It lays claim to them unless and until we intercede and ask Mercy to intervene on their behalf.

Abraham pleaded for Sodom, a city rife with wickedness—arrogant, overfed, unconcerned for the poor, and devoted to homosexual lust. (Ez. 16: 49, 50) And God heard his cry for Mercy on behalf of the few righteous in Sodom. The Father sent two angels to warn righteous Lot and family to flee the city before He destroyed it as an act of judgment.

The men of Sodom tried to rape the masculine angelic messengers. Unsuccessful, the angels warned Lot of the impending doom of the city. Still, Lot lingered, as if he had lost his bearing in the sensual wickedness of Sodom.

As John Wimber said, ‘Sin makes us stupid’. This applies not only to our personal iniquities, but also to the impact of corporate sins around us, as was the case for the increasingly confused Lot.

According to Dale Anderson in his fine book Mercy Wins (Kansas City: Oasis Pub., 2010), mercy appears in Scripture for the first time in Gen. 19: 16:

‘When Lot hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and led them out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.’

God first employs his Mercy to enable faltering Lot to turn away from the wickedness of Sodom and toward a city of refuge. Mercy—in the form of the angels–liberated his turning. His wife was not so fortunate. She turned back toward Sodom, and died instantly. (Gen. 19: 26)

That can say three things for us: sin is mighty in its power to destroy lives, intercessory prayer is essential in asking God to mercifully save lives from judgment, and God acts on behalf of these prayers by offering sinners a way out through His Mercy.

Human will and effort has a place: we must respond to Mercy to be saved, and we the saved must pray for those who hang in the balance. Sodom warns us of the perilous state of the unrepentant.

‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.’ (Joel 3: 14)

‘Father, we cry out for loved ones in ‘the valley of decision.’ Would you act in Mercy on their behalf? Would You send Your angelic messengers to those who are faltering in sin, doomed for judgment? We do not know how to reach them; You do, so we cry out for Your Mercy on their behalf. We live only because of Your Mercy. Would you please have Mercy on our beloved ones, liberating their flight from judgment?’

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Prisoners of Hope

Day 5 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘In spite of everything, Jesus, I trust You in the face of every sentiment which sets itself against hope.’ (14)

Imprisoned by hope: Zechariah expressed well the exile of the Israelites (Zech. 9: 11-12). Far from their land, subject to the cruelty of other masters and their gods, the holy nation hoped against hope for mercy. The prophet reminded them of the covenant of blood God had made with them—unchanging, Almighty Mercy.

‘Because of my blood covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return to your fortresses, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.’ (Zech. 9: 11-12).

Waterless pits…a form of punishment for restless Jews in Babylon, and an apt metaphor for all of us who know the Merciful Father and yet are entrapped by a merciless adversary. That enemy mocks the hope in our hearts; he lures us into the exile of sin then derides us for forfeiting the Mercy that could be ours.

At the onset of my journey in Christ, I fell into one such pit. I fled from a small group of believers and immersed myself in the gay community. Perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in a tiny room, I created a waterless pit where I sought to satisfy my thirst with others.

My thirst intensified. Because I had tasted the real thing—His blood, His body—the bodies I sought never sated me. Still I persisted in my delusion. One night, I chose to stop fighting; I asked God to leave, to release me to live as an exile, as a gay man, all my days. I felt despair draw near. The Merciful Father drew nearer still.

For some reason, one little praise song kept running through my head. I began to sing it out and as I did peace filled the tiny room. His Presence accentuated the sting of death in my unclean body; I felt sick and dirty. Then something like ‘living water’ began to fall gently from the sky, like morning dew, raining then rising and falling again until I felt clean.

I marveled at His goodness to me. He poured out a kind of liquid mercy that flooded my waterless pit and lifted me right out of it! He elevated me to the fortress that Zechariah prophesied for all ‘prisoners of hope’. Raised up by Mercy, I partook of the blessing that was twice as good as the sin was bad.

What a Father. He finds us in our waterless pits and offers us the richest of fare.

When we receive that Mercy, hope rises and releases us from exile.

‘In the time of my favor, I will answer you; on the day of salvation, I will help you…I will say to the captives, ‘Come out!’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’ (Is. 49: 8, 9)

‘Who is like You, Father of Mercy? Even our sin is not stronger than Your Mercy. You woo us with a Love sweeter and stronger than any the world offers. In that Love, we cry out for all those who have fallen into waterless pits. We rebuke the enemy of their souls, and ask for Mercy to come quickly to meet them. Release those imprisoned by hope with Your Divine Mercy.’

 

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