Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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Trusting in Our Fighting Father

Day 4 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘I Myself am fighting for them!’ (1516)

Two streams of mercy converge in our God: His masculine, steadfast love which keeps covenant with us (hesed), and the deeply felt and tenderly expressed love that issues from His depths, as from the womb of a mother (rachamim). Truly we have a merciful Father whose love surpasses that of the most devoted parents!

And like good parents, our Father expresses His mercy by battling for our best; He wars for our well-being. Knit in the womb of His best intentions for us, and empowered by the very force that gave form to all creation, we are the blessed subjects of the God who fights for the dignity of His children.

Moses declared to the embattled Israelites: ‘Don’t be afraid of the enemy; the Lord Your God will fight for you. He fought for you in Egypt, He fought for you in the desert. Remember how He carried you, like a father carries a child, all the way until now…’ (Deut. 1: 29-31) Here we catch a glimpse of the God, both tender and strong (PS 62: 11, 12), who carries us in one arm, and wields the sword against our enemies in the other!

Our Father is essentially ‘salient’, a psychological term referring to the parent whose care is a fusion of tenderness that earns the child’s trust, and authority that commands its respect.

Good parents are wise to aspire to such ‘salience’: Annette and I have certainly tried. I marvel at her bond with the kids; in the course of casual conversation with them, she imparts wisdom and grace to them seamlessly. My strength tends to be in seeing and reminding them of their best qualities and the goals they have established to develop those qualities. When they have stalled on the way or gotten sidetracked, I fight for them mercifully by reminding them of who they are.

And whose they are. Annette and I try hard to not contradict the essence of their fighting Father. But our efforts are only a pale and imperfect glimpse of the One who loves them wholly. In that way, we seek as parents to model authentic reliance upon Himself, in the hope that their hope may expand heaven-ward.

Stalled and stubborn children grant parents myriad chances to trust the Father who fights for them. I recall one child who got into legal trouble and was to be sentenced in court. Crowded and shoved about by a throng of anxious, harassed lawbreakers like us, my son and I lost each other in the crowd.

We sat on either ends of the courtroom. From my view, he looked like a frightened orphan. I realized then that he was an adult, and that I no longer could determine his punishment, or his liberty. He did, other forces did, God especially did. That day in court, I released him to the fighting Father. I prayed for Divine Mercy as my son walked alone to the judge for sentencing.

‘I do not understand how it is possible not to trust Him who can do all things. With Him everything; without Him, nothing. He is Lord. He will not allow those who place their trust in Him to be put to shame.’ (358)

‘Father, we trust You as the One who fights for our dignity and for the dignity of all. You meet us in the desert and carry us; You know our enemies and You battle them. Show us how You fight for us, tenderly and courageously. Train us to fight in mercy for those we love. May we not be so proud as to shame ourselves for not saving them. You alone can do this. Show us how to do our part, that all might be rescued from the grip of evil and set free unto Your best for their lives.’

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Faithful Mother for an Adulterous Generation

Day 3 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘Rejoice, for you are closer to God in His mercy than a baby to its mother’s heart.’ (423)

Our father is the perfect parent; He combines and surpasses the best virtues of both mother and father. Just as natural parents complement each other in creating children and loving them well, so does the Father’s Mercy involve two intertwining dimensions that bear fruit in us: one masculine, the other feminine.

Understanding these two expressions of Mercy can help create a more whole view of God. What results is a more whole soul in us! The fullness of Mercy facilitates our faithful response to Him, and thus our freedom to live as He intends.

John Paul ll defines ‘hesed’, or ‘steadfast love’, as the more masculine dimension of the Father’s Mercy. It is defined by dependability, stability, and a resolute commitment to keeping its promise. ‘Rachamim’, the second most common word for Mercy in the Old Testament, connotes a tender compassion that God deeply feels for His afflicted ones. It comes from the root word ‘rechem’, or ‘mother’s womb’.

God deeply feels for us in the way that a whole mother aches for the well-being of her child. The intimate communion of mother/child grants her an intuitive grasp of its needs, and suffering.

My repentance from homosexuality turned on the tears of my good mother as I boldly told her of my ‘gay self.’ Her ache expressed itself in sweet ‘rachamim’ for her afflicted son. My good wife’s aspirations and sorrows are tied to the status of our children. Their rising and falling are hers; in this, I complement her well by advocating for the Father’s ‘hesed’ as our ‘objective’ hope for their safe return.

Out of His rachamim, God moves powerfully to heal those who have suffered since infancy from a breach in mother’s love (often entirely unintentional on the mother’s part.) I will never forget the first conference we sponsored in Los Angeles with Leanne Payne. She taught movingly on how God’s ‘mother-heart’ goes forth in the power of the Holy Spirit to unite itself with the adult-‘child’ and so heals him/her.

As Leanne spoke, a woman coming out of lesbianism moved haltingly toward the podium and quietly asked Leanne to pray for her. She did. God sent forth His mighty ‘rachamim’ and performed a miracle of Divine Mercy in our midst, healing the young woman at the source of her ‘mother-hunger’.

‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all that He has made.’ (PS 145:8, 9)

‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; you are ever before Me.’ (IS 49: 15, 16)

‘Humble us, O God, by the tender and mighty nature of Your ‘rachamim’. You feel deeply for our needs, and ache over our afflicted state. Would You move us with the Mercy that moves Your heart? Grant us a share in Your Mercy. May our prayers for the release of Mercy promote healing action. Bring the unfaithful home! Transform them through Your (and our) faithful love.’’

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Father of Mercy for an Adulterous Generation


Day 2 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘Apart from God, there is no contentment anywhere.’ (42)

A painful fact of life for my twenty-something children is the sexually immorality that defines their generation. If not subject to parents who failed to keep their commitment to each other, they are steeped in a culture that celebrates the relentless erosion of holy boundaries. These are a people so scorched by porn they no longer feel the burn; these are ‘friends with benefits’, open to the sexual possibility in any amicable union (with either gender). This is the first generation to disavow marriage while championing the rights of gays to do so.

These are a people in need of Mercy. They need a Father who keeps His commitment of love to them even as they discover their inability to stay true to Him. ‘Steadfast love’, or ‘hesed’, is the main word used for mercy in the Old Testament. It usually applies to the Father’s covenant with Israel. There, the Father exercises His mercy by upholding HIs love and commitment to the nation that betrayed Him. Continuously.

‘Hesed’ keeps giving, reaching, and believing in the object of one’s love. In divine mercy, God vows to make a way for unfaithful ones to become faithful through the gift of His love for us.

That does not mean that ‘hesed’ is easy for the Father. For Him to so love His world only to be betrayed by that world breaks His heart! The Scripture opens us to His jealous, passionate love for the wayward nation. When Israel would pursue other gods, the Father likened them to lovers, her own heart to an adulteress’.

She broke her vows to Him, over and over, often resulting in the sexual immorality that defined the fertility cults surrounding Israel. Through the prophets, God would speak with vengeful passion toward the holy nation: ‘Rebuke her, for she is not my wife…let her remove the adulterous look on her face and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts…I will not show my love to her children, because they are the children of adultery. Their mother has been unfaithful…’ (Hosea 2:2, 4, 5)

Such anger would then evolve into ‘hesed’, the merciful promise that God would make a way for her to return to Him. ‘I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her…There I will make the Valley of Achor [judgment] a door of hope…in that day, you will call me ‘my husband’, not ‘my master’…I will betroth you in love and compassion (hesed); I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.’ (Hosea 2: 14, 15, 16, 19, 20)

Adultery of heart, both spiritually and sexually, breaks His heart. And from that heart flows ‘hesed’, the steadfast mercy that stands in the gap for us. It works. We have a faithful Father who makes a way for us to return to Him in spite of the adulterous flood around us and in us.

My 22-year-old son Sam, no stranger to false gods and goddesses, rejoices in being won over by ‘hesed’. ‘I don’t want to be anywhere else but in His Presence. Nothing else satisfies me like He does…’

‘They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them besides streams of water, on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim, my firstborn son.’ (Jer. 31:9)

‘Make Your steadfast love known to us, O God. Let Mercy flow from us to unfaithful ones. How can we refuse to give mercy away? Mercy liberated our faithful response to You in the first place. Your ‘hesed’ became ours.’

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