Tag Archives: Calvary

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Pentecost: Power to Live the Truth

Woodcut, published ca. 1880.

I just read in the New York Times that Dr. Robert Spitzer, the man who documented the transformation of 200 former homosexuals like me, now claims (for no apparent reason) that we must have been lying. Who knew? Not my wife and kids…

Bowing to the irrational drive of gay activists who insist that no homosexual can change (in spite of pretty good evidence to the contrary), Spitzer capitulated.

Gratefully, God helps those who aspire to live the truth. We represent the minority who seek change by standing in His power. Raised with Christ, we exit the tomb of public opinion and expand our horizon. In contrast, the good doctor obeys the demands of men and constrains all with the weary credo: ‘once gay, always gay.’

Peter and the apostles defied such pressure. Advancing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, they determined ‘to obey God, not men’ (Acts 5:29) by ‘telling people the full message of this new life’ (v. 20) Ordered not to do so, they did so anyway, happily ‘suffering disgrace’ for proclaiming the truth. (v.41)

So must disciples like us. We know the power of same-sex attraction but we know more intimately the truth of His abiding, transforming Presence. Pentecost invites us to be re-filled with that power from on high that we might proclaim afresh ‘the full message of new life.’

Pentecost also invites us to be renewed with the Spirit of obedience so that weak people like us might live out the truth we proclaim. The Church’s capacity to proclaim her ethic of sexual wholeness is seriously hindered by the jaw-dropping compromises of her leaders. I just read of how a powerful and conservative religious order admitted that its current leader had illegitimately fathered a child, following in the lurid tradition of the order’s founder who had sexually abused seminarians and fathered several children!

We need a fresh Pentecost that will lead the faithful to repent. We begin by admitting how difficult it is to remain pure and whole. Our only hope is humble reliance upon Jesus and His people, not after the fall but before, as to prevent it.

Pentecost is the way to purity; it always leads us back to Calvary where real strength springs from evident weakness. We must get low in order to be ‘clothed with power from on high.’ (Lk 24:49)

May the power of the Spirit compel us to bow the knee to Jesus. He is our fortress amid every temptation. DSM is sponsoring a 40-day prayer of repentance from sexual sin unto God, our stronghold. Entitled ‘Clothe Us, O God’, this prayer vigil shall run from September 27th to Election Day, Nov. 6th. More on this later…

“To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 24, 25)‘

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Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 5

Jesus' crucifixion. Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 - 1872)

This is the fifth post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts as they become available.

Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 5

Weeping and lingering were the earmarks of Mary’s authority. These are the signs of holy intimacy; tears of gratitude spilt while abiding in His love, and tears of grief over the loss of love.

Mary Magdalene witnessed that loss at Calvary. God entrusted her, along with Jesus’ mother and a couple other women, to abide with Jesus as He was led to the Cross. They had followed Him from Galilee to Golgotha ‘to care for His needs.’ (Matt. 27:57) Unlike the others, these women went the distance with Jesus.

Mary was among the few who did not abandon Him. She lingered, she waited; we can assume that she made every effort to console Him. Yet in the end, her efforts were futile. Imagine the frustration; she could do nothing to stave off His suffering. To behold Him hemorrhaging, His wounds fanning out like fissures upon His crimson body, and she powerless! Before His tormentors and His torment, she could only weep.

Perhaps a parent witnessing the agonizing death of its child, or a spouse attending to the passing of a lifetime partner can begin to grasp Mary’s suffering.

The difference? Jesus was her Savior. She believed He was ‘I AM.’ She staked her life on it. She could say authoritatively with the Psalmist: ‘His unfailing love is better than life’ (PS 63:3)—better than the old misbegotten one—‘His Mercy has given me the only life worth living!’

Everything He had became hers; in turn she had surrendered her life to Him. He had become her life. When the temple and earth cracked at His death, so did her foundation. Her life was built on His, and He died.

Meditating on John 15: 1-8, I thought of Mary: He was the vine, she the little branch. He delivered her from her old life and its demons; He pruned her. He filled her with holy love, made her clean through the many Words of life He spoke to her. She had become a fruitful expression of divine love. She knew that ‘apart from Him she could do nothing.’ (Jn 15: 5) Then He died.

You can say that she knew He was going to die and that she had faith for resurrection. Maybe she did. But nothing could have prepared her for his shocking end and the only natural conclusion one can draw: He is gone.

Mary Magdalene fulfilled Jesus’ words in John 12 when He prophesied His death, and ours, at Calvary: ‘Unless a kernel of wheat dies, it remains alone…Whoever serves Me must follow Me; for where I am, My servant also will be.’ (Jn 12: 24,26)

Mary went to Calvary with Jesus, weeping and lingering there. When He died, she died too. Mary knew that the servant is not greater than the Master.

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Merciful Discipline 3: Broken, We Endure Shame

This is the third post of six in the Merciful Discipline Series. A complete list of available posts will be at the end of each article as they are made available.

Merciful Discipline 3: Broken, We Endure Shame

In the Church, God has put Himself into hands that betray Him again and again. – Pope Benedict

Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers;
may Your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need.
Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of Your Name;
deliver us, and forgive us our sins for Your Name’s sake.
Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”
(PS 79:8-10a)

We repent on behalf of the abuse-broken church. We do not raise a defense for churchmen who did the right thing; we confess the sins of those who did wrong—bishops who failed to adequately discipline priests, negligent care of victims and their greater communities, the failure of the powers-that-be to steward existing policies of protection for minors.

We the Church are brought low. Our failures have leveled us. Just as the abuse of one is the abuse of us all, so is her discipline the discipline of the whole. Jesus prophesied on the eve of His crucifixion that ‘the shepherd would be struck, and the sheep would be scattered.’ (Matt. 26:31) As various Church leaders have been struck down by their mishandling of abuse, we too are cast down.

Will we scatter or fall forward unto the Crucified? We can repent on behalf of the abuse-broken Church. We can wait and pray. With Him, through Him, on His behalf, we can endure shame in the hope of new life.

I faced such a choice many years ago. Under my charge, a close colleague had abused two minors. That instigated a 10-year-process of discipline which included: purging the staff, tending to the victims, searching out other potential victims, and establishing new policies of prevention. In the eyes of the law and (arguably) God, I was the one ultimately responsible for the abuse. I became the subject of countless interrogations and the agent of raising huge sums of money to repair the damage done.

We as a ministry surrendered to God. He was disciplining us. Though we had much to do, my posture was face down. Had we not discovered the Crucified we would have followed the counsel of most who urged us to dissolve the ministry in light of our new financial burden.

‘When You disciplined them, they could barely whisper a prayer.’ (Is 26: 16) We had no strength to run from His refinement. We stayed down and discovered that only His wounds could heal the shame of the wounds we had inflicted on others. Our hope lay in faith: ‘He only disciplines those He loves.’ (Heb. 12:6)

Similarly, the Church today must learn to get low and stay low in this season of discipline. We err in raising fists at greedy lawyers, godless journalists, or an outraged public. We look to the Lord of our discipline, who uses many agents to refine those He loves. Through the Crucified, we can endure the shame and accept His discipline as a severe mercy. In the words of Benedict: ‘I wish to exhort all of you…to reflect on the wounds inflicted on Christ’s body, the sometimes painful remedies needed to bind and heal them.’

Enduring the shame means accepting a loss of credibility, especially in regards to the Church’s advocacy of the dignity and integrity and inviolability of every life. Sexual abuse mocks her beautiful sexual ethic, and weakens her authority to uphold it. Referring to decades of unrestrained minor abuse in Ireland, Benedict exhorted the bishops there: ‘All of this seriously undermined your credibility and effectiveness.’ We glimpse this in the Old Testament. After Eli failed to restrain his sons, Israel suffered a terrible defeat. She fled the Philistines who then captured the ark of the covenant. (1Sam 4:17)

We can endure the shame because of Christ. He endured the final shaming at Calvary to grant us grace to endure ours. Take heart! We become more like Him as we submit to discipline. Maybe that’s why Lent is so long: 40 days along a thorny ascent path that ends before the broken body, crowned with thorns.

Lent is for slow learners like us. Change takes time. Discovering how to bear the shame of our corporate abuses is a lesson in endurance. In time, He will assume it wholly and transform us into transparent witnesses of our own failures and defenders of the weak.

Our discipline need not be morbidly introspection. He actively refines our hearts—their values and practices—employing real shame generated by the real damage done. As we turn toward Him, He burns off ‘the worldly sorrow that brings forth death’ (2Cor 7:10).

We ‘fix our eyes on Himself, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame…Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.’ (Heb. 12: 2, 3)
The hope of resurrection sustains us in this season of crucifixion, His merciful discipline. We are reduced to the bloody God. Like Him, we endure shame for the joy set before us.

It is likely that the rest of Pope Benedict’s pontificate will be consumed by this scandal. Sexual abuse in the Church will most likely define it. – Gregory Erlandson and Matthew Burnson Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis

MORE:

The Merciful Discipline Series of Posts (updated with each new post as they become available):

 

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Everything I Have is Yours

Join us today at 3pm (CST) as we intercede for loved ones in need of God’s mercy.

Everything I Have is Yours

40 Days of Mercy Devotional – Lent 2012 – Day 15

At the moment of Your death on the cross, You opened an inexhaustible spring of Mercy for us, giving us Your dearest possession, the Blood and Water from Your heart. Such is the omnipotence of Your Mercy. From it, all grace flows to us.   (1747)

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him Crucified,…so that your faith may not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power. (1 Cor. 2: 2, 5)

O Jesus, teach us to live from Your Cross, the death which is the Source of our life. Grant us child-like, crystalline clarity as to the Mercy flowing and rising from Calvary. Open the eyes of our hearts to Your generous Heart, pierced and powerful in Mercy to us and to all we love. May Your generous Mercy overflow from us to all. May Your passion be magnified in our lives to all who seek Mercy.

For the complete 40 Days of Mercy Devotional – Lent 2012, click here to download.  For a paper copy, United States only, please call Desert Streams Ministries at (866) 359-0500. 

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry from the diary is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com

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Merciful Eyes

Day 38 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

Merciful Eyes

‘To see the image of God in every sister—all love of neighbor must flow from this motive.’ (861)

How we see others must be anchored in how God sees them. ‘To love a person means to see him as God intends him to be,’ in the words of Dostoevsky.

Above all else, God wants us to walk in the dignity of bearing His image and likeness. That means all men and women represent Him in their humanity; such a high call distinguishes us from the rest of creation. Sin may have struck down the apparent dignity of that image, but cannot destroy it. Our true sight of others summons that dignity!

All we know from a purely biblical perspective is that ‘image-bearing’ involves men and woman together ( Genesis 1:26, 27 ). That radical duality of male and female is the essence of ‘image-bearing’ and the foundation of all humanity. In order to be true to God’s call, each ‘image-bearer’ must mature into whole-enough heterosexual relating. By whole-enough, I mean the freedom to offer oneself as a good gift to the opposite gender, thus honoring the difference and creating harmony at such an essential level of relating.

In today’s gender-bending age, the goal of whole heterosexuality is viewed as unjust to all who have constructed an identity along the continuum of gender brokenness: from asexuality to bisexuality to homosexuality to transgender identity and beyond. As never before in history, we have created multiple gender options on which broken, rebellious people fashion a ‘self.’

But personhood has its source in God, not in human wishes and desires. And we as God’s people must see this as He does. Otherwise, we become worldly in our sight, agreeing with those who operate in deception, not under truth but under the enemy of God’s image in humanity.

In order to break his schemes in the lives of loved ones, we must ask God to give us eyes to see the authentic man or woman before us. We can view him/her according to God’s true intentions. Our love and prayers, anchored in the truth of what it means to bear His image, must never lose sight of the true man and woman waiting to emerge from the shadows of gender brokenness.

These are the eyes of Mercy, through which Christ saw a generation ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ ( Matthew 9:36 ) Such are a people who celebrate the gay and transgender self, not realizing the death that confirms upon the true man or woman.

In Mercy we see that true humanity and its captive state; in Mercy we prayerfully call them to Jesus for His redemption of that true image.

St. Paul helps us here. He viewed true personhood solely through the lens of Christ Crucified and Resurrected. So powerful was his understanding of what the Cross had accomplished to redeem fallen humanity that he implores us: ‘From now on, we regard no-one from a worldly point of view…If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ ( 2 Cor. 5:16, 17 )

We need to see broken loved ones who are estranged from God’s will through the Cross. That is the grid of grace, the lens of Mercy. We see at once the beauty of God’s best for him/her and the brokenness. Our hope is sure. What He accomplished at Calvary to set the beloved free is ever before us.

We cast down every worldly tradition that raises itself above God’s will, and we rest, trusting Him to reclaim His image in humanity.

‘May I never boast except in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world…what counts is a new creation. Peace and Mercy to all who follow this rule.’ (Gal. 6:14-16)

‘Jesus, grant us merciful sight for the lost and deeply loved. Anchor our sight in the truth of Your good will and intention for every man and woman. Grant us a cross-shaped lens: compassion for the brokenness of that image, faith in Your power to raise the true person up from the false.’ 

Author’s note – Each day’s entry is based a passage from St Faustina’s diary. The passage entry is the number in parentheses at the end of each opening quote or simply a page number in parenthesis. Diary of St Maria Faustina Kowalska – Divine Mercy in My Soul (Association of Marion Helpers, Stockbridge, MA 01263) is available through the publisher or Amazon.com.

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