Tag Archives: Christopher West

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river rising

Chastity and Mercy 6: River Rising

‘…Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, in order to present her to Himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ (Eph. 5:25-27)

Jesus reveals His self-giving to the church and world through a host of icons—relationships whose chastity makes Him known in ordered, exuberant love. St. Paul in the above passage uses the whole-enough love of a man for a woman to make earthy and evident Jesus’ cleansing love for His Church.

God gives us little room to write off such a parallel as lofty mysticism; rather, He insists that we embody the truth of the Gospel by offering ourselves generously and humbly to each other as His Spirit secures and empowers us. ‘Our bodies are a Bible,’ insists Christopher West.

Our beautiful challenge? Always and everywhere we offer ourselves as either male or female, blessed with bodies that long for union. Here we discover that it takes God—we who drink deeply of His mercy and revere His truth—to reveal God. We can only master the unwieldy elements of our sexual desire when we are aligned with His desire for the other’s good, not merely with what feels good to us. Owning that goal and the gift one is makes us chaste, one day at a time.

And oh what divine strength and beauty flow from the chaste! No conflict here with virility and fragrant womanhood. Chaste sexuality creates a ‘glow of the true and the good irradiating from the ordered state’ (Pieper) which feeds the souls it encounters, surpassing the adrenal kicks of sexy idols. Icons need not flaunt; they reflect glory from their depths. The Creator shines through His ordered creation and invites the world to know Him through them, through us.

We’ve all tasted and seen God’s goodness through His human ‘windows.’ Seasoned male friendship has been for me, in the words of the Catechism, ‘the witness of God’s fidelity and loving kindness’ (#2346). Merciful faithfulness assumes the face of Jesus through friendships forged in Him. Such friendship empowered this icon (however ‘chipped’) to pursue a particular woman. Annette and I responded ‘to God’s call to give life by sharing in the creative power and fatherhood of God’ (#2367).

Yes, our chaste union is about God’s provision for us. And it is equally about creating and raising them—our kids, made and parented in His image as male and female. We are now a gender mosaic, distinct parts yet composed together in the whole of our lives, a glimpse for others of how Jesus’ love makes His members strong, fragrant, and fruitful.

My starting point en route to chastity was homosexuality; others begin with more traditional failures or just the nagging lie that ‘I will never be a good gift.’ We gather before Him as one Church before the one Cross where we welcome His flood of blood and water. As we bear one another’s burdens, the river rises–first ankle deep then up to our knees, climbing to our waists and then some until we are immersed in love (EZ. 47) and confident that the chaste One will complete our chastity. Along the way we become the flood, exquisite witnesses in humble frames whose very clarity and purity releases living water to all who thirst.

‘And where the river flows, everything will live’ (Ez. 47: 9b).

‘Thank You God for taking our frustrated gift-giving and drenching it in mercy. We just wanted to overcome shameful problems but all along You wanted to enjoy intimacy with us, and to make our joy full by making us Your witnesses. May we delight in the good gifts we are becoming–the clarity of sight and affection we are experiencing. Help us to see others as You do and to love them accordingly, beginning with our most basic commitments. Free us to become a life-giving flow of chaste love, at once tender and bold.’

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Magnificent Hope

While Obama’s White House shimmered in rainbow hues, while ‘the wicked freely strutted about because what is vile (‘gay marriage’) was honored among men’ (PS 12:8), faithful men and women gathered in Lancaster PA for the fourth annual Restored Hope Network Conference.

Hope fell on us like morning mist; it rained on a people leveled by the afflicting news that America had bent her knee to Baal as never before. We cried for our land and we cried for the God who had been faithful to the land, He whose merciful heart we betrayed.

And we cried tears of gratitude that we received the bitter news together. We were not alone: hope welled up in persons espoused to merciful Jesus in their same-sex attraction, parents and friends of ‘gay’-identified loved ones who love them too much to agree with their choices, godly counselors and pastors intent on championing the homosexually vulnerable onto chaste self-giving. In our brothers and sisters, we witnessed the Resurrected Christ. Exiled yes, but not forsaken. We have each other.

The Supreme Court declared its decision at the precise moment that Christopher West delivered one of the most magnificent talks I have ever heard: how our bodies and sexual desires disclose the cry of the cosmos for union, a bond fundamentally about spousal union with our God and chaste relating with each other, man and woman made in His image for passionate, creative, joyful living. West mentored me in my Catholic conversion; I respect him more than almost any other and I delighted that many of my RHN colleagues, mostly evangelical, reveled in his dynamic translation of St. John Paul’s teaching as much as I did.

Rob Gagnon summoned for us the same hope that sustained St. Paul in his multiple distresses, a hope that matures in us only through affliction. By granting us a New Testament perspective on how the Gospel shines brighter in darkness than in presumed light, Rob inspired us for the battle at hand.

Most hopeful of all were the stories of men and women captivated by the darkness of ‘gay’ and ‘tran’ selves and the earthy, holy, persistent love of Jesus and His members that set each free. A former drug and ‘gay’ sex addict, Ron Citlau is now a Reformed senior pastor, father of four, and champion of the homosexually broken in his denomination and beyond; he preached powerfully of the divine intimacy that became his hope. That hope now empowers every word he speaks. After his message, he gave two simple words: hope and power. Most of us rushed the altar where prayer ministers administered the Spirit of hope. The One who always seeks the lowest, driest ground in us filled us to overflowing.

Let hope abound as never before.

‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.’ (Rom. 15:13)

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November 7, 2014: Fearful Bride

‘If we are to evangelize the “prostitutes and sinners,” it demands that we be secure enough and mature enough in our own freedom to not be evangelized by them.’ Christopher West

Exposed by loving eyes and primed with living water, the Samaritan ‘bride’ raced off to tell others the good news about Jesus. Newly kindled faith made her fearless. All she wanted was for her friends to know ‘this man who told me everything I ever did.’ (Jn 4:29)

And guess what? ‘They came out of town and made their way toward Him’ (v.30); many became believers as they heard Him and attested to the fact that ‘this man really is the Savior of the world.’ (v.42)

Jesus really is the Savior of the world—beautiful and strong enough to draw real sinners and transform them through the miracle of His dynamic presence. On paper, few Christians disagree with this but in practice we doubt His power. What else explains our fear-based approach to sinners?

I have seen a retreat among many colleagues of mine in the day of ‘gay marriage’ and litigation for any act that can be interpreted as ‘anti-gay.’ Our blogs and Facebook posts are full of disturbing new gender-bending advances. We talk about the holy remnant, the shrinking faithful, and the need for higher firewalls to protect the few from infection.

False liberties tempt us to create a ‘we-them’ mentality. When we conceive that temptation, the faithful retreat in fear and strategize ways that the church can withstand the deluge. I understand this, and some caution is not unwarranted. The gay agenda is just that and seeks to rout out truth, especially from the church.

But the Church is the Church, against which hell will not prevail. We have Jesus’ transforming beauty on our side! We do not need to construct a more water-tight ark; we need to equip and commission simple rescue boats to save lives enslaved by many lovers. I am convinced that a generation weaned on gay-friendly everything is crying out for living water. ‘Gay’ freedom kills. Jesus saves.

Weary veterans of the culture wars need to reenter the waters of Life again. Like the Samaritan ‘bride’, we need to hear the voice of the One who exposes our fearful, self-protective ways and who gives us mercy in exchange. Let mercy alone guard us. May mercy overcome fear and motivate us to proclaim the freedom only Jesus Christ offers.

‘There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives our fear…The one who fears is not made perfect in love.’ (1 Jn 4:18)

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Northern California: Peter Kockelman – Coordinator: For continuing strength and vision for Peter and group leaders in the region.
  2. Living Waters Lithuania: For the Lord to continue to strengthen and protect the leaders Vilma Karveliene and her team; for translation of the revised Living Waters guidebook to go forward smoothly.
  3. Encourage: Bob and Susan (National Overseers) – For grace to equip and unify chapters of Courage around the country.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes            a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 4, 5, 6, 7

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October 27th: Icons

‘Adam and Eve saw the glory of God in the human body…because they saw the body not just as a physical object but as a transparent sign of the whole mystery of the other as “person” made in the divine image.’ Christopher West

Every human being is a window to the divine. Creatures testify to their Creator. I behold in my wife an embodiment of God’s glorious ‘mother heart’—soft and strong, welcoming and fruitful; in a best friend I behold God’s generative power in bodily design and psychological focus.

God is a genius, and that genius is reflected in humanity. We all believe this: we are united in our belief that God made humanity in His image (Gen. 1:26, 27). Yet we are perhaps too quick to distance ourselves from each other as to not get snagged on sin—the broken image–yours, mine and ours. But plastering over the window because of its dirt or crack seems extreme. Might we still see God through our fellows? In avoiding the potential for sin, are we avoiding God?

At Church I glimpse reminders of Jesus through His representation in the saints. I am surrounded there by blessedly imperfect bearers of the divine image. If I am looking I catch sight of God: the handsome father of two disabled kids whose main ministry is serving his family, a lovely woman who alone cares for her aging father and requests prayers for patience with a smile, the priest whose physical affliction makes it hard for him to walk but whose mind and voice is strong enough to convert a stadium full of seekers.

These ‘icons’ make God known through their bodies; I can ‘see’ through their ‘flesh’ the greater spiritual meaning they represent. I cannot divorce their bodily humanity from the Spirit that indwells them. God shines through a body.

In the theological tradition of the East, icons are holy insofar as they serve the sacramental purpose of making visible what is invisible. In other words, they are good to the degree that these created images point to the Creator. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict: ‘Icons lead us beyond the mere material level, awaken new senses in us, and teach us a new kind of seeing, which can see the Invisible in the visible.’ May God open our eyes to human windows of the divine.

Please join us as we pray for:

1. Pennsylvania, Jeff Comeaux, Coordinator: For strength and vision for Jeff, for existing groups and to see new groups established. Also, grace for preparations for RHN conference in Lancaster, 2015.

2. Aguas Vivas: Guadalajara, Mexico, Marisol, Coordinator: For wisdom as they meet to determine and plan for the start of the next Aguas Vivas group.

3. RHN: His Wonderful Works, Dee Barnes, Conyer, GA: Grace and blessing in series of educational outreach events. Carolina New Song, Bud Phaup, Columbia, SC: Life transitions and future of ministry.

“Courage for Pope Francis, that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 27, 28, 29, 30

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October 23: Pierced for Love

‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.’ (Eph. 5:22)

I will admit: facing my own brokenness in the Church and offering that vulnerability to fellow congregants is not always easy. I would prefer to pose ‘resurrected’, my wounds NOT visible. But the huge Crucifix that looms large over my parish sanctuary demands otherwise. He gave all to us, and so must we, one to another. In truth, His offering–a broken body and shed blood–is the very basis for our being a people. Through the Cross, Jesus pledges Himself to us forever. That pledge liberates our freedom to love one another.

I was greatly helped by Dr. Grant Pitre’s book ‘Jesus the Bridegroom.’ In it, Pitre chronicles bridal imagery throughout Scripture, anchors it in Hebrew tradition, and emphasizes St. John’s use of Jesus the Bridegroom; the Church, His bride. Startlingly, Pitre argues that God’s spousal love for us is most pointedly revealed at Calvary. His piercing is the culmination of God’s all-consuming desire to unite Himself to us forever. On Good Friday, Jesus married us.

Stay with me. Pitre claims that ‘Jesus’ wedding day is the day of His death, the day of His Crucifixion…’ St. Paul’s reference to the Church being prepared and washed and presented to Christ (Eph. 5) is rooted in ‘the ancient Jewish bridal bath and wedding ceremony.’ That washing had everything to do with the blood and water loosed in His dying. Jesus absolute self-giving on Calvary is His bridal pledge to us, a wedding vow born ‘of a love as strong as death.’ (Song of Sol 8:6)

St. Augustine goes further; he likens Calvary to God’s spousal union with His people. ‘Like a bridegroom Christ went forth from His nuptial chamber…He came to the marriage bed of the Cross and there, ascending it, consummated a marriage…He surrendered Himself to torment for His bride in a communication of love.’ Christopher West quotes St. John Paul ll who sums it up this way: ‘The “sincere gift” contained in the Sacrifice of the Cross gives definitive prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love.’

When we gaze at Christ Crucified, remember: God loves us deeply, passionately, like a husband who dies to show his wife how much he loves her. Only this Bridegroom lives, His sacrifice signaling the undying love to which He binds Himself to us forever. Lovestruck, might His people respond: ‘We do.’

Please join us as we pray for:

1. Upper Midwest Region, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Jean Mersberger – Coordinator: For strength and vision for Jean, for existing groups and for new groups to be established.
2. Foundazione Novae Terrae (www.novaeterrae.eu) Italy: Strength and provision to fight for ‘right to life’ measures throughout Europe.
3. Harrisburg Diocese: Discernment for timing and team of new Living Waters group.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director of Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 23, 24, 25, 26

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