Tag Archives: Darkness

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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Darkness before Dawn

‘Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of His servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on Him.’ (IS 50: 10)

While Michael Sam, the first gay NFL player to be drafted, cavorted on the global stage with his boyfriend, we gathered for our Living Waters Training. Men and women, Catholics and Protestants, broken people who without Jesus would be enslaved to either gender, entered into the river of blood and water that makes all things new.

We gathered with a new urgency around the Cross, trusting that the Crucified God would calm the dark currents swirling around us and somehow, in our repentance, take us deeper into His heart for His Church. We were not disappointed.

The Holy Spirit fell on us immediately. Though divided by regions and diverse Christian traditions, God united us as we got low and listened together for His still small voice. All of us had been deafened by the din of powerful, media-driven lies–false assumptions about the nature of homosexuality and marriage, and what constitutes sexual liberty. The good news? God woke us up to the fact that we can overcome darkness by heeding His voice.

A wiseman writes: ‘When the wind howls and the doors and windows clatter, one can hardly hear at all…if you will hear the voice of God, that Fatherly word whispered in the inmost depths of your soul, you must become deaf to all the roar of the world without and hush all the voices within. You must yield yourself up like a meek and gentle sheep, confess your sins, and all humbly hushed and quieted, hearken to this voice of God.’

We, the training group, had no time or strength to defend ourselves from each other. The irrational, virulent rise of idolatry in our world reduced us to Jesus: to listening together for His healing Word, and fighting for the healing of a generation who may be lost to perversion unless we manifest the Merciful Creator who can redeem all.

Note to self: those who witness the deception of a Michael Sam and respond only with disgust contribute to his cause. Sam has become the new sexual underdog for a generation who will defend anyone from such sneering.

I want to do more than sneer: I want to live the good news that Jesus reconciles us to our real selves in exchange for powerful lies. The world is shrouded in darkness and we make it worse by only cursing that darkness. Darkness ends in death. We who embody His new life must shine like lights as we hold out that Life to others. We must clarify the One to whom the deceived can repent before death takes away their choice.

That is serious business: a matter of eternal life or death.

At our training, God purified our interior ‘lamps’ through reducing us to One Voice, One Cross, and One Church. I discerned that those who refuse to gather with the saints will be scattered and become prey to the father of lies. The Holy Spirit is uniting us and giving us abundant Life. Through a humbled and renewed people, God wants to dawn for those living in darkness.

‘But now all you who light fires and provide yourselves with torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from God’s hand: you will lie down in torment.’ (IS 50: 11)

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Ascending Fear: Jesus’ Absence and Our Authority

Ascension of Christ. Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 - 1872), published in 1877.

‘Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.’ (Jn 16:6)

Jesus had to leave us in order to liberate us. He had to depart in order to give us power. But for the disciples, Jesus’ ascension back to the Father may have felt more like abandonment than the assurance of authority.

Think about it. Jesus’ followers just got in the groove with the Resurrected Christ. (It took a while–remember? They failed to recognize him for days!) Just when they were in step with Him, the Lamb is swallowed up by a cloud. (Acts 1:9)

Jesus, now absent, gives disciples like us His Spirit—powerful and pervasive, but unseen. The Spirit demands our faith and action based on His leading. Yet His instructions are more whispers than proclamations. And we are imperfect ‘receptors’ at best, as inclined to our own darkness as we are to the light. How we long for Jesus-in-the-flesh declaring: ‘This is the way; walk in it!’

That means that we His disciples have to face our fears of ourselves: Can we do this? Was that a prophetic dream or a delusion? What if we obey that still small voice and turn out to be wrong?

What a risky God—entrusting us with continuing His reign of heaven on earth.

Scary stuff! I remember what I felt to be the Spirit’s leading to attend a university discussion on ‘Homosexuality, the Bible and Faith.’ In spite of all the major denominations represented, the course had little to do with any genuine respect for the Bible or faith; it was intent only on asserting ‘gay rights.’

I had only been a Christian for 6 months but I already knew that no-one there knew anything about genuine conversion. So I said so: ‘If Jesus really died for us, then we must die to our right to assert anything other than His rule and reign in our lives.’ I wasn’t voted most popular student that year.

But I did grow in faith because I learned to follow His lead. And He trusted me to step out, however awkwardly, and proclaim His rule and reign. He does so with any willing vessel.

This is the principle of Ascension: He must depart in order for His Spirit to empower us to extend His Kingdom on earth.

That principle applies to our letting people go in order to help them grow. Our releasing them releases the Spirit who will lead them beyond where we can take them.

I see this all the time in ministry. In order for men and women to become leaders, I must release them to step out and take risks. They won’t rely upon the Spirit as much if I am around. My presence may well be quenching the very Spirit that is straining to do great things through them.

‘Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.’ (Jn 14:12)

I also see this in parenting. Annette and I and most of our friends worked hard to be the best parents possible. And then, guess what? It isn’t enough! Our kids may still make bad, Spirit-free choices that grieve us terribly. That’s where Ascension comes in. Our kids’ departure from the Light doesn’t stop the Spirit from brooding, imploring, and ordering all things for the good in their lives.

But parents get in the way of Holy Spirit when we try to be that Spirit. Like Jesus Himself, we must entrust our kids to the One who knows and loves best. We do our part yes—but it is the wise parent who knows when (s)he can do no more but pray. Confessing our fears and controlling schemes only to God, we entrust the son or daughter to the Ultimate Parent. His Spirit will have His Way.

Ascension reduces us to prayer. We grieve and let go and make room for God. Jesus left in order to free us to become people of the Spirit. Might we do the same for those we love most?

‘You may ask for anything in My Name, and I will do it.’ (Jn 14:14)

‘When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you [and your loved ones!] into all truth.’ (Jn 16:13)

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No Doubt

Since Easter Sunday, I have never faced such irrational insistence that those with SSA (same-sex attraction) cannot change. The world and worldly church is diabolically united: the gay self is the true self, liberated only in active expression.

Thank God for Easter. Thank God for the season of Easter that spans far beyond its six weeks in the Church calendar; Jesus’ resurrection reminds us daily that He has trumped our old nature and activates us afresh to resume our pilgrimage. Following the Risen Christ is always a path toward maturity, with clear markers for our sexual and relational humanity. United with Him, we ascend slowly towards a horizon of boundless light.

Each morning I rejoice in these words I share with my fellow congregants: ‘Save us, Savior of the world. For by Your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.’ We are saved, and can cry out daily to be saved from the unbelieving world and worldly church.

A skeptic might say: ‘Aren’t you spiritualizing a much deeper human conflict?’ Again, I point to Jesus who always restores our weak, estranged humanity by His beautiful true humanity. Scripture abounds with references to Jesus’ many healing gifts ‘enfleshed’ in a body and a family. His skeptics discredited Him: ‘Where did He get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?’ ((Matt. 13:54, 55). Jesus the man meets us in our humanity; He meets us in all of our conflicts with wisdom and miraculous power.

In His inspired humanity, Jesus unites the divided parts of our humanity and encourages what is weak. His humanity makes ours whole.

His resurrected humanity seals our hope for freedom from homosexuality. Shaken as we may be by growing darkness on all sides, we can heed Jesus’ response to doubting Thomas:

‘Peace be with you! Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Stop doubting and believe.’ (Jn 20: 26, 27)

Jesus is risen from the death of sin and its many fractures and conflicts, including ours. He breathes peace on us this day. He grants us fresh access to His beautiful humanity, wounds yet visible. Behold the faithful witness of our freedom. Stop doubting and believe.

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Intimate Authority: Holy Week Meditations, 6

This is the sixth 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, 6

Mary Magdalene wept and lingered at the Cross. The Man who had become her life died. His death rocked the earth, split the temple, and broke her heart. The tears of repentance and gratitude with which she had washed His feet became a flood of grief. She watered His nail-split feet. Apart from Him, she could do nothing. She had nothing; His life was hers. She filled the void with tears.

He had founded a new life in her. Now grief grounded her, kept her near Him. When Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus transferred Jesus’ body to a tomb, she followed Him there. Did the myrrh and aloes with which they embalmed Him remind her of the perfume with which she had so boldly baptized Him unto His death a few days earlier?

Lingering gives one time to remember, to allow the life that has passed to speak once more. Perhaps Mary recalled His words:

‘I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. A woman giving birth has pain, but when the baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a baby has been born into the world. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again…’ (Jn 16: 20-22)

She wept and lingered at the empty tomb. She remembered. Deeper than her grief was her trust in the One who promised to return. How? When? Who can know? Grief kept her from racing away, from returning to the old life, from despair. Grief grounded her and freed her to linger. The Spirit broods over those who wait and remember and weep. Sometimes hope can be conceived only in broken, still ground.

‘Even in darkness, light shines for the upright.’ (PS 112:4)

Perhaps Mary recalled these words:

‘I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word, I put my hope. More than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchman wait for the morning.’ (PS 130: 5, 6)

‘Who have I but You? Earth has nothing I desire but You. My flesh and heart may fail, but You are the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.’ (PS 73: 25, 26)

The other disciples went home, confused, disoriented, worn out. Mary Magdalene waited. She lingered and wept at the tomb for hours, hours became a day then another. She was poured out, like when she first washed His feet with her tears, or when He cleansed her with a mighty deliverance, or when she broke open the perfume on His head. She remembered Him being poured out on the Cross, the flood of blood and water. He gave everything to her. She remembered.

She was His—where else would she go? She waited alone at the empty tomb, an empty vessel whose hope lay only in a few words. But those words were His. She recounted them and they sustained her. Trust sweetened her grief. She waited.

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