Tag Archives: His Name

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Clear Direction for a Vulnerable Generation

My friend and Lutheran Pastor Ole recently commented on Denmark’s (his nation) passage of ‘gay marriage’ last week, which now makes it mandatory for all churches to conduct such ‘marriages.’

I grieve for the church. I grieve that the church offends God by misusing His Name. Mostly I grieve for the young homosexual Christian who no longer has any clear direction and truth to follow. I grieve with everything within me.

Ole was among the first international interns we had at Desert Stream in the early nineties. A same-sex struggler, he fought hard for his healing. Now alongside his wife and many children, Ole fights for the freedom of same-sex strugglers throughout Denmark. His light shines brighter than ever.

As the state and state church bend the knee to distorted ideas about homosexuality and marriage, Ole is committed to reflecting Jesus’ light. He knows he must. How else will a generation know the truth that can set them free from gender disintegration?

Ole reminds me of why we keep on insisting that Jesus sets men and women free from the domination of same-sex attraction and frees them to resume the journey to whole heterosexuality.

Why? Young people with same-sex attraction grow up in a culture that irrationally insists on their baptism and confirmation as citizens of a queer nation.

Who will endure the shame? Who will risk being seen as a hater or bigot by naming homosexuality for what it is: a symptom of personal brokenness that can be resolved through Christ and His healing community?

That’s why the Oles of this world shudder at ‘gay marriage’; it wholly misrepresents what homosexuality is to a vulnerable generation.

That’s why we endure the shame of once again testifying to our weakness and to our healing process.

Our stories point to the One who led us into all the truth necessary to grow beyond the ‘gay self.’

The heterosexually-immoral world cannot tell that truth; they are asleep in their compromise. Reparative therapists aside, the clinical community sleeps with gay activists and have lost objectivity. Even the church is no longer sure if her Savior’s blood can transform the same-sex struggler. She is the worst offender; she sleeps in the light.

Like Ole, we grieve when we witness the devolution of our fellow humanity. We grieve especially for the young ones left ‘shepherdless’ by the blind guides of today. But we grieve unto hope, the light of Christ, and pray that we might reflect Him more brightly to the world and worldly church.

If we don’t, who will?

Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. (Eph. 5: 14)

But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise You more and more.My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long.I will proclaim Your mighty acts, O Sovereign Lord…Since my youth, O God, You have taught me,and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds.Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, until I declare Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come. (PS 71: 15-18)

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Intimate Authority: Easter’s Enlistment

This is the seventh and concluding post of my Holy Week Meditations for 2012. Please click here for the archive list of posts. Annette and I, as well as the staff here at Desert Stream Ministries, wish you a deeply blessed Easter. He is Risen!

Intimate Authority: Easter’s Enlistment

Why was Mary Magdalene the first disciple Jesus entrusted with His resurrection? According to John’s Gospel, Peter and John raced to the empty tomb but could not comprehend Christ resurrected.

Both John the Beloved and Peter the Rock saw evidence but did not see. After hearing countless prophecies from Jesus, ‘they still did not understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead.’ (Jn 20:9)

Peter and John left the empty tomb and went home, perhaps too weary and overwhelmed to grasp the truth. One can see and not see. Jesus entrusted this sight to Mary Magdalene. How strange for her. She wanted the powerful disciples to make sense of the empty tomb. She bid them come and they left, disoriented. Mary lingered at the tomb, weeping.

She wept and lingered there. That was her great gift, this evidence of intimacy with Jesus. For what else better defines intimate reliance upon another but weeping and lingering? Love alone provokes tears for another; love alone compels us to wait, to abide, to linger. These simple expressions of intimacy—tears and lingering—are the basis for her authority.

From her first encounter with Jesus, washing His feet with her tears as the Pharisee looked on aghast, to this last recorded encounter at the tomb, Mary wept. She embodied a tender and profound dependence upon Jesus. In brokenness, she clung to Him; His holiness absorbed her shame and transformed Mary into a radiant, radical disciple.

Naked surrender to Jesus—a gift of her more responsive gender and of her heightened vulnerability to false intimacy—made Mary trustworthy. She knew her cure. Lustful men had only served to fracture her, to take pieces of her; religious men then condemned her for it. Only One gave her form, made her whole. Jesus’ life became hers.

God chose an ex-prostitute to bear witness of that Life—the Resurrection–the most important event in human history. Are you beginning to understand why the Roman Catholic Church named her the ‘Apostle of the Apostles?’

Mary’s life with Jesus testified: with Him, she could do anything. When He died, she discovered the painful corollary: without Him, nothing. That’s why the grief. Grief grounded her at the tomb. Hope sustained her.

She had nowhere else to go. So she waited at the tomb, weeping and lingering. Here we see the deep broken ground of her heart, awaiting reunion with the Beloved. Her response to two angels concerning her tears is telling: she was not awed by them but concerned only about Him—‘Someone took Jesus away—where is HE?’ (Jn 20: 12, 13)

Then Jesus appeared to her, glorified and not yet apparent to Mary. She asked Him to tell her where Jesus was so she could retrieve His body from the hands of temple robbers. He spoke her name, opened her eyes, and reclaimed her life with His raised one. (vs. 14-16)

Reunion. Grief transformed to joy. My hunch is she wanted Him, desired only to be with Him, to weep with gratitude and linger with Him, alone. Jesus dethrones her desire. Instead of extending comfort, Jesus commissions her: ‘Don’t hold onto Me. Tell my brothers!’ (v.17)

I think of thousands of peers and friends around the world whose lives mirror Mary’s. Most know deep brokenness. Surrendered to Jesus, they in turn know Jesus well. He is their integrity, their wholeness. Will we hear Jesus’ words afresh this Easter? Will we, grateful for every sin He has assumed, every wound He has won, every cross He enables us to carry, not hold onto Him? Will we rather, empowered afresh with the Spirit of His new life, run with Mary and proclaim from our depths: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ (v. 18)

Will we stop waiting for someone else to do what we alone can do? Will we stop deferring to ‘important’ disciples but rather ask Jesus to make us faithful witnesses? To proclaim how Life has subsumed our brokenness and set us free?

I urge you this Easter: follow Mary’s example. Rise up and reveal His new life through yours. Easter has enlisted you as a member of the Magdalene Army.

‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back…

You will spread out to the left and to the right; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid, you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace, you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth, and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His Name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He is called the God of all the earth.’ (Is. 54: 2-5)

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Merciful Discipline 1: Broken, We Pray for the Abused

This is the first 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 1: Broken, We Pray for the Abused

No wound runs deeper in the Church today than the sexual abuse of children by her priests. Over the last 30 years, the wound has become apparent as brave, broken souls throughout the world have dared to confess the perversion deposited in them by priests.

We the Church bear this wound. We are the broken: bewildered, angry, more tempted to strike the Church than to heal her. And yet we are ‘her’, the wounded bride, as needful of her graces as we are appalled at her failures.

Gratefully, we serve a wounded God who Himself suffered unjustly in order to bind up our wounds. He invites us to into His Mercy that we the Church might be healed and so become a healing arm for the abused.

How can we do this, mere laymen and laywomen? We gather, we bend the knee, we cry out with repentant hearts on behalf of those damaged by the Church. We cry out for Mercy for those most in need of it. Might the water released from His side cleanse those bearing the shame of another? Might His blood administer new life to broken lives? Might we become the face and hand of Jesus for those scattered by evil shepherds?

We take up both a priestly and prophetic call when we pray rightfully for the abused. We become a part of His solution for His wounded bride.

His wounds are the only just response to the wounds of those sexually abused by priests. Only His wounds, extended tenderly and patiently, can cleanse the ‘abuse’ wound and send its evil source to flight.

Consider the evil: the Roman Catholic Church is the last coherent institution on earth with a sexual morality that upholds the dignity of each individual, beginning with conception. Her teaching advocates for each life from the start, and upholds each as an inviolable sexual gift, instructing him/her to protect that gift until marriage. Her priests model that sanctity, and encourage little ones to walk accordingly, with priestly help.

When priests become predatory, the Church herself becomes an arm of evil. Her morality and mission are torpedoed; children are left in the wreckage, defiled and disoriented by one who was supposed to mirror his/her dignity.

While Catholic morality encourages sexual integrity (wholeness), sexual abuse provokes sexual disintegration. It fractures his/her gender identity, and moral clarity; abuse clouds one’s vision for a whole Christian life in general.

Such disintegration is rooted in the Greek word for devil: ‘diabolos.’  It means ‘to throw apart’, in other words, to disintegrate. Perhaps that is the most precise way of defining the impact of priestly sexual abuse of children—disintegration.

Does that not break Jesus’ heart and ours? The ‘throwing apart’ of a child in Jesus’ name violates His very purpose for the Church: to protect and redeem the wholeness of every life.

Priestly abuse is particularly diabolical because of the spiritual power of the abuser. In assessing the depth of abuse, one must consider: was the abuser someone that the child trusted and had good reason to rely upon? The spiritual power of the abuser amplifies the impact of sexual abuse.

In other words, an abusive priest intensifies the act of sexual abuse with spiritual abuse. He manipulates the sheep for his own purposes; instead of feeding them, he partakes of them.

Arguably, priestly sexual abuse has done more to disintegrate the mission of the Church than any other single force over the last 50 years.

We consider the damage done in His Name so we can be a part of His solution: crying out for Mercy for the wounded Church, and in particular, for her children that have been ‘thrown apart’ by sexual abuse.

We are ‘to mourn with those who mourn.‘ (Romans 12:15) ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it’. (1 Corinthians 12:26) When one member of the body is abused, we each share in that suffering. I urge you: may our shame in the light of priestly abuse be transformed into prayerful solidarity with the abused?

Might you join me this Lent in crying out for a river of Mercy to be released in the Church for her abused? As we reflect upon His wounds, might we also intercede for the binding up of the disintegrating effect of abuse?

May those sexually abused receive the first fruit of Your suffering, Holy God. Unite them in Your healing arms, through trustworthy members of Your Body.

Pope Benedict recently reflected:

I think of the immense suffering caused by the abuse of children, especially within the Church and her ministers. Above all, I express my deep sorrow to the innocent victims of these unspeakable crimes, along with my hope that the power of Christ’s grace, His sacrifice of reconciliation, will bring deep healing and peace to their lives. I acknowledge with you the shame and humiliation which all of us have suffered because of these sins; I invite you to offer it to the Lord, and trust that this chastisement will contribute to the healing of victims, the purification of the Church, and the renewal of her age-old commitment to the education and care of young people.

MORE:

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

 

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No More Angels?

As I begin my 54th year (my birthday was January 13th), I am aware of a tendency to lock into familiar ways and to resist what is peculiar, untested by my experience.

Wisdom? Nah…More likely the hardening of the arteries, the closing of the womb, that menopausal tendency in both men and women to rebuff angels and resist the new life they announce.

I pray for the simple, elastic faith of Mary, Jesus’ mother; I marvel at her response to angel Gabriel. His announcement that she will become the mother of God troubles her, but she believes it. All she wants to know is: ‘How will this come about?’ She trusts God, even though it means yielding to Him at the most personal and vulnerable manner conceivable (pun intended).

I relate more to Zechariah who was also visited by Gabriel. The old man’s response to becoming a father so late in life? Prove it to me! ‘How can I know this?’ Time had clogged his heart valves, gave him a spiritual vasectomy. We know from scripture that religious disciplines and duties had kept Zechariah righteous. Such rituals may have also made him rigid, controlling, suspect of dreams and angels and heavenly babies leaping in wombs and saving the earth.

Religion did not necessarily incline him to new life; you could say that its rules gagged him, rendered him mute, unable to grant God a humble ‘yes’, let alone a song of praise for His sovereign control!

I take note, and consider who will define me more as I age—Mary or Zechariah? Both were afraid of an unfathomable future, but while the old man wanted proof, Mary surrendered, in fear and trembling, trusting that God was good, His will fruitful regardless of its cost.

God is patient and merciful to those like me whose hearts and wombs bear the normal scars of age—unhealed wounds, losses yet to grieve, disappointments that tempt one to unbelief.

It is a new year. Let us pray together on my 54th in the spirit of Isaiah 54, that our youth would be renewed, a marvel of elastic, expectant faith.

“‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of she who has a husband,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen the stakes’…For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is His Name–the Holy One is Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth. ” (Is 54:1,2,5)

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The Martyrs of Epiphany

Epiphany means ‘manifestation’; it closes the Christmas season by celebrating how Jesus manifested Himself to the 3 kings. They represent the world in need of Jesus. We do well at Epiphany to consider how we manifest Jesus to a world and worldly church which may not be quite as adoring as the Magi.

Bearing witness of Christ with the whole story of one’s life is costly. Especially when your story involves sharing shameful things.

Throughout this year, I have shared with scores of people from my new church of how Jesus healed me from homosexuality. Most have never heard of such a thing; it challenges conservatives who think you cannot be healed, just obedient and miserable, and it shocks  liberals who believe nothing about homosexuality needs to be healed. On whatever point on the continuum, they—polite Midwest Catholics–are simply put-off that I would share something so revealing.

They remind me of my fine 86-year-old mother who said to me recently with a hint of exasperation: ‘Andy, must you always share the WHOLE story?’

Yes, I must. I must tell the whole truth in order to be faithful to what He has actually done in me, to manifest how healing the body of Christ can be when truth and grace kiss each other. Besides, how else will others know that Jesus came into the world to set captives free unless we share of the precise nature of our captivity?

A wiseman urges us ‘to be kind to all, because each one carries a huge burden.’ If that is true, and I believe it is, then why do we fill the air with foolish words that obscure our struggle and our hope? More than not, our words hide the healing power of Jesus rather than manifest Him, the Healer.

I agree with Barth when he says: ‘Yes, we certainly talk with each other, we find words all right, but never the right words, never the words that actually do justice to what actually moves us, what actually lives in us; never the words that would really lead us out of our loneliness into community. Our talk is always such an imperfect, wooden, dead talk. Fire will not break out in it, but can only smolder in our words.’

If you want to ignite the hope of Jesus, tell your whole story. No shame, no glory. Crucify yourself by sharing about the ‘mangers’ in your life and Mercy will be manifested, maybe even adored by others due to His faithful love to you.

Then again, you may be crucified. I learned last week that the root word for martyr is ‘maturein’, which simply means to ‘bear witness.’ The word does not have anything to do with death—it relates to Epiphany, to manifesting Jesus to others.

The early church understood how ‘maturein’ related to death. She knew that proclaiming the life He gained for her could cost members their lives. Maybe that’s why the martyrdom of Stephen is celebrated the day after Christmas. Jesus is born then a man is stoned to death for manifesting His life.

Stephen’s Epiphany of Christ is an apt bookend to the 3 kings. Some may fall down and worship Jesus due to our ‘good news’; others may stone us with judgments and accusations. We are called to be faithful, not self-preserving. From this Epiphany onward, let us commit to manifest how His glory has eclipsed our shame. May fire break out in our words. Let’s provoke the world and the worldly church with the incendiary beauty of Jesus Christ.

“If I say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak anymore in His Name,’ His word is in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.”  (Jeremiah 20:9)

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