Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Ambushed 2

‘For love is as strong as death…it burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.’ (S of S 8:6)

Outrageous: Wisconsin just became the 27th state to redefine marriage, the NY Times devotes its entire travel section to ‘gay’ globetrotters by featuring sexy ads and itineraries for ‘family’-friendly adventures, and a popular primetime TV show (8pm) begins with two women having sex then crassly expounding the glory of oral sex and feminine body parts.

Like you, I am tempted to disgust and defensiveness. We cannot stop there. That is precisely what the enemy of our souls wants: for the faithful to retreat into the ark, strengthen her walls, and smugly await judgment on the new Sodom which surrounds us.

Have we forgotten? We are called to be the very hands and heart of servant Jesus who ‘did not raise his voice in the street or snuff out the smoldering wick’ (IS 42: 2, 3). He promised to make us ‘a covenant for the people, to open blind eyes, and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness’ (vs. 6, 7). Our challenge: to allow perversion to provoke us. We must forsake disdain for the captives and prayerfully act for their deliverance. Will we finally become the community which fights for the dignity of all and with tender hearts welcomes darkened hearts into the light of the Church?

I recall gay protesters storming into one of our conferences in London with outrageous, frightening tactics. But the kindness of our response prompted one of the seven activists to return to that congregation where, overtime, he was converted. His wife and kids are grateful for the powerful kindness of that parish. Karen entered into the enfolding arms of a loving congregation one night in downtown Denver. She was high on drugs, alongside her lesbian lover, and desperate for Jesus. Ongoing sexual abuse from a male friend of her parents competed with a conservative Christian upbringing. By a miracle of grace, she wanted Jesus still.

The power of the Holy Spirit fell on her that night, sobered her up, and compelled her to return to that church. Jesus won her heart through the Living Waters group that had just started there and the supportive love of many congregants. Her lover left her when it became clear that Jesus had become her primary passion. She continues to serve Him faithfully today, and eagerly awaits His return.

Will we be the Church that conveys that love? We begin by laying down our arms and opening our hearts to the broken. Yesterday I ran a half-marathon and was frankly annoyed by a gay-identified man who wore little more than tattoos and piercings; a good runner, he looked and leapt like a lizard but midway through stumbled, as if distressed, then restarted. I ran into him in the parking lot and wanted to turn the other way. The Spirit convicted me: ‘If it wasn’t for My mercy, you would not only be excluded from this race, you’d be in hell.’ My heart filled with mercy for this colorful man and I initiated a caring conversation with him regarding his well-being.

God cares for him. God fights for him with tender love. Will we be that community that fights in love for the dignity of the oppressed, especially those riding the wave of our cultural delusion? Pray with me that we will see and pray and feel and say the urgent love that is a soul’s only hope for deliverance.

‘Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.’ (Romans 12:21)

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Broken Ground for Holy Power

crosses skyPentecost is all about power, the real strength we need from God’s Spirit to do His will. Any Christian who seeks to extend the rule and reign of God’s Kingdom knows this. Beyond the grace to endure the wear and tear of daily living, we need ‘power from on high’ (LK 24: 49). Such power alerts and poises us to catch the upward wind of His Spirit. Nothing less is needed to take ground for the Kingdom.

I need a Spirited kick to rouse me from routine, the everyday drone that can drown out what God wants. Recently, God goaded me to share a bit of my story with a certain man. Unbeknownst to me, he was a Christian who had just gotten into his first serious ‘gay’ relationship. He did not like what I said but the Spirit wanted him to know something else.

Or the other day, weary from a long day of demands, God called me to visit a neighbor who, recently widowed, was in an unusually dark day of grief. The Spirit of Pentecost alerted me to her need for Real Presence—me, a bearer of God’s living Spirit!

Holy power does not mean much unless we are spiritually surrendered. Only the heart that makes room for His power will be empowered to go the distance. During Lent, I did a study of the seven churches in Revelation. (to download, click here)  As I reviewed the Risen Christ’s exhortation to them, I gleaned 3 qualities that invite holy power.

The first is poverty, an apt realization that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Jesus especially empowered the suffering churches, e.g. oppressed Smyrna, now ‘rich in poverty.’ She had been weakened by various afflictions and looked only to the One. On the other hand, Jesus threatened to vomit out the sleek and strong Laodiceans who trusted in their wealth; He also threatened to remove His favor from the pious Ephesians who in their good works no longer relied wholly on Him.

Persecution is the second ‘ground’ for welcoming holy power. Those who live mightily in the light of Resurrection will incur disfavor, no matter how loving they are. American Christians often believe that if they are nice enough, all will be well. So instead of rightfully scandalizing the culture, our Gospel anesthetizes it. The Pergamums married themselves to the power structures of the day which made them strong in numbers but drowsy in real moral influence.

On the other hand, those pummeled by opposing forces in the culture become broken ground for arising as potent witnesses until the end. Such was the case for the Philadelphians who in spite of ‘little strength kept Jesus’ Word and did not deny His Name.’

Purity is the third ‘ground’ for holy power.’ In John the Apostle‘s day, as in ours, spiritual idolatry resulted in sexual immorality. Churches would cozy up to other gods and would serve them by incorporating all manner of sexual perversion. Cheap ‘grace’ covered a multitude of sins, which Jesus promptly exposed to reveal the stench of impurity in the majority of churches, especially the Thyatirans whose compromise ‘misled His servants into sexual immorality.’ Jesus gave them the chance to repent and become chaste in devotion to Himself and His purposes.

Do you want to become the ground for holy power? Rejoice in your poverty and look to Jesus alone as your treasure. Count the murmuring of tongues against you as confirmation. The persecuted are blessed with holy power. Do not mess around with sexual compromise. God does not like it, and He likes even less those who justify such sin on the grounds of ‘grace.’ In all three—the yearning for purity, the affliction of persecution, and the hunger of poverty, we become welcoming ground for Pentecost. Bring it on, Holy God.

 

 

 

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True Justice

‘The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.’ (PS 103:6)

‘Defending the institution of marriage as a social reality is ultimately a question of justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.’ Pope Benedict

My wife Annette observed an 8-year-old boy in a waiting room trying to make sense of a photo in People magazine of two men in tuxes, probably a feature on some celeb ‘gay wedding.’ Wide-eyed, and too truthful to have anything but a visceral response to the madness, he said: ‘Are those guys… you know, together? That’s real scary.’

No scarier than the wedding photo in front of me of two men, 20-years apart yet mirror images of each other, with their adopted 4-year-old daughter between them. Her smile is stained, theirs soft and wide as they beam through her at each other. A glimpse of unrealized manhood, a girl in trouble, and the hemorrhaging of justice in the form of ‘gay marriage.’

Children become parents, purveyors of truth, when we celebrate and seal the disintegration of gender identity in ‘gay weddings.’

Consider a young man—Ben—whom I just met at a healing conference. Having come to terms with his own same-sex attraction, he possesses a firm resolve to reach for all that Christ has for him. He also just discovered that his father is now ‘out’ as an active ‘gay man’ and is urging his son to do likewise. Ben’s first task was to set a firm boundary with his deluded father and make decisions for his own integration as a man, including coming to this conference. (Check it out: Ministry of Pastoral Care, founded by Leanne Payne. Excellent)

Over the course of our week together, I observed the Holy Spirit moving upon Ben. He received grace in such abundance that confessing his sin, and grieving over his damaged father and the arc of damage in his life thus far occurred readily, gently. Through a host of Christian loved ones who accompany him on this journey, he will continue to take hold of all for which Christ took hold of him.

In truth, Jesus’ justice for those with same-sex attraction lies in recognizing how oppressed we are and repenting unto the only One who can help us.

On the other hand, justice is thwarted when we redefine marriage. ‘Gay marriage’ validates the disintegration of gender identity for parents and children alike.

‘Marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and re-define to please those who are powerful and influential.

No-one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage. Marriage is an objective reality—a covenantal union of husband and wife—that it is the duty of the law to recognize for the sake of justice and for the common good. If it fails to do so, genuine social harms follow.

First, the religious liberty of those for whom this is a matter of conscience is jeopardized. Second, the rights of parents are abused as family life and sex education programs in schools are used to teach children that an enlightened understanding recognizes as ‘marriages’ sexual partnerships that many believe are non-marital and immoral. Third, the common good of society is damaged when the law itself becomes a tool for eroding a sound understanding of marriage on which the flourishing of the marriage culture in any society vitally depends.

And is it is out of love (and not hate) and prudent concern for the common good (not prejudice), that we pledge to labor unceasingly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to rebuild the marriage culture.

How could we as Christians do otherwise? The Bible teaches us that marriage is a central part of God’s creation covenant. Indeed the union of husband and wife mirrors the bond between Christ and His church.

Just as Christ was willing out of love, to give Himself up for the Church as a complete sacrifice, we are willing in love to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.’

( If you are interesting in reading The Manhattan Declaration concerning marriage please click here.)

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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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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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