Tag Archives: Hope

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Hope

Lent begins with hope. We start with Jesus, hope’s foundation. We can bear the mark, a little cross on the forehead, because He has gone before us and made a way for us to walk. His Cross blazes our trail and gives us hope to walk further and more fully into His best for our lives. May these days of Lent clarify that hope and quicken our step toward all that Jesus wills for us!

Hope is a virtue, one of seven I will be focusing on as we walk together this Lent. In the words of Josef Pieper, a virtue ‘is the most a man can be.’ (All my references here are contained in his sublime ‘On Hope’, Ignatius Press.) Becoming virtuous unites us with our true selves (human nature as God designed it) and prepares us for eternity with Him.

I say ‘becoming virtuous’ because we integrate these qualities over the course of a lifetime. Gird up people; this is one long ‘cross-walk’! Hope lights the way. Radiant Jesus grants us a well-lit trail but also goes before us and is never quite within our grasp. I love that! He keeps us reaching. Jesus longs to fulfill our hope. But that fulfillment comes only when we behold Him face-to-face. Then it disappears. Hope ceases to be when it is realized in full spousal union with Him.

In the meantime, we take seriously St. Paul’s words. ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I have not yet taken hold of it. One thing I do: forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…’ (Phil. 3: 13, 14) That goal involves all that God has for us and wants to accomplish through us. Hope frees us to aspire to more! Alleluia!

Hope invites us to repent quickly of the heaviness that rests upon us like silt in a polluted world and tempts us to settle for the status quo. ‘No Lord! There must be more that I have yet to grasp about Your good and perfect will for my life!’ Hope stirs up a robust expectancy for the marvels our Father has in store for us.

And hope grants us the humility to recognize that we have not yet taken hold of all the marvels. Our vision is still impaired, our healing not yet complete, the gifts we are remain chipped masterpieces that cut others and can still collapse if we don’t stay fixed on Jesus. I love that most about Pieper. His understanding of hope guides us on the narrow way between presumption and despair.

This Lent, I am sobered by the hard truth that unless we stay on hope’s track, we can lose everything. We all know good men and women who have lost the Way and who are taking others with them. We have never faced such a powerful pull to craft our own identity and sexual fulfillment apart from Jesus. May I ask you to join me this Lent in praying for a godly fear based on the truth that we too could be lost to illusion? May the searchlight of hope reveal every little comfort that dulls our hope in Jesus. May this Lent grant us sacred space to ‘let go’ of sin so we might ‘take up’ more of Him and His glorious will for our lives.

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Enkindling Hope Andrew Comiskey

Enkindling Hope

‘A person’s resurrection is no personal privilege for himself alone. It contains within itself hope for all, hope for everything.’ Dorothy Soelle

Like you, I tend to fear what may come out of my mouth in ‘polite’ society. A fire burns in me constantly that longs to enkindle the hope of transformation for anyone serious about Jesus Christ. Good news yes, and scandalous too.

While at a well-heeled Christmas party with new neighbors last week, the subject of a particular Catholic theologian—Richard Rohr– came up. Rohr lost my respect a while back when he shifted his anthropology and began to recognize the ‘LGBT’ set as an ethnic group in need of rights rather than repentance unto the transforming love of Christ Jesus.

This theologian has now unwittingly blocked the way for men and women to open themselves to the new life Jesus has for them. Instead, his worldly thinking limits them to sexualizing their own gender, a direction that forever frustrates God’s will for their good lives.

In a flash, I thought of all the young women and men with same-sex attraction whose aspiration to walk in chastity is hindered by churchmen like Rohr who have become worldly in their thinking. The path of a generation needs to be cleared! We remove the weeds through the fire of truth, spoken in love. When well-aimed and timed, such fire enkindles hope for a life that surpasses ‘gay love.’

Fire burned in me. Amid the tinkling of wine glasses and well-tailored holiday wear, I knew that I had to basically undress and tell the whole truth of what Jesus can do for persons like me. I gently broke into the conversation and said that while I appreciated much of Rohr’s work, ‘I fear he is blocking the way for a generation to know the truth that can set them free.’

The woman, a college professor, interrupted me with some bogus worldly wisdom—‘Since the beginning of time, there has been the same % of gays everywhere on the planet…’ I quietly refuted her (such data does not exist) then redirected the conversation back to the truth of the Gospel—‘Jesus opens a door that cannot be shut for persons who knock for a way out of homosexuality and this is how He did so for me…’ Because my tone was respectful and my content deeply personal, she listened and left with ‘I see this now in a whole new light.’

That light is nothing less than the Gospel, which will remain hidden toward persons who will perish (2Cor. 4:3) unless people like you and me enkindle hope with the truth Jesus has entrusted to us.

Theologian Karl Barth says it best: ‘Something often flames up in our soul that we would like to call out to all people—a question, a complaint, a word of defiance, a rejoicing, a stark truth—something of a sort that a person cannot keep to himself once it is there…It saddens us to see people coming and going, all in so much dullness and error when we have something to tell them that would help them…Our talk is such a wooden, dead talk. Fire will not break out in it, but can only smolder in our words…Whatever does not grow out of God produces smoke, not fire. But that which is born of God overcomes the world (1JN 5:4). We need only to speak with our fellows on the basis of faith. As long as our words do not arise out of faith in God’s power, we will remain mute. Only faith can speak. But faith can speak! Our ears must be opened then our mouths.’

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Risky Living

‘The sick soul fears more than anything else the demands made on one who is well.’ Joseph Pieper

When the Holy Spirit blew open Jesus’ tomb, God blew away our excuses for living half-lives. The very Spirit that liberated Jesus from sin and death summons us from our tombs as well. We must choose. Will we leave our prisons, now that the door has been opened? Will we lay claim to the ground of the new creation or remain in the shadows, more comfortable in grave clothes than in robes of righteousness?

Pope Emeritus Benedict describes personal encounter with Jesus Christ as the opening of a new horizon. It is as if the Risen Lord blows away the pollutants that have prevented us from beholding a range of mountains. Their imposing beauty beckons us; we know that somehow our destiny lies in following Jesus to the summit. Here we face real fears: alive to the Creator and Redeemer of all, will we become who we are by following Him into our destiny?

Many excuse themselves from the path and the goal, citing any number of weaknesses. In the arena of sexual recovery, becoming chaste seems impossible; the barriers to fruitful, faithful love with another person seem insurmountable.

The world provides many excuses. Note these excuses generated by gay activists. Homosexual identity and practice become a closed horizon for anyone with same-gender attraction. The gay self becomes a new ethnos, a genetically-inspired destiny devoid of any choice and thus free from moral meaning. Rather than open prison doors, such activists pad the prison and convince the vulnerable that this is their destiny. ‘By appealing to lustful desires, they entice people who are barely escaping from those who live in error. Offering freedom, they are slaves themselves…’ (2P2: 18, 19)

I winced at how the NY Times Sunday Magazine featured covers on two consecutive Easter Sundays that employed homosexuality to mock the resurrection. Last year’s feature highlighted ‘gay’ Easter bunnies as a serious attempt to prove the goodness of gay practice among humans (I kid you not.) This year’s Easter story charted how Obama hid his pro-gay marriage agenda at the beginning of his presidency until it was safe to ‘come out’ without crucifying political alliances. So much for Christian integrity. Still, the NY Times lauded Obama’s courage as a symbol of new life, the dawn of a new day for America. In truth, what Obama and the Times did was put the stone back on the tomb for persons with SSA.

Time for Christians to take seriously the real power of Resurrection. Perhaps those of us who are tempted to return to the tomb of gay identity and practice can lead the way. Filled with power from on high, our eyes wide open to see the summit before us, let us follow the Lord of Life and discover our real destinies: beloved children of the Father, and pure gifts to one another.

We shall face countless obstacles to get off track; see these barriers as the proving ground for your own commitment. When discouraged, recognize how badly you need help. Secure help from all the saints; grow in trust and humility. The mountains are nearer today than yesterday. Jesus is taking new ground in you as you take the ground He won for you in His resurrection.

“Peter preached: ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact…’ The people hearing this were cut to the heart and asked, ‘What shall we do?’ Peter replied: ‘Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…’ And he pleaded with them: ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’”(Acts 2:32-40)

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Cultivating Gay Christians

I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ amid the afflicting power of homosexual attraction and conduct. In those years, shame veiled such struggles. I was fortunate to find Christian guides who helped me to discover Jesus as the basis for a new and true humanity.

Today, we arise out of shame and into the evolving community known as LGBTQ. Such a community may appear to afford some a kind of corporate identity and defense against a heterosexist world. What it actually does is bar Christians from the grace (and clarity of identity) that could be theirs.

Sadly, many of our best Christian institutions, Fuller Seminary and Wheaton College among them, now sponsor LGBTQ groups. Bowing to the pressure of insistent ‘gay’ alums, these institutions have broken ties with Scripture and Church tradition in regards to human sexuality.

(Please note that such groups do not represent the majority of those schools’ faculty and students. The craftiness of an aggressive few finds access through naïve, weary administrators. Please pray for opportunities to engage constructively with those powers-that-be. Badly conceived precedents can end!)

I know from my solid Fuller education that there is no biblical theological base for ‘self-identified’ LGBTQ members. In his Doctrine of Creation (CD lll), Karl Barth upholds the “radical duality of male and female as the root of all other fellowship…The command of God shows humanity irrefutably that man can only be genuinely human with woman, and woman with man.”

Fuller Professor Emeritus Dr. Ray Anderson furthers this thought: “To deny the fundamental distinction of sexual orientation with regards to one’s own identity as male or female is to conceal the imago dei itself.” (On Being Human)

In other words, every human being is under the divine command to work out his or her salvation as male and female in relation to each other. Any community that seeks to define itself outside that duality defies a genuine theological anthropology. Such ‘humanity’ is self-prescribed rather than defined by the Creator. In Barth’s words, “a flight from one’s gender is a flight from God.”

The LGBTQ ‘self’ is a recently devised social construct. Speaking of the ‘gay self’ in particular, Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse makes the distinction between homosexual attractions and identity. He writes: “A gay identity reflects a modern sociocultural movement that has formed an identity around experiences of same-sex attraction. It is not merely a synonym for SSA… Rather, ‘I am gay’ is a self-defining attribution that reflects this socio-cultural movement.” (Round Peg, Square Hole)

‘Gay’ identification is only one way in which a person with SSA seeks to resolve his/her sexuality. It is a willful, moral decision that serves to deepen and strengthen one’s homosexual desires. Is that among the goals of these institutions—to cultivate gay Christians?

That is expressly what LGBTQ groups do. Curious, vulnerable Christians gather with self-identified ‘gays’ and other sexual ‘minorities.’ Unlike groups I led at Fuller, these groups do not encourage the seeker to repent unto healing but rather to embrace and integrate his/her skewed sexual identity.

I have only compassion for Christians with SSA. But I resist absolutely the push to gather on the basis of the ‘gay self’ in order to further orient one’s life around a disordered set of desires. Resolving these desires could be undertaken instead by committed Christians who rightfully invite any person with LGBTQ leanings into a community seeking redemption.

That is the ministry of Jesus Christ, “to open for us the hermeneutical horizon for authentic personhood”; in the words of Ray Anderson, “we go to Jesus to learn about Adam.” And we go to church to discover this Jesus who reconciles us to the Father’s best for our lives. Anderson again: “The church must know the difference between order and disorder and be wise enough to contextualize disorder with grace and truth.”

Christian LGBTQ groups cannot be considered ordered, grace-filled, or truthful. May the Church arise into the real community of transformation for the broken who turn to Jesus. May those institutions that profess to build the Church turn from any group that cultivates ‘gay’ Christians.

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Scouting for Snakes: Exodus, ‘Kinky’ Cannes, and the Deceiver

‘I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.’ (Luke 10:19)

Scouting for Snakes: Exodus, ‘Kinky’ Cannes, and the Deceiver snake photo by vladebSatan is the master of disguises. He couches things sweetly; he kills us softly. He makes good appear evil and evil good and plays upon the pride of those who refuse submission to anything other than their immediate desires. Most importantly, he plays upon real injuries; he empowers the damaged to do damage. Deceived into believing that God cannot restore them, wounded people become strong in self-defense and unwitting arms of evil. The deceived become deceivers.

Drawing upon their own experience of alienation and isolation in childhood, gay activists have ruined the Boy Scouts of America. Now the Scouts must bless and honor the self-confirmed gay identities of its underage members. Sound just? Since when have we given 12-year-olds the authority to define themselves according to an adult sexual identity? The Scouts have done just that, throwing out any sense of reason when it comes to defining masculinity. Having lost the right to define its young members accurately, they have given up their authority to call confused boys into manhood.

Though we rarely look to the popular arts for moral excellence, last week was a new low. Broadway bestowed unprecedented honors (6 Tony Awards) upon ‘Kinky Boots,’ a new musical about Lola, a black drag queen who revives a dying shoe factory by assembling fetish-style footwear with the help of fellow drag queens. Most of the numbers feature guys in lingerie and you guessed it, kinky boots. No big deal you say, a trifle for Broadway’s effete audiences? Just wait til ‘Kinky Boots’ is playing at a high school near you.

The most prestigious film festival in the world, Cannes, gave its top prize to a lesbian porn film: ‘La Vie d’Adele’. Gone are the days when graphic sex was viewed furtively then disposed of shamefully. Now the world’s sophisticates honor porn as an expression of human nobility. When the judges were criticized for pandering to people’s worst voyeuristic impulses, they pointed to France’s new ‘gay marriage’ mandate, as if the film punctuated the dawn of a new day for France. See how free we are: we can welcome perversion as a pleasurable, unqualified good. The deceived become deceivers.

Yet the most disturbing deception for me was not played out on a 36-foot screen or on a Broadway stage or even in the fracturing of the Boy Scouts. It occurred in a church basement in Los Angeles, where Exodus head Alan Chambers gathered with a group of ‘ex-ex-gays’ to apologize to them for hurting them. With doubtless good intention that has now exposed itself as the deception that it is, Alan has sought to placate them for the last couple years.

I am troubled by Christians who now claim that God made them gay and cry victim at anyone who believes otherwise. Doubtless some have been treated heavy-handedly by churches or promised quick cures by homely, uninformed ministries. But instead of submitting their wounds to God and trustworthy healers, these ones allow bitterness to transform them into the most virulent proponents of gay identity and practice. And in Jesus’ Name and Authority! The wounded become deceived then deceivers.

These ones do not want friendship with Alan or Exodus; they want the demise of any ministry that claims transformation of persons with unwanted same-sex attraction. The sneak preview of Lisa Ling’s taping of the whole ridiculous affair demonstrated this beyond a doubt. One ex-ex-gay blasted Alan: “Exodus needs to be shut down—not tweaked, not improved, but shut down!” His demonized plea is becoming true as Exodus staggers along the untenable path of seeking to reconcile good with evil.

‘I urge you to contend for the faith…for certain men have secretly slipped in among you, godless men, who change the grace of God into a license for sexual immorality and deny Jesus Christ as our only Sovereign and Lord.’ (Jude 3, 4)

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