Tag Archives: Humility

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

New Pharisee 3

Only through the Cross and the mercy released from the One who gave all can we counter the new Pharisee.

Boy, do we need it now. I am witnessing a new Pharisaic tendency in Christian spokespeople for ‘GLBT’ (etc.) communities. Instead of surrendering the sexually broken ‘selves’ to Jesus, these ones make huge efforts to justify their homosexuality. Though some claim orthodoxy (no sex outside of marriage), they nevertheless seek to integrate the gay self and ‘celebrate the grace of God in homosexual terms.’

Precepts of the new Pharisee include:

  • Exempting themselves from a theological anthropology that defines humanity as made in God’s image as male and female. Instead, these GLBTers define their humanity as fundamentally homosexual. Same-sex attraction sets them apart from straight people. Being ‘gay’ figures in profoundly to how they define themselves.
  • A split between being and doing. Though some may not believe in acting upon one’s homosexuality, they encourage strugglers to integrate their homosexuality. Given the momentum toward gay affirmation throughout the Christian culture, I suspect that abstinence will fall way as these ones find ‘good’ gay partnerships.
  • According to Christian GLBTers, Jesus chooses to not effect much, if any, change of their sexual inclinations. Alan Chambers is now infamous for his assertion that 99.9% of all persons with SSA seeking change do not change. Implicit in this assertion is that nature figures in more profoundly to the roots of SSA than nurture. For the new Pharisee, gay people are probably hardwired at birth and the redeeming power of Jesus does not touch this ‘gay’ foundation. Though one might say in the abstract that the ‘fall’ is responsible for SSA, (s)he actually concludes there is nothing wrong with it.
  • A new narrative in which one has little if any psychological brokenness undergirding their SSA. The new Pharisee need not muck around with messy relational and family-of-origin factors, cultural influences, or specific incidents that altered one’s sexual development. ‘Gay’ just is and needs no healing. ‘Healing’ efforts are framed as an old paradigm that they rather smugly refuse on the ground of their rather normal lives.
  • Scandalizing reparative therapy. Christian GLBTers scorn clinical efforts to overcome SSA. They suspect any therapeutic effort to ‘change’ on the ground that it manipulates and may even abuse people who cannot change anyway. Despite the fact that most have not actually surrendered their sexuality to a constructive course of action, they denounce such action and claim that the only just action is to integrate their homosexuality.

In our current Living Waters group, we are asking Jesus through His blood and Spirit to reveal the deep wounds that set us adrift in the first place. And He is answering, with insights that can only be understood as reparative, and with a Love that can only be experienced as healing.

In my small group, men from a variety of backgrounds are opening to the grace pouring from Calvary into the foundations of their humanity. We open our lives to God and each other. He comes as we prayerfully welcome Him; He offers Himself as the answer to our deepest needs for love and identity.

While preparing for one such meeting, God reminded me of a series of toxic early experiences in relation to other males. I felt the pain of these memories deeply. A few nights later I had a dream. While driving quickly through a strange town my car stalled and I sought help. I saw a small boy lying wounded and unattended in the street. I began to pray for his healing. I then felt a warm masculine presence reaching his arm over me and praying for the child too. It was a strong, tender man: Jesus? Perhaps. His very presence healed me as I sought to give life to the wounded one in my arms.

The Cross opens the horizon of our real brokenness and real healing. Mercy exposes faulty foundations and secures them in Love. Only Mercy compels us to drop our self-justifications. Manifest in a merciful people, Jesus makes a place for the new Pharisee at the foot of the Cross.

‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by Me.’ (Luke 7: 22, 23)

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Read The Sin Blog

New Pharisee 2

‘Your most merciful Heart is all my hope. I have nothing for my defense but only Your mercy; in it lies all my trust.’ St. Faustina Kowalska

The New Pharisee 2 Photo by RottnApplesHow do you restrain the inner Pharisee? Stay near the truth of your own sinfulness and the Cross. That fount of Mercy confirms our worst impulses but also cleanses us at their source. Then, together with all the saints, we discover the depth and power of love that becomes our offering to others. We become good gifts, the fruit of Calvary to a hungry world.

I witnessed this profoundly at our first Living Waters meeting last week. The newly revised material centers on that theme of becoming good gifts to others. Together we expressed our starting points: SSA, addiction, high anxiety, and the ache of old wounds among them, as well as how shame hovers over these problems and veils the gift we aspire to be for others.

I wondered where to go with the ministry time. We needed the Cross, pure and simple. Before I could finish the call to come forward and unite our need for Mercy with the wood of Calvary, I saw in a flash a dark strain of sin in me. Prior to the meeting, Annette and I had just discussed an unresolved issue. For the first time, through the illumination of the Spirit, I saw my sin clearly.

Love for her mingled with remorse and shame and I knew only Calvary would suffice. At the Cross (literally), together with fellow strugglers, we lingered. We endured the shame of sin for the joy of discovering our Advocate in overcoming sin. Over the course of our 20 weeks together, we shall learn that Mercy alone is our cure. We will continue to make that great exchange: surrendering sin and receiving in turn a double portion of His blessing as we pray for each other.

The truth of sin’s misery opens us to the Mercy that can be ours. Steeped in Mercy, we become fruitful gifts. Why then do we strive to justify our own virtue?

Could it be that the enemy of our souls has blinded our eyes to the Mercy that is there for us? Perhaps the reason that we cling to dehumanizing attitudes and behaviors is because we do not believe that there is anything for us in their place.

How else can you explain the irrational power at work in the weaknesses of those who insist that the ‘gay self’ or any other number of ‘selves’ is their deepest, truest expression? Cut off from Mercy, these ones construct fortresses to defend them from the threat of non-being. Here the enemy empowers a host of powerful ‘solutions’ to repair a broken life. It may be a sensually-exciting relationship or solidarity with others seeking ‘equality.’

Yet one’s new power is not sourced in God but a kind of self-justification that resists God and insists on its own well-being. Those who don’t like these new ‘solutions’ are judged harshly. Kind of like a Pharisee…

We are now witnessing this new brand of Pharisee with a vengeance. Activists from the GLBT (etc.) community convey a kind of moral and psychological invulnerability which when countered provokes an ugly defensiveness. And the enemy empowers this cause. Never before have we seen such a radical and irrational shift in public opinion concerning ‘gender diversity.’ What was once commonly understood as brokenness is now championed as an often superior alternative to male and female.

Only Mercy can counter this new Pharisee. Only living water can saturate the broken foundation on which these constructs are built. Only Mercy can dissolve these defenses. The false confidence and fleeting joy of these fractured ‘selves’ can only be displaced by a greater love.

Only Mercy invites us to own our most profound hunger. Jesus becomes the meal. At the Cross, the site of His complete self-giving, we can lay down our lies and welcome the Truth that makes all things new.

‘You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” ’ (Rev. 3: 17)

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Mercy, Manilla

‘The knowledge of my own misery allows me to know the immensity of Your mercy.’ St. Faustina Kowalska

Mercy, Manilla Photo by GoyaI slumped on the plane to the Philippines, wearied by a buzz of pesky conflicts. Some involved others’ sin; most mine. Life reduced me to mercy. I took heart at Jesus’ words to those ‘confident in their own righteousness’ (Lk 18: 9-14): the despised tax collector cried out for mercy and got heaven, leaving the virtuous, self-reliant Pharisee in hell.

Storms accompany my advances. I have learned to find merciful Jesus there. He uses His enemy to chase me into the mercy pool. I wanted to release buckets to the beautiful Philippinos who were celebrating 12 years of Living Waters.

I met leader-to-be Benjie Cruz in 2001 during our first conference in Manila. He led out with his weakness. Assigned to care for the team, he welcomed our invitation to confess our sins together. Benjie cried for mercy over concrete homosexual sins, a confession that reached God’s heart and mine.

The Philippines is an honor-based culture; the most dishonorable thing you can do is to lose ‘face’ by admitting shameful things. How extraordinary for an aspiring leader to risk the favor of men for mercy!

It did not entirely surprise me that last weekend Benjie and wife Hasel hosted a conference of over 800 Christians in Manila. People were turned away. Honest. I can barely crack 50 when I show up in US venues. How disorienting (and delightful) to welcome a diverse group of sinners into the mercy pool. Benjie dove in first and God gave the increase.

Catholics and Protestants came in droves to immerse themselves in the solution for the scandal of sexual disintegration among them. They know their disgrace. Recently a group of 400 Catholic 4th graders admitted unanimous exposure to Intent porn. Every other city motel is designed for short-term sexual trysts. Innumerable young men strut about as grotesque female prostitutes.

Poverty drives perversion here; the enemy takes advantage of the weakest. Still he dresses himself up in seductive ‘western-wear.’ The nation is riveted by the number one nightly soap opera–‘My Husbands’ Lover—all about a sexy upscale homosexual affair.

Faithful Philippinos watch with dread as the USA gives way to ‘gay marriage’ and gay everything. A firewall has given way. They know Jesus is their only hope. God hears their cry for mercy.

I have not seen such a concerted effort among the whole church to fight for the dignity of the nation, sexually-speaking. A Catholic high school is piloting Living Waters; Baptist professors are leading sexual addiction groups for students. The largest Catholic conference this year (20,000 strong) will feature those set free from the domination of homosexuality. In the battle for a pure Bride, believers are laying aside prejudices toward one another. We are crying out for mercy together.

‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may go through the gates…The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.’ (Rev. 22: 14, 17)

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Getting Low for the Lost

One day last January, God alerted me to the truth that an aggressive, cruel spirit, masking itself as an angel of light, had quickened its assault on humanity.

8am: a man to whom I had been sharing Christ stopped our conversation short by introducing me to his new male lover then politely refused any more ‘God-talk.’ Noon: some dear friends called me to in tears to tell us that their son had just ‘come out’ and that the conservative Christian college he attended was supporting his new ‘gay self’. 4pm: a Christian leader called me to ask for help for a devout father of 4 children whose wife had just abandoned the family for a female lover in CA.

6pm: I staggered home, literally dizzy, disoriented by the darkness tearing apart individuals and families.

I prayed and immediately a scene from an old Hitchcock film appeared. A murderer is fleeing the authorities in an amusement park; to escape them, he leaps on a crowded merry-go-round. He strikes down one pursuer who falls on the lever which determines the velocity of the ride. The carousel speeds up, to the delight of the kids then to their peril. Now spinning like a top, the merry-go-round casts off all restraint, sending parents and children in every direction.

One mechanic nearby knows how to slow the ride. To do so, he must get on his belly, and slither under the carousel until he reaches its center. There lies the brake and the only hope for stopping the carnage. He gets low, and saves many lives from the chaotic subterfuge at hand.

I believe that God is asking the same of us. Will we get low in this hour and cry out for godly restraint in our land? Will we cry out for mercy for our sins, for our loved ones, for our beloved, idolatrous nation? God responds to the heart humbled by its own sin, steeped in mercy. We face an irrational, growing deception that the ‘gay self’ is good and must satisfied at all costs. Only the cry for mercy can restrain such deception.

We get low for those who have been disoriented by secular misinterpretations of same-sex attraction. Hear the voice of one who was raised by two mothers.

Robert Oscar Lopez writes: ‘Growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors. People around us did not know what was going on in the house. To most outsiders, I was a well-raised, high functioning child. Inside however, I was confused. When your home is so drastically different form everyone around you, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders…I just grew up in a home so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

My peers learned all the unwritten rules of decorum and body language in their homes…they learned both traditionally masculine and feminine social mechanisms…I had no male figure to follow, and few recognizable social cues to offer potential male or female friends, since I was neither confident nor sensitive to others. Thus I befriended people rarely and alienated people easily…Life is hard when you are strange.’ (‘Growing Up with Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View’, Public Discourse, August 6, 2012.)

For 40 days, beginning September 28th, we are going to get low and cry out for those like Robert Lopez who have been thrown off the carousel. For the sake of generations to come, we ask God to employ our repentance as merciful restraint to its velocity. For a full prayer guide to our 40-days of prayer, email aarmstrong@desertstream.org.

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Merciful Discipline 5: Hopeful, We Fight for the Dignity and Integrity of Our Priests

This is the fifth 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 5: Hopeful, We Fight for the Dignity and Integrity of Our Priests

The fine work and selfless dedication of the great majority of priests should not be obscured by the transgressions of some. – Pope Benedict

I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do what is in My heart and mind, and his house will be firmly established. (1 Samuel 2:15)

As a new Catholic, I have a fresh appreciation for the honorable, difficult office of the priest. I rely upon three priests in my parish for daily Mass and confession; each has exemplified Jesus in a way that puts me to shame. Decades of involvement in the evangelical church have not prepared me for the spirit of sacrifice and humility that I see in these three men. I have grown in virtue through their service to Jesus. As I seek to honor Christ, I am committed to honor them, His priests.

The essential role of the Roman Catholic priest plays in the life of each congregant grants us a powerful opportunity. We who benefit from his offering can fight for his dignity, his renewal and his integrity. How? We can prayerfully encourage him and verbally champion him amid the scorn now associated with his office due to the perversion of a few.

We must not mimic the world and bite the hand that feeds us. We uphold him in gratitude and ask for eyes to see the phantom hand that slaps him with each new exposure of priestly abuse. Well over 96% of priests have clean hearts and hands. Might our honor of them be their balm?

Out of these scandals, the entire Church, beginning with her priests, can avoid the pitfalls that made a handful of priests deadly to their sheep. And we the sheep have a role to play in understanding these vulnerabilities and prayerfully empowering our priests to avoid them.

The John Jay Report (‘The Causes and Context of the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the USA from 1950-2010’) cites the sexual revolution—the moral and socio-cultural quake that occurred in the sixties and seventies, as the driving influence that multiplied the number of sexual abuses by priests in that time period. A moral ozone layer burned off and all of us, including priests, experienced a new nakedness. That ‘unveiling’ was not adequately countered by Catholic seminaries in their choice of candidates and in the sexual formation needed to prepare priests for the moral challenges ahead.

Especially hard hit were priests who suffered from poor social adjustment and who lacked the capacity to form adequate bonds with colleagues. Already isolated, these priests would tend to pursue teenagers—targets who were sexually ‘mature’ but emotionally undemanding.

Add to this the easy access to virtual pornography that an isolated priest might employ to stoke unattended, unacknowledged desires with any false image he chooses.

Cowardly, evil, worthy of the indignation Cardinal Ratzinger expressed in his pre-papal meditation for Good Friday 2005 when he lamented: ‘How much filth there is in the Church, and even those in the priesthood who ought to belong entirely to Him!’

We also must seek to understand these vulnerabilities. Priests who abuse are essentially disintegrated, having never done the hard work of being reconciled to their sexual selves. That requires hard work for a celibate, and for those mentoring him. To know one’s desires and needs and to work them out fruitfully with others while remaining pure: that is chastity. And it is an expression of integrity that we must insist on for our priests.

We must pray and prod for priestly training in self-awareness, mutual confession, and healthy, transparent friendship. That lines up with Benedict’s commitment. In 2008, addressing the US Church in light of the abuse crisis, he said: ‘We [the Vatican] will do all that is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep spiritual, human, and intellectual formation for the students. Only solid persons can be admitted to the priesthood and only persons with a deep personal life in Christ…’

Out of such training, in an increasingly disintegrated world, let us pray that St. Paul’s words may be exemplified by our priests as they stand “blameless and pure, children of God in a crooked and perverse generation, in which they shine like stars in the universe as they hold out the Word of life.” (Phil. 2: 15, 16)

O my Jesus, I beg You on behalf of the whole Church, give us holy priests. You Yourself, maintain them in holiness. O Divine and Great High Priest, may the power of Your Mercy accompany them everywhere and protect them from the devil’s traps and snares which are continuously set for the souls of priests. May the power of Your Mercy, O Lord, shatter and bring to naught all that might tarnish the sanctity of priests, for You can do all things. (1052) St. Faustina

It is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. – Pope Benedict

MORE:

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

 

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