Tag Archives: provoking life

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Provoking Life 3

‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ (Jn 12: 24)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEaster is best realized in contrasts. Like green shoots emerging from a burnt field, new life is most appreciated against the backdrop of loss. Easter invites us to consider what Jesus is raising up from the ashes.

I hope I am not being dramatic here. After all, Scripture implores us to count all things loss for the sake of knowing Him more. (Phil. 3: 7, 8) These losses may be deeply personal: long-held expectations and aspirations that we have forsaken for the Gospel. It can also be the disorientation we experience when those around us change. Familiar rallying points crumble before our eyes. We are left anxious and more alone, unsure of what lies ahead and of our capacity to make it through a new wilderness.

But Jesus is not shaken. The Risen Lord waits for us to look to Him in ways that we would not were the course familiar. Easter means looking only to Him. It is easy to deny ourselves when our maps and instincts fail. Fear can give rise to faith in the One who is Light in darkness, Truth in trembling, the Way in our wilderness.

As I have reflected upon this past year leading up to Easter. I have marveled at the shifts in my life that have grounded me deeper in Jesus. Admittedly, I have lived most of my adult life as a Christian in joyful conflict with the culture. Yet in the last year I have experienced more resistance to what I hold true than in the 32 years of ministry that preceded it.

What I know to be true is now denounced as false, even scandalous and inhuman. The majority cannot hear about the transformation of persons with same-sex attraction without the assumption that one is a liar, a brain-washer, a right-wing extremist, or at worst, an accomplice to the suicide of ‘gay’ kids who cannot endure such ‘hate.’

Through it all, my wife Annette and I draw upon the life Jesus gives us to love each other well. And to declare more clearly than ever the Way to wholeness for those broken in boundaries and gender identity. The contrast between truth and falsehood has never been sharper. So shall our witness be brighter in the light of our Risen King.

The other day I asked Jesus to show me whatever gain could be found in ongoing surrender to Him amid the devolving culture. Immediately, He showed me a body bursting with what looked like tiny bean sprouts. Teeming with new life, that body could not contain the new life planted there! I knew right away that these were seeds of truth and grace He had sustained for this hour. Through His faithful witnesses, He intends to unfurl every one for the restoration of many.

Annette and I just gathered with our main Living Waters leaders from around the USA  gathered to reveal Jesus to each other. Sure enough, the majority bore the marks of significant losses: broken fellowship with churches, leaders, and friends as a result of seismic shifts in attitude about homosexuality. But the broken ground of our lives together became rich soil in which crushed seeds of hope and healing emerged. Jesus made the blackened field green with new life. Living Water is transforming our ‘deserts’ into oases for many.

What mattered most in our fellowship was the witness of the Risen Lord who becomes our gain, and through us, gains a people for Himself. In this we provoke one another. We ache and articulate grief in order to make more room for Him and our fellows. He is galvanizing us for such a time as this.

‘May the thorns of sin which wound the human heart leave room for new shoots of grace, of God’s presence and love, which triumph over sin and death.’ – Pope Emeritus Benedict

 

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Provoking Life, Part 2

‘See! The winter is passed; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth, the season of singing has come.’ (S of S 2: 11, 12)

SONY DSCAmid the battle for souls—the gravitational pull of sin and sadness–let us discover the upward rising of Easter. The Spirit of Resurrection speaks to us constantly; in truth, ‘the heavens pour forth speech.’(PS 19:2) More evident than the life-signs of spring, we can detect the Spirit of Resurrection everywhere. All we must do is listen and look.

Jesus stormed the gates of hell to get us out of there. Let us encounter the blessed power of this new life in our fellows. Let us declare the triumph of Easter.

Last week I had the privilege of eating lunch at the home of Melissa and Garry Ingraham in upstate New York. Both come out of histories of same-sex attraction; together, united in Christ, they declare His image—humble and whole as man and woman submit to each other out of reverence for Him. (Eph. 5: 21)

Their household is full of life. The couple assumed the care of Garry’s aging parents. Father is dead now but Mother carries on peacefully through their love. Though stooped in body, she stands upright in Christ. Doubtless she is assisted by the joyful presence of the Ingraham’s two toddlers. These boys are forces of life, grounded in love. Both bear witness of an attentive mother whose challenges are offset by the care of a faithful husband.

After a meal with Garry and Melissa, I felt renewed. Instead of being overwhelmed by all the variables of their life, the sheer goodness of that life lifted me up. The Ingrahams testify of Resurrection without sermonizing.

The next day I visited my favorite couple in New York City, Joe and Anne Nolte. Joe is a great friend from Vineyard days, and Anne is a new friend, a doctor and fellow Catholic who received a prophetic call from God. She said ‘yes’ to providing the only genuinely Catholic women’s health clinic in Manhattan. That means no contraception or abortion, with wise and natural help for couples seeking to overcome obstacles to pregnancy. All this in the most expensive and (arguably) secular zone in the USA!

Jesus is committed to life; He has blazed a trail for this faithful woman. She now helps engender life in couple after couple who have found her ‘life-space’—a small suite of offices in midtown Manhattan. And what life! Anne proudly showed me pictures of 180 babies who have been born as a result of her team’s inspired care. Each one is a miracle, an Easter gift delivered by servants who said ‘yes’ to His life.

New York City can be intimidating: rich, inaccessible, proud. Life rises from its depths, more powerful than the down-drag of sin and selfishness.

Jesus has risen from the dead, and we rise with Him. Like the Noltes and the Ingrahams, we have the privilege of including others in that upward surge. He delights in giving us His Kingdom, (Lk 12:32) and our joy hinges on extending that life to others.

‘Without the Life, there is no living.’ (Thomas A Kempis)

‘Let us consider how we may provoke one another to love and good deeds.’ – (Heb. 10: 24)

 

 

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