Tag Archives: Purity

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

November 13, 2014: Bridal Bath and Meal

‘On that day a fountain will be opened to cleanse the house of David, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, from sin and impurity.’ (Zech. 3:1)

The Cross and its fountain of blood and water (Jn 19:34) is the source of our cleansing. Immersed, God cleanses us in order to wed Himself to us. As Brant Pitre reminded us, the Cross is bridal—the way Jesus lays claim to us as His ‘spouse.’ He gave all to gain us at Calvary; there, He pledged His life as the evidence of His ardor and commitment to us. He prepares us for communion with Himself through the ‘living water’ released on the Cross. 

Consummation requires purity, just as any marriage couple understands. We want to be clean in body and spirit for each other in the marriage bed. How much more for persons who seek intimate communion with the living God? We first discover this cleansing through the waters of baptism. Then we revisit those waters over and over through the confession of our sins and the reception of forgiveness.

More than merely looking back on our baptism, confession invites the Spirit of Resurrection to stir those waters and to grant us a double portion of God’s grace to go forward and overcome the sin. Through a priest or elder, as well as through trustworthy prayer partners, we do our part ‘to stay in the spray’ of Calvary.

Each confession matures God’s sanctifying work in our lives; every admission of disintegration makes us more whole! I love confession because I know it is the one act I am always free to do that will contribute instantly to intimacy with God. That intimacy requires an ongoing bridal bath. The world is dirty and our hearts are not immune to its filth. Daily life necessitates ongoing confession.

We wash ourselves in holy water in order to partake of the holy meal. Confession precedes communion. And what a feast God has prepared for us! Both Brant Pitre and Christopher West have done marvelous jobs in helping us grasp how communion is a bridal meal, the gift of God that conveys to us and secures in us the spousal union God seeks with us.

Pitre writes: ‘If Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church His Bride, then the Lord’s supper is a wedding banquet in which God gives Himself entirely to His Bride in a new and everlasting marriage covenant.’ Through His broken body and shed blood, Jesus unites Himself to us His bride. That meal is the ongoing way we participate in and celebrate again our spousal bond—God dwelling with humanity through His sacrificial pledge of love. ‘The sincere gift of the Sacrifice of the Cross gives prominence to the spousal meaning of God’s love…the Eucharist is the Sacrament of our Redemption, and of the Bridegroom and the Bride.’ (JPll)

The world distorts our appetites, at once exaggerating and deadening real desire. Communion reminds us of whose we are; it invites us to partake of the very One who alone has power to reorder our desires around perfect Love. The bridal bath and meal grants us the grace to become a holy spouse–good gifts to Himself and others.

‘Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.’ (Song of Sol 1:2)

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Eastern Midwest Region, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Amy Van Cott – Coordinator:  For strength and vision for Amy, for existing groups and to see new groups established.
  2. International Theology of the Body Congress (www.tobcongress.com): Advance for beautiful teachings of John Paul II throughout the world.
  3. Denver Diocese: Discernment for timing and team of new Living Waters group.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”


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Downward Ascent 6: Blessed Impurities

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ (Matt. 5:8)

Lent is an extended season of exposure. For 40 days, God tends to reveal the thoughts and intentions of our hearts; He highlights what is in our hearts rather than what we would like others to think. For example, this Lent God is exposing the folly that I am in truth a merciful person. Yes, I am inclined to show compassion to sexually broken people. But toward traditional men with a regional Midwest mindset I am in truth arrogant and unforgiving. I love partially, at best.

I expect God to level me at Lent. I need to be. So does Desert Stream. He disciplines those He loves. He loved us enough this year to reveal division in our ranks, petty unspoken judgments that threatened to become rifts on our small staff. One year He revealed sexual compromise, another year financial and administrative ones, the next year our failure as a ministry to tithe. We have learned to accept the revelation of our impurities as a terrible gift.

No-one likes to be humbled. But to be emptied again in order to be filled with mercy and power from on high—smells like Jesus, a fragrance that frees us once more to stay true to Him. Accepting the truth of impurities invites us to welcome the Pure One who alone has power to cleanse us. So purity hinges on the exposure of our impurities.

Maybe we need to rethink ‘exposure’. Though the term naturally invokes shame– the dread of being found out–we may want to turn that around. Perhaps our awareness of impurity is actually a sign that we are becoming pure: less tolerant of falsehood and more sensitive to what pleases Him. Awareness of impurity may actually be a sign that we are becoming more like Him.

C.S Lewis thinks so. He writes in Mere Christianity: ‘When a man is getting better, he understands more clearly the evil that is left in him. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present; it is the very sign of His presence.’

Realizing impurity is a sign of intimacy with Him; submitting that impurity to Him can serve to deepen intimacy all the more. What the devil wants to use to destroy a soul or a ministry, God transforms into an occasion for holy love.

The most winsome Christians I know are those who are painfully aware of their propensity to sin and deeply reliant upon Jesus and His friends as the basis for their purity. I smell the fragrance of holiness in them: holiness sourced in mercy and gratitude.

Purity is a gift from God to persons who respond to the revelation of impurity by plunging and remaining in the mercy pool at the foot of the Cross.

Might we be less shocked by Lenten exposure and more grateful? Let the Spirit of St. Teresa of Avila fill you. When opponents accused her of being sexually impure, she responded: ‘If they really knew me, they would say far worse things about me than that!’

Jesus said that the heart is the source of murder, adultery, lying, theft and slander (Matt. 15:19). Blessed are those who welcome their Source at the source of sin. Purity results: the freedom to see the One who sets us free. For such freedom, the 40 days of Lent may not be long enough!

PRAYER for Monday March 31st: ‘Father, we ask for the grace to behold whatever impurity You want to expose in us this Lent.’

PRAYER for Tuesday April 1st: ‘Father, help us to know our hearts in regards to such exposure. Do we tend to turn away, tempted to hide, or do we turn to You? Reveal the source of our disquiet: is it fear and shame, pride or presumption? Help us to accept inspired exposure as a gift, not a punishment.’

PRAYER for Wednesday April 2nd: ‘Father, renew in us the power of the confessional. May we revisit those ones You have placed in our lives to whom we can pour out the truth of sin and in exchange receive wisdom and forgiveness. Grant us a taste of the purity You offer us in the place of impurity.’

PRAYER for Thursday April 3rd: ‘Father, show us persons in our lives who manifest holiness born out of mercy and gratitude. Help us to be more like them, more like Jesus.’

PRAYER for Friday April 4th: ‘Father, reveal to our loved ones the love that exposes. In kindness, reveal their inspired need for the purity and integrity only You can give them in exchange for their sin.’

PRAYER for Saturday April 5th: ‘Father, reveal how we tend to dismiss our sins in light of the more obvious violations of fallen loved ones. Show us our smug religious pride. Please free us from self-satisfaction; free us for loving hearts and deeds toward the lost born of mercy and gratitude.’

PRAYER for Sunday April 6th: ‘Father, make us Your pure Church, born out of honest reckoning with our impurities. Help us to see You. We welcome Your exposure as You prepare us to become a radiant Bride, without stain or wrinkle (Eph. 5: 27).’

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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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