Tag Archives: Repentance

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
ignite the torch joy of love

Ignite the Torch

‘The Church must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children by restoring their hope like a torch carried among the people to enlighten those who have lost their way in the midst of a storm.’ Joy of Love, Pope Francis

While Pope Francis magnificently honors marriage in his recent exhortation, he falters in fueling the torch necessary to enlighten persons lost in the storm surrounding homosexuality. Yes, he exposes the lie of constructing one’s own gender ‘self’. But he falls fall short of illuminating Christ Crucified and Raised as the fire that can consume the disordered heart and win it over to holy love.

Pope Francis does not connect the dots. On the one hand he alludes to misbegotten cultural shifts like ‘gay marriage’ and the folly of being tossed about by self-serving, shortsighted desires. He highlights the Gospel passages in which sexual sinners are admonished by Jesus ‘to live more worthy lives’ as His love awakens ‘consciousness of sin.’ Yet his pastoral directives for enlightening persons lost in the gender storm are bland and dim; Francis invokes accompaniment and the law of gradualism and other references to walking with persons in pain. All good—but none adequate to awaken the soul in darkness to the saving light of Jesus.

I longed to hear Francis refer to repentance and sexual sin in the same sentence. He hesitates here. Inspired by the Spirit and commensurate with the damage done, the urgent call for repentance seems in line with Francis’ consistent regard for ‘the immense psychological burden’ that unfaithful adults impose upon children. We serve justice to kids by returning to the Father and casting off destructive identities and relationships. By aspiring to be faithful ‘gender’ witnesses, we the repentant do our part to meet the identity needs of children.

For this, we the Church need to declare the clear and compassionate call for all to turn to Jesus amid confused identities. Repentance is the base on which our eyes are opened and we can begin to make wise choices. Yes we slowly progress in our moral formation, and yes such formation is founded on the Word who exposes our chains and offers Himself as the key.

I now live in a Catholic world where the slight majority uphold gay unions, are intolerant (often cruel) to persons who lovingly refuse to bless ‘gay unions’, and whose clergy men tend to invoke a repentance-free mercy for persons with SSA. Where is the Church who blazes like a torch in order to enlighten her members? Where are the merciful lights to guide lost loved ones home? May God fan into flame a host of blazing lights to light the way in the storm that Francis describes but inadequately guides us through in this turbulent hour.

‘For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent; for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not remain quiet, until her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.’ (IS 62:1)

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Mercy 11: Merciful Surrender

‘I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!” The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, He saved me.’ (PS 116: 1-4)

Merciful Surrender by BethanWe live in an age proud of its sexual liberties. Personal rights now include the freedom to be any number of sexual variations. We may even invoke divine right to deviate: the Chair of Theology at a well-known Christian University left for the summer as a woman and returned as a man, insisting that God honored her self-assessment (and mutilation) above all else.

I am grateful for the simplicity of repentance. Jesus hears the cry for mercy! Given the variety of inclinations humans possess to find clarity and security outside of the Creator, God has given us Jesus to whom we can turn. As the Psalmist declares, He turns to us first, holding out loving kindness as the anchor for those of us getting tossed around by vain answers to our questions.

Whatever our starting points, turning toward the luminous God, His wounds yet visible, is the answer to our deepest cries. He is faithful to re-orient us around what is just and right and true for He embodies all three.

Jesus makes clear that the poor who are subject to the world’s folly have a place in His heart. All they must do is turn to Him in their poverty, not to false riches. ‘Those who are whole do not need a doctor but those who are sick. I come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’ (LK 5: 31, 32)

Some use such verses as a reason why Jesus advocates for those in sexual sin. May it never be! The point is this: Jesus is so luminous and powerful in love that He renders our idols worthless. He is magnetic in mercy, compelling in His pure compassion. As such, He gives us reason to repent from what we have turned to in our poverty. But repent we must.

In that choice, Jesus dignifies us and grants us a part in deciding who and what will master us: worldly solutions, or the Creator and Redeemer of that world.

Therein lies His power to restore us. We turn to Him, over and over: repentance becomes the rhythm of our restoration. With each temptation toward lust, self-doubt, and despair, we call on the merciful One. He takes the ground we give Him and sows good seed in it. He loves planting in broken soil! We become fruitful, having yielded our hearts’ deepest cries to Jesus.

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

Prayer Points:

    • Desert Stream/Living Waters: Pennsylvania, Jeff Comeaux, Regional Coordinator. Please pray for our efforts to start a LW group in the Catholic Church.
    • Restored Hope Network: Shadow of His Wings, San Antonio, TX. Lee & Shea Preston, Directors. Specialty: counseling and retreats for men, women, marriages, spouses and family members.
      Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), Washington, DC. Regina Griggs, Director. Specialty: caring for parents and family members of those struggling with SSA or living as LBGT.
    • Courage: Pray that Christian schools and universities would have God’s heart and mind as they discern how best to serve students with SSA.
  • Cor Project: Pray that we would be wise and faithful stewards of our resources.
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Housecleaning

‘For we are reduced, O Lord, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins.’ (Dan. 3: 37)

church in stormFor a couple years my pastor engaged in heterosexual immorality; we discovered this later, but in the meantime, everything changed. Our church became the soil for a strange kind of ‘grace’ teaching; out of his compromise, the pastor seeded a guilt-free, unclean Gospel among us. He extended his false liberty to us, a group of new converts barely free from our youthful addictions.

Another pastor I know recently changed his view on homosexual practice and now believes it is compatible with the Gospel. One of his staff had repented of her lesbian past and had resolved, at no small cost, to live a chaste life. Hearing her senior associate’s new view opened doors for her. She has since met a vulnerable woman in the church with who she is now sexually involved.

Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic leader, a cardinal, just acknowledged that he has been guilty of homosexual misconduct with several younger priests. (To his credit, he resigned and apologized for his actions.) No matter how conservative his theology, the ex-cardinal’s actions has sown perversion into a nation.

His sin also casts a deepening shadow on the cardinals who now gather to select a new pope. Several of these are already suspect of covering-up priestly sexual abuse in their nations. The weary ask: ‘Can anything good come out of Rome?’

Take heart. Jesus is not weary; He is intent on cleaning house. In the same way that He purged the temple of those who made the Father’s prayer house a den of thieves, Jesus will expose and get rid of those shepherds who prey on the sheep.

That was precisely Jesus’ point to the church at Thyatira. Jesus came to judge the church due to one Jezebel, a prophetic leader in the church who was leading congregants into that now familiar blend of sexual immorality and spiritual idolatry. (Rev. 2: 18-29) Sensual worship of the creature is an idolatry all its own.

His eyes blazing like fire, Jesus takes aim at those elders who did nothing about this woman’s ministry. Extraordinarily longsuffering with vulnerable sheep, Jesus is remarkably intolerant with tolerant shepherds. He claims that the elders have shirked their responsibility toward the most vulnerable. They let Jezebel do her thing, which involved seducing (v.20) and committing adultery (v.22) with the saints. Despite her claim to offer devotees ‘the deep things of God’ (1Cor 2:10), Jezebel is described by Jesus as trafficking in the ‘deep things of Satan’ (v.24).

Jesus is intolerant toward tolerating sexual immorality in His house. He insists on repentance, but claims that Jezebel will not repent. He thus visits judgment upon her and all that commit adultery with her. The unrepentant will suffer greatly, intensifying in the death of her offspring—morally, spiritually, physically. (v.22)

Jesus means business. His house will be a house of prayer, not of seduction. He wants us to love each other with clean hands and a pure heart. Those of us who know better need to help create a clean house for those just barely free from sexy idols. When we do this, we participate in ‘overcoming’ the deluge of false gods and goddesses tempting the people of God (v. 26). He promises that His very life, ‘the morning star,’ (v.28) will rise in our hearts and make a way for others, in truth the nations, to know Him more.

I close with this exhortation from Jude as to how we are to encourage the weaker ones to stand in purity. ‘Be merciful to those who doubt.’ (v.22) That means we reclaim those drawn to idolatry with kindness and gentleness. ‘Snatch others from the fire and save them.’ (v. 23) Decisive action is needed for those already under the power of sexual and spiritual seduction. Pray and love boldly. Jesus’ alone springs the trap but we can do our part!

Lastly, Jude urges us to be careful in our love, so that we do not fall under the deception of the beloved. “Show mercy mixed with godly fear.’ (v.23) That means we suffer long with profound mercy. We can do this while holding fast to God’s design for the vulnerable one as culled from Scripture and Church tradition. We proceed in mercy, certain of its power over sin and the judgment it incurs.

‘Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.’   (1Cor. 4:2)

 

 

 

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At Peace In War

As ‘gay pride month’, June always provokes a kind of dread in me. This month started out with a bang—a federal appeals court struck down the existing federal law defining marriage solely between a man and woman. Gay pride will swagger throughout the month, amplified by fawning journalists.

Many see the end in sight: finally, our nation is recognizing that homosexuality is a moral good—utterly normal, utterly on par with heterosexuality as solid ground for marriage and family.

Utter nonsense. While praying the other day, God showed me a picture of an oil spill that was spreading out and encasing vulnerable, beautiful creatures. At first the oil had little effect on them. Then it constricted movement, and finally their breathing. I saw a powerful balm being applied to the dying; it alone had power to dissolve the sludge and to restore life. I knew right away it was the blood of the Lamb, the only hope for those encased by ‘gay pride.’

I dread ‘gay pride month’ because it celebrates the slow death of beautiful, vulnerable men and women who believe the lie that homosexuality is their destiny. Unless they repent and receive the blood, they will perish.

31-years-ago this month, my bride and I sped away from our honeymoon suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. Our exit was blocked on every side by a massive ‘gay pride parade.’ The dreamy nuptials collided with a gender nightmare. We made it out fine, grateful for the blood that redeemed us and made us one.

Last Sunday (June 3rd), our second son Nick was ordained as an Anglican priest. The presiding bishop was an old friend—Dr. Todd Hunter, who decades ago led the Vineyard movement in the USA when Annette and I began to train Vineyard churches to heal their sexually broken.

Nick and Todd are both amazing expressions to us of God’s faithful love—the grace He still extends to us though our beloved Vineyard roots, but most importantly, the faithful love that redeems lives from the pit (Nick had his own sludge to reckon with) and sets their feet upon a rock. Our joy was full as we celebrated this public recognition of God’s favor upon Nick.

Todd commissioned Nick by reminding him how rest and peace are the earmarks of solid Christian leadership. “In repentance and rest will be your salvation; in quietness and trust will be your strength.” (Is. 30:15) In spite of the battle waging outside the church walls, God’s Spirit fell peacefully upon all of us. We sang His praise whole-heartedly.

June is ‘gay pride month’ but it is also the month of my marriage and son’s ordination. This is the day that God has made and has redeemed. I will go forth aware of the sludge but more deeply aware of the power of the blood. I will fight this month in peace.

‘I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.’ (PS 40: 1-3)

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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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