Tag Archives: Rest

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Fighting for the Faithful

“And the Lord said to Elijah: ‘I reserve 7000 in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.’ ” (1K 19: 18)

Fighting For The Faithful Key Photo by BohmanIt is always good to remember why we do what we do: we clarify the way for the sexually broken to discover Jesus’ wholeness. The enemy makes every effort to obscure that path. We highlight the One altar on which we are saved and set free.

We must stay tender and sharp. Healers carry a sword these days, dividing light from darkness. Humble cooperation matters more than ever. We need the whole healing community: pastors, counselors, teachers, intercessors, lay healers whose prayers bring His presence ever near to the broken.

That great cloud of witnesses was on vivid display in the last 6 weeks. Freedom-fighters abounded at the RHN Conference, the weeklong Ministries of Pastoral Care, two Living Waters Trainings (in the USA and MX), and the Courage Conference. Though diverse, these offerings shared a prophetic, countercultural and thoroughly healing invitation to the sexually broken.

Grateful for all who participated, I was also exhausted. The witness of Elijah after his victory over the prophets of Baal helped me here (1K 19). I offer these keys for all my beloved colleagues who fight for the faithful.

Expect Down Times

Jezebel swore to destroy Elijah as a result of his victory. Exhausted, the oppressed prophet cried out to God: ‘I have had enough Lord, take my life.’ (I K 19: 4) Romano Guardini reminds us that ‘a prophet’s life is shaken by all storms and all weaknesses. At times the Spirit hoists him far above the heights of human accomplishments, drawing upon the power that unhinges history. At other times, the Spirit drops him, and back he plunges into darkness and impotency.’

Might we prepare to land in the everlasting arms?

Eat Well

God spared Elijah’s life with this command: ‘Get up and eat’ (v. 5). We too can arise in our depleted state and take our place at the table in God’s house. Freedom-fighters need the feast of freedom. Whether the Eucharist, the breaking open of the Word, or tender consolations from trusted church men, we can aim our appetites at eternal fare. We can go deep with only the slightest surrender. We need heaven’s help; ‘we need God to love God.’ (Mike Bickle) Jesus is the Source that helps us draw rightfully from earthly goods.

Listen

Quiet your heart. After the rush of anointed gatherings, we may try to stay connected with others through a variety of means. All good but one thing is essential: the quiet voice of God. Elijah shows us the way to listen. God concealed Himself from the prophet in a mighty wind, an earthquake and a fire; He revealed Himself in a gentle whisper (vs. 11, 12). Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube are poor substitutes for the silence that invites Speech. Unplug and listen.

Nearly overcome by weariness and many cares, I listened. God gave me a picture of many seeking to climb a steep mountain. Many were falling to their death. I saw a thick, sure rope that a steady string of climbers had taken hold of and were ascending with the help of one another. The line of climbers ran straight up the middle of chaos. Many were heading home, and becoming beautiful in the climb.

Remember

God reminded me that a multitude is in training throughout the world. They will not bow down to Baal out of reverence for Jesus Christ. Our task is to fortify the faithful and together, to ascend the hill of the Lord.

‘The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.’ (Ex. 14: 14)

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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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Broken and Beautiful

What relevance is the Resurrected Christ for those struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction? Or with any other profound sexual problem?

As one who shares that struggle, I often feel like the rather clueless disciples, stumbling about in the dark with the risen Christ. Disoriented by mixed signals from the church and world, ‘harassed at every turn’ (2 Cor 7:5), I fail to see Him among us.

And yet in blessed moments, He opens our eyes and we see Him as He is. His tender power surpasses our deepest need and transcends moral abstractions. In an instant we realize that our need is only Him—His Real Presence, the life of the world becoming our life, the center in which we rest, the anchor of our soul, sure and steadfast. (Heb. 6:19)

Mysteries, all, made tangible by His body, broken for us and beautiful. It is fitting that only at table together, in the breaking of the bread—the re-presentation of His crucifixion, of His brokenness, that the disciples’ eyes were opened to behold Jesus in His resurrection, His wholeness.

‘When He was at table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him…’ (Lk 24: 30)

I am convinced that we shall behold the Risen Christ only when we discover Him in His broken body.

A few nights back I revisited the beauty of that brokenness. We gathered as one body at our Living Waters Training; there I taught on overcoming sexual brokenness through the advocacy of the Church. Given the unusually high levels of confusion in our culture today over same-sex attraction, I felt compelled to urge all same-sex strugglers (approximately one-third of the group) to come forward. The remaining folks–‘the traditionally-broken’—came forward to lay hands on them and impart power from on high.

God brought such freedom. The Risen Christ met us in acknowledged brokenness and revealed Himself to us: tender power to raise those deadened by fear and confusion and to make us one body.

If we want to know Him, the Risen Lord, we must be known by them: His body, broken and beautiful.

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No Doubt

Since Easter Sunday, I have never faced such irrational insistence that those with SSA (same-sex attraction) cannot change. The world and worldly church is diabolically united: the gay self is the true self, liberated only in active expression.

Thank God for Easter. Thank God for the season of Easter that spans far beyond its six weeks in the Church calendar; Jesus’ resurrection reminds us daily that He has trumped our old nature and activates us afresh to resume our pilgrimage. Following the Risen Christ is always a path toward maturity, with clear markers for our sexual and relational humanity. United with Him, we ascend slowly towards a horizon of boundless light.

Each morning I rejoice in these words I share with my fellow congregants: ‘Save us, Savior of the world. For by Your cross and resurrection, You have set us free.’ We are saved, and can cry out daily to be saved from the unbelieving world and worldly church.

A skeptic might say: ‘Aren’t you spiritualizing a much deeper human conflict?’ Again, I point to Jesus who always restores our weak, estranged humanity by His beautiful true humanity. Scripture abounds with references to Jesus’ many healing gifts ‘enfleshed’ in a body and a family. His skeptics discredited Him: ‘Where did He get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?’ ((Matt. 13:54, 55). Jesus the man meets us in our humanity; He meets us in all of our conflicts with wisdom and miraculous power.

In His inspired humanity, Jesus unites the divided parts of our humanity and encourages what is weak. His humanity makes ours whole.

His resurrected humanity seals our hope for freedom from homosexuality. Shaken as we may be by growing darkness on all sides, we can heed Jesus’ response to doubting Thomas:

‘Peace be with you! Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Stop doubting and believe.’ (Jn 20: 26, 27)

Jesus is risen from the death of sin and its many fractures and conflicts, including ours. He breathes peace on us this day. He grants us fresh access to His beautiful humanity, wounds yet visible. Behold the faithful witness of our freedom. Stop doubting and believe.

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Merciful Discipline 6: Humbled, We Shine

This is the sixth 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 6: Humbled, We Shine

‘When You disciplined us, we could barely whisper a prayer.’ (IS 26:16)

‘Christ’s abiding presence in the midst of our suffering is gradually transforming our darkness into light.’ Pope Benedict

The sexual abuse crisis in the Church brings us to our knees. We do not kneel politely but painfully, a sprawl rather than a pose. On behalf of those felled by the weight of a priest’s perversion, we too stumble and fall. Behold the scandal we share: the Greek word ’skandalon’ means stumbling block, a sizable obstacle in the path of another’s salvation.

Pope Benedict is right. Our ‘skandalon’ has “obscured the light of the Gospel to a degree that not even centuries of persecution succeeded in doing.”

Lent redeems our falling by redirecting it. Lent points us to another stumbling block, the Crucified Christ (1Cor 1:23), who draws us magnetically to Himself amid the suffering and shame of abuse and its cover-up. He invites us to fall forward into Himself, the sole Source that can bear the unbearable. Any momentum toward obliterating the stumbling block of sexual abuse in the Church begins facedown before the Cross. We repent for the disintegration of lives, the shattering of trust, and how abuse mocks the Church and her championing the dignity of each life.

Shame is transformed into substantial good at the Cross. Just as there is a momentum to the evil of abuse, fanning out like fissures from an earthquake, so repentance before the Crucified overcomes evil. Jesus Himself assumes the web of wounds and rouses the darkened Church, preparing her to shine once more. Our resurrection is founded on His justice and mercy. We arise in humbled passion for the integrity of our Church.

Brimming with new life, we must act. Shame’s transformation requires more than mystical transactions. Will we follow Benedict’s call to bear witness with our very lives of a transparent, integrated Church who lives the truths she upholds?

From the beginning of his papacy, Benedict faced a hemorrhaging crisis of abuse. He realized that the dignity of all people, beginning with the education of children, required the transparent integrity of the Church. To him, sexual abuse was more than an isolated problem of priestly perversion; it signaled a disturbing shift in the entire culture toward sexual values that dehumanized others.

‘Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and crude manipulations of sexuality so prevalent today.’ (Address to US Bishops, 2008)

Degradations and manipulations like the priestly abuse of children! More than ever, we need a humbled witness from the top down of sexual integration. What does it mean to live chastely? How do we acquire self-control and pass it on to a generation already exposed to more filth than at any other time in history?

The church must reclaim its beautiful (and bravely counter-cultural) teaching on chastity–beginning with her priests. We must discover together how Jesus and His community help us to actually integrate God’s will for our sexuality into the fabric of our real lives. That means more than preaching another round of conservative sexual ethics; we must also wrestle honestly with our ‘ethos’–our desires and conflicts.

Jesus wants to transform our hearts–our affections, our attitudes, our motives– that we might embody a living morality. Repentance before the Crucified is key. While sexual abuse is the ultimate ‘disintegrator’, Jesus’ redeeming power in our lives always points to integration, toward wholeness. The stench of abusive priests must be overcome by the fragrance of those priests who live chaste lives through the cross and its community. Following their good lead, we too can embody what it means to offer our chaste selves to one another.

We the laity must do our part. As the numbers of priests are declining, we must increase our commitment to transparent service of the Church. We can ensure that our dioceses have solid systems in place for responding quickly and impartially to abuse charges, and especially to the abused. These systems must become normative!

The abuse crisis has struck an inspired blow against clericalism. It has altered her ‘in-house’ mentality, and she is learning to yield substantial control to empowered laity and civil authorities. As with any organizational shift in values and praxis, this will require time and vigilance on the part of all.

Change takes time. Change is taking place. We now have a better grasp of the horror of priestly abuse and how to prevent it than we had 10 years ago. In spite of our problems, the US Church has exemplified candor for the worldwide Church whose abuses are just beginning to be revealed. Their ‘skandalon’ is ours; we have much yet to endure. We can do so through the One who endured all in order to transform our shame into glory.

Abuse has struck us down, but we are not destroyed. (2Cor 4:9) Our dying is not fatal. We see life-signs–the fruit of God’s purifying, disciplining hand. He is judging clericalism, and inspiring a more humble, candid hierarchy; He is weeding out ill-equipped candidates for the priesthood and empowering solid clerics and laity; He is calling the Church to a new integrity in how she embodies her truth.

Merciful discipline. God is having His way with His Bride.

‘The truth must come out; without the truth we will never be set free. We must face the truth of the past; repent it; make good the damage done. And yet we must move forward day by day along the painful path of renewal, knowing that it is only when human misery encounters face-to-face the liberating Mercy of God that our Church will be truly restored and enriched.’ Dublin Archbishop Martin, 2010

‘We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, leading to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church.’ John Paul II

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

MORE:

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

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