Tag Archives: Risen Christ

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who you looking at jesus

Who You Looking At?

Easter opens the eyes of our heart to see the Risen Christ. For the first time, again. He is here! He has walked through our walls; His gaze, lit with tender mercy, catches ours and enlivens our hearts, summoning us from the dead.

On Easter Sunday Annette and I experienced together that slight disappointment which one more often experiences on New Year’s Eve—high expectancy, low return. We were weary and subject to the slumber of small disturbances. We stalled at the empty tomb, our gazes cast down and dulled to the marvel of Jesus on the lam. I was jolted to life by the angels’ words to grieving tomb women: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen!’ (LK 24:5).

I immediately went into prayer, looking for this holy Rover. I found Him in my Divine Mercy image, the Risen Christ regarding me kindly, His wounds yet visible and pouring forth a life-giving stream of blood and water. I love this glimpse of Jesus and I centered on it like a spent child hungry for a parent’s attention. I’ve stayed near merciful Jesus since then as I journeyed to the Philippines for our biggest training there yet, one distinguished by Chinese translation and many participants from that great land. Challenges of size and language came easily as I fixed my eyes on Divine Mercy in the meeting hall and in my room. Wherever I went, I knew He was nearer than a brother–looking, loving, and sustaining my efforts through pure mercy.

During the first night of ministry, Jesus said: ‘Now that your heart is clear due to the way I look at you, I want you to look at every person that way, the way that I look at you’! What? I protested: ‘God, I am a busy man: I put my head down and charge to the next thing. ‘Linger’, He instructed, ‘Look with marvel at each one I have sent. Be My loving gaze upon them.’

DSM Staff in Manila.

I did what He said. When I was tempted to race, I looked up and out and inquired visually of each one’s well-being, blessing each in a Spirit of generous mercy. Especially with frustrated or annoying faces before me, I maintained a stream of merciful contact. I was helped by Acts 3:4 when Peter said to the hurting man pleading for healing: ‘Look at us.’ The cripple obeyed and was instantly healed when he gazed at Peter and John. I claim no such apostolic power but I know that an inspired look of love to a soul cast down steadies the uncertain heart.

After a while, I began to see other things—from the merciful gaze came prophetic sight as to who these ones actually were. Prospective burdens became beautiful sons and daughters of our Father. A royal procession emerged from the ash heap: kings and queens, lovers and warriors, exquisite representatives of Jesus. The prophetic vision lasted throughout the week and only increased when God knew I would say what I saw. These ones now know that Jesus has destroyed the low ceiling that stunted their stature. As they emerge into their full, original form, we together proclaim in awestruck wonder: He has risen, and we with Him!

‘It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as what you meet…only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities…that we should conduct all our dealings with one another.’ – C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

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Reduced to Resurrection

easter-resurrectionDuring Holy Week a few years back, Sam (my youngest son) came home late. In simple desperation, he said to me: ‘I need Jesus. I need help.’ His drug problem was consuming him. In severe mercy, Jesus reduced him to new life. Sam had been baptized years before. Now he needed to be raised from the dead.

This Holy Week a pastor recounted to me the return of Kim, a congregant who had left her husband and kids years before for another woman. Her lover became physically violent and she returned to the Lord. Her family has moved on. Her help is Jesus, and a small band of Christians. Kim has no idea what His new life will mean for her now. She is reduced to Resurrection.

In this Easter season we can hold an overly facile view of the Living God. He can too easily become a familiar ‘life-source’, as natural as the flowers and birds of spring. We forget the shock: the challenge commanded by the Resurrection.

‘Resurrection proclaims true freedom’, says Barth, ‘and lets us painfully discover our prison chains. It tells us that the one and only refuge is God. It tells us that only because it shows us that all our positions on life’s battlefield are lost and we must vacate them.’

Kim and Sam know the lure and illusion of false defenses—drugs or sex or the faux justice demanded by the ‘gay self.’ These are strongholds that are only overcome by the Risen Christ. He waits patiently as we cling to our flimsy walls. Finally defenseless, we infidels hear again the song of the Beloved. The drone of despair and other demons cannot stifle that song. He won our hearts a long time ago and has never stopped singing. We are reduced to Love again.

I will never forget that season at University when the battle raged between the empowered ‘gay self’ and the dopey (it seemed to me) Christian one. One side had to give. The former seemed more powerful—fun and sexy and hip. Hanging out with the poor who clung to Jesus? Not so cool. But real, an authentic response to the God who I honestly believed was alive and calling me into a new life. He won because He is, and He graced me with the freedom to see ‘the gay self’ as a sophisticated defense against His call to follow Him nakedly.

No doubt, once we are reduced to Him, we need help from His Body to live out our repentance. It will take many turnings, many reductions until we are steadily on track. Kim, Sam and I know the detours. But more than those, we are learning to yield to the faithful Love that surpasses all other loves. We have become wise to our defenses and humble before the One who is the ‘anchor of our souls, sure and steadfast’ (Heb. 6: 19).

‘We must receive assistance from the ground up. Then the steep walls of our securities are broken to bits, and we are forced to become humble, poor, pleading. Thus we are driven more and more to surrender and give up those things which we formerly used to protect and defend and to hold to ourselves against the voice of the resurrection’s truth.’ Barth

‘Father, through the merciful wooing of Your Son, we entrust to You all those we love who are far from home. Forgive our striving. We trust in Your mercy alone. As You overcame our misery through Mercy alone, so we entrust our miserable ones to You. By Your grace, open their ears to hear Your song of love; sing them home. We know it will not be through our cajoling or a ferocious sermon that they will return. It will be the miracle of Mercy, the witness of Water in a dry and weary land. Make the burning sand a pool (Is. 35: 7), we pray.’

 

 

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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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The True Image

During these forty days, I had the privilege of battling for Proposition 8 in several churches in CA, including my home church, St. Gregory’s Episcopal of Long Beach. Seated before the altar, I observed with new eyes the 40-foot representation of Jesus emerging in stained glass above the cross. His image, composed of thousands of pieces of exquisitely colored glass, blazed like fire as the sun shone through it.

Alone in that church, I encountered the living Christ.His tenderness matched His power. “His robe reached down to his feet, with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white as wool, his eyes like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace…His face was like the sun shining in all of its brilliance.”

“He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God.”

(Rev. 1:13-16; 19:13)

It filled me with gratitude and awe. There I prayed, a cracked yet receptive bearer of that very image, now subject to Him in His stern splendor. Though I was once subject to gods that drove and derided me, greedy idols who wanted my blood, He won me through His blood so I could participate in the marvel of His design.

I prayed for that design. I asked that its glorious expression in marriage—one man for woman, committed to fidelity and permanence—would shine in this land as powerfully as the stained glass before me. I prayed that we would represent Him well in the land.

I prayed for my bride Annette, that Christ would strengthen me afresh that day to love her well. I considered her beauty and humility, her virtue, and my affections blazed in harmony with the glowing image before me.

I thanked God for the couples who have represented that image beautifully to me: my parents, Mike and Diane Nobrega, Kenn and Joannie Gulliksen, Christopher and Dorothy Greco, Morgan and Karen Davis, Bruce and Jan Babad, Dean and Chrystal Greer, Lloyd and Brenda Rindels, and others whose marital commitments have endured and surpassed any brokenness they have encountered along the way.

I need them; I need that witness of man for woman and woman for man. Our land needs that witness. Fatherless children need that witness. Those under the sway of sensual, greedy idols need that witness. The state does well to uphold that truth by insisting marriage retain its original meaning: man for woman, woman for man, pledged to permanence and fidelity. For the sake of their children. For the good of all.

I prayed that God would wake up the saints in CA to honor marriage by refusing its redefinition. Honor Marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

And I prayed: ‘Rouse us in this hour. Raise up a people who stand for righteousness in the land, who take seriously how You have chosen to manifest Yourself on earth, a people who honor marriage for the good of all.

Awaken the saints to stand for marriage and so restrain wickedness and judgment in the land. Through the passage of Proposition 8, show mercy and not judgment, O God.’

As I beheld the Risen Christ towering over me and yet lovingly beckoning to me in the church, I was reminded of the greater love story being played out in our midst: that of the Bridegroom King preparing for Himself a Bride. In a day when 7-year-olds in public schools are subject to tales of the marriage of two gay kings, we need to be reminded of this true love story–the divine drama of which human marriage is but a foretaste

“The Bible begins in Genesis with the marriage of the first man and woman, and ends in Revelation with another marriage, the marriage of Christ and His Church. The whole story of salvation is contained between the love initiated by the bridegroom and the response of the bride.” (Christopher West)

I prayed again: ‘Prepare a people for Yourself, O God. May we live what we advocate for the land. May Your mighty love empower us to love. Manifest who You are in how we love and honor one another. May we mirror with increasing clarity the greater love story You have designed for the whole of creation. As we love more nearly in harmony with You, the true image, make us ready for Your return. Prepare us for Yourself.’

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!

For the wedding of the Lamb has come,

and the bride has made herself ready.

Find linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)

Rev. 19:6-8

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