‘But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me;
Your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood;
They have completely engulfed me.
You have taken my companions from me; the darkness is my closest friend.’
Jesus’ rejection, abuse, and murder at the hands of men were not His greatest sorrow. It was His Father’s abandonment of Him on the cross.
Jesus expected the scourge of political and religious foes. The desertion of His disciples, however painful, was bearable.
Through it all, He held fast to His steadfast consolation–the Father who promised to never forsake Him. One cannot imagine His dismay when the Father abandoned Him to the darkness of sin.
He was willing, yet not prepared for the scourge and judgment of sin to fall upon Him. He knew the truth: what is holy cannot commune with what is foul. Jesus realized that the evil in humanity demanded a sacrifice. The price had to be paid. And He knew that whatever bears that sin becomes a horrible, stinking cancer that the Father cannot look upon.
Nothing can be further from the Father than that which is accursed!
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We might receive foot-washing and communion and yet still not grasp the cross. Perhaps our need for that cross is not yet clear. We may still believe in our own capacity to follow Him, the self-inspired power of allegiance to Jesus.
Peter the ‘Rock,’ full of bluster and unrefined zeal, helps us here. He believed himself to be among the most radical followers of Jesus. Pride came before his fall on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion. Until the midnight hour, Peter continued to be stumbled by the prospect of Christ’s humiliation.
He still did not grasp the cross. First he had to suffer the humiliation of his own infidelity.
How often have we seen this before? Many of us have followed Christian leaders whom we granted ‘Rock-like” status, only to be devastated when they fell. How could they? How could men or women espousing, say, ‘traditional values,’ prostitute themselves and so breach trust with us? (Not to mention with their families, their churches, and the greater Christian community?)
Easily. We can preach the cross and its merits for everyone else yet avoid it entirely when it comes to our own need for the cross. We can live in that divide as long as our weaknesses are kept in check. But seasons change, and under the stress of real life, weaknesses become wickedness.
God exposes us as the cross-‘dodgers’ that we are. Such exposure breaks ground in us for mercy.
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After Massachusetts adopted ‘gay marriage’, we as a ministry sought to understand and pray for what was at stake for a nation that elevated the status of homosexual unions to those of heterosexuals.
We prayed for mercy, not judgment, for this ultimate expression of idolatry—the creature shaking its fist at the Creator and declaring that (s)he would image herself anyway (s)he wanted.
Yet we had a small emerging hope: we as a nation could turn back before it was too late. God might relent and have mercy.
Of course we knew that ‘gay marriage’ was simply the logical conclusion to the desecration of marriage itself; we had already burned her boundaries and assaulted her integrity with no-fault divorce and all manner of sexual abuse, including adultery, premarital sex, and porn addiction.
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At the dawn of the new millennium, I noticed a growing darkness in the area of gender and sexuality. Powerless to overcome perversion, western culture used its power to justify all manner of sexual expression.
Around that time, I had a dream about a group of young people who were confused and seeking answers to their sexual identity questions. They were on a secular college campus. Older gay mentors began to confirm them as bona-fide gays and lesbians; as they laid hands on these young ones, the latter began to morph–their beings changed into an image that distorted their real humanity.
When I woke up, I began to pray that God would rouse us and make us like a warrior’s sword (Zech. 9:13); I prayed for a merciful authority with which to cut through lies that bound young people to false images and relationships. I prayed for the power to convey what the Heavenly Father had in store for them.
We trained our people to start running CrossCurrent groups—a shorter version of Living Waters aimed at encountering those in the valley of decision. Sure enough, God sent men and women to us who loved Jesus and yet were on the brink of leaving marriages, Christian colleges, and their own value systems for sexy new partnerships.
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While doing a conference in Denver many years ago, a vigorous young man introduced himself to me as Christopher West; he was then the ‘marriage and family’ guy for the Archdiocese of Denver. He loved our emphases on healing through the cross and community. And he wanted me to have a copy of John Paul II’s book: The Theology of the Body, the late great pope’s sweeping take on human sexuality.
Wow. What a meal. For the next couple of years I slowly ate what I now regard as perhaps the most thorough and profound theological work on sexuality. It is a large meal, but not inaccessible. It undergirds the pope’s native compassion with truth: the truth of what our sexuality is for, not just what we should flee, and the deeper meaning of masculine and feminine communion in the divine plan.
Brilliant and relevant, prophetic and yet deeply, richly human; it reinforced what I knew but deepened and expanded the truths already gleaned from Ray Anderson, Karl Barth, and Emil Brunner. On planes and trains I would read a section and take notes on it. I would then meditate on the notes before tackling another section.
It prepared me for the battle at hand, the fight for God’s image in humanity being waged on every continent. In that battle, I needed reinforcement.
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