Tag Archives: divorce

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Binding Up the Betrayed Heart

‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me; He has sent Me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty for the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication from our God’ (IS. 61:1, 2).

I just read an essay in the New York Times with an all-too-familiar narrative: man divorces pretty good wife and kids in order to hook up with others, in this case, other men. His adventures, including ripping the clothes off a new friend, are framed as freedom. Our heightened awareness of the impact of sexual assault (‘me too’) apparently does not extend to the no less devastating assault of adultery upon families: male and female spouses who betray loved ones continually through illegal bodily offerings. Adulterers impoverish and imprison the ones who love them most in their quest for a better orgasm.

Adultery and divorce jackhammer human hearts. No spouse or child is left unshaken; the bad choices of another create a fault line that quakes like seizures over the course of many lifetimes.

Until Jesus binds up their broken hearts. I love the above-mentioned verses from Isaiah which Jesus cites (LK 4:18) when He announced His public ministry. He comes to heal the betrayed heart! His healing Presence is how He vindicates those fractured by the folly of others. How? He opens His flesh to assume our lacerations. And our shame. I believe that the shame of adultery is greater upon loved ones than upon the perpetrator; spouses and kids now live under a shadow they neither chose nor can grasp.

The betrayed ask themselves: ‘What’s wrong with me?’ Jesus takes His advantage. He draws the broken-hearted to Himself where His wisdom, His steadying hand and His peace that surpasses understanding and circumstance elicits good grief. He speaks the healing Word: ‘This is not your fault; I bind away your accuser and confirm the truth–you are wanted, you are mine, and I will never leave you nor forsake you. I close the gap in my spousal devotion to you!’

These would be mere ideas if we as members of Christ did not do our part. We are the ones who Jesus calls to be His hands and eyes and words and heart for the betrayed. As our culture reframes shameful acts as ‘freedom’, we must welcome the shamed into fellowship. We are the ones Jesus calls ‘to give greater honor to the parts of the body that lack honor’ (1 Cor. 12:24-26). Honor is slaughtered in persons betrayed by adultery and divorce. It is our job to champion the dishonored and to help them exchange another’s sin for a double portion of blessing. We can help them to realize ‘the year of God’s favor.’

We must also note that betrayers can exchange their shame for honor too. Just after reading the Times essay, I heard from a married friend who committed a string of adulteries. Broken by the impact of his sin, he repented and now makes every effort to reconcile with his wife. Having devastated her, he now encourages her healing by living the truth-in-love. Only Jesus can cancel out adultery by provoking and sustaining one’s lifelong repentance. Once an adulterer, no longer an adulterer! Jesus opens prison doors for the betrayed and betrayers.

May this Advent, a beginning unlike any other, become your ‘year of God’s favor.’

‘Instead of their shame, my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace, they will rejoice in their inheritance; so they will receive a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs.’ (IS. 61: 7)

Justice 1: Shameless

‘Mercy without justice is the mother of disintegration.’ Thomas Aquinas

Conviction for sexual sin is dull today. We no longer feel bad for acting badly. Misuses of mercy may well enable the problem. When we placate the disintegrated who sow seeds of disorder everywhere, are we disintegrating others? Where is justice for persons caught in the crossfire of another’s sin?

Last week, we as a staff prayed for a godly wife whose husband abruptly left her and is fast-tracking a divorce so he can proceed with his sexy new friendship. Our small group surrounded a mother whose once beautiful daughter now postures as a macho dude and refuses proximity with her grieving mom. I talked with a colleague about how to best respond to a once chaste friend who now works for a ‘gay’ rights group and who slanders his former recovery/ministry mates as abusive and greedy ‘conversion’ therapists. All three cases involve persons who refuse the truth, cannot change the truth, and vent their conflict on loved ones who remind them of the truth.

Justice is all about the truth. As Pieper says about this foundational virtue, ‘What is right comes before justice; justice is second.’ The truth—we seek to give others their due. In this we serve justice. It is right and fair to seek to live undivided lives. However weak we may be, tempted by myriad desires, we can desire one true thing: to love others in a way that honors our commitment to what is best for all. In the sexual realm that involves keeping the commitment of love we sealed with our bodies (aka marriage), keeping same-gender friends chaste, and making every effort to honor the gender of our birth.

It is fair to name efforts to ‘expand’ human liberty by forsaking these truths as unjust. One person’s freedom becomes a loved one’s nightmare. Before we fawn over the unrepentant prodigal, we must first recognize that his or her sin has set in motion a series of sins that has victimized others. How are the forsaken spouse and grieving parent and helpless friend doing? We must first uphold what is just by caring for the injured.

Secondly, the injustice of today’s new sexual liberties wreaks havoc on children who grow up in an amoral, chaotic world. Yesterday, everyone had a ‘gay’ niece. Today, everyone has a ‘trans’ nephew. Is it because we underestimated the number of gender disoriented folks? No. We just popularized them, made it crazy cool to ‘gender bend’ and barely formed kids begin to entertain the possibilities. Every ‘gay marriage’, every ‘trans’ testimony, every divorce pollutes the air and the water our kids depend on and makes them that much more susceptible to immorality. That is the nature of injustice. Founded on lies, it spreads its deception naturally, deeply. Pray mercy on our children. We have sown to a violent wind and we now reap destruction.

‘For rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.’ (1S 15:23)

Lent Downward Ascent 1: Blessed Poverty Andrew Comiskey

Downward Ascent 1: Blessed Poverty

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 5:3)

Poverty can incline us to riches beyond ourselves. When directing us to God as our wealth, poverty achieves holy ends; it renders us blessed citizens of a whole new world.

In contrast to Luke, who begins his version of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ with ‘blessed are the poor’ (LK 6:20), Matthew expands that phrase to ‘poor in spirit.’ I am grateful; it challenges a privileged white dude like me to consider poverty beyond socio-economic woes. ‘Poor in spirit’ can point to moral destitution: the homelessness that no amount of money can hide or cure.

‘Poverty of spirit’ means that when we look inside of us we recognize sin’s poverty; it also applies to looking around us for answers and coming up empty.

As a young man, I tried to secure love through male lovers. One night I met someone who followed me home from a bar; we lost each other in traffic. As I waited on my street corner, now desperate for this strange new flesh, I instantly realized my poverty. To quote James Joyce, ‘I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity’—one made foolish by seeking cover in a collapsed tent.

A morally poor man seeking riches from other poor men: no wonder persons with same-sex attraction are deep, broken ground for the seed of Jesus!

Perhaps that helps you imagine the poverty I experienced last June when Exodus died, the largest network in the world that unified ministries providing the riches of Jesus for the homosexually poor. One week later, the Federal Supreme Court advocated for ‘gay marriage’ by cancelling out Prop. 8 (CA citizens’ amendment for marriage) and DOMA (federal law protecting marriage). Moral destitution from the top down! That poverty impacts us all, and tempts persons with SSA and their loved ones to believe that little if any protection exists for those seeking the narrow way.

Today the real poverty of homosexuality masks itself as a kind of wealth—a boast, a right, a celebration of new civil liberties. The morally homeless have found a home with secular powerbrokers of all types: political, academic, in popular arts. But no amount of human advocacy can remove our shameful nakedness.

This Lent, I urge you to go with me to the source of our poverty: the sin and disorder that impacts us all, beginning with our first family. Lent insists that we go back to the secrets and lies between Adam and Eve. In regards to the drive for ‘gay’ justice, we must be clear that its virulence mutated from heterosexual idolatry.

Mistrust of the opposite gender, misogyny, misandry, contraception, fornication, adultery, divorce, endemic porn addiction, and sacrificing our kids in the fire of lust and abortion provide the toxic ground on which ‘homosexuals’ seek justice. Guilty of normal perversions, we are too cynical and preoccupied to counter ‘gay’ power with any moral authority.

Only One can make us rich in love, clear in truth. But He insists that we admit the sinful part we have played in the moral eclipse at hand. Lent grants us 40 days to reflect on our moral poverty. Here we must descend into painful reckoning: moral poverty hurts! Yet Scripture assures us that we who face poverty within and without can find the One who wants to be the treasure of our hearts. Rather than being reminded of our aloneness, we find that He is knitting us together with like-minded ones. Through Christ, we poor ones descend then arise into a glorious Kingdom.

Prayer for Ash Wednesday, March 5th: ‘Father, we are like the Laodiceans: wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Open our eyes to see our poverty of spirit; cover our shameful nakedness. (Rev. 3:17, 18) This Lent, grant us special grace to seek You, the source of our riches, even as we are reminded of how much we need You. Thank you for all the ways You make Your Presence known to us. You have not left us as poor orphans. You advocate for us in our poverty and make us rich.’ AMEN

Prayer for Thursday, March 6th: ‘Father, open our eyes to the folly of ‘gay marriage’ and the efforts of many, including Federal District Attorney Eric Holder, to encourage states around the country to honor ‘gay marriages’ illegally. Rouse us to recognize real marriage and our real moral poverty.’ AMEN

Prayer for Friday, March 7th: ‘Father rouse Your Church, including our own communities, to stand for the whole truth of our moral poverty and the riches that only Jesus can provide us. Make us sober in this reckoning, yet expectant of His almighty intention to bless us with His riches.’ AMEN

Prayer for Saturday, March 8th: ‘Father, open our eyes to those persons for whom looking at their poverty is too much, too overwhelming. Grant us compassion for them; show us small ways we can make known Your rich love to them as the antidote to their suffering.’ AMEN

Prayer for Sunday, March 9th: ‘Father, as we come to Your table at our churches this day, open our eyes to Your Son who stooped down to make us great. Help us to linger before Him, that we might muse on the mystery of the One who became poor in order to make us rich. (2Cor 7:9)’ AMEN

Mercy 13: Mercy for Sodom

‘These matters are in my hands and I will bring them to fruition according to My Mercy, for nothing can oppose My will.’ Jesus to St. Faustina

Growing acceptance of gender brokenness seems founded on the belief that people are born incurably ‘gay,’ ‘transgender’ etc. Why not be and act according to who one intrinsically is? Read more »

What is at the Core of Same-Gender Attraction?

Facing well one’s same-sex attraction requires more than good theology. One must also understand how we develop into whole-enough men and women. Yes, we are born to become good gifts to the opposite gender and yes, we readily stall en route to the goal of such ‘gift-giving.’ Next to Leanne Payne, Dr. Joseph Nicolosi has influenced me more than anyone else in his astute psychological understanding of how we become (or do not become) mature expressions of men and women for each other.

Check out Joe and his many fine books. As the Chair of Restored Hope Network, I am proud to say that Joe is on our new Board of Reference.

PaulkReflecting on John Paulk’s recent return to gay identity and culture, Nicolosi offers us these insights on the identity crisis at the core of those who claim ‘healing’ then falter and fall away. He writes:

“Recently, ex-gay spokesman John Paulk left his wife and three sons after more than 20 years of marriage and rejoined the gay community. He has renounced his former married life and is now discouraging others from attempting change.

Long ago, John emerged from a very troubled past. Prior to his Christian conversion, he assumed an identity as “Candi,” a cross-dressing and drug-using prostitute, immersing himself in the wilder and more anti-social aspects of the gay world.

But his Christian conversion led him into a stark change: marriage with Anne, a former lesbian and a committed Christian woman dedicated to an orthodox understanding of family and sexuality, with whom he raised three sons, now teenagers.

He also had a key position with Focus on the Family, where he became a well-known media figure testifying to his commitment to heterosexual family life and the traditional, Biblical understanding of sexuality, which holds that a gay identity is a false construct, not part of our human design. But now, all that life has crumbled.

As a reparative therapist who has worked with thousands of homosexually oriented men seeking change, and a friend of John’s for many years, I believe I am in a unique position to speculate on these recent events.

First, John’s story is a cautionary tale about ex-gay celebrity.  There is an inherent risk in the ex-gay movement’s reliance on any public spokesperson.

Second, in his testimony, John advises against Reparative Therapy, but he himself has never been in Reparative or any other professional psychotherapy.  Rather, his sexual-identity change evolved as a result of his Christian conversion.

As John tells his own story, he is a man who always felt unloved and who always searched for identity and belonging. While I will not speculate about his own interior processes, I will, however, speak of psychological patterns I have seen in other SSA (same-sex attracted) men who describe similar feelings.

For many SSA men, the deepest problem they must wrestle with is not sexual identity, but core identity. The original source of this struggle is not the more obvious problem in bonding with the father, but a breach in the primary attachment with the mother.  For these men, their deepest-level problem is not about sexual orientation but about something more fundamental: identity, attachment and belonging.

Gender-identity conflict and attraction to men are only surface symptoms. This is the problem that the media chooses to ignore, and which both sides of the debate fail to acknowledge.  

As such a man’s identity evolves, there will be an excited “discovery of my True Self,” followed by disillusionment, then a new “real discovery of my True Self,” and then again, disillusionment.   At the base of this desperate search is the anguished grasp for a stable personhood, a profound emptiness and beneath it, a self-hatred.  That self-hatred is often expressed in deconstructing and condemning every previous aspect of the person’s own former life, including the influence of persons most near to him.

Radical shifts in “the discovery of my True Self” are associated, in some such people, with Borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and gender confusion, since gender identity is built upon an earlier foundation of self-identity. A fragile self-identity makes the later structuring of gender identity particularly perilous.

The restlessness such people feel is shown in a chronic state of dissatisfaction; in the narcissistic expectation that “if others really love me, they must take this pain away from me; and they [or what they stand for] are responsible for my pain.”

When others fail to do this, there is a deep sense of betrayal; betrayal that these individuals failed to take away the core emptiness, and so the person in conflict may become angry at the people that participated in his former life.  The pain of an identity search and the need for escape from the ordinariness of life can be alleviated for awhile by adulation.  The narcissistic inflation found in celebrity, for example, can be an intoxicating balm.

This periodic disillusionment leaves behind devastated individuals who have invested deeply in the person; in John’s case, Anne, his wife of 20 years; his three teenage sons; and even his former ministry employer, Focus on the Family, where John served as a role model for Christians seeking to live out the orthodox Biblical conviction about the nature of sexual wholeness; also, the young people who were inspired by his public example.

John and his supporters in the gay community want to frame the latest change in his story as proof that people who experience SSA were simply designed and created for homosexuality, but we would be deceived if we believed this simplistic paradigm.

Where core identity is the foundational problem, we suspect a breach in the primary attachment with the mother. From my clinical experience, there is a particular kind of client who, although he is deeply dissatisfied with gay life and does succeed in developing good heterosexual functioning, will, over time, struggle to muster the self-discipline and maturity to put in a hard day’s work, come home to wife and family, help the children with the homework, have dinner and settle down to a good conversation with his wife, and go to bed.

Such a life of day-to-day investment in one’s loved ones seems too confining: it is boring, lusterless, unexciting, “just not enough.” Underneath the boredom and restlessness remains this deep, chronic dissatisfaction.

It’s not just about needing to find a partner of a different gender; it’s about getting attention, flirting, being made to feel special,  distracting oneself from one’s chronic dissatisfaction with life through parties and other high-animation activities, such as the gay community offers on its well-known, drug-saturated party circuits.

I suspect that “excitement” was what John was looking for when he went to the gay bar in Washington, D.C. many years ago, just after speaking at a Love Won Out conference, when he created a public-relations crisis while working for Focus on the Family. I don’t believe John was there looking for sex. I suspect he was bored with the Christian community and its expectations—I believe he sought diversion, flirtation, adventure, and –a favored word in gay politics- “transgression.”

Of course, every shift the person makes from “I thought I was such-and-such…” to “Now I really know who I am,” will always have its cheering admirers. Even Randy Thomas of Exodus Ministries—a group which is supposed to support people in living a life of sexual purity according to Biblical standards– says of John: ” I told him that while I related to him more after his gay bar visit in 2000, I could relate to him even more now that he is genuinely questioning past actions and motivations… his apparent newfound depth of honesty made me happy for him.”

Does that mean that Mr. Thomas respected John less when he lived a Christian married life?  We are left to wonder if Exodus has now simply drowned in a sea of “cheap grace” and the Philosophy-of-Oprah about following one’s heart.

And so we have seen the many faces of John Paulk—the female impersonator/prostitute “Candi,” the  “Ex-Gay Poster Boy,” and now, the gay man.

Can John really believe that he’s going to find love and happiness walking away from his wife and three sons?   John says he never in his life felt loved.   However, I conjecture that no one has ever truly loved John more than his own wife, Anne.





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