Tag Archives: Resurrection

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

A Thousand Seeds

‘What you sow does not come to life unless it dies’ (1 Cor. 15:36).

Spring sings jazzy harmonies and awakens the dawn; ok, birds do, and Missouri has scads of them, as many and diverse as the freshly minted trees in which they perform. From Lent throughout spring, all the bare trunks of Kansas City morph into verdant choir lofts. Awesome. Nothing like a Midwest Easter.

Resurrection makes sense here. After lean, icy days of ‘dying’, this Californian comes alive. I take seriously John 12 when Jesus calls all of us to die again—to surrender afresh, so that the stubborn hard husk of the flesh can split open once more and release a thousand seeds into the good earth around us: you know, ‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds’ (Jn. 12:24). I’ve found that aging doesn’t make you better—probably worse—save for assent to the rhythm of these blessed days—death to life, transforming our same new sins into flowers.

Flowers. I’ve a neat story here about hyssop, a soothing plant with purple flowers associated with healing: its stalk used to wet the mouth of dying Jesus, Jn. 19:29; David cried: ‘Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be whiter than snow,’ Ps. 51: 7.

Back to story. Our jarring move from Orange County to Missouri 15-years-ago was eased by buying a home perched like a tree house upon a golf course which had a wilderness patch freed from all tending, free to tell its own story. Every window invited us to engage the seasons. Marvelous. I discovered the difference between annuals (plants that die every year) and perennials (plants that resurrect.) Of the latter, hyssop was my favorite: hardy, elegant, fragrant.

That house eased a slew of culture clashes; I clung to it as a refuge from the minor losses we incurred in our new locale. But when the house no longer served Annette well, I knew we had to leave. This began a downward ascent—first a comically broken-down rental then the purchase of another house in need of overhaul in a relatively sketchy neighborhood. We moved from one to the other on a bleak autumn day—the sky spitting freezing wads at us—and all I had to show for my days of tilling the soil was two pots of dormant hyssop. They sat forlorn all winter in our uncultivated yard, nearly an acre, with no golf course gardeners in view.

Come spring, I was surprised to witness dozens of little hyssop plants emerging from the pots. I cleared a rim around our large back and transferred them. They flourished and I transplanted more and more in the summer. Still the same after the next winter until this gracious purple gift hemmed in the entire backyard. Today as I hear birds singing and survey new shoots emerging, I am grateful. In this land, not entirely ours, I witness the first day of God’s new creation.

‘See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come’ (S of S 2: 11, 12a).

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Resurrection: The Wrong Side of History?

‘I could strengthen you with talk, or shake my head with silent lips.’ (Jb 16:5)

I spoke to him plainly of the dangers of ‘gay marriage,’ and the power of Jesus and His church to raise the ‘homosexual’ to wholeness. The earnest bishop implored me: ‘But we don’t want to be on the wrong side of history!’

I understand his dilemma. Last night while channel surfing for 15 minutes, I witnessed two same-gendered couples smooching to celebrate ‘gay marriage’ victories in PA and OR, a piece on skater Johnny Weir who alongside his male partner wore a full face of make-up and bouffant hair, followed by the ‘testimony’ of a former Navy SEAL who was in the process of undergoing a sex-change.

The wrong seems right. To some, we are finally coming to our senses concerning ‘gender diversity.’ In truth, we are witnessing a mix of moral blindness and personal brokenness that scrambles humanity’s most basic foundation: what it means to be male and female. I say ‘moral’ because the decisions we make concerning what we do with our tendencies (be they to merge with a same-gender friend, to look like the opposite-sex, or to cut off one’s genitals in an effort ‘to become’ the other gender) involves choices as to what is right and wrong.

We take these cues substantially from what our culture says it right and wrong. The new normal, gender-wise? Anything goes. In the name of justice, invoking racial equality, western culture has nearly deconstructed gender identity and rendered its formation null and void, with the added warning that if you disagree with another’s gender choices you are a ‘hater.’

My kids know better. You know why? They were raised among dozens of men and women whom Jesus raised from the dead of homosexual and transgender decisions, including their father. Of course they can discern like any honest person that a Navy SEAL in drag needs healing, not more hormones, and that the last thing Johnny Weir needs is more camera-time. Beyond that, my kids know that persons who are inclined toward their own gender or toward identifying with the other gender need the God who stoops down to meet us in our gender. The Resurrected God gives us what we need; He frees us to resume the journey toward realizing what it means to be made in His image, male and female.

His Resurrection changes the conversation from dead-end decisions to hope. When Jesus rose from the dead, He redefined hope and history itself. The Jewish religious leaders and Roman political leaders converged on the ‘right’ side of history; they seemed to create a formidable block to the future influence of this ‘Jesus.’ Yet death could not hold Him, any more than the gay or transgender ‘self’ needs to define persons who welcome Him into their gender conflicts. His legacy emerged from the tomb, as will ours.

What we need today are bold witnesses of persons raised from the dead of such conflicts. How else will we counter witnesses to the contrary? If there ever was a time for us who have received healing in our gender identities to say so, it is now. Our silence is deadly to a generation which no longer believes that Resurrection applies to gender distortions.

We of the Resurrection may have to endure more scorn than we might like for such a witness–for upholding life-giving choices for the gender broken. At least we will be in good company. True Christians usually seem to be on the ‘wrong’ side of history. And to suffer for it. How precious this opportunity to declare what is right and to endure the opposition of mere men. The living God is on our side!

‘Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.’ (Deut. 4:9)

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Risky Living

‘The sick soul fears more than anything else the demands made on one who is well.’ Joseph Pieper

When the Holy Spirit blew open Jesus’ tomb, God blew away our excuses for living half-lives. The very Spirit that liberated Jesus from sin and death summons us from our tombs as well. We must choose. Will we leave our prisons, now that the door has been opened? Will we lay claim to the ground of the new creation or remain in the shadows, more comfortable in grave clothes than in robes of righteousness?

Pope Emeritus Benedict describes personal encounter with Jesus Christ as the opening of a new horizon. It is as if the Risen Lord blows away the pollutants that have prevented us from beholding a range of mountains. Their imposing beauty beckons us; we know that somehow our destiny lies in following Jesus to the summit. Here we face real fears: alive to the Creator and Redeemer of all, will we become who we are by following Him into our destiny?

Many excuse themselves from the path and the goal, citing any number of weaknesses. In the arena of sexual recovery, becoming chaste seems impossible; the barriers to fruitful, faithful love with another person seem insurmountable.

The world provides many excuses. Note these excuses generated by gay activists. Homosexual identity and practice become a closed horizon for anyone with same-gender attraction. The gay self becomes a new ethnos, a genetically-inspired destiny devoid of any choice and thus free from moral meaning. Rather than open prison doors, such activists pad the prison and convince the vulnerable that this is their destiny. ‘By appealing to lustful desires, they entice people who are barely escaping from those who live in error. Offering freedom, they are slaves themselves…’ (2P2: 18, 19)

I winced at how the NY Times Sunday Magazine featured covers on two consecutive Easter Sundays that employed homosexuality to mock the resurrection. Last year’s feature highlighted ‘gay’ Easter bunnies as a serious attempt to prove the goodness of gay practice among humans (I kid you not.) This year’s Easter story charted how Obama hid his pro-gay marriage agenda at the beginning of his presidency until it was safe to ‘come out’ without crucifying political alliances. So much for Christian integrity. Still, the NY Times lauded Obama’s courage as a symbol of new life, the dawn of a new day for America. In truth, what Obama and the Times did was put the stone back on the tomb for persons with SSA.

Time for Christians to take seriously the real power of Resurrection. Perhaps those of us who are tempted to return to the tomb of gay identity and practice can lead the way. Filled with power from on high, our eyes wide open to see the summit before us, let us follow the Lord of Life and discover our real destinies: beloved children of the Father, and pure gifts to one another.

We shall face countless obstacles to get off track; see these barriers as the proving ground for your own commitment. When discouraged, recognize how badly you need help. Secure help from all the saints; grow in trust and humility. The mountains are nearer today than yesterday. Jesus is taking new ground in you as you take the ground He won for you in His resurrection.

“Peter preached: ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact…’ The people hearing this were cut to the heart and asked, ‘What shall we do?’ Peter replied: ‘Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…’ And he pleaded with them: ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’”(Acts 2:32-40)

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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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Risen with Christ, Our Wounds yet Visible

Our most powerful witness in this hour of ‘gay marriage’ and other injustices are our wounds. Raised with Him, secure in love, we must reveal our scars of sin and shame. The servant is not greater than His master. If the Glorified Christ is to this day ‘a Lamb, looking as if it had just been slain’ (Rev. 5:6) then we should be unashamed to declare our brokenness.

Jesus’ humiliation has been eclipsed with glory. So is ours, as we testify of how His mercy has washed us and solidified the new creation.

Over lunch the other day, a friend recounted his healing story. To do so, he began with his shame, which was founded upon a history of early childhood sexual abuse. Staggering into young adulthood with same-sex attraction, he sought the help of two pastors who abused him sexually and spiritually.

He vowed to trust no-one. Yet he knew Jesus loved him and continued to love him. Still, he could not let Jesus in close as such intimacy always meant sexual violation to him. Jesus respected his limits.

One night in the throes of gay sex, he became aware of Jesus’ presence. In a still small voice, Jesus said: ‘I am waiting for you.’ This young man kindly excused himself and fell on his face before faithful Jesus. Soon after he joined a Living Waters group, then another, found a skilled therapist, and currently serves alongside his wife in raising a family and helping others overcome their shame.

This man represents the countless men and women who have been raised from the dead of sin. Aware of sin’s complexity yet more in touch with the Mercy that saved them from it, they now proclaim how Glory has eclipsed shame. Resurrection flares from these wounds made visible.

Such courage ignites a blazing torch that draws the broken to Mercy. I wept as I listened to his story and saw the light of gratitude and hope in his eyes. I glimpsed Jesus; this man offered me his wounds, I put my hand in his nail-scarred hands and feet. Like doubting Thomas, I believed in Jesus afresh.

‘Gay marriage’ would be a none-issue if all the faithful made known their scars related to homosexuality. Risen with Christ, our wounds yet visible, we magnify Mercy and turn false justice on its ear.

‘If no-one said: ‘I die but I shall live’, then there would be no hope for those who suffer. All suffering would be senseless, destructive pain; all grief would be the worldly sorrow that brings forth death. But we know people who have lived and suffered differently. There is a history of resurrections, which have significance for others.

A person’s resurrection is no personal privilege for one’s self alone. It contains within itself hope for all, hope for everything.’ Dorothy Soelle

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