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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Fruit of Scandal

‘For you became sorrowful as God intended…Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done’ (2 Cor. 7: 9-11).

Like you, I strain to see good come from Church-mishandling of abuse. And I’m not sure if mandates from the top down—even decisive, far-reaching ones—will satisfy. We must pray, bearing with her exposure; we who wait expectantly will be doubly blessed when we behold beauty emerging from the broken ground. I am doubly blessed as I write this. During a trip to a state where the Church has been rocked by criminal investigations, I began to see life signs.

First, the abuse scandal has prompted a renewed commitment to healthy communion among priests. I was privileged to attend a chastity group run by a priest for priests. A handful of men have forged deep bonds through their differing vulnerabilities—same-sex attraction, porn temptations, inclinations to unchaste relations. These brave men are equally diverse in their stations in life. Some are young and newly-ordained, others at midpoint, still others retired. All led out humbly with their frailties and have forged a fraternity of mercy and accountability that is glorious, free of competition and drab shoptalk (aka grumbling). Authentic, attuned care prevailed.

I witnessed the fruit of their communion, as I had met most of them a couple years earlier. This round they were more focused, more earnest to ensure that their weaknesses become holy strengths; instead of isolating in fear, these men are learning to connect with humble courage.

Second, I had the honor of meeting Paul, the Dean of Students at a large seminary in that state. He is extraordinary—open, humble, holy. And grateful that the seminary is flourishing, with this year’s class being the largest one in twenty years. Amid the scandal, solid young men are being summoned by God to become a new standard of integrity.

Paul and his team have a lot to do with that. Among the main priorities of the seminary is cultivating a culture of transparency. Mentors are activating the students themselves to set up a variety of small groups in which peers provoke one another to holy self-giving. I asked Paul if a ‘gay-identified’ student could make it in the seminary. ‘His brothers would never let him get away with it. He would have to lose the ‘gay’ rap and get on track towards integration like everyone else.’ Awesome.

Paul continued: ‘We work especially hard to discern the emotional maturity of students, to ascertain that they are growing in their capacity to form healthy relationships with both men and women. They need to wrestle with what it means to make a fruitful commitment to celibacy. That may mean taking a break from the seminary in order to figure out what they really want. Seminary should be a place where people come and go. We pray that some will return, better able to say ‘yes’ to God in a healthy, fruitful way that will endure.’

What Paul emphasized was that seminary is not just about individuals discerning a lifetime commitment to the Church but also the Church discerning a lifetime commitment to them.

For the first time, I witnessed the fruit of scandal. From the fire of abuse, a repentant Church is emerging. She is at once sorrowful for her sin and zealous to glorify Jesus, each member doing its part to become one chaste bride.

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

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Living Waters

Reach

‘Remember not the former things…behold the new!’ (Isaiah 43:18)

Living Waters is a long narrow cross-walk that always opens to Life. To be sure, it can hurt to face the uneven, perilous ground on which we were at once victim and perpetrator, oblivious to both! Eyes open now, we flinch at the poor choices we can still make in light of the Risen Christ. Growing up is hard, and dodging His call to follow onto solid ground offsets the weight of decisive obedience. Yet here lies our cure, our happiness: surrendering to the luminous Christ, His wounds yet visible, who alone has power to transform weakness into creative communion.

That’s why the transformation of persons with same-sex attraction will always remain the prophetic core of Living Waters. Only a third of our people struggle in that way, but those who discover Jesus in the depth of historic yearning for same-gender completion become the strongest, most sensitive lovers of the other sex. As such, we harmonize with Leanne Payne: ‘The healing of the “homosexual” is the healing of all persons.’

Case in point—after a passionate, liberating day at the cross in Manila where we faced the dishonor we incurred and extended to our ‘better’ half, I felt that we needed to celebrate the fruit of our suffering—the evidence of how Jesus trains the faithful to reach beyond personal healing into interpersonal gift-giving. His passion reclaims and realigns our passions!

That night, I asked two Asian couples (Filipino and Chinese) to share candidly of how Jesus through Living Waters communities in their lands helped forge family life out of what the world (and worldly church) would define as pretty raw material. Gratefully, Jesus has overcome the world.

As a young teen, Jerry received hope from his pastor that someday he would thrive as a husband and father. Sexual abuse, same-sex attraction and a promiscuous young adult life that resulted in an HIV diagnosis shattered the prophecy. In his late thirties, Jerry staggered into a Living Waters group to make peace with God. Sue—a leader on the team–did not like men as a rule due to historic wounds but she liked Jerry and somehow knew this was her guy.

After the group ended, Jerry and Sue began to date and he grew rather quickly in love with her; he began to fight for her honor. He won her over and after good counsel they married and immediately became pregnant. Sue released an egg from a medically-pronounced dead ovary, and the child (and mother) remains HIV-free. They can hardly wait for a second child.

Ben met Sara, a native Chinese woman intent on overcoming despair over the failure of men in her life, at the first Living Waters group in their big city. He had just arrived from America to fulfill an early call to serve China. Overwhelmed by the challenges of language, culture and tent-making, Ben barely remembers meeting Sara at that group. His first couple years were a dark night of just getting by, with intermittent return to porn use and lots of self-pity. By God’s grace, he rallied and forged a healing community to support his recovery, which had started years earlier in a Living Waters group in California. He began to pray: ‘Lord, I need a beautiful, smart, empathic wife if I am going to make it here.’ (I love the fact that Ben knew his SSA deterred not from the gift he was and needed to offer!)

He re-met Sara at a party and knew she was the answer to his prayer. They discovered a common language and commitment to wholeness; they soon married and now can attest to how much richer and expansive their lives are together. ‘We can simply give that much more to others.’ They are expecting their first child in a few months.

Jesus reclaims our pretty good broken lives and refines them in the fire of love. He asks us to reach beyond what we’ve known in order to discover the fullness of His will for our humanity. That always involves knowing the gift we are and giving it away.

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

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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

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

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India Living Waters

India: God Answers

‘The poor and needy search for water but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst, but I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them…’ (IS 41:17)

It was a good sign. As I greeted my Thai colleague Sue and team at the Kolkata Airport, I looked behind her in line and saw a dozen Missionaries of Charity (St. Teresa’s team) gleaming in white robes, their eyes bright with Jesus as they awaited baggage check and a fresh advance in another region. We walk the path of blessed pioneers.

As Abbey and I motored our way up a dusty mountain to our destination of Shillong in the upper north of India—a finger of land surrounded by Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Nepal, and Bangladesh—I noticed roadside dust and clamor growing green as we ascended a mile high up the hills. Teeming with life, the city beckoned to us; after 40 hours of travel, we felt that strange blend of exhaustion and exhilaration and decided to walk to our first meeting.

What a reunion! Our hostess/leader Bobby is a dynamic, faith-filled wife and mother who simply believes God for the needs of persons in her city: she has started citywide outreaches to the poor, an orphanage she still runs, and now wants to ensure that the deep and often shame-shrouded needs of fellow Christians are met in a safe, merciful and effective way. Living Waters! She travelled twice to Thailand and once to The Philippines in order to raise up a team, and there they sat in front of us now, waiting to pray for our advance: beautiful, humble men and women who were growing whole together, now primed to release healing to others.

India Living Waters

Bobby and Family

Bobby recalled: ‘I was unsure if India was ready for Living Waters. We are an honor, family-based culture: we don’t talk about sexual matters or family wounds—these might dishonor loved ones. But when I returned from Thailand and told friends what I heard, they all started sharing deep, hard things. I realized that whether we like it or not, we need Living Waters!’

Before our first gathering, two fun things happened. Bobby gathered a group of pastors with whom we dined and discussed these issues. Their leader, Pastor Hamlet, reminded me of John Wimber—both wise and merciful men whom God blessed as founder/leaders of thriving denominations yet who only wanted to build up the whole body of Christ with the healing power of Jesus. Like Wimber, Hamlet prefers the Kingdom over church government. I love him.

Soon after our lunch I went for a long run up and down the narrow streets of Shillong and noticed an array of Catholic and Protestant institutions. I then discovered that Catholics had invested huge amounts of energy over the last several hundred years to bring the Gospel to these people—the Khati—and have left an array of schools and educational offerings for them. Further, Welsh missionaries landed there in the early 20th century, burning with the flames of revival ignited in Wales a decade earlier. This city is ready for Living Waters. I was so excited that I started running with a group of Indian soldiers and raced them to their barracks, tying for first with a man one-third my age.

Our conference was full of Jesus, tender and powerful in mercy to meet people in profound areas of need. We preached the truth of our own being-healed lives through the power of the Cross; signs and wonders followed. Like Ezekiel in the temple, the water levels kept rising. Because family is so crucial here, sons and daughters who were already receiving healing from Bobby and team brought parents who began to confess their wounds and failures. Families were being healed before our eyes.

I called up all persons who wanted to help release Living Waters in India; nearly everyone arose. Immediately I thought of Isaiah 41 where the prophet voices God’s commitment to answer the stifled cries of His people: ‘I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs’ (IS. 41: 18). As I shouted out these verses, I wept for I realized in a small way we were fulfilling God’s promise to the poor and needy. I saw waters cascading down the green heights of Shillong, throughout the thirsty byways of India.

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

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Fire. Burning. Notre Dame

Fire. Burning. Notre Dame.

Fire. Burning. Notre Dame.

Judgment at our house, right here, us.

More than a sign of French resilience: a church, our Church.

‘Bearing’ becomes ‘burning’. Bones on fire, lit by McCarrick and Vigano and Martel—strange prophets all—arsonists igniting icons—a house consumed.

And us, in the fire, uncertain, what will remain? Unconvinced by words. Now we burn, living icons; what will remain of us? No time for squabbles: we are burning, plucked from the flames and filthy, in His hands.

Holy fear: no other gods. Face down, blushing. Searing shame. Speechless.

Holy tears: little ones gone. Good grief. New kids bathed in rainbow light, shameless. Church sputtering, spineless. Fierce tears from flames, living water.

Holy ears: listening, at last, the Word rising from the ashes, burning in our bones, consuming us. If we say nothing, we perish.

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

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