Blog

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Living Bread, for the World

Long before I centered on the Eucharist as the focus of worship—the real meal that Catholics celebrate–I understood this breaking of bread as how us saints can make known our brokenness to each other in fellowship. ‘Communion’ involves just that—gathering in community before the Crucified in order to place our wounded lives in His. Somehow, He takes the edge off our edginess and makes us better gifts for the world—a little more humble, clear, and merciful.

The meal we share isn’t an official sacrament but rather the common grace of the ‘one another’ that somehow gives us a share in Jesus’ words (Jn. 6:51): ‘I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’

When we gathered in Philadelphia last week for a ‘Gender Matters’ conference, I wondered who would break bread with us. I don’t know many Catholics there (it was sponsored by the Diocese) and I’ve little marquee value. Praise God.

How surprised I was to discover a host of hungry, humble saints from that area who came together to ‘eat’ with us that day—to go further along the little way of offering our wounded lives to Jesus and each other so He can season and solidify us—at least enough for us to convert the world rather than be converted by it! My fear turned to faith as I met person after person whom Jesus had connected to us through one person who knew another person who knew another, etc.

This is the miracle of Jesus’ Church composed of His many members—little grains of wheat, each one, crushed in surrender to Jesus and releasing many seeds in the dying that bears much fruit (Jn. 12:24), especially when we gather in order to become ‘living bread’ together.

The miracle of many members—Archbishop Chaput blessed our gathering as he trusted my colleague Marco Casanova who just finished seminary there in Philadelphia. With Chaput’s go-ahead, Marco began to connect with friends in the area who loved Marco and wanted to know what he was up to. I had come often to Philly to be converted by Christopher West and company (their take of St. John Paul ll’s work is splendid) so he did his part to direct friends our way, including his parents and sister who are now charter members of our Living Waters family. At West’s Institute, I had met moral theologian and bioethicist Dr. John Haas who I respect more than almost any other, so I was incredulous when he agreed to open our meal with a word on the dignity of gendered humanity that blew everyone away.

Especially lovely was a table full of radiant nuns—aptly called the Sisters of Life—who were directed there by my best friends in New York City, Joe and Anne Nolte, who know all about me and love this work anyway! We were hosted in the parish of Monsignor Hans Brouwers who had started Courage in Philadelphia years earlier; his still vital, fatherly advocacy was healing for all of us. We love Courage and took heart in partaking of their pioneering efforts in Philly. Friends from Baltimore who love Courage and Encourage joined us too, as did some cool evangelical friends of Abbey from her Penn State days.

Many more to name, no more room. It is enough to say that Jesus is joining His members together to become a fragrant, nutritious loaf of ‘living bread.’ He is doing it! We need not fear; let us rather behold the Spirit as He unifies saints who together are turning outward to become the ‘real meal’ for a world that will choke on its own poisons until we become what we eat—the healing body of Christ, broken for the world.

Bless you all. Please join us for our forty-day-fast: ‘Becoming Good News’ for the lost and the least, beginning October 16th. More on this next week!

You can purchase “Becoming Good News” in book form directly from Desert Stream or get it for free from Amazon for your Kindle.

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

Download PDF

Collateral Damage

We as a staff opened our ministry year in prayer; Annette received a word about ‘collateral damage’, the fall-out from battle—war’s unintended impact upon others. ‘Jesus has won, the enemy knows it, so he is doing everything in his power to wreak havoc, especially in the area of human sexuality.’ I bore witness as I considered how Jesus is returning for a spotless bride, thus the enemy’s rage against all who aspire to chastity or support those who do.

Hours later I began to receive news reports from a distant colleague of mine who had come out as ‘gay’ to as many media outlets as would amplify his sleazy return to same-gender dating after claiming to have been an upstanding father and husband and an utterly significant leader of ‘conversion therapy.’ His positive significance escapes me. I refuse to mention his name as his besetting problem is narcissism, not same-sex attraction; I consider it unwise to feed the monster by giving him any more media attention.

Only in America do we give a man without much substance a platform to lead others onto ‘wholeness’ when his only ‘gift’ appears to have been a string of progressively confusing selfies—strange stream-of-consciousness commentaries posted online as quickly as he could jabber about his unraveling life. His service may well have been called ‘Me Ministries.’ The train wreck was inevitable.

If I am correct that he inflated his former contribution to Kingdom of Light, I am sure that his ‘repentance’ to the dark side will do significant collateral damage. The enemy seduces the wounded and will amplifies their rantings to further his rage against wholeness. So now our former brother apologizes for the ‘thousands’ (?!) he misled and throws down the gauntlet by insisting that he will stomp out all forms of ‘conversion therapy.’ Believe me, this man never used that language when he was in ministry. How convenient that he is now revising history in order to mouth anything that the LGBT juggernaut wants him to say.

And he will keep jabbering as long as journalists ask questions (this guy just made Time magazine, a dream come true!); uninformed people will listen and wag their tongues about coercive ‘conversionists.’ First line of damage? The dismal lack of truth in the greater culture, especially online, will grow that much darker through his ‘witness.’ This damages us all. He will reinforce the popular view that any and all efforts for persons with gender identity problems to become who God made them to be is impossible. Lord have mercy.

Second line of damage: the young people who looked to this man to help them find the narrow way. He now leads them to perdition. For the focused overcomer, apostasy sharpens the truth. Those just resuming the road to chastity may well be seduced off the path by this disturbing witness. ‘For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom while they themselves are slaves to depravity…’ (2 Peter 2:18, 19a). Lord have mercy on the little ones he stumbles.

Those little ones include two children he fathered and a beautiful wife now subject to a ‘gay’-identified and dating husband. That is the third and worst collateral damage—the poisoning of those who need him most. In the battle for chastity, the enemy burns without mercy for loved ones of the fallen. Annette did not know how prophetic her words about collateral damage were, and how sharp they would be for her as she considered this man’s family. Like his wife, my wife is subject to a husband who is weak and yet strong in Jesus. When one similarly vulnerable takes his eyes off the Savior and fuses with the world, the fire singes family first and most. Please pray for her and their two children. Lord have mercy.

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

Download PDF

Ecstasy

The Crucified rallied the nations last week in Kansas City; under the flood of His Divine Mercy, we wept for joy. Ecstasy. No better way to describe the 80 Living Waters leaders who gathered around His self-giving in order to offer themselves better to others.

Jesus gift to us at Calvary is accurately defined as ‘ecstatic’: its Greek root means ‘to come out of oneself.’ Jesus’ dying released a river of blood and water. His life source left Him and became the source of our lives, the transforming power that renders us new creatures. Together, His ecstatic gift unites us as one Body. On the cross, Jesus made us His bride. You could say He consummated that union for us through the ecstatic love that crescendo-ed at Calvary.

God reminded us of that consummation on last week’s Feast of St. Augustine, who wrote: ‘This second Adam [Jesus] bowed His head and fell asleep on the cross, that a spouse might be formed for Him from that which flowed from the sleeper’s side…What can be purer than such blood? What more health giving than such a wound?’

We needed healing from His ecstatic wound, cleansing and repair for our wounds. Many tribes and tongues came together—a variety of ages, cultural traditions, economic and educational backgrounds. Most obvious was the divide between Protestants and Catholics. Many of our leaders from fiercely Catholics nations barely know any Protestants; and the vast range of the latter—from Anglicans to Pentecostals–have an equally diverse range of opinions on Catholics!

Our wounds are a great leveler. One priest among us shared with dignity his sexual abuse by an early mentor; he welcomed an ecstatic outpouring from evangelicals who loved him well through a variety of spiritual gifts. Humbly offering our wounds to Jesus via His members invites a rich exchange of ecstatic love that dissolves some of our corporate divides. Ecstasy.

Personally, each of us brought our sins against chastity—as diverse as our Christian traditions. We are united in the conviction that the second Adam always points us back to the first Adam ((Matt. 19: 4-6); at the same time, Jesus points us forward to the glorious redemption of our bodies, radiant in full consummation with our Bridegroom. We live now ‘in-between’ the times: although certain of design–the ecstatic complementary gifts that God fashioned from Adam’s rib—we are also clear on the chaos incurred by sin in our frustrated, fractured efforts to ‘come out of ourselves.’ We have done so regrettably; we, bathed in ecstatic love, assess the damage done: adultery, abuse, addiction, SSA, gender self-rejection, mangled marriages, persons tempted by bitterness due to betrayal then prolonged, unwanted aloneness.

Many different divides and one cure—the Bridegroom consummating love with us and releasing the flood that keeps our heart soft and straight, ready to tell the truth of sorrows and shame but more than that, how the ecstatic mercy of our Bridegroom is mounting, growing, its waters rising in our personal temples (Ezekiel 47) as we throw open the doors and windows and allow others to witness how His loving kindness has shattered the enemy’s design for us.

Our hearts speak truth—we at Living Waters are the first to declare our sin so that the triumph of mercy might extend to a weaker brother or sister. It does! We rejoiced in the epistle reading last week in which St. Paul exhorts us to turn from all sexual immorality as such sin exploits our sisters and brothers (1 Thess. 4: 3-8).

How liberating to hear God’s Word and to go boldly to the throne of grace, allowing the fire of mercy to burn off the deception that immoral acts are fine if each party consents. Lies that we have lived! We now want only to edify, not exploit, the weaker member! We wept as He rained mercy, not judgment, upon our corporate repentance.

As the nations shared of the impact of Living Waters, it was clear that this ecstatic witness of hope amid heinous sins had loosed a river throughout churches that is unstoppable. Instead of shame, the peoples of the earth are receiving a double portion of joy and favor (Is. 61:7), and ‘where that river flows, everything shall live!’ (Ez. 47:9).

His ecstatic love for us produces ecstasy. We live now to come out of ourselves and prepare a more robust, pure Bride for the One who gave all to gain us. No other way to live. No other way we want to live. His ecstatic love is better than any other way of life.

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

Download PDF

Aging Grace

Does the thinning buffer between us and eternity expose virtue or vice? Does aging make us better or worse? Not sure…

During this summer break—a writing one—I paused to consider the quality of my offering to others and perceived heightened gratitude and grousing. Filters falter as the years add up; the naked self is less defended (too weary to self-justify), painfully self-aware, less inclined to virtual noise, and more reliant upon Jesus. In the uneasy mix, He is the Master.

Gratitude for holy communion reoccurred over these weeks. Annette and I enjoyed each other in some relaxed expressions of intimacy; I savored her gift. She is smart and humble, inclined to offer herself fully, especially to kids and grandkids. Unlike many women who struggle to offer themselves to dependents for fear of losing ‘self’, Annette discovers herself in the offering. It solidifies her.

I also engaged daily with the Living Waters material which I revised over the course of these six weeks. No small task but rewarding in its own way. It meant reviewing forty years of what I see to be the core insights and practical helps in becoming a chaste offering for others, from the vantage point of one who must choose daily to carry his cross in a progressively unchaste world. How does Jesus and His members help us become whole-enough in our gendered humanity?

I was assisted by the sharp mind and ordered heart of new intern/staff person Marco Casanova; I’d not experienced that kind of partnership in a writing project before. I enjoyed the refinement and know it made the revision better. The new guidebook will gleam by next spring (2020), just in time for DSM’s 40th Anniversary. We celebrate that milestone in Kansas City, August 7th-9th.

Ok. Good stuff all. But amid the holy communion came disturbing glimpses of unholiness, my own haggard responses to our tilting world. I refer not only to the earthquakes shaking the globe but also the dirty breath of public opinion that fan sparks into holocausts. Everyone has an opinion, even when they expose only their ignorance, proudly spewed all over the Internet. Narcissistic waste.

Why such little awareness of one’s limits? Why not the humility to pray instead of pontificate? Passion without mercy!

I am as merciless as the objects of my disgust. I fan into flame intolerance and become grossly impatient, enraged by human folly, especially the follies of Christians who should stick with what they know rather than amplify what they don’t in order to build followings. My discontent tempts me to check out, to disengage and do sick unchaste stuff. Aging has made me worse. And wiser. I know better now and my will is sure. I opt for holy communion: my wife, my friends, local Living Waters group, Holy Church. Can’t get saved online. I need Jesus in the flesh.

I spent a lot of time this break in Adoration, sitting before Jesus in a nearby prayer chapel, content to just be with Him. To Him I brought all the delightful, disturbing things that flare up within me. I accept their ferocity, in the light of His love for me. He seems nearer, more clear, rich in mercy and fierce in holiness. He becomes the one true thing I need more now than yesterday. Aging may have worsened me but has inclined me more to Him. I get better only in the light of His love for me. His light shines brighter now.

‘And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light’ (Rom. 13: 11, 12).

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

Download PDF

Stepping into Blessing (and out of blogging….)

‘May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of people’ (Gen. 28:3).

Today. First day of vacation. Still glowing from last night’s closure of our Kansas City Living Waters Training. That glow will dim, and Annette shall enjoy each other without the electric charge of ministry.

Enjoy. Our life together. Three days ago I drove home on a short break from the training to find Annette swirling in ‘house church’ activity: son and Pastor Nick from Austin requesting help in ordering a communion stole, Katie dropping by to seek one of us to help her check out a new apartment, Sam coming over with son Jacob to shower as his bathroom is being overhauled, Jacob racing out back to our two Labradors where granddaughter Camille (Greg and Christina’s kid) was already mesmerized as these gentle beasts retrieved anything the 1-year-old tossed their way.

My house. Not a monastery but a cyclone of domesticity. Annette confessed wearily in the storm: ‘I would not want this any other way.’ True that. I realized that is why we do what we do in Living Waters. We daily die to sin and idols, we bind our deep wounds to Jesus’, and let Him summon what is most true about us so we can get on with the business of living—entering the dance of life with those we love most. We are offering the gifts we are. Generously. We are becoming a fruitful community.

We have a new evening of the training entitled ‘Stepping into the Blessing.’ Having done a lot of cross time, we figured our people needed a night to just enter the blessing of the Father who longs to give us a share in His generosity. As people stepped up to receive, He mirrored the divine gifts standing before Him; He restored the promise of fruitfulness, the destiny of each to build community.

So for the next few weeks, I will rest in my messy destiny to haul out sweet, soiled diapers, to landscape my acre, to wrestle labs that never lose their puppiness, to grow with my kids in mutual exhortations, to enjoy life with the one I love most. Annette. She’s still the one that I want. By the way, I want to step into the blessing, not write about it. So we’ll connect in a few weeks. Bless you all.

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

Download PDF
1 2 3 147
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: