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HURTING

November 23, 2014: For the Poor

“‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, a sick person or a prisoner whom we visited?’ ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of My brothers, you did for Me.’” (Matt. 25:37-40)

Today’s Gospel reading ends the Catholic Church year, and fittingly so. In the end, we are judged on the quality of our love, and in particular, how we loved the lost and the least.

It helps me to remember that beneath ‘gay’ advances, protests and parades lie hurting persons who have struggled most of their lives to feel at home in their own skin as male and female. That is real poverty: to be alienated from the sexual duality which defines us as image-bearers. Shame, loneliness, heightened fears, and a host of options as to how one might best resolve his/her ‘poverty’ adds confusion to the mix.

Not helpful is our indulgent consumer-driven culture; sex sells everything, not unlike Ezekiel’s description of Sodom, a city that was ‘arrogant, overfed, unconcerned for the poor and unwilling to help them, prone to detestable immoralities’ (16:49). Similarly, our young people grow up in a culture that discounts the real fragmentation that underlies same-sex attraction. Instead, most ‘experts’ glibly assert a ‘born this way,’ morally neutral condition.

Affording persons struggling with gender identity very few answers, we urge them instead to sexualize their distress. On the Internet, kids discover a ‘gay superhighway’ where they can conjure and connect with any ‘fantasy lover’ they desire.

We no longer advocate poverty for a wounded generation. We longer seek to understand what is actually going on at the core of same-sex attraction. Why does a growing boy refuse his maleness and yearn for completion in a more apparently realized masculine being? Why is a girl vulnerable to the sensual overtures of an older female friend?

There are answers but we no longer ask the questions. Instead, we cry ‘peace when there is none,’ and generate a host of sexual options for resolving what remains: a frustrated boy or girl working out deep needs and wounds related to his or her gender identity. In the end, (s)he is seeking a source of love that will confirm that identity.   

If we truly seek to be a community that goes after the lost and the least, we can begin by knowing that the ‘new’ answers about homosexuality are not working. No matter the new liberties touted by schools and laws and celebrities: kids that have grown up poor are not fooled. Gay identification and practice has not set them free.

The Church has the answers. We must activate them. Freedom for the gender broken can only come from a community of people who love them as they are while calling them to more—to Jesus’ generous self-giving. By confirming their deep need for love and healing, while helping them to live chastely, these young men and women can discover the gender integration that God wills for them.

I agree with Pope Francis: ‘What should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences is that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the light, strength and consolation born of friendship with Jesus, and without a community of faith to support them.’ (EG) Will we mobilize and become that community?

We at DSM/LW are witnessing a new rise of very young adults turning from ‘gay’ relationships toward Jesus. In His great love, God is freeing them to own their poverty. Let us the Church offer them the wealth of His love by loving them wisely and well. Their integrity as persons, and the integrity of the bride herself, depends upon it.       

‘How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’
Ps 82: 2-4

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Ministries of Pastoral Care (ministriesofpastoralcare.com): For wisdom and fortitude for their board members Anjonette Baum, Michelle Keil, Jed Taufer, Cesli Vaccaro, and board president Gino Vaccaro as they strengthen the foundations of MPC to reach this broken world.
  2. COR Project: For financial provision and creative inspiration and fortitude for Christopher West.
  3. Gianna Catholic Center for Women, Dr, Anne Mielnik Nolte- Director: Expansion of these vital Catholic centers for women’s health.

“Courage for Pope Francis, Reverend Justin Welby and Pastor Phil Strout, that they would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 20, 21, 22, 23

lie

November 22, 2014: The Lie of ‘Gay’ Love

‘That evil appears in the form of light, of beneficence, of faithfulness, of renewal, that it appears in the form of historical necessity, of social justice, is for the commonsense observer a clear confirmation of its profound evilness. We experience and recognize ethical reality not by craftiness, not by knowing all the tricks, but only by standing straightforwardly in the truth of God and looking to that truth with eyes that it makes simple and wise.’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today’s western culture has been captivated by the lie of ‘gay’ love. Out of the idol we have made of sexual expression, empowered by injustices we have committed against persons weak in gender security, our common enemy devised one of the most divisive strategies of our century: the ‘gay’ way or the highway. 

A western citizen is today considered ‘enlightened’ if (s)he embraces homosexuality as inborn and unchangeable, its expression worthy of all privileges accorded marriage and family. For upholding marriage, and disagreeing with the ethical good of ‘gay’ practice, that same citizen is judged at best as ignorant and worse as a bully, a bigot, and a ‘hater.’ Criminal charges may apply: anyone not on the ‘gay’ bandwagon will lose reputation and may lose his or her business for not cooperating with ‘gay’ weddings.

Seeking relevance, the Church at large has been reduced to silence then slow concession to what is a fierce yet well-cloaked ‘gay agenda.’  (I have witnessed this ‘agenda’ since I came out of homosexuality in the late seventies: even then, it was apparent that wealthy gay politicos were aiming at the gold ring of ‘gay marriage.’) The tactic is simple and goes something like this: “‘Gay’ people are loving and wounded. How can we further wound them by not giving them what they want? We believe in the pursuit of happiness for all, don’t we?”

Seeking to be ‘loving’, the Church bows to such superficial questions with superficial answers. I was shocked by an interview with Cardinal Schonborn (whom I deeply respect) after the Synod on the Family when he said: ‘I know a marvelous ‘gay’ couple in my diocese who really care for each other…’ On that basis, Schonborn encouraged radical (and I believe false) changes in the Catholic Church’s approach toward persons with same-sex attraction.

The new enemy of the Church’s clear understanding of sexual humanity is ‘nice.’ Without doubt, many persons with same-sex attraction (I do not use the language of ‘gay’; it is a socio-political identification that hinders persons from resolving the attraction) are kind and loving and capable of committed friendships. Not the question. The question remains: what is our sexual humanity for?  If we as Christians are not clear that the purpose of our engendered self is to mature into whole-enough gifts for the other so that we can create new lives together, then we have lost our way. We do no-one any favors to alter the boundary lines to include sexualized same-gender friendships, just as we did an earlier disservice by accommodating extramarital sex on the basis that ‘Christians do it anyway.’

Our young interns and I recently studied ‘The Bible and Homosexual Practice’ (Abingdon Press, Dr. Robert Gagnon), the best and most scholarly approach to the subject. Without doubt, Scripture from start to finish prohibits all homosexual acts on the basis that gender ‘discomplementarity’ is an act of treason against God and one’s fellows. Period. Our ‘loving’ hearts deceive us. An ‘agenda’ has deceived us. A common enemy has deceived us.

It may be too late for our nation to take marriage back from that agenda. But Jesus Himself will not allow His bride to be deceived. We must wake up and repent. It is not too late to forsake our ‘nice’ concession to ‘an enemy who came only to steal, kill, and destroy’ lives. (JN 10:10) In concert with the One who came that ‘all may have life and have it to the full’ (JN 10:10), let us open wide the doors of our hearts and churches and provide a merciful womb in which all may repent of the deception that is destroying them.

‘In the last days there will be scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires. These are men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained with corrupted flesh’ (Jude 17-23).

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Church Unity/Ecumenical Spirit : Unity in the body of Christ as Living Waters is offered in both Catholic and Protestant churches. Also for an ecumenical spirit to be strengthened and encouraged throughout each community running Living Waters.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Southern California, Los Angeles area, Maria, Pilar, Zefereino and team: for discernment and wisdom as far as the best church covering for upcoming Aguas Vivas group.
  3. Encourage:  Bob and Susan (National Overseers): For grace to equip and unify chapters of   Courage around the country. KC Courage and Encourage : For an increase in local KC chapter of Courage/Encourage.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 20, 21, 22, 23

healing

November 21, 2014: Good Samaritan

‘The Samaritan woman is every one of us. She is every human being who has ever sinned and betrayed the God who loved and made us, by chasing after other gods, trying desperately to get creatures to give us what only the Creator can give. She is every human being who has ever made a complete mess of their lives with choices from which they just can’t seem to break loose. She is every person who has a sinful, broken past that they’d just rather not talk about.’ Brant Pitre

Like the Samaritan woman, the best healers start as a mixture–wheat and tares. Strongholds of sin and virtue grew up together in a typically sensitive, passionate soul that cries out for a long time: ‘Jesus, I am Yours; please, make me Yours!’

Deep divides take a long time to overcome. I concur with the ‘law of gradualism’ (13) noted by the recent report on the Synod of Family. Authentic repentance can take years and requires a lot of confessions, loads of truthful compassion from Christians who surround them, and of course, the ironclad commitment of Jesus who always fights for the free-will surrender of His bride.

In spite of the Samaritan woman’s instantaneous witness of Jesus (“Come see a man who told me everything…’), we could say that Samaritans actually take a long time to convert. So the Church needs two things. First she must uphold for all Christians her standard of union with Christ in the whole of one’s divided humanity. And secondly, she must mobilize a host of Samaritan converts who are willing to suffer long with fellow strugglers. The rhythm is: failure, forgiveness, more failure then deeper forgiveness, on and on, until pay dirt—‘Jesus, I surrender and am willing to do what You want…’

Such merciful struggle and surrender creates merciful healers. I think of my friend Gary who suffered nearly intolerable shame with same-sex struggles and sin in a variety of religious settings. After his wife left him, he surrendered to Jesus and a group of faithful ones who loved him into the man he is today. Or Diane who grew up thinking sexual abuse is the common love offered by older neighbors until she surrendered her broken adult relationships to Jesus and a supportive group of women. Or Kevin who as a pastor knew deeply his divided motives toward a series of women he served in his parish until he decided to come clean and get the help he needed.

Divided all, now united to Christ, these Samaritans are powerful dispensers of ‘living waters’ to others. They go the distance with fellow strugglers because of their deep gratitude to Jesus and His Church. Primed with mercy, they see and feel and act toward others out of that mercy.

Gary, Diane and Kevin help me to look with new eyes upon the story of the Good Samaritan (LK 10:25-37); I understand now why the Samaritan saw and acted heroically toward the oppressed man rather than holy Jews who perceived only an obstacle in their path. Divided, she had been united by mercy. Mercy transformed the Samaritan’s grid and goaded her to give herself away to another.

As a Pharisee scrutinized both, Jesus addressed an unclean woman weeping at His feet: ‘She who has been forgiven of much will love much.’ (Lk 7: 47) So do all Samaritans made good by the mercy of God. May Jesus make the Church a Good Samaritan for all broken ones who cry out for mercy.

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Conferences: For our 2015 conferences, scheduled in Reseda, CA, Virginia and proposed in Chicago and Ohio.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Bocono, Venezuela, Betsy – Coordinator: Grace and all they need to run their group in the midst of a highly unstable political climate.
  3. Courage: For the Lord to continue to strengthen and protect the leaders: Father Paul Check, Director and Angelo Sabella, Program Manager. For grace to equip and unify chapters of Courage around the country. Also for the new Courage documentary to impact many with the message of chastity; and for no more production problems with a current media project.

“Courage for Reverend Justin Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 20, 21, 22, 23

one-bride

November 20, 2014: One Bride

‘I in them and You in Me, Father. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me.’ (Jn 17:23)

Jesus is committed to one Church. He alone knows exactly who composes His bride; what we can know is that Jesus is singularly passionate for her.

I am growing in that passion for her too. I have always known that one cannot love Jesus without also loving His Church. That love culminated for me several years ago when I became a Roman Catholic. The historic church became a refuge for me amid cultural downturns in marriage and gender and the compromised response of Protestant denominations. Jesus and His friends met me there; daily Eucharist and the cheering on of the saints have bolstered me deeply.

I am grateful. And realistic. The Church’s strengths are also her weaknesses and necessitate I seek Jesus’ strength to love her as she deserves. Her weaknesses expose mine and require much mercy for me. But mercy works. I can extend that mercy freely to the Church for it is precisely Christ’s mercy through the Church that sustains me, keeps me free for love.

At times I miss my beautiful evangelical background. The vocation Jesus entrusted to Annette and I was born in the Vineyard church planting movement. We could not have asked for a better home. Open, humble, merciful: these are the faces I see from the Vineyard’s communion of saints that welcomed us and still inform us. On our Vineyard foundation, we will always pray for more of God’s Kingdom and Spirit for hurting people, and we shall always equip our fellow servants in the truth that Jesus calls and empowers them as surely as He does Pope Francis. We will adapt to the new ways God’s wants to meet people in order to reveal the same truths to new generations.

Catholics need to be empowered by the evangelical spirit, and evangelicals need the depth of Catholic teaching and worship. Each possesses a kind of authority that the other needs. I am grateful for both. In order to be whole, the Church needs both.

Early on in my Catholic conversion, I saw a picture of a huge river in which persons on both sides were drinking, soaking, and healing. Each shore revealed two distinct groups partaking of ‘living waters.’ Divided as Protestants and Catholics, they drew from the same Source. The river flowed: I could see some persons co-mingling until the two groups freely partook of the waters together.

Considering this vision, I wonder if the humbling impact of relational and sexual sins makes us less inclined to defend ourselves with doctrinal differences. Perhaps the wounds are too deep, the shame too great, to distance ourselves from the ‘other’ with a rosary or Bible verse. Broken, we cry out for mercy together and discover gifts the one possesses that the other needs.

My prayer has been partially answered by a series of trainings we sponsor in Mexico. Equal parts Catholic and evangelical, we are discovering one Jesus and one Bride. A river of water and blood runs through her.

‘Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; one Body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all in all.’ (Eph. 4: 2-6)

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. South, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Dean Greer – Coordinator: For new regional leadership to be identified and raised-up, for existing groups and to see new groups established.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Baja California and Cuernavaca, Mexico: Guidance, wisdom and stamina for Maite at DSM/LW as she encourages and helps leaders to start ContraCorriente groups.
  3. Restored Hope Network: Prayer for wisdom, discernment and protection for RHN board members: Andrew Comiskey; Stephen Black; Karen Booth; Robert Gagnon; Denise Schick; Jason Thompson.

“Courage for Pope Francis, that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 20, 21, 22, 23

dirty-bridge

November 19, 2014: A Chaste Messy Bride

‘Instead of a Church which clings to its own securities, I want one that is bruised and hurting because it has been out on the streets…’ Pope Francis (EG 49)

How do we as the Church fulfill Jesus’ call to love sin-broken people in a way that frees them to let go of that sin? The Gospel witness is evident: in the face of Pharisaic scrutiny, His passion for the unclean makes them pure. His Presence delivers the Magdalene of her demons, draws the prostitute who weeps in remorse at His feet, and commands the adulterer to ‘sin no more’ after her accusers have dropped their stones.

Jesus plows a furrow line straight down the radical middle. Between bad religion and sins of the flesh, His Almighty mercy liberates repentance—the sinner’s obedience to the demands of the Kingdom.

Moral Conservatives tend to err on the side of self-preservation: we are saving our good traditions for a generation-to-come. Or maybe for ourselves. We fear the Church’s conversion to a gender-scary culture. And frightening it is: justice is now defined as redefining marriage and recreating ourselves in the gender that today feels right to us.

Amid such idolatry of ‘self’, we wax fearful and alert the faithful to the doom-and-gloom at hand. Unwittingly, we hide our Gospel from the perishing. The very generation that needs a life-preserver finds the ark closed. All they hear is the demonically-amplified: ‘Christians hate LGBTUVWXYZ…’

Arguably, the liberal arm of the Church has already been converted. For them, love means ‘never having to say you are sorry’ for leaving one’s spouse of decades for a ‘gay’ lover, for cutting off one’s breasts or penis in search of the ‘true’ self, or for a host of heterosexual misdemeanors (cohabitation, porn, fornicating, affairs.) Justice is about inclusion, not the Cross that cost Him everything and that demands we pick up ours and follow Him, a trek made possible only with empty hands.

Liberals become unclean to welcome the unclean. Conservatives strive for purity and alienate the impure. How about becoming like Jesus, utterly pure through His mercy and utterly broken for the broken, so much so that we make a place in our hearts and in our churches for them?

That will require two things: first, a fearless belief in the power of Jesus to convert the morally lost through His Spirit and love. That means we trust that their misdirected spirits will not overpower the Church but in time will surrender to Holy Love.

Secondly, that surrender will require of us trust and time and more mercy than we have. It will require our surrender to Jesus and His Love. It will require that we the chaste get dirty. It takes more love to bear with an impure person in the truth of chastity than it does to relent to their futile self-definitions and relationships.

We need contexts in the Church where the sexually broken can work out their questions and challenges with persons who get their struggles and who have power in the Spirit through their own clear spirits to bring clarity. Courage groups, Living Waters, and other thoughtful small groups are now essential to the church or diocese wanting to help sexual sinners.

Bishop, pastor, and laity must labor together with and for real sinners. We must become a chaste and messy Bride in order to please the Bridegroom.

‘Jesus took sexual sin very seriously. He regarded sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage as capable of jeopardizing one’s entrance into the Kingdom of God…What distinguished Jesus was His incredibly generous spirit toward those who had lived in gross disobedience for years. He expended enormous efforts and exhibited great compassion in His search for the lost.

Jesus’ ministry proves that the Church can practice radical love without sacrificing God’s demand for righteous conduct…When either love or righteousness is sacrificed, the Church proclaims a truncated Gospel.’ Dr. Robert Gagnon

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Georgia, Bev Gammalo – Coordinator: For strength and vision for Bev, for existing groups and to see new groups established.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Miguel & Elisabeth – Coordinators: Direction for timing and team for future groups as they finish second ContraCorriente pilot with church leaders.
  3. Restored Hope Network: For Anne Paulk, as Executive Director, protection and provision for her and her three sons and extended family.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 16, 17, 18, 19

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