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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Betrayal

For the last month, I have been sickened by reports of ex-Cardinal McCarrick’s long history of sexual abusing male teens and adults; more deadening still is his denial of the allegations (how so when a diocese settled a couple of these cases years earlier?). Most crucifying are reports that some leaders around him knew of his atrocities and turned a blind eye.

Each Christian bears the shame of this. Those aware of the devastating impact of sexual and spiritual abuse bear more. How could a religious system betray her most vulnerable over and over again? The Church’s structure lends itself to cohesion (for which I am grateful) and cover-up (for which we must become stubbornly intolerant).

Scripture guides me here. As the McCarrick allegations unfolded, I completed a Bible study on the Gospel of St. Mark with my children, using a commentary written by Dr. Mary Healy, a Catholic biblical scholar whom I esteem as one of the greatest gifts to the Church today. St. Mark is the leanest of the Gospels and thus fails to soften much of anything. His account of the events leading up to the crucifixion broke me; I shuddered as demonized men abused Jesus rapid fire, relentlessly. He suffered betrayal on every side, as if dark forces had captivated all men and made them violently stupid. On the cross, Jesus’ only words conveyed forsakenness (‘Where are You, Father?’), ending in a death cry.

Thank God for the cross, the Father’s inner logic that boomerangs wickedness into divine power and wisdom! Yet in St. Mark, even Christ Resurrected is hidden from witnesses who are either too dull or too afraid to believe the Risen Jesus at all. Mary Magdalene ‘gets’ Him but her report to the disciples falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. And this from the Gospel I most associate with spiritual power: St. Mark’s blazing witness of the Word confirmed by signs and wonders.

St. Mark reveals the cross as God’s strength, glory just waiting to shatter the husk of clueless men. If God truly works through human impotence, then we the Church have given Him a lot to work with—the ex-cardinal whose dazzling gifts obscured a predatory double life, dutiful men who doubted their guts and settled on hiding gangrene rather than amputating it. To quote Pope Benedict: ‘In the Church, Jesus entrusts Himself to those who betray Him again and again.’

Eloquent and true. Yet humanly-speaking, how are we to trust the Church now? We must grieve for persons abused by clerics who cannot help but gag at pics of McCarrick gazing effusively at Pope Francis. And what about the innocent clerics who fight for chastity and who urge us to integrate our own, priests now complicit in the eyes of the public who see ‘cover up’ in every Roman vestment? We must cry out for the abused who need justice, and for clergy who should not be maligned because of a cowardly few. And for the unbelieving world who needs to know that the Church is not a secret, self-protective refuge for perverse men who enjoy the theater of religion. Rather, she is a beautiful Mother, served by amazing Fathers.

Power in impotence—the cross, the gist of the Gospel, St. Mark’s especially. And that is what we are beholding as Pope Francis, with the help of friends, acts decisively and strongly to no longer tolerate clerical abuse. He is wielding the surgical knife, as evinced by the resignation of 34 Chilean bishops last month who participated in an extensive cover-up of ongoing abuse, and the conviction of an Australian Archbishop on similar grounds. Most resoundingly, Pope Francis stripped McCarrick of his cardinal status and removed him from public ministry. That is huge, a first, and needs to become standard practice for shepherds who eat sheep or look the other way while others do.

A trustworthy Church? Yes, when she verifies the truth of abuse, disciplines abusers, while making every effort to heal the abused and ensure the sexual integrity of her leaders. Strength at work in weakness: our faith is founded on nothing less. We’ve miles to go. Still, when lived in her members, the cross on which God was betrayed overcomes the sting and stink of this most intimate human betrayal.

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Pray for 2943 and Asia

Friends,

I am just finishing a wonderful break with Annette and children and grandkids; I leave tomorrow with Abbey for our first Living Waters Training in Ubon Thailand. Ubon, near the Laos border, is a Buddhist stronghold with extremely limited Christian presence. We delight in all who will join us there, including leaders and participants from churches in six other Asian nations. Please pray for our freedom on all fronts to love and serve Southeast Asia wisely. Your prayers enable us to renew our commitment to releasing Living Waters there. Pray:

Special grace for Abbey who at the last minute agreed to lead all musical worship (as well as to lead a small group and teach.) The girl is a marvel but also human….

For Tom and Terri Wright, seasoned Living Waters leaders from Virginia who will serve us and share as a couple: this is their first international ministry trip together. Pray for extraordinary blessing on them and clarity for mission.

For our amazing leader in Ubon, Sue Hunt, who has been among the most faithful and fruitful of international Living Waters leaders. She has envisioned this training for a long time and has worked steadily and well in the Spirit to ensure its reality. Pray for her joy, stamina, and wisdom in discerning what God is doing in her land through this training.

Lastly, the California legislature reconvened this week though as yet we do not know when and how 2943 will be introduced for a senate vote. Pray for the bill’s dismissal or its extreme modification. Either could happen.

Last week the Massachusetts legislature failed to pass its efforts to ban ‘reparative therapy’ for minors due to lefty infighting. (And from the state that introduced ‘gay marriage’ to America!)

This is not a good season for any government body that imposes serious, unnecessary limits on the moral decision-making of its citizens. Keep praying and we will keep you posted.

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‘Becoming Good News’ for Wandering Loved Ones

I am excited about a new booklet I just wrote–‘Becoming Good News’–a daily, 40-part prayer guide for those of us seeking to love persons mesmerized by the LGBT+ dragon. Jonathan Hunter prayerfully glimpsed this brute: a shimmering beast that entrances a generation with the promise of new identities and partnerships. Having lured them, the dragon then loses them with one swift flick of its tail. Our common enemy is merciless to those seduced by this multi-faceted mirror of deception. We are right to be concerned for loved ones.

Yet we are all creatures of free will. We cannot change anyone; still we try, and can be tempted to employ our faith to control and manipulate others. ‘Becoming Good News’ majors on the truth that another’s disorientation invites us to conversion. We discover in our helplessness and shame and fear that Jesus is actually calling us to Himself. Simply put, He employs another’s more obvious disorder to reveal our own.

That disorder may take on two forms, either becoming complicit or contemptuous of the dragon’s influence. The complicit are worldly in their thinking but do not know it. We believe that we are being merciful–non-judgey–to loved ones by altering our truth in order to accommodate their poor moral choices. Aren’t we just cowardly, afraid to see and feel the truth of our loved ones’ devolution? Out of unexpressed anxiety come silly statements like ‘my gay son is perfect’ or ‘my lesbian neighbors are the most Christ-like couple I know.’ Bleech. Me thinks we fawn too much. We are just dodging the truth that someone we care for is in danger and we do not know what to do. So we concede to the culture. And people-pleasing. We need conversion, not caving.

Another trap is contempt. Here we appear to have the right on our side: the truth of God’s will for human sexuality, etc. But our hearts are not right. Though we plead ‘righteous indignation,’ we are actually projecting our anxiety onto good people (however wounded and rebellious) and hating them for their bad choices. Instead of identifying the dragon, we take aim and fire at those under its sway. Easy to do. Sickened by media glamorization of identity confusion and adultery of all kinds, we conceive the temptation to hate the deceived. We are like the Pharisee (LK 18) who thanked God he wasn’t an adulterer. We must repent of religious pride that breeds contempt, and ask for mercy’s conversion.

Whether complicit or contemptuous, we need conversion. Jesus asks for our undivided devotion; He changes us so that our offer of transformation is matched by our becoming whole. That is the invitation of ‘Becoming Good News.’ You can request more info on this new book at BecomingGoodNews@desertstream.org. And you can calendar in Oct. 10th-Nov. 18th, 2018 for a prayer drive this fall, using this book. Let’s cry out together for loved ones under the dragon’s sway. May our repentance loose a stream of truth and mercy that will convert hearts, starting with our own.

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AB 2943 and Divine Mercy

Will California Preserve Freedom of Choice?

The California legislature tried to railroad AB 2943 through the Senate; it looked like a sure thing for a political body intent on outlawing any moral action that clashes with the state’s LGBTQ+ juggernaut. Strangely, the bill was put on hold until August 6th. Besides giving dissenters like us more time to pray and engage the powers-that-be, what happened?

Divine mercy. That’s what happened. 2000 years ago the powers-that-be thought they had vanquished Jesus. Yet His death loosed a river of life that breaks the stronghold of death in every person who calls upon His Name. The Cross is the ultimate expression of divine mercy: it set into motion the truth that cruelties of every kind, including unjust laws like AB 2943, do not have the final say. God turns them around in order to achieve an even greater good.

All it requires is for God’s people to prayerfully gather in humility and compassion. From San Diego to Redding, Christian dissenters from San Diego to Redding have amplified the truth that Jesus changes lives. Sexual wholeness outshines a ‘gay’ wedding or a ‘sex’ change any day. For the last four months, Christians in California have displayed the glorious splendor of the Kingdom. Wisely and persistently, weak people being redeemed by Jesus have countered worldly thinking that threatens free speech and action—through their own stories, they have championed citizens’ rights to choose how they will resolve gender issues.

Bethel Church Redding arose in response to AB 2943 as never before. Two members, Elizabeth Woning and Ken Williams, both formerly ‘gay’-identified, have worked tirelessly and effectively to engage with lawmakers in Sacramento and to rally churches throughout California to support choice by refusing AB 2943. I met them 20-months-ago at the onset of their Bethel-based ministry ‘Equipped to Love’ (equippedtolove.com); though clear in their call, their course of action wasn’t. Not anymore. These two are as empowered and focused as anyone in the field. Get a copy of their booklet ‘Changed’. For such a time as this.

Two women from Living Waters in Pasadena met with the representative of a key decision-making senator in Sacramento; they influenced her by telling their stories wisely and well. Many more friends of mine in California who in the past have been reticent to tell the whole truth of Jesus’ work in their lives have boldly gone before cameras and large groups to make known His merciful love in their sexual brokenness. Some have risked jobs due to LGBT+ employers. We endure shame for love’s sake, for the joy set before us.

Faithful lawyers, orthodox clinicians, and pastors of every ethnicity have joined us at every turn to offer wise support. There is an army of intrepid truth-bearers who are arising in this hour. AB 2943 provoked this army. This is divine mercy—God turning around injustice in order to achieve His greater aim.

We are undoubtedly helped by two rulings last month by the Supreme Court. Clearly now, the highest court in our land is not inclined to any group being railroaded by the government when legitimate and deeply held views are at stake, including a cake-maker in Colorado who could not in good conscience bake for a ‘gay’ wedding (his resistance was honored by the court in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. CCRC) or pro-life pregnancy centers in California who need not advertise for abortions. (Under California law, the centers were forced to do so until NIFLA v. Becerra.)

The implications of these decisions are huge for AB 2943. Christians have an objective yet countercultural understanding of sexual wholeness that has been demonized by the California legislature. If AB 2943 passes, it will make a bee-line to the Supreme Court where, in my humble opinion, it hasn’t a chance. Can the California legislature see this? If so, did that contribute to its delayed vote?

Divine mercy. When Jesus’ members humble themselves and offer bad things back to Him, He turns them around and does something better. That is good news for a world that awaits the outcome of AB 2943. Massachusetts wants to pass such a law, as does the UK and France. Will the faithful show the world a different, better way? Maybe California will preserve freedom for sexual wholeness.

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Your Answered Prayers

In New York City, on the last day of ‘Gay Pride’ month, God had the last word.  In the same city where a noisy and highly funded LGBT+ parade glorified identity confusion a week earlier, Living Waters flowed without notice, quietly yet mightily to heal wounds at the core of the relational mess we are in.

Together a thirsty group of Catholics and evangelicals gathered under the Cross to receive His self-giving and to seek to offer ourselves more wholly to others. We welcomed His healing rain in a Catholic parish on 100-degree parched ground. We found Jesus’ heart right in the heart of New York City.

You, through your ongoing generosity and collaboration in heart and prayer, helped make it possible for us —in answer to years of prayer —to minister to the hearts of many in Manhattan.

Jim and Joann bravely shared about how Living Waters are gently yet powerfully flowing into on their 30+ year-marriage that had been riddled by each of their porn addictions.  The Living Waters are running deep to touch the roots of their wounds of which porn is just a symptom. Jim shared about his never having felt good enough which led him to the military and a masculinity that dominated everyone around him, including his wife.  Already ill at ease with her feminine vulnerability, Joann lived under his domination and endured through self-protection.

Through Living Waters, their wounds are being revealed and cleansed. They are experiencing tender love for each other like never before. Thank you for your generosity that releases Living Waters.

My amazing daughter Katie, a young single woman desiring marriage but joyful and content in trusting God’s unfolding plan for her, shared with the candor of one whose heart is free and alive.  Her story illustrates the destructive power that a tiny bad seed can have in producing weeds that can choke a flower.  Though growing up in a pretty good family (if I do say so myself), she too experienced wounding by words spoken over her by peers–lies that she internalized.  These lies festered and stunted the flowering of her femininity.  But through Living Waters she came to understand and take hold of the unique beauty and value she possesses. The vitality that she radiates to all is because generous friends like you helped release Living Waters.

These stories remind us that God’s last word is always grace, mercy and newness of life.  This was the last word He spoke into New York City on the last day of “Gay Pride” month.  Without you, this would not be possible. Because of you, important ground was taken back in New York City and reclaimed for God and His Kingdom of Life and Love.

Will you help us to continue to free and renew hearts and reclaim lives for God?  Our country just celebrated the freedom won for us by those who sacrificed their lives.  Amid record-breaking temperatures and oppression over much of the country, many cry out for healing rain–the Living Waters of true freedom.  Will you help to refresh them?  Will you help us to bring this Living Water to them that they might discover the true life God has for them?

The summer is a difficult time for Desert Stream financially.  But there is so much thirst which continues unabated. We are few yet we have you. How glorious is that: together we can bring freedom and life to many hearts in our country. Please remember us in your prayers and giving.  Bless and love you all.

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