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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Restraint and Refuge

As our culture embraces perversion as normal, we as the church must provide a sure path for those seeking the better way. That involves clear teaching on God’s design and redemption for those with same-sex attraction; more practically, it means opening our arms and hearts. The church must become the refuge for gays plucked from the fire. We must grant them a fighting chance to become reoriented around Jesus.

“Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people” (Is. 57:14)…”I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth” (Is. 42:16)…And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way.”

(Is. 35:8)

God is using the gay marriage crisis. He wants to wake up the church to what is going on in the culture. He alerts us so that we can be ready to receive those He is calling off the path of destruction and onto His sure ground. We know we must restrain wickedness through the likes of Proposition 8. Will we also be a refuge for those plucked out of that wickedness?

Cindy, a female minister in a large urban center, was ready. She received Living Waters training and was about to start a group in her church. A woman high on drugs named Kate, alongside her lesbian lover, stumbled into a night meeting at the church. As a teen she had been abused for years by a high-ranking public official; the legal battle that ensued destroyed her young faith. She sought refuge in chemicals and same-sex sensuality. But she wanted Jesus.

Her lover wasn’t serious about the ‘God-thing’. But Kate was. She was embraced by the church, transformed by what God did through Living Waters (she needed a couple of rounds!), set boundaries with friends who did not support her commitment to holiness, and eventually became a dynamic minister in her own right.

God wants His little ones back! The church as a loving home can be snatched from one temporarily. But Jesus never stops reaching. He does so through wise and merciful saints like Cindy, who have made the church a refuge for those in transition.

Cindy looks for those seeking the better way. The prophet Joel describes them as:“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. The day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” (Joel 3:14) We fast and pray, then look out for those in the ‘valley.’

Many have been embraced by the gay community but know that they are not yet home. Home for them lies in Jesus and His design for their lives. No amount of sensual and emotional solidarity with one’s own gender can fill that void. Only a community founded on Jesus can establish those in the ‘valley’ on sure ground.

The day of the Lord is a day of judgment, a dark hour for those who have turned away from Jesus. Joel writes that “the sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars will no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble.” (v.15, 16a)

A land given over to perversion invites God’s judgment. Unredeemed darkness in the creation provokes the Creator. It provoked Him so much that He (Father and Son) endured agony to win us back. Before the final judgment, He implores those in the valley to return to Himself, to secure refuge under the shadow of His cross.

“But the Lord will be a refuge for His people, a stronghold for His own…” (Joel 3:16b)

Will we, the church, become that refuge, a welcoming community of that cross? The ‘Kates’ of this world have no other hope. In their hearts, they already know that only Jesus can secure them in love. Let us seek to embody that love as the people of Christ. Multitudes depend on us to be that living, welcoming refuge.

So we seek to restrain wickedness while offering refuge for those turning from it.

Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Father, open our eyes to the multitude in the valley of decision. Help us to hear their cries and see their need, their supreme need for communion with You. And let us become that refuge, a living fortress endued with love more powerful than the seduction of this age. Make us a stronghold of mercy that liberates those captive by ungodly fear, shame, and perversion.”

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God’s Fast for His Justice

A couple of weeks ago my good friend Peter Kockelman and I had the privilege of proclaiming the truth of God’s mercy to transform His broken image in humanity—right in the middle of the Castro, arguably San Francisco’s (and the country’s) most notorious gay district.

After the church service, we ate in a restaurant of mostly gay clientele. Among them was a young man, sitting alone, desperately seeking the attention of other men. He looked in earnest, awaiting some masculine source of strength and tenderness to see him and initiate connection with him. No-one did. While he was leaving, I pursued him to bless him and let him know of the Lord’s special attentiveness toward him.

He looked confused at first, then lit up when he realized I meant no harm. He lit up because I saw him and attended to him, as if he mattered. He matters not because of some special allure he possesses, but because he bears the Father’s image and that Father wants him above all else.

We cannot give the gay community all that it wants, e.g. gay marriage. But we can give its seeking members what they need—the Father’s justice to them revealed in Jesus Christ and His mercy. Mercy alone satisfies the cry of the misdirected heart.

In that way, we must not think that voting down gay marriage should be our only goal in these forty days of prayer and fasting. Reclaiming those bound by perversion must be our goal as well. Let us pray that we will be all the more inclined in these days to manifest God’s justice to those driven and deceived by their same-sex attraction. It is not enough to halt the advance of activists; we must serve justice to the oppressed through the power of God’s mercy.

My freedom today as a man and priest is based wholly on that mercy. To this day I am reminded continuously of that mercy. He draws me to himself daily; even and especially in my weakness, He is faithful to free me to love according to His design. He never hides His face from me but rather shines brighter when shadows fall. Truly Jesus ‘works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed’ (Ps 103:6); for this oppressed one most of all!

He did so and continues to do so through faithful believers who upheld the truth of God’s best for me, e.g. His design. At the same time, they extended extravagant mercy that served to reclaim that design in me. May we pour out that mercy in this hour to every wandering soul!

We at Desert Stream cry out for justice in the land through fighting for the correct and holy definition of marriage; that is just for all, especially for generations yet to come.

But we believe that our cry has authority only to the degree that we are continuously extending mercy to those oppressed by homosexuality. That is our expressed goal: to equip the church to be God’s arm of justice for them. That grants us authority to fight on the state-wide level. Were we not serving justice in the healing ‘trenches’, our conviction about public-policy would be a ‘resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.’

That was the trouble with Israel. She wondered why God wasn’t blessing her; they were doing all the right religious things—praying and fasting, upholding the letter of the law. But she was acting terribly toward others. Her religious practices failed to include real justice for really oppressed people!

Similarly, those who oppose gays politically may be ‘in the right’ on one hand. But when that opposition is fueled by fear and hatred of them do a disservice to all. We must restrain perversion by loving well those who bear God’s image and who need a better way than self-justifying activism.

Mercy, acts of kindness, loving attentiveness to their needs as persons: that pleases the Lord. And that has power to serve justice as mightily as voting down gay marriage.

Similarly, Isaiah exhorts us “to do way with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and to spend ourselves on behalf of the hungry, and to satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” (Is.58:9, 10)

That is the fast God chooses for us—to serve justice through mercifully attending to the needs of the oppressed. The gay community has needs that they cannot meet for themselves. We alone as Christ’s body have keys ‘to loose chains of injustice, to break every yoke, to share the food we have received, to clothe the wanderer, to turn toward our own flesh and blood with the hope of Jesus” (vs.6,7); that is God’s chosen fast for us in this hour.

We can be right about something (gay marriage) being wrong, and yet so much more in error than the object of out scorn (the community pushing for it!) That community needs restraint politically but unrestrained mercy individually.

Let us serve justice fully and so please the Lord. We cannot give the gay community all that they want, but we can give them what they need.

Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Prop. 8.

“Father, forgive us for being so politically-minded that we lose the fullness of Your justice. Help us to see the needs of the gay community and seek to meet those needs mercifully, one individual at a time. You have given mercy freely to us; help us to give it away freely. Forgive us for the ‘pointing finger and malicious talk.’ Free us for the fullness of Your justice.”

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Rend Our Hearts

United with Christ, turned toward the good and aware that the enemy is no-one but the deceiver himself, we must grasp the urgency of the hour. And be willing to act urgently. Why? If we do not take a stand against ‘gay marriage’ today, then we help loose a flood of perversion tomorrow.

Chesterton writes: “Man has never been able to keep on one level of evil. The road goes down and down.” If its successful ‘homosexualization’ is any indication, then California is going down fast.

“Gay marriage’ declares that perversion is blessed in the land, that the normalizing of homosexuality reflects justice and compassion. And it manifests the truth that those in the land who know better have capitulated to other forces, have fallen asleep at their posts, have failed to represent well their Creator and Redeemer in the land.

God has entrusted us to manifest real justice and compassion in our communities, and to restrain those inclined to pervert both. That is our duty as Christian citizens. When we fail to see this and act as if our only responsibility is to our immediate communities of faith, then we give the land over to corruption and judgment.

Shame on us for giving the land that we love to a host of powerful strategists hell-bent on inserting a perverse agenda into all walks of life! We must rend, or tear, our hearts before God and ask for His mercy before it is too late.

Our first act of urgency must be prayer. The prophet Joel implored his people to pray, a people who were under the threat of enemy invasion as an act of God’s judgment.

“‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘Return to Me with all Your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments…” (Joel 2:12, 13)

The prophet urged them to declare a sacred assembly in which all might “weep between the temple porch and altar” and cry out: “Spare Your people , O God. Do not make Your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ “(vs. 16,17)

I urge you to gather with friends and to cry out on behalf of California in this urgent hour. Cry out for the righteous in the land that God would vindicate our stand for what is just and right for California. The good news in Joel 2: 12-17 is that God is ‘gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity…” (Vs. 13, 14)

Who knows? God may well vindicate the saints in California by empowering and uniting them to push back the advance of perversion there. One thing is sure: if Proposition 8 passes, it declares to all that the righteous in the land refuse to concede what is holy (marriage) to perversion. May He empower us to prayerful action in this hour.

We declare together: “We love marriage and the way that it represents You, O God. Forgive us for conceding Your image to alien forces. We ask that You would have mercy on the land and would rouse us to represent You well there! May we not be put to shame by the advance of perversion that is ‘gay marriage.’ May we push back falsehood in the power of what is just and true: reserving marriage for one man pledged to one woman in permanence and fidelity.”

Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Those who seek the good have a permanent advantage in the inescapable moral design…And they have an advantage in the Designer Himself who hears our prayers, can’t be defeated and acts beyond our little defeats, beyond our sight…”

Budziszewski

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Turning toward Jesus Christ

Clearly we have witnessed a momentum to evil. One desecrating act begets another, broken boundaries fan out like myriad wildfires on dry forest.

But the momentum of repentance is more powerful still. As we turn back to Him, the Author and Redeemer of who we actually are, our spirits resound with the music of Heaven. We discover quickly that the enemy’s design for humanity is infinitely less satisfying and secure than God’s original design for His creation.

Budziszewski writes: “We are put together in such a way that although we can be pushed and pulled and drowsied by flickering images, we can’t be satisfied by them; we know too much, even in oblivion. Fallen knowledge troubles our sleep. We lie under a prickling enchantment of the image carved in our hearts, which is stronger than the counterspell and can never be quite scratched out.”

We turn Jesus, who alone has unique authority to summon the true (albeit slumbering) image in us. He invites us to surrender unto Himself—He who is the true image of God in humanity and He who alone possesses the authority to recover that design in us.

Paul in his letter to the Colossians highlights the supremacy of Jesus Christ—“the image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:15). The Apostle claims that Christ created everything. As the Source of God’s image in humanity, Jesus is also the redeemer of its brokenness.

Paul underlines His work on the cross as Jesus’ authority to reconcile us back to the Father and His design for us. His death cancels out the desecration of His image in us; Hi s life raises us up ‘holy in His sight, without blemish, and free from accusation.’(1:22)

That requires one thing of us: turning to Him in full as the Hope of our recovery. (1:23)

Turning away from the damage done to marriage specifically and God’s image in general requires more than just hating the devastation; it involves cleaving to the Redeemer of the broken image in humanity. He alone holds the keys to our restoration.

We love Him. He is the only One who can rescue us from the dominating power of sin. Our first goal then is not the recovered marriage, the flood of pure feelings, the freedom from addiction—the first goal is setting our hearts on Him as the Author and Finisher of our redemption. He made us; He alone can redeem us.

Honor Jesus by honoring marriage. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

The best way to overcome false desires is to cultivate true ones (C. S. Lewis); in turn, let us not be overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil with good. (Rom. 18:21)

“Jesus, we acknowledge You as that highest good. We want to cultivate desire for You. We place our confidence in Your mercy and design for our lives.”

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Repentance for Breaking Natural Boundaries

In the Los Angeles earthquake of 1994, I witnessed power lines under and over ground breaking and igniting into flames. Showers of sparks flew from the broken lines as they lashed out, like huge snakes striking wildly at anything in their path. Broken power lines did more damage in our neighborhood than anything else.

Like those damaged lines, we as a people are guilty of breaking natural boundaries in our relationships. We have scoffed at the 6th Commandment: ‘Thou shall not commit adultery.’ Not only have we refused marriage as the one context for sexual behavior, we have allowed our minds and hearts to be filled with lustful thoughts for those we have no business sexualizing. We have violated the 9th Commandment: ‘Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife’, referring to the ways we envy or long to possess another that is not ours to have.

In our neediness and rebellion, we have broken holy boundaries. We have perverted God’s creation. The lines of protection break and lash out; loose wires ignite desires that are exaggerated and inflamed. Our emotions become similarly distorted and incline us to dangerous unions. Misbegotten relationships speak for themselves, a result of our separation from God rather than of our obedience to Him.

J. Budziszewski writes of how breaking natural boundaries perverts desire and behavior: “Although sex consummates the friendship of wife and husband, it perverts the friendship of comrades, just as it perverts the friendship of family members.”

I remember the seismic shift that occurred as a teenager when my male friend became a lover; I see that now with men and women on the journey out of homosexuality who break boundaries with others on the way to freedom. Friends lose friends when they become lovers. There is forgiveness for perverting a friendship, but there is no return to its original innocence.

My original walking partners in the ‘brave new world’ of homosexuality both died of AIDS. Having annihilated natural boundaries in all manner of addiction, we became subject to all manner of infection. Today Annette and I spend much of our time helping others rebuilding boundaries in the aftermath of their breaking them, not to mention the equally slow process of restoring trust with those they love.

Breaking boundaries is costly and devilish. We are slow to come to our senses. We must pray for clarity of truth and sight here; we must ask God for an awareness of the depth of denial and deception at work. I never cease to be amazed at how long and how far violators will go to defend their moral crimes.

“Behind your doors and your doorposts, you have put your pagan symbols. Forsaking me, you uncovered your bed, you climbed into it and opened it wide; you made a pact with those whose beds you love, and you looked on their nakedness…You were wearied by all your ways, but you would not say ‘It is hopeless.’ You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint. Whom have you so dreaded and feared that you have been false to me, and have neither remembered me nor pondered this in your hearts?” (Isaiah 57: 8, 10, 11)

“Thank you God that we have come to our senses. The loose wires have lashed out at us; we have been burned by the fires of our lust and fiery emotions. Thank You for waking us up through the bitter consequence of sin.

Forgive us for the ways that we have violated You in our broken boundaries. Forgive us for the ways we have violated Your creation, including our own bodies and souls. Sensitize us to the damage done, that we would not take lightly the ways we have abused sacred trust as Your image-bearers.

Have mercy on us; give us grace, humility and courage to rebuild the boundary lines. Help us to manifest trustworthiness to those who we love and who need our faithfulness. Your faithfulness is our hope that we too can become faithful.”

We pray as Nehemiah prayed: “You see the trouble we are in: we are in ruins, our gates burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”(Neh3:17)

Honor marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

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