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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Naming Persons in Truth

‘So from now on we see no-one from a worldly point-of-view’ (2Cor 5:16).

It helps persons to name them as they really are. Everyone loses when we heed the false naming of persons according to feelings of same-sex attraction or other expressions of gender disintegration. We as Christians must lead the way by inviting others to align language with God’s vision for humanity. He made us and should be honored in how we see and what we say about others.

I refuse to call anyone ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ or ‘straight.’ I see a man or woman, made in God’s image. However estranged from Him, each person is deeply loved by the Father who through His Son seeks each out as His beloved son or daughter. He calls us to integrate our gender gift by learning how to befriend (not romanticize) our own gender and to honor the other as an essential good.

We set ourselves up for trouble when we adopt LGBT+ language; in doing so, we empower systems to grant a ‘people group’ status to an ever-morphing assortment of gender ‘selves.’ This proves dangerous to Christians. Last week, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled to remove graduate school accreditation from the law arm of Trinity Western University because this reputable Christian institution insists that its students abstain from sexual intimacy outside of marriage, a requirement deemed ‘discrimination’ by LGBT+ activists.

The Court ruled that abstinence clause would ‘deter LGBT+ students from attending the law school and would cause them harm.’ Wow. The state insists that Christian morality bow before a fractured band of persons who pretends to be a ‘people group.’

Not much different from AB 2943 in California. Based on false assumptions that persons are intrinsically wired as ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ from early childhood and will be devastated by anything less than a ‘gay’ wedding or gender ‘reassignment’, the state now seeks to remove any other option. In other words, the state seeks to make fraudulent a person’s decision to be reconciled to who God says he or she is.

We fight deception with proper language. Everyone can make the choice to integrate his or her gender; we base our way, and the words that describe it, on our Creator and Redeemer. He authors clarity, not confusion.

Speaking of confusion, a proudly Bible-based denomination with many good expressions in Kansas City has been significantly influenced by the ‘gay Christian’ slant of Wesley Hill. Hill embraces his same-sex attraction as identity, impermeable to change, yet holds to abstinence. I find that split between being and doing confusing.

Hill has impacted a Kansas City man who ‘gay’-identifies and who was recently ordained a minister in that denomination. He misleads others in his language and witness. Seeking no further integration in his sexual self, he exhibits a ‘gay’ sensibility in his identity and relationships with other men. He may be free from same-sex behavior but is unchaste, disintegrated. What can be expected from one who declares himself ‘gay’ as a Christian minister and leads others accordingly?

Finally, we see the impact of this confusion upon the most vulnerable. The New York Times celebrated two ‘men’ having a baby–in truth, one a woman pretending to be a man. This full-page article sought to normalize diverse families during ‘Pride’ month and ended up displaying the chaos that results when persons are encouraged to assume false selves. Honestly, their story descended into such confusion that even the one who gave birth remarked: ‘This is not real life; it’s some crazy soap opera.’ That may be a scream for consenting adults but now a child is involved who is daily subject to her confused caregivers.

Without consent. That is nothing short of child abuse, and everyone who champions LGBT+ selves without any consideration to God’s will and way may well be an accomplice to these injustices.

Christians run the risk of becoming insipid and dim when we begin to adopt LGBT+ jargon. Name persons in truth. See and say according to God’s will for our gendered humanity.

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Grand Father’s Day

Camille Comiskey was born June 8th, 2018 to Christina Comiskey and my eldest son Greg. She is beautiful, feisty, and unusually tall for her age. Her dark hair and eyes captivate us; her exuberance keeps Greg and Tina on their toes.

Camille was also born with a temporary problem involving her blood sugar levels so she was 10 days in the NICU. She needed monitoring and unusual amounts of feedings to normalize. That was tough on her and her parents. By the time Father’s Day rolled around on the 17th, Greg and Tina were weary in doing well and frustrated by being cooped up in a rather dreary unit that in spite of everyone’s excellent efforts was light years from home.

On top of it all, Christina was readmitted to the hospital due to some complications from her cesarean section. So Gregory divided his time between wife and child in different sections of the hospital. Tough. Yet he rallied valiantly and determined to do what was best for the two without complaint. I saw glimpses of St. Joseph in him as he served his family. I was proud.

For our family, Father’s Day surrounded the struggle of this young family. How fitting: Greg’s first Father’s Day did not begin with breakfast in bed or receiving sentimental cards but in a sleepless prayerful night followed by a day of caregiving. He nailed it. I bought him a sandwich on a break that day and marveled at his tenacity. He was anxious for both wife and child yet grateful for Christina’s recovery and his splendid daughter. We prayed and went back to the NICU where Annette was caring for Camille.

I went home alone and was surprised by a brief visit from youngest son Sam and wife Chelsea who brought Jacob–8-months-old now, and unbelievably cute. Pictures don’t do him justice. He renews Annette and me unlike anything else. I drank him in on this first Father’s Day for both Sam and Greg. They gave me the best Father’s Day ever.

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Barnabas

Last week the Church honored St. Barnabas, ‘the son of consolation and encouragement’ who empowered St. Paul to fulfill his mission to the Gentiles. Barnabas seemed little concerned with his success; though both he and Paul were granted apostolic titles (Acts 14:14), Barnabas ignited Paul then flamed out into early martyrdom. He did his part as a servant leader.

Also last week, we sponsored our sixth annual Living Waters Training in Latin America (Aquas Vivas), this time in Guadalajara Mexico. At the helm was Daniel Delgado. What struck me about Daniel’s leadership was the way he encouraged everyone to do his or her part. He rejoiced in others’ joy in serving Jesus. He served others without complaint in order to help ensure their success. He did not get lost in whatever losses he incurred. He is a type of Barnabas for Aquas Vivas.

This was only Daniel’s fourth Aquas Vivas Training. Up until two years ago, he struggled to speak Spanish. In a relatively short time he has integrated his Mexican-American heritage, now speaks in the tongue of his forefathers, and authentically embodies the Latino spirit.

It is natural for him to come alongside a range of Latin Americans who seek to offer their brokenness to Jesus and others; given his transgender background, Daniel knows how personal transformation of identity releases healing for all. Like Barnabas in Antioch, Daniel in Guadalajara ‘saw God’s grace at work and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart. For he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith’ (Acts 11:23, 24).

This was a hard year for Aquas Vivas. Our blessed friends in Puerto Rico were devastated by Hurricane Maria and are still mobilizing to continue the work of Living Waters there. (It is miraculous that the biggest delegation from the island came to be trained last week.) Yet other seasoned leaders could not join us due to unusual obligations or had moved onto other forms of service. At times I wondered if our Mexican plans would be realized. Daniel is a deep healer and hard worker but not an administrator per se. Could he pull this off?

Not alone. He assembled an amazing team of Aquas Vivas leaders from the Guadalajara area. Meric, Francisco, Veronica and Father Ricardo share Daniel’s heart of servant leadership while possessing gifts he does not. Together the team did an excellent job, so much so that I evaluate this training as the most peaceful and effective we’ve yet experienced in Latin America. A cohesive team, coordinated by a man motivated by others’ success: thank you St. Barnabas for your witness of encouragement. Thank you, Daniel, for embodying that witness.

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Surrounded 2

My friend Jim Doman is man of the hour in California right now. He has organized pastors from all over the state through his group, Pastors United, to declare that Jesus transforms persons with gender problems in the face of AB 2943. I was honored that he featured the impact of Living Waters in a press conference he organized last week in Santa Ana.

Expectant, I was distressed to discover that I felt bad, really bad, as soon as I stepped on the plane. I later discovered I had walking pneumonia; all I knew then is that for some reason I could barely function.

Perfect conditions for the Kingdom of God! Without reserve, I shared my story and our fight for freedom of choice in California to an elegant-looking professional woman besides me. She quietly confessed that she had been in a 15-year relationship with a woman before she married her husband. We both agreed that the opposite gender keeps us sane, and it shouldn’t be a sin to say so.

After that, I could no longer sustain a clear thought. So I just let 40 years of worship music rise up from within and play. I was flooded with memories of all the churches throughout California we had served. It helped. My next flight was canceled, so I stalled out in the airport and feared I would not make it to Orange County.

Yet in truth I did not fear. It’s easy to trust God when you feel like dirt. I was docile and patient with cranky service people. And guess what? I kept getting texts from people like you who sent scriptures and encouragements from around the country. I meditated in the still of the night on the beauty of Christ’s body. When I arrived at the courthouse, just in the nick of time, I was greeted by a handful of old friends who came to support our fight for choice. We had served them at some point and they wanted to support our service. I was touched.

Doman had assembled a diverse group of pastors for the press conference: a variety of Latinos, Asians, and African–Americans who all testified beautifully to their transformation from ‘gay’ to Christ-centered. Everyone was in sync with each other. We needed unity because LGBT+ protesters were crass, invasive and heckled each speaker. An unseen Presence freed us to keep focus, stay loving, and speak soundly of the beauty of Jesus’ body in California.

The Church is beautiful here. That was my takeaway from the press conference. Whatever our trials, however far the pendulum swings in the direction of LGBT+ nonsense, Jesus remains clear and faithful in His members. AB 2943 goes up for vote soon in the senate and will most likely land on Gov. Brown’s desk by the end of the month. We pray, we wait, and we stay hopeful. We are surrounded. I limped back to the airport, as if sustained by a great cloud of witnesses. Heaven’s song flooded my heart til I could no longer hear the din of hecklers.

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Polish Spring

‘See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come.’ (SS 2:11, 12)

Amid abuse and cover-up, confusion from Pope Francis regarding homosexuality and Irish citizens overturning their abortion ban, the Spirit of Pentecost enveloped a hundred of us in Krakow Poland who gathered for our second Living Waters Training there.

We couldn’t stop singing, and the Spirit kept raining on us as we offered our brokenness to the Crucified in tears and joy. Surrounding our songs was a chorus of birds that worshipped day and night in huge trees that flanked us on every side.

Trainings are just that: arduous, messy, shame and glory, revelation amid hard reality. Why now after seven 16-hour-days am I refreshed? All I know is that I was buoyed, as if I caught a current of the Kingdom and knew intuitively how to navigate the waters. Extraordinary.

It is easy for an outsider to idealize this land of St. John Paul ll and St. Faustina. Traditional values are evident (Poland is not sympathetic to ‘reproductive rights’ and LGBT+ aspirations) and create a kind of moral clarity not evident in America or Western Europe. The Church here is cohesive, a national rallying point amid devastating historic batterings. To many Poles, Jesus through His Mother (Church) sustained the nation’s hope and dignity throughout centuries.

Yet good ethics and history can become prison bars unless the Spirit liberates wounded lives. The Poles may be clearer in their devotion to Christ than many Europeans today but they are no less broken by their bloody history, which gave rise to deep patterns of family disorder, including disordered church dynamics.

For these reasons, I take heart that many Poles are facing their wounds forthrightly with each other. I am in awe of men and women we have now walked with for three years who are different people today: joyful, not glum, with a new well-being in their gendered, bodily humanity. They no longer avoid others’ gaze. One young woman whom I first met in Lithuania couldn’t walk unassisted due to the oppression of her sin and wounds. During this training she bounded around the site, taught better than I did, and will return refreshed to her hometown to lead a Living Water group which is changing the culture of her church.

Most importantly, the nine Polish priests who attended the training taught and shared openly about their wounds and sins against chastity. They honored their office by making clear they live through the wounds of Jesus discovered in His broken merciful members. They released deep drafts of mercy for all of us. We exhausted them and each other in laying bare our need for ongoing conversion.

Wearied in doing well, we welcomed the Spirit’s refreshment. He is accomplishing in the Polish Church what we can only hope for. A Polish Spring, welling up with song in the Spirit of Pentecost: He will have His way with His Church.

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