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Handed Over

By Marco Casanova

“The God who once manifested wrath against those who turned to idols by handing them over to their shameful passions has now handed them over to the life-giving, transformative power of the Spirit of Christ.” Dr. Robert Gagnon

St. Paul’s words to the Romans are weighty. They had to be. Ancient Roman culture needed prophetic clarity, not a weird attempt to assimilate Christian faith with pagan toxicity. We share that need today. “Gay Christian” ideology tries to mix the sacred with the pagan. St. Paul speaks a better word to us. The Savior he preaches has power to reorder us in love.

St. Paul’s words on homosexuality are clear and timely. Hear this: ‘They worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…Because of this, God handed them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way…the men were inflamed with lust for one another…and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion’ (Romans 1:25-27). To counter these words with laborious arguments is unscholarly and reduces the Gospel of its power. Dare we dismiss what the Savior brought through St. Paul? This Roman epistle deserves a fair hearing.

To be “handed over” (v. 26) to lust is an important word choice. St. Paul describes the evident homosexual passion of Rome as a byproduct of God handing them over to what they wanted. Boundless desire becomes its own punishment. We do what we want to our own peril.

I handed myself over to guys to momentarily meet my ‘need.’ But my lust lacked life, providing no lasting fulfillment or openness to new life. To hand myself over to same-sex sin consumed me and compelled me towards a dead end. I wasn’t free. I needed Someone to save me.

Back to Romans. After his description of ‘gay’ chaos, St. Paul addressed his mostly Jewish readers: ‘You think you are less in need of mercy than these lustful ones?’ Paul invites us in all our messiness into mercy. Yes, the mercy of Jesus is messy. The God-man, slain on a Cross, handed His heart over to be cut open for us. His body fluids are our cleansing flood (John 19:34). Disciples of mercy don’t hide their pagan messes. We’re not afraid because Jesus isn’t afraid of us.

Jesus broke the domination of homosexuality in me. Jesus freed me for more. That’s what He does. He sets captives free. The power of homosexual passion to consume me was real. Though this creative gift of sex is powerful and purposeful, it enslaved me in its disorder. I enthroned my bodily urge for men and it demanded my worship. Jesus wanted more for me.

In handing Himself over for me, Jesus rescued me from being handed over to lust (John 19:16). Only Jesus can set us free from such captivity.

Following Jesus is disruptive. There are no qualms about that. But let’s not become self-piteous and make our “sacrifice” the focal point. Don’t stop at what you’ve given up. Run to the One who continues to hand Himself over each and every day for you.

Utterly important to me is daily Communion. The Eucharist is His “handing over” made flesh. It’s a tangible, deep, transformative remembrance that Jesus is on a mission to rescue us daily.

Jesus is always on the move to save us, handing Himself over, all over again.

Fruitfulness

By Abbey Foard

Anniversary celebrations run the risk of becoming sappy and nostalgic in ways that diverge from reality. Don’t get me wrong: reflecting on accomplishments is important, but best when inspiring a good future hope! Gratefully, we experienced such clarity as Desert Stream celebrated 40 years of ministry last week in Kansas City.

We considered 40 years’ worth of reflections from Living Waters representatives who gathered courageously amidst COVID. (Maybe the courage was reminiscent of what each mustered the year he or she first set foot in a Living Waters group?!) We worshipped the Lord with a team that spanned geography and eras; we became ‘church’ in all our diversity and celebrated the work that He began and has not stopped doing in each of our lives.

We honored Andrew and Annette, our fearless and passionate leaders, for their integrity, faithfulness and commitment to Jesus and this unique work. All of us in the audience were delighted as the four Comiskey children emceed each decade. They noted their intersections with Desert Stream/Living Waters and in sum gave us a tangible picture of the worthiest fruit of this ministry: the life that flowed from the couple who founded it.

A marriage that the world tells us should “never have been” now exhibits and envisions the fruitfulness that comes from Jesus; is this not what life-in-Christ is about?

Fruitfulness is unique to each of us. It may look different than we expected–partial and progressive, still in process in our lives. But fruit is always a byproduct of our “yes” to Jesus. He tells us that when we remain Him and Him in us, we “will bear much fruit” (John 15:5).

The Comiskeys bear fruit, as does Desert Stream. Not because of any superior gifting or inherent strength. Having walked closely with Andrew and Annette these past four years, I can say that they are fun-loving, earthy people who live simply to love Jesus and others. They don’t seek to be “special” but to be “faithful.”

That’s what makes them special: they seek to be true to Jesus. He wells up from them like “living water.” He makes them fruitful like the trees in Ezekiel 47 “whose leaves neither wither nor whose fruit fails; they bear fruit every month because the water from the sanctuary flows to them, with their fruit serving for food and the leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12).

As we reflected on the fruit of Andrew and Annette’s persistent ‘yes’ to Jesus, He inspired us to bear fruit for another 40 years (at least!), fruit well-watered by Desert Stream.

About a Wedding…

Much could be said about our 3 day anniversary feast: thoughtful reflection upon each decade of DSM, longstanding co-ministers who overwhelmed Annette and I with poignant and pointed blessing, courageous attendees who refused to allow covid to come between them and their tribe—wow. Our cup runs over.

But these 3 days may best be framed as a wedding, the celebration of Annette and my union and its fruit–our four amazing children who anchored each session/decade with their take on DSM, at once humorous and insightful. I loved how they loved the gathering; as charter DSM members, they share in its essence and have embraced the ministry as part of their legacy and offering to others.

I realized that our family unit points beyond itself to a greater wedding, the wedding feast of the Lamb. Jesus is returning for a spotless bride. Though our family is in no way blemish-free, it possesses an integrity that reveals Jesus’ love for His Church: how He redeems the unchaste and makes them fruitful for Kingdom purposes. DSM/LW is about nothing less. We (all LW workers) exist to prepare for Jesus a people for Himself. As flawed vessels, we depend on Him daily to embody the integration we invite others to discover. Unseen but dynamically present Jesus is our means and our goal—He is preparing us for face-to-face consummation. Forty years and counting, we bear witness of our soon-coming-King for all who have eyes to see, ears to hear.

Abbey Foard and Marco Cassanova led the three days. Fitting. These two are among our most excellent spiritual children and are being prepared to take DSM/LW far beyond Comiskey limits. It is pure gift to love and trust two people deeply and to take time in our vigorous years to impart all we have to them. Both show evidence of Jesus’ leadership. They make our joy full.

On the last night, I shared my love for the whole Church, and more personally, how our marriage has suffered and grown through Catholicism and Annette’s ongoing Evangelicalism. Tough stuff, and prophetic for how DSM/LW functions to serve all Christians who aspire to chastity. That night’s witnesses included the Catholic Bishop of our diocese, the pastor of Redeemer (a robust reformed congregation in KC), my parish priest, Bethel minister Elizabeth Woning who cofounded the Changed Movement, and Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network.

Jesus is returning for Christians of all stripes who have made themselves ready. Our service is one inspired expression of how He is preparing us for the Wedding above all weddings.

True Worship 2

Why do we worship Jesus, anointing Him with our love songs? Gratitude: He did for us what only He could do—He forgave our sins.

Only God can wash us clean. Only God. Good people can forgive us our sins. But only God can make us new.

So we sing out of gratitude. We wash His feet with tears of thankfulness. Only Jesus knows the depths of what we’ve done; only Jesus can break off us the burden of sin and shame.

In that way, we need never deny the monstrous things we’ve done and even the monstrous things we are still capable of. He alone is sin’s cure. Our disease invites us to rely upon this doctor deeply and constantly for the sins He has forgiven and the sins that still seek to sicken us.

Might we even rejoice in sinful inclinations that Jesus employs to keep us near Him? He trains us to live gratefully before Him. In that way, our worship is warfare—it cancels every accusing word or glance that seeks to separate us from our merciful Cure.

The sinful woman in Lk. 7: 36-50 teaches us how to live as a grateful worshipper. In this passage, we witness two parties encountering Jesus: the first, that sinful woman, lives close to the edge morally and economically, and is cast into the outer courts of the temple, vulnerable to other gods and men under their sway who took what they wanted from her sexually. Is there any sin as profound as opening one’s body to others who leave only shame while taking something that can never be returned?

The second: a smart religious man, a Pharisee, is probably sexually pure—his tribe set the standard for holiness. With one glance, he knows this sinful woman is infectious, capable of polluting the holy ones. And with the same glance he conveys to her that she is a living shame. Her worship tempts the Pharisee to doubt Jesus. He thinks: ‘How can a holy man tolerate tactile, nearly vulgar devotion from an unclean girl?’

Two people seeking Jesus: a thoughtful religious man unsure as to who Jesus is,
and a sinner grateful for her Cure.

A paradox! The Pharisee whose home it was makes little room for Jesus in his life, while the woman who broke into the Pharisee’s home makes Jesus her home. She had already received His mercy- bursting with gratitude, she disregards her religious accuser so she can thank Jesus for cancelling her sin.

She washes His feet with tearful gratitude. She gives Him herself; she flings open the doors of her house of shame, He floods it with mercy, and transforms her into a living temple. Now she worships: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who bore my shame and makes me virgin again!’

That is the power of gratitude; it gives us courage to break shame—to go boldly past the Pharisee and worship the One. Jesus said it best in the parable of the debtors: Those who are forgiven much will love Me much!

We the forgiven become true worshippers. We have authority to break through bad religion and live thankfully before this One who cures every sin. I am one such worshipper. Jesus freed me from homosexuality years ago and I’ve not looked back; I look forward, fully engaged with merciful Jesus and His Church.

40-years-ago, I shared my story before the first Vineyard Church in Los Angeles. My wife and I have since been privileged to lead many like us to pools of mercy where sin and shame and struggle give way to wholeness. Such joy—to discover Merciful Jesus as the Source and Defender of our purity! We can’t help but worship Him—to give Him our whole lives. We live to bear witness of what He has done in us and to invite others to live holy, grateful lives.

Our transformation is no personal privilege—it has relevance for all persons. We want to give hope to everyone of Jesus’ mercy. His eyes free us continually from the glare of the Pharisee who wants to shame us into silence. He makes the way. Always. Merciful Jesus, may our worship rise for another 40 years, then onto eternity!

Kyrie Eleison

By Annette Comiskey

Desert Stream Ministries started forty years ago when Andy shared his testimony one hot August Sunday at the Westside Vineyard in Los Angeles; a small group started shortly after and the rest, they say, is history!

Blessings and difficulties abound in this ministry.  The Lord has given me tools to rely on, including the truth of Scripture and psychological truth that helps me understand how trauma impacts self-giving.

But one thing I lean on more than ever is prayer.  I might know something of the Bible and how our minds work, but that doesn’t ease the burden of witnessing the destruction of sexual brokenness on a person’s life and family.  What does lessen the weight is prayer.  The prayer most helpful to me is the simplest of prayers, Kyrie Eleison (Lord have Mercy).

Too often the burdens feel overwhelming. Whether watching the news, hearing about another’s bad choices, or facing a range of hardships within our family and community, my prayers seem ineffective.  But I trust God knows the needs of my heart and all for whom I pray.  I have more trust in the transforming power of God’s mercy and care than anything else.  I need a simple prayer: Kyrie Eleison.

For ones trying to find meaning and peace in unhealthy relationships and addictions…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Open the eyes of their hearts and let the light of Your truth flood in.

For men and women leaving their marriages, their children, and the truth of their faith for same-sex relationships…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Return O Israel, to the Lord your God.

For young men and women who reject being created male or female and strive to live as the other sex… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. Give them Your peace Lord, not as the world gives.

For those who have been abused…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Lord, heal their broken hearts, bind their wounds.

For parents, whose children have walked away from the Lord… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  May teary, watchful eyes see loved ones coming home, their sons from distant lands, their daughters being carried.

For those who struggle to have hope amid great loss… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. You alone are our Rock and Salvation; perplexed but not in despair, our hope is in You.

I am amazed at the power of this simple prayer to strengthen and encourage me. May it help you too.

Kyrie Eleison: You reign over all, You alone can save.  Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

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