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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Faith

We are healed and we will be healed by faith in Jesus. So will our loved ones. To stop trusting Jesus for His full and perfect will for everyone we love (including ourselves) negates the power of what He won for us at Calvary. ‘By His wounds we are healed’ (IS. 53:5; 1P2:24). Period.

Like every virtue, faith is both a gift of grace and an arduous goal. For persons coming out of disordered identities and desire, it is easy to trust Jesus when we experience ourselves as solid expressions of our gender, our ‘sap’ flowing in creative directions. It’s quite another to trust Him for healing when we burn with lust and self-hatred. How much more difficult is faith in God for the parent whose adult-child announces the ‘gay’ wedding or gender reassignment? ‘Faith, the evidence of things not seen,’ (Heb. 11:1) indeed!

It helps to anchor our faith in Gospel accounts of healing; over and over again, Jesus honors the faith of afflicted ones (morally, physically, emotionally) by restoring them completely (Matt. 9:22, 15:28; MK 5:34; LK 17:19; 18:42, etc.). Today, we tend to use Gospel healing accounts as metaphors for healing, as if Jesus’ touch is a spiritual abstraction. That becomes an excuse for unbelief. I love the theology of Dr. George Eldon Ladd (The Presence of the Future, Eerdmans) who majored on healing and deliverance as evidence of God’s Kingdom come in Jesus, a key that John Wimber utilized unlike any other leader as he led the Vineyard movement (of which I was privileged to be a part for twenty years.)

Wimber knew that God’s Kingdom reign was heavenly, the ‘not yet’ of our pilgrim journey, but that Jesus brought heaven-to-earth ‘now’; Christ demonstrated tomorrow’s blessing today through signs and wonders. That means we as Christ’s followers, endowed with the Spirit’s power, can heal others this side of heaven. That requires faith in the unseen reality of Jesus who restores the afflicted through His faithful ones (JN 14:12). That drives our work at Desert Stream, and defines us as a Kingdom people who cry out constantly: ‘Come Holy Spirit, and do what only You can do for hurting ones, starting with us, the staff!’

The fact that we as a team (who have been praying and healing for decades) still cry out indicates that we live between two ages—‘the now and the not yet.’ We trust God to establish His rule and reign in our midst but know also that we are en route to full Kingdom reign.

I can recall multiple healings that Jesus has done at the core of my gendered and sexual self, each one a marvel of grace tied directly to sources of same-sex attraction. But I still must pick up my little cross daily, which means remembering who I am as a son of the Father, rebuking the devourer, and making good moral choices that ensure the health of family and friends.

Sometimes that cross is easy and light, at other times, a weight that can be carried only with the help of others. I can bear the moral effort required by faith because God has opened the eyes of my heart (Eph. 1:18). That is the gift of faith; I see and trust Jesus. I want no other Kingdom but His, and He grants me glimpses of this Kingdom as we walk together toward what I cannot see in full.

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Living Hope

‘Jesus, You are everything to a lonely soul.’ St. Faustina

Mark was among the brightest of Living Waters’ young lights; he faced his same-sex attraction squarely and well with a similarly motivated group of men and women in Los Angeles. He left for China to fulfill God’s call on his life (he had studied Chinese and Asian culture at university). As he was learning Mandarin, Kim from Northern China was majoring in English. She came to the same metropolis in China where Mark had just found a job as an English teacher. They met without sparks at the first Living Waters group run in that city.

Much to my surprise, I reconnected with Mark there; my sister and husband were on job assignment in that city, attended the church sponsoring Living Waters and alerted me to the group starting. I just happened to be elsewhere in Asia and managed to combine a family visit with the launching of the group. Marvelous.

Mark poured himself out in the healing culture of Living Waters but lived and worked far from the sponsor church. In truth, the good news of Living Waters in the city dimmed as he faced what it meant to assimilate into a culture founded on words and habits not yet his own. He had few local friends and frustration with local churches wary of his presence. Lonely and feeling powerless, he descended into Jesus and wondered if He could be everything for him.

Blessed by Living Waters, Kim deepened intimacy with Jesus but remained uncertain about her relational future. She grew up in a household that dishonored women, a theme played out daily in her job with an organization that helped prostitutes get off the streets and into other work.

Mark and Kim met again at the going-away-party of the coordinator of the Living Waters program they had both attended two years earlier. They were different people, Mark humbled by hardship and alive to her beauty, Kim seeing him as the radiant man he is for the first time. They began dating and worshipping together; after two years of falling and rising in love, they discerned their readiness to fuse lives in Chinese, for a people for whom Christ gave all.

I recently reengaged with them a couple months after their wedding. The grace of marriage has enlivened them. Kim said that that she ‘had never imagined how good life could be; Mark honors me, and that gives me hope for all, especially the women I work with.’ Mark: ‘I wake up and feel full. My same-sex attraction has diminished as we go deeper in God together. Rather than fear not being enough for Kim, I have more to give.’ Jesus gives generously through marital love. Who He has joined, let no-one divide.

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Hope

Lent begins with hope. We start with Jesus, hope’s foundation. We can bear the mark, a little cross on the forehead, because He has gone before us and made a way for us to walk. His Cross blazes our trail and gives us hope to walk further and more fully into His best for our lives. May these days of Lent clarify that hope and quicken our step toward all that Jesus wills for us!

Hope is a virtue, one of seven I will be focusing on as we walk together this Lent. In the words of Josef Pieper, a virtue ‘is the most a man can be.’ (All my references here are contained in his sublime ‘On Hope’, Ignatius Press.) Becoming virtuous unites us with our true selves (human nature as God designed it) and prepares us for eternity with Him.

I say ‘becoming virtuous’ because we integrate these qualities over the course of a lifetime. Gird up people; this is one long ‘cross-walk’! Hope lights the way. Radiant Jesus grants us a well-lit trail but also goes before us and is never quite within our grasp. I love that! He keeps us reaching. Jesus longs to fulfill our hope. But that fulfillment comes only when we behold Him face-to-face. Then it disappears. Hope ceases to be when it is realized in full spousal union with Him.

In the meantime, we take seriously St. Paul’s words. ‘I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I have not yet taken hold of it. One thing I do: forgetting what is behind, straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…’ (Phil. 3: 13, 14) That goal involves all that God has for us and wants to accomplish through us. Hope frees us to aspire to more! Alleluia!

Hope invites us to repent quickly of the heaviness that rests upon us like silt in a polluted world and tempts us to settle for the status quo. ‘No Lord! There must be more that I have yet to grasp about Your good and perfect will for my life!’ Hope stirs up a robust expectancy for the marvels our Father has in store for us.

And hope grants us the humility to recognize that we have not yet taken hold of all the marvels. Our vision is still impaired, our healing not yet complete, the gifts we are remain chipped masterpieces that cut others and can still collapse if we don’t stay fixed on Jesus. I love that most about Pieper. His understanding of hope guides us on the narrow way between presumption and despair.

This Lent, I am sobered by the hard truth that unless we stay on hope’s track, we can lose everything. We all know good men and women who have lost the Way and who are taking others with them. We have never faced such a powerful pull to craft our own identity and sexual fulfillment apart from Jesus. May I ask you to join me this Lent in praying for a godly fear based on the truth that we too could be lost to illusion? May the searchlight of hope reveal every little comfort that dulls our hope in Jesus. May this Lent grant us sacred space to ‘let go’ of sin so we might ‘take up’ more of Him and His glorious will for our lives.

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Green Jesus

Before speaking to a group of students at Florida’s Ave Maria University, I requested prayer and my host Scott and a kind priest interceded with me. We waited together before Jesus. ‘Ask Jesus what you want from Him tonight,’ requested the priest. After a few moments I responded: ‘Reveal Your sufficiency for persons dealing with identity confusion.’ We waited then I saw Jesus pouring out drafts of emerald green ointment upon a crowd. I had never seen ‘the green’ before so was mystified. ‘Green is hope,’ said the priest.

That night as I spoke, hope for transformation rang true, as it did the next day for the staff and particular students who needed counsel for their own lives and for those they love. Jesus made them green with hope. In every unique experience and vexing question, we agreed that He assumed our confusion at Calvary in order to raise us up with clarity as beloved sons and daughter of His Father.

Green with hope, I flew to Malibu California in order to join our Living Waters Training team for an intensive weeklong gathering. Our site, cradled between rocky hills, had been pelted with rain and was now verdant, as lush as I had ever seen it. Creek water rose, and underbrush could not hide new life bursting from the ground. Hope rose from dry and broken hearts. As the team sang and testified and prayed and taught, Jesus became apparent and summoned all to arise into the heights for which He descended into hell. Jesus redeems who He has made.

This group differed in its maturity. These were active spiritual ‘parents’ intent on turning the cultural tide with hope’s crosscurrent. Together we examined the defacing of God’s image. Instead of pouting, we were provoked to fight for countless faces we represent in church families throughout the country: Bethel, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Lutheran, Baptist, Four Square, and a host of others. In spite of different traditions, Jesus’ love implored us to rediscover the hope of our salvation, to go low in prayer and so raise high the Cross for one Church and one goal for all her members—chastity, the gift of an undivided life.

Jesus made us green, free to actualize our hope. Hope apprehended ceases to be hope. So we left Malibu, ready to fight. Not hard. He gave all to gain us and we shall do the same for those we love: one prayer, one confession, one conversation, one transformation at a time.

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Silence

The din surrounding Trump’s presidency invites me to sink into the Source, like a child escaping the surface noise by descending into a pool. There I hope to discover a hidden fount that liberates prayers for the man. Nothing else will do. Only the God who meets us in weakness, in silence, can help us now.

Last week I walked through two walls of protesters screaming ‘F**k Trump’ outside an airport. Amid the assault, I noticed one man holding a placard which displayed one of my favorite verses: ‘Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were once aliens in Egypt’ (EX 22:21). I thought of the Latin Americans I know who have helped revive the heart of Church and family in the north. For a flash, I wondered what kind of border best preserves the dignity of all persons, not only US citizens but also aliens in our midst whose gifts are greater than our fears. My thoughts dissolved in the barrage of vulgarities. Silence. Pray for the man.

I returned home to hear Madonna on the DC Mall muse on her plans to blow up the White House (she decided against it) while Ashley Judd coined her ‘Nasty Girl’ protest to protest nasty Trump. Another femme fatale lamented that she hadn’t machines guns in her vagina to aim straight at Trump. Hmmmm. More disturbing was the awareness that close Christian friends marched in smaller versions of ‘Women against Trump’ only to discover that they were unwittingly championing transgender and abortion rights. Since when does any man’s boorish persona justify a woman’s ‘freedom’ to annihilate her birthright or the child in her womb? Silence. Pray for the man.

Like you, I shudder at Trump’s self-congratulatory ways, how he apparently stays up all night to tweet back the stones hurled at him during the day. I pray that others might help him lose himself long enough to discover what best safeguards the dignity of all persons. His task is a crushing one. I love this country and honor the office of the presidency so I shall advocate for Trump’s best on my knees.

I am helpless on the water’s surface. Fox and CNN both confound me. Silence. I shall sink into the Source and pray.

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