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Cross Fit: Sorrow and Self-Giving

I am just winding up a month off in which I spent a lot of time with the one I love most—me! Ouch. Truth hurts. Gratefully my native selfishness was no match for the glorious time Annette and I shared. We stayed home, caught our breath, and renewed our vows. Time off and tuned to each other: nothing better.

A long time ago Jesus called Annette and me to our primary vocation, which is marriage. Anything good that springs out of ministry flows from this most important union.

No-one deserves my attention like her. Consider this: for the last 36 years of our lives together, Annette has said ‘yes’ over and over again to Jesus as I have gone throughout the world to impart His transforming power for sexually broken people. We love to minister together but kids and Annette’s homing instinct have resulted in a division of labor, which became even more accentuated over the last six months. A flurry of national and international trips rendered Annette nothing short of a ‘war bride’ so it was a huge gift to have a month off to reunite. Thank you to all who helped to sustain Desert Stream in our absence. You freed us from any financial concern; we are deeply grateful. You gave and we rested. Bravo.

As always, repose brought exposure. At the beginning of our time off, Annette brought up afresh an area in which we have disagreed. I disagreed again and could not see her perspective. That day’s Gospel reading—‘whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me’ (Matt. 10:38)—hit me hard and exposed a plank in my eye. A familiar stronghold of selfishness blinded me to Annette’s greater need.

I sought out my pastor and he counseled me well. A deep sorrow over my sin resulted, something only the Spirit and holy space could inspire. Aquinas wrote that such sorrow is sign that the Cross is being born in one’s heart. Let it be so. In areas where I do not see well, I need to slow down and feel the gravity of my sin. Only then will my repentance be genuine, not a superficial shaking off of shame.

That repentance has continued over these weeks and resulted in what I can only describe as a renewed passion in me to fulfill St. Paul’s words ‘to love our wives as Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself up for her’ (Eph. 5:25). No small task! When I take seriously Jesus’ self-giving on Calvary—the piercing that released the healing flood (Zech. 12:10-13:2)—I can re-enter His fruitful surrender and deny afresh my selfish, controlling ways in order to offer what I can to this amazing woman who deserves that and more.

I do not allow my evident faults to stop me from giving more. That is always Jesus’ direction to husbands, a self-giving that springs from the arresting sorrow of His Cross.

Please join Annette and me in Chicago July 27th-30th at the annual Courage Conference where we will share about our rich life together. As I said, we don’t speak together often so join us for this unusual opportunity. The Courage gathering offers an array of healing persons and gifts. Hope to see you there.

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Take The Hit

The rainbow protesters came as planned to our 6th annual Restored Hope Network Conference in San Diego last Friday, and as usual, barked more than they bit. (‘We’re queer, we’re here’; yeah, we know.) An activist warned RHN Director Anne Paulk: ‘You’re bigots, you’re hateful…we’ve taught our kids to love everyone.’ Huh. Apparently love applies to everyone but persons who take seriously the gender of their birth and who by God’s grace refuse to allow abuse, self-hatred, and LGBT fantasies to conceal their true selves. Speaker Janet Mefferd cited the ‘weirdly judgmental judgmentalism’ of the progressive set.

One could not stay mad for long. Guys in dresses and tutus marched alongside surly Black Lives Matter (?!) activists who threatened for a moment to block the church parking lot. The moment passed, the BLM folk left, and the motley crew ranted unfounded charges from wounded hearts for a couple of days.

We loved having them. Gender rebels came to Church! Where else will they hear how their Creator and Redeemer can love them into wholeness? Each speaker spoke beautifully about profound suffering, fruitful surrender to Jesus, and careful tending by His members. No hint of the Church imposing life-defying burdens on fractured persons: here God searches out lost ones, binds up wounds in a bond of love, and restores dignity by mobilizing these ones as part of His healing army. Formerly transgendered Linda Seiler and Daniel Delgado articulated brilliantly the sacredness of gender, no matter how tough that can be for a young twisted soul.

Jesus took the hit; He became that complex stronghold of sin (2Cor. 5:21) for Linda and Daniel. For us all. He assumed upon His chaste shoulders all our rants and filth and confusion; in dying for us, He broke the slow death pervading our lives. He now lives to give us new lives, and to make them matter for others. The joy, the humility, and the gratitude we embody have power to endure.

We endure to take the hits. Joined to our Head and to one another, we are privileged to be the targets of darkened hearts. They misunderstand Jesus; they misunderstand us. They transfer their torment onto God and His people. No servant is greater than his Master. ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated Me first’ (JN 15:18). We are privileged to shine like stars as we reflect His glory to a broken generation (Phil. 1:15).

PLEASE NOTE: Andrew will be on vacation from everything including blogging until late July.

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Asian Pentecost: The Wind of War

‘I did not shrink back from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.’ (Acts 20:27)
‘Sexual orientation is immutable to change.’ Taiwanese constitutional court on why this island nation became the first in Asia to initiate ‘gay’ marriage.

Our American team gathered with thirty wounded healer/leaders from around Asia on Pentecost Eve in Manila. These men and women from The Philippines, Thailand, China, and India had been battered by enslaving forces in their cultures: families fractured by poverty which rendered their young lives vulnerable to abuse, porn addiction, gender disorientation, and occultism. Their internal chaos is sweetly covered over by the ‘saving face’ culture of Asia where the most shameful thing is to admit one’s brokenness, especially as it relates to sexual dishonor. One learns to laugh instead of cry, to cover wounds rather than expose them. Many on our team had staggered into adulthood and into the loving arms of Jesus through brave churches, which provided for them Living Waters.

Our dear friends Benjie and Hazel Cruz initiated Living Waters in The Philippines (I first met Benjie in Bangkok Thailand in 2001 where he sought healing for his SSA and received a vision for healing his nation); little did he know that he and team would become the center for reaching a continent! We gathered together as a Gideon’s army and offered God our weakness, our weariness, and our inability to meet the needs of 70 Catholic and evangelical participants to come who would need deep healing and training to heal others. As Taiwan had just days before become the first Asian nation to initiate ‘gay marriage’, we realized that we faced another enslaving force—the western apostasy that ‘gay selves’ are genetic and unchangeable, the only solution for vulnerable persons.

Those broken before the God of Mercy know better. Fractured lives need transformation, not further deformation through conformity to fruitless individual rights. Jesus sets people free from the wounding at the core of disordered identities. We prayed that a new wind of Pentecost would empower us to wage war on deception by holding out the whole truth of the Gospel. As we received His love afresh, we renewed our pledge to be faithful to Jesus and to Asia.

God reminded us of Ezekiel 37 as we submitted our ‘dry bones’ to Him, that He might unite us to Himself in intimate love and teach us to submit to each other as to manifest all the spiritual gifts needed to bring healing to the land. And God said: ‘I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life…’ I prophesied as He commanded me, and the Spirit of Pentecost fell on us that Sunday as we worshipped and laid hands on one another.

By the time everyone arrived, the team was on fire to declare how the glory of God had surpassed the dishonor and disorientation of our lives; over half came out of homosexual backgrounds, and we could honestly testify (as each team member did) that mercy and order and honor, not shame, has become our ground and crown. Obviously, the Taiwanese government knows not what Jesus and His Church can accomplish in the saints.

After the team shared, we invited all to gather around the Cross, and Almighty mercy fell like fire on the shame-bound. Chains broke and eyes saw Jesus afresh. Those who look to the Lord are radiant; their faces never covered with shame’ (PS 34:5). Our glorious God is assembling a glorious, humble army in Asia; there, the wind of Pentecost empowers a people to declare war on human enslavement.

‘The breath of God entered them; they came to life, and stood up on their feet—a vast army.’ (EZ. 37: 9, 10)

Please join us in San Diego on June 16th and 17th for the sixth annual RHN Hope 2017 Conference as hundreds gather to celebrate how Jesus has set them free from gender identity distortions. Preview with us the first full-length documentary film ever made–Tranzfomed–on how Jesus restores the transgendered. Register here today!

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Rainbowed

June initiates ‘Gay Pride Month’ in which LGBT (and so on) folks celebrate more gender selves then there are colors in the rainbow. Liberty? Think again. Their promise of freedom becomes enslaving liberties. (2P 2: 9).

How so? Our common enemy picks off the most vulnerable then offers well-intended solutions that neither fit the wound nor its cure. Simply put, sensitive, beat-up kids are misinterpreted as intrinsically ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ or whatever and are encouraged to ‘live their dream’ under the rainbow. That dream usually involves blessing the child as he or she aspires to an adult identity/fantasy, often with sexual connotations. (The boy wants to be Beyonce, the girl, a swaggering dude.) But gender ‘expansiveness’ (how we are now encouraged to define kids at odds with their gender) actually becomes a reduction of the self.

The threat to a child’s well-being lies in mistaking normal emotional needs for sexual ones. Developmental psychologists have always known that kids, from infancy to adolescence, need to be emotionally bolstered in the goodness of their own gender. That’s not about binding kids to rigid gender stereotypes. But a child’s freedom to flex in non-traditional ways needs to be grounded in self-acceptance. That involves parental attention, setting limits, and becoming trustworthy bridges between the child’s emerging self and his or her gender.

These are normal emotional needs! But in our virtual, sexually-exaggerated, and abuse-ridden world, a child’s bridge to gender security can break. In the void, emotional needs can become eroticized, and a ‘self’ begins to be constructed that promises freedom but may well fracture the already vulnerable soul.

That is the premise and unintended result of ‘Moonlight’, the Oscar-winner for Best Picture of 2016. A sensitive boy (who we have not reason to assume is ‘gay’; he is simply, shatteringly, in a state of emotional retreat) growing up in the hood with a drug-addicted mother is bullied and bloodied then befriended by a drug dealer and his girlfriend. The emotional core of the boy’s childhood involves a scene in the ocean where this unusually kind drug dealer teaches him to swim (a life-giving glimpse of ‘fathering’); the film treats this bond as a kind of baptism.

Sadly, a similar ‘baptism’ occurs when the boy-now-teen’s sole peer friend fondles him to climax on the beach, replete with swoony romantic images. While the boy’s ache for masculine advocacy is heart-rending, his need for connection is misconstrued as sexual and framed as almost divine in its consummation.

Later on, the teen-now-man, an emotional cripple who can barely speak, reteams with his beach ‘boyfriend’ for a sexual reunion. The film’s last scene revisits the man as a boy, baptized afresh in the cleansing waves of the ocean. Sexual connection triumphs over all! He was ‘gay’ all along and now free! Added bonus: black pride is ‘gay’ pride too!

We mess with kids when we misinterpret normal emotional needs for sexual ones. Hollywood majors on this. So does Gay Pride Month. Stay clear. We who are vulnerable to this deception must stay true to the Lord and one another. Let’s exemplify real freedom for a new generation, especially those as poignantly in need as the protagonist of ‘Moonlight.’ We can do better.

Please join us in San Diego on June 16th and 17th for the sixth annual RHN Hope 2017 Conference as hundreds gather to celebrate how Jesus has set them free from gender identity distortions. Preview with us the first full-length documentary film ever made–Tranzfomed–on how Jesus restores the transgendered. Register here today!

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Fresh Green from Scorched Earth

‘He will be like a refiner’s fire…then the Lord will have a people who bring offerings in righteousness.’ (Mal. 3:2, 3)

I had seen the vision months before: a blackened field, still smoking. A prophetic woman who knew nothing of the burning of many precious relationships due to my Catholic commitment in 2011 painted the picture. Before the vision, I felt alone in my suffering. When she gave it, I began to see God’s sovereign will in these losses. He was refining me for a new season. I thought of what John the Baptist said about Christ: ‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire, and will burn up the waste with unquenchable fire’ (Matt. 3:11, 12).

What emerges from the fire became apparent during our first Living Waters training in Poland last week. After several visits to this most Catholic country (perhaps the most devout in all of Europe), and in solidarity with beloved Living Waters Directors in Lithuania (Vilma Kaveline) and France (Werner Loerschter), Abbey Foard, Ann Armstrong and myself helped launch the most strategic advance I have ever witnessed in a nation intent on releasing Living Waters.

What set this training apart? Might it have been the 15-member worship team whose voices combined to break strongholds of unbelief and despair every time we gathered? Was it the humble, smart team of Polish small group leaders who served each member with compassion and spiritual acuity? Was it the 8 Polish Catholic priests who joined our leadership team and who modeled how to exercise spiritual authority through one’s vulnerable humanity? For the first time, I realized that a priest could inspire growth in chastity through personal disclosure (instead of doctrinal reminders). We know the truth; living the truth is where we all stumble, priests included.

Perhaps the leadership of Father Joseph had most to do with this advance. He is well-respected throughout the nation and constructed a wise strategy from the start by building groups in key cities and tending well to their leadership teams. He works cooperatively with bishops to ensure that every group is wanted and protected. A local priest sits on each team. Understandably, interest in our training was high. We convinced Father Joseph to limit attendees to 100 and registration was full and processed three months ago. For us, a minor miracle.

Actually, the power and cohesion of the Catholic Church in Poland is the miracle. Poland’s resilience throughout her turbulent history is anchored in the Church, who has been both fighting father and nurturing mother for Polish dignity. The nation ceased to exist for one hundred years as three empires divided and conquered her; the bloodbath of the first World War granted her national independence, which was shattered in World War 2 as both Russia and Germany leveled her then subjected her to communist rule. The Church unified and inspired her during those darks decades. Now Poland emerges as the jewel of Eastern Europe, for which most citizens give God the glory. Is Jesus, through Poland, the hope of Europe?

A scorched land, out of which hope grows green. The first night of the training, God reminded me of the blackened field I saw months back. Only this time I saw rows of saplings emerging from the ground. Well-tended by group and priest, each Living Waters member represents a young tree. What a privilege to partner with Father Joseph and friends in displaying Jesus’ splendor. May we increase the fruitfulness of His Church. May we become trustworthy witnesses of Jesus for a new generation of Europeans.

‘Open your eyes and look at the fields; they are ripe for harvest.’ (JN 4:35)

Please join us in San Diego on June 16th and 17th for the sixth annual RHN Hope 2017 Conference as hundreds gather to celebrate how Jesus has set them free from gender identity distortions. Preview with us the first full-length documentary film ever made–Tranzfomed–on how Jesus restores the transgendered. Register here today!

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