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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
freedom naturally lady gaga

Freedom, Naturally

I chuckled as Lady Gaga decried Vice-President Pence ‘as the worst representative of Christianity’ because his wife took a job at a school that defines freedom as reserving sexual love for marriage and thus requires employees to deny themselves other forms of behavior or identity. Gaga was nearly outdone by Ellen Page who branded fellow actor Chris Pratt a ‘hater’ for attending a church that believes similarly.

I guess Gaga and Page equate freedom with doing whatever one desires. To live one’s desires is to live free. Besides the absurdity of two women who pride themselves on being non-judgmental damning anyone who disagrees with them, I think it might help to say a few words on Christian freedom.

Christians certainly recognize that persons possess desire in many directions—Jesus Himself speaks of the heart as a fountain of feelings that can result in self-harm and damage to others (MK 7:14-23.) St. Paul takes this a step further when he theologized about the evident sexual immorality of ancient Rome; he claimed that humanity knows better and must suppress what they know in order to act unnaturally, under the power of enslaving desires (Rom. 1: 18-32). That rang true.

I was free to identify and behave homosexually but became a slave to my desires. Passion did not liberate but rather dominated me. Instead of learning to direct my sexuality in a way that engendered life in others, I became self-concerned and chaotic in seeking to find myself in a series of cracked mirrors. You could say I was being true to my bad self. That has a morbid integrity all its own but thank God for persons who advocated for me beyond the superficial intercession of a Gaga or Page. This slave needed freedom beyond ‘to thine own self be true.’

One’s true nature is bound up in another: the person of Jesus Christ. Christians know this with childlike profundity. Rather than rail at other’s addictive symptoms, they accompany wanderers unto Himself, the only unchanging mirror of the true self. Jesus, at once Creator and Redeemer, has gentle authority to summon who we are from a host of weak options, including LGBT fragmentation.

Then comes the good hard work of becoming chaste, which is all about harnessing desire in a way that dignifies everyone. No stranger to sensational enslavement, St. Augustine says it like this: ‘Through chastity, we are gathered together and led back to the unity from which we were fragmented into multiplicity’(CCC #2340).

What a guy. He gave language to our divided hearts which will flail about in vain for a center until we find ourselves in Jesus. Gaga knows something about this in her stated regret over partnering with abuser/rapper R. Kelly. This gifted woman now aspires to dignity, even to Christian faith. Why cannot she allow others to pursue theirs without demonizing them? She might just benefit from knowing how Jesus takes slaves of LGBT freedom and makes us fruitful sons and daughters.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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conversion therapy

Nature Rebels

Nature rebelled at our Living Waters Training in Malibu Canyon last week. Charred by the Woolsey Fire just months earlier, the land struggled to absorb five days of driving rain. A stream on the property became a flood as the 20 member team prepped for the arrival of 35 participants. Upon arriving late, I called Dean Greer who calmly informed me that the team had been ordered to evacuate; as he (and Wayne, bless you man!) led the caravan out through the emergency exit, mud slid from the hills and rocks crashed down around them.

On the home front, the rebellion of human nature escalated. A ‘gay married’ actress on television railed against ‘conversion therapy’ as the reason why a young black actor (also ‘gay-identified’) was roughed up by thugs in Chicago a few days earlier. Her theatrical charms overrode any semblance of logic and the audience blew out the studio with cheers and applause. Desert Stream Ministries was pelted by requests from various media sources to weigh in on ‘conversion therapy’ as I awaited Dean’s next phone call.

I was struck by the insanity of demonizing any person who seeks to be reconciled to one’s gendered self and become fruitful. I reread an excellent article by a doctor who pointed out how supporting another’s effort to ‘change’ gender is nothing short of abuse, rendering the person infertile, mutilated, and severely depressed. I responded to one newscaster inquiring about the dangers of ‘conversion therapy’ with this paragraph:

‘As ‘conversion therapy’ has no actual meaning except to scapegoat persons who choose to grow beyond ‘gay’ and ‘trans’ identification, we at Desert Stream Ministries advocate for any person who in light of same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria seeks to become an integrated member of his or her own gender and a good gift to the opposite gender. One should be free to secure clinical and spiritual support for these goals.’

Meanwhile, Dean and team arrived safely a nearby church and kicked into high gear to ensure a warm welcome for the participants, including delegates from England, New Zealand, Kenya, China and Columbia. Through it all, we waited, unsure where the sixty of us might go the next day. 16 hours later we received the go-ahead to return to the conference site. Nature’s whiplash was no match for heaven’s intervention.

Where rebellion abounds, grace prevails for those who look to the Lamb. We followed Him more nearly due to the trials at hand. In weakness, Jesus became stronger, clearer, closer than before. We were ready for His touch. He dwelled with us throughout the week, full of grace and truth. The nations marveled as we welcomed the Creator and Redeemer as the very foundation of our selves—our freedom to offer ourselves undividedly.

‘Conversion therapy’? Yes, Jesus converts us as we humble ourselves before Him and each other, awaiting His healing presence. He’s the only therapist worthy of our complete surrender. At the beginning of the week, I received a picture of a sword hanging over us—the threat of weather, slander, even legal action for daring to profess that Jesus transforms lives. By the week’s end I could see the sword had become a gleaming Cross, shining and spinning over us and the whole of creation. As nature rebels, God prevails.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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esperanza

Esperanza

‘You are no longer aliens but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone’ (Eph. 2:19, 20).

Mexicans do it better. Living Waters anyway. Attribute it to truer body/spirit integration. Or greater openness to the Spirit. Or deeper awareness of poverty, submitted to God. All I can say is that I left Guadalajara full of hope (‘esperanza’ in Spanish) for a Church with whole Fathers who welcome the broken and raise up a host of healing sons and daughters.

Maybe it was the Church building itself. Perched atop the ground level where we prepped and prayed as a team, I did not see the sanctuary until the conference. White stone floors with windows, streaming sun and ascending onto a high unfinished ceiling where birds nested and sang throughout the day–‘Even the sparrow finds a home, a place near your altar, O God’ (PS 84:3)! And the altar: simple and sturdy, hewn from yellow onyx marbled in black, a rugged wooden crucifix loomed above, complemented by ‘Bienvenidos.’

The Guadalajara Team

The Guadalajara Team

Jesus welcomed us there; we found a place near Your altar, O God. This was partially due to Father Ricardo, a young priest who spoke movingly and hopefully of God bringing him to the end of himself, then ‘living water’: God’s merciful touch through the healing community. He invited us into that community, one he developed by pioneering Living Waters groups in his parish and beyond. I marveled during the first call for healing from the evils of adultery and childhood sexual abuse—both rampant in Latin culture and hidden behind the appearance of ‘honor’—as literally all 100 participants came forward for ministry! This never happens in the USA. It does in Mexico. Glory to our merciful King.

And the witnesses of healing: Samuel whom God transformed from ‘gay-identified’ to family-defined as he now faithfully leads a wife and son (and Living Waters group in nearby Leon), Francisco and Meric who became a godly, chaste married couple with the help of Fr. Ricardo and Living Waters, Lalo for whom Jesus broke the grip of depression and released him to fruitfully serve others, and many more. Hope rose like the river in Ezekiel’s temple (EZ 47), so much so that a man locked up in shame due to years of sexual abuse and addiction wept for the first time in 10 years and declared: ‘I know God has more for me than abstinence.’

Amen. We are all works in progress, much like the sanctuary herself which awaits His finishing touch. But we aspire in hope, fed by the healing Presence which flows from the altar. Guadalajara granted me a fresh glimpse of the readiness of God to heal. All it takes is a humble clean pastor who gathers his lambs and teaches them to yield to the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

‘In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Eph. 21, 22).

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Authority to Heal

A disgruntled ‘gay’ activist, Mathew Shurka, testifies in legislatures around the country that conversion therapy did not work for him; he did not change and he doesn’t want to change. And he doesn’t want anyone else to change either.

Me thinks he protests too much. A recent NY Times articles quotes him: ‘It’s still the same question—“Can someone change?” This is the source of all LGBT rights.’ In other words, Shurka and like-minded ones hang all their LGBT aspirations on the fragile hope that no-one can overcome the domination of lust and actually begin to experience what God designed his or her body for–fruitful engaging with the opposite gender.

Mathew’s grousing may help win some legal battles. But he has already lost the war. Justifying one’s right to exist on the grounds that no-one with same-sex attraction can successfully choose a path different than one’s own is a losing proposition. Two choices remain: close your eyes to others’ transformation or claim that they are lying.

Mathew lives under a low ceiling, which he seeks to extend over everyone, including the faithful. Make no mistake—the issue here is not only ‘conversion therapy’—it is about halting any person with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria who seeks new sexual direction. And Shurka is not alone. Evan Low in California who last year initiated #2943 is ramping up for a ‘better’ bill in 2019 that he hopes will eradicate choice of change for any Californian.

Now we can see why ‘change’ is such a threat to the LGBT+ set. It exposes the quaking ground of ‘selves’ built on the fault-line of sexual fatalism. From that tight controlling place emerges a selfish, non-generous spirit. How else can you describe legally forbidding persons to aspire to authentic sexual creativity?

Thank God for the authority to heal—to become the fruitful man or woman of His design. The Church of Jesus Christ understands this. Not because she cites the LGBT+ set as those most in need of healing. She simply knows that all persons who seek freedom in Jesus’ name will find it because He is the healer!

Last week the Denver Archdiocese sponsored our Gender Matters Conference. Archbishop Aquila opened the time with two interwoven truths: the magnificence of the human person made in God’s image as male and female, and the authority of Jesus Christ to restore persons to that original dignity. We adore the God who heals.

Jesus brought a ‘new teaching, and with power’ (MK 1:27). Most of His time was spent delivering persons from oppressive spirits then restoring men and women to their original dignity. Of course He only did this for persons who wanted it. He was known to gently ask: ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Do you want to be whole?’ Even so, He contended constantly with naysayers who were so threatened by His Almighty Mercy that they put Him to death.

He lives to resurrect that power in us. In spite of diabolical efforts to stamp out ‘change’, no power on earth has authority to void His power to heal. It is His prerogative and now ours. We—faithful members of Jesus– have authority to heal.

‘Faith in the Lord’s real Presence and in His transforming power decides everything. If this faith is firm, the Church’s doctrine about human sexuality will be comprehensible and equally firm. If it evaporates, then repentance, conversion, grace, and sanctification evaporate with it.’ Dr. Stephen Oster

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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with jesus anything

With Jesus, Anything

Reflecting on my 60th year, I was beautifully interrupted by a snow storm that knocked the power right out of us; we were babysitting grandson Jacob while his parents cheered the Kansas City Chiefs onto victory in their division at the local stadium. (Congratulations to The Chiefs for nearly making the Super Bowl.) Annette and I shivered, laughed, and bathed Jacob in the kitchen sink by candlelight.

We love our new digs but it seems we moved into the Bermuda triangle of power sources. Breezes snap electric lines and blow up transformers. O well…My decisive word this year: If ‘without Jesus we can do nothing’ (JN 15:5b), then with Him, we can do anything.

That first and mostly applies to married life. I love Annette more than ever but am less sure of my capacity to actually love her as St. Paul implores husbands, you know, like Jesus offered Himself to the Church. OK, not there yet. It helps to know that marriage itself roots and grounds me in my manhood through her authentic, distinctly feminine self.

Listen to what St. John Paul ll says about marriage in Theology of the Body: ‘Marriage penetrates into the dignity ascribed to humanity as image-bearers by virtue of creation, and at the same time the dignity ascribed to sinful humanity by virtue of redemption.’ Good news for original sinners like me. In marriage’s unflattering mirror, I am humbled by Jesus who always invites me into mercy. From that artesian well I draw constantly and am empowered to give myself more and better to her. In the end, I will be judged by love, the love I gave to that woman. With Him, I can do anything.

That applies pointedly to my love for the Church. This messy witness of Jesus’ unfailing love takes more love than I have. I’ve only to sink a little deeper into the mercy pool to rediscover my gratitude and ardor for her. Strength rises as I wait on Him, His heart for her, that I might love her more, and better. By that I mean the many people I serve every day who are her—broken, beautiful, members, yet often half-blind. It helps to recall what I did not see until I did. Pair that with the realization that I still don’t see that well and you can understand why I cannot love her without Him. But with Him, I can do anything for her, His Bride.

Recognizing the value of trouble in loving the Church helps a lot. I use to shy away from trouble. But now I kind of like it. No sadist, me, but a realist who recognizes blessing and building up the Church provokes the rage of Satan himself who wants to keep her divided and weak, barren in her capacity to bring forth a vast harvest of spiritual children. I have a big enemy who hates what I do. So I am learning to bear his vengefulness patiently, assessing trouble as a sure sign of heading in the right direction–all the while laughing at my self-seriousness and the (comparatively) weak efforts of the enemy to thwart mine. With Jesus, I can do anything for generations yet-to-come.

I love getting older because life gets simpler. It becomes more about Him. In that way I grow young, as eager as a well-loved child to see Him face-to-face.

‘Love is a sweet tyranny, and one who loves has no other language but one… which always has a never-fading youthfulness on the lips of one who loves.’
Archbishop Luis Maria Martinez

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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