Category: Fast

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Royal Flood

We end our 40 days on the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the Church calendar. Crowned with thorns and pierced with sword and nails, our Crucified King loosed a royal flood. We can begin to understand that river only if we consider its Source, Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe.

He is Creator—‘through Him all things were made’ and ‘in Him all things hold together’; He is Redeemer—the One through whose blood ‘the Father reconciled to Himself all things’ so that Jesus might reign supreme in all of life (Col. 1: 15-20).

Our King–Creator and Redeemer—rules, not by wielding a sword, but by being pierced by one. He surrenders all for our rebellion. Mighty in power, how much mightier is that power when poured out in blood and water—blood to break sin’s bonds and water to cleanse us from its debris? Only the King who allowed Himself to be crushed for us can dissolve the darkest stains of humanity. No sin is too great, no rebellion too devious: He poured out His Life in a royal flood in order to transform the hideous into holy ones. Only a King can offer Almighty mercy.

Scripture directs us to anchor that royal flood in His house, the temple Ezekiel describes (47) as the source of this river of Life, which ushers out of the altar and is filling this temple one foot at a time until its waters flow out to the streets. This rising tide combines the fruit of Crucifixion—blood and water—with Resurrection, the power of God’s Spirit to animate the forgiven into agents of His Kingdom.

The river of our King belongs to kids of His kingdom. As we take our places in His temple, living humble before the Crucified and radiant in His rising, so do these waters rise. Lost children become royalty, slaves become sons and daughters of the King. As we the Church are transformed, how can we not arise and welcome aliens so that they can become full citizens in His house, through the royal flood?

Today we live in an apostate culture in regards to gender and sexuality. Millions are being deformed by a host of enslaving ‘liberties’, dehumanizing identities and acts that are fanned by porn and media adulation. Yet a discontent burns in the hearts of many, born of both a fear of the Holy God and longing for the mercy that makes all things new. These are ‘the multitudes in the valley of decision’ (Joel 3:14). As the darkness in the land increases, so does the battle for their souls.

We are the people of the royal flood, endowed with Kingdom authority to release that river from the temple so as to reunite slaves with the King. He longs to be the Source of their freedom by granting them a place in His household. Idols are fickle masters; they ignite the weak only to incinerate them. In contrast the King composes His kids and restores their original dignity. How mighty is our King’s mercy for lost and broken ones!

How generous is He to grant us a share in His Kingdom. Will we bear His heart for lost children? Will we take our places in His house and be among those through whom ‘the river flows so that everything will live’ (Ez. 47:9)? We have immersed ourselves in the royal flood that has become our freedom. Now is the time to impart the waters to others. Let us raise the water levels in focused, daily efforts to create a Church awash in Almighty Mercy. May the royal flood overflow and become life for the world.

‘Whoever believes in Me, streams of living water will flow from within him.’
(JN 7:38)

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No Minor Miracles

‘Everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; to him who knocks, the door will be opened…if you who are evil give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!’ (Matt. 7)

May I encourage you in the last few days of our prayer fast to press into the God who hears, sees, and acts on behalf of His persistent ones? Focused prayer opens our hearts to the needs of others; we invite God to consider those needs and He invites us to trust just how He intends to meet them. In blessed moments, we behold His sovereign care of those we love most.

I am tempted to dismiss the following as coincidence or luck. I rebuke myself. Perhaps these are glimpses of how God rouses and protects His beloved ones in response to our prayers. Consider:

As Annette and I prayed for Sam and Chelsea on the eve of their wedding, Sam was hydroplaning on a wet freeway due to his poorly weighted truck. He was en route to get his wedding license. Unharmed but shaken, he called us just after we had prayed for him. He then proceeded to the bureau in peace.

During a windy day last week, Ann Armstrong prayed with the staff for protection upon our homes. I thought her request unwarranted: ‘The winds aren’t that bad…’ Around the time she prayed, a strange gust blew inside our house and flipped a large glass-paned print off our mantle and onto a lit candle on the hearth beneath it. The pane should have shattered and knocked the candle onto the carpet. Instead, the top of the frame fell smoothly into the thick soft wax, putting out the flame and breaking the fall of the 4’ by 2’ picture. Annette heard the thud from the other room and was incredulous at the lack of damage.

We have been praying for and reaching out to a mother and son whose father abandoned them. They have experienced much fallout from this, including serious illness and spiritual disillusionment. In these 40 days, we have stepped up our prayers and outreach to the mother. She is beginning to trust Jesus again and is experiencing a kind of well-being that has eluded her for years.

3 years ago, I met a ‘gay-identified’ man and the Spirit directed me to fight for his salvation. He stopped going to that gym a year ago but I kept praying for him, especially in these 40 days. When I ran into him in a store the other day, it was as natural as the weather to resume the conversation with him. He admitted some hard knocks, and I, endowed with the Spirit’s power, urged him to build his house on Jesus, imploring him that any other foundation will crumble.

I believe that my friend took my words to heart. Perhaps prayer helped break the ground of his heart and prepared me to plant seed there. Jesus loves this man and wants Him to know the Father’s love. The Holy Spirit gives us the privilege of partnering with Him as He acts through, and on behalf of, His praying Church. We become a prayer, provoked by God’s passion that none perish without Jesus.

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Glory Stories: How to Tell Yours and Make Jesus Known

Nothing conveys God’s love better than telling our stories of God’s unfailing love. Our surrender to His on the Cross has become for us the threshold for a new creation; He broke our low ceiling and opened for us an eternal horizon. Yes, we had other options: gay selves and relationships, even ‘gay marriages’ and becoming another gender. His love summoned our surrender.

As we enter into the last few days of our 40-days of prayer, we realize we can become an answer to our prayers. We can make Him known by making known how He is actually setting us free.

Rocky Delgado and I had the privilege of sharing our stories for a large gathering of Catholic priests. As you may recall, Rocky’s same-sex attraction devolved into him identifying as a woman, winning drag shows and nearly expiring in that culture of death. Christians stood in the gap for him; they prayed and fasted and included him in their community until he was ready to surrender to Jesus. At 20-years-old, he began the long road home that continues today. Rocky is not a Catholic. But as he shared, waves of mercy rolled out upon that sea of beloved black-robed men in a way that they perhaps had never experienced. A well-told testimony of mercy can be more effective than a scholarly catechism.

How do we best tell our stories? After 35 years of giving mine and training the ‘Rockys’ of this world, I offer you 10 points.

1. Use the Cross as your structure; ensure your story lines up with Jesus’. The irresistible love of the Father, surrender to the Cross (many variations here), then the new life that arose and is arising. If you are avoiding the Cross in your brokenness, please do not testify. We want to know Him more, not be confused by your artful dodging.
2. Tell your story only if the gains are time-tested. We are all vulnerable to relapse. Bear witness of self-control only if you have some. Otherwise, the enemy will successfully knock you off your public platform.
3. If you share about other persons, especially family members, make sure they know what you are saying about them. They may not agree on your take of history. But talking it out will soften any tendency to vilify others. You lose people when you speak in melodramatic ways of family members.
4. Balance the gory with the glory. Be clear about the brokenness in your life but do not amp it up. What is evil will speak for itself. Give the corollary of how Jesus is turning around foul things with His just, merciful love.
5. Be specific and share experiences that convey the essence of your pain and your healing. People remember well-told memories more than psychobabble and Christian lingo. This is an art. You will get better at it.
6. Describe a restoration that includes a variety of interventions. No one thing set you free. Consider the host of encounters and disciplines that helped you. Yes we know Jesus is healer. How did He heal you? Be specific.
7. Tell us the benefits of healing. What are you now free for? In other words, make a case for why I should go the way of the Cross with my brokenness.
8. Describe a process that continues to this day. You are never done becoming a good gift. You are saved and getting saved, chaste and becoming chaste.
9. Anchor your hope in Jesus with His body. Of course we all have experiences of the church’s failure. But you would not have hope today if not for some Christians. They are the healing church for you. Unite Head and Body.
10. Tailor your story to context. Trim it according to time constraints. Be led by the Spirit to share snippets to someone in need NOW. You are good news.

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Wedding Prep

Last week I discovered some unexpected momentum for our prayer/fasting time. While wondering how I might keep a prayerful focus amid our intensive Living Waters Training week, which ended just in time for my youngest son Sam’s wedding, a team member (thanks Tom Wright!) prophesied: ‘Everything about this training and wedding weekend will remind you of God’s faithfulness to Sam.’

In reflection, prophesy fulfilled. God gave all for my son Sam and gained him. In the process, Annette and I gained Chelsea, an extraordinary daughter-in-law.

While teaching at the onset of training on ‘The Fighting Father’, I recalled how God’s Spirit quickened Annette and I to fight for Sam’s dignity. He strayed far from the Father’s house; I remembered that afternoon on a freezing January morning when I realized how lost Sam was. Somehow God’s grief over the darkness in his life overtook me. I pulled into a nearby Catholic parish, knelt at a pew and prayed out in deep, tearful groans for an hour or so. Annette and I kept praying similarly for Sam throughout the winter.

The following year, Sam came into the light through some tough love on our part and an amazing group of young adults he connected with early on in his repentance. Like any addictive soul, Sam had setbacks en route to holiness and needed to learn the value of living in the light, no matter how painful it is to confess sins to one’s faith community. As I taught on confession at the training, I recalled Sam’s halting willingness to come clean and so break the chains of habitual sin.

Jesse, one of Sam’s amazing Christian friends, shared at the rehearsal dinner of a season when Sam refused to connect with him. Jesse had a dream in which he was trying to speak to Sam but Sam could not hear him, as if he were deaf. Jesse kept trying to connect with Sam unsuccessfully until out-of-the-blue Sam called Jesse, confessed his sins, and enlisted his help in overcoming the sin through their fellowship. Through the prayers of the saints, God quickened Sam to enlist the help of a community. It takes a village to overcome life-defining habits.

Sam kept growing in love with Jesus and soon met his beautiful wife-to-be, Chelsea. Now strengthened in fellowship by a host of great guys, Sam was ready to love a real, dimensional woman. He needed to learn to love a woman in the whole of her being, not just because she’s ‘hot’ but because she is worthy of love. Period. As I taught on true masculinity at the training, I recalled how Sam’s training in faithful fellowship had resulted in his treating Chelsea with dignity. That he does: he helps secure her in love, and she in turn blesses him with honor.

Sam’s strength and Chelsea’s beauty were on vivid display the whole wedding weekend. Radiant in love, they also displayed an ease and familiarity with each other that bodes well for the long haul. They are Christ followers who have committed themselves with eyes wide open to say ‘yes’ to each other daily, in feast and famine.

Everyone who shared in their wedding was somehow brought closer to Jesus. Maybe St. Paul was right when he compared marriage to the wedding of Christ and Church. Sam and Chelsea’s unity ushered us into intimacy with Almighty Beauty Himself.

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False Peace, True Intimacy

As we proceed on our 40 days of prayer/fasting for loved ones, we discover a marvelous truth: prayer leads to intimacy with God. Simply being in His presence revives the soul. The God who gave all to gain us grants us a share in His generosity. Our stingy prayers swell with mercy for persons most in need of it. Prayerful intimacy makes us fruitful once more.

The peace of His Presence contrasts with the holy unrest we feel when we entertain false intimacy. That includes turning back to distorted images of self and others in order to pleasure ourselves. Illicit sensuality mimics the Spirit of God. In the moment, we feel sensationally connected to what appears divine.

We are all too aware of persons who have left faith and family for false intimacy. We have all heard the stories: ‘No-one ever loved me the way (s)he does’; ‘how could something that feels so right be wrong?’ etc. That is especially true of persons exercising new freedom to be ‘out and proud’ with same-sex partners. Such ones have come under a false peace born of the devil himself. Yes, the devil. The author of lies smokes out vulnerable ones whom he can deceive into forsaking all for intimacy that produces only spiritual barrenness and impotency.

Of this false peace St. Teresa of Avila writes: ‘When such persons of the world remain quiet, while going about in serious sin, and so tranquil about their vices, for their consciences don’t feel remorseful about anything, their peace is a sign that they and the devil are friends. While they live, the devil does not wage war against them.’

We must pray that deceived ones will hunger once more for His real Presence. We can pray that Christians will love them generously in ways that surpass fickle lovers. We can pray for the Holy Spirit to ‘paint the dragon red’ and so reveal to beloved captives the dark spirits vying for their souls.

And we who are vulnerable to false intimacy must rely wholly on the merciful, fearsome God who upholds us in true peace as we cling to Him and refuse the seduction of the world. Christians are safe only to the degree that we prayerfully make themselves homes for Him. In all humility, we recognize that ‘the devil could begin to offer us another peace in small things, so while we live, we must fear the Lord.’ (St. Teresa of Avila)

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