Category: Fast

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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Open Door to Chastity: Beginning Again in Argentina

‘See, I have placed before you an open door that cannot be shut’ (Rev. 3:8).

The free and demanding door to chastity cannot be shut. It remains eternally open because God is the doorkeeper and He loves to usher His children into sexual wholeness. Wholeness is chastity: the integration of our spirituality and sexuality that frees us to accept the solid ‘gendered’ gifts we are, guarded by self-control and thus liberated to be generous and impartial in love for others.

Many people gathered at our ‘Aquas Vivas’ conference last weekend in Cordoba Argentina. Brave men and women filled the Sacred Heart auditorium and dared to hope again for chaste lives. Their innocence struck down but not destroyed, they knocked and Jesus became for them the open door to chastity.

Roderigo confessed a heart of stone due to a dad who fathered three families and left his mother bereft. He cried over her suffering for years until his heart hardened and he walled off the Church and his own commitment to chastity. This weekend a light dawned. Much as he hated his dad, he realized he was following his path. He wants more: he wants the chaste way of life only Jesus can show him.

My part in his process? Roderigo figured ‘if Jesus could help a homo change, there must be hope for him.’ So be it. I was helped by a beautiful team of Cordobans (and three saints from the Vineyard in Santiago Chile) who run Aguas Vivas there, each with a distinct witness of how Jesus made them faithful. Each person’s witness of hope proved hopeful to all. Personal resurrections, well-expressed, inspire new life in everyone.

This open door in Cordoba had special meaning for myself and Aguas Vivas leader Maite Rodriguez. For ten years until 2011, Cordoba had been the base for Aquas Vivas in South America. We relied upon a team of Pentecostal saints there; Cordoba became a ‘home away from home’ for me and I fell in love with its rich history and warm people.

When I became a Catholic over 4 years ago, the Cordobans could not in good conscience tolerate this change. They refused my leadership and the door closed. My last trip to Cordoba—an effort to build an ecumenical bridge–failed dismally. I left in grief and supposed I would never enter her splendid Spanish gates again.

When Desert Stream/Aquas Vivas regrouped to equip Latin America with a more thorough ecumenical approach, the first group to apply for our training in Mexico City was from Cordoba. Notably, one of the priests from a Catholic charismatic community there came with several lay persons and led the way by diving into the healing waters himself. Three years later, the Cordobans have emerged as an inspired, trustworthy team. Maite and I relished the welcome they gave us and look forward to ongoing partnership with our new family in Cordoba.

While we were there, we had the privilege of meeting the bishop who oversees the group. He loves Aguas Vivas and encouraged us ‘to release the waters’ to all persons, not only Catholics.

The bishop understands that chastity is a gift and a goal for all persons seeking freedom. Chastity is an open door for each Christian, an open door that cannot be shut because He is the gatekeeper. How grateful we are to re-enter the gates of Cordoba and make known once more the ever-open door.

‘Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through His body…let us draw near to God with full assurance of faith, having our hearts cleansed from a guilty conscience, our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to our hope, for He who promised is faithful’ (Heb. 10: 19-23).

For a pdf of the prayers for the Return to the Father 40 Day Fast please click here.

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