Category: Homosexuality

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

A Merciful Friend

Digging ditches for God’s mercy to flow into the desert of sexual and relational brokenness—hard work made joyful by amazing workmen.

No-one provoked more joy for Annette and me than partnering in ministry with Jonathan Hunter.

We met Jonathan early on at the Vineyard Westside; he saturated himself with our early expressions of ‘Living Waters.’ As one who came out of homosexuality, Jonathan progressed quickly in holiness.

He then sought to give himself generously to God’s purposes. AIDS became a huge ministry need at Desert Stream. Jonathan said yes to God and to us; he poured himself out to serve those who were at once seeking Jesus in their sexual brokenness, and dying. Jonathan organized teams of volunteers to pray for these ones, to help meet basic life-needs, and to serve the family surrounding them.

Amid it all, Jonathan discovered that years earlier he had been infected by the AIDS virus. The battle for life he was fighting for dozens of men became his own.

I cannot tell you how bravely and honestly faced this challenge. It became one of our most powerful rallying points as a staff—to pray that God in His mercy would sustain Jonathan’s life even as Jono continued to fortify many lives.

Our corporate cry for mercy at Desert Stream began to include those sick in body. We also began to see that sickness and death had a profound emotional component. With Jonathan’s help, we all began to realize that the ‘spirit of death’ sought to lodge itself in all of us through loss and disappointment–the pain and grief we can choose to not feel and express.

God was merciful to us through the gift of Jonathan Hunter.

On a deeply personal note, Jonathan was the first man who came alongside of me in ministry that I trusted completely. That was scary for me. I feared that I might need him too much. I feared that the walls I had maintained to keep me safe from sin and hurt, especially with men, would break. I feared that I would do damage to any man that I loved with my whole broken heart.

I even asked God to call Jonathan to serve elsewhere. God did not answer my prayer. In His mercy, God called me to serve alongside of Jonathan for twenty years. In so doing, I was forced to grow in love with a man—to emerge out of fear and immaturity and into authentic holy brotherhood.

Much has been made of ‘Jonathan and David’ as a model friendship; it has even been perverted by some as a model of biblical homosexuality. (Bleech!) Actually, Jono and I lived out its essence: we persistently strengthened one other to realize God’s best for each of our lives.

Jonathan is still a model of physical health (he will dance on both of our graves, according to Annette), and today pioneers his own ministry for those in any distress who need help ‘embracing life.’ (www.embracinglife.org.)

God’s mercy is embodied in Jonathan Hunter; bless you, merciful friend.

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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Mercy For All

The first few years of Desert Stream had been defined by same-sex strugglers; that began to change as the word got out that men and women were digging a deep well of mercy in West Hollywood.

Three particular groups of people broadened the scope of our offering. The contribution influenced the formation of the ‘Living Waters’ program.

The first group was sexually addicted men. At that point, no one used such language (the term ‘sexual addiction’ was first coined in 1984). Yet so many men in our fellowship and in the greater Los Angeles area were bound to compulsive sexual sin. They could get off drugs and booze in 12-step programs but failed to find a safe context to work out their sexual problems.

They found a safe place with us. And they made the group a lot healthier for the guys who would readily develop immature bonds with other same-sex strugglers. We welcomed traditional idolaters! Their very presence pulled up the dividing wall that created the false categorization of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’; in truth, we were all bearers of God’s image, seeking to overcome barriers to whole heterosexual relating.

The second group was victims of childhood sexual abuse. Annette led the way here. She had been violently abused as a 4-year-old girl. In the first years of our marriage, she realized that she needed some serious healing for its effects.

Through a good therapist and a small prayer team of friends, including myself, Annette experienced significant healing that opened closed doors in her heart—entries to God and the merciful care of others. The healing process was a crucial, life-changing part of her following Jesus.

Our groups began to include the abused. One woman who for years had been molested by a neighbor sat alongside a man who had abused a girl years before; he admitted his sin but downplayed the impact it had on the kids. (He had already served time in prison).

Fighting tears, she turned to him and simply said that he had no idea of the devastation he had wrought. ‘The girl you abused will bear the mark of your perversion all her days’, she said quietly.

The man broke and both perpetrator and victim wept together. She invited the man into a deeper reckoning with his sin; he asked her forgiveness for his dullness. Through His mercy, Jesus removed another layer of shame and perversion from her. God was pulling up dividing walls.

The third group were family and friends of the sexually broken—those devastated by the sin of others. Annette ran a group for wives of sexually-broken men for the first ten years of Desert Stream. As these women began to get the help they needed, it became clear that they had relational problems too, ones that preceded their husband’s infidelity.

Our early versions of ‘Living Waters’ thus began to include men and women in need of personal healing in order to make good their vows to each other.

God was expanding the boundaries of our groups to include the breadth of His broken ones. He longed to extend mercy to all in need.

Mercy flowed from the cross, and established level ground in which ‘gay and straight’, husband and wife, victim and perpetrator, could find healing. Jesus in truth had become ‘our peace, having destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility’ that separated us, so that ‘in this one body He might reconcile both parties to the Father through His merciful work on the cross.’ (Eph. 2: 14-16)

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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Clean Water

The temptation to fall with other men sexually increased after I first proclaimed healing from homosexuality. The word of my testimony, through which one triumphs over evil (Rev. 12:11), seemed to invite the evil one to nail me!

Now I see clearly, then I did not. I had become known (In a limited way) as one who had overcome the ‘gay self’. That declaration need to be refined. So God allowed some desert heat to test me. Would I stay true to Him even if offered a chance to realize a more alluring brand of homosexuality than I had known in my hometown?

In a manner I had not experienced in my Christian life up until that point (and have since to experience), three distinct opportunities arose in which I was tempted to have sex. I had made many friends on the UCLA campus; several were active homosexuals who were used to sleeping with ‘friends.’ These were smart, handsome guys who were going places.

I came close to crossing lines with them. I was aware of mutual attraction and could have signaled that I wanted more. All I can say is that God in His mercy gave me some restraint, some unexpected gift of self-control. I exercised that gift. Before thoughts became action, I was able to testify to each one who I actually was as a Christian man who wanted Jesus more than gay sex.

Those testimonies mattered more than the one I gave the summer before. In the heat of the moment, when the mirage shimmers like a dream come true–that is when the word of our testimony matters most.

It was pretty simple. Mercy met me in the desert of temptation and allowed me to define myself and my boundaries to these guys. One remained a friend, but with a solid line between us.

Simple is not the same as easy. I struggled hard. Against the sexy Westside backdrop, flanked by Bel-Air and Brentwood, exploring my homosexuality seemed right, naturally-speaking. It was as if Satan led me out to the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood and said: ‘This could be yours…’

God’s mercy was greater still. He made Himself known to me as the One I wanted in the desert of temptation. I wanted His Presence; and I wanted male friendships free from body fluids and distorted emotions.

God wanted that too. He also wanted me to be a pure drink to others, not an offering polluted by sensual motives. Others were beginning to ask me the reasons for my hope in Christ. I wanted to give an answer with a clean heart.

To achieve that, God led me into the desert. I had to be tested. He asked me to give three testimonies behind the scenes. He had His way. He refined my offering of hope to others. Mercy triumphed over judgment.

‘If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world but to lose his very self?’ (Lk 9: 23-25)

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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Drinking Water

After Europe, I moved into a UCLA fraternity house crammed with conservative Christian men. They were Republicans, I was the on the lunatic fringe of the Democratic party, as was my hair, which resembled a Benjamin Franklin fright wig; their crew cuts and manner were clipped and practical while I was emotional and spontaneous (remember, I used to be fun), tending toward the absurd.

A match made in heaven? Precisely. I needed the limits imposed by a tight community of guys who loved me in spite of our differences. We were one people in our love for Jesus and in our desire to make Him known.

Living there identified the desert of my detachment from regular guys and from the regular guy I was. I aimed awkwardly to explain who I was as a Christian seeking to overcome homosexuality. I tried to convey my commitment to holiness while still confessing my weakness and need for their support; what many heard was that I was still in sin.

Ah well…Semantics matter, and I was still trying to find the words. Yet beyond words, these guys loved me. I drank in their acceptance, which freed me to accept my own masculinity in some new ways. Mercy flowed out from most of the guys and satisfied my soul in a way that gay relationships never did.

That next summer, I joined an outreach project aimed at reaching a beach town in Southern California for Christ. We sought to extend mercy to the unsaved yet learned more about mercy in our team relationships than in evangelism.

There I grew in trusting people, both leaders and peers. One of our assignments was to share our testimony before a large outreach meeting. I asked God throughout that summer to distill what I had learned thus far in my journey out of homosexuality. By the time I shared, I was ready: clear, unashamed, grateful for the mercy that had become my freedom.

I was amazed at what happened next. Team members came to me in quiet, like Nicodemus, asking for hope and help in deep areas of personal brokenness. (Not homosexual per se; most were good old idolaters of the traditional kind.) They were hurting, locked in shame. Mercy alone drew them out of the desert.

Having drunk deep of mercy through Christ’s body, I had merely held out a cup of cold water to them. They wanted more. They needed more in order to go further up and into Christ’s purposes for their lives. Throughout that summer and into the next year, I continued to receive requests for help as a result of that one testimony.

That summer confirmed my calling to release living water to those in the desert of sexual and relational sin. God was multiplying my little offering of mercy. Desert Stream had informally begun.

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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The Pool at Piccadilly Circus

Soon after the French party, I moved home and determined to grow with the Christian friends I had. Fun or not, they were my people.

My parents asked me if I wanted to save my shekels and go with them on a short trip to Europe the next summer. I did and I went.

London was a blast. I loved the roar of it. I would find a busy street and get lost for hours in the waves of people pouring like currents from every square, park, and avenue.

I met a smart young coupled from Manchester who like me were walking quickly through the City of London Museum. We spent the afternoon together, and shared with some depth about our lives, after which they kind of prophesied over me. They predicted that I would write and speak about social matters related to my Christian spirituality. Their words rang true.

Later that night, my search for companionship took an ugly turn as I walked through garish Piccadilly Circus (London’s version of Time Square). I found a disco there (I used to be, well, fun…) and started dancing in a big group of people. It was ugly—yes, the hair and fashions of course—but mostly the spirit of the place. These people were not my people.

After such a life-giving day, I found myself in a self-absorbed, seductive world that was choking the life out of me. I knew if I did not leave right away, I would bow down to the evil one and his sexy idols.

Surfacing from the underground, smoky club, I gasped for air then called upon Jesus. He met me faster than the oxygen. He filled me with His Spirit and freed me from the ‘desert’ disco. I remembered mercy; I wanted Him, and He wanted me.

I turned a corner to exit the Circus where a young man was waiting for a sexual pick-up. He motioned to me; I walked on but as I did I thought, “He needs ‘living water’ as much as I do…” The Spirit came upon me and gave me unusual boldness.

I turned back and met up with the guy, telling him that I did not want sex but would love to talk with him over coffee. He agreed, and I shared my whole story, even the escape from ‘disco inferno.’

He related, he was amused, and he needed Jesus. We prayed together and committed to keeping in touch with each other. We wrote back and forth for over a year until he left London for University. I do not know what happened to him next. But I know that he encountered Jesus in the desert of his homosexuality. He discovered the God who turns the burning sand into a pool of mercy.

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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