Category: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Behold the Lamb 1: Golden Scars

Another Lent. We don ashes as a sign of repentance. We let go of vain things in order to take up what matters. May I suggest you walk this next 47 days with the staff of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries? We repent on behalf of the Church for her failure to represent Jesus well to fellow members and to the world.

No bitter or dour penitents we. We are her. We love the Church and are subject to her errors. We take our places as victims and perpetrators of the Bride who aspires and falls flat on her face. So do we, face down at her altar, signed by dust, sorry.

We tasted this together at our Living Waters Training in Malibu Canyon. After we allowed Jesus to reveal our deepest wounds, we gathered in silence before the Cross and sought mercy to extend to our most prominent wound-ers. Remarkable that the majority of persons who testified named Christians as their perpetrators: struck down (but nor destroyed), these included the ex-wife of a distinguished doctor who left her for a newer model, the son of a devout father who abandoned faith and family for the swinging culture of the 70’s, the minister thrown under the bus by colleagues who could do without him. The impact: a temptation to close our hearts to the very community that could be our healing.

But God who is rich in mercy invited us to activate His ace-in-the-hole: forgiving our captors and so breaking the chains that bind us to them. Forgiveness turns the enemy’s schemes on their ear and provokes a greater good through us; it reclaims our wounds, especially ‘Christian’ wounds, as a source of healing. Divine Mercy alone has power to transform the original offense into a fountain of life, first to broken members of the Bride then out to the world.

A good way to conceptualize divine mercy was offered by a dear friend of Desert Stream. At our training, she noticed the heightened beauty of the broken ones who testified of mercy to remake them; she offered the metaphor of the Japanese art of ‘kintsugi’, whereby gold is mixed with reparative lacquer in reconstructing shattered ceramics. The purpose is to honor the history, however broken, of the object and exquisitely to incorporate the repair into the piece instead of disguising it. As the photo reveals, the object is beautified by its golden scar, becoming lovelier in its repair than in its original wholeness.

So this Lent we proceed to honor our histories of wounding, especially church wounding. In the power of repentance and forgiveness, we shall allow Jesus to gild the gashes so He can shine upon our prayers and make her more beautiful. We want beauty for ashes, beginning with ourselves and extending to the whole Bride. Might you join us this Lent as we identify our corporate sins, repent, and ask for mercy to make wounds wondrous for our fellow members and the world?

‘On this Ash Wednesday, Jesus, we repent of any hardening of our hearts due to wounds incurred by Christians. We are not that clever: the gashes from one fan out from us to many in this one body. We turn to You—the Head of the Body, the Lamb who was slain—and ask for patience to wait before You this Lent. Grant us Your heart for Your bride, beginning with mercy for us. May we extend mercy liberally this Lent to our captors. Free us to free others! Forgive us for resisting who You love. Gild our gashes in the power of Almighty Mercy, we pray.’

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Splendor of the Kingdom 3

‘Faith in the Lord’s real Presence and 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

I reentered Malibu Canyon for our third West Coast Living Waters Training and immediately discerned that ‘evaporation’ Oster describes: a Church so desiccated by the winds of sexual liberties that even the faithful have become brittle and unsure as to Jesus’ power to re-integrate persons divided by fractured marriages and LGBT+ ideology. In the words of Archbishop Chaput, our friendliness with the world has ‘bleached out our convictions and dulled our longing for the supernatural.’

Conviction and healing power go hand-in-hand. Those who lose sight of God’s best for humanity in the sexual realm, which is nothing less than chastity for every human being (be he a macho carouser or a woman seeking to become one), lose spiritual authority. We need to stir up once more the good news that Jesus has power to transform sinners on the entire spectrum of sins against chastity. Truth and Kingdom power cannot be separated. The Church which holds fast to both will suffer persecution. But in her affliction she will pour out deep drafts of ‘living water’ for those dying of thirst. She who capitulates to the culture will dry out and return to dust.

Gratefully, I discovered communities of Jesus along the West Coast who are digging deep wells of ‘living water’ through empowered lay persons whose moral weaknesses have become strengths. Integrated with their pastors (several who were present with us) and a communal commitment to becoming ‘cities of refuge’ for the broken, these churches are models of moral transformation.

I want to highlight one in particular. Harvest Rock (aka HRock) in Pasadena California has a pastoral team well aware of the crisis in sexual and gender integrity today. Not only do they preach and teach well on the topic, they provide in-depth pastoral care for faithful, broken ones. Those being-restored-ones then accompany others seeking Jesus’ way. I love the range of relational issues this team represents, from same-sex attraction to marital unfaithfulness to sexual trauma. They combine commitment to Jesus’ healing authority with the clarion call to repentance for all who have violated Jesus’ call to purity of heart. And their team, some of whom I have pictured in this blog are a delight. To enter into their deepening Living Waters experience is a joyful opportunity for transformation. I count them as a model for what the Church needs today if she will advance with a healing flood. Without a concerted effort to join together in truth and transforming power, she will be desiccated by dry winds, the drone of persons who have lost faith and now ‘evangelize’ the Church with false freedoms.

So prepare Church. Let pastors commission empowered lay persons to be trained and released to accompany broken ones into the ‘waters’ of Jesus’ transforming love. Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit wrote a rousing, comprehensive call to his diocese to become a community of the Gospel’s transforming power. I leave you with a quote from this pastoral letter entitled ‘Unleash the Gospel’: ‘The unleashing of the Gospel is not something we do individually but a communal task, a work of the whole mystical body of Christ to which we belong. If we are living as a band of joyful missionary disciples, our communal life is itself a witness of the power of the Gospel.’ (Click here to download the complete letter.)

Please join us in Kansas City for our next Gender Matters on Feb. 10th. Become a part of God’s healing army for broken persons you love. Sign up now!

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Splendor of the Kingdom 1

‘This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel’ (MK 1:14, 15).

We should never reduce Jesus to a tidy set of teachings or ethics. He shatters our controlling tendencies with one touch of His healing, delivering hand. Jesus advances a new universe—the rule and reign of Heaven on earth. He plunges into our depths, casts out darkness, and raises us up as children of Light, beloved sons and daughters of the Father. Tidy? God’s Kingdom is at best disorienting.

This Kingdom comes through joyful declaration of the Gospel, with signs and wonders following–the Word confirmed by spiritual power. As St. Mark recorded, “The people were amazed at Jesus: ‘A new teaching, and with power!’“ (MK 1:27). How can He not shake our little universes?! God has come! God comes to you! Heaven could not hold Him back from descending into our messy lives and breaking the low ceiling that defines us as everything but beloved. His huge ‘yes’ to us liberates our freedom to give shaky assent to Him. He takes His advantage. He becomes our stronghold of light in a dismal world–the luminous foundation of our very beings.

I witnessed how ‘Kingdom-centric’ our Living Waters world is while working with friends Peter Herbeck and Ralph Martin, both pioneers of thoughtful Spirit-filled advances throughout the Church. These guys spearhead a television show on EWTN called ‘The Choices We Face’—they filmed a segment with me (under good lights I look a vital 72—see for yourself when the show airs sometime in mid-2018) and commented afterwards: ‘You have hope for persons facing big sexual challenges because you anchor that hope in the power of the Gospel.’

True that. I am continuously puzzled by persons who hear our hopeful stories of real struggle and real release and respond with: ’I don’t believe in reparative therapy’ or ‘Jesus does not always heal people.’ Huh?

Jesus came to reclaim our lives from the grip of the world and the devil, and to persuade us in love to let go of the fleshly attachments that enslave us. That is true for all persons who seek Him. His descent and ascent is our ticket to paradise—eternity starts today with Jesus. Yes, struggles remain: these keep us humble and reliant on Jesus’ members (how insufferable is the one who declares moral perfection!).

But to reduce Jesus’ radical obedience at Calvary to a benefit for ‘the lucky few’ and to count oneself as ‘untouched’, ‘made for’ LGBT liberties—that is a lie against the Gospel. Yes, in our dullness we can refuse to cooperate with Jesus. And yes, He waits for us to invite His Kingdom to rule and reign in us afresh. God can and does touch all persons who turn toward Almighty Mercy.

Freedom from sin and disorder of all kinds begins, progresses, and ends with the glorious splendor of God’s-Kingdom-come in Jesus Christ. The Kingdom has come. The Kingdom is here. That Kingdom can burn like an unquenchable fire inside you (LK 17:21) and make everything new. Choose this day who will ignite you.

‘We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the morning star rises in your hearts’ (2P 1:19).

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Irresistible

In these last couple weeks of our fast, I’ve had the privilege of making two trips to the Northeast where I witnessed the irresistible splendor of Jesus in His Church, both evangelical and Catholic. The Spirit is stirring up His saints, girding them in truth and welling up like living water to grant the gender broken a better Word. One can have any number of freedoms and still be a slave! Jesus alone frees the sin-shackled and makes us true sons and daughters of the one Father.

In Pennsylvania, I gathered with a group of priests who meet regularly to share their sexual vulnerabilities and the healing love that sets them free; in New York City and New Jersey I gathered with turned-on Korean-Americans who are as committed to becoming whole as they are becoming good news for their LGBT+ friends. I spent most of my time in the borough of Queens where I invested in a church renowned for its efforts at creating emotionally healthy community and fostering racial reconciliation. Stunningly so! Yet the pastors have the wisdom to know the difference between ethnicity and gender identity issues; they celebrate a diversity of tribes and tongues while refusing the ‘gender spectrum’ ideology that fractures God’s children. Mercy welled up as we testified of His unfailing love that reconciles us to our true humanity—male and female–in this one body.

Before setting off for these trips, I had the privilege of assisting at the Mass celebrating the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. It is my favorite feast of the church year, as it is the only one that celebrates the Church herself: the irresistible splendor of Jesus revealed in His body. As I read from Ezekiel 47 about the water levels rising in the temple until the saints are immersed and flowing out into the world in order to heal and feed the broken (‘their fruit shall serve for food and their leaves for medicine’, EZ 47: 12), I realized that this is our mission. It is being fulfilled as we gather and lift up Jesus as Healer!

In all of our Northeast gatherings, I fielded questions from countless saints who face increasingly complex hardships due to LGBT+ demands: the deacon working with a nominal Christian family whose 4-year-old daughter showed up in Sunday School as a boy, the assistant male youth leader who announced his ‘transition’ to womanhood, the influential minister now ‘gay married’ and adopting children while extolling the joys of ‘gay Christianity’, the worker whose ‘gay’ boss firmly encourages his employees to stick rainbow emblems on their office doors, and many who simply want to know how to care for loved ones who now live under the rainbow. As we prayed at every meeting for Jesus to come and show us His way–the mercy that is ours only as we enter through the gate of His body and blood shed for us in the one body–the water levels rose and immersed us in the divine love that breaks human enslavement. We bring a better Word endowed with power to save the gender broken. His love radiant in humbled, poured-out saints: Irresistible.

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Relationships that Heal

While we as the Desert Stream staff prayed for our upcoming Living Waters European Leaders gathering in Poland, I received these words: ‘relationships that heal.’ They do indeed.

For over 30 years, blessed Europe has been the site where deep bonds have been forged. And fractured. The pain of the latter can tend to overshadow my Euro-friendships that endure. Could my ‘bent’ perspective be a part of the problem? Perhaps splinters from broken relationships still sting and obscure my vision.

Isn’t this true for most of us? When we get hurt, affliction infects our eyes and we see others (and the persons they represent) as symbols of conflict that we want to avoid. God was kindly challenging my vision. ‘Open your eyes to the love that is there for you…’

Maybe it’s because our wounds are deep, so much so that we fall into them like ruts in a highway. Our ‘wounders’ loom large and appear bigger than the healers whose unfailing love helped bind up our wounds. God wants us to look up and out to the persons who know us honestly and who still love us. He wants our healers to inhabit our hearts more than our perpetrators.

During our days together in Warsaw, I marveled at several fellow healers with whom I have walked for years in Europe. But none captured my gaze more than Werner and Charlotte Loerschter who as directors of Torrents-de-Vie (Living Waters) in France have been a source of healing for me unlike any others. I recalled our 23 years of digging wells of healing throughout Europe: we wearied ourselves in exhilarating service, in working out conflict, and in binding up each other’s wounds. Through it all, we have come to know each other deeply and at times painfully. Love pervaded all. I know they love me authentically because they know how hard it is to love me. And they have succeeded brilliantly. Whatever wholeness I possess I attribute in part to their love.

I looked upon these friends with gratitude during our gathering. I drank in love. Love is stronger than the death of failed relationships; healing is more defining than hurt. We must allow it to be. I encourage you to look upon the ones who have loved you well. Live in their light, a glorious reflection of His own.

Join us for the ‘Becoming Good News for the Gender Challenged’ fast from Oct. 11th-Nov. 19th.

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