Category: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Unoffended?

John the Baptist, imprisoned and burning with hope for the Messiah, sends friends to check out if this Jesus is the real deal. Christ’s response? ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me’ (Matt. 11:4-6).

Why are Jesus’ miracles of transformation offensive to us? Pastor Jimmy Seibert, founder of the evangelical Antioch church planting movement, took heat recently for upholding how his congregations are helping persons with same-sex attraction ‘find out who God is and who He has made them to be…I’ve seen hundreds of people change their direction from SSA to a heterosexual lifestyle. It doesn’t mean there isn’t struggle…but there has always been grace for those who choose that.’

Yes and amen! We honor the work of Seibert and Antioch–a fresh wave of mercy flowing throughout the USA and the world in order to provide community support for persons turning from all types of false identifications unto Jesus Christ. Among them are persons rendered blind, lame, deaf, and poor by the exploits of the ‘gay self’ and who discover a whole new way of being in Christ and His Church.

Offensive. What may once have seemed like an ordinary expression of Jesus’ transforming love has now become a feast for media vultures. And sadly, as in Jesus’ day, it is often the religious establishment who join in the accusations. Remember, it was the Pharisees and Sadducees who railed against Jesus’ wonder-working power. They found His almighty mercy disruptive and intrusive; He encroached on their domain with power to set captives free. He exposed their powerlessness to call persons out of the tomb of sin and death. They took offense, and put Him to death.

Similarly, the Jimmy Seiberts are among the bold and few churchmen who do more than uphold the law of God–they champion His power to raise sinners from the dead! To be sure, breaking free of LGBT identification and becoming wholly grounded in Christ is no minor miracle. It requires nothing less than the juncture of our recognized poverty with the One whose love breaks the low ceiling imposed by our rebellion and an unbelieving culture.

Such breakthrough should seem plausible in this season of angelic visitations, pregnant virgins and guiding stars; nevertheless, I encounter Catholics and evangelicals constantly who raise their eyebrows at the prospect of Jesus actually having the power to reorder the sexually disordered.

Maybe that’s the rub. Weary and worldly, we now tend to doubt that there’s anything ‘disordered’ about same-sex attraction, or any other gender variation. To recognize another’s transformation would be to admit that maybe something is wrong—with a loved one, or with oneself. And that we are wrong for settling for less than God’s best.

And if something is wrong, then what? Does God have good things for us beyond our agreements with the status quo? Will He bear with us in our fragile and inconsistent efforts to become all that He has called us to be?

We are in the center of His heart. Advent is a time of hoping for more, of recognizing that the deserts in our lives are actually virgin territory, the very ground in which Jesus wants to impart to us the seed and water and breath to make us fruitful. A Child is about to be born; He vows to summon a host of sons and daughters from the dead of sin.

‘Then will the eyes of the blind be open, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy’ (IS 35: 5, 6).

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Marvelous Wound

Jesus’ broken body loosed a river of healing, not only for our personal wounds, but also for the massive divides we face as His body, the Church. These divides are many and complicated. Yet how mighty is the flood of blood, water, and Spirit upon broken ones who seek to ‘be brought to complete unity’ (JN 17: 23)!

I share a bit in the wound between Catholics and Protestants. It smarts when I hear either party speak smugly about the error of the other. When I do, I cling to the Crucified and allow a fresh draft of mercy to keep the wound clean. More and more, that burn and that mercy seem to define our Living Waters ministry.

On the eve of our 40-day fast for the Church, I had the privilege of visiting Santiago Chile where Ruth Olave and team have dug a deep well of ‘living water’ in the Vineyard Church there. I originally helped envision them to do Living Waters a decade earlier as a fellow evangelical. Last week I returned as a Catholic.

It is difficult for North Americans to understand the historic wound between Catholics and Protestants in South America. While Catholics continue to be a minority in the diverse religious culture of the USA, Catholics ruled both church and state in the south; in spite of independence from Spanish domain a century ago, the RCC still predominates and has often discriminated against evangelicals. Combine that with ‘born again’ former Catholics who eschew their history as false and serious Catholics who view these ‘sectarian zealots’ as false. Wounded!

In light of our love for each other, the evangelical team of Living Waters leaders in Santiago had concerns about our new ‘whole church’ approach to the program. I entered into our time together not knowing how to answer all their questions, which came fast and hard during meetings in which many leaders expressed concern about Catholic influence, wanting to work with Catholics, etc.

All I could do was hide myself in the wounds of Jesus. That’s where the water is! I can never fully know another’s suffering due to religious conflict but I can feel my own pain and take refuge in His merciful side. Answers flowed from love, however halting and imperfect. By the end of our time, we agreed to walk together in love for any broken person seeking mercy. On Christ, the one foundation (1Cor. 3:11), we will build together. Living Waters alone—His very mercy–makes a way.

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Loving the Church

After we shared our desire to do Living Waters in our home church, one of the new pastors exclaimed: ‘It sounds like you love the Church and believe that Jesus can change lives there…’ Exactly. He caught our vision.

Soon after, our Living Waters team gathered with twenty men and women seeking Jesus amid sexual wounds and divides; due to scheduling issues, we gathered in the sanctuary of our beautiful church. Before the Crucified, we bowed down and sang and testified and exchanged shame for great drafts of mercy that seemed to pour from His wounded side. We shall gather faithfully there for weeks. We are thirsty.

You could say we are doing our part to raise the water levels in the temple, in the Spirit of Ez. 47—first ankle deep then to the knees, rising to the waist then over our heads, swimming in the healing flood. We give all to the One who gave all for us and we soak in unfailing love, making a way for wounded ones to discover it too. Right there in God’s house.

That’s what this ‘Radiant’ 40-day-fast is all about. We want to give up minor distractions in order to major on God’s desire for His people to love what He loves, His Church, and to cry out for Him ‘to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word in order to present her to Himself as a radiant Bride’ (Eph. 5: 25-27).

In doing so, we shall pray together every day starting this Wednesday October 12th. Download this PDF and join us by reflecting on the daily devotional and praying the small prayer at the end of each one. Then focus on the first prayer at the beginning of the prayer guide and pray this daily, imploring God to bless and build up the particular church and set of pastors of your choice, to give you mercy to extend to church ‘wounders’, and finally, to commit to prayer whatever you would like to do to build up the Bride.

It all begins in prayer. Join us for forty days of loving the Church.

Click here to download the ‘Radiant’ 40-day-fast prayer guide PDF.

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Watch Your Step

I ran along the river in old town Kaunas, Lithuania. As I considered the convergence of streams most dear to me, my heart overflowed and I ran with abandon. Surging in me were ‘currents’ of St. John Paul ll and St. Faustina, a European team of wounded healers who heal me, an American team par excellence, and a host of new friends from Poland who gathered to initiate Living Waters there.

Heaven on earth until my foot caught a crack in the path and I dove like a senseless animal into the then not-so-charming cobblestones. ‘Watch your step,’ intoned a still small voice.

I picked myself up, bleeding just a little, and took heed. We faced giants at our first Living Waters Training in Eastern Europe. Poland takes seriously its Catholicism—the authority of the Church, and that means defending the role of ordained priests in absolving sins. Living Waters takes seriously the role of the community in bearing one another’s sins so we can be healed. The priests and parishioners who gathered with us had serious questions about our approach; many also had serious divides in their souls that could only be healed by a band of fellow sinners who fought in merciful humility for their chastity.

I battled confusion and suspicion then rose to testify of both the priestly pillars of forgiveness (on which I depend) and the continuous links of being known daily with my fellow ‘lay priests’ on whom I rely to overcome sin. Jesus forged a way for all concerned to say ‘yes’ to Living Waters for the Polish church; most importantly, sinners were set free by the experience of both priestly absolution and the healing power of the ‘one another.’

I bounded out of our retreat center and somehow avoided stabbing my foot on a rusty spike protruding on the path. ‘I know, I know,’ I whispered heavenward: ‘Watch my step.’

The next fight was harder. In preparatory prayer, we discerned that we had to emphasize one plank of Living Waters—breaking the spirit of despair–in these lands trampled by the bloody boots of Russia and Germany then choked by Soviet rule. Our friends had grown up in the shadow of violent inhumanity. Christ Crucified is easy for Eastern Europeans; they must fight to live expectantly in the light of Love, risen and bursting with life.

The Word came in power and delivered many from the spirit of death. Then despair rolled over the team like a fog. We struggled under a stifling heaviness for a few hours. Then we gathered and confessed our affliction to one another; Jesus broke through with hope and joy. Relieved, I ran back to my room and fell promptly into a pothole. I received only a gentle ‘dusting’, no harm whatsoever, as if an unseen being padded my accident. I laughed, brushed myself off, and pledged once more to watch my step.

‘He will command His angels to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.’
(PS 91: 11-13)

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For The Bride

For the Bride

This fall, we advance in three exciting ways for the Body of Christ. Desert Stream Ministries is about helping make the Church a transformational place for sinners, and ultimately, a chaste, merciful Bride for her Bridegroom.

Toward that end, we want to know about:

Our third Living Waters group at St. Thomas More parish in Kansas City
This is the first Catholic parish in America to take up the healing of sexually and relationally broken people. We have faced much resistance, and without help from the Kansas City/St. Joseph Diocese would not be gathering again this fall. God uses all refinement to make our offering more glorious.
We start Tuesday night September 27th.
To apply, contact Becky Turner at morelivingwaters@gmail.com.

Open to Life: Pastoral Equipping for Care of Persons with Same-Sex Attraction
This is a concise, practical, and hopeful 2-and- a-half hours for all Christian leaders who want to be faithful to Jesus in their care of persons facing homosexual issues.
Please calendar Wednesday morning on October 19th, from 930am to noon at St. Thomas More parish in Kansas City.
To register, contact Dean Greer at dgreer@desertstream.org.

Radiant: 40-Days of Prayer and Fasting for the Church, Oct. 12th-Nov. 20th
Desert Stream sponsors a fast at the end of the Catholic Church year every fall. This year, we shall be lifting up each Christian’s commitment to make the Body of Christ a merciful, truthful community for all persons, and ultimately, a Bride worthy of her Bridegroom. We will have a complete guide for this fast available by the end of September.

This fast can involve any kind of sacrifice you desire to make and requires 30 minutes every day for to pray for our pastors and the expansion of our limited love for the Church. We want to share Jesus’ heart for His beautiful, broken Bride.
For more info and a prayer guide, contact aarmstrong@desertstream.org.

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