Category: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Highway to Holiness

‘Let us make good use of our time. Out steps must conform to God’s call on our lives; let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling and with burning love and zeal for the salvation of our neighbors.’ St. Junipero Serra

I write this from Mission San Gabriel, perhaps the most excellent of the Franciscan churches founded by Father Serra who introduced Christianity to California in the mid-eighteenth century. He endured unfathomable hardships to blaze a highway of holiness from San Diego to San Francisco: he did so by planting a series of outposts, like stations in a relay that could sustain evangelization and discipleship of the native peoples of California up and down the west coast.

Mission San Gabriel, not far from one of our most fruitful Living Waters groups at HROCK Church in Pasadena and closer still to our excellent regional leader Brian Barlow and family, was especially strategic for this ‘highway’. Its fruitfulness supplied many of the needs of the other 11 missions; its success consoled Serra during the last 25 years of his good hard life.

I find a small niche on the side of the original chapel of Mission San Gabriel, the oldest standing building in Southern California, and marveled that Mass has been held in this sanctuary every day since 1771. From my roost I can see grapevines and orange trees which the Spanish padres introduced to CA in the ground of this mission, thus laying the base for the state’s rich agricultural future.

I reflect on Serra’s life as I await a prayer gathering with our Living Waters leaders from Southern California. We shall pray for the defeat of AB2943, still pending in the state senate. We shall welcome Brian and Pastor Gwen from HROCK back from Sacramento where they have spent the day testifying of transformation before leaders who are unsure; these two are heroes, like many today who Jesus is summoning to declare His highway of holiness throughout California.

Of course we shall pray that the bill will die. Most importantly, we pray that the Church rise and shine in glorious unity—each faith community a station in a relay that restores dignity to the fractured.

Like Serra and his padres, our hope is sure and we shall not back down. Serra traveled 24000 miles over land and sea with an ulcerated foot in the last decades of his life to plant the cross in CA. We shall do the same. We like Him shall try to look more for Jesus’ interests than for our own (Phil. 2:21).

Serra’s greatest ‘cross’ was the state—government authority driven by greed and pride that continually thwarted his spiritual plans. He especially hated the mistreatment of his charges–the native peoples—by Spanish soldiers who abused them and so defiled God’s will for them. Native uprisings against Serra and the padres were provoked by military abuses, not religious ones. He grieved then; we grieve now for the abuse that AB2943 inflicts upon the most vulnerable.

Like Serra, we shall not lose sight of the prize, which is the saving of many lives. We fight for wounded lives to have a fighting chance to know the Healer, the One who unites us with the good of our gendered selves and guides us lovingly as we return to the Father in our disordered affections and choose to walk the highway to holiness, seeking through grace to unite our thoughts with God’s best for us.

Amid his multiple afflictions, Serra wrote: ‘All things are sweet to a lover.’ He was espoused to Jesus and like the leader of his order, St. Francis, he kept his eyes and heart fixed on Christ Crucified. I enter now into the old sanctuary and am most drawn to the beautiful image of Francis above the altar gazing with affection upon the small crucifix in his hands. All for love! We can do all things through love, drawing continually from its Source.

Nothing shall stop us. Jesus invites each one of us to become and to declare the way He makes for every willing soul to discover their place among the beloved. Serra died happy, surrounded by the saints. He poured out his life to forge a highway of holiness on which the first Californians—over 6000 persons—were baptized and confirmed as Christians. We follow him today in the Spirit of St. Francis, the Holy Spirit who makes all things sweet for those who walk in Christ.

‘And a highway will be there, it shall be called the Way of Holiness…’ (IS 35:8)

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California’s New State Religion

‘In this world, God loves nothing more than the liberty of the Church.’ St. Anselm

AB 2943, which prohibits churches from selling resources that helps members live chaste lives, sailed through the Assembly and (barring a miracle) will do the same in the Senate in the next few days.

Not only does this bill prohibit citizens from resolving gender identity problems according to their faith, it imposes an immoral standard upon them. California may become the first state in the nation to demand that citizens with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria resolve their conflicts according to state-determined (im)morality. When it does, California will effectively roll out, in the words of David French, a new state religion of sexual libertinism.

How could this happen? The California legislature is controlled by a handful of special interest groups, none more powerful than the LGBT+ juggernaut which regularly composes and pushes through outrageous acts of legislation (their new sex education mandate for all California students is a doozy). AB 2943 takes this a step further by silencing the voice of the Church as it pertains to sexual identity.

We all know now that this group is guided by a popular bias, supported by junk science (whenever any group claims absolute authority based on a handful of psychological studies, stop listening), which wants us to believe that those vulnerable in their sexual identities will be irreparably damaged by any effort to restrain and redirect their same-sex attraction. Similarly, this group holds to the dubious claim that anyone who hates their birth gender, especially children, do violence to themselves by being reconciled to their gender. This is nothing short of a new morality, a new vision of human dignity and freedom, in essence, a new religion.

You can see now why AB 2943 wants to silence the Church; she holds the opposite view. To be defined and driven by one’s same-sex attraction is an act of violence against the person made in God’s image, and to mutilate one’s body under the pretense of changing genders (an impossibility) is at best delusional. Given the fact that many in our ranks experience diverse temptations related to sexual identity, we cast ourselves upon the One who took the hit (2Cor 5: 21) for us and who alone has power to unite us with our truest, most authentic selves.

AB 2943 creates an alternate morality and outlaws the Church’s. If the bill passes:

Our eight Living Waters groups in California may become illegal.

Any books by Christian authors which highlight transforming power of Jesus in the area of sexual identity may be banned.

Conferences that include such witnesses may be prohibited.

Let’s not write AB 2943 off as west coastal silliness. California is on the vanguard of progressive politics for our nation. Her courts overturned the citizens’ choice to ban ‘gay marriage’ (Prop. 8) which in turn became the case that went to the Supreme Court, redefining marriage in our nation forever.

Please pray for miraculous intervention in slowing done or stopping this bill. California citizens would do best to call Gov. Jerry Brown directly at 916-445-2841 and simply stating their opposition to AB 2943.

Please pray that the Church in California wake up and unite in her radiant truth. I am not a political animal, I am a Christian who believes in another Kingdom that surpasses both right and left. Nothing is more essential to God’s heart than His will for humanity made in His image as male and female, and California politics today desecrates that image in the name of ‘freedom.’ Real violence will be done to our most vulnerable by AB 2943. May we as the Church arise and answer the cries of persons in identity crises.

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Reality, Healing

The Archbishop of Latvia rallied the major Christian leaders in his nation—Orthodox, Lutheran, Baptist, Roman Catholic—to stand together for God’s image in humanity and to refuse an effort of the European Union to legislate ‘gender ideology’ throughout the continent.

Christian efforts appeared to be doomed. But united as one bloc, Christ’s body prevailed and the legislation was defeated. Little Latvia slayed Goliath.

To do so, all the Church had to do was to assert her truth: there is no such thing as ‘gay marriage’–the marital union intrinsically involves becoming one-flesh, a physical and spiritual impossibility in same gender couples. Nor does ‘transgender’ actually exist, as it is a physical and spiritual impossibility for one to change his or her biological gender. Finally, the Church cannot mistake the need to defend the dignity of women for defending the ‘gender spectrum’—fifty ‘gender selves’ that are multiplying like fissures upon the cracked image of God in humanity. Rather, the Church upholds two natures—male and female; she advocates for the dignity of both genders while inviting people into reality.

The good Archbishop, a good friend and advocate of Living Waters in Latvia, is committed to the language and pastoral practice of helping people find reality. We cannot concede to unreality, whether in speech or political advocacy. Only the foundations of reality help wounded persons to find healing. We uphold reality in order to help persons heal.

On the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, we are committed to becoming living witnesses of reality—who we actually are and how Jesus helps us to realize those selves through His healing community. And this is what we did in our most recent trip to the Baltic nations—Latvia and Lithuania in particular—where we are partnering with the likes of the good Archbishop who is committed to the Church becoming a fountain of mercy for persons withering in the unreality of the ‘gender spectrum.’

I marveled at one gathering in which we instructed and prayed for eight teams from throughout Latvia who are committed to welcoming persons from a spectrum of identity brokenness, real persons who need merciful members of Christ to help them heal, to become who He made them to be. Reality. Healing.

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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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