Category: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Desert Stream 2013 Year-End Newsletter

In ‘The Gift’ I write:

‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.’ (Eph. 5: 25-27)

God became an infant to make us holy men and women. A baby becomes the basis for our full stature as saints! Let us marvel this season in the Child-King whose gift of divine life enables us to become more than we thought possible. Read more »

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Twenty Days For Mercy

‘O blood and water that flows from the heart of the Savior as a fount of mercy for us, [we] trust in You!’ St. Faustina

MASTER mercy 15 chriscrussell copyWhen the towers fall and our foundations are being destroyed, what can the faithful do? We can prayerfully cry out for mercy. The Lord of mercy will respond by gently ushering His broken, disoriented creation into His rest.

Today we highlight the importance of gender clarity and sexual chastity to a world shrouded in darkness. We at Desert Stream/Living Waters endure only because our feet are solidly planted on the Rock of Christ Jesus and His Church. There a river of mercy flows for all weary ones who struggle deeply with identity and desire but who have come to experience the folly of worldly answers. Surrender to Jesus alone corresponds with their deepest ache for love. What a privilege to do our part in ushering many onto that Rock, where mercy never fails!

We are heading into the joy of Christmas. In preparation for His birth, might you join us in ‘Twenty Days for Mercy’? Through prayer and fasting, we shall implore the Child-King to release those blinded by other masters. From November 6th to the 25th, we shall pray both for the sexually broken and for the Church, that she might reflect His mercy well. Truly the sexually broken are ‘harassed and rendered helpless’ by worldly powers (Matt. 9: 33-35); only mercy can bring them Home.

I shall write a brief daily devotional that will be posted on my blog and sent to you twice weekly. Most importantly, alongside of prayer for our Living Waters leaders, we are partnering with several excellent, like-minded ministries for whom we shall pray daily with specific requests: Courage, the COR Project, Ministries of Pastoral Care (MPC), and the Restored Hope Network (RHN).

Headed by Anne Paulk, RHN is a dynamic network that unites groups around the USA to offer hope and transformation for persons impacted by SSA and other sexual issues. The COR (Latin for ‘heart’) Project, led by Christopher West, heralds the life-transforming work of Theology of the Body, authored by John Paul ll. MPC, formerly Leanne Payne’s pastoral healing course, has a new leader, Gino Vaccaro, who has done a fine job re-launching Payne’s essential teachings through MPC.

Lastly, we will lift up the Courage and Encourage Apostolate, the only officially recognized arm of ministry to those impacted by SSA in the Roman Catholic Church. What a privilege to partner with leader Father Paul Check in supporting this vital global effort.

Daily we at DSM/LW will be lifting up these requests at 3pm in our offices, CST. Join us if you can or pray when it works for you! In the next three weeks leading up to Nov. 6th, Ann Armstrong (our beloved intercessor at DSM/LW) will write more on how we all can prepare to pray and fast effectively for our time together.

Please plan to pray with us. God acts when the faithful cry out for mercy!

Visit andrewcomiskey.com/mercy for daily updates during the fast.

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New Pharisee 3

Only through the Cross and the mercy released from the One who gave all can we counter the new Pharisee.

Boy, do we need it now. I am witnessing a new Pharisaic tendency in Christian spokespeople for ‘GLBT’ (etc.) communities. Instead of surrendering the sexually broken ‘selves’ to Jesus, these ones make huge efforts to justify their homosexuality. Though some claim orthodoxy (no sex outside of marriage), they nevertheless seek to integrate the gay self and ‘celebrate the grace of God in homosexual terms.’

Precepts of the new Pharisee include:

  • Exempting themselves from a theological anthropology that defines humanity as made in God’s image as male and female. Instead, these GLBTers define their humanity as fundamentally homosexual. Same-sex attraction sets them apart from straight people. Being ‘gay’ figures in profoundly to how they define themselves.
  • A split between being and doing. Though some may not believe in acting upon one’s homosexuality, they encourage strugglers to integrate their homosexuality. Given the momentum toward gay affirmation throughout the Christian culture, I suspect that abstinence will fall way as these ones find ‘good’ gay partnerships.
  • According to Christian GLBTers, Jesus chooses to not effect much, if any, change of their sexual inclinations. Alan Chambers is now infamous for his assertion that 99.9% of all persons with SSA seeking change do not change. Implicit in this assertion is that nature figures in more profoundly to the roots of SSA than nurture. For the new Pharisee, gay people are probably hardwired at birth and the redeeming power of Jesus does not touch this ‘gay’ foundation. Though one might say in the abstract that the ‘fall’ is responsible for SSA, (s)he actually concludes there is nothing wrong with it.
  • A new narrative in which one has little if any psychological brokenness undergirding their SSA. The new Pharisee need not muck around with messy relational and family-of-origin factors, cultural influences, or specific incidents that altered one’s sexual development. ‘Gay’ just is and needs no healing. ‘Healing’ efforts are framed as an old paradigm that they rather smugly refuse on the ground of their rather normal lives.
  • Scandalizing reparative therapy. Christian GLBTers scorn clinical efforts to overcome SSA. They suspect any therapeutic effort to ‘change’ on the ground that it manipulates and may even abuse people who cannot change anyway. Despite the fact that most have not actually surrendered their sexuality to a constructive course of action, they denounce such action and claim that the only just action is to integrate their homosexuality.

In our current Living Waters group, we are asking Jesus through His blood and Spirit to reveal the deep wounds that set us adrift in the first place. And He is answering, with insights that can only be understood as reparative, and with a Love that can only be experienced as healing.

In my small group, men from a variety of backgrounds are opening to the grace pouring from Calvary into the foundations of their humanity. We open our lives to God and each other. He comes as we prayerfully welcome Him; He offers Himself as the answer to our deepest needs for love and identity.

While preparing for one such meeting, God reminded me of a series of toxic early experiences in relation to other males. I felt the pain of these memories deeply. A few nights later I had a dream. While driving quickly through a strange town my car stalled and I sought help. I saw a small boy lying wounded and unattended in the street. I began to pray for his healing. I then felt a warm masculine presence reaching his arm over me and praying for the child too. It was a strong, tender man: Jesus? Perhaps. His very presence healed me as I sought to give life to the wounded one in my arms.

The Cross opens the horizon of our real brokenness and real healing. Mercy exposes faulty foundations and secures them in Love. Only Mercy compels us to drop our self-justifications. Manifest in a merciful people, Jesus makes a place for the new Pharisee at the foot of the Cross.

‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by Me.’ (Luke 7: 22, 23)

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New Pharisee 2

‘Your most merciful Heart is all my hope. I have nothing for my defense but only Your mercy; in it lies all my trust.’ St. Faustina Kowalska

The New Pharisee 2 Photo by RottnApplesHow do you restrain the inner Pharisee? Stay near the truth of your own sinfulness and the Cross. That fount of Mercy confirms our worst impulses but also cleanses us at their source. Then, together with all the saints, we discover the depth and power of love that becomes our offering to others. We become good gifts, the fruit of Calvary to a hungry world.

I witnessed this profoundly at our first Living Waters meeting last week. The newly revised material centers on that theme of becoming good gifts to others. Together we expressed our starting points: SSA, addiction, high anxiety, and the ache of old wounds among them, as well as how shame hovers over these problems and veils the gift we aspire to be for others.

I wondered where to go with the ministry time. We needed the Cross, pure and simple. Before I could finish the call to come forward and unite our need for Mercy with the wood of Calvary, I saw in a flash a dark strain of sin in me. Prior to the meeting, Annette and I had just discussed an unresolved issue. For the first time, through the illumination of the Spirit, I saw my sin clearly.

Love for her mingled with remorse and shame and I knew only Calvary would suffice. At the Cross (literally), together with fellow strugglers, we lingered. We endured the shame of sin for the joy of discovering our Advocate in overcoming sin. Over the course of our 20 weeks together, we shall learn that Mercy alone is our cure. We will continue to make that great exchange: surrendering sin and receiving in turn a double portion of His blessing as we pray for each other.

The truth of sin’s misery opens us to the Mercy that can be ours. Steeped in Mercy, we become fruitful gifts. Why then do we strive to justify our own virtue?

Could it be that the enemy of our souls has blinded our eyes to the Mercy that is there for us? Perhaps the reason that we cling to dehumanizing attitudes and behaviors is because we do not believe that there is anything for us in their place.

How else can you explain the irrational power at work in the weaknesses of those who insist that the ‘gay self’ or any other number of ‘selves’ is their deepest, truest expression? Cut off from Mercy, these ones construct fortresses to defend them from the threat of non-being. Here the enemy empowers a host of powerful ‘solutions’ to repair a broken life. It may be a sensually-exciting relationship or solidarity with others seeking ‘equality.’

Yet one’s new power is not sourced in God but a kind of self-justification that resists God and insists on its own well-being. Those who don’t like these new ‘solutions’ are judged harshly. Kind of like a Pharisee…

We are now witnessing this new brand of Pharisee with a vengeance. Activists from the GLBT (etc.) community convey a kind of moral and psychological invulnerability which when countered provokes an ugly defensiveness. And the enemy empowers this cause. Never before have we seen such a radical and irrational shift in public opinion concerning ‘gender diversity.’ What was once commonly understood as brokenness is now championed as an often superior alternative to male and female.

Only Mercy can counter this new Pharisee. Only living water can saturate the broken foundation on which these constructs are built. Only Mercy can dissolve these defenses. The false confidence and fleeting joy of these fractured ‘selves’ can only be displaced by a greater love.

Only Mercy invites us to own our most profound hunger. Jesus becomes the meal. At the Cross, the site of His complete self-giving, we can lay down our lies and welcome the Truth that makes all things new.

‘You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” ’ (Rev. 3: 17)

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Kingdom of Shanghai

‘Neither (s)he who plants nor (s)he who waters is anything but only God, who makes things grow.’  (1 Cor. 3: 7)

Andy and Jeanie with Priest at Zhujiajiao Catholic Church

with my sister and the priest

This Chinese city looms large in the popular imagination: a colorful, lawless seaport alternately stripped and seasoned by colonial forces. The term ‘red-light district’ originated from the red lanterns festooning brothels here a century ago. Who can forget Marlene Dietrich luring customers in the thirties classic film ‘Shanghai Express’? Who can remember Madonna playing a missionary opposite Sean Penn in the eighties nightmare ‘Shanghai Surprise”? (Apparently I do.)

Russian, English, American, Japanese and French opportunists vied for Shanghai until Mao clamped down in the mid-20th century, chased out foreigners, and began his rule and reign. The lawless kingdom of Shanghai came under the godless, cruelly efficient kingdom of men.

Another Kingdom is quietly emerging here. In a sovereign and merciful way, God is assembling a team of servants who owe their lives to Him and whose only aim is to make Jesus known to the people of Shanghai. I have yet to see such an inspired cooperative effort, with each member doing his/her part.

A glimpse into the work of Living Waters here may indicate this a bit. My beloved sister Jean and husband Ken assumed a job assignment here. Devout Christians, they determined to serve Jesus in the city and thus moved near a dynamic church as a base for such service. Upon moving there, they informed me that Living Waters was beginning in their new church.

I then recalled Sue, a woman from Shanghai whom I had met at our training last year in Kansas City. Released to lead Living Waters and well-connected with the woman who coordinates Living Waters in Asia, Sue feels as if her life (healing from SSA, marriage, recent adoption of 3 Chinese children) has been a preparation for this season of healing others. She was assembling a team to run Living Waters in the church and asked me to come and inaugurate the first meeting.

I just happened to be in the Philippines, wanted to see Jean and Ken anyway, and so decided to come. Just before leaving for Asia, I learned that Jim, a Chinese-speaker from Living Waters in Los Angeles, was moving to Shanghai to assist Sue.

If our first meeting was any indication, the Kingdom is advancing exquisitely in Shanghai. Under Sue’s able leadership, each one did his/her part. Jim led worship and wept as we sang to beautiful Jesus for His beauty among us, the broken, who are seeking only His mercy as our righteousness. Many faces of Asia (and those of a few ex-pats) reflected that beauty.

Andrew in Zhujiajiao Catholic Church

Divine Mercy Image in China

Afterwards, we visited one of the few historic churches in Shanghai. Perched on the edge of a canal, this Roman Catholic Church appeared closed. (The RCC has been especially hard hit in China, its bishop jailed for disavowing communism and refusing to disavow the Pope.)

We cried out half-kidding: ‘God, open the doors of Your Church in China!” We rapped on the imposing metal door again and a woman answered. She led us into the courtyard where a priest met us and led us into the sanctuary. Most obvious was the prominent display of the Divine Mercy image Jesus gave St. Faustina: rays of blood and water emanating out of Jesus’ heart for the lost and broken. The priest knelt alongside of us as we silently thanked God for His wonderful gift.

A flood of Mercy for Shanghai, for China: God is releasing His Kingdom there as each one does his/her part.

‘What God opens, no-one can shut, and what He shuts no-one can open. I know your deeds. I have placed before you an open door that no-one can shut.’ (Rev. 3: 7, 8)

 

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