Category: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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Mercy, Manilla

‘The knowledge of my own misery allows me to know the immensity of Your mercy.’ St. Faustina Kowalska

Mercy, Manilla Photo by GoyaI slumped on the plane to the Philippines, wearied by a buzz of pesky conflicts. Some involved others’ sin; most mine. Life reduced me to mercy. I took heart at Jesus’ words to those ‘confident in their own righteousness’ (Lk 18: 9-14): the despised tax collector cried out for mercy and got heaven, leaving the virtuous, self-reliant Pharisee in hell.

Storms accompany my advances. I have learned to find merciful Jesus there. He uses His enemy to chase me into the mercy pool. I wanted to release buckets to the beautiful Philippinos who were celebrating 12 years of Living Waters.

I met leader-to-be Benjie Cruz in 2001 during our first conference in Manila. He led out with his weakness. Assigned to care for the team, he welcomed our invitation to confess our sins together. Benjie cried for mercy over concrete homosexual sins, a confession that reached God’s heart and mine.

The Philippines is an honor-based culture; the most dishonorable thing you can do is to lose ‘face’ by admitting shameful things. How extraordinary for an aspiring leader to risk the favor of men for mercy!

It did not entirely surprise me that last weekend Benjie and wife Hasel hosted a conference of over 800 Christians in Manila. People were turned away. Honest. I can barely crack 50 when I show up in US venues. How disorienting (and delightful) to welcome a diverse group of sinners into the mercy pool. Benjie dove in first and God gave the increase.

Catholics and Protestants came in droves to immerse themselves in the solution for the scandal of sexual disintegration among them. They know their disgrace. Recently a group of 400 Catholic 4th graders admitted unanimous exposure to Intent porn. Every other city motel is designed for short-term sexual trysts. Innumerable young men strut about as grotesque female prostitutes.

Poverty drives perversion here; the enemy takes advantage of the weakest. Still he dresses himself up in seductive ‘western-wear.’ The nation is riveted by the number one nightly soap opera–‘My Husbands’ Lover—all about a sexy upscale homosexual affair.

Faithful Philippinos watch with dread as the USA gives way to ‘gay marriage’ and gay everything. A firewall has given way. They know Jesus is their only hope. God hears their cry for mercy.

I have not seen such a concerted effort among the whole church to fight for the dignity of the nation, sexually-speaking. A Catholic high school is piloting Living Waters; Baptist professors are leading sexual addiction groups for students. The largest Catholic conference this year (20,000 strong) will feature those set free from the domination of homosexuality. In the battle for a pure Bride, believers are laying aside prejudices toward one another. We are crying out for mercy together.

‘Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may go through the gates…The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.’ (Rev. 22: 14, 17)

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Rio Grande: Whole Church for the Sexually Broken

‘Where the river flows, everything will live.’ (Ez. 47:9)

Amazon - Brazil, 2011. ©Neil Palmer/CIATBecoming a Catholic provoked my retreat from Latin America; in good conscience, our beloved ‘Aguas Vivas’ (Living Waters) leaders there could no longer partner with one who in their view had compromised his faith.

Soon after, God gave me a vision of a big river in which many were coming to be cleansed. The river ran through the land and divided it; Catholics on one side, Protestants on the other. Accordingly, those immersed in the healing waters were segregated until they realized they needed those on the other side to do the job well. They began to labor together for the saving of many lives.

The vision was evident: God wanted to use the humble desperation of the sexually broken to help unify the divided body of Christ.

That vision began to be realized last week in Mexico City where we launched our first Aguas Vivas Training in that nation. God hand-picked an extraordinary group of Catholic and Protestant healers from all over Latin America (not to mention a seasoned leadership team) who were willing to enter into the healing waters with unfamiliar family members. The desire for wholeness, both for themselves and those they served, was simply greater than their need to be doctrinally uniform.

God’s river flowed. A wounded, noble Catholic priest laid hands on an equally wounded Baptist pastor and confirmed his divine ‘sonship.’ In humility and gratitude, the Baptist attended Mass the next morning. Both presided over the communion service that closed the Training.

A Pentecostal minister who had been abused for year by family members found safety and depth in the abiding prayers of 3 Catholic lay women who composed her small group. Her fears of Catholics were washed away in their Spirit-led care.

A Methodist pastor seeking to rebuild his family life post-sexual addiction relied upon the men coming out of same-sex attraction who lead a Courage group, the Catholic Apostolate for such issues. He did not know what surprised him more: his reliance upon persons with SSA, or the fact that they were Catholics!

An ex-Catholic taught beautifully how the arduous, grace-filled task of forgiving the Catholic priest who sexually abused him was the only way he could have faith for the Church, to see her with new eyes. An evangelical now, he has spent a lot of time in the water in order to welcome those approaching from the other side.

Sexual brokenness is humbling the entire body of Christ, bringing her to her knees and demanding that she give a Cross-centered answer for shattered lives.

Could it be that Jesus is using the depth of our brokenness—from gender disintegration to sexual addiction to the demise of marriage—to help heal a more fundamental wound–the divided body of Christ?

Aguas Vivas began as a humble gift to churches in Latin America that wanted to dig wells of healing for the sexually broken in their midst. We are now learning that He is deepening that task to invite Protestants and Catholics to dig wells together. Recovery from the ravages of sin has become an invitation to unite the beautiful, broken body of Christ.

What a privilege to help prepare for Jesus one pure, unified Bride.

‘For Christ Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility; His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile them both to God through the Cross.’ (Eph. 2:14-16)

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Desert Stream Ministries 2013 Mid-Year Newsletter

I am happy to announce the release of Desert Stream Ministries 2013 Mid-year Newsletter.

The newsletter features articles written by myself and Annette along with special Desert Stream Ministries 2013 Mid-Year Newslettercontributions from friends of Desert Stream.

In Intimate Authority, Tender Army, I write:

Mary Magdalene is considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be the Apostle of Apostles. Why? The risen Christ revealed Himself to her first; out of all the disciples, God entrusted her with the witness of the resurrection.

How can this be? Mary had no authority in the eyes of men. Living on the fringe of a ‘religious’ culture, she is commonly understood to have traded her body for money. Moral poverty made her less than credible; she cast a shadow on the company she kept.

Jesus drew her out of the shadows. He offered her a love deeper than shame and more powerful than the demons she housed. He made her new. In His intimate love for her, Mary became mighty. God entrusted her to bear witness of history’s greatest event.

Click here to download the complete newsletter.

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Provoking Life 3

‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ (Jn 12: 24)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEaster is best realized in contrasts. Like green shoots emerging from a burnt field, new life is most appreciated against the backdrop of loss. Easter invites us to consider what Jesus is raising up from the ashes.

I hope I am not being dramatic here. After all, Scripture implores us to count all things loss for the sake of knowing Him more. (Phil. 3: 7, 8) These losses may be deeply personal: long-held expectations and aspirations that we have forsaken for the Gospel. It can also be the disorientation we experience when those around us change. Familiar rallying points crumble before our eyes. We are left anxious and more alone, unsure of what lies ahead and of our capacity to make it through a new wilderness.

But Jesus is not shaken. The Risen Lord waits for us to look to Him in ways that we would not were the course familiar. Easter means looking only to Him. It is easy to deny ourselves when our maps and instincts fail. Fear can give rise to faith in the One who is Light in darkness, Truth in trembling, the Way in our wilderness.

As I have reflected upon this past year leading up to Easter. I have marveled at the shifts in my life that have grounded me deeper in Jesus. Admittedly, I have lived most of my adult life as a Christian in joyful conflict with the culture. Yet in the last year I have experienced more resistance to what I hold true than in the 32 years of ministry that preceded it.

What I know to be true is now denounced as false, even scandalous and inhuman. The majority cannot hear about the transformation of persons with same-sex attraction without the assumption that one is a liar, a brain-washer, a right-wing extremist, or at worst, an accomplice to the suicide of ‘gay’ kids who cannot endure such ‘hate.’

Through it all, my wife Annette and I draw upon the life Jesus gives us to love each other well. And to declare more clearly than ever the Way to wholeness for those broken in boundaries and gender identity. The contrast between truth and falsehood has never been sharper. So shall our witness be brighter in the light of our Risen King.

The other day I asked Jesus to show me whatever gain could be found in ongoing surrender to Him amid the devolving culture. Immediately, He showed me a body bursting with what looked like tiny bean sprouts. Teeming with new life, that body could not contain the new life planted there! I knew right away that these were seeds of truth and grace He had sustained for this hour. Through His faithful witnesses, He intends to unfurl every one for the restoration of many.

Annette and I just gathered with our main Living Waters leaders from around the USA  gathered to reveal Jesus to each other. Sure enough, the majority bore the marks of significant losses: broken fellowship with churches, leaders, and friends as a result of seismic shifts in attitude about homosexuality. But the broken ground of our lives together became rich soil in which crushed seeds of hope and healing emerged. Jesus made the blackened field green with new life. Living Water is transforming our ‘deserts’ into oases for many.

What mattered most in our fellowship was the witness of the Risen Lord who becomes our gain, and through us, gains a people for Himself. In this we provoke one another. We ache and articulate grief in order to make more room for Him and our fellows. He is galvanizing us for such a time as this.

‘May the thorns of sin which wound the human heart leave room for new shoots of grace, of God’s presence and love, which triumph over sin and death.’ – Pope Emeritus Benedict

 

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