Category: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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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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