Category: Living Waters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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Lent 1: First Love

‘You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will remove your lampstand from its place.’ (Rev. 2: 4, 5)

Girl heart skyAfter three weeks on the road, I settled in on the plane ride home. It felt good just to be next to Annette, smelling her faint perfume and touching legs. No words needed: just peaceful solidarity. I drew strength silently from the one I love most.

How much more does God want us to settle next to Him, to draw wordlessly from His very Presence?

Lent calls us back to the Source. Just in time: I am ‘worded out’. Speech never ceased in my efforts to help equip the Church in New Zealand and Los Angeles to stay true to Jesus in healing, purity and the proper definition of marriage.

All for Jesus while losing track of the One Thing needful: Jesus! Maybe that’s what happened to the Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2: 1-7). They were a disciplined and vigilante lot, smoking out false apostles and resisting the gnostic Nicolaitans who may well have incorporated sexual immorality into their skewed spirituality. Jesus especially commends them for ‘hating their practices’ as much as He does. (v. 6)

But tireless zeal for His house cost the Ephesians big-time. They were gaining holiness and losing God! Their works for Him had overtaken their devotion to Him; intrepid Martha left Mary in the dust. Seated at Jesus’ feet, Mary ‘had chosen the better thing that would not be taken from her’ (Lk 10: 42). But now the entire Church at Ephesus ran the risk of losing everything if they failed to turn back to Jesus, their first love. (v. 5b)

Serious business: ‘You have forsaken your first love,’ said Jesus (v. 4) Perhaps their works were no longer sourced in prayer, their prophetic efforts detached from gratitude toward God’s saving them. (Ouch!) St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians come to mind: ‘If I give all to the poor and surrender my body to flames but have not love, I gain nothing…’ (1Cor 13:3)

Love to give is always sourced in remembering the love He gives us. So Jesus implores the Ephesians to ‘remember the height from which you have fallen!’ (v. 5) Remember mercy! The city of Ephesus enshrined the erotic goddess Diana; Christians there would have previously worshipped her through temple prostitutes. It is as if Jesus is saying: ‘Remember how I raised you from the dead of idolatry? Return to Mercy; return to Me.’

Jesus wants to reconnect our good works with His good work in reclaiming our lives. He made us His own because He loved us! Even our attentiveness to His saving work cannot change the fact that His loving action preceded ours.

He calls all of us to ‘repent and do the things we did at first.’ (v. 5) Consider what you used to do when Mercy was new. How did gratitude express itself in your walk with Jesus? Did you spend more time with Him devotionally? Gather to worship more frequently? Evangelize more naturally? Give out of the overflow?

Perhaps God wants to renew your youth by calling you back to Himself this Lent. Perhaps your good efforts to serve Him have overtaken devotion to Him. Remember Mercy: His mercy toward you. May this Lent prepare us to do what we can only do through intimate communion with Him.

‘Be still and know that I am God.’ (PS 46:10)

‘The only thing that counts is faith working through love.’ (Gal. 5:6)

 

 

 

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