Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Silent Word, Shining

‘Shine like lights in the universe, as you hold out the Word of life’ (Phil. 2: 15, 16).

A season of silence ends: now back to airports, bills, staff management, and decisions, big and small. 2020 marks our 40th year as a ministry. I shall covet quiet around the edges to reflect on where we’ve been, where next.

It helps to trust the Word has been sown deeply in our hearts and will bring forth fruit—His will deepening, growing, breaking forth as He sees fit. We position ourselves before Him as to reflect something glorious, His very Presence fanning into flame what pleases Him, be it at full volume or in quiet encounters.

I caught a glimpse of this last week as my son Nick preached an excellent sermon on the ‘holy family.’ (After much therapy, he wisely made no allusions to ours.) Afterwards, a young woman unknown to me but a big fan of Nick asked me who I was. When she discovered I was the preacher’s dad, she kind of fawned over me and I demurred: ‘Reflected glory.’

So it is with each of us. The Light has dawned in our darkness—the Word has found good ground in the broken soil of our lives and pleads to unfurl. God’s glory goads us, His silence begs to be broken by the Word declared!

Here we see the genius of this Church season. Advent begins with the promise of Light, with Christmas the Light dawns in Jesus, and now Epiphany—the showing of Christ through the witness of our lives. Epiphany calls us out of what can become an ingrown culture of missals, beads, postcard saints and swoony devotion. Yes, the chaos outside and within demands quiet. But the Word demands a hearing through the story of our messy radiant lives.

Show Christ! Use words! Break the silence between you and a host of delightful creatures in darkness who listen only to their own soundtracks and meandering, fractured narratives. I want everyone to know that Jesus can heal ‘LGBT+’ anything. He surpasses our tendency to settle on misbegotten ‘feeling’ states.

In saying nothing, we stoke deceived powerbrokers who criminalize our good news. Every new presidential candidate wants to outlaw ‘reparative therapy.’ Remember, this is not about a type of counseling. This is about silencing anyone with the courage to say: ‘I’m not sure LGBT+ identification is the best expression of your true self. Let’s walk together in Jesus; He will show you who you are…’

Our transformed lives say it best. Let us heed God’s word to Jeremiah: ‘If you utter worthy, not worthless words, you will be my spokesperson’ (Jer. 15:19). To be sure, silence helps us to separate the wheat from the chaff, what to say and what not. St. John Paul ll counsels us wisely: ‘We need to learn a silence that allows the Other to speak when and how He wishes.’

Sensitized by silence, the Word commands a hearing—treasures from darkness ready to flair into fireworks. This is our season to shine: God revealing Himself through our witness of His transforming love.

I won’t soon forget Jesus’ invitation last November to declare that love before the Kansas City Council. Sandwiched between the darkened minds of that Council and several rows of disgruntled LGBT+ers, I declared several truths that provoked satanic rage. A roar went up as the Spirit directed me to declare that persons like me deserve choice, that we who pursue chastity are now the endangered minority, and that the Council was in no way ready to vote on something they knew nothing about.

Surprised by my own words, I realized they were not entirely mine, in the Spirit of Lk. 11: 11 and 12: ‘When you are brought before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’

As the Word received in silence burns in us, fan it into flames. Speak. Entrust the fire to heaven. Shine.

‘If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His Name”, His Word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot’ (Jer. 20: 9).

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Offensive

Adjective: causing someone to feel deeply hurt or angry.
Noun: an organized campaign to achieve something.

Jesus’ healing ministry satisfies both definitions of ‘offensive.’ His authority to restore lives enraged the religious while establishing the rule and reign of His Kingdom among the admittedly sick.

Jesus knew that healing would separate wheat from chaff. Why else would He say poignantly (in the Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Advent): ‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news preached to them. BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO TAKES NO OFFENSE IN ME’ (Matt. 11:5)?

Happy are the healed, joyful are the childlike who take Jesus at His Word and who step out continuously to welcome wholeness. I had the privilege of preaching at Shabach Fellowship in Los Angeles last week—a mostly African-American Pentecostal Church where Living Waters has flowed for twenty years; throughout the service, gifted healers laid hands on persons in need. Jesus honored their faith in Him as Healer and I witnessed broken hearts mending before my eyes. I left joyfully expectant—awaiting Jesus’ arrival while welcoming His healing Presence now.

For every expectant soul is a dour one, disappointed, offended at Jesus’ claim to heal. Sad are those who rail against Jesus’ wonder-working power. Times haven’t changed since Jesus blessed the unoffended. Not in my world of persons seeking wholeness in their sexual identities. The very claim that Jesus can heal the ‘homosexual’ now meets with derision—hurt—rage—embittered unbelief.

Perhaps it’s the depth of desire, an unwillingness to give up sexy idols, or maybe bitterness at the Church for mishandling our cries for mercy.

One thing is for sure: the assumption that LGBT+ identification is ‘broken’ now enrages the establishment—religious, psychological, political. Add ‘healing’ to the mix and you’ve got a Molotov cocktail aimed straight at our ministries. Offended people aren’t fun.

Meanwhile, Jesus heals the broken. He is King of wholeness who reconciles persons to the original goodness of their powers of life and love. In other words, Jesus frees captives while the ‘whole’ want to criminalize change. California tried this last year with AB 2943. And woke up Bethel Church in Redding California, from which has come a timely and exciting ‘offensive’—the CHANGED movement.

Founded by excellent friends Elizabeth Woning and Kenn Williams, CHANGED mobilizes young adults to share publicly how God’s love led them to seek change in their sexual identities. Many of us from DSM/LW were featured in CHANGED, their book highlighting persons for whom Jesus became the perfect Lover and mirror of their true selves (Find out more at contact@changedmovement.com). Transgressive is the message that God loves and redeems persons from LGBT+ backgrounds: ‘I believe CHANGED is offensive because people don’t want to address the shame that underlies the homosexual experience…we would rather self-protect than expose the brokenness,’ says Woning.

From the offense shines Jesus’ healing authority. Beautiful is the exchange of sin and shame for original dignity. Woning again: ‘Stories of lives redeemed from an LGBT+ identity expose God’s mercy, holiness, power, and grace, as well as His beautiful Kingdom order.’ This is the whole Gospel. Offensive.

‘Blessed are those who take no offense in ME,’ says Jesus. Joyful are we who once blind now see Him, once deaf now hear His healing Word; we who staggered in sexual sin now walk on level paths. We who died to our solutions have become His answers. We have become His offensive as we embody the Word of life.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Fearing the One I Love

Our trouble lies not in heavy-handed religion but in banal lullabies that assure us that God is love, all love, and only wants our best—‘best’ defined by our doing whatever we want.

Our trouble lies in the fact that we no longer fear God. We want the benefits of the Cross but not the call to carry our own. We have made Him in our image, not submitted to the One in whose image we are made. We then dare to shake our fist at any version of Him that gets in the way of our version of ourselves.

For this trouble Advent may not be long enough. For this the Church is genius. Our calendar year ends with Daniel’s apocalyptic vision of the Ancient One ascending His throne—radiant, smoking hot—His royal seat blazing—‘a surging stream of fire flowing out from where He [the Father] sat’ and received the Son before whom the whole host of heaven bows down and declares: ‘dominion, glory and kingship’ (Daniel 7).

In the middle of the fireworks God incinerates His main adversary–the Beast– while lesser beasts are granted a season in which to do their dirty work. Have these lesser beasts charmed us, made us beastly? They give us what we want, including just enough spirituality to assuage our touchy souls. We are sleepy, full of unbaptized ideas and vague discontent. We ladle another round of boozy good cheer and cry ‘abuse’ when the religious disagree with us.

Advent begins, our New Year dawns, not with dreamy glimpses of angels and virgins and starry nights but with an alarm. Wake up people! You think all is well? Think again! The first Sunday in Advent highlights Jesus’ Second Coming; His re-entry will be violent, decisive and conclusive. Of the two men out in the field, only one will be plucked out by Jesus to escape the terror at hand (Matt. 24). No wonder the second Sunday features John the Baptist’s call to repent of every worthless thing we cherish—to get rid of it now before Jesus Himself burns it up ‘with unquenchable fire’ (Matt. 3:1-12).

God is love. And fearsome. For me, these first few days of Advent have been tough, full of minor humiliations that have exposed by touchiness and subtle adulteries of heart. I haven’t much more to offer Him than my sin. So be it. Better to burn now than later.

I fear this God. Yes, He loves me, deeply, ‘His Spirit longs for me jealously’ (James 4:5). He has laid claim to me through His blood and has a right to the whole of me. Every haggard part. All well? Nah: I’m burdened by pet beasts. Wellness to me is facedown, crying ‘dominion, glory, kingship.’ My happiness hinges upon full surrender.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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homeliness-1

Thanksgiving 1: Homeliness

‘The quality of being simple or ordinary, but pleasant, in a way that makes you think of home.’ (Cambridge English Dictionary)

The other day Annette and I scrambled to receive Camille (1.5 years) and Jacob (2 years) for a day of puppy love (labs are toddlers’ best friends) and clever Thanksgiving crafts (Annette’s decade as a preschool teacher was NOT in vain). In a flash I realized: our empty-nester days are done.

We are homebound, spending much of our week caring for grandkids. And thankful for it! To be fair, Annette carries the day here—merrily, and by day’s end, wearily. She thrives on grandparenting; to be honest, I am falling in love with her again. I recall something of how she parented ours but today with a temperance and seasoned freedom that is appealing. Grandma still got it. And then some.

Case in point: Annette can discern between a kid’s naughtiness (whining, crying, grasping due to wanting everything NOW!) and need, the child’s frustration at not being able to convey something essential. For the former, Annette sets consistent limits; the latter prompts her to swoop the child up in her arms for gentle talk so that ‘needs’ can be recognized and met. There’s no love like a wise Grandma’s….

Ture confession. I like being ‘Boppy’ too (what the kids decided to call me). I’m around just enough to walk the dogs with them, garden (I gather, they scatter), and underscore limits with a voice deeper and less negotiable than Annette’s. It’s fun to parent later in life with skills previously learned (or realize now you hadn’t learned), all with the bonus of a 5pm pick-up time.

Something odd is happening, catching me off guard. The grandkids like me. I recall one remote, grouchy grandpa who died quickly. But these grandkids are already familiar with me and desire my presence. To be sure, Annette is the supernova here; I am more like the semi-random falling star. But Camille and Jacob watch for that star, call out its name constantly, and wrap around it like clay.

Nothing like it. I savor each hug and give thanks.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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fasting knocking on heaven's door

Fast Fruit: Knocking on Heaven’s Door

‘Because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice’ (Lk. 18:5).

Prayer and fasting are not sexy. As this 40-day ‘Becoming Good News’ ends, I am hungry and ornery, more inclined to fantasy donuts than holy apparitions. We as a staff have chosen weakness, a downward mobility, a reduction. We have gone without and prayed a lot. We are sensitized to the foul air of a clueless culture and worldly Church. And we have positioned ourselves near the Source, the oxygenated stream where ‘living waters’ first gushed and still flows.

Reduced to Jesus alone, we knocked. We admitted our defeat. ‘Unless You act, we’ve no hope.’ We remembered His saving action and bothered Him: we asked and asked and asked for Him to extend that victory to specific loved ones, to churches, to city hall and national courts. Here is some ‘fast fruit’ from the staff.

Like most of you, we knocked for family and friends dazed by the rainbow. And God answered. During last year’s ‘Becoming Good News’ fast, I had fought daily for a young man who was seeking Jesus but had no intention of giving up his ‘gay’ self. Early on in this year’s fast, he questioned me about what it might mean for him to begin pursuing women. Hah! Fluidity works both ways.

Amanda rejoiced that a woman she loves at her Living Waters group just let go of her ‘lesbian’ self in favor of Jesus’ reflection of her. Daniel’s chosen loved one just left a ‘gay’ marriage; he’s praying that Jesus would stir up her baptismal waters and reveal Himself as unfailing Love. Marco cast a vision of transformation for a couple worldly friends who are considering Jesus’ healing for their broken lives.

Dana was nearly overcome by a deepening experience of Jesus’ heart and sight for her lost loved ones. During the fast, two of them went from darkness to light—hitting bottom and asking Jesus how to live out of His kindness. Ann had a Spirit-led breakthrough with a neighbor and Dean who prayed for several families rocked by LGBT+ realities said they experienced a spiritual ‘overflow’ resulting in renewed hope and courage to engage estranged members afresh.

We knocked and God opened (or we trust, WILL open) effective doors of ministry. We broke through to a couple of key communities with whom we have sought partnership; we prayed big for bishops overseeing areas where we want to dig deep wells of ‘living water.’ Amber has experienced an upswing in her ministry to young adults who are seeking help for shameful areas of their lives As the therapy ban hit Kansas City at the onset of the fast, therapist Abbey began to reach out to colleagues who like her love Jesus and clinically serve teens. She was provoked by the fact that most are now worldly and theologically disintegrated in their care. Erin, a grad student in a clinical Christian program, has taken up this burden as well. Her fellows are clueless about how to apply their deepest Christian values with their care of persons. We prayed together for effective engagement with conscientious peers. A smog hovers over the clinical community; we ask King Jesus for an awakening.

And we knocked relentlessly for Kansas City’s ordinance to be overturned. Our ministry rallied the only opposition to the bill–friends of DSM/LW made up half of those attending the City Hall battles, LGBT+ persons composed the other. A river of ‘living water’ ran through our efforts and gave us an ease and grace that would have been impossible without this prayer stream. Our good-natured joviality contrasted beautifully with the lamenting ‘victims’ draped in rainbow flags; one confused man dressed as a woman seethed an “I hope you burn in hell!’ at me. And I thought we were pegged the ugly fundamentalists…

We keep knocking. Doors of effective legal warfare are opening for us and we will see this battle through to the end. Like the persistent widow, we will pound at heaven’s door until justice is served. He answers. He will answer. Our hope is well-placed and sure.

‘Will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night? He will see that they get justice, and quickly’ (Lk. 18: 7, 8).

You can purchase “Becoming Good News” in book form directly from Desert Stream or get it from Amazon for your Kindle.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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