We ‘equip holy ones for the work of the ministry…so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human craftiness and cunning…Rather, living the truth in love, we shall grow up in every way to Him who is our Head, that is Christ’ (Eph. 4: 12, 14, 15).
What is the solution to the ‘craftiness and cunning’ of the Obama administration (to be accelerated by Hillary’s) in regards to a radical gender agenda now played out on the global arena (see Obama’s speech to the United Nations, September 20th, 2016)? This is the man who began office by pledging fidelity to traditional marriage then pushed through ‘gay marriage’, condemned reparative therapy, and ramrodded transgender bathrooms in every elementary school in the USA.
Anyone who disagrees with his advocacy of an ever-splintering array of gender identities is condemned as a hater, and is withheld power and finance. Worse, the majority of Americans have been tossed and blown about by this false justice; the latest Pew Research poll shows 54% of US Christians now believe that homosexuality should be accepted and integrated into society.
How do we respond? Legal answers won’t help us now. Nothing short of the radiance of wounded lives, raised from the dead of gender disorder by God’s grace, will do. They live the truth. Formerly divided, these men and women now bear Christ and bear witness to how He has united them with their gendered bodies and with His healing Body, the Church. They now live to make Him known through practical merciful service.
I witnessed this marvelously in Oklahoma City last week where sister ministry First Stone celebrated its 40th Anniversary. My great friend Stephen Black leads the work there and assembled quite a crew for the party, including ace radio talk show host Janet Mefferd and homegrown testimonies that blew me away. (Persons who almost lost their lives to the cunning and craftiness of men are always the best witnesses.)
One man became mercilessly addicted to meth in his ‘gay’ adventures and on his second jail sentence determined to follow Jesus, never to look back. He did not. Another lost family and self-respect to years of gender-bending pursuits until he began the road home, with a lot of help from Stephen and friends. Yet another testified of years of abusive treatment from men that resulted in a middle-aged affair with another woman and the torment that followed, torment that ended only when she called on Jesus Who then invited her onto a much longer process of gender reconciliation through a First Stone-sponsored Living Waters group. Her life radiated from within, a blend of beautiful womanhood lit up with merciful gratitude as she ‘shines like a star in the universe, holding out the Word of life’ (Phil. 2:15).
God is not duped by tricky humans. He foils their plans by persons who live to tell of His merciful love. We live only because of Him and for Him. We are many; He is rousing us for such a time as this.
‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (JN 1:5)
Jesus’ broken body loosed a river of healing, not only for our personal wounds, but also for the massive divides we face as His body, the Church. These divides are many and complicated. Yet how mighty is the flood of blood, water, and Spirit upon broken ones who seek to ‘be brought to complete unity’ (JN 17: 23)!
I share a bit in the wound between Catholics and Protestants. It smarts when I hear either party speak smugly about the error of the other. When I do, I cling to the Crucified and allow a fresh draft of mercy to keep the wound clean. More and more, that burn and that mercy seem to define our Living Waters ministry.
On the eve of our 40-day fast for the Church, I had the privilege of visiting Santiago Chile where Ruth Olave and team have dug a deep well of ‘living water’ in the Vineyard Church there. I originally helped envision them to do Living Waters a decade earlier as a fellow evangelical. Last week I returned as a Catholic.
It is difficult for North Americans to understand the historic wound between Catholics and Protestants in South America. While Catholics continue to be a minority in the diverse religious culture of the USA, Catholics ruled both church and state in the south; in spite of independence from Spanish domain a century ago, the RCC still predominates and has often discriminated against evangelicals. Combine that with ‘born again’ former Catholics who eschew their history as false and serious Catholics who view these ‘sectarian zealots’ as false. Wounded!
In light of our love for each other, the evangelical team of Living Waters leaders in Santiago had concerns about our new ‘whole church’ approach to the program. I entered into our time together not knowing how to answer all their questions, which came fast and hard during meetings in which many leaders expressed concern about Catholic influence, wanting to work with Catholics, etc.
All I could do was hide myself in the wounds of Jesus. That’s where the water is! I can never fully know another’s suffering due to religious conflict but I can feel my own pain and take refuge in His merciful side. Answers flowed from love, however halting and imperfect. By the end of our time, we agreed to walk together in love for any broken person seeking mercy. On Christ, the one foundation (1Cor. 3:11), we will build together. Living Waters alone—His very mercy–makes a way.
After we shared our desire to do Living Waters in our home church, one of the new pastors exclaimed: ‘It sounds like you love the Church and believe that Jesus can change lives there…’ Exactly. He caught our vision.
Soon after, our Living Waters team gathered with twenty men and women seeking Jesus amid sexual wounds and divides; due to scheduling issues, we gathered in the sanctuary of our beautiful church. Before the Crucified, we bowed down and sang and testified and exchanged shame for great drafts of mercy that seemed to pour from His wounded side. We shall gather faithfully there for weeks. We are thirsty.
You could say we are doing our part to raise the water levels in the temple, in the Spirit of Ez. 47—first ankle deep then to the knees, rising to the waist then over our heads, swimming in the healing flood. We give all to the One who gave all for us and we soak in unfailing love, making a way for wounded ones to discover it too. Right there in God’s house.
That’s what this ‘Radiant’ 40-day-fast is all about. We want to give up minor distractions in order to major on God’s desire for His people to love what He loves, His Church, and to cry out for Him ‘to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of water with the word in order to present her to Himself as a radiant Bride’ (Eph. 5: 25-27).
In doing so, we shall pray together every day starting this Wednesday October 12th. Download this PDF and join us by reflecting on the daily devotional and praying the small prayer at the end of each one. Then focus on the first prayer at the beginning of the prayer guide and pray this daily, imploring God to bless and build up the particular church and set of pastors of your choice, to give you mercy to extend to church ‘wounders’, and finally, to commit to prayer whatever you would like to do to build up the Bride.
It all begins in prayer. Join us for forty days of loving the Church.
Click here to download the ‘Radiant’ 40-day-fast prayer guide PDF.
Marriage is messy business. So much so that Jesus allowed Himself to get messed up for us. He shed blood to reveal our starting point as spouses: ‘O God, the love I desire to give, I do not!’ Or more accurately, I cannot. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Annette and I just finished leading a round of Beauty and the Breach, an 8-week course in which we invite frustrated couples to discover the Cross together through merciful exchanges of blessing, sin, and need. Each couple bore distinct wounds but faced a common block in offering themselves freely to the other. We placed a big Cross in the middle of our gathering as a reminder that Jesus’ covenant with us—His commitment to the marriage–supersedes our own; we stirred up the faith that somehow His blood could bore through the debris obscuring our true selves from the other. His Cross also reminded us that when it came to expressing hard stuff to the other, or hearing hard stuff, we could pick up our little crosses and endure shame and pain for the joy set before us.
Some of the couples could point to big historic sins as contributors to the current breach. A few had thought ‘marriage’ might cure sexual addiction or same-sex attraction or deep-seated fears; in truth, they realized that a good marriage exposes before it absolves. In a previous group, one woman expressed how her husband’s confession of a litany of sexual sins may have been in his words ‘a resurrection’ but for her, it was the beginning of a slow, long crucifixion. She had to die to what she thought her life would be. A source of security had become a threat; her closest walking partner, a dangerous sinner. How to love? ‘Lord, have mercy on me, sinner…’
I am not being romantic here. All sin is not created equal and certain betrayals require solid boundaries in order to protect the betrayed and provoke genuine repentance on the part of the obvious sinner. But it also invites the offended party to reckon with his or her limited love—the way (s)he loves according to contract, because the other keeps his or her end of the marital deal and thus justifies one’s love. When that contract is broken, one feels justified in breaking vows. But we marry based on covenant, the truth that we invoked the ONE who shed blood to grant us the mercy needed to extend mercy, especially to the sinner we’re sleeping with.
During our last night at Beauty and the Breach, the Spirit directed me to Luke 18: 9-14 where Jesus gives wise counsel to any ‘confident of their own righteousness’ (v.9), namely the Pharisee who thanked God for not making him an adulterer. Next to him at church was such an adulterer who simply cried out for mercy. God saved only the latter (v. 14). My prayer? That the Cross reveal to all spouses our inability to love the other as we should. May mercy come quickly to meet former Pharisees and former prostitutes who marry; may the bloody God be glorified on such broken, level and ultimately beautiful ground.
Sin makes you sick. Porn makes you sicker.
The other night, far from home, I had to alter a plane ticket in the wee hours. A couple days earlier, I had disassembled the porn filter on my computer (which I absolutely need to stay off the rot) in order to use the Internet in a foreign land. A thought inflamed my feverish little brain as I rescheduled my flight: ‘You are a free man on the Internet–explore what you will…’
All such roads go down and down. After a few minutes of surfing the slime, I was so sickened by the empty, agitated look of lust on every player that I heaved my computer onto the other side of the room and sought without success to sleep. I felt seasick, like I was rolling on board an undulating tanker. Snippets of sex opened the eyes of my heart to see a host of folks in this nightmarish home porn flick. I had not poisoned myself in a long time. The distance made me sicker.
I gave up sleep and sat upright to stop the spinning, the moral nausea. I stood alone with dirty hands and heart and recited the Mass confession—‘through my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault.’ Only mercy: Jesus waits, ever near, listening for mercy’s cry.
Of course He has members. I waited as long as I could to call my accountability folks and that helped. I told Annette and vowed to put back on the filter (I’ll take Covenant Eyes over Demon-Eyes any day). Done. In the light yes but still bearing the poison, I raced on foot to a nearly parish for Mass. The hot sun seemed to bore a hole through my compromised skin. First reading—Ezekiel 36: 25—‘I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all you impurities and all your idols.’ I did not know the priest but waited for him anyway, hoping he might hear my confession. He did and as he pronounced forgiveness he asked that God restore my eyes to behold once more the beauty of humanity.
The beauty of humanity. Wow. That’s what porn poisons—true sight of man for woman , woman for man. My vision of humanity was desecrated early on by porn, so young that I must choose daily now to see real beauty. And to praise God for it. Mercy alone liberates both. Thank you Jesus.
You need not fight alone. God has members, and some of His best are hosting an in-depth workshop for men seeking to overcome porn and other sexual behavior problems. It’s a 3-day intensive in Kansas from September 15-17th. Register at WWW.MYHOUSEKANSAS.ORG or call 8167866063.
Stop poisoning yourself; reclaim beauty.