Category: Prayer

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

True Worship 2

Why do we worship Jesus, anointing Him with our love songs? Gratitude: He did for us what only He could do—He forgave our sins.

Only God can wash us clean. Only God. Good people can forgive us our sins. But only God can make us new.

So we sing out of gratitude. We wash His feet with tears of thankfulness. Only Jesus knows the depths of what we’ve done; only Jesus can break off us the burden of sin and shame.

In that way, we need never deny the monstrous things we’ve done and even the monstrous things we are still capable of. He alone is sin’s cure. Our disease invites us to rely upon this doctor deeply and constantly for the sins He has forgiven and the sins that still seek to sicken us.

Might we even rejoice in sinful inclinations that Jesus employs to keep us near Him? He trains us to live gratefully before Him. In that way, our worship is warfare—it cancels every accusing word or glance that seeks to separate us from our merciful Cure.

The sinful woman in Lk. 7: 36-50 teaches us how to live as a grateful worshipper. In this passage, we witness two parties encountering Jesus: the first, that sinful woman, lives close to the edge morally and economically, and is cast into the outer courts of the temple, vulnerable to other gods and men under their sway who took what they wanted from her sexually. Is there any sin as profound as opening one’s body to others who leave only shame while taking something that can never be returned?

The second: a smart religious man, a Pharisee, is probably sexually pure—his tribe set the standard for holiness. With one glance, he knows this sinful woman is infectious, capable of polluting the holy ones. And with the same glance he conveys to her that she is a living shame. Her worship tempts the Pharisee to doubt Jesus. He thinks: ‘How can a holy man tolerate tactile, nearly vulgar devotion from an unclean girl?’

Two people seeking Jesus: a thoughtful religious man unsure as to who Jesus is,
and a sinner grateful for her Cure.

A paradox! The Pharisee whose home it was makes little room for Jesus in his life, while the woman who broke into the Pharisee’s home makes Jesus her home. She had already received His mercy- bursting with gratitude, she disregards her religious accuser so she can thank Jesus for cancelling her sin.

She washes His feet with tearful gratitude. She gives Him herself; she flings open the doors of her house of shame, He floods it with mercy, and transforms her into a living temple. Now she worships: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who bore my shame and makes me virgin again!’

That is the power of gratitude; it gives us courage to break shame—to go boldly past the Pharisee and worship the One. Jesus said it best in the parable of the debtors: Those who are forgiven much will love Me much!

We the forgiven become true worshippers. We have authority to break through bad religion and live thankfully before this One who cures every sin. I am one such worshipper. Jesus freed me from homosexuality years ago and I’ve not looked back; I look forward, fully engaged with merciful Jesus and His Church.

40-years-ago, I shared my story before the first Vineyard Church in Los Angeles. My wife and I have since been privileged to lead many like us to pools of mercy where sin and shame and struggle give way to wholeness. Such joy—to discover Merciful Jesus as the Source and Defender of our purity! We can’t help but worship Him—to give Him our whole lives. We live to bear witness of what He has done in us and to invite others to live holy, grateful lives.

Our transformation is no personal privilege—it has relevance for all persons. We want to give hope to everyone of Jesus’ mercy. His eyes free us continually from the glare of the Pharisee who wants to shame us into silence. He makes the way. Always. Merciful Jesus, may our worship rise for another 40 years, then onto eternity!

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Kyrie Eleison

By Annette Comiskey

Desert Stream Ministries started forty years ago when Andy shared his testimony one hot August Sunday at the Westside Vineyard in Los Angeles; a small group started shortly after and the rest, they say, is history!

Blessings and difficulties abound in this ministry.  The Lord has given me tools to rely on, including the truth of Scripture and psychological truth that helps me understand how trauma impacts self-giving.

But one thing I lean on more than ever is prayer.  I might know something of the Bible and how our minds work, but that doesn’t ease the burden of witnessing the destruction of sexual brokenness on a person’s life and family.  What does lessen the weight is prayer.  The prayer most helpful to me is the simplest of prayers, Kyrie Eleison (Lord have Mercy).

Too often the burdens feel overwhelming. Whether watching the news, hearing about another’s bad choices, or facing a range of hardships within our family and community, my prayers seem ineffective.  But I trust God knows the needs of my heart and all for whom I pray.  I have more trust in the transforming power of God’s mercy and care than anything else.  I need a simple prayer: Kyrie Eleison.

For ones trying to find meaning and peace in unhealthy relationships and addictions…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Open the eyes of their hearts and let the light of Your truth flood in.

For men and women leaving their marriages, their children, and the truth of their faith for same-sex relationships…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Return O Israel, to the Lord your God.

For young men and women who reject being created male or female and strive to live as the other sex… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. Give them Your peace Lord, not as the world gives.

For those who have been abused…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Lord, heal their broken hearts, bind their wounds.

For parents, whose children have walked away from the Lord… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  May teary, watchful eyes see loved ones coming home, their sons from distant lands, their daughters being carried.

For those who struggle to have hope amid great loss… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. You alone are our Rock and Salvation; perplexed but not in despair, our hope is in You.

I am amazed at the power of this simple prayer to strengthen and encourage me. May it help you too.

Kyrie Eleison: You reign over all, You alone can save.  Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

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Unforgettable: Covid Cure

‘I will not forget you! I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me’ (Is. 49: 15b, 16).

In our covid-struck but not destroyed 40th anniversary as a ministry, I rejoice. I am grateful for periodic visits to my nearly 95-year-old Mom who still presides with dignity over the CA home in which I grew up.

Fun to serve her and fun to run thru the 3-mile radius where I can recall homes of classmates, from K-12. Last trip I determined to intercede for each house I ran by where I remembered its previous resident. I pleaded Jesus’ mercy over each.

The gift of remembrance! As I bounded by familiar dwellings, I recalled memories, foul and fair, plus phone numbers and spirit-to-spirit connection with a few who I knew in formative seasons. If I recall each one prayerfully, with hope for a brighter future, how much more does Jesus? ‘I will not forget you!’ says our God who does not forget each child’s cry for mercy, even if the adult-child appears to have forgotten Him.

Perhaps our prayerful remembrance has power to bring His Presence near. Now.

At the end of my intercessory run, I approached a street that flanked my elementary school and began to pray for an unusually good friend of the past, Elena, who had lived on that street. I recalled her with affection: funny, pretty, as insecure as the rest of us yet inclined toward God. In high school she turned her heart Jesus-ward while I turned toward ‘gay’ mischief; by the time I came to my senses through the mirror of Mercy, she had turned away from the One to other faces.

Annoyingly zealous, I invited her into my revival. She refused, but not without giving me some sage advice. ‘Do everyone a favor: when you talk about Jesus, don’t mimic someone else. Be yourself.’ Got it. Unforgettable. To paraphrase John Wimber: Be natural. Supernaturally natural.

I only saw Elena a few times after that—at class reunions, at the local gym when I visited Mom. She usually shared some sorrows. Her life had not gone as she hoped; her parents divorced, as did she, and her children suffered and wandered. We laughed of course—neither of us lost our spontaneity–but her pain lay close to the surface as did her resistance to trusting this Jesus again.

Years later, last month, I ran round the corner onto Elena’s old street. A woman walked ahead of me, and I knew it was her. We talked for an hour. Something had changed, her face was lit by unseen light. It seems the covid clampdown coincided with her mother’s death and a child’s further unraveling. Alone, she heard quietly: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ She had nothing but time to return to her first love. He remembered her and she Him.

Of course, we spoke of our days 50 years earlier on that same street trying to figure out our lives. And we rejoiced together that the One who made us remembered us. He is becoming the very form of our lives now. More than nostalgia, we recalled His faithfulness revealed in myriad ways, including friendship. We rejoiced in new mercies that morning. Unforgettable.

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Just and True

Justice means we give others what is due them. Disagreement need not skew a reasonable evaluation of others; justice demands we strive for objectivity so we can honor what is honorable in our fellow humanity.

Justice has stumbled in the streets, as mobs morph from demanding fair treatment of African Americans to destroying honorable signposts of our history.

On this Feast Day of St. Junipero Serra—the Apostle of California—I just witnessed his statue being lassoed, toppled, and smashed by protesters in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Not only have the bullied become the bullies, they now seek to edit American history by destroying any symbol that disturbs them.

We must insist on justice. Irrational and ignorant vandalism have no place in a just culture. Justice demands we give our forefathers their due, whether we agree with their legacy or not.

The mob ruled Franciscan Serra a bigot for bringing Christianity to California in the mid-18th century. He trekked on foot from Mexico City to San Francisco and established missions along the way to serve the native peoples. (Many of the missions are still active churches where I have fasted and prayed for California.) Over 6000 persons were baptized into the Church through his efforts. Did he enslave native Americans of the West Coast, as the mob insists?

Absolutely not. Though no-one today would advocate for the two-pronged advance of evangelization and Spanish political conquest, Serra disdained the latter. Backbreaking travel and labor—supported by an ulcerated leg—were eclipsed by his biggest conflict, the interference by the Spanish military state on his efforts to convert and disciple native peoples.

Various biographies clarify: the sword that pierced Serra’s heart was military cruelty of his sheep. Like a good shepherd, he constantly fought Spanish officials for freedom from arbitrary and cruel acts upon his people. He succeeded at ensuring that the presidios, or military barracks, were stationed as far from the missions as possible.

To be sure, he labored in a flawed system that lanced him more deeply than any cross-cultural challenge. Pierced, he loved his people well, pouring out the heart of Jesus for California. Perhaps many oppose him because they at core oppose the Gospel. But one cannot dispute his heroic sacrifice, and how his self-giving laid the basis for California’s thriving, diverse Christian culture.

To deface him is to act as unjustly as the arbitrary violence imposed on native Californians by the Spanish military in Serra’s day.

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Birthright

June ends with unabated clamoring for justice. Pent up by social isolation, an army of protesters vents in streets and squares. Equality, NOW! Lit by the murder of George Floyd, we face African Americans entrenched in attitudes and structures that are at best oppressive. The steely gaze illumines our complicity.

Behind banners of Black Lives Matter fly rainbow flags. Straining to draw parallels between empowering an ethnic group enslaved once and still by myriad tyrants, LGBT+ activists clamor for social recognition. Heterosexism replaces white privilege as the enemy. And America answers with the biggest victory yet for the sexually ‘diverse’—a court ruling two weeks ago that redefined sexual nature as whatever one thinks and feels it to be.

Persons still inclined to reason amid the clamor may wonder why the two strains of protest—one seeking freedom from insidious slavery, the other for enslaving lives with a host of ‘selves’ that result in sexual suicide—can peacefully intermingle. In truth, they cannot. The answer is simple and radical, rooted in our Creator. We are born male and female. Human happiness lies in making peace with our bodies and in overcoming attitudes and behaviors to the contrary. African Americans are born and blessed by God with an ethnicity that commands full rights and privileges on par with any other race. Dignity demands reason: it directs us to clear out any shadow cast on one’s ethnic birthright and on one’s sexual birthright.

As for the latter, at risk of offending Gaga, you were not born that way. You just lost your way in a pandemic of sexual confusion fanned by the Supreme Court.

Around the corner from me is Troost, an 11-mile avenue that demarks the institutionalized racism of my town, Kansas City, the ninth most segregated city in the USA. 2000 of us prayed there last week to repent of how we contributed to the Troost wound, a street that divides blacks from whites in a shameful historic effort to fund good white neighborhoods and schools and to let African Americans work it out for themselves. West of Troost are tony tidy homes; eastward lie mostly African American neighborhoods which struggle for equality and opportunity. Two of my kids live and teach in schools there. They embody the truth that overcoming racism takes more than a prayer. They work to help African Americans recover the dignity of their birthright.

Just after the Troost prayer, I left for our training in Kansas City Kansas where 60 brave persons gathered to reclaim the beauty and power of their birthright, made in His image as male or female. Jesus loves that. He comes quickly for persons seeking to become who the Father made them to be. Amid the clamor for justice, we need each other more than ever to stay true. Our confusion should be clearer than ever. When we lump justice for ethnic birthright with empowering sexually broken ‘selves’, we trivialize the real wound still bleeding in African-Americans and further distance the LGBT+ set from making peace with their birthright.

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