Category: Prayer

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Election Day

‘To God’s elect, strangers in the world’ (1P1:1), ‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened to know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power to us who believe’ (Eph. 1:18).

Saints Peter and Paul remind us ground saints of the hope we share in Jesus, His glory and our inheritance, which need not be dulled or distracted by a shameful election. (I’m still not sure who troubles me more—she who champions mothers and children while insisting that the former be free to dispose of the latter, or he who demonizes aliens while pandering to angry white Ameri-men.) In truth, Jesus’ choice to elect us and make us strangers to the world’s systems may be just the reminder we need to sharpen our focus on what counts—hope for a harassed nation whose people will be saved by no other candidate than Jesus Christ.

During the last presidential Election Day in 2012, I wound up a 40-day fast with the fine folks at Outpost Ministries in the Twin Cities—we prayed ‘Thy will be done’ throughout the day at the Justice Prayer Room, then sponsored by a church on the campus of the University of Minneapolis. During a break, I wandered (hungrily) around the campus and beheld hundreds of gender confused students; there, through the eyes of my heart, I saw a torrent of ‘living water’ rushing from the church and inviting them to partake of the transformational flood.

I heard Jesus whisper: ‘I am their hope—not a law or elected official—this river of blood and water and Spirit. Build up My house, let the waters rise there and overflow into the public square; welcome My estranged children home!’ From that point on, four years ago, I vowed to do just that, build up Jesus’ house so that empowered faithful ones might blaze a path for those lost to the world.

The Church! Might she be faithful in this hour to Jesus’ blazing truth and mercy for the saving of many lives! Of this fire, and the threat of our falling asleep in its light, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia writes: ‘We do not need to renounce our baptism to be apostates. We simply need to be silent when our faith demands we speak out. Our assimilation into popular culture has bleached out strong religious conviction in the name of liberal tolerance and has dulled our longing for the supernatural…’

Election Day Friends

Pete, Ken and Andy.

And the power of that supernatural love! My splendid colleague Peter Kockelman and I had the privilege this week to impart some wisdom (and receive much renewal) at Bethel Church in Redding CA. We met future ministry partners like Ken Williams and were simply blown away by the hope and life and love that surged like a flood from the community of 8000 saints, mostly young adult, who gather in order to give Him away with joy-filled generosity.

(That is what blessed me most about the Bethel community: in light of incredible pressures to accommodate the volume of seekers, key staff persons face the burdens with child-like joy. No stressed-face saints these—they smile and shrug heaven-ward and entrust the glorious impossibilities to Jesus. He makes a way.)

Yet they are also realists. At the urging of Pastor Chris Vallaton, the Bethel community is seeking to offer a clear witness of God’s will for men and women, while equipping the saints to accompany persons caught in disorder with grace and truth. The river is rising in Redding and now flows throughout the world to draw estranged sons and daughters back to the Father, and His confirmation of each one as beloved sons and daughters, made in His image.

These Bethel saints will not bow the knee to another image of humanity, a ‘cooler’ version for the sake of appeasing confused hipsters. They will mobilize the saints to become that river poured out to the broken. They will do their part to make our election sure, the Bride who has been washed by the Word, free of spot and wrinkle, radiant. Nowhere else I want to be: joyfully in the river with all the saints, doing our parts to keep the waters pure and rising for a people who will perish without it.

Download PDF

Loving the Church

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.

Download PDF
love this country united states

Love this Country?

My pastor recently implored us to love this country (or whichever one is ours); he argued, ‘we only seek to save what we love. What we hate we want to destroy or at least be rid of.’

I agree. I work hard to save what I love. I rally around people whom I want to reclaim for God’s Kingdom—my kids, spiritual kids, people whose divided lives and marriages need healing. I hate deceitful attitudes and mindsets designed to bar people from God’s Kingdom; I want to expose what blocks genuine mercy.

But my country? I feel divided toward her, neither hateful nor impassioned with love for her well-being. I am at best detached from her, due in part to Obama’s treachery in courting American voters in 2008 with a pro (real) marriage ticket then revealing his hand in a series of gender-bending power plays over 8 long years. Hillary will quicken the slide into inhumanity (at least she’s honest about it), unless she is Trumped. I muse at the absurdity of choosing either candidate—the wall-building bully or the ‘empowered’ woman who uses her strength to close the womb or kill its fruit.

But I remember America’s goodness too: her beauty, her generosity, how her citizens have fueled Kingdom efforts throughout the globe. I am grateful, and realize that no amount of bad politics can snuff out the simple power of the Gospel that her citizens have extended with clarity and ingenuity.

I confess I don’t know how to love America, any more than I know how to vote in November. But I will seek to love her by fighting for the law written in every American’s heart (Rom. 2:15), raw treasure that Jesus still seeks to provoke and fulfill. I will fight to save what is good and true and just about my country.

Download PDF
An Open Letter to Every Man who Leaves Wife/Kids Because He is ‘Gay’

An Open Letter to Every Man who Leaves Wife/Kids Because He is ‘Gay’

Dear ____,

Bless you for finally being open about your same-sex attraction. That is a brave step and I pray that God and a faithful community will honor your confession. You have a big part to play in whether your honesty honors you and your loved ones.

What you are admitting is that you have desires that seem to conflict with loving your wife and children. That is different from assuming a ‘gay’ identity. As we are sons of the one Father, made in His image, we can agree that God sees us not as ‘homosexuals’ but as His men. He calls all men to live in right relationship with our brothers and to choose (or not) to express our sexuality in a loving bond with a particular woman and to open together to the new lives created by marital love.

Guess what? You made that choice! What best defines our sexual humanity is not our feelings but our capacity to make sound, thoughtful decisions about what we do with our sexuality. Your choice to marry and to have children defines you far more powerfully than same-sex attraction. Plus, the person you said ‘yes’ to with your body and the lives you fathered need you. Your freedom depends on it. You will never find happiness outside of your faithfulness to these relationships.

You say you hoped that marriage would resolve your same-sex attraction. It does not. In fact, it tends to highlight the many desires that conflict with being faithful to our loved ones. That is where love finds its most perfect expression. Your same-sex attraction is the tool God wants to use to teach you to love others because they are worthy of love, not because all your needs are being met. Welcome to ‘the club of men with conflicting desires’; welcome to the Cross whereby we surrender worldly dreams and mobilize for real people, real love.

I am surprised you never sought out any help for your same-sex attraction. God wants to use your ‘secret’ to cause you to grow through conflicting desires, not in spite of them. You have not exhausted the depths of the help available to you through Courage or the Restored Hope Network. The question is: will your honesty lead you to repentance or will it be an excuse to leave your loved ones for the ‘gay’ life? You are already playing victim. Don’t. You are not one. You can make choices for fidelity in the full light of your same-sex attraction.

Doubtless, many persons today will champion you ‘coming out’ as an act of bravery. Get real. If your honesty results in divorce, you act like a coward and subject your loved ones to grave injustice. St. John of the Cross said: ‘In the end, we will be judged by love.’ In light of your admitted weakness, choose love, real love and so prepare for eternity today. If you choose your ‘gay’ freedom instead, you will inflict damage on all you influence and will suffer eternal consequence.

We do not choose our desires but we choose what we do with them. Choose well friend. Please feel free to contact us at Desert Stream/Living Waters if you want to talk through your options. Don’t get lost in our cultural confusion. Last week, a new study came out that documented how gay unions in the USA have doubled in the last 25 years. Don’t be a casualty. Don’t make loved ones a casualty. I urge you to think and act and love like a Christian. Bless you friend. Hope we will hear from you.

Download PDF
Doing Great Works

Doing the Greater Works (Without Us)

My Living Waters small group co-leader debriefed with me about the session he had led the night before in my absence: ‘It went great: the guys opened up and Jim received deeply from the Lord as we prayed for him. The Holy Spirit was very present…’ Our group is not uncomplicated and I felt just a trace of unbelief—‘Really, that good without me?’

My arrogance aside, I recalled Jesus’ astounding promise to the disciples on the eve of His leaving them and sending His Spirit: ‘I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father’ (JN 14: 12).

Jesus had to leave the disciples in order for them to take the next step in their journey of faith. He knew what they needed to grow: to step out in faith on the leading of the unseen ‘Spirit of truth’ (JN 14:17) whom Jesus promised would ‘teach them everything and remind them of everything He had said’ (JN 14:26). ‘Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you’ (JN 16:7)…

Jesus had to decrease in order for the saints to increase in faithful allegiance to Him. Perhaps we need the challenge. It is hard to sort out who He is and how to represent Him when He’s not around. Yes, the Scripture guides us, yes the apostles and church tradition guide us too, and yes, it is still really hard to figure out ‘what would Jesus do.’ So He gives us His Spirit. Becoming a person of the Spirit–called by Jesus to do greater works than He did in the power of that Spirit–requires His absence. No other way to grow: to step out into the void knowing deeper still that He goes before us and makes a way for miracles, miracles that we accomplish in His Spirit’s power.

If the entire Church is built on such a premise, how much more does it apply to our equipping and releasing the saints to do the work of the ministry (Eph. 4: 12)? How often do we as ministers limit what another can do without us? Of course wisdom and training and timing come to play in releasing people to certain tasks, especially tasks involving the delicate care of souls. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the Church often fails to ‘do the greater works’ because elders (like me) find a comfortable niche which does not include making a way for others to do what the Spirit can only do through them, without us!

If Jesus must decrease in order for the Spirit to increase in the people of God, how much more must we decrease and make room for younger ones to take their places in the Church? God showed me this clearly about 15 years ago in New Zealand. I was with my teen son Nick who joined me in my daily runs throughout Auckland. At first I easily beat him yet by the trip’s end he trounced me. Tempted by the same trace of unbelief I felt toward my small group co-leader’s successful solo ‘run’, I straightened up and the Spirit reminded me: ‘Prepare to pass many batons to younger ones who will outrun you in the power of my Spirit…’ Amen

Download PDF
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: