Category: Sexual Brokenness

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Love Shining – October 23, 2012 (Psalm 4:6)

‘Many are asking: “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of Your face shine upon us, O God.’ (PS 4:6)

Politics brings out the worst in people; divided by partisan bickering and hyperbole, battered by sound bites that become more like sound ‘bullets’ as the election draws near, we limp to the ballot box.

Who can show us any good? Few believe that politicians can, and rightly so. Our hope must be in something more.

Sadly, many mistrust the Church as much as they do the State. Most Americans have encountered ‘church’ in various forms and have walked away with a trace of faith but unchanged. Caught in the volley between self-reliance and slavish devotion to another, we settle for less. ‘Gay marriage’ is but a symptom of the cynicism that results from mistrust in Jesus and His bride.

Shine on us, O God. Yesterday in church I looked around me and saw a beautiful and broken group of Christians humbly confessing their sins, seeking the strength to turn from sin to the Son, wanting above all else to reflect Him more brightly.

I then considered the thousands of men and women I know what have cried out for mercy in light of their homosexuality or the struggle of a loved one. I have witnessed Jesus being formed in them through the fire: faith refined and growing stronger as they learned to entrust their very lives to Jesus.

No wonder the struggle is so deep: Jesus knows exactly what it takes for Him to be our all-in-all! A flashy miracle would never work Christ in us. Through hours of saints praying for us then through our many confessions and healing prayer sessions, Jesus lays claim to the whole of us. Now we are His, a shining witness of His love.

Jesus will shine upon us in the days to come as never before. His Mercy will triumph over the compromise and unbelief in the world. His Church will shine.

God gave St. Faustina a similar promise. In spite of her weakness and the compromised church, Jesus promised her that the Church would shine with Mercy.

‘There will come a time when this work of mercy, which God is demanding so very much, will be as though utterly undone. And then God will act in great power, which will give evidence of its authenticity. It will be a new splendor for the Church.’

Let it be so, O God. Please reclaim the years of struggle by making us more pure and merciful reflections of Your love. Make us a Bride that more nearly answers the cry of restless, wounded hearts.

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October 23, 2012

‘Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of Your face shine upon us, O God.’ (Ps. 4:6)

We live in a day of decreasing trust. Superficially, we have never been more connected; we tend to our cyber-family with whom we live out loud and yet only know through hastily posted opinions and photos. Global news, usually tragic, bombards us constantly. Among the barrage are scandals of church and state that erode trust. Overall, the convenience of living through a screen or many screens over-stimulates us then blunts our capacity to relate to real people. We are alone together.

‘Who can show us any good?’ Human hearts have recoiled from trust, the trust capable of deepening friendship with God and His community. An election year does not help. Blah, Blah, Obama; Blah, Blah Romney…Just so many talking heads with no capacity to deliver the goods. ‘Who can show us any good?’

We must heed the deeper cry of our hearts, the one only our Creator can satisfy. ‘Let the light of Your face, beautiful God, shine upon us.’ You alone are THE good. And we are Your people. May we reflect Your light and life to those in shadow.

In Christ, ‘we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.’ (2Pet. 1:19)

‘Father, we ask that You would reveal and rout out the mistrust that breeds cynicism, any way we have bonded with the despair of the world. Unite us with Yourself, awesome God. Let Your glory shine on us. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we confess our sins of cowardice and compromise. We have violated Your holy commands in regards to what we have done to our bodies and other bodies. And in our compromise we have become cowards, unwilling to stand for what we know to be true for the dignity of all. We ask that You might have mercy on Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington; uphold marriage in these states, and in our nation, as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on ‘gay marriage.

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Fasting: The Feast of Freedom

‘Speak, for Your servant is listening.’ (I Samuel 3:10)

Our 40 days of prayer begin this Friday. Might you consider some type of fast as a way of maximizing your time in prayer?

Freaketh not thou, child of God. Though fasting is usually associated with not eating, I urge you to broaden your view to include giving up one thing that will liberate a few minutes to pray. That could involve replacing 30 minutes of TV or FaceBook time with 30-minutes of prayer; and yes, it could involve going without a meal and praying instead.

My point? We do not give up something to showcase our denial skills—we let go in order to take up prayer. In other words, we fast in order to feast on God. Prayer is holy desire for Him—His heart, His presence, His purposes.

We fast to clear away the clutter and make room for Him. We provide you with a prayer guide, which includes a daily verse and prayer. Hopefully, that will gently immerse you in Jesus: the true desire of your heart. (Guide PDF available at pray.desertstream.org.)

In this tumultuous political season, we do well to make room for Him. Let our hearts not be like the innkeepers in Bethlehem who welcomed everyone but Him. Never before have our hearts welcomed so many virtual ‘lodgers’; never before have we been as tempted to forego the face of God for a thousand virtual faces.

We must listen to the Word of God in order to pray what pleases Him. We must refuse the many and open to the One—the Great I Am—who alone holds the keys to the mess we are in.

I trust that He will clarify our focus on marriage, as He is its Author and Champion. We shall render to Caesar what is his and to God what is His—His image and holiness manifest in the nuptial bond. We will advocate on our knees for that bond, as it benefits every life on the planet.

I trust also that He shall focus our prayers on those tossed about by the false liberties of our day. My son Sam and I just did an amazing book study on 1 and 2 Peter and Jude, which feature warnings about false teachers who eschewed both future judgment and sexual purity.

Peter and Jude urge us as believers to hold fast to sexual integrity, to recognize the hell that awaits those who forego chastity, and the urgent call to pray and implore those under deception to turn back to Jesus and His community.

‘Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear, hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.’ (Jude 22, 23)

Might our fast be a feast of freedom? That feast begins as we partake of God then pray for ‘His will be done’ in marriage and extravagant mercy for the lost. Prayer is effectual. It changes our hearts and moves His on behalf of the broken creation.

I look forward to partnering with you in our feast of freedom.

Beginning the 28th, we shall post daily each prayer entry. Every 5 days, also beginning the 28th, we will blast and post a new encouragement that corresponds with the theme of the 5 days to come.

‘When you words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.’ (Jer. 15:16)

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Ache of God

Praying 40 days for repentance over sexual sin would be a vain task unless we encountered His ache of love for us.

Prayer unites us with His ache. Beneath His cross, we witness silently His naked broken body. Like rain from heaven, blood and water flow into our shameful nakedness and unites us with the Love that seeks nothing other than our good. Sexual sinners like you and I concur tearfully with Pope Benedict: ‘Any talk of love must begin with the open side of Christ.’

He aches for us, for our good, hating sin (never us!) only because it destroys us. So He pours Himself out generously, and awaits the time when we might stop beneath His cross and satisfy our misdirected appetites on Love alone.

He aches for us! He wants communion with us! Have you ever felt the acute pain of betrayal when a mere creature violated his/her covenant with you? How much more does our Creator ache when we bypass Him for a mere human image of Himself?

Having suffered to secure us in Love, He wants to waste none of His sorrows. He aches for us to abide beneath the cross, to linger there. He wants to reorient us around His ache for us; He delights when we soak in the water that cleanses and refreshes us, the blood that becomes our new life. We fulfill His ache when we welcome His passion as the foundation of our lives.

40 days of focused prayer may not be enough to reorient us wholly around His ache. But it’s a good start. And when we with broken hearts kneel before the cross welcome the fruit of His broken heart for us, we learn to pray for others.

God gives us His ache for the lonely and the lost; we grieve with Him for those wasting themselves on mere images of God. God wants them, Father to child, Bridegroom to bride. Prayer changes us by orienting us around His ache: first for us, and through our prayers, for the people He made and longs to redeem.

‘How beautiful you are, my darling. Oh, how beautiful! Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face lovely.’ (S of S 2:2, 14)

Please join us starting Friday, September 28th, for our 40 days of repentance. You can download the PDF of the entire 40-day devotional now at : pray.desertstream.org.

If you want us to email you the PDF, or to send you a paper copy of the devotional, email Ann at aarmstrong@desertstream.org.

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Exodus: Letting Go, Hope Rising

Becoming mature requires letting go in order to take hold of what lies ahead.

Such is the case with the decision of Desert Stream Ministries to disassociate from Exodus International, an umbrella coalition for those who minister to the same-sex attracted.

Over the last couple of years, we have grown uncomfortable with Exodus’ direction. After viewing President Alan Chambers’ videotaped effort to assuage concerns of ‘gay’ Christians in his extensive interview with leaders of the ‘Gay Christian Network’, the Desert Stream Board voted unanimously to leave Exodus. All agreed that Exodus today no longer represented our beliefs.

 

Our understanding of the differences between DSM and Exodus include:

A different view of the consequences of sexual sin. Whereas Exodus believes that practicing ‘gay’ Christians may well inherit the Kingdom of heaven, we beg to differ. We believe that Christ followers must reckon with homosexual behavior as a serious betrayal of their humanity and spirituality, and repent of it in order to be assured of salvation.

A different expectation of change for same-sex strugglers. Though we agree with Exodus’ desire to more accurately define ‘change’ for those with SSA, Exodus now appears tentative and unclear as to the degree to which the same-sex attracted will experience change at all in their sexuality. We believe that Jesus brings change to every Christian with SSA who seeks Him whole-heartedly. He cannot help it. Jesus is our Creator and Redeemer who made us to represent Him in our gender and sexual selves. He places such a high premium upon sexual integrity that He acts incisively to redeem our sexual disintegration. Jesus frees every repentant heart to resume the journey toward wholeness.

A different theological anthropology. Desert Stream Ministries anchors our understanding of the ‘new creation’ in the truth that we are created in God’s image as male and female. That means that every same-sex struggler who follows Jesus is reconciled to his/her capacity to be a good offering to the opposite gender. We recognize that each soul differs in how they will live out that calling. Yet differing levels of progression in mature heterosexual relating don’t change one’s capability in Christ to resume that journey. Exodus advocates the noble goal of holiness, yet offers insufficient clarity as to what sexual wholeness means for those with SSA.

A different reliance upon reparative psychology.  Exodus recently broke ties with ‘reparative therapy’, a broad school of thought developed by theorists and therapists who view same-sex attraction as a symptom of the breakdown in whole gender development. While Desert Stream Ministries is founded on theological, not psychological values, we rely upon reparative insights to understand what is blocked or missing in our souls. These keys help guide our pursuit of Jesus and His community to secure what we need in order to proceed onto wholeness.

A different reliance upon moral effort in becoming whole. Exodus appears to hold a comparatively passive understanding of sanctification; we believe that hard moral effort, inspired by grace, is essential in progressing into maturity. Our morality becomes beautiful as we engage actively in the spiritual and psychological disciplines that enable us to become mature Christians.

A different approach to ‘gay’ Christians. Exodus seems intent on building bridges with practicing ‘gay’ Christians. We believe that God wants only the best for all people, including practicing homosexuals. In His love, we fight for their repentance. However, we disagree with making peace with Christians who advocate homosexual practice; to us, these are false teachers who are guilty of leading others into darkness, an offense worse than Christians caught in sin who know it.

Desert Stream Ministries is pleased to partner with like-minded ministries and individuals who are forming a new coalition entitled the Restored Hope Network. We urge any of you who are interested to join our first ‘Restored Hope’ gathering in Sacramento this September 21st and 22nd.

Please email: rhngathering@gmail.com for more information about the Restored Hope Network, doctrinal statements or the conference in September. To register for the conference please click the following link: http://rhn2012.eventbrite.com

Reaching forward requires letting go. We at Desert Stream Ministries are hopeful and expectant for a future of resuming the journey with you toward wholeness.

The Desert Stream Board of Directors: Mike Nobrega, Morgan Davis, Cindy Del Hierro, Bill Scholl, Annette Comiskey stand with me in this decision.

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Heaven on Earth

Portland OregonJust prior to the two days of intensive conferencing in Portland OR, I felt a familiar heaviness, and began to question (quietly) the purpose of gathering from around the Northwest to proclaim and administer healing for the sexually broken. ‘No-one will come…Portland is too liberal for ‘healing the homosexual’…You’ve lost your anointing and relevance.’

Amid my demonic accusations, co-host Karen Davis said quietly: ‘God does amazing things through prayer…’ Sure enough, as we gathered to pray before the conference, regional leader Deb Ivancovich anointed each of us and proclaimed that God would do mighty things, far beyond our understanding. The cloud around me dissipated and could see clearly once more.

I gazed around the room at the prayer/teaching team composed of 13 men and women from around the area, all Living Waters leaders, whom I had known for years from trainings and conferences and visits to their churches; each had carried the cross through deep wounds and moral weaknesses and loved the chance (yet again!) to stir up the waters of powerful mercy and to extend those waters to others.

These were family members, wounded healers whose presence had altered the culture of their churches; where they worshipped and served, ‘living water’ flowed for sexually broken people. As many shared their stories throughout the day, I was awed at the earthy yet utterly hopeful way they understood God’s faithfulness. Steps forward, steps backward—in everything submitted to Jesus, a chance to know Him more and to understand the depth of one’s destitution without Him.

Their tender yet strong faith, seasoned through years of service and ever deepening healing, made a way for newcomers who had never before encountered such a prayerful, candid family. A group of young adults drank in God’s healing presence through the laying on of hands, and insisted on follow-up. They now eagerly await the beginning of a new Living Waters group starting up at the church that sponsored the conference.

We as a team had the last of several meals together. In spite of much output aimed at deep, overwhelming needs, we felt at peace, even renewed. A humble, beautiful family, prayerfully relying upon the merciful God: heaven on earth.

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