Category: Sexual Brokenness

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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Salt of the Church

‘I urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.’ (Jude 3)

Salt preserves and flavors food; it awakens taste, just as lives raised from the dead of homosexuality awaken the church and sustain her essence.

Consider my friend Ben, a pastor in the Reformed Church of America. Ben started his journey out of homosexuality with us at Desert Stream then went on staff at the largest church in his denomination. Consider also Maria Cardenas, a devout Presbyterian (PCUSA) who also faithfully walked out her lesbianism with us and now serves her denomination by running healing groups and proclaiming how Jesus redeems the same-sex struggler.

Employing their own stories, Ben and Maria testified before decision-making bodies in their denominations on how Jesus is faithful to His Word and to His human creation who cry out to Him amid homosexual struggle. God is faithful.

Both of their denominations upheld the truth of God’s heart and mind toward human sexuality. In the last month, the Reformed Church voted to uphold its commitment to biblical sexuality, which includes a refusal to ordain practicing homosexuals, while the PCUSA, further along in its ‘gay-affirming’ trajectory, voted down a redefinition of marriage that would include ‘gay marriage.’

Since the seventies, both denominations have faced intensifying gay advances. Each year, biblical truth concerning (homo)sexuality is challenged and potentially diminished. Thanks to the likes of Maria and Ben (among many others), the truth has been sustained and remains alive and well in these embattled denominations.

The fight goes on because of the power of embodied truth. Giving voice to lives made whole by merciful truth hinder gay advances in the church. Our stories sustain hope; we ‘raise up age-old foundations.’ (Is. 58:12)

I shall never forget the elder in my church who responded to my story with these simple words: ‘I never heard that God could heal the homosexual.’ He has now.

Yet we err if think our responsibility ends there. We must work hard to ensure that churches of all stripes possess dynamic healing opportunities for all the sexually broken who cry out to Jesus. Without a track of truth, such healing is impossible. But with only a track of truth, we become clanging gongs.

As a follow-up to the truth of his denomination, Ben wrote: ‘I am grateful that the RCA has declared homosexuality a sin. This is a good first step. But it is not enough for us to say what we are against. As a denomination, we must assert gospel hope. What is the good news for those whose sexuality has been shaped by a broken culture? What is the hope for the sexual sinner? Can men and women find new life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do we believe that Jesus can change lives?’

Ben is right. We lay a track of truth in order to make way for the mercy that transforms lives. Pray for the Marias and Bens of this world, that their salty proclamation will become a merciful offering in local churches everywhere.

‘For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.’   Is. 62:1

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