Category: Sexual Brokenness

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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Ascending Fear: Jesus’ Absence and Our Authority

Ascension of Christ. Woodcut after a drawing by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German painter, 1794 - 1872), published in 1877.

‘Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.’ (Jn 16:6)

Jesus had to leave us in order to liberate us. He had to depart in order to give us power. But for the disciples, Jesus’ ascension back to the Father may have felt more like abandonment than the assurance of authority.

Think about it. Jesus’ followers just got in the groove with the Resurrected Christ. (It took a while–remember? They failed to recognize him for days!) Just when they were in step with Him, the Lamb is swallowed up by a cloud. (Acts 1:9)

Jesus, now absent, gives disciples like us His Spirit—powerful and pervasive, but unseen. The Spirit demands our faith and action based on His leading. Yet His instructions are more whispers than proclamations. And we are imperfect ‘receptors’ at best, as inclined to our own darkness as we are to the light. How we long for Jesus-in-the-flesh declaring: ‘This is the way; walk in it!’

That means that we His disciples have to face our fears of ourselves: Can we do this? Was that a prophetic dream or a delusion? What if we obey that still small voice and turn out to be wrong?

What a risky God—entrusting us with continuing His reign of heaven on earth.

Scary stuff! I remember what I felt to be the Spirit’s leading to attend a university discussion on ‘Homosexuality, the Bible and Faith.’ In spite of all the major denominations represented, the course had little to do with any genuine respect for the Bible or faith; it was intent only on asserting ‘gay rights.’

I had only been a Christian for 6 months but I already knew that no-one there knew anything about genuine conversion. So I said so: ‘If Jesus really died for us, then we must die to our right to assert anything other than His rule and reign in our lives.’ I wasn’t voted most popular student that year.

But I did grow in faith because I learned to follow His lead. And He trusted me to step out, however awkwardly, and proclaim His rule and reign. He does so with any willing vessel.

This is the principle of Ascension: He must depart in order for His Spirit to empower us to extend His Kingdom on earth.

That principle applies to our letting people go in order to help them grow. Our releasing them releases the Spirit who will lead them beyond where we can take them.

I see this all the time in ministry. In order for men and women to become leaders, I must release them to step out and take risks. They won’t rely upon the Spirit as much if I am around. My presence may well be quenching the very Spirit that is straining to do great things through them.

‘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)

I also see this in parenting. Annette and I and most of our friends worked hard to be the best parents possible. And then, guess what? It isn’t enough! Our kids may still make bad, Spirit-free choices that grieve us terribly. That’s where Ascension comes in. Our kids’ departure from the Light doesn’t stop the Spirit from brooding, imploring, and ordering all things for the good in their lives.

But parents get in the way of Holy Spirit when we try to be that Spirit. Like Jesus Himself, we must entrust our kids to the One who knows and loves best. We do our part yes—but it is the wise parent who knows when (s)he can do no more but pray. Confessing our fears and controlling schemes only to God, we entrust the son or daughter to the Ultimate Parent. His Spirit will have His Way.

Ascension reduces us to prayer. We grieve and let go and make room for God. Jesus left in order to free us to become people of the Spirit. Might we do the same for those we love most?

‘You may ask for anything in My Name, and I will do it.’ (Jn 14:14)

‘When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you [and your loved ones!] into all truth.’ (Jn 16:13)

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