Category: Sexual Brokenness

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Easter: Snow and Burn

The glorious 50-day season of Easter kicked off in Kansas City with a freak snowstorm (we managed to pull off some not indecent bbq anyhow…) Regardless of the weather, whatever the dismal mindset, God calls us to burn bright for Him. He enables us to do so.

I urge you to pray right now from some good friends who are burning bright today in Sacramento CA. Using their own stories of how Jesus and His healing community helped them to overcome the domination of same-sex attraction, Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network, and Elizabeth Woning and Ken Davis of Bethel Church Redding (among others) are shining to ensure that AB 2943 dissolves like snow before the sun when it comes up for vote next Monday in the CA legislature.

This insane bill turns goodness on its ear by outlawing any helper (church-based and otherwise) who offers counsel or materials for cost to persons seeking freedom from gender disintegration. That means Living Waters groups would be banned from their state of origin.

Think about it. Today, California leads the nation in celebrating gender disintegration and in seeking to outlaw any remedy for what is an unhappy condition at best. Further, California vilifies anyone who seeks to be at peace with his or her biological gender. In a recent segment of the popular CW teen series ‘Riverdale’, a young girl with confusing sexual feelings (every teen) is subject to a ‘conversion therapy’ madhouse led by a sinister nun who greets her with a syringe and a ghastly smile. The point is clear: seeking to understand and resolve identity conflicts is demonic. Welcoming the demons is cool.

So we urge kids to welcome their demons. Tim Cook, the ‘gay’ CEO of Apple who came out proudly in 2014 (‘I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me’) just veered off the course set by predecessor Steve Jobs; the latter detested porn use on the iPhone but Cook just chided an interviewer by claiming ‘I’m not making fun’ of anyone who employs the iPhone browser in that way. Another ‘gay’ cultural hero, Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy, recently expressed the moral difference between gay and straight couples: gays favor open relationships in which commitment does not involve sexual fidelity. Ugh.

With California leading the way, we have moved beyond granting everyone the ‘freedom’ to do whatever he or she wants, sexually-speaking; we now want to legislate out of existence opportunities for persons to overcome addictions and infidelities that stem from gender disintegration.

Please right now say a prayer for Anne and Elizabeth and Ken. Pray for clear and sane and gentle voices to be heard today in Sacramento on behalf of every person on whom God’s favor rests to become chaste. The right to worship and to heal in accord with the God of Jacob and Jesus should be encouraged, not vilified or outlawed. And pray hard that next Monday April 9th AB 2943 will dissolve as fast as a freak snow storm on Easter.

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Why Gender Matters 6: Heavenly Bodies

Every Sunday I am blessed by a young family of six who typically sit in the pew in front of me. Far from being bothered by the squirms, yawns, and fights that erupt in the service, I relish them. I marvel at the two parents who patiently adjust attitudes and seating; through this prism of life, I behold the Cross and the communion meal and realize this is what is all about—a man and a woman submitting to each other out of reverence for Jesus (Eph. 5:21) and making a way for younger lives to do the same.

I think of our grown children scattered throughout churches in Kansas City and trust that Annette and I did something similar for our family.

Gender difference–and harmony in that difference–points beyond itself; it offers us a glimpse of heaven. Rightfully ordered, the dance of maleness and femaleness—desire and restraint, initiative and response, fruitfulness and frustration—gives us a window to our cosmic destiny.

Let me explain. We are made in His image as male and female. Biblically, we don’t know much more about that ‘image’ except that it is a gendered reality. God chooses to represent Himself in the duality of man and woman together, unity within difference. After we discover this gendered image of God in humanity (Ge. 1 and 2), God is imaged throughout Scripture as essentially masculine in that He initiates relationship with His people (Israel, the Church, etc.) and is likened to a father/husband/lover to His people who are primarily defined in feminine terms–as responders to His love.

So Scripture highlights divine initiative and human response. The latter is not inferior to the former. Both are essential to revealing the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus is responsive, and in that sense ‘feminine’ in relation to His Father—He does only what the Father says and does (JN 8: 26-29). And Mary’s ‘yes’ to God is heroic, the courageous response that sets in motion Jesus’ saving love for all.

Jesus takes this to a new level by defining Himself as a bridegroom to a bride (MK 2:19), a reality that St. Paul capitalizes on in Eph. 5: 22-37 when the apostle likens a man’s servant initiative toward his wife—and her respectful response—as a window to the spousal love that Jesus possesses for His church, a consummation that is a future reality—the feast where the Lamb unites Himself wholly to those He loves (Rev. 21: 1-4). That’s why Christopher West says that marriage is the trailhead to the ‘summit’. That summit is heaven—the wedding feast–our ultimate union with Jesus.

Here we enter into sacrament—in this case, the fusion of body, soul, and spirit in lifelong communion between a man and woman. Marriage helps make concrete and tangible something real but unseen; as a sacrament, it points beyond itself and helps us apprehend an otherwise mysterious spiritual reality.

I marvel at the power of holy and harmonious love between a man and a woman. We are all aware of the power of broken marriages to shatter faith and true spiritual sight. How much greater is the power of faithful love, with all of its frustrations, between husband and wife? Annette and I grow more appreciative of each other as the years pass. We laugh more and bristle less at each other’s quirks and are grateful for the constant ‘yes’ we give each other in season and out. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Through our reliance upon divine advocacy, I pray that our human love becomes a clearer window of heaven for others.

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Behold the Lamb 5: Liberty and Loss

A young Catholic priest who participated in a recent Living Waters Training engaged a lot with our mostly evangelical crowd; he got kicked in the stomach a few times by persons who introduced themselves to him as ‘having become Christians after they left the Catholic Church.’ Ouch.

What they meant, I think, was that they found a ‘spirited’ personal bridge to Jesus in one of many gatherings where their young-adult-ache for Him was quenched by a more dynamic spirituality than what they experienced as Catholic kids.

Beautiful. But also costly. On this 500th year anniversary of the Reformation, in which we celebrate the freedom to change and change again our approach to how we gather as Christians and why, it may be wise, even healing, to consider the downside of ‘start your own’ church movements. (Will we ever forget Robert Duvall’s film ‘The Apostle’ in which he ordained himself through the laying on of his own hands?) Don’t get me wrong. I value many of the lifeboats launched from the leaky vessel that the Catholic Church had become by the 16th century. But I also witness the fissures of ‘reform’ that continue to fan out, fractures that fracture people who conclude in their confusion: ‘I need not gather at all.’

One example may be church leaders who insist on a particular facet of the Gospel based on their ‘leading’, often in response to what they did not like in their previous church/movement. That can result in two ills: the malformation of the saints due to a skewed Gospel and also an unwitting rejection of members who don’t/can’t line up with the particular emphasis of the visionary leader. A colleague of mine with some identity conflicts had no choice but to leave an effective evangelistic movement because her pastor assured her that the church would not invest in the healing of her or anyone else’s soul.

Related but worse are pastors who fall into serious error and, having created a system of impotent eldership in which they are virtually unchecked, perpetuate their errors. That includes (but is no way limited to) churches which bless sexual immoralities, including LGBT+ liberties; that may also relate to a strain of ‘hyper-grace’ churches that refuse to give formation to members as to avoid ‘legalism.’

More dangerous still are ‘Spirit-led’ leaders who add ‘thus saith the Lord’ to their disagreements with persons. Rather than sort out conflicts rationally and relationally, these shepherds resolve conflict by the sheep either putting up or shutting up. A tragic subset here is shepherds who cloak lust in ‘love’ and use spiritual power to seduce. These wolves make rabid the sheep and deserve the millstone Jesus reserves for them (LK 17: 1, 2).

Lastly, I notice some losses and limits to churches founded on young-adult vitality: that post high-school season in which persons are most inclined to establish an identity founded upon Jesus Christ. Many of these gatherings are glorious! Yet one does not stay a young adult forever, and when that season passes, these ones may grow out of ‘church’ altogether and determine nothing else will do, especially the relatively stodgy churches of their pre-revival youth. Older ones who invest here may find themselves beside the point. A quiet servant I know worked tirelessly at such a ‘young’ church for 20 years then began to realize that no-one there cared much about her. She left and no-one noticed. She struggles to engage with any church now.

That is the problem and the opportunity. We need the body. We need healing when our churches let us down. And we have choice. We can forgive her, we must forgive her, or a part of ourselves dies. We are the body, and to be at odds with any part of her is to be divided in ourselves.

This Lent, I implore you to forgive that part of the body that wounded you. Jesus took the hit at Calvary for nothing less. If you extend the mercy you have received to that part (it does not mean you agree with it!), you do your part to heal yourself and His beautiful, broken bride. I then urge you to exercise your freedom to discern where you are to take your place once more. We cannot say we love Him without standing with them. Again.

‘Jesus, in accord with Your Word, we confess that we have become like ‘those who have given up meeting together.’ Rather, we ask for mercy to extend to our church wounders and the power once more to ‘consider how we might provoke one another onto love and good deeds…and all the more as we see the Day approaching’ (Heb. 10: 24, 25), the Day of Your return for one glorious Church.’

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Why Gender Matters 4: Gender Vandals

‘Rates of suicide are nearly twenty times greater among adults who use cross-sex hormones and undergo sex reassignment surgery…’ Dr. Paul McHugh

‘A Fantastic Woman’ isn’t, although it won best foreign film at last week’s Oscar Awards. It features a trans-actor (Daniela Vega), or better put, a man pretending to be a woman. I had seen its trailer a few weeks earlier and was taken by this ‘Woman’s’ eloquent surrealism until I discerned a tortured masculine soul under the layers of cosmetics and dramatic manipulations. Nothing short of evil–the deception that gender mind games can master the truth of one’s biology.

This is a costly deception. It kills the body. Far from the designer gowns and makeovers of Oscar night, in which Vega introduced best picture nominee ‘Call Me by Your Name’ (you know, the ‘gay’ soft porn romp between a 17 and 25-year-old) by cooing: ‘Can’t you feel it?’, I was waiting in a scruffy doctor’s office in Kansas City where I witnessed a man who was ‘transitioning’ have a near mental breakdown as he insisted to the receptionist that he must see the doctor immediately due to alarming changes in his body. His litany of woes won’t stop. His efforts to kill his masculine frame are killing him. Trans-efforts, fueled by self-hatred, annihilate the true self.

It kills the soul too. Anyone who looks upon the imposter knows who he is. She does not exist—only a doomed effort to be what he cannot realize. Socially, the world around him cannot help but respond authentically, which is at best to gaze quizzically upon a tortured soul. No wonder the rates of mental distress escalate: the dream of being adored as ‘the other’ becomes a nightmare of questioning eyes. Yet the ‘trans’ soul insists everyone change along with him; he considers anything less ‘hate’. What most hate is the assumption that ‘acceptance’ means accompanying him to death. I am in awe of the monstrously selfish demands the ‘trans’ aspirant makes on everyone around him.

It kills the spirit. Demons love to imprison souls in the hell of gender reassignment. They love the wounds and emptiness and cruelty many young sensitive souls endure; our common enemy engineers the fantasy of escaping into another identity. Demons inhabit unreality and demonize those who disown and disfigure reality.

15-years-ago, my friend and colleague Daniel Delgado, posing as a glamour girl, discerned a spirit of death and destruction all around him; he witnessed its impact in the killing off of ‘trans’-friends through drugs, murder, disease, and suicide. The Holy Spirit gave him holy fear and he turned back to Jesus again, only this time for keeps. Driven by the Spirit, Daniel dove into a community that chose to love him as the extraordinary man he was and is. Today he values what is real and true about himself and His Savior. He is one of the best men I know.

Satan hates reality. Our flesh loves unreality. The world gives Oscars to unreality. We the Church need to arise in her age-old foundations: embodying and declaring what it means to be human and how Jesus through His life-giving Spirit breaks the grip of unreality and frees us to become who God created us to be.

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Behold the Lamb 4: Refining Fathers

God always honors His Word and sacraments even if His servants act dishonorably. For example, I once had a pastor whose stellar preaching (some of his word-pictures still shed light for me on complex truths) coexisted with a trail of confusing seductions he initiated with women in our congregation. God’s Word prevailed (through our efforts and a long wait)–he was finally disciplined–but until then the congregation breathed toxic air. God sustains the faithful but sheep still suffer from sleazy shepherds. How much better for fathers of the faith to prepare for leadership through the splendid, humbling task of becoming chaste?

Here’s the rub. Due to the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, in which entire dioceses have been brought to their knees by multi-million dollar settlements for victims, the Church is now super wary of any sexual vulnerability in her priests and religious. In the sexual arena, avoiding litigation seems the Church’s greatest goal; she fumbles at forthright, compassionate dealing with her fathers and mothers who actually need help in order to become chaste. ‘Just be chaste, don’t be known’, she conveys today.

To misquote Simone DeBeauvoir: ‘We are not born chaste, we become it.’ How else do we grow into integrated men and women unless we come into the Light with our misdemeanors before they become felonies? How many priests and diocesan workers do I know who fall regularly into masturbation/porn cycles, habits born of disintegration that keep them disintegrated, hobbled by shame and wounded in their self-gift? Having sinned weakly, does each one have a responsibility to come boldly to the throne of grace? Of course!

But that requires context for church leaders, especially those who always handle the confessions of others. Does the Church provide clear, merciful, powerful, and effective relationships through which these ones can break fear and silence and quicken the journey toward self-mastery and gender integration? Today’s Church, though clear on the requirement of priestly chastity, fails to invite most priests into the messy process of becoming chaste. In part due to the litigious mess she is in. I can almost guarantee you that the majority of priests will not take a seminary course on sexual integration this year.

That is at least short-sighted. Failing to provide wise preventative measures for her weak servants sets the Church up for further scandals and reveals an unloving, unreal expectation toward them. Everyone, especially her saints, is sexually broken! Lust in its myriad forms touches all of us. So must we as the Church provide real life opportunities for leaders-in-formation to be rightly formed in the sexual arena, without fear of being buried for being broken. Better to breakdown in the arms of the saints than to break another through lust.

My wife Annette is right. She claims that ‘the best preparation for ministry lies in discipleship: persons gathering long enough with safe, powerful saints in order to know themselves honestly in their sexual and relational depths, and to be known by Jesus through these members of Christ.’

At first I thought she was overstating her case. She was not. We as the Church must guarantee that our ‘Fathers’ do not go–it-alone. We have seen what happens when they do. Fathers and Fathers-to-be especially need refining love. Bring it on God.

‘Make Your Church wise and tender and strong toward her servants. Help her to love them like a good mother and father, only better. Reveal Your almighty tenderness to prodigal elder sons and daughters, O God; give them a fighting chance to come clean and become whole. You can only love us if we expose ourselves to love. Make Your Church a place of where we can come broken, boldly.’

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