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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Mercy and Judgment

Day 6 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘Do not fear anything, I am with you. These matters are in My hands and I will bring them to fruition according to My mercy, for nothing can oppose My will.’ (573)

God was merciful to me in my ‘waterless pit’; He drew me out of the hell of homosexuality through Heavenly Mercy. Without mercy, I would have died young, never to have known or created real life.

Mercy matters; without it, sin and death prevail. We eat poisoned fruit and suffer either an immediate or a slow and agonizing death.

The two young men with whom I first ventured into the gay world both suffered terrible deaths from AIDS. Unable to stave off the smallest of infections, their bodies bore witness to the moral boundaries we had broken in sexual immorality.

I cannot claim virtue as the reason I survived, any more than they died because they were worse sinners than me. Mercy spared me from the judgment of an early death. Period.

The unrepentant are already under the judgment of sin and death. It lays claim to them unless and until we intercede and ask Mercy to intervene on their behalf.

Abraham pleaded for Sodom, a city rife with wickedness—arrogant, overfed, unconcerned for the poor, and devoted to homosexual lust. (Ez. 16: 49, 50) And God heard his cry for Mercy on behalf of the few righteous in Sodom. The Father sent two angels to warn righteous Lot and family to flee the city before He destroyed it as an act of judgment.

The men of Sodom tried to rape the masculine angelic messengers. Unsuccessful, the angels warned Lot of the impending doom of the city. Still, Lot lingered, as if he had lost his bearing in the sensual wickedness of Sodom.

As John Wimber said, ‘Sin makes us stupid’. This applies not only to our personal iniquities, but also to the impact of corporate sins around us, as was the case for the increasingly confused Lot.

According to Dale Anderson in his fine book Mercy Wins (Kansas City: Oasis Pub., 2010), mercy appears in Scripture for the first time in Gen. 19: 16:

‘When Lot hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and led them out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.’

God first employs his Mercy to enable faltering Lot to turn away from the wickedness of Sodom and toward a city of refuge. Mercy—in the form of the angels–liberated his turning. His wife was not so fortunate. She turned back toward Sodom, and died instantly. (Gen. 19: 26)

That can say three things for us: sin is mighty in its power to destroy lives, intercessory prayer is essential in asking God to mercifully save lives from judgment, and God acts on behalf of these prayers by offering sinners a way out through His Mercy.

Human will and effort has a place: we must respond to Mercy to be saved, and we the saved must pray for those who hang in the balance. Sodom warns us of the perilous state of the unrepentant.

‘Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.’ (Joel 3: 14)

‘Father, we cry out for loved ones in ‘the valley of decision.’ Would you act in Mercy on their behalf? Would You send Your angelic messengers to those who are faltering in sin, doomed for judgment? We do not know how to reach them; You do, so we cry out for Your Mercy on their behalf. We live only because of Your Mercy. Would you please have Mercy on our beloved ones, liberating their flight from judgment?’

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A Cup of Cold Water

International travel takes a toll; normally good attitudes threaten to become foul under the strain of disorienting circumstances.

The cry for mercy matters here: ‘O God, show Your infinite patience to this sinner, this grumbler, that I may in turn show some measure of patience and mercy toward the needy in this land.’

He always answers our cry for mercy. It is a prayer that guarantees His gracious response.

I remember an unusually long trip to New Zealand in which we did conferences on both islands, poured ourselves out in a weeklong training then faced a crisis in national leadership toward the end of our time there. I sat with my colleagues in a cold damp motel room and whined.

My good friend comically mocked my grumbling. We laughed, we prayed for mercy; He gave us His power, and helped us to help the New Zealanders sort out the crisis at hand. He gave us mercy

During our first couple of trips to a new nation, our hosts would arrange media events—TV or radio interviews, mostly Christian, mostly annoying. (Keep in mind at this point I am inclined to whine…) These were usually scheduled before our training times—early in the morning or during meals. The scrappy, rather make-shift state of their operations made it worse.

I remember a South African TV interview in which everything went wrong, technically-speaking. It took twice as long, and I thought to myself: ‘What’s the point? We are preaching to the choir here, and a not very vital choir at that—Christian ‘shut-ins’ who are reduced to watching this drivel in the wee hours of the morning. This is a complete waste of time.’

Media darling that I am not, I finished up and forgot about it.

About a year later, I was ministering to a friend back in the USA, a well-known Christian leader who was dying of AIDS. Few knew that was his condition: he had a brief history of bisexual behavior a decade earlier, contacted the virus then, and when it threatened his life, decided to not make public the reason why.

Obviously, he combated significant shame as he fought for his life. He was a fine and virtuous man who so valued the few who knew the truth and who gave him mercy in it.

What he told me that day changed my view of Christian media. It seems that about 6 months earlier he was passing though South Africa on a ministry trip; he began to get ill for the first time, and stayed a couple of nights in an airport hotel to rest before the long flight home.

Apparently, the Christian TV station played my interview over those two days. Each time he saw it, he received a washing of the Lord’s mercy. My televised words gave him grace and courage to cast off shame and prepare for the battle at hand. He thanked me profusely for extending mercy to him in those crucial days.

A grumbling minister hands a fellow struggler a cup of cold water. In spite of the interior attitude of the messenger, the message of mercy goes forth. Our God is gracious, so intent on releasing mercy to His thirsty that He will use anyone to extend it. That’s the mercy of God.

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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A Merciful Friend

Digging ditches for God’s mercy to flow into the desert of sexual and relational brokenness—hard work made joyful by amazing workmen.

No-one provoked more joy for Annette and me than partnering in ministry with Jonathan Hunter.

We met Jonathan early on at the Vineyard Westside; he saturated himself with our early expressions of ‘Living Waters.’ As one who came out of homosexuality, Jonathan progressed quickly in holiness.

He then sought to give himself generously to God’s purposes. AIDS became a huge ministry need at Desert Stream. Jonathan said yes to God and to us; he poured himself out to serve those who were at once seeking Jesus in their sexual brokenness, and dying. Jonathan organized teams of volunteers to pray for these ones, to help meet basic life-needs, and to serve the family surrounding them.

Amid it all, Jonathan discovered that years earlier he had been infected by the AIDS virus. The battle for life he was fighting for dozens of men became his own.

I cannot tell you how bravely and honestly faced this challenge. It became one of our most powerful rallying points as a staff—to pray that God in His mercy would sustain Jonathan’s life even as Jono continued to fortify many lives.

Our corporate cry for mercy at Desert Stream began to include those sick in body. We also began to see that sickness and death had a profound emotional component. With Jonathan’s help, we all began to realize that the ‘spirit of death’ sought to lodge itself in all of us through loss and disappointment–the pain and grief we can choose to not feel and express.

God was merciful to us through the gift of Jonathan Hunter.

On a deeply personal note, Jonathan was the first man who came alongside of me in ministry that I trusted completely. That was scary for me. I feared that I might need him too much. I feared that the walls I had maintained to keep me safe from sin and hurt, especially with men, would break. I feared that I would do damage to any man that I loved with my whole broken heart.

I even asked God to call Jonathan to serve elsewhere. God did not answer my prayer. In His mercy, God called me to serve alongside of Jonathan for twenty years. In so doing, I was forced to grow in love with a man—to emerge out of fear and immaturity and into authentic holy brotherhood.

Much has been made of ‘Jonathan and David’ as a model friendship; it has even been perverted by some as a model of biblical homosexuality. (Bleech!) Actually, Jono and I lived out its essence: we persistently strengthened one other to realize God’s best for each of our lives.

Jonathan is still a model of physical health (he will dance on both of our graves, according to Annette), and today pioneers his own ministry for those in any distress who need help ‘embracing life.’ (www.embracinglife.org.)

God’s mercy is embodied in Jonathan Hunter; bless you, merciful friend.

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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Desert Stream

Every Wednesday night for two years, we met in the home of a well-known interior designer. Charlie, along with many of his friends, was riding the first popular wave of gay activity on the West Coast. But after the disco and drug-induced orgies, these men and women cried out for mercy.

Our pastor, Kenn, had introduced us to Charlie, a new convert at our burgeoning Vineyard Church. Annette and I would drive down Wilshire in her Voyager, with varying degrees of tension between us; we were as anxious each week as we were expectant of the Kingdom.

In Charlies’ exquisite home, we would worship Jesus with simple songs, explore the truth of Jesus’ good will and purpose for the sexually-broken, and pray for each other, that God’s merciful Kingdom would come to each as (s)he had need.

God’s healing presence became greater than our shame and addictions.
Together, we discovered mercy: the transforming power of Jesus loosed through the advocacy of His community.

As He did to the Samaritan woman, Jesus met each one with ‘living water’. He challenged our defenses and fear of real intimacy. He freed us to confess our sin, the truth that in grasping after others we had forsaken Him, the spring of living water, and had dug our own wells, broken wells unable to hold water. (Jer. 2:13)

He began to heal us; we agreed with Him that we were valuable men and women whom He had created to contain and manifest His goodness. We were vessels of honor who He taught to honor one another genuinely, with our clothes on, our hearts intent on growing into maturity. Annette and I married after the first year of this group, and many in our large wedding party were its members.

We did not know in 1980 that the HIV virus was prowling through parties and discos, seeking to devour the unrestrained. AIDS had no name then; it succeeded to destroy many, including Charlie. He died with dignity: sober, sanctified, ready for home.

God wanted mercy, not judgment. (James 2:13) He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ez. 18: 32), and so He liberated ‘living water’ from the desert ground of a people intent on their own destruction.

He suffered and died to lay claim to that desert. He rose again to transform that desert into a place of life, health, and peace for them.

The ‘living water’ we discovered in the desert of West Hollywood is the essence of Christ Crucified and Raised—the river that makes all things new. ‘Where that river flows, everything shall live…’ (Ex. 47:9)

What a privilege to gather in West Hollywood at the onset of Desert Stream Ministries and what became the Living Waters program. What a privilege to be one of Jesus’ answers to the cry for mercy.

‘The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.’
(Is. 41:17, 18)

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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Together, We Discovered Mercy

30-years ago, ‘Living Waters’ surfaced in West Hollywood. The burning ground of lust and sexual confusion became a pool of God’s mercy.

Every Wednesday night for two years, we met in the home of a well-known interior designer. Charlie, along with many of his friends, was riding the first popular wave of gay activity on the West Coast. But after the disco and drug-induced orgies, these men and women cried out for mercy.

The Vineyard Christian Fellowship had just sprung up on the west-side of town. Annette and I began to date while attending that church. At the urging of our pastor, who introduced us to Charlie, we began to gather in his home—worshipping Jesus with simple songs, exploring the truth of Jesus’ good will and purpose for the sexually-broken, and praying for each other.

God’s healing presence became greater than our shame and addictions.

Together, we discovered mercy: the transforming power of Jesus loosed through the advocacy of His community.

As He did to the Samaritan woman, Jesus met each one with ‘living water’. He challenged our defenses and fear of real intimacy. He freed us to confess our sin, the truth that in grasping after others we had forsaken Him, the spring of living water, and had dug our own wells, broken wells unable to hold water. (Jer. 2:13)

He began to heal us; we agreed with Him that we were valuable men and women whom He had created to contain and manifest His goodness. We were vessels of honor who He taught to honor one another genuinely, with our clothes on, our hearts intent on growing into maturity. Annette and I married after the first year of this group, and many in our large wedding party were its members.

We did not know in 1980 that the HIV virus was prowling through parties and discos, seeking to devour the unrestrained. AIDS had no name then; it succeeded to destroy many, including Charlie. He died with dignity: sober, sanctified, ready for home.

God wanted mercy, not judgment. (James 2:13) He takes no pleasure in the death of anyone (Ez. 18: 32), and so He liberated ‘living water’ from the desert ground of a people intent on their own destruction.

He suffered and died to lay claim to that desert. He rose again to transform that desert into a place of life, health, and peace for them.

Living Waters is the essence of Christ Crucified and Raised—the river that makes all things new. ‘Where that river flows, everything shall live…’ (Ex. 47:9)

What a privilege to gather in West Hollywood at the onset of Desert Stream Ministries and what became the Living Waters program. What a privilege to be one of Jesus’ answers to the cry for mercy.

‘The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.’

(Is. 41:17, 18)

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