Tag Archives: Church

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

November 19, 2014: A Chaste Messy Bride

‘Instead of a Church which clings to its own securities, I want one that is bruised and hurting because it has been out on the streets…’ Pope Francis (EG 49)

How do we as the Church fulfill Jesus’ call to love sin-broken people in a way that frees them to let go of that sin? The Gospel witness is evident: in the face of Pharisaic scrutiny, His passion for the unclean makes them pure. His Presence delivers the Magdalene of her demons, draws the prostitute who weeps in remorse at His feet, and commands the adulterer to ‘sin no more’ after her accusers have dropped their stones.

Jesus plows a furrow line straight down the radical middle. Between bad religion and sins of the flesh, His Almighty mercy liberates repentance—the sinner’s obedience to the demands of the Kingdom.

Moral Conservatives tend to err on the side of self-preservation: we are saving our good traditions for a generation-to-come. Or maybe for ourselves. We fear the Church’s conversion to a gender-scary culture. And frightening it is: justice is now defined as redefining marriage and recreating ourselves in the gender that today feels right to us.

Amid such idolatry of ‘self’, we wax fearful and alert the faithful to the doom-and-gloom at hand. Unwittingly, we hide our Gospel from the perishing. The very generation that needs a life-preserver finds the ark closed. All they hear is the demonically-amplified: ‘Christians hate LGBTUVWXYZ…’

Arguably, the liberal arm of the Church has already been converted. For them, love means ‘never having to say you are sorry’ for leaving one’s spouse of decades for a ‘gay’ lover, for cutting off one’s breasts or penis in search of the ‘true’ self, or for a host of heterosexual misdemeanors (cohabitation, porn, fornicating, affairs.) Justice is about inclusion, not the Cross that cost Him everything and that demands we pick up ours and follow Him, a trek made possible only with empty hands.

Liberals become unclean to welcome the unclean. Conservatives strive for purity and alienate the impure. How about becoming like Jesus, utterly pure through His mercy and utterly broken for the broken, so much so that we make a place in our hearts and in our churches for them?

That will require two things: first, a fearless belief in the power of Jesus to convert the morally lost through His Spirit and love. That means we trust that their misdirected spirits will not overpower the Church but in time will surrender to Holy Love.

Secondly, that surrender will require of us trust and time and more mercy than we have. It will require our surrender to Jesus and His Love. It will require that we the chaste get dirty. It takes more love to bear with an impure person in the truth of chastity than it does to relent to their futile self-definitions and relationships.

We need contexts in the Church where the sexually broken can work out their questions and challenges with persons who get their struggles and who have power in the Spirit through their own clear spirits to bring clarity. Courage groups, Living Waters, and other thoughtful small groups are now essential to the church or diocese wanting to help sexual sinners.

Bishop, pastor, and laity must labor together with and for real sinners. We must become a chaste and messy Bride in order to please the Bridegroom.

‘Jesus took sexual sin very seriously. He regarded sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage as capable of jeopardizing one’s entrance into the Kingdom of God…What distinguished Jesus was His incredibly generous spirit toward those who had lived in gross disobedience for years. He expended enormous efforts and exhibited great compassion in His search for the lost.

Jesus’ ministry proves that the Church can practice radical love without sacrificing God’s demand for righteous conduct…When either love or righteousness is sacrificed, the Church proclaims a truncated Gospel.’ Dr. Robert Gagnon

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Georgia, Bev Gammalo – Coordinator: For strength and vision for Bev, for existing groups and to see new groups established.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Miguel & Elisabeth – Coordinators: Direction for timing and team for future groups as they finish second ContraCorriente pilot with church leaders.
  3. Restored Hope Network: For Anne Paulk, as Executive Director, protection and provision for her and her three sons and extended family.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 16, 17, 18, 19

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November 7, 2014: Fearful Bride

‘If we are to evangelize the “prostitutes and sinners,” it demands that we be secure enough and mature enough in our own freedom to not be evangelized by them.’ Christopher West

Exposed by loving eyes and primed with living water, the Samaritan ‘bride’ raced off to tell others the good news about Jesus. Newly kindled faith made her fearless. All she wanted was for her friends to know ‘this man who told me everything I ever did.’ (Jn 4:29)

And guess what? ‘They came out of town and made their way toward Him’ (v.30); many became believers as they heard Him and attested to the fact that ‘this man really is the Savior of the world.’ (v.42)

Jesus really is the Savior of the world—beautiful and strong enough to draw real sinners and transform them through the miracle of His dynamic presence. On paper, few Christians disagree with this but in practice we doubt His power. What else explains our fear-based approach to sinners?

I have seen a retreat among many colleagues of mine in the day of ‘gay marriage’ and litigation for any act that can be interpreted as ‘anti-gay.’ Our blogs and Facebook posts are full of disturbing new gender-bending advances. We talk about the holy remnant, the shrinking faithful, and the need for higher firewalls to protect the few from infection.

False liberties tempt us to create a ‘we-them’ mentality. When we conceive that temptation, the faithful retreat in fear and strategize ways that the church can withstand the deluge. I understand this, and some caution is not unwarranted. The gay agenda is just that and seeks to rout out truth, especially from the church.

But the Church is the Church, against which hell will not prevail. We have Jesus’ transforming beauty on our side! We do not need to construct a more water-tight ark; we need to equip and commission simple rescue boats to save lives enslaved by many lovers. I am convinced that a generation weaned on gay-friendly everything is crying out for living water. ‘Gay’ freedom kills. Jesus saves.

Weary veterans of the culture wars need to reenter the waters of Life again. Like the Samaritan ‘bride’, we need to hear the voice of the One who exposes our fearful, self-protective ways and who gives us mercy in exchange. Let mercy alone guard us. May mercy overcome fear and motivate us to proclaim the freedom only Jesus Christ offers.

‘There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives our fear…The one who fears is not made perfect in love.’ (1 Jn 4:18)

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. Northern California: Peter Kockelman – Coordinator: For continuing strength and vision for Peter and group leaders in the region.
  2. Living Waters Lithuania: For the Lord to continue to strengthen and protect the leaders Vilma Karveliene and her team; for translation of the revised Living Waters guidebook to go forward smoothly.
  3. Encourage: Bob and Susan (National Overseers) – For grace to equip and unify chapters of Courage around the country.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes            a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR NOV. 4, 5, 6, 7

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November 1: Becoming Icons

‘Let us consider how we may provoke one another to love and good deeds.’ (Heb. 10:24)

We go through the fire of God’s refining love in order to know Him more. We endure the shame of exposing our idols to Him and to others so we can be whole; our integration as persons depends on worship of the true God, not many false ones. We admit our losses and disappointments, especially with the Church, in order for God to tenderize our otherwise hardening hearts.

The result of love’s fire? We become more like Him, clear-enough icons who can reveal Jesus to our fellow Christians. Together, we iconic ones display a radiant mosaic to a world who will perish without us. That’s right: without the revelation of a trustworthy, welcoming Church, the world has not a chance.

Still enslaved by devotion to mere creatures, I beheld the witness of my two brothers who had become Christians. Lit from within, their sullen, bullying tendencies began to change; they became kind and caring, concerned for my well-being rather than mocking my gender brokenness. They became iconic. Jesus drew me to Himself through their transformed lives.

Many years later, having been subject to many refining fires, I still need icons. I meet regularly with a small team of people, including my beautiful wife, who prayerfully direct our ministry. They love me well. Each has witnessed my weaknesses in pitiful action and yet has not rejected me. Instead, they have sought to shore up our efforts with compassion, humble service, and the occasional correction. That team is nothing less than Jesus to me.

Welcoming icons, I become one myself. I marvel at how God employs me to call captives out of exile. He uses my imperfect presence to reveal Jesus to persons far away. A few days ago, I ran into an old friend who had apparently fallen away from the faith. The ache in his eyes conveyed how badly he wanted to come home to Jesus. By the end of our brief encounter God had enkindled a holy fire in his heart.

God refines us to make us pure-enough conduits of His mercy. We are each stained glass windows: glorious colors a bit muted by the sorrows of life and yet uniquely tinted by them. In the light of His love for us, these colors blaze and ignite saints and sinners alike. Nothing surpasses the joy of revealing to others the One who called us out of darkness and into His glorious light (1 Pet. 2:9).

‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as we see the Day approaching.’

(Heb. 10:25).

Please join us as we pray for:

  1. South, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Dean Greer – Coordinator: For new regional leadership to be identified and raised-up, for existing groups and to see new groups established.
  2. Aguas Vivas: Baja California and Cuernavaca, Mexico: Guidance, wisdom and stamina for Maite at DSM/LW as she encourages and helps leaders to start ContraCorriente groups
  3. RHN: Transforming Congregations, Karen Booth, Monroe, WI: Continued healing and recovery from knee surgery. Refreshment and revitalization during four months of sabbatical, 9/14 – 1/15. Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, Regina Griggs, Reedsville, VA: For the fulfillment of the Lord’s purposes for the ministry.

“Courage for Pastor Phil Strout (National Director of Vineyard USA), that he would ensure that the Church becomes a clear fountain of transformation for persons with same-sex attraction!”

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLOGS & PRAYER POINTS FOR OCTOBER 31, NOV. 1, 2, 3.

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Hungry for Your House

‘Zeal for Your house consumes me.’ (PS 69:9; JN 2:17)

During our forty days of ‘Pierced for the Bride’, we shall ‘fast’ lesser loves in order to know Him more. But in this case, intimacy with Jesus is unto a particular end. We will ask Him for His heart for His house, the Church. We avail ourselves to the Bridegroom to receive His affection for the Bride.

The truth is: we are His bride. Yet we often fail to recognize who we are as the communal object of His deepest desire. In turn, we often fail to behold in our fellow Christians the gracious, fragrant presence of Jesus. We need Jesus to awaken in us His love for the Church.

Even in our brokenness, we have not ceased to be beautiful in His eyes. In truth we betray Him over and over in His body. Yet He hopes and endures and bears all things for us; how can we not ask Him to help us persevere in love for one another (I COR 13:7)? It is all too easy to split the perfect Jesus from His scandalous Church. May it never be! Let us instead collaborate with the Bridegroom and seek to become humble and strategic lovers of the Bride.

I want to say when I see Him face-to-face: ‘I loved her whom You love most, and have done what I could to prepare her for Yourself.’ Practically, that means we shall pray for our churches and regions, and in particular for various ministries like local Living Waters groups that aim to help the Church restore broken ones. Set free by the Bride, we in turn become her champions, devotees of the Bride who hunger and thirst for her righteousness.

Hunger we must. If the Church fails to arise into the glorious healing community of Jesus’ design—mighty in truth and grace—then the multitudes crying out for God in their distress will not be saved. We are Jesus’ saving arm!

Let us hunger for what the Church can be, and with all we possess answer Jesus’ prayer when He implored the Father: ‘I have given them the glory that You have given Me that they may be one as We are one: I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me…’ (JN 17: 22, 23)

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friend john by andrew comiskey untrained eye

Friend John

How do you love someone whose self has become a defense? My friend John found it easier to present outrageous escapades than the longings of his heart. At times we wondered: are gay sex and drugs really that important to him? We needed mercy to remind ourselves that the real John was much more than both.

I first met John 35 years ago, before AIDS even had a name. He then lived in West Hollywood from which he bounced to San Francisco then back, a ricochet driven by failed attempts at rehab and happiness. Read more »

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