Tag Archives: Church

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Messy, Joyful Easter

I woke from a fitful sleep, jet-lagged and already critical of the things that awaited me at morning Mass. I countered with a prayer for humility and tolerance of things I dislike like dour congregants and uninspiring music. After all, it is Easter! Jesus is walking through walls and telling folks to get their hands off Him then insisting that they lay hands on Him—all kinds of messy, unpredictable stuff.

I cringed slightly as I eyed the cantor for the morn; golden in her intentions, her voice hurts me. As she geared up for the processional hymn, she appeared shaken like a diver peering into the pool below and realizing it may not be deep enough. But she soldiered on and was soon joined by the booming off-key voice of a visiting pastor whose joy in serving us that morning overtook all else.

His sheer exuberance invited us all in to celebrate: Jesus is alive, and that changes everything. Like my critical spirit. Listening to cantor and pastor make a joyful noise at once delighted and convicted me. God is so much bigger than my snide critique. He wants to blow open our defenses, walk through our walls, and rouse us to cooperate with Him in dissolving others’ defenses against the Holy One.

The pastor grinned from ear-to-ear as he showered us with the waters of cleansing (a cool Catholic thing for the several Sundays of Easter); I obviously needed to renew my baptismal vows that Sunday! And I found that if I sang along with the cantor during the offertory I could not afford to be critical of her. The pastor sermonized powerfully on how community is essentially for grasping the hope of new life—we behold the glorified One together. I was proud to be there.

I left Church joyful, expectant. I wanted to give new life away. Later on I ran into a guy whom I had met a few years back. At that time he announced to me rather arrogantly that he was a ‘gay Christian’ with a new boyfriend. Things had gone badly for him: I could tell from his few words and demeanor that he was suffering. Though he did not recognize me at first, I did him and I told him specific things I had not ceased praying for him in the last five years. He was speechless and teary-eyed.

Messy, joyful Jesus is on the move. Walk through walls with Him. It is Easter and that changes everything.

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Zeal for His House has Consumed Us (and our finances!)

We are on fire and need fuel to stoke the flames. Help us with a one-time gift.

Here’s the deal. We have been burning with passion for the Church as never before, starting with our 40-day fast last fall for the gender broken then blazing trails in congregations on the west and east coast. Most passionately, we fought hard to ignite a blaze smack dab in the middle. Our Gender Matters conference in February broke all expectations with over 20 different churches represented–both Catholic and evangelicals—from which two Living Waters groups started, upping our number to five churches now on fire to heal the broken in Kansas City.

We are burning! And broke. Last week we paid all of our debts only to discover we were overdrawn at the bank. In all of our fire-starting, we lost sight of how low our funds had become, resulting in pay cuts, failure to print valuable resources, and discouragement (if we let it). Bleech.

So help renew our passion. We are consumed with zeal for the Father’s house and seek only to burn brightly for Him, thereby starting a host of fires. We burn because you fuel us. Better put, God puts us on your heart and you throw a log on the fire. That’s how we blaze.

For over 38 years, Desert Stream Ministries has prayed, encouraged, and helped restore persons who realize only God can answer their deepest cries.

We are in need of $20,000. Please help.

Between now and November, we are gearing up for six week-long Living Waters Trainings throughout the world. A one-time gift would help us get our bearings and launch out with renewed passion. YOUR HELP MATTERS. Give today.

Please give a one-time gift of _______. May zeal for His house consume us afresh!

Andrew

 

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Behold the Lamb 6: ‘Having Nothing, Possessing Everything’ (2 Cor. 10:10)

Our Lenten offering is prayer for the whole, broken Church. Not so hard. We are wholly broken, full of faith, bursting with seeds of hope for her best and grateful to sow them in deep rich soil. We are nothing in contrast to how people rate greatness. But in prayerful response to His riches toward us, we have everything. We laugh: barren Sarah (Ge 18:12), David and his giants, a speck of mustard seed (Matt. 17:20), containing within herself a sheltering, towering tree.

So we are very bold to ask God to make His bride magnificent. Advocating for the abused, especially power abuse in which shepherds ruin sheep while saving their own hides, pleading for pastors whose pure hearts are drawn and quartered by unrelenting demands, summoning the sheep who wander alone due to mistrust and childish expectations: we take on Goliath on her behalf.

Our courage comes from the Source Himself, the River of Life loosed from Father and Son, now filling the temple (EZ 47). The beautiful thing about this Source of Living Waters? Any thirsty one can come (IS 55), and anyone can cry out for thirsty ones in peril (LK 11:5-13)—the smaller the better! We are very bold because we take Jesus at His Word, this beautiful God-man who joyfully declares: ‘I have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children’ (LK 10:21). We are bold because like children we don’t know how not to be. We ask straight from our hearts to the Heart whom we know listens and acts for those He loves. He loves us. He alone is the Father who does not disappoint.

Our main sorrow is for those wise and learned ones too big for Him. In our smallness, we cry out for the mercy that reduces kings to car-washers, cardinals to cashiers. Every Tuesday night this Lent we gather in a little chapel off the sanctuary and set up our Divine Mercy banner where Jesus summons us to His river of blood and water: ‘Come and drink, you thirsty; you without money, come, buy, and eat!’ As we sup and pray, the water levels rise and flow out to captives.

Funny. Each week as we prayed a popular speaker filled the sanctuary with hundreds receiving his inspired words. At once grateful, and gleeful over the irony of our small group of five face-down in the shadow cast by 300, we entered a chamber of His heart that renewed our fainting hearts. So much so that our words launched five times over like David’s five smooth stones (1 S 17:40), slaying giants.

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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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