Last week the Church honored St. Barnabas, ‘the son of consolation and encouragement’ who empowered St. Paul to fulfill his mission to the Gentiles. Barnabas seemed little concerned with his success; though both he and Paul were granted apostolic titles (Acts 14:14), Barnabas ignited Paul then flamed out into early martyrdom. He did his part as a servant leader.
Also last week, we sponsored our sixth annual Living Waters Training in Latin America (Aquas Vivas), this time in Guadalajara Mexico. At the helm was Daniel Delgado. What struck me about Daniel’s leadership was the way he encouraged everyone to do his or her part. He rejoiced in others’ joy in serving Jesus. He served others without complaint in order to help ensure their success. He did not get lost in whatever losses he incurred. He is a type of Barnabas for Aquas Vivas.
This was only Daniel’s fourth Aquas Vivas Training. Up until two years ago, he struggled to speak Spanish. In a relatively short time he has integrated his Mexican-American heritage, now speaks in the tongue of his forefathers, and authentically embodies the Latino spirit.
It is natural for him to come alongside a range of Latin Americans who seek to offer their brokenness to Jesus and others; given his transgender background, Daniel knows how personal transformation of identity releases healing for all. Like Barnabas in Antioch, Daniel in Guadalajara ‘saw God’s grace at work and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart. For he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith’ (Acts 11:23, 24).
This was a hard year for Aquas Vivas. Our blessed friends in Puerto Rico were devastated by Hurricane Maria and are still mobilizing to continue the work of Living Waters there. (It is miraculous that the biggest delegation from the island came to be trained last week.) Yet other seasoned leaders could not join us due to unusual obligations or had moved onto other forms of service. At times I wondered if our Mexican plans would be realized. Daniel is a deep healer and hard worker but not an administrator per se. Could he pull this off?
Not alone. He assembled an amazing team of Aquas Vivas leaders from the Guadalajara area. Meric, Francisco, Veronica and Father Ricardo share Daniel’s heart of servant leadership while possessing gifts he does not. Together the team did an excellent job, so much so that I evaluate this training as the most peaceful and effective we’ve yet experienced in Latin America. A cohesive team, coordinated by a man motivated by others’ success: thank you St. Barnabas for your witness of encouragement. Thank you, Daniel, for embodying that witness.
‘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.
The rainbow protesters came as planned to our 6th annual Restored Hope Network Conference in San Diego last Friday, and as usual, barked more than they bit. (‘We’re queer, we’re here’; yeah, we know.) An activist warned RHN Director Anne Paulk: ‘You’re bigots, you’re hateful…we’ve taught our kids to love everyone.’ Huh. Apparently love applies to everyone but persons who take seriously the gender of their birth and who by God’s grace refuse to allow abuse, self-hatred, and LGBT fantasies to conceal their true selves. Speaker Janet Mefferd cited the ‘weirdly judgmental judgmentalism’ of the progressive set.
One could not stay mad for long. Guys in dresses and tutus marched alongside surly Black Lives Matter (?!) activists who threatened for a moment to block the church parking lot. The moment passed, the BLM folk left, and the motley crew ranted unfounded charges from wounded hearts for a couple of days.
We loved having them. Gender rebels came to Church! Where else will they hear how their Creator and Redeemer can love them into wholeness? Each speaker spoke beautifully about profound suffering, fruitful surrender to Jesus, and careful tending by His members. No hint of the Church imposing life-defying burdens on fractured persons: here God searches out lost ones, binds up wounds in a bond of love, and restores dignity by mobilizing these ones as part of His healing army. Formerly transgendered Linda Seiler and Daniel Delgado articulated brilliantly the sacredness of gender, no matter how tough that can be for a young twisted soul.
Jesus took the hit; He became that complex stronghold of sin (2Cor. 5:21) for Linda and Daniel. For us all. He assumed upon His chaste shoulders all our rants and filth and confusion; in dying for us, He broke the slow death pervading our lives. He now lives to give us new lives, and to make them matter for others. The joy, the humility, and the gratitude we embody have power to endure.
We endure to take the hits. Joined to our Head and to one another, we are privileged to be the targets of darkened hearts. They misunderstand Jesus; they misunderstand us. They transfer their torment onto God and His people. No servant is greater than his Master. ‘If the world hates you, keep in mind it hated Me first’ (JN 15:18). We are privileged to shine like stars as we reflect His glory to a broken generation (Phil. 1:15).
PLEASE NOTE: Andrew will be on vacation from everything including blogging until late July.
‘After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied.’ (IS 53:11)
God surrenders to man’s sin and death in order to vanquish his sin and death. Forever. Today and for as long as we live on earth, Jesus desires that our lives declare that truth. He is reunited with the Father! He lives to intercede for us! He pours out His Spirit upon us continuously, and provokes us with the fruit of His suffering–the expansive, generous, inclusive union He now shares with His Father: Raised Son and Proud Papa! We are invited into His reunion—Jesus our brother, God our Father, the Spirit uniting us and making us fully alive. He did not suffer in vain. He is satisfied to the extent that our lives declare this union of Life!
My friend Jonathan Hunter gets this. Raised from the dead of homosexual sin, drug addiction, and the HIV virus (before effective treatment existed), Hunter discovered how Jesus gives us a new lease on life, regardless of one’s ‘prognosis.’ He grew up with a familiar mindset of darkness and impending dread. In Christ, Jonathan discovered that this ‘spirit of death’ need not master him anymore. The Risen Christ is the ultimate grave robber! Jesus has broken death’s grip on Jonathan and all who wrestle with despair. Forever. ‘By His death, Jesus destroyed him who holds the power of death—the devil—and freed those who all their lives were held in slavery by fear of death’ (Heb. 2: 14, 15).
While we were in transit at the Geneva Airport, Jonathan received a vision of Jesus routing Satan by storming the gates of hell and bringing with Him a host of people who had been trapped by death in underground caverns. Liberated, these former captives lived to declare the power of what He won for them! Hunter understands better than anyone that Jesus stormed the gates of hell in order to get us out of there. Is this what Matthew meant when he wrote that at Jesus’ death ‘the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people were raised to life…after the resurrection, they appeared to many people’(Matt. 27:52, 53)?
Jesus appears today through an empowered, radiant people free from the spirit of death. My friend Daniel Delgado lived under death’s shadow through a mentally ill, suicidal mother; he escaped into homosexual and transgender fantasy. While identifying as a woman and participating in drag shows, he witnessed a culture of death as friends died young, tragically. That spirit of death hunted down Daniel but Jesus’ Spirit was stronger. Jesus met him through engaging Christians who helped rescue Daniel from an early eternal death.
Today Daniel lives to make Jesus known. He recently had the privilege of ministering to a teenager intent on becoming a woman and unraveling in every way. Daniel emboldened him with the truth of how Jesus saved him—granting him union with the Father and the gift of his own identity as a son. He asked the young man if he wanted that love and that freedom. In light of Love, the young man saw his deception and cried out for mercy. Jesus gave it. He did not suffer in vain. He lives, and is satisfied by us who live to declare eternal Life.