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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Frank, Thanks

Last Saturday in San Rafael CA, I was privileged to be among those who memorialized Frank Worthen, father of ministries like Desert Stream.

“Frank possessed a profoundly Christian heart—as the Hebrews understood ‘heart.’ His good mind could apprehend the meaning of things, and his love laid hold of what is best and true about God’s creation. Frank fused wisdom and compassion; he gave us a glimpse of Jesus’ heart.

Frank loved California; he honored her history–some of it Christian (Mission San Rafael!), and all of it about people leaving their old lives and taking up a new vision or job or self. While others waited for California to quake and fall into the sea, he cherished CA, and believed that Jesus could shine through created things like the Palace of Fine Arts. To Frank, beauty conveyed an aspect of Jesus’ truth. So Frank’s heart never closed to San Francisco. He still believed for her.

Frank loved people, especially people with gender identity issues. Yes the Bay Area led the world in misinterpreting same-sex attraction and in creating over 50 ungodly gender selves, and yes, Frank always held out hope in the Bay Area for the real self in every LGBT-whatever pilgrim. Frank knew only Jesus could summon that self from the slumber of sin.

You see, Jesus did that for him, thoroughly. Jesus woke him up from his sleep unto death. Jesus made him alive through this Church of the Open Door, one of the brave churches that sprouted up along the CA coast like wildflowers in the ‘Jesus-people’ revival. Jesus made Frank new, and his youthful vision for how Jesus can make anyone new never dimmed. It grew more clear and merciful over time. He gathered a remnant from around the world, grateful faces that enhanced his vision; and his sight was refined by the rebellious majority who tried to gouge his eyes out, including former spiritual sons and daughters.

Jesus gave Frank a share in His heart. He faced resistance peacefully, aware that he battled for souls. God gave him spiritual sight about this battle. While Exodus was dying and Frank and Stephen Black and Anne Paulk started Restored Hope Network, Frank prayed to Jesus for direction and received an awesome vision of St. Michael the archangel –warrior prince of the heavenly host—who upon a huge steed plunged a lance through the devil in the form of a dragon.

Rev.12: 1-12 shows us what Frank saw: St. Michael leading the host of heaven to combat a furious Satan intent on destroying Mary, Jesus and all who would be saved by Him. This vision of a violent unseen battle being waged for souls reveals Frank’s mission. It highlights the enemy who employs gender identity confusion to divide and disrupt the saints, the tyrant who vents his rage by scrambling the Church’s witness of Jesus’ love for persons enslaved to lies about their gender.

That vision of St. Michael also points to Frank’s witness of transformation for persons with SSA. Rev. 12: 11 declares that the dragon is overcome by the ‘blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.’ Jesus entrusted this simple revolutionary plan to Frank. Others were called to do so in that same season; only Frank endured the necessary testing, took up the sword in the Spirit of St. Michael, and plunged it in the enemy’s side by declaring that the problem of homosexuality was no match for the saving love of Jesus.

God calls us to continue that battle—to push back the devourer by declaring the sufficiency of Jesus’ blood through the word of our testimonies. We are wise to honor the one who came before us. We express thanks by continuing the fight.

I close today by drawing a parallel between Frank and another angel, the angel Gabriel who announced to Mary that God had chosen to dwell with man through her womb, a plan unlike any other, which required her consent. Today, Sat. March 25, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates this feast of the Annunciation. I want to honor Frank for the Mary-like role he played in saying ‘yes’ to Gabriel and to God. Against all odds. He endured shame for the joy set before Him. As Mary became the human hinge for our salvation, we honor Frank today as the flesh and blood guy who first declared for us freedom from SSA, freedom for a life full of Jesus. Frank said ‘yes’, and that has made all the difference.”

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Best for Last

Around the same time (mid-seventies) and place (San Francisco) that Harvey Milk aspired to become the first openly gay politician in history and firebrand for ‘gays’ as a protected ethnic group, God plucked another brand out of the fire. Frank Worthen repented of an adulthood defined by homosexual pursuits and turned toward Jesus as the basis for a new life. Sourced in the deep well of his ‘Jesus-people’ community in Marin County, Frank began to minister to men and women who needed help bridging the gap between the ‘gay’ community and the Church.

‘Love-in-Action’ was born, the first formal ministry ever to expressly bridge such a gap. It was truthful, Spirit-inspired, and hammered by demonized Pharisees and immoralists ever since.

I first met Frank in the early eighties when I was at Fuller Seminary; he sought me out to give practical steps to his people on how to progress into healthy opposite-sex relating. Annette and I drove up from LA to his ranch in the bay area where we met him and his roommate/best friend, a longtime business partner who shared Frank’s sexual background but only marginally his faith. ‘No wonder he is asking me to teach THIS lesson,’ I thought as I considered what could be an impasse in Frank’s path to whole relating with women.

Don’t get me wrong. Frank was morally clear but still in process. Soon after, a prophetic friend challenged Frank: ‘You need to be open to all that God has in store for you!’ Anita was right around the corner.

The two first met at a conference in Oregon where Frank taught steps out of homosexuality and Anita, an earthy and fun single mom, wondered how she might best care for her ‘gay’-identified son. Like the clash of many strong-willed people, they liked each other as much as they did not. Through the sparks they fell in love, married.

I tracked with them only a little since that time. I simply know our efforts at Desert Stream draw life and strength from Frank’s faithfulness. The Worthens went ahead of us and a host of others to blaze a trail of hope throughout the world for persons impacted by SSA; they did so graciously while enduring more attacks than an entire book could contain.

Yet for me, ministry is not their main legacy. It is their love for each other.

Last year, I caught up with the Worthens in their ranch above Sacramento after Frank had a serious heart attack. It was beautiful to witness how a crisis could distill their devotion to each other, reveal its essence. While Frank napped, Anita confided in tears that her only desire was to give this man the full honor he deserved. Weakened by the prospect of loss, she feared her adequacy to give him his due. To honor him in life and in his passing impassioned Anita.

Frank recovered only to discover less than a year later that cancer was spreading throughout his body. Nothing could be done, so the two determined to enjoy their lives together on the ranch. I recently visited them again and when Anita left the room, Frank confided in me that his one desire was to leave Anita as financially secure and settled on the ranch as possible. While that desire tempted him with fear that he might fail her, it also motivated him to act and to succeed, one task at a time, to make a way for her future. He welcomes heaven, while laboring in love for his beloved. Not much else matters to Frank.

Frank’s days are in God’s hands. By the report of both Frank and Anita, these days together are their best ones. Peace prevails, and invites them to reflect on a life together that has created thousands of spiritual sons and daughters.

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Defenseless, Surrounded

‘Save me from the need to vindicate myself.’ St. Augustine

The Infant King provokes both the surrender of our defenses and the strengthening of them. Look at the response to His birth. Three kings cast their crowns down and worshipped Jesus; threatened by the fate of his crown, King Herod sought to extinguish Him. Read more »

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