Tag Archives: Gender Matters

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Living Bread, for the World

Long before I centered on the Eucharist as the focus of worship—the real meal that Catholics celebrate–I understood this breaking of bread as how us saints can make known our brokenness to each other in fellowship. ‘Communion’ involves just that—gathering in community before the Crucified in order to place our wounded lives in His. Somehow, He takes the edge off our edginess and makes us better gifts for the world—a little more humble, clear, and merciful.

The meal we share isn’t an official sacrament but rather the common grace of the ‘one another’ that somehow gives us a share in Jesus’ words (Jn. 6:51): ‘I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’

When we gathered in Philadelphia last week for a ‘Gender Matters’ conference, I wondered who would break bread with us. I don’t know many Catholics there (it was sponsored by the Diocese) and I’ve little marquee value. Praise God.

How surprised I was to discover a host of hungry, humble saints from that area who came together to ‘eat’ with us that day—to go further along the little way of offering our wounded lives to Jesus and each other so He can season and solidify us—at least enough for us to convert the world rather than be converted by it! My fear turned to faith as I met person after person whom Jesus had connected to us through one person who knew another person who knew another, etc.

This is the miracle of Jesus’ Church composed of His many members—little grains of wheat, each one, crushed in surrender to Jesus and releasing many seeds in the dying that bears much fruit (Jn. 12:24), especially when we gather in order to become ‘living bread’ together.

The miracle of many members—Archbishop Chaput blessed our gathering as he trusted my colleague Marco Casanova who just finished seminary there in Philadelphia. With Chaput’s go-ahead, Marco began to connect with friends in the area who loved Marco and wanted to know what he was up to. I had come often to Philly to be converted by Christopher West and company (their take of St. John Paul ll’s work is splendid) so he did his part to direct friends our way, including his parents and sister who are now charter members of our Living Waters family. At West’s Institute, I had met moral theologian and bioethicist Dr. John Haas who I respect more than almost any other, so I was incredulous when he agreed to open our meal with a word on the dignity of gendered humanity that blew everyone away.

Especially lovely was a table full of radiant nuns—aptly called the Sisters of Life—who were directed there by my best friends in New York City, Joe and Anne Nolte, who know all about me and love this work anyway! We were hosted in the parish of Monsignor Hans Brouwers who had started Courage in Philadelphia years earlier; his still vital, fatherly advocacy was healing for all of us. We love Courage and took heart in partaking of their pioneering efforts in Philly. Friends from Baltimore who love Courage and Encourage joined us too, as did some cool evangelical friends of Abbey from her Penn State days.

Many more to name, no more room. It is enough to say that Jesus is joining His members together to become a fragrant, nutritious loaf of ‘living bread.’ He is doing it! We need not fear; let us rather behold the Spirit as He unifies saints who together are turning outward to become the ‘real meal’ for a world that will choke on its own poisons until we become what we eat—the healing body of Christ, broken for the world.

Bless you all. Please join us for our forty-day-fast: ‘Becoming Good News’ for the lost and the least, beginning October 16th. More on this next week!

You can purchase “Becoming Good News” in book form directly from Desert Stream or get it from Amazon for your Kindle.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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At Risk

‘If our Gospel is hid, it is hid toward those who are perishing’ (2 Cor. 4:3).

An outraged congregant railed at Pastor Patrick on the eve of our Gender Matters conference at his church: ‘This isn’t one of those “pray away the gay” groups, is it?’ Unflinchingly, the good pastor responded: ‘Yes, our church believes in the power of prayer for all broken persons seeking Jesus.’

Worldly Christians—more influenced by snide soundbites from the Internet than by the Kingdom of God—now contribute to the din of unbelief and popular ‘born- that-way-can’t change-anyway prejudice that surround persons with gender identity problems.

In failing to extend God’s Kingdom to those at risk, worldly Christians risk the loss of that Kingdom. Their light dims, the snap of their salt dulls.

Hopefully, the overreach in the California legislature of AB 2943 gives all Christians the chance to wake up and forego this compromised, guilt-by-assimilation mindset toward persons with same-sex attraction and gender dysphoria. Together, let us burn off lies by reigniting these three truths:

First, persons most at risk in their gender identities need the Kingdom of God more than state-mandated identity formation, e.g. you must embrace your ‘gay’ or ‘trans’ self. Only the Father through the Son and by His Spirit can confirm true identity. This is the business of the Church and the cure for the fractured heart.

Second, persons most at risk in their gender identities are helped far more than they are hurt by the Church. In the same breath that we acknowledge our failures, we declare it libelous to frame faith communities as rife with fraudulent ‘conversionists’ who impose impossible burdens on the vulnerable. I work with hundreds of churches in California where I witness humble groups who welcome all persons who know they need the Savior. California is especially adept at providing multiple onramps for seekers to receive blessing, belonging and transformation through Jesus represented well in His yielded members.

Third, persons most at risk in their gender identities are not well-served by the lie that drives AB 2943, namely, that persons who seek change in their desires will hurt themselves because change is impossible. That is patently untrue: not just questionable science but fraudulent science. In ‘Ex-Gays?’ (IVP, 2007), the impressive book that details the best ‘longitudinal study on religiously mediated change in sexual orientation’, Drs. Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse make clear that people can and do experience change in their sexual desires and identity, and that seeking such change does not incur harm. Check it out.

The bias against change for an ‘at risk’ people now drives the psychological community which fuels the LGBT+ political caucus that leads the California legislature by the nose. Persons most at risk lose options that could set them free.

Christians, wake up. Arise out of your risky state–your agreement with popular lies. Burn again with the truth, endowed with power, to secure at risk persons in holy love.

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Why Gender Matters 6: Heavenly Bodies

Every Sunday I am blessed by a young family of six who typically sit in the pew in front of me. Far from being bothered by the squirms, yawns, and fights that erupt in the service, I relish them. I marvel at the two parents who patiently adjust attitudes and seating; through this prism of life, I behold the Cross and the communion meal and realize this is what is all about—a man and a woman submitting to each other out of reverence for Jesus (Eph. 5:21) and making a way for younger lives to do the same.

I think of our grown children scattered throughout churches in Kansas City and trust that Annette and I did something similar for our family.

Gender difference–and harmony in that difference–points beyond itself; it offers us a glimpse of heaven. Rightfully ordered, the dance of maleness and femaleness—desire and restraint, initiative and response, fruitfulness and frustration—gives us a window to our cosmic destiny.

Let me explain. We are made in His image as male and female. Biblically, we don’t know much more about that ‘image’ except that it is a gendered reality. God chooses to represent Himself in the duality of man and woman together, unity within difference. After we discover this gendered image of God in humanity (Ge. 1 and 2), God is imaged throughout Scripture as essentially masculine in that He initiates relationship with His people (Israel, the Church, etc.) and is likened to a father/husband/lover to His people who are primarily defined in feminine terms–as responders to His love.

So Scripture highlights divine initiative and human response. The latter is not inferior to the former. Both are essential to revealing the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus is responsive, and in that sense ‘feminine’ in relation to His Father—He does only what the Father says and does (JN 8: 26-29). And Mary’s ‘yes’ to God is heroic, the courageous response that sets in motion Jesus’ saving love for all.

Jesus takes this to a new level by defining Himself as a bridegroom to a bride (MK 2:19), a reality that St. Paul capitalizes on in Eph. 5: 22-37 when the apostle likens a man’s servant initiative toward his wife—and her respectful response—as a window to the spousal love that Jesus possesses for His church, a consummation that is a future reality—the feast where the Lamb unites Himself wholly to those He loves (Rev. 21: 1-4). That’s why Christopher West says that marriage is the trailhead to the ‘summit’. That summit is heaven—the wedding feast–our ultimate union with Jesus.

Here we enter into sacrament—in this case, the fusion of body, soul, and spirit in lifelong communion between a man and woman. Marriage helps make concrete and tangible something real but unseen; as a sacrament, it points beyond itself and helps us apprehend an otherwise mysterious spiritual reality.

I marvel at the power of holy and harmonious love between a man and a woman. We are all aware of the power of broken marriages to shatter faith and true spiritual sight. How much greater is the power of faithful love, with all of its frustrations, between husband and wife? Annette and I grow more appreciative of each other as the years pass. We laugh more and bristle less at each other’s quirks and are grateful for the constant ‘yes’ we give each other in season and out. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Through our reliance upon divine advocacy, I pray that our human love becomes a clearer window of heaven for others.

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Splendor of the Kingdom 2

We gathered for our Gender Matters conference in New York City last weekend (soon to be in Kansas City February 10, sign up now!); the Holy Spirit flooded us like a river overflowing onto parched land. He is re-awakening our call to live the-truth-in-love and so authenticates our claim that Jesus makes a better way for the sexually broken.

As Pope Francis says in ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, this can only be accomplished through ‘a radical openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.’ At core, this is nothing less than the core message of the Gospel, which is at once simple, countercultural, and full of joy. We discover that our joy hinges upon responding to His whispers, and on trembling legs advancing His reign where He leads.

Prior to the conference, the Holy Spirit led me to two men with a small child. They were ‘gay’-identified and ‘parents’ of this adopted boy. God gave me His heart for this child; I realized at once that we have a responsibility to such kids. I spoke with the pair about how much Jesus loved them all and had special plans for the boy, a divine paternal desire to confirm him as His beloved. When they said they did not believe that way I said with joy: ‘Well, we all have ideas but none change the fact that Jesus is real and has a great plan for this kid that is greater than your plans!’ I couldn’t believe I said it. Yet the Spirit gave me joy, which enabled them to hear.

We proceeded to our conference where beautiful, broken Christians from around New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut gathered to become better news for persons with gender identity problems. From a host of brave churches, they like us are surrounded by the dull attitude that to be moral is to accept blandly whatever destructive choices others makes on the grounds of ‘love’ and ‘freedom.’ These believers know better and are crying out: ‘Holy Spirit, show us the better way to bring Jesus’ merciful reign to our friends who are self-destructing!’

Two realities were evident: we the saints are so broken! The church who hosted us had a huge cross before which we gathered and simply wept over our own sins and wounds, mostly traditional in nature. We are all victims and perpetrators. Our pain was based on a host of regrettable ways in which we have been complicit with deceived friends and family; crying ‘peace when there is no peace.’ Or the ways we have accommodated our ‘normal’ idols and addictions when Jesus wants to break our chains so we can be free to bring the Kingdom to the enslaved. He did it! His Presence for deliverance was evident and effectual.

The reality of our brokenness was surpassed by His power. Through the good teachings and testimonies, it was obvious that the Spirit is raising up an army of men and women for whom Jesus’ loving kindness is better than anything else in this life (PS 63:3). We live only to make Him known, joyfully, and with humble reliance upon each other. For the first time in years, I wanted to linger with all the saints in the church afterwards. My weariness was eclipsed by the beauty of this Gideon’s army. Jesus Himself is empowering us in our many weaknesses ‘to rout foreign armies’ (Heb. 11:34). We are His members, wholly submitted to our Head, and we will turn the tide of deception on waves of Almighty Mercy.

Please join us in Kansas City for our next Gender Matters on Feb. 10th. Become a part of God’s healing army for broken persons you love. Sign up now!

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Why We Must Make Our Marriages Work

Married couple Ed and Christine opened our Gender Matters conference in Pasadena last week; they spoke frankly about how Jesus and His Church were helping them to be good gifts to each other in light of fears and failures.

Healthy marriage is the foundation on which we as a community can call all persons to chastity—to rightful integration of our gender, as well as the self-control and confidence to offer ourselves to the other’s good. If Christian marriage falters, we as the Church have little authority to call persons fueled by LGBT+ fantasies to chastity.

How so? Today’s new freedom to change one’s gender or to seek to transcend gender altogether did not just appear out of nowhere. Perhaps it is sourced in our ‘no-fault’ divorce culture in which men and women sacrifice their children on the altar of broken vows, the snappy way we become one then tear ourselves from the other when things get rough. ‘Rough’ means disillusionment of many kinds—usually sourced in the perception that this one did not deliver the goods. So we move on. We create our own freedom distinct from Jesus’ stern warning that ‘what God has joined, let no-one tear apart’ (Matt. 19:6).

Today we employ ‘grace’ to give Christians the freedom to break vows and re-engage with sexier models as if God was giving them a ‘second chance.’ I marvel at our indiscriminate use of Scripture, our consumer mentality, our disregard for the spouse, and especially for the children of divorce who have no voice. In the wise words of Dr. Rebecca Morse: ‘We give adults every liberty they want then leave kids to take whatever these adults want to give them.’

We create our own freedom. On the fault-line of ‘no-fault’ divorce, a person with same-sex attraction creates his own ‘gay’ destiny; a woman seriously unhappy with her gender begins to transition to another ‘self.’ One false freedom does lead to another. And at our core, we know that our compromise chokes our witness of the goodness of God’s order—the Cross that enables us to stay true to what He asks of us and all of creation.

So we go back to the Source—Jesus and His effectual call to make our marriages work. A panel of 4 couples—two touched by good old traditional idolatry and two by same-sex idolatry shared incisively at our Living Waters Leadership Summit last weekend. They spoke joyfully of love and pain and the power of Christ to release them over and over to fulfill their vows. He is faithful to those who choose the other’s good. And who humbly enlist fellow members of Christ in order to do so. More than anything, we want Living Waters to strengthen chaste ‘gift-giving’ and so strengthen the whole Church to enjoy the freedom of God’s commands.

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