Tag Archives: life

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Amazing, Glorious

‘All who heard from the shepherds were amazed.’ (LK 2:18)

‘Being Christian is encounter with a Person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’ Pope Emeritus Benedict

Are we still amazed by Christ’s coming into our lives? Believe me, if we are not amazed than no-one else will be either. We must move beyond Christmas—the coming of Jesus—into Epiphany, the shining of His Glory upon our genuinely amazing lives. Read more »

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Power to Change 3: The Awakening Church

communityChanging deep patterns of sexual desire, behavior and motivation require the support of an entire community: it takes a village, Jesus-style. Any program or therapy is only as good as the greater community of faith surrounding the one seeking change. Perhaps that is why the enemy of sexual integrity seeks first to divide and weaken the church. If Jesus’ body falters toward those with same-sex attraction, no community of healing exists.

But when local churches become advocates of grace and truth for the gender broken, healing rises like sun breaking through clouds. And I am pleased to say that the church is rising in this hour to mobilize for such healing. She has been provoked by ‘gay marriage’ victories, by the confusing face of once reliable ministries, and by the falling away of many whose sexual shame has now become their boast.

Most importantly, her faithful pastors have heard the cries for help from children and parents alike who have been afflicted by homosexuality, sexual abuse, and sexual addiction. In Jesus’ Name, these shepherds are arising to become an answer to the prayers of the faithful.

Take Pastor James Marocco and his large church on Maui with campuses throughout the Pacific Rim. God provoked him to act on behalf of his sexually broken congregants. We are privileged to help the church there initiate safe and deep healing opportunities for the broken. Marocco is not content to merely react to the moral crisis at hand. He is acting on behalf of the God who delivers those in crisis.

Similarly, Catholic leaders in Kansas and Missouri are mobilizing priests, lay-driven support groups, and community-wide forums to offer loving, truthful care for persons with same-sex attraction.

We at Desert Stream are fielding requests from churches throughout the USA who are seeking out healing opportunities for the sexually broken for the first time. They can no longer minimize the suffering of their people, as if the moral decay ‘out there’ does not impact the people in the pews.

Catholic and Protestant churches alike are raising up ancient foundations (Is. 58: 12) for very modern problems. They are intent on becoming the healing presence of Jesus for those who will perish without Him.

We are in a moral eclipse. Right is wrong, and those who disagree are vilified. Good people deceive many. But the deceiver himself is not greater than our God. Satan’s exploitation of ‘homosexuality’ will only provoke God’s people to become what Jesus intends for them—a truthful and powerful community of transformation. What the enemy intends for evil, the Lord turns around for good—‘the saving of many lives’ (Gen. 50:20)–through His holy church.

‘Arise and shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.’ (Is. 60: 1-3)    

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Power to Change 2: A Fortress of Friends

‘A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.
A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth.
A faithful friend is a saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds.
For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself.’  (Sirach 6: 15-17)

Fortress of FriendsThe journey out of homosexuality and into Christ-centered heterosexuality is unimaginable to many. That is apparent in the ludicrous way that the popular media frames ‘change.’ From cartoonish images of flipping off the ‘gay switch’ to ‘praying away the gay’ to intensive ‘camps’ that promise reorientation in a week, journalists seem intent on dismissing efforts to grow beyond the ‘gay self’ as nearly delusional.

What most fail to realize is that the journey to actually becoming a whole-enough gift for the opposite gender is a magnificent and arduous journey that cannot be reduced to a method. Rather, it involves a profound relationship with Jesus Christ. Through His advocacy, we can be reconciled to the intrinsic value and worth of our respective genders. Yes, we face real impasses to becoming the men and women of God’s design. Yet the fractured and shameful parts of our identities are no match for His power to redeem us. Such redemption is the task of His empowered Body, the Church.

Gender integration requires ‘grace with faces’: those walking partners we discover in the healing community who satisfy our deep longing for same-gender identification and intimacy. Here we discover the love/hate relationship we actually have with our own gender. Holy and humble friendships help us navigate the fear of rejection, the threat of desiring too much, and the surprise discovery that that we are actually good gifts to out comrades. Deeper still, we realize that our ‘homosexual’ needs are not erotic at all but rather deeply emotional.

These needs line up with how the book of Sirach describes real friendship: ‘a sturdy fortress’, ‘a life-saving remedy’, ‘a treasure, beyond price.’ These attributes describe beautifully my significant friendships. United in Christ, these comrades have freed me to be forthright, even painfully honest. Together we have discovered what it means to be men whose goal is faithfulness to Jesus Christ.

That is where Sirach’s emphasis on ‘the fear of the Lord’ comes in. Our fighting for the best in each other is informed by how God defines us. We offer great drafts of mercy to each other in our weakness. Yet such weakness also compels us to call each other onto the deeper, truer realities of God’s destiny for us.

Refusal to uphold a brother in truth is serious business. That is why many fall away. They define love as accepting whatever one wants at whatever point in time. Friends who fear the Lord know better. We know that to love another means to see him as God intends him to be. We become sturdy fortresses for one another, a life-saving remedy for those of us seeking to follow Jesus in a perverse, uncomprehending age.

‘Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.’ (Is. 32: 2)

 

 

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Provoking Life 3

‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ (Jn 12: 24)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEaster is best realized in contrasts. Like green shoots emerging from a burnt field, new life is most appreciated against the backdrop of loss. Easter invites us to consider what Jesus is raising up from the ashes.

I hope I am not being dramatic here. After all, Scripture implores us to count all things loss for the sake of knowing Him more. (Phil. 3: 7, 8) These losses may be deeply personal: long-held expectations and aspirations that we have forsaken for the Gospel. It can also be the disorientation we experience when those around us change. Familiar rallying points crumble before our eyes. We are left anxious and more alone, unsure of what lies ahead and of our capacity to make it through a new wilderness.

But Jesus is not shaken. The Risen Lord waits for us to look to Him in ways that we would not were the course familiar. Easter means looking only to Him. It is easy to deny ourselves when our maps and instincts fail. Fear can give rise to faith in the One who is Light in darkness, Truth in trembling, the Way in our wilderness.

As I have reflected upon this past year leading up to Easter. I have marveled at the shifts in my life that have grounded me deeper in Jesus. Admittedly, I have lived most of my adult life as a Christian in joyful conflict with the culture. Yet in the last year I have experienced more resistance to what I hold true than in the 32 years of ministry that preceded it.

What I know to be true is now denounced as false, even scandalous and inhuman. The majority cannot hear about the transformation of persons with same-sex attraction without the assumption that one is a liar, a brain-washer, a right-wing extremist, or at worst, an accomplice to the suicide of ‘gay’ kids who cannot endure such ‘hate.’

Through it all, my wife Annette and I draw upon the life Jesus gives us to love each other well. And to declare more clearly than ever the Way to wholeness for those broken in boundaries and gender identity. The contrast between truth and falsehood has never been sharper. So shall our witness be brighter in the light of our Risen King.

The other day I asked Jesus to show me whatever gain could be found in ongoing surrender to Him amid the devolving culture. Immediately, He showed me a body bursting with what looked like tiny bean sprouts. Teeming with new life, that body could not contain the new life planted there! I knew right away that these were seeds of truth and grace He had sustained for this hour. Through His faithful witnesses, He intends to unfurl every one for the restoration of many.

Annette and I just gathered with our main Living Waters leaders from around the USA  gathered to reveal Jesus to each other. Sure enough, the majority bore the marks of significant losses: broken fellowship with churches, leaders, and friends as a result of seismic shifts in attitude about homosexuality. But the broken ground of our lives together became rich soil in which crushed seeds of hope and healing emerged. Jesus made the blackened field green with new life. Living Water is transforming our ‘deserts’ into oases for many.

What mattered most in our fellowship was the witness of the Risen Lord who becomes our gain, and through us, gains a people for Himself. In this we provoke one another. We ache and articulate grief in order to make more room for Him and our fellows. He is galvanizing us for such a time as this.

‘May the thorns of sin which wound the human heart leave room for new shoots of grace, of God’s presence and love, which triumph over sin and death.’ – Pope Emeritus Benedict

 

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Reduced to Resurrection

easter-resurrectionDuring Holy Week a few years back, Sam (my youngest son) came home late. In simple desperation, he said to me: ‘I need Jesus. I need help.’ His drug problem was consuming him. In severe mercy, Jesus reduced him to new life. Sam had been baptized years before. Now he needed to be raised from the dead.

This Holy Week a pastor recounted to me the return of Kim, a congregant who had left her husband and kids years before for another woman. Her lover became physically violent and she returned to the Lord. Her family has moved on. Her help is Jesus, and a small band of Christians. Kim has no idea what His new life will mean for her now. She is reduced to Resurrection.

In this Easter season we can hold an overly facile view of the Living God. He can too easily become a familiar ‘life-source’, as natural as the flowers and birds of spring. We forget the shock: the challenge commanded by the Resurrection.

‘Resurrection proclaims true freedom’, says Barth, ‘and lets us painfully discover our prison chains. It tells us that the one and only refuge is God. It tells us that only because it shows us that all our positions on life’s battlefield are lost and we must vacate them.’

Kim and Sam know the lure and illusion of false defenses—drugs or sex or the faux justice demanded by the ‘gay self.’ These are strongholds that are only overcome by the Risen Christ. He waits patiently as we cling to our flimsy walls. Finally defenseless, we infidels hear again the song of the Beloved. The drone of despair and other demons cannot stifle that song. He won our hearts a long time ago and has never stopped singing. We are reduced to Love again.

I will never forget that season at University when the battle raged between the empowered ‘gay self’ and the dopey (it seemed to me) Christian one. One side had to give. The former seemed more powerful—fun and sexy and hip. Hanging out with the poor who clung to Jesus? Not so cool. But real, an authentic response to the God who I honestly believed was alive and calling me into a new life. He won because He is, and He graced me with the freedom to see ‘the gay self’ as a sophisticated defense against His call to follow Him nakedly.

No doubt, once we are reduced to Him, we need help from His Body to live out our repentance. It will take many turnings, many reductions until we are steadily on track. Kim, Sam and I know the detours. But more than those, we are learning to yield to the faithful Love that surpasses all other loves. We have become wise to our defenses and humble before the One who is the ‘anchor of our souls, sure and steadfast’ (Heb. 6: 19).

‘We must receive assistance from the ground up. Then the steep walls of our securities are broken to bits, and we are forced to become humble, poor, pleading. Thus we are driven more and more to surrender and give up those things which we formerly used to protect and defend and to hold to ourselves against the voice of the resurrection’s truth.’ Barth

‘Father, through the merciful wooing of Your Son, we entrust to You all those we love who are far from home. Forgive our striving. We trust in Your mercy alone. As You overcame our misery through Mercy alone, so we entrust our miserable ones to You. By Your grace, open their ears to hear Your song of love; sing them home. We know it will not be through our cajoling or a ferocious sermon that they will return. It will be the miracle of Mercy, the witness of Water in a dry and weary land. Make the burning sand a pool (Is. 35: 7), we pray.’

 

 

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