Tag Archives: Los Angeles

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Living Hope

‘Jesus, You are everything to a lonely soul.’ St. Faustina

Mark was among the brightest of Living Waters’ young lights; he faced his same-sex attraction squarely and well with a similarly motivated group of men and women in Los Angeles. He left for China to fulfill God’s call on his life (he had studied Chinese and Asian culture at university). As he was learning Mandarin, Kim from Northern China was majoring in English. She came to the same metropolis in China where Mark had just found a job as an English teacher. They met without sparks at the first Living Waters group run in that city.

Much to my surprise, I reconnected with Mark there; my sister and husband were on job assignment in that city, attended the church sponsoring Living Waters and alerted me to the group starting. I just happened to be elsewhere in Asia and managed to combine a family visit with the launching of the group. Marvelous.

Mark poured himself out in the healing culture of Living Waters but lived and worked far from the sponsor church. In truth, the good news of Living Waters in the city dimmed as he faced what it meant to assimilate into a culture founded on words and habits not yet his own. He had few local friends and frustration with local churches wary of his presence. Lonely and feeling powerless, he descended into Jesus and wondered if He could be everything for him.

Blessed by Living Waters, Kim deepened intimacy with Jesus but remained uncertain about her relational future. She grew up in a household that dishonored women, a theme played out daily in her job with an organization that helped prostitutes get off the streets and into other work.

Mark and Kim met again at the going-away-party of the coordinator of the Living Waters program they had both attended two years earlier. They were different people, Mark humbled by hardship and alive to her beauty, Kim seeing him as the radiant man he is for the first time. They began dating and worshipping together; after two years of falling and rising in love, they discerned their readiness to fuse lives in Chinese, for a people for whom Christ gave all.

I recently reengaged with them a couple months after their wedding. The grace of marriage has enlivened them. Kim said that that she ‘had never imagined how good life could be; Mark honors me, and that gives me hope for all, especially the women I work with.’ Mark: ‘I wake up and feel full. My same-sex attraction has diminished as we go deeper in God together. Rather than fear not being enough for Kim, I have more to give.’ Jesus gives generously through marital love. Who He has joined, let no-one divide.

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At Peace In War

As ‘gay pride month’, June always provokes a kind of dread in me. This month started out with a bang—a federal appeals court struck down the existing federal law defining marriage solely between a man and woman. Gay pride will swagger throughout the month, amplified by fawning journalists.

Many see the end in sight: finally, our nation is recognizing that homosexuality is a moral good—utterly normal, utterly on par with heterosexuality as solid ground for marriage and family.

Utter nonsense. While praying the other day, God showed me a picture of an oil spill that was spreading out and encasing vulnerable, beautiful creatures. At first the oil had little effect on them. Then it constricted movement, and finally their breathing. I saw a powerful balm being applied to the dying; it alone had power to dissolve the sludge and to restore life. I knew right away it was the blood of the Lamb, the only hope for those encased by ‘gay pride.’

I dread ‘gay pride month’ because it celebrates the slow death of beautiful, vulnerable men and women who believe the lie that homosexuality is their destiny. Unless they repent and receive the blood, they will perish.

31-years-ago this month, my bride and I sped away from our honeymoon suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. Our exit was blocked on every side by a massive ‘gay pride parade.’ The dreamy nuptials collided with a gender nightmare. We made it out fine, grateful for the blood that redeemed us and made us one.

Last Sunday (June 3rd), our second son Nick was ordained as an Anglican priest. The presiding bishop was an old friend—Dr. Todd Hunter, who decades ago led the Vineyard movement in the USA when Annette and I began to train Vineyard churches to heal their sexually broken.

Nick and Todd are both amazing expressions to us of God’s faithful love—the grace He still extends to us though our beloved Vineyard roots, but most importantly, the faithful love that redeems lives from the pit (Nick had his own sludge to reckon with) and sets their feet upon a rock. Our joy was full as we celebrated this public recognition of God’s favor upon Nick.

Todd commissioned Nick by reminding him how rest and peace are the earmarks of solid Christian leadership. “In repentance and rest will be your salvation; in quietness and trust will be your strength.” (Is. 30:15) In spite of the battle waging outside the church walls, God’s Spirit fell peacefully upon all of us. We sang His praise whole-heartedly.

June is ‘gay pride month’ but it is also the month of my marriage and son’s ordination. This is the day that God has made and has redeemed. I will go forth aware of the sludge but more deeply aware of the power of the blood. I will fight this month in peace.

‘I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.’ (PS 40: 1-3)

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Faithful Mother for an Adulterous Generation

Day 3 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘Rejoice, for you are closer to God in His mercy than a baby to its mother’s heart.’ (423)

Our father is the perfect parent; He combines and surpasses the best virtues of both mother and father. Just as natural parents complement each other in creating children and loving them well, so does the Father’s Mercy involve two intertwining dimensions that bear fruit in us: one masculine, the other feminine.

Understanding these two expressions of Mercy can help create a more whole view of God. What results is a more whole soul in us! The fullness of Mercy facilitates our faithful response to Him, and thus our freedom to live as He intends.

John Paul ll defines ‘hesed’, or ‘steadfast love’, as the more masculine dimension of the Father’s Mercy. It is defined by dependability, stability, and a resolute commitment to keeping its promise. ‘Rachamim’, the second most common word for Mercy in the Old Testament, connotes a tender compassion that God deeply feels for His afflicted ones. It comes from the root word ‘rechem’, or ‘mother’s womb’.

God deeply feels for us in the way that a whole mother aches for the well-being of her child. The intimate communion of mother/child grants her an intuitive grasp of its needs, and suffering.

My repentance from homosexuality turned on the tears of my good mother as I boldly told her of my ‘gay self.’ Her ache expressed itself in sweet ‘rachamim’ for her afflicted son. My good wife’s aspirations and sorrows are tied to the status of our children. Their rising and falling are hers; in this, I complement her well by advocating for the Father’s ‘hesed’ as our ‘objective’ hope for their safe return.

Out of His rachamim, God moves powerfully to heal those who have suffered since infancy from a breach in mother’s love (often entirely unintentional on the mother’s part.) I will never forget the first conference we sponsored in Los Angeles with Leanne Payne. She taught movingly on how God’s ‘mother-heart’ goes forth in the power of the Holy Spirit to unite itself with the adult-‘child’ and so heals him/her.

As Leanne spoke, a woman coming out of lesbianism moved haltingly toward the podium and quietly asked Leanne to pray for her. She did. God sent forth His mighty ‘rachamim’ and performed a miracle of Divine Mercy in our midst, healing the young woman at the source of her ‘mother-hunger’.

‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all that He has made.’ (PS 145:8, 9)

‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; you are ever before Me.’ (IS 49: 15, 16)

‘Humble us, O God, by the tender and mighty nature of Your ‘rachamim’. You feel deeply for our needs, and ache over our afflicted state. Would You move us with the Mercy that moves Your heart? Grant us a share in Your Mercy. May our prayers for the release of Mercy promote healing action. Bring the unfaithful home! Transform them through Your (and our) faithful love.’’

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A Severe Mercy, Part 2

During the long drive to the confrontation at hand (see #18), I felt the sentence of death. And yet peace. Something in me was dying but deeper still was the witness of His presence.

My premonition of death was right. The pastor weaseled his way out of my charges on the grounds that he was merely exploring relationships as a single man, and that I was a rigid person whose historic brokenness required boundaries that he did not. The overseer slapped his hand and politely thanked me for my concern.

God met me in His mercy. On the drive home, I felt light. I had done what God wanted and it was no longer my burden to bear. The rest was up to God.

The next week, the pastor removed Annette and me from all leadership in the church (I was a part-time pastor; Annette was a leader in Sunday School). He said we threatened the church with our invasive, religious ways.

The end? We could barely fathom it. We and Desert Stream had known no other church home. We could not imagine life without our beloved community.

One other pastor on staff had been a close friend; we knew he shared our commitment to not partake of another’s naked body until marriage. When even he treated us as a public nuisance, we knew that we had lost our home. (To the senior pastor’s credit, he gave us a couple months with pay and time to relocate our offices as a ministry).

We were grateful to have obeyed God, and devastated by the result. For the first time, we as a ministry and couple were homeless. We lost the unique spiritual protection afforded by a local church: we felt uncovered, as if there was no more ozone layer between our skin and the unrelenting sun. Running into members of our former church chafed our skin all the more.

I entered into a kind of depression I had not known before. Annette wondered what would happen to us. We had three babies and one on the way. We moved our Desert Stream offices into our garage, for storage, and tried to work out of our homes. I perused the paper for sales jobs.

Jonathan Hunter and the Desert Stream staff kept praying. We sought the Lord at John Wimber’s booming Vineyard Church, an hour southeast from Los Angeles. John had since taken over the leadership of the Vineyard movement; he loved Desert Stream, though we had little contact and our offering of Living Waters had yet to be released in his church (then a global center of spiritual renewal.)

The depressive heaviness would lift then descend again. One early cloudy morning I was running and looked up to see one small distinct opening in the sky. God spoke quietly to me through it: ‘I go before you and make a way.’

A month later, I received a phone call from John Wimber’s secretary at Vineyard Anaheim. I returned the call and had a brief chat with John. He had just discovered that I was no longer on staff at the Westside Vineyard, and had been waiting for a chance to work more closely with me. Would I consider becoming a paid missionary to the sexually broken from the Vineyard Anaheim?

Desert Stream became the first non-church organization to be considered a member of the Vineyard’s growing roster of churches.

We remained in Los Angeles where we secured offices for Desert Stream, but considered John’s church our new home.

Three years later, a new group of women came forward and accused my former pastor of the same charges I had made. This time the overseer listened and fired him. Strange justice. Truer mercy.

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.

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Merciful Exposure

The Fuller years were demanding and fruitful. We pushed ourselves hard. Departing from ‘student housing’ in Pasadena, Annette and I ventured throughout the Los Angeles area with shovels in hand, digging ditches. We trusted God to fill them with mercy, His streams of healing for a dry and weary land.

On top of our ditch-digging we were on the pastoral team of the Vineyard Westside, and leaders in Exodus International. I was also developing the Living Waters program, and what became my first book, ‘Pursuing Sexual Wholeness.’

Then came the children. Over the course of our time at Fuller, Annette and I had Gregory and Nick, and became pregnant with Katie. I really don’t know how we did it.

A driven man? An amazing wife? A complete lack of judgment? The grace of God? All of the above. Lord, have mercy.

He did, but our action-packed decade was not without negative consequences. Annette and I faced some heavy pressures on our marriage, and I found myself returning to pornography as a way of escaping the pressure. (It was of the mild, non-virtual variety but porn nevertheless.)

Having been clean for years, I was alarmed by the power of its draw. I would cruise the streets for newsstands and liquor stores, any place with magazines. It was shameful and compulsive. Pursuing sexual idols competed with ‘Pursuing Sexual Wholeness…’

Gratefully, Annette and I were part of a ‘covenant group’ with about 8 others, including our pastor, to whom we would pour out our hearts weekly. That was the group instrumental to healing Annette’s abuse. Now I needed healing, but I knew it could only come through being absolutely honest about my bad behavior.

That was humbling. To confess sin once, OK. But over and over? Yet each time I did, I received mercy. And the truthful insight of people who were holy, who had been around the block, and who knew how to wait and listen to what God was saying—wow, I received mercy and it set me free.

God’s mercy set me free through His body. I learned yet again that connecting with God, friends and spouse is vastly superior to relying upon graven images.

The group actually exposed two other important needs. Like any good small group, it had the wisdom to know it could not meet those needs.

The first involved my personal need for in-depth counseling. The weight of my calling, bouts of intense sexual temptation, and unfinished business with my father, necessitated my reliance upon a good Christian therapist.

At first I worked hard to avoid the searchlight of the therapist’s expertise. I finally relented (it’s expensive!), and accepted some core areas of pain, need, and wounding. To this day, I surrender these areas to God and others; I have learned to receive and extend mercy there.

Finally, our small group encouraged Annette and I to get marital therapy. Our lives together were weighty, and we needed to learn how to connect as a couple in light of our ever-changing family. That was good and hard—hard, because I had to face the way I would dodge the truth of Annette’s real need for me, and the way she would allow me to do that!

More exposure, more mercy–more of God’s grace released upon our lives together. He provided for us. What we learned in that season we still practice.

God exposes us to give us mercy. He prefers to give mercy to us in our weakness. Yet we must do our part and offer our weaknesses to Him through His church. When we don’t, we risk the judgment of being exposed in the public square, mercilessly.

‘Confess your sins and faults, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’
(James 5:16)

‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but we shall prayerfully fight for what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’

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