Tag Archives: ministry

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Corporate Handover

Aging cuts both ways: yes, we at Desert Stream Ministries are now 40 years wiser, but also stubborn and calcified in ways that can inhibit our gift of ‘living water’ from coursing through Christ’s body.

To be fair, God challenges DSM constantly, especially during annual cleanings—the scourges of Spring, if you will. We expect the leanness of Lent to cast chilly light on the dirt that has accumulated; we name it, cast it out, and remind ourselves to keep it out. Post-Easter we are raring to do, ready to launch, energized by the purge.

Covid-19 prolonged our Lent. Truly! Countless cancellations and re-scheduled events pinched and punched us into another level of surrender: OK, OK God, what do you want? Your servants are too beat up not to listen.

While prayerfully zooming together, Jesus burned off whatever vanity we nourished (flat screen, bad hair, glaring lights, frozen and pinched faces) and kneaded us to new levels of malleability.

We confessed more precisely the little foxes we still entertain. Not felons, we are yet prone to misdemeanors that we see and don’t see. Jesus clarified that we can’t afford self-deception—He is empowering us to pick up swords and sever ties that blind.

Then the challenges at hand: will you, says He, lay down your ways of doing ministry and let me refine and redirect your approach? I want you to hit new targets and you cannot in your old ways of operating. We as a merciful mission have tolerated passivity and unprofessional ways of operating. Our message of chastity for all deserves better.

Jesus is championing and goading us: ‘You can do better! Chastity for all must be heard and administered rightfully if My will for ‘living waters’ is to be realized!’

Pray for us. Speak Lord, Your servants are listening. This work is Yours, we hand it over and allow You to show us how to do it better.

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First Love

‘Encourage one another daily…so that no-one may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We share in Christ if we hold firmly to the confidence we had at first.’ (Heb. 3:13, 14)

My life and the life of Desert Stream Ministries is bound together in marriage: Annette and mine, 39-years-old, just one year short of our first Desert Stream gathering in 1980. Marital growth multiplied our offering to others. No doubt about it: as we learned to submit to each other out of fear and joy, God increased the quality of our service. Water levels rose from the well we dug together.

Maybe it had something to do with our brokenness. I was in love with this woman but selfish and subject to immoral shadows; she was abused and hesitant to give up control in certain areas. We knew sin’s deceitfulness!

We shared in Christ together, actively, deliberately. We told the truth of our wounds and learned to prayerfully extend mercy to each other. We strove for justice too, to give the other his or her due. We had a right, lovingly, to the other’s body—to share our love physically. But this had little meaning if we weren’t willing to do the hard work of real ‘foreplay’: sharing the whole of ourselves, as best we could, with our clothes on. It is easier to open your pants than your mouth! As I denied my isolated, wordless brooding for her wise and soft response (usually!), I became a stronger, more whole man. I solidified into a spouse who could help tenderize her sometimes wary heart.

Trust is a gift and a condition of heart that one must cultivate daily in marriage. ‘Sin’s deceitfulness’ is sly, subtle: we harden over time in little unspoken ways as we project old fears and shames onto the beloved.

More than ever in this 40th year of our ministry, the enemy of our marital soul wants to tempt us onto separate tracks. There Anette and I function well enough, like well-tuned roommates, but fail to access marital grace. Only as we submit to one another (Eph. 5:21) deliberately is that grace ours. Time does not make us better spouses; it may well make us presumptuous, unwilling to reveal the blessed, broken, still-needing-confirmation parts to each other.

The marital blow-ups that have singed us all did not begin with a brazen seduction, just a slow cooling of trust and affection then the pull of other gods, other covenants. We can say without hyperbole that the world has never been more effective in firing marital discontent and driving us to dissolve our vows.

This year Annette and I celebrated 40 Christmases together. I want 20 more. To actualize my desire, I must hold fast to these words from Hebrews: ‘We share in Christ IF we hold FIRMLY to the confidence we had at first.’ I have a responsibility to strengthen today what I promised 39-years-ago.

This year I have committed to initiate a weekly time with Annette where we will deliberately go where we may not want to go—focused blessing and also pointed questions about where we are, how we are. We pray and talk spontaneously during the week but in the roar of things we skim hard stuff. It is my duty to take us deeper. If you are a husband, would you consider joining me in this initiative? It is always refreshing to me when the man leads the conversation. What most wives long for, we men dodge. Stop dodging. Slay your enemy by revealing your love, however uneven, to the one who needs it most.

Marital confidence should never become passive; it demands our engagement if we are to thrive in its benefits and reveal something of Jesus’ love for His Bride.

‘Repent and do the things you did at first.’ (Rev. 2:5)

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

Going the Distance: 40 Years of Healing, Equipping and Proclaiming.

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Cross Fit: Sorrow and Self-Giving

I am just winding up a month off in which I spent a lot of time with the one I love most—me! Ouch. Truth hurts. Gratefully my native selfishness was no match for the glorious time Annette and I shared. We stayed home, caught our breath, and renewed our vows. Time off and tuned to each other: nothing better.

A long time ago Jesus called Annette and me to our primary vocation, which is marriage. Anything good that springs out of ministry flows from this most important union.

No-one deserves my attention like her. Consider this: for the last 36 years of our lives together, Annette has said ‘yes’ over and over again to Jesus as I have gone throughout the world to impart His transforming power for sexually broken people. We love to minister together but kids and Annette’s homing instinct have resulted in a division of labor, which became even more accentuated over the last six months. A flurry of national and international trips rendered Annette nothing short of a ‘war bride’ so it was a huge gift to have a month off to reunite. Thank you to all who helped to sustain Desert Stream in our absence. You freed us from any financial concern; we are deeply grateful. You gave and we rested. Bravo.

As always, repose brought exposure. At the beginning of our time off, Annette brought up afresh an area in which we have disagreed. I disagreed again and could not see her perspective. That day’s Gospel reading—‘whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me’ (Matt. 10:38)—hit me hard and exposed a plank in my eye. A familiar stronghold of selfishness blinded me to Annette’s greater need.

I sought out my pastor and he counseled me well. A deep sorrow over my sin resulted, something only the Spirit and holy space could inspire. Aquinas wrote that such sorrow is sign that the Cross is being born in one’s heart. Let it be so. In areas where I do not see well, I need to slow down and feel the gravity of my sin. Only then will my repentance be genuine, not a superficial shaking off of shame.

That repentance has continued over these weeks and resulted in what I can only describe as a renewed passion in me to fulfill St. Paul’s words ‘to love our wives as Jesus loves the Church and gave Himself up for her’ (Eph. 5:25). No small task! When I take seriously Jesus’ self-giving on Calvary—the piercing that released the healing flood (Zech. 12:10-13:2)—I can re-enter His fruitful surrender and deny afresh my selfish, controlling ways in order to offer what I can to this amazing woman who deserves that and more.

I do not allow my evident faults to stop me from giving more. That is always Jesus’ direction to husbands, a self-giving that springs from the arresting sorrow of His Cross.

Please join Annette and me in Chicago July 27th-30th at the annual Courage Conference where we will share about our rich life together. As I said, we don’t speak together often so join us for this unusual opportunity. The Courage gathering offers an array of healing persons and gifts. Hope to see you there.

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Heaven on Earth

Portland OregonJust prior to the two days of intensive conferencing in Portland OR, I felt a familiar heaviness, and began to question (quietly) the purpose of gathering from around the Northwest to proclaim and administer healing for the sexually broken. ‘No-one will come…Portland is too liberal for ‘healing the homosexual’…You’ve lost your anointing and relevance.’

Amid my demonic accusations, co-host Karen Davis said quietly: ‘God does amazing things through prayer…’ Sure enough, as we gathered to pray before the conference, regional leader Deb Ivancovich anointed each of us and proclaimed that God would do mighty things, far beyond our understanding. The cloud around me dissipated and could see clearly once more.

I gazed around the room at the prayer/teaching team composed of 13 men and women from around the area, all Living Waters leaders, whom I had known for years from trainings and conferences and visits to their churches; each had carried the cross through deep wounds and moral weaknesses and loved the chance (yet again!) to stir up the waters of powerful mercy and to extend those waters to others.

These were family members, wounded healers whose presence had altered the culture of their churches; where they worshipped and served, ‘living water’ flowed for sexually broken people. As many shared their stories throughout the day, I was awed at the earthy yet utterly hopeful way they understood God’s faithfulness. Steps forward, steps backward—in everything submitted to Jesus, a chance to know Him more and to understand the depth of one’s destitution without Him.

Their tender yet strong faith, seasoned through years of service and ever deepening healing, made a way for newcomers who had never before encountered such a prayerful, candid family. A group of young adults drank in God’s healing presence through the laying on of hands, and insisted on follow-up. They now eagerly await the beginning of a new Living Waters group starting up at the church that sponsored the conference.

We as a team had the last of several meals together. In spite of much output aimed at deep, overwhelming needs, we felt at peace, even renewed. A humble, beautiful family, prayerfully relying upon the merciful God: heaven on earth.

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