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A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Return to the Father: 40-Days of Prayer/Fasting for Lost Loved Ones

‘The mercy of God is not an abstract idea but a concrete reality through which He reveals His love as that of a mother or father, moved to the very depths out of love for their child.’ Pope Francis, The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy

The dark powers that drive our ‘gay marriage’ culture have effectively skewed the meaning of justice, compassion and human dignity. More personally, we witness our loved ones caught in the undertow of these dark waters. Many of you now face painful relationships with persons you love due to a clash of moral values.

Good friends, sons and daughters, spouses, parents, entire faith communities are now ‘out and proud’; we grieve over an alien spirit that has overtaken them. We whose brokenness led us to cleave to Christ know that only He can liberate the conflicted heart.

But what can we do? We cannot make another’s moral or spiritual choice. But we can pray! Join us at Desert Stream Ministries for 40 days from Oct. 14-Nov. 22 as we cry out for mercy on behalf of lost loved ones. Just as nothing pierces our hearts more than their distress, nothing pierces God’s heart more. He longs for their return to His loving care more than we do. Only the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit can reorient them according to His best for their lives.

And He delights in our entrusting to Him the fear and strife that distorts the beautiful mercy He has entrusted to us. He frees us from ‘God-playing’ and frees us for faithful reliance upon Himself. As we deepen in prayer, we begin to see how He is converting us through the distress of another; our sometimes shrill self-righteousness is giving way to a humble brokenness that invites mercy.

By the first week of October, you will receive a PDF of a 40-day prayer guide. Drawing daily upon Psalm 116, we will reflect upon how merciful God has been to us in our sins and wounds; we will then ask Him for a double portion of that mercy to extend to loved ones far from the Father’s house. He awaits them and sees them this very moment. May God use these days to give us His sight and His heart for lost loved ones. May He make us a small answer to our own prayers.

We would ask as you pray with us that you give up something of value during these days. As you go without, we ask that God would grant you the freedom to linger a bit longer in His presence. Let whatever ‘hunger’ you experience be a reminder of the greater need someone else has for your merciful prayers.

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The Greening of Gender

Those of us who have reduced Pope Francis’ recent encyclical–‘On Care of Our Common Home’–to a holy call to recycle may want to reconsider. The man advocates a rethinking of our relationship to all of creation, including our own gender and bodies.

‘Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential part of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way, we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment.’ (155)

An artist in Palm Springs who runs Living Waters there, Brian Barlow encountered a confused young man with merciful regard for his true gender home. Who knew that a green commitment is well-expressed in tending to another’s gender clarity? Pope Francis would be proud of the following:

drawing 1““Wow, what just walked up?” That was my weak response to a man God loves who stationed himself outside my art gallery in Palm Springs. He was dressed in women’s pajamas complete with a lace satin black top and a polka dot skirt accented by pink flip-flops; I watched as he rifled through his backpack which seemed to hold all his earthly belongings. He pulled out a wet-wipe and started to clean himself, beginning with his face from which he carefully wiped dirt and sweat then moved downward to clean his arms and finally his feet.

I recalled that I had a travel kit at the gallery for the times like that morning when I arrived early to start painting. I also remembered that I had a set of extra men’s clothes, including shoes at the gallery, as well as soap and water and towels. In a small way I could offer this broken homeless soul a small gift to show that he is noticed and not forgotten. In spite of his evident gender confusion, I could offer him a new set of clothes that testify to God’s design for him–a design intended for this child of God to walk uprightly in his male humanity.

I approached this gentle soul who, as I offered him the items, looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “Why are you doing this?” That is often the question I am asked when I reach out to the gender broken in this desert ‘city of refuge.’ It’s a pregnant question that means: “What is this going to cost me? Another piece of my dignity?”

I paused for a brief moment and said the first thing that came to mind, “We are a ministry that offers hope to our community through the arts. I thought you could use these things. I thought to myself, “Wow that was canned!” Sigh…Then a peace came over me and I offered to pray for him. He accepted. I asked for protection and blessed him with a firm hand on his shoulder on which he rested his hand.

drawing 2I watched him walk away and there was no mistaking his gender. He was a man!

Perhaps you might ask, so what?! ‘Good for you, you dressed up a homeless transgender person to look the part of a male. Big deal!’

My response, YES! YES! It is a BIG DEAL! Calling out the true self of every person we encounter matters! God has intentionally designed each gender as either male or female. That is the truth, and truth sets us free.

Fractured by life, assaulted by abuse and isolation, broken humanity needs to be reminded of the Father’s original design. Our confirmation testifies powerfully that there is hope for what went wrong. It answers a significant question: “Was I created for more, or is this it?” Jesus offered living water to the woman at the well who lived with an unquenched thirst for more. The good news: we can offer a drink of living water for a person evidently thirsting for life’s most basic requirements, which include cleansing and clothing one’s gendered humanity.”

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Pope-Spinning

‘Papal Meeting with LGBT Activist in Paraguay’ headlined the news this weekend, a new low for media spinning of Pope Francis’ ‘gay-affirming’ tendencies.

The pontiff ended a profound and complicated tour of three nations in South America last week, which was reduced by some news outlets to the Pope’s ‘gay’ conversion.

Internet Headlines: ‘Pope Francis to Meet Gay Activist’, ‘Gay Activist Pleased with Papal Message’, ‘Historic Papal Meeting Changes Minds in Paraguay’, ‘Invitation Spurs Hope’, etc.

Facts: Unbeknownst to the Pope and Vatican, officials in Paraguay invited a ‘gay’ activist along with 2,600 other representatives of Paraguay’s civil society who had impacted the nation to listen to the Pope. The activist had no face-to-face encounter with Francis.

Incredulously, the US press hailed the event as groundbreaking for ‘gay’ Catholic rights. CNN and MSNBC must know something that the Pope does not.

The agenda-driven media skewed the essence of the Pope’s trip. Francis bypassed gender-bending for a prophetic focus on the poorest of the poor and the systems that perpetuate poverty. He broke bread with the indigenous people of Ecuador in their native language and sought forgiveness for sins of the historic church; he visited the most violent offenders in a Bolivian prison.

Pope Francis revealed Jesus’ heart to a continent in need of the One who sets captives free. That includes a Paraguayan with disordered desire who was granted the privilege of hearing Francis speak.

As we approach Francis’ first visit to the USA for the Synod on the Family in October, a gathering nearly framed as a ‘the Church and the homosexual,’ might we discern the spin and refuse to contribute to it? Only then can we listen from the heart and hear what God is saying to us.

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Under the Rainbow?

When I crossed the finish line at Kansas City’s toughest half-marathon last week, I was astounded to see volunteers adorning us in rainbow necklaces. We looked like a swarm of half-naked gay activists. Refusing to be an emblem of the zeitgeist, I politely refused my medal and thought about the hundreds around me who unwittingly had become flags of a false freedom.

More concerning was this comment by a friend of DSM/LW, recently back from Rome. “Pope Francis is surrounded by people who are pushing a gay agenda…When I was at the papal audience two weeks ago, there was a rainbow balloon ‘cross’ flying overhead the entire time. The gay issue is a major source of fracturing within the Church.”

Both encounters tempted me to fear. Peace prevailed when the Spirit reminded me of the authority I possess as a Kingdom citizen. I am not living in a rainbow dome but under the rule and reign of an altogether generous Father who through Jesus is making me His own. I look to Him alone to define me; the fire of His love burns off all other claims upon my personhood.

Now is the time for all fiery converts to stand firm in Christ Crucified: this is our day ‘to know Him in the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, to become like Him in His death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead’ (Phil. 3:10, 11).

I love St. Paul’s being-converted-tension here; the Apostle is clear, he has not yet attained in full this Cross-bearing unto Christ-likeness. Rather, he aspires to know Him in the fight for freedom to which God calls all converts. ‘Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, we press onward to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus’ (Phil. 3:13, 14).

I will cry out for mercy for all who live under the rainbow. With gentleness and respect, I will testify to hope for anyone longing to be free from false liberties (1P 3: 15). I belong to the King, under whose reign I bow. And race: ‘I run in the path of His commands, for He has set my heart free’ (PS 119: 32).

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Fighting Fathers

‘Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint.’ (PR 29:18)

Without vision from spiritual parents, God’s children wither. And wander. An entire generation is now subject to ‘Caitlyn’ Jenner and ‘gay marriage,’ and the scandalizing of persons who aspire to chastity.

Christian leaders who respond to the chaos by using the soft language of ‘love’ (words like mercy, grace, and inclusion) without telling the truth of the Father’s claim upon our sexual and gender selves contribute to the problem. These ‘fathers’ and ‘mothers’ are actually more like toothless grandparents who placate the empowered and leave the weak to fend for themselves. In altering the boundary lines to accommodate ‘culture,’ these shepherds allow wild animals to plunder God’s flock.

Two same-sex strugglers from England disclosed to me the demoralizing impact of Ireland’s ‘gay marriage’ victory upon them. The first is a man greatly helped by Courage and a devout Catholic; he struggled with Pope Francis saying nothing about Ireland redefining marriage and by London’s Cardinal saying Mass for the GLBT group in London while sidelining the Courage group altogether.

He confessed: “I don’t know what to do. I feel bereft and genuinely unprotected and not shepherded well. Perhaps this springs from some contributors to my SSA , namely, abandonment by and mistrust of male authority. But part of my concern is real and not just about my ‘issues.’ “

A woman whom Jesus called out of lesbianism said: ‘The Irish vote shocked and unnerved me. As the world celebrates same-sex relationships, it gets tougher and tougher… Just recently, starting in dreams, I have been experiencing some strong attractions to a woman I know. I feel as if the Lord is saying that I should be prepared to follow Him into the wilderness and face temptation as He did.’

Will we as mothers and fathers of the Church stand with these faithful ones in the desert of today’s moral landscape? Will our vision pierce through the world’s fractured solutions and grant us true sight for God’s children? Will we fight for their chastity? Will our love for persons originate in the Father’s heart and vision?

Our answer to these questions will help determine the fruitfulness of a generation.

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